Wrote this in my notebook whilst on holiday; I now present it to you. :D
Summary: In which a grieving Doctor ends up in the alt-verse, meets a certain old companion, and takes an inconclusive road trip.
It was very dark. So dark, in fact, that when he stepped out he thought he’d made a mistake and he was in void-space after all. But he wasn’t. He was in London, and the streetlights weren’t on.
He’d thought so.
He very, very nearly went back into the TARDIS, in order to shout “It’s alright, Martha! We’re only in an alternate London! Come and see!” But he couldn’t, because she wasn’t there.
Why now? Why was he here now?
With a sigh he emerged from the grotty alleyway where the TARDIS had materialised. He could see some lights in the distance now- flickering streetlamps and a zeppelin in the sky.
Two girls, drunk and giggling, were making their way down the road a little way ahead of him. One of them looked a bit like Martha, and his hearts plummeted. If he ran into the alternative Martha, he had no idea what he would do.
“‘Scuse me,” he called out, and both girls turned to look at him. He hurried towards them. He could hear cars now, and snatches of music from late-night car radio. “D’ya know what year it is, ladies?”
“Wot?” said the girl who looked like Martha. She was wearing a pair of green earrings, and that served to make him feel worse, she’d had a pair like that…
…wait, no. Not Martha.
“What year is it?” he asked again, and cracked what he hoped was a winning smile.
The other girl looked him up and down. “Get lost, pervert,” she said in a slurred voice, and with a giggle both girls turned their back on him.
The Doctor was left alone once more. He didn’t know when or even why he was- unusual for him, but it happened sometimes. He shook his head and started walking.
He finally reached the city centre, and discovered it was 2079. The digital clock which now stood in place of Big Ben told him so.
2079. Perhaps there was a tiny chance…
“Oh no you don’t,” he muttered to himself. He had spent half his life muttering to himself- the difference now was that nobody was around to assume he was talking to them. “Oh no. Not now. They’re gone. You’ve got no right.”
He was sitting on a cold wall, opposite a lit-up newspaper kiosk. People were still wandering around- it was only half-eleven.
He jerked his head back and took a look at the stars. Funny things, stars. He’d been to almost all of them, and yet looking at them from Earth, this Earth, here, now, it was difficult to tell which was which.
People walked past him and didn’t give him a second glance: some of them were heading for the run-down pub on the other side of the street. All around him were boarded-up windows, broken glass.
He made a conversation in his head.
So, Doctor, what shall we do now? And can we get home?
Oh yes, we can get home. That was the first thing I checked. But it’s alright, we can leave- although that’s another ten years of my life gone. I must be getting old.
Oh. So while we are here- what shall we do?
Well. We could go explore, have some fun- you knew I’d say that, didn’t you, Martha/Sarah/Susan/Ace/whoever you are? We could do that. We could go get chips. We could look for Rose Tyler. Or we could foil a takeover of Earth. That’s what we do best.
What I do best.
The voice of the first person sounded like Martha in his head. It was be so ironic to run into her now. She probably wouldn’t even be in London. And of course, it wouldn’t be the real her. It would be a different her, one who might not have become his friend. But unexpectedly being in the right place at the right time was something that naturally happened to him, and maybe, just maybe–
He whipped around, amazed and resigned and relieved and scared all at once. Martha was here! Rose probably wasn’t! He was still on his own!
It was not Martha. It was an old man. He tried not to imagine the expression on Martha’s face if she found out he had mistaken her voice for that of an old man.
Just an old man…
The Doctor stood up, and stood back, and stared in amazement. It was him all right, unmistakably him. He was carrying a walking stick, and his hair was grey, but it was him.
“Hello, Doctor,” Mickey said, and smiled slowly. “You haven’t changed.”
“Oh, I have,” he answered quietly. “I have. Mickey Smith. Why are you here? In this part of town?”
Mickey shrugged. “I don’t know. Same reason Rose knew to go to Norway, I suppose.”
“You had dreams?”
The Doctor looked at him. He could go back to this man’s birth, if he wanted. See his childhood, watch him grow up. Again.
“You’ve changed,” he murmured.
“Grown older. Lost some hair.”
“Yeah…” He would never get used to this, to seeing a teenager in one instant and an old man the next. “Yeah.” He took a deep breath. “Mickey…Rose Tyler?”
With the look Mickey gave him, he knew.
“She’s dead,” Mickey said, not meeting his eyes. “Two years ago. I’m sorry.”
“No,” the Doctor answered, feeling his hearts sink and seeing Martha’s crying eyes. “Don’t be.” He grasped at thin air: Rose’s hand was gone. “Don’t be…”
Over the road there was the sound of crowing laughter and high-pitched screams: closing time at the pub. The Doctor sat back down.
“How?” he asked.
“Just…old age. Heart failure. You know.” Mickey looked right at him. “I’m the only one left. Jackie’s dead-” he blinked- “and Pete’s dead, and Jake-” he blinked again- “everyone. It has to happen to someone, being the only one left. I was the unlucky one.”
The Doctor said nothing. Across the road, a drunken young couple were pushing each other against the wall.
“She didn’t leave a letter,” Mickey said. “Or I don’t think she did. Maybe she meant to…”
Mickey paused for a second, and then said, “Her ashes were scattered-”
“-on a beach in Norway.” the Doctor finished. And then he looked away and at the ground, at the bits of newspaper and bottles and leaves. The light in the newspaper kiosk went off.
Everything died. He looked up.
“Let’s go to Bad Wolf Bay, Mickey.”
“In the TARDIS?”
“No, it’s recharging.” He trailed off. “I can’t stay.”
“Want to come with me? Travel in time again?”
Mickey shook his head. “Same answer as the last time you asked, Doctor. No. Not now.”
The Doctor nodded. One more question.
“Did she have a good life?”
“Yes.” Mickey answered. One word that made all the difference. The Doctor rubbed his eyes.
“Bad Wolf Bay. Let’s go.”
They took Mickey’s car. Mickey drove, and talked at the same time. The sun rose over the horizon.
“She became the head of Torchwood, eventually- I guess you guessed that, though. Er…she married.”
“She married this man called Elton. Good man.” He turned and saw the Doctor’s expression.
“Yeah. That was his name. You know him?”
“Yeah…” He stared out of the window. He had imagined different happy situations for Rose, since he would of course never be able to see her happy again- new situations for every day. He had visualised marriage, but had never seen the groom. Elton. Wow.
“I thought she’d marry you,” he said, but only because he needed to see what Mickey’s reaction would be- see how well he really knew his old companion.
“Not me. I spent half my life with Jake. She worked that out, eventually,” he muttered. And after a very long pause he said, “He died working for Torchwood- the Sycorax showed up like they did back in the other world. We went to sort things out- it was Rose gave the orders, you see.” And after that cryptic explanation he trailed off, and the Doctor had to speak.
“She sent Jake to his death?”
“Yeah. That’s what she did.”
There was silence in the car for a bit.
“Did you ever forgive her?”
“Yeah. Had to. Eventually.”
They drove on. The world was green and orange in the sun.
“And what about you, Doctor?” Mickey asked. “What have you been doing since I last saw you?” He gave a little chuckle.
“Oh. The usual,” the Doctor said. “Saving the world.” He gave a little smile. “I met a girl called Martha. You’d have liked her, Mickey.”
“What happened to her?”
“She’s not here anymore.”
Mickey didn’t press the issue.
“Here’s a thought.” the Doctor said after a while. “Jackie was pregnant…”
“Oh yeah. She had the baby. Called it John,” Mickey said. “Rose Tyler’s younger brother. Lovely bloke.”
“No. Died from cancer. Not long after Jackie went, actually.” He looked away. “You know the feeling, don’t you?”
Nothing more was said for a while.
They stopped at a service station a few hours later. The Doctor looked around and felt out of place.
“I remember this,” Mickey said, looking up at the hanging baskets and glass roof. “We stopped here on our way to Norway the first time. Rose didn’t want to- she wanted to get straight there- but Jackie had to, being pregnant and everything…”
“Has it changed?” the Doctor asked, tucking into a ham and cheese sandwich.
“Not as much as it should have. That’s funny.”
“Do you want to talk more about Rose, Mickey?” He said it quickly, he’d have lost his nerve otherwise.
“I told you the most important thing.”
“I know, but there’s more, isn’t there? There’s always more. Did she have children?”
“Was she a good leader of Torchwood?”
“She was the best leader they ever had,” Mickey answered. “And I know what happened to Jake wasn’t easy at all for her.” He blinked furiously. “Yeah. She was good. Helped a lot of people. Defended the Earth.”
The Doctor nodded. He could hear a voice in the back of his head saying what, you had to ask? What happened to I Believe In Her? The voice sounded like Martha. He hated it.
“I’m surprised you had to ask,” Mickey said, as if he’d read the Doctor’s mind. “You always believed in her more than anything. Was it what I said about her and Jake?”
“No,” the Doctor muttered. “No. I know what it’s like. To have to give orders like that.”
“You know what everything‘s like, don’t you?”
The Doctor took a large bite of sandwich, conviently excluding him from the conversation for a few seconds.
“How long has it been for you since you left her on that beach?” Mickey asked. “What happened inbetween then and now?”
“Oh, plenty. Seen many worlds, many people. Done all sorts of stuff.”
“Did you think about her?”
“I thought about everyone. Even you. Whenever something came up involving a car, I thought, ‘I knew a mechanic bloke, didn’t I? Oh, yeah- that’d be Mickey. Wonder what he’s up to.'”
Mickey looked perhaps the tiniest bit skeptical. The Doctor finished his sandwich. It wasn’t a very nice one; he’d had better.
“D’ya want crisps?” Mickey asked. He pushed a packet of salt-and-vinegar ones towards him.
He watched the people around him go about their lives. He wasn’t looking for Martha anymore, or he hoped he wasn’t. He suddenly wished, fiercely and unexpectedly, for the sort of life all these other people had.
“And you, Mickey Smith,” he said. “I didn’t ask. Did you have a good life?”
Mickey grinned. “Yes,” he said. “Despite everything- yes.”
It was dark on Bad Wolf Bay. The only sound was the waves.
“You never think about it, do you?” the Doctor muttered, as the stars came out. “What it’s like to live life in one straight line.”
“Sorry. I was talking to myself.”
Mickey zipped up his jacket, his fingers shaking. “Why exactly did we come here, Doctor?”
The Doctor shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“Why exactly did you come here, Doctor? To this world? It did alright without you, you know. Eventually.”
“Oh, countless people and planets do alright without me,” the Doctor said. He gave a little grin. “You would have done alright without me, eventually, Mickey Smith.”
Mickey just frowned. “And Rose? What would she have done without you, Doctor?”
“She would have been fine. She would have changed the world- maybe in a big way, maybe in a small way.” The Doctor looked out to sea. “Not everyone needs a time machine, Mickey. Not everyone needs me, either.”
Mickey said simply, “Rose was left crying on a beach.”
“Once she had you- it messed her up not to keep you.” Mickey said. “You were her friend and her boyfriend and her soul-mate-”
“There’s no such thing as a soul-mate.”
“-and the one who’d always rescue her, who’d always be there for her, who’d always have the answers. You do funny things to people.”
“Oh. I know.”
They remained where they sat. Shadows ran about further down the beach.
“She tried to be like you,” Mickey said glumly. “When she led Jake to his death, I know she looked like you. Like you when you told me to fire at 10 Downing Street.”
“Why do you do it? Why do you take people, and make them…different?”
“Do you wish you’d never met me?”
Mickey looked away.
It was quiet once more. The Doctor closed his eyes, and watched people walk away into the dark. He could not accompany all of them.
Mickey cleared his throat, and pulled himself up on his walking stick. “I’m starving. I’m going to get food- there’s a 24-hour store just down the road. Want me to bring you anything?”
“Ooh,” the Doctor said. He turned around and saw the lit-up city behind him, on the horizon, the sun rising behind it. “I think…chips. Yes. Let’s have chips.”
They sat by the car and ate chips.
“I’ll have to go soon,” the Doctor said.
“Back to England?”
“Better get a move on, then.”
The Doctor looked back, and said goodbye in his head to Rose Tyler. The last goodbye. Probably. He was a time-traveller; he did not have many lasts as such.
He and Mickey climbed into the car. Mickey accidentally dropped his chips onto the driver’s seat, and swept them out again.
“Leave ’em for the birds,” he said.
They drove. The land slipped into morning, and the people there woke up. The last thing the Doctor saw of Bad Wolf Bay was people down on the beach, stepping into the light.
The TARDIS was right where he had left it. He leaned against the doors.
“You’re still invited,” he said to Mickey, but Mickey just smiled. “No. Thank you, Doctor.”
The pair of them looked at each other and said nothing. The Doctor looked away first, glanced down at the TARDIS- and saw something. Something scratched into the door panel with a shaky, spidery hand. I LOVE MARTHA JONES.
The TARDIS did not take kindly to things being scratched into her. So why…
…he was meant to see it, then. Meant to see that Martha, a Martha, was here and someone loved her enough to vandalise a phone box for her.
He hadn’t seen her. But he didn’t even know what he would have done if he had.
Someone loved her- someone had loved the other her- someone had loved Rose Tyler. None of those people were him. And that was fine. More than fine.
He turned back to Mickey. Just one more thing to say.
“I would like to apologize,” he said, “for making you hold down that button for half a hour. It was unpleasant of me-”
Mickey opened his mouth.
“-and if I hadn’t done that, we may never have ended up here.”
“Don’t apologize, then! I spent the best years of my life here! In fact- thank you, Doctor. Can’t remember if I ever said that.”
The Doctor could only nod; he didn’t know what to say.
“How do you know?” Mickey suddenly asked, as if it had just occured to him. “That holding down that button got us here?”
“Because,” the Doctor answered, with a faint, alien smile, “I tried it.”
“Goodbye then, Mickey Smith. This may actually be the last time I say that to you now.”
“Goodbye.” Mickey answered. But as the Doctor turned to go, he said, “Doctor-”
“Will you see Rose again? Rose or Martha or anyone? Somehow? Ever?”
The Doctor leaned against his time machine. “I read once- I don’t know who said it- ‘Everything will be alright in the end, if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.’ So it depends, I imagine, whether you think that everything is now alright.”
Mickey nodded, and looked away.
“Alright,” he said, and gave a wry smile. “Alright. Goodbye, Doctor.”
The Doctor stepped into the TARDIS, looked back at Mickey, waved, and closed the door. He went to the console. He pressed some buttons, on his own, and he was off again.
He took a chip from his pocket, and ate it.
“Where to now, girl?” he asked softly. “I’ll let you choose.”
Mickey Smith, standing in the alleyway, watched the TARDIS vanish for the last time in his life. Then he turned around and walked out into the light.
You cannot follow everybody through the darkness. There are so many people there- changed people- and you cannot keep up with them all. But the light is different. You can see everybody there.