Fortunes and War
Summary: 'Stop me if you've heard this one, but so a man walks into a bar…' The past: It bites. Especially when it's the present. Fitz Kreiner, beloved companion of the Eighth Doctor, encounters the Tenth…
Disclaimer: Fitz Kreiner appears in fifty-one books and a handful of Short Trips stories, even though he's not supposed to because he belongs to BBC Books and Short Trips collections are published by Big Finish. The Eighth Doctor appears in one very bad TV movie, seventy-five books, periodic Short Trips stories, as-yet-undetermined numbers of audio dramas, ditto re: graphic novels, and a reference book of his very, very own. I refuse to sit here and list everything the Tenth Doctor appears in, because it's just a waste of time. Um…I own…a Region 2 DVD of a very bad movie, the novelization of said movie, the software to play it with, seventy-five books, two audio dramas and counting, a shelf full of Short Trips collections although I'm still missing a couple of really expensive ones, the aforementioned reference book, and one graphic novel. So far. BRINGITON. (Anyone else I mention does not belong to me, either.)
Author's Note: I am an Eighth Doctor fangirl. OBVIOUSLY. I usually end up defending him to people who have read the bad (but justified) reviews of the movie, and pointing out that look, once we got some actual decent writers for the guy, he's a lot of fun…drop-dead sweet, wonderfully unpredictable, and a sneaky, manipulative, ruthless, silver-tongued liar. (The Doctor has never been nice.) And since it's impossible to spend any significant time around Eight without being exposed to Fitz Kreiner, I'm a Fitz fangirl too.
…look, this is a page-and-a-half rant that no one really wants to read. I'm just going to stop it there…
IMPORTANT CONTINUITY NOTE: Look, the Eighth Doctor Adventures and the 2005 reboot show just don't add up, all right? I've tried. They don't. So I've stolen what I liked from the books and grafted them onto the show as best as possible. Things that don't stick on nicely or just don't make sense (like 90 percent of The Gallifrey Chronicles), I have ignored. All right? Good.
ON WITH THE SHOW!
so a man walks into a bar
Fitz doesn't spot the man the minute he walks in through the door because firstly, he's busy helping the first band of the night set up their equipment, and secondly, that only happens in movies. Grow up. In fact, he doesn't notice him at all until the two men and one girl that make up said band are well into their third piece and he's fairly sure that he doesn't want to invite them back again, ever. Fitz likes rock 'n roll—real rock and roll, or at least fairly good imitations—and regulates the bands that play at his club accordingly. They can learn to play somewhere else—hopefully somewhere soundproofed.
He couldn't say why he notices the man. Perhaps it's because he's unfamiliar—Fitz has a good memory for people, always has done, and he doesn't recognize this one. Maybe it's because he's sitting alone. People who come to clubs to sit alone have a certain body language to them, and this man doesn't have that look to him. Also, those people usually sit up at the bar, so that they can fill up on drinks with the minimum of movement and effort.
Most likely it's because he can't shake the feeling that someone is paying attention to him in particular, and it's an instinct that has saved his life on more than one occasion. He can't help but hope he's not going to get shot at before the end of the night. Damage from directed-energy weapons is difficult to explain to investigating police officers, much less the coverage policy people. Big claws are equally challenging. Both have occurred before.
Fitz leaves it to simmer in the back of his mind for a few minutes while he chats with the pair of Trions on the blue couch and the former bass guitarist who hangs out at the bar on Wednesdays. A young woman who's been dancing with her gang of friends in the space cleared just for that purpose makes a joke about pulling the plug on the amplifier, and he points out that she thinks it's good enough to dance to. Fortune's attracts all types, and he's still not sure whether he notices the offworlders because they come in here particularly, or because there are more around than he thinks. Either the skies have been getting busier these last couple of years or Christmas in London has gotten way out of hand.
He cuts into an argument developing by the small staircase to the second tier, and the couple breaks it off, probably less because he's a persuasive genius and more because they're impressed that he understood what was going on even though it hadn't been in any language spoken on this planet. Fitz hadn't understood the details, actually, but he'd found that he could get the gist of almost any spoken language. Several years ago, things had gone more wrong than usual, and a very clever space-time machine had had to rebuild him essentially from the ground up. He'd gotten over the weirdness of that long ago (eventually), but there had been some good effects.
Wandering around his club as he's accustomed to doing, bouncing off people and groups like a pinball (and making a note to get a pinball machine; why in five years has he not gotten a pinball machine for this place?), he manages to catch the man's eye in the long, lit-up mirror behind the bar—and the other man looks away so fast Fitz knows something is up.
drinking to remember, running to forget
It has come to the Doctor's attention recently that he may, occasionally, be possibly sort of sometimes kind of a jerk. Maybe. This was accompanied by the assertion that you couldn't run away from everything, although he still holds that it's a valid theory because even if you can't outrun whatever you're running away from, it will still be very tired by the time it catches up, assuming you're doing it right. And meanwhile, while it had been catching up, you'd probably found something useful to make it go away.
It's been bothering him ever since he and Rose had run into Sarah Jane so unexpectedly amidst a bunch of Krillitanes. He so rarely saw people he'd traveled with once they'd gone their separate ways that he'd never really stopped to think about those people he'd left behind. She had reminded him that even though his friends did go on with their lives—as he'd always wanted them to, he had never grudged them that—they still cared about him. Which had been difficult. Which was difficult.
And ideally he should have done something about that. Tracked down the Brigadier—wouldn't have been difficult. Dropped by Yrcanos to see Peri. Called up Tegan. Looked in on Liz. Actually apologized to Mel. But what with Sarah Jane on one hand and Mickey imposing on the other, Rose had been radiating jealousy and he didn't want to make her any unhappier by introducing her to even more of the people who had shared his life in one way or another.
Besides, thinking about the people he could have gone and visited only served to remind him of all the people he couldn't. Adric. Katarina. Zoe. Jamie. Leela. Ace. Rose, so recently. Romana. Susan… And he'd shut down that line of thought before it could hurt him any further and locked it away.
And then—quite apart from the people who had died because they'd followed him, there were the people who might not even exist anymore. He told people time was always in flux, but they never believed him, because they were, on the whole, creatures of Time, within Time, who couldn't see it the way he could. They couldn't remember people who had newly never existed because for them, they never had. And he's left to remember Benny and Frobisher and Hex and Erimem, because no one else does.
But he moves on. Turns and moves forward because even a time traveler can't ever really go back. He always does. It was what he'd been doing ever since he'd fled Gallifrey in a stolen TARDIS with his favorite granddaughter—and he had assured himself repeatedly that he wasn't going to change that now.
Uselessly, as it turned out, which is why he is now sitting at a small table drinking a banana daiquiri and spying on Fitz Kreiner. If you can call sitting at a small table with a banana daiquiri in a club where people sat and drank things and interacted with other people spying, exactly. He isn't exactly hiding, although he had hidden the other chair that normally occupied the table after a couple of girls had tried to proposition him.
Fitz he could talk to, surely. Fitz would forgive him for leaving and never coming back. Fitz had loved him.
Fitz thinks he's dead. He had told Fitz that he was going to his death. The Doctor had never expected to come back from what had turned out to be the Last Great Time War, and by its end, hadn't wanted to. The Eighth Doctor had died there, but the Tenth still doesn't know whether or not to tell his best friend that he had, in a way, survived.
He'll be glad I'm alive wars with he's over and done with that part of his life. The mental din from the argument, in several of his previous selves' voices, makes his head hurt, although the music is encouraging that. The Doctor winces as the girl guitarist misses the key she was aiming at and covers it up with enthusiasm alone.
It's very, very hard to outrun your own brain.
Enough is enough. This had been a bad idea, the Time Lord decides. Digging up the past never helped; you woke up ancient and hibernating things that tried to eat you and yours and generally ruined the rest of the day. Especially his past, which is littered with more than enough potential for pain. He'd finish his drink and then go. Fitz is alive and all right and not wiped from the timeline. He can leave his friend in peace. That is now the plan.
It should be mentioned at this point that the Eighth Doctor had never believed in having a plan, because plans can and do go wrong; they only work if everyone cooperates, even the people shooting at you; and if you settle on a plan it gets difficult to improvise. One little thing can derail the entire plan, no matter how simple it actually is.
Caught up in rationalization and more than a little self-pity, the Doctor completely fails to notice the approach of one Fitz Kreiner. In fact, by the time he does, Fitz has already retrieved the second chair from where it had been hidden earlier and sat down across from him at the table.
fingertips on windowpanes
As conversation starters go, Fitz reasons, you probably can't go wrong with "hi", which was why he'd used it. Despite its immense power to invite other people to reply, however, the greeting seems to confuse the man in the pinstriped suit for a split second.
"Um, yes," he stutters, "hello. This is your place, right?" An expansive and slightly panicked gesture indicates the rest of the room.
"That's right," Fitz replies cheerfully, offering his hand. "Fitz Kreiner. Owner and host and musician—and the bartender tonight is my wife Trix."
Another split-second pause, and then, "John. So how come 'Fortune's'?"
Fitz has a selection of answers for that, but he decides to go with the truth. "Well, when I was a kid, my surname got me into trouble a couple of times." More than a couple, more like his entire childhood and most of his adulthood until the age of twenty-seven, when he cheated by running off to the stars with an alien time-traveler, but that's a fact he's going to leave out. "Y'know—German last name, not a recipe for popularity back then. I used Fitz Fortune as a stage name. Still do."
"You're better than them, I hope." It's teasing rather than critical—there's a grin. It's an infectious expression, and Fitz can't help but match it.
"You know, I had a nightmare like them, not long ago," Fitz jokes, entirely truthfully. "Stick around," he challenges. "See for yourself. Some of my friends and I are playing later."
They talk music for a little while—the other man knows his stuff. Fitz likes his new friend almost instantly, enough to reveal that he writes about a third of the songs his band, Jam Tomorrow, plays. Some of the people in here doubt that anything written by someone without thirty CDs over the last thirty years to his name can be any good.
"You play every night?"
"No—there aren't enough decent bands to fill a week every week, especially when I have to drop groups like this." They both roll their eyes at the exact same time and exchange grins again. "We play Wednesdays and every other Saturday. We played last Saturday, so not this week."
"So you're playing next Wednesday?"
The trio on stage crash-lands on the ending of their song without a parachute, meaning it's time for Fitz to step in. He excuses himself and heads over to the small stage to move them off and his friends from Jam Tomorrow on.
It's only later when they're packing their equipment away with much moaning and groaning about the weight and Fitz is dreaming idly of the air amps on Hitchemus that he thinks to look back over at the table. It's empty.
There's no reason for that brief conversation to bother him for the rest of the night, through closing and racing home before the rain stops threatening and starts doing that falling thing, but it does. He chalks up the feeling that he's missed something to finding out that the disaster trio has walked off with some of the club equipment.
playing telephone underwater
Fitz is sitting at the bar. He's sitting at the bar holding a glass of something dark. When he puts it to his lips and sips experimentally, he recognizes it at once—chocolate martini.
Oh, god—even in the dream, his stomach clenches and he closes his eyes, missing his best friend all over again. The Doctor had loved chocolate martinis. God knows where he had gotten the recipe. Possibly he had made it up.
Clearly, it's going to be that sort of a night, because a hand rests on his shoulder. Even dreaming, he knows that touch, the feel of delicate fingers that could rewire a bomb or soothe a child, fly a spaceship through a battlefield and play the violin like a god. Keeping his gaze on the surface of the bar, Fitz covers the Doctor's hand with his.
"I miss you," he says finally. It says everything.
"Fitz," the Doctor, his Doctor, calls him softly. "Look at me."
Fitz looks up, straight ahead, at their reflections in the mirror behind the bar.
The Doctor is as he always was, a handsome, pale man with a narrow face and musician's hands, long curls perpetually disheveled, blue eyes that could see into a man's soul bright. Fitz has seen him exhausted and bleeding, grieving and battered, filthy and furious, travelling from disaster to catastrophe for years, but he has always been beautiful.
Fitz has aged a bit since he saw the Doctor last, is over forty now when he met the Doctor at twenty-seven. In the mirror, he sees a tall, lanky man with a nose that's a sliver too long for his face and rough-cut, shaggy light brown hair, wearing the latest in a succession of leather jackets.
Behind them, the club is—there is no club. It's all black, and rolling, like the middle of the ocean at midnight under storm clouds, when the wind has arrived with a vengeance but the rain is dawdling somewhere else. Fitz doesn't want to look at it; it hurts his brain. Instead, he looks into his own pale grey eyes, which hurts his heart instead. And he remembers, grieving.
"I can't," he says suddenly, words from five years ago rushing to be spoken again. "I can't accept that. Don't ask me to believe that. I won't. I can't!"
In the mirror, he can see the pain in the Doctor's blue, blue eyes, bright against the darkness behind him. "You have to, Fitz. Don't you dare waste the rest of your life looking for me. I'm not coming back. Not from this."
"Yes you will," Fitz had protested, and did again. "You survive! I can't count how many times I've given you up for dead and you've turned up alive again."
"Not from this. Nothing's walking out of this war, Fitz, and certainly not me."
"Then why don't you just not go?"
"Because if I don't, something might come out of it, something I could have stopped. And I have fought too hard to stop now and watch the universe burn just because I wanted to live."
It had broken his heart then, because he'd known it was true. The Doctor couldn't stop; could never stop doing what he did because the instant something collapsed, he would blame himself for not being there.
"Take me with you," he'd said, begging to commit suicide just to follow his best friend just that little bit further.
In the dream, Fitz bites back the tears he'd shed that day and holds his friend's hand a little tighter.
"Fitz," the Doctor calls him again, "You know me. Look at me."
Confusion breaks through the memory of pain, because the words are wrong. Fitz has very clear memories of that last conversation, that day he lost the man he'd loved more than his own life. He looks again at the mirror, sees his own face reflected back at him, and the Doctor beside him, with the darkness, with the pain, coming for them. In the mirror, in the memory.
"I know you," he repeats, no more than a breath given form. "Doctor?"
Fitz turns and looks at the man beside him, but the familiar face is not the one in the mirror.
He wakes with tears blurring in his eyes, and for a moment believes the dream is still real, because the darkness—like the sea under storm clouds—is still dark. It takes the flash of lightning outside to remind him that the storm that had been threatening to break when they came home from Fortune's has done so, and from the looks of things, knocked out the electricity for miles.
Trix is still asleep next to him, so he doesn't get up. Besides, without the lights he'd probably trip over something anyway. Instead, he lies there and listens to his wife breathe and the storm above them roar and tries not to think about the Doctor.
A futile task if there ever was one, certainly. It has taken him years to stop missing the man with every breath he takes, to stop expecting to see him every time Fitz looks up from some task he has been concentrating on.
Fitz knows he can't forget, but during the day, he can pretend.
He finds that he can't stay in bed, not with the dream so clear in his memory. Risking falling over something in the dark, he makes his way out of their bedroom and navigates around a useless lamp mainly by touch. He collapses onto a sofa and grinds the heels of his hands into his eyes in an attempt to focus.
Once, a race descended from humans and calling themselves the Remote had taken Fitz and gradually remolded him into an entirely different person who called himself Kode. The TARDIS had restored him to himself eventually, but the space-time ship, with doubtless the best of intentions, had gotten a couple of things wrong inside his mind. He still never forgets where he put his keys, for example, and the universal translation that the Ship's crew enjoyed has been permanently switched on in his brain.
And all his dreams make sense.
Except when they blatantly contradict one of the cornerstones he'd built his life on these last five years. Could it be possible? Surely not, Fitz immediately reminds himself, before the seal on that well can break open again.
Somewhere deep in his memory, Sam is talking to him. Blonde Sam, girl Sam, Samantha Jones, who had been traveling with the Doctor when Fitz had first met him. She's talking about meeting another being like the Doctor, a woman from the same race. And she's saying that she changed…
Come to think of it, Compassion had said something similar. He hadn't listened at the time, too worried about the Doctor, and frankly, his own chances of survival, to pay attention to Compassion being an arrogant know-it-all who could dismiss the war right behind them just because she happened to be well-nigh indestructible at that point.
For a moment, Fitz believes, but the flare of hope, of joy, collapses under the ruptured dam of skepticism and missed opportunity. Even if it is true—and it can't be; Fitz knows the Doctor, and that wasn't him—he knows all too well that the Doctor never appears in the same place twice. He moves on, goes somewhere new and different.
His plunge into despair is pulled up short by Trix joining him on the sofa, ruffled from sleep and wearing a terrycloth bathrobe. Her green eyes are sleepy, devoid of whatever makeup she's experimenting with this week.
"Why are you even awake?" she yawns. "And how long has the power been out?"
For a minute, he considers telling her about the dream. After all, she too had travelled with the Doctor. She had stowed away aboard the TARDIS, in fact; they hadn't known she was there for quite some time. More importantly, Trix understands how Fitz feels about him.
Perhaps most importantly, his wife is an expert in deception—a con artist of the highest caliber. She bartends at Fortune's for fun, when she's not working on some high-level scam or juggling financial predictions from the future with their friend and mutual former traveler Anji, and to humor him more than anything.
"Trix," he starts slowly, and then stops again, not sure what he wants to do with the sentence. Finally, he settles on, "Trix, if you saw someone you didn't recognize, but you thought he was familiar…what would you do?"
She considers it, twirling a finger into her short-cropped blond hair. "That would depend on whether he was an ally or a rival, I suppose. If I thought he was a danger to me, I'd disguise myself and watch him for a while until I knew more."
"And if he was a friend? I mean, maybe if he was? Because, I dunno, maybe he's not."
"If he was really a friend or an ally, he'd contact me." Another pause for thought yields, "but maybe he doesn't recognize me either… I'd send him a signal that he'd recognize but no one else would."
The rain blocks any view through the windows of their flat, and the darkness renders anything else invisible, but Fitz stares at the glass pane regardless. "Yeah…you trust your instincts, right?"
For his pains, he gets a flat green stare that always reminds him of a sarcastic cat, assuming there are cats that aren't sarcastic. "Of course. Don't you?"
He is spared from considering his own instincts by a sudden memory that brings a slow, hopeful smile to his face.
"You play every night?"
"…Wednesdays and every other Saturday…
Fitz will play that Wednesday night if he has to rise from the grave to do so. He is not yet ready to believe that man is the Doctor, but if his dreaming mind has seen fit to connect them…maybe he's a friend. And if he knows the Doctor…Fitz knows just how to get his attention.
He doesn't let himself hope that the connection is much simpler. Not yet.
songs never finished
There are lousy ways to time-travel, Fitz knows. Exhibit A: Preservation in strange ice that he hadn't understood the chemistry of at all and had only escaped from because the Doctor and Anji had refused to believe that he was dead. (Don't ask him how it works.) Exhibit B: Handheld coffee maker that turned out not to be a time machine after all, just a container-slash-delivery system for a mind-altering substance that only made you think you'd traveled in time. (Anything unclear about that?) Exhibit C: C for Cold. (He'd rather not think about that one, as it's tied in with the Remote and Kode and that whole incredible mess.) Exhibit D: Jamais the time-breathing not-a-dog. (Look, it's a long story.)
Given time, Fitz could probably come up with Exhibits E through U, at least, but Exhibit V would have to be: living through it.
That one sucks.
He fills the time—some of it, at least—by teaching the house band an old song he'd written a while ago but never played for anyone before. He doesn't tell them how personal this song is to him; they're his friends, but some things you just can't explain to people who don't already understand. They work on the music for a couple of days, since the song had originally been written, by Fitz, for one man (Fitz) on guitar, rather than two guys playing guitar, a keyboardist, and a drummer with a penchant for cymbals.
He tells her to cut down on the cymbals for this one song and they argue about that for a while, too.
They get it smoothed out to his satisfaction by Sunday and Fitz is left to consider chewing on his fingernails as a method of making the days go by faster.
Now there's a lousy method of time travel.
Monday is filled with club business, because while drinks are important and food is nice too, lights are pretty blasted critical after the sun goes down. For a while on Tuesday, he tries to work on the same song that he's been writing now and again for the last twelve years or so. He ends up playing the same six-note theme over and over again, getting stuck where he always does: trying to describe the indescribable in some words and music. All the orchestras of Hitchemus wouldn't be able to play it properly, even if the tigers played too. He settles for those six notes, looping and looping, trying for variations.
Somewhere in the middle of all that, Trix takes her laptop and declares that she's going to go sit on the futures trading floor of Anji's financial building, where it's probably quieter.
"I don't know the ending!" he calls after her. "How am I supposed to finish it when I don't know how it ends?"
She catches the door with her foot before it closes behind her and sticks her head back around the corner. "Fitz, find a better excuse. That's the same reason you've been giving for not finishing that song for years now." This is true.
"Maybe some things just aren't meant to end," Fitz points out as she lets the door close behind her. The idea pleases him so much that the part of his brain that turns emotions into music launches his fingers into a brand new musical phrase. The words don't catch up with the notes for another hour and a half, but he likes them when they do. Considering that that's more than he's gotten written in all of last year, it's a significant accomplishment.
At this rate, he should be finished with the song right before his funeral, and its first performance will be at his gravesite. But he wants to get it just right, and sometimes things happen sooner than you think, even when they seem impossible. It is, after all, why he started writing it in the first place.
Sail on, sailor, sail on;
Still listening for your siren song.
Tomorrow is your only home…
Fitz thinks about tomorrow, and writes new music.
fire in the darkness, music in the silence
He doesn't want to walk through this door. Walking through this door means that he has to face his own past. He has to hurt a friend. He has to hurt. If he walks through this door, his life is going to be much more complicated in the very near future.
He curses himself for a coward, and walks through the door.
The Doctor knows he's in the right place, at the right time. He checked this time, confirmed his location before stepping into anything that would keep him from correcting. The Doctor has made that mistake too many times to make it again now (although he's reasonably sure it won't keep him from making it again in the future).
Fortune's is comfortably busy again—he doesn't stand out. He's just another person looking for a way to spend some time in the company of other people and music and drinkable fluids, the Doctor decides, and as usual completely fails to make himself believe it. He falls back on his usual strategy: relying on other people not jumping to more imaginative conclusions. Given the choice, most people would rather believe 'slightly odd human' over 'perfectly normal centuries-old nonhuman time traveler, thank you very much…and who are you using as a baseline for normal, anyway?'
Also, Trix has learned to mix a mean banana daiquiri at some point. He'll have to ask her about that at some point, if he manages to get back on speaking terms with her husband.
The lights are dimmed, except on the low stage where a couple of guys are hauling equipment around with the matter-of-factness that characterizes veteran performers. One of them is Fitz; he doesn't recognize the other man. By the time they've gotten everything arranged to their satisfaction and dragged their keyboardist away from the spirited argument about (probably) cricket or (possibly) football that's currently dominating the entire bar, the Doctor has sneakily acquired his own table by sitting in the only chair at it.
It may be his imagination, but the Doctor can't help but notice that Fitz is keeping a careful eye on the crowd in between fixing the wiring to one of the microphones. If he's guessed, if he knows, if he's specifically looking for the Doctor, it's not doing him any good. There are people milling around everywhere, in all directions, and there are too many of them for him to spot one seated man in between them all. He's impressed—most people, unless they actually see him change, can't pick him out of a crowd, unless he says something stupid or is wearing something that doesn't match the period (or possibly itself, which happens), but he's not. The pinstripes are perfectly acceptable for this time and place.
In fact, Fitz doesn't spot him until they're about to start. The Doctor knows, because his old friend freezes entirely for a moment, keeping eye contact more out of shock than intent.
And then the moment passes, and the Doctor can't help the grin.
Just once, just this once, Fitz does something he'd sworn never to do; says something he's never said sober, because maybe—maybe… He places one hand over the microphone so that no one will hear and whispers, almost silently, something almost like a prayer.
"God of this world," he whispers, "please."
"Hey everyone," Fitz says through the open microphone with his I-like-all-of-you grin in full force. "We played this one a couple months ago, but if you weren't here then, you haven't heard 'Contains Spoilers' before. And if you were…well, here it is again."
Jam Tomorrow strikes up the music. Fitz launches into his song. And the Doctor's head snaps up so fast he can feel the bones in his spine crack.
I've travelled to the past, sweetheart,
And I've been to the future, too.
Once, a few hundred years from now,
I thought I'd ask after you.
An obvious formality
Because our love was oh so true.
Together for eternity.
That shows how little I knew.
I saw your file in black and white
Describing everything you'll do.
And read you won't wait for me.
I would have waited for you.
It's a good song, the Doctor has to admit as the music goes on. He's heard a lot of Fitz' music, as a consequence of living with the man for over ten years (roughly), but this one is new to him. And obviously, he's the only one here—except for Trix behind the bar—who knows that it's not just a narrative conceit to make the story work. It's still making his hearts beat faster than they should be beating.
You'll leave me, but no hard feelings, Fitz's song concludes:
Because I've had my sneak preview.
You've moved on in your life, so I
Won't spoil its twist ending for you.
If Fitz is trying to get his attention, he's got it, but the next four songs are fairly innocuous. One he recognizes as one of Fitz's older songs; the title escapes him at the moment. The last time he'd heard it, they'd been picnicking on Hitchemus, lying in the grass getting utterly punch-drunk on sunlight and peace and more than a little wine. The other three are unfamiliar.
"We've got one more song tonight," Fitz announces, fiddling with the microphone he's been singing into. "This one I promise you've never heard before. I wrote it years ago, but it's never been played in public until now. In fact, it didn't even have a title until last week. Now the piece of paper I had it on has 'Transformations' written on it."
He plays a brief passage, and it's immediately clear that no matter how hard he tried to write the rest of the band into it, this is a song for one man.
I never prayed when I was small:
I never saw the point of it all,
Shouting at an empty, distant sky.
No one answered, no one came;
Days and nights were all the same,
I never even stopped to wonder why.
Going nowhere, had no past,
Lived in the moment, thought it would last;
Built my life upon the shifting sand.
When things went wrong, as things will do,
For a moment, I blamed you
For all the things I didn't understand.
You took my hand, said, "come with me.
See the world the way I see.
It isn't always how it's always been."
Still don't know why I said okay,
But it all changed for me that day,
And if I could, I'd do it all again.
I've seen things you can't imagine and been places stranger still:
I never dreamed of half the dreams you taught me to fulfill.
There are miracles I've made myself and others I've been shown
—and I've forgotten so much more than I ever could have known.
I've made some friends I won't forget,
Some enemies I still can't, yet—
Kept the secrets that I swore I'd keep.
Wonders that I'd never dreamed,
Things sometimes I'd swear they seemed
To haunt my days and hunt me in my sleep.
Fitz stops singing for a moment, letting the music bridge the gap on its own. When he resumes, the tone has changed.
One day someone asked me if I regretted it at all:
If I could change a single thing, would I make that call?
I thought it over for a time ('bout half a quarter note),
Said I'd never change a word of the lives we wrote.
I lied to her, I'd change one thing; maybe you'll know one day.
Stranger things have happened than hearing words I didn't say.
I never told you that I loved you, or said thanks for what you did;
I think you knew (I hope you knew) those things I shoulda said.
I never prayed when I was small,
But I was answered after all—
You gave me that vast, amazing sky.
Loved you more than I can say,
So when we meet again someday,
I'll know I was right to never say…
The note hangs there for a moment, floating, before plunging back down into an echo that sounds more triumphant than wistful.
I was right to never say goodbye.
Oh yes, the Doctor thinks, Fitz knows he's here, and he's being very thoroughly guilt-tripped. Not only that, but it's working.
This is going to be tough.
if you love me/if you trust me
It's later. Musicians and dancers and drinkers and minglers have all left. Fitz has cleared everyone else out by the simple method of volunteering to do all the little closing-up tasks that nobody likes to do.
Fitz now has an empty club and too many hopes—because maybe—and fears—because maybe not—and things that he wants to say all at once—because he has to know.
And no one to say them to. So he wipes down tables and tracks down wandering beer mugs and wonders what to say first.
Maybe he sees the other man out of the corner of his eye, or in the reflection in the mirror behind the bar. Maybe he just feels eyes on him. But all those things he wanted to say get lost in the urge to cry out like a child and reach out to be held. So he says nothing, and clenches his fists, and trembles.
"I didn't lie to you."
Fitz takes a second to absorb the shock of the hopes winning out over the fears, and a second more to work up the courage to turn around. The man—the Doctor—is leaning against the wall, watching him. His eyes are brown now, not blue, but Fitz knows the look in them anyway. The explanations he's built up over the last week to cushion himself from the pain should his friend still be lost crumble like walls of sand on the edge of the ocean, and he knows.
"…Please believe me."
He's going to choke on all the things he wants to say if he doesn't say some of them, so Fitz starts at the beginning—the beginning he thought was the end until last week. "I grieved for you," he says softly. His voice carries in the terrible silence between them; the space is an open wound. "Is it you?"
"If you didn't know me, Fitz, you wouldn't have played those songs tonight. They're good, by the way," he adds, his entire mood shifting for the space of a sentence before lapsing back into his original manner. "When did you know?"
Fitz doesn't let himself be confused by the switch—the Doctor he'd known had done that all the time. "I dreamed of you," he answers honestly. "And you…were you." A half-hearted gesture tries to illustrate that sentence a little better.
"I didn't know how to tell you. I almost didn't want to."
That hurts. "Why not! Doctor—do you have any idea—no! No, you don't, do you?"
"It's hard. Going back. You know me, Fitz…if I can run, I will."
He's wrong, and that kicks the anger that Fitz can't help but feel into life. "No. No, you don't." Fitz is alive today—millions of people are alive today, and some people who needed to be are dead—because the Doctor had turned and fought rather than run. "You're right," he shouts, "I do know you—I just know you too well to believe that!"
"You don't know that." It's barely aloud, almost whisper.
"You're here, aren't you? And I can tell you a hundred, a thousand times when that wasn't true!"
The Doctor turns away, bows his head in defeat. "You're right, Fitz," he says softly. "I'm sorry. I should have come back sooner. But after the War…all I wanted to do was run. From everything. And everyone."
And Fitz can't hate him. He just can't do it. Fitz knows him too well and loves him too much to start hating him now.
At some point his hands have opened from the fists they made so briefly. Almost against his will he reaches out, as if he doesn't dare to know that this is real.
His fingertips brush against the face he doesn't know of a man he does; turns it back towards him. "You're really you?" Fitz asks, needing to hear it again in case the answer changes this time.
Long fingers—different fingers—take his hand. "It's good to see you again, Fitz," says the Doctor, and smiles at him. "I missed you…I'm glad I came back."
Fitz makes a noise something like a sob, and welcomes his friend's embrace. He's pretty sure one of them is crying, but wouldn't place any bets on which of them it actually is.
All he cares about, right now, is that the man he loves like his own life isn't dead in a war light-years and centuries away. He's someone else now, not the man he used to be—but in all the ways that matters, he's the same.
Outside, it's raining, it's dark. A storm's blown into town, and it's wreaking havoc with the people, with the city.
It's outside. It can wait. There is music to write. There are reasons to write it. There's time.
"Tell me everything," says Fitz.
Afterword/Some Things: First, I had two major problems while writing this story: uncontrolled flipping between present tense and past, mostly resolved eventually; and that after two pages, my brain decided to reformat the whole thing into a graphic novel for no reason whatsoever. Now, it would have been fun to do—I can see it, laid out in my head, clear as day, camera angles and reflections, speech bubbles and emphasis, the lighting and architecture of Fortune's—but I can't draw. Second, I love writing dream sequences. You have no idea how much I love writing dream sequences. Unless you've read "Trees in the Garden" from my Death Note collection Lost Boys, in which case, yeah, you do. Third, "Transformations" is entirely written by me. Any other songs by Fitz are in the books somewhere, and while it's not explicitly stated that "Contains Spoilers" was written about the Doctor, yes, yes it was. Fourth, although pictures of Eight are easy enough to find, there are no pictures of Fitz. My stand-in is Robert Duncan McNeill. He was on Star Trek: Voyager for seven years as Tom Paris. Explains a lot. Fifth, although I live in a city known as the Live Music Capitol of the World, I know nothing at all about live music. Sixth, this story totally passes the Highlighter Test—really! Seventh, I like lists.
Suggested Reading: Unfortunately, most of the best Eighth Doctor novels are also the most expensive. I would recommend keeping an eye out for The Year of Intelligent Tigers (Kate Orman), The City of the Dead (Lloyd Rose), The Book of the Still (Paul Ebbs), and The Deadstone Memorial (Trevor Baxendale). All four are well and cleverly written, and are standalones that do not involve trying to figure out the various complicated metaplots that kept the books busy for some eight years, although City will hint about a bunch of earlier events. They'll introduce you to the Eighth Doctor under better management than the people who wrote that damn movie, as well as Fitz, Trix, and Anji. Then you can go looking for Sam Jones and Compassion in the earlier books.