Midnight Breaking

by aces [Reviews - 2]

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Notes: I don’t know what this is. I would claim no responsibility for it but that it came out of my head. I don’t even bloody know which Doctor it’s supposed to be. Take from it what you will.

I also don't remember if I actually ever got around to posting this here or not, but if I did, then this is a simple repost after the server crash.

Midnight Breaking



“Time, time, time,” she sang softly and staggered.

The Doctor gently helped her regain her footing and kept his arm around her shoulders so she wouldn’t stumble again. She was cold; he shrugged off his coat and wrapped it around her efficiently.

She was ignoring his efforts on her behalf, a glaze of determined concentration in her eyes. He had no idea what she was thinking. They tripped awkwardly down the ill-lit street, and he tried to avoid the more obvious pot holes and sidewalk cracks. She paid no attention to their journey.

“Time, time, time,” she sang again, voice breathy and high-pitched and childlike. The alcohol was sour on her breath, but he did not flinch back from it, instead patiently leading her down the street.

She had been causing a scene in the bar, and he had decided to take action. He had led her soothingly, quietly, away, and he had glanced through her purse for some sort of ID with her address on it. He was going to walk her home and get her in her apartment and leave her there and carry on with his life. It was all very straightforward.

“Time, time, time.” There was no tune, no melody, just three wavering notes that wavered slightly differently each time she said them. If she was trying to tell him something profound, he wasn’t getting her point.

She stopped walking and held up her hand, waving it about. Under one of the few streetlights, he could see dust particles moving with her fingers, trailing around them. He watched for an instant, fascinated, and then gently pushed them both forward again.

He supposed he could try to engage her in conversation, but he saw no point. He was mildly surprised she hadn’t passed out already. She had been alone in that bar. Her made-up face and pretty dress were almost painfully pitiful taken in conjunction with her current condition. His hearts ached for the simple loss she presented him.

She was still looking at her hand curiously, making complex gestures with it. “Time, time, time,” she sang, and the dust trailed through her fingers, and he was momentarily unnerved.

“Everyone makes time out to be more significant than it is,” he said, unable to bear her song any longer, unable to bear his own silence any longer. “Well, not everyone,” he immediately amended. “But most people. It’s really not a big deal.”

She blinked at him, finally acknowledging his presence.

He struggled on. “It’s certainly complicated, I admit. The regrets, the missed chances, the gradual decay and loss of time. I suppose it’s especially poignant when your lifespan is so very short and you can feel the years crowding in on you. But it’s just time. It’s so easy to manipulate. Ask any child.”

She was still watching him, silently, not even breathing loudly. He was beginning to feel uncomfortable and asking himself resignedly why he led himself into these situations.

“Humans are obsessed with time, with their history, their present, their future. They want time to stretch forever, want themselves to stretch forever with it.

I’ve always been for living in the moment, personally.”

She looked away and seemed to be concentrating on keeping one foot in front of the other, perpetual motion forward.

“Regrets,” she said.

The Doctor blinked. “Yes,” he said. “Regrets. Time brings about all sorts of regrets. ‘I should have done this then,’ or ‘I should have gone there when I had that chance.’ It’s all very frustrating, even to someone like me.” He paused. “I suppose you could say I have a special relationship with time, but I don’t really. I still have to live my life from one moment to the next, just like everyone else. I can’t go backwards any better than you or-or anyone else.”

He sighed. He always got so muddled in these one-sided conversations.

The Doctor glanced up at the street sign as they crossed the intersection. He thought they were coming to her apartment building soon. He hoped so. Perhaps he should have just flagged down a cab for her. It was too late now. No regrets.

“Time,” she said abruptly, and he started.

“Are you asking a question or stating an opinion?” he inquired.

She nodded fiercely without looking up from the pavement.

He sighed and took out his fob watch. “If you were indicating a desire to know what time it currently is, it’s…just gone midnight. I think. Which time zone is this again?” He rattled his watch, stared for another moment, then sighed again and flipped it neatly back into its pocket. “Never mind, I’ll have you home soon.”

“Midnight,” she said dreamily, voice husky, and the sour smell of alcohol was overwhelming.

He ignored it, however, and looked around at the almost-deserted street they walked along. “Yes,” he mused, “midnight. A most interesting time of day on Earth. There’s something almost superstitious about how people feel about midnight. The break from one day to the next when anything seems possible.” A dry half-smile flickered on his face. “When anything is possible.”

She clung more tightly to him, small fingers of one hand biting into his skin. “Hate midnight,” she shivered.

The Doctor blinked. “I’m sorry,” he said. “On the other hand, I think that’s the first coherent thing you’ve said to me all evening, and that’s rather splendid.”

She nestled into him, allowing his arm to slip further around her shoulders. He was surprised but did not resist. Beneath the alcohol he thought he faintly caught an old whiff of perfume, something flowery. He wondered if she’d dressed up for anyone in particular. He wondered if she’d only dressed up to give herself courage.

So fragile, he reflected absently. So easily, transiently hurt.

“Time, time, time,” she sang, breaking into his thoughts, and he glanced down at her wryly.

“Back to that, are we?” he said and nodded to himself. “Oh, well, that’s alright. At least it’s not very catchy; I’d hate to have it stuck in my head for the next day or three.”

They were both silent for a while as they trudged along, subconsciously working out a rhythm so they didn’t constantly trip over each other. He had to modify his longer strides, and she had to concentrate hard not to weave. At last they reached the building whose number corresponded to the one listed on her driver’s license.

“Keys?” he asked her. She dug ineffectually in her purse; he gently took it from her and quickly looked through it himself, finding the keys and inserting them in the door one at a time till he got the right one.

He got the door open and put her inside before he closed it behind him. He helped her up the two short flights of stairs to the second floor and hunted for the right door belonging to the right number. She followed him dully, not helping, not hindering. She huddled in his frockcoat, and her face was red beneath her makeup, her eyes glittering in the dim light from the lamps along the hallway.

He unlocked her door with some difficulty, and then he ushered her inside. He turned on the overhead light out of necessity and left her standing in the living room while he quickly investigated for the bedroom, stamping down on any embarrassment he might have felt at the invasion of her privacy.

“Come on,” he said and took her elbow with care, pulling her into her room off the short corridor, next to the bathroom. He deliberately ignored the contents of the apartment, not noticing the neatness of the living room/kitchenette, paying no attention to the mess of clothes on the floor by the closet in the bedroom.

She sat down on the bed of her own volition, back straight and staring down at the carpeting. The glitter had gone out of her eyes and she only looked washed-out. The Doctor gently slipped his frockcoat off her shoulders and slung it back on over his shirt.

“Lie down,” he suggested quietly. “You can get a shower and change in the morning. Now you should just get some sleep.”

Tears, apparently spontaneously, began sliding down her cheeks. The Doctor took her purse away from her unresisting hands and set it on the vanity table, next to a makeup case and toppled-over lipstick. He slipped out of the bedroom and into the kitchenette, getting a glass of water from the faucet. He hunted out her coffeepot and set the timer. He had a feeling she might need it in the morning.

He came back into the bedroom with the glass of water. She was still seated on the edge of the bed, hands loose in her lap, tears drying on her cheeks. He tugged the bedding out from under her and persuaded her to lie down, covering her with a sheet and blanket and bedspread. He made sure the water was within easy reach on the nightstand.

He looked down at her. “Sleep,” he said quietly, firmly. “Midnights are the worst. Things will look better in the morning.” Despite the hangover, he added privately and turned to leave, flicking the light switch off behind him.

He heard a muffled half-sob from the bedroom, and then a soft, thick, high-pitched voice sang, “Time, time, time.”

The Doctor gently locked and closed the door behind him.