The bar was dark and dingy. That was good, he thought. Zerrillia was too bright, and he'd spent a week there. So was 21st century London, although he'd only spent 19 hours there. He grimaced, annoyed that he'd allowed his brain to stray too close to where it had seemed to want to stay over the last week and a half.
He was officially boycotting the Earth. For a while, at least. Earth with its shopgirls who passed up the chance to see the universe without even thinking about it properly. And really, what for? A boyfriend that couldn't even handle living plastic and a mother who, frankly, was a bit of a harpy.
'Apes,' he muttered darkly, taking a sip of his drink.
'Banana daiquiri, please.'
The Doctor glanced at the source of the annoyingly chipper voice. A younger man was sitting on the barstool next to him.
'And whatever he's having,' the younger man added, nodding in the Doctor's direction.
'No thanks,' the Doctor said gruffly.
'Oh, go on,' the man said, glancing at him with poorly concealed amusement dancing in dark brown eyes. 'I confidently predict you're going to have at least three more drinks before you leave here tonight. Might as well let me buy one of them. Unless you're too busy brooding, in which case I'll leave you to it.'
The Doctor glared, but the newcomer just grinned, utterly unperturbed. The drinks arrived and the man sipped at his cocktail, keeping his gaze on the Doctor. The Time Lord picked up his new glass and downed the drink in one gulp, setting it down on the bar with a reassuring thump.
'Thanks,' he said insincerely, rising from the barstool and stalking away from the bar.
'Don't know what she sees in you,' the other man muttered, just loud enough to be heard.
The Doctor froze and turned. The younger man hadn't moved, but was holding his gaze in the mirror over the bar.
'What?' the Doctor asked.
'Go back for her,' the other man said, turning in his seat and leaning back against the bar.
'I'm sorry?' the Doctor said, sounding anything but.
'You will be if you don't go back for her.' The younger man's face was deadly serious now, and with the change in expression came a complete transformation in his demeanour. He seemed older, somehow. Dangerous.
'Who are you?' the Doctor demanded.
The other man tilted his head to one side. 'Who d'you think?'
The Doctor stared at him as it clicked into place. Then he strode back over to the other man, towering over him. 'Do I lose part of my brain when I become you? Do you have any idea how reckless this is?'
'Oi!' the other man – his other self – said, not sounding particularly fazed. 'Respect your elders. And clearly I wouldn't be here if I hadn't already been you, meeting me. And I'd never have done it in the first place if you'd been persuasive enough to convince her to come with you the first time you asked.' He took a long gulp from his glass and set it down on the bar.
'She said no,' the Doctor said.
'I don't ask twice.'
'Maybe you should.'
'Why? Why is she so important?' the Doctor demanded.
His future self opened his mouth to respond, then a look of mild panic crossed his face. 'Wait over there a second, will you? We've got incoming.'
The Doctor glanced over his shoulder to see a young blonde woman heading towards them. Hurriedly, he moved to one side, standing slightly behind a nearby pillar.
'There you are!' the girl – Rose Tyler – said as she reached his other self. 'Been lookin' for you for the best part of fifteen minutes!'
'Have you?' the other Doctor said. 'I was getting a drink.'
'Didn't get me one, I see,' she said, raising an eyebrow at him.
The other Doctor looked mildly chastised, then held out his glass with the remnants of his cocktail as a peace offering. Rose drained it, leaving him looking slightly scandalised.
'Who were you talkin' to just now?'
'No one. Just some bloke.'
'Oh? Coulda sworn it was-'
'Shouldn't you be dancing?' the other Doctor asked quickly.
'Should be yeah,' she admitted, ''cept my dance partner's busy propping up the bar, buying himself drinks.'
'Ah… that's because your dance partner is very tired. I lit the Olympic torch today, Rose!'
'And in fairness, I didn't buy this drink. Cheap date, remember?'
'I remember,' she said, reaching out and straightening his tie. 'So,' she said brightly, stepping back. 'You're on a secret Time Lord mission to drink the bar out of bananas...' he nodded happily. 'And I am going to dance.' She grinned at him.
'Don't go too far.'
'Come and find me when you make yourself sick and need me to carry you back to the TARDIS.'
'Oi!' the other Doctor shouted after her, watching as she disappeared into the crowd.
The Doctor watched as his counterpart reached up and ran his fingers over his tie, still looking into the crowd. Then he turned back to the bar and beckoned to the barman.
'Oh, very cosy,' the Doctor commented dryly. 'I can see why you'd want me to go back for her, pretty boy.'
'Bit ridiculous to insult yourself, don't you think?' the other said, tilting his head to one side and looking up at the Doctor. 'Plus I'm not pretty, I'm handsome. You on the other hand…'
'What about me?' the Doctor asked indignantly.
The other Doctor merely grinned as his drinks arrived. 'Ah! Take care of the bill, would you? Think of it as an investment in your future.'
The Doctor waved the psychic paper at the barman distractedly as his counterpart took the two cocktails from the bar and pushed past him. He turned, mouth open to shout after the other man, only to find the other Doctor standing just behind him.
'Bottom line? You need her. So much more than you think.' He turned and headed for the dance floor.
'What do I say?' the Doctor called after him.
'Well…' the other said, turning towards the Doctor and taking a sip from one of the glasses in his hands. 'It's not just 'and relative dimension in space'… is it? ARDIS… sounds a bit…' he affected a shudder that made the Doctor narrow his eyes, then winked. 'You'll think of something.'