Standard disclaimers apply.


The Doctor walked out into the bright sunshine, still trying to empty sand out of his pockets. After the endless, bright dessert of the dead planet, a little English village was absolutely perfect. The trees were a bright, almost overwhelming green, and birds were twittering happily in the afternoon light. Really, he wanted to go and find Donna. Even if he couldn't talk to her. Just… Find her. Or Martha. Anyone, just so that he wouldn't feel quite so isolated.

It had been his choice, he knew, to turn Lady Christina down. He hadn't wanted another companion. He'd been through too many, and yet… He was so very alone. It hurt to feel so utterly abandoned—a dull, throbbing ache that hadn't eased with the passage of time. But, of course, in reality, HE had abandoned everyone ELSE. He had no ground to stand on. No reason to complain.

But he still wanted to see them.

Martha would probably be best, since just catching an accidental glimpse of him wouldn't kill HER. That decided, he started making his way into town, hoping to find a newspaper. The TARDIS had said that it was 2009, but that didn't necessarily mean much.

It was a very quaint, very small little township, with people who greeted each other by name. He walked aimlessly for a while, just enjoying the relaxed, thoroughly human atmosphere.

"… I liked the other one, Amy," a young woman's voice protested, "It really showed off your figure. Worked with that one veil you liked so much, too." He glanced over to see a group of four young woman, walking in his general direction. Might as well ask them.

"But the cut was off!" another of the girls explained, "And it had too much glitter. Do you want her to look like one of those bloody fashion dolls?"

Smiling, he intercepted them. "Hello," he began brightly, "Hate to bother you, bit of a crazy night—you would not believe my hangover—but what year is it, again?" The girls all stopped and stared at him. "It's important," he added, his tone mildly apologetic.

All of the girls just continued to look at him; one even took a small, nervous step backward. Finally, one of them--a girl with longish, deeply red hair and pretty, even features-- spoke up, her tone challenging. "How can you not know what year it is? Nobody can get that smashed." Her voice had a slight hit of an accent to it, but she was suppressing it enough that he couldn't tell what it was.

"Not on alcohol, maybe," he told her. Everyone but the redhead took a step back at that little proclamation. "However, plenty of other things kill brain cells at a more aggressive rate, which can easily result in substantial memory loss, which could easily make someone—say, me—temporarily uncertain of the exact year," he concluded pleasantly.

And then he noticed her expression. Her eyes were narrowed, and she was looking at him like he was some sort of puzzle or trivia game. "You're mad," was all she said, though.

He beamed. "Oh, yes. So. What year is it?"

The thoughtful frown on her face grew more pronounced. "… Why don't you just go find the paper?"

"…Well, I could do that, yes," he admitted blankly after a moment, running a hand through his perpetually mussed brown hair.

"So why don't you?" she demanded, challenging again.

"You're a bit angry, aren't you?" he asked mildly.

"You didn't answer the question," she snapped.

"No," he replied, "No, I didn't. You're being rude, so I thought I'd be rude back." He beamed at her, and her eyes narrowed further. "There, now we're even! So… Date?"

She blinked, surprised out of her belligerence. "What?"

This time, he frowned at her, puzzled by the reaction. "What is the date?" He was vaguely aware that the girl's friends were slowly backing away, but didn't much care. This was rather… interesting.

Understanding flitted across her face, quickly followed by bright pink color in her cheeks. Was she… blushing? Why? "You haven't lost any brain cells," she informed him, lifting her chin defiantly.

"No?" he asked, amused.

"No," she growled, "Who are you?"

He raised his eyebrows. "Nobody you know," he told her after a moment, his tone suddenly serious.

"Oh no?"

"No. And actually, I think I will go and find the paper." Without another word, he turned and started towards a nearby shop.

"2009," she called after him. He stopped, paused for a moment, and then turned his head to look at her. "May of 2009." She had that same, odd, frustrated expression on her face.

He looked back at her for a moment, his expression unreadable, and then he grinned his manic grin. "Brilliant! Thanks! Now, you'd better get back to shopping. I love a little shop," he added absently, "Not necessarily to shop in, mind you, just… a shop." She opened her mouth to say something else, but he cast a significant look behind her and said, "Looks like your mates are leaving without you."

She immediately spun to look; sure enough, her friends were now on the opposite side of the street, insistently gesturing for her to join them while shooting furtive looks at him. The Doctor looked at her for another interested second, then started walking back to the TARDIS, whistling some sort of waltz. A second or two after that, he felt her turn back to stare at him, and waved cheekily without looking around. "See you around, I expect," he called, then rounded a corner.

He heard her let out some sort of exclamation and start towards him again, so he took off running, biting back a smile. Somehow, he felt a little less lost then he had a few minutes before. What was the old saying? Que sera, sera. If he was alone right then, chances were pretty good that he wouldn't be forever.

Whatever would be, would be.