Disclaimer: I own some Doctor Who merchandise, but I have no claim of ownership to the copyrights of the franchise. This fic is canon-compliant, which means it does not directly contradict any aspect of canon.
The Doctor was angry. Well, alright, maybe not angry, but frustrated, and that in itself was upsetting. He and Rose had had an argument. It was a stupid argument - over the littlest thing! - but it was their first big fight since... well, since they had been left here. So, after she had said, "Just leave, then!" and he had said, "Fine, I will!" he took the car and started driving.
He didn't know how long he drove around (yet another thing that was upsetting him: the loss of his time sense, among other things), but when he saw the neon lights of a corner bar he figured, humans go to bars to drink when they're angry, so why not? It just seemed right for him to do it too, since he was half-human now. Ironic, he thought as he pulled up, that the human response to being pissed off was to get pissed.
There wasn't a soul around but the old barkeep, down at the end and looking half-asleep. He seemed to rouse himself when he realized he had a customer, then he walked up and said, "What'll it be?"
The Doctor, not being familiar with what kinds of alcohol would be on offer in this place and time, offered a vague reply of, "The good stuff."
To the Doctor's surprise, the old man didn't move; he didn't reach around for the whiskey, he didn't pour him a beer. The Doctor would have thought the man hadn't heard him if it wasn't for the fact that his blue eyes kinda went misty. After a moment he finally said, "You can't find that here."
"Why do you say that?" the Doctor asked, somewhat miffed that he wasn't being given a drink but intrigued by the barkeep's odd comment.
"'Cause it's the first long kiss on a second date," he offered matter-of-factly before he grabbed a carton of milk.
As he poured a glass, the Doctor smiled in spite of himself and said, "I'll have some of that," before adding, "My second date with Rose wasn't anything like that.
"We moved here to be closer to her family. Neither of us really wanted to, but we couldn't stay where we were; our landlord kicked us out. Once we were here, Rose told me she wanted to start over and take things slow. On the one hand I understand - we have a bit of a complicated history, and after I had a near-death experience I was like a different man, in a way.
"Now that I think on it, that wasn't the first time she'd had to deal with that, either; I had been fatally wounded saving her life before that, but I was able to come out of it, alive but changed. She told me I was 'different' from before, but when I asked if it was 'good different or bad different,' she said, 'just different.'
"Before we came here, she and I had all sorts of adventures. We traveled everywhere, having fun, facing danger, getting into trouble, always together. Well, sort of. Neither of us came right out and said it for the longest time, but then when she finally did... I couldn't say it back. I thought we'd never see each other again, and I just couldn't admit my feelings if we weren't going to be together.
"Anyway, after we were reunited, she wanted us to have a clean slate. We went to see a movie for our first date. I was disappointed that she didn't rest her head on my shoulder, but at least she let me hold her hand. Then, for our second date, I took her to the local chippy - she always loved chips - but they make them different here, so she just sat there playing with them while I ate, didn't say a word until we were leaving and she told me she never wanted to go there again."
The barkeep refilled both of their glasses once the Doctor had finished his story, almost before the Doctor realized his was empty. "My Eileen was a piece of work herself," the old man offered. "Half the time you wouldn't know whether she wanted to marry me or murder me. Whew, she had a temper on her, let me tell you!
"I remember there were a few times when my mama was beside herself with worry because I got home late; she thought the woman had done away with me but good. No such luck though. Mama practically skinned me alive for breaking curfew so much, but it was worth it."
"After Rose and I started traveling together," the Doctor began, "her mum wanted to skin me alive. She gave me a good slap for my trouble, at least. But of course it was understandable; I had basically abducted her daughter and didn't bring her back until a year later. I meant to get her back sooner, but..." Here he sighed before going on, "Jackie loves me now, though.
"When I pulled out the ring to propose to Rose, Jackie was the one who screamed and cried, 'yes!' I was so startled I dropped the ring in the spaghetti plate because my hands were shaking so much. But Rose said no. Said it was still too soon, that she wasn't ready to take that next step yet."
The barkeep chuckled. "In my case, as far as Eileen was concerned, I couldn't propose soon enough. Seemed like as soon as I popped the question we were exchanging our vows. I thought I couldn't love her more than I already did, but every day I found something else that I loved about her; whether it was the way she looked with rice in her hair, or how she always cooked my favorite meals to perfection."
The Doctor snorted. "Rose couldn't cook if her life depended on it; I'd have to swoop in and save her with takeaway. Don't ever tell her that, though; the number of burnt suppers I've had to choke down - and asking for seconds to keep her from tearing up! - but I keep doing it, because I love her.
"...I see what you mean now. That is the good stuff." At that point, the Doctor caught sight of a black-and-white picture on the wall: it was a pretty girl with bouffant hair.
The old man looked to see what had the Doctor's attention, then nodded. "That's my bonnie Eileen. That picture was taken about a year after we were wed." The Doctor returned to his drink, which had been refilled again, when the barkeep confessed, "I spent five years in the bar when the cancer took her from me."
The Doctor paused with his glass halfway to his lips and stared, dumbstruck.
The old man nodded and then continued as though he hadn't stopped, "but I've been sober three years now, 'cause the one thing stronger than the whiskey was..."
"The good stuff," the Doctor whispered, his expression thoughtful.
"The sight of her holding my baby girl, Sylvia..."
The Doctor started at that. Sylvia...? Then... of course! He had thought the old man looked familiar, but now he was certain. "Wilfred?"
The barkeep blinked in surprise. "Yes?"
The Doctor shook his head. "Go on. You were saying, about Sylvia?"
"Aye. She was a beautiful babe. She's her mother's child, for sure. So fierce! Once she gets an idea into her head, Heaven couldn't change her mind no matter how foolhardy it is - and when things don't turn out the way she thinks they ought to, she won't hear a word about it being her fault no matter if it was a direct result of following her own advice.
"She's got her good points too, mind you! Always there for her friends, she is. Always one to encourage action when she thinks things are stagnating. You know, 'idle hands' and all that..."
"'Idle hands are the devil's workshop,'" the Doctor quoted pensively, "idle lips are his mouthpiece..." Here he hesitated. He knew the next line, but he was struck by how uncomfortably these words were hitting him close to home. "An evil man sows strife; gossip separates the best of friends."
"You're preaching to the choir there." Wilf mumbled, studying his glass of milk. "In three years of sobriety, I haven't been able to fix half of what I put wrong during my five idle years."
"Five idle years... I wonder if that's me, too? The time that we spent traveling... it was five years before we got here and 'started over'. I wasn't with her for all of that time, but the mates I was traveling with after her must've gotten sick of hearing me talk about Rose.
"Maybe just starting over isn't enough, though? I mean, I've been trying to do things for her, take her places, give her gifts - she said she adored that string of pearls I gave her - but maybe I need to do more to make up for what I did (and didn't do) during my idle time before we can move forward in our relationship. Maybe that's what my problem is: the fact that I didn't think about how our time apart has changed us both! I keep wanting to pick up where we left off, but if we aren't even on the same page anymore?"
"You sound like my youngest boy, Earl. He was all up in arms about how his girlfriend was living in the past and didn't understand him, when really she had been trying to get through to him about the same problem; they were both hung up on things that the other didn't think was a big deal."
"What happened then? Did they make it through, or...? What did Earl do?"
"Oh, he married her. She was his high school love. And to think, all I had to do was tell them both to stop looking at the bad stuff and just focus on the good times they'd had together!"
The Doctor, gobsmacked, spluttered, "That's all it took?"
"Well, sure. They still disagreed some, it was never smooth sailing, but life's not meant to be easy; easy living is idle time."
Easy living is idle time? The Doctor paled slightly. If that's the case, I've had more than 5 idle years in my life! And just when I thought we had overcome that 'age gap' she mentioned...
"Sylvia always does things the hard way, though, God bless her. Never one to take the easy way out of a situation, never makes the obvious decision; heck, when she found out she was pregnant, she didn't call to tell me the news, she went and got me a new t-shirt that said, 'I'm a grandpa.'"
Donna... the Doctor couldn't help but think. He had gradually come to the realization that his Donna would have to have suffered complications of some kind from the metacrisis, and he could only assume his other self had made the decision to lock away all that information in her mind, effectively wiping her memory of him. He had been right there, not knowing as their time got small that she wouldn't even be able to remember him after he was gone, and now it seemed like everything else was falling apart, too.
"Eileen was so proud... she already had the cancer by that time."
"I'm sorry," the Doctor offered, realizing as he said it that it sounded hollow.
The old man waved it away. "I've come to terms with it by now. It was rough, mind you, and she fought long and hard. I was holdin' her hand when the good Lord called her up. I'll never forget that."
"No, I don't imagine you would," the Doctor observed.
"When you get home," Wilf began, "she'll start to cry." The Doctor nodded. That was likely. "When she says, "I'm sorry," say, "So am I," and look into those eyes so deep in love, and drink it up, 'cause that's the good stuff."
"That's the good stuff," the Doctor echoed. He took a deep shuddering breath. "I will do. Thank you, Wilf." The Doctor took a twenty out of his billfold and laid it down on the bar as he stood up. "Thank you for everything. You've done more for me than you even know, and I could never repay you enough." That said, he turned and walked out of the bar and headed straight home.
A/N: I have removed my original ending of this story because it didn't include any part of the song. I will save it, however, in case I eventually write a second chapter (or a separate fic) to expound more on their argument and how it's resolved. Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions, comments, or complaints, feel free to review or PM me. :)
P.S. Thank you, Guest, for your appreciation, and you, KeplersDream, for your concrit. I am much obliged.
P.P.S. This fic is part of my CC'verse (see my profile for more) and, as such, fits into the continuity of a couple of my other stories; it takes place after #16 of my Drabbles of the Doctor Whoniverse but before the 3rd chapter of Happy Father's Day, Pete Tyler!