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six ways backwards

Once again Ace wasn't quite sure what was going on in the TARDIS. For the past few days the Doctor had been more than usually sombre, spending a good deal of his time wandering apparently aimlessly up an down the various long and winding corridors which littered the ship. However, no matter how far he went he always managed to find his way back to the control room which always irritated her, for on more than one occasion she had found herself lost down a corridor she had mistaken for another ( a very easy thing to do ) and having to call for rescue.

From what she could tell, the Doctor seemed to spend his wanderings muttering to himself and, most worrying of all, frequently answering himself in a slightly different roles. At times, these 'conversations' would develop into mild arguments as if he were debating something in his mind over and over again.

Much to Ace's relief the debate seemed finally to have ended when one Tuesday (or was it Friday?), as he hung over the TARDIS console, the Doctor announced:

‘We're going on a little trip, Ace.’

‘Where to, Professor?’ she exclaimed, ‘Skaro, Blackpool, Castrovalva...not Iceworld I hope!’

He looked up at her and smiled, ‘No, none of those places, just a small quiet town I happen to be acquainted with and, before you start protesting it isn't Perivale! I just hope you won't be too bored there. Now, if I can just get the co-ordinates right we should be able to make a perfect landing.’

Standing back from the controls after making various minor adjustments to the settings, the Doctor looked contented. ‘There,’ he said, ‘that should be right.’

Ace couldn't be fooled however, and she knew for a fact that he had his fingers crossed behind his back the whole journey and he definitely couldn't hide the look of relief on his face when

they both stepped from the TARDIS still all in one piece.

Ace had always wondered why small towns and villages were often described as being 'sleepy' but now she knew. This place was so peaceful and damned quiet that it could have the possible distinction of being more boring than Perivale (a fact indeed). She wasn't sure whether to scream out loud to wake things up or yawn and eventually decided on neither reaction and instead asked the Doctor where exactly they were going, a fair enough question to ask and one which she almost continually seemed to be asking recently.

Turning around, he gazed at her curiously as if he had only just noticed she was still with him and replied: ‘Well, I'm going over there,’ he pointed to a large grey structure in the distance which for some reason gave Ace a cold chill when she looked at it, ‘while you can get something to eat and drink in that shop down there and wait.’ He now pointed in the opposite direction while digging deep into one of his many pockets with his other hand.

Producing a couple of grubby looking coins he gave them to her, saying, ‘There, that should do.’

Staring at the pieces of dark silver in her hand, Ace laughed. ‘Two shillings! What do you think this is, the dark ages? Alright, I'll see what I can get with them. Hopefully the old dear serving behind the counter will be half blind so she wont notice what I'm giving her.’ A thought suddenly struck her and she spoke again. ‘By the way, if you don't mind me asking what are you planning to do over there?’

‘It's personal,’ was the only response she got so she had to make do with it as they headed their different ways.

The truth of the matter was, that the Doctor did have some up to date currency on his person but was saving it for a very special purchase.

~~~

'Seven of your best roses please.’

He had arrived at the entrance to the structure. The old flower seller looked hard into his eyes and said, ‘It's been a long time hasn't it?’

‘Has it?’, the Doctor stared back at her, memories flooding back into his mind, ‘Yes, I suppose it has. I do have such a problem with time you know, always letting it slip past me when I'm not looking."‘

The Doctor handed the flower seller a crisp £20 pound note and before she had the chance to give him his change he had gone through the entrance of the graveyard, the bunch of flowers resting gently in his arms. After several minutes however, he stopped walking. He had strayed so far in without checking his bearings that for a moment he thought he was lost. However, looking carefully around him he noticed a large stone sculpture of a ship commemorating the life of its long dead captain buried below. He now knew exactly where he was and continued on.

Finally reaching his destination, the doctor solemnly took his hat off and stood perfectly still, silent as a ghost.

Facing him were six small graves in a neat row with room for at least another six on the right hand side. Each tombstone was blank except for a fist-sized Roman numeral carved delicately into the centre from I to VI.

If anyone had been asked whom they thought the plots were for they would probably have replied that, judging by their size they could only be for children who had lived past their first gasp of air.

The Doctor would have had a different answer but it would have been unlikely he would tell anyone, something's were just too private.

Gently crouching down, he placed a red rose on each grave and straightened up again. Standing back to get a clearer view he clasped his hands, eyes closed in some form of silent prayer of remembrance.

~~~

Time in a graveyard passes as quickly or as slowly as a person there wishes, and especially slow for a Time Lord with a great deal on his mind for past, present and future matters. When the Doctor had finally finished with his thoughts he replaced his hat neatly on his head, opened his eyes and spoke.

'Alright, Ace. You can come out now.'

Sure enough a slightly embarrassed figure appeared from behind a nearby statue and began walking over to him. ‘Well?’ the Doctor said with his back to her. ‘What have you to say for yourself?’

Irritated with herself for being discovered so easily, Ace carefully avoided the question. ‘Here's your money back, Professor. That shop of yours closed down years ago, It's a pub now and the two shillings wouldn't even get me a pint of water.’ She rattled the coins in her hand for effect but immediately stopped when the Doctor turned around to face her.

Suddenly the Doctor looked different to Ace, as if he had somehow become older since she had last seen him. Perhaps it was only in her mind or maybe with all the reminders of the past surrounding him she had only just realised how old he actually was. It was quite possible that he had been around longer than any inhabitant of the graveyard they were standing in the moment. Only now did she begin to comprehend how much of a history the person she called 'The Professor' had before they had met and how little she actually knew despite all their adventures together.

Maybe he hadn't changed at all, she hadn't been looking properly before. One thing she noticed that was definitely different about him was the single red rose gripped tightly in his left hand. ‘What's that for?’ she asked, pointing directly at it.

The Doctor looked at the lone flower in a strangely familiar way as if he hadn't noticed it before and glanced back at its companions laid out on the graves and at the bare ground on the right. ‘One still left...no, I don't think so,’ Ace could hear him mumble under his breath, ‘not just yet.’

Deftly, he snapped the rose in two and fitted the top half into the button hole of his jacket, brushing it lightly for effect. A sly smile slipped from his mouth as he looked down at his companion, ‘Sorry, Ace, I forgot to get one for you. Do you forgive me?’

She sighed, ‘It's alright, Professor. I've never been that keen on flowers, far too prissy for me. I'd prefer a can of nitro any day, much more useful!’ She paused to gather her thoughts and some air before asking the next question which naturally enough was ‘Where do we go now?’

The Doctor glanced up at the grey clouds forming in the sky above them as they left the graveyard together, heading back towards the TARDIS.

‘Where indeed...?’

written by
FRANCIS CAVE
copyright 2009