A Very Noisy Night

by Aphrodititi [Reviews - 0]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Hurt/Comfort, Standalone

Author's Notes:
This was one of the oneshots I wrote for whumptober 2022 and is cross-posted from AO3.

There were many places that Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart would have preferred to be on that dark and stormy night. A prison would have been warmer. An asylum would have had better company. A crematorium would have smelled better. Instead of being in any of those wonderful places, Lethbridge-Stewart found himself in an abandoned fisherman’s hut, on a little Scottish island, with no company aside from the Doctor.

The storm howled around them. There were no windows in the god forsaken little shack but rain still poured through the hole that was once the front door.

It had been glorious sunshine when they’d arrived on the island. It had been beautiful as they’d picked their way across the grand cliffs and rolling green and grey countryside, searching for the fallen meteorite the Doctor was certain was related to the recent spike in lucid dreaming the world had been going through. They’d found it. The rock now sat in the Doctor’s impossibly large pockets. When the heavens had opened, however, they had been forced into the abandoned house. They would have to return to UNIT in the morning.

There were several reasons that the house should been abandoned. The shack was north-facing, straight out into the wind of the north Atlantic. The chimney had been built incorrectly and it pushed the smoke down into the little room rather than up and out of it. There wasn’t an easy route from the house to the little harbour down the hill, making it difficult for the fishermen that used to live there to get to their work.

None of these were the real reason that the people who had lived there before had abandoned the place.

The actual reason that it had been abandoned was that the landlord had decided that it would make him more money to raise sheep on the island, and he’d forcibly removed every soul that had lived there. The family that lived there must have been forced to leave in a hurry.

Furniture that was too large or too heavy to take with them at short notice had been left behind. The family’s iron range still sat, rusted beyond belief and the home to a family of mice, in the fireplace. A bed and incredibly rotten mattress, with no blankets, remained. There was a bookshelf, now covered in moss, in one corner. A shoe – a baby’s shoe – was left by the door where the baby had kicked it off in the rush to leave.

Lethbridge-Stewart sat on the floor. None of the furniture looked sturdy enough to sit on, so he leant against the back wall. The Doctor stood at the door, looking out into the miserable night.

“It’s not quite as picturesque as it was before, eh Doctor?”

The Time Lord chuckled, shaking his head.

“I wonder what ended up happening to the family who lived here?” The Doctor said, quietly, the deep sadness in his voice filling the room.

“Hopefully they found a warmer place to live.”

That was wishful thinking. The range was late Victorian, but out here they wouldn’t have had the latest innovations. Lethbridge-Stewart guessed they’d been evicted at some point between the wars. The family had probably ended up in a slum in Glasgow, or Aberdeen, or London. They may have ended up on a ship to America. The factories in New York always needed new lives to churn up and spit out.

“I had a friend once.” The Doctor said, not turning to look at Lethbridge-Stewart, rather still choosing to stare out into the rain. “He was from the highlands.”

“McCrimmon. Yes – I remember him.”

The Doctor nodded. He still didn’t turn to face Lethbridge-Stewart.

“He was sent back…back to his time when the Time Lords sent me to Earth. He’d have been living somewhere like this, wouldn’t he?”

“Well, I don’t know McCrimmon’s particular situation. What time was he from?”

“1746. He was a piper for Clan McLaren at Culloden.”

Lethbridge-Stewart blinked rapidly in surprise.

“Do you think they knew he was there?” The Doctor asked, voice low and full of emotion.

‘They’ was the English army and its allies. The Doctor knew better than to explain that to a man who was both a Scot and a member of the British army. Lethbridge-Stewart was very aware of the story and consequences of the battle of Culloden.

“Most likely, yes.” Lethbridge-Stewart said truthfully.

Outside, a bolt of lightning hit the sea. For a moment, a bright light hit the Doctor, his shadow slashing its way across the darkened shack. The Doctor waited for the thunder, distant but rumbling, to pass before he spoke again.

“They would have killed him, wouldn’t they?”

“Perhaps.” Lethbridge-Stewart nodded. “But he may have been sent to a penal colony…most of them were transported. A lot of Jacobites ended up in North Carolina. Or, well, you don’t know exactly when your people put him back. They may have put him back after the initial wave of arrests had died down.”

The Doctor shook his head.

“They would have put him back exactly where his last memories of home were.”

Lethbridge-Stewart, frankly, didn’t want to contemplate the idea of technology that could read a mind that way. The thought of that young man – and McCrimmon had been young, early twenties at the oldest – had been subjected to that technology didn’t sit right with him.

“Well…I suppose we’ll have to hope that McCrimmon was able to slip past the army undetected. He was quite capable, as I recall.”

“Yes. Yes, he was.” The Doctor nodded.

The lighting came again, giving Lethbridge-Stewart a clear view of the Doctor’s shoulders shaking as he tied to hold in his sobs.

Lethbridge-Stewart got to his feet and made his way over to the Doctor before the thunder peeled through the building. The Time Lord looked up in alarm at him as he came to stand by his side.

“He was a good lad. He deserved better than whatever your people ended up doing to him.” Lethbridge-Stewart put a hand, gently on the Doctor’s shoulder, hoping his touch would be enough to bring him some comfort. “But, Doctor, do not blame yourself. Your people are, from what you’ve told me, cruel and no better than the ‘primitives’ they claim to be above. McCrimmon was worth ten thousand of your bureaucratic Time Lord brethren.”

The Doctor nodded. In the light of the storm, Lethbridge-Stewart could see the shine in the Doctor’s eyes. The alien sniffed, blinking rapidly a couple of times, before turning to Lethbridge-Stewart with a watery smile.

“As are you, Brigadier.”

Lethbridge-Stewart chuckled, shaking his head. He tapped the Doctor’s shoulder.

“I have a pack of cards in my bag. Fancy a game?” Lethbridge-Stewart offered, gesturing with his head for the two of them to go and sit down away from the rain. The Doctor nodded.

“The only card game I know how to play is snap.” He warned him.

Lethbridge-Stewart shrugged.

“Snap works. We have time if you want to learn another one.”

The Doctor huffed a little laugh and stepped away from the door. Lethbridge-Stewart followed him, and the pair took their seats against the back wall of the shack. The Doctor built a little light out of his sonic screwdriver and a few spare bits of wiring he had on him as Lethbridge-Stewart shuffled the deck.

They played cards through the night. They started with snap, then moved onto rummy, poker and cheat. The Doctor taught Lethbridge-Stewart a complicated Venusian game which seemed to be a combination of a tower of cards and a violent sort of poker. It took a long time, but he got it eventually. It was one of those games you learnt the rules of through playing.

It was cold. It was dark. Neither of them mentioned McCrimmon again. Yet, despite it all, as the Doctor laughed and the mice squeaked from the range, Lethbridge-Stewart was glad they’d found themselves stuck there. He doubted the Doctor would have voiced that grief in any other context and, well, it was always better to get things like that out in the open. He just hoped that, in his own way, he’d managed to give him a modicum of comfort.