The ride home was as bumpy as the ones before, however, I felt a lot less excited and even somewhat numb. Reality seemed to have lost its colour, all sounds seemed to be muffled and I couldn't get myself to even look around the wonderfully weird interior of the TARDIS any longer. More than once during those few minutes, I contemplated begging the Doctor not to bring me back, to let me stay and experience more of all the wonders the universe had to offer.
But I wasn't brave enough.
He surely wouldn't want some insignificant random person to tag along, and there wasn't even anything I would have to offer in return.
"The coffee didn't help much, eh?" the Doctor remarked happily.
I sat in the jump seat, glaring into nothingness when he tore me out of my musings. Slowly I lifted my head, glancing into his chocolate brown eyes that twinkled with joy and adventures yet to come. I opened my mouth, ready to let out the question burning on my tongue, but once more it didn't get over my lips.
The Doctor stepped away and opened the doors. "See? Right place, right time. Nothing lost, nothing left. You're back home, safe and sound, as promised."
"Thank you." Finally I managed to lift my leaden body from the seat and sauntered to the exit. "Hard to believe I'm simply back..."
"Told you, everywhere you want." Grinning the Doctor rubbed his hands together, then stretched one out towards me. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Lucy. Have a good life, yeah?"
I shyly smiled back and shook his hand. "I'll try."
After that I stepped outside, finding myself in front of the house my apartment was in. It felt so utterly weird, I could impossibly clad the feeling into proper words. Behind me the sound of the TARDIS filled the air and when I turned around, all I managed was a last wistful glance at the fading blue box.
Only when the last bits of sound had faded did I get out my keys and entered the house, moving to my own little space in there. As always I was greeted by silence when the lock clicked open. I slipped inside, tossing my shoes next to the door and dropping my shoulder bag next to it.
Both, the lack of money and my light sensitive eyes caused me to never install any proper lamps in here, so I moved over to my desk to plug in the light-hose that served me as substitute.
Only then did I fully realize that it was still dark outside.
No one would ever believe any of this, it shot through my head as I slumped into my computer chair and booted up the laptop.
Maybe Max would. He was my best friend, despite the fact that we had never met, nor did I know how he even looked or sounded. Up to this day it had never occurred as odd to me, the thought, however, now popping into my mind out of nowhere. Well, most of my so called friends were mere internet contacts. In a chatbox no one notices how badly you can read and use facial expressions and body language, and you have all the time you need to think of replies.
It wasn't as bad anymore as it used to be, though. Most of the time people didn't notice my autistic behaviour too much, these days. At least they saw me as human enough, now, to interact with me in a friendly manner, instead of instantly pushing me away or - in the best case, honestly - simply pretend I don't exist.
Mr.X: Ey, Lucy! You're awake early.
The chatbox distracted me from my dark thoughts and I smiled a little. It was always great to talk to Max. Sometimes he was like a mentor to me, although he was roughly ten years younger. We discussed and philosophized about the weirdest stuff sometimes. No matter if it was glitches in the Matrix, machine elves, lucid dreams, meditating or weird Spongebob conspiracy theories... no topic was weird enough.
Yeah, he would believe it.
I hesitated with the answer, unsure if I even wanted someone to believe. It would make everything more real. And therefore really gone, never to return. A deep sigh escaped my lungs as my fingers settled on the keyboard.
Luce: You have to talk... But eh, yeah, couldn't sleep... again. Will try again in a minute.
Mr.X: Do that. And try out that video I sent you. Those breathing techniques help a lot.
Hours went by and the sun rose while I tossed and turned on my mattress. I really hadn't gotten enough sleep in that train, but alas, I couldn't keep my eyes closed, my mind wandering over and over to the strange occurrences from before.
Groggily I reached for my old wrist watch. 8:22 AM already. I sighed, finally accepting that I wouldn't close an eye and lifted myself from the ground. Eyeing the mattress on the floor I decided the first thing to buy would be a proper bed. And a fridge. Maybe a small wardrobe for the few clothes I possessed... Better than the old cardboard crate, for sure. It also would make the apartment look a lot less empty.
If the money was even in my account.
If any of this had happened at all.
Okay, my phone was still gone, but I could have simply lost it, right?
With every passing minute I started to doubt myself more and more. I was prone to excessive daydreaming, able to vanish inside my own head for hours if I wanted to. Confusing those reveries with reality had, however, never been an issue.
On my way to the bathroom I hit the power button on my laptop and then took a quick shower. Coffee next. For what felt like a small eternity I glared at my monitor, barely daring to bring up the online banking. When I finally did, though, I saw the money. It was still there.
Well... real then.
Would I have to pay taxes for it? Would anyone even notice? And if so, would they ask questions? There also was the issue of me living off social services, right now, and they surely wouldn't pay me another cent if they saw this. Then again, I wouldn't need their money any longer... then again, there would be questions, if they'd ever find out... It wasn't as if I couldn't easily manipulate the bank account statements. A little bit of Photoshop would do the trick.
Probably would be easiest to keep everything as it was. And bare the lowest risk.
Still... I decided to wait at least a week or two to see if my bank would contact me on the matter. I'd only pick up a small amount of the money to buy a new phone.
After the second cup of coffee I put on some outdoor clothes and decided to leave for town. Only when I picked up my shoulder bag from the ground did I remember something else. Something that made the bag heavier than I was used to.
With a dry mouth I sat it down and got out the hand gun. It really was a small model, but other than that I didn't know anything about weapons. I found the small switch to unlock the gun and even managed to get out the magazine.
Geeze, those things really were self explanatory. No wonder every idiot could use one.
It was loaded. Somehow I had doubted it the whole time. Numbly I dropped down, sitting cross legged on the floor, the weapon in front of me. I had to hide the damn thing. And then, very carefully, decide what to do.
Vague acquaintances probably was a better description... but still. I was proud and happy to have at least that.
But today I couldn't enjoy it. Everything just felt so weird. Ordinary. Pointless.
A week had passed since I had met the Time Lords, a week of sleeplessness and a longing for the unknown out there I just couldn't control. Over and over again I cursed myself for not having been brave enough to ask.
Now I was stuck here. Forever.
"I'm just... not feeling too well," I finally answered.
An understanding look whizzed over Alice's face. "Oh my, period troubles?"
I blinked, then decided to simply nod and leave it at that. It was a good excuse, even when it wasn't true.
The truth was a hidden away secret anyway.
I sighed and dropped my head against the wall behind me.
My days were filled with boredom and restlessness. For hours I wandered the city, music in my ears, mind in the clouds. Some days I sat in the park and read through my library of e-books, or drew random things in my little notebook. Every sunny spot, though, was always occupied by couples and parents with kids, all laughing and playing and cuddling. Not a single person seemed to be on their own. I couldn't stand their sight.
On other days I watched all the ducks and gooses on the river, until they started to appear with chicks. Small, fluffy fuzz-balls. At first they made me smile, but looking at them, being so protected and guided by their parents made me remember my own childhood. If only someone had been there to protect and guide me, back then. Maybe I wouldn't sit around like this, now. Maybe my heart wouldn't hurt so much.
Sometimes I stayed out way after dark, watching the stars twinkle and the moon rise above the water. It was warm outside, no need to hurry back. It didn't matter. No one was waiting for me.
No one had demanded any information about the money, so I had gotten a bit of furniture, my apartment now almost looking like a place a normal human being could, one day, call a home.
I checked my e-mails, skimming over the new job rejections and sighed heavily. I probably could manage for a few years, now. But it wasn't about the money. I needed something better to do than to sit around all day. I needed to busy myself somehow. Heck! I just wanted to be a normal part of society.
"Just give me a chance already," I mumbled frustrated and shut down my laptop.
I could have gotten myself a nice gaming PC, but playing anything didn't give me much joy anymore. It hadn't for some years, actually. To be fair, nothing at all managed to make me smile, these days. Everything was just so mundane and boring. Even Max was gone, had told me he was going on some self-discovery trip for a month or so.
Lazily I heaved myself out of the chair and looked over my food supplies. I still hadn't gotten myself a fridge. It forced me to go out and buy fresh food every day. Gave me a reason to leave the house. There was some rice left, maybe I could make something out of it, today.
With that thought in mind I put on my shoes and grabbed the shoulder bag from the ground. There was a shadow visible through the small frosted glass slit on my door. Could be Derek. An older guy who sometimes came over to chat. In my mind I already prepared some excuse, not feeling in the mood to have anyone around me, right now.
I checked if I had my keys and opened the door, my prepared fake smile dropping in an instant when I saw brown hair instead of grey, a goatee and a fast growing charming smile. His hands were pocketed in an open, stylish black jacket he wore over a dark grey shirt. One shoulder leaned against the door frame, one leg crossed behind the other, stuck in dark blue jeans and black shoes.
The Master held up a hand, wriggled his fingers and smiled even wider when he saw my dumb expression.