Title: Shades of Grey
Pairing: Tenth Doctor/John Smith
Fandom: Doctor Who
Prompt: 18, Past
Author's Note: Slight spoilers for Human Nature and The Family Blood. This is an alternate version of events in those episodes.
Disclaimer: This is entirely a product of my own imagination, and I make no profit from it. I do not own the Tenth Doctor or John Smith. Please do not sue.
***1913. It wasn't normally a time he'd choose to come to, but for some strange reason, he'd been feeling a bit nostalgic for the Victorian era. And as he was alone now, without a companion and with no lover anywhere on the horizon, he'd had the time to do something on his own, perhaps get a bit of relaxation.
The Doctor looked around him as he walked down the street, taking in the buildings and the people who hurried by him. They all seemed to have somewhere to be; he was the only person on the pavement who wasn't rushing to some destination.
That in itself wasn't unusual. What was unusual was that they all seemed to be keeping their gazes averted, their heads down. Had something happened here? The Doctor frowned inwardly, wondering if he should ask someone just why the people all seemed to be .... well, a bit antisocial.
Hmmmm. Maybe it wasn't that, after all. Maybe it was only because he was a stranger, and they weren't quite used to having people around who they didn't know. Well, he'd try his best to fit in during the brief time he'd be here. It shouldn't be all that hard, though blending in with the locals had never been one of his specialties.
Ah. A bed and breakfast. The perfect place -- if he'd had money, that is. It was one thing he was always forgetting about in his travels. Such a pesky little need, he said to himself, sighing and turning away from the door of the place. Life would be so much easier if humans didn't focus on material things ....
He gasped as he collided with someone just behind him, someone with their arms half-full of packages. The Doctor put out a hand to steady the other man as well as himself, rocking back on his heels and barely managing to keep himself standing. The other man wasn't so lucky.
Whirling his arms, he fell backwards, landing with a loud thunk. The Doctor immediately bent down to help him up, a worried frown creasing his brow as he spoke to the man he'd inadvertently bowled over. "I'm so sorry. Here, let me help."
The dark-haired man blinked up at him, brown eyes wide, before tentatively reaching out a hand to let the Doctor help him back to his feet. "N-no harm done," he said, his voice sounding a bit shaky, but otherwise looking as though he was all right. "No broken bones, at least as far as I can tell."
The Doctor nodded, turning his attention to gathering up the packages the man had been carrying. No, not packages, he realized, but books. A large armload of books. Either he liked to read a great deal, or he had some strange reason for carrying all those books around. The Doctor couldn't help but wonder.
He gathered all the books together, standing and giving the other man a friendly smile. "If you need a bit of help carrying these, I'd be glad to be of assistance," he offered. "I have to admit, I'm quite interested in just why you're carrying so many books around. Librarian, perhaps?"
The stranger shook his head, a small smile curving his lips. The Doctor couldn't help noticing that those lips looked incredibly soft; he wondered, just for a moment, how it would feel to kiss this man, to feel that soft mouth under his own .... "Actually, I'm a schoolteacher. I'm taking these back to the school."
"Ah, in that case, I'm sure you could use some help carrying them." The Doctor let the other man take some of the books from him, tucking the rest under his arm. "Lead on, then. I'll help you make sure these get to the proper place."
The young man nodded, taking the books from the Doctor and pointing to a building that seemed to be a few blocks in the distance, quite a large building from the looks of it. "That's the school I teach at. It's about a mile to walk, if you don't mind going that far. I hope I'm not taking you too far out of your way."
The Doctor shook his head, stealing a glance at the young man as he did so. He really was rather handsome, he thought to himself, and he looked vaguely familiar. Where had he seen that face before? Recognition hovered at the back of his mind, a tantalizing image of where he'd seen that face before, but he couldn't quite place it.
And that was insane, wasn't it? He'd never been to this time before. He couldn't possibly know this young man -- this human -- because it wasn't possible that they could have met. He probably just resembled someone that the Doctor had met in his travels, and he was confusing the two of them, that was all.
"No, you're not taking me out of my way at all. In fact, I really don't have a place to stay here -- I came to the city quite unexpectedly," he said by way of explanation. "I'm sure that I can find somewhere to stay, though it may take a while. Really, I'm not a freeloader, I -- just don't have much money."
There. That sounded like a plausible explanation, though it was always a bit sticky to try and explain to humans why he didn't have any money. It seemed that was the first thing they were always asking about.
The young man walking beside him nodded, casting what appeared to be a speculative glance over him. The Doctor couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking; probably wondering why someone who looked at least a bit affluent was doing admitting that he had no money. At least the way he looked was somewhat deceiving.
"If you don't have a place to stay, we do have some spare rooms at the school," he offered, stopping in his tracks and meeting the Doctor's gaze with his own. "You'd be expected to do a bit of work, of course -- but I'm sure that we could find something you'd be all right with. That is, if you'd like to stay there."
The Doctor tried to keep the surprised look off his face; this was something he most definitely hadn't expected. Not that it was unwelcome, of course, but having this young man offer him a place to stay out of the blue -- well. He learned something new about humans each time he had to deal with them.
"Of course I would. Thank you very much, and the offer is gratefully accepted," he murmured, feeling a little embarrassed. It was humbling to feel that he had, in a way, thrown himself on someone's mercy as far as finding a place to spend the night -- or a few nights, in this case.
"There's a room right next to mine that's empty," the young man told him, looking towards the school again. "I hope you don't mind sharing a bathroom with me -- it's set up a bit like a suite, you see, with two rooms connecting."
"I wouldn't mind at all," the Doctor said, trying to glance sideways at the young man as they walked along, wondering again just where he could have seen him before. What memory was it that pulled at his consciousness, but wouldn't quite break through? It was maddening not to know where he'd seen that face before.
It was right on the tip of his tongue to ask point-blank where they could have met before, but he stopped himself at the last minute. It wouldn't do to ask something like that; it could lead to him having to make up something about his origins and name on the spur of the moment. That was something he'd rather avoid.
"That's good. It will be nice to have someone to talk with," the young man told him, looking over at him and smiling. In that moment, it occurred to the Doctor exactly where he'd seen that face before -- and the knowledge made him gasp aloud, his eyes widening and his breath caught in his throat.
That face was his own. It was the face he saw every time he looked into a mirror, the face that made him wonder what other people saw in him. Somehow, there was someone on Earth -- in 1913, no less -- who looked exactly like him. It was uncanny how much they resembled each other, as though they'd been cut from the same cloth.
"Do you .... errr .... does it strike you as odd that we look so much alike?" he blurted out before he could stop himself, blushing even as he said the words. That hadn't gone entirely as he would have liked, but it was too late to take the words back. He certainly couldn't unsay them.
"Yes, I'd noticed that when we first met," the young man told him, frowning a bit and looking over at the Doctor. This time, his gaze didn't slide away instantly; he studied the Time Lord, as though he was memorizing the other man's features.
"It's startling, isn't it?" he finally said, seeming to have satisfied himself as to the fact that they looked like twins. "Only the hair is a bit different -- that and the fact that I, of course, have to wear glasses." He touched the frame of his glasses and smiled, looking almost apologetic.
"Yes, it certainly is," the Doctor murmured, unsure of what to say next. He hadn't meant to call attention to their similarities, but it didn't seem to have gone over in a bad way. This young man was apparently not fazed by meeting someone with his face, which was surprising.
But it was also probably explainable. After all, there was that saying of everyone having a doppelganger of themselves somewhere in the universe; perhaps they'd each just met theirs. However, it was awfully strange that there should be such an exact match, and that they should meet in this time ....
The Doctor shrugged, pushing away all the worrying little questions to the back of his mind. It was obviously a coincidence, their similar looks. It wasn't something that should bother him in the least, as he wasn't going to stay here for long.
The sound of the other man's voice jerked his thoughts back to the present situation. "By the way, I'd like to be able to introduce you as something other than 'someone who knocked me over on the street,'" the young man was saying. "I doubt that the school authorities would let you stay there without some sort of name."
"Name? Oh, I usually go by the Doctor," he mumbled, hoping that he wouldn't be asked to provide more of a name than that. He could always use his alias, John Smith, but he'd prefer not to have to do that. Giving a name would make him more recognizable, and if there was some sort of trouble, that would be unfortunate.
It was always a bit easier if people would just accept him as "the Doctor" -- though it could get complicated when they would inevitably ask him just what he was a Doctor of. At least he had the alias ready and was willing to use it if that became absolutely necessary.
"The Doctor?" The young man frowned again, shaking his head. "But that isn't a proper name. I can't just introduce you as that. It would sound .... rather odd."
"May I know your name?" he asked, trying to get the subject away from his name -- or, rather, his lack of one. If he had to give his alias, then he would do it, though he was hoping he wouldn't be forced to do so.
"Oh, I'm sorry. My manners are usually much better than that." The young man held out a hand to him, stopping again and turning to face him. "I'm John Smith. I teach at the school we're going to. English teacher, I'm afraid -- most people seem to find that rather boring, but I love it."
"John Smith?" The Doctor felt a little faint; he wondered if he'd gone pale, and if his shock showed in his face. Not only did this man look exactly like him -- but he had his name. This was getting stranger by the minute -- curiouser and curiouser, as Lewis Carroll would have put it.
"Yes .... are you all right?" John asked him, looking concerned. The Doctor nodded, trying to collect his scattered wits. This was still in the realm of coincidence, he told himself, trying to slow the rapid beating of his hearts. It wasn't so strange that alarm bells were going off. Not yet.
"I'm fine," he managed to say, giving John a slight smile. He didn't sound very convincing, but it would have to do. "As it so happens, my name is John, too. John .... Doe." He hoped that the other man didn't notice the slight hesitation before the last name, and that he didn't find it an extremely odd name as well.
"Let's get to the school, and I'll have one of the cooks make you something to eat," John told him, still looking worried. "I may be wrong, but if you don't have much money, I'm sure you haven't eaten in a while. We don't want you passing out from hunger -- or any other reason."
"No, certainly not," the Doctor murmured, relieved that the question of his name seemed to have been satisfied in John's mind. What was he getting himself into by giving himself a name and staying here? He should make his excuses, make his way back to the Tardis, and get out of this time as fast as he could.
But he didn't want to do that. There was something holding him here, something that made him feel as if he was somehow rooted here. There was something about John that made him not want to leave.
Whatever it was, the Doctor was determined to discover the cause of that feeling. It might not be the best idea he'd ever had to stay here, but it seemed to be a quiet enough place. What could possibly happen if he chose to stay here for a few days? Surely there wouldn't be any consequences if he didn't jump into anything.
Besides, he would get to spend a few days in the company of an extraordinarily handsome young man -- one whose company he was already enjoying. What could be wrong with that? It didn't matter if he and John were mirror images of each other. That was simply a strange coincidence, nothing more.
His hearts were still beating in what felt like triple time; what was causing that? Was it the bit of a shock he'd had when he heard John's name? That must be it, the Doctor told himself; it couldn't possibly be that his hearts sped up with something like excitement every time he looked at John.
He followed John up the steps of the school, waiting while he opened the door and then ushered him inside. This was going to be an interesting trip indeed -- very different from what he had planned, but then, every trip through time was like that. This trip couldn't possibly be one that would stand out.
***Next story in series - Stay With Me Tonight.
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