"...First of all, let me ask, were you trained in the ancient and mystic art of kite flying eight thousand years ago by the holy monks of Dragon Mountain?"
"...What? No...that's ridiculous. I'm not even that old."
"Yeah, your age means what, exactly?"
"That it certainly couldn't have been eight thousand years ago from my perspective. Presuming the holy monks of Dragon Mountain ever existed, which I'm pretty sure they didn't, and that, presuming they did exist, they specialized in kite-flying for whatever reason. My father taught me, if you want to know."
"Was he -"
"No, he was not."
"...You didn't even know what I was going to ask!"
"Didn't I? Let me guess, it was going to be snarky, wasn't it?"
"For your information, Demyx, Earth is not the only planet in all of history where fathers teach their children to fly kites on nice spring days. It was a common pastime on Gallifrey too."
"Sorry. Bit insensitive."
"Trust me, I'm not hung up on the mention of the word 'father'. I have a tough enough life without getting all moody and weird whenever people talk about fathers in a positive light where I can hear them. I'm more hung up on the word 'was'."
"...Right. Well. 'Was' is definitely the correct term."
"Has the culture changed that drastically, or...is there no longer a Gallifrey? Why am I asking? I know this one...I'm sorry."
"Don't be. It was destroyed in a war centuries before you were born. Now come on; the wind is picking up and I want to be ready for it..."
"Ai, Devi. This conversation."
"What about it?"
"The way it's going. From kite-flying to dead planets and now back to kite-flying."
"I just didn't want to miss the breeze when...all right, here we go! Airborne!"
"Or maybe you just didn't want to talk about Gallifrey anymore?"
"Try me. I'll talk about it all you want, but I'm going to be busy flying this kite while I do it."
"So if I ask a question you don't want to answer, you'll be too busy with the kite to answer it?"
"I said, I'll talk about it all you want. But I worked hard to find myself this sunny spring day with just the right wind, so the kite comes first."
"Okay. Um...is that what made you decide to take up this sort of lifestyle? Losing your own planet?"
"Oh, no. I'd been doing it for centuries before the war ever started. And...you know, the Time Lords had a very insular culture and a strict policy of not interfering with the affairs of other races. Most of them only rarely left Gallifrey, and then usually only if they had to. So a renegade knockabout like me, who had a habit of interfering with everything, even if it was generally for the better...well, when I was saving Gallifrey, I was a hero. The rest of the time, I was mostly an annoyance that everyone wished would just settle down and stop making trouble already."
"So how do they feel about you now?"
"...Is that a Green Lantern kite?"
"There's no one left to feel anything, Demyx. I was the only survivor."
"...Ai, Devi. Your entire species?...Out of how many?"
"Billions, tens of billions. But in the heart of that war, there were millions dying every single second...and when wars are fought using time as a weapon, you can die more than once. A lot more. I don't mean regenerating; I mean actually dying. Over and over again, in a hundred ways on a hundred battlefields on a hundred different days or a hundred times in the same instant."
"Terrible doesn't begin to describe it, Demyx. It was hell. The timestream was so utterly broken that killing yourself as a child twice wouldn't make an impact."
"...How could you even...?"
"Time was that broken. You'd continue to exist purely through...inertia, I think, because time was such a mess it was...simpler that way. But the things it could do to you in the meantime...I should be around 1700, I think, if it weren't for the Time War. But somewhere in the course of that war, I lost 700 years of my life that I had already lived, and that I still remember, but that...have somehow never happened. Twice, I regenerated and lived and fought for...a hundred, two hundred years with that new regeneration, only to have it all undone and suddenly find myself in the body before that. By the end of the Time War, I was on my third ninth life that I know of. It's entirely possible that I went through all thirteen and died, more than once, but I don't remember because the turns of time that undid them took my memories with them. No, it would be twenty-five, actually, because they gave every Time Lord that fought in the war an entire new set of regenerations as incentive, but I still wouldn't rule out going through all of them and dying, and then having it undone so I didn't remember. Possibly all in one battle. Two or three times."
"...Ai, Shiva...how can you talk about that and still fly a kite?"
"I'm not sure I could talk about them without a kite to fly. Besides...I'm not even talking about the worst of it."
"Then...don't. If that wasn't the worst of it, then...I don't think I'd be able to sleep at night, knowing the worst."
"I don't sleep much either."
"What do you mean, either? I sleep fine."
"Some nights you do."
"...Here, you take this. You can feel the tension in the string, right? If it starts to slack off, pull the string in a bit, because you're losing the wind and you don't want the kite to hit the ground. If it suddenly tenses right up, let it out. Then you just sort of twist it one way or the other to maneuver the kite. Wrist action. Don't want it to get caught in a tree. But currents should sort of be second nature to you, right?"
"Not air currents. I can't airbend any more than I can firebend, and it's not humid enough for me to sense the water in the air to a helpful degree."
"Can't you make it more humid, then?"
"Not to a helpful degree without making it outright foggy, and I don't think either of us want that."
"No, I think that would be more hindrance than help."
"...Demyx, can I ask you what might seem like a really stupid question?"
"Do you really not have anything from your father?"
"Physical appearance, presumably. I don't think my Indian grandmother had a blonde, blue-eyed daughter, unless my grandfather was Caucasian and she just never told me. With a name like Krishna Ghatori, I doubt it."
"That's not what I meant. I meant something physical - not a picture? Not a love letter to your mother? Not an old newspaper article? Not a family heirloom that somehow made its way to you without your father losing his anonymity - a ring with the family crest on it, an old military knife...an old-fashioned fob watch...?"
"Not a damn thing, Doc. Not even the dust from a damn thing. The only family heirloom I ever owned was my grandmother's sitar."
"Pity. That would have made things so much simpler. Watch the kite; it's starting to sink..."
We didn't leave that field for the rest of the day. Flying that kite turned out to be too damn much fun for either of us to want to. The wind did die down eventually, right about the time we both realized we were hungry as hell all of a sudden, but both of those in combination couldn't get us to move on. We just stepped back into the TARDIS, made sandwiches, grabbed a blanket, and had ourselves a little picnic right there. And talked. Talked a lot. Which is more or less a given with the Doctor around, but somehow, for reasons that still escape me, I wound up doing most of the talking. Mostly about life in the Organization, especially my own collection of crazy adventure stories. I figured they'd bore the Doctor to tears, considering, but he seemed genuinely interested in all of them, and even genuinely impressed by some of them. Of course, the Doctor being the sort of person he is, he couldn't stop himself commenting on everything, telling me what I should have done or not done or what he would have done in my place that would have worked out better that whatever I did, but every so often, he would just close his mouth and listen quietly to whatever I had to say, and offer no further comment than "I couldn't have done better than that", or rarely, "I couldn't have done that well". Once, just once, he went so far as to say "I wouldn't have survived that".
"Really?" I had to ask - I couldn't imagine a situation that the Doctor probably wouldn't survive, given all the shit I'd seen him survive already without much trouble, and figured that anything that could kill him would have killed me long before. Besides, I was talking about the shit that happened in the Nameless World, which was, in my opinion, mostly a tremendous fuck-up on my part, from which Axel and Roxas had had to save my ass. It was thanks to them and them alone that I survived, not thanks to a single damn thing I did myself, and I made sure to tell the Doctor so.
The Doctor, of course, stuck to his guns. "I know exactly what that was you were dealing with," he insisted. "I've...dealt with one before. It was...not easy." Even as he spoke, his face was turning white, like he was scared of the memory alone; I could understand why, but still, "the Doctor" and "scared" don't usually go hand-in-hand in my mind. "Your friends managed to destroy one, which is not easy to do, especially when they had no idea what they were dealing with...but I have...never, ever heard of someone being possessed by one and...surviving. I've heard of people being possessed by one, and then it being banished or destroyed while they were still breathing and had pulses...but I wouldn't exactly say they were living afterward."
"...Doc, it took me four days to even try to say a coherent word after that."
"Demyx, most people who get possessed the way you did don't live four days after that. They certainly never say another coherent word after that - if they make any sort of sound, it's usually mindless screaming." He looked at me like he'd almost rather swallow his tongue than ask what I knew was coming next, and I was half-tempted to answer before he had to force himself to - or to just say "don't ask me", because hell if I wanted to talk about it. Unfortunately, I was too busy dithering to do either before he went ahead and asked - "What was it like?"
Gods on high, I could feel my face turning white just thinking back on it. I did my level best never to think about it in detail, and for very good reason... "It...tortured me physically, first," I finally admitted, wishing I could swallow my own tongue rather than answer further. "It...seemed to think that someone had sent me after it, and demanded to know who. That...that was the pleasant part."
"...I see," the Doctor said, very calmly, though his face was absolutely dead white. "I...think I'd rather not know more than that, if that's all right with you. Now, I think the wind's picking up again, so if you want to grab the kite..."
No matter what his other flaws, the Doctor certainly knows when to change the subject. And the subject change worked wonderfully. I don't know what it is about seeing a scrap of wood and fabric hovering in the air over your head, with nothing but your hands, a string, and the wind keeping it there, but nothing hurts while you're flying a kite. As long as that kite was in the air, I was willing to tell the Doctor pretty much anything he asked, and I think I did. Without really paying attention to what I was saying - after all, I was busy flying the kite - I found myself spilling my guts to him, everything from my grandmother's crushed dreams for my future to the shit I went through on the streets to exactly what had happened to me in the Nameless World, just as casually as he'd told me about the hell he'd gone through in the Time War. None of that was anything I ever told anyone, ever, but I think the Doctor was more rattled by it than I was. After all, I was the one with the kite. Nothing hurts while you're flying a kite. To his credit, he didn't say a word of comment or criticism, just listened very patiently to my babbling and occasionally corrected my kite-flying technique. I remember thinking at some point that the Doctor really wasn't human, was he; internal anatomy aside, he looked human and sounded human and usually acted like a (crazy) human, but no matter what I told him about my sad, miserable, all-too-human life and all the shit I'd dealt with from the very worst humanity had to offer, he just stood there and listened sympathetically and was as judgmental as a cat about all of it, not like a human at all.
We kept that kite in the air until the wind died down again, by which time the sun had all but set and the stars were coming out and it was high time to pack it in for the night. Of course, two guys like us could never do anything so sensible; I took the kite back inside and grabbed a jacket while the Doctor made more sandwiches, and we ate outside on the blanket again, looking up at the stars, while the Doctor pointed them out one at a time and told me about the adventures he'd had on each one. At some point, a bottle of whiskey joined the party, and a few drinks into it, the Doctor pointed up at an empty patch of sky and said "That's where Gallifrey used to be".
As the level in the bottle went down, he started telling me all about his life on Gallifrey - visiting the seashore with his family, playing in the grass on his father's estate, raising hell at school with his best friend - and for a while, I was six years old again, listening to my grandmother tell me about life in India. Even though she always finished by telling me that my life would be much better in America, and that I was lucky to be able to live and grow up there instead of back in India, whenever I listened to her stories, a part of me knew that even if I didn't remember it and might never see it again, India was my real home...and listening to the Doctor talk about Gallifrey gave me the same feeling. I'd never seen Gallifrey, I never would see Gallifrey, it had been destroyed centuries before I was born, but somehow, "Gallifrey" tasted like "India" in my mouth. I might have tried to blame it on the whiskey, but most of it was going down the Doctor's throat, not mine, and I was barely feeling buzzed right then. Instead, I chalked it up to being a bit of a sentimental idiot that day, and made a mental note to ask the Doctor if we could go to India tomorrow. But the feeling wouldn't go away, and the more whiskey both of us had, the stronger it grew, until I had no choice but to ask a question I'd never even thought about until then - "Doc...are you my father?"
Apparently he'd never thought about it either; it made him choke a little on the whiskey. "Um...I dunno," was his slightly slurred answer. "I don' think so, right now, but...can't rule it out. Doesn' seem likely, but...suppose it is possible. Just might not have met your mum yet."
"...Grandfather, maybe?" After all, the Doctor was about old enough to be my great-times-fifty-grandfather, for all I knew, and my unknown father had to have a father of his own. I'd have preferred him to be my father - not only would it explain why he didn't come back at any point (after all, if he hadn't met my mother yet, and he already knew I never knew my father as a kid, he'd have no choice but to run or spawn a paradox), my gut just favored the closer relation - but with all the timey-wimey bullshit going on, I couldn't rule anything out.
"Dunno. Could be. 'S certainly possible. In that case, I just might not have met your grandmum and had your dad yet." He seemed more interested in the whiskey than in puzzling out our possible relationship, at least at that specific moment. "...Bit curious now; why do you ask?"
I'm not sure why I actually told him - it sounded like the most shit-stupid reason ever - but I guess I'd had just enough whiskey to be a little too honest with him. "It's really weird in this case, because while I might not remember shit about India, I was at least born there and lived there for the first few years of my life, and I'd never heard of Gallifrey before today," I made extra-sure to point out, as if he didn't already know that. "But I still get the exact same feeling hearing you talk about Gallifrey as I got when I heard my grandmother talk about India. Like...even if the place I grew up and the only home I really remember was in America, that's where my real home should have been all along. It's weird."
"'S not that weird."
"Oh yeah? How so not?"
"I don' think you're human. Least not all human."
"...O. Kay. Doctor. I think it's about time to put the whiskey away for the night, don't you?"
"I'm being serious," he said, scowling at me like he thought I was just picking on him. "What - what was it Kipling said? 'We be of one blood, thou and I'?"
"No. No. Doctor, you're off your face."
"I'm being very, very serious here, Demyx!"
"I'm perfectly prepared to believe that you're serious. But I am firmly convinced that you're also seriously drunk." Granted, if it turned out the Doctor was my father...well, then, I would have to be something other than entirely human, wouldn't I? But if he was so wishy-washy about the possibility of being my father, grandfather, or more distant ancestor, and he was the last of his species, how could he be so certain about us being the same species? Any reason I could think of involved half of that bottle of whiskey. "Come on. Time to put the whiskey away and get some sleep, I think."
"Well, it only makes sense, doesn' it?" the Doctor insisted, as if he hadn't heard a word I said. "You never even heard of Gallifrey before, but there's still this sort of...gut response you got...like you know it, even though you know bloody well you don't...of course, 's funny, though. 'Cause you look like a two-hundred-year-old Time Lord. But you're actually only twenty-one. A twenty-one-year-old Time Tot would still be...well, a little kid. 'Bout this tall," he added, holding one arm over his head, but it was hard to tell what height he was measuring or trying to measure because he was flat on his back and drunk.
"Well, there you go then," I said, torn between wanting another hit from that bottle in case it made him make more sense and wanting to stay at least as sober as I already was. "I age like a human, I think like a human, and I only ever had one heart. I'm human."
"Lotsa Time Lords were only born with one heart," the Doctor insisted, not wanting to let the subject go for love nor money. "I was. Second doesn' come in 'til after you regenerate. And forgive me sayin' so, but I don' think you think much like a normal human. But...you do age like a human. No gettin' 'round that. Course, 's not like I know how a hybrid would normally age anyhow..."
Great Gods above, I was starting to get sick of this guy. "Can I offer you a much simpler explanation for all that? I'm not a hybrid anything. I'm human. Just your average, everyday, run-of-the-mill human."
"Could be," the Doctor said in a very soft voice, like all the wind had just been taken out of his sails. "Course...if you were...that'd mean I couldn' be your dad."
...Wow. For all he'd sounded indifferent when I mentioned the possibility that he might be, he suddenly sounded crushed when he considered the possibility that he might not be. I just had to sit up and look at him, and caught him with the whiskey bottle halfway to his mouth again. "...Okay, I think you've had enough already," I said, pulling the bottle away from him, and getting that you're-picking-on-me look in return. "You're slurring, you're shaky, and you're talking shit. You've had enough and then some."
"Fine," he said, sounding as thoroughly and utterly put-upon as he possibly could. "If you're gonna demand I stop..." He tried twice to get to his feet before giving up and taking the hand I offered him, but it was even odds whether that got the idea across, and he certainly wasn't in a hurry to go back to the TARDIS just yet. "Demyx...long as we're still out here," he said, suddenly as cheerful as usual (but Ganesha, I could smell more whiskey on his breath than left in the bottle), "tell me one thing...where was Gallifrey?"
...The hell. I knew he'd pointed it out to me once, but that had been two hours and about four shots' worth of whiskey ago, and all I really remembered was which half of the sky it had been in. And we were in an open field, which gave me an awful lot of sky to work with. "...There, I think," I finally said, pointing at some random patch of empty sky that seemed to be in the right direction, and he grinned - apparently I'd gotten it right. "That was just coincidence, so you know," I added quickly, before he tried to read too much into it.
"Oh, no, Dem," he said, in a drunk version of that wise-and-knowing voice of his. "With all the night sky to choose from, you picked the exact coordinates. Dead-on t' the second. Even adjusted for diurnal motion, 'stead of just pointin' at the same spot I did."
"...Doc, I didn't even remember what spot you pointed at. I was just guessing."
"But you guessed exactly right. And that, Demyx...that means something." He leaned over my shoulder and grinned up at the night sky, then grinned at me, while I fought the temptation to jam a fist into that whiskey-scented smile. Finally, he patted my shoulder and stumbled back into the TARDIS. I was content to let him, as long as I could sit outside and watch the stars in peace for a while; he'd been too drunk to notice when I snuck his key out of his pocket.
AN: I publish a lot of tag-free dialogues, like the first half of this, on deviantART. They mostly don't make it over here because I'm not sure how well they fly with FF dot net rules, given as they ban chat logs and scripts. In this case, however, the second half wouldn't make a whole lot of sense without the first. The first part was written four months ago; the second was written yesterday and today. I'm not sure why Demyx insisted on narrating, but I decided I might as well let him.
Don't drink and time travel.