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[Who fanfic]: The Second Coming - an icepick through the keyhole
certum est, quia impossibile est
khaosworks
khaosworks
[Who fanfic]: The Second Coming
As promised, for Christmas.

The Ninth Doctor: The Second Coming

He tried to run, to turn away from the glowing energy that swept across his form, blinding him even as he raised his arms to shield his eyes. The next thing was that he found himself stumbling backwards in the snow, and he could feel his skin growing tighter around his bones, the joints seizing up painfully, his throat dry as the scream that he was willing to emerge only came out as a half-croaked sigh.

He tumbled down the incline, head over heels, rolling and sliding through the slush down towards the stream below. The thaw further up in the hills had made the water levels rise to that of a near-river, and he hit the icy cold water with the splash of dead weight. Face down, unconscious, the moistness bubbled into his mouth and lungs as he began to be carried along by the current.

They found him in the morning, floating face down at the bend of the stream just below the monastery, the cassock he wore having caught on a branch. The ancient face was wrinkled and drawn, eyes were sunken in their sockets, skin like old leather and a twisted, horrified expression held forever.

They found him in the morning, and they never found out who he was.

***

The woods around the spot where they found the body became a brief circus. Police officers and crime scene investigators taped off the area and searched for clues. Others were interviewing the monks, with their closely cropped hair and brown woollen cassocks.

"There's not much I can tell you, Chief Inspector," said Brother Damien. "We had all retired after vespers, and as far as I can tell, everyone was asleep in their cells for the night. In the morning, when Brother Ignatius and Brother John came out to do the gardening, we saw the body in the stream below the abbey just as it was, the cassock caught on a tree branch."

"And you have no idea what he was doing in the woods? He's not local?" The Chief Inspector's tone was that of an annoyed man, and he regretted it almost immediately. It was not the monk's fault that he was up here, miles from the city in the cold and wet and faced with a possibly unsolvable crime.

"Not that I know of," replied Damien. "To be honest, the locals keep away from the area. Local legend holds that there's a demon of sorts that inhabits the forest: the blue god of the woods, they call it. The stories go back centuries."

"Are you sure he's not one of your order?"

"Yes," the middle-aged monk said, "I assure you, Chief Inspector, all our numbers are accounted for, and although some of us are not as youthful as we used to be, none of us is over sixty. The poor man must be eighty, if he's a day."

"Perhaps he was trying to get into the abbey. Anything valuable inside? Antiques, perhaps?"

"I'm afraid not," Damien smiled. "Our vows forbid us to keep any objects of vanity. We don't even have mirrors in the monastery."

"No cash?"

"There is some, but not much at all. Definitely not something that would attract a thief. We subsist mainly on charitable donations. In fact, I keep the books myself — I used to be an accountant before I joined the monastery — given the way the money comes in drips and drabs, it can get rather complica..."

"Yes, of course," the policeman cut him off. "Thank you, Fa... Brother. You've been very cooperative. If you think of anything else that might help us, please call us at the station."

"Of course," nodded Damien, "What will you do, Chief Inspector, if you don't mind me asking?"

The inspector shrugged. "Oh, nothing for today. We'll wait for the autopsy report, and then maybe get some men, search the woods and surrounding area in the morning, see where this man got himself killed. He must have been looking for something."

"I see," Damien said, "Well, best of luck."

The inspector went off to interview someone else. Damien watched as they strapped the body to a gurney and carried it towards a waiting ambulance, then jumped as he sensed someone behind him.

"Sorry," said John, who had suddenly appeared by his side, "Didn't mean to eavesdrop."

Damien chuckled, and waved the apology away, "I've never been comfortable around the dead, I suppose. As long as I keep my distance I'll be fine."

"That's probably a good idea," John nodded, and looked past Damien, staring at the woods above the stream where the body had been found, blue eyes intently peering at the trees as if he meant to pierce through their veil.

"John?" Damien asked, "Are you all right?"

John slowly turned his gaze back to Damien, then glanced down at a group of monks, whispering among themselves. At his look, they stopped and stared at him before they started whispering again.

"They think I had something to do with this."

"Don't be silly," Damien replied, "Why on Earth would they think that? You were inside with the rest of us when it happened."

"I don't blame them, really," John continued, "Second strange thing to happen in as many months in these parts? Blame the newcomer, that's what I'd do, too."

Damien remembered. The man standing next to him had appeared on the steps of St. Jude's on Christmas Day, in the aftermath of the worst snowstorm Lancashire had seen in recent memory: shivering, starving, barely clothed, and barely alive. He lay in that state, delirious and with his body cold as ice, for several days, murmuring words in a language none of them could understand. Perhaps he was speaking in tongues, suggested Brother Ignatius. However, if indeed the Holy Spirit inspired his words, it did not reveal their meaning.

Damien sat with him through those days, sponging him with warm water and trying to keep his temperature up. When, at last, the delirium ended and the stranger awoke, he could hardly speak. His words came out halting and in a strange accent, confirming — as far as Ignatius was concerned — that he was a foreigner. However, within a day he was speaking fluent English, albeit now in a distinctly Northern accent. If he hadn't known better, Damien might have thought the stranger had imprinted on the local landscape like a fledgling.

He said remembered nothing. Not his name, not where he came from, nor how he had gotten to the monastery. Brother Simon, the most senior of them, suggested calling him an unimaginative "John", and the name seemed to suit the stranger, somehow.

The more senior monk did not reply to John's remark as the two turned and began the walk back to the monastery together. "I'll be leaving soon," added John. "I shouldn't be here, anyway."

Damien sighed, "Oh please, let's not get into that 'I shouldn't exist' thing of yours again. I never really understood what you meant by it."

John remained silent at that. Damien went on, "All of God's creations have a purpose, John. One that may not be obvious, perhaps, but a purpose nonetheless. And this purpose will become apparent with time — you just need a little faith, and a little patience."

"I don't believe in God," John said, "You know that."

"So you say," Damien said, "But yet, you came to our doorstep on Christmas Day, you sought sanctuary with us, wear our vestments, shave your head, join us at mass, do your chores like the rest of us... knowing perfectly well that you'd be welcome even if you didn't. Why is that, John?"

John looked at him, and a sad smile tugged at the corners of the normally sullen face.

"I'll let you know when I figure that out myself."

***

Damien got up from his cot, looking out the window at the midnight sky. The stars were dim, mostly hidden by the clouds, and the moon was a crescent sliver waxing towards a half-moon.

He stole down the corridors and out into the yard, heading for the shed at the bottom of the garden where they kept the stores. One of the battery-operated lanterns were missing, a rather obvious gap on the shelf where it should have been. His eyes scanned the shed and ended up on the corner where a pile of spades was. Mentally, he counted: there should have been five, but now there were only four.

"John," he said to himself. Damien grabbed another lantern and a second spade, and left.

The woods were lovely, dark and deep, covered in a layer of winter snow that was drifting down from the heavens, shining dimly by the light of a full moon. Footsteps trod through the soft powder, the light from the lantern guiding his way through the trees, until he came to his goal — a small cave entrance, half hidden by the side of a hillock. In front of it, his back facing Damien, and scrambling at the snow to clear it even more, was another man dressed in a cassock.

John seemed to sense Damien's presence behind him, and as the spade carved an arc towards the back of his head, he managed to turn at the last split-second. The flat of the blade only grazed his temple, leaving a bloody streak, rather than decapitating him.

John scrambled backward in the snow as Damien approached him, the spade still held in a threatening manner. "How did you find out?" Damien demanded, his voice an even, reasonable tone.

"That you were dipping into the till?" John said, "I didn't, actually. I just knew there had to be a reason why there was so much chronal radiation lingering on the body."

"What are you talking about?" Damien paused, allowing John to climb to his feet. The two circled each other.

"To be perfectly honest," John said, breathing a bit hard, "I don't care that you've been embezzling bits of cash from the monastery, keeping it buried in that cave. Once I saw that body I knew two things. The first was that there was nothing I could do to help you."

Damien scowled at him. "And the second?"

"You asked me why I continued to stay at the monastery," John said, "I stayed 'cause I wanted to find peace. To rest a while, to get me bearings. Maybe find some way to do penance for the terrible things that I did... that I had to do. But the second thing was that I had the sign I was waiting for."

"A sign from the God you don't believe in?"

John shook his head, half-smiling, "Well, not God, exactly... but a god, as far as the locals're concerned. The blue god of the woods. And when I got up here, it woke up." He pointed behind Damien. "You'd better turn around."

The older monk sneered, "You'd think I'd fall for something like..."

He then heard the sound, a slow, wheezing, grinding sound, and he turned. A pulsing glow emanated from inside the cave, growing in intensity, until it was almost blinding. He dropped the spade, wide-eyed as he looked into the light.

"Wha...?" he said, "What is that?"

"You shouldn't have threatened me, Damien," John said, his tone sad, "She's very protective, and really pissed off since she's had to wait so long. But like I said. When I recognised that body I knew I couldn't help you."

As Damien watched on, transfixed, a wave of energy burst from the cave towards him, and he vanished in a flash, leaving John alone, with everything silent once more save for that slow, pulsing hum.

The Doctor entered the cave, approached the glowing vortex energies coming from the TARDIS, holding up his hands. "Easy, old girl," he said, "You can tell it's just me... I'm sorry I'm late, but you know how it is with the vortex — never can tell if you're miles apart, or centuries."

The glow began to fade, pull itself back into the Ship. He leaned he head against the police box exterior, covered with moss and roots. He closed his eyes, a single tear rolling down his cheek.

"I knew we'd always manage to find each other," he said softly. "We're all each other've got left, now."

"He was right, you know," he said, after a while, "All God's creatures have a purpose. I don't know if there's a God, but I know we've got to find ourselves something to do. So..."

He frowned, and reached into the pocket of the cassock to take out his sonic screwdriver, which he had used to trigger the TARDIS's recognition circuits. It was glowing, registering Cerenkov radiation; someone was using a warp shunt to insert something into low-earth orbit. And he recognised the warp signature, too.

"Took them long enough," he muttered, and gave the side of the TARDIS an affectionate pat. "I guess it's time to save these stupid apes again."

Entering the box, he closed the doors behind him, and with that same grinding, wheezing sound, the Ship vanished from few, bits of moss tumbling to the ground where it once stood.

***

Damien had tried to run, to turn away from the glowing energy that swept across his form, blinding him even as he raised his arms to shield his eyes. The next thing was that he found himself stumbling backwards in the snow, and he could feel his skin growing tighter around his bones, the joints seizing up painfully, his throat dry as the scream that he was willing to emerge only came out as a half-croaked sigh.

He tumbled down the incline, head over heels, rolling and sliding through the slush down towards the stream below. The thaw further up in the hills had made the water levels rise to that of a near-river, and he hit the icy cold water with the splash of dead weight. Face down, unconscious, the moistness bubbled into his mouth and lungs as he began to be carried along by the current.

They found him in the morning, floating face down at the bend of the stream just below the monastery, the cassock he wore having caught on a branch. The ancient face was wrinkled and drawn, eyes were sunken in their sockets, skin like old leather and a twisted, horrified expression held forever.

They found him in the morning, and they never found out who he was.

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Comments
tigerbright From: tigerbright Date: December 24th, 2005 06:02 pm (UTC) (link)
Story generally hangs together well, and has beautiful imagery. It's not long enough, though; it needs another 200 words or so. :)
kitanzi From: kitanzi Date: December 24th, 2005 08:04 pm (UTC) (link)
That's excellent, I love it. Especially nice the way it twists around and ties up - I didn't expect that, but it works very well!
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 26th, 2005 03:31 pm (UTC) (link)
I Like it.

Good climax towards the last para -- makes us want to read the beginning of the story again.

Doctor/John in Brown Wollen Cassocks in a monastry -- it's a comical, yet a serious image.

Well done. "o)
smallship1 From: smallship1 Date: December 27th, 2005 11:36 am (UTC) (link)
Very nice. What kills Damien is, presumably, the energy from the heart of the TARDIS, which now that it's been used twice in one season is possibly in danger of becoming a universal last resort. I shall be disappointed if they use it again this year. In this case, though, I think it's possibly justified on the grounds that both Doctor and ship have been traumatised almost beyond recognition...
khaosworks From: khaosworks Date: December 27th, 2005 11:53 am (UTC) (link)
Yes, although I was also alluding to the type of chronal energy that the Kronos crystal puts out that aged whasisname several decades in as many seconds in "The Time Monster", too.

The really fankwanky bits in the story are to explain why a) the Doctor has a crewcut, b) He has a Northern accent and c) He didn't seem to have seen his reflection before in "Rose".
pbristow From: pbristow Date: December 27th, 2005 12:12 pm (UTC) (link)
Ooh! Nice points. I only got the Northern accent one from just reading it, though.
khaosworks From: khaosworks Date: December 27th, 2005 12:46 pm (UTC) (link)
Well, I did try to be subtle. ;) But it's all there in the dialogue.
pbristow From: pbristow Date: December 27th, 2005 12:23 pm (UTC) (link)
Nicely done, but for a jaded old fan like meself, it was a bit too obious too soon what was *being* done. Not something that's easy to fix, though, as it all depends on how familiar the reader is with the form.

Favourite para:
"Damien sat with him through those days, sponging him with warm water and trying to keep his temperature up. When, at last, the delirium ended and the stranger awoke, he could hardly speak. His words came out halting and in a strange accent, confirming — as far as Ignatius was concerned — that he was a foreigner. However, within a day he was speaking fluent English, albeit now in a distinctly Northern accent. If he hadn't known better, Damien might have thought the stranger had imprinted on the local landscape like a fledgling."

Question: Is the Doctor re-learning / remembering English, or does this happen because the TARDIS has found him and started translating for him? I assumed the former at first, but it just occured to me it's not stated how long the TARDIS has been asleep in that cave (or "nearby", in whatever sense applies).
khaosworks From: khaosworks Date: December 27th, 2005 12:44 pm (UTC) (link)
Question: Is the Doctor re-learning / remembering English, or does this happen because the TARDIS has found him and started translating for him? I assumed the former at first, but it just occured to me it's not stated how long the TARDIS has been asleep in that cave (or "nearby", in whatever sense applies).

Interesting question. I'm afraid I'm not that clever — my intent was that he was relearning English, since he didn't actually realise that the TARDIS was already nearby until he saw the older Damien's body and made the connection with the legends of the blue god of the woods. If the TARDIS had translated for him, I'm sure he would have noticed it right off the bat rather than wait around for the weeks he spent in the monastery. And yeah, the idea was that the TARDIS had been waiting for him for centuries... as she often does.

Lawrence Miles is the one who gave me the idea that the Doctor's regenerations can be explained to a certain extent by imprinting. Davies also hooks on to that explanation for the Tenth Doctor's Estuary accent, although the line that he was imprinting on Rose never made it into the final cut of "The Christmas Invasion".
dandelionteeth From: dandelionteeth Date: July 17th, 2007 12:29 am (UTC) (link)
I particularly like the way you twist the time element in this story. It's a conceit that belongs to Dr. Who more than any other sci-fi series, in my opinion. (Though I will admit I am fairly new to this fandom.)

But also, I like the way the Doctor and the TARDIS respond to each other (okay, the TARDIS never gets any snappy lines, but...). They are both the last of their kind, and have always been there for each other. It only makes sense that One would be lost without the Other.

Nice fic!
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