As I am a professional writer and have work to do to get paid, I have decided to deal with these thudding plot bunnies in the traditional manner - I will inflict them on others. Please see my Profile for the Challenges of the Month. Brand new August challenges have been added for your entertainment, education, and inspiration. If you'd rather do July's, instead, I'm accepting July II Challenges until the end of August or until I can't keep up, whichever. Thanks to all those who have participated thus far - I've REALLY enjoyed all the results. The new challenges will run through the end of August. Please let me know when you respond to a Challenge so I can read and review.
For the July II Challenge, I was asked by Genne for the Doctor to take a sort of "quest" after Journey's End. I was given the specific situation: the Doctor thinks he ruins his companion's lives. I was asked to show something different.
I was required to have him witness the funeral of one, the wedding of another, ask advice from one, and see a companion simply living a life. I was also asked for Bessie the car.
This final chapter was, while difficult, worth it.
In the end, Alistair agreed to take one trip with the Time Lord, to bear witness to a sight he could not understand. The Doctor had said the events could never be seen by him alone, and the Brigadier would never have wanted his friend to have to witness this by himself, anyway. The grand, official ceremony had already taken place, the Doctor had said. This was smaller, and private, for those who honestly knew.
The Doctor stood with white knuckled hands and shook when they brought her in, an old woman borne on an ornate litter, her body placed on a marble plinth. "There," the Doctor whispered. "Now there is all the proof you will ever need of what I do."
There was a life-size portrait of a beautiful girl placed next to the byre, a smiling, glorious queen all clad in silver and crimson, her eyes turned upward, to the stars. Another portrait of the same woman, older this time, but still as beautiful, stood opposite. In this one, she was depicted with an entire bevy of people, tall proud men, small, perfect girls, all with her eyes and many with her strangely whimsical smile. The largest portrait, above her resting place, was of her and a king. He was an enormous bear of a man, and the Brigadier could not help but be reminded of portraits of Henry the Eighth.
The warriors around them all drew swords and battle-axes, an entire arsenal of archaic weaponry. The Doctor shook his head, grimly. The Brigadier wished he had a sword of his own. This was a proper tribute, a salute he understood too well.
He hadn't even brought his service revolver this time.
The Doctor closed his eyes and thus almost missed the beginning of what happened next. One by one, starting with a sad-eyed young man (well, maybe forty, younger than the Brigadier and certainly younger than the Doctor) with a golden crown, every warrior in the place dropped his weapon at the Queen's feet. The Brigadier thought the Doctor looked like he might faint. "Steady, old chap," he murmured.
The Doctor nodded and watched the young king who stood looking at the Queen, his head bowed low, the very picture of respectful grief. When the last of the warriors had discarded their weapons, the young man turned and almost, it looked like, smiled.
"Queen Perpugillium believed, firstly, in peace," the young man said. "And our world is better for it. Who could have said, in the past, before my father brought her to us, that any man should ever, would ever, die old? She loved us and our ways and respected them all her days, but hers was the way of strength through peace."
He talked then of what the Queen had done, aiding her husband in defeating the nearby Mentap threat, not by guns or swords, but by forging alliances among those who had suffered under the tyranny of the rulers of Thoros Beta. Her husband had once said that words were a woman's weapon, but it was a weapon she wielded with cunning and skill. She became her husband's partner, this bright eyed girl from far off places, far more than a king's consort; she was Queen of the Krontapp and ruled coequally at his side.
She was a healer of prodigious gift, made medicines and cured ailments that had long defeated their finest physicians, using only the good growing things that their world had given them. Long forgotten arts, she had learned them all, and they raised a school in her name to pass on what she taught.
She was a fighter, too, defending her place at her husband's side with weapons that did not kill. She never, ever took a life, though she would shed blood when there was no other way.
She was a mother, the young king proudly declared, his mother and his seven brothers and sisters, and she raised them all with love and devotion, teaching them her gentle, powerful, subtle ways, even as their father taught them the old ways. "Eight?" the Doctor mouthed, staring at the Brigadier in wide-eyed shock. The Brigadier shrugged back.
She was a grandmother. She was a teacher. She was a poet and a stateswoman and a leader and an artisan. She had lived a full and forever life, a life that had changed worlds upon worlds and she had never, not once, made a single move in anger.
The Brigadier envied her that. He could clearly see that the Doctor did, too.
The ceremony continued, a celebration more than a mourning. The Brigadier came to realize that these people did not believe in death, really, did not think it was the end of any life. They thought it the beginning of another one, and they rejoiced in the elevation of the departed soul, even as they grieved that their loved one had gone from them for a time.
A chorus of children were brought forward, and they sang a song, not of sorrow, but of brilliant, precious joy. It was an Earth song, the Brigadier knew it, and the king agreed with this as he introduced them, saying that the late Queen had loved it.
The Doctor had tears in his eyes while the tiny voices sang out the happy melody. "'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free, 'tis a gift to come down where we ought to be. And when we find ourselves in the place just right, 'twill be in the valley of love and delight."
The voices split now into an elegiac harmony that could heal hearts and mend souls. "When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed. To turn, turn will be our delight, 'til turning, turning, we come round right."
The Brigadier wondered if the Doctor understood the message of the song. Being where one ought to be - that was the gift that the Doctor gave, more than any other. People could travel with him, take every loop and dodge with him, eventually turning round to a new way of thinking, the better way of being, a way of life that was simple, really, for all its complexity. A simple rule was what you learned to live by when you knew him: All life is precious, so do the right thing.
The young king concluded the ceremony with a low bow of deepest respect to his mother's mortal form. "None who love are ever truly gone from us," he said.
"Amen," the assembled replied.
"Amen," the Doctor whispered, and it looked to the Brigadier as if he'd only just thought of that.
The ceremony broke up, then, with those present shouting grand salutes to guide the Queen's spirit to her next destination. The Brigadier yelled right along with them; he thought it suited.
The body was removed from the byre and interred in silence in a crypt at the back of the room. The portraits were shrouded in black cloth. The assembled departed, and still the Doctor and the young king both stood, waiting.
When only the three of them remained, the Doctor went forward, though the Brigadier noted reluctance in his every step. "You Majesty," he said politely.
"Doctor," the king answered with a real smile.
The Doctor started. "How..." he whispered.
"She knew you would come. She didn't know what you would look like, but she said you would be here. She left me a message for you."
"What... what was it?" he asked, and he looked like he expected a positively blistering tirade.
"Just thank you. That she lived a life beyond all her wildest dreams, and that she was grateful to you every day of her life."
"No buts, Doctor. That was all. My mother had enormous respect for you, my father, too, you know. He sent his thanks as well, actually."
"How... how did he die?"
"An old man, Doctor. He died an old man and a happy man, and I have little doubt that he was the most surprised by both of those facts."
"And you are now King of the Krontapp?"
"Jason," the king said. He gave the Doctor an odd salute. "I'm named for you, Mother said."
The Doctor smiled then, a genuine, warm smile. "Yes, I suppose you are. Jason was a legendary adventurer."
"Jason is an old Earth word that means 'Healer'," the young king corrected. "And that is what she said you do, and what I believe I must do as well." The man eyed him carefully. "Both of us reluctant warriors, I think, and both of us have much work to do." He bowed to the Doctor, his hands clasped before him. "Savvaluna," he said, and turned to go.
He sketched a quick salute to the Brigadier, which the Brigadier returned in customary Earth fashion, and then he walked down the aisles and was gone.
The Doctor raised the shroud on the portrait of the girl, and smiled at her for a moment. "Thank you, Peri," he said softly. Then, he led the Brigadier back to the TARDIS.
"Of all the things I was certain of, the pain I inflicted on Peri was absolute," the Doctor murmured, some hours later, over a cuppa that Doris brought them. "I could never go back for her, never check on her, because the time lines of those events were so scrambled my very presence would have destroyed them. Only after her death were events cleared, and even then I couldn't have seen her without a mortal witness." He sighed. "I had to take the Master's word that she was safe at all."
"I can see why you were worried, then," the Brigadier answered.
"Oh, no. He never lied to me. You might have noticed that? No? Well, he didn't. That was one of the things about him - he never once told me a single thing that wasn't true. Any number of things that I didn't want to hear, yes, but every one of them was a true statement of fact."
"I think you were right, though. She was absolute proof of what you do, Doctor. Her life was amazing."
"That was her, not me," the Time Lord said deprecatingly.
The Brigadier rolled his eyes. He seriously considered delivering a blistering lecture on the Doctor at this point, but let it pass. The afternoon drifted lazily by and the Doctor sat there in his thundercloud and his rain, while the rest of the world stood calm and sunny around him.
"Maybe Jason was right," the Doctor said, after a while. "I do have work to do."
"True," the Brigadier agreed. Doris came out then with a pitcher of lemonade and the suggestion that they might want to start thinking about dinner if they wanted to eat before midnight.
The Doctor smiled at her, a sincere, brilliant grin that made him look so astoundingly young, even his ancient eyes sparkling like a child's. "Can I have chocolate cake?" he asked playfully.
"Not until you eat your vegetables," she answered, utterly unfazed by anything the Doctor could come up with. The Brigadier hid a smile by turning to look at his grill with some longing.
"Go ahead," the Doctor encouraged. "You know you want to."
Doris laughed. "That's fine, Alistair. We've some nice steaks, and the Doctor can fix those carrots he does so well."
The Doctor nodded and followed her into the house, a glass of lemonade clutched in his hand and a wistful smile on his face. Some time later, the Brigadier meandered into the kitchen, just to make sure the Doctor hadn't completely destroyed it, under the pretense of checking that the Doctor still ate his steaks medium-rare in this incarnation. (One of him preferred them cremated, and another wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole, so it was best to check.)
The Time Lord was cooking, and he had rarely looked happier. He had rarely sounded happier, either, and the Brigadier smiled in relief. He leaned back against the wall, and listened to his oldest friend sing.