Word count: 3828
About fifteen minutes after the Judoon spaceship took off, a UNIT helicopter flew into town and landed in the blasted park. Of course, by that time, Will had made himself scarce, retreating to an area the rhinos had never reached in order to lose himself in the crowd. Once he had convinced himself that he wouldn't be singled out as anyone who might know something, he followed the press of people trying to find out what had happened. Thus, he observed the arrival of UNIT ground troops about an hour later and began to hear the snippets of rumours of a pair of men who talked the aliens down and convinced them to leave. The stories grew more ludicrous as the day wore on, and by the time he decided to head home, he was sure no one could tie him to the event.
One thing he did make sure to do whilst wandering with the crowd was to catch up on the calls and texts he had been ignoring all afternoon, since just after the alien ship had landed. The first call he made was to his family down in London to inform them of what was happening in the town and assure them that he was quite safe. Dealing with his coworkers was a different matter. He was reluctant to tell anyone anything, but after noticing that he had nearly twenty messages waiting, each one more worried than the last, he resorted to sending Ben a short text saying that both he and David were fine. He was sure that Ben would relay the message to everyone else.
In the early evening, Will returned home to find that his windows had been blown out by the sonic boom and that it had been searched by the Judoon, as he had expected. Though they hadn't inflicted any deliberate damage, the bulky, clumsy rhinos had destroyed a number of items just by moving around. Will counted himself lucky, though, as he'd heard stories of houses with structural damage from the careless aliens. Since the evening was quite warm, the open windows were a blessing, so he resolved to cover the broken windows with cardboard and call a glazing firm the next day, telling himself that they at least stood to make a profit from this disaster. He then spent the rest of the night on the sofa, quite drained, alternately watching nothing he later remembered and news reports of the invasion on the telly. His phone rang occasionally with calls from his coworkers, but he ignored them all.
Will was greeted at work the next day with relief; he'd been the only person unaccounted for after everyone had fled the picnic, and though Ben had informed them that Will had reported in, they had all been nervous until they actually saw him. When asked the inevitable questions about what had happened to him, he told them a tale he had carefully crafted the night before; he didn't care if they thought he was stupid or cowardly, but he didn't want them thinking he knew anything about what had really happened. So he explained that, rather than running, he'd hidden and gotten trapped among the houses. He'd managed to avoid the aliens, but been too scared to try to make his way past them. This caused a spate of questions: what were the aliens like up close, what did they want, did he see what happened to them? He answered the first one happily and in great detail, receiving several satisfyingly awed looks, but shrugged at the other two, and eventually his coworkers left him alone. The rest of the day went smoothly, though actual productivity was down, due to frequent breakouts of discussions of the invasion. Will also had to take some time to call his bank to deactivate his debit card and request a new one; he figured a day was plenty enough time for the guard at the dig to collect his bribe, and he was pleased to find that the man hadn't been too greedy. As the week wore on, life returned to normal.
It was the evenings that were difficult. The Friday crowd went out to the pub on Monday night, to drink away the previous day's events, though Will appropriated Ben's keys and designated himself the driver; it was a great cover excuse for staying sober to avoid inadvertently admitting his involvement with the Judoon. Arriving home way too late after driving people home and despairing about having to wake up early to pick them up on the way to work, he walked into his house to find his laptop on the floor, leaning against the wall just inside the door. Of course he can get past locks. He did as much yesterday. Too tired to think about it, he snatched up the device and deposited it on the desk in his study before trudging upstairs and falling into bed fully clothed.
The next evening, as usual, he walked past David’s house on the way home from the bus stop. Maintaining the nonchalance in his gait, he kept his eyes averted, intently studying the scuffs on the tyre of the car of the neighbour who lived between them. Once at his own door, he slipped in and collapsed on the couch, staring at the ceiling. He wanted nothing to do with that... that alien. He just couldn’t get the images from Sunday out of his mind: the gigantic spaceship, the rhino army, the terrified people, David standing in front of the Judoon leader and taking responsibility for the town and the world, the unremarkable metal box that could swallow the planet, the man defending his choice to risk the human race to save the aliens, and, most of all, two shining, golden eyes staring at him from the face of a man who had been his best friend in town but whom, it turned out, he didn’t know at all. David had deceived him all along, and he wondered just how much truth the man had ever spoken. Could he trust anything he had said, or will say?
Grunting in frustration, he jumped up from the couch, strode into the kitchen to fetch a bag of crisps and a pop, and settled in his study in front of the computer to lose himself in his favorite online game. Fifteen minutes later, he was up again and heading back to the couch: his super-powered player character and the fantasy monsters trying to kill him somehow hit too close to home. Flicking the telly on, he again spent the rest of the night staring at anything that could distract him. Wednesday night turned out to be much of the same.
As time passed, it became easier and easier to tuck the events of Sunday deep into a dark corner of his mind. Friday night’s pub crawl was back to normal, with only a few mentions of the alien visitation, mostly with humourous hindsight. Inquiries were made as to where David was and why he didn't come out with them tonight, and Will deflected them by saying that the man had new obligations and may not be joining them much in the future. Though they were disappointed, everyone accepted what he said without question and returned to their usual discussions of their personal lives, upcoming movies, and work hardships. Will was relieved that everyone had bounced back so well, himself included. On Saturday, he met up with Michael to check out his pub league team and spent much of the afternoon playing football on a pitch across town. By the time he returned home, he was very happily exhausted, and after dinner, he settled in front of his computer to finally get back to his online game.
Will hadn’t been in the game long when a knock sounded at his front door. Typing out an excuse to his friends, he trotted to the front door and peered through the peephole. As he expected, David was standing out on the porch, waiting patiently with his hands jammed in his pockets. Will’s stomach flipped, and he forced a neutral face as he opened the door.
“Will.” David's demeanour was placid over a cold, hard core. “I’m sorry to bother you. I simply wanted to bid you goodbye, and to thank you for the last four months and for your help with the Judoon. I owe you at least that much.”
Will barely managed to not goggle at the man. He had figured that eventually they’d have to talk and had wondered what David might say, but he hadn’t expected that. “You’re leaving?”
“Yes. I’m taking long overdue responsibility for my life, including not living off the Doctor’s generosity any longer.” He glanced in the direction of his house. “It’s all cleaned up and cleared out, ready for him to return to when he needs it. Well, I left the furniture. No need to discard that.”
“Oh! Let me return this, then.” Will started digging in his pocket for his keyring.
David shook his head. “No, keep it. There are extra copies, and the Doctor won’t mind if you need it.”
“I don’t want it,” he stated as he started to work the key off the ring.
“Keep it anyway. Just for the convenience, just in case. You could probably even live in it if you wanted, so you don’t have to pay rent here. He’s not going to mind.”
Will could tell that David was not going to accept it and stuffed the keyring back in his pocket, resolving to throw the key away later. He searched for something more to say. “Er, where are you going? Are you staying in Britain?”
“That would defeat the purpose. I’d just be endangering a different group of people, wouldn’t I?” He continued to be aloof and inscrutable, his alien nature almost tangible, making Will shiver inside. “I rigged up a very basic dematerialisation circuit for the TARDIS. She’s not really ready for one, but it should be safe enough to make it into the time vortex.” Realising Will wouldn’t know what he was talking about, he began to explain like a university professor. “The time vortex is the stream of time that connects every point in time and space together. You may picture it as a completely different dimension, made of time and nothing else. The circuit will allow the TARDIS to disappear from here and go into there."
“Okay.” Except for the concept of this vortex being another dimension, Will didn’t understand at all what he meant, and he figured the details weren’t important, so he dismissed it. “And where will you go from there?”
“Nowhere. The TARDIS won’t be able to materialise anywhere until she’s grown a bit more and I’ve managed to complete the dematerialisation circuit.”
Will frowned. The more David said about his plans, the less he understood. “How long will that take?”
“Objectively, in the time vortex, no time passes at all. Or you could say that all time passes. Subjectively..." As he calculated, his eyes wandered to the frame of the door above Will. "A year? Fifteen months at the outside.”
Will opened his mouth to protest the idea that David was going spend a year alone in an empty dimension when he realised what the man was actually doing, and his brow furrowed in concern. “You’re exiling yourself,” he breathed. “You’re exiling yourself from the universe.”
“Not the words I’d choose, no.” He seemed puzzled by the concept.
“But that’s exactly it. Why? You don’t have to do that, David.”
“Don’t I?” Detached and emotionless, he spoke like a bailiff listing the charges levied against a defendant. “I don’t belong here or anywhere, and I bring danger to everyone around me. It doesn't matter if they're human or alien. And the worst thing is that I don’t realise that I do. That makes me the most dangerous type of person. I never wanted to hurt anyone. I never have, but I always do." Remorse flitted across his face and he glanced away, at the flowers planted to the side of Will's door, but when he looked back up, his eyes were cold and flat again. "In the time vortex, I can’t, and when I come out, I’ll at least be equipped to be what I really am.”
"No, you're wrong." Will's words were quiet but adamant.
David's gaze snapped to Will's face, confused and suspicious. "No, don't, Will. It's over. I'm done. I-"
Will cut him off with a wave of his hand. All of Will's nebulous thoughts about David's betrayal and lack of empathy had crystallised into a clear picture of the entire problem, and he wasn't going to let the man slink away without addressing it. "That's what you were doing, weren't you? I mean, you were trying to buy time to find the device and save the town from the Judoon verdict, but you had a third motive, deep down. You were trying to find a way to die without actually killing yourself, because you think you're putting everyone in harm's way just by being here."
"No! I would never!" David's denied Will's statement immediately, but he couldn't meet the man's eyes.
"Yes, you would!" Will exclaimed, certain he was right. "That's exactly it! You're so sure that the problem is you, and you just love the idea of martyring yourself. It's just like this completely mental plan of losing yourself in time or whatever you said, so you can't hurt anyone anymore. Well, mate, you're wrong. You don't bring danger with you. It's not your fault the space rhinos came here, and if it hadn't been for you, if you hadn't been here to sort everything out and buy us the time to find that device, we'd all be dead, and then the planet would have exploded."
He stepped forward, forcing David to retreat a step, and let the door slam behind him. "But I'll tell you what is your fault. You don't let anyone anywhere near you. You share only what you think you can get away with, and pretend to be someone you're not. That's the failure here. That's how you hurt people. That's why it's come down to this. How am I supposed to trust you, if you won't trust me enough to show me who you are?"
David's eyes began to glow golden and he snapped at his friend, baring his teeth in an angry sneer. "Look at me, Will. How do I show anyone this? How do I tell them that I have two hearts and that I solve higher-order differential equations in my head and that I'm building a time machine in my bedroom, without having them run away screaming or show up at my door with torches and pitchforks?" The light in his eyes winked out. "I'm an alien among humans. I can't go back to being what I was, and humans won't accept me for what I am now. All I can do is pretend to be normal. I'm an actor, a very highly trained one, and pretending is what I do best."
Taken aback, David sputtered before he could reply. “You have no concept of how good an actor I might be.”
Will shrugged. “From what I can see, you’re terrible, because by your own admission, you don’t fit in among us humans." He spun away for a moment, scrubbing a hand over his eyes as he tried to compose his thoughts. Turning back to David, he shook his head sadly. "Don't you see? You can't just make us accept you, especially by pretending to be something you're not. You have to be yourself, and you have trust us that we'll value you for who you are." He caught David's eye and nodded slowly as he spoke. "That's the same for everyone, no matter who they are."
David drew himself up straight, his eyes glowing dangerously. "I am not 'everyone'. You are human, and that's how you work. I am a Time Lord."
Will snorted. "Are you now?" His tone was lightly mocking. "You told me before that you weren't, that you were both human and Time Lord. Well.” He crossed his arms, looking David up and down. “I guess you're a Time Lord now, eh? I haven't the foggiest what that is, but I'll tell you what I see when I look at you. I see a man who's found a place where he's happy, where he feels at home, who's working on realising his dreams, and who wants to feel like he's part of something, even if it it's just a circle of friends at the pub. And you know what? That's no different from any other human I've ever met."
David's throat visibly contracted as he swallowed, and he began to stutter. "I... I'm not -"
"Yes, I'm sure you're not." Will stepped forward and grasped David's arm. His voice was suddenly soft with gentle encouragement. "David. Don't leave, mate. You said you feel different, that you don't remember what you used to be. Then learn who you are, and become who you want to be." He waved his hand around to indicate the entire world around them. "That's what life is. It's what everyone else does, and I'm sure it's no different for Time Lords than it is for humans. And you can't do it alone, locked away by yourself in another dimension."
David glanced away, shaking his head. "Will, I can't. I'm not human anymore. I don't belong here. Every day, I look around and I see you and everyone else, and I feel so wrong, so far away, so alone."
Will leaned back against his door. "You're repeating yourself, mate, and I think it's because you don't have any other excuses to make. You don't need to be human to live here, to be one of us. The only thing that makes you belong here is you. Your species doesn't matter. In fact, it's kind of exciting to be able to say that I have an alien for a best mate." Will grinned mischievously.
David peered up at Will, wary. "Only a little while ago, you wanted me gone."
He glanced away, contrite and embarrassed. "Not anymore. That was fear talking. I got a glimpse of who you are, and I'm going to be straight with you, mate: you are bloody terrifying. Your glowing eyes, and you striding in there and confronting that army, and disarming that bomb. And..." He gulped as he forced himself to state the thing about David that scared him the most. "And offering yourself to the Judoon, to save us. You were ready to die for people who you thought hated you! I think I was more afraid of you than I was of the alien spaceship and the rhino police."
With a rueful laugh, David shook his head. "Yes, I can understand that. The unknown, the unfathomable is the scariest of all." He squared himself with his friend and looked him right in the eye. "Will, you have to understand this. I'm no longer human, but that's what I've been for most of my life, and I love this planet and its people. But in truth, I am a Time Lord, and because of that, I have a responsibility to beyond the right here and right now, and I cannot always put humans first, much as I desperately want to. I cannot guarantee that being around me is safe, and I cannot promise that anything I might do is in the best interests of the Earth, but I am your friend and I can promise that I will do everything within my power to protect you. Do you trust me, Will?"
In his wide, clear eyes, all of his fears were laid plain. Will could see that the man was terrified that Will would reject him, that Will could not understand that he must have a different world view and different priorities than humans. Will knew that he might never comprehend David’s thoughts and decisions, but he also knew that it was not important in the slightest. He drew himself up and returned David's gaze with steadfast resolution. "I trust you, David. Do you trust me?"
David didn't hesitate, not even one beat. "With my life." He proffered his hand, and Will grasped it. David broke into the most brilliant, delighted smile that Will had ever seen on his friend's face, and he couldn't resist returning it.
"Come on." David turned to lead his friend back to his house. "We can order a pizza."
He turned back. "I promised you I'd tell you everything. It's going to take a while, and you're not going to believe most of it. I figured I could convince you with pizza and beer."
"Well, I already ate, and anyway, I'm kind of busy." WIth a sheepish grin, Will jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "My friends are waiting for me to go on a raid. I really need to get back to them."
David laughed and smiled at Will fondly. "You'll have to work harder to offend me. I'm not quite that naive. And I know you're burning with curiosity about what I'm going to tell you."
"It was worth a try. Let me go log off, at least." He strode back into the house to his study, David just behind him. Arching his hand over the keyboard, he tapped a few keys to instantly close the game and start the shutdown process, then turned back to his friend. "There is something I'd like to know, if I can ask?"
Crossing his arms, David leaned back against the door jamb. "Fire away."
Will cocked his head to one side. "What's your name?"
"Eh?" He hadn't been expecting that question.
Afraid that he might have touched a raw nerve, Will sat back against the desk, scratching his fingernails underneath the edge. "I noticed that you've avoided stating your full name at least twice now. What is it?"
Rubbing the back of his neck, David spun away in thought. He paced back into the hallway, then turned back to his friend. "One thing I learned from the Doctor is the importance of a name. Maybe this is a Time Lord thing, I don't know, but your name reflects who you are, maybe only on a personal level, but there it is. I've had a couple of different names, depending on who I was or what I had become, but I've always been David. So, that's my name. I'll tell you the other names when I tell you my story, because that's who I was back then, and maybe someday, if I change, if I realise I've become someone else, then my name will change, but for now, I'm David."
Will nodded. "It's a pleasure to meet you, David."