Fandom: Doctor Who (The two main characters in question appeared in "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood".)
Rating: PG, for allusions to war.
Word Count: 770 words.
Notes: Tim Latimer/Tom Hutchinson. This is for and clearly inspired by taurenova, three years too late. Title from Edmund Blunden's poem "Preparations For Victory".
Summary: Were you to ask Tim the greatest gift The Doctor had bestowed upon him, he would not say his deceptively intricate pocket-watch...
Were you to ask Tim the greatest gift The Doctor had bestowed upon him, he would not say his deceptively intricate pocket-watch, he would say the quality of mercy. Of course, Tim reflects, were you to ask him this question, you would undoubtedly be in command of gifts that rivalled his own, so perhaps it was just as well you didn't.
Mercy. It hadn't really been something a mere boy had ever truly comprehended, before. Not him, at any rate. He'd skirted around the edge of wanting it, but the idea of granting it was quite foreign. And yet, in these trenches, amongst the blood and dirt and grime, along the side, across the breach, and at the backs of men who need more compassion than most are able to give; Tim not only understands it. He believes in it.
The thing is, it was The Doctor's eventual lack of clemency that makes Tim strive so hard to prove that he, (a perfectly ordinary young man with perhaps not a perfectly ordinary young mind), could be wonderful. Not the fire of summer and ice of winter, but the crisp edge of autumn, and blossoming of spring. Peace, and calm, and rejuvenation.
Tim can't exactly say these things to Tom when he's frequently asked how he could ever forgive his behaviour from a scant four years before. He supposes this does not matter so much, but he wishes he could articulate himself in a way that would be met with more than a clenched jaw and, 'you do realise you're utterly infuriating, Latimer. That much hasn't changed. Poetry does not become you.'
Tom has changed, though. He is still brash, and continually prone to acting without thinking, he isn't always as benevolent as Tim himself can be, but he has gained insight and maturity and a willingness to consider that which he would always discount before. It is easier to forgive when the bruises are all but forgotten. Tom has become the valiant hero he demanded from everyone else when he was a pupil. It's consolation that Tim's heart was right before his mind had told him why it should be.
"Bearing up?" Tom asks, settling against the previously isolated stretch of trench wall he occupies, interrupting Tim's thoughts. "You looked a thousand miles away."
"I was just thinking about you," Tim says, feeling his mouth twist with the corner of a smile.
Tom's eyes darken, but Tim does not know whether in anger or something connected but quite different, and he does not attempt to 'guess' Tom's inner musings anymore. It is not his right. "Possibly not the best thoughts to be having at this current moment. One day you will learn to concentrate on the matter at hand."
"You say this as if you have prior insight," Tim teases. "Is this something I should be concerned about?"
"Oh yes, we all learn your tricks eventually. Soon you'll be surrounded by people finishing your sentences before you've started them, and offering to pull you up out of the mud before you've taken a tumble. You'll realise how thoroughly disconcerting an experience it can be."
"Disconcerting even when it saves one's life?" Tim asks, knowing the answer, but needing to ask regardless.
"Especially then," Tom replies, but he matches Tim's half-smile, and Tim thinks that between them they almost make one whole contented man. This seems inappropriate given the circumstances, but Tim does not think about that.
"It will all be over soon. For now, at the very least. Do you know what you might do, when we go back?"
"No, do you?"
"I thought I might like to teach, to be honest. Though not in a Military Academy. I'm not sure there's a man on earth who can prepare anyone for what's to come."
"I meant for me."
Tim frowns. "Oh. No. There are limits, you know."
Tom's eyes flash black and indecipherable again. "Yes." He falters, pressing his hand against the side of Tim's neck. His expression softens. "I do."
Tim looks up at the blackest of nights and sighs. He knows there will come a day when Tom will explain his changeable nature, the looks and the casual touches that so rarely feel casual (that, if he's completely honest, never felt as such, even all those years ago.) That day will not be soon, but it will come. For now, he has to be patient, and steady, and most of all, forgiving. Of himself, as well as Tom. Sometimes, that is the most difficult of all. But he has seen what a lapse in judgement can wring.