Absolution by LN29 [Reviews - 5] |
A very rough little story I wrote after finally picking my jaw up off the floor after the 50th anniversary special. (David Tennant! Tom Baker! Peter Capaldi!) It's a bit less polished than my usual work, my first attempt at Clara and one of my few attempts at 11, and is mostly just me attempting to come to terms with some of the revelations made in The Day of the Doctor, and the implications they'll have on his character. I mean, Gallifrey's destruction was SO instrumental in his personality and his story and everything about the man we know and love...I can't imagine what it'd be like for him to be faced with this sort of realization.
(Also includes my theory on why Clara had way more insight in this episode than a normal human girl of her age should've, and attempting to find an interpretation that doesn't make a Mary Sue out of her. If she really remembers, even vaguely, all those lives she lived when she met all those other Doctors, then she's got the collective wisdom of hundreds of lives all blended together. She's bound to be a bit more insightful than most girls would be.)
This is the first thing I've written in a while, so the voices are a big rustier than usual. I am working on a continuation of the Step by Step series, but I probably won't be posting that until around Christmas break, since school is taking up way more time than usual. But...yeah...I hope you guys enjoy this little oneshot.
Happy Thanksgiving, to those of you who celebrate it!
Once they left the museum, Clara insisted on dragging him back to her flat with her for the night.
He initially protested, having alarmed flashbacks to bringing Amy home after another traumatic experience and the profound misunderstanding that had ensured. Clara just ignored his fumbling attempts to articulate this and punched him in the arm.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” she rolled her eyes. “I just want you somewhere where I can keep an eye on you tonight.”
“You know how they say you shouldn’t make any big decisions after some traumatic event? You’ve just had your world turned upside-down, and I don’t fancy the idea of you having access to a time machine just now.”
To be perfectly honest, the Doctor wasn’t really up to arguing much after the day’s events, and so once they’d ensured that the whole Zygon situation was under control, he allowed her to take him back to the flat she’d rented once she’d gotten her teaching job. She still insisted on having a permanent place of residence, as opposed to moving into the TARDIS with him as his previous companions had, and there was something very admirable about this.
Thus it was that he found himself esconded in the spare bedroom of a flat somewhere in London (“Why do you have a spare bedroom?” “Why do you think?”), surrounded by the smell of freshly-washed sheets and the soufflé she’d attempted to make for him. The room was small, but comfortable, and he couldn’t help but notice the fact that it was already fully furnished and ready for use. She’d even had a second toothbrush all ready and waiting for him.
Really, he didn’t deserve the kindness he was so often shown.
He still didn’t know what to think or do. It’d been hours now since his former selves had climbed into their respective TARDISes and hurtled off into days of his own past, and still he found himself torn between more emotions than he could possibly count. Even now, he could barely come to grips with the simple events that had taken place today, never mind the ramifications thereof.
Despite her determination to take care of him, it had been a long day for Clara as well, and it was finally he who insisted that she try to get some sleep. Reluctantly, she’d acquiesced, with dire threats of making a direct call to UNIT if he wasn’t still here when she woke up, and as he softly slipped out of his room and glanced into hers, he could see that she was already sound asleep. He felt a surge of almost parental pride for her…that impossible girl with the half-remembered remnants of countless lives all jumbled up in her head, lending her more wisdom and insight than any girl her age ought to have…and he resisted the urge to go to her and tuck the covers around her or some equally sentimental thing.
Instead, he made his way to the sitting room window, and looked up at the night sky.
Unconsciously, as they so often did, he found his eyes seeking out the place where Gallifrey would have been (though of course it wouldn’t have been visible from Earth), and once again, he was struck with the day’s biggest revelation.
Gallifrey was not gone.
He could still barely believe it. 400 years of mourning, of running, of believing…no, knowing…that he was the sole survivor of that once-majestic home of his, and now…
Gallifrey falls no more.
He inhaled sharply, shivering as though a breeze had blown through the room. Part of him wanted to scream for sheer joy and exhileration, while another part threatened to crumple under the sheer weight and implication of this knowledge.
He had not killed his people.
For 400 years, the guilt of what he’d done had weighed on him, eaten away at him, molding and shaping him into the man he was today like metal refined by blazing fire. There hadn’t been a day that he hadn’t thought about it, regretted it, heard the screams of a million million deaths all in one instant…and there hadn’t been a day that passed when he didn’t hate himself for it. That guilt, that weight of the knowledge of what he had done, had become so much a part of him, had integrated itself into every facet of his personality…and now he had to come to the realization that it was all founded on nothing.
For the first time, he had a real appreciation for what Amy and Rory must have gone through when the universe had rebooted and given them a second set of memories. Because he still remembered it. He still remembered doing it. Even now, having been there and stood alongside his predecessors (and, evidently, his future self as well, though he was getting a headache just thinking about the ramifications of that), having heard Clara speak with both the wisdom of one who’d lived life many times over and the heart of a simple human, he could still remember being alone in that shack and placing his hand on that button.
He remembered how it had felt when there had been no last second miracle. He remembered using the Moment, the awful instant where everything had shattered and everything had burned and everyone had died. That pivotal moment that had shaped his life for 400 years now was still burned into his memory…and he remembered it. It had happened.
Yet it hadn’t.
It wasn’t as though his conscience were suddenly clear of every dark and bloody deed in his past. The guilt wasn’t gone, it could never be. He had still taken lives, innumerable lives. How many children had been in Pompeii? How many innocents had perished during Canary Wharf, or at the Game Station? Sycorax, Silence, Daleks…the body count never ended. He was not an innocent man, far from it. He still deserved everything that had ever been said about him, every dark rumor whispered about the man who left death and destruction in his wake.
But the one crime that had haunted him above all others…the one crime that stood out amongst all the rest…that crime had never happened.
He’d been ready to do it. He’d been willing to do it. For all that had happened afterward, there had been an instant in that shack where he’d fully intended to take the life of every citizen of Gallifrey. When he had weighed the lives of his people against the universe itself, and made the decision that the sacrifice was worth it. Up until the instant Clara had spoken up, he’d been willing to do it… three times over if you counted his tenth self along with his current body and the unnumbered life he’d tried so hard to forget. He could never forget that, nor the implications of that mindset.
If a man pulls the trigger of a gun with the full intention of taking a life, is he any less guilty in intent if the gun misfires? If the decision to kill was made, really properly made with the full intention of acting on that decision, did it make any ethical difference whether the actual killing was carried out?
Clara would say that of course it did, and she’d probably be right. In his hearts, he knew that there was a difference, that there had to be. But he’d lived with guilt for 400 years and he couldn’t just shrug it off in a few hours. How could he? How could anybody?
But guilty or no, one fact remained: Gallifrey was still out there somewhere.
His family, his friends, everyone he’d known and loved and mourned…they were alive. That sky, that grass, those mountains…they weren’t gone. Despite the aching, hollow place in his head where his people should have been, they were not actually dead. The planet was probably in ruins…after all, it had been in the worst days of the War when he and his twelve other selves had acted to save it…but it was alive. As he himself had told the War Council, they had hope.
And hope was something he’d not had, not in this respect, for 400 years.
Tears stung his eyes, happy humany tears that finally worked their way to the surface, and he didn’t even try to stop them. Something had shifted, deep inside himself, and even though they hadn’t yet talked about it, he knew Clara knew it too. The way she’d looked at him, the way she’d clung to him ever since they’d gotten back…he knew that she understood, as best as she could, what this meant to him. She couldn’t understand entirely, of course…only the men who’d placed their hands on that button with him could ever truly comprehend the depth of what this meant…but she came about as close as anyone could.
The stars overhead twinkled merrily, for once not mocking him with the empty space that his hearts told him should be filled with the twin suns of Gallifrey. Those suns were still out there somewhere. He could find them. He would find them.
“Gallifrey falls no more,” he whispered, testing the words out for himself, and feeling a smile lighting up his face even through the still-falling tears. He liked the sound of those words. “Gallifrey falls no more.”
The guilt wasn’t gone…it had been too instrumental in building who he was, too much a part of his lives to ever be forgotten or shrugged off so easily…but as he made his way back to the bed that Clara had lovingly prepared for him, he could feel the ever-present guilt shifting aside to give way to purpose. It was a process that had begun the moment he realized that there was another way, that he didn’t have to press that button this time, but only now in the stillness that followed like the calm after a storm did it fully have the time to sink in and penetrate the core of who he was.
As his conscience had so often spurred him to atone for the lives he had taken by protecting other lives, now the knowledge of what he had once done and been forced to live with gave him the strength and determination to atone for it.
Amy had once remarked that he wanted to be forgiven, to which he’d replied: “Don’t we all?”
And now he had been. Now he could be.
Now he was.
The men he had been would still have to live with the guilt and the pain and the terrible memory of what they believed they had done…what they had once done. But now he could know the truth of what had happened, the changes he had wrought, and he’d cling to that knowledge for the sake of the men who’d come before him…for the sake of himself. The memory and the shadow of that guilt would never leave him, the effects on his personality too ingrained to ever be overcome, but now he could take the best of what he had become and push aside the rest.
It wouldn’t be easy, but nothing in his life ever had been.
It hadn’t happened…he hadn’t killed them. He’d found another way.
Now he would find his planet.
Secure in that determination, that knowledge if nothing else, the Doctor finally surrendered to the exhaustion of saving both Earth and Gallifrey, not to mention rewriting his own history in the most spectacular way possible, somehow defying timelocks and every law of time and causality ever made. Safe on the planet he’d adopted in the house of the girl who’d saved him more times than he could count, he finally slept.
And he dreamed of home.