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UK Without A Map: Author's Commentary

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UK Without A Map is David's story, and as much as John is a part of that we don't get to see most of his side of things. Due to the constraints of the fic's David POV, there's a lot of things that I couldn't explicitly put into the fic. I tried to fit them in with implication and subtle hints where appropriate, but it's a whole AU by the end. So I thought a bit of commentary might be appreciated. I'm not going to do line by line, just skip to the important bits throughout the series.

 

Kiss Me Quick

The title comes from the Blackpool hats: kiss me quick, squeeze me slowly. All of the titles are geographically specific, tying in to the sense of travel, progression, change.

Obviously this story started out because of John Simm's "cage dancing in bicycle shorts because I was young and needed the money" confession. Which is very nice inspiration.

The obvious conclusion was to pair him off with David, who at the time is just starting acting school, still very naive about the world, an utter contrast to John's corruption. And John is corrupted; when he was younger, someone did what he does to David, except it wasn't sweet and wonderful.

They're both very much teenagers in mentality in this chapter of the story. Young, sex-driven, different levels of experience, think they know everything except they don't know anything. Trying too hard to be adults and then flipping back to being kids, and then back again. Putting themselves in stupidly risky situations, you know. Typical teenage boys.

There's quite a lot of older men about, and he catches a few looking at him.

Before he can even process it, John has slipped a tablet in his mouth and told him to swallow.

John does what's been done to him: finds a sweet young thing and seduces him. He's done it before several times, and to him David is beyond easy. A few drinks, a little show, and John's got a new toy to despoil. He gives him E, drugging him because he doesn't care about little things like informed consent.

The anorak had to be dragged to a gay bar, Sean had teased, though more out of drunken affection than anything nasty.

That's why he's staying, because it's certainly not the fact that he feels all fluttery inside every time he glances at the dancers in the cage, and every time someone walks too close or looks at him for too long.

David, up to this point in his life, has been in a sort of half-assed denial about his sexuality. He hasn't told anyone and mostly tried to avoid thinking about it, except that he can't so he ends up furtively sneaking magazines and watching the men in het porn videos. He's tried messing about with girls but it's never gotten really serious, because it's mostly that he's hoping at some point his attraction will magically switch over. So what John does is break through that denial and force David to accept that he's attracted to men, that he's the full-on Whovian stereotype.

Even though it wasn't obvious until later in the story, David is in fact pretty Kinsey 6 at the outset. Not out of any issues with bisexuality, but because narratively it worked better. It makes his sexuality as impossible to ignore as his DW fannishness.

"Or a new body," David says, thinking of the Fifth Doctor and his allergy.

David's sexuality and his love of Who are repeatedly paralleled. He half-assedly hides his DW love at the start, but he's too obvious about it not to admit it outright to his friends and the result is their teasing of him. Which is why he adamantly refuses to let John know anything about it, because he suffers from the same thing many fans do, which is fear of being discovered and having his passions mocked, being rejected for them. Especially because he's so young and not really comfortable with himself.

He's not very good at sensible, though. It's something he's still working on. He just gets so passionate about things so easily, he can't seem to be normal like everyone else.

Even though David Tennant is clearly comfortable with himself by our modern time, reading his earlier interviews and picking up on general patterns, you can see a conflict between his natural self-honesty, his general optimism, and his anxieties. He is, as becomes even stronger in O Ffwrnais Awen, a worrier. This comes directly from Arabella Weir's description of him, as well as some of those early interviews. David's tendency to worry is also something that stays with him and becomes a major factor in his life by the end of the story.

Finally, this weekend is a key formative experience for both of them, and the consequences of it ripple down and actively change who they are over the twenty years of the story. Which is why it ended up an explicitly AU fic, instead of something that could be more easily squeezed into the gaps like Method Acting.

 

 

Mind The Gap

The slogan of the London Underground, obviously. And of course a sign that there's danger in the distance between them.

Whenever he frets about his future, Arabella reminds him that he's young yet.

At this point, David is still pretty much the same as we know him. By 26, he's accepted his sexuality and his Doctor Who love as things that are a permanent part of him. Ironically, as he's become more at ease, as the world has accepted gayness more, his DW love has become something to sneer at.

He's obsessing. That's not helping.

David's obsessive tendencies are also at the fore here. Someone who's a fan at three is a fan for life, and when he believes he'll never have John again, he falls back on fannishness as an outlet for all the feelings seeing him again stirs up. Which becomes something of a problem for him in this story as well as down the line.

The BBC tried to bring back Doctor Who and the Americans messed with it and then made it a punchline all over again, but that didn't stop him from rewatching that tape too many times and going back to his library of videos and books.

It's a small detail, but the McGann movie is a foreshadowing of disaster. Just like all the elements were there in the TVM but it didn't click, so the same ends up being with David/John.

He did have one last growth spurt when he was seventeen, but all it did was stretch him like taffy.

David doesn't have much of an opinion of his physical appearance. That gets better when he's older, but even now he's extremely modest about himself and clearly doesn't consider himself any kind of classically handsome. When he's younger that feeling is stronger, and it's one of a set of reasons he gives himself for why he's never found the right person. It also is part of the imbalance he feels in his meetings with John, because John chooses him and then chooses to leave, and all David does is have his heart broken. That has a major impact for their third reunion.

"Just sick of the celebrity crowd. It's not all it's cracked up to be."

John wanted to be a rock star, wanted to be rich and famous. His goals were always high, and in an interview he actually said that when he was 25 he expected to become a Hollywood star. By 30, he'd become completely disenchanted with celebrity, and not afraid to rant all over an interviewer to tell him so. Right now, he's in the middle stage: still wanting that fame, but already hating all the trappings.

John has also become more enmeshed in clubbing and drug culture. There's a hell of a lot that happens to him between here and Cardiff, and I'll go into that later.

"I found someone," John says, simply. "Spent five years with them. First two were great, next year was good, last was crap. Then I was off filming for so long it just ended."

John's sexuality is left fairly undefined, because we only see it in relation to David. He's bi, and does that divide where sex with women is Good and sex with men is Dirty, at least when he's young. By Mind The Gap, he's been a hard partier, and definitely beyond those divides to simple hedonism and pulling every pretty bird he can get his hands on, on top of his long-term someone. A few guys, too, but those would be more furtive, because he's not comfortable with that side of himself, he still thinks it's something he can just toss aside when he wants to, and there's still that part of him that thinks of David every time.

"Do you want me to go?" John asks, quietly.

"You've ruined me, you know," he says. "Utterly ruined me. Ever since that weekend."

John feels just a bit guilty already, even before the sex starts, because he knows he's only here because he's using David. John wants to relive Blackpool because he's dissatisfied with how his life is turning out. David makes him feel special, the way he looks at him, the simple goodness of him. David is the opposite of the people John spends his life surrounded by, genuine instead of fake.

"Still a tart, I see," John says, smirking. "You have no idea how glad that makes me."

However, as long as David is still an eager boy, John is more than happy to take advantage of him. He avoids any real conversation because that's not something he's prepared to deal with or interested in. He's not here to talk, he's here to fuck, and that's where it all goes wrong.

"No point in making someone wait when you're gone most of the year. Actor's life, yeah?"

John is only a few months off a bad breakup. He's bitter about it, especially how his fame from The Lakes came into it. A few careless words and he's planted a seed in David's thoughts, because David looks up to John as someone experienced, wise about the world. David thinks John has found all sorts of success, that he's confident and handsome and he's just a bit jealous of all that. And again we see the power imbalance in John's favor.

"You weren't just a shag," John says.

"I was in love with you," he says, the words suddenly slipping out of him before he even has the chance to wince at them. Feels like an idiot, confessing that.

Neither of them have been able to forget the other, have in fact been haunted by regret over not trying to stay in touch after that weekend. They both want more than they're willing to face at this stage, because like the BBC and FOX, the match is wrong. David's been letting his obsessiveness be a replacement for his deeper feelings, and John is in an even worse state.

David says nothing because he can't, but he can't ask him to stay either, not when he's going to end up with his heart broken all over again. He's such a coward.

And here's where it all goes wrong, because David finally does face his deeper feelings for John, and it tears him up inside that his love has been reduced to being used for sex, that that's all John wants from him. And John sees his withdrawal and it angers him, because even if he talks a good game about hating celebrity he does feel entitled to fuck David because of his power/fame. So he does what worked in Blackpool and gives the genuine, heartbroken David drugs, so he can fuck him without feeling guilty.

John sits down beside him. "It helps," he says, still offering it. "I hate to see you like this."

"And that's the answer?"

"Sometimes, yeah," John says.

Of course, it doesn't work that way. All it does is make John incredibly guilty, because the moment he makes David take the E, he loses him all over again. And it's not sweet, it's not wonderful, it's John finally achieving what he intended to do in Blackpool which is drag David down to his level. And he hates it.

"My David," he murmurs. "Lovely David." He sounds almost sad.

John is sad, enough that it leaks through his confident front. He feels like shit for what he's done, and once David drops off he takes the opportunity to run from his mistakes. This is not John's finest hour, and it's going to haunt him so much it changes everything for him.

He has a headache, and it feels like something's shattered in his chest.

David believes that John left because he got what he wanted and had no further use for David. He believes that all he ever was to him was a convenient fuck.