After over twenty years in the priesthood, Father Mike knew he could function on as much sleep as a Time Lord. He often swore that one of the charisms of ordination was the ability to sleep anywhere, when he had the time. So one night in the TARDIS when he heard a scream, he edged himself out of the antique sleigh bed of the room he'd claimed.
Not long after, he was making hot chocolate in the kitchen. As if on cue when the chocolate was ready and in mugs, the Doctor wandered in. They sat for awhile, neither one speaking.
"Nightmares, again?" Mike asked, uncharacteristically softly. The Doctor nodded. "Same one?" The Doctor nodded, staring into his mug.
"You ever think, maybe, she's trying to tell you something?"
"No, that's not how they work. When one of the Sisters show up in a dream, they want something."
Mike sighed, leaned back in his chair, and laced his fingers behind his head. "Every night for the past week you've had the same dream. You wake up inside the dream next to a woman who happens to be your god called Death. It never ceases to amaze me how wherever we've gone in the universe, every race--no matter how advanced--manages to shove the divine in a box. OK, granted, your box is a little bigger than most, but a four-dimensional box is still a box. Ever think maybe instead of running away you need to listen to what she says? Maybe Death wants you to shut up and listen for once."
"I've thwarted her often enough. Whatever it is she has to say to me, it's not good."
"See, there you go again. You're sticking her into a Time Lord box. No wonder why you've pissed her off. The way we relate to others is how we relate to the Divine. Since you Time Lords took the meaning of 'passive aggressive' to new heights, you expect your gods to do the same. I mean, for ages, Time Lords thought they were a different species?"
"An embarrassing oversight, to say the least..." The Doctor answered.
"No it isn't. It's a perfectly logical conclusion, given the available data and given your species' relationship to the rest of the observable universe. Lex orandi, lex credendi The law of prayer is the law of belief. There's a group of people in Africa who send their kids to Islamic schools so that they learn the proper way to recite Muslim prayers. Why? Their gods came from the north, and in the north of Africa, most are Muslim. So they go to great pains to learn the Muslim way of doing things, since their gods must be Muslim. "
"And this has to do with the Menti Celesti, how?"
"I'm getting there. So somehow way back when in your peoples' history, their cult sprang up. People became more advanced technologically and encountered more things in the universe than they could rationally explain. Throw a little time travel into the mix, biological adaptation to withstand time travel, and exposure to beings way more powerful than they, bingo, they have a nice little box for the divine. Follow me. I need you to double check some coordinates."
They walked to the console room, where Mike put in some coordinates. The Doctor had been teaching him the basics--as he did most of the companions. "You're taking me to Mexico?"
The doors opened into a narrow street in a town not known for its affluence. There was a procession winding its way past them. A man leading the procession on his knees carried a statue of a skeleton lavishly dressed in a white silk and lace dress. The Doctor and Mike followed the procession, becoming part of it. As they walked, Mike continued:
"Santa Muerte. St. Death. Folk cult, not officially sanctioned by the Church, and in some places they're trying to stop it. But these people go to her because they feel like they've nowhere else to turn. She comes for everyone--rich, poor, young, old. She's fair. Way more fair than the hand some of these people have been dealt."
They entered a small room, where the statue was placed on a makeshift altar. People lit candles and made their devotions, while leaving small offerings of food, liquor, whatever they had. The atmosphere wasn't maudlin, but respectfully festive and loving. They could feel whatever burdens these people had lift.
In silence they walked back to the TARDIS. Shutting the doors, Mike put in another series of coordinates. "You want to go home?" the Doctor asked. "Just for a bit. Got someone we need to visit in the hospital."
The TARDIS materialized at night near the rectory of St. Timothy's, and Mike ran inside to grab some things he needed. In silence he and the Doctor took a subway to a county-run hospital in the bowels of New York. It was where those who had no insurance went, since they wouldn't refuse anyone. Mike was a frequent visitor here, and the attending nurses knew him. The nurses didn't question the Doctor's presence, either. Those Mike would visit here needed all the friends they could get.
"Hey Father Mike!" the nurse at the desk said.
"Heya, Suzie. How's Frank?"
Her look changed briefly. "No change. Don't think he's got long," she said softly. "We're doing what we can to make him comfortable." Mike nodded, and they made their way to his room.
There was a shell of a man lying in a hospital bed, a hospital gown tied on for modesty. The Doctor could see in the unconscious man's face all the hardships he'd faced from living on the streets for most of his life. Neither could be sure of how old he really was, but he looked far older than his thirty years. Nobody was too sure of Frank's real name, either, since that was the name Mike gave him. It had stuck.
The Doctor sat on one side of Frank, who was barely conscious, and Mike on the other. Mike took out an oil stock, a pyx, and put on a stole. He was thankful of the Doctor's presence tonight, since he had an innate ability to bring light into the darkest of situations. Quietly as he'd done countless times before to others, he gave Frank last rites.
The Doctor's instinct ached to help Frank, to heal him and help him on his way to a better life. Then he saw the man in the hospital bed with whatever senses he possessed. Everything has its time, and each breath became more distant from the last. After a few hours, something from within Frank seemed to fade, and the Doctor felt Frank's grasp on his hand loosen. The Doctor would go to the end of his own long life remembering the last look of complete peace on Frank's face.
It was late and the subway car back to the TARDIS was empty. In the motion of the train and the ever-present rumble of the tracks, the Doctor nodded off, not having slept well in days.
Mike yawned, and at a stop close to the hospital, a woman in a white pants suit got on. She sat across from them, and for awhile messaged away on her blackberry while double checking things in an overstuffed organizer. He thought it was a bit odd someone who had the aura of a high-powered executive would be riding the subway, much less at this time of night, never mind the rough neighborhood they were in. She looked over at Mike and the Doctor.
"I'd like to thank you," she said, moving to the empty seat next to Mike while handing him an embossed business card printed on heavy, expensive cream cardstock. The card said simply, "Morte and Associates."
"Don't mention it. Part of my job. Want me to wake him?" Mike gestured at the gently snoring Time Lord, who was now using his shoulder for a pillow.
She waved a hand freed from the blackberry. "No need. He got the message."
Mike nodded. "Sometimes people are too close to a situation to really see what's going on."
The woman sighed and looked up from her blackberry, "We've always been on the same side. We bring hope to those who have none. That business with the Time War didn't help anything, especially him. He had no other choice, and I didn't like doing what I did, either." Softly she added, "They didn't suffer...it was the least I could do for the Doctor. Maybe it's some consolation."
The train neared its next stop, and the woman moved to the door. She winked at Mike and said, "Be seeing you. Not for awhile yet, to my regret. It's been pleasant chatting with someone who isn't afraid of me."
For the few minutes the train remained at the stop, Mike could hear her heels clicking away into the distance. The Doctor yawned, stretched, and blinked at Mike with a smile. The doors closed, and the train sped on.
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