FANFIC: Seven Nights of Wilfred Mott

I’m gonna be brave and start posting my fanfiction here.  😉  If you don’t like fanfiction, just skip to the other articles; I’ll put a fold in so it doesn’t clutter up the main page too much.  This is a short thing I wrong just now.  I challenged myself to write a story in one go, and I managed it.  It’s a bit stream-of-consciousness, I’ll warn you, but I think it does work.  I am resisting the temptation to go back and improve it, so enjoy this diamond in the rough!  Maybe later I’ll post my crossovers, and you can really cringe.

 

SEVEN NIGHTS OF WILFRED MOTT

A Doctor Who Fanfic, by Calli Arcale, August 2015

 

MONDAY NIGHT

The sky arched dark and featureless over the allotments.  Wilf looked at his telescope, standing under its drape, forlorn and unused.  He didn’t really think there would be a break in the clouds.  But it didn’t matter.  He wasn’t going to miss his vigil just because there was nothing to look at.

Five years now since he’d fought alongside the Doctor.  Six, since he’d started his vigil on behalf of his granddaughter Donna, who was now happily married but who would never remember the year she’d spent traveling with the Doctor.  Forgotten, for her own sake.  They’d somehow convinced her that she’d spent a year in Egypt after the untimely death of her fiance, because if she ever remembered the Doctor, it would unlock the Gallifreyan memories in her brain and she’d burn up.

But the Doctor needed remembering, so Wilf was determined to do that for her.  He wasn’t sure how long he could keep it up; he wasn’t getting any younger.  But he would do this as long as he could.

He thought about the last time he saw the Doctor.  It was some months after that business with the cactus people and the Master.  He’d been dying of radiation exposure, but used the time he had to go a bit forward, to when Donna had finally gotten married, to the right man this time, so he could give her a wedding present.

Wilf smiled.  All he and Sylvia had considered was whether it would make Donna remember, but the Doctor was careful and had kept out of sight.  He’d never seemed like a good one for gift-giving, but on this occasion he’d found a gift so perfect even Sylvia had managed to approve.  Sylvia, who would probably never trust the Doctor further than she could pick him up and hurl him, which was of course no distance at all.  The Doctor had gone back in time and borrowed money from Sylvia’s late husband, then bought a lottery ticket with it.  Wilf’s smile grew as he remembered the look on Sylvia’s face.  Donna had been disgusted, but of course she’d never have to worry about money again; never turn down a lottery ticket from a time traveler!  It was a winning ticket, of course, and now Donna had her own home.  She’d paid to get Sylvia and Wilf’s place fixed up too, but Wilf hadn’t wanted to move.  And so Sylvia hadn’t moved either.

And now here he sat, beneficiary of the Time Lord’s quixotic generosity.  But wondering if he’d ever see him again.

He sighed deeply.  His cocoa was cold, and so were his fingers.  This would do for tonight.  He hauled himself back to his feet, ignoring the creaking of his knees, and headed back to the house.

TUESDAY NIGHT

It was a brilliantly clear night, but cold, and Wilf huddled close around his thermos.  But cold air meant clear seeing, so he was looking through the telecope.  No blue boxes tonight, or any other night, but there was Jupiter and its four largest moons.  One of Wilf’s astronomy friends was carefully plotting out the motion of the moons every night.  Wilf had done that once before, and had the neat little chart still tucked away somewhere in the house.  Jupiter and each moon, carefully plotted on each night for a glorious and unusually clear month.  He hadn’t tried since.  Been there, done that.

And, as always, his mind went back to the Doctor.  That’s what a vigil is for, after all.  He wondered if the Doctor had ever been to Jupiter.  But of course, he probably had.  More than once.  Even though there would be nowhere solid to stand.  Maybe the Doctor had visited the moons.  That’d be a thing, to stand there and see Jupiter so big in the sky.  Or to look this way, and see Earth as a tiny bright dot in the sky, just like Jupiter looked to Wilf.

Had Donna been there with him?  Wilf couldn’t remember her ever mentioning it.  She’d been to a lot of amazing places with that man.  And not just alien worlds; she’d been to the past as well.  Ancient Rome, apparently.  She said she’d seen Vesuvius erupt and bury Pompeii.  They’d kept that part of the story from Sylvia; she worried enough about Donna without having to think of the Doctor taking her to historical cataclysms and barely escaping.

Donna.  She was very happy now, and yet Wilf couldn’t help thinking it was a tragedy she couldn’t remember that one glorious year of her life.  It had changed her, made her a better person.  Bless her soul, but she was terribly shallow and self-absorbed before the Doctor blew into her life and changed it.  Of course, he had the impression she’d actually had a similar effect on him as well.

Wilf smiled fondly.  That’ll be his daughter’s spirit in her.  Stubborn, headstrong, and pathologically unable to take any guff from anyone.  Probably just what an old Time Lord needed.

Jupiter had long since drifted out of his telescope’s view.  Donna had offered to buy him a really nice one, with a motor so it would track the sky and could just go to whatever star he wanted to look at.  But no, he’d refused.  He said he liked the fun of aiming the telescope.  But it made him think of the Doctor’s blue box, that would also go to whatever star you wanted.  And whenever, too.  A dangerous offer, that.

His cocoa was cold.  But the sky was so clear that Wilf resolved to look at a few nebulas before calling it a night.  It was really too bright here in Chiswick to make a proper go of it, but he could usually at least find the bright ones.

Orion.  There.  An easy one.  If there weren’t so many streetlamps, he could’ve seen it with his eyes, but as it was, he needed the telescope.  Maybe one day he’d take a pilgrimmage out to a dark sky location to really get a good look.  A desert, maybe.  But, ah, he wasn’t kidding anyone, least of all himself.  He wasn’t up to long-distance travel anymore.

Maybe if he saw the Doctor again, he could ask for a peek.  But he didn’t really expect to, and if he was honest, Wilf knew he’d never really bring himself to ask.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT

It was raining hard.  Rain poured down around the allotment, pooling in every depression and turning the ground to mud.  The telescope sat under its cover, protected, while Wilf sat under his umbrella, feeling water begin to leak into his shoes.  He’d promised Donna he’d remember the Doctor, and so he would.  Even if she didn’t know about the promise.  It was important.

But he didn’t have to spend all night.  After a few minutes, he uselessly attempted to kick the water out of his shoes and made his way back to the house.

 

THURSDAY NIGHT

Cloudy again, but at least it wasn’t raining, and every now and again the Moon would filter ghost-like through thin patches in the clouds that drifted across the sky.  It stood at first quarter, half-full and waxing.  Wilf had tried using his telescope to look at the terminator between night and dark, where the shadows cast crater rims into stark relief, but the clouds were making it very difficult to concentrate.  So he sat and looked with his eyes instead, and carried out his vigil.

Five years now.  In fact, he realized abruptly, it was *precisely* five years since that awful business with the cactus people and the Master.  Time flies.

Wilf looked up at the clouds.  Somewhere, up there, was the Doctor.  He had to believe that.  Had to.

He remembered when they found him, his Silver Cloak of fellow retirees snooping and looking for the Doctor so he could warn him, tell him about the terrible dreams everyone had been having.  Young as ever, which had made it easier to get the little old ladies to look for him.  But his eyes told the truth.  He wasn’t young at all.  Hundreds and hundreds of years old, at least, and when they’d sat down in the cafe so Wilf could tell him about the dreams, the Doctor had looked very old, very tired, and very scared.  Feeling his mortality.  Must be a hell of a thing when you’re that old to suddenly feel it.

“He will knock four times.”

Some kind of prophecy the Doctor had been told.  He clearly thought it was the Master, but in the end it had been Wilf who had knocked.  He bowed his head in regret.  He’d gotten into that wretched booth so the other poor devil could get out and flee, not realizing he’d be trapped.  So the Doctor had let him out, and taken the radiation dose instead.  He knew right away it would kill him.  Gradually, apparently, but inevitably.  Like those poor blokes in that film about the Manhattan Project, messing about with plutonium.  Dead man walking.

Before that, in the cafe, when the Doctor had confided that he knew he was going to die, Wilf had asked him about that thing that Time Lords do.  Regeneration.  But it hadn’t cheered the Doctor up, because as he explained, it’s exactly like death in every other way, because you go away, and when it’s over, some other bastard walks away wearing your clothes.

Wilf really wasn’t sure if he believed any of that, thinking it was more likely the Doctor was just afraid of the unknown future, but he really didn’t have any basis for comparison.  And the Doctor had looked so serious when he’d said it.  And so it had hurt even more when he’d knocked on that glass, and the Doctor had looked up from the floor where he had collapsed, having just seen off his entire race, and realized what the prophecy had meant.

It had all been there, etched on the Doctor’s face.  Time stood still, just for a moment, and Wilf had one of those agonizing moments where you know exactly what you’ve done, exactly why it was completely the wrong thing, exactly how much it’s going to hurt someone, and exactly how powerless you now are to do a thing about it.  There were some mumbled words, some half-hearted attempts to change the inevitable, and then the Doctor had opened the other door, pushed the button, let Wilf out, and it was done.

Five years, and Wilf still hadn’t forgiven himself completely for it.  Seeing the Doctor at Donna’s wedding had helped, he had to admit, but it hadn’t brought any kind of closure.

And that was all right.  Wilf had buried a wife and a son-in-law and several dear friends; it was an occupational hazard of getting old.  He knew how grief worked.  It’s not something you ever get over; it’s just something you learn how to live with.

He peered into his thermos.  Tea tonight, and it had gone cold.  Time to go in.

 

FRIDAY NIGHT

That was the problem with living in England.  Too much rain.  Too many clouds.  It was amazing, really, when you thought about how many astronomers this island had produced.  They all must have the patience of saints.

It wasn’t a downpour this time.  Just a gentle mist.  It was enough that he had to keep the telescope covered, though, and any minute . . .

“Dad?  Dad!”

Right on schedule.  He turned to see Sylvia coming up the path in a mac.  “Hullo.  Just, erm, enjoying the mist.”

“You nearly caught cold the other night, and I’m not about to let it happen again.”

Wilf admitted defeat.  “All right, love, I’ll be down in a minute.”

SATURDAY NIGHT

At last, it was another glorious night, with stars everywhere.  The Moon was waxing, which was a little bit of a nuisance since it was so bright, but if Wilf was honest, he didn’t really do any serious stargazing anymore anyway.  He loved to look at the planets and the stars and galaxies and things, but they didn’t really change much from this vantage point, and by now they were old friends, keeping him silent company during his nightly vigils.

Saturn was lovely as always, the rings opening as Saturn moved towards its solstice.  The Americans had some sort of robot spacecraft orbiting it; he supposed the Doctor must find that terribly quaint and primitive.  But he doubted the Doctor would disapprove; it was an explorer’s impulse, after all, to send these things out there as soon as the technology was good enough to do it.

How long would it be, he wondered, before people got there?  Would we colonize the moons of outer planets, or would we skip past them, heading out to the stars like the Doctor’s people had?  Donna had seen the future, and it seemed to have human colonies in it, stretching far out into space.  Wilf wished he could ask her about them.  He found himself wishing that a lot these days.  There was so much he hadn’t got round to asking her.

He leaned back from the telescope and poured a cup from his thermos.  It was like mourning for a dead person, except she wasn’t dead and they had to do everything in their power to pretend none of it had happened.  The pretending had gotten easier once Donna moved out, but the grief had gotten worse.  He wanted to talk about it, but he and Sylvia dealt with their grief in different ways.  She was so much like her mother, preferring to fight than to submit, so bringing up the topic with her would usually end in shouting.  She wasn’t angry at him, he knew.  She was angry at the grief.  But that didn’t make it any easier to sit and listen to.  In some respects, it was worse when Donna was around, because if the grief hit then, they’d have to pretend there was nothing wrong, and for Sylvia that was especially trying.

He swung the telescope around.  Cygnus, the swan, or the Northern Cross, has a very lovely star at one end.  The foot of the cross, or the head of the swan, depending on your persuasion, was Albireo, the loveliest double star in the sky and a very easy target to find even with all these city lights.  He found it right away.  One star distinctly blue, and one star distinctly yellow, like two gemstones in the night sky.

“Good evening.”

wilf jumped in his seat, knocking the telescope out of alignment with Albireo, and craned his neck around to see who was talking to him.  A tall, slim man was standing just down the hill a little ways, looking up at him.  In the dark, backlit by the streetlamps, his face was all in shadow.  For a moment, though, Wilf had the magnificent thought it could be the Doctor, but the voice was too deep.  “Oh,” he said.  “You didn’t half startle me, sir.”

“Sorry,” said the man.  “Didn’t mean to.  May I ask what you’re observing tonight?”

The accent was clearly Scottish, and as Wilf’s eyes adjusted, he saw a wild shock of grey hair on the man’s head.  He looked completely unfamiliar.

“Albireo, sir, at the moment,” said Wilf, even though by this time the telescope was actually pointing downwards.  He turned and started re-aiming it.

“Ah,” said the man.  “Beta Cygni.  A very good choice.  Very beautiful.  Mind if I join you?”

Wilf shrugged.  He didn’t generally share his vigil, but he didn’t mind either.  “Be my guest,” he said.

“Thank you,” said the man.  There was an odd catch in his voice.  He climbed the rest of the way up the hill and Wilf got his first good look at him.  Tall, perhaps mid-fifties or so, very gangly.  Fidgety, too.  Probably had something on his mind to have kept him out this late at night.

“There,” said Wilf.  “I’ve got it in focus again.  Pretty old Albireo.”

The man bent over the telescope.  “Yes,” he said, staring for several minutes, adjusting the aim as the star drifted with the Earth’s rotation.

“So,” said Wilf, wanting to make conversation.  “I haven’t seen you around here before.”

The man didn’t respond.

“Can’t sleep?”  Wilf asked.  Still no response.  “Is that why you’re out?  I’m retired, I have time, so I come out here every night.”

The man straightened up and looked at Wilf with a surprisingly intense expression.  “What, every night?”

“Well . . . yeah.”

“But this is England.  It’s cloudy half the time.”  

“What, and Scotland isn’t?”

The man’s eyes suddently twinkled.  “We’re not gazing in windows, are we?”

Wilf didn’t have the heart to glare; it was obvious the stranger was just trying to be funny.  Besides, he was right that it didn’t make sense.  He sighed and looked up at the waxing Moon.  “I have my reasons,” he said.

“I suppose so,” said the man.

“And you?” asked Wilf.  “Are you out for a bit of stargazing, or what?”

“What,” he admitted.  He sighed, then sat down abruptly on the ground next to Wilf’s canvas stargazing chair.  “I was looking for you.”

Wilf frowned.  “For me?  Why?”

The man looked up at him.  “Because there’s something I have to know, and you’ll be the easiest one to ask.”

A creeping sense of forboding came over Wilf.

“How’s Donna?”

Wilf’s eyes widened.  “Why do you want to know?  Who are you?”

The man’s shoulders slumped.  He sighed.  “I don’t really know why I came back, now, after so long.  I guess . . . I should have come sooner, really, but there’s always so much to do.”  He ran long-fingered hands over his face and through his hair, then looked up at Wilf again.  “Do you remember?  I said it’s like you die, and another man walks away.  Wilf, it’s me, the Doctor.”

Wilf stood up abruptly and took a step back.  His mouth opened and closed for a moment as he tried to figure out what to say.  “I . . . sir . . . I . . . you shouldn’t be here!  What about Donna . . . “

The Doctor waved dismissively.  “That’s why I thought I could come back.  She won’t recognize me now.”  His voice was airy, a little too casual, and suddenly Wilf was certain this really was the Doctor.  Being forgotten was a heavy price to pay.

“How . . . but . . . I mean, I knew about that thing you do, and sir, it is so good to know you’re alive, but, why are you back?”

He sighed.  “To be honest, I’m lonely.  Old.  Too old.”  He looked up at the stars.  “I’ll tell you the truth, Wilf.  I’m not the man who walked away that day.  He died too, and I walked away from that.  It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen you.”

“It’s been five years,” said Wilf.

The Doctor shook his head.  “Time travel,” he said.  “Five years for you.  A few more digits for me.  I did manage to do something I’ve never done before, though.”

“Yeah?” asked Wilf.  “What’s that, then?”

“Die of old age.”

The Doctor was grinning and probably meant it as a joke, but at Wilf’s age, that wasn’t something that bore much discussion.  “So how come you sound all Scottish now?”

The Doctor shrugged.  “I really don’t know.  Don’t know where the faces come from, or the voices.  They just do.”  He pinned Wilf with a look.  “You know I’m not really Scottish.  No more than I used to be English.  I just speak every language like a native.  Not always the same natives, that’s all.”

Wilf paused a moment.  He hadn’t really thought about that, but obviously English couldn’t possibly be the Doctor’s real first language.  “Is it one of them universal translator things, like on Star Trek?”

“No, not really,” said the Doctor.  “But yes, if you like.”

Which was completely unhelpful, but very Doctor.  Wilf sat back down.  He poured a cup of cocoa from his thermos.  “Cocoa?” he asked, offering it to the Doctor, who thanked him and took it.  “Donna’s doing well,” he said.  “Hasn’t remembered anything, if that’s what you’re worried about.  You saw she married; he’s treating her well.  Sylvia’s seen to that.”

The Doctor suddenly laughed.  “Yes, I bet she has!”

“And they’ve got one on the way now,” added Wilf.  “Second try, but don’t tell anyone I told you.  She lost the first one.”

A long silence stretched out.

“I think Sylvia was more upset than Donna was,” said Wilf, casually.  “She couldn’t help wondering whether all the . . . travel . . . had an effect.”  He very deliberately did not look at the Doctor.

“No,” said the Doctor.  “I’m sorry she’s worried about that, but the only time you should worry is if the child was conceived in the TARDIS.”

“Speaking from experience?” guessed Wilf.

The Doctor looked at him sharply.  “It’s a long story.  After we last met, after I regenerated, I met Amy Pond.  She brought her boyfriend on board, and I’ll never let that happen again, because although their daughter is delightful, she’s frankly terrifying too, and it’s all because I was stupid enough to take them on board for their honeymoon.”

Wilf’s eyebrows shot up.  “Blimey, you ain’t half naive for a man your age,” he said.

The Doctor shook his head.  “You’ve no idea.  So,” he said.  “Do you think I should try and set Sylvia’s mind at ease?  Or pop forward and see how the baby turns out?  Make a peace offering that way?”

“No,” said Wilf, firmly.  “No, I think it’s best to let nature take its own course and see what happens the old-fashioned way.  And to let Sylvia alone.”  He examined the old Time Lord for a minute.  “She did forgive you in the end, you know,” he said.

“Hm?”

“Sylvia.  It was a good thing you did, coming to Donna’s wedding.  Oh, don’t let her rages fool you; that’s just her way.  Too much of her mother in her.  God, I miss her sometimes….but I look at Sylvia, and part of her is still there.  Will always be here, as long as I remember her.”

They sat together in silence, the stars glittering silently above.

“That’s why I come up here, you know,” said Wilf.  “To remember you.  On Donna’s behalf.”

The Doctor looked at him, surprised.

“Oh, don’t look so stunned, Doctor.  I made a promise, and I keep all my promises.  I don’t know how many years I have left in me, but as long as I can do it, it keeps alive the part of Donna that we can’t ever see again.”

“Thank you,” said the Doctor, quietly.  He blinked furiously, then turned away.  Wilf wasn’t fooled; he was hiding tears no doubt.  Wilf suddenly remembered the Doctor standing on the doorstep in the pouring rain, an unconscious Donna in his arms, and he was quite certain that it wasn’t just rain on the Doctor’s face.  A bad day for all of them, but also the beginning of healing.

“Don’t mention it,” he said.  “We do what we must, all of us.  But . . . if I could ask a favor . . . “

“Yes?”

“You’ll go on a lot longer than I will, Doctor,” said Wilf.  “Remember us, please.”

The Doctor turned suddenly to face Wilf again.  His eyes were glittering and red.  “Oh, Wilfred Mott, how could I ever forget any of you?”

“Thank you,” said Wilf.  “Thank you, sir.”

 

SUNDAY NIGHT

There were scattered clouds, reflecting the waxing Moon and spoiling the stargazing.  The Doctor had left, and Wilf didn’t think he’d ever see him again.  But a promise is a promise, and he was determined to go on remembering.  But as he stood below the drifting clouds and pondered, Wilf found that his thoughts were brighter tonight.

It was good, knowing the Doctor had survived after all.  That he was still out there, fighting the boggins and whatever chaos might be coming for everyone.  And that he would remember them through all his long years.

Wilf didn’t feel the cold tonight.  He smiled up at the sky.  “Cheers, Doctor,” he said, and raised his mug of cocoa to the silent clouds.

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