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Doctor Who AUs

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“Smith!” The general’s voice was harsh and unyielding, “My office!”

Lieutenant Colonel John Smith groaned internally, but did as his officer commanded. Even though the ‘office’ was just a threadbare tent that did nothing to shield against the cold.

“I want to attack,” the general said as soon as he entered, “Tomorrow.”

John paused, “But Sir, that’s Christmas Eve.”

The general glared at him, “And?”

“Well it’s just… it’s Christmas,” John said weakly.

The general slammed the table, “This is war Colonel! We can’t afford to waste an opportunity just because you want to stand around building snowmen. I want you to lead the troops to attack tomorrow!”

“Yes Sir,” John said, ignoring the pit in his stomach.

The trenches were bitterly cold, providing barely any shelter from the wind and snow. Some men sat and played cards or wrote letters back home while huddling together for warmth. Gunfire echoed in the distance.

John couldn’t sit still. He kept pacing, wandering the trenches with no destination in mind. Then he heard something. Something that wasn’t the sound of gunfire or bombs or the cries of injured men. It was music. He got up in the lookout post and looked at the enemy lines. There was a flickering light from a candle and voices. The words were unfamiliar but the tune he knew.

Silent night.

“Beautiful isn’t it?” 

John almost fell over. He turned around to see a young blonde woman, a nurse, staring at him.

“They play most nights,” the nurse continued, nodding towards the trench, “Heard them singing amazing grace once, almost joined in.”

She sat down beside him on the cold earth.

“What’s a girl like you doing in a hellhole like this?” he found himself asking. He dimly thought about how his mother would scold him for cursing in front of a lady but decided it didn’t matter.

The woman shrugged, “Always wanted to be a nurse, then all this happened and I thought ‘now I can really help people.’ I’m not sure I’m doing any good though.”

There was a pause, “What about you?” she asked.

John laughed, but it was cold and bitter, “I wanted to be a Doctor believe it or not, but my father always wanted me to join the army. I thought, ‘Alright, I’ll join up, do my time just to please him, can’t be too bad.’” John paused, rubbing his hand together. This place was too damn cold. “Then of course this bloody war started, and now…” he trailed off.

“Not too late,” the woman said, “Could still be a Doctor when this is over.”

“When this is over,” John wanted to laugh. This war didn’t seem like it would ever end, “Even then, after all I’ve done, I think I’ve lost all right to be a doctor.” How could he take an oath to never do harm when he had killed and killed. When tomorrow the general expected him to attack german soldiers who sang silent night.  

“Who did you lose?” the woman asked after a while.

“My granddaughter,” John said, “Bombs fell in London.”

“I lost my mum,” the woman whispered.

“I’m sorry.”

There was a pause as they remembered.

“The general wants me to attack tomorrow,” John said. He didn’t know why he was telling her, or why it felt like a confession. “Two years ago, my family sat around the fire. I gave Susan this new-fangled sewing machine. She was so excited, said she was going to make me the biggest scarf I’d ever seen,” he cleared his throat, “I know we’re in a war but…”

“But it’s Christmas,” the woman finished.

“It’s Christmas,” he agreed. And it didn’t seem real that the dirt and blood surrounding him was a part of the holiday he used to celebrate. There’s no time for Christmas in war. The general’s voice echoed in his head.

“So don’t do it,” the woman said, “Don’t attack.”

John stared at her, “The general…”

“Isn’t the army,” the woman said, “If the soldiers won’t fight then what can he do?”

John felt something like hope stirring inside him and shoved it down, “It’s still technically treason.”

“I’ll bet you’ve done crazier things.”

John stood up. He was excited now. He could go to Alistair, get the men on his side. They could have a peaceful Christmas. All thanks to…

“What’s your name?” he said, turning around, but the woman was nowhere in sight. Mystified, he shook his head. Had he imagined it all? He couldn’t worry about that right now, he reasoned, he needed to get to Alistair.

He set off down the trench, humming quietly as Silent Night played on in the darkness.