andraste: The reason half the internet imagines me as Patrick Stewart. (Default)
[personal profile] andraste
Man, I started working on this for Half A Moon ... in 2012. But my New Year's Resolution was to Finish More Things, so I guess I am starting out well? (Not that I don't have unfinished stories from all the way back to 1999 on my computer, but most of those probably aren't worth posting.)


Word Count: 2300

Rating: Contains nothing you wouldn't see on the show. (And considerably fewer people being brutally murdered than the relevant era.)

Summary: Peri attempts to adjust to the Doctor's regeneration. Results are variable.



"Doctor?"

Peri knocked gently on the door frame, but there was no response. Peering around the corner, she could see the stranger's back - the Doctor's back where he leaned over his workbench. He'd been poking at the TARDIS' Chameleon Circuit for a whole day now, while Peri slept and woke and spent her time restlessly roaming the ship, torn between avoiding the man who'd replaced her best friend and the need to keep an eye on him. Unless he'd left the workshop while she was sleeping, he hadn't eaten or drunk anything the whole time. She wasn't exactly sure how long Time Lords could go without food and water, but maybe raising his blood sugar would improve his mood.

"Doctor?" she said, stepping into the room. "I made you a cup of tea."

Without saying thank you or even looking at her, he took the mug and drank a mouthful. Then he made a face and put it down on the bench. "Disgusting," he said. "What on Earth did you put in it?"

"But it's just how you always ... oh," said Peri. "New taste buds?"

"Better taste buds," he amended. "I ask you, milk and two sugars? There's hardly any tea in it."

"I-I just thought ..."

He threw the screwdriver he was using down on the bench next to the mug and finally turned to look at her. "I suppose I can't expect anything better from an American. Time to show you how it's really done."

***

The TARDIS kitchen couldn't have been more out of keeping with the space age interior of the console room. There was a stove on which the Doctor – her Doctor, anyway – liked to fry mushrooms for breakfast, and a big old fridge in the corner that reminded Peri of her grandmother's house. She found it a bit spooky how the food never seemed to get any less fresh. There was a bowl of fruit on the bench with a banana that had looked slightly green ever since she arrived in the TARDIS. No way Peri was eating that, and the Doctor didn't like bananas. At least, he didn't used to.

For almost an hour, Peri had been watching the Doctor make tea. There was a high cupboard that she was almost certain had been full of saucepans yesterday, from which he pulled tin after tin. There was green tea and black tea, oolong tea and even yellow and white tea, which Peri had never heard of before. The Doctor boiled the kettle over and over, measuring the temperature of the water carefully before adding it to one of several pots. Then he would time the brewing by his pocket watch, add milk or sugar or lemon and take a sip. Each time, he grimaced and put it down again, occasionally spitting the tea straight back into the cup.

"Maybe your new taste buds prefer coffee?" Peri ventured, after what, by her count, was the thirty-seventh cup.

"Coffee? COFFEE? Don't be ridiculous, Peri," said the Doctor, lifting the thermometer out of the green tea pot.

Peri regarded the ocean of tea with a sigh. She'd already had a mug this morning, but it was a shame to let all of it go to waste. She picked one up at random and sipped it, then made a face.

"Ick," she said. "Way too sweet."

"Hmmmmm," the Doctor said thoughtfully. "If I may?" He took it out of her hand, and carefully added one more spoonful of sugar. Then he took a tentative swallow. "Ah," said the Doctor, a beatific smile spreading over his face. "Perfection."

Peri opened her mouth to point out that it now had even more sugar than he used to take, but thought better of it. At least he seemed happy for the moment.

***

The next morning, the whirring in the room across the corridor (which sure hadn't been across the corridor when she went to sleep) work her up. She was never certain if she could trust the clock she kept by her bed - more out of habit than any expectation that it would actually tell her the time - but if it was anything to go by she'd only had five hours sleep.

She knocked on the door across the way, but there was no reply, so after a minute she pushed it open a crack and peaked inside. The Doctor, tasteless coat draped over a nearby chair, was lying on some kind of stretcher with a light shining down on him. The machine was making the weird clicking, whirring sound.

"Doctor? Are you OK?"

"Do you mind?" He said sharply.

"Sorry," Peri said. "I just wondered what that sound was."

He didn't sit up or move his head. "I'm just – running a few tests."

"Tests?" The machine blinked alarmingly and the light turned red. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Do? No, if it's all the same, I don't think the aid of someone with a high school understanding of biology will be of any help here."

"Well, fine, I was just asking." Peri's eyes stung with tears. Why did she keep think she could connect with this stranger?

The Doctor sat up and looked at her, then at the floor. "I'm just making sure. That the instability has passed."

A chill went up Peri's spine. "Instability?" Sure, he was irascible and hard to get along with now, but what if he tried to strangle her again?

"I'm sure that everything will be fine." His expression suggested otherwise. "Just – go. Please."

Peri shut the door behind her.

***

The next time she found him, she had to go looking. It was hard to judge the passage of time in the TARDIS, but she'd eaten three meals, gotten lost in the library twice and slept for what the clock told her was about eight hours before she started to get worried.

"Doctor?" she said, walking down a corridor that was much like all the others she'd tried. She hoped that she'd be able to find her way back to her room later and not be stuck here forever. "Doctor?"

"In here," the booming voice rang out from behind a door that hadn't been there a moment ago.

The dust in the dark, claustrophobic room that the Doctor had squirreled himself away in made her cough. There was a small table with a dim, inadequate lamp and a single chair, and Peri groped around the door until she found a light switch – maybe the Doctor could see in the dark, but she couldn't. He seemed happy again, the anxiety she'd seen the day before vanished away. Or he was hiding it from her.

"Ah, Peri," the Doctor said. "I was just sorting through the old photo albums. Filing away another old life, so to speak."

It was something Peri had meant to ask before now, but she'd been afraid of hearing the answer. "You – you've done this before? Changed your face?"

"Of course! This is the sixth one so far, you know. Here, look at this."

Peri couldn't take it in. Not only had the Doctor changed completely, he'd done it before. He might do it again, presumably whenever he wanted.

She looked at the photograph album he was brandishing and saw a portrait of a distinguished looking older gentleman, frowning hawkishly at the camera.

"That's you?" Now that she looked properly, there was something about the pose that reminded her of the Doctor. Well, of this Doctor.

"Of course! Me in my first life." He flipped through the album, showing photo after photo, colour and black and white, obviously taken in many times and places.

One other thing that Peri couldn't help noticing was that there were girls in most of the photos – girls smiling, girls with their arms around the Doctor. Sometimes boys, but mostly girls.

"So, I guess Turlough wasn't your first – companion, then," she said after a while.

"I've travelled with many people over the years, as you can see. Barbara, Vicki, Steven, Dodo ..." He trailed off thoughtfully. "Ah, wait a minute," the Doctor said. "Just let me go and fetch something." He dashed off into another room.

Peri waited, flipping through the most recent album. There was the Doctor - her Doctor, in his cricket gear and celery. With two girls and a teenage boy, with one of the girls, on his own holding a cricket bat. With Turlough. With her and Erimem. Peri found the tears welling in her eyes all over again. Erimem was gone, and now she found out that she'd never see the real Doctor again either.

"Ah," said the Doctor, re-entering the room. "I've found it. Under a pile of 19th century newspapers, of all places."

Peri hurriedly wiped her eyes and turned around. The Doctor was holding an old-fashioned polaroid camera.

"There's some developing fluid and a dark room around here somewhere, but I don't know where it's got to, and the digital one seems to be out of batteries," he said. "Now ..." he put the camera down on the table and pressed a few buttons. "Come over here."

Peri reluctantly stood in front of the camera, managing a shaky smile as the Doctor put his arm around her. The camera clicked and whirred and spat out its photograph as the Doctor hunted around in the pile of albums, apparently seeking something in particular.

"Ah," he said, coming up with an album externally indistinguishable from all the others. "This one, I think." It was empty inside, but he soon slid the polaroid into the first clear envelope. "There," the Doctor said proudly. "Brand new start. Speaking of which, I think I've finally cracked the problem with the Chameleon circuit!"

He bustled out of the door. Peri looked at the album she'd left on the table one more time, at her old friend's smiling face, and then she closed it and walked away.

***

Say what you want about it, life with the Doctor never stayed dull for long. No sooner did they leave the TARDIS than it was wall-to-wall Cybermen. Two days after that, Peri is found herself staging a rebellion on an alien world in the future, so that the Doctor didn't get executed by the lizard Emperor. All in all an average week, if it hadn't been for the Doctor dying and then coming back a different person.

Now that nobody's shooting at them, Eridanus IX is beautiful. Peri itches for collection jars, or at least a sketchbook. In this field alone there seem to be a dozen different varieties of flower, some of them almost glowing in the setting sun. A few of them even match the blue of the TARDIS. These are the moments she loves. Not the bug-eyed monsters and the people trying to kill her, but getting to see other worlds, other times.

The Doctor has settled down on the branches of one of the trees they have here - big, wide branches that are almost like benches. Maybe the people grow them that way on purpose. He seems to be watching the twin suns set. Peri was happily surprised when he didn't insist on immediately leaping into the TARDIS and leaving after the revolution was sorted out, but maybe almost being shot had rattled him more than it usually did. If she hadn't turned up with the revolutionaries as cavalry he'd be ... walking around with another new body, she guessed.

"Penny for your thoughts?" she says, walking up behind him.

"You saved my life." It's not the first time it's happened, and it's not like he hasn't done the same for her. They didn't talk about it much.

"Well, you saved my life. Back on Androzani Minor."

"That's true."

She sits down beside him on the tree-bench. They haven't really talked about that either, not properly. "You - he - gave up your life to save me. I do appreciate it, you know."

"So you should," he says, with his usual sharp tone, but then his expression softens. "I don't regret it. I'd do it again."

"Please don't," she says, shuddering. She might not be used to the new guy yet, but she hates the thought of him changing again.

The Doctor looks at his feet. "You know, you could go home. I mean, if you wanted to."

It's a tempting thought. She could just walk away, go back to college, to her life. The thought of explaining to her mother where she disappeared to is daunting, but maybe the Doctor could put the TARDIS down when and where he was aiming for. Just for once.

"I promised Turlough I'd look after you."

"I am almost nine hundred years old, you know," he says. "I can look after myself."

That obviously wasn't true, but she couldn't just say that. Turlough was right, he did get into the most awful trouble. While she's trying to think of a better reason to give the Doctor, she's distracted by the suns touching the horizon. As if on cue, the meadow around them seems to explode – Peri jumps in surprise as she realizes that the air is full of hundreds of moths. Their wings were moonlight silver, and they take off into the sky and head straight towards the sunset.

"Incredible," the Doctor says. "They must sleep under the leaves by day and migrate at night. Every one of them is heading west."

At least the months knew where they were going – but if Peri didn't know where, she did know how and with who. "Travelling with you, I've seen things that nobody else ever gets to see. I don't want to give that up."

The Doctor slides an arm around her shoulders, and Peri leans over and rests her head on him. With her eyes closed, she could almost pretend for a second that it was the same old Doctor - however different the shoulder might feel.

"I'm not the man I was," he says. She can't tell from his tone of voice if he's happy or sad about that. Maybe it's both.

"You're the Doctor," she says. "That's good enough for me."

For the first time since he died, she really means it.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-01-13 10:07 pm (UTC)
bride_of_lister: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bride_of_lister
Aww, fuzzies! The voices are so lovely that I can near hear the accents too. ^

(Also in the first paragraph: "the need to keep AN eye on him." Sorry!)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-01-14 06:29 am (UTC)
aris_tgd: The Fifth Doctor and the Brigadier (Five and Brig)
From: [personal profile] aris_tgd
N'aww! I have a soft spot in my heart for Six and Peri, especially after seeing The Mysterious Planet. This is lovely.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-01-15 03:23 am (UTC)
lizvogel: Real Doctor Who ended in 1989. (Real DW)
From: [personal profile] lizvogel
Aw!

Very nice. I especially liked things changing about inside the TARDIS. Because yeah, it would.

Profile

andraste: The reason half the internet imagines me as Patrick Stewart. (Default)
Andraste

October 2017

S M T W T F S
1234 567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031    

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags