A little tribute to Ian Chesterton and William Russell himself.
This story is set between the TV stories 'Last Christmas' and 'The Magician's Apprentice'.
Those chocolate digestives were mocking him from the moment he sat down. All pristine and round on that clean plate. The brown coverings made them stick out like a sore thumb against that chrome white background of the dish.
The biscuit knew he had scarcely eaten that day, the smug fiends. Knew that he had rushed his breakfast to be in in time for that dratted meeting with the headmaster. Why on Earth he, the Chairman of Governors, had to rush was currently beyond his stretch of reasoning.
Still, Mr Armitage was a decent enough chap. He had kept the school afloat with that tragic business when one of the teachers had snuffed it. The poor devil.
And now, Mr Armitage was nowhere to be seen after he had apologised profusely before hurrying away from his office to attend some business in the courtyard.
He looked back at the biscuits.
“Oh, to hell with it all,” Ian Chesterton grumbled before snatching one of the snacks from the plate and devouring it triumphantly. That would teach it.
Gingerly, he picked another and bit just enough off to dunk it in his mug of cocoa. Biting it and feeling the liquid contents spill out into his mouth, a sentence that he hadn’t thought of for a very long time flew through his mind:
“I made some cocoa and got engaged.”
He looked about himself and was nearly surprised to see that the he was still alone in the room.
Good lord, senility had finally hit him. Barbara was going to have a field day when she heard this.
He chewed his biscuit thoughtfully and remembered when he had heard that line spoken to him. Interestingly, he had heard it some six centuries before he had even been born.
He smiled whimsically as he remembered the man who said that to him. That silly white haired old man, with his Edwardian clothes and grandfatherly complexation. He used to grip his lapels didn’t he? What on Earth he did that for, Ian had no idea. Still, with his hawk like features peering out the top of that tail coat and cravat he was a formidable figure.
He was called the Doctor, and he had shown Ian such amazing things.
The Aztecs, the French Revolution, a planet populated by giant bugs who somehow knew what cattle were. He had fought for Nero’s amusement and been placed on trial in some far-flung alien world.
But there had been such horror as well.
He shuddered as his mind was littered with a dark monotone voice shrieking ‘exterminate’ over and over.
He slurped away the last of his cocoa and gently pushed himself up from the chair. He was going to have a walk around the school. Take his mind off the past, bring himself back into the present.
He stepped out of the Headmaster’s office and quietly closed the door behind him. Pacing down the corridor, he checked a clock on the wall adjacent to him.
Quarter past three, it would be home time soon.
Accepting that he’d probably get caught up in a swarm of thirteen year olds bustling to get home to play on their I-Stations and Wii-Boxes or whatever they were called, he kept on walking through the school corridors. Quietly whistling a little tune to himself as he moved.
He couldn’t have been whistling very loudly because a figure came bustling round the corner and collided straight with Ian’s elderly frame.
“Don’t mind me,” the figure said with a Scottish twang to his voice. “I’m just in a hurry.”
“Yes I can see that,” Ian responded cautiously.
He made eye contact with this strange man and found something instantly recognisable in him. He was wearing a long navy duffle coat with matching trousers and waistcoat. He wore a simple white shirt with all the buttons done up underneath. He was a fairly old looking man, with hawk like features and a flash of grey hair atop his head.
One of his great furry eyebrows arose and he asked Ian:
“I’m looking for Clara, have you seen her anywhere?”
“Clara?” Ian asked “Oh you mean Miss Oswald?” he realised. “No, I’m afraid I haven’t.” He concluded.
“Ah, pity. I need her rather urgently.” The man tutted and then gripped his lapels thoughtfully.
He was gripping his lapels!
Ian stared in bewilderment at the man’s hands. He had only ever known one person in all of creation to do that.
Could it be?
“I wonder,” Ian began. “Is Miss Oswald perhaps on the run from the Zarbi?”
The man processed the question before his hands quickly shot up from his coat and he took a step back. He wore a mask of confused wonder as he peered scrutinously at Ian.
“What did you just say?” He demanded.
“Or perhaps she’s running from the Voord? Or, dare I say it, the Daleks?”
The man took a step towards Ian so that there was barely a few centimetres from Ian. He peered in closer, looking directly into Ian’s unflinching eyes. After a moment, the man’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened.
“Chesterfield!” He exclaimed. “Ian blinking Chesterfield!”
The man guffawed happily before grabbing Ian’s arms and shaking him good naturedly.
“It’s Chesterton, Doctor,” Ian corrected him before smiling. “You never were one for names,
“Oh what does it matter, Chatterton?” the Doctor grinned mischievously before putting an arm around Ian’s shoulders. “I see you’re still cooped up here then?”
“And I see you’re still kidnapping teachers from my humble school?”
The two friends laughed and walked together around the old building.
“You don’t seem surprised that I look different,” the Doctor commented.
“Well I met that blonde version of you with the celery, didn’t I?” Ian told him. “I must say though, you do seem very much like your original self.”
“Not if I can help it,” the Doctor told him.
They left the school, both friends forgetting about their previous engagements and travelled down to a nearby café.
“That serving girl’s quite pretty Doctor,” Ian gestured at the young waitress through the window. “You could always make her some cocoa?”
“Oh shut up,” the Doctor smiled.
They sat together and Ian told the Doctor of his own travels since that day on Mechanus. He and Barbara had finally married (but of course, the Doctor knew that already), he had taught science for some years more before accepting a job as the Chairman of Governors for the school.
After much talking, they finally came to the subject of the late Mr Pink.
“So you knew the poor chap then?” Ian asked. “After all, he and Miss Oswald were rather intimate, so I’m told.”
“Yeah, yeah… P.E…” The Doctor stared glumly into his cup of tea. “I could’ve saved him, Ian. I was so…so close…” His shoulders sagged. “He saved the world, and I couldn’t even bring myself to shoot my oldest foe.”
He looked up at Ian, his face supported by both hands.
“I must be going soft, Ian. In my old age.”
Ian stared back at his old friend in a loss. Here was the Doctor. THE Doctor. Mr ‘I don’t make threats, but I do keep promises’. When Ian first knew him, he would never have shown anywhere near as much emotion. Finally, Ian shook his head at the Doctor.
“I wouldn’t say that you’re getting soft Doctor. Rather, you’re getting humane.”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you remember back when we went back to the caveman times? All those years ago?”
The Doctor nodded in weary nostalgia.
“Yes, I remember going there twice…”
“Well, do you remember when you were going to bash that poor caveman’s head in with a rock?”
“Yes,” the Doctor said sheepishly, after a pause.
“Well, that version of you would have leapt at the chance to kill your oldest foe. But now, you couldn’t quite bring yourself to kill even your greatest of enemies. Face it old friend, you’ve become a good man.”
The Doctor seemed to consider this before his head slowly rose from the sad embrace of his palms.
“Ian. Chesterton.” He grinned. “You’ve certainly learnt a few things in my absence.”
“That I have,” Ian beamed. “But not as many as I did with you.”
“And about me being a good man…” The Doctor started.
“Oh don’t be so infuriatingly modest,” Ian told him. “You’re not only a good man, but one of the best men out there.”
The Doctor surrendered and a friendly passion overtook his gaze.
“Alright my boy. If you say so.”
They talked for a few hours more before the Doctor finally found Miss Oswald, or rather: She found him and Ian laughing heartily in the street. The two old friends shook hands and said goodbye to one another.
They walked in separate ways but Ian stopped when he felt the wind rushing through his hair. He turned, and echoing around him was a familiar wheezing groaning sound.
Just wait until Barbara hears about this, he thought. Grinning from ear to ear.
He walked home and made a mental note to rearrange a meeting with Mr Armitage tomorrow. The poor devil was probably worried sick.
He entered his home and gently replaced his shoes for slippers before taking a seat in his good old green felt chair next to the fireplace.
Opposite him, was a similar blue chair. It was empty.
“Well Barbara,” he said to the empty chair. “You’ll never guess who I met today.”
His gaze drifted across to a framed photograph placed firmly atop the fireplace.
Barbara’s image grinned soundlessly back at him.
“Oh but you already know, don’t you? You were probably watching from up there, weren’t you?”
With a final smile, Ian Chesterton adjusted himself in his chair, and drifted away into a comfortable, dreamy sleep.
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