A/N: English isn't my first language, so please notify me if you come across anything weird. Enjoy!
A biscuit sat on the table. It tempted him with its delicious blandness, the crumbling texture, the yellowish-white color and the chipped-off corner. It was the last of its kind, its brothers and/or sisters had already been devoured.
But it was too heavy to lift at the moment. And he wanted to give it a proper send off, not stuff it in his mouth before for the next hyperspace jump. The biscuit went in and out of focus for a few seconds, before deciding to waver between fiery blue and cool red. He shouldn't have given that much blood, but it was the only way to make money. The ticket for the next spaceship headed for Travka Regon 312 was as secure as it was going to get in the pocket of his dressing gown. But it wouldn't leave for two hours, giving him enough time to eat the biscuit and drag himself to the gate.
The hustle and bustle of the spaceport drifted past him like a swan on an underground river. He'd figured out that as long as he ignored them, they ignored him, and it'd worked out so far.
"This seat taken?"
Arthur looked up blearily, telling his eyes to stop lazing about and actually focus on the alien in front of him. It looked remarkably human, complete with Earth-style suit and tie. He had never come across anyone with an article of clothing as useless as a tie before. Digital watches were also suspiciously absent.
He grunted something at the alien, which it interpreted as a 'no, go right ahead'. But instead of dragging the bar stool off to another table, the alien sat down. Its long overcoat dangled a foot above the floor, making it look like a shammy. The coat even had the same dirty-brown color.
Without bothering to ask the alien swiped the biscuit from the table and bit down on it.
"I beg your pardon?" Arthur finally ground out. The alien looked at the remnants of the cookie and back up at Arthur. It seemed to realize it had done something wrong, and carefully placed the biscuit back on the table. Unfortunately, it placed it on a puddle of spilt liquid and the biscuit fell apart in a soggy mess.
"Sorry about that," said the alien. "I'm the Doctor."
Arthur kept looking at the yellowish disaster area on the table and didn't notice the hand the alien stuck out. That had been his utterly and completely last biscuit. He himself was now the only edible Earth thing in at least twenty lightyears, if not more, and he preferred not to think of himself as edible, before a passing telepathic race picked up on it and decided that he'd indeed make a good after-dinner pre-midnight snack.
"And you are…?" asked the Doctor. Arthur looked up from his ex-biscuit.
"Arthur Dent," he said curtly.
"You're a long way from home, Arthur Dent," said the Doctor conversationally, but the force of Arthur's loneliness seemed to affect him.
"Yes, I am," confirmed Arthur. He didn't feel like carrying on polite conversation with an alien who'd robbed him of the last biscuit, but the man's chipper grin and the fact that he wore a tie appeased him somewhat. That, and he didn't have the energy to get up and walk away. And how did this alien know that, exactly?
"What's that you're drinking?" asked the Doctor curiously. Arthur glanced at the bottle of liquid he'd purchased on the previous flight. It tasted like the liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. He'd grown to like the taste, but like water, by now it tasted like nothing. Not even not-tea.
"Try it," said Arthur. After all, the man had already eaten his biscuit, drinking his not-tea wouldn't hurt either. He'd lost his appetite and thirst somewhere around the third pint of blood they'd tapped from him.
The Doctor took a long swig from the bottle, but his face contorted as he swallowed. "Yeuch, Sirius-stuff. Hold on, I'll get us some proper tea."
Arthur's head whipped up so fast the lights momentarily had halos. He blinked a couple of times to get rid of the sudden piercing headache.
"Tea?" asked Arthur carefully, not sure if the Babelfish had translated it properly. The Doctor nodded.
"Yes, cuppa tea. I won't be long."
Before Arthur could grab him and demand to know where in the universe he'd gotten tea from, the man jumped off the stool and disappeared in the throng of aliens. The spaceport was squeaky clean, but with hundreds of species roaming the building it looked remarkably like a dirty market bazaar.
True to his word, the Doctor didn't take long. When he returned, he carried a yellow thermos and two porcelain cups. Carefully he set his cargo on the table before he sat down again. Without a word he unscrewed the lid and poured beautiful, rich, astounding real tea into the cup. He set it down in front of Arthur before he poured himself a cup.
Arthur hardly believed what was happening. One moment he sat alone at a table, trying not to faint from blood loss, the next he was drinking tea with an alien. The alien part was hardly exciting, but the tea part was.
"Biscuit?" asked the Doctor, and offered Arthur one from a package he didn't have before. Gratefully Arthur took one and, as was ingrained by him by centuries of breeding, he dipped it into his tea.
"It's Earl Grey, I hope you like it," said the Doctor. Arthur could hardly speak when he got the biscuit out just in time to prevent it from breaking and sinking to the bottom of the cup. He savored the mushy cookie as he put it into his mouth.
"Thank you," he said sincerely. This strange man was both a blessing and a curse in a suit (with tie!). The Doctor refilled Arthur's cup of tea.
"Hope this didn't crash your computer," said Arthur after he blew on the searing hot liquid. The smell of tea was strong, and he could die happy now. The Doctor laughed.
"Nah, I'm an avid tea drinker myself. Saved me from dying, once. With all the free radicals and tannin and what not." The Doctor shook his head. "You British and your cuppa. Come for a visit? Cuppa tea. Almost died? Cuppa tea. Survived alien invasion? Cuppa tea."
"Hang on," said Arthur, but he had no idea what he was going to say next. "Hang on a sec," he said again, wrestling his errant thoughts (tea! Tie!) into submission to pay attention to the screaming voice of reason just below it. "How do you know I'm British?"
The alien got an 'oops' look on his face and he waved his hands around. "Common sense, really. Humanoid, obsessed with tea, pale skin, and let's not forget the accent."
"So you've been to Earth before?" asked Arthur. The alien seemed to hesitate before he nodded.
"Travelled here and there, yeah. Lovely place, hardly harmless, but a very promising species."
"I have one important question for you," said Arthur. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Is it still there?"
"Yes," said the alien gravely. Arthur carefully opened his eyes to gauge the alien's face, but it seemed honest. "At this point in time, it's there, with humans still thinking they're alone in the universe."
"No curved, disappearing, hyperspace-bypass Earth? I won't get there to find boghogs chomping on my thigh, a Vogon fleet ready to destroy the planet, or it simply being not there?"
"It's there," reassured the Doctor. "Dimension hopper, I suppose?"
"Not by choice, mind you. I've been told it's because of the-"
"ZZ-9 plural Z Alpha, yes. Bit unfortunate patch of Earth you come from, I'm afraid."
Arthur shrugged. He'd accepted his fate, and one day he might run into Fenchurch, who knew. He sipped his tea and looked the Doctor in the eyes. The alien had his eyebrows frowned in thought, and a look Arthur was all too familiar with crossed his face. He saw it when he looked in the mirror. Sitting across from him was a lone man, surviving whatever the universe threw his way. He didn't seem to have any more plans on what to do with it than Arthur himself.
"Reckon you can drop me off on Earth?" asked Arthur, but like he expected, the Doctor shook his head.
"Sorry, can't interfere with established events. If I drop you off now, the Earth's going to be invaded by some nasty fellows called Cybermen."
"I see," said Arthur as he took another sip. "Time traveler then?" he asked, to which the Doctor nodded.
"Time Lord, actually."
"Sounds official," replied Arthur. The Doctor made a vague waving gesture.
"You know how it is. Call yourself 'Lord' and 'Doctor' and boom- next thing you know, you're getting knighted by Queen Victoria herself. Although that might've had something to do with that werewolf…"
Arthur let the man ramble while he sipped his tea and ate another biscuit. One hour and thirty minutes to go until his flight left, but the tea strengthened him. Maybe he wouldn't need an hour to drag himself across the spaceport.
"… I've tried telling that to the Campaign for Real Time, but they refuse to understand the wibbly-wobbly concept. Keep telling me it's all a straight line. Right, where was I?"
"Time Lord," supplied Arthur helpfully. The Doctor grinned at him.
"Right, Time Lord. So: afraid I can't help you, you've got to make it there on your own. But if it's any consolation: it ends well. Might take a few years and someone else to finish the tale, but eventually, it ends."
Arthur finished the last of his tea and stared at the cup. A cough from the Doctor brought his attention back to the alien.
"I know you probably won't, and it's a long shot, but-"
The Doctor cut himself off and looked away. The loneliness was back in his eyes, written all over his face. He chugged down the last of his tea before he looked Arthur in the eye.
"If you hop dimensions again, and you arrive at the Earth, please ask the people there if they've had a Cybermen invasion recently. And if so-" The Doctor drew a deep breath before he continued. "Ask around for a girl named Rose Tyler. Tell her… Tell her I confess the same thing."
Arthur nodded slowly, etching the names and the message deep into his mind. "I will, Doctor."
After a few more seconds the Doctor grinned brilliantly at Arthur. "Thank you, Arthur Dent. You're a nice man and I hope to run across you again."
"Likewise, Doctor," said Arthur, and handed the cup back to the alien. "I appreciate the tea."
The Doctor got up from the barstool and collected the cups. "All the best, Arthur Dent," said the Doctor, and turned around.
"Good luck to you too, Doctor Time Lord," replied Arthur. Within seconds the Doctor's long coat disappeared into the throng of aliens.
Arthur heaved a deep sigh as he too got up. Immediately dizziness assaulted him, although the tea and biscuits had helped. He fingered the ticket in the pocket of his dressing gown as he mentally already readied himself for the Hyperspace jump.
But when he looked down at the table he laughed, and for a second he felt sure he'd make it back to Earth, to his dimension, his planet, his house, his own bed. He wasn't so alone in the universe anymore.
On the table sat a packet of biscuits.