Title: Point of Transit
Summary: A woman leaves her home, courtesy of a man who called himself the Doctor. At a point of transit, she meets a lonely traveler and nudges him back to a girl whose roots are always showing (Doctor/Rose). Flashbacks in italics. Also posted at LJ community timeandchips under my LJ name travelintheways (don't remember what I called it there).
Disclaimer: I own nothing of Doctor Who, except my (new) S1 DVDs!
From the strangely sweet scent of the kelly green sea to the sound of the wind whispering through orange and cream flowers, the Breeze Inn numbered among the most soothing locales in the universe for a few quiet hours. The drinks were cheap too, or so a friend had told her. The first thing Alsera noticed when she emerged from a stand of huge pink blossoms, spiky heads taller than she was – was uniformly jaw-dropping beauty of the staff, composed of more different species than she had ever seen before but all a balm to weary eyes.
One of them smiled at her and made a small bow, chittering softly in a language she did not understand. She returned the smile as she shrugged her shoulders. "I'm sorry," she said, "I don't understand. I'm not from around here, you see. A friend dropped me off, and…"
The alien pressed a long, slender digit to a point just under its head and nodded, all the while maintaining that friendly smile. Funny how she knew that gesture was a smile, however unfamiliar the creature wearing it. "Is this better?" it asked in a mellifluous voice, low and rolling like the ocean.
Alsera blinked. "Yes, thank you. How do you know my language?" Her friend had known too, come to think of it, and she had never seen anyone like him on her world. But it had not seemed strange that he should speak the Tongue of Fire, sorcerer that he was. Sorcerer that they thought he was, she reminded herself, but to her, he had revealed himself to be much more complex than that.
"It is a device," the alien replied, "At the Breeze Inn, customer service is our highest priority. Please, allow me to seat you."
The furnishings looked entirely natural, beds of ferns that had happened to grow in the shapes of couches and flat, round skeletons of long-dead sea creatures perfectly suited for tables. The alien led her to one such couch, where a small, sturdy stump sprouted from the shimmering sand beside the soft vegetation. It was the perfect shape and size for holding a drink or two, she saw with amusement.
"If there is any way I can serve you, do not hesitate to call me," the alien said and indicated a dark red shell sunken into the surface of the stump. "We are delighted that you have chosen to spend your time with us."
Alsera bit her lip. "I don't suppose you'd take tillaton… it's the currency where I'm from. It's all I have. I didn't even think…" she trailed off sadly, sure she would be asked to leave this heavenly place.
A purring noise she thought must be a laugh issued from the alien. "You're newly off-world, aren't you? Please don't concern yourself. Customer service truly is our highest priority, not profit. We will ask nothing you can not or will not give, perhaps a few moments of your time to tend to the elyses. Allow me to bring you a glass of elysambrosia."
"I don't know…" Alsera said worriedly. Her waiter seemed very nice, but what if the elyse stuff poisoned her?"
Just then, a tall man stood up from a couch like hers, hidden by another stand of the spiky pink flowers. He looked a little like her friend, she saw, similar shape and coloring, though he was dressed differently. They must belong the same species, she thought.
"It's all right," he declared, lounging against the woody stems of a flower. "It's compatible with the physiognomy of every single species in the universe. Well, every organic species, you know. Cybermen might not want to toss one back, could damage the circuitry."
She nodded faintly at the alien waiter and turned her attention to the man. At least, she thought he was a man, but it was hard to say with aliens. He – if he was a he – reminded her of the sorcerer, tall and skinny and pale and full of words she did not understand. "Thank you, whoever you are."
A quick grin flashed across his face. "You're welcome, whoever you are." He looked like he might want to say more, to stay and chat, but abruptly he returned to his couch behind the flowers.
After that conversation, brief as it was, she was convinced that this man belonged to same species as her friend. Besides the similarity in their appearance, he had understand her and had spoken to her in the Tongue of Fire, without the apparent aid of her waiter's device. She missed her friend, but she was too excited and too terrified about sneaking away from home to feel too upset. It was pleasant to think of him here, taking in the azure sunlight and drinking something cool.
"I wish she'd seen it," he said wistfully, just before dropping her off. "Woulda been a nice place to catch our breath. I don't think even she could find trouble here, and she was the best there was at finding trouble." He had worn a faint smile then, before turning to her with that manic grin she had come to know so well in such a short time.
"Right, are you sure you want to go? I could pop you back home in a jiffy, nothing to it. You could just tell 'em you stepped out for milk, or whatever it is you step out for."
She had her gloved hand on the door, imagining what lay outside. "I'm sure. I'll be fine, Doctor."
He repeated what he had told her earlier, about the friendliness of the people and the popularity of this place as a point of transit for runaways like her. "I spent some time here myself," he added. "Was at a point of transit in my own life." He gave her that look again, probing and intense, the one he had given her since the first time he saw her. " 's weird, you look so familiar, but I know I'd remember that face."
She dropped her eyes and smiled under her veil. "To be fair, Doctor, you haven't actually seen my face."
"Well…" A thoughtful expression crossed his face. "That's true."
The waiter brought her a fizzing drink, interrupting her reverie. "Thank you," she said as he set it carefully on the stump. He bowed again and left.
The bubbles tickled her and made her giggle, undignified as it was. But she had abandoned all dignity the moment she stepped out of the Doctor's box and stripped her head and hands bare. The sand here stayed on the ground, soft as dranin-spun silk under her feet, so there was no need to shield her flesh. And, she thought with equal parts melancholy and relief, she was no longer a Daughter of Fire, so she no longer had the right to dress as one
She craned her head to peer around the flowers hiding the man, to no avail. She would have liked to talk with him, the closest thing to a familiar face she would find here. In her old life, she would have ordered him to speak with her, but she had given up that power. She sighed and thought that she would have to charm him, trying not to remember that she had no idea how to charm anyone.
After taking a few deep, fortifying breaths, Alsera stood with her drink and padded over to the man's couch. He was still there, she was glad to see, staring out at the sea. His entire body exuded a clear "stay away" vibe: arms crossed, face creased in a frown, but having got this far, she was determined to strike up a conversation.
"Er, thank you," she began, "for the drink. It's lovely. Very… bubbly."
He glanced up at her. "It was nothing."
She sat down on the sand, delighted to find it was as comfortable as the fern couches. It did not chafe, as she might have feared, but remained firm and supportive under her body. "You're the third alien I've talked to," she said after a moment of silence. "Ever."
"Isn't that nice?"
"You're not as nice as the first two," she continued. "You're not from here, are you?"
Now he deigned to look at her with what looked like an impatient expression on his face. "Why d'you say that?"
She took a sip from her drink. "My friend told me this was the nicest planet in the universe."
The man made a noise that might have been a short laugh, though it sounded more like a grunt than anything. "You want nice, go call your waiter. Customer service is their highest priority," he said, mimicking the alien.
"He said this was a point of transit," she said, ignoring his rude remark. "I guess you need this place just as much as I do. Are you at a point of transit?"
At least the man was no longer pretending to ignore her. "One thing you might as well learn now," he snapped, "most people you're gonna meet don't care. This place is an exception. You think I'm not nice? Indifference is nice out here."
If she had not been alone and friendless out here, she would have left him alone. But despite his caustic bearing, there was something behind his eyes that reminded her of the Doctor, different as those eyes were.
She persisted. "I've never seen blue eyes." Until the Doctor, she had never seen anyone healthy with only two eyes, either.
This time the noise definitely was a laugh. "Not bad, eh? Never know what I'm gonna get. 's like a lottery. Never been ginger."
"Where I'm from, everyone's ginger. Except we have more of it than you. Do all your people look… bald like that?"
Those blue eyes widened in outrage. "Oi! Just because I choose to exercise a little restrain…" He patted the top of his head almost tenderly. "Least I don't have to go around dyein' it," he muttered. "Ridiculous custom… gotta touch up the roots constantly or you just look silly. Shoulda told her, before I left. Roots were showin'."
"You… you don't want me? I know we're different peoples, perhaps you do not consider me beautiful." She lowered her eyes and shifted awkwardly on her feet. If he rejected her, she would be a laughingstock and worse when she returned.
Her friend laughed nervously and ran his hand through his brown hair. She had never seen all a man's hair concentrated on the top of his head like that, like a strange flower. "No, you're lovely. Very… red. Red's nice. Vivacious and all that. Um…"
She looked up at him. "Perhaps you do not prefer women? If that's all, I have many brothers. Surely one of them will be to your taste."
He loosened his tie and glanced around wildly. "No, ah, it's not that. Taste, I mean. Nothing to do with any of you. Funny how so many different species evolved via two-sex reproduction, isn't it? Millions of 'em. Billions. It's like someone meant for all of you to get out into space and go shag. Ahh…" He was babbling, going on about something Alsera couldn't quite catch. "Not that I want to shag. 's nothing personal."
"Oh!" she exclaimed, suddenly understanding. "There's somebody else you wish to… to shag." She blushed for using such an unpoetic word.
"No!" he yelped. "Well… no one in this universe. Doesn't matter."
"But there is someone."
He waved his hand in a dismissive gesture, but when he spoke, the casual note in his voice was forced. "Just a friend. She's back with her family, where she belongs. Better for everyone that way." He sounded like he was trying to convince himself. He also sounded like he was failing.
She tilted her head and smiled. "Is she beautiful?"
He looked at her intently for a moment, then shook his head. "We-e-e-ll," he drew out the word, "depends who you ask. Pretty ugly for a Slitheen, I should say. Too short, too yellowy-pink. Didn't smell like one either, lucky for everyone."
She sat gracefully and folded her hands in her lap. The Slitheen must be another species he had encountered during his travels. But she knew how to deal with evasiveness, and she was determined to hear about this woman who had stolen the sorcerer's – the Doctor's, she reminded herself – hearts. Or heart?
"I'm not asking a Slitheen," she said imperiously, "I'm asking you. Is. She. Beautiful?"
He took in a breath and blew out his lips. "She… sometimes she wore too much mascara. Eyelashes looked a little like spiders, you know. And her roots were always showing. How is that possible? Always the same centimetre of root. One of the mysteries of the universe, Rose's roots."
"Is Rose beautiful?"
He sighed. "She's a goddess. I was lucky to know her."
"Why don't you? Tell her, I mean."
He snorted. "Remember what I said about indifferent? Anyway, 's none of your business."
She tilted her head in that same quizzical gesture. "My drink wasn't any of your business, but I'm glad you said something. I'm glad I listened."
"I'm glad I went back. Everyday, I'm glad I went back." He forced a laugh. "I like to think she was glad too, 'spite of everything. Nearly got her killed more times than even I can count, but I saved her, didn't I? She saved me too, in more ways than she knew."
"What is this, the great advice exchange? I give you mine, you give me yours?"
"Just tell me," she insisted, "will it hurt to tell her?"
He crossed his arms tighter and glared across the ocean. "Maybe. You never know what you'll run into in London. This time, was plastic with delusions of world domination. Barely got out of that alive. Might not have, if not for her and her gymnastics and her roots." A grudging note of respect coloured his pouting tone.
No, this man definitely was not her Doctor, but the girl he was describing sounded so much like her Doctor's Rose. It was impossible, of course, but perhaps a greater purpose had brought the Doctor to her, to talk about his Rose. Perhaps she had come here to give this man the nudge he needed to go back to this girl, roots and all.
She tried to sound careless. It would not work to try to bully this man into doing what was right, so she would have to manipulate him a bit more subtly. "Oh, she's good at, er, defeating imperialist plastis?"
"Plastic," he corrected. "Not bad for a shop girl. Good at runnin', too."
"That's important," she agreed, remembering how much the Doctor had to run while saving her people from certain destruction. "She's skilled at running, defeating plastis, gymnastik…. Perhaps she other skills as well."
"Gymnastics," he said absently. "Maybe. Doesn't matter, though. She didn't want to leave Ricky and her beans on toast and Eastenders. Coulda traveled throughout the universe, but no, Ricky needs to hide behind somebody, might as well be her."
Her expression of amazement was only slightly feigned. "You can travel through space?"
When he saw her surprise, a faint flicker of his earlier smile crossed his face again. "Not just space. My ship can travel to any moment in time, just like that." He snapped his fingers. "Don't think I mentioned that," he said wonderingly. "Might've forgotten, in the excitement of saving the Earth. 's completely understandable."
"Of course," she replied. "It's only fair that she knows that before she makes up her mind once and for all."
"You're right." The man rose to his feet and nodded decisively. She stood, surreptitiously brushed sand from her clothes, and waited to see what he would do next. "Thank you. Enjoy your drink."
"Thank you. Maybe the roots will grow on you."
He chuckled, staring into the sky and squinting against the light. She was sure that he was already planning what he was going to say to her when he found her again.
"Doubt it," he said, but a very familiar manic grin was beginning to surface. "Cheers!" he called, striding quickly in the opposite way from the direction she had come.
She waved and settled herself into his couch. The ferns were still warm, and her drink was still bubbly. One the sweet-scented breeze, she heard a familiar grinding noise and stared at the distant towering flowers in astonishment. She wondered how many more of these two-eyed, bald time travelers she was destined to meet, but her reverie was cut short as another figure entered the Breeze Inn. An alien waiter led a figure swathed in soft, rich-looking purple and frothy white to a couch. Alsera smiled and turned to watch the green waves break on the shimmering sand.