This scene came to me as I was hammering out notes for "The Man With No Name"'s future chapters. I wanted desperately to include it in the story, but it just spent too much time away from the plot...so I wrote it up as a little standalone one-shot.
This is, of course, the Eighth Doctor, standing at the end of all things. I'm ignoring the novels (of which I've read only one with the Eighth Doctor) especially the one that involves him wiping Gallifrey out of existence before the Time War. The general theory is that, at some point, his planet and the Time Lords are restored, just in time for the Time War...where they promptly wipe themselves out again. So...for the intent of the story, I'm ignoring that whole pre-new-series plotline. Also, I'm including a few hints in keeping with one of the current reigning theories regarding series three's metaplot (which, we all hope, has something to do with the Time War).
And finally...well, I just really felt like writing a rousing speech. Maybe it's a little corny, but frankly I don't care. I was inspired by the piece "What Shall We Die For?" from the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End soundtrack. Breathtaking piece of music--if you have access to it, put it on repeat and listen while you read. :D
He stood atop a hill, knee deep in crimson grass, the wind tugging at his hair. He'd meant to get it cut, but he kept forgetting. It was well past his shoulders now, tangling and curling in the breeze.
His planet was beautiful. He'd never truly appreciated that until know. He'd always been so anxious to get away from it, thought it too confining, too stifling. He'd run away instead, taking it for granted that home would always be there. Funny, that...
Movement at the bottom of the hill broke into his thoughts, and he looked down to see two women approaching. One was tall, with short blonde hair and heavily embroidered robes. The other...his hearts lurched. The other was short, and plump, with masses of curly black hair and dark skin. It was not a face he knew–but he knew her. He'd know her anywhere. The blonde woman spoke with the dark one for a moment, then turned and walked up the hill toward him. The other stayed where she was.
He watched the blonde approach, his face expressionless. When she drew even with him he tilted his head a little. "Strange time for a walk, Lady President."
She sighed. "Aren't we a little far past such formalities now, Doctor?" Her fair hair ruffled in the breeze, and she brushed at it impatiently. She tugged at the high collar of her heavily embroidered robes, then tucked her hands into the full sleeves.
"Forgive me, Romana," he said "I see you so rarely now, and only then in formal occasions, it seems. I forget..." He frowned slightly, his eyes drifting toward the women at the hill's base. "Why has she come?" He nodded toward the other woman, still waiting at the bottom.
"She wanted to speak with you."
A corner of his mouth lifted. "Yell at me, more like."
"She came to say goodbye, Doctor," said Romana, her tone gently chiding.
His face froze, going a shade or two paler. "That's cruel," he said quietly. "Or have you changed your mind and plan to talk me out of this?" He swallowed, hard, the terrible guilt gnawing at him. "I won't deny that I wish you would."
Romana shook her head. "No. The decision is made. There's no going back now–is it so cruel, then, that she should wish to say farewell? It's the last chance."
"Is that why you're here, Romana? To say goodbye?"
She smiled, but her eyes were full of tears. "Yes. When we go back to the Citadel, I'll be the President again. But Romana wanted to say goodbye to her dear friend, before the Lady President must give the fate of everything into the hands of the renegade."
His own eyes stung. "I don't want to do this," he whispered. "This is my fault."
"How can it be your fault? If we'd listened to you, all these centuries, maybe it would not have come to this."
He shook his head, reaching up to claw his hair out of his face. He really should have had it cut..."Before you joined me...I had a chance, once, to stop this war before it even started. I didn't; I was too weak, too much a coward."
"You refused to commit genocide when the Council sought to force you to. That doesn't make you a coward, Doctor."
"Doesn't it? I, who knew what the Daleks were, who had fought them for so long. I knew exactly what Davros was capable of...but I didn't stop him. Sorry, Romana, but I'm afraid that makes me a coward."
She shook her head. "It means you're not a monster, Doctor. You have never been a coward. I know you."
He smiled, bitterly. "Do you, Romana? You traveled with me, yes–but do you really know me? Because what I'm going to do now...doesn't that make me a monster?"
She reached out, laid a hand on his cheek. He struggled not to flinch from her touch. "I know you," she said. "My mentor. My antagonist. My dearest friend. Not a monster." Romana pulled her hand away, looked toward the city. "You could not have made any other choice," she said. "And I think you knew that at the time."
"I didn't believe it was right to destroy an entire species for choices they had not yet made. Maybe a part of me hoped they would make different choices, even though I knew they never would. I was a lot younger then, Romana. A lot more naive." Even as he said it, he knew she was right. He still could not say he had done wrong. But to know now that it came to this...maybe it would have been worth it, to commit an evil act for the sake of a greater good.
"You were optimistic."
"Which, as I recall, another friend of ours defined as being 'irrational, bordering on insane.'"
"It was something I always loved about you."
His face twisted. "I'm so sorry, Romana. That it's come to this."
She reached out, pulled him into a tight embrace. "It's all right," she whispered into his ear. "I forgive you."
His hands tightened briefly on her back, then he stepped away, glancing down the hill again. He took a deep breath and steeled himself. He could not see this being anything other than painful. "I suppose I'd better speak with her, then."
Romana leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. "I'll see you at the Citadel." She turned away, began walking down the hill.
He nodded, eyes not leaving the black-haired woman, who was now making her way up the hill.
"You shouldn't be here," he said as she came to a halt a few feet away from him.
The black-haired woman folded her arms, her face set into stubborn lines. She looked older than him–an irony he felt keenly–with lines on her face and strands of silver in her dark curls. "Not even a 'hello,'" she said, her voice angry. "No 'how are you, Susan' or–oh, I don't know. How about 'I'm sorry I abandoned you on Earth'?"
He flinched, then a stubborn expression came over his own face. "I didn't abandon you, Susan. It was time you stopped trailing around after a crabby old man."
"That was my decision, Grandfather, not yours!"
"You had no right! Do you know how long it took for me to realize that? You were my grandfather, yes, and you were centuries older than me–but you were hardly more than a child yourself! Still in your first life, still busy being the rebel Time Lord with his stolen TARDIS. Had I become too much a hindrance for you?" Her voice wavered, on the edge of breaking.
He moved, crossing the distance between them to grasp her shoulders. She tried to pull away, but he wouldn't let her. "Susan..." he sighed. "You're right."
"I–what?" She looked shocked.
"I was young–well, that body was getting old and cranky–and yes, I was a fool. I thought...I didn't think you'd choose to stay on your own. That you felt...beholden to me." He fixed her with a stern look. "And don't tell me you didn't."
Her shoulders sagged. "You didn't even say goodbye," she whispered, and he felt guilty, knowing he really had abandoned her.
"I know. And I am so sorry." A muscle on his jaw twitched. "And...I'm sorry I never came to see you. I–I thought it would be easier. For both of us. And now here we are, with no time left for anything but 'goodbye.'"
Susan's eyes filled with tears. "Oh, Grandfather," she said suddenly, "he–he died! He got old and..."
He pulled her close. "I know," he whispered into her hair. "I'm so sorry." And the guilt returned tenfold. He should have been there for her–but he'd always been selfish, so caught up in his own life.
"You should have warned me," she said, voice muffled by his coat.
"You wouldn't have listened, Susan. And even if you had..." he pulled back to look her in the eyes. "Can you honestly say it wasn't worth it? Even the pain?"
"I don't know," she said. "Watching someone you love wither and die..." But she smiled then, her eyes luminous. "But they burn so brightly. All that living in such a short time..."
He wiped the tears from her cheek. "You're so much like me," he said. "I'm not sure your father ever forgave me for that. He was more like your grandmother..." He shook his head. "We haven't the time for this, Susan." His face became grim. "Time for goodbye."
Her chin quivered. "I don't want to hear you say it. Not now."
"You deserve to hear me say it," he said. "I wish you weren't here," he added with sudden heat. "I wish you'd stayed on Earth, far away from all this!"
Susan lifted her head proudly. "My grandfather taught me to fight," she said. "To stand up to darkness and evil and say no. I won't let him down."
A tear slipped down his cheek. "Goodbye, Susan."
The Doctor, together with Susan and Romana, stood on a platform, all of Gallifrey–all that was left, anyway, this far into the War–on the plain before them. Great Timeships, sleek and graceful, stood ready for flight, and scattered among them thousands upon thousands of TARDISes, in all shapes and sizes. The Doctor spotted a double-decker bus, and felt a smile tug at his face. Good old Iris... He sighed. "I suppose you expect me to do the talking," he said to Romana.
"Come now, my friend. If there's one thing you could always do, it's talk." She smiled, though it didn't reach her sad, sad eyes. "I've said all I can."
"Yes...but how can I find the words now?" He shook his head, but turned toward the crowd below nonetheless. He stood a moment in silence, wondering what the hell he was going to say. But he was aware of a strange sensation of peace–perhaps because, at last, he could see the end of it all. In a sudden swift movement he leaped up on the balcony's thick rail and lifted his hands. The dull roar of the crowd died to eerie silence.
"People of Gallifrey," said the Doctor, his voice echoing, amplified across the vast area. "Time Lords..." He sighed. "You know me. Or of me. The renegade. The outcast. The one who stole a TARDIS and ran away to interfere. The one who refused to stand still. The Doctor, trying to fix a Universe that wasn't broken.
"But it was broken. It is broken. We stood and watched for too long, doing nothing, and allowed a terrible evil to grow. The Council sought to destroy it, by wiping it out at the beginning of its timeline–but they picked the wrong man for the job. I couldn't destroy the Daleks." He lifted his chin. "I cannot say I haven't wished, during this terrible War, that I'd found the spine to do it. But...it would have been wrong. I believe in free will; I always have. We are not gods. It is not our place to take away choices that had not yet been made. To do so would be to betray everything we once stood for. I wish...I wish that the Daleks had chosen differently. That they'd walked another path. They didn't. And they will not turn from it now. The Daleks seek to destroy all that is different, to make it so there is neither good nor evil, but only Dalek. This cannot happen, for the sake of existence. There must be both. Good and evil, light and dark. Sorrow and joy.
"I have often had bitter words to say about our people. I've accused the Time Lords of decadence, of corruption. Of indolence. And maybe that was true–but I'm not interested in what has been done in the past. And I'm not going to apologize, either. Now, in this time and this place I see Gallifrey become what it should be. What it once was. We stand once more as Creation's defenders, protecting the timelines from those who would remake the Universe in their image. For the first time in my life, I am truly proud to call myself a Time Lord.
"But now we've run out of time. It's ironic–the Time Lords haven't got any time left. But the Daleks are on their way here, to conquer Gallifrey and take control of the Time Web. We can't allow them to do this. If they succeed, then everything falls to darkness, forever. Someone has to take a stand for the light–and we're the only ones left who can. I...am not proud that this final solution was my idea. But we have no choices left to us. This War has devastated so much that was good in this Universe. It's time for it to stop."
The Doctor was silent for a moment, and so was the crowd below. Breathless tension hung thick in the air. "No one will remember what we do this day," he said finally. "There will be no record of this, no songs, no tales. The Time Lords will be forgotten. The name of Gallifrey will fade into myth, and then into nothing. All we are, all we have ever done...it ends, here and now."
He lifted his chin proudly, the wind lifting his hair. "But that doesn't matter. What we do here today ensures that the rest of Creation will go on. For all that is good, for all that is evil, for the chance to choose between them–I tell you this, people of Gallifrey–" his voice thundered across the plaza. "This is what we die for!"
A roar swelled from the masses below, the wild cheering of a people who knew, beyond doubt, that what they were doing the right thing. That, at long last, they were fulfilling their destiny. The Timeships spiraled upwards, followed by the TARDISes, light dancing between them in great curtains. Going out to face the Dalek fleet, to hold it from Gallifrey's surface and buy the Doctor time to destroy them all.
The Doctor watched them go, feeling tears wet on his cheeks. "Who knew we could be so unselfish?" he whispered. "Romana...I think we might be heroes."
She smiled, and laughed through her tears. "I think you may be right, Doctor." She, too, looked to the sky. "And now this truly is goodbye."
He lowered his gaze to meet hers. "It is, isn't it?"
"The Archangel is waiting." She hesitated. "Do you want us to come with you?"
He looked at her for a long moment. He'd never told her, but she was the one Time Lady he'd ever thought about risking his hearts on, after the disaster of his arranged marriage. She was brave, and brilliant, and she knew what it was to stand up and fight. He'd loved that about her, even when she seemed to turn away and embrace the traditions of Gallifrey. And now, he realized, really wasn't the time to confess. "No," he said. "I have to do this alone." He looked at Susan, who had tears streaming down her face. "Susan...goodbye."
She tried to reply, but couldn't.
"I love you," he added gently.
She threw her arms around his neck. "I'll see you on the other side," she sobbed.
"I...I think I will," he said, and knew that he believed it. That he could look forward to it, even. He'd never really stopped to consider an afterlife, had always claimed that he believed in science over religion–but what was religion? It was faith that mattered, and faith was something he'd always had, in one form or another.
It was time to go. He released his granddaughter, most beloved of his family, most like him of all his children and grandchildren and siblings. The one he was most proud of. The one he would now kill. "Goodbye," he said again. "Here, at the end of all things."
They nodded. "This is what we die for," said Romana, her voice a whisper.
He smiled. "It's a good death, isn't it? Even if no one in the Universe remembers...I think the Universe itself will." He stepped away from them, turned to his waiting TARDIS, reached out to touch the blue-painted wood. Ka Faraq Gatri, the Daleks called him. Destroyer of Worlds. Bringer of Darkness. The Oncoming Storm. "Everything ends," he said softly. "Everything comes to dust. Even us."
And he entered his ship, and went away to become the destroyer, for the sake of all Creation.