Stuck in Lodi

by themonkeycabal [Reviews - 6]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Angst, General

***

"Do you believe in fate?"

It wasn't that John Crichton didn't like when people walked up behind him and started talking, it's just that he really didn't like when people walked up behind him. Dropping one hand down to his pistol, his thumb teased the holster release. Once upon a time, he wasn't this jumpy. Once upon a time, the universe didn't spend its spare time trying to make him bleed for kicks.

Lowering his glass with deliberate slowness, he looked up at the man coming to rest at the bar next to him. He looked almost like a Peacekeeper -- black leather fetish and short-cropped hair -- but the set of his shoulders and the lines on his face spoke of something else.

"Fate?" Crichton echoed. "Yeah, I do. Only explanation for some of it."

"I didn't. Too much possibility, nothing's set in stone. Fate? In the endless swirling universe of chance? Ha." The man leaned forward on the bar, crossed his arms and dropped his head down with a groan.

Self-pity wrapped around depression. Not much of a threat, maybe. John let his hand slide off his pistol and he waved the barkeep over, tapping twice at the bar and pointing to a bottle of purple liquid on the shelf. The only thing better than getting drunk, is getting drunk with somebody who looks as miserable as you feel.

The bartender poured out the drinks and Crichton nudged his new drinking buddy's elbow.

The man eyed the drink warily, tapping the lip of the tumbler with a long finger. "What's this?"

"Don't know, but it hurts like hell going down and feels like a mule kick in the head."

"Fantastic." The man picked up the glass and took a hefty slug. "I'm the Doctor, by the way."

"The Doctor? Of what?"

"Just the Doctor."

"Got it."

"And who are you, then?"

Crichton hesitated and stared at the Doctor. He was here to get drunk, to wallow in his own pathetic depression, he wasn't up for a fight, a chase, or anything his name usually provoked around the Uncharted Territories. The Doctor raised an eyebrow and Crichton sighed. Hell, he thought, may as well get the shouting out of the way.

"Commander John Crichton," he pronounced clearly, shoulders tensing and his hand slowly dropping down to caress the butt of his pistol again.

"Huh," was the Doctor's only response. He turned away and waved back the barkeep. "Best give us the whole bottle, then, mate."

Grabbing up the bottle and his glass, the Doctor stood, clapped Crichton on the shoulder and nodded in the direction of an empty booth on the far side of the dark, seedy bar. "Let's get to it. I intend to get properly pissed, and that'll take a while. I don't fancy standing here to do it."

If more than four years in the Uncharted Territories had taught him anything, it had taught him not to follow strangers around. So, when he stood up and started following the Doctor across the bar, he was a little bit alarmed. Maybe the guy was some sort of telepath, getting in his head, and God knew he needed more critters in his head. Or, maybe it was just that Crichton saw a little bit of himself in the other man's weary slump and tired eyes. Maybe he didn't really want to get drunk alone, and all the other options sucked.

Sliding into the booth, John considered his glass for a moment, then took a long swallow from it, relishing the eye-watering burn of alcohol down his throat.

"So, what was the fate thing about?" he asked, voice roughened by the purple hellfire.

"Don't know," the Doctor replied morosely, but in a way that said he knew exactly what it was, but wasn't ready to talk about it.

"The thing with fate," Crichton spun the tumbler in his hand, staring down at the bar's dim lights glittering off the glass, "it's not a condition, it's a moment. It's a meeting. It's an accident. It's getting your ass kicked hell and gone across the frelling galaxy, but that's it."

"I'm sure that's very profound," the Doctor sneered, "but that's not fate, it's chance."

"What's the difference?" Crichton snorted.

"Chance might happen, or it mightn't. It's lines of possibility that spread out from every moment. It's a coin toss."

"I stopped tossing coins a cycle ago. That doesn't end well for me."

The Doctor continued, not appearing to hear Crichton. "Fate says 'this must happen', and that's a load of rubbish, you ask me."

"Nah, man, you're wrong," Crichton argued happily. He was one of those philosophical drunks; get him buzzed and on the right subject and not even God could shut him up. Used to drive his friends crazy, but it got him through grad school. Nothing says 'genius' like a drunk dissertation.

"From all those moments of possibility there are some things that are just going to happen no matter what you do. Maybe they're not the same for each line, but they're there. Like you're on a road trip, point a to point b, and in between there are landmarks you're going to see, no matter what road you take. Might take you longer to get there one way, or it might be further off, or you see it from a different angle, but it's still there."

The Doctor rolled his eyes and picked up the bottle, pouring himself another. "You humans, can't you think any way other than linearly? There's no straight lines in life or the universe. That's the point. Infinite possibilities, there's no fate."

Crichton thought about that for a moment, trying to marshal his argument, and then the Doctor's words sunk in, and he froze, his fingers twitching for his gun again. "What do you mean 'human'?"

"Human. From Earth?" The Doctor gave him a disdainful glare. "Always pick the thick ones, me," he muttered to himself and took another long drink.

"How do you know about Earth?" Crichton asked sharply, coming out of his pleasant, muddled haze of mild inebriation.

The Doctor's eyes narrowed, and John almost flinched back from the glacial gaze. Crichton was used to being the underdog, the Speedy Gonzalez who left the big cats stumbling around behind him, and he didn't back away from his ever crappy odds. He couldn't. But, the Doctor, whoever he was, wasn't just an underdog, and he wasn't some keystone cop goliath; there was a singular weight behind this individual that Crichton hadn't encountered before. Like a hammer poised to strike, or that 500-pound anvil Wile E. never could escape. It wasn't a particularly comfortable situation, and his innate suspicion sounded a cold warning.

Their staring contest lasted for an eternity comprised of maybe five microts. Five microts where Crichton struggled to assess the risk this man posed, and tried to decide if shooting him was a decent option.

It never came to that. As the fifth microt ticked past, the Doctor's shoulders slumped, his hard stare eased, and he picked up his drink again.

"Look, John Crichton, you can stop fondling your gun. I'm not your enemy. I know who you are, but I'm not after anything here but getting completely rat-arsed. You wanna shoot me and save the universe the trouble, be my guest. Just get on with it if you're gonna do it."

Crichton let out the long breath he'd been holding and put both his hands flat on the table. There was too much death around his name already, and the weary defeat in the Doctor's tone echoed his own. "Who the hell are you?"

With a long suffering sigh, the Doctor drained his glass and poured himself another. "You gonna drink up, or what?"

"You gonna tell me?"

"Maybe."

"Fine." Crichton poured himself another and tossed it back. "So ... fate."

The Doctor groaned again and dropped his head back, letting it thump soundly against the grimy, padded wall surrounding the booth.

"Hey, you brought it up, buddy. I wasn't looking for company." Crichton pointed out, tapping a finger on the table between them.

"I'm nine hundred-years old. Been all over the universe. Seen things even you couldn't believe. Met poets and philosophers, despots and villains. Watched empires rise and fall, and even helped a few along one way or the other."

"Good to have hobbies," John muttered, wondering if he was already well past drunk and into some sort of alcohol induced dementia. Why was it he always got stuck with a weirdo in black leather instead of pink elephants? God, he'd been in the Uncharted Territories too long. "And?"

The Doctor shifted in his seat and his long fingers toyed with his glass. "I'm in London, right?"

"If you say so," Crichton agreed, puzzled.

"Trying to save your sodding little planet from being taken over. Again." He raised his head and gave John another glare. "You lot have the amazing ability to get into trouble without even trying."

"I can guarantee you that that fact has never escaped me."

The Doctor grunted and went back to his glass. "Three times. Three times in two days, I run into her."

Crichton laughed, and, reaching for the bottle, poured them both another drink. "I knew it. Fate. Man, it's always about a woman."

"Girl. Nineteen-years old," the Doctor pronounced incredulously, his face screwed up in disbelief. "Nineteen."

"That's ... a little young."

"Yeah, well, the Sistine Chapel is a little young for me, yeah?"

"Sure." Crichton squinted at him in the dim light and shook his head. "Tell me about her."

"She's nineteen."

"I got that part." Crichton leaned forward, bracing his elbows on the table. "It's gotta be something, though, otherwise it's just a coincidence and not fate."

"I don't believe in fate," the Doctor muttered mutinously.

"Doctor, I may not be nine hundred, but I frelling guarantee that fate doesn't care what you think about it."

"Wise little human," the Doctor sniffed and drained his glass again.

"Okay, you know, what? I get enough human insults at home, so you can shove that dren, or leave me the hell alone, got it? I didn't come over and interrupt your attempts at alcohol poisoning, you interrupted mine."

"You're a bit touchy, you know that?"

"And you're a pain in the ass."

"Yeah. So I've been told."

"Why me?"

"What?"

"The bar's pretty full, even some Sebaceans over in the corner there, why'd you come up to me?"

"Told you, I know who you are."

"And what? You just wanted a look at John Crichton?" Crichton's nostrils flared, and he felt his temper heating up. "There're wanted beacons on half the planets on this side of the galaxy, my face is hard to miss. No reason to come all the way to this dive for a look."

"As if I would." The Doctor's mouth turned up into a wide, almost manic grin. "Just a coincidence. Came looking for a quiet drink, found you. What're the odds?"

"Pretty improbable," John spat irritably.

"Isn't it, though?" The Doctor's face fell and he sighed.

"I'd love to know how you know about Earth. How you've been there."

"Ship."

"Funny."

"I am," the Doctor agreed.

"I'm about done with this conversation, Doctor," Crichton growled, annoyed by the half-answers and the fact that his plans for a quiet drunk had been interrupted. Find a shithole bar, get drunk, maybe start a little brawl, get D'Argo to come drag him out, nagging all the way back to Moya, and in the morning he wouldn't remember and might, possibly, feel better, even when his head felt like an over-ripe melon and his stomach was trying to make a forcible exit from his gut. But, no, the tooth-grindingly obstinate jackass in black had to ruin it.

"You and I, we're a little bit alike." The Doctor waved his hand back and forth between the two of them. "And I'm only admitting that 'cause whatever that purple stuff is, it's starting to work."

"Which has what to do with Earth?" Crichton pressed on doggedly.

"Nothing, actually. S'just I've been there. Been there loads of times. Been stuck there, even. Almost like how you're stuck out here. 'Cept you aren't anymore, are you?"

"I guess you'd have to define stuck. Earth's better off if I'm not there."

"Know the feeling." The Doctor heaved a tremendous sigh and dropped his head down onto their table of questionable cleanliness. "She turned me down flat. Rather stay with that useless git of a boyfriend."

Crichton blinked at the man. "The girl."

Raising his head just enough to give a baleful glare, the Doctor grunted. "Keep up." He sighed again. "What am I sitting here mooning about some 19-year old girl for?" he muttered into the table. "I'm a Time Lord. Can go anywhere. Anywhen."

"Huh. Me, too. How come that doesn't ever seem to work out, though? I go someplace else and everything usually turns up worse. We're talking apocalypse worse. And I already thought now was pretty bad."

The Doctor sat back up and raised his hands up in the air, appealing to some unseen force from above for an answer. "What the hell is wrong with me?"

"I've been trying to figure that out for the last half arn. You're not human. And I don't think Sebaceans manage nine hundred years."

"One of a kind, me," the Doctor said with a broad grin that didn't reach his eyes. If anything the lines around his face deepened and a darkness shadowed his features.

Crichton looked him over carefully for a moment, searching his face, watching his eyes. "What did you lose?"

The Doctor made a cold, hollow sound that might have been a laugh. "Everything."

John nodded slowly and pushed a finger through a small pool of mystery condensation on the table. "The thing with fate--"

"Oh, here we go again," the other man grumbled quietly.

Crichton ignored him. "The universe is telling you something. Don't you ever figure that sometimes she just gives you what you need? But, it's not saying 'this has to happen', it's a moment, what happens after that moment, that's all you."

The Doctor was quiet for a long moment, contemplating the dregs of the drink in his cup. "I do wonder."

"No answers after nine hundred years?" John asked with a thin smile.

"I wish." The Doctor finished off the last of his drink and reached for the bottle again. A small, sad trickle dripped out into his glass and he held the bottle up to the weak light, shaking it slightly. "'Nother round?"

"You buying?"

"Fine," the man huffed and stood, walking over to the bar with far more steadiness than a man should after having ingested that much of the purple stuff. Whatever he was, he had a hell of a constitution. John almost envied him, but there was something to be said for being able to drown your troubles as quickly as possible.

When the Doctor came back, John was lost in his own thoughts of fate and the universe.

"Tell me, Commander," he said conversationally as he filled both their glasses, "if you've got all the answers to fate, what you doing here trying to kill more brain cells than you can spare?"

"Man, I never know how fate's going to kick me next. I don't have a damn answer in the universe." He lifted his glass to the Doctor in salute and downed the contents in one long swallow, coughing as he finished. "Frell, that's good."

"I think it's Halvasian Amber," the Doctor said, contemplating the indigo bottle. "Haven't seen that in an age. It's illegal in most systems."

"Guess we both found the right joint, then."

The Doctor grinned and shoved the bottle back over to Crichton. "Too right."

"What's her name?"

Pressing his lips together in an almost irritated frown, the Doctor glanced around the bar, avoiding Crichton's now more-than-slightly inebriated gaze. "Rose. Rose Tyler."

"Nice name," Crichton offered.

"Human," the Doctor replied with a small disdainful twist to his lips.

"And 'The Doctor' isn't?"

"You couldn't pronounce some of my names. Though, you're sauced enough it'd be entertaining to hear you try."

"I'll pass on the alien-name karaoke."

"Up to you." The Doctor picked at the edge of the thin scrap of soggy fabric that didn't do much more than barely pass as a pathetic excuse for a coaster. "You didn't answer my question."

"Right, because you've answered any of mine."

"Have, too. Not my fault you don't ask the right questions."

Crichton thought about arguing with him, but his brain was starting to feel fuzzy enough that he wasn't sure it mattered. Not even on principle. "It's always about a woman."

"So you said," the Doctor reminded him absently.

"Three times in two days?" Crichton asked, turning the subject back onto the Doctor's girl, not quite drunk enough to spill out his own tale of woe.

The Doctor, letting his head hang low, didn't stop John changing the subject. "I could just about pass it off as coincidence. She met me, got tapped by the Nestene as being tied to me, and since I was after it, we just sort of kept meeting up with each other, right? That sort of stuff happens."

"Sure. All the time," Crichton agreed, a little vague on what it was that happened all the time, but he was used to muddling through the incomprehensible. And he supposed it didn't really matter if he got all the details, the basic story was one he could figure pretty clearly. Even drunk. It was always about a woman.

"You know, I've had more companions than she's had birthdays," he groused with a sharp edge of bitterness, though whether it was at the girl or at himself, Crichton couldn't quite decide.

"And you asked her to go with you?"

"Yeah. But that girl's blouse she calls a boyfriend, all whimpering and whinging, can't even look after himself ..." the Doctor sputtered to a stop and grabbed up his glass with a fierce sort of determination. "Called me a 'thing'. An alien."

"Aren't you?"

"An alien, sure. Didn't seem to bother her."

"Why'd you ask her?"

"Dunno," he grumbled.

"Liar."

"Oi! Don't go thinking you know anything about me, John Crichton," he barked sharply, his face growing hard.

"Thought you said we were alike?"

The Doctor affronted anger melted, and he frowned thoughtfully. "I never did."

"You totally did," Crichton pointed out firmly.

Blinking, confused and maybe, finally, edging over from tipsy into drunk, the Doctor pursed his lips and drummed his fingers on the table. "Huh. Suppose I did."

"Right, so, here's the thing, you want to drink with me, you don't lie to me."

"You're a bit of a stroppy drunk," the Doctor laughed.

"Don't push it, pal."

The Doctor slumped back in the booth and rubbed at his chin. "She saved my life. Don't even think she thought twice about it, just did it. Wasn't scared at all." He paused and rubbed harder. "Or maybe she was scared, but she didn't let it get to her. Ah, Commander, you should have seen the look on her face when she stepped into my ship the first time," he laughed and raised his glass for another sip. "Fantastic."

"I remember the first time I saw Moya," Crichton mused quietly. "She was beautiful. And huge. And completely beyond anything."

"Your Leviathan?"

"I'm not even going to ask exactly how much you know about me," Crichton grumbled into his glass. "She's not mine exactly. She's just nice enough to let us stumble around the galaxy in her. And after the hell we've put her through, it's amazing she hasn't kicked us all off yet."

"Noble creatures, them," the Doctor commented with suspiciously dewy fondness.

"Where I'm from, we didn't know there was other life out here. Had no way of knowing just how damn much of it there was."

"Earth's a bit out of the way in your time. Amazing how much trouble finds you, anyway." The other man shook his head wearily.

Unsettled by the Doctor's continued random pronouncements about Earth and humans, Crichton tried to figure out why he kept sitting with the guy and why he wasn't as deeply freaked out by it as he thought he should be. Nothing was coming to him, though, and keeping the conversation on the Doctor's girl, seemed the best way to ignore it all. "So, she didn't run screaming? Is that why you asked her?"

"Maybe," the Doctor admitted. "She ran into my ship then ran back outside, then came back in a second later." He grinned widely at the memory and chuckled. "Then she started asking questions. Actually, moment I met her she was asking questions and didn't stop. Demanding little bird."

The Doctor's face fell into shadows again, and he propped his elbows on the table. "Been alone a while. Bit lost in the dark, yeah? She was a spark."

The bleak simplicity and sincerity of the Doctor's admission broke Crichton's reticence. Whatever else the man was, this was something Crichton understood too well.

"Aeryn--" His voice caught on her name and he had to roughly clear his throat. "Aeryn's like that. God, she left me." He raised a hand and pressed his fingertips to the bridge of his nose. "She left me and I was lost. She came back and I don't even know who I am anymore."

"I'm sorry, Commander."

"For what?" Crichton asked softly, shifting uncomfortably under the sudden intensity of the Doctor's gaze.

"You wanted to know how it was we're alike? My people--" The Doctor stopped abruptly and reached for the bottle again. "I'm not drunk enough for this."

"You know about wormhole travel?" Crichton asked hazily, as the random pieces of their conversation clicked together in his soggy brain.

"I know about it, but that's your province not mine." He stared at Crichton with haunted eyes, a gaze filled with some unimaginable sorrow. "I had my people, I didn't have to do it alone. You do, and I understand it now. You've got your wormholes and I've got the vortex and we're all that's left."

"I didn't ask for it. Of every damn creature in this universe, why me?" Crichton asked him, slipping into his own shadows.

"I don't think I have an answer for you."

"Doctor, what is that if not fate?"

Finally it was the Doctor's turn to look unsettled and he made a show of straightening the bottle between them. "Maybe it is," he acknowledged after a long few microts.

"Maybe," Crichton said quietly, "maybe it's that we've got the wrong definition of the word. I mean, there's not an answer to the question of 'why me' -- why not me? I didn't ask for it, and fate loves to screw me over. But ..." he trailed off and sat back, crossing his arms and pressing a thumb to his lip thoughtfully. "Whatever else has happened, the drenluck I've had, there's Aeryn. There's always Aeryn. Even when it doesn't work, I can't imagine doing this without her." He scrubbed his hands over his face, suddenly exhausted. "I've got to believe that the universe gives us what we need. I've got to, or I don't have anything else."

"It exacts a hell of a price, though," the Doctor pointed out grimly.

"Yeah, it does."

"Maybe that's hope, then. Never know what's going to happen tomorrow, even if you've been there. All we've got is the everlasting present. Can't ask for more, can we?"

"Nope."

"When'd you know Aeryn was fate?"

"The microt she kicked me across the room and pinned me to the floor, demanding my name and rank. Which was about two microts after we met." John grinned at him and scrubbed a hand through his hair, in a nearly self-conscious gesture.

The Doctor raised his eyebrows skeptically.

"No, seriously," Crichton asserted earnestly. "Okay, so it wasn't exactly subtle."

"I've seen asteroids obliterate planets with more subtlety," the Doctor told Crichton with a roll of his eyes.

"Fine," Crichton grumbled, irritated. "When did you know your girl was fate?"

"Didn't say she was, did I?"

"What did I say about lying to me, man?"

"And she's not my girl," the man sneered.

"Well, lucky her, 'cause you're an ass."

The pair fell into a disgruntled silence, each staring moodily down at their glasses, shifting only so much as it took to raise the glass for a drink, or to pour another.

"Suppose ..." the Doctor began, speaking slowly. "Suppose you fought in a war." His voice was thick, though Crichton wasn't sure if it was drink or emotion. "Suppose the stakes were the whole of space and time. Suppose you were the only survivor. Suppose you destroyed it all to save it all."

"Would I do it?"

"No, suppose you did it. Saw no other way out."

"I ... I don't know."

"What do you become, then?"

Crichton licked his lips, uncomfortable by the turn of conversation. It was a touch too much like his life already. "I'm hoping this is a rhetorical 'you', and not you telling me something about myself I don't know yet."

"I'm never drunk enough for that," the Doctor scoffed, but a short beat later his eyebrows shot back up. "Figured it out, though, did you? Guess you're not as thick as you look."

"Gee, thanks."

"Gonna ask me how it all turns out?" The Doctor's voice was edged with an icy bitterness. A bitterness that in other times might have made Crichton irritable and defensive, but now just made him tired. Or maybe it was the drink, and he was starting to fall into the morose part of a good drunk.

"Nope. Don't want to know." He rubbed his finger along the lip of his glass. "And, like you said, nothing's set. Nobody knows tomorrow, even if you've been there."

Sighing, maybe a bit relieved, maybe a bit weary himself, the Doctor nodded his head slowly. "Maybe, just maybe, mind, they picked well when they picked you."

Crichton snorted, not finding it in himself to believe that. He just happened to be the unlucky bastard they got to first. "You know 'em?"

"Met one once. Bit of a prat, can't say anything straight out, can they? All pretentious prattle and such. Gets boring quick, that."

"It's frelling irritating," Crichton agreed with a growl. "They could've done better."

"Than you? Nah. You don't want it. What's better than that?"

"I'm too buzzed to tell if you're joking or not."

The Doctor grinned widely, showing an astonishing number of teeth. "I never joke."

Crichton tried to roll his eyes, but found his head just a little too light to manage it effectively, so he settled for a mildly annoyed grimace. "So that war I'm supposing, the one I destroy everything to save everything ..."

Grunting quietly, the Doctor began to play with the edges of his coaster again, picking out threads with his fingernail.

"I suppose it depends why you did it," Crichton mused.

"Told you, you can't see any other way out. Only way it's got to go."

"That's not what I meant. What's the war about?"

"Told you that, too, the whole of space and time."

"Damn, man, now who's the guy who can't say anything straight?"

The Doctor looked up and leveled a narrow, hard-eyed glare at Crichton.

"I'm not playing guessing games while drunk," John pointed out, finding the Doctor's glares less unnerving the more alcohol he downed. Plus, he thought he had a pretty good handle on the guy by now. Lost? Got it. Alone? Been there. Kicked in the teeth by the universe? Been on that ride a few times. Shit in his head he didn't want? Had the t-shirt and the balloon animal.

"Right, fine, you're not a particularly fun drunk," the Doctor groused. "Okay, you're fighting the war, because your people are a bunch of stupid tossers who looked into history and tried to stop what they figured was a threat before it became one. Only, it all became a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, maybe in part because you didn't have the stomach to take care of it when you could have. That work for you?" He asked sharply.

Crichton blinked and tried to make sense of it in his hazy mind. "If it was self-fulfilling, there's not much you could do about it, really. I mean, damned if you do, damned if you don't. Right?"

Lips pulled into a thin scowl, the Doctor rapped the knuckles of one hand against the table, not so much to call attention, but more like a small bit of self-punishment. "Maybe could have stopped my people being so stupid. They had this non-interference dictum, I usually couldn't abide by it. Bit of a rebel, me." He grinned weakly. "The one time they really want to take action and they muck it up. In the end it was a nightmare. Never stopped. Burning through all of time. Shredding it."

"And you ended it. And you're the last," Crichton summed up.

"Yep. Didn't chose it, didn't ask for it," he said crisply, coming close to echoing the human's earlier words. "If you're the only survivor, did you win the war or lose it?"

"I don't know and I'm not the type to condemn a guy for making the impossible choices. Guess the real question is, what do you make of everything after? Do you find a cave, or do you find some sort of hope? Keep going."

"For what?"

"For ... who the frell knows? 'Cause you don't know what happens tomorrow, maybe? Maybe it's the one day you don't bleed out all over the universe. Maybe it's the one day you find that spark."

"Spark," the Doctor murmured, the word barely more than a sigh on his lips.

"You want my advice?"

"Not particularly."

"Tough. Go back and ask her again."

"What if she says no again?"

"You won't know 'till you try."

"Yeah, alright. And what about you? Gonna stay here, make your liver beg for mercy, finish off the last good brain cells you've got?"

"Maybe," Crichton said with a touch of childish petulance and reluctance.

"You talk to me about fate when mostly I think you mean hope, John Crichton. Where is yours?"

"I don't know," he whispered.

"Liar." The Doctor smirked. "My turn to give advice. Can't tell you what's coming, can't risk it, but, you don't want that anyway. The living present, that's everything you'll ever have. The whole universe. Don't let it go. You'll be alright." Leaning across the table, the Doctor clapped John on the shoulder and stood up.

"You're leaving?" Crichton blinked up at him blearily.

"Yeah, got a whole lot of time and space to show off. See ya 'round."

"Good luck, pal."

He grinned again, broad and nearly joyful, the smile touching his eyes at last. "And you, Commander."


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