~ silence the pianos and with a muffled drum bring out the coffin ~
A/N: Wrote this because I missed the Ninth Doctor terribly. Inside you will find numerous references to many things; because I'm lazy, I'm not going to list a single one of them. Not knowing the references will not detract from the story itself. This is a labor of love of about two weeks. Title and quote is from W.H. Auden's Funeral Blues (or Stop all the Clocks, depending on who's asked). I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
For rupzydaisy, who sparked this whole idea in the first place.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
When everyone's gone and left you, what choice do you have but to simply take it? A mouthful of bitter herbs (herbs of sorrow, herbs of grace) that you stomach down because you have to, because while the sorrow is happening it's happening, there's nowhere to run to.
It's only afterward that decides if there's enough pieces left to pick up.
(may the Lord's countenance shine upon you, bring you peace)
For a long, long time he simply lies in the ruin of the Cloister room and tries to let the silence starve him to death. Although the thirst will assassinate him first. He doesn't care. Let the worms rot him to pieces. An old mole digging in his very own grave; it takes a tanner ten year.
Why him, more than any other?
Because his skin's leather, and his bones are withered from the sun, he thinks listlessly. The quotation drifts across him as lightly as a skeleton dancing, leaves across the water.
I knew him well, Horatio. Horatio, I knew him well.
The bellows of her lie dead around him. He's killed her, just as all of them are so rosy in their graves, we all fall down dead.
He wonders if he's gone insane.
(off his rocker, off his rocker, rocking horse, rocking horse, bread-and-butter-fly)
He's pretty sure he has.
And he embraces that fact, that thorny bush fact, the patches of it sticking his heart full, drawing the blood named sorrow from his eyes.
Both hearts still beating then.
Because a snark really is a boojum you see, he thinks quite succinctly.
He is very hungry. Thirst claws the back of his throat. Hopefully he'll burn through the other four regenerations by just simply lying here.
(but to the atani I will give a new gift)
Snark is a boojum.
Heels of his shoes stepping into the rubble of the Cloister room. Treading carefully, because shards of Time lie scattered on the floor. The footsteps stop; let them take him away, he reckons savagely, let them come, because he's stopped being a doctor now, he's a butcher. Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, the doctor is dead,
gone slipping into the descent of his madness
death is a gift
a new gift for him to devour
(is it good, is it good? it is good, and it is bitter, because it is my heart)
The ultimate hat trick: the unexpected staring you right in the face. The reveal is the thing, for a magician to do; the trick can be good, can be excellent, but the reveal—the prestige—the disappeared must come back. And it's always staring right at you.
You just don't want to see.
(the boojum is a snark, opposite both ways true)
"Come on. Let's get you up then. Come on, old chap, come on, come on, that's it, one arm round my shoulder."
The voice, it's dragged with suitcases, suitcases filled with bricks. Years upon years of bricks. All the long, long years of your life spread behind you, clear as a map, butter scraped too thin over toast.
Cart-o-graphy. Such a strange word.
The voice bundles you up, carries you with it, stumbling into the walls from your weight, into the corridor, past the scorch marks on the wall, the overturned doors walls everything's overturned, gone gone gone gone gone
into the console room. It takes your hurled, slobbering profanities, your punches and your sweat and your half-rat-dead stink as if they were lovely seashells. More importantly, it is able to bundle you into a chair, wrap a bright orange blanket round you, and shove a mug of tea into your hands.
"Drink it," the voice says. "Good, bracing stuff, tea is. A superheated infusion of free radicals and tannins—just what you need to get you going again. Or I can chop it up in the blender and make you drink the celery, but that's nasty stuff, we don't want to touch it again no matter how often I wore it on my coat lapels. Bit funny, that one was, but good God, let us not go into the sixth one. We were a bit of bad writing there."
His eyes have been open, but it is only now as he really looks that he truly sees the boojum to his snark.
It's an absolutely ridiculous face that peers back at him, plum and young and impassive expectancy. The face is attached to a long streak of body that's straddling the chair backwards, arms crossed over the head of the chair, chin propped on arms, just staring. He stares back at that ridiculous face, the face of youth and bright sunshine and clothes found in thrift stores. The empty hollows of his hands clutch the mug of tea as a life preserver.
It's his eyes that give it away in the end.
They always betray him, those tactless windows to the soul.
It's always them.
"Hell," he croaks, voice a rusty hinge from disuse. "I'm going to look like that?"
(he sounds like he's from the north; if he'd cared, he'd have been delighted)
The face remains unruffled, as though used to such criticism. He should be, with a face that ridiculous, he thinks. Ridikkulus. For the boggarts. Boggarts in my closet, in my closet, in my shoes.
"Drink your tea," he advises himself. "It's getting cold. Tea is never good cold, unless it's made that way with intent and lots of sugar in the sun somewhere and a little umbrella on top."
All he really wants to do is get back to dying. "What are you doing?" he growls instead, irritated. "Crossing back on our time stream like this."
"I'm meddling," he says. "I happen to like this face, and I would prefer it if it was actually put into use, instead of dying parched and hungry on the floor. Drink the tea."
He drinks the tea automatically. It scalds down the back of his throat, and he chokes on it, spluttering. There's no sugar; he thinks he might like a little sugar in his tea. Eyes watering, red in the face, tongue burning, he glares at his future self and knows that no matter what else, he's going to live.
"She's not dead you know," he says, not unkindly.
"Yes she is." Abrupt, blank and wide-eyed staring, uncompromising, refusing any comfort.
"No, she's not."
"She is. I killed her. The Eye of Harmony is shuttered closed—it's not going to get any better, she's going to starve to death, and it's going to be my fault."
"No, she's not."
"No. Have you ever heard of Rift energy?"
He shifts a little, clenches the mug. The chair creaks underneath his weight. Around them lie the tangled wires of the console room, broken walls and the time rotor lying in cracked glass shards about the floor. The console room his past self had favored had been huge, with a living room off to one side; they sit in that now, the armchair and the wooden chair his other self sits on the only upturned things in the topsy-turvy place. The air reeks of wet sulfur, and fire, and the sticky sweet smell of fried time.
Similar to burned hair.
"Rift energy?" he says. "Yes. It's never been proven. The Academy dismiss—"
"It'll take some rerouting, but she'll come through. She's a tough thing, our old girl. A tough old thing."
The sappiness on his face would have embarrassed him, if he hadn't been so dead tired.
(and although he never would admit it, feeling the exact same way about her)
He stares at himself in the mirror. His face is a half-blurred photograph, tangled underneath matted hair, sweat, dirt, and tears. He takes a shower, the steam rising around him, curling into the bathroom proper. The soap stings his eyes. When he's done, he stands there in nothing but a towel and shaves his beard. He then takes the razor to the rest of the hair on his head. When he's done, the stranger who looks back at him is harsh, mouth a thin unsmiling line, eyes cold and blue. A face, a man, built to survive, to continue: a whole entirety away from his last self.
But he can't help but remember how, in the end, he couldn't even look at that pretty, pretty face in the mirror.
And that had been even before the War.
His mouth slamming into an even further jam, he allows his gaze to continue past his reflection, refusing to see himself anymore. What did it matter, anyhow?
It's just a face.
He brushes his teeth; the cup holding his toothbrush had fallen to the floor in the closing crash of—of everything. He picks it up; part of the cup is chipped. Donald Duck scowls at him from the cool ceramic.
Yeah, you and me both.
The mint from the toothpaste makes him gag, but he brushes his teeth with it anyway. Clutching the towel around his waist with one hand, and scooping up his singed, stinking pile of clothes with the other (he isn't sure what to do with them, other than he can't leave them in the bathroom), he pads out into the hall. His bare feet stick to the floor.
He travels through the bones of her, finds the wardrobe eventually. He isn't sure if he'll ever be able to face his room.
(a huge shadowy massed clutter of things, old and new and not-yet invented, and the little room off to one side, with a bunk bed, the bottom bed stripped with an engine taken apart lying, each part perpendicular to one another on the striped mattress, and a small desk shoved into the corner next to the bed, and a clutter of papers and a book by a man named after a well. His sheets are blue.)
He finds a grey jumper and charcoal grey pants, like the turning edge of ash, and underneath a tipped over pile of used converse stained with grass and dirt, he finds a pair of black boots. Inside one toe of the boots are a pair of rolled up socks and some underwear. Rolling his eyes at that (because sometimes his old girl could just be so precise about things), he tugs everything on. The pants are a little too loose in the waist, so he tucks them in with a belt. And he cannot quell that little fluttering bird rising in his hearts, because if she's supplying him with underwear and socks then she must be alright, his old spit-spot right-as-rain girl all dressed up in blue with nowhere to go, because she doesn't have a home anymore, it all burned, burned, burned.
There's a muffled curse, followed by a heavy thunk. His stride lengthens, and he bursts into the console room at a half run. His future self is nowhere in sight; he has a brief moment of relief (perhaps he's gone) before a head pops out of an opened hatch in the floor, sporting that truly awful mop of brown hair. The head swivels, the rest of the body following; he's donned some goggles, who knows where, that vaguely resemble something of steam and clockwork metal-men; "Ah, there you are," he cries, makes as if to clamber out of the hatch, and falls back in with a clang, swearing colorfully. "I'm alright!" his calls, voice floating up from the hatch. "Just fell down into the main axle—bit of a tricky spit to be in, but we've had worse days. Like that time with the Dreamspace? And the Master? We configured Jamie's face wrong, the poor chap. He got the chicken pox right after: all in all a bad week for him. And I never understood why Zoe decided to wear spangles for that one . . ."
He crouches down by the open hatch, listening to the voice spark and crackle on and on. After another moment or two this and of some more banging, his head pops out of the hatch; there's a long smear of grease running down the side of his face, and he's clutching a fistful of tangled wires, snaring out from his grasp, devil's snare, devil's snare, something something sunshine.
"Hello," he says, pushing the goggles up onto his forehead. They've left bright red creases on the bridge of his nose. Setting the wires off to one side, he pops out of the hatch, sitting with his feet dangling back down into it. Taking a creased rag from the back pocket of his trousers, he wipes his hands, which are covered in oil. He only serves to smear more oil onto the rag. "Eh, we've got some cowboys down there," he adds, peering back down into the hatch. "I've down what I've can—rerouted the energy spirals, added a converter. She's plenty hungry; should have enough energy to make it to the Rift—there's one in Cardiff, nice little fuel stop. Has some lovely chip shops."
He peers down into the hatch, too, into the inner wire tangles of the console mainframe, the hanging seat he used to sit in when he was tired, or needed a think, and he's slip on down the hatch, close the floor, shut up the ceiling, let the companions think he's wondering through her many halls and ballrooms and galleries and floors. All for a few hours quiet, a few hours thought, just him and the pitch and hum of engines working, life revolving around him.
Everything's shifted a bit to the left, and past the swing and the wires and through a sudden jagged gap in the far grating he can just make out the electric whirr of the TARDIS's heart. Life, living, she's alive, her heart pumping through time and memory and infinite space, all caught up in a box.
To cover up his emotion, he spits out, gruff, "I could have done it, you know. Fixed her up. She's my TARDIS." His accent comes out thick and sharp.
"Mine too," he counters mildly. "Albeit she's younger, but we are the same man, where it counts. So mine, too. Besides, you were shaving." As if that's the only point needs arguing.
He works through the clothes in his hands, bundling them up under his fingers, crushing the charred green velvet of the jacket. Stupid man, stupid old man—who'd ever want to wear velvet?
He says, "I've done what I can. It's up to our old girl now."
He says, "It should take a few hours; reconfiguring herself always does."
He says, "You might think about taking a walk."
"What about you then?" he asks himself gruffly, because he's showing no signs of leaving. In fact, he's preparing to slip back down the hatch again.
He stops, grins at him in a world weary way that causes his hearts to twist. How old is he then from now, to make himself look like that?
"Left my toolbox down there," he says. "Has all my tools. For fixing things. You go on ahead; I'll only be a minute."
And because if he can't trust himself he can't trust anyone anymore, he stomps out. It's only as the TARDIS doors swing shut behind him that he realizes he's still clutching his old clothes.
He stands outside the TARDIS for a moment, blinking against the unexpected brightness of a noonday sun.
(here comes the sun, do-do-do-do, here comes the sun and i say, "it's alright")
He takes a step, stops, because he knows where he is. 76 Totter's Lane: a metal sharp pile of things, quietly rotting away into mold and dirt underneath the sun or the snow, the wind, the rain; armchairs dissolving, banana peels slipping on top of rotted eggs and spoiled milk, with weeds gathering root in the collapsed heap of a door. Two bright blue boxes stand next to one another in a corner of the junkyard, quite unsoiled by the decay of time; fraternal twins, joined along by the same timeline.
(like you see someone from a photograph, but its years from before you knew them)
He stares at that future TARDIS, who is a bright penny coin flipping through the air. Slightly wider than his TARDIS, slightly bluer, thicker girdled, more stable. He almost reaches out to give her a pat, can't bring himself to. He strokes his TARDIS for a moment instead, his brilliant, sexy girl, and he tells her he'll be back.
Walking through Totter's Lane is painful because he remembers.
Walking with Susan in the evenings, with his little red cap on his head, and his small dented scarf, his cane. A young man in such an old body. They'd laughed together over that.
("She wants to talk to you."
He turns around, away from his friend, sees his granddaughter. She looks older than him, now.
"Grandfather," she says. "David grew old. He died. And I didn't."
"They do that," he informs her gently. "And we don't."
Because this is war, she allows him to hug her.)
They'd laughed together, back in 1963. Linearly such a long time ago for him.
It's the early twenty-first century now; he finds that on a newspaper. It's a crowded street. He bumps into people; he doesn't apologize. His strides devour the ground, they're so hungry. He walks and he walks and he walks, to get away, to remember, and he finds himself lost eventually, in some part of the city that has a park crammed in one side of the street and a downturned back alley on the other. The backs of the storefronts almost crowd the alley out. There's a bin inside the park; he stands next to it. The clothes in his hands are crushed. A football match is being held further in; he listens to the delighted screams of the children at the playground, to the sounds of summer, of the world turning. In one painful, decisive movement he stuffs his old clothes down the bin, backs away from it, hands outstretched as if to ward from some evil. He catches what he's doing, lowers his hands, turns to find a kid with a backturned cap staring at him with raised eyebrows.
"They're all gone," he informs him, voice painfully bright. "I'm the only one left."
(cathartic because it doesn't matter a whit to this boy, and he can pretend for a moment that it does)
He turns around, stuffs his hands in his pockets, follows a thin thread of carelessness back into the city. He whistles through his teeth as he goes.
It's full dark.
He finds his way back to 76 Totter's Lane eventually.
He's still there, sitting parked on the inside stoop of his TARDIS, the door open behind him to elicit a bright enough glow from the interior to read by. He's reading a book by a well; maybe he'll get to finish it this time. He hasn't yet.
He looks up as he comes into the yard. "All finished then?" he asks.
Without even looking at himself, he flips a rude gesture, slams the door of his TARDIS behind him. With a buck and a whirr of slammed brakes she lifts into the Vortex.
Chuckling softly to himself, the Doctor stretches out his legs, leans into the doorframe of her, stays to finish his book.