Purpose: Part of the Who Fest, I volunteered to write a Ten/Reinette, simply because we need more!
Title: After Me, The Deluge.
Summary: He wished he was the other chap that was good at time manipulation AND had an umbrella.
A/N: I'm heading to England tonight, so I shall be out of commission for a bit. I will be posting an end or two to this...we'll see :) Cross-posting to the various fic haunts.
It would be….valiant.
So easy to turn the wrong dial, flip the wrong switch and end up four seconds too soon or five minutes too late, as he had already learned by simply spinning too slowly.
He wasn’t nearly as half as gifted in this estimation and manipulation of time as some of his predecessors. Another who’d had a thing for suits and ties plus an umbrella had been so expert at this that he…unimaginable that he had been that man once. So calculating and so very clinical – it had cost him much in terms of personal attachment. If Ace ever saw him again and recognized him for who he was, she’d likely put a bullet through his hearts. She was a good shot. Not that he’d blame her. Then again, she would be rusty considering the Time War had taken away most of her prey, not to mention she was so very bright; though he’d never given her much more credit that the girl with the nitro, she likely knew he had a hand in making the Daleks disappear into the mist.
He scratched a line through his equation. How much time would he need…be allowed? He crossed his ankles as he lay on his belly in the control room of the Tardis. He chewed the back end of the pen thoughtfully, glasses balanced precariously. The Tardis was empty. He’d created another Sarah Jane except this one would work at the cost of the universe to find him.
The last time he’d been young enough to do a silly stunt like this, he had not. Nobody had ever given him such a firm shaking as she had. “Wake up!” He’d played sports instead. He was a regular athlete in that body. It never quite registered that girls, women, what-have-you, liked that kind of thing. And he was a blonde. Hmm. Perhaps watching Turlough while he was still a brunette had driven him toward the blonde on the path to being ginger. Never quite made it thought.
Brown (extremely early in that life) then white, black, white, brown, blonde, some odd straw muckish colour, brown, brown, brown, and brown. It seemed he’d gotten into a funk after he was a blonde. Wasn’t there a saying about blondes and fun somewhere on Earth? At any rate, nobody had managed to reach out and snag his blonde self back then.
He reviewed the timeline he’d had plotted out the prior night, after he’d hidden the letter away. He couldn’t bear to look at it. It was a memorial to another one of his failures. You tend to collect a lot of them over a thousand years.
Even when he wasn’t exactly the traditional idea of human vanity, he’d managed to surround himself with an entourage consisting primarily of pretty women. Most of them had run off and gotten married when they realized he wouldn’t raise a finger to court them. There were exceptions. Two Romanas, one Sarah Jane, and a Leela in a selbarik tree. Leela had disappeared. She was the only one he was completely unsure of. Was she on a mission? Was she on Gallifrey when…?
Sarah Jane. She’d looked brilliant last time he’d saw her. The second one he’d tried to shoo out of the nest, but he’d forgotten that Sarah Jane, despite her blankets and her silly stuffed toy, had already taken her wings and flown. What he’d yanked out from under her was not her childhood or her obligation to him, as he had done to Susan…
Oh Susan. The only little girl who could ever completely sway him, could ever have him wrapped around a pinkie, and the only one who he had the pride to call his family. He hoped to the gods that he’d done the right thing and had saved her.
Romana had grown out of him and up into the upper echelons of Gallifreyan society and government. If she’d been a wanderer and a little less prim and proper and far less brave and wise and willing to die for her people…
She’d died for him. Only him, in the end, because he’d failed his end of the bargain.
And another was dying while waiting for him, once again, because he was failing his part.
Right. Down to business. He stood up, straightened his cotton pinstripe suit, and leaned over the Tardis console. He pushed his thick glasses back up his nose as he peered at the data the Tardis had spat back out at him. According to the ink, it was dry two days before her death. The King had received it not long after the ink was dry, judging from the skin analysis found on the letter. Hoping he’d show up in time, no doubt.
So sometime before she dies and sometime after the King walks out of her bedroom for the last time, he must sweep in, chase out the priest and the maid, and enact his plan without disrupting the time line. She must be dead, for the most part, or else the reapers would come.
But there's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.
He whirled around to another monitor and read his information there as well. She dies alone with her maid on a rainy Palm Sunday. She is buried next to the little girl whose hand she could not hold during that child’s final hours. Her bones are lost to the sewers of Paris when some artistic fathead decides to tear down her burial place among the Capuchin monks. She is among the nameless in the catacombs.
Right before she died, as she was taken from her rooms at Choisy to pass away as a queen at Versailles, she told a priest, in a haze of consumption, “Please wait. We will go away together.”
He abandoned ship halfway to Versailles from Paris. It was before dawn on the morning of the thirteenth. Friday the thirteenth, no less. Humans with triskaidekaphobia lived in mortal terror of this day, and even those whose lives were not ruled by it tossed perfectly good salt away and carried equestrian implements around. Silly humans. As he stepped out of his favourite blue eyesore, he took notice of the fog and the drizzle that started to settle on the top of his head. The tree-lined road ahead was long and muddy, seemingly never-ending.
Regardless, he walked the last seven miles to Versailles. If the sun could have been seen, it would have started its ascent into the middle of the sky by the time he reached the front gate. He was soaked, even through his trench coat. His trainers squished, and he was absolutely positive he had a blister roughly the size of his mole on the bottom of his foot.
He wished he was the other chap that was good at time manipulation AND had an umbrella.
The sonic screw driver cut him a neat hole through the wrought iron fence to toward the east and edged his way around to the Parterre du Nord. He avoided the poodles by diving into Neptune’s fountain on the way in. Out of all the things Louis XV did, he couldn’t believe that turning poodles in half-shaved rats would be one of the things that stuck the longest. At least some of the mud came off, and he was already wet.
At last he was able to press his back into the side of the castle, leaving a Gallifreyan-shaped smear on the side of the otherwise immaculate palace. Now it was a matter of in. Or up and in, he hadn’t decided yet. By now the adrenaline was really starting to course through his veins. Actually, he couldn’t remember if he had adrenaline or not. He was an odd bird biologically plus he’d been bored by the subject at the Academy. At any rate, something made his heart race and his head pound, and he couldn’t stand not to move.
He decided the best way about this was to climb directly in and slink around the halls. The stairs would provide too much evidence of his wet self otherwise. Though he was sure she had unbricked the door to the secret staircase between her and the King, he was not willing to meet his rival there. He had to find a way of getting into the tall windows of the state apartments. The trellises that had been taken down post-Revolution stood proudly and rather conveniently nearby. Before he stranded himself up there, he cast a glance at the window. Looked as if he could get in, as long as she had not painted them shut to ward off the wasps and dragon flies. Considering that this place had once been upon a swamp, he found it rather foolish for them to assume that the former inhabits would be so willing to move for the King.
After scooting six feet up the trellis, he effortlessly leaned over with the sonic screwdriver in hand and gave a quick zap to the top of the window. That should have loosened it enough to….he swung a foot into the centre partition of the window pane and the window popped open. He quickly shinnied back down the ivy, sending up a spray of raindrops, and ducked into the newly made entrance. He carefully closed the door behind him. Now to…
Dry off. Quickly. Wouldn’t do him any good to get or give the poor woman pneumonia, not to mention he looked half-drowned in the first place. He was going to be in the presence of the great Madame de Pompadour; he had to look a bit more presentable than this…
Or at least dry.
Squishing down the hall in his now brownish grey trainers, “Fireplace Man” sought his namesake. He listened for the familiar crackling and shuffling of metal and for voices. He found the last first. He pressed himself to the wall of a narrow hallway and listened, carefully. That’s when he heard her.
It had been so long for her, and yet mere days for him. Her voice was thinner than before, retaining its melody and its grace, but worn horribly by coughing. It sounded like old lace: pretty, delicate, and frayed. The King’s voice offered the same shy light baritone.
“And what of you? Shall I leave you unloved?”
If a woman crosses my path that can take your great place, I’ll choose her.”
“Have I not provided well for you these last years, my lord?”
“Of course. But I’ll not have your last act be to arrange your replacement…it doesn’t seem right…”
The eavesdropper disengaged himself from the wall. Nothing for his ears to hear. He’d found her and now had to make himself presentable. Creeping further down the darkened alcove (in advance of the mourning period), he discovered a small sitting room. Hers. As she had ordered, there was a fire burning and a pot of something warm on the hearth. He allowed himself a smile at her propriety and preparedness, even at the end. He now had to wait. Louis was going to leave her for the last time, to cry himself to sleep upstairs as she made her final confession – she had found religion after her little girl had died.
Fanfan. He’d seen her once, in a locket that she kept on her person at all times. “She is pretty, like her mother.”
“She is better than her mother,” was the answer years ago. “She will be a nun, I believe, not a courtesan. I do not wish for her to have such a precarious life.”
“But what of your majestic line?” he had asked, stupidly.
She could not help but laugh at him. “Louis has already said that the Comte de Luc would not be married to my girl – I was foolish to ask, as you are now of my ‘majestic line.’ The line of Fish, while very good natured, is hardly stout enough to survive on its ‘majestic’ credits!”
She was right. She always was. Fanfan died of peritonitis at age ten. She lost four babies with Louis herself beforehand. After that in combination with Fanfan’s death, she couldn’t look at another baby, not even the ones Louis may or may not have fathered; aid them, send their poor mothers money, give away all of Fanfan’s toys, but never face them.
He stood in the echoing halls of Versailles and waited for some ounce of silence, so he would not intrude upon the good lady and her private thoughts nor cause Reapers to destroy what she had so painstakingly designed. The maid had to have some sort of respite.
And so she did. “Madame…might I have your leave for a moment’s time?”
“Of course, my good lady.” Her voice was horribly hoarse, but still gentle.
As the maid slipped out, he noted a screen before the door, likely used to hide her from prying eyes that would report to her detractors about how wretched she looked during her last days. He carefully used the sonic screwdriver on the door (wisely locked) and entered into the room. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to face her. Then again, there was no time like the present… and there would not be.
He allowed himself to peek out from behind the behind the boudoir screen. He took in the image of her and found, surprisingly, that it was an image he could hold just as dear as when she was seven, eighteen, twenty-four, and thirty-seven.
Dying of consumption at forty-two, she looked splendid. She had propped herself up in bed, having moved there only for the last few days. She previously had received guests while sitting up in her chair. She could not lie down due to her lungs. She was white, all white – white dressing gown, white petticoats, white hairpins. She was the one who looked like an angel.
In his most perfect French, he asked, “Madame, are you decent for a caller?”
She tensed up, startled, and looking around the room desperately. He remembered belatedly how she did not care for ambushes; Louis had had a horrible scare from one with a knife, and she’d had a letter bomb threat. However, that all changed when he stepped out from behind that screen. Her angry countenance broke away immediately into one of joy. He stood, hands on his hips, coat pushed back a bit, hair still a bit mussed from the rain. Her smile warmed him from across the room.
“Docteur!” Her eyes widened and her yellowing skin seemed to glow pink again for a moment. “Mon ange isolé.” She pushed her self up into a complete sitting position but he had strode across the room and held her frail shoulders still so that she would not stand to greet him. She grasped his arms and, with surprising strength for a woman in her condition, pulled him closer to her. She repeated her words again. “My lonely angel…Doctor…my Doctor.” She had forced him into a kneeling position on the bed; if he resisted at all, he feared he would break her arms off or topple onto the rest of her now small frame. He carefully folded his arms around her and she, despite her ill health, squeezed him with whatever strength was left in her.
“Reinette.” The Doctor could never call her Madame de Pompadour unless it was in jest or as part of one of his grandiose schemes, he thought to himself as he carefully rearranged his limbs so that he could now sit at Reinette’s side, her eyes wide and fixated on him. “I’m sorry that I am a bit late to this occasion.”
Reinette’s eyes started to well up, but she would not cry for this man, nor any man, not even with joy. “You arrived quite well on time. I gave the King a letter for you, and he made fast work of it.”
The Doctor’s brain momentarily stalled. Oh yes. He would have to tell her. Soon. But not now. “If you can’t count on your King, who can you count on?” he replied with a grin.
Her face answered with the same smile she had rewarded him with when he addressed her so long ago after those Clockwork men had came. “I believe you answered that question several times in my life before now.” Her smile grew as the Doctor laughed lightly. She scanned his face. “Still as young as before.” she continued to look him over, as if checking if God had sent him back to her whole. A thin hand was in his own while its mate traced his face. “You are remarkable…” Reinette trailed off. He had stayed the same. Rather than catch up to him and surpass him slightly, she had overshot him now in age by ten years due to disease. She felt a pang of shame as she thought of her lost vanity.
The Doctor filled in the blanks and put his other hand to her face, mirroring her hands. “As are you, Reinette.”
She averted her eyes, knowing she’d given herself away. “You flatter me.”
The Doctor used one of his long thing fingers to drape a strand of now-grey hair that had come lose from her maid’s half-hearted effort of restraining her mistress’s hair. “I’ll prove it.”
The coquettish half glance from years past flashed briefly across her face again. “Will you, now.”
He did not hesitate now to jump into her game. He surged forward to kiss her lips but was quite surprised to find himself kissing the palm of her hand. The Doctor pulled back and stared at Reinette’s alarmed face. “I cannot…I wish I could…” Her frustration showed clearly as she spoke, her tone one of regret. “I’ll not give you this disease that eats me inside, that snatches my breath from me with every rise and fall of my breast.” Now her eyes clouded with tears of a different storm. She still would not allow them to fall.
“You know that I am not like you. I would be safe.” Rather than try the direct approach, he kissed her forehead. He then hovered near her face at a rather intimate distance.
That devilish grin of hers, the one she’d had in response to his query regarding her age over twenty years before, came back to her face. “And you said you could not dance,” she teased him.
“But I showed you my moves, didn’t I?”
“And left me wanting fruit from foreign lands. What was that you had again?”
“A banana. They’re yummy.” The Doctor grinned like a Cheshire cat.
“Joumi?” Her French mangled the word, and he laughed. She smiled slightly, knowing that he wasn’t laughing at her, but at the differences between them. She stopped his laughter with a rather chaste kiss on the lips. He kissed her back without hesitation. Before he could continue, she broke the kiss. “I am afraid I will have to halt this here.” She felt her chest burn. “Oh, my Lord, why now?”
He bowed his head, somewhat ashamed of what he’d been thinking. “You’re sick, I know.” A slight gurgling sound made him raise his head in alarm.
The Doctor watched, horrified, as her tiny body was wracked with cough. He could hear her lungs struggling to heave off this liquid burden as Reinette clutched a handkerchief from her bedside to her mouth to catch the ….
Blood. His eyes widened as her practiced hand refolded the handkerchief to a clean spot, but not fast enough to avoid his attention. Blood.
He was watching Reinette die. Something he never wanted to see for any life he’d touched.
“I should have come sooner,” he heard himself say aloud as he reached to her dressing table and took a stack of clean cloths in his hands. The Doctor gently pried the soiled rag from her hands and replaced it with a clean one. Her coughing fit was trailing off, though her body still shook with tremors from it. She did not meet his eyes. He sat down heavily at the end of her bed, head in his hands, elbows propped on his thighs, feet planted on the floor. “I’m so sorry, Reinette. I know you would not wish to be seen like this –”
“Save you.” She daintily wiped the last spot of blood from the corner of her mouth and refolded the cloth and put it at the bedside. Reinette slumped back against the pillows that were piled at the headboard. Worried, he looked up at her, his hands falling to clasp between his knees. “I…rather prefer that you did not suffer with me. It has been a long, slow, and weary path, my Doctor.” She turned her face away from him for a moment to face the direction of the King’s apartments. “It has weakened the King as much as it has taken its toll on me.” Reinette turned her face back to face him again. “I would like you to only see me one bad day like this than watch me decay over the course of months and years.”
He leaned and reached his hand to sweep the hair away from her slightly damp forehead. “I believe I love your King more for that than for anything else he ever did.”
A sudden banging interrupted them. “Marquise! The door is locked, and my key no longer fits!”
Reinette calmly raised her voice. “It is quite all right. I would rather sleep at the moment, and you need not be here for that. Have the locksmith come at six, and all will be well then.”
The young girl did not question her mistress. “Yes, Madame.”
After that interruption, the Doctor went back to arranging Reinette’s hair to his liking. His hand paused. “I’m weak, Reinette. I may be the oldest thing in this room but it doesn’t count where this is concerned.”
She closed her eyes for a moment before answering. “I too am weak in the soul, my angel. It is what makes me sick and it is what does not allow me to fight this.” Reinette clasped his hand and brought it away from her face. “I was too concerned with the affairs of a country to tend to my Fanfan. Even the King paid more attention to her than her own mother.” She looked down. “It cost her her life as well as my grieving father’s. He died of the broken heart I should have had.”
His brow creased. “Reinette, you cannot think of this as divine punishment for –”
“She died without her mother and because of her mother, Doctor. My blood has never stood up well to ailments; you always came when I was at my best.” She swallowed the unspoken words of “except now.” “My maternity gave her this flaw and so I pay now, or I have been afflicted for what I failed to do.” Her voice cracked as her face fell. For her daughter, she could weep. She used her free hand to reach for a handkerchief for her eyes.
“And something more. You know what that is.”
Clever minx who had seen inside his mind. He could not argue.
“How long has it been for you?” She readjusted herself back against the pillows and allowed them to cradle her.
“Days,” he said lightly, as though they were nothing.
“I shall not try to sound as if I am not grateful for your delivery to me, but …” Her voice started to falter.
“Why did I not return to you six years ago?” he asked levelly, already knowing her confirmation. Reinette lowered and raised her chin once, her gaunt face showing the tension in her muscles and the yellow of her eyes now radiating into him. “Time ran differently for me and for you. Five minutes to me was …longer for you.”
Reinette nodded. “I understood this before, but I had not realized that the barrier between us could be so cruel.”
“It was very cruel.” The Doctor knew he had answered too quickly, and he flinched in anticipation.
Reinette’s voice threaded through softly. “I was dead, was I not?”
The Doctor turned to look at her, shamefaced. Reinette offered a small faint quirk of the lips. “You cannot lie to a person who has seen all of your lies.”
He nodded, just visibly, and pursed his lips in thought. Suddenly, the tension in his face escaped and he flopped backwards onto the bed. Reinette gasped a little and sat up reaching for him.
“I’m tired, Reinette. All that hopping. Time and space, stars and centuries. I finally realize what it’s all about and what it should be and yet I still manage to blow it.” Reinette carefully pulled her feet up to her chest so as to afford him a bit more space to sprawl. Like a child he immediately managed to contort his body to steal as much of the bed as possible.
“Have you lost your Rose?” The Doctor did not reply, and that answered her question. “Why do you torture yourself then, coming here to see me leave as well? Could you not go see life instead of death with your marvellous machine? Doctor,” her voice softened to an almost pleading murmur, “it is about life, and yours is so long that you cannot…blow it?.... so quickly.”
He looked up at her from under heavy lidded eyes, the dying woman concerned over the seemingly unkillable Time Lord who was stealing her bed. “I…It just…It all started along time ago…I saved my people by killing myself…” He moved his head a little down until it rested gently in her lap. “I killed myself because I had lost my entire family, and it was the only way for me to avenge myself on the man who had done it. I came back for the life of my granddaughter. I later made her leave me for my death again and for her life. How can I be about life when I die thirteen times?
“But you live thirteen times as well. And you make others live.”
“Do I? Look at yourself.” His voice was jagged, but having been on the receiving end of the King’s moods, she did not take offence. She let him continue. “Look at Adric, look at Sarah Jane, look at Ace. Look at Peri…and Rose. Rose has been the worst; I did worse than leave her or make her leave….”
“Confession, I have learned, is good for the soul.”
His voice wavered and drifted in and out as he told his long tale, and, at some point, faded away. She took comfort in his presence, absorbed his story, and then she too faded away. He filled her head with images of ten other lives and set her off on a long strange trip. For once, she was not awakened by her lungs. It was peaceful.
He drowsily awoke sometime later as the clock chimed five. Oh, no.
“Reinette, do you trust me?” He bolted upright from her lap as the words flew out of his mouth.
She allowed herself a squawk in surprise as she came out of her own sleep, his warmth torn from her and his frantic figure darting between her bed and the window. “My angel...”
“Yes or no? No time any more! I’ve slept it away!”
Reinette pressed her lips together as she watched him ruffle his air and pull on his tie nervously. He’d gone from a deep sleep to an enraged animal in only a few seconds. It was most odd…and he was asking a mistress to the King a rather dangerous question. “Doctor, what is wrong?” She allowed her inflection to fall on the Doc syllable and then the wrong, to give it a disarming property to this sudden mood swing.
It seemed to do his work as he came back and knelt at her bedside. Eyes wild, he unabashedly stared at her as he pulled out a small canister from his inner coat pocket. She watched him, lips slightly parted, waiting for an indication. He held this container in his hand, clenching it as if it would slither away if he loosened up. “This, Madame, is your new leash on life.”
Reinette regarded it carefully. “But if I am meant to die…”
The Doctor excitedly popped the lid off of it and rattled three pills into his hand. “Look at the wonders of modern medicine, Reinette. One pill for your lungs, one pill to get you ready for the new worlds you’re going to, and one….you’ve read Romeo and Juliet, haven’t you?” She almost answered before he ploughed right on. “Of course you have, you’re so clever. Hurry, they have to be taken now…I’ve already waited too long to give you this decision.” His manner calmed somewhat and he took on a more serious face. “You have to decide right now. Fate or Flight.”
“With you?” she gently pushed out of her mouth. Somehow, everything around her had grown heavy and thick and clumsy from his words.
“Who else?” His frenetic grin returned. “So many wonderful places to take you! Do you realize that you can get fantastic crepes in the Altidori System? Not to mention all the books I’ll fill you with. And is Arthur still around? We’ll need a ride back… I’ll take you away on a white horse!”
His chatter continued as she watched him. Reinette imagined that if he had a tail, it would be wagging. He looked so happy, so lively, so willing. She chuckled at his eagerness. His lips stopped moving, and she was finally able to say, “Fancy or France, then?”
“We contradict fate at this, do we not?”
He stood up and threw back the sash on her window. “Time is ever changing, Reinette. As long as you stay out of the limelight, you could live forever. Your influence just has to stop here. Right here, right now. Madame de Pompadour must depart France, whether it is in a lead-lined casket or a great big blue police box.”
“I must hide away or die, then.” Reinette’s smile tapered into a small one as she pondered aloud. “I have lived my whole life trying to be in the spotlight and to take the weight off of my king. Our romance was much publicized. Could I stay with one man the world does not know about? Join him in obscurity?” She allowed herself a chuckle at the irony. “My former husband found out the answer to that question.”
The Doctor turned around and looked at her. He was asking an angel to take a mighty big fall. She would not only fall out of her court and her life but out of time itself. She could never answer to Marquise, Madame, or La Pompadour. She could be Reinette, but Jeanne Antoinette. Poisson would sound suspicious. Never again the King’s mistress. She would not be buried with her Fanfan. Her King would mourn her death for no reason.
The repaired clock on the mantle ticked precious seconds away.
Only so long until the locksmith came and he had to take flight…
And only so long until the Reaper came and she had to take flight…