Title- She Is Returning
Characters/Pairings- Eleven, implied Four/Romana
Summary- "She is returning. That's what Lucius Petrus Dextrus said... The funny thing is, though, sometimes prophecies have layers. And the broken clocks are getting harder to ignore."
A/N- Just a little prequel to another fic I have planned (though, given my track record with updating, god only knows when that will get written), because every time I watch The City of Death, that bit with the shattered clock-face jumps out at me, and I imagine that, were they to return Romana, they might really play that up... the Time Lady with the face of a clock... But no. I don't know if this makes any sense outside my head. I'm kinda whacky, having taken probably more Nyquil than I should have (side note: flu = bad!), but it seemed a shame to waste the time I put into writing it, so...
"The sign that I couldn't read,
Or a light that I couldn't see,
Some things you have to believe
But others are puzzles, puzzling me."
This particular regeneration, he's discovering, finds it a little easier to deal with the tragedies. The last time around, he was so terribly human, so very immediate in his emotions as they are. That was good, at first, but then things spiraled out of control and he found that his ability to cope with it was so greatly reduced. He was more vulnerable than he had been even in that soft, compassionate one with the blonde hair and the celery (which he is seriously reconsidering- maybe it would shut Amy up about the bowtie).
Thankfully, regeneration and the accompanying emotional crapshoot seems to have favored him this time around. He still feels everything, just as keenly as ever. Gallifrey still sits in his hearts, and all the lost ones, friends so far gone, are still weighing on him, but now he can take it and bury it down deep until it's like it's not there at all. For a human, that probably wouldn't be healthy, but this regeneration has done a good job of reminding him that he is not human. (He appreciates that, actually. He's done the human thing; it's not an experience he'd like to repeat.)
Anyway, for a Time Lord, suppressing the bad things isn't unhealthy. For that matter, it's rather a way of life! Time Lords were always good at ignoring the things they didn't want to look at. He chooses to keep his eyes wide open, but tucking some of his memories back where he doesn't have to look too closely at them is just fine.
Like Rose, for example. She was surprisingly easy to put behind him. It had already started long before he regenerated. Martha had filled the Gallifrey-shaped void in his hearts as well as Rose had (though he had been too stubborn to acknowledge that at the time), and Donna had done more- rather than just plugging the hole, she had done her very best to solder the broken edges back together, to make it like the hole was never there at all. Rose hadn't been as special as he'd thought when he was just a desperate, war-shattered loner clinging to the first bright, lovely thing he could find to warm him again.
Still, he can remember the pain, and he doesn't like to. He's taking Amy's advice to heart, and trying to teach himself to be an optimist. He suspects it's going to be a difficult process, but with the stabilizing influence of the Eye of Harmony gone, the enforced limit on Time Lord regenerations has probably gone kaput as well, which means he's got plenty of time rattling around this old universe to sort it all in.
So now, when he thinks of Rose, he prefers to remember the good times, not the bad, and also that flash of happiness he felt in Pompeii, before the fire and the death and Donna's heartfelt pleas.
She is returning. That's what Lucius Petrus Dextrus said. His tragedy-bound Tenth regeneration had felt a leap of hope, guessing immediately that it must be Rose coming back to him.
The funny thing is, though... sometimes prophecies have layers. He has learned in his thousand-odd years (he lost count so long ago, and now he just throws out a number of somewhere around nine hundred if anyone asks) that yes, sometimes prophecies are true. And, more importantly, they can be true in several ways. They can be misinterpreted, or they can point to more than one event. And the broken clocks are getting harder to ignore.
It started awhile ago, actually. Reinette and all her broken clocks. Of course, most of those had had rational explanations... except that last one, on the day of the attack at Versailles. No repair droid in fancy dress had smashed that final clock on her mantel, as far as he is aware. It shattered all on its own, a large crack right across the face of it, not splintering out from a punch through the center, just a neat, even crack branching out in just a few directions like a bolt of lightning.
Since then, he's been carefully not noticing them more and more. Sometimes it's just random, a broken clock in a room they just happen to pass through. Sometimes it almost seems to act as an early warning of trouble. Even Amy's watch, last week, with the same crack running through the glass. He didn't pay much attention to it until a few months ago, more or less, when a mantel clock in the home of a woman possessed by an atomically dissociated Moriacho shattered literally before his eyes... in that exact same pattern.
He remembers a lifetime ago (actually, seven) in Paris. He remembers sitting in a French cafe across the table from a blonde girl who, to his eyes, will always be the most gorgeous creature he's ever known. He remembers a slightly psychic artist and his sketch- a Time Lady with the face of a broken clock. Intuitive and prophetic, in retrospect.
He remembers hours-seconds-centuries on the TARDIS when he would hold her close and Time would slip around them (or maybe they simply slipped out of it for awhile) and the universe narrowed down to the look in her eyes and the feel of her hands in his (because they were Time Lords- they didn't do things quite the way humans did, and love affairs were an altogether more reserved sort of thing for them). He remembers her mind in his, and his in hers, twined together until they could not find where their self began. And he remembers thinking that this should terrify him, because he was always so good at keeping people just far enough away that he could bear their leaving, but he had lost all barriers he could put up to this woman, this Time Lady, and he knew he had no right to do that, because any day now the council would realize that she had never come home, and one way or another she would be taken away. He remembers throwing the thought away into that place at the back of his head where he kept the things he didn't want to look at. He remembers smiling and sunshine and witty repartee, he remembers danger and storms and her funny ability to laugh right in the face of all that as easily as he did.
He remembers feeling the walls of the universe slam down between them, severing that last connection between them, and feeling bereft because here it was, not in the way he had expected, but she had been taken away in the end. He remembers something he will never tell a living soul: he could have held on, on the radio telescope. He could have prevented the death of his fourth self... but he wanted to, because regenerating made these things easier, put them at some distance. Not enough distance, not with her, not ever, but enough that he stopped dwelling on it.
And he remembers the Time War, seeing that beautiful face turn cold. He remembers warmth not lost really, just tucked away inside for when she needed it again. He remembers the day the Lady President finally broke, and pressed into his hand the control matrix for the Eye of Harmony. He remembers thinking back on that pretty cafe in Paris, and realizing that the poor, slightly psychic artist, was sketching this moment, the moment that Time's beloved broke under the strain of Time's cruel step-sister, Fate. The Time Lady with the face of a clock had finally reached the point that she could bear no more suffering (she lasted longer than he) and the glass veneer shattered.
That is the last memory. He has none further of her. All he has are sixty years (as he measures things) since the Time War, and a trail of broken clocks following in his footsteps across the aeons.
He still has that drawing, stowed away somewhere in the TARDIS.
He doesn't need to look at it to know that the pattern of fracture lines across clock-face of Romanadvoratrelundar is the same one that has been sitting at the edge of his vision on all those clocks and watches and even the occasional sundial.
And he wonders if maybe Lucius Petrus Dextrus meant a couple of things with his prophecy.