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Doctor Who: Royal Oak, Chapter Ten

By Hrolf Douglasson

One year later. The ships still sat in the waters of Scapa Flow, the winds still whistled across grass and field and moorland. Tam was standing by the cowshed with nothing in particular on his mind when something made him turn. Or, rather, someone. An unfamiliar but unforgettable face peered into his: a narrow, hollow-cheeked face with a day or two’s stubble and dark, piercing eyes beneath spiky short hair.

“Hello Tam,” said the Doctor quietly. “How’s it going?”

“I’d not thought tae see ye again,” replied the farmer uncertainly. “Ye’ve certainly been a topic fer conversation doon a’ th’ pub jus’ lately.”

“Mmm, I can imagine.” He nodded towards the sea vaguely. “I take it they’re back at the wreck, then?”

“It’s bin in th’ papers, aye – altho’ they’re only sayin’ that they’re takin’ oil out o’ her.”

“Quite right too,” the Doctor said with a satisfied air. “No signs of anything else going on?”

Tam scowled. “Not unless ye count th’ dreams and sleepless nichts, and the endless watchin’ o’er me shoulder, like…”

“I’m sorry,” said the Doctor sadly. “There’s not a lot I can do about that. I’d help if I could…”

“Ach, it’s no’ your fault, man! Ye gave me enough chances to duck out, but no, I was jus’ too damned stubborn. Well, I’m payin’ fer me pride now. But I’ll get by.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

A silence descended between them for a minute: a local lad and a man from the stars, just remembering and drawing strength from each other. Finally, it was Tam who shifted in his wellies.

“Will ye come in for a dram then, Doctor?”

“I’m not sure how well your father would take that.” The Time Lord rubbed his head. “I haven’t recovered from the last time you and I shared a drink…”

“Whit, man! That was o’er a year ago! Ye didna’ drink that much!”

“Was it? A whole year? Oh, well then, that was rather good!”

“Why’s that? A year o’ hangovers is nothin’ to be laughed about, ye ken…”

“Ah, but that’s for you! I’m a lord of time: for me it was only yesterday!” He produced the insane grin again. “I’ve got a mind like a sieve: if I don’t follow up straight away I’m likely to forget completely.”

Tam’s brow furrowed. “So… ye’re sayin’ that ye did yer time-travellin’ trick or whatever it was, and ye came here, a year later, the day after we parted?”

“Something like that, yeah.”

“Ye’re full o’ blether, Doctor! Fathir was right about that much!”

The Doctor leaned back, still wearing the smile. “Oh you think so, do you? Well, how about I take you on board and show you how it’s done, then?”

“No thanks: I’ve got me kine and fathir tae think about. I cannae’ jus’ go harin’ off an’ leavin’ them! Besides, if ye’re right, then I’m no’ sure I could cope wi’ getting’ me yesterdays mixed in wi’ me tomorrows. I’ll stick tae whit I ken.”

“Fair enough… oh, I know!” The Doctor’s voice rose in excitement. “How about if I leave you the bottle? There’s still a little bit left… well, a few drops, anyway. I rather got a liking for whisky.”

“There’s no’ much I could be doin’ wi’ another empty bottle, man! Now if ye’d offered me a full one, it’d be different.”

The Doctor dug into a coat pocket with a slyer grin. “What, like this one? He held up a bottle that shone golden in the weak sunlight of an Orkney summer’s day. “Remember me,” he said warmly, “and remember all we did. You saved your planet, Tam: your whole world owes you a lot more than just a bottle or two! Oh, and I finally got through to UNIT: they might well want to come and pay you a visit. Try not to break them too much, eh?”

He held out a hand: Tam took it. “I have to go,” said the Doctor. “It was good knowing you, Tam. Enjoy the whisky!”

Tam turned to put the bottle somewhere safe and then intended insisting that they open it together – but when he turned back, the Doctor was gone. He picked up the bottle again and inspected the label. Highland Park; eighteen years old, no less. Bottled in…

“Ye bugger!” he exclaimed. “Ye ol’…”

For the date on the label was next year…


The End