Chapter 1: Pineapples
As the light of the setting sun, hanging low above the horizon, shimmered purple on the crests of the waves of the bay, Will dropped his shades over his eyes and laid back in his deck chair. He sipped a smooth tropical drink from the hollowed-out pineapple-that-wasn't-really-a-pineapple in his hand and idly wondered how this resort on Millin Tovic could resemble Earth so much, despite its magenta sky and ocean, blue sands, and bipedal ursine sentients. The gentle roar of the waves against the distant breakwater and the warm salt in the air was just like... well, just like what this Londoner thought a South Pacific holiday might be.
"I don't believe you managed to find us somewhere actually peaceful to relax in for a while," Will remarked to his friend, who was sunning in his trunks on the chair next to him. "I was starting to think the entire universe was out to kill us."
David smiled but didn't open his eyes. "Judging from the Doctor's life, you'd think that. I'm getting better at finding these places, though. Remember, last time we landed, they only wanted to enslave us." Even moving his mouth to talk seemed an arduous task at the moment.
"Much better than getting killed," Will agreed. Shifting into a position as heavy and loose as his friend's, he dropped his pineapple on the table between them.
David's eyes popped open at the sound and he glanced over. "Your pineapple's bigger than mine. That's hardly fair," he whinged, wrinkling his nose.
"Peaceful, mate," Will soothed, biting back his grin. "Actually peaceful. Don't ruin it. I'll order you another one."
"Good," David replied with grumpy snort. "I'd hate to have to go all Time Lord all over them."
"You would never," said Will with a breathy laugh.
"Nah. It'd require me getting up." David watched the sway of the broad leaves of the tree above them.
"And that's not going to happen."
David's eyes drooped shut. "Nope."
Chapter 2: Perforation
"You're imagining things," David remarked with a dismissive shake of his head, his eyes fixed on the web of circles and lines stretching across the screen in front of him. They shimmered and morphed as his fingers flew across the buttons and levers that controlled his temporal experiment.
"I'm not. The TARDIS hates plants. I'm sure of it," Will insisted. He leant against the edge of the perdamporal frenambulator to watch David work.
David's eyes twitched toward him for a moment. "Get off of that. You might set it off," he warned. Will hopped back to his feet as David continued. "He does not. The arboretum and the orchard are progressing nicely. Granted, they only have a handful of plants apiece, but they're all healthy."
Clenching his jaw, Will crossed his arms over his chest with a huff. "He killed my cactus, David!"
David didn't even look up. "He did not. You simply didn't water it enough."
"It's a cactus, mate!" Will squeaked. "It doesn't need watering. It shriveled up and died, in just two days!"
David shrugged as he moved to adjust the optic gravitron, peering into the eyepiece as he stepped on the pressure plate and spun the three dials on the front. "Localised temporal acceleration."
Inhaling sharply to launch into an invective, Will quickly bit it back and paused to collect his temper. "You mean," he finally pronounced in a low, calm voice, "it aged to death in two days."
"Aye. About sixteen months passed. I told you: you didn't water it enough," David explained in an utterly reasonable tone as he continued to fiddle with the dials.
"And that doesn't prove that the TARDIS hates my cactus?"
With a sigh, David stepped back from his work and regarded his friend without apology. "Well, you have to admit, it is poky," he explained, the Scottish 'o' of the last word exaggerated through pursed lips.
Will blinked. "The TARDIS doesn't like poky plants?"
"Would you if you dropped it on your foot?" asked David. At Will's confused frown, he elaborated, "You dropped the thing while you were repotting it. It hurt."
Will's jaw dropped open, and he sputtered, "It hurt? It's a spaceship! The floor's made of..." Looking down at his feet, he toed and stamped on the material beneath him. "...Whatever it's made of! How can it hurt?"
David just looked at him.
Will rolled his eyes. "Oh, all right. No more cactuses, mate."
David couldn't keep it in anymore and smothered his laugh with a hand. "It's okay, Will. He got his revenge on your cactus and that's all he wanted. You can get another one and he won't do anything to it." At the rise of Will's sceptical eyebrow, David added, "I promise."
"I don't believe you," Will growled.
Though he'd schooled his expression back to neutral, David's eyes were still shining with amusement. "Okay, I admit that I can't control his whims, but right now, I assure you he has no designs on any future cacti you might procure."
Will snorted. "We'll see."
David nodded as he turned back to his work. "I'm sure we will."
Chapter 3: Sleeping Habits
David startled upright, sending the blankets tumbling, as the door to his suite banged open. His sister's voice rang through his chambers, loud and clear. "Big Brother! Look! Look! I did it!" Rolling his eyes in amused exasperation, he flopped back onto his pillow and pulled the blankets back up, snug around himself. He clamped his eyes shut and nestled into the cosy warmth.
Jenny burst into the room, cradling a glowing, pulsating device against her stomach. She positively shined with sparkling eyes and a wide, proud smile. "The metatorosional dampeners! I got them to work! It was just a matter of -" she was saying as she dashed in, but stopped cold when she saw her brother almost hidden by the fluffy comforter. "Oh! You were sleeping?"
Popping one eye open, he peered up at her. "You are just like your father. You know that?" When she grinned at what she thought was a compliment, he pushed himself up to sit, still hugging the blanket to his chest. "Yes, I was sleeping. You've got to learn to knock at someone else's door, and to only enter if invited in."
Jenny frowned. "But I knew you were in here and that you'd want to see this," she explained.
"I might have been busy, or maybe I just wanted my privacy." He snorted. "To be honest, I was busy. I was sleeping. That's another thing to learn: to apologise when you wake someone up who didn't want to be woken up."
Though she obviously didn't quite agree with everything her brother had said, her contrition at waking him up was sincere. She hung her head. "I'm sorry, Big Brother."
David smiled fondly at her. "It's fine. I slept too long anyway." He peered at the device in her hands. "So you got the dampeners working?"
Jenny lit up again and bounced on her toes. "Yes! See?" She held the device, which looked like a metal mixing bowl filled with a mass of glowing plastic globules, out at arm's length. "It was the trilinear plasma dilatoroids. I thought they might not be the right size, so I redid the calculations and found ones in the TARDIS stores with a bigger diameter, and it worked! Wanna see?"
"Absolutely." Throwing back the covers, David climbed out of bed and grabbed his clothing, which he'd draped over the nearby armchair just before going to sleep. As he donned them, Jenny looked around the room.
"What's that?" she asked, pointing at the bed.
David pulled his jumper over his head and spun to look, spying a bit of red peeking out from among the bedclothes. His face clouded for a moment, then he replied with a flippant shrug. "Nothing."
"No, what is that?" Jenny hopped to the bed and, dropping her device on the nightstand, snagged the unknown object and pulled it out. She held up a stuffed, vaguely humanoid shape crafted of matted red fur. Frowning in confusion, she turned it over in her hands to inspect it from all sides. "What is it?"
"It's called a soft toy," David explained, stifling a groan in his throat. Averting his face from his sister, he began pulling the sheets and blankets up and smoothing them over the bed.
Jenny regarded it again, noting its black plastic eyes. "You sleep with a doll?" she asked as she stared at it.
David could feel a rush of warmth over his cheeks. "Aye. It's nice to have something to hold. Here." David tossed a pillow to the head of the bed and turned to his sister to lift the thing from her hands. He placed it against her chest, then wrapped her arms around it. "See? Squeeze it."
Jenny gave it a good hug. "It's cushy and warm." Dipping her head, she nuzzled it with her nose and cheek.
David smiled. "It is. That's what it's for."
She returned his grin and looked back at the toy. "I see. What is this thing supposed to be anyway?"
David coughed lightly into his fist. "It's a Zygon," he mumbled.
"A Zygon," he repeated a little louder, crossing his arms across his chest. "They're metamorphs from a planet called Zygor. They invaded Earth centuries ago, and the Doctor stopped them."
Jenny nodded sagely, then frowned again. "Why do you have a toy Zygon?"
"I, well..." David tugged on his ear. "A, er, a friend, well, a... A fan. A fan gave it to me," he admitted with a sigh. "She said she heard I liked Zygons, you know, from the programme, when I was a kid, so she made it for me." He couldn't look at his sister. "It reminds me of home," he murmured, scratching the back of his neck. The next moment, Jenny was in his arms, hugging him to her.
"Of course it does," she soothed. "I know you miss it dearly."
He leant to kiss the top of her head. "I do," he mumbled into her hair. "But I have a wonderful life here, too, you know."
. _ . _ . _ . _ .
She turned the corner into the hallway where her door stood across from her brother's and stopped at the sight of a plain brown paper bag sitting in front her suite. Frowning as she approached it, she knelt down and picked it up, then peered inside. A slow smile spread across her face as she reached in and pulled out a soft, plush pink animal shaped like a polar bear from Earth. A tag with looped Gallifreyan handwriting was clipped to its ear.
To always remind you of home.
Glancing at the door across from hers, Jenny hugged the bear to her chest, her eyes shining.
Chapter 4: Missing the Target
As soon as David emerged from the trunk of the tall oak that was the current disguise of the TARDIS, he sank a half of a metre into soft, freshly-fallen snow. Despite the lack of a visible door, the light from the console room spilled out, illuminating a wide swath with warm golden light amidst the deep blackness of the forest night. Plowing forward with windmilling arms, he left a deep trail behind him as he made for the shadows just beyond the patch of light to see around him better. "I think I might have missed."
"You think, mate?" came Will's answering voice from within the first tree as he poked his head out. "This looks like Mumbai to me."
David laughed. "I'm glad you're such a good sport about this as I learn to pilot him better." He sniffed the chill, dry air. "We landed in the right time, but I've no idea where we are."
Will hopped down into the snow and kicked at it, curling his arms around himself to ward off the cold. He suspected the temperature was a number of degrees below zero, and his shirt, jumper, and jeans weren't going to be much protection. "I've never seen so much snow before. Finland, you think?"
"Could be anywhere. Canada, northern U.S., Russia, any of a dozen other countries. Atmosphere is too dense for high altitude, so not the Andes or the Himalayas. Wrong kind of trees, too." David continued to peer out into the forest. "It's too dark to see the lay of the land."
"Go back in and try again?"
David didn't move. "I suppose. Though it's nice here. Peaceful. Not a single soul around to bother -" He cut off as a snowball whizzed past him, a half a metre to the side. Rolling his eyes, he turned around to face Will. "Now that was a lousy -"
PAF! The second snowball exploded on his cheek and he sputtered the snow out of his mouth. "Oh, you didn't!"
Will was already scooping up another handful of snow. "I just threw the first one to get you to turn around. Learned that from Calvin." He looked up just in time to see David lunge, and they went down in a tangle of limbs and a spray of white powder.
By the time Will climbed back into the TARDIS guffawing breathlessly, he was shaking uncontrollably from the cold and not a spot of his clothes and hair was dry. His friend was slightly better off, impervious to the chill but soaked and stumbling as he chortled, tears streaming down his cheeks. They collapsed on the floor of the time travel capsule and as they lay there on their backs, helpless with laughter, puddles pooling around them, David toed the door shut.
"Better than Mumbai, you think?" he asked once they both managed to breathe again.
"I'm thinking that actually getting where you wanted to go is overrated." Still grinning stupidly, Will mopped at his eyes.
"Get cleaned up and we'll try again."
"Oh, no!" Will sprung into a sitting position, his elbows on his knees though he continued to shiver. "Long hot shower at the worst. Hot tub if you've got it."
A slow smile spread across David's face. "We'll have one by the time you've fetched your trunks. Come on!" Jumping to his feet, he thumped Will on the shoulder and pulled him up, and they raced off toward their rooms.
Chapter 5: Déjà Vécu
Scratching at the back of his head, Will scowled and stared at the paragraph he'd just read. He just could not shake the feeling that he'd seen this page before: the moment he’d scanned the first four words, he’d known that halfway down the page, Porlilly would burst into the council chamber and fire a shot that would take the emperor's head clean off. Flipping back, he confirmed that there had been no foreshadowing of the event, that the last time he'd seen Porlilly, she was heading back down to the galley to return to her maid duties. He flopped back against the headboard of his bed and grunted low in his throat. This wasn't the first time he'd felt like he was re-reading a part of this book. A chapter back, he'd anticipated the return of Chalpal, down to the very words he’d shouted as he ripped off his disguise. And three chapters before that, it had happened for the first time.
The strange thing was, there was no way he could have read this book before or known anything about it. He'd bought the newly-released Diphellian novel at a bookstore in 6243 yesterday and started on it when he’d woken up this morning. He hadn't recognised anything else about the novel - the character and place names, the cultural concepts, even the title and author - so why were certain passages so familiar? Running a perplexed hand through his mussed brown hair, he raised the book from his lap and read the next few paragraphs, and found them to be fresh and new. He shrugged, then applied himself to his reading again.
Not ten minutes later, it happened again: Will's eyes roved over words he was sure he'd seen before. Heaving a sigh, he told himself he must be simply confused. He clapped the book closed and jumped out of bed, dumping the novel onto his pillow, resolving to return later when his head wasn't so muddled.
Padding into the bathroom, he did a quick tooth-brushing, then stripped off his shorts and stepped into the shower. After washing himself and soaking in the steamy spray for a couple of minutes, he reached for the shampoo and froze as a memory of overreaching and knocking the bottle to the wet tile at his feet flashed through his mind. Water dripped from his hair down his nose and cheeks as he stared at his hand, inches from its target. The memory was so clear, and yet, he knew it hadn't happened. He hadn't dropped an item in the shower in ages, and certainly not since he'd moved into the TARDIS. He shook his head but his mind clung to the event, stubborn that it was right.
He snatched the bottle from the shelf and proceeded with the rest of his shower, then got dressed. As soon as he got his shoes tied, he trotted out into the corridor, then doubled back as he realised that he hadn't combed his hair, despite the clear memory of doing so just after he'd donned his t-shirt. He dashed back into the bathroom and ran the comb through his hair without caring how it actually came out, then headed back out. Something was definitely going on and it wasn't likely that he'd be able to figure it out on his own.
The biggest problem with living in a dimensionally transcendental craft was locating the other inhabitant. Not only was the interior so vast that the probability of finding David in any particular location was tiny, but the layout also changed without warning, making it difficult to reliably find the place in which Will hoped David might be. Today, it was worse than usual, as every few minutes, he was assaulted by another memory or, as he was starting to consider them, premonition. He'd walked down this corridor before. He'd climbed these stairs and found three locked doors at the top. He knew that if he crossed this room and threw open the inner door, there'd be a blue jacket slung over the back of the chair. He flinched away from this door jamb and clapped a hand to his shoulder, the pain of the bruise of the collision that he'd prevented still fresh. He was starting feel like he was living two versions of his life at the same time, both essentially the same but with slight modifications, and unfortunately, neither version seemed to be able to find his friend, who he was sure could figure out what was going on.
After failing to find David in his lab, Will halted and scrubbed his hands down his face. The bloke could be anywhere. Maybe I can make this work for me. He closed his eyes and started concentrating. Where am I searching next? He composed a list of the next four places to look. All right. Picture each of them. Do I remember visiting any of them in the next few minutes? What did I - er, do I - no, will I see? Not a single clue came to mind, and he threw his hands up as he roared his frustration, aware that he had, in some alternate version of his life, slammed the wall with his palm. "What are you good for, anyway?" he screamed at no one and stalked off.
David wasn't in the media room, so Will jogged off for the console room. It wasn't a likely choice, as they weren't travelling anywhere today and his friend hadn't been working on the time travel capsule in the recent weeks, but it was possible and -
Will halted, his jaw dropping open. He clearly remembered walking down this corridor and, upon entering the vaulted console room, spying David curled up, face down, near the wall of the chamber. Sprinting ahead, he burst through the door and sprung to his friend, landing on his knees next to him and grasping his shoulders to turn him over and prop him against the wall.
"David! Wake up!"
He needn't have said that. David's eyes were open and gazing up at Will, though they clearly weren't focused. His head lolled to the side and he grinned stupidly.
"Lo, Will! How's... how'sa... how'sa goin'?"
"What happened to you, mate?" He let David go and sat back on his heels, and David immediately slid sidewards and flopped to the floor. Will just stared. "Are you drunk?"
"Nah. No' a bit. See?" He puffed a breath up at Will. "I mean, smell? Haha, see wha' I did? I mean, hear wha' I did? Haha! Smell!" He blew again, then giggled.
Leaning forward to sniff, Will couldn't detect any trace of alcohol. "Yeah, I smell. Not a drop. What in the world is wrong with you?" But he knew before he'd finished the question exactly what David was about to do and say. "I am not talking backwards, and I don't know how to."
David frowned at Will, his left eyebrow shooting up into his fringe. Clamping his eyes shut, he thought hard for a moment, then exclaimed brightly, "Nothin'!" He lifted a shaky hand to point at his friend. "But how- waaa-ait!” he drawled. “How'dja know I was gonna ask how you were doin' tha'?"
"I was hoping you'd know, but..." He eyed his friend dubiously.
David pushed himself up to some semblance of upright and grinned, all teeth. "Oh, I know. I know." He flung both arms wide, Will jerking back to avoid getting smacked. "I know everythin'!"
"No, you don't, mate," Will snorted. "Come on, what can I do to help?"
"I do!" David insisted and started climbing to his feet, scrabbling at the roundels for some support. "I know stuff. 'Sbeen punched inta my head and stirred around." He knocked himself in the side of the head and nearly fell over. Will leapt forward and caught him, and David leaned heavily into him, gazing up at him with a happy smile. "Ya know, Will? I love ya. I love ya, mate." He wrapped his arms around his friend and nuzzled his shoulder. "Marry me. Stay wiv me forever."
Will rolled his eyes, and if he hadn't had to hold David up, he would have smacked his own forehead. "You know, mate, you're not only a bad drunk, you're a stereotypical drunk. Can't you at least be original?"
"No' drunk." David pushed off Will and stumbled to the central console. He reached out to pat the glass central column, then climbed up on the sloping panel. Will cringed in anticipation of the chaos as the time travel capsule reacted to the depressed buttons, flipped switches, and spun dials under David's splayed legs, but nothing happened. Hugging the time rotor, David nestled into it with a contented smile. "I love you, too," he murmured.
"David, mate, get off of there." Will grabbed his arm to lead him off, but David wriggled out of his grasp. "That can't be good for him. Come on, let me get you to bed."
"His fault. Well, my fault, but his fault. Our fault. No’ your fault. Fault fault fault fault fault." He dissolved into boyish giggles.
"I'm tryin'." Swallowing his laughter, David looked up at Will, the slight golden shimmer in his eyes making him look jaundiced. "Cardiff," he stated as if it explained everything.
"What about Cardiff?"
"Cardiff," he repeated. "It's where... we... er..." He jerked his head toward the door. "Cardiff."
Will nodded. "All right. We're in Cardiff."
"Aye, tha'." David took a deep breath, then broke down into laughter again. After a moment, he tried again. "I can't think. I'm tryin'. There's a... Cardiff has a..." He groped for the word but missed entirely, and as Will had no idea what he was talking about, he couldn't help. David waved a loose hand at his friend. "Issa fuel station. Though' I'd top off the petrol, you know. Firs' time since I left the... the time thingy... the thingy... the all whooshy thingy."
This time Will knew what he was talking about and supplied, "The time vortex."
"Aye! That thingy." He lifted a hand to pat at Will in thanks, but as he started to slide down the console panel, the controls clicking beneath him, he thought better of it and clung to the time rotor again. "Go' us here, opened the artron scoop. Thing is, I didn't cali... cali...cal... I didn't set it righ'. Too much, too fast. He's all full. Too much. Thass it."
"That's it? This -" and Will jabbed a finger at David, "- was caused by you overfilling his tank?" But the next snatch of this conversation flashed through Will's mind and his jaw dropped open. "No. You're like this because he's jerking around in time! You're like this and I keep replaying memories I don't have because your TARDIS is hiccupping?"
David attempted to tap the tip of his nose with his finger but missed, his hand splatting on his cheek. "Time's all a mess in my head. Going forward, going backwards, in and out and loop-de-loop-de-loop-de-loop..." He twirled his finger in circles in front of his face as he trailed off, and his eyes crossed, mesmerised by his own twiddles. He swayed and thunked into the time rotor.
"How long is this going to last?"
"Can't you vent the engines or something?"
"Might blast Cardiff back to the 70s."
"That'd probably be an improvement. Hm." Will bit his lip as a thought occurred to him. "This hiccuping TARDIS, it isn't dangerous to them, is it?"
"Nah." David shook his head violently. "Nah. Certainly no'. Well. Prolly no'." He shrugged. "Still, can't hurt to take him into the... the thingy." He spread his knees apart and began stabbing at buttons between his thighs. Will caught his wrist before he could hit more than a few of them.
"Stop that. Come on." Will reached forward to take a firmer grasp of David's arm and pry him off of the console. "Let's get you to your room and you can sleep this off."
"Don' wanna," he mumbled as he slid down the panel to be caught by his friend. "'Sfun here."
Will slipped under David's arm to prop him up, and together they stumbled slowly toward the corridor. "You can have fun in your room. The bed's more comfortable than the console."
After a few steps, Will held David back. "Stop here for a tick."
"Wha?" David looked like he was almost sleepwalking, his eyelids drooped and heavy.
"I remember. You're going to get caught on your trainers and trip. Let's just let that pass, shall we?"
"Dunno. The floor looks comfy."
"Chin up, mate."
David grinned at Will. "How'dja like tellin' the future?"
"Not as useful as you'd think."
"Getcha crystal ball 'n some incense."
"You just keep concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other."
They resumed their slow journey, during which David warbled an unrecognisable song, and after a couple of minutes, he fell silent, though not long enough for Will's tastes. "Will?"
"You never answered."
Will knew exactly what David was referring to. "I'm not marrying you."
"Thought no'," he mumbled under his breath. "Thanks… For things.” He waved a limp hand about, but Will knew what he meant.
"Mate, don't thank me until you've survived the hangover."
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" David grumbled. He shifted in his chair under the white sheet wrapped around his shoulders.
"Me? Never! Hard labour, this is. Now sit still, or it won't be my fault if you lose an ear." Will placed a firm hand on his friend's shoulder and he stilled under his touch. "Good boy. Now, what would you like? Little off the top?"
Trying to summon his patience, David clenched his fists by his side, unseen by Will under the sheet. "I told you before we started. Take it all off. It looks daft with that patch missing in the back."
Will ducked to survey the bald spot on the back of David’s head. “I don’t know. It’s not so bad. You could tell people it’s a symbol of your cult, the Righteous Brotherhood of Pompous Time Lords.”
Spinning in his seat, David glared daggers at him.
"Right, a little off the top!"
"Will..." David settled back in the chair, then jerked straight at the sound of snip snip snip right behind his head. A lock of soft brown hair slid down the sheet just below his chin.
"Oi, stay still! I almost cut my own finger!"
"What are you doing back there?" David spun around and glared at the scissors in Will's hands. He jabbed a finger at the device on the counter. "That is the shaver. You've no need for scissors."
Will shrugged. "It's easier to shave when it's short, so I'm cutting it."
David plucked the bit of hair off the sheet and shook it in Will's face. "A lock at a time? It'll take you an hour at this rate."
"I can just hack it all off if you want." Palming the scissors, Will clapped both hands on David's shoulders and forced him back down into the chair. "Now sit still."
"Toad," David growled.
A few minutes, some heavy chopping, and showers of brown fluff later, Will stepped back, then turned to rummage in a cabinet. "Hold on a tick. I know there's a tub of gel in here."
"What the bloody hell do you need gel for?" David thundered, jumping up and backing against the wall to keep Will away from his head.
"What's left would make ace spikes."
Clapping both hands to his head, David felt what was left of his hair. Scattered among the shorn remnants, six or seven full-length patches remained. "That's it. Get out. I'll do this myself. Never should've asked you."
Chortling, Will replaced the gel container back in the cabinet and picked up the scissors again. "Relax, mate. I'm just having a bit of fun. Sit down and I'll finish this off."
Glaring at his friend, David sank slowly into the chair and arranged the sheet in front him. "Just shave it and be done."
"Right." Will began chopping off the last long patches. "You're not a vain bloke, but when it comes to your hair..."
"What does that mean?" David hissed through his teeth.
"Just that you like it just so. All right. Now for the oil." Grabbing the bottle from the counter, Will poured out a palmful and began to work it into David's scalp, inch by inch. "You've really got a lot of hair. Much thicker than my floppy mess. It's going to take about half this bottle to do you up proper."
"You said you had a reputation for your hair, didn't you?" Will continued. He paused to pour more oil into his hand, then decided it'd be quicker to apply it directly, slopping a good amount on the top of David's head. "I can see why now, mate. Good colour, too. Just a hint of ginger, if you look carefully. I'm doing it, aren't I? I'm making small talk like a barber."
"I said shush."
"Don't worry, mate. It'll all grow back fast enough."
David's eyes popped open and he gazed sleepily up at his friend. "You're keeping me awake."
"Ah. Well, this'll wake you right up." Will wiped his hands on a towel then handed it to David. “Wet yourself down, hot water.”
David hopped up and strode to the sink. Turning on the water nice and hot, he ducked his head under the faucet until the leftover fuzz was soaked. He backed away and blotted his head a bit, then tossed the towel in a corner and sat back down.
Will came up behind him with the shaver and patted his hair. "Yeah, that's proper wet. Now for the actual shaving." He assessed the back of David's head like it was a block of raw marble. "Let's see. We can't really do a mohawk, can we, with that patch gone right in the back? Inverse mohawk, then?"
"Nah. You like making a splash. How about 'Time' and 'Lord', one over either ear?"
"Will, I swear..."
"How do you write your name in Gallifreyan?"
"That's it." David jumped back up and made a grab for the shaver, but Will danced back just in time and circled around, keeping the chair between them. "Give me that! I'm going to do it myself, then I'm going to shave your head, and then I'm going to drag you back in time and drop you on Skaro, from a hundred metres in the air."
"I’m kidding. You know that. Come on." With his hands up in the air in surrender, fingers curled around the shaver, Will eyed the chair. "No more jokes. I promise."
With a sigh, David sat back down. "Hurry up."
Will worked silently as he endeavoured to remove all of David's hair in one pass. The instructions he'd read emphasised not running over the same area twice, for both appearance and comfort. David certainly wasn't going to keep it this way, but Will figured he might as well make the experience as pleasant as possible. "There. All done." He set the shaver down and unwrapped his friend, tossing the sheet in the laundry chute.
David ran his fingers over his smooth pate, then glared at Will again. "This, too," he snarled, tapping a patch behind his right ear.
Grabbing the shaver again, Will shrugged, trying to stifle the mischievous glint in his eye. "I'd hoped you wouldn't notice." Pushing David's head to the side with his free hand, Will shaved off the errant bit, then brushed the cuttings off David's shirt.
"I thought it was the customer that was supposed to make this difficult, not the barber." David ran his hands over his head again. "Thanks for, well, thanks for part of that anyway. Would've been much more difficult to do it myself. Let me go fetch a broom."
"Aren't you going to see how it looks?" asked Will as he placed the shaver on the counter and grabbed the scissors to put it away. Eyeing his friend, he jerked his head toward the mirror.
David paused at the doorway. "I don't intend to look in a mirror for at least two months. It'll make it a bit difficult to shave, but I figure I couldn't look worse." He ran a hand over his jaw. "Maybe I'll just let it grow out with the hair."
"You look great," Will replied. "Different, but just fine. A perfect Professor X. Well, except you can walk. Or you could be Lex Luthor. Ever wanted to play a supervillain?"
David sighed. "And here come the bald jokes, right on cue."
"Cue ball. Oh, come on, you set yourself up for that one," Will chided as David rolled his eyes. "You really do look fine. You'll see, no one will bat an eye."
David wagged a finger at Will. "That reminds me. No trips for two months, either. If we run out of food, I'll land us on some planet and you can go foraging." He trotted out.
"Forget what I said about not being vain," Will murmured with a laugh.
"What was that?" came a voice from the corridor.
Will shot back, "I didn't say a word," and turned to the sink to clean out the shaver.
Chapter 7: Transport
As David eased his little silver sports car out of the parking spot in front of his house and cruised down the road leading to the high street, Will settled back and marvelled at the vehicle. Modern and stylish, the dashboard featured sleek electronic readouts that assured the driver that it was operating at peak efficiency. The dark leather seats were soft yet supportive, much more comfortable for long drives than those in other performance cars he'd ridden in, and there was plenty of leg room, even for two tall blokes. The car glided over the tarmac, the hum of its engine barely discernible.
"You know, mate," Will began, "you made a great choice with this car. It's a pretty little thing, and a grand ride."
"Thanks." David checked the rear-view, a hint of pleasure playing about his eyes. "A bit out of character for me, but at the time, I thought I might enjoy myself."
"What do you mean?"
David shrugged. "I don't know the first thing about cars. Never really cared for them. They're just transport, you know? But then I got the part playing the Doctor and I thought I'd splurge with the paycheck, get something a bit flashy. Not very responsible, I know, but it's been reliable."
"Damn responsibility," advised Will. "Not the point. Your salary must've been phenomenal. No shame in spending a little."
"Oh, but that's the nature of the business. One day you might have your own show, but then the bubble bursts and you never know if you're going to get another job again, and if you're not frugal, you're living in a box eating cup o' soup. It was stupid to blow so much cash on this thing," and he grinned happily, "but, oh, it was brilliant, being the child in the sweet shop for once. And ultimately, I suppose, I have the car but none of the money I was saving up."
With a grin, Will elbowed his friend companionably. "There, now. Hindsight justifies the decision."
As David laughed, Will twiddled the knob on the factory-installed stereo. "Ever thought of kitting this thing up?"
David glanced at Will's hand. "You mean get a better sound system? I thought about it, for my trips up to Glasgow, but I found I don't use it. The time’s better spent reviewing temporal physics."
"That wasn't what I had in mind, really." Will tried to appear innocent, though he knew David wasn't actually watching him.
"Well, there were a lot of bells and whistles I didn't opt for, and I don't see any reason to get them now."
Watching his friend out of the corner of his eye to see his reaction, Will pronounced, "You're certainly capable of adding your own upgrades. This could be your mini-TARDIS."
David threw his head back and laughed whilst keeping a careful eye on the road. "This is hardly a DeLorean."
"Just a difference in chassis, mate," Will prodded.
David was still grinning. "You're barmy, Will. I couldn't even dream of doing something like that."
He wagged a finger at his passenger. "Time travel's a fair bit more complicated than throwing some plutonium in the petrol tank and hitting eighty-eight miles per hour. The Time Lords had to harness a supernova to do it, and that doesn't even consider the fact that their capsules are sentient temporal entities to start with."
"Bah, insignificant details. You put your mind to it, you'll have it worked out in a half an hour." They eyed each other and burst out laughing.
As Will got out in the Tesco car park, he happened to notice David biting his lip with a twinkle in his eye. "What's up, mate?"
David ran a tender hand down the smooth curve of his car's roof. "Just thinking. If only I could. It would've been brilliant."
"Yeah," Will agreed with a sigh. "Yeah, it would've."
Closing the driver's side door, David clicked the fob. The silver coupe beeped, and the two friends strolled together toward the store, each lost in his own happy little daydream.
Chapter 8: You Know You've Wondered
Chewing on his thumb as he studied the schematic shining on the screen propped up on the coffee table in front of him, David gathered his long, lanky leg to his chest and perched on the edge of the sofa, his arm around his knee. He scowled a bit as he thought. The problem with trying to build a super-advanced time capsule on early 21st-century Earth was the lack of materials, and so far, all of his attempts to replace the refined oleranite threads that made up the heart of the bioquantum demisgulator had failed. He was running out of ideas and might have to scrap the device in favor of a more primitive version, or proceed without one at all. The latter option wasn’t too bad: the device was a safety feature and not a core component.
With a sigh, he pushed his glasses up his nose and snagged his notepad and pen to jot down his final thoughts. Chancing to glance up, his eyes locked with those of the man across the room in the armchair, a plastic game controller nestled in his hands. He frowned as Will coloured at being caught staring. The man had been sitting by, playing some shoot-em-up game on the console hooked to the telly, and David had paid him no mind, tuning out the brash music, flashing lights, and gunshots and screams.
“What?” David declined to voice the question he really wanted to ask, which was how long Will had been staring. His eyes flicked to the screen. The game was paused. Will must have stopped playing for at least some amount of time.
“Nothing,” Will shot back, though it was more of a reflex than an answer. “I just… nothing.”
“Out with it,” David spat as he dumped the notepad back on the coffee table and sat back on the couch.
“I was just thinking, is all,” Will explained without explaining. “Nothing important, mate.”
“Tell me,” David coaxed again as he tossed the pen onto the notepad. “I wasn’t making any headway on this problem, so a distraction would be welcome.”
Will balanced the controller on the arm of his chair and relaxed back. “I was just wondering, how could two species from two completely different planets look so much alike?”
“That’s simple enough.” With an amused smile, David traced his lip with the tip of his tongue before answering. “Low special-effects and costuming budget, coupled with a need for the lead character to be relatable to the audience.”
Sighing, Will rolled his eyes. “Mate, conversations with you are surreal enough without that kind of talk.”
David shrugged. “That’s what my life’s been, really: an extended television programme.”
“In reality, however…” Will shouted over David.
“I ask you, whose reality is really real?”
“Shut it, mate!” Will growled, and David grinned at him but kept his silence. “Really, though, how does that work? How does evolution under different environmental conditions produce two species that look alike? No one could tell you aren’t human. And from what I’ve seen from your programme, there are plenty of species out there that look human. That doesn’t happen by chance.”
David wagged a finger at him. “I’m not sure it did. I heard a story that Rassilon decided that the Gallifreyan physical model was the ideal and seeded sentient species across the universe with it.”
Will’s eyes widened. “You’re saying that he pre-determined the way humans look now?”
“Aye. What do you think of that?”
“Bit full of himself, wasn’t he?”
“That’s an understatement.”
Will shook his head. “So humans look Time Lord.”
“Gallifreyan,” David corrected him. “Humans look Gallifreyan.”
“Gallifreyan. Now, you didn’t change at all when you…” He faltered; it was still strange to him to admit that his friend had once been human and was now alien.
“No, not a bit.” David pulled his glasses off and, folding the arms with a click, twiddled them at Will between his thumb and forefinger. “Except for these. Blasted Doctor! I went from nearsighted to farsighted in a matter of moments.”
“That’s beside the point. That’s a specific trait of one man. Thing is, you haven’t changed on the outside, but on the inside, you’re completely different. Two hearts, respiratory whatsit, and so on, plus all the other bits that humans have, yet you still look the same.” He pointed at David’s narrow chest. “How do you fit all that in there?”
David looked down at himself. “Don’t know. Never thought about how my organs fit together.”
“It just doesn’t make sense. There’s got to be some difference.”
Sitting up straight, David spread his arms wide. “Look, I’m the same as I’ve ever been. You know what I looked like when I was human. I haven’t changed a bit.”
Will smirked. “Well, I can’t exactly say that, mate.”
David shrugged. “Why not? You’ve seen recordings of my performances.”
“True, but I can’t swear that every little bit is the same,” he drawled.
“What are you -?” David began, then his jaw dropped open and spots coloured his cheeks. “Oh, no, you’re not…” Biting his lip, he tugged on his ear as he shook his head at his friend. “We are not going there.”
With a sly smile, Will prodded him, “Why not? This is your chance to tell me just how lordly you became.”
“I am not discussing this.” David crossed his arms over his chest and looked away with a pointed snort.
“Why not?” Will repeated, his face a mask of innocent inquiry.
David lolled his head back like he was too exhausted to hold it up. “Because it is not an important consideration, for either of us. From what you have seen of me, there is adequate data that Time Lords and humans appear identical.”
“It sounds more to me like the Doctor was lacking in a critical area.” He bit back a mocking grin.
David glared at his friend. “Fine. If I must state it for a fact, I have not changed in outward physical appearance between being human and becoming a Time Lord.”
“In every detail?”
“Aye,” he grunted.
“Then you have compared yourself!” Will exclaimed. “And here I thought you Time Lords didn’t care about such matters.”
David jabbed a hand toward the front door. “Out!” Will melted into his chair, helpless with laughter.
“All right!” David jumped up from his seat and started undoing the belt on his shorts. “If you need proof…”
Still guffawing breathlessly, Will waved him away with a limp hand. “I believe you! I believe you!” he gasped out.
Snatching a throw pillow from the couch, David chucked it at his friend, bouncing it off of his head, then flopped back down and did his belt back up. “Now, shut it,” he grunted through a toothy sneer and grabbed his notepad and pen.
Pushing himself back upright, Will wiped the tears from his eyes. “Of course.” Grabbing the controller, which he’d knocked to the floor a moment before, he settled back in his chair and returned to his game.
Rolling his eyes, David positioned himself in front of his tablet, checked a notation, and started taking notes. “And I’m quite lordly, thankyouverymuch.”
“Didn’t say a thing.”
Chapter 9: A Whole New World
Does this qualify as fluff? Probably not.
Having the whole house to himself might be a bit lonely but it had its perks, Will mused as he dragged himself out of bed to brush his teeth, get dressed, and push a comb through his hair. No one held him accountable on the weekends and he’d stayed up into the wee hours of Saturday morning raiding with his friends in his online game. Once they’d emerged victorious from one of the most difficult instances in the virtual world, he had tumbled, still in his dressing gown, into bed. Now, at eleven in the morning, he had nowhere he needed to be, and no one was demanding his time and attention. “That,” he stated, wagging a stern finger at his foam-mouthed reflection, “is how a bachelor rationalises how he could possibly be happy.”
As he trundled down the stairs - no Mum to yell at him to slow down - he considered all the things he wanted accomplish today. Grocery shopping was first on the list, followed by delving into the flawed graphics code in the phone game he’d been building for the past half year. He had the whole day ahead of him and he worked best when he was focused and undisturbed. “Ah, who am I kidding?” he laughed out loud as he put the kettle on. “I’ll be back online, hunting down the lich king in thirty minutes.”
Whilst the water heated, Will fetched a box of cereal from the bare pantry and poured the last remnants into a bowl. No milk meant he grabbed a handful of the crumbs and, stuffing them in his mouth, strolled out to the parlour. When he threw open the front window to let in the bright summer sunshine, he heard a snatch of song, the male voice weak but enthusiastic. He paused to listen, biting his lip with an amused grin.
I’m on my way from misery to happiness today.
I’m on my way from misery to happiness today.
I’m on my way to what I want from this world,
And years from now you’ll make it to the next world,
And everything that you receive up yonder
Is what you gave to me the day I wandered.
Glancing back toward the kitchen, Will decided he had a bit of time before the water boiled and he didn’t need to get back right away. It was far more important to go poke a bit of fun at his friend David, the singer serenading the terrace. He lived two doors down and must be belting out his song if Will could hear him this clearly. Stepping out in his bare feet, Will made sure his door was unlocked, then sauntered to his friend’s house.
I’ll do my best, I’ll do my best to do the best I can.
I’ll do my best, I’ll do my best to do the best I can
To keep my feet from jumping from the ground dear,
To keep my hearts from jumping through my mouth dear...
David sat on his doorstep fiddling with a device, his tools and parts on the ground between his feet. The hole in the wall behind him, from which a couple of gnarled wires poked, gave evidence of the disassembled doorbell. A toolbox sat open on the step. Will stood by as his friend finished his song.
To keep the past the past and not the present,
To try and learn when you teach me a lesson,
And now that I don’t want for anything,
I’d have Al Jolson sing, “I’m sitting on top of the world.”
“‘Lo, David. You’re in a good mood today,” Will remarked when his friend fell silent and looked up at him with bright eyes.
Dropping the tool in his hand, David picked up his mobile and climbed to his feet. “Of course. What’s not to love?” He gestured to the blue sky adorned with a smattering of fluffy clouds. “It’s a fine day, sunny and warm even here up in the north. Got a lot done overnight, and I figured out how to hook up the subharmonic mediflow generator without a transcyclic demodulator, so I won’t have to create an artificial pinpoint singularity in my kitchen.”
“Brilliant,” Will grinned. He hadn’t a clue what David was talking about, but he could agree that the lack of a black hole anywhere on the planet was a good thing.
“Well, it’s not exactly a turning point, but everything’s working well and I’m making good progress. It’ll be a number of years yet, but that just means I get to enjoy my life here, with the best friends a man could have.” He flashed a shining smile at Will. “And then I get to go out and explore the entire universe! Best of all, Tesco restocked the malted milk biscuits, so I’ll have a proper tea in a bit. What more could I possibly ask for?”
“Sounds perfect, mate,” Will agreed. He pointed at the device in his friend’s hands. “What happened to the doorbell?”
“Nothing. I just attached a temporal recorder to it.” He turned to the wall and began attaching it to the protruding wires. “I found a note from the Doctor asking for this when I moved in. He wanted a vortex snapshot every time someone rang the bell. Don’t know why, but I figured it was high time I got it done.” Shrugging, he pushed the bell plate into the hole and, holding his mobile to it, buzzed it until the screws spun in flush. “Maybe he thinks Daleks ring doorbells.”
“Don’t they have big plunger arms? Kinda hard to push a tiny little button.” Will shrugged. “Well, I should get back, left the kettle on. Just wanted to say hi. It’s good to see you happy, mate, though I never thought I’d hear you singing.”
David knelt to scoop his materials into the toolbox. “It’s certainly not my strong point. There’s a reason I never did musicals.”
“You’re not bad. You’re on key, at least,” he pointed out. “Voice training’s all you need. So what was that song?”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t expect you to recognise it from my singing.” He snapped the cover of the toolbox closed. “It was I’m on My Way.”
Will nodded. “Ah, never heard that before.”
“Not too surprising,” David remarked as he got to his feet. “It’s not their most famous song.”
“The who?” Will repeated.
Cocking his head to peer at his friend, David frowned. “The Proclaimers. They did I’m Gonna Be. That’s the one everybody knows.” At the shake of Will’s head, David shot him an incredulous smile. “Oh come on. You know it. Probably call it 'Five Hundred Miles'.” Will stared at him blankly, and he began singing and marching in place, pumping his arms back and forth in time. “And - I - will - walk - five - hun - dred - miles - and - I - will - walk - five - hun - dred - more…” He eyed his friend expectantly.
Will threw his hands up. “Sorry, mate. Don’t know that one.”
David started tapping on his mobile. “Let me pull it up. You’ll know it the moment you hear it. They’re a Scottish band, so maybe you don’t know them, though they’re even known in the States, and -” He fell silent, staring at his phone. “Nothing’s coming up.”
“The band. The search is empty.” His fingers danced over the device’s screen and Will could see the incomprehensible circles and lines roiling over the surface. “I can’t find them at all.”
“Maybe you spelt it wrong?” Will suggested.
“No, Will.” David looked up, his eyes wide with despair. “The Proclaimers don’t exist in this universe.”
“Oh.” Will finally caught on. “They’re from your home.”
“No Proclaimers.” David’s murmur was barely audible as he scooped up the toolbox and turned toward the door, his frame sagging. Nudging the door open with his shoulder, he slipped in, sighing, “It’s going to be a long millennium.” The door inched closed and latched with a click.