Tenth Doctor story under the cut.
Disclaimer: Doctor Who, Rose, the TARDIS and all points west don’t belong to me. Of course, I wish David Tennant belonged to me, but he doesn’t, he belongs to himself. Be that as it may, no infringement of copyright intended. This is fun, people, not a money making venture.
Additional Disclaimer: So it’s not necessarily canon. So stop before you start.
Additional Additional Disclaimer: No, really. Stop.
There were many, many words that she could have used, but something in the Doctor’s expression successfully rendered most of them useless. Instead, she tried just one. It was a good word; a fine word and one which she had found got her wonderful results from other people. Perhaps it was something in the manner of the petulance she put behind it.
He rubbed at the end of his thin nose thoughtfully. It was a difficult question to answer. His lightning-fast brain calculated the exact number of possible responses and predicted responses from his enraged assistant. Within milliseconds he’d reduced the number of possible answers to two. His clinical detachment stepped in and suggested the lesser of two evils.
“Because I can?” he hazarded, and was rewarded with Rose rolling her eyes – he hated it when she did that, it was so unnecessarily superior of her – and turning her back on him.
Good job, he rationalised, that he hadn’t given the OTHER response.
“Rose, Rose, wait just a minute.” The Doctor let go of the barrier around the TARDIS console and moved swiftly round to intercept her. “You wanted adventure, excitement and – unless I’m wrong – really wild things, am I right?”
“And you wanted to travel to other planets, to see stars, to encounter alien species that you could never even have imagined, not even in your WILDEST dreams, am I right?”
His eyes flashed with an almost child-like excitement. Since his regeneration, Rose had come to recognise that look and almost dread it. It usually meant he was going to suggest something so off the wall it was back on again.
Not for the first time, she longed for the old Doctor back again.
“But…” she tried again and was interrupted by him holding up a finger to silence her.
“So I brought you here!”
“But…” This time, when the Doctor put his finger up, she reached over and grabbed it, pushing it down and staring at him until his eyes began to water on her behalf. “But you didn’t tell me that the people on this planet prefer to be naked and that wearing clothes is considered sacrilegious! “
He rubbed his nose again. “I forgot?”
She couldn’t help it. His expression was so wistful, so woebegone, that she put her head back and laughed at him. His face split in a wide grin and he shrugged his shoulders. “I’m only winding you up, you know, I just wanted to see your reaction. You’re a scary woman when you get going, Rose Tyler.”
“So the people on this planet DON’T walk around naked?”
“So I don’t have to go out of the TARDIS naked?”
“Much as it disappoints me to say it, no.”
She shoved him playfully. “Hey, watch it.” He was dangerously flirtatious at times. His previous incarnation wouldn’t have pushed the envelope anywhere near as much as this young upstart. Rose laughed to herself. ‘Young upstart’. He was still nine hundred years old, she was nineteen. The age difference was still as pronounced as ever it was. Even if he did look ten, even fifteen years younger than he had done before.
Her mother had whispered her seal of approval on the Doctor’s new look, which had irritated Rose enormously. It wasn’t any of Jackie Tyler’s business. Alright, maybe it was a LITTLE bit her business. Rose was still deeply suspicious that the young man with the manic eyes and wild hair was not the same Doctor who had rescued her from a variety and assortment of aliens in the past year.
Except for sometimes. Sometimes, in the way he’d look at her, or the way he’d say something. Or the use of the word ‘fantastic’ in everyday conversation. Then she’d catch glimpses of him as he was before.
He was from Gallifrey, she was not. She couldn’t even start to understand the regenerative power of the Time Lords. Time Lord. Singular. She’d come to appreciate that he was the last of his kind. Couldn’t fully comprehend it, but she appreciated it now in a way she’d not done before.
A long conversation about regeneration had taken place when they’d left Earth after the business with the Sycorax. In an effort to help her accept his new form, he had dug through a box in the TARDIS wardrobe room. Some minutes later, crowing with delight, he had produced a series of photographs that showed him in different incarnations throughout his adventures. She, being possessed of a naturally curious mind, wanted to know more about who he had been in the past.
“So you can keep on doing this? Every time you’re going to die?” She was looking at one of the photographs, showing the Doctor as a young, blond man with a nice smile, a far cry from a fading, sepia-toned photograph which showed him as an old man.
“Only three more times, I’m afraid, then that’s it. Curtains. Night night. So long and thanks for all the fish…no wait, that’s something else entirely. Thirteen lives we get…got…sorry, tenses, must get used to that.” He had grinned to take the sting out of his words. “Some Time Lords have surpassed that, of course, but given that the Council of Rassilon aren’t around any more to dish out extra regenerations at their whim, I don’t imagine it’s going to happen.”
“Only three more times?” She was confused, unsure whether this was a good thing or a bad thing. Given what she knew of him, he wasn’t exactly the kind of man who shied away from danger. He could be someone else by the end of next week for all she knew.
The thought sent an involuntary shudder down her spine.
She’d continued looking through the photographs, still failing to grasp some fundamental principles.
“So…you get to keep all of your memories, but every one of you is…different?”
“Totally different,” he’d said, looking at a photograph that had made him smile. “I really looked wild there, didn’t I?” The picture showed a man with bubble curls, more teeth than he had now and the most ridiculous hat she’d ever seen.
“Those were the days,” he said in a wistful tone. “Simpler times. Less iPlayers and more Jelly Babies.”
She looked at the picture, then looked up at the Doctor, who had just run his hands through his hair, which now stuck out in all directions.
Rose looked back at the picture.
“I can see the similarity,” she murmured, amused for the moment.
The Doctor snatched the photograph back from her and stared at it. “That was a good hat,” he said, regretfully. “And mock the scarf if you want – but it didn’t half keep my neck warm.” He reached over and took the photos from her and flicked through them.
“What’s it…like?” she said, curiously. “I mean, don’t you get any choice in the body you end up with?”
“None at all,” he said, cheerfully. “Never been ginger, though. Or a woman. Mind, I’m not sure I’d want to be a woman. Too much complicated biology if you ask me.” His hands waved in the air in what was undeniably a universal gesture for a woman’s shape. Out. In. Out. “Can’t say as I’d want to be a woman, anyway. You lot are weird.”
“I beg your pardon? Who’s weird?”
“This from a man who can change his face like other people change their socks? And just why are women weird?” She was incredulous and rose to his bait like he had anticipated.
The Doctor was enjoying every single second of this new incarnation. His Tenth Self was naturally cheeky and liked to take things as far as possible. In the very short space of time he’d spent with Rose, she’d smacked him round the face three times and taken what she called ‘the hump’ at his comments on countless others. He wasn’t misogynistic, he liked women. It was just that she was so easy to wind up and infuriate that missing an opportunity to do so seemed criminal.
He liked being cheeky. It took attention away from his other side. The Harriet Jones demolishing side. The six words side.
He wasn’t entirely sure he either liked or trusted that facet of his new personality. So he preferred to dredge up the comedic side. At least whilst they were inside the TARDIS.
“Well?” Rose was standing with her hands on her hips, looking very much like her mother, although the Doctor wouldn’t have dared say so.
“Yes thank you, I’m very well. Although if you plan to make tea any time soon, I’d kill for a cup. Two sugars, milk. Oh, and there’s some of those little biscuits we picked up on Styramolin Eight. The ones that smell like cheese but taste like oranges?” He smacked his lips loudly. “Fantastic.”
She hated him sometimes.
She told him so.
“I’m mortally wounded,” he said, turning his huge eyes on her mournfully. He had learned that she had difficulty resisting what she called his ‘Bambi Eyes’ look, so employed it as a regular tool to make her laugh. Poor kid needed to laugh after all she’d been through in the last few weeks; the business with the time vortex, the Daleks…
He’d watched her sleeping the other night. Sleeping wasn’t something this incarnation was good at: the mind was too active, the body too eager for adventure. So he’d sat awake whilst she had slept in the other chair, mumbling in her sleep, twitching as her subconscious mind had her running away from the gods only knew what.
It was a mistake to get attached, the Doctor knew that better than most. When you got attached, you started to care. And when you started to care, your judgement got clouded. And when your judgement got clouded, Bad Things Happened.
And when Bad Things Happened, worlds were invaded, threatened, cajoled, tormented and generally maimed. So in the long run, it was a mistake to get attached.
He’d thought on this as he’d watched her sleeping. Then he’d gone out of the room, pulling the door quietly shut behind him.
The TARDIS console had glowed at him questioningly.
“I’m not getting attached,” he’d said, out loud, as though proving the point. “She’s useful to have around the place. That’s all. No attachment. Not here. Not to her.” A pause. “Not to anybody.”
The TARDIS had said nothing. That’s what he liked about the ship, it was – mostly – non-judgemental and listened to his random musings without comment. He hadn’t had a good discussion with her for…
“Humans. They’re so…delicate. The wind blows the wrong way and they snap.”
The TARDIS continued to reward him with pleasing silence until his agitation flittered away from him. Glad to have got that moment of uncertainty – (hmm….in a certain world, uncertainty was the only uncertainty, an interesting paradoxically little analogy for consideration at a later stage) – out of the way, the Doctor relaxed his shoulders and loosened his tie. His former incarnation had been a jeans and t-shirt kind of a man, but he liked to make an effort. Quite what he was making an effort for still eluded him, but the thought was nice.
He took off the suit jacket and draped it over a section of the TARDIS console whilst he busied himself cheerfully performing the routine maintenance that meant the time ship could continue its journeys. “One of these days,” he said, waving his sonic screwdriver at the console, “one of these days I’m going to sort out that chameleonic chip of yours. I’m starting to think that a 1950′s Police Box is getting SO passé.”
He lay on his back for a while, listening to the comforting thrum of the TARDIS. It was a soothing sound, enough to allow his eyes to close and daydream for a little while, to let himself absorb into the TARDIS’ brain and return to building the rapport he had always with his ship. His previous incarnation had avoided doing that for the whole time he’d been bouncing around the galaxy in his ridiculous leather jacket. He didn’t ‘do domestic’, and that included touching the mind of the TARDIS. It was a reminder of everything he had lost, and the Ninth Doctor hadn’t been prepared to do that.
The Tenth Doctor was – and did.
Doctor. A suffusion of warmth flowed through his being. We have missed you.
I’ve not been far. I’ve been… busy.
We know. We touched the mind of the human girl. We know what you have been doing.
Ah yes. About that…
We did not harm her. Did we not please you?
Please me? Of course you pleased me. I’m always pleased when you put in an appearance like that, Heart.
Heart? You have given us a name?
You always had a name. Heart of the TARDIS. It’s just that I never used it. Until you – uh – borrowed – Rose, I’d never seen you as something tangible before.
You were pleased, then.
Of course I was. You eliminated the Dalek threat.
You are different. Again.
The voice – if it WAS a voice – seemed more amused than displeased at the last and the Doctor rubbed his nose thoughtfully.
I am. Again. But I’m still me. You’re still you. And we still have so much to do, so many planets to visit, so many time periods to explore. You still up for it, old girl? Can you still deliver the goods?
Doctor, we are offended. Amusement, indulgence. We are older than you are and yet you treat us continually as a child.
You’re my baby.
We do not understand the analogy. You have spent too long around humans.
I… care for you. I repair you. Whenever things go wrong, I fix it.
There was a long silence as Heart absorbed this curious information. We are your baby.
Yeah. Damn your eyes, I’m rather attached to you.
We did not think you formed attachments. Not to her, not to anybody.
You don’t count. We’re attached by our very natures. You’re my TARDIS, I’m your Time Lord. I’m the Tarzan to your Jane. The Tom to your Jerry. The…
Please stop trying to confuse us with your human analogies. It disorients us.
We do not have eyes.
You said ‘damn your eyes’. We do not have eyes.
The Doctor sighed. Heart was wonderful. She was possessed of the most incredible capabilities of inter-dimensional and time travel. But if there was one thing that he thought he’d never get the hang of, it was her tendency towards being literal.
It’s just a saying, Heart.
Is it a human saying?
You got me.
You have spent too long around humans.
So you said.
You have spent too long around humans. You are becoming more human with every passing year. The thought pattern grew reproachful. You spent more time with humans last year than with us. You are not human. You should stop before you cannot turn back.
They needed my help.
And we did not? It was not just you who suffered when the regeneration went wrong.
Is that a hint of jealousy, Heart?
We do not get jealous. Do not be ridiculous, Doctor. We are merely observing that you are spending too long…
Around humans, yeah, yeah, I get it already.
Is she staying?
Rose? Yeah, I’d say so. I get the feeling that if I tried to get her to leave, she’d punch my nose. She’s got what it takes, Heart. And I’ve been on my own for too long. There. I admitted it out loud.
You have never been alone, Doctor. We have always been with you.
I know that, Heart, believe me I know. But Rose is different. She’s…
You have spent too long around humans.
The Doctor sighed. Heart was nothing if not persistent.
Do not become attached. We do not think we could deal with the sort of grief that would come from the inevitable separation.
That’s my girl. I’ll not become attached. Now let’s get down to business. How are your core systems?
The rest of the conversation was clinical and detached, cool and technological. Heart reported on the state of the TARDIS core systems, the Doctor tweaked and adjusted with the sonic screwdriver, and the two continued their peaceful co-existence as though they had never left off.
He sat up so quickly that he forgot he was underneath the console. He smacked his head off the casing and winced. “You’re good at sneaking up on people,” he said, ruefully rubbing at his forehead.
“All those years of sneaking back indoors past Mum’s room,” she said. “I thought I heard someone here, so I…”
“…so you came out for a good nose? Ain’t nobody here but us chickens,” he said, jumping to his feet and flapping his arms like wings to prove the point. Rose stared at him.
“Quite,” she said. “You really arestrange, aren’t you?”
“As strange as they come, Rose. You love it. Go on, admit it.” He gave her his infectious grin. “Admit it!”
“NO!” She was caving. It was easy.
“Stop it!” She giggled, despite herself. He was so like a child it was hard not to be swept up in these moments of silliness. He had a puppy-like exuberance for life that his predecessor had managed to keep reined in. “I’m admitting nothing.”
“Admit it. Or I’ll confiscate your chocolate supply.”
“Over my dead body.” With a gleeful giggle, Rose shot back into the TARDIS corridor and down the hall, the Doctor in hot pursuit. Somewhere down the corridor, he overtook her, his lanky body racing ahead on long legs that easily matched and beat her stride. He stopped at the end of the corridor, in front of her room and turned to face her, that look on his face again.
“Did I tell you,” he said, seriously, “about the Pylorans? Seriously, they had an entire CIVILISATION based on chocolate. Bit like the Mayans, or the Aztecs. They worshipped their equivalent of the cocoa bean.”
“You’re having me on.”
“No, really.” He was earnest. Then his face split in a grin. “Want to go there?”
“Chocolate? Really?” She was interested despite herself.
“Well, not EXACTLY chocolate. Chocolate-ish.” He waved his hand vaguely, dismissively. “Looks like chocolate, though. Tastes like chocolate.” He left off the bit about the slightly narcotic effect. Besides, he didn’t know if that would affect her in the same way.
She was, after all, human.
And he wasn’t.