Fandom: Doctor Who, the Vorkosigan Saga
Characters: The Eleventh Doctor, Rory Williams, Sgt. Taura
Edited by: my beloved dr_whuh, aka buckaroobob
Summary: At a glorious Barrayaran wedding, Rory Williams Pond is reminded that life's never long enough to cherish what you love.
Author's Notes: This was written, with so very much affection, for ljgeoff , for the 2014 fandom_stocking effort. She indicated she was a fan of crossovers; since she and I share not only our love for Dr. Who, but a similar enjoyment of the Vorkosiverse, I thought a little look at one of my favorite minor Vorkosiverse characters, from the point of view of one of my favorite Whoniverse characters, might please her. All mistakes are mine.
Disclaimer: As always, I own nothing, and take no coin. All characters are the property of their various creators; Lois McMaster Bujold and all BBC teams involved in Dr. Who.
“She. Is. Eight. Feet. Tall.” Rory kept his voice low.
“Yes she is! Pretty cool, eh? There’s not many like her around — in fact, she’s the last of her kind!”
The Doctor didn’t bother to modulate his volume, and Rory flinched as the lady in question turned toward them, something politely threatening on her architecturally remarkable face. “Excuse me?”
For a heart-thumpingly long moment, Rory was certain he was going to be at the nexus — again — of Doctor-engineered unpleasantness. He brought one hand up as high as his shoulder and wiggled his fingers in what he hoped would be taken as a friendly gesture. A friendly “I’m not with him” sort of gesture. It rarely worked, of course, but Rory continued to try it, on the off chance it might.
Then the lupine glow in her eyes warmed into golden friendliness as she registered just who was talking about her so brazenly. “Doctor!”
“Taura!” The Doctor jumped a little to peck at the woman’s cheek, missing the fangs in the underslung jaw quite neatly. “You look beautiful, positively scrumptious!”
She looked down at her gown, her self-conscious and slightly terrifying smile softened by the obvious delight she took in it. Rory, who’d developed a reasonable facsimile of fashion awareness thanks to Amy and River, thought the champagne-colored swaths of velvet and darkly ornate trim were tailored beautifully to her oversized frame. It didn’t try to make her look delicate, just, well, beautiful.
Rory wondered if she was human, then decided she was. Just sort of … werewolfy.
“It’s thanks to Lady Alys, and her dressmaker,” Taura said.
“Not in the least. Well, in the least, yes, I know the wonders Lady Alys can work,” the Doctor said, his fingers fluttering vaguely in the direction of two rather impressive looking older women, a tall rangy one with greying chestnut hair and a regally mature dark salt and pepper brunette, willowy and only slightly shorter; Rory wondered which was Lady Alys. “But really, you can’t put something beautiful on anyone who isn’t beautiful and have it come out looking as splendid as you, now can you? She had you to work with, so she had it easy.”
The tall woman, Taura, had a deep, warm laugh that should have been completely at odds with the way she looked. It wasn’t in the least, Rory thought. “You aren’t normally so charming, Doctor. You practiced up for the wedding, didn’t you?”
“Why’d you think we’d dress up like this otherwise?” The Doctor gestured expansively toward himself and Rory, sidestepping the fact that he’d managed to get them to the church, or whatever passed for a church on Barrayar, late. As usual, Rory thought. They’d missed the formal ceremony and were simply milling about at the reception. And he’d dressed so carefully for the occasion.
Almost reflexively, Rory took a quick look at his outfit. The Doctor had eschewed regular tuxedos for either of them, and had dragged him to the TARDIS’ wardrobe room, ploughing through rack after rack of men’s suits until he’d come up with a suit that seemed to be a cross between a Spanish toreador’s suit of lights, albeit slightly more sombre, and some Russian boyar’s get-up.
The colors were blue and silver,the look slightly piratical, and he had to admit he felt a little aristocratic in it. Amy had liked it well enough. Rory felt his cheeks flush at the memory of her hot-eyed appraisal. She did love it when he dressed up … With that thought, Rory looked around for his wife.
He spotted her across the ballroom (at least he thought it was a ballroom, although guests currently seemed more interested in eating and drinking prodigious amounts of excellent food and eye-wateringly strong alcohol than in doing any dancing) holding court with a bevy of the local boys, her red hair and emerald green gown making her look, for a split second, like a younger version of the tall Vor lady standing with the brunette. Rory shook his head, and the illusion was shattered. Besides, he thought, no Vor lady would be acting like Amy was. Even at this distance, he could see that she was intimidating the men, no matter that they all looked to be military types.
Rory looked closer. Half were in the brown and silver color scheme of the groom’s family, and one or two looked like they might be part of the Emperor’s household, although he was apparently here in his secondary role as a Count — Rory wasn’t certain he understood Barrayaran culture or politics in the least, even though he’d spent an evening in the library trying to read up on what he could. The Doctor had insisted he “wouldn’t need that sort of thing. Cordelia and Aral know me, they know my friends won’t know nearly as much as I do about Barrayar.” Rory had snorted, and gone back to reading about the Time of Isolation. The way they were all looking at her —
“Doctor, is it, I don’t know, done, what Amy’s doing?”
“Oh, yes,” the Time Lord said, waving airily at nothing in particular. "The Vor do like elegant flirts, and your wife is definitely that. You know, she looks a little like Cordelia did when she was younger. Not nearly so frightening, of course.”
“Hah. Shows what you know,” Rory responded, distractedly and without heat as he looked back to the two women he’d eyed previously. So the tall roan one was Countess Vorkosigan. That Countess; Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan, The one who brought the Pretender’s head in a shopping sack to the guerrillas! No wonder he’d thought of Amy when he first looked at her.
“Is that girl your wife, Mr., uh ….” Taura looked between Rory and the Doctor, raising her eyebrows.
“Oh, right! Sorry, yes, this is Rory. Rory Pond — ” the Doctor said.
“Williams,” Rory said, then sighed. “Pond. Yeah, Pond. Hi, I’m Rory.”
“She’s beautiful,” Taura said, simply. Rory wondered for a moment if she was jealous, then felt ashamed of himself for thinking it. This woman didn’t need to be jealous of anyone.
“Yeah, she is,” he agreed.
“Bet she’s a handful,” Taura said. This time, her smile was frightening, until he realized that the Doctor was laughing softly. It mustn’t be a threat, then.
“I forgot to mention that Taura, here — no last name, she doesn’t need one — is a sergeant with the Dendarii Fleet, and was Second to Lady Ekaterin when she married Lord Miles earlier today. She’s an old friend of the groom, who res—” the Doctor hesitated slightly, then resumed, “helped her out of a tight situation. She’s been a credit to the Dendarii ever since. But she has a soldier’s sense of humour.”
Taura laughed that wonderful laugh again. Then her attention snapped beyond the two of them to a young House armsman standing near the ballroom’s entry way. Rory knew the look on her face; Amy got it sometimes, a gaze that metamorphosed between romantic affection and happy lust, usually just before she grabbed him and took him anywhere she could take him. The armsman seemed to know he was being observed. He looked up, saw Taura, and nodded, with a very happy smile, then went back to being an armsman.
Rory hid his smile and silently wished the young man all the best.
He was still grinning internally when he glanced back at the Doctor, only to watch as the latter’s own smile slipped. He was watching the tall wolf-woman — Rory couldn’t help thinking of her as that — with immense sorrow in his deep-set eyes.
“We’re keeping you from an appointment,” he said softly to Taura. “Go. Enjoy.”
Taura turned her eyes back down to the Doctor and said, somewhat confusingly. “Don’t worry about me, Doctor. I’m doing fine.”
“I know,” he said. “You’re better than fine. But … I’ll catch up with you. Someone far more interesting’s waiting for you. And you deserve each other, after what you did today. No. You deserve each other, period.”
What? The two of them seemed to understand what they were talking about. Rory, as usual, felt a little left out, then he remembered the Doctor saying something about “the unpleasantness with the pearls”; it had sounded like another Barrayaran political mess. Perhaps Taura and the armsman had helped out the Doctor’s friends? That felt right, as far as it went. But the way the Doctor spoke to Taura, so gently—
He remembered the young soldier who had fought with them at Demon’s Run, suddenly, the way the Doctor had spoken to her at the end.
He felt something hollow form in his stomach. But she looked so healthy!
They made their goodbyes, Taura bending over to give the Doctor another peck on the cheek and shaking Rory’s hand, before moving off in the direction of the armsman. “I’ll see you again?” she asked over her shoulder.
“You know me,” the Doctor non-replied, with a huge and very artificial grin on his face.
Taura looked sad for a moment, then shook her head. “You’re a terrible liar. Well, I’m glad I got a chance to see you again, even if we didn’t have a chance to talk about Sergyar. Have a good life, Doctor.”
“Oh, I plan to.” She stepped out of her momentary darkness as if it were an old dress, and the glow came back into her eyes. Rory thought, unbidden, of his daughter, and swallowed hard.
“Pleasure meeting you, Rory.”
“No. It was my pleasure,” he managed. She nodded her satisfaction with that response, and continued across the room.
Rory and the Doctor stood and watched her, flowing above and past people whose stares she ignored.
“Doctor, she’s —”
“ — not sick. No. She’s perfectly healthy. She’s just dying,” the Time Lord said. Rory knew him well enough now that he didn’t mistake the clinical tone of voice for being anything at all like clinical. “Her hair is grey under that dye. She was 16 when Miles found her, a little over a decade ago. If she makes it to 30, she will be very, very lucky, and I don’t expect her to be. When the monsters who genengineered her coded her for strength and power and intelligence, and beauty, too, although I’m sure they didn’t think she was beautiful, they didn’t feel that a disposable super-soldier needed much of a lifespan. Miles’ people have worked hard to give her an extra decade.”
“Oh.” Rory had nothing more to say, and the Doctor nodded in agreement.
“The thing is,” he said after a moment, in a slightly less bleak tone, “she knows what awaits her, and she doesn’t let it cage her. She had too much of being caged before Miles helped her free herself. She told me that, once, but I didn’t need her to tell me. You can see it.
“It’s not that she’s not afraid of dying,” he continued. “Most sapient beings would really like to not die, because dying means missing so many things, Taura knows better than most how much there is to miss. But that’s the thing — she knows what there is out there, and she’s more afraid of not living than she is of dying.
“It’s a very wise way to live.”
Rory thought of Amy, grabbing life in one hand and his hand in her other, and dragging him along for the ride. He thought of River. He suddenly wondered if any life were long enough to properly cherish the ones you loved. He hoped Taura and her man had a wonderful night, and maybe longer.
“Uh, Doctor, would you mind?”
The Doctor shook his head, and actually managed a genuine, if lop-sided, smile.
Rory hurried away from the Doctor, toward Amy, and the Doctor let him go.
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