He leans into her hand caressing his cheek. He wishes they could live in the moment—how he wishes!—but that’s not for them, never has been. They can’t get away from their past, can’t stop making futures.
He mirrors her caress, running his fingers over the delicate line of her jaw. She’s worth dying for; worth killing for. He’s killed for her, and for others, in his day. She never knew him innocent, and she’s never minded. Now she bears power and responsibility, draped over her shoulders like a heavy robe, and he wishes he could tell her how well it suits her.
You’re my favorite Lord President, he tells her, and she laughs, sweet and sudden in his face. I should hope so, she says. Or did you have a torrid affair with poor old Pandak?
This is funny, of course, not just because they both know it’s a ridiculous idea, but because what they have is so much more than a mere affair. It’s as close as they can get on Gallifrey to a formal marriage without the Exchange of Houses, a ceremony made next to impossible by his checkered legal history. Even without the ceremony she crossed and bound their biodata, no witnesses, just the two of them alone in her chambers. (That’s how people married in the days of Rassilon, she says. As if he’s such a wanderer that he can’t even stick to Homeworld relative present, and maybe he is. But he doesn’t want Rassilon at their marriage, even as an historical figure, and he kisses the name into silence on her lips.)
Are we doing the right thing? she says. I never was so surprised as when you showed up that day and told me it was you who’d done for Skaro with the Hand of Omega. Of all things.
They hurt you, he says simply.
It wasn’t very thoughtful of you, she says, not to ask if I wanted revenge.
Did you not?
I don’t know. I want them stopped, for sure, she says.
And that’s why I came to you, he says, holding both her hands in his. It’s your war now. You control what happens to the rest of the Daleks. I give them to you, my lady.
Assuming we win, she says.
We will, he says. All the might of Gallifrey, and you and me, against Davros’ leavings? How could we lose?
“We continue to drive them back up the timeline,” says Romana, her voice firm and resonant, her mouth just far enough from the microphone to give the impression that she’s filling a room, yet speaking to each listener personally. “No more than 500 years of Dalek history remain, and thanks to our brave troops, we will continue to close in on them. Time Lords and Gallifreyans, thank you for listening.”
She ends the broadcast and leans back in her chair, turning to the Doctor, who’s hovering behind her. “How are the alternative timelines looking?”
“They’ve been worse,” he tells her. “There’s a pretty serious weak point around the divergence point of Davros’ actual invention, but fortunately I know that area rather well.”
“We’ll send some agents to shore up the boundaries between universes,” she says thoughtfully. “After all, if Davros doesn’t create the Daleks, they become self-generated and nobody wants that.”
“The only thing worse than Daleks are bootstrapped Daleks,” he agrees. “But I think I’d better take this one myself.”
She doesn’t say anything, but she looks uncertain.
“It’s for the best,” he says. “It’s not a technical intervention, you know—it’s interpersonal—persuading the young Davros to pursue his dream and all that. Can you really see a CIA agent pulling that one off?”
She’s still hesitant. “It’s awfully dangerous.”
“I’ve faced worse.” He shakes out the hem of his scarlet robe—a borrowed one that hangs loosely on him, now scruffy with dust and wear and inkstains—and begins pacing. “Look, it’s just stroking a young megalomaniac’s ego a bit. How hard can it be?”
“I know you can do it,” she says, “but I’m worried you’ll lose your temper and tell him what you really think.”
“I’m a better liar than you realize,” he says lightly. He leans over her shoulder and kisses her beside the ear.
She turns her head, looks him in the eye. “I trust you,” she says, slowly and quietly.
“Thank you,” he replies, with equal solemnity. “I promise, I’ll be back before I left.” Then he winks: “Figure of speech, of course.”
Not everyone is loyal to her, but she knows she can always rely on him.
There was no one else she would take with her to the final campaign. Which was rather a grandiose name for something any common soldier could have done, a simple act of severing the last remaining causal link that bound the Daleks to reality. It was completely abstract at this stage in the war—no more faffing about with explosions and key decisions in history—just a single snip in reality with the manipulator tool that the Doctor irreverently called her spacetime scissors. But she was the Lord President who had led Gallifrey to its glorious victory, so it would be her action that crowned the success.
Still, the whole thing was to be done in great secrecy, and on delayed broadcast. Just in case.
In the blackness of space, near where Skaro would soon never have been, Romana and the Doctor waited hand in hand in a TARDIS-supported bubble.
“So this is it,” he said. “Your legacy.”
She shot him a sharp glance. “You sound disapproving.”
“I certainly didn’t mean to,” he said.
She thought for a moment. “But are you disapproving?”
He heaved a deep sigh. “It’s your decision.”
“But are you sure it’s the right thing?” He sounded genuinely anguished. “We’ve already prevented most of the damage the Daleks will ever cause. Do we have the right to exter-r-rminate them entirely? And how many innocent Thals will go with them?” He rolled the R dramatically, but it wasn’t funny.
“I thought this was my revenge,” said Romana. “The Daleks in my hands.”
“Whether you destroy them or show mercy, they’ll always know they were in your power,” he reminded her. “What could hurt them more than that?”
“In my power,” she echoed. She looked down at her slender, elegant hands, the nails cut pragmatically short, as if she expected to find tiny Daleks there for her to crush in her fist.
“It’s your decision,” repeated the Doctor at last. “But, Romana—I’m sorry that I’ve made you the kind of person who would do this.”
She stared down at the planet for a long time, and past it at the stars. Then, without a word, she turned around and went back to her TARDIS.
The Doctor looked behind him as he followed. Skaro still spun in the vacuum, deceptively innocent at this distance, giving no hint either of the nightmare that was brewing on its surface or of the hell of fire in which it would (still, eventually) end, thanks to the trick he played in Shoreditch all those many years ago.
He worked with her all the rest of the day on how to spin her decision as a victory. They went to bed, tired, a bit subdued, and when he was certain she was fast asleep he slipped away from her side. He found the manipulator tool, abandoned in the pocket of her robe, and took it. Then, after a thoughtful pause, he dressed himself not in the robe he’d been wearing but in his crumpled old suit, and put the tool in his pocket.
He sat down at her private desk and used her pen and stationery to write a note. He folded it once over and left it there.
Moving silently in the dark corridors, he went to his TARDIS and unlocked it. He stepped in, slowly, his hand lingering on the door, but not looking back, and dematerialized.
He returned to the causal link above Skaro and severed it with the mildly disgusted air of a man killing a cockroach.
The Daleks had never been. The Thals had never been. The system’s star had never had a planet capable of supporting life.
The Doctor got back in his TARDIS. He still had the Lord President’s spacetime scissors.
He had promised her the gift of revenge, of destroying the Daleks. And he’d given her revenge. The Daleks were destroyed. And no one could ever blame her, no one could accuse her—not even herself in her darkest moments, surely? Because she was innocent. He’d given her that gift, too. She would be remembered as the wise and merciful Lord President who was betrayed by a treacherous renegade.
She might be angry at first, he knew. But she deserved better than to be drawn into the web of his guilt. He’d realized that at last.
He gave the TARDIS some random coordinates—hopefully something exciting. With the Daleks gone from the universe, there would be so much more to explore.
He did not go back to Romana.