When he stepped into the TARDIS, he expected falling in love with the stars – these dying suns that have the privilege to end their slow lives gracefully. He knew right away where he wanted to go. It was the only place he dreamed of going to – San Diego Comic Con, from the moment of its birth, all the way to its death.
When prompted as to why, out of all of time and space, future or past, on Earth or outside of it, he smiled brightly.
“You see, Doctor,” he said as he took in the interior of the time machine, “even if I do have enough money to go to SDCC in, say, five years, I would have gone there, yeah, but I would have missed the panels about a handful of my favorite TV shows! I mean, Tom Hiddleston would never repeat that surprise Loki stunt he did back in 2013. And what about Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino on their creation of Avatar: Legends of Aaang? And there’s also…”
As he continued rambling, he missed the small smile the Doctor was wearing as he looked at him fondly. The passion and eccentricity this man had was what drove the Time Lord to invite him along, and he was glad he did too. Maybe this time, just once, he won’t encounter any life-threatening situations.
“Alright then!” The Doctor piped in, “let’s go to San Diego!”
This strange man had expected the feeling of warmth, the sparks running through his spine, and the flipping in his stomach as he stepped inside the huge convention center. He did not, however, expect such feelings to skyrocket because of a pair of brown eyes staring back at him.
He was taken aback by her long wavy hair. Curious, he thought. How could a collective strand of brown human hair make me feel like this, when i have just seen galaxies explode up close?
When he stepped into the TARDIS, he knew he was going to see wonders – beauty in the form of flaming space rocks and glowing clouds. He did not expect to step inside a time machine, and step out to see beauty in the form of a pair of brown human eyes, when he’s always seen the color as dull and uninviting.
He knew he was falling, from the moment an intangible force pulled their sight together. Oh, he knows a lot about falling. His lifestyle consisted of constantly falling off cliffs and planes and buildings. The feeling took his breath away, but he knew he was safe. He knew what kind of ending this kind of falling will make – with him on a parachute, landing safely to the ground. He didn’t expect falling for a human being, hoping that he may have a chance with her.
Hope is dangerous. Aliens and guns and lack of oxygen can kill you in a heartbeat, but hope? Hope kills you everyday. He was brave, but he was not courageous enough to fall to an abyss without knowing what would happen next.
Yet, he still fell, especially when a smile started to play around her delicate lips. He decided to introduce himself, and shake hands. He said his name, she said hers. He walked around with her. It was one of those rare moments where people just clicked. She talks about shows and movies you’ve never watched yet, books and comics you haven’t read, bands you’ve never heard of-
This is not your era, he berated himself. He was careful to lie about where he came from – hoping she bought it, hoping she saw through it.
But his love for what he did was evident, and she saw it through his eyes. He gently led the conversation – from what he was and where he was from, to what he loved and why he loved it – as they ate and walked.
The end of the night felt peculiarly like a fairy tale ending, as she held both of his hands in hers while the people slowly left to call it a day.
“Will I ever see you again?” she asked.
“I’m sorry. I live too far,” you said. Reluctantly, you added, “But I’ll be here again next year.”
Both of them agreed to meet again. Same place, different year. As they parted ways, the woman realized just a second too late that she didn’t even ask him how she can keep in touch.
As soon as he and the Doctor were in the TARDIS, he excitedly requested that they fast forward.
It was a minute for him. It was a year for her.
Their relationship grew with every passing year. There was always a new panel to witness, a new cosplayer to talk to, a new trailer to get hyped about… He knew he should have researched about the era’s culture, just so he wouldn’t look absolutely clueless – and suspicious – in front of her. But he loved how she would go on and on about a movie without stopping.
When she incredulously asked how he could not have known such a famous work, he dismissed her with an “I live in the mountains!”, to which she suspiciously asked, “Then how’d you come here in the first place?”
And so, his lies and her age grew with every passing year. And one day, so did their number.
One year, she hugged him, and whispered, “I’m pregnant”. They talked on and on about baby names and whose attitude their baby will have… and where they would settle down.
He did not want to settle down. As much as he loved her, well… he had a time machine at his backyard. And knowing the Doctor’s history, he and the TARDIS would leave if the Doctor thought it would be better that way. He hasn’t even said goodbye to his family yet. And he didn’t want to.
He begged for them to continue their yearly routine. She cried for him to stay.
Soon, her brown hair turned grey, her smiles started having wrinkles, and her body started becoming even more frail. Yet, her eyes remained bright. Tired – of real life, of the rest of the 364 days when she wouldn’t see the one she loved, of the daughter she had to take care on her own except for that one day when he would do all the work, of the lies told by said man she loved – but bright.
One year, when their daughter was turning ten, he figured it was time to tell them both the truth. That only an hour has passed for him this whole time.
“And I know it’s selfish” he had practiced saying to himself. He wanted his speech to be flawless. “But leave this life behind for me. Come away and live in mine.”
That same year, he waited for his girls to arrive. They never did.
He knew something bad has happened. She’s never missed a day.Unbeknownst to him, his wife passed away a few months before, and their child was taken into a foster home.
One hour’s not enough, he thought as the day ended.
He begged the Doctor to take him back. No, it’s not timelocked! No, she can’t be dead! “It’s nOT ENOUGH!”
“It never is,” the Doctor said softly, looking at the man who, ten minutes ago, had everything, and now had nothing at all. He winced as he heard his knee hit the metal floor of the TARDIS, as his anguished cry echoed throughout the walls.
The Doctor knew then that he’d take a life-threatening situation over this any day. Aliens and monsters, he can fight. Strangers, he can charm and and bend to do his will. But outright grief? There was nothing else to do but wait it out. And he hated waiting. Yet he knew.
Time, or lack thereof, was what caused such a wound. Time, and only time, can heal it.
He would know. Blonde hair and a Union Jack flashed in his mind.
The Doctor stood there, unable to help, unable to heal. The air was heavy with regret. Funny, he thought silently, how one can have a time machine, and still be the saddest man in the world.