-A Streetcar Named Desire
The Doctor is a lot of things, but a philosopher is not one of them. Therefore, when strange things happen he often chalks them up to the fact that they just do and he's got a lot of other things to worry about now, thankyouverymuch.
So, when he's found himself stranded in the middle of the Arizona desert, he doesn't question a black-painted schoolbus that just happens to drive up next to him. It doesn't stand out as anything but luck. Well, in this ridiculous heat and how hungry and thirsty he is, it's more like absolutely brilliant luck.
The door to the bus opens and the heavy smell of cannabis and sweat blasts in the Doctor's face. There are at least ten people on the bus, all sweaty and high and looking expectantly at the door---oh, right, at him. A lanky, long-haired bloke with a big, broken-toothed smile offers him a bottle of water.
"Hey, dude, you need a ride?"
And what, really, would be the point of walking when he has a perfectly capable ride offered to him?
Some of the seats have been ripped out of the bus, and the floors are lined up with dingy-looking carpet painted in bright colors and the passengers sway along to the music played by one of the girls on a tiny ukulele.
"Where're ya off to?" the broken-toothed man asks, motioning for a girl to move out of the way so he can sit.
"It's all right, she doesn't have to mo---"
"Nah, it's okay. Sadie, get this man somethin' to eat. Skinnier than I am, ain't somethin' you see all that often."
The Doctor rolls his eyes. He's getting really, really tired of hearing that about this incarnation. All the same, she offers him some stale chips and he eats a few slowly.
"How long you been walkin'?" As the broken-toothed man speaks, Sadie curls up next to him and bites her bottom lip as she smiles at the Doctor.
"A few days." It's been a long couple of days, what with the Garogonites kidnapping him and taking him from the TARDIS. Then he had to swordfight with the one, outmatch the other at squash…it's been a long couple of days to say the least.
"Not goin' nowhere in particular?"
"Well," he pops another stale chip in his mouth. "I've got my destination a few miles from here, but not really home. Bit of a traveler."
"Ain't we all? Whole damn world out there's just full of wanderin' people, 'bout time we all met up and took care of each other." The broken-toothed man takes a hit of some cannabis and offers it to the Doctor. The Doctor declines, but he can't help but smile a little at the man's sentimentality towards wanderers.
"You just sit tight; we'll take care of ya. Got nothin' but love here on this bus, an' we'll give it to ya s'long as you're on board." He slaps the Doctor's thigh and steps away, letting Sadie offer him more stale food.
He wonders how long they've been traveling. Lots of bottled water stored up in the back of the bus, along with food that's really too bruised or too stale to be healthy. He wonders if they stole it or dug it out of the garbage---the idea makes him instantly not quite as hungry as he was before. He puts down the chips and looks around the bus. He's been on caravans before from the straights of India to the Oregon Trail; he knows the dark, lost expressions travelers like this usually develop. None of these children---and none of them aren't older than their twenties---look like that. They're all drowning in their drugs and their happiness. It's almost…well, it's almost inspiring.
Except for the drug bit, the Doctor could never understand humans' affections towards mind-altering substances.
"You got a name?" the broken-toothed man asks, returning to his spot near the Doctor.
"The Doctor, yes, sorry. Desert heat, knocked out my manners."
"Doctor! Whew-whew! We got all sortsa people here, but I don't think we got no doctors just yet. You'll be the first then, Doc."
Generally, he doesn't like being called 'Doc', but the young man is charismatic enough that the Doctor doesn't even notice the nickname at first. He waxes on a bit about how occupations shouldn't make a man and the rest of the group all nod in agreement, even the driver, though the Doctor thinks he should be paying more attention.
There's something strangely…fixed about the young man. The way time moves around the bus and the trees in this time, it doesn't seem to touch him. It's less like he's just a man and more like he's a fixture. Or an event.
Funny thing, time.
The broken-toothed man just continues on, "All of them out there, they wanna make us into stiff collared people, beaten down and hurt, I don't see why we can't just love."
The Doctor nods. "Well, all you need is love, as they say."
The Beatles reference positively delights him. "I just heard that new one! Recorded live, didn't they? They are the soul, I tell ya."
A few of the more intoxicated women on the bus begin to sing 'You Better Run For Your Life' and no matter how silly the whole thing seems, the Doctor leans back and relaxes. He'd expected at least another day's worth of walking in the blistering heat, not being entertained by youths of the time singing his favorite Earth band's songs. And no matter the somewhat uncomfortable feeling he gets from his host, he has to admit it's fun. Different.
They drive further and the feeling of fixed subsides. Sadie moves to sit next to him and they chat for a while. She was apparently really quite lost in her life prior to finding her friends and she sighs dreamily when she talks about the things that she's got planned. Not about finding wealth and fame, just about a world full of acceptance. And possibly LSD, the Doctor thinks, seeing how dilated her eyes are when she talks and how she eventually slumps to the side, passed out.
Strange time for youths. He's sort of glad he and Susan left England before this sort of behavior became popular.
"You like Sadie? I think she likes you." It's his host again, dropping down and offering him a bruised apple.
"I think you all could do a little more thinking with a little less chemical influence." Despite himself, the Doctor feels bad not accepting the young man's gesture and he takes the fruit.
"Everyone wants to escape it," the young man says.
"The world. Weren't good to Sadie. Weren't good to a lot of them. It all comes barrellin' down and there's nobody gonna catch 'em. Except me." He says the last words a bit like he's their personal savior and the Doctor wonders if he sounds that way when he talks about his companions.
"Helter Skelter," the Doctor agrees, nodding.
The Doctor winces. Not yet. That's the problem with being a fan from the future, the White Album doesn't come out for another year.
He shakes his head and offers the broken-toothed man an apologetic smile. "Sorry, um. British." When in America, it's always best to use the nuances of the TARDIS communicator to his advantage.
"Figured that. What's it mean?"
The Doctor rubs the back of his neck. "Just what you were saying. Chaos."
The last word comes out of his mouth and everything seems to stop. The time around the bus halts and the chairs and the smoke and the people are suddenly completely fixed. Not an ounce of flux around him. A wave of nausea hits him and he takes a hold of one of the broken seats to steady himself.
What did he just do?
"Hey, Doc, you all right?"
The bus stops—physically this time. The flux stops with it and it feels like the Doctor's in a tub of water that shakes and jostles him around. It's hard to orient himself.
"Yo, Charlie, we're here. He weren't kiddin', it's a big blue box!"
The broken-toothed man pats the Doctor on the back and hops up to the front of the bus to take a look. The TARDIS is right outside and it's everything in the Doctor to move through the atmosphere of the bus to get to the door.
"Well. Wasn't nearly long enough a trip, it seems. Maybe on your stomach! Ain't your fault, 'course. We've been needin' to get fresher food for days." The young man---Charlie, the driver said---rambles on but it sounds like it's through a filter. "Guess you'll be goin' then?"
"Yeah," the Doctor breathes. The wave of heat from the desert that hits him as the bus door opens feels like a breath of air.
Charlie offers the Doctor his hand. "Well goodtameetcha. If you're ever lookin' for us, we're gonna have a ranch up in LA. You jus' come on visit. Bring a Beatle with ya!"
The girls on the bus laugh and the Doctor pushes down the sick feeling enough to smile and take the offered hand. He moves away from the bus towards the TARDIS. That was…well, it was odd. Something to look into at the very least.
Charlie's voice calls to him from the bus. "Hey, didn't get your name, Doc. Ain't right havin' a friend out there I ain't really been introduced to. What was it?"
Name? Name! He turns around. "Uh, Doctor Smith's just fine."
Charlie shakes his head. "Riiiight. Well you just call me Mr. Manson, then. See ya, Doc."
The bus doors shut and they drive off, leaving a stream of sand in their wake. Off into history. The nausea returns to the Doctor's stomach, but for a very different reason.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 1,662