Authors' Notes: The setting for this is somewhere mid-late Season 4 of Gilmore Girls and early Season 4 Doctor Who. I've tried to write this so that if you don't know one of the shows, you'll still be able to follow along. This was written especially for the wonderful artist alizarin_skies in thanks for the gorgeous banner she made for my live journal this summer. My apologies for taking so long to get this to you. Hopefully the end result is worth it!
Thank you to the always incredible Jewels12 who has a knack for finding the many errors I miss. Also, an extra special thank you to jlrpuck for giving this a once over for the Doctor Who content. Your comments and suggestions were incredibly helpful. I'd also like to thank rumpelsnorcack for your support and suggestions during the writing process.
There's No Time Like the Present
Lorelai assumed that the blue box was part of the latest town festival. It was sitting in front of the Gazebo, right between Miss Patty's magic punch and Kirk and Lulu's fortune telling. It was deserted so Lorelai curiously pushed on the door and it swung open easily.
"Hello?" she called.
When no one answered, she stepped inside and immediately gasped. It was enormous! She frowned, remembering what the outside had looked like. But that was impossible. Quickly, Lorelai darted back outside and circled it, her eyes narrowed. She spotted Luke passing through the gazebo and motioned him over.
"Luke, check this out!" she said excitedly, grinning.
Luke held out a brown paper bag. "I can't, I have a delivery to make."
Lorelai grabbed his wrist and pulled him forward. "It can wait. This is more important."
"Lorelai--" Luke began, but she ignored him and continued to drag him toward the blue structure.
"Okay, you see what it looks like now?"
He scowled. "It looks like a poorly painted wooden phone box that someone set up for this wacky, pointless festival of Taylor's."
"Okay, now look inside." Lorelai took the bag from his hand and pushed him through the door despite his grumpy protests.
"Jeez!" Luke's eyes went wide as he surveyed the room. "How is this possible? It wasn't this big outside."
"I know!" Lorelai opened the bag she was holding and popped a fry into her mouth.
"Hey!" Luke cried. "Those weren't for you."
"Too late. You can make more." She bit into another fry, then gestured to the giant room. "What do you think it is?"
Luke glanced at the coral pillars, the rounded copper walls, the grated floor, and the large round table-like structure that sat in the middle of the cavernous room. "I have no idea. Probably something crazy that Kirk cooked up. I'm sure it'll collapse around us in the next five seconds." He turned toward the exit. "In fact, we should go."
"Luke, wait! Look!" Lorelai grabbed his upper arm and pointed to an opening beyond the strange structure in the center of the room. "There's a doorway!"
"That's great. Let's go." Again he tried get outside.
"But Luke, don't you want to know where it leads?"
"No," he said flatly. "I want to get back to the diner, replace the meal you're eating and deliver it to Reverend Skinner like he asked."
"Oh, don't be such a spoil sport. It won't take long." She jammed the last three fries into her mouth and propelled him toward the doorway.
Donna and the Doctor wandered through the crowded square.
"Aren't small towns wonderful?" the Doctor asked as he gleefully peered at a display of homemade jam. He picked one up. "Jam!" he exclaimed joyously before setting it back on the table.
"I wasn't so sure when you landed us here, but it's turned out to be pretty entertaining. Did you see how that man in the beard turned purple when he yelled at that guy for tap dancing in front of his booth? I thought he was going to throw his megaphone at him."
"What?" the Doctor asked distractedly. "There was someone tap dancing?"
"How did you miss that? Weird looking bloke, skinnier than you." She looked him up and down and shook her head. "I didn't think that was possible." Donna frowned. The Doctor was staring at something over her head. "Are you even listening to me?"
"'Course I am. You think I'm too skinny." He scrunched up his face. "Donna, did you remember to lock the TARDIS?"
"What?" Donna blinked at him. "You told me not to. You said you were going to do it."
"Right. I did say that. Blast." the Doctor took her arm and began to walk briskly back to the TARDIS.
"What's wrong?" Donna asked as she stumbled, trying to keep up with him.
"The TARDIS door is wide open." He pointed and Donna's gaze followed his finger.
"Oh. Whoops." Donna laughed nervously.
"Indeed." They reached the TARDIS and the Doctor released Donna as he ran inside. He scanned the entire front room, then collapsed on the seat by the center console in relief. "No one's here."
Donna closed the door. "Perhaps we should go."
"Yes, good idea."
The Doctor went to the console and began to flick switches and twist dials until the TARDIS was in flight.
"Can we go now?" Luke asked impatiently as Lorelai opened yet another door in the long hallway they'd discovered. "I have customers."
"In a minute..." Lorelai waved him off with her hand and entered another room. "Oh my God! Luke, look at all these clothes." She was staring into a massive space that had row after row of clothing in every size, style, and colour.
"Lorelai," he said impatiently. "We really shou--"
The ground suddenly began to shake and Lorelai fell, grabbing at Luke as she plummeted to the grated floor. Luke managed to grasp a coral pillar and maintain his balance. The shaking stopped and he quickly helped Lorelai to her feet.
"What was that?" she asked.
"I don't know, but we should probably go and find out." Luke tried to pull her back to the hallway.
Lorelai shook him off. "You're the man, you go check it out." She made her way to the nearest clothing rack and began to peruse.
"Lorelai," he said tiredly.
"I'll be fine. The clothes will keep me company." She burried her face in a purple sweater. "Won't you, clothes?"
Luke shook his head in disgust. "You're nuts, you know that?"
"Yes. It's one of my many charms." Lorelai moved to the next rack and began to fondle a sequined skirt.
Luke sighed and began to walk down the hallway, wondering how she had manged, yet again, to convince him to do something he didn't want to do.
He was almost back to the main room they'd come in through, when a tall woman with red hair hurried around the corner and ran right into him.
"Oof!" Luke grunted, blinking down at the stranger.
She looked at him and let out a blood-curdling scream. He heard footsteps, but before he could register where they were coming from, she started hitting him as she shouted, "Get away from me! Who the hell are you?" She narrowed her eyes and lowered her voice. "What the hell are you? Are you human?"
Luke gaped at her. "Human? Of course I'm human. What else would I be?"
The woman stopped swiping at him and stepped back to give him a once over. "How come you're here?"
"I dragged him in here." Luke turned to see Lorelai coming down the hallway. "Who are you?" she asked the red haired woman.
"I'm Donna." She crossed her arms and glowered at the pair of them. "You still haven't told me why you're here."
"Donna, obviously they wandered in through the open door when we were visiting Connecticuit." A man with wild chestnut hair and a brown pinstriped suit stepped into sight as he spoke cheerfully. He approached Luke and Lorelai with an outstretched hand. "I'm the Doctor. Welcome aboard the TARDIS."
Luke merely gaped at the man so Lorelai took his hand instead. "I'm Lorelai, and Mr. Grumpy Pants over here is Luke. I thought this was part of the festival so I made him come explore with me."
"Ahhh." The Doctor nodded. "Common error. This is my ship, actually."
"Ship? As in spaceship?" Luke looked at him incredulously.
"In a manner of speaking," The Doctor replied. "It's called the TARDIS - Time And Relative Dimension In Space."
"That means he can travel backwards and forwards in time." Donna clarified.
Lorelai grinned. "We're in a time machine?"
"Weeeeeellll, it's not exactly a time machine. It's much more complicated than that, but your human minds wouldn't understand it, so that's close enough."
"Time machines and spaceships don't exist," Luke insisted. "Come on, Lorelai, these people are clearly insane. Let's go."
"Luke," Lorelai protested.
He ignored her, taking her hand and yanking her past the Doctor and Donna, through the main room and to the door.
"Stop!" Donna cried. "Don't open the door."
"Why not?" Luke growled, his fingers still on the handle.
"Trust me, you don't want to do that." The Doctor walked forward.
"Forget it. We're leaving." Luke shoved the door open and Lorelai yelped.
"That's not Stars Hollow." She stared out at a black expanse of unoccupied space.
"No," The Doctor agreed. "That's what I've been trying to tell you; we're not there anymore."
"Where are we, then?" Luke asked, his voice terse.
"Nowhere... and everywhere." The Doctor grinned.
"You're enjoying this!" Lorelai accused.
Donna rolled her eyes. "Oh, don't mind him. Speaks in riddles, that one. Most of the time I can't understand a word he says. You get used to it."
"What do you mean we're nowhere and everywhere?" Luke persisted.
"Mind if I close the door first? Don't want anyone falling out." The Doctor came forward and drew it shut before Luke could agree or disagree. "We're in the vortex. Before you ask, that's where we go between trips. From here we can get anywhere in time or space. Just have to know which buttons to press on the console." He pointed to the big circular table structure in the center of the room.
"How do we get home then?" Luke asked, not able to hide the annoyance in his voice. "I've got customers."
The Doctor waved his hand idly. "Oh, don't worry. I'll take you back to just after you left. No one will even know you're gone. But since you're here, might as well take you on a trip. Anywhere in time and space."
Lorelai's eyes lit up. "Anywhere?"
The Doctor nodded. "Anywhere."
"I need to sit down," Luke sighed. "You're making my head spin."
"Oh, by all means." The Doctor pointed to a white bench by the console. "Go ahead."
"Thanks." Luke sank into the chair, looking up wearily as the Doctor began to circle the console.
"So where should I take them, Donna? Beethoven's First Symphony? The year 34,000? The fall of Rome? A planet they've never heard of? Oh, the possibilities are endless." The Doctor looked questioningly at Lorelai. "Any preference? Past, future, far off galaxy?"
"Is there a planet of coffee?" Lorelai asked hopefully.
Luke choked, Donna giggled, and the Doctor stared at her.
"I could take you to the beginning of time, to the masterpieces of civilization, and all you want is coffee?" the Doctor said incredulously. He looked at Luke. "Is she serious?"
Luke sighed. "I'm afraid so. She has a problem... more than one, in fact."
"You'd understand if you drank coffee, Luke," Lorelai insisted.
"You don't drink coffee, Lorelai, you inhale it. It's not healthy. You're going to die a premature death with all the poison you put in your body."
"Okay," Donna interjected. "Nothing to do with coffee then. Doctor, any other ideas?"
"Weeeelll," he began, "there's always Poosh, or Venice (the planet, not the city) or New Earth, or Ancient France. The 60s were rather fun, although Wopple is rather nice this time of year."
"Oh!" Lorelai exclaimed. "The Bangles! Could we go see them live at their first concert in 1982? Or maybe the Beatles. Oh! Or we could go meet Mark Twain. Rory always loved him;, I could get his autograph for her. On the other hand, it would be pretty cool to see the future. I mean, I could find out how successful Rory is, and if my parents and I ever actually get along. Oh, we could..."
The Doctor gaped at her, then turned to Luke as she continued to prattle off suggestions. "Does she always talk so much? And so fast?"
Donna rolled her eyes and muttered, "You're one to talk, Mr. Big Gob."
"I heard that," The Doctor exclaimed.
Luke chuckled. "Oh, this is nothing. You should hear her go on about movies, television, or even pancakes. On second thought, I don't recommend getting her started. There's no off button."
"I know the feeling," Donna said, eying the Doctor.
Luke suddenly realized that Lorelai was no longer babbling. Instead, she was staring at him, a thoughtful expression on her face.
"Doctor, I know where we should go," she announced suddenly, eyes still focused on Luke.
"Brilliant! Where?" The Doctor looked at her expectantly and she gestured for him to come closer.
She whispered something in his ear.
His face went sombre and he studied her for a moment. "Are you sure?"
Lorelai glanced at Luke again before responding. "Yes. I'm sure."
"Okay." The Doctor looked slightly apprehensive. "I'll take you, provided you obey the following rules. Rule number one: don't wander off. Rule number two: you can't do anything that would change the outcome of existing events. Rule number three..."
When they landed and exited the TARDIS a few minutes later they were in Stars Hollow again, only it appeared to Luke to be several years earlier. While they wandered through the town square, Lorelai nudged Luke.
"Is that Taylor?" she laughed as she pointed to a much younger version of the man Luke hated so much. "He wore puce bell bottoms? Oh, I'm so going to bug him about that later."
Luke did a double take as a young girl with dark pigtails and a loud tie-dyed t-shirt strolled past. "Was that Gypsy?" he hissed.
"I don't know, but it certainly looked like her," Lorelai whispered.
"Weird." Luke shook his head. "What year is it?"
"1971," the Doctor told him as he started to spout random facts about the year.
"'71?" He gaped at Lorelai. "That's the year before my mom got sick."
"I know." She stopped walking and turned to him, gently placing her hand on his cheek. "I thought you might like to see your parents again," she whispered.
Luke felt his throat constrict with emotion. It was one of those times where she'd completely surprised him with her thoughtfulness. "Thank you."
She smiled brilliantly and took his hand. "Come. Introduce me." She pulled him toward the building he now knew as "Luke's Diner", but which had been forever emblazoned in his mind as "William's Hardware".
As they entered the store, the Doctor placed his hand on Luke's shoulder. "Remember, you can't tell him who you are."
Luke nodded and stepped over the threshold, his hand still gripped firmly in Lorelai's.
Donna stayed near the entrance with the Doctor, watching with interest as Luke and Lorelai approached the friendly-looking man behind the counter.
Her eyes were fixed on their joined hands. "Doctor, do you think there's something between them? They seem pretty close."
The Doctor followed her gaze and he smiled wanly. A look flashed in his eyes, not unlike the one he wore whenever Rose was mentioned, and Donna wondered if perhaps he was thinking of her. After a long pause he cleared his throat and said, "They obviously care about each other a lot, but I don't think they're together, if that's what you're asking." Again he looked sad, almost wistful.
Donna nodded and continued to study the pair, taking in the comforting way in which Lorelai squeezed Luke's hand as his father greeted them, the affectionate way in which she smiled at him, the way she studied William with curiosity and interest, the way Luke gripped her hand for support. There was definitely something more between them, but she was beginning to suspect that neither of them had acknowledged it openly.
Lorelai stood with her hand clasped in Luke's as she met the man who had raised him for the first time. A man she had heard so much about. A man whom she knew Luke had loved and admired and whom he missed dearly.
They made up a story about needing materials to build a birdhouse, and William happily led them through the store, personally picking out each item that they would need.
While Luke was counting out nails, she noticed William studying them carefully. He seemed to notice her gaze and smiled.
"If you don't mind my saying so, you two make a very sweet couple. You remind me of myself and my wife, actually."
Luke dropped the bag of nails on the floor. "What?"
At the same time, Lorelai quickly blurted, "Oh, we're not together."
William blushed. "Oh... uh... I'm sorry... I just assumed..."
"It's okay," Lorelai said quickly. There was a slightly awkward pause between the three before she added, "So, tell me about your wife."
A tiny, telling smile pursed his lips as he began to speak affectionately about his wife. Lorelai was struck by just how much he must love her. It saddened her to realize that he'd lose her so soon to such a horrific illness.
The door to the shop opened and a young girl with little blond ringlets, came tearing down the aisle with a shriek. "Daddy!"
She hugged William around the knees and looked up at him with pure adoration in her eyes.
"Hi, Pumpkin," he said, scooping her up and looking around. "Where's your mother, Lizzie?"
The tiny girl shoved her thumb in her mouth and pointed a pudgy finger through the large window.
Everyone turned to see a woman with long, wavy brown hair and a pleasant face talking to a boy of about eight years old. The boy was wearing two different shoes: one orange, one purple, and his shirt was on backward. He was holding a tray of brightly coloured socks. The woman was smiling, but shaking her head. The boy's face fell for a moment as she walked away, but he quickly brightened when a young Korean woman walked past. He chased after her, failing to notice the trail of mis-shapen socks he left in his wake.
The Doctor grinned as he watched William's wife enter the store. William's gaze followed her every movement and it reminded the Doctor of how he used to watch Rose... before she'd been lost. He swallowed and forced himself to re-focus on the scene before him.
Luke was gaping at his mother, emotion stamped over his face as his eyes remained fixed on hers. Lorelai seemed to sense his mood and she immediately went to him, placing her hand in his.
Again the Doctor's mind drifted to Rose, to the countless times she'd slipped her hand in his. He closed his eyes and could almost feel her hand encircling his.
"Doctor? Are you okay?" Donna touched his shoulder lightly and his eyes sprung open.
Instantly, the images faded. "I'm fine."
The Doctor tried to pay attention as William introduced his family proudly and let Lizzie help gather the last of the bits and pieces for the bird feeder.
A few minutes later, the supplies were purchased.
They were at the door when Luke turned back to say something. The Doctor sensed that the words "Mom" and "Dad" were about to come out of his mouth, so he quickly grabbed the other man's arm and pulled him onto the stoop. With a jovial wave and a "thank you," the Doctor closed the door behind them.
Luke yanked his arm from the Doctor's grasp and glared at him. "What was that for?"
"You were going to tell them that you're they're son."
Luke continued to glower at him. "How would you know?"
"I'm a Time Lord. I know things. Do you deny it?"
"They're my parents!" Luke shot back angrily as they walked across the square. Lorelai and Donna lagged a few feet behind them. "I have a right to say what I want to them. I haven't been able to talk to them in years. Don't you get that?"
"Yes. I get that better than you will ever know."
The Doctor's response seemed to startle Luke and he stopped in his tracks. "You do?"
The Doctor took a step closer to Luke, looking at him earnestly. "Listen, Luke. Do you think I don't understand loss? If you do, you're wrong. I lost my entire family and my whole race in one fell swoop. I try to save people and I sometimes succeed, but often I fail. I've lost Rose, the first woman I've cared about in centuries, to another universe, so don't tell me I don't get it."
Luke gawked at him for a moment before his eyes filled with compassion. "I'm sorry," he muttered. "I had no idea."
The Doctor sighed. "It's okay. I'm sorry, Luke, that you couldn't tell them. It could change the future."
"I know, I'm sorry." Luke jammed his hands in his pockets and looked at the ground.
"You love her, don't you?" the Doctor asked suddenly, gesturing toward Lorelai and Donna who were waiting for them by the gazebo.
"What?" Luke stared at him.
"Lorelai, you're in love with her," he stated.
"I don-" Luke started to deny.
The Doctor looked at him doubtfully and Luke sighed. "How did you know?"
"It's obvious in the way you look at her, in the way your eyes light up when she enters the room, the way you can't seem to keep yourself from touching her..." The Doctor trailed off as thoughts of Rose again flooded his consciousness.
Luke peered at him. "It sounds like you speak from experience."
"I do," he whispered sadly.
Unable to speak, the Doctor simply nodded.
"I'm sorry..." Luke shuffled his feet.
Sensing the other man's discomfort, the Doctor took a deep breath and said, "Luke, will you do me a favour?"
"Tell her," the Doctor urged. "Tell her how you feel before it's too late. Don't wait."
Luke's eyes widened. "Rose doesn't know."
"You never told Rose how you felt before you lost her, did you?" Luke asked gently.
"No. I didn't." The Doctor swallowed slowly. "I might never see her again, Luke. But you, you've got an amazing woman within your grasp. Don't let her slip away."
Luke clenched his jaw and a ghost of a smile pursed his lips. "I won't."
"Thank you." The Doctor felt something cold and wet on his nose. He looked up to see thousands of real snowflakes drifting from the sky.
"Oi!" Donna called, her arms crossed over her chest. "Would you get your skinny arse moving? It's bloody freezing out here!"
Luke laughed as they started to walk toward the two women. "She always this patient?"
"Oh, Donna would rush a plow horse if she had the inclination. She keeps me on my toes."
They reached the gazebo. Donna was bouncing up and down rapidly, gesturing to the TARDIS while Lorelai stood with her face tilted up to the sky, her tongue darting out to catch the snowflakes as they fell.
The Doctor let Donna into the TARDIS, but his eyes remained fixed on Luke and Lorelai. He watched as Luke approached her determinedly and tenderly brushed snowflakes from her eyelashes. Their eyes met, and even from the distance, the Doctor could sense the frisson between them. He smiled to himself as Luke's head bent downward and Lorelai gasped audibly. When their lips met, the Doctor finally turned away, entering the TARDIS with a satisfied grin.