Chapter Fifteen

Gallifrey’s Ambassador to Lambe*Rt~ia scowled as he listened to the Doctor’s arguments, but did not add anything further to his earlier comments. He just wished the Doctor would reach the end of his summation quickly so they could return to the main reason for this meeting – the threat to Lambe*Rt~ia and therefore to Gallifrey. His aide, Sir Zedga, fidgeted, but kept his eyes on the Doctor.

Lambe*Rt~ia’s Ambassador to Gallifrey was completely disinterested in the whole discussion. It didn’t matter to him at all whether aliens were permitted to visit Gallifrey or not or whether the laws were repealed or not. Being born on Lambe*Rt~ia of Time Lord parents and educated on Gallifrey, he was not regarded as alien, so it was none of his business. At least that’s how he regarded the matter.

The Doctor’s eyes briefly flashed with anger as he finished his summation. He wondered as he looked at the faces around him whether his words – no, the meaning of his words – had been understood properly by his audience. For a moment, he recalled the reaction to his final speech as a student at the Academy. Then, as now, he had delivered a speech on a controversial subject of intense interest to him and he had delivered it with passion and conviction. The reactions of this audience were not dissimilar to those of the Academy from so long ago. And now, like then, he knew he had at least one member of the audience who empathised with him.

The Premier Cardinal was very pleased that this argument was being put to the meeting. He knew there was much that Time Lords could learn from other races. Other races’ knowledge would add to the Time Lord knowledge base far more effectively than all the observations that the Time Lords might make either now or in the future. But he had never had the appropriate forum in which to broach this idea. And he had never had such an obvious example of the benefit of the repeal of that law than he had with the Doctor’s security expert companion. Ms Catherine Mere’s credentials had been accepted by the Castellan and he was no fool. The Premier Cardinal also knew that the Doctor was no fool either. This was an opportunity. And the Premier Cardinal always knew a good opportunity when he saw one…..

The Doctor’s speech may not have been appreciated by most of the attendees, but it hadn’t been ignored. As the Doctor expected, it was certainly causing a variety of reactions in his audience. Although he knew that he had the Premier Cardinal’s support, and possibly the Castellan’s, he doubted there were many others in the group in the Colonnade who were sympathetic towards aliens on Gallifrey. The invitees to the meeting made no comment on his speech, but their attendant officials were murmuring amongst themselves. By the expressions on their faces, the Doctor guessed that their comments weren’t complimentary.

His instinctive response to them was to make them face him with their comments and to dare them to explain logically why Gallifrey’s current law against aliens was so right. And when they couldn’t, he would have liked to metaphorically ram their ignorant and bigoted ideas down their throats. But there were occasions where instinctive responses were not always the right response. This was one such occasion. He did allow himself the brief gratification of looking at them with raised eyebrows in mock surprise before turning his gaze away and pointedly ignoring them. Looking back towards the invitees, he surprised a slight smile on the face of Chancellor Borusa. It appeared that he had some support from his old lecturer as well as the Premier Cardinal.

Whether the Chancellor realised that the Doctor had seen that smile or not, he entered the discussions of the meeting for the first time. He said, with a wave of his hand, “Your comments have been noted, Doctor.”

The Doctor knew that the expression ‘noted’ in Borusa’s terminology was as good as being recorded permanently for anyone else. It seemed as if the Chancellor had now finally taken control of the meeting. Chancellor Borusa continued, unemotionally, “Now, to the main purpose for this meeting; the threat to Lambe*Rt~ia and Gallifrey. Cardinal?”

The Doctor watched as his former tutor stepped forward, without hesitation, to briefly explain the request for assistance from Lambe*Rt~ia and the High Council’s planned response to that request – including the Doctor’s potential role in that response. Catherine, if she had been present, might have wondered why Lambe*Rt~ia’s Ambassador to Gallifrey wasn’t asked for comment on this subject.

But the Doctor knew why.

Because he was familiar with the protocol on Gallifrey, the Doctor knew that an Ambassador or other senior official must always cede precedence to a High Councillor. And, knowing the Chancellor and the Premier Cardinal from long ago, he shrewdly guessed that the earlier reactions of both the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador and Gallifrey’s Ambassador would have irritated both High Councillors, although no-one else would guess that from their expressions. Also, the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador had betrayed his longstanding friendship with the Premier Cardinal by forcing him into the position of tabling the request for assistance with the High Council – particularly when the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador wasn’t really interested in the Gallifreyan perspective on the threats. The Doctor thought that if he were in his former tutor’s position that he would feel more than a little annoyed by this. He smiled to himself as he thought that it was so typical of Catherine that she should be the one to force that information into the open.

As the Premier Cardinal spoke, the Doctor took the opportunity to look at the officials in attendance on the invitees. Most looked a little bemused at the details, but appeared to accept the process. This was what the Doctor expected. He turned to look at the reactions of the two Ambassadors to the Premier Cardinal’s words. Gallifrey’s Ambassador to Lambe*Rt~ia looked impatient, but he appeared to be listening to the speech. But his Lambe*Rt~ian counterpart had a completely different reaction. His face was the perfect picture of disinterested scepticism. The Doctor thought this was unusual under the circumstances, but what was even more unusual was that the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador’s facial expression changed to one of absorbed interest as soon as he realised that the Doctor was watching him…..

Catherine didn’t know how long she had been standing at the window of the observation deck looking at the Gallifreyan landscape outside. She thought that it couldn’t have been a long time, but it felt to her that she had been standing there forever. “There’s something about this place that seems to demand attention; to draw one into it,” Catherine thought. And if she, a human, could feel like that, how much more must the Doctor, a Time Lord, feel when he looks upon this vision? Catherine couldn’t even begin to imagine how much pain he must be holding back, knowing that this fascinating place no longer existed in his own time. She thought that it must be a bit like a dam restraining a flood. There must be a point when the water flowing over the top of the spillway is no longer enough and the floodgates must be opened to let the water escape to relieve the pressure on the dam wall. And if they aren’t opened fast enough, the whole wall could collapse under the strain. She remembered vividly the shocking sight of the Doctor sobbing his hearts out in the wardrobe room when he thought he was alone. Catherine thought that she would never forget that sight. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t prepared to face the flood of emotion if the Doctor’s emotional dam wall collapsed. She would be there to support him – if he allowed her to…..

Catherine tore herself away from her thoughts and the mesmerising and spectacular view, intending to return to the viewing bench. But a small gilt-edged metallic door half-hidden in the far corner of the room caught her attention. Catherine was intrigued. She walked over to the door, saw the gilt-edged call button to the left of it and realised that it must be a lift of some sort. Despite being fully aware that there would be security measures which would probably prevent her gaining access to anywhere via that lift, she pressed the call button.

The lift arrived practically immediately and its doors opened.

Catherine stepped inside, more out of curiosity than anything else. There was nothing particularly special about this lift from the inside. To Catherine, it looked much like any of the other lifts in the Capitol. The doors quietly closed shut behind her. As the lift started to move upwards, without any intervention on her part, she was nearly regretting her action in summoning the lift. But her instincts told her that her impulse would be worthwhile…..

As the Premier Cardinal was completing his speech, the Doctor looked across the gathered audience to see Castellan Spandrell similarly analysing the reactions of the meeting attendees. The Castellan, realising that he had been noticed by the Doctor, didn’t display any acknowledgement of it beyond a brief frown in the Doctor’s direction. Whatever response the Doctor might have been tempted to make, he chose to pretend not to notice.

The Premier Cardinal had completed his speech by this time and was asking for questions from the audience. There was no immediate response.

The Doctor was not surprised. Time Lord protocol did allow for the questioning of members of the High Council, but the option wasn’t often implemented. So a request for questions from the audience would give them pause for a short period. The Doctor amused himself, trying to guess who would be the first to speak. He guessed that it would probably be one of the Ambassadors or their aides. But he was wrong.

The first person to take up the request was the Captain of the Chancellery Guard who was an invitee, both as the representative of the guards and as a trusted and senior member of the Castellan’s staff. His concern was of a security nature.

He asked, in a crisp military manner, “Sir, how do we assure ourselves of the validity of an alien visitor’s request for entry access through the transduction barriers? How do we check that their identity is correct and that they aren’t here inappropriately?”

The Doctor grinned at that. How typical that a Captain of the Chancellery Guard should think of security issues first. If he really wanted to know how to address these issues, all he needed to do was to look at the complex customs and quarantine processes in use on some of the other planets. In the Orion sector of the galaxy, for instance, these processes were honed to a fine art. The Doctor reflected that Catherine’s former employers – Central Orion Protection and Security – were probably responsible for that.

He schooled his features to a more impassive expression as he listened to his former tutor’s reply.

The Premier Cardinal’s reply was cautious and non-committal as would be expected to such a question at this early stage. “Captain, your queries have been noted for future reference and will be reviewed.” The Captain was satisfied with that response. He knew that it was unlikely that he would receive a definitive answer immediately. That wasn’t the way High Councillors conducted their business. Nothing was ever done without thorough consideration – a mode of operation that had always served Gallifrey well in the past and was likely to do so into the future. The Captain’s only response was a respectful nod of the head towards the Premier Cardinal, in keeping with standard protocol. Castellan Spandrell looked across towards the Captain and nodded approvingly in his direction.

The Doctor noticed that the Premier Cardinal was waiting – possibly hoping – for further questions from the attendees. But if the Premier Cardinal had been hoping for further questions, he hoped in vain. Although there were comments that the Doctor could have made if he had wished to, he resisted the temptation. At the moment, he preferred to observe the other attendees and their reactions. As there were no further questions or comments from the invitees, the Premier Cardinal – as protocol required – acknowledged the presence of the Chancellor and returned to his place in the audience.

Chancellor Borusa then said, “Doctor?”

The Doctor knew he had been expected to chair this meeting, but was hoping that the Chancellor had forgotten. He should have known better. Borusa was determined that the Doctor should face his responsibilities – he had called for this meeting, so he should be responsible for its direction.

The Doctor pursed his lips and frowned. “Chancellor,” he said as he stepped forward, accepting the inevitable. “I’ve listened to a lot of comments since I was recalled to Gallifrey. Everyone talks about the threat to Lambe*Rt~ia. We all know how much that affects Gallifrey. And most of us care about Gallifrey. That’s why we are here.” His eyes glistened with unshed tears for a moment. He paused and looked around the audience. The tears in his eyes disappeared and his look hardened as his gaze fell upon the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador.

He watched the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador for any sign of a reaction. There was none. He looked at the rest of the audience and continued, “But has anyone really thought about Lambe*Rt~ia in all this? How they will be affected by this threat?” There was no response.

The Doctor could have blamed the Gallifreyan Ambassador with his video link for this lack of thought, but he didn’t. He and Catherine had already told him what they thought of his lack of physical involvement with Lambe*Rt~ia and there was no time to be revisiting previous arguments. And Gallifrey’s Ambassador to Lambe*Rt~ia could not provide the Doctor with the answer to the central question to this whole issue. But there was one person above all others who could. The Doctor walked over to the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador and stood in front of him and asked, evenly and unemotionally, “Ambassador, what is the actual threat to Lambe*Rt~ia?” The Ambassador looked around at the assembled Time Lords and smiled slightly, before answering…..

The lift stopped and the doors opened into a reception area, similar to the one in the Premier Cardinal’s rooms, but far more ornate. Catherine had no idea where she was in the Capitol. But being curious, she stepped out of the lift anyway to be met by a very stern looking official wearing a strange black and gold-coloured uniform. By the look on his face, Catherine expected to be either arrested for trespassing or to be escorted immediately back to the observation deck. She was surprised to find that neither was the case.

The official simply said, in an unemotional voice, “Please come with me, Ms Mere.” Catherine was even more surprised to find that she was known, although she supposed that an alien on Gallifrey would be a piece of news that would circulate widely throughout the Capitol. She didn’t know where she was being taken, or to whom, but instinctively she knew she was not in any danger – at least, not yet.

Catherine was taken down a short corridor, rather reminiscent of the corridor to the Premier Cardinal’s office, but decorated very differently. She had little time to note the fine details of the décor before she was being ushered into what looked like a formal meeting room. As she stepped over the threshold and the official closed the door behind her, she noticed that the whole floor was covered in what looked like a huge continuous floor covering of a type she hadn’t seen anywhere before. It was dull gold in colour and in the centre was a huge dark symbol shaped rather like a very ornate figure eight. She didn’t know what the symbol represented, but she thought she may have seen something like it in the TARDIS somewhere.

“Ms Mere. Welcome to Gallifrey,” a deep voice said.

Catherine turned to her right to see a tall Time Lord in golden robes smiling at her. She imagined from his dress that he must be someone of importance. She smiled back and walked towards him, saying, formally, “Thank you. May I ask who I am addressing?”

The Time Lord replied, “Ms Mere, I am the Lord President of Gallifrey. I have heard so much about you. You are currently travelling as companion to the Doctor?”

Catherine, being mindful of her previous discussions with the Doctor on this subject, said, “I’m currently travelling with him, yes.” She paused before adding, “I have a particular interest in the security of this region.”

The Lord President nodded. He showed Catherine to a group of comfortable armchairs in a corner of the room and graciously allowed her to seat herself before he sat in the chair opposite hers. Catherine guessed that this was a rare honour and appreciated his condescension. However, she also shrewdly guessed that this whole meeting was akin to a high level interview. How she performed would probably determine how future aliens were received on Gallifrey. Catherine did not know how she was expected to act, or wanted to act, but she just looked the Lord President in the eyes and was determined to be herself.

The Lord President could guess what she was thinking. He smiled to himself and thought that this conversation would be interesting…..

Their conversation didn’t last for long. But when he called an end to their meeting and he watched the door close behind the official who would conduct Catherine out into the corridor and back to the lift, he was well-satisfied with the meeting.

He knew, of course, about the Premier Cardinal’s moves to change the law with respect to aliens on Gallifrey. As Lord President, it was his business to know these sorts of things. The Premier Cardinal’s arguments to date had been convincing, but not enough on their own to persuade him and the High Council that there was a real need for change. However, the Premier Cardinal had been prepared to take personal responsibility for Ms Mere’s actions while she was on Gallifrey. This had impressed him and many of the High Council with his determination on this matter. The Lord President had heard of the actions of the Doctor’s security expert and had been curious to meet her and judge for himself. From her ‘interview’, he was more impressed than he expected to be and he could see why the Chancellor had also been favourably impressed.

When the Premier Cardinal eventually put his submission to the High Council for the changes to the law with respect to aliens on Gallifrey, he would give him his support…..

The Doctor arrived at the observation deck. He paused for a moment, as he saw Catherine standing at the glass looking out over Outer Gallifrey. In her black and red outfit, she formed a strong and elegant silhouette against the changing light outside as time progressed towards sunset. She seemed so absorbed in what she was looking at. He was pleased that she seemed to find Gallifrey – the real Gallifrey outside the Capitol – so interesting.

Catherine must have sensed he was there, because she turned around and looked over her left shoulder at him and smiled. She asked, casually, “Meeting over?”

The Doctor returned her smile as he walked over to her side, saying, “Yep. All sorted.”

“Yes?” she asked, expecting all the details of the meeting.

The Doctor didn’t reply. He intended to tell her, but was still coming to terms with the results of that extraordinary meeting and he didn’t want his bitterness to overshadow this visit for her. At least, he wanted Catherine to see the good there was in Gallifrey first; some of the natural beauty that no amount of bitterness or pain could eradicate in his mind. And he needed to see it for himself too, one last time.

Of the two suns that shone over the Gallifreyan countryside, the secondary one was the one that provided the more legendary sunrises and sunsets. Not because it was particularly different from the primary sun, but because it was usually in the shadow of its larger and brighter brother, being further away from Gallifrey. However, at certain times – about once every seventy-five Earth years – both stars and Gallifrey were in direct alignment, with the secondary star between the primary star and the planet. During these alignments, there were usually two weeks of what the Doctor always thought of as absolutely fantastic sunrises and sunsets.

The Doctor knew he would have wanted to see a sunset on Gallifrey just one more time. But knowing that the stars were in alignment at this particular time was just too much of a temptation to resist. He had to see the legendary sunset, just one more time. And he wanted to show Catherine what was one of the truly extraordinary sights on Gallifrey.

Catherine had not been one to spend time watching sunsets when he first met her. Then, she would have thought it a waste of time. But after a journey from the Eye of Orion to Node Two, he had opened her mind to the beauty of a sunset. And he knew she would love this one.

Sunset was still one time unit away – about one and a quarter Earth hours – but the Doctor always loved to watch the day draw in. The sunset was spectacular from here, but suddenly, the Doctor knew he needed to be out in the fresh air to really appreciate it.

“Come with me, I’ve something to show you,” the Doctor said, as he started to walk towards the Colonnade. Catherine followed him. As they strolled along the Colonnade, he explained to her about the alignment of Gallifrey’s two suns and the spectacular sunset that he wanted to show her. “You’ll love it,” he said, enthusiastically.

“Wouldn’t we be able to see it from the observation deck, Doctor?” Catherine asked, as they approached what looked like a lift door.

After pressing the call button next to the door, the Doctor replied, “We could. But there’s an even better view from outside.” The door opened immediately and they went inside. But it wasn’t a lift. As the door closed, Catherine realised that it was a different type of transmat terminal to the types she was used to. As he entered his personal identification code and set the coordinates, the Doctor said, seriously, “This is a transmat capsule, Catherine. It works the same way as any other transmat terminal except that there is a physical capsule that is moved through the transmat beam as well. The capsule’s main purpose is for shelter when outside.”

“All the comforts of home, in fact?” Catherine asked, a little flippantly. The Doctor didn’t reply, because he was no longer listening.

Catherine looked at the expression on the Doctor’s face. She surprised a look of such intensity and pain in his eyes that she nearly retreated back a step. But she thought she understood his pain and deliberately moved closer to him and tentatively took his hand in hers. He looked at her in surprise, as if he had just recalled her presence. Catherine blushed, wondering for a moment if she should have pretended not to notice his pain. Then he smiled at her with that illuminating smile of his and the pain in his eyes receded. She smiled back and her embarrassment disappeared. He squeezed her hand tightly as the transmat capsule’s door opened, signifying their arrival at the programmed destination. Now they had arrived, the Doctor locked off the capsule’s transfer mechanism so that it couldn’t return to the Capitol without them.

“Come on,” he said, as he raced out through the door, pulling Catherine after him.

As the Doctor stopped to secure the capsule door behind them, Catherine looked around, taking in the burnt orange sky with its two suns and the streaks of gold light which seemed to glow as they reached across the sky. The transmat capsule had brought the Doctor and Catherine to a small knoll covered in a mini-forest of those extraordinary trees Catherine had seen from the observation deck. She thought it was like an island of green and silver amid the red sand and grasses of the surrounding plain.

The capsule door now secured, the Doctor turned to Catherine and watched her take in the beauty of the area. After a few moments, he asked, “What do you think of it?”

Catherine turned back to him, her eyes shining with excitement. “It’s…..fantastic,” she replied. “And that building in the distance is magnificent. It seems to shine like a beacon. What is it?”

“That’s the Citadel of the Time Lords, Catherine,” the Doctor replied. “The Capitol is only a small part of that building.”

Catherine was lost for words.

“There’s a lake which changes colour at sunset and glows silver after dusk. And after nightfall, the silver glow turns to a luminous golden colour. It’s only a short distance over the next rise, if you don’t mind the walk?” the Doctor said. He dropped her hand so that he could point out the way. The Doctor was a little on edge after the stresses and anger of the recent meeting and thought he needed to be doing something of a physical nature to put all that behind him.

Catherine thought for a moment, and then said, “I’d prefer to stay here, Doctor.” His expression was unfathomable, but she chose to ignore it. She continued, gesturing to their surroundings, “Here we have the glorious view of the Citadel of the Time Lords, the onset of the sunset which seems to be reaching out to grasp the sides of the building as we watch. And we have the comfort of these extraordinary trees. It is like a breath of fresh air after all that artificiality of the Capitol.”

The Doctor grinned and his eyes twinkled mischievously. “I suppose it is,” he said. “Come on, I know the most fantastic spot to watch the sunset over the Citadel.” He raced around to the other side of the knoll. Catherine wondered what was so different about that spot. But she followed him anyway. After all, this was his home, so he should know all the best places.

When she reached him, she knew he was right. The Doctor was standing with his back towards a tree with his arms folded, as he looked across at the Citadel in all its magnificence. He heard her arrive, moved away from the tree and smiled one of his illuminating smiles at her. “Worth the move?” he said, nodding towards the view of the Citadel in front of them.

Catherine smiled back and said, “Definitely.” Strangely, the Doctor’s formal Gallifreyan robes didn’t look out of place, even here. They became him so well and seemed so much a part of him that she doubted anyone would even think to query the appropriateness of him wearing them on an excursion to Outer Gallifrey. And she supposed that her own elegant red and black outfit wouldn’t appear out of place either to any casual passer-by. Although she imagined her black high-heeled boots might have raised an eyebrow or two.

She looked around and noticed there was a seat of a sort – a large fallen log from one of the smooth-barked trees that grew in the area – that had been placed to watch the Citadel and its surrounds. It was in the shade of the trees, so would have been practically invisible from the Citadel, but would have a direct view of the walls of the Citadel as the sunset reached it.

“I used to come here sometimes when I was a student, just to enjoy the freedom of the open air of Gallifrey and to watch the view,” the Doctor said. “I remember one time in particular…..” Catherine noticed a faraway look in his eyes again, as if he was thinking about his Gallifrey of the past. She thought this was a moment he needed to be alone, so she quietly walked over to the log seat and waited for him to return to the present.

It didn’t take him long.

He turned back to see that Catherine was standing in front of the log seat and was looking at the view. Grinning, he said to her, “This was always the best place to watch the sunsets from – particularly when the suns were in alignment. Alignment only happens once in every seventy-five Earth years.”

The Doctor walked over to the log seat, but instead of sitting on it, he bent down and spread his cloak out – partly on the ground, partly on the log. He spread his hands out, gesturing to Catherine to be seated first. Catherine realised that the log was to be the back of their ‘seat’, so smiled at him as she sat down on his soft cloak on the ground and leaned back against the log. He sat beside Catherine, half-turned towards her so that he could watch her facial expressions.

“And the second sun starts to glow with a pinkish tinge because of the alignment?” Catherine asked.

The Doctor nodded. “No-one really knows why.” He realised now that no-one ever would discover why.

Catherine saw him retreating into himself again – she shrewdly guessed he must be thinking of all that had been lost when Gallifrey burned. And the twinkle had gone from his expressive blue eyes. She knew she had to bring him out of this inward-looking state. Having witnessed the depth of his pain, she was determined not to allow him to ruin his last few hours on Gallifrey by dwelling on the burdens of the future.

Catherine asked, “Did I completely disgrace myself at the meeting, Doctor?”

The Doctor returned to the present again and looked at her, surprised at her words. “Nope,” he replied. “Not with those whose opinions matter,” he added, after a brief pause.

The mischievous twinkle returned to his eyes, as he said, “The alien law will be repealed eventually, Catherine. And my old tutor will be the driving force behind that change.”

“You knew all the time and you let me…..” Catherine said, annoyed.

The Doctor smiled one of his illuminating smiles before interrupting her to add, in a deep voice, “Your passion for Gallifrey was appreciated, Catherine. And who knows, it might have been your fantastic performance at that meeting that provided the evidence that the Cardinal needed for his submission to the High Council? Borusa was impressed and with the Chancellor’s support, agreement to the submission was almost guaranteed. The only thing preventing it would be a veto from the Lord President.”

“I don’t think there is any likelihood of that happening, Doctor,” Catherine said, quietly.

He replied, “Oh, Borusa will be providing recommendations to the Lord President. He’ll have been his representative at that meeting.”

“No, Doctor, I didn’t mean that. What I did mean was that I have met the Lord President,” Catherine said. She explained how she came to meet with the Lord President while she was waiting for the Doctor to return to the observation deck.

The Doctor grinned and said, as he put his arm lightly around the top of her shoulders, “You amaze me sometimes, Catherine, you really do.”

Catherine smiled, before telling the Doctor about her discussion with the most important Time Lord on Gallifrey.

As Catherine finished, the Doctor tightened his hold on her shoulders and said, “Fantastic!” His eyes started to shine with excitement, but he didn’t comment further.

Sunset had arrived at the Citadel of the Time Lords.

Catherine couldn’t quite believe the vision before her eyes as she saw the golden streaks and the pink tinges of light reach the Citadel. The whole building was covered with what appeared to be a dancing light bouncing from surface to surface. The sunset Catherine had seen over the building at Node Two in the Orion sector was nothing compared to this. She didn’t quite know how to describe it or what to say.

The Doctor turned back from the view to watch Catherine’s reaction. He guessed what must be going through her mind at this moment. Grinning, the Doctor said, “Takes your breath away doesn’t it?”

She nodded, then asked the Doctor what the nature of the threat to Lambe*Rt~ia had been.

He replied, in an unemotional voice, “The Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador admitted that there was no real threat to Lambe*Rt~ia. Even the strange activity noted in the vicinity of Lambe*Rt~ia was a pretence to back up their case. It was all a ruthless process approved by the Directors of Lambe*Rt~ia for testing out the strength of the contract and Gallifrey’s commitment to it. Lambe*Rt~ia’s Ambassador was quite proud of the achievement and, as you can guess from his earlier reactions, could see no inconsistency with his Time Lord education.” The Doctor took a deep breath before continuing. “I left the meeting after Borusa presented him with the ultimatum – either leave Gallifrey within one day or prepare for imprisonment. The Premier Cardinal – after being betrayed so callously – will certainly make sure that that ancient contract is renegotiated to Gallifrey’s benefit.”

Catherine knew she should have been angry at the Doctor’s words, particularly the callous nature of the Lambe*Rt~ian Ambassador’s plan. But strangely for her, she felt no anger. She felt sorrow – sorrow for Gallifrey and its people and what this partnership with Lambe*Rt~ia could have meant to them all. The Doctor realised how she was feeling even before he saw the tears rolling down her cheeks. Although he knew she needed a few moments to herself before he interrupted her, he moved closer to her and pulled her tighter to him. He said, quietly, “Catherine, I think Gallifrey has cast its spell on you – a rare thing for an alien.” The Doctor tentatively reached a hand out to gently brush her tears away. Gallifrey had renewed its spell on the Doctor too.

Catherine smiled at him through her tears. She said, “That’s only because aliens don’t visit Gallifrey.” The Doctor didn’t reply, but put his other arm around her and pulled her to him in a tight, but comforting, embrace…..

After they left Gallifrey, the Doctor suggested that they should change their clothes so their Gallifreyan clothes could be returned to the TARDIS wardrobe. Catherine thought it was the Doctor’s way of saying farewell to Gallifrey and putting the place of his birth behind him. He was amazed by her, but she was equally amazed by him. She didn’t question him, just nodded and headed for the TARDIS wardrobe and the bathroom. After a quick, refreshing bath and a change of clothes, she headed back to the console room. But the Doctor wasn’t there…..

Having undressed and replaced his Gallifreyan robes almost reverently on hangers in the TARDIS wardrobe, the Doctor transmatted into the TARDIS shower room. He quickly walked over to the huge curved rock cascade and stepped down into the shower recess. After pressing the shower switch, he spread his arms wide and looked towards the ceiling, awaiting the huge gush of icy water which would erupt from the rock wall in front of him. As the cold water cascaded over his body, it mixed with the warm tears which he allowed to flow down his cheeks. The return to Gallifrey had been unexpected and personally painful, but he wouldn’t have missed the opportunity. It had renewed its spell upon him. He was so glad to have been able to show Gallifrey to Catherine too – she seemed to be as attracted to it as he was. “Fantastic!” he thought, as the flow of his tears began to slow. “She is so fantastic.” He continued to enjoy his shower as he started to look towards the future once again…..

Catherine, dressed in the clothes she had originally chosen for York, looked up as the Doctor entered the console room. He had returned to his usual black jeans, a blue jumper and his battered black leather jacket. Catherine was relieved at that – although the Gallifreyan robes became him well, she much preferred his leather jacket, jumper and jeans. They were more him, she thought.

The TARDIS brought the Doctor and Catherine back to the lawn near the strange garden where the link to Gallifrey had terminated. Catherine looked at the TARDIS scanner to see where they had landed. When she saw where the TARDIS had brought them, she murmured, “Returned to the scene of the crime.” She turned to see the Doctor watching the scanner over her shoulder. The expression on his face was a sad mix of regret and pain. Catherine hoped the Doctor hadn’t heard her inadvertent comment, but she knew that he had. “Doctor, I’m so sorry,” she said.

He took her hand, smiled, and then said, “How would you like to see York, Catherine?”

Catherine smiled back and said, “Fantastic!” They raced out through the TARDIS doors and the Doctor turned to secure the doors behind them. After a few moments she added, “Do you know where we’re going, Doctor?”

His eyes twinkled and his smile became a cheeky grin. He dropped her hand and put his arm around her instead, before saying, “Nope, but then I haven’t visited York in such a long time.”

(* THE END *)