Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Characters: David Tennant, original characters
Word Count: 2856
Summary: (The Actor AU 2) Will's friend becomes terminally ill and there's nothing he can do about it.
Author's notes: This is set about two years after Neighbours and before Repercussions. The entire story is novella-length and too long for a single LJ post, but it's not a chaptered fic; more like a sectioned fic. I'm going to post all of it in bite-sized pieces over the next day or so.
Sometimes Will felt like David’s little silver sports car was as much his own. David let him use it freely, often frowning with annoyance when Will bothered him to ask for permission. He knew the vehicle so well, his hands found the various controls without looking and he knew exactly how far to push the seat up to accommodate his shorter legs. The car was simply comfortable, like an extension of himself, and he wondered if his friend had modified it, perhaps added a telepathic component, to make it connect with its driver.
Comfort was definitely an advantage during this trip, helping Will push his anxiety to the back of his mind as he kept his eyes on the road. Music also helped, keeping him entertained during these long hours, and luckily, it hadn’t bothered David at all.
As he turned off on the slip road and eased the velocity down behind the steady stream of cars leaving the motorway, Will ran through the directions he’d memorised before they’d started on their journey, then glanced over at the man sleeping in the passenger’s seat. “David,” he murmured, trying to wake him gently though he knew it wouldn’t work. “We’re almost there.” He waited a few moments for a response, then reached over to shake him awake. “David. Wake up. Wake up, mate.”
The man groaned before opening his eyes. “What?” he croaked. “What’s wrong?” Shifting a bit, he squinted irritably at the sunlight.
“Nothing’s wrong. It’s time to get up.”
David tugged at his seatbelt as he pushed himself upright. “Already? I just fell asleep.”
“That was -”
“- two hours and twenty-one minutes ago,” David finished for him. “Took me a moment to orientate. Feels like two minutes.” He rubbed his fists into his dark, sunken eyes. “It’s getting worse. Another few weeks and -”
“No use thinking about that, mate,” Will spoke over him as they came to a stop at a traffic light. He reached over and squeezed David’s shoulder. “It’ll work and it’ll be all over.”
“Aye.” They fell silent as Will navigated through the roads choked with crowds of people flocking toward the main event, arriving more than an hour early hoping to find a good vantage point to catch a glimpse of movement lasting less than thirty seconds. Will turned off the high street into rows and rows of identical houses. Further out, he found a parking spot and, manoeuvring the car into the tight space, shut off the engine and turned to his friend. David had nodded off again.
Will shook his leg and he jerked awake. “It’s time, mate.”
“Aye.” Concentrating hard, David shook himself alert, though his shoulders drooped and his eyes were rimmed with red. “You remember what you need to do?”
“It’s all I’ve been thinking about since we stopped for lunch. Come on, let’s go.”
As David climbed out of the car, he stopped and turned to his Will. He seemed about to say something, then thought better of it. With a faint, exhausted smile for his friend, he turned, trudging away to lose himself down a side street. Mobile in hand, Will trotted off to take up his appointed position.
Five months earlier...
Toting his lunch in a pale blue plastic container, Will turned the corner into the company break room and paused to assess with whom he might spend his meal. As usual, the lines were drawn by department: Ben relived last night’s football with the other developers, Amy discussed the recent space opera blockbuster with the graphic artists, and Markus regaled the designers with stories of his recent holiday down south. Mary sat alone in a corner, staring at the screen of her tablet as she typed away on its attached keyboard, the last bite of her sandwich lonely on her plate. As he decided which group to join, Mary closed her tablet and, stuffing the last bit of bread, meat, and cheese in her mouth, grabbed her things and slipped out.
With a mental shrug, Will walked over to the artists’ table and claimed the one empty seat. He’d seen the film they were discussing the week before and it was far sight more interesting than talking football.
“Well, here’s someone who’d know,” proclaimed Laura, waving a fork at Will.
“Know what?” Will asked as he opened his pack lunch.
“She thought the pig-men in that scene in the spaceport on Ctolmad looked too fake and cheesy,” Amy explained.
“Ah, you can’t please an artist,” Will mocked.
Laura scowled at him in pretended offense. “But you’ve seen real aliens. Don’t you think that the pig-men were cheesy?”
Will used the excuse of taking the first mouthful of his lunch to consider his answer. He’d seen far more aliens than anyone could know, in the context of the television programme his friend David, himself an alien, had brought from his alternate universe. The show depicted aliens and civilisations from Will’s universe, and though he had to admit that the Judoon that had appeared on screen could not be said to look realistic when compared the real ones he’d seen, it had taught him that the variety of life beyond planet Earth was far greater than he could imagine. “I think,” he finally pronounced, “that without actually seeing all the different types of life out there, I can’t really judge what might or might not be realistic.”
Laura snorted at his equivocation. “Well, I still think it was bad enough that it ruined immersion.” The conversation moved on, and Will enjoyed both his lunch and the discussion with his friends.
He was still eating when the artists got up to go, but though she gathered her rubbish, Amy didn’t leave with the rest of them, saying she had something to talk to Will about. Once the rest of them had left, Amy scooted her chair closer.
“What do you think about Mary?” she murmured, glancing at their friend’s long-vacated table.
Will frowned at the odd question. “Other than not eating lunch with you like she used to, I haven’t noticed anything.”
“That’s what I mean.” Amy bit her lip and leant closer in to Will. “Something’s off with her. She’s been so quiet, either working or typing away on her tablet. Not that she’s ever skived off work before, but she hasn’t even taken a break except for lunch. And she’s been back three days and she’s hardly said a word to me.”
Will emptied the last crumbs of crisps from the packet into his hand and tossed them back. After swallowing, he shook his head. “I don’t think you should worry. Everyone grieves in their own way.”
“I suppose.” Amy glanced off in the direction of the designers’ desks.
“It’s a tough time for her right now,” Will added. “Wasn’t he her best friend at uni?”
“Yup. Gareth. I met him once when he came up here for a visit. Graphic artist like me.” Amy stared off at the door again, her expression grim, her concern for her friend plain on her face.
Will sniffed. In his opinion, Amy needed to let her friend work through her loss, at least for the moment. If Mary chose to withdraw from her friends and immerse herself in work, then that’s what she needed to do. Amy should stay close in case Mary needed her, but should otherwise keep her distance for a bit. “Doubly hard, when someone dies so young,” he commented, trying to keep the pedantic tone out of his voice.
Eyeing him with an embarrassed smile, Amy leaned on the table and propped her chin in her hand. “Yeah, I know. I just…I just think that throwing yourself into work like that, it’s not good. She spent his last days with him, and then came right back to work like nothing happened. She’s got to be devastated.”
Reaching over to pat Amy’s arm, Will smiled sadly. “I know it’s hard, but you have to let her cope the way she wants. She’ll come around, when she comes to terms with it. Just make sure you’re there when she comes looking.”
“I will. I hope she knows that.”
“Of course she does.” Will took her hand. “You’re her best mate here. You’ll be the first person she’ll turn to.”
Amy squeezed his hand back. “Thanks, Will. You’re always a sweetheart.”
“Oi!” he exclaimed, drawing back. “Don’t say that out loud. Ben’ll find out and I’ll never hear the end of it.”
“I’ll find out what?” came a cry from other end of the room.
“See what you’ve done?” Will sighed. Amy patted his arm, laughing, then thanked him again before heading back to her desk.
When Will finished his lunch, he decided he might help Amy out a bit. After binning his rubbish, he made his way to the designers’ office, where, as he expected, he found Mary with her nose to the grindstone, drawing up wireframes for their newest client’s website. Hunched over her keyboard, she didn’t notice Will’s approach.
“Er, Mary?” he called, keeping his voice down though the other desks were vacant.
Mary glanced up. “Will,” she replied. She regarded him pleasantly enough, though she was obviously distracted.
He wasn’t quite sure how to start, and tried a vague, general approach. “Amy’s been worried for you.”
Will frowned. That wasn’t at all how he expected her to react to being informed of her best friend’s concern. Perhaps directness was the way to go. “She knows you’re going through a tough time right now, and she wanted to tell you that if you need anyone to talk to, she’s there for you, any time.”
“Oh.” She smiled politely. “Thanks.”
Will leant forward, bracing his hands on the edge of the desk as he pushed himself into Mary’s listless gaze and searched her face. “You okay, love?”
That seemed to wake her up. Her eyes brightened and she focused on Will for the first time. The life returned to her voice. “I’m fine, Will, thank you. And yes, I know she’s worried for me. You’re a dear to come tell me.”
Backing off, Will hooked his thumbs on the pockets of his trousers to adopt a more casual, non-threatening attitude. “I’m worried for both of you.”
“I know.” Mary picked up one of five clay figurines lined neatly across her desk. “I’d like you to have this.”
Taking it from her, Will inspected the figure of a woman dancing, her arms gracefully extended above her head. It was roughly sculpted - Will could see fingerprints in some places - and unglazed, but it radiated grace and strength, and he marvelled at the artist’s skill.
The smile on Mary’s face as she watched Will admire the figure was proud and loving. “My friend, the one who… who passed. He made it. Isn’t it lovely?”
Dismayed, Will thrust it back at Mary. “I can’t take this.”
“No, no, please. He would love you to have it.” Mary picked up another one and turned it over in her hand. “I’ve a dozen of these at home. You see, he was a sculptor, and a bloody good one. I mean, he was my age, and he’d already got commissioned pieces up in Birmingham and Blackpool, and he was just about to start work on a public piece in Nottingham. He’s going to be remembered. He mostly worked in bronze, but in the last month or so, he started making these. There’s a couple hundred of them, and another twenty waiting to be fired.” Frowning, she bit her lip as she stared at the figure. “It’s almost like he knew he was going to die, so he didn’t want to start anything big, and he just made as many of these as he could. Please, take it and remember him. I know you never met him, but it means everything to me.”
Will gazed at the statuette again. He could feel the emotion the artist had imbued in the clay, and imagined that he’d been sculpting Mary herself. “I’d be honoured. Thank you.” He grasped her shoulder. “Take care of yourself, love.”
“I will. I promise.”
Perched on the low brick wall just outside the front door of the office building, his nose buried in his phone, David looked like every other young professional in the business district, if dressed down a bit in his light coat and jeans. As an alien hiding among humans, he’d good reason to be nervous outside of his home, but two years of living on Earth amongst good friends had made him comfortable. He was reasonably certain that he concealed his obviously alien behaviours - such as reading a Gallifreyan treatise on the complexities of dimensional folding whilst waiting for his friends - rather well, and that he was merely regarded as eccentric.
Though his reading material was quite absorbing, he kept tabs on the people emerging from the building and heading off for their weekend. He didn’t hold a job himself and didn’t keep to a regular weekly schedule, but each person radiated relief and relaxation as they passed, and he couldn’t help but smile along with them. By the time his friends appeared at the door, David sat a little straighter and the future, or at least the coming weekend, looked bright.
“There he is,” Will stated to Amy and Markus as they walked up to David. “Told you he’d be down here. Always on time, he is. Probably waiting on us, to tell the truth.”
“Not too long,” David answered as he got to his feet, stuffing his mobile in his pocket. “Pleasant enough evening. I don’t take time to relax like this often enough, I think.”
“From what Will says, no, you don’t,” Amy scolded with a teasing grin as she fastened her coat against the mid-winter chill. “And you don’t come out for Friday night pub often enough either. Glad you could make it tonight.”
“Thanks for having me.” He looked over the trio of friends. “Small group tonight.”
“There’s some still working, but they’ll catch up,” Markus said. “Ben can’t make it, something about a family do. And Mary doesn’t come on these anymore.”
“She doesn’t?” repeated David with a frown. “She used to love these, said the weekend couldn’t start without Friday night pub.”
Will shook his head. “She hasn’t been the same since her friend died. It’s been, what, a month now, and all she does is work and home. She doesn’t even talk to anyone unless she’s forced to.”
David frowned. “Well, everyone grieves in their own way,” he murmured.
“That’s what I said a month ago, but this is bloody unhealthy, I say,” Will replied. “You can’t live your life for the dead. At some point, you’ve got to let go.”
“Oi!” Amy hissed. They all looked toward the building to see Mary emerge from the front doors. Her shoulders curved and her gaze glued to the tips of her peep-toes, she stalked by the group without noticing them.
“Oi, Mary!” Markus called, his tone falsely bright. “Joining us for pub tonight?”
Stopping cold, she turned, scowling, and glared at each one of them in turn, her eyes dark and a bit bloodshot. Then, shaking her head as if she were trying to dislodge the memory of the interruption, she resumed her path, disappearing around the corner of the building.
Markus shrugged. “See? That’s about all you can get out of her. More, actually. She usually doesn’t stop.”
Dragging a hand down over his jaw, David stared after her. “Curious,” he whispered. “I’d never think that of her. She’s always been so outgoing. I’m sure you’ve tried talking to her.”
“Yes, I’ve tried,” Amy murmured. “We all have. But I can really only take so many ‘go aways’.”
“I say it’s not worth worrying about,” Markus declared. “She’ll come around or she won’t. But what is worth worrying about is whether this is a porter night or a pale ale night. I’m thinking porter myself.”
“When do you not think porter?” Amy asked. She turned on her heel, as much to goad to the party toward the pub as to block her own view of the corner her erstwhile best mate had disappeared around.
“When the tap’s dry,” grinned Markus.
As Markus joined Amy to chat about her beer preferences, Will caught David’s eye with a questioning shrug. He moved in and murmured, “What do you think, mate?”
“I’ve no idea,” David replied, chewing on the tip of his tongue as they fell behind their friends. “The change in behaviour is startling, but she’s had a tough time of it, you said. Some people bounce back faster than others.” He stuffed his hands in his pockets. “I’m no expert, especially in human psychology, but I’d say wait a bit more and watch. If she doesn’t turn herself around in a month or so, maybe it’s time for an intervention.”
“I hope it doesn’t come to that,” groaned Will. “That kind of thing never turns out well.”
“No. It doesn’t, does it?” David murmured with a resigned shrug.