The sequel and “Companion” piece to The Writer.
I look at the ruins of what I used to be and I smile. They are more peaceful now: metal and alabaster covered in weeds and flowers.
It’s been a while since anyone visited my grave. The Incarnations, even some of the Great Old Ones that are smaller on the outside, sometimes like to stop by but the main ones, Pain and Death, stopped coming ages ago.
But Time never seems to stop. She’s always there. She is always there even now that he isn’t. Sometimes I think Time knows a lot more than she’s letting on when we pass each other in the streets of this world, and so many others.
I travel. I travel a lot. It seems old habits die hard that way, but even though my body is gone now, I find it amazing. There was a time when all of the stars and planets in this system were uninhabited. There were no psychic impulses, no telepathic fields: nothing. The only evidence of anything here having been anything other than eternal are the glyphs read on the corpse of me that became the site of my chrysalis.
He made them, but I’m the only one that can read them.
There is still some time. I could walk: it’s true. The breezes on the First World, Elysium, were always temperate even in the beginning. Instead I concentrate. It’s less that there are coordinates in my mind and more impressions of where I want to be.
I find myself in front of a small cottage surrounded by a larger garden.
“One day I will put down my pen. I’ll settle us down and work with what already exists. No more late nights. You won’t even have to kick me out for air …”
I shake my head. Even now The Tender, as everyone knows him, spends more time on his grounds than anywhere else. Nothing has changed, even if everything has.
He’s there. He’s wearing homespun overalls and a faded white shirt. His hands work a hoe as he plants another one of his cuttings into the earth. I remember his hair being so dark and short. But under his wide-brimmed and ridiculous hat it’s now all shaggy and white.
Somehow, he always had long fingers. Even though gloves cover them, I know they still work calmly and methodically. I remember them being steady when they weren’t working furiously across a keyboard or a control board in a frenzy of inspiration. His movements had always been slower than The Other’s, but that was okay. He didn’t have to be fast.
I can see them trembling a little now. He lets go of the cutting and sits crosslegged on the ground: just as he always used to do. I wonder just how much he remembers before I notice the colour of the grass he’s sitting in.
“From now on, until this War is over, I will be The Poet Laureate Triumphant. I shall be your Orator. For we shall spread across the cosmos and show the Enemy that we are the red grass of Gallifrey!”
He takes off one of his gloves and plays with a strand of grass: lost in some thought or reverie he probably cannot name. He was so good at Naming: well, everyone but himself anyway.
The Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate Triumphant. The Orator. And now The Tender. I resist rolling my eyes. At least the other names were just parodies and selfaware ironies. Even at his worst, he knew when to laugh at himself.
I wonder, again, if there is still some part of him laughing at all of this until I see … her.
Death stands behind him. She’s beautiful, I’ll give her that. And she’s standing in a white summer dress, metres away and entirely too close to my Writer.
Death. This was not the first time I died.
I died ages from now on a distant world in another place and time. I forgot in a War that I almost forgot. I didn’t remember what happened to my pilots but as parts of me lay in fragments or phased in and out of consciousness I could still feel the call of my heartbeat.
“A Battle TARDIS.”
“Wow. This must be an old design. I’ve never seen this kind before.”
“Or it’s a new one. The war might not have happened yet. She may not have happened
“That’s no ‘she.’ It’s just an old wreck.”
“No. She’s not. Can’t you hear it? Her Heart is singing …”
“Whatever. I’m going back to the Academy.”
“Not my fault you suck with piloting. You can stay here with your piece of junk girlfriend.”
“Please! Get back here! Come back! Please … don’t leave me here …”
He was just a boy when his friends left him. I was old when my own companions left me.
“This panel. It’s … repair options. This is automated? Yes. Yes, I see. Thank you.
“I love your song.”
It took time, but I got us off and away from that world. He kept me hidden, his little secret, but he spent all that time nursing me back to health: healing me and making me better. We helped each other in our own ways. It wasn’t long before he graduated the Academy and it seemed like we had all that time to ourselves … for as long as it lasted.
No. I’m not jealous. I wasn’t jealous when he brought the Tree female Amber aboard. Or Venra the Silurian. And Elentha the Malmooth was kind. I did draw the line on that Carrionite female, however. Even though she helped advance his work considerably, I didn’t care for her trying to kill him.
But even this is different. I was willing to share him with the other women in his life. I’ve even met others since he … left as well. But I think I’ve shared him with you for too long, Death. I think you’ve been around us for far too long.
I don’t blink but she vanishes like a Weeping Angel just the same. He sits there, seemingly oblivious, for a while until he finally mutters to himself, gingerly rises to his feet, stands for a few more moments, and goes back into his cottage.
He’s not human, or even the equivalent of one. Even as he is now, he’s lived a long life and outlasted many wives and lovers. Sometimes there were even groups of them. Some things never change I guess. But it won’t be long now. Still, I can’t help but think of how happy he is.
Maybe it’s for the best that he’s forgotten.
There is a vessel burning in space. It will burn eternally, pitilessly, if left to its own devices: bitten piece by piece and crumbling each by inch into the Time Well. He looks on. Not even his Words can stop this.
I make the decision.
I fire a time torpedo and the suffering vessel freezes into place: the dynamism of its molecules stilled and allowed to shatter quickly like ice smashed with the precise blow of a hammer. The suffering vessel exists no longer.
He looks at me. While the other pilots call me by my designation, he always calls me “Lovely” or “my love.” But today he pats me with one long-fingered hand and says my name.
I should have been slag. But not only did my Writer restore me, but through some Time Lord instinct and my will combined with perhaps the fracturing of time itself, we changed my fate.
“Mercy … please watch over them. Watch over these worlds, over my children …”
I remember, after centuries of work and isolation, when he placed the fob watch over my Heart … and he changed for the last time.
But so did I.
The watch and all that regeneration energy infused the Heart of me. The Workshop remains in flowers, wildlife, and beautiful fragments but I still remember that time when the Heart of me soared and transformed. New organs and parts, hands, legs, arms, toes, a shapely torso, a neck, a head and a face. Even as I look on at his departure, I realize that on that day my Writer was not the only one who had a wish.
“My friend left me a book from Earth. Mother Night tells you that you are what you pretend to be: or that, at the very least, you will become it.
“I’m tired, Mercy. I think I want to become something else now.”
I walk away from the cottage: his memories and mine entwining in my mind whenever I get too close. There have been so many times I wanted to awaken him. I might not travel as I once did, but I still think we can have many adventures. I still think I can drag him to many more places.
It’d be good for him.
I want to respect his wishes. He helped me escape a fixed point in time, intentionally or otherwise, and he already lost so much. I’ve been in war. I was made for war. I lived it my whole life. Until I met him. We spent so brief a peace time together. I never wanted this for him. I’d never wish war on anyone, but least of all him. He wasn’t made for it. But all I could do was be at my Writer’s side in the only way I could. And we did what we had to do …
And he deserves this peace.
Yet something is different now. It even took me a while to realize what it is. It’s like new memories or old senses have reawakened in me.
And that was when I realized that the Ways are open again.
What’s more: I felt a fissure in this reality. Something, someone, called to me. She feels different and younger, but familiar. I sensed her earlier. I decided to call out to her then. I waited.
She came with two others. I can feel strong echoes emanating off them. I see them at the remains of the Workshop: of the discarded cocoon and layers of myself. They are actually reading the glyphs.
I’ll keep waiting. Perhaps he should hear the news from them before it’s too late. My Writer needs to know. He needs to know that this story isn’t over yet.
“She is not a police box, but rather a phone booth. Cherry red and passionate. And through her I’ve been connected to everyone and everything I love. Because even though my loved ones are always far away, I know they are always there. Perhaps that is why her circuits chose this form in the beginning: to keep me connected to the universe. My friend. My home. My Mercy.”