Now Turns the Rolling of the Years
New Year’s Day, the year of Our Lord 2000, San Francisco. Just after midnight.
As Chang Lee ran off, the Doctor gave Grace a slightly shy smile. “It’s a bit cold for California, isn’t it?” he asked apologetically. Grace couldn’t help laughing.
“It’s just after midnight, and it’s winter time,” she pointed out. The Doctor slid out of the borrowed frock coat and draped it over her shoulders. It fit her just about as well as it did him.
“Maybe… before I go… would you like to get some hot chocolate?” he asked, hopefully, absently tucking a lock of chestnut hair behind one ear. Grace couldn’t find the heart to deny that wide-eyed, innocent look.
“Where are we going to find hot chocolate in the small hours of the morning on New Year’s Day?” she replied, not wanting to dash his hopes. The Doctor shrugged. The cool air didn’t seem to bother him at all, in shirtsleeves and vest as he was.
“I don’t know yet,” he said with a laugh, and offered her his arm.
Small groups of people made their way through the streets, cheering and blowing on party horns. At one street corner, Grace awkwardly accepted a pointed party hat that proudly read “2000” from an older man who seemed to be determined to make sure that everyone was enjoying themselves. The Doctor looked in dismay at his own small plastic top hat. “I need bobby pins,” he announced to the whole street. Grace winced, but fortunately no one took any notice. She took the hat from him.
“Here, let me show you how it’s done…” She snapped the elastic under his chin, tipping the hat at a jaunty angle. Tugging on the elastic to keep it from biting into his skin, the Doctor gave her a look of pure horror.
“You can not be serious,” he pronounced solemnly. Grace had to swallow down a laugh. The Doctor took the hat off and handed it to a young woman who happened to be passing by. “Humans are so strange,” he said. This time, Grace couldn’t help but laugh.
The next street over, they met with a group of drunks who, while harmless enough, tried to take them along with them. They ran through the snowless streets, the Doctor laughing merrily and Grace struggling to keep up. It was too easy to evade their pursuers.
Around the next corner was a small shop, still open, though there was no one inside. They stepped inside to catch their breath, and the girl at the counter, who had been dozing, started awake to the jingle of the bell. “Are you alone sleeping in this city of wakeful revelers?” the Doctor asked her, in fine dramatic style. The girl blinked at him, as if she thought she was dreaming still.
“What can I get for you tonight?” she asked, yawning. “We’re all out of most things, but we might be able to rustle something up.”
“Do you have hot chocolate?” the Doctor asked. Grace blinked at him. She’d forgotten the reason for their expedition. The girl nodded.
“It’ll be a moment. I have to heat up the milk.”
“May we come into the kitchen?” the Doctor asked mildly. Grace poked him.
“That’s rude,” she said firmly. The Doctor gave her a startled look. The girl raised her hand placatingly, yawning.
“It’s too late—or too early—for manners,” she said. “It’s warmer back there anyway. Come on.”
The kitchen was clean, neat, and utterly unremarkable, but cosy—a home kitchen made over for commercial purposes. An old-fashioned cross-stitch circle hung on one wall, proclaiming “Remember to Smile!” in bright colors. The girl yawned again as she stepped into the industrial refrigerator, emerging with a gallon of reduced-fat milk. She produced dark chocolate powder and crushed peppermints from a pantry.
“Not much business for a late night,” the Doctor observed. The girl yawned, once more.
“There never is,” she said. “But tonight they’re all at the bars. Which is nice, but I’d still rather go home. I was planning to sleep rather than wait for the ball to drop—until I got called in to work, of course.” Grace mouthed ‘I told you so’ at the Doctor. He gave her a wide-eyed look that clearly said ‘I found us somewhere with hot chocolate, didn’t I?’
“What’s your name?” the Doctor asked. The girl blinked at him, her hand frozen with the measuring spoons halfway out of the chocolate box. She smiled.
“Kaitlyn. Though, you could have looked at the name tag,” she said.
“I had to wear one of those for half a day once, years ago, back home,” the Doctor said conversationally. “There’s nothing quite as hearts-stopping as being addressed by your own name by people you don’t know at all. In the end I switched it for one with a name I’d made up. It was less terrifying that way.” Grace blinked. Here she’d been pumping the Doctor for any meaningful scrap of information about himself ever since she’d started talking to him, and now he gave the cashier at a little shop more than he’d given her the entire time. Kaitlyn smiled. “I’m the Doctor, by the way,” the Doctor said gently. Not to be outdone, Grace smiled her brightest.
“And I’m Grace.”
“You’ve got good taste,” Kaitlyn said, smiling at both of them. “Best hot chocolate in San Francisco—though I might be biased.” The Doctor laughed.
“Make that three cups, please,” he said. “My treat.”
On New Year’s Eve, Grace had met the most remarkable man she would ever know and had a bewildering adventure that no one would ever believe. On New Year’s Day, she sat in the back room of a small café, drinking hot chocolate with two people who might have been total strangers before, but whom she now felt as if she’d known all her life.
It was the little things in life, Grace realized, that she’d been missing all along; her love of opera, discovered anew (Kaitlyn was partial to Wagner), new friends, a cup of the best hot chocolate in San Francisco. They laughed together, sharing small stories and big dreams well past three o’clock.
On the last day of 1999, Grace Holloway had the biggest adventure of her life. On the first day of 2000, she had the second biggest.
She would never forget either one.
Hopefully you enjoyed my little New Years’ special!
It was inspired by the fact that the 1996 movie takes place around 1999/NewYear’s 2000, and is slightly AU to the end of the film. Not all adventures are scary!
Thanks for reading, thanks for sticking with me throughout 2015, and may God bless you in 2016!
See you all in the new year! 😀