Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who or Secret Diary of a Call Girl.
Summary: Abandoned at a bar in New York, Belle meets a familiar man who seems to know her, but introduces himself only as "the Doctor."
Note: Set during S4E5 of Secret Diary and sometime after S2/before S5 of Doctor Who.
She'd heard his voice before, she was sure.
"Rose! Rose Tyler!"
It was a distinctive voice, with a particular lilt, and it called out as if it knew her.
Though it didn't. Of course.
She'd even seen the man the voice was attached to. Tall and skinny. Handsome perhaps, in an off way. Trainers with a suit. What kind of job could he have? Not that she was one to judge – her line of work had made her open to all types – but she was very good at estimating men's income. One doesn't wear a brown pinstripe suit together with worn off-white Converse if one can help it. And a man who couldn't help it would never be able to afford her services.
She would never have given in to the voice at all had it not been for her situation. Stuck in New York. Abandoned by the ditzy blonde indie queen at an overpriced midtown bar that served only mediocre cocktails. She was down on herself after being forced to witness cheap reenactments of her life. She was upset about her fight with Ben. She was feeling low. And that's what made her turn around.
"Rose Tyler?" There was the man in the pinstripe suit.
She squinted at him through her third vodka orange.
"Do I know you?"
When he smiled his whole face warmed. He became familiar, comforting in this strange city. She smiled back, not in the rote way as with clients, but smoothly, as if he were a forgotten friend.
"Rose?" He slid into the chair across from her.
"It's Belle, actually." She sipped her drink, pursing her lips around her straw in a particular way. Not that he reacted. "And you are?"
"The Doctor. Obviously. What're you doing here? Where's…" He paused, lowering his gaze. "Mickey?"
"Don't think I know a Mickey." She took another sip. "Tell me, Doctor, what does this 'Mickey' look like?"
"Impossible." He shook his head. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he pulled out a little metal stick – a laser pointer, she guessed, Ben used to have one of those annoying things – and aimed it at her. A blue light passed over her face.
"What!" But she couldn't stop herself from laughing, swatting the light away. "Leave it! What are you doing?"
The Doctor clicked the light off.
"What's true?" She still hadn't stopped giggling. Might be the vodka.
"I don't know any Rose Tyler, I swear. My name's Belle. Or- Or Hannah. If you prefer."
"No." He was shaking his head. "Nope. I'd know you anywhere. Even here. Through space and time and across the void-"
"The void, the big empty space between space we can't cross so that we can't say a proper goodbye, but Rose, I meant to tell you-"
"Why would we say a goodbye if we've never met before?" She arched her eyebrows, leaning in. "Did Charlotte put you up to this?"
She tossed her head back, laughing. Not attempting seduction, just laughing. She must have cracked it- He must be one of Charlotte's minions, dominated into flying across the pond just to mess with her-
"Same laugh, even." He was staring straight at her. His eyes reached through her, piercing her far deeper than that silly blue light. "But you don't remember me?"
"We've never met before." She shook her head, but paused, thinking, in honesty. "Though I think I've seen you. Across Borough Market?" She closed her eyes, trying to picture the moment she'd seen him before. It came back to her, sharper than she expected, the image of him standing there, shouting toward her, bagging fruit. "Buying bananas."
"Good source of potassium." He nodded. "My Rose-"
"Beautiful. Fitting." He paused, then waved a hand toward her. "Though I'm not a fan of this styling."
"I'm dressed like a New Yorker!"
"A New New Yorker, maybe, but that skirt with that shirt and that shirt and that hair?" He shook his head.
"Are you gay?"
"No. Just aware. Have to stay current to fit in."
"Well this outfit is very current. Extremely fashionable."
"Is that why the girls behind the bar are laughing at you?"
She turned her head to look where the Doctor pointed. The bartenders quickly dampened their sniggering and went back about their business.
"Well I think I look nice-"
"You'll always look nice." He was staring at her again. In that odd, moony way, as he had across the market.
"Do you remember?"
"Doctor of what?" She took the last sip of her drink. "Doctor who?" She smiled at him. "I finished my drink." He smiled back, oblivious. "I'll need a refill. Unless-" She didn't typically, or ever, make this offer, but there was something about this time and this place and her fight with Ben and her time in the theater that was pushing her towards it, making her want to ask- "You want to get out of here?"
He wasn't a certified client, certainly. But he was familiar. She knew him, she was sure. She'd seen him before. And, likely, Charlotte had put him up to coming here; she'd been looking to throw her off her game, freak her out. Only this man, this "Doctor," didn't freak her out. He wasn't a stalker – there was no way he dressed like that yet could afford to fly to New York on a whim – and he seemed so familiar… It was very unlike her, she knew, but she wanted to trust this man.
"I have the TARDIS parked just around the corner-"
"Is that the latest Rolls model?" Not that a man in Converse would ever be able to afford that – probably the latest Honda. "Never mind, I have a room at the hotel just a couple doors over-"
"Hotel?" He cocked his head. "You need to go… pack?"
"Sure." She stood, tossing another bill on the table for good measure. She reached across the table and grabbed the Doctor by the tie. "Let's go… pack."
Each time she went in for a kiss, he turned his head to the side. She was good at reading signals, knew that this should mean he was uncomfortable and didn't want to press further, but that wasn't the energy he was putting off. She could feel it, tangible, as they stood inches apart in the elevator riding up to her room: he wanted her. If only he would react.
She slid the key card through the slot to unlock the door.
"Here we are."
He pushed his way into the room, looking around.
"Is, isn't it?" She smiled at her posh surroundings. "The production company's putting me up as we sort out the film rights."
She dropped her purse onto a chair. She pulled her American flag t-shirt off overtop her long sleeve black shirt.
"Film? You didn't tell people, did you, Rose-"
"Belle." She was getting sick of saying her false name. She reached back for the zipper of her skirt. "The book came out ages ago. Charlotte must've shown you-" She eyed a copy of the book on the nightstand and nodded toward it. "There, you can read it yourself, if you like-"
She watched as the Doctor picked it up, cautiously. She smiled as he thumbed through it.
"Nothing too shocking, eh?"
He didn't answer, his eyes glued to the pages of the book.
She stepped out of her skirt, striding toward the bed. As she walked, she pulled the long sleeve shirt over her head, tossing it onto the floor.
She knelt behind the Doctor on the bed, hands reaching for his shoulders – strong, she noticed, broader and perhaps defined underneath that brown pinstripe suit-
"Jackie's going to kill me-" He flung the book across the room. She watched as it hit the wall and slid to the floor.
"What are you doing!"
"What are you doing! You're a prostitute-"
"An escort- Wait. How do you know my sister?"
"Jackie." She grabbed a pillow off the bed to cover herself. "Oh lord, I thought you were a friend of Charlotte's, but Jackie? You can't tell her! She doesn't know! Not about my book or my job or anything-"
The Doctor turned his head to the side, away from her.
"So you're a secret prostitute-"
"Ah. And Jackie's your…sister?"
"Yes, yes, but you know that, don't you? You're the one who brought her up."
"Yeah." He gave a curt nod. "Yes I did. Coincidence. Two Jackies. Can't be just a coincidence. Don't believe in coincidences..."
"Er…" She tried to interrupt, but the Doctor was busy muttering to himself, pacing a few steps, then turning quickly and walking back the other way. Oh well. She might as well use this opportunity to edge toward the fluffy white hotel robe she could see hanging in the closet. Best cover herself in front of a friend of her sister's. She was sliding her arms into the sleeves as the Doctor went quiet, turning on a snap to face her.
"Can I scan you again?"
"Scan me?" She watched as he pulled the laser pointer back out of his jacket pocket. "Aim that little blue light at me, you mean?"
"Yes, that." He clicked on the blue light again. This time, she noticed, it tickled. He clicked the light off. "Same make, different model."
"You're her, but you're not her." His face fell as he dropped into the white swivel chair. He spun around once, then stopped, slumping over, catching his face in his hands.
So he wasn't making any sense, she knew, but he was sad. About something. And she had the strangest urge to comfort him.
"Would you…" She took a tentative step toward him, trying to figure out what to say. "…like a drink? Maybe?"
Without lifting his face to look at her, he shook his head.
"You sure? Minibar bill's covered." She looked at him. He really did look pathetic. "Or we could order up something, from room service? Something more deluxe! Like… banana daiquiris?"
He lifted his head to look at her.
"What did you say?"
"Why did you say that?"
"Well…" She hadn't thought it out. It had just come to her. A silly idea. But maybe not. Maybe- "You like bananas. That's been established."
"It has. But the 'daiquiri'?"
"I don't know, really. Just seemed like something you might like." She shrugged. "Is it? Want me to call down and order us banana daiquiris?"
He stared at her a moment, not looking her over, appraising her, as her clients did. It felt almost as if he was looking through her skin, seeing inside her. Finally, he nodded, a smile spreading across his face.
"Great, then." She took a step toward the room phone. "I'll order those right up."
She wasn't really a fan of banana – too many jokes to be made with her line of work – or of daiquiris – blended drinks were murder on thighs – but then, she was doing a lot of things she didn't usually do. Like staying in a posh New York hotel. And inviting a strange man into her room. And comforting him in an entirely non-sexual way. Though she wasn't entirely sure what was wrong.
"These-" the Doctor pointed at his nearly empty glass "-these are very, very good."
She laughed as reached for the pitcher sitting on the coffee table between them, and refilled his glass. She was having fun with this stranger, sitting cross-legged on the floor, drinking sweet drinks and talking about nothing in particular.
"You seem to be cheering up."
"Only superficially." He smiled, not skipping a beat. "But it helps."
"And you're sad because of this Rose girl? Because she went away?"
She was starting to piece things together. The more the Doctor drank, the more he talked. Not that his words made sense, exactly. Rose Tyler was apparently a girl who looked just like her. Who had a mother who happened to be named Jackie. It was very coincidental. Even she was starting to wonder if the Doctor wasn't right, if coincidences perhaps didn't exist. Because everything seemed too exactly-in-place to be complete happenstance.
Not that it made sense, exactly, but it left her wondering if perhaps she wasn't somehow connected to this Rose girl. She did look and sound just like her, according to the Doctor. She was almost certain that didn't happen, except with twins, and she was positive she wasn't a twin.
And how odd that the exact day she's in New York, at the exact bar where she'd just been left by herself, the Doctor should also happen to be there. She got the sense that he traveled a lot – he was slurring a bit now, and she couldn't exactly surmise where he was telling her he'd just been to… she thought he'd said "Barcelona," but the place he described sounded nothing like the Spanish city she knew – never staying in any place for too long. So how odd that he should be hopping through New York just at the same moment she was visiting. And again, how odd that in this entire city, they'd wound up in the same bar. Seeing a man once in Borough Market was one thing, but finding him again on a different continent, and looking so much like his lost friend, and that they both had relatives named Jackie- She was letting the banana daiquiris get to her head.
"You never did tell me…" She had to focus on the words as she spoke. She'd never allowed herself to get fully drunk with a strange man before. It was breaking every rule of safety. And still she felt quite comfortable. "What are you 'doctor' of?"
"How d'ya mean?" He hiccupped.
"I mean, doctor of medicine?" She watched him shake his head. "Doctor of letters, then?" Again, a no. "Doctor of science-"
"Ah!" He pointed at her. "That, that is the one."
"Doctor of science…" She nodded, considering it. "Alright. What kind of science?"
"All kinds. Literally. All kinds."
"I am an expert in chemistry."
"Earth science, you mean?"
"Absolutely." He sucked the dregs of banana daiquiri out of his again empty glass. "Earth science particularly."
She reached for the pitcher and again refilled his glass. And topped off her own, while she was at it.
"So tectonics and all that?"
"And all that. There's so much. An insignificant little planet in the middle of nowhere, and yet I've discovered the most fascinating things here, had the most amazing adventures, met the most interesting people."
She blushed. Though he couldn't be talking about her, of course. He must be talking about Rose.
"All the best people are Earth people," she smiled.
"Now that just isn't true."
She laughed. He didn't make any sense. The drinks had gone to both their heads.
"If I were a doctor…" She sipped her drink, thinking. "I would be a doctor of psychology."
"And you'd be good at it."
He answered too quickly, as if not answering her at all. She caught his eye just as he turned to stare down at his drink.
"You're thinking of Rose?"
He didn't answer.
"It's all right, to think of her. Men often think of other women when they're with me." She shook her head. "God I didn't mean that to sound as depressing as it did-"
"I did mean Rose. But I meant you too. You're good with people. With talking." He lifted his glass and swallowed a big gulp of his drink. "I'm not so good with feelings."
"Is that why Rose left?" She watched for his reaction. "Sorry, guess I'm playing psychologist now."
"She left because she had to."
"And you didn't go after her?"
"I can't go after her. I tried to go after her, just to tell her- Anyway. I couldn't."
"What do you mean you couldn't?" She shifted in her seat, pulling herself up straighter. "Expression of feeling is important. Trust me, I know from personal experience. Not that I'm great at it myself, but- I am great at encouraging others. Here, try it, repeat after me: Rose, I love you-"
"It's not that I can't say it, I just can't say it to her-"
"But if you practice a little, get comfortable with the words-"
"No." His voice was suddenly cold, sturdy, falling between them like a stone. "She's gone."
Gone? The way he said it- She hadn't considered it before. Rose "left." Now it made perfect sense.
"She's- Rose died?"
He was looking down at his glass. It was empty again. She looked over at the pitcher. It was empty now too. That was the problem with letting alcohol comfort you: there was always a point when it ran out. And then you felt worse than you did before, alcohol having lent a horrible clarity that could not be shaken off.
She wasn't really a psychologist, and as much as she'd gotten to know human behavior, she really was clueless in that moment. Already she could see the Doctor trying to put a smile back on his face, his hands reaching to the floor to push himself up. It was a cover, she knew, she recognized it in herself. He was pretending not to be hurt. All their talking had done nothing.
"I should be going-" He was starting to stand, but she had to keep him there, felt it, knew it.
"Wait!" She reached across the table, grabbing his wrist. "Please, stay. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry, this has all been a very strange day, and I'm not entirely sure what to say, but- Please. Stay."
She looked over at him, but his eyes did not meet hers. Instead, they were directed down at her hand, encircling his wrist. Instinct, again, came over her.
She loosened her grip on his wrist, but did not draw her hand away. Instead, she slid it down, finding his hand. She intertwined her fingers with his.
"Call me Hannah."
He looked down at their hands, clasped together.
"Hannah." She liked the way he said her name. "Hannah. I like that. It suits you."
"Thanks." She didn't know what else to say.
He pulled her to her feet, the coffee table still between them. She wished it wasn't.
"So, you'll stay?"
He dropped her hand. And shook his head.
"Things to do, worlds to save-"
"Just for one night." She'd never begged a man to stay before. She couldn't believe she was doing it now.
He smiled at her.
And dropped her hand.
"Thank you for the banana daiquiris." He was walking toward the door.
"No problem." She didn't know what to say. There was no way to make him stay, she was sure. And even if he did stay, what then? He wasn't a client. Certainly. And back home there was Ben. She loved Ben. He was her oldest, dearest friend. Who was this man to her, really? Really, who was this doctor of science? "The production company's footing the bill. So no worries, really. Didn't put me out at all-"
"Hannah?" His hand was on the doorknob, but he was turning to face her.
"Would you like to come with me?"
"Come with you? Where?"
"Anywhere. Everywhere." He was smiling again, that strange smile that he'd had every time he said something that didn't quite make sense. "It's hard to explain, but easy to demonstrate, if I can just show you. Just one adventure, one trip." He reached out his hand to her. "Please."