Ian grew weaker and weaker, laying on the hospital bed, his eyes closing gently, his blurred vision making out the faces of his loving family at his side. His son John sat inches away, cradling his hand, stroking his father’s old and delicate fingers with ardent care. Ian could feel the tenderness in his son’s touch, the love of a son to a father in his last days of life and he sighed- Ian was ready to join Barbara. He may not be able to regenerate or cheat death like the Doctor but he could look back and be proud of all he had seen and done and created.
There was silence for a time, simply the gentle breaths of the old man as he lay ever so still under the light blanket of his bed. John reluctantly got up, stretching his legs and agreeing to take a break and join his wife and children who had now ventured to the canteen down the hallway. Ian saw John move away, saw him leave the doors and disappear from view forever. He let out a small smile.
Ian hadn’t heard the door open again, drifting into moments of slumber but when he opened his eyes there was someone sitting by his bedside again. His eyes still blurry were unable to complete the detail of the image he saw but she was a woman, young, blonde, and sitting perfectly still in the upright chair next to him. He felt her reach for his hand. She squeezed it gently and held it for a few moments.
“How are you feeling?” she said with what Ian noted was a northern accent.
“Never better,” Ian said with a croaky voice, managing a brief smile at her. He had no idea who she was but then his memory was a little hazy in recent days and he wondered if he’d simply forgotten one of his own grandchildren. He wouldn’t wish to upset her. All he knew was that her company was welcome.
“You’re looking wonderful,” she said.
“Now I know you’re lying, young lady,” he replied.
The woman laughed and somehow Ian felt it was familiar. “Don’t be daft, there’s life in you yet.”
“Not for much longer I imagine, but its alright, I’m ready as they say. Barbara’s waiting you know, she’s ready for me too, to come to her. Everyone thinks I’m mad but I can see her.”
“Barbara,” the young woman said, repeating the name with a certain sadness in her voice, “she was one heck of a woman. You didn’t mess with her.”
Ian chuckled. “You certainly didn’t. Did you know her well?”
“Long time ago,” the woman said and Ian felt her hand on his again. “And she’s waiting for you?” she said.
“She’s right here calling me closer and when she calls you, you do as you’re told.” He coughed for a few moments.
“I should go,” said the young woman softly.
Ian smiled at her and looked deeply at her face. His vision was becoming clearer and he could see her features. He didn’t recognise her completely but there was something familiar in her face. “Are…are you a nurse?”
“No, Ian, I’m your Doctor.”
Ian nodded and smiled. “Thank you, doctor, you have a good bedside manner.”
“I’ve been working on it over the years.”
Ian swore he could see tears filling up in the woman’s eyes but he supposed it wasn’t easy for anyone to see someone slip away even if they were a doctor and used to death and pain on a daily basis.
“She’s calling me,” Ian said. “Barbara, I’m here Barbara.” His hands reached out into the air, toward the end of his bed and he smiled. He was ready.
And then he was gone as soon as he fell back and his head hit the soft cloud-like pillow.
The young blonde woman stood up, sighing as she leant down slowly and kissed his forehead. She then patted his hand.
“Goodbye Chesterton, goodbye dear boy,” she said. “Say hi to Barbara for me. Maybe I’ll see you both again sometime in the past.”