Lost in time and space
Aimless drifting in a far off place…
Far above the Milky Way galaxy, a blue box drifted aimlessly in the vortex. A pair of brown-pinstriped legs hung out the open doors, kicking back and forth idly like a child on a swing set. Their owner, however, was not looking at the majesty of space sprawled before him - instead, he sat transfixed by the purple and blue patchwork shirt he held in his lap. Reverently, he traced his fingers across the inside-out seams, the heavy metal buttons, and the little tea stain near the bottom hem of the fabric. A tea stain that had not even set yet.
The stain was joined by a teardrop. Then four. Then countless others.
The Doctor dragged one hand down his face, trying to clear the water from his eyes and regain his composure. He'd lost track of how many days, nights - maybe years - he'd sat lost in his own anguish, clinging onto the last little bit of his pink and yellow human. What was the point, without Rose? Why continue to wander through unknown worlds, to go on far-off adventures, without her hand in his? Perhaps it was better to just sit and let the cosmos twirl beneath him, let time and space render themselves meaningless.
Hurtling through the vast unknown
Staring straight into a pure, black void
Drowning in a sea of stars…
The TARDIS thrummed softly behind him, trying to get the Time Lord's attention. Annoyance crossed across his features for a moment, but was quickly replaced by resignation. "Never allowed a moment of solitude, am I?" he grumbled. "Bloody universe always needs something…"
He exhaled sharply, slowly leaning onto one hand to push himself up from where he’d been sitting in the doorway, still gripping Rose's shirt to his chest with the other. He meandered to the console, rubbing the side of the coral gently with his thumb. It had become such a mindless gesture that he didn't even realize he was doing it, until the tears started to spill onto the console once again. The TARDIS hummed louder, pulsing a mournful note.
“I miss her too, old girl. I miss her too…”
Out of the corner of his eye, the Doctor noticed a yellow light gently glowing on and off, illuminating the psychic paper he had tossed haphazardly on the small shelf below the monitor. Familiar, all-capital letters were scrawled across it.
Long time no chat, Doc. Drinks on me?
Despite his low spirits, one amused eyebrow arched into the fringe of the Doctor’s hair. He walked around the console, flipping the occasional switch, and let his mind wander back into his memories. Heavens knew he wasn't one to share his feelings over a drink - let alone with Jack - but he was so very tired of ruminating on his painful thoughts. Me! Tired of thinking! The universe really is ending, isn’t it, he chuckled sadly to himself.
Rich rust-colored dust swirled beneath the TARDIS as she materialized alongside a dimly-lit row of buildings, deep in an alleyway of some alien city. The Doctor slowly opened the TARDIS door and leaned against the frame, letting the warm desert breeze wash over him as he folded Rose's shirt and delicately placed it into his pocket.
He squinted a bit, peering through the haze. Twinkling string lights hung across the entrance of the tiny saloon-looking façade, contrasting sharply with the gaudy neon lights in a language that looked something like Mandarin Chinese. Inside, a whimsical, almost old-Earth-western-style song played, two voices mingling in a pleasant, lilting harmony.
Lost in time and space,
Aimless searching for a long, lost face…
The painful tug of loss settled heavily on the Doctor's hearts again as he stepped out into the alley and made his way up the dirty concrete staircase. The tired wooden door creaked loudly as he walked inside the bar, but the noise was lost in the ethereal, shimmering notes of the band’s chimes and guitar.
It was a quiet sort of place; the kind of nook that people who need reprieve from the world often seek. Tall wooden tables were scattered through the room, each with an orange Edison-bulb lamp in the center. Most of the seats were full, with their occupants engaged in soft conversation. A small, midnight-blue biped with a handlebar mustache moved gracefully along the length of the long old-fashioned bar, running multiple beer taps at once with his six arms.
Stepping over the crushed peanut-like shells littering the floor, the Doctor wandered towards the back of the bar, where the warm light faded away and neon lights cast rainbow streaks across the walls. In the far corner, Jack was leaning back in his stool with his back pressed against the wall and one leg kicked up across the edge of the table. His gaze looked distant and reflective, as he nodded along to the tune and waved his drink irreverently into the aisle.
Without saying a word, the Doctor slid into the seat across from him and leaned forward on the table, hands clasped under his chin. “Jack,” he simply stated, watching the other man carefully.
Jack started, and a bit of his beer sloshed over the side of the glass and onto his leg. “Jesus, Doctor, give a man a little warning!” he laughed, his dazzling smile spreading across his face. He reached across to clap his free hand on the Doctor’s shoulder, lingering for a moment with a firm grip, blue eyes searching brown.
Lost in a galaxy of cocktail bars,
Blinded by the neon lights,
I lie awake and say your name tonight…
“The signs at Canary Wharf, Doctor, I…”the smile faded from Jack’s face as fast as it had arrived, now haunted by ghosts instead. “I had to call. I couldn’t sit around without knowing anymore. It’s been weeks for me, maybe months.”
WIth a rueful smile, the Doctor pulled Rose’s shirt back out of his pocket, smoothing the fabric between his fingers. Even through the heady scent of liquor and sweat, her lavender-vanilla perfume still remained - it had been a mere day or two for the Doctor. “She’s not dead, Jack,” he murmured, not looking up from the shirt in his lap. “Just gone.”
Jack craned his neck to look over the table and caught a glimpse of the shirt, and the tension in his jaw relaxed a little bit. He’d be a lot more upset if she was truly dead, he thought solemnly. Despite the warmth in his cheeks, Jack waved to the bartender to bring another round of drinks.
“Doctor,” he said quietly, but with conviction, “you gotta talk to me. I know you, and I don’t even want to know how long you’ve been sitting in your TARDIS moping about. This is what Rose would want. Me and you. Couple of drinks. That’s friendship, right? Getting all mushy about your feelings for a girl?”
I don’t know who I am, I don’t know where I am…
The Doctor and Jack talked long into the night. Patrons coming and going, the emerald-tinted light changing position in the window as the night sky turned, the echo of the band’s melancholy chorus - all were background noise to the two men lost deep in their own little world in the back of the bar. Together, they wove a story together of friendship and laughter, shared love and longing, and a deep companionship that only two wanderers can share.
“I don’t know who I am without her, Jack. How one little human can show up and… well, steal my hearts, I suppose,” the Doctor said, wistfully. Clearly, whatever they put in the alcohol at this end of the galaxy had managed to sneak its way in and loosen up his tongue. How many drinks had Jack ordered again?
“What, I’m not enough of a little human for you, Doc?” Jack grinned at him, placing a hand on his arm and squeezing playfully.
The Time Lord cracked a bit of a smile and rolled his eyes, “I’d say buy me a drink first, but I suppose you did make good on that one.”
For several more minutes, they simply sat in companionable silence, enjoying the music. Finally, Jack clinked his glass against the table, looking out the window at the handful of stars scattered in the early-dawn sky. “She’s not just any human, Doc, and you know it. Stop trying to deny it.”
The Doctor furrowed his brow and looked across at the other man. “Deny what, Harkness? What have I denied, specifically?” Reminiscing about the good times was one thing, but scrutinizing this particularly tender topic again was quite another.
Jack smiled and shook his head. “Deny what Rose means to you. Hate to break it to ya, but it’s been pretty obvious for a while.”
The Doctor sputtered for a moment. “How have I denied that? For the last four hours, thirty-eight minutes and twenty seconds, I’ve done nothing short of pouring my hearts out about how much I care for Rose. Really, Jack, try and keep up,” he grimaced, equal parts amused and heartbroken by the direction their conversation was going.
“Did you ever tell her that, though?” Jack sighed, draining the last of his drink again.
“Did you ever tell her, Doctor? About how you feel? Or how much she means to you? How much you lo-” Jack stopped, and took a deep breath.
“Does it need saying?” the Doctor mumbled, now very interested in the bottom of his Collins glass.
“Does it need saying? Does it need - so you never told her about the time you nipped out one night to that old posh teahouse, to learn exactly the right way to prepare her Earl Grey? Or that you nicked a bottle of her shampoo for your own bathroom, because you couldn’t get enough of the smell?”
The Doctor stared at Jack, jaw set. “Jack. Not another word.”
Jack’s started again, disregarding the Doctor completely - his voice louder now, an undertone of frustration lacing his words. “You think I didn’t notice all those nights in the library, when I was on board? When you’d wander the halls reciting Shakespeare’s lovey-dovey sonnets, as a rehearsal before reading it to Rose? Do you think the entire world couldn’t see the look on your face when she’d smile at you?” He rose slightly out of his seat. “Did you tell her, Doctor?”
I’m wide awake, I say her name tonight…
Jack opened his mouth to start again, but quickly closed it when he saw the sheen of moisture forming at the rims of the Doctor’s eyes. He carefully lowered himself into his seat, as the Doctor hung his head to avert his eyes.
“Then tell me what the hell I’m supposed to do, Jack, hmm? Rip apart time and space? Jeopardize the universe for my selfishness?” the Doctor said in a subdued tone.
Jack simply patted his arm again, and stood up from the table. “Yeah. Rose Tyler and the Doctor, in the TARDIS, just as it should be. Tell her what you should have told her a long time ago.” The captain dropped enough credits on the table for the two of them, winked at the bartender, and smiled once more at the Doctor before he strode out of the bar, whistling the band’s song.
The Doctor growled and scrubbed his hands through his hair, leaning forward onto the table. “And how in the name of bloody Rassilon am I supposed to do that,” he muttered dejectedly.
The lonely Time Lord sat with his tumultuous thoughts until the deep russet sun started to creep through the windows. Without a word, he slipped out the back door, and into his TARDIS. Maybe, just maybe, he’d found one last glimmer of hope. One reckless idea that just might work.
Bristling with eagerness and terror, the Time Lord pulled the double-lock control, shoved the directional unit backwards, and slammed his hand down on the dematerialization circuit. He focused all his remaining sober energy on one flimsy, fraying golden rope of a timeline, watching the woven strands break until only one tenuous filament remained. “Come on, come on, come on!” he bellowed, as the TARDIS moaned and screeched, hurtling through one last tiny, shining crack in reality.
Oh I’ll find a way, I say her name tonight…
On a dreary beach in Norway, two shivering, windswept women stood close together, watching in awe as the TARDIS materialized before their eyes. Rose Tyler had searched for months with undying hope that perhaps, just once, she’d hear that beautiful sound of the time rotor again. The pull had been stronger, this time, to come to this gray stretch of sand and rock.
Rose’s legs were carrying her forward before she could even make sense of what was happening. The salty air stung at her face, the freezing air burning in her lungs. The blue door creaked open, and the Doctor had only a split second to realize the feat he’d accomplished before his precious human barreled into him, gripping him into a full-body hug.
A warmth the Doctor didn’t realize had been missing blossomed back to life in his chest, in his mind, in his very being. He gripped Rose tightly, his hands splayed across her back, his nose buried in the crook of her neck to breathe her in. She nuzzled his neck gently in return, one hand sneaking up to rub the back of his neck softly.
“Hello,” Rose giggled quietly, her voice muffled. The Doctor pulled back slightly to look at her, smiling brightly.
“Hello,” he whispered, reaching to brush a tear off her cheek with his thumb even as his own ran freely.
Still holding him tightly, Rose looked back over her shoulder. To her surprise, Jackie was smiling knowingly, shooing them away with both hands. “Go on love, go with Himself, then! Don’t act like you’d be better off muckin’ around here without ‘im,” she hollered over the wind. “I love you sweetheart!”
The TARDIS started to groan, and the Doctor focused back on the frail golden timeline he’d chased to the water’s edge at Darlig Ulv Stranden. The thread flickered in and out of his temporal vision - their time was growing short, and this was the singularity - the flux point.
The Doctor moved to gently hold Rose’s cheeks with both hands, his shining eyes searching hers. “Rose Tyler… you stole my hearts a long time ago, and I- I never said--” the words caught in the Doctor’s throat, as he pressed his forehead to hers. “Please, love, stay?”
Rose choked out a joyful sob, nodding vigorously and pulling him back into a tight hug. The Doctor looked up once more at Jackie, smiling a silent 'thank you' with more joy than he’d felt in his many long years.
As the TARDIS faded away, the sun finally shone over Bad Wolf Bay, and a faint rainbow glistening where the box had been, interlaced with the strong, glowing golden strands of a now-healed timeline.