Raine woke up to singing.
She crept through the TARDIS, and came to see the Doctor alone in a room. His eyes were closed, and his hands were on his chest, and he sang a song in a language that the woman could not recognize. Whatever the Doctor was singing, it was clearly full of emotion, as there was passion in his voice.
Raine thought she had crept onto him quietly, but he turned in her direction, and nodded, without opning his eyes, or stopping his song. Raine couldn't stop herself from humming along to his voice, and soon they were crooning along each other, two lone songbirds in the TARDIS.
Eventually, the Doctor stopped singing, and it was like a spell had lost effect. Raine was soon embarrassed, as she realized she was still in jammies, but as the Doctor opened his eyes, he didn't seem to notice.
“That's an Yoruban song I learned years ago. It is about loss, and rebirth,” the Doctor said in his Scottish voice.
“It's a rather beautiful song,” Raine said. Normally, that sort of sappy stuff wouldn't have appealed to her, but the way the Doctor sung it, the song felt real.
“Indeed. The king who taught it to me had much to be sad about. His people had nearly died on the voyage to a new town, and at the end of his life, he was not sure whether they would continue to survive. When he sung it to me, he imbued that song with every fiber of his being. And so, when I sing it, I try to give it every fiber of mine,” said the Doctor.
“Did his people survive?” asked Raine.
“Yes. But I did not tell him that would happen, for fear that it might disrupt the timeline. That was foolish of me,” said the Doctor. His eyes had a deep sadness in them. The years of his life seemed to be clouding his mind.
The Doctor grabbed his umbrella and walked down the corridors. Raine watched him walk away, and soon felt the slight acceleration that meant the TARDIS was moving.
Whistling an old tune about loss and rebirth, she prepared for another adventure.
I HATE IT I HATE IT BURN IT DOWN
“What's in your bonnet?” asked Donna. The Doctor's voice had been loud in her head, drowning out her thoughts. That rarely happened, unless he was really angry. Or afraid.
He wasn't responding to her though. His eyes were gazing up at the city, and he looked like he was about to barf.
The city was beautiful. The sky was bright gold, and it felt to Donna like someone had brought a painting to life. There was a feeling of distance here, of something grand. When Donna had been a little girl, she had imagined living in a castle. She imagined that she was a princess of a large kingdom, and that the castle would have walls made of pure wonder, and that everyone in it would be happy, and wear large puffy costumes.
This city was like that. But even better.
People wore large gold headdesses casually as they walked around. A small boy was talking to what Donna assumed was his mother about what seemed to be quantum mechanics, and flying ships were overhead, as the walls contained advertisements for “Do you want to win a top-of-the-line regeneration?” The buildings seemed to be literally undulating with the wind, and the streets were clean est that Donna had ever seen.
It was too good to be true.
“Whoever did this,” said the Doctor slowly, “will pay. Heavily.”
“You've been here before?” asked Donna.
He said nothing, just walked forward.
Donna followed him deeper into the city. The streets were very clean, but they were long. Donna wished that she hadn't decided to wear her less comfortable shoes today, as the Doctor and she dodged the citizens of this city. Not everyone was wearing a headdress; some seemed to be wearing linen, or some kind of purple cloth. Donna could see, in the distance, a large building. It looked like a giant skyscraper with a spire at the top.
“Is that where we're going?” asked Donna. When the Doctor didn't respond, Donna stopped walking.
“Oi! I'm not walkingh again till you tell me what's going on!” said Donna.
At first, the Doctor seemed like he was going to leave her standing there. His stony glare almost scared Donna. Eventually, he rolled his eyes and walked over to her.
“This place isn't real. Well, it's real, but it's not...this is a copy of someplace I cherish very much. Someone brought my TARDIS here. Someone who must be mocking me, or wants me to suffer,” said the Doctor.
He didn't offer any further explanation, beyond that.
“Hello, my dear Doctor,” said a man behind the Doctor. He was a middle-aged man, who sported the meanest goatee Donna had ever seen. He was smiling, but in a way that reminded Donna of a con-man.
The Doctor stared at the man. He studied the man, looking up and down.
“Oh, I can assure you that I'm quite real. Unlike the rest of the people here,” the man said, laughing loudly.
“Who are you?” asked Donna. The man brought his eyes to hers, and the man's face looked indignant.
“You never told the pet about me? Really, you deserve what's coming to you,” said the man to the Doctor.
“Listen, mate. Call me 'pet' again, and I'll make you regret it,” said Donna.
The man raised his hands in surrender, and said “I didn't mean any offense. I am the Master of this place. And you?”
“She's none of your business. Why did you bring me here?” asked the Doctor.
“Interrupting a conversation? How rude. Actually, this place was a simple test of my fundamental block computation abilities. All plans need a test run, even world domination.”
“And you chose our homeworld as the test? You made a mockery of our homeworld!” said the Doctor. Donna could see an icy rage in his eyes.
“Yes. Hmm...this damages you somehow. Why?” asked the Master.
“How dare you create a false version of the people I love! Of the people I care for?” the Doctor said. Some of the people walking around began to notice the commotion.
“Oh dear. You've either gotten sentimental in your old age,” mused the Master, almost to himself, and then he added “or you're guilty.”
The Doctor said nothing.
“Oh, yes. It's guilt dancing on your young face,” the Master said, whistling. He leaned closer to the Doctor, and his eyes were filled with malevolent delight.
“I'm right, aren't I? Don't lie to me—I know you too well for that. I don't know why, but smething about this place makes your insides burn,” said the Master.
“So, are you going to spend all day talking to us?” asked Donna, trying to find some way to interrupt this tirade.
The Master's eyes flashed with venom, and she could tell that he didn't like that he had just been interrupted. She ignored the look, and grabbed the Doctor's sleeve.
“Let's find our way out of here,” said Donna.
The Master only chuckled, and called out “Actually, I was going to show you out. Don't want you and your pet mucking things up. But now I think it will be much more fun keeping you here. Till next time, my dear Doctor.”
Donna and the Doctor ran through the streets. She had no idea where she was going, but anywhere would be better than that man. She ended up crashing into someone.
“Watch where you're going, young miss!” said the man. His red jacket flapped in the breeze.
The Doctor helped her up. He flashed her a smile, which Donna knew was a lie.
“Are we gonna do something about that guy with the goatee?” Donna asked the alien. He shook his head.
“I already did, in another life. I know where the TARDIS is now, I think,” he said. He walked through the crowds, ignoring the beggar on the side, and the children playing on the steps, and the man giving away some sort of food at the side of the road. Normally, the Doctor would have at least waved at some people. It was like the Doctor was doing his utter best to ignore everyone there.
Donna did her utter best to keep up with the Doctor, carrying of long strips of meat on a stick.
. “Are you sure you want to eat that? You don't even know what part of the monnolipth that comes from. You don't even know what a monnolipth is, do you?” asked the Doctor.
“Well, it tastes great, so I don't care,” said Donna.
The alien gave her a side-eye glance, and muttered “Well, if you knew what it was, you'd realize why it was free.”
Donna glared at the man, and waved a piece of meat in his face. He shook his head, and stopped walking.
Donna and the Doctor were in a grassy field. In front of them was a stone.
“Where are we?” asked Donna.
“The local museum,” said the Doctor.
“There's not a lot of exh--” started Donna.
Suddenly, the area changed. The stone began to grow, until it envoleped both of them. For a second, all Donna could see was grey stone. Then she heard a grinding noise, and the stone receded.
What was uncovered was rows and rows of TARDISes. They all looked like identical blue boxes.
“Ah. One final joke from the Master,” said the Doctor.
It took hours to find out which TARDIS was the real one. When they finally entered the right one, Donna swore she would strangle the Master if she ever met him.
Her alien friend was collapsed in a chair. His eyes stared off in the distance, and Donna felt tired just looking at him.
“Hey, Doctor. Are you okay?” said Donna.
The Doctor nodded, and said “Yep. Right as rain. Let's go somewhere sunny, alright?”
Donna knew better than to let him get away with a quick quip this time. She was placed her hand on his shoulder. It felt surprisingly tense under her hand, belying his real mood.
“Yes, I'm okay. Well...I think I'll be okay later. But I need time. Just let me go somewhere sunny this time, alright,” said the Doctor, almost pleadingly. He seemed to be asking himself as much as her.
“As sunny as you want,” said Donna.
“Good,” said the Doctor. Even though his expression didn't change, his shoulder relaxed under her hand.
As he began to input new coordinates into the TARDIS, Donna thought of something.
“What part of the milipoth-thingie was I eating earlier?” asked Donna.
A grin spread over the Doctor's face, and he told her.
The TARDIS was soon filled with sounds of a very scared Doctor running from a very angry (and embarrassed) Donna.
Three days ago, on August 2566, the Osgood Directive ended.
We lost contact with them. With both Osgoods. You see, Osgood was not just a person, but a promise between 2 races. A promise of civility and peace. This promise had been adopted in the 21st century as a failsafe, and had survived the years. When the Earth Empire was established, many people, Zygon and human, feared that the peace would be demolished. Centuries had passed, and many rulers no longer saw a need for humanity to support the Zygon race. But after much deliberations, the directive was allowed.
But the Osgood Box has been stolen by the humans. Peace has been broken. Radio communication from the Osgoods has been lost, and Zygons have declared a state of emergency. Humans stillk outnumber us on the planet--it is the only way to keep ourselves safe.
Still, we are trying to get contact with the Osgoods. If we can confirm that they are fine, we will not attack. So far, there is only silence from the freighter containing the Osgood box, except for a wheezing, groaning noise from the radio, and a bizarre conversation. It said:
“Doctor, what sort of weird place is this?”
“Roll your sleeves up, Henry. We've got work to do!”
A small boy with a blue cap on his head walked through the cold snow. It was cold outside, but he didn't care. He was too busy looking out for a boy named Jimmy Knot. He looked with furtive eyes around the street, fearing to see Jimmy's unique skull-and-bones shirt. He was so busy, that he tripped over a lump in the snow.
“Ow!” said Richard Bernard (he hated the name and how it rhymed, especially after the nightmares of Jimmy repeating it over and over). Pushing himself off the floor, he looked closer at the lump. He brushed the lump of snow, and saw black under the snow.
Then the lump moved, and looked at him.
Richard stared back, afraid. The object stood up, brushed itself off, and smiled at the boy.
“How do you do?” said the stranger, eyes twinkling.
The boy said “Just fine.” He hesitated, and added “Sorry for tripping on you.”
“No apology needed; I was in the road,” said the man.
“I'm Richard Ber—Richard,” he said. The boy looked the man up and down. He had trousers too big for him, shirt too small for him and questions marks in odd places—even his umbrella. The man apparently had a terrible sense of fashion.
“I'm the Doctor,” said the man. Richard immediately realized this man was some sort of homeless crazy. No doctor dressed like that.
“Well, good day,” said the boy, wanting to get as far away from this man as possible. He turned around, and then stopped in his tracks. He could hear Knot's bike coming down the road. The bell on the front of his bike was unmistakable.
“Everything okay?” asked the Doctor.
Robert gave a fake smile, and said “I've...just gotten tired, and I'll think I'll sit with you right now.”
The Doctor brushed off some snow from the sidewalk, and gestured Richard to sit. The boy sat down, and for a few minutes they just sat in silence. Richard strained his ears to hear whether Knot was getting closer.
“So, Richard, how are you enjoying Christmas?” said the Doctor.
Richard realized the Doctor was correct—it was Christmas. Richard had forgotten.
“It's going wonderful,” Richard lied.
“Hmm,” said the Doctor.
Richard waited for the Doctor to elaborate. When the man stayed silent, Richard added “And how's your Christmas?”
“Decidedly not wonderful,” responded the Doctor. He began drawing patterns in the snow.
“I'm sorry. Must be hard, not having a home and all,” said the boy. The Doctor's head shot up and his eyebrows were raised. Richard immediately realized he committed a faux pas.
“I never said I was homeless,”said the Doctor. He looked more amused than offended.
“I'm sorry,” apologized Richard quickly , “it's just with you being in the middle of the road, and your clothes—not that there's anything wrong with your clothes—I just made the assumption....”
“Well, you know what they say about assumptions,” said the Doctor. He frowned, and said “Though I've never figured out why an assumption turns you and the person you're speaking with into a donkey.”
“I'm not sure if figures of speech have to make sense, as I never figured out why was the cat in the bag,” said Richard.
“I'll be sure to ask Benny, though she'll probably just laugh at me,” grumbled the Doctor. Then he (quicker than Richard could track) drew his face to Richard's ear, and whispered “I think whoever following you is gone now.”
Richard jumped away from the man, and stared.
“Oh, it was easy to figure out that something wasn't going right with you ,” said the Doctor. His eyes seemed to pierce into Richard.
“Are you telepathic or something?”said Richard.
“Well, that depends on which one of me you're asking,” said the Doctor, “but telepathy is not how I knew that you lied about having a good Christmas. For one, no one who's having a good Christmas spends it talking to a stranger, in the middle of a snowstorm. Where are your friends?”
“I've got lots of friends!” crowed Richard defensively.
“I'm sure you do, but none of them are here right now. And I can tell you're running from someone from how jumpy you are. Someone on a bike, from the bells, and tires turning, that I heard,” said the Doctor.
Richard hesitated, then muttered “It's just some kids.”
“You mean bullies?”said the Doctor.
“It's none of your business!” snapped Richard. He felt silly, talking to some stranger on a sidewalk.
The Doctor nodded and said “So it is bullies. Why do they pick on you?”
“Because I'm different,” said Richard, quietly.
“Different is wonderful! I've spent my whole life being different, and look where it got me!” said the Doctor, grinning.
Richard chose not to point out that where it got the Doctor was in the middle of a snowstorm, apparently alone. Instead, she said “I don't really want to talk any more about it.”
“Fine then,” said the Doctor, clearly annoyed. He continued drawing in the snow.
“Tell me why you're here, since you're not homeless,” said Richard. He found this guy weird, but oddly likable.
Without looking up from his drawing, the Doctor said “The story's long. The short version is, that I lost my house.”
“So you are homeless,” Richard smirked.
“Well, my home is mobile. Let's just say that a man (or woman, depending on his current host), named Fenric...has, in revenge for something I did several years before, possessed my mobile home, and my 2 friends are still in it. And I wasn't sure what to do to get it back,” said the Doctor.
“So you just lied down here in despair?” said Richard.
“I wouldn't call it despair—” said the Doctor.
“No excuses,” said the Richard. “You can't just give up, and let someone steal your house!”
“As I was saying before I was so rrrudely interrupted,” said the Doctor, “I got an idea while I was talking to you, and sent out a beacon for my house. My people's language is the one thing Fenric can't translate.” He pointed his umbrella toward the snow drawings.
“So snow drawings are going to get your home to return to you?” asked Richard.
“It's an ingenious plan. The frozen hydrogen will create an automatic psionic link!” said the Doctor.
Richard was starting to realize this man was insane after all.
Richard suddenly heard a loud sound, and at first thought it was Knot. But the sensible part of his mind reasoned that Knot's bike didn't sound like his grandma having a wheezing fit.
“Ah, that's my house!” said the Doctor.
“Your mobile home's engine doesn't sound very environmentally friendly,” Richard noted.
“Nonsense! It's been designed to have minimal entropy emmissions!” said the Doctor proudly.
The Doctor stretched, and said “I hope Ace and Benny will be alright.” Richard heard quite a bit of sadness in his tone.
“I guess this is goodbye?” asked Richard, feeling oddly sad inside.
“Richard, it's been a pleasure,” said the Doctor. Then his eyes got that piercing look again, and he said “I have one last question for you...do you like your first name?”
She thought long and hard for a second, and said “No.”
“Thank you for an honest answer. By the way, Knot's already gone home, by my estimate. I know times are rough for you, but...well, I think you're smart enough to strive past all of them. You were willing to talk to a crazy not-actually homeless person. That takes what my friend Ace would call guts, and that makes you a bigger person then all the people who torment you..”
Richard said “Thank you...but you sound like every other adult. You're not the one who has to deal with the bullies every day, or called unnatural--”
“In my line of work, I deal with bullies every day,” said the Doctor. He continued “But you're right. It's easy to make speeches, when I can go walk away....” The Doctor's face clouded with thought, as if he was being reminded of many other things. Snow was making his clothes slowly whiter, but he barely noticed it, and Richard began to wonder if the umbrella was just for show.
“Thanks for caring, anyway, and Merry Christmas” said Richard. The Doctor snapped out of his reverie, and nodded.
“Do you need me to accompany you home?” offered the Doctor.
“I know my way,” said Richard. He shook the snow off his cap.
The Doctor finally got up, and said “Thanks for listening, and Merry Christmas.” Patting Richard on the head, he began to walk away.
As he was walking, he said “I'll get my friend Bernice to find out the origin of that “cat in the bag” phrase. If I can find it, I'll send it to you in a letter. Consider it a belated Christmas present!”
“Wait a minute,” said Richard.
The Doctor did a spin on his umbrella, one hand in his pocket. “Yes?”
“I never told you the bully's name,” said Richard. He frowned and continued “How did you know his name was Knot?”
The Doctor grinned, and said “I guess I'm telepathic?”
Richard put a gloved hand to a patch of hair in frustration, and realized the cap was gone. By the time Richard turned to ask whether the Doctor saw it, the strange man was gone, and Richard could hear that wheezing, groaning sound again. When Richard finally got home, no one knew who the man was.
A few days later, Knot was caught assaulting another student by a headmaster. He was going to be let free, but from the recommendation of a mysterious Prof. Bernice Summerfield, he was suspended indefinitely. This didn't make Richard's life suddenly perfect; Richard was still bullied sometimes in school. But it did mean he could, at least, walk back and forth from school without being picked on. And eventually, Richard went to college, and got better friends that actually did walk alongside her at Christmas time.
And the odd stranger? Benny Bernand (she originally was going to change her name to Bernice but that might have been a worse name combination than the original) forgot all about the man over time. Until, exactly ten years and a day from that Christmas meeting, she received a piece of mail by a Dr. John Smith.
Inside it was a blue cap.