Summary: Tomfoolery, crushed azaleas, and space.
Disclaimer: Do not own.
A/N: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BECKAH, DARLING.
Thanks to sosobriquet for checking my verbs and making sure I didn't do silly things, as I am so apt to do.
When Alfie was a boy, he asked his dad for a telescope. His dad, of course, complied. He also bought about fourteen books on stars: how they work and why they work. Every bit of it was over his head but he tried, for his son's sake. Alfie remembered stars, from somewhere far away, and his dad said, "I was in space, once. Didn't know it, though."
"So way," Craig singsonged. "You were too."
Alfie, in his infinite childlike wisdom, said, "So, how'd we get there?"
Craig hadn't ever given any thought on how to explain the Doctor to his son, his inquisitive, demanding, and smart son, so he shrugged and said, "A friend - the Doctor - took us there."
"In what, a bottle rocket?" he scoffed.
"No," Craig mocked back, "teleportation pad in a lift at the shop."
Alfie laughed, then, and cracked the spine on his astrological map book. "Good one, Dad."
Craig opened his mouth to tell him, "no, really, ask your mother" but shut it quickly. The Doctor hadn't been around since that day, when he said he was going to die, and Craig had no reason to believe he hadn't. Other than his own faith that the Doctor always finds a clever way out of a scrap.
Sophie sometimes would ask Craig if it was all real, had the Doctor been real or had they drank too much booze and had a really strange dream? Craig just pulled a family portrait down, of them and Alfie and their other two children, and asked her if they are real.
"Well, of course they are, Craig."
"Then he was," he insisted. "Because if he wasn't, then this would all still be us dreaming."
Alfie grew up tall like his father but lean like his mother and he had a strange affinity for always coming out on top that Craig hadn't quite figured out. He could still name all the stars in the sky, tell you about the waxing and waning of the moon, about the tilt of Earth's axis, but it wasn't a skill he flashed about like a new toy as he had as a boy.
"Wait a tick," Craig said, snapping his newspaper shut and looking at his son curiously. "What do you mean, 'she asked me'?"
"Exactly as I said it, Dad. This means I'm going to need to borrow the car."
"How in bloody-"
"Language!" Sophie censured from a far.
Craig dropped his voice and continued, "blue blazes did you get a uni girl to ask you out on a date?"
"What can I say? Natural charm."
"Eh," Alfie blew off, "merely a state of mind." He winked mischievously.
Craig gaped at his son's retreating back. "He really is going to take over the world someday."
"Why, yes, he will. Probably several of them," a familiar voice intoned from behind.
"Doctor! How did you- What- Where- How- You-" Craig made several strangled choking noises before he just ended with a lot of poking and pointing.
"Yes, yes, whole bit about the dying and all, it's highly complex and involves a whole lot of running and jumping and general tomfoolery, and is utterly not the matter I came here to discuss.” He started drifting his eyes over the room, commenting on things as he went. “Oh, you've bought a new painting! How's Sophie? Oh, other tiny Craig&Sophies have been born! So, can I borrow Stormy for a while? Have you shaved since last I saw you at all or is this a new thing?"
"I caught... absolutely nothing of what you just said."
"Yes, well, probably for the best." The Doctor looked pensively around the room muttering, "Social calls, still haven't got the knack of them. Tootle-loo."
"No, wait," Craig said, grabbing the Doctor by the sleeve. He looked the same, while Craig knew he looked so much worse for wear, and it just reinforced how alien this man really was. It had been years. "I haven't seen you since-"
"Like I said: tomfoolery." He looked suddenly sad and Craig decided not to push it. Instead, he pulled the Doctor in for a long overdue hug.
"Sophie's just popped off to bed, let me fetch her-"
The Doctor looked uncertain. "Actually, I've come to talk to you-"
"Dad? Who's this?"
Craig smiled wide as the Doctor's eyes flew behind him.
"Stormeggedon!" he cried, looking delighted. He rushed over to him, measured his height with his hands, ruffled his hair, and frowned. "Seems I'm a bit early."
"Bit early for what?" Alfie said, completely unperturbed by the erratic bow-tied man who was surveying him with a curious tilt to his head.
"You. You're not done cooking yet."
"Now, hold on, now," Craig sputtered. "What're you on about, Doctor?"
"The Doctor?" Alfie looked at him again, slowly, and said, "This is the Doctor?"
"Don't sound so disappointed. I have a spaceship, I'll have you know, and if I'm not so impressive, my old girl sure is."
"Really? Show her to us, then."
"Very well, come on- Oh, you clever-!" the Doctor twisted on his heel. "I like you, Stormy! Well done, Craig, well done!"
"Well, let's go! Come along, Craig!" The Doctor skipped towards their back door.
"Hang on! Sophie-"
"Popped off to bed, remember? Talk to her later, all of time and space waits for no man, boy, or Time Lord."
"Why can't you speak in small sentences that makes sense?" Craig groaned, even as he followed his son out to the garden. "You parked your TARDIS in Soph's azaleas!"
"I make a nasty habit of that, don't I? Yes, well, this is my favorite part. Stormy, you first." He leaned back against the outside of the box, one ankle crossed over the other, and snapped his fingers lazily, his eyes trained on their expressions. Alfie stepped inside, his dad hot on his heels, and they both stared around in wonder.
"It's- it's- it's-"
"Bigger on the inside, I know," the Doctor cried delightedly, clapping his hands and running around.
"It's- Another dimension, isn't it?" Alfie said.
"Oh! Oh! Oh. Craig, Craig, you should have told me. You should have told me he was so brilliant. Alright then, brilliant one, where do you want to go? Name it, let's go there. Horsehead Nebula, the rings of Saturn-"
"Can you take me to the end of the universe?"
"He's impossible, isn't he?" Craig sighed.
"Improbable, you mean."
"Personally, I prefer incorrigible," Alfie said cheekily.
"We are going to have so much fun," the Doctor smiled, grabbing Alfie's face and pressing a kiss to his forehead. "So much fun. We are going to run, Stormy."
The Doctor whirled away, starts shouting "pull that lever, Craig" and "hold tight!" and Alfie looked positively radiant at the control panel, his eyes dancing with all the flashing lights and whirring noises.
Once they stopped, the Doctor started in on his time travel techno-babble about dimensions and speed of particles and how he'd met Einstein, and his cousin Elsa, and he'd really rather not talk about it, thank you very much. "Are you going to tell me why you call me Stormy?"
"It's your name! Or, it was. It was what you liked to be called, as a baby. Before you decided you were partial to Alfie after all."
"Yes, teleportation pad in a lift, Cybermen, the power of love conquering all. That was a grand old adventure and you, my friend, were Stormaggedon, Dark Lord of All."
"You weren't lying!" Alfie directed at his father.
"You didn't believe him?"
Alfie shrugged. "I thought it was all a fairy story."
“Oh, my friend, always believe in fairy stories. They have a frightful tendency to be real.”
The Doctor hadn’t taken them to the end of the universe at all. “I could take you to the end of the earth, or the end of your sun, or anything thing you want, really, but that’s all time travel and today, I wanted to show you space. Not the end of it, no, because endings are sad and confined and so very small. No, I brought you to the beginning. Well, the beginning for you.” The Doctor flung the door open and Alfie immediately rushed forward to look out. Craig grabbed him by the back of the shirt but the Doctor laid a hand on his arm. “Trust her,” he said, patting the door frame of the TARDIS.
“This is the Sirius star system,” Alfie said. “I can still see Earth. Faintly, but it’s there.” Craig knew all about Sirius from years of listening to Alfie natter on about binary star systems, ancient Egyptian legend, where the term Dog Days of Summer came from when that red haired woman sang about it on the radio all the time. “It’s amazing.”
The Doctor smiled at Craig, clapped an arm around his shoulders, and said, “Yeah, it is.”
As Alfie sat in the door of the TARDIS, feet swinging in the expanse of space, Craig and the Doctor sat together on the stairs and watched him, waited for him to get tired of it all. The Doctor had this infinitely patient look on his face like he thought that moment would never come, and Craig fidgeted with the handkerchief he’d stolen from the Doctor’s pocket earlier when he’d tried to cover his tears with a poorly executed sneeze. “So, this is it, then?”
“What is, Craig?”
“The TARDIS, everything you shoved into my head all those years ago.”
“I’d forgotten. You’d never got to see the inside of her, did you?”
Craig shook his head. He’d faced aliens, teleported, watched the top story of his flat disappear, and ran around in a shop with a papoose like an idiot and it’d had been brilliant, just the Doctor said. But this? He’d never gotten to do this. “It’s- So much. Where’s Amy? Where’s your companion? Don’t you usually have one?” The Doctor said nothing, just looked at his hands with a grim smile. “Oh, no. No, no. Don’t tell me you’re all alone.”
“Well, not all alone. I’ve got her, haven’t I?”
“Yes, well...” Craig petered off. “Hey,” he nudged the Doctor with his shoulder, “why don’t you ever stick around to see Sophie?”
“Sophie’s already on her grand adventure,” he muttered.
“She’s starting to forget you. She’s starting to doubt you,” Craig pushed.
“Wouldn’t you? I’m old and I’m mad and I talk to cats.” They broke broke out into childish giggles. “Craig-”
“You want to take him, don’t you?” Craig interrupted, his eyes on his son.
The Doctor smiled. “You know me too well. If I wasn’t over 1,100 years old, I’d be worried about my vanity right now. I rather pride myself on being unpredictable.”
“The Oncoming Storm and Stormaggedon. The Universe will never know what hit them.”
“You love me,” the Doctor asserted.
“Quite unfortunately,” Craig joked.
The Doctor jumped to his feet and held a hand out for Craig. “Come on, then, Craig. I’ve got to get the both of you home.”
“Oh, no, we’ve been gone for hours. Soph will be worried-” Alfie and the Doctor both gave him strange looks and he stopped. “Oh, right, time travel.”
“I can take you back to the very minute we left. I can also take you to ten thousand years in the future.” The TARDIS groaned and the Doctor stopped. “We can. She’s a jealous dear.”
“And planets,” Alfie piped up. “You can take us to planets?”
“Oh, yes, Raxacorciofallipatoris, Barcelona, visit some Oods in the Ood-Sphere, Ursa Minor Beta-”
“That’s from Hitchhiker’s!” Alfie accused.
“Just seeing if you were listening!” the Doctor laughed, the TARDIS shuddering to life under their feet.
With their feet firmly planted back on planet Earth, the Doctor kissed Craig and Alfie goodbye and skipped back to the TARDIS, the tails of his coat flapping behind him.
“Are you ever coming back?” Alfie said, and it sounded like it cost him a bit of his pride to ask.
“When you’re ready.”
“And when will that be?”
The Doctor smiled enigmatically. “Don’t know. And isn’t that the beauty of it?”
Craig and Alfie waved goodbye as the box whooshed and whirled and faded away. “Stormaggedon, huh?” Alfie smirked.
“I wasn’t going to tell you. Didn’t want your head to get too big.” Craig grabbed his son in a headlock and gave him a very gentle noogie as they walked back into the house.
On the day Alfred Owens graduated from university with an honors degrees in astrophysics, a familiar blue box materialized in their back garden once again. He only stopped long enough to change from his brown dress shoes to a pair of trainers before rushing outside.
The Doctor had promised him they would run.