The night was cold and the sky was letting a mist of rain fall on the city streets. It was late night in London, and in this part of the city, there were few out in the wet weather. Only once in a while would a car pass by, shining the headlights against the dark buildings and then receding down a side street, away into the night.
Then, out of the darkness, a sound like that of a whirring motor appeared from nowhere, fading in and out gently in the resting dark. The sound grew and centered and engulfed the alleyway, and a light appeared very faintly to twist and shine out onto the main road. The noise grew and grew and then instantly faded away along with the flashing light.
The street was silent once again.
Suddenly it sounded like there was a door creaking open, and then slamming shut.
Again, a pause.
Very slowly, a form walked out into the main road. It was a man, tall and thin and walking casually. His fit form was dressed in dark colours, with a black leather jacket, and he had his hands tucked into its pockets as he walked. His face was lean but attractive, his sharp features accentuated by his close cropped dark hair. A faint smile was on his face, along with a look of playfulness and intense intelligence in his steady blue eyes.
No one would immediately notice his difference from any other average man on the planet. No one would immediately notice that he knew more and felt more and thought more than any he would come in contact with. That was his goal, to be understated and mostly anonymous, and as he walked the quiet streets of London, he was doing that quite well.
In fact, no one would notice anything odd about him at this moment. However, they probably would have had several suspicious thoughts if they had seen the moment in which he stepped out of the 1950s police call box that had suddenly materialized in a deserted alleyway.
The stranger progressed down the street, humming to himself softly.
"'ello, there." The door swung closed and the man proceeded forward into the pub. He sat down at the bar counter, across from the young woman behind it.
"Hi. What can I get for you?"
The man seemed lost and distant, but after a moment he lifted his head. "Mmm?" He smiled somewhat manically. "Oh. Didn't 'ear you, sorry." He fastened his gaze on the menu on the brick wall behind the counter. "What d'you think is best? I'm not much of a drinker."
The woman didn't reply, but gave a thoughtful look before disappearing into the back room. The man waited at the counter patiently, and glanced up at the silent TV on the other end of the ceiling. Football match. Nothing eventful. He snickered to himself, knowing full well that the team would lose the match. How strange, he thought, knowing all these things, having all these thoughts, and no one to share them with....
"Here you go."
He looked up to see a pint glass sitting in front of him, filled with a honey-coloured liquid. "Thanks," he said, grinning. He rummaged through the pocket of his battered leather jacket and piled numerous items on the counter before finally pulling out a worn out piece of paper. "You can keep the change," he said, sliding it across the counter and filling his pocket back up. "I won't be needin' it."
The woman looked at him quizzically before tossing her black braids back over her shoulders. She watched as the man took a small sip out of the glass. He blinked interestedly at it.
"What is this?" he asked, curiously.
"Just a Sam Adams, that's all," was the hesitant reply.
He took another exploratory sip of the drink. "It's not bad. Not that good, either." He pushed the glass back a little bit. "Must just be the new tongue.... Anyway. Some ginger pop, please; it's always seemed to agree wi' me."
The woman gave a polite but confused smile, disappeared into the back again, then returned with a glass of the soda. She was handed another tattered note, and instructed once again to 'keep the change.'
"I'm the Doctor, by the way," the man said, sticking out his hand across the counter.
The woman shook his hand uneasily. "Doctor of what?"
"Oh, you know.... " He waved his hand casually. "Everything. What's your name?"
The Doctor sighed gently. He remembered the last introduction like this he had had, with someone that had seemed very familiar and very different at once. He felt he had known her a long time, and now....
"Well, that's all over wi' now," he muttered to himself. The Doctor looked up at the face eying him with curiosity. He looked around. "Big crowd here tonight," he joked, surveying the empty room.
"Are you a visitor here?"
The Doctor glanced up into the eyes of the woman. "Sor' of, why?"
Liz shrugged. "The Northern accent, I guess. Manchester?"
"Naw, somewhere much... much further away than that." He smiled, an unnerving smile that had often made people doubt his sanity.
"So then." Liz leaned on the counter. "What are you, 'not much of a drinker,' doing in a South London pub at ten at night?"
"Time is an illusion," he said in response, obviously feeling quite strongly about the subject and motioning at her with the glass. "Just somethin' made up by man, see? Nowt' to do with reality." The Doctor saw her befuddled stare and he swallowed the last of the soda quickly. "Eh... just needin' some quiet time, y'know? Gettin' away from my life for a bit." And he thought back to his home that stood there in the deserted alley, and he thought of Rose and what she may be doing right now.... His blue eyes were suddenly very wet. Somehow, he felt he needed to talk more than anything.
"I lost someone."
Liz raised her eyebrows and sighed. "I see."
"Oh, they didn't die, no," he said, suddenly remembering this planet's numerous euphemisms for death. "No, she left me."
The Doctor shook his head. "No, just a friend of mine. But she was close, y'know? Best friend, I guess y'could say." He spread out his long fingers on the countertop, palms down. "She'd been with me for a while." He nodded gravely. "Fifty years, give or take."
The girl stepped back. "How old are you?"
"I feel very, very old at the moment. Precisely... I feel ancient." The last sentenced came out with a stronger accent than normal and he seemed very tired all of a sudden. "D'you think," he said, long and slow, "That anyone could die of broken 'arts? Uh... 'art?"
Liz started to speak but then didn't. Finally, she forced out words. "I don't know."
The Doctor nodded, keeping his eyes trained on the empty glass. "I 'ope not." He stared down for a long while, tears coming to his mind but being waded out by reason. He never could cry, he sighed to himself.
Realizing how long they had been in silence, he looked up at the clock. "D'you work all night?" he asked.
Liz narrowed her eyes and shook her head. "No, I get off soon. Why...?"
The Doctor shrugged and let out a smile. "Never mind." He slowly got to his feet and turned, heading for the door, knowing that the woman was watching him. He turned at the door and grinned. "Nice to meet you, Liz." He turned without a reply and left out into the dark, wet street.
The rain had stopped but the roads and sidewalks were still wet. There was a park ahead, lit by a couple of lonely streetlights, and the Doctor leaned against one tiredly, looking out over the dark and glistening forms of flowers and trees. He sighed into the chilled air and smiled briefly, just to himself and his memories.
He turned to see Liz coming down the pathway, a rain jacket wrapped around her and something in her hand. "'ello, what's that?" he greeted her.
Liz stopped next to him and grinned nervously. "You left this back there."
The Doctor smiled as she handed him a shining silver object, like a small pipe. "Thanks."
"What... what is it?"
"Oh... just a screwdriver," he said, his eyes gleaming as he put it into his jacket pocket. He turned and crossed his arms, then tilted back his head into the rain that had begun to fall.
"You should be gettin' back home. It's late."
Liz nodded "Okay. I live just over there." She pointed to a row of town homes at the street beyond the park.
The Doctor grinned. "I'll walk you home, if you like."
"It's all right." He nodded sincerely. "Really."
Liz smiled politely. "Okay."
They started along the pathway of the park, the rain fading until it was merely a mist. "So, where are you from?" Liz asked suddenly.
"You said you were from somewhere far away. So... where is it?"
The Doctor stared off into the stars as they walked. "A place called Gallifrey. It used to be a nice place. Now.... " He waved a hand dismissively. "I prefer to travel. Are you from London, Liz?"
"Yeah. I am. I moved here with my sister, then she ran off and I haven't heard from her in a couple of years. It's just me now."
He nodded. "I see."
"What about you? Family?"
"No.... " The Doctor shook his head. "Not any worth mentioning."
The Doctor realized they had reached the front stoop of her home and he watched as she unlocked the door somewhat hesitantly. The door swung open and Liz looked up at the Doctor.
"You're very strange," she said, seriously.
He laughed. "Thank you."
"Well, then." Liz went inside and peered out at him. "Thanks for walking with me."
"My pleasure. Have a good night." The Doctor turned, unhurriedly, and walked down the steps to the sidewalk.
He turned to see the girl still looking at him. "What is it?"
"What's your name, again?"
"I'm the Doctor." He sighed as he realized it was beginning to rain once again, and smiled softly. "Just the Doctor." He turned and walked away through the wet night and the shining park, fingering the wet plants as he passed. He thought for a moment about going to get something to eat, but he decided it best to just head home.
He eventually reached the blue police call box that was tucked away in the dark alley, and opened the door. He paused, waiting. He let his breath out sharply when he realized that he had expected her to be there, for Rose's familiar face to be there waiting for him.
The Doctor unlocked the doors and went inside, slamming it closed behind him.