He's fairly used to eating alone when he has no companion in the TARDIS. Sometimes, he'll spend days wandering the corridors, and it's only when his stomach makes a noise louder than the wiring he's working on that he realizes he should probably get something to eat. By this point, the TARDIS has already landed them somewhere, and his money bag and sonic screwdriver have already found their way to the door.
That's his ship, always looking after him.
After procuring a few bills from one of his money pouches, he steps outside, in search of some sort of shop. The TARDIS has apparently decided for him to take lunch in Berlin, 1941. Not his favorite point in human history, but it's a point he hasn't traveled to in a while, so he walks the cobbled streets without complaint. The country is a year off of becoming Großdeutsches Reich, which makes good solid food for a traveler scarce, but he finds an outdoor café that serves him thick stew and hard white bread and his stomach practically leaps for joy as he takes the first few bites.
The streets are terribly quiet. Ominously quiet, the Doctor thinks, but he glances down at a nearby newspaper and sees it's Sunday. He hasn't had a good Sunday brunch in a long time, and this isn't too terrible a spot to have one. He can hear himself think, which isn't a usual thing in the larger cities on Earth, and the air smells of March crispness and oncoming April rains, not to mention the warm-bread smells wafting out from the café.
If he closed his eyes, he could almost forget there was a war on.
Everything that happens has a reason, he figures. He looks down the streets at the people wandering home from long days at work, or simply wandering. He wonders if they're simply struggling to look busy; they don't really have anywhere to go.
There's tension in the air, he can feel it. He breaks off a chunk of bread and drops it into his stew. It soaks up the liquid until it's bloated and mushy and only a vague representation of the chunk of hard loaf he had before. The people here are like this, he thinks. They waddle along the streets, trying to keep themselves from stepping too firmly anywhere lest they burst a seam and spill out. He's not part of this time, but he feels the tension, feels it swelling up his thin fingers as they toy with the handle to his spoon.
He's wondered, often, if he's supposed to prevent this time period from ever happening.
The skies are dark from the possibility of incoming rain, and he shifts his seat a bit to stay under the awning of the café while still keeping an eye out over the street before him. The sound of thunder in the distance makes everyone walking the street nervous. An older man in business clothes darts across the road towards an office building, his only real worry getting wet.
A mother and young daughter with yellow stars on their jackets walk slowly down the road, trying to sink into the background. He doesn't recognize either of them, and while that doesn't usually mean anything, he can't help but think the worst. This is, after all, a time for the worst.
The mother steps inside the café, and the little girl stands at the door. She tilts her head and her dark pigtails fall to the side. She can't be more than five or six, the Doctor decides. If she makes it through the next few years, she'll live on to see Ipods and Google.
"What are you eating?" she asks.
The Doctor looks down at his half-empty bowl. He hadn't realized he'd eaten so much so quickly. "Stew, I think."
"And bread," the little girl points out.
"That's very observant of you," the Doctor says, smiling.
The girl beams at him, and she's missing her front two teeth. It's fairly endearing, he decides. She tugs a bit at her wool jacket, and he realizes it's a size too small for her. They probably can't afford another one, and with the yellow star on her jacket it's probably even more difficult to find work.
As if she can read his mind, the little girl says, "Mum says I'll have a new one soon. We're having to move, so when we do we'll get all new things. She's getting us bread for the trip." She struggles over the 's's due to her lost teeth, and most words come out with an airy whistle. He thinks of Susan, when she lost her teeth as a youth. She was so very put out by the entire situation that she refused to talk in any manner that involved her teeth. Eyebrow-talk was her favorite.
"Do you want to move?" the Doctor asks, unconsciously raising his left eyebrow in a manner that meant the same thing.
"No," the little girl says, "My window looks out over the schoolyard. But if we don't move, they'll get mad. But it's okay. Everything will get better."
He wonders if he's supposed to save them. He has eighty Reichsmarks in his pocket. It wouldn't be too terribly difficult to drop them into her mother's purse as they pass by, and that would be enough for food, jacket, transportation. He could give them enough money to get away from Berlin before the Endlösung der Judenfrage. He doesn't doubt he could look up a smuggling company through the TARDIS. He could save them.
The little girl opens her mouth to say something else, but her mother rushes out of the store, wiping tears off her face. Her hand takes the little girl's, and she's pulled away. She waves back at the Doctor and smiles her gap-toothed smile. After a few moments, they vanish around the corner.
He never got the little girl's name. He'll never know if she lives. In just under a year, six million of her race will die. Drop of water in comparison to the Draconian Wars, the Psubasian Genocide, or the Last Great Time War---but it's still so many. So many of his favorite race slaughtered by his favorite race. He wishes he didn't know that was coming, then that little girl's smile might make him feel anything other than grief.
There's a pop, and a car drives off from where it was parked in front of a building. The smell of smoke overwhelms the cafe in its wake, choking out any taste of stew the Doctor had left in his mouth.
Rain breaks over the city. People scurry into houses and offices, except for a thin boy on a bicycle who rides slowly down the street. The squeak of the wheels cuts through the pounding of rain on pavement. The buildings and city seem to melt beneath the might of the falling water.
He wonders if Gallifrey looked this bleak right before the Time War.
He doesn't doubt it.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 1,187