Author's Note: This one-shot is set the evening of Blast To The Past Ch 4, which also explains the Inspector Burnside reference later in this story. A very special thank you to WhoMe-2 who so kindly gave me feedback when I wasn't sure what worked and what didn't. :)
Disclaimer: I do not own anything in relation to Dr. Who, Dell, The Flintsones or Atari.
Lad's Night Out
"Thanks for helping me set up my computer, Doc," greets Jack as he lets the Doctor into his flat. "I really appreciate it."
"No problem, Jack," he replies with a sincere smile. "With all of the moving that you've helped us lot do lately, it's the least I can do." He spins on his heels to face Jack and eagerly rubs his hands together. "Now, where exactly is the little beauty?"
Jack leads the way over to his desk in the living room and declares, "It's right over here, Doc. Check out my new Dell!"
The Doctor studies what he assumes is meant to be a computer. Fading letters on the keyboard, frayed wiring and a half-blackened screen for something that's not even plugged in aside, he doesn't need any special Time Lord senses to know that they're going to have trouble.
With a system so antiquated that even the Flintstones would protest, the Doctor is actually surprised not to see any Atari paddles sticking out the sides of the terminal. Huh, ponders the Doctor. Terminal. Never has a word seemed more appropriate.
"This is not a Dell," asserts the Doctor.
"Sure it is, Doc," affirms Jack. "The brand name is marked right here."
The Doctor's gaze follows Jack's finger and he reads the name that he's pointing to on the keyboard. He sighs and presses his hands against his eyes while stating, "That's not a Dell, Jack. That's D-E-L for delete. It's the delete key."
Jack's enthusiasm instantly fades as he mutters, "Oh. Then what is it?"
The Doctor takes a deep breath as he contemplates the equipment before him. "There aren't words to describe it really, not even in my native language. To put it succinctly, it's a piece of crap."
Jack's temper begins to flare. "Seriously? Damn it! There's twenty pounds that I'll never see again!"
"Twenty pounds?" asks the Doctor in astonishment. "You overpaid. Where did you find this junk anyway?"
"One of Mr. Mott's friends owns a shop. He said that his friend would give me a good deal," answers Jack. "Here's their card."
The Doctor shoves his glasses on and inspects the card. It states THE TYME AGENCY. DISCOUNT OUTLET FOR CERTAIN PROCURED ITEMS. NO QUESTIONS ASKED.
The Doctor scans the rest of the card before he looks pointedly at Jack. "This didn't seem at all dodgy to you, Jack? The fact that their policy is 'no questions asked'? That they list a password that you need just to enter the store?"
Jack's brow furrows in confusion. "I thought that meant that they catered to a select clientele."
Yeah, agrees the Doctor silently. Like morons, idiots, dolts… The Doctor rubs the back of his neck and says, "Don't worry about your computer, Jack. I'll put one together for you. I just finished building one at home from scratch." He surveys Jack's apartment. "How solid are your walls?"
Jack merely responds with a curious look. The Doctor glances around the living room and questions, "Did you buy anything else at that shop?"
"A few things," Jack replies. "I bought a watch with a rather large leather strap that makes it look more like a wrist band. It doesn't really work all that well. Every time that I use it, I seem to lose all track of time."
Jack catches the Doctor's worried gaze and hastily adds, "I don't go in there too often though. They throw so many offers at me when I walk through the door that by the time I leave, I can never remember what I came in for."
The Doctor states at Jack for a beat before he pulls out his cell phone and dials Rose's number. "Hello, love. It's me. Can you run a background check on the Tyme Agency? Yes, I know that you said that there wasn't one in this universe but this agency's spelled T-Y-M-E. I just want to be sure. Yes, it's on Barrowman Street in the Boe Distict. Thanks, love. Bye."
"Well, Jack, what should we do now?" inquires the Doctor. "Pillow fight? Braid our hair?" He takes a quick glance at the computer. "Give that thing the proper burial that it deserves?"
Jack's face contorts into a grimace before it lights up. "I know! How about we play my favorite game? It's …" Jack is interrupted when his phone rings.
"Hello? Yes, this is Jack Harkness. What? Oh, no! Yes, Officer, I'll be right there! Thank you for calling me."
The Doctor asks in concern, "What's wrong?"
Jack is frantic as he rambles in response. "My uncle came to visit me and it turns out that he and Mr. Mott were in the navy together. They went out for a night on the town but now they're down at the police station for being drunk and disorderly! Donna's going to kill me! We have to go down there and see what we can do!"
"I can't believe this!" rants Jack as he paces the room. "Why did this have to happen just as I was making headway with Donna?"
When was that? wonders the Doctor. "Okay, okay, calm down, Jack," soothes the Doctor. "You're obviously in no condition to drive so we'll take my car."
Jack sobers instantly. "No, that's okay. I'm okay. I can drive, we'll take my car."
Each man equally hates the other's car, each for his own separate reasons. They simultaneously cross their arms over their chests and engage in a staring contest. The stalemate is finally broken when Jacks asks, "Rock, paper, scissors?"
"Okay," agrees the Doctor with a shrug. "One, two, three…I win! Rock beats paper!"
Jack's eyes narrow in suspicion. "Are you sure? I always thought that paper crushed rock."
The Doctor throws his head back and laughs before assuring him, "Yeah right, Jack. I don't care what universe that you live in, where are the physics in that?"
Jack darts one last disgruntled look at the Doctor before he grabs his jacket and heads out the door. The Doctor tosses his keys up in the air and catches them as he follows him, all the while thinking, Sucker.
*****Meanwhile, down at the police station****
"So you see, Officer Pond," slurs Wilf, "we weren't inebriated in the slightest when we happened upon that group of young women. We're merely a couple of pensioners who stopped to use the facilities while taking an evening stroll."
Wilf appears to be near tears as he pleads, "At our age, our eyesight tends to bother us a bit and words aren't always very clear. We could've sworn that the loo we went into was marked LADS, not LADIES." He places his hand over his heart and displays a look of deep remorse. "Honest."
"Well…"considers Officer Pond.
Thinking that they are now in the clear, Wilf turns to his mate and shoots him a devious grin and two thumbs up before mouthing, 'It's working!'
Officer Pond interrupts his reverie when she inquires, "Mr. Mott, are you aware that you're still facing me?"
"Eh?" replies Wilf while his mate barely manages to hang onto the desk while he laughs helplessly.
Officer Pond then swivels her steely glare onto him and asks in a cold and biting tone, "And you, Sir? Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
The man ogles her and firmly states, "Yes! When do I get my body search?"
It's Wilf's turn to come undone with laughter which causes Officer Pond to stare at the ceiling and huff in exasperation. She watches the two men trying to compose themselves and realizes, It's going to be one of those nights.
The laughter is dying down to mere chuckles when suddenly the Doctor's voice rings out. "I'm sorry, are we interrupting something? We could always leave you two to finish up here on your own and I'm sure Donna would be more than happy to come pick you up later."
Wilf promptly straightens up and nudges his friend to do the same. When he's slow to respond, Jack challenges, "Afraid to face me, Uncle Alastair?"
Jacks uncle immediately rises to his full height and glowers at his nephew. "I'm not afraid of anything, boy! Except maybe riding in that car of yours."
"I hear that," mutters the Doctor before he notices the man's likeness to an old friend. He's a little older but the resemblance is unmistakable. "Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart?" He is unable to look away from the man in question and he asks Jack for verification. "Your uncle is the Brig?"
"Yeah, but he's called the Brig, he's not a Brigadier," remarks Jack.
"Then why is he called the Brig?" questions the Doctor.
"Well, when he was in the navy, he was a bit of a troublemaker. Women, booze, skiving off his duties and various scandals with Admirals wives led to constant visits to the brig. Hence the name."
"I don't know what astounds me more," confesses the Doctor. The crazy parallels that I keep running into in this universe or the fact that you used the word 'hence' appropriately in a sentence."
"Heh! Good one!" howls the Brig.
Jack glares at his uncle as he admonishes, "I am not amused, Uncle Alastair."
The Brig looks pitifully at Jack and inquires sadly, "Still a virgin then, son?"
"Oho! Wait until I tell Donna!" teases Wilf.
"Don't you dare!" roars Jacks while pointing at Wilf.
"Or what?" demands the Brig. "You can't kill him. He'd never fit in the boot of your car."
The Doctor calmly grabs Jack by the arms in an attempt to keep him from attacking the caterwauling duo while advising, "Let it go."
"Excuse me," interrupts a voice that the Doctor's becoming all too familiar with, "but would these two happen to belong to you?"
"Yes, Officer Pond, we're taking responsibility for them," replies the Doctor coolly as he watches Jack glare daggers at a smirking Brig and a snickering Wilf. "What exactly did they do?"
"Okay, here's where it gets complicated." She gives them an extensive and detailed report of the event that causes Jack to blush several shades of red. The Doctor's eyebrows nearly rise to his hairline at the antics that he had either never heard of or had long forgotten."
"Fortunately for these two gentlemen, the ladies involved in the incident are considering dropping charges. We'll know what they've decided as soon as they're done speaking with the arresting officer. Can I trust you to keep an eye on them so that I may return to my duties?" she proposes hopefully.
Jack and the Doctor both nod in the affirmative and turn to observe the two gentlemen in question. Wilf puts his hands out beseechingly and implores, "Aw, see lads? It was simply a bit of fuss over nothing. How about when it's all said and done that we celebrate with a drink?"
"Or maybe not," counters an angry voice from behind them. Jack gasps at the sight of a gloriously furious Donna while Wilf and the Doctor gasp in shock and fear, ending with the Brig following their example.
"Why did you gasp?" questions Wilf. "You haven't even met Donna."
The Brig shrugs. "Everyone else was doing it."
The Doctor spies Rose in the background and makes his way over to her as Donna strides over to her grandfather. Rose is barely able to hear the Doctor's voice above Donna's shrieks and cries.
"The Tyme Agency? Yeah, there's nothing sinister there except for the prices that they charge for all of that junk." She examines the group before her and inquires, "Shouldn't we go over there and see what we can do to help?"
The Doctor stares at her a moment before answering, "You know, I used to love how you would jump headlong into danger without a second thought. Now though, not so much." He takes her hand and tugs her towards the others. "Come on, let's try and offer our assistance."
Donna's tirade finally dies down as they approach, leaving a whimpering Wilf and an enthralled Jack. The Brig wears a bored expression which changes instantly to a leer as he spots Rose.
He swaggers over to Rose without taking his eyes off of her and presses, "And who might you be, my dear?"
The Doctor steps slightly in front of Rose, in a protective stance, and warns, "I'm the Doctor. Her fiancé."
"Who cares?" responds the Brig while still gazing at Rose.
Rose notes the thick brogue emanating from the older man versus Jack's American accent and comments, "You're Scottish."
"Picked up on that, did you? Most people just think that I'm an old pirate." He offers her a filthy chuckle and asks, "So, do you want to walk my plank?"
Rose stills the Doctor by placing a hand on his chest while calmly replying, "Sorry, mate. It looks like its all hands on deck tonight."
As Rose walks past him, the Brig whoops, "What a spitfire! I love that!" He's about to slap her backside when the Doctor grabs his arm.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you mate," growls the Doctor as his grip tightens on his arm. "You only get this one warning, I don't give second chances."
The Brig pulls away and steps back stating, "No worries, mate. Understood completely." He delivers a quick salute and notes, "I've seen that type of look before." In an aside to Wilf, he whispers, "Usually on rabid dogs."
"Well, that was an embarrassing display!" announces a female newcomer to the group. "Although not as embarrassing as receiving a message while I was with the Prime Minister informing me that you've been arrested for being drunk and disorderly. Again!
"Is that the missus?" asks a bewildered Wilf of an unfazed Brig.
"No, worse," replies the Brig. "My sister, Sarah Jane." He winks slyly at Wilf and claims, "She's more than a bit of a conspiracy theorist. That's another one who's not getting any."
The crowd displays a mix of both awe and amusement of both Sarah Jane's sudden appearance and cool demeanor as she comes to stand directly before the Brig. "Do you know why you never made it past the rank of Seaman, Alastair? Because you're such a perfect di-"
"Sarah Jane! Mind your language!" exclaims the Doctor.
"And who are you to tell me what to do?" questions Sarah Jane with a fiery gaze.
"I'm the Doctor." His voice begins to trail off at her irate expression. "Jack's friend. I was hanging out with him when he received the call to come down to the station."
"Hanging out with him? He was supposed to be keeping an eye on his uncle so that I could meet with the Prime Minister!" She pokes the Doctor hard in the chest with her finger as she spits, "If it wasn't for you distracting him, I'd still be there!"
Rose puts her hand up to ward off Sarah Jane's next jab, both verbal and physical. "It's not the Doctor's fault. To be fair, your brother is a grown man and is…," she darts a glance at the Brig, "well, should be able to take care of himself."
Sarah Jane looks Rose up and down and snidely assumes, "Let me guess, you're his assistant."
The Doctor tries to beat a hasty retreat at these words until Rose grabs him by the lapels of his coat to hold him in place. Determined not to repeat past mistakes, Rose entreats, "Look Sarah Jane, I'm sorry that your interview with the Prime Minister was interrupted but as a reporter, I'm sure you're used to the unexpected."
Sarah Jane's eye's narrow instantly as she listens to Rose. "How did you know that I was doing an interview? I never mentioned that I was a reporter." She points at the Doctor and Rose accusingly. "You both act and speak towards me as if you know me. Now I know about you because you're famous but how do you know anything about me? Did you do a background check, rummage through my house, go through my garbage? There are names for people like you!"
"Yeah," agrees Rose who is beginning to lose her temper. "They're called journalists."
Sarah Jane's eyes blaze with anger as he starts rolling up her sleeves. "That does it! Nobody talks to Sarah Jane Smith like that!"
The Doctor immediately drags Rose behind him and tries to diffuse the situation. "Sarah Jane Smith, you say? Not Lethbridge-Stewart?"
"No, it's Smith," she replies coldly. "I was married once."
The Brig puts his arm around his sister and explains in a bitter tone, "Until he left her. The fool." He pulls her closer as if to protect her from the memory. "He stranded her in Aberdeen."
Any ire Rose feels promptly dissipates at this statement and she peeks around the Doctor's arm to inquire compassionately, "He just left you?"
"Yes, he just left me. I watched him jump into a blue box car and he disappeared right before my eyes. I never saw him again." Sarah Jane swallows down the hurt at the recollection and surmises, "I'm sure a pretty young thing like you wouldn't understand."
Rose comes out from behind the Doctor bearing a haunted look in her eyes that reveals both her sympathy and shared pain. "You'd be surprised."
"Really?" asks Sarah Jane a bit disbelievingly.
With a rueful smile, Rose replies, "More times than I can count and each time by the same man."
The Doctor's nervous fidgeting draws Sarah Jane's attention and she jerks her head in his direction and softly queries, "Him?"
Rose stares at the Doctor for a long pause, her expression betraying nothing, until she finally declares, "No, not him. He stayed, he's the only one who has stayed with me."
The Doctor's manic smile exhibits the relief he now feels instead of the worry that he's been holding in his one heart. He is the Doctor and he knows that Rose accepts that, but he has also wondered if she was able to separate the two of them enough to just see him. Now he knows, he finally knows. Their shared look answers everything that he has ever questioned about them. She may accept him as the Doctor, but she also recognizes that he is her Doctor, the one who stayed with her, the one who will always stay. Without a doubt.
Sarah Jane watches them with a trace of sadness and murmurs, "Lucky you." Suddenly, she whirls to face her brother and growls, "But not so lucky for you!"
The Brig jumps behind Wilf to use him as a shield if necessary. Oddly enough, Wilf doesn't seem to mind.
His smile wolfish, Wilf holds out his hand and introduces himself. "Ms. Smith, my name is Wilfred Mott. I'm a personal friend of both your brother and nephew." He leans down and gently kisses her and while cooing, "Enchante'."
Sarah Jane becomes flustered and bemused all at once. She casts an eye over to Donna who shakes her head in amusement and with a slight smirk states, "Oh, don't worry about him, he's harmless enough. And he's definitely one of those who will stay, at least until closing time."
Officer Pond clears her throat to call their attention and informs, "Excuse me, but the ladies involved in the incident have decided to not press any charges so the two of you are free to go with just a warning." She addresses both Donna and the Doctor as she requests, "Now I'd appreciate it if you would please remove this circus from my station as quickly as possible, before I go Inspector Burnside on you."
Donna laughs softly before turning to Wilf and hissing, "You heard her, Gramps! Let's go!" and starts to drag him off by the ear.
"Ow! Donna, stop that! That hurts!" He turns his head to glance back and call out, "Until we meet again my dear Sarah Jane!"
Sarah Jane watches Donna pull Wilf away and muses, "You know, I like her. Come on you!" she spits out as she grabs the Brig's ear.
"Ow! Sarah, let go!" demands the Brig.
"And you!" she barks when she yanks Jack with her by the ear as well.
"Ow! What did I do?" whines Jack.
"You should have been watching him!" retorts Sarah Jane.
"But it's like Rose said, he's a grown man, Aunt Sarah!" pleads Jack. "Besides, I was busy hooking up my Dell!"
Any further argument fades into the distance as the Doctor yells out, "It's not a Dell! It's…oh, never mind!" He grabs Rose by the hand and mutters, "Let's get out of here!"
They walk out of the police station and the Doctor leads Rose over to a bench where he tugs her down to sit beside him. He gazes out at the night sky and releases a breath of air that Rose didn't even realize that he had been holding.
Wanting him to relax, she runs her fingers through his hair until he closes his eyes and lets out a contented hum. "Doctor," she questions quietly, "what's wrong?"
"It just keeps happening, doesn't it?" he queries as he opens his eyes to look at her. "Every time that I meet someone from my past, they're completely different." He rubs his neck and reasons, "I know that we're in a parallel world. I understand that our friends' counterparts aren't exactly the same, but…"
"But?" prompts Rose.
His gaze reveals pure frustration. "Would it be too much to ask of this universe to have one of them, just one of them like me?" He waves his hands around in the air. "I mean, besides Jack?"
Rose stares at him in sympathy. He has lost so much already, his planet and people, the magical blue phone box that he called home and the endless adventures through time and space. The memory of his friends had been helping him ease the pain, but this new reality of familiar faces without any familiarity towards him, it was reopening old wounds. Well, he once said that she made him better. She was determined to do it again.
"It's hard, I know." She interlaces their fingers together as she looks past him to recall a distant memory. "A few months after I was stranded here, I went to the Powell Estates to try and find some semblance of home, some tiny bit of familiarity to comfort me." She returns a sad and somber gaze to him. "Do you know what I found?"
He gives the barest shake of his head in response. "I found faces without the slightest trace of recognition or interest in me unless they knew me as the Vitex heiress. Everything was so different and the only glimpses of home that I could find were in Mum and Mickey and in the memory of you, of us."
She places her free hand on his cheek and says, "I know how hard this is for you, but you have Mum and Pete and all of our friends to help you through this. And you have me, you have us. We will get through this together Doctor, we always do and I will keep reminding you of that until you actually believe it."
The Doctor's gaze is intent as he stares back at her and wonders how he was so lucky to find her, his pink and yellow little human. An ordinary, London shop girl with no A-levels and an incredibly strong penchant for peroxide and pink.
The corners of his mouth tilt upwards and he brushes the backs of his knuckles across her cheek. "Rose Tyler," he breathes huskily, "you are such a paradox. Ever growing yet never changing. My one constant throughout this life, my Rose."
Their kiss is gentle and chaste but also filled with so much love. They slowly part and rest their foreheads against each other and gaze into each other's eyes. Rose murmurs, "Let's go home." She looks around the street and asks, "Where did you park your car?"
He scans the darkened street while they still clutch each other's hand and points down several feet and states, "There." Then he squints a bit and changes his mind, points to the right and indicates, "No, there."
They walk towards the car, hands still linked, when the Doctor sees something fluttering on the windshield. He narrows his eyes to see it better and then breaks into a run pulling Rose behind him.
They run full-stop until they reach his car and he snatches a paper off of his windshield, glaring at it once he's read it.
"What is it?" asks Rose while still trying to catch her breath.
He crumples the paper in his hand, his lips forming a hard line before he grinds out, "It's a ticket."
"For what?" questions Rose.
He turns to her, his mouth now twisted in a grimace at the irony and answers, "Parallel