Author's Note: Both the title and the text between segments are fondly borrowed from e e cummings' "maggie and milly and molly and may".
v. whatever we lose
"Requests?" he calls casually, tracing a hand along the console, for once at a loss as to where to go next.
Somewhere in his pocket, he knows, is a book that could tell him precisely where to go. Where they will go.
But that would be cheating.
"What's that? The universe's tour guide, out of ideas?" The woman on the jump seat tilts her head back, eyes closed, and lets out a long hmmm of thought. "A beach? We've never done a beach. Somewhere warm." She doesn't open her eyes, but her mouth twists into a sly grin. "Might even get you out of that suit."
He's grateful that her closed eyes stop her from seeing the way he flinches. "No. Not a beach."
Her head snaps up and her eyes open. She sends him a perplexed look through narrowed eyes. It's her figuring-it-out look, the precise look he loves when it's fixed on some mysterious problem and loathes when it's fixed on him. It makes him uncomfortable. He has a lot to hide and she's a professional at piecing together the past.
"Why not?" she demands.
He keeps his back to her but makes a face over his shoulder. "A beach, River, really? Have you been to a beach? All the families and the stray beach balls and the creatures in the water waiting to nibble on your squishy human toes and the sand, do you realize how hard it is to get sand out of things? There'll be sand in the TARDIS for weeks and I know she's coral-themed right now but that doesn't mean she wants sand getting everywhere."
River stares at him, arms folded, skeptical and irritated all at once, and he closes his mouth, feeling a little abashed. She's never particularly liked his rambling.
"Right," she says, and he can feel her watching his back closely. "I'm not buying it."
The Doctor shrugs. "Nothing to buy. I don't like beaches. Where else?"
She stands and moves beside him, too close for him to hide effectively. He tries anyway.
"What, can't Time Lords swim?" She's joking, trying to disarm him into arrogance and honesty.
It might have worked, if he weren't so very clever. "Oh, if it's swimming you want, I can do much better than a beach, Professor Song." He sends her a grin as he throws one lever and the TARDIS hurtles out of the vortex.
"One day you'll trust me enough to give straight answers," she tells him, confident, like there isn't any other option. Maybe there isn't.
"Trust you with my life," he quips, and pulls her toward the door.
iv. (like a you or a me)
"You did the right thing," Donna says, after she shuts the door behind her. She says nothing else, doesn't need to; he feels her in the back of his mind and he sees it in her face and he knows because he's said it himself a thousand times.
I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.
She squeezes his arm and he closes his eyes, focusing everything he can on the weight of her hand. If he tries he can block out everything but that, the soft, reassuring warmth through his sleeve. If he tries he can almost block out what has just happened, what he knows will happen next.
She lets go, and he leans back against a coral strut, opens his eyes and stares at nothing.
The TARDIS lurches beneath him as Donna steers them away from Bad Wolf Bay.
iii. down to the beach
Martha makes it up the hill before he does, the wind tossing her ponytail to and fro. He hears her cry of delight at the view and she spins around to beam at him as he makes his way up the hill in slow, long strides.
"It's beautiful," she gushes, wrapping her arms around herself against the sharp breeze. The Doctor makes it to her side and follows her gaze down the down the hill.
The ground slopes away from them, steep at first and then settling into a gentle roll. The grass itself gives way to clear white dunes of sand that stretch miles in either direction. Beyond the sand, the ocean is a sharp turquoise, the horizon line virtually indistinguishable from the alien sky above.
Martha gazes out at the beach and she's glowing under the mid-afternoon sky. The Doctor watches her and does his best to ignore the distant crash of the waves.
"All the places we've been and this is the first beach," Martha says, turning to meet his eyes, seeking the same excitement. "They can't be that rare."
The Doctor jerks his head towards the other side of the hill, the safe reprieve of grass, and starts back down. "Come on! I think the city's just beyond that tree line."
ii. as large as alone
The last gap between universes is a beach.
It's gray and windy and cold (looks cold), desolate and bleak and isolated. Appropriate, he supposes, and not entirely unexpected. The universe seems to have a distinct fondness for pathetic fallacy.
Metres away (but so much more than that) there's Rose, her hair in the wind obscuring her face. She turns, and his hearts beat wildly against their prison in his chest.
The last time, he thinks, and wonders why with him it's always last.
i. (to play one day)
The Doctor leans back against the TARDIS, pleased with the scene before him.
The temperature is warm – for humans, at any rate – and the water, crystal clear, is the perfect balance between cool and refreshing. It is a nice beach, he thinks, one of his favourites in the universe. It has the added bonus of being private, existing long before life makes its way to the tiny planet.
The TARDIS door opens and out steps Rose in a bikini that the Doctor thinks most definitely qualifies as itsy-bitsy and teenie-weenie, although it is by no means yellow or polka-dotted. She has a fluffy pink towel draped over her arm and as she squints in the sunlight she hugs it closer to her body.
Automatically, it seems, she walks out to the water's edge, looking this way and that, taking in completely alien surroundings in the marvelous way she does. He follows her, hands in his pockets.
"S'gorgeous here," she says. She looks down at her feet and wiggles her toes in the sand. She grins, tongue between her teeth, then sends him a strange look. "You're still wearing your suit."
The Doctor nods. "That I am."
She rolls her eyes, and the bright sunlight lightens her hair more effectively than the peroxide. "Who wears a suit to a beach?" She looks him up and down and shakes her head. "You're like a cartoon character. How're you gonna swim in that?"
The Doctor grins. "Well, someone's got to lifeguard. Wouldn't want any humans drowning, now, would we?"
Rose raises an eyebrow suspiciously, tossing her towel to the sand. "What, you afraid of water?"
The Doctor huffs. "Me? I'm not afraid of anything."
There's a distinct snort of disbelief, but it doesn't come from Rose. Turning, they see Mickey standing there, swim trunks on, arms folded.
"You two gonna stand there all day, then?" He drops his arms and then bounds forward. "C'mon, Rose, Chicken Legs here can just wish he knew how to enjoy a beach properly."
He grabs Rose's hand as he passes her and tugs her into the water; Rose, laughing, reaches back to grab the Doctor by the arm, and he tumbles forward with a splash, suit, converse and all.
The Doctor finds he doesn't mind.