Lorna stayed out that night, long after it had become far darker than it ever would at home. She looked up into space from her wrong place in time, and despite everything she’d talked about she now felt deeply at peace.
The bright and historically inaccurate light of an electric torch shone into her as the Doctor came out of the house.
“It was cancerous,” said the Doctor. “Herminius’s salt. If we’d left it alone it’d have grown and grown, in the way that a crystal can. Devoured the whole city; maybe more. I’ve sorted it now; it won’t go on getting bigger. But our host might be less jolly than he has been, when morning comes.”
“That doesn’t bother me,” said Lorna, “as long as we can still stay a while.”
“Oh yes,” said the Doctor. “Yes, we’ll definitely be doing that. If you keep on saving the world, you probably should have a really good holiday on it sometimes. I’ll have to leave soonish, to drop off some wine to its family. But you and Chris can stay as long as the both of you want.”
She went up beside her friend and shone the light over the hill, picking out the roof of the Senate beyond.
“The Roman Republic,” she said. “Almost half a millennium old. So old you’d think it’d last forever; but the person who extinguishes it’s already lived almost half the life he’ll have. And no one really remembers this place, this Rome. Only the one that replaces it, and the names of the people who did. Julius Caesar, Claudius and Augustus. Emperors. When something’s very, very old, it can be hard to remember,” she said, “how it’s often the oldest things who get to die.”
She hesitated for a moment.
“When I took us here, Lorna. What I was trying to say was”–
“Oh, hush. You think I didn’t see what you were trying to do in a second? People aren’t idiots, y’know. You can’t forget that, just because you’re clever. I don’t want to be taught a lesson. I just want to have a rest. To forget about everything, for a change..”
The Doctor looked round to Herminius’s house.
“It’s not a great place, for a holiday,” she admitted.
“It’s nice! It’s warm and sunny and the air is so fresh; there’s all sorts of new things to see. If we stay here a while, I might even get a tan. Then people’ll wonder where I was.”
She turned to her friend.
“Do you know how long it’s been,” she said, “since me and Christina last had a holiday? I’ve been so tired, Doctor. Even before all that’s happened. I just wanted to go somewhere where I didn’t have to worry, see? Just for a while. And everything you’re worrying about, right now. It’s all such a long way away.”
“Perhaps,” said the Doctor reluctantly.
Lorna laughed. “Maybe I’m the one who should be the psychiatrist, eh?”
“This isn’t really what the job involves.”
“Well. Maybe it’s something to think about. When you’re out doing your other job.”
“Not now,” said the Doctor, smiling. “We’re on holiday.”
They stood together in the night for a while, looking at stars that had no thought of invading.
“Getting late”, said Lorna eventually. “We’d better turn in for the night.”
They walked together into the modest home.
Thousands of years in the future, no one would think of that night when they thought of Rome. No legions marched up the hill where the TARDIS now sat; no murals graced its tall and crumbling buildings. In roasting schools for centuries, children would learn the names of kings– but there are no kings in Rome, and for a while yet there’d be no emperors either. Instead, people whose names no future would know kept time in their tiny city, unaware that in an even smaller room slept a person who had saved them all.
History is a series of books and pictures, and a number of terrible men. And in her time the Doctor has met all those terrors, has fought them and loved them and at her worst been them as well. But it is not for those men the Doctor saves the world, and not through reading of them that she cares for history. She finds the wonder of our world in our unremembered lives, which if they go unwritten about are still not forgotten by her. The children playing games through the legs in a crowded street; the laughter in a language that no book now recalls. The memories of the places that no one will remember, holed up in a woman so that at least someone does. The Doctor saves the world so we can go on living those lives.
She saves it so that sometimes we can go on a holiday.