by AstroGirl

illustrated by Kathryn A

After the rebellion on Tarexorius Beta, and the business with the Zygons, and that unfortunate little incident with the explosives factory on Mars, he'd decided it was time for a bit of a rest. So he took the TARDIS to a little place he knew, on the edge of the Sagittarius Arm, and they stepped out into a breeze that smelled like honey, beneath a sky the Doctor was fairly sure he'd once calculated as being precisely the bluest shade of blue it is possible for a sky to be.

"There, Cally," he said, happily surveying the gently rippling blue-green grass of the meadow and the silent forest beyond. "Told you I'd take you somewhere nice."

"Yes," replied. "It is very nice."

"Nice? Nice? It's fantastic! This is one of the top planets in the universe. Pure, unspoiled natural beauty. Do you have any idea how rare a totally untouched world is? Well, except for all the lava ones, and the ones with no air... Nobody wants to touch those, usually."

"It's nice," she repeated, with a hint of a smile.

Not exactly an overwhelming response, but he refused to let it dampen his enthusiasm. "And do you know what? For once, the TARDIS was bang on. I've brought us to the best spot, at the very best time. Height of the summer solstice. Most beautiful day of the year."

That got a reaction out of her, but not quite the one he was hoping. She looked at him with eyes suddenly gone dark and serious. "Is it really? The summer solstice?"


She looked around for a moment, thoughtfully. "I see. Do you think... Could we stay a while, then?"

"That's the idea, yeah." He looked her up and down, smiling gently. "At least, that was my idea. I'm getting the feeling you've got an idea of your own. You want to tell me about it?"

"I'd... Yes. I think I should like to build a fire."

"A fire. All right. We'll build a fire. Any particular reason why we're building a fire?"

She didn't look back at him, her eyes focusing somewhere off in the distance. "On my world," she said, "there was a tradition. On the day of the summer solstice, we would build a fire and let it burn through the night, in memory of all those who had died in the past year."

There was silence for a long moment, broken only be the soft calling of an animal, somewhere in the trees. "It's going to need to be a very big fire," he said at last.

"Then it will be for both of us to make."


They gathered wood all through the warm afternoon, ranging farther into the forest as the pyre-to-be grew higher. They said nothing to each other, past the initial discussion of where, and what kind of wood, and how big. The silence somehow seemed as natural as the wind and the trees.

At first, his mind supplied a name for each log, counting off the roster of the dead: Borusa, not immortal in the end, after all. Romana, who should have stayed safely in E-space. Susan...

When he found himself naming planets instead of people, he stopped.


In the last light of the dusk, Cally lit the fire. She spoke some Auron litany, not in words, but in complex, fluid patterns of thought and emotion that brushed against the surface of his mind.

They watched as the fire caught, spread and blazed, as the plume of smoke reached upward into this perfect planet's perfect sky. A sky, the Doctor reflected, that probably featured fewer stars than it once had. Or perhaps there were more; in this time frame, light should still be propagating from some of the artificial novae that had blossomed during the war. This fire seemed a candle-flicker by comparison. Utterly insignificant.

Cally came to stand closer, the warmth of her body in the descending coolness of the night adding to the warmth of the fire. Sparks rose as if seeking to escape the planet's gravity, the logs he had named for the dead were slowly consumed, and ash rained down on them in an steady, inescapable fall.

"Doesn't seem like much, does it?" he said at last. "A fire for the dead? I mean, they're not here to appreciate it are they?"

"That isn't the point." Cally's voice was softer and calmer than his. It almost made him feel ashamed.

"No. No, I suppose not." He stared hard into the shifting flames. They reminded him of so many things. The Vortex. The feeling you got just before regeneration, when it seemed like every cell was burning. The molten core of a planet as it burst apart. "I'm sure your people would be glad to know you remembered their tradition for them, anyway."

"And yours?" she asked, her quiet voice almost drowned by the roaring of the flames.

"This?" He laughed. "This? The Time Lords would have hated it! No pomp, no ritual to speak of, just chaotic fire, savage and primal and natural... They would be appalled." He threw back his head and laughed again. It seemed so funny somehow. Such a wonderful cosmic joke.

Only when Cally reached up and brushed gently at the moisture on his face did he realize he hadn't actually been laughing at all.

They would have hated it, he whispered against her mind, his faint, latent Time Lord telepathy offering the words up where she could read them. They would have hated that I was the one who survived.

I hated that I was the one who survived, she replied, bitterness coloring her mental voice. She looked away.

He raised his hand, brushed fingers under her jaw, and gently turned her face back to him. "I'm glad you did."

Reflected fire danced in her eyes as she slowly allowed herself to smile.


They made love in the flickering light and falling soot, with no more discussion than they'd used in making the fire and for no better reason than that they were both alive. They slept as the fire began to die, waking in the morning to ash and embers, and calm yellow sunlight, and the sounds of a planet full of life.

"I think," said Cally quietly. "That it is time to leave this place."

"All right." He sat up slowly and reached for his jacket. "Where do you want to go?"

"Somewhere less perfect," she said thoughtfully. "Somewhere less beautiful. Somewhere..."


"Somewhere we can..." She gestured toward the remains of the fire, her eyes pleading with him to understand what she did not quite seem able to put into words. "Where we can burn. While we still live. Because, you and I..." She shook her head.

He considered that for a moment. "Because there'll be no one to burn anything for us, when the time comes?"

She nodded, looking grateful for his perception. "Yes."

He fished the TARDIS key out of the jacket's pocket and tossed it to her. "Right," he said. "Sounds good to me." He flashed her a huge grin, feeling better than he had in this lifetime. "Let's blaze!"

Author's Notes

All right, some while ago redstarrobot said she was having a bad day, and, for complicated reasons, wanted a story involving fire. Possibly Cally/Ninth Doctor and fire. Possibly explicit Cally/Nine and fire. Well, I didn't really manage the explicitness, I'm afraid, but there's Cally/Nine, and there's a fire. Whether it's any good or not, eh. I was intending to dash off maybe 300 words when I got home from work, but a) it grew, and grew, and b) there was much, much stress today, so the result is... longer and less coherent. Whatever. ~1200 words. Contains some spoilers for the new Who series, and spoilers by implication for season 3 of Blake's 7. Probably works best if you regard it as a sequel to redstarrobot's own B7/Who crossover ficlet.