Author’s Note: It occurred to me several months ago that you can’t really show Abby the future without touching on this particular future (for her) event and its aftermath. Dedicated to the people of New Orleans, and to Pauley Perrette in particular. Thanks to Medie for the quick beta and for hours of moral support. 🙂
The walk back to the TARDIS was uncharacteristically silent this time; neither laughed or spoke. Abby was as somber as the Doctor had ever seen her, even when they were running for their lives.
It wasn’t until he was standing at the control console and Abby had listlessly seated herself in his favorite chair that the Doctor broke the silence. “We shouldn’t have come. I’m sorry.”
Abby looked confused for a moment before his words sank in. “No…no, this is good. It means I can change things when I get home. I can fix this.”
The Doctor’s hands stilled over the controls. He’d been expecting this, but the growing resolution in her voice still pained him. He looked up at her with compassionate eyes. “Katrina is history. It can’t be changed.”
“Sure it can,” she insisted stubbornly. The Doctor could see in her eyes the memory of row after row of empty buildings and deserted streets. “You’re always talking about how one person can change the universe. We could warn people. Fix the levies, evacuate the area. Do something.”
All the while she spoke he’d been quietly closing the distance between them, until at last he crouched beside the chair, still speaking in the same sad, gentle tone. “You can’t, Abby. Katrina is a turning point for the United States–an ugly and shameful one, but a turning point nonetheless. It’s fixed: try to change it and the whole of space and time might unravel.”
The Doctor reached up one hand to lightly stroke her jet black hair. “If it makes it any easier, in this case I doubt you could change it if you tried. Even in your own time, there are already those lobbying to reinforce or repair the levies. One more voice added to the lot won’t make much difference this time, I fear. Were you to claim knowledge of the future, you’d likely only be taken less seriously, not more.”
Wide, luminous green eyes met his, shining like polished jade with tears on the verge of falling. “What if it was your home?” she asked without accusation. “Would you really be able to just sit back and do nothing?”
He smiled. “I said you can’t stop it from happening. I never said you ought to do nothing. New Orleans will need all the help it can get after the hurricane. I’m afraid they won’t get much from your government.”
“But what good will that do?” Abby asked miserably. “I mean…it’s been years, and the city is still in ruins. Looking at that…it’s hard to believe it could ever recover.”
“It will,” the Doctor promised her. “Oh, it won’t be an easy road, nor a short one, and she’ll be battered more than once before it’s done. But New Orleans will recover–she’s the sort of song that can’t be silenced forever.” Another smile, and he lightly tapped her lips with one finger. “Not with voices like yours in the chorus.”
Abby was silent for a long time; the Doctor knew she was mulling it over. It wasn’t easy to weigh a person or a place that you loved against the whole of history and let history come up the winner, but he had faith in her. As much as it would hurt to stand by and allow the city’s fate to take its terrible course, she would do it. But she would always remain watchful for the day when she could step forward and help her beloved home start to rebuild.
“Show me?” she finally asked in a small voice.
The Doctor smiled, giving her shoulder one last squeeze before crossing back to the control console to set the TARDIS’ destination for New Orleans, Louisiana, January first, 2107. “Of course.”