He could see in the way her brown eyes widened, and her gaze is fixed on him that she recognised him. When people didn't know who he was and what his intentions were, those humans tend to look so ridiculous puzzled - like he did so very often.
They shared a shocked second of silence gaping at each other in curiosity.
‘At least,’ he thought, ‘I am not too early.’
“Tell me,” his hands wavered in the air as if spilling out a string of pearls, “How long has it been?” The Tardis hadn’t provided him with a date, or at least he hadn’t bothered to check.
Journey Blue leaned slightly back, taking the Doctor in. For a brief second she had questioned her sanity when hearing that infamous wheezing sound, then seeing the Tardis materialize.
It had been a long day, she had been on her way to her chamber for some necessary sleep. It would have been nothing unexpected when the Doctor would have turned out to be only a trick of the mind. Now he spoke, she was fairly sure he was real.
“Uhm,” she wasn't able to process the question probably, being confronted with old memories about his last being here.
As it was his nature, he became quickly impatient, making a step forward, his eyebrows about to get into line, “did you malfunction?”
He knew he shouldn't be like this, but there was no one calling him to a proper way of behaviour. Pursuing his lips he remembered briefly to be nice, so he leaned a bit back, throwing her an awkward smile hoping she would acknowledge it.
His hair was longer, she noticed and the smile he was giving revealed it was something he didn't do often. It seemed a bit clumsy and gave the moment a very odd impression. Nevertheless, she was about to give it all a chuckle. Sensing it would make him probably grumpy she bit her lip and cheeks.
“No,” she finally breathed and saw he relaxed about the answer.
“Good,” he nodded, realising he hadn't made any plans of how to go on. How to present his intentions and why he was here. Not that he ever did that by a plan.
He glanced through the room, then spun around 360, his eyes taking the environment in.
While he did so, Journey Blue observed his features that betrayed every thought he had that moment. For some reason he was first clueless, then surprised and then even impressed. She also glanced around, trying to find out the reason for it. Then it dawned on her.
The spot the Tardis stood, the spot he stood, were the same as the last time.
“A year,” she then reported.
The Doctor thought it through, not too bad at all. He had done worse, and he hadn't promised anything to her.
He nodded once with vigour, “well then,” he was about to turn to the Tardis already, only waving her with him, “let's go!”
“Wait!” she stepped up, unsure what this was all about, but sensed something important was about to happen.
The Doctor stopped, looking at her expectantly, slightly bothered about the delay.
“Where is… Clara?“ Journey asked.
“Who?” was his immediate answer.
“The woman you've been with, the last time,” she explained confused. “Wasn't her name Clara?”
His eyebrows frowned and he stared into the distance as if he needed to read something off a wall that was written so very small. The question had stirred up a memory and had surfaced as a blurred picture that was impossible to decipher.
“She is…,” he didn't know how to explain something he wasn't able to grasp.
“She is?” Journey pressed, unknown of the possible consequences, only became quickly aware when he put his arms akimbo and turned into a living grumble again.
“She was hungry, and I left her at the last diner we've passed,” he threw at her impatiently. “So what is it now?”
Journey touched the back of her neck, gently scratching the skin there, unsure what to make of his appearance and behaviour. It had been a while, and they only had spent a couple of hours together back then with the Dalek, so there was no familiarity at all.
She didn't know the Doctor, not his quirks, not his intentions. God, till now she couldn't have been sure he was even able to smile. When being honest, his question made no sense. His being here made no sense at all for her. Clara wasn't with him and aside from his answer about her whereabouts, she sensed there was something wrong with the whole topic, but it wasn't hers to ask further. By his appearance and knowing the blue box was a time machine she quickly put together it might be a couple of years for him since their last meeting.
“You look different,” she offered, hoping to lure him into an explanation.
Funnily enough, her question made him widen his eyes, and his hands came up to his face, his long fingers trailing over his features. It made her frown.
“I mean,” she pointed at his clothes, “last time you looked like a… a magician and now…,” she didn't dare to point out the obvious.
The plaid trousers, the ripped shirt, the velvet coat. Was he having a midlife crisis maybe? Or just eccentric?
“Oh,” for a second he had guessed to have missed his own regeneration. “I moved on from this look — made me look stern.”
She couldn't help herself this time, and so a snort of laughter slipped her, “I see.”
After over 2000 years — give or take a couple of decades — he was very well aware of how delicate and wavering human beings could be. How one thing he said amused them, only to be disappointed by the next. He often didn't care, because not even he could care so much for all of them. One couldn’t have everything.
Back then, Journey Blue had asked to come with him, and usually, he always had appreciation for those who asked. The problem had been, he had have a companion at the time and the even bigger problem had been, he was still too fresh with this regeneration. Too much amiss, too much he needed to figure out. Another companion would have been a too big of a distraction, another duty of care he wasn't able to fulfill back then.
‘I don't take soldiers,’ had been his hurtful, but weak excuse.
One soldier was enough, he was one, but that was something hard to accept, even after all those regenerations. He had declined because he didn't want to be reminded of it daily because he considered every companion a soldier. Many battles had they all fought together — big and small. Meaningful and less meaningful. On earth and at the end of the universe. Too many - he had stopped counting long ago.
The soldiers on Gallifrey had fought with him, in the battle about the universe, against the Daleks and the High Council, the Lord President. He'd been their General, their War Doctor — a soldier among soldiers.
There was one problem with it all. Soldiers tend to fall on the battlefield, it's their purpose -- if one liked it or not. They keep the others safe, while taking orders and matters into hand that maybe not even made sense.
And when coincidence and fate got it all wrong, they ride into battle never to return.
That's why he had declined.
Though, behind every soldier stands a person, a man, a woman, a living being, feelings, wants and needs. Expectations and desires. Someone able to decide for themselves, someone smart and meaningful. Journey Blue was someone like this.
She hadn't asked to come with him because he was recruiting, she had wanted to come to leave her soldier life behind, to see something more as destruction and battle. To see the wonders of the universe, a bit of magic, a bit of adventure.
Over the years the young woman had crossed his mind briefly here and there, but there had never been a good time to come back and righten his long time ago decision. Good, he was a time traveller, he had all the time in the universe. Also, when you make that excuse a few times too often, even a time traveller runs out of time here and there.
So it came, after being without someone for a while, he decided it was worth a shot.
He pursed his lips at her, wrinkles on his forehead, and she wondered what thoughts he was mulling over.
After he had declined her, she had felt a bit sorry for herself, and had wondered if there had been anything she could have done better to make him answer differently. Then again she had figured, the Doctor was the Doctor, was the Doctor and the only thing that could have convinced him would have been her being not a soldier.
The dilemma was; everyone on this station was a soldier, as a civilian she wouldn't have been around, wouldn't have met the Doctor and so on. And she loved her job. It was never easy and often exhausting, but for her, it had a purpose, a difficile one, but one.
After a bit, she had let go of the topic, because everything else would only have pushed her into regret. Though, she never forgot about the box and the grumpy magician.
“Listen!” he interrupted the silence and her thoughts, “when you want to come with me, you can see everything that ever has and ever will be. But… at times it won't be easy and… “
“...and?” but she could guess what he wanted to say.
“There have been companions before,” his gaze wandered in the distance for a second, a fraction of it his face was all sadness, “not all of them I was able to bring back to their place in time. Some got hurt. Some got lost. Some forgot and some…”
Liking her lips and taking in a deep breath she only nodded. Then she opened the buckle of the belt that held the phaser gun in place and let it go loose to hang it over the corner of an open mechanic lit and then smirked at him when noticing he was observing her actions carefully.
Their eyes met, and for a moment he was still all stern and frown, so much that Journey feared he had changed his mind short noticed, but then his frown turned into a kind smile, one could even dare it was a happy expression.
He made a step to the side and offered her the way toward the Tardis with a gesture of his hand. Offered her the trip of a lifetime and Journey didn't hesitate for one moment.
After Journey Blue had entered, the Twelfth Doctor gave the room a last look, just because there was a certain feeling echoing through his mind and body about it, ending at the phaser gun hanging over the lit. He gave the thing a last sad smirk and then hurried back inside the box, showing off in front of his new companion by flipping levers and pressing buttons as if it was an art.
The truth, in the end, was, the Doctor still didn't take soldiers.