A.N. There are plenty of little things that I don't know about the Whovian 60s era so if anything is terribly inaccurate, or even slightly inaccurate for that matter…just chalk it down to an AU status and don't frown at me too much!
Now spell checked and slightly edited and all that jazz.
They had been stranded in 1969 for a fortnight so far. He'd looked through the purple folder Sally Sparrow had given him that day not so long ago and he'd already done everything that he could. He'd discerned from the information held within the folder, exactly what was expected of him, and he'd done it all.
Nothing left to do now but wait. And he had no idea what the rate of time delay was, so he had no idea how long the wait would be. He'd known as much to pre-programme the Tardis for 1969, but it was up to her when in 1969. They could wait a week, or a month, or possibly even several. Hard to tell.
But they were doing okay, him and Martha. What with all of the important stuff already handled, it was turning out to be some kind of holiday. Well…not for Martha he supposed. She was still having to work in the shop and 'support' him. She grumbled and complained of course, but she wasn't really that worried. She was taking it all in her stride and trying to enjoy the trip for what it was. A prolonged period of displacement, where she could experience things in a different manner and time. As long as she looked at it all objectively and with historical interest and education in mind, she'd get along fine.
At least it wasn't as bad as their time in 1913. At least now, Britain had grown out of its the racial prejudices…well…mostly grown out of them. There were still ways to go, but she didn't have to suffer as much abuse as she had in the school. And she wasn't a servant anymore. She didn't have to answer to a 'Master' anymore…just a regular boss. Apparently still a strict one, but an ethical one, and that was the important thing. Stern but fair.
While she got on with working at the shop each day, the Doctor was free to explore. Or in Martha's opinion…slob. She thought that he stayed in the flat all day, glued to the television. She teased him that with all his denial and disdain for the human obsession with domesticity, he seemed to be enjoying it.
He let her think it too. It was much easier for him in the long run. If he told her what he actually did with his day while she was working at the shop, earning money to put food on the table, there would be all the questions. She would be incessant with them, hounding him for any scrap of knowledge and putting up a real stubborn wall of iron will until he submitted and answered her questions. With the revelations, would come her pity. She would look at him sometimes, with eyes full of such sorrow.
And he hated it. Hated that she had to look at him like that to begin with. Hated that there was good reason for it. Because his life had not been peaches and cream. He'd lost people, friends and family, people he cared about, his entire civilisation, all lost to the depths of time, stuck in the past, only alive in his memories.
Yet here he was. So close to the beginning of it all. Shoreditch. Well…not the complete beginning of course, but the relative beginning of his journey. He'd stolen the Tardis, taken Susan along for the ride and ended up in the sixties, not far from where he sat in the two bedroom flat he and Martha had been renting. They had travelled for a bit just after leaving Gallifrey, stopped off for repairs, and had ended staying. Granted he had lived here and left here a few years before and also a quite a few centuries before, depending on perspective, but it was still undeniably close.
He spent his days walking through streets that he had known so well, memories rushing over him. The beginning of his journey. Looking around, he could see nothing remotely special about the place. It looked normal. Perfectly normal, nothing strange or odd, just a normal everyday street of London. Yet for some reason, he expected the streets to be paved with gold, or silver, or even gilver, the much loved cross between the two, mostly silver but with that well appreciated hint of gold. Discovered in the year Apple Pie Alpha 45 by an eccentric genius Julius Gryffendo who had been experimenting with the fusion of metallic compounds with the aim of simply keeping himself occupied. Turned out gilver was a strong resistant material capable of strengthening the hulls of space ships against the heat of suns, allowing them to move closer without risking surface break up and heat damage when used as secondary lining. That guy had made a mint patenting that stuff.
But it didn't matter to the Doctor which precious metal be used, there should be something to make the area stand out from the rest. It deserved something do display its momentous significance.
For him, it had been round about eight centuries, give or take a few years, since he had started out here.
The junkyard at Trotters Lane, just two streets away from the flat, Coal Hill School just five streets away.
All those memories. Past. Gone. Finished. He shouldn't dwell. He knew he shouldn't and whatever he did he shouldn't go in search of his ghosts. He was a completely different man now. Not just in the regeneration sense. He had moved on. Changed completely. He couldn't let the old ghosts haunt him. But it was so tempting.
Walking through the streets that should be paved with gilver but wasn't. He couldn't help thinking about the might and should have beens. But it wasn't just the time here that came fresh to his mind. This location was simply the catalyst for a morose and intense inner contemplation. He thought of all that had happened to him before during and after his stay here. This location, such an important part of his history, led him to think of his entire life. Where he'd been. Who he'd known. All of the things he was left to experience. With the good thoughts, came a lot of bad. The time war for instance. Everyone gone. His entire family.
Rasillon…this holiday trip down memory lane was depressing.
When Martha got in from work that evening, she found the Doctor, sat at the kitchen table, staring into space, with a cold cup of tea in front of him. He was motionless and unblinking. The cup of tea must have been there for a long time because the cup of tea had developed that distressing skin like film on the top where it had congealed as it cooled. It wasn't even half empty. He just sat there listlessly.
She stood there in the doorway of the kitchen watching him for a few minutes. He looked so utterly hopeless, and not in the adorable way. If anything, he looked like a broken man. But that wasn't right. He'd sorted what he had to do to get the Tardis back. It was just a matter of time. It wasn't like he was stuck here indefinitely. So why did he seem so sad?
Martha couldn't help it. She felt her eyebrows lower and her eyes cloud with sympathy for him.
"Are you going to stand there all night Martha Jones? Those chips are going cold. Before you know it they'll be all soggy!"
He turned around to look at her and found her blinking her eyes rapidly, breathing deeply with her free hand clutched over her heart.
His eyes widened as realisation dawned.
"Oh…did I scare you? I…err…sorry!" he finished lamely.
She raised her eyes to his; gazing at him evenly, frown firmly planted on her features. She tried to remain firm, yet he gave her a sad and apologetic half smile. Her resolve crumbled almost immediately and she moved around the table to take the chair opposite him, her sympathy returning. She leaned forward over the table towards him, that sickly commiseration making him uncomfortable. He tried to avoid looking directly at her. He didn't want this.
She took his hand from its resting place on the tabletop and held it in both of hers.
"Doctor, what's wrong?"
"Doctor." There was a hint of warning in her voice. She didn't believe he was fine, and he wasn't getting away from it that easily. She'd get it out of him. Maybe not now, but soon. She took a deep breath, collecting and composing herself. "Doctor, look at me please." He raised his eyes to hers, those imploring orbs burning into him with intensity. "You can tell me. I want you to tell me. If you don't want to or you're not ready, that's all right. But the offer still stands okay."
He smiled at her in assurance and gave a small nod. His smile was still cheerless, it showed his age and he seemed truly defeated, but accepting, like it wasn't all that bad. It was a part of life that just had to be acknowledged, endured and tolerated. He didn't even seem overly upset. Just resigned.
It was heartbreaking to see and Martha could feel her eyes growing teary and her heart clenching almost painfully in grief for him.
He watched her eyes and saw each emotion of anguish and compassion flash through the depths of her pupils. He didn't want that compassion, or that sickening pity. But he just smiled that smile of acceptance and wisdom. He squeezed her hand once and looked towards her bag.
"Chips Martha. I don't like them soggy and cold."
She saw his change of topic as the ploy that it really was. He was uncomfortable with her interest and sympathy for his misery and wanted to regroup his thoughts on neutral territory. She smiled at him warmly, consciously making an effort to remove the concerned pity from her face.
"Oh they'll be all right. Only bought them about ten minutes ago. Double bagged them just to keep the heat in a little longer."
She took them out of her bag, and the plastic bag and opened up the newspaper with them in on the centre of the table.
The Doctor stood up, wincing at the tension and ache in his muscles. He really had been sitting there for far too long. He'd taken a walk this morning, got back at around noon, made himself a cuppa and just sat there. Well Martha finished work at half past six and it took her half an hour to reach the flat, forty minutes if she detoured to the chip shop like she had tonight. So he'd been sat at the table for about seven hours, and dear Rasillon he was stiff. His joints creaked in protest and his muscles were angry and reluctant as he stretched out.
His eyes darted around the kitchen, taking in the mess with a fatigued grimace, searching through the chaos for some clean plates and some cutlery.
"Martha…plates? Forks? Where? Please?"
She did not answer and he could not detect any movement from her corner, so he turned back to her in confusion to find her staring at him like he was the escaped mental patient from the loony bin.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
"You want to use forks and plates for chips? Doctor…that's practically sacrilegious!"
He shook his head in disbelief but gave a relieved little chuckle. He would never understand humans and their strange practices when it came to chips. It did however, manage to secure a proper smile from him, and that was good enough for Martha.
Across the street, in the opposite building, sat the young woman.
She sat in her cheap rented bed-sit all alone. She looked around her, completely depressed. Everything was hopeless. Everybody left her in the end. Not everyone meant to of course, she understood that, but that didn't mean that they would get the choice.
He had been ripped from her, torn away in that cruel twist of fate.
He had meant everything to her. They had such plans. Marriage, a baby, weekend trips to the seaside, picnics in the country. It was all going to be perfect and everlasting.
The universe had really screwed her on that one.
But everyone left in the end. It was a lesson she was learning, slowly, painfully, but surely.
She sat in her cheap rented bed-sit all alone. She looked around her, completely depressed, and she cried for herself.
She had nothing left.
They sat together, talking and laughing companionably as they ate their chips.
His prior melancholy seemed completely forgotten as she told him about her utterly exciting day at work, dripping with sarcasm and he listened with a satisfied smirk and mock interest.
They had the radio playing softly in the background. It was playing old classics. Those timeless masterpieces that always played even far into Martha's time. A song was playing, it was upbeat and happy. He couldn't remember the song, the title or the lyrics, or why it grabbed his attention. But he knew that song from somewhere. Not in the sense of having heard it in passing and simply enjoyed it. By fact, he hated the song. But he distinctly remembered somebody close to him loving it, playing it non-stop. He had a strange recollection of the irritating tune echoing down the corridors of the Tardis. But not in a very long time. It was by no means a recent recollection. He frowned, looking down at his chips as though they somehow held the answer. He furrowed his brow as he scanned his brain trying to access the long undisturbed memory. There was a whiny Australian drawl that seemed to both infuriate and amuse him.
Tegan. That's it. This had been her favourite song. But why couldn't he remember the name of it, or who sang it. He couldn't fathom why he couldn't recall about the blasted song. Favourite songs. Seems the type of thing he should have remembered.
"Tegan liked this song." He said very matter of factly.
Martha halted the chip she had just been about to bite into and looked at him in confusion.
He gazed down glumly at his chips, the feelings of unrelenting nostalgia and melancholy creeping back up at him.
"Rose liked chips," said in the same matter of fact tone as the last random comment. "Took her to see the end of the world and she wanted chips, stupid ape she was."
He smiled fondly in reminiscence.
Martha looked down, suddenly feeling inadequate and quite hurt; she'd thought he'd got over this. He hadn't brought up the 'R' word in quite a while and she had been somewhat happy to be making her own impressions, not living in the shadow of the amazing one.
"So this is what all of this moping has been about eh? Pining over the fantastic Rose again are we? God, it's all about her isn't it?"
He looked up at her sharply, anger clearly etched across his face.
"No it is certainly not all about her. I'm not pining and I'm not moping."
"Martha Jones…don't…just don't. It's not all about her. It's this place. It's Shoreditch. It brings it all back. All the memories since the start. Makes me remember. It's not about Rose. It's about all of them."
She sat there silent, countenance angry, yet he could sense the guilt radiating from her.
He could smooth things over now, explain everything properly to her, just why he was so sullen, and maybe make her feel better and abate her guilt. But he just wasn't feeling that generous. Why should he try to make her feel better about her own insensitivity? He stood up from the table and looked at her. She was looking determinately down at the floor, sulking.
"It's about all of them. All of those I've cared about and lost. One day you'll leave and I'll have to miss and mourn you, and that going to hurt too."
He tried to judge her reaction but she wasn't giving anything away. He'll lose her too one day, and every loss just cuts him deeper.
"I'm going for a walk."
He strode from the kitchen, not bothering to get his coat from the hook in the hallway; it was after all, incredibly warm and sunny outside. He exited the flat, down the stairs, to the street below.
She couldn't believe how alone she felt.
And she was alone. So terribly alone. David hadn't meant to leave her. He'd been taken away, harshly and painfully. Stolen from her and the life they had planned together.
Those four small walls around her felt so incredibly far away. The dingy little room felt so much larger than what she knew it to be. Like the room was being stretched around her, walls being pulled away from her so that she was left as nothing but a tiny fleck of dust in the middle of a giant aching chasm of nothingness.
Because that was what her life consisted of. Nothingness.
Her grandfather had left her with David, so she could be happy and settle down with him, but as cruel luck would have it he had been killed.
No heroics, no end of the world martyrdom.
Just a thug with a knife, street corner, middle of the night. The thug had stabbed him in the stomach, because he had wanted David's coat.
A stupid reason.
Such a stupid ridiculous reason to end another life.
Why did humans do that? Those stupid, stupid people.
And because of that, she was all alone. Trapped here with no chance of escape.
Well…she could escape the room…for a while at least.
She took her coat off of the hook by the door and put it on. She wrapped up warm in gloves and scarf to defend against the bitter chill of the world outside.
The Doctor walked down the street, shoulders hunched and eyes downcast. He kicked stones out of his path and scuffed his converse on the rough paving of the walkway.
What right did Martha have to complain at him like that when he was in deep serious mental torment? He couldn't help being all nostalgic and down in the dumps. It was this place, doing things to him, awakening thoughts and feelings that he'd tried to ignore for so long. He tried to pay no heed to all those memories and emotions because it hurt too much when he realised just how much he'd actually lost. But now he couldn't help thinking about everything. Every life he hadn't been able to save, every place he hadn't managed to rescue form destruction, and every companion that he'd lost. He'd loved each and every one of them in his own strange little way. Some had left of their own volition. Some had been stolen from him unfairly, some had died, and some, he'd just let go.
Guilt welled inside him, wrenching his insides into an uncomfortable knot.
He walked to the park, glumly and selfishly wondering how the day dared to be so sunny when he was so miserable. But it was the summer of 69 and night just never seemed to want to fall. The sun just seemed to hold on for as long as it possibly could, lengthening the days and keeping everything uncomfortably hot.
He entered the park. Nobody was there at this time of the evening despite the glorious weather. It was only a small place, a small stretch of grass, a scattering of juvenile trees, some benches and a duck pond.
He drifted over to the pond and sat down on a little bench, just big enough to seat two people. He gazed towards the pond in quiet inner contemplation. Before long his gaze went through the pond, and he was staring into space.
Susan walked down the street, huddling into her coat for warmth as the wind howled around her in the darkness of deep winter. At least it wasn't raining she thought to herself as she scuffed her shoes on the pavement.
Why did life have to be so cruel?
After David had died, she'd moved back to Shoreditch, or at least what was left of it. The junkyard had been built over; it was now a big block of flats, cold and concrete. The school wasn't there anymore either. It had been bulldozed for yet more cold concrete flats that had never seen construction. Funding had run out or something and the land had been discarded. She'd come to the area to try to feel closer to the past, to feel safe in some happy memories of easier times, but all the place did was amplify what she'd lost. The area was bitter and heartless nowadays. There were no happy faces, smiling at her as she passed. Just decay and abandoned buildings.
She decided to walk towards the park, or what had been the park, as she'd known it. It was now an overgrown dumping ground full of empty alcohol bottles and flat tyres. She made her way over to the duck pond, now a swampy stench filled bog. She sat on a small bench not far from it. Rotten and missing slats of wood, it was the only bench that had not succumbed to mindless graffiti and burning. It was cold and damp as she sat down. The ancient wood creaked under her weight in protest.
The bench was only big enough to seat two, and she dearly wished that she had someone to sit next to her. But there was no one around.
In 1969, the Doctor sat on the bench, on a warm evening, looking far into his past. He barely noticed as a warm presence joined him on the bench. He just kept staring far beyond the duck pond, eyes unfocused and unseeing.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be so selfish and thoughtless."
He awakened slightly out of his daze and turned his head slightly so that he could see Martha out of the corner of his eyes.
"D'ya think you could forgive me?
He gave a noncommittal shrug and settled his facial features into a frowning pout. She was looking at him intently and he could feel the guilt and sorrow radiating off of her. He breathed deeply, trying to sort through his emotions. She hadn't meant anything by it after all, she just hadn't understood. She didn't fully now, but she understood as much as he was willing to allow her to. She was trying, that much was obvious. She was still looking at him, silently, judging his mood and whether he would forgive her or not. She had that sorrowful look on her face again, almost pity but somehow not, as if she had realised that he hated to be pitied. Now her look was of regretful understanding. It was a much easier look for him to receive. It wasn't infuriating in the slightest. She was just trying to help and reassure. He could accept that.
He turned his head just a fraction closer towards her, still not looking at her but past her, but he was letting her in slightly further. The frown broke into a soft smile and he placed his hand on his knee, palm open facing up, a silent invitation.
She allowed the sadness to leave her own face and adopted an understanding and compliant smile, not dissimilar to the Doctors. She put her hand in his, lacing their fingers together and bent her head down to rest on his shoulder. He lowered his cheek to rest on the top of her head, and the two of them sat together, simply being there in each other's company, watching the ducks.
Susan remained there, frozen within as well as out, watching the ducks in her mind that hadn't been there for hundreds of years.
She hated the 22nd century. Absolutely loathed it. It was a broken and desolate era that reflected in anyone who stayed there for a prolonged period of time, for she was just as broken and desolate as the environment around her.
She was defeated.
Everyone left her, in the end.
The sky was darkening around them and the Doctor and Martha still sat there together. Martha gave an involuntary shiver as the temperature began to slowly drop. He looked down at her thoughtfully and gave her hand a little squeeze.
"Come on you, we don't want you to catch your death do we? Back to the flat."
She buried her head further into his shoulder for a moment, clearly comfortable and not quite willing to move. She did move away eventually though, to look him in the eye.
"You forgive me then?"
He gave her a warm smile of assurance.
"Make me a banana split and we'll see!"
Grinning, she hauled herself to her feet and turned back to the Doctor with happiness sparkling in her eyes.
"It's a deal Mr Smith!"
They linked their arms and set off towards the flat, the Doctor, unknowingly walking away from Susan once again.
A.N. I'm really pleased with how this turned out. The plot bunnies just bit me after watching 'Blink'. It's taken me a few days to do, strangely listening to Metallica as I wrote it. Don't know why. Crazy! Anyways, what do people think? Love it or hate it, I won't know unless you tell me so take the opportunity. Please?!
And thanks to my mum who came up with the concept of gilver and bought me edible ball bearings to munch while writing!