Absolution

by Sarah Jane Smith [Reviews - 0]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Angst, Character Study, General, Introspection, Missing Scene, Standalone, Vignette

Author's Notes:
This is mostly a Big Finish, Unit: The New Series Story and, although Kate is the only one who appears, it references those characters.

This is a fan work that is done for love not profit :-)

    Absolution


Takes place about three days after Master of Worlds by Matt Fitton from Big Finish.

No recognisable characters or situations belong to me, and I am making no profit from this fan work.


She goes every Sunday that she is in the UK instead of in Geneva, or on some deadly mission. Sometimes she is accompanied by one or other of her sons, rarely both, and she knows they go more out of duty than anything else, but duty has always run deep in the Lethbridge-Stewart blood. Sometimes she goes as one leader of UNIT to another, looking for advice and inspiration. But at other times, like today, she goes to see her dad, seeking some remnant of the comfort and security she once felt in his shadow.

The weather is grey and overcast, the awful not-quite rain that is the worst of British weather. The droplets stick to her hair and coat, dampening her, and making her wish she had an umbrella, even though there is no obvious precipitation. There isn’t even enough rain to have the decency to hide the tears she can already feel pricking at the corners of her eyes. She makes her way through the too familiar rows, and stops before the stone.

Her eyes trace over the well-known letters, the inscription she herself had picked out.


Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart
22nd February 1930 - 16th December 2011

Honour and shame from no condition rise. Act well your part: there the honour lies.

Beloved father and grandfather
Inspirational leader



“Hello, dad,” her hands feel terribly empty. She usually brings flowers, or on visits like this, the small engraved silver hipflask, that she keeps (strictly for emergencies) in a bottom desk drawer. Today, she has remembered neither.

Kate crouches and begins cleaning up the front of the headstone, the autumn leaves that are stuck to it, and the bouquet that she had left some three weeks ago, dead and mulchy in the unforgiving September wind. She thinks of the conversion factories, still being dismantled by her teams all over the world. Osgood’s patch has worked and the population is back to normal - though shell shocked. Other than the few dead in futile armed resistance, the casualties have been minimal. They’re lucky.

She has been awake for longer than she cares to think about, she’d been at one of the London sites herself until someone had realised that she wasn’t rotating herself off duty. Josh had forcibly escorted her off the premises. She idly wonders if she can have him charged for insubordination.

Kate wishes that she could ask her dad about the abstract questions of morality the Master had mentioned. She knew the deaths of his people had weighed heavily on him, but he had never doubted himself, never second guessed his actions. She had ended up giving in anyway, how many of those lives that were lost might have been spared if she’d done that to start with? Certainly those of Julia Hartley-Price and her guards, human, however stupid and greedy they had been.

“I finally met him,” she starts. Her voice sounds dry to her own ears. “The Master.”

The headstone stays obstinately silent, and the tears finally come, frustration spilling over. “He’s as much of a bastard as you always said. I really thought we had him. I had my best people surrounding him, an entire cyber army keeping him occupied, and he still managed to slip through our fingers.” With a fair chunk of my pride to boot, she thinks bitterly, but doesn’t add. She can’t confess that out loud, not even to the dead. She hates hates losing, hates losing to such a well established enemy more, and the ease with which he had done it...

“He helped us stop the cybermen, but almost killed well over 90% of the global population.. Would have done, if he hadn’t been more interested in a quick getaway than toying with us a little more. How are we - How am I - supposed to fight that?”

She stops again, gathering her thoughts, and when she speaks again, her voice has lost the hard edge, making her sound more forlorn than she would allow anyone else to hear her. God, she’s so tired.

“We can’t outgun him, can’t out think him. Even if we could catch him, I don’t think we could hold him. It’s not like in your day, dad. There’d be too many questions about a prisoner held without trial. Even if I could convince Geneva of the necessity, everyone with half an interest would be along to talk to him, interrogate him. It’s inevitable that he’d turn one of them, eventually; and if this is what he does because he’s just passing through, I don’t fancy the idea of him out for vengeance.” She stops and thinks and adds in a quieter voice, “Having met him, I’m pretty sure you were only able to hold him because it suited his purposes to let you and the Doctor think you could.”

She’s finished cleaning the headstone now, and she stands again, one hand holding the old flowers to take with her, the other deep in her pocket, clenched until her knuckles are white. At the edge of her hearing, she is aware of the roar of the wind. She should go before the weather gets worse, but she still hasn’t got what she needs.

“I can’t protect any of us from his kind of power.” She hates to admit that as much as she hates losing. Osgood is brilliant, her working against them had been catastrophic and had almost cost her the planet. She might hate admitting her own helplessness outside of a very trusted few, but a few days ago, she would have sold her soul for a Timelord scientific advisor, with otherworldly knowledge.

She virtually had, in the end.

She’s turned it over and over through the long hours of interviewing every person who’d been partially converted and recovered from the network. She’s certain she could have made no other choices than the one she had.

She’d never even had half a chance at beating the Master at his own game.

“What do I do?” she asks aloud, as she had once asked about homework, and later meaningful academic decisions, and later still, when she had been first learning to navigate the treacherous political waters of Westminster and the Home Office and Geneva. Her dad had always been her most trusted advisor, long after his official retirement. His mind sharp until the end. If he were here, he’d have the answers she doesn’t.

She strains, as though if she listens hard enough she might hear his low, soothing voice: his light reassurances and certainty in their ability to prevail; his matchless strategic brilliance; any insight he might have on the Master.

“He’d say something terribly bracing about strength,” a voice says, and Kate flinches, abruptly becoming aware of a presence behind her. She whirls, hand automatically reaching into her jacket for the gun she is still carrying. Adrenaline floods her blood so that she feels more awake than she has in days. No one human should be able to get so close to her without her noticing.

Behind her is a man she recognises. He’s still strong looking, broad in chest and shoulder, despite his seeming age. His anachronistic ruffled shirt and opera cape should look ridiculous, but he wears it well, and the cape is keeping the worst of the damp off the bottle green velvet of his smoking jacket. He offers her a smile as he stops by her side, somehow managing to mingle appropriate respect with humour. He has remembered to bring flowers. Yellow ones.

“You!”

The Doctor doesn’t answer, just places the flowers then looks at her steadily.

“Why you?”

“He was - is - my friend. I sometimes visit them.”

She doesn’t ask. It might be maudlin, but it would give her a bizarre sort of comfort to see Osgood’s and Sam’s and all the other’s headstones with dates of death far in the future too. There is a drawn out silence where the seconds seem elastic as her need to for an explanation wrestles against her fierce independence, before she angrily demands, “Where were you a few days ago? We needed you!”

His expressive face twists with a myriad of emotions that pass so quickly she can’t parse all of them. “I couldn’t. I can’t cross my own time stream,” he responds, frustration colouring his tone.

She knows he is talking only about this version of himself. He doesn’t offer excuses or explanations for his other regenerations. Kate wants to ask why he doesn’t deal with the Master in his own timeline in a permanent enough way that he doesn’t cause her heartache in hers. She doesn’t ask that either. She knows that answer. The Master was right about that much at least, the Doctor isn’t a warrior, and not given to that particular kind of pragmatism. “And what about next time?” she says instead.

“You’ll be fine, Kate. Your father would be proud. UNIT is in good hands, and you will prevail. Even against seemingly insurmountable odds.”

It means nothing. There is no advice or technology or promise. And yet, there is something in the rock solid quality of his voice that reassures her, and she finds herself buoyed, her confidence restored. Kate shifts fractionally on her feet, straightening her back and squaring her shoulders against the oncoming horrors UNIT will undoubtedly face - and defeat - in the days and years to some. She watches the Doctor watch her, half a smile tugging at the side of his mouth. She knows from that tiny gesture that he is seeing her dad, and that buoys her too. Such steel the Master had mocked, but he is right about that too. That is the essence of UNIT; that is why she won’t roll over and play dead for anyone. The Master might come back, they’ll defeat him by sheer perseverance, the way a drop of water can wear down a rock.

“My people are the best, they can tackle anything.”

If the last few days have proved anything, it’s that that is not the case without a good helping of luck on the side, but the Doctor nods as though her statement is as incontestable as the existence of gravity. “Quite. I trust them with the planet when I can’t be here.”

Another silence falls between them, but this one is more comfortable. The time-blunted edge of the once sharp grief that lives in Kate’s heart hits her anew, and the Doctor looks tactfully at the stone while she uses the edge of her hand to wipe away the last of the tears. Her dad should be here, defending the planet with her.

A hand lands on her shoulder, steadying and reassuring, and for an instant, just an instant, she almost thinks...but no. It’s just the Doctor. He pulls back with another sad smile. “I’ll leave you. And I’m sorry I couldn’t be here, but you really don’t need me, you know.”

“Thank you,” Kate answers. “He’d like to know you visit.”

Her eyes are fixed on the Doctor’s flowers, and she suddenly longs for sleep. She has nothing to atone for, she’ll be back on site in a few scant hours, interviewing more civilians and cataloguing the technology left by both the cybermen and the auctioneers, but she’s earned a few hours of much needed rest. Perhaps she won’t put Josh on a charge, after all.

The wind catches her ears again, with a few half familiar notes, and when she looks up, startled, she is once again alone.

“You were right about him too, dad. He is worth putting our faith in.” Then Kate too turns, she needs to rest if she’s going to defend them all against the next attacker. The Earth won’t save itself.