through time time is conquered

by Brunhilde [Reviews - 2]

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  • Teen
  • None
  • Angst, Character Study, Drama, Romance

Author's Notes:
Title from TS Eliot's Four Quartets:

Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.

i.

This has been foretold. The Ice-Queen and the Fool, the child and the man, this moment has been played over and over again in the dreams of Time, each replay adding to the legend that has yet to unfold.

They have no idea of what they're starting. Her contempt and his buffoonery are an inauspicious beginning and neither one can hear the murmuring of the timestreams setting and resetting and settling in to place as they spar; neither one has any comprehension of it beyond the fact that they are unwilling companions.

She - Romanadvoratrelundar - she is an intellectual. Her past is a patchwork of books and libraries and nights spent studying texts that would never be required; a life of academia. Time has no understanding of the thirst for knowledge but it appreciates the simple complexity of a mind so attuned to its nuances - and the feather-light touch of that mind to the infinity of Time itself is sparks and fire and glowing potential that roots itself so deep it might never be removed.

She was made for this meeting.

And he - the Doctor - his Time is so confused that it begins to blur in to a storm of possibilities, past and present and future such irrelevant terms that it's a miracle he isn't crushed and annihilated by the growing impossibility of his existence.

He is chaos and she is order and together they negate each other and yet create a relationship so beyond the sum of its parts that the laws of the universe strain under the burden. Together they will rebuild worlds, but together they will destroy so much.

"My name is Romanadvoratrelundar," she says imperiously, and Time locks in to place.

This was foretold.

ii.

Paris was a delightful diversion.

She is learning, in this body, that there is a time and a place in life to be whimsical. It would never have occurred to her before and yet, now, she smiles at the memory of the Doctor's hand in hers, of breathless, joyous running through alien streets, of spring with blossom on the trees and vitality in the air.

Sometimes she feels as if she could run forever.

But Time whispers in the back of her mind, a sibilant hissing that ebbs and flows beneath the sounds of life, and somehow she knows that there will be an end to this.

She watches the Doctor set the controls, considers his flyaway hair and his large teeth and impossibly mad eyes, and wonders to herself why she cares so much.

She wouldn't have cared before - in her previous body - she tells herself, and at the same time knows she's lying. She always cared.

"Where are we going?" she asks, more for the sake of saying something than out of any particular interest.

"Oh, here and there," the Doctor says vaguely. "The randomiser should do the trick."

There's not really much she can say to that so she brushed her hair away from her eyes and watches him wordlessly, committing to memory the flick of a scarf over one shoulder - the manic smile at a particular manipulation - and tries to block out the mutterings of Time.

iii.

They part abruptly and within a few days - week - months - time is relative - he's dying. He jettisons her room in an attempt to move on but this regeneration is more emotional underneath the well-mannered surface and it's with a jolt of physical pain that he realises he has nothing of hers to hold on to any more.

Romana learns to fight and learns to kill and finds she has quite the talent for both.

The first time she kills someone singlehandedly she dreams of the act for weeks afterwards and tries not to wonder what the Doctor would think of her. The second time she buries the body herself and pushes the guilt to the back of her mind. And the third time, and the fourth, and the fifth, she tells herself she no longer cares. After that she stops counting.

And yet she's happy. Time feels different in E-space and although she can still sense its presence, whispering coherent nonsense in to her mind, its strength is dulled. Perhaps this is what it feels like to be human; to live in the moment and find joy in small things; to not be followed everywhere by the nagging voice of Time demanding you fulfil a destiny.

She's brilliant, as she had rather expected to be, and within a few short years - what are years to a Timelady? - she's done everything she came to do. There's peace and freedom and it might be a little immodest but she's proud of it.

In the end she decides to go home.

She isn't the Doctor and she finally realises she can't run forever.

So she goes back to Gallifrey, reacquaints herself with the voice of Time in her head and plays at being a good Timelady, feeling that this is a destiny she never had a chance of escaping. And on days when the Gallifreyan skies seem too familiar and the Citadel feels too small, she can't help but wonder where the Doctor is and whether he ever thinks of her.

iv.

War is coming.

Gallifrey can hear it approaching as clearly as a drumbeat, deliberate and precise. Unavoidable.

Lady President Romanadvoratrelundar stands in the gardens and lets the wind whip her hair around her face. The weather is changing on a world where it has been constant for millennia: leaves are dying and falling from the trees in to disintegrating piles on the grass. Flower petals are drooping and dropping softly to the ground.

It's disconcerting.

"Lady President?"

The voice is as familiar as her own and she thinks briefly that she'd probably know it even if she'd never heard it before. "Hello Doctor." She doesn't turn around, keeps her eyes closed and listens to the gentle sound of his footsteps approaching behind her.

At the back of her mind, Time surges up and whispers excitedly; she quells it forcibly and remains statue-still, remote.

"I heard," is all he says, and lays one hand on her shoulder.

Part of her melts.

"Of course you did," she says eventually. "One glimpse of trouble and you run headlong in to it - I hadn't forgotten."

"War." The word is bitter and hard, twisted from his mouth as if he were under duress.

She flinches. "War," she repeats. "Long and slow and fatal war. We're going to die."

A leaf flutters from a branch in the corner of her eye and the Doctor's hand tightens on her shoulder at the same time it hits the ground. It's his response, she realises, a speechless gesture of support that speaks more than any words he could have summoned.

With a silent sob she leans back in to his embrace and together they watch the leaves fall, one by one, from the dying trees.

v.

She's changed, he hasn't.

The war scarred her last body beyond all feasible use and she regenerated on a battlefield, surrounded by the dead and dying. It feels as if their screams are imprinted in to this mind.

Now, when they look at each other, they see haunted eyes and pale faces. The trees are long dead, all vestiges of their existence removed from the ground, and now at night, when it's quiet and they're not fighting for their lives, they lie outside in smells of smoke and fire and watch the stars.

Sometimes she lies close to him, her head on his chest and her legs twined with his, and he strokes her hair and tells her children's stories from a childhood so distant it might as well have been another's. And sometimes he cannot bear to touch her, cannot bear to loosen his control over his horror at their war, and she sits next to his prone body and reads him Earth poetry.

She is growing to love the quiet stars.

When the call goes out to fight they do so side by side and with a fierceness neither believed existed inside them. Gallifrey is losing and they both know the contingency plan so they fight hard and they fight well.

It's late at night, peaceful, and they're lying silently in the darkness when it hits her. Time screams in her head, writhes and roars in pain, and her breath catches in her throat at the same time as the Doctor jerks upright. "Did you-"

"I felt it," she shudders. "It's time."

He holds her eyes for an eternal millisecond and she sees every ounce of fear, pain and anguish weighing on his soul. She has asked him to do the near-impossible.

"Time," he echoes hollowly. "How ironic."

And they have to go, have to fulfil their destinies, but there's room for one last sentence before they die.

Instead, she kisses him.

And then she stands, takes his hand and together they walk towards the Presidential Suite that has become the War Rooms.

Five minutes later Time shatters.

v.

Everything is broken.

The Key to Time is complete, safe again, and Romana returns to Gallifrey with only a tinge of regret. It would have been interesting to stay, perhaps, but she has a life to return to and no matter how many times the Doctor argues with her she knows it's what she wants. She leaves without saying goodbye and as she steps out of the TARDIS and on to the surface of her planet, Time cracks.

Time screams and Gallifrey screams and impossible ceases to be an option.

The child known as Romanadvoratrelunder gazes in to the Untempered Schism and feels her sanity slipping away to the sound of distant drums. She grows up with a harsh brilliance designed to conceal the broken mind that doesn't quite comprehend how it still functions, and one day, on a cold, distant planet, she kills the Timelord known as the Doctor. Timelines slip sideways.

Everything that was, is and could have been exists in synchrony.

They are brilliant together, Romana and her Doctor. Gallifrey has tried to separate them, to tear them apart, but together they can do anything. They run from eternity, in to eternity, righting wrongs and laughing under alien suns. Time chases them but can't quite catch up.

For a brief moment suns are born and die in the same instant; everything and nothing coexist; things unravel.

The cell is damp and cold and Romana has forgotten the taste of sunlight. This body is her thirteenth and final incarnation, she knows, although she's lost count of the number of regenerations this cell has taken from her. She was young when they caught her - young and naive enough to believe that she could escape. Now she's defeated. Her clothes are in rags, hair matted with dirt and blood, bruises she can't see in the darkness but can imagine painted black against her pale skin.

Outside she hears familiar voices - EX-TER-MIN-ATE - and something inside her knows this is the end. Time bubbles up in her throat and explodes in a scream.


And then there's nothing, a gaping wound in history, a hole in the cosmos where Gallifrey once stood proud.

The Doctor lies on the floor of the TARDIS and hears Gallifrey dying over and over again in an infinity of times and places. The destruction rips through his body tears in to his mind and his last thought before regeneration is of her.

When it's all over, he stands weakly and starts running all over again.


Time weeps.