Doctor Who Internet Adventure #24 - "Remiel"

by Gregg Smith


I'm the bad guy? How'd that happen?

— D-FENS (Michael Douglas), Falling Down (1993)

'Qu'est-ce qu'un homme revolte? Un homme qui dit non.'

— Camus, L'Homme revolte (1951)

* * *

"If I'm not back in an hour, leave."

* * *

He stood in an alleyway between marble giants and watched her, across the road. She was sitting in the window of a coffee shop, wearing the scarlet dress with the low neck and the Romanesque fluting on the sleeves slashed at the shoulder. Her navy blue coat was folded over the next chair, her matching clutch and hat sat on the counter in front of her beside a pale blue china cup. She was watching the big blocks of rolling colour and chrome as they sailed past each other on the sunburnt tarmac.

       He thought: 'Any moment she will look up and see me, hiding here in the shadows.'

       He thought: 'And what would I say if I could cross this road and sit down and talk to you? Would I tell you that I love you? That I knew you for just a few hours, but knew you so closely that I fell in love. And I thought I stopped falling in love a long, long time ago. Could I tell you what happened next? That I left you, just for a moment, but that moment carried me away, and what's been an hour for you has been a lifetime for me? That I fell in love with someone else, just as quickly as with you, and then I let him die. That I murdered someone, made promises I didn't keep, made choices I can't live with. Would I tell you that I don't know what I want? That, more than ever before, I can't face the future, I don't know which way to turn. That I'm an idiot and all I want to do is run away again.

       'If I could cross the road, if I could sit down and talk to you, and you could listen and understand and tell me what I want, maybe I could sought everything out. After all I've been through, I don't know what's real anymore. I can't be sure what I'm feeling is real, or just a side effect of everything else I'm feeling. Being close to other people was once very difficult for me, and then I made it come easily, but now I don't know if I've ever really been close to anyone else, ever really let anyone in. I was going to leave everything behind for you. But was I just being impetuous, deluding myself that I'd found the resolution to some sort of buried crisis event, formed a relationship stronger than any other I've ever known? If I can't be sure of the way I feel, I can't build my life on it.

       'If you could understand, what would you say? When I make decisions, people die. When I fall in love with them, people die. Would you make my decisions? Would it be better to be loved than to be in love? I've always been afraid of the past and the future, that's why I've always tried to live in the present. But even that scares me now. When I look at your face, will I see his? When I gaze into your eyes, will they just reflect the emptiness I feel? I don't think I could bear that. I don't love you anymore. I can be sure of that, because I'm sure that I'm not sure how I feel. And if I'm not sure that I'm in love with you, I can't be.

       'If I could talk to you, and you could understand, you could make everything OK. But I'm not even sure I want that.

       'So I won't cross the road, and I won't talk to you. And you'll never see me again. And you'll probably hate me for it. But not for long. You've only known me for a few hours, after all. It was just sex, and an unfulfilled promise. And if there is to be a lasting impression, it should be one of dislike. I deserve it. Because I can't cross the road.'

       And he dropped his cigarette on the Washington sidewalk, ground it under the toe of his sensible shoe, hefted up his cases, turned around and walked back to the TARDIS.

* * *

The Doctor pulled the scanner down and looked at the grainy picture as it tracked and focused on a figure in the park outside.

       "He's coming back".

       "A whole ten minutes left." Kirena crossed and uncrossed her arms. She put her hands on hips, then rubbed them together edgily. Then she crossed her arms again.

       A few more moments of silence save the ever-present background buzzing from the console. Then the main doors hummed apart and Luke entered. He dropped one of the two suitcases just inside the door and walked swiftly across the room without making eye contact. Kirena pivoted around as he passed her, but he didn't pay any attention. Halfway across, he shed the black-and-white herringbone jacket, passing the case from one hand to the other. He let the jacket crumple on the cold wooden floor. And finally, he spoke:

       "Take me to twenty-one oh-one, please. Quick as possible."

       "Anywhere in particular?" asked the Doctor.

       "Anywhere on Earth. Except south-east England." Luke reached the door to the rest of the TARDIS, pushed it open and continued through without breaking his stride.

       The Doctor programmed the co-ordinates into the TARDIS control, walking around the console solemnly. Then he stopped and put his palms on the panelled edge. He allowed his shoulders to droop slightly and the console let out a small creak as it took his weight. He closed his eyes.

       "We can't go on like this. Maybe you should try talking to him again."

       "I've tried everything I can think of. You've lived for an eternity. There must be some advice you can give him. Something you can recommend to help him stop whatever emotions are affecting him, separate them from his everyday life."

       "Only death. And I wouldn't recommend that. I just don't know what to say to him. What to do about this."

       "Maybe there's nothing you can do. You can't undo what you did to him, any more than he can bring John back to life."

       "I know that!" the Doctor snapped. "That doesn't solve matters."

       Kirena swallowed hard and wandered over to the tea caddy. She poured two cups and took one to the Doctor.

       "Thank you. I'm sorry. I just don't what to do. These mood swings."

       "He's always been rather intense. Manic-depressive."

       "Not like this. One minute he wants to go to the biggest party in history, then he wants to smash everything in sight, then he just wants to brood in isolation."

       "I'd prefer he did the brooding isolation, myself."

       "Kirena, sharing your grief with others is the normal, healthy thing to do."

       "There's sharing, and there's dumping. He tried to kill you."

       "No he didn't."

       "What, he didn't stab you with a sword and ride off, leaving you for dead?"

       "The time we've been travelling together, he knows enough to know that what he didn't wouldn't be fatal to me. And he knows enough that he could have killed me if he'd really wanted to. If he'd wanted me dead, I wouldn't be standing here right now. At the very least, I'd be in a different body."

       He looked away. "And with what I've been through recently, that wouldn't be a helpful turn of events. I could turn out very badly indeed."

       "I just don't think I can trust him. He's lost control."

       "What he's going through is more than just the death of a loved one. It's guilt, and denial and anger and frustration and more."

       "He's had almost nine months."

       "It's taken me entire lifetimes to deal with similar experiences. And we don't know how well he was coping before we ran into him again in LA. He may have found a way to deal with it, something that we destroyed by simply being with him again. He doesn't like the fact that he made a particular choice, even though it was for the best and wasn't really a choice at all. I can see it in his eyes. Something has changed. He's been a different person ever since we met him again. Have you noticed that he hasn't taken any drugs since?"

       "Don't be silly, he... actually, now that you mention it."

       "He hasn't even had any alcohol."

       "And he used to say that a civilized man always knows when to get drunk."

       "It's not a good sign. I wish I knew whether or not he cried during those months that we were apart."

       "You think that's all he needs? A good weep? Then everything will be OK?"

       "I don't know if things will ever be 'OK'. His instinct is to move on, get on with the rest of his life. He can't do that with us around. He can barely function while we're there as a constant reminder of what happened. And yet the consequences of the decisions forced on him have left him unwilling, perhaps even unable to make the choices he needs to make."

       "But he's asked you to take him back to his own time. That means he's intending to leave, right? And it might be for the best."

       "And it might not be. Kirena, we can't part with him on these terms."

       "Well, we could drop him off and go back to see him once he's had some time to himself."

       "And risk bringing everything crashing back down again? If he wants to leave, we can't stand in his way. But the least we can do is say goodbye properly. And hope he'll remember us as fondly as we'll remember him."


* * *

"We'll be landing soon." Kirena stood in the breach of Luke's room, her arms folded and her jaw set. She didn't recognise the music playing on Luke's stereo... something about a soul auctioneer.

       "Death in Vegas," he said without even looking at her. "Late twentieth, early twenty-first. Very big in the more fashionable and inspired retro circles by my time. Thanks for the advance warning. I won't be long." He was sitting in front of the dresser gazing into the mirror as he applied eyeliner. The last time Kirena had seen it, before eleventh-century England, it had looked like a spider's web, shattered and burnt. Damaged suffered from Luke's Tiffany lamp — the one with the solid metal stand carved into the abstract shape of a giant dragonfly, and more dragonflies on the stained glass of the shade. The Doctor seemed to have repaired or replaced both items at some point.

       Luke was wearing PVC trousers and a shiny purple shirt. There was a blue crushed velvet jacket with arabesque patterns hanging on the stand in the corner.

       "So," Kirena filled the silence. "Will you be leaving again?"

       Luke made an affirmative-sounding grunt.

       "You know you don't have to."

       "Oh, I think I do."

       "It's not too late. What do you want, Luke? What do you need?"

       He put down the eye pencil and swivelled to face her. He grinned.

       "Let me see. What do I need? Well, I've never been able to get my head around auto-fellatio. Any pointers you'd care to give."

       "Luke, you can't let this ruin your life."

       "I assure you, that's the last thing I will allow."

       "You can't hate yourself for doing the right thing."

       "The right thing. Yes, well, that's something I swore I'd always avoid doing."

       "I don't understand you."

       "The expert way I balance vanity and insecurity?"

       "The way you're letting this affect you. If it's the nagging thought that you could have saved him, that there should have been some other way... there wasn't any other way. Not to save all those people, and to save history. You would had no choice."

       "No choice," Luke said quietly, turning back to the mirror and starting on the mascara. "Marvellous."

       "If it's that someone you loved died... do you think the Doctor and I haven't been through similar things?"

       "I don't doubt there are plenty of mistakes and regrets to go around."

       "We've found ways to go on, without running away and without letting it affect our relationships with those who are important to us."

       "Well, Kadi, thank you for sharing your superiority, I suppose after two years travelling with me it is your turn, but I'm really not interested."

       "I understand. Having buried yourself in layers of protection, after hiding behind the make-up and the glib lines and shrug-off sentiments, you find you can't deal with these real feelings."

       "Oh, such insight, such a talent for plumbing the depths of the human psyche. You think you know so much? Listen." His voice had assumed the edge of a Shakespearean tyrant. "I hold no self-delusions. You think I'm worried about people getting close to me? I'm not. If I wear a mask, it is to appear to be what I actually am. I never pretend. I am not a performer. That's the sad truth. This is the real me. I'm not worried that someone might get close and find there's nothing in here," he smacked the side of his head with enough force to make Kirena wince. "I know there's nothing in here," he smacked his temple again and Kirena unfolded her arms and stepped towards him. "And I fucking well like it that way."

       "I had ten brothers. I've never really seen eye-to-eye with those that made it past childhood, not even Jadi. But I love them. I... If anything ever happened to them, I... When Jadi went missing, I went looking for him. And when he came back, I was as angry as hell, but I was so relieved, I..." she trailed off.

       "Anger and relief, such a complex inter-twining of emotions, Kadi you do surprise me! Did you have a point, or are you just feeling left out in the navel-gazing stakes?"

       "Look, you bastard, I would die for Jadi, and for Garret, and for Menha and the Doctor. If I had to, if it was between them and me. I'd like to think I'd have the courage. And I'd die for you. If it was you or me, I'd take the bullet, take the force of the explosion. I'd die for you."

       Luke's face fell, the anger draining away, leaving only the sadness. His jaw drifted open slightly. He smiled "I'm overwhelmed." And then, very slowly and very deliberately, curling his lip as he went, he said: "Do you really think that's what I want to hear? You stupid bitch."

       Kirena felt herself stepping back, screaming at herself. "Luke, I..."

       "Just go away, please." He said quietly, turning back to the mirror.

       "I'm sorry, I... Luke, you must do what's best for you. But if you leave, I'll miss you very much."

       "Oh, just piss off, will you!" He brought both fists crashing down on the dressing table, sending make-up, CD cases and assorted ephemera flying.

       Kirena turned around and walked out. As the door closed after her, Luke closed his eyes, already rehearsing his apology.

To be continued...

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