The wind nips mercilessly at his cheeks and nose, but he can't seem to bother to bundle up. It rained last night, and it will likely snow if the cold continues. The Powell Estate isn't so bad yet. It's never been a nice neighborhood- but there's less graffiti than there will be later and the buildings aren't nearly as weathered. He shivers slightly as a chilled breeze brushes against him- even he isn't completely impervious- or maybe he just doesn't have the strength to be anymore.
He's suddenly aware of a warm, slightly scratchy weight being draped over his neck and looks down to see a long gray wool scarf hanging where once was bare. He doesn't have to look up to see where it came from- and instead, pulls his hands out of his pockets in time to accept the cheap plastic, bright red cup he's handed, that looks like it came from a children's lunchbox. When the matching, star wars themed thermos comes into view, pouring hot liquid into the cup, he smirks slightly at the confirmation.
"What? It's a collector's item." His companion defends, pulling the thermos away to fill up his own cup- the red lid.
Neither look at each other. Instead, their attention is solely fixed on the building complex across the street, heads tilted upwards, expectantly, at the staircase.
"Thought you were gonna stop coming." His companion says, before taking a sip of the hot beverage, his breath coming out in a puff of steam. He snorts at this, raising an eyebrow, skeptically.
"And I thought you were going to quit drinking." He replied. It was a low blow and he knows it- but his companion- friend? Is that what you would call someone who shared your unhealthy indulgence without the faintest idea of the verdict? He's never told him how long it's been- he just let him draw his own conclusions. Well whatever this man is to him at this point, he doesn't take the bait. His company is far too used to His jabs by now and He wonders whether or not He'd prefer anger to the pity he is currently receiving- that arrogant assumption that he understands. But his companion doesn't understand- he'll never understand, because his assumptions will never be corrected.
"Tell you what." His company says, light and casual as ever, but there's a bitterness to his tone that hadn't been there when they'd first met. "You give me one good reason not to, and I'll quit.- Or, better yet, give me a lift."
He sighs. They go through this routine every time.
"You know I can't do that, Jack." He replies, and there's a hint of regret there today.
"Yeah, I kinda figured you'd say that." Jack replies, not surprised in the slightest. Instead, he fixes him with his trademark, charming grin- though its' definitely seen better days, and is a bit rusty around the edges now- and in the eyes. The eyes look like His eyes now. Tired. Tired from seeing too much.
He meets those eyes with his own, ancient eyes, and for once, offers him something he's never offered before.
"You'll be fine, Jack." It's as ambiguous of a statement as ever, but it holds promise- enough to get a slightly less rusty, more hopeful expression on Jack's ageless, old face.
He smirks again, and the temptations there. The temptation's always there. It would be so easy- just a single sentence, a string of lines- a hint about keeping an eye out or to be a certain place at a certain time. In his more bitter moods, he considers asking Jack to take Her place- whether he could hold onto the lever or not. But of course He never does, and He never would. Not a single word spills out of His mouth to indicate any of those sentiments. Any of those plans, those thousands of variables- and he's thought of them all; every last one. Instead, he gives a bitter, tight smile, and offers up a "Yeah." in return, turning his attention back to the stairs.
"Thanks Doc'." Jack replies, finding it him to relax a little at that, and leans beside him against the wall. There's a content silence between the two of them as they finish off their drinks and pour refills before Jack speaks up. "Time?"
"She's running late." Jack comments and The Doctor lets out a snicker.
"Understanding, knowing who she's dealing with."
Jack lets out a snicker of his own; downing the remainder in his lid and screwing the cap back on the thermos. He's about to say something when he's suddenly quieted by the loud stomping of small feet against stone steps, echoing down the hall, along with the unmistakable sound of a childs voice; babbling an incoherent tune, lisped along with teeth too large for her tiny mouth.
There is a loud screech of rusted metal as the heavy door is pushed open and a tiny pink figure bolts out, squealing in delight; decked out in a pink raincoat with matching wellies; her dark blonde hair braided into plaits.
"Rose, sweetheart!" A woman calls after as she hurries out of the door behind the little girl, wearing a blue tracksuit today, shaping over a slightly thinner, younger woman than either of the men were accustom to, her bleached blonde hair tied up in a ponytail, her face still emblazoned with the same amount of makeup. "Don't jump in the puddles! I just bought you those boots last Sunday- wait a week before you muck 'em up!"
The young girl- no more than four- naturally disregards her mother in favor of doing precisely that and running to the biggest puddle in the bunch, leaping and putting her full force into the jump- shrieking in delight as the spray went every which way; her mother jumping back a few feet, shirking away from it.
The two men chuckle, eying the girl with the only genuine grins they ever seem to give these days; watching with unmasked amusement as a four year old Rose begins to sing again; a song neither of them recognize and likely is sung with all the accuracies of a four year old already prone to- what The Doctor would come to refer to as 'a very fetching overbite'.
These are the moments the two of them cherish. Their hearts slightly lighter as they watch a young Jackie Tyler chase after the young Rose Tyler as she jumps from puddle to puddle, scolding her and trying to cajole her into cooperating with her as she attempts to lead her away from the puddles so that they won't be late for school. Jackie was still the reluctant mother back then. It had only been around three years since Pete's death, after all- and Jackie was still walking on eggshells with Rose; still afraid to raise her voice- terrified that a bad word towards her daughter would cause the fates to take Rose away from her as well. And so Rose dances out of her mother's reach, singing to her hearts content, and spinning in the puddles delightedly.
Her sure footing gives out however, and she slips backwards, onto her back with a splash.
The Doctor lurches forward out of instinct; however, a hand on his shoulder holds him back. The two watch as Jackie immediately hurries over to the crying childs' side, scooping her up and hugging her close, as though she had just survived a bear attack, instead of slipping in an inch deep puddle. In a few years time, Jackie would be more prone to telling Rose "I told you so, but you never listen." than coddling her. But for now, she worries like any new mother would. Jack smirks.
"You're worse than Jackie sometimes. Can't imagine what you'll be like in her teens."
"I thought you were wanting me to quit?" The Doctor replies, his stance relaxing as Jackie sets Rose down, assessing her to make sure there is no more damage. Rose seems perfectly fine, her face still tear-stained, sniffling slightly as she looks up at her mother, but apart from shock, perfectly fine. All that falling had managed to do, was get her to avoid the puddles from then on- or for the day at least.
"Don't get me wrong Doc, I do, I really do. This isn't healthy for you and we both know it." Jack replies, in a tired voice that one would use when they've lost all enthusiasm for the conversation. "But I know you, Doctor- and we both know what happens to her then."
The Doctor is silent, but his jaw tightens, his hands shoving back into his pockets. His voice, however, is casual.
"So I'll be seeing you there, then?" He asked. There is a quiet laugh from Jack as he folds his arms across his broad chest and leans back against the wall again.
"You kidding? Someone needs to stop you from beating him to a pulp."
"And who's going to stop you?" The Doctor retorts, skeptically glancing back at him. Jack simply smirks, Rose's singing interrupting their conversation. They both look up again to see the little girl firmly clasping her mother's hand, skipping along side her now. The Doctor's breath hitches as Jackie begins to sing along to the toddler's incoherent tune; clarifying it when it was otherwise unrecognizable.
His eyes water, and he gives a choked laugh, feeling the Captain's hand on his shoulder again; this time squeezing it comfortingly.
"Jackie always was a Beatles fan." He murmurs, watching them as they drew out the chorus, hands still swinging together in tandem. He sniffs slightly, clearing his throat and blinking back tears. Jack takes this as a signal and releases his grip on The Doctor's shoulder; taking the cup The Doctor hands him.
"She's going to the park tomorrow for a playdate with Mickey." Jack informed him, pushing himself off the wall and shoving the cup into one of his greatcoat's pockets, after the thermos. "Eight a.m. See you there?"
The Doctor wasn't looking at Jack, too busy watching as his tiny pink and yellow girl turned the corner, away from sight; her little voice carrying down the alley. He clears his throat again, finally glancing back at Jack.
"Uh, yeah. Yeah, I'll be there." He replies with a nod. Jack nods back.
"Up for a real drink today, or should you be getting back?" He offers, futilely. He knew from the moment he saw him, today wouldn't be one of the good days.
"Uh no, thanks Jack- but yeah, should be getting back." He agrees, raising his hand in parting. Jack nods again, giving him a warm, reassuring smile, and a lopsided salute.
"Well, if you ever need some company, you know where to find me." He replies, turning and waving a hand as he walks away. "See you around Doc'."
"Yeah." is all The Doctor can manage, watching as Jack's coat billows out behind him, hurrying out of the cold, whistling The Beatles "I wanna hold your hand". before The Doctor finally turns and makes his way back to The TARDIS.