A/N: Disclaimer: Don't own. Can you imagine? :o
I've been fluctuating between stories for a while, not really getting on with any of them until suddenly out of the blue came this one. No idea how long it's going to be, let's find out!
The Doctor hated days like this.
He'd been in the TARDIS library, finally reading his book on metaphysical ergonomics that he'd been meaning to read for about half a century, when suddenly the TARDIS had alerted him to something. He'd run to the console room, and found a distress call from a passenger ship. He'd immediately made to follow it, but one slightly wrong calibration on the console had caused him to arrive too late. Now he was standing on a barren planet in amongst a blanket of debris of the destroyed, crashed ship, with scattered, dead humans that he'd arrived too late to save.
'Hello?' he tried, not expecting a reply. He didn't get any. He checked anyway, but as he went from body to body, he worked out that he was at least five hours too late. The people who had died the earliest were already stiff with rigor mortis. He kept going anyway, checking each and every person until he realised with heavy hearts that forty-one people were dead, including some children.
'Oh, I'm sorry,' the Doctor moaned as he took a step back, regarding the utter carnage. By his location in time and space, their style of dress and the state of the ship, he could take a pretty good guess as to who they were. Refugees, most likely fleeing from the Hax solar system's interstellar war.
He turned back to go into the TARDIS, when suddenly he heard a cry. A child. He spun back, alert, but he couldn't see any movement. 'Hello?' he tried once more.
The noise came again. It was a child, crying. He followed the call to a pile of metal, and immediately began to push it away, eventually revealing a brown-haired woman who was clearly dead from half of the roof of the ship stuck in her, staring sightlessly up at the sky whilst clinging onto a little boy. Like his dead mother, his hair was brown and his eyes blue, and he'd clearly been hurt in the crash.
The boy spotted him, and continued to cry. The Doctor stooped down to him.
'Hey,' he said gently in Hax's most common dialect. 'I'm here to help.'
The boy didn't reply, still crying.
'Let's get you out of here,' the Doctor said, reaching up to the woman, but she was also in rigor mortis, and moving her arms to get the boy out proved difficult. Eventually he managed it, taking the boy into both arms, not letting him see the state of his mother.
The boy cried even more. A quick check told the Doctor he'd not obviously broken anything, but he'd have to scan him to be sure.
'I'm going to make sure you're okay,' he told the boy, double-checking to make sure the boy couldn't see his mutilated mother. The child just cried as the Doctor took him away from the wreckage and into the TARDIS.
He took the boy straight to the infirmary, giving him a full, deep body scan. The results were a lot nicer than he'd been expecting, revealing that apart from a few minor cuts, bruises and some slight malnourishment, the child was in good health. To cure his malnutrition the Doctor fetched him a nutrient bar, but the child refused to eat it, just sitting there, crying. Twenty minutes later, the Doctor was still trying.
'Please,' the Doctor tried, not really knowing what else to say. 'It'll fix your malnutrition, promise.'
The child continued to cry.
The Doctor had to confess to himself that he had no idea what he was supposed to do. He didn't have a wealth of experience with human children, not at this age. He'd dealt with teenagers; the basic rule of thumb with them was to agree with everything they said. He'd also dealt with babies; they were easy, they just slept, gurgled and threw up. But not at this age. He needed to get the toddler to eat the bar and at least tell him his name so he could stop referring to him as "the boy", but it was clear that the boy wasn't interested in doing what the Doctor wanted. He just wanted to cry.
'Please, c'mon,' the Doctor tried again, holding out the bar. The boy kept crying.
The Doctor rapidly decided he was going nowhere with this. He temporarily put the nutrient bar down, his logical Time Lord brain trying to work out what to do next. He wondered if he should hug the child. Or was that an invasion of personal space, which human children weren't comfortable with? He should probably resist the hug, he eventually decided.
A thought struck the Doctor. 'Wait. Can you even talk? I have no idea what age that starts.'
The boy kept crying.
'You must talk,' the Doctor reasoned out loud. 'The scanner says you're four-ish. Four-year-olds talk … right? How can you go four years without talking?'
He kept crying. The Doctor internally groaned. This was ridiculous. He was going to have to risk hugging him. He could see it coming.
'I'm the Doctor,' the Time Lord tried next. 'What's your name?'
He still cried. The Doctor decided on a slightly different approach.
'I'm going to get you somewhere safe and away from the war. Everything's going to be fine.'
The boy looked at him through watery eyes, but still said nothing.
'No more bombs,' the Doctor clarified. 'You know what I mean?'
'No … no … no more booming?' the boy asked, looking around the room. The Doctor blinked slightly, a little surprised by the ridiculous high-pitch of the voice. He briefly wondered what age that stopped.
'Yeah,' the Doctor agreed. 'No more booming. But I need to know your name. What's your name?'
The boy sniffed. 'Eli,' he said.
'Eli,' the Doctor acknowledged, nodding. 'I'm the Doctor. And you need to eat this.' He held out the nutrient bar, trying his luck. 'It's really yummy,' he assured him. Even as the word "yummy" came out of his mouth he felt like a moron, but Eli seemed to accept it and took the bar in unstable toddler hands, looking at it. The Doctor made silent wishes, watching like a hawk before Eli obediently took a bite. The Doctor internally cheered.
'Thank you,' Eli suddenly said politely.
'You're welcome,' the Doctor replied. 'I've just gotta run to the console room and get the Proclamation here. I'll hand you over to them and they'll get you somewhere safe. Sound good?'
Eli just shrugged, still chewing on the bar. He was getting bits of it everywhere.
Sighing a little, the Doctor left the infirmary.
He went to the console, calling up the Shadow Proclamation with a few short button flicks. A few seconds later, one of the architects appeared on the monitor. 'Doctor,' she acknowledged.
'There's been an accident on Keela Major,' he told her. 'A refugee ship has crashed. There are about forty people dead.'
'Understood,' the Architect replied. 'We will send out the shansheeth to perform burial rituals.'
'Thanks,' the Doctor replied, and terminated the communication. He was about to leave, when he suddenly realised he hadn't told them about Eli. How could he forget? He turned back to the monitor, when suddenly he felt a tugging on his trousers. He yelped, panicked, until he realised it was Eli at his feet, still with the nutrient bar in one hand.
'Blimey,' the Doctor gasped, hand over his left heart. 'I've been alone for ages, don't do that!'
'Mummy?' Eli asked, pointing at the TARDIS doors.
The Doctor's hearts simultaneously sank. 'No, Eli. She's not …' He stopped himself. Not for the first time that day, he had no idea what to say. 'She's … she died, Eli,' he said without his brain really agreeing to it.
Eli nodded, to the Doctor's utmost surprise. He seemed to get it. The Doctor quickly reminded himself that the boy had come straight from a war. He probably knew what death was more than he should. The thought was a little jarring when he stared at the little human staring up at him, apparently so innocent and young.
'Are you okay?' the Doctor asked, unsure.
'Yeah,' Eli replied. 'Who's gonna look after me?'
'I'll find someone to take care of you,' the Doctor replied, confused at his reaction. 'They'll do everything your mummy did.'
'Til she gets back?' Eli wondered.
The Doctor's brow furrowed. 'Eli … she's died.' He didn't know what else to say.
'Oh,' Eli muttered as he finished the nutrient bar. 'Can I play?'
The Doctor knew Eli wasn't processing her death correctly, but there wasn't much he could do about that. In the meantime, he had to wait for the judoon to pick him up so until then, he would have to look after Eli. Completely forgetting about alerting the Proclamation to the survivor, he considered the boy, standing there in ripped clothes, covered in dirt.
'Okay, I'll clean you up,' the Doctor decided, reaching out his hand to Eli.
'No!' the little boy cried, suddenly screaming and bursting into giggles as he tore away from the Doctor, ran around the console and darted through the door to the inner rooms.
'Eli!' the Doctor yelled. 'Come back!'
The Doctor had always prided himself on the fact that he could really run. He'd spent most of his life running. He ran from the untempered schism, his family, his House, the Lord President of Gallifrey, his commitments, duties, marriage, monsters, and even Jack. It was a flawless system, and nearly always worked. It had worked for nearly a millennium.
But in the ensuing ten minutes, the Doctor rapidly discovered that any ability he had to run was significantly less than that of a tiny human. The little boy had a deceptive amount of stamina, which he'd used, whilst giggling, to run around the corridors of the TARDIS as the Doctor had been left in the dust, gasping Eli's name.
He had to stop outside the bedrooms, doubling over. Eli stopped at the end of the corridor grinning at him. How wasn't he even sweating?
'I'm seriously not chasing you anymore,' the Doctor gasped. 'Not fun. Not a fun game.'
Eli giggled again, poised to shoot off at any moment with a delightful look in his eyes. The Doctor groaned and sat down against the wall, still trying to get his breath back.
Eli's face fell. He approached the Time Lord cautiously, until he was standing in front of him, his bottom lip pouting. Eli then moved forward, and hugged him.
'Sorry, Dok-tah,' he said in his little high-pitched voice. The Doctor couldn't help but think just how tiny his arms were too. They couldn't even encircle him. He sighed again, and hugged the boy in return. The boy kissed him on the cheek, and grinned at him. The Doctor's hearts warmed a little.
It was then he suddenly heard the sounds of ships outside. Eli's lift home. He got up with Eli in his arms and made his way to the console room, the boy clinging to his neck. He made sure the TARDIS was grounded, and stepped back out onto the planet.
There were the ships of the judoon and shansheeth. He made sure Eli couldn't see the carnage, and made his way up to one of the judoon.
'S'cuse!' the Doctor said. 'Sorry, I found a survivor, a four-year-old human boy.'
'Understood. Give the small human to us,' the judoon gruffed, looking briefly at Eli, its arms outstretched.
The Doctor obliged. Eli suddenly shrieked, crying and holding out his arms to the Doctor. That made the Doctor hesitate slightly. 'Wait,' he said quickly, stopping the judoon. 'Where will you take him?'
'We will take the small human to nearest Hax planet.'
The Doctor frowned. 'But … they're in the middle of a war. You can't take him back there. That's what they were fleeing from.'
The Doctor got the distinct feeling that if the judoon could have shrugged, it would have. 'Any other method not appropriate to resources.'
The Doctor paused. 'No,' he decided. 'I'll … I'll find him somewhere.'
'Okay,' the judoon said shortly, handed back Eli, and turned away from him.
Eli laughed happily and clung onto the Time Lord's neck again. The Doctor, on the other hand, was wondering just how he was going to manage that.
After a few minutes of pondering inside the console room, the Doctor finally came up with a plan. He would first clean up Eli, get him some clothes and then run his DNA through the Hax database to see if he had any relatives on safe worlds. This time he maintained a firm grip on the toddler as he took him to a bathroom and opted for a shallow bath.
After twenty minutes of a very unhappy, red faced boy having a small tantrum, the Doctor and the bathroom were almost completely drenched. The Time Lord eventually managed to get him clean and dry, and left him on his bed huddled in a towel as he went to get changed into dry clothes. By the time he got back, Eli had gone.
The Doctor's eyes shot open. 'Eli!' he yelped, looking frantically around the room. He immediately instigated a search, looking in the bed, in cupboards and even in drawers, until he finally realised the door was ajar. He bolted out of the room, and heard a giggle from the kitchen. He ran, skidding to a halt outside the doorway just in time to see Eli pour an entire bottle of Earth fruit juice all over himself.
'Eli!' the Doctor yelled, frustrated. 'I just cleaned you!'
Eli turned around, and registered the Doctor. 'Sorry,' he said.
'You can't just do bad things and say sorry, it doesn't work like that!' the Doctor insisted. He paused, taking a few deep breaths to calm down. 'Right. Let's try again. I can do this.'
He grabbed the boy before he could bolt, and took him straight back to the bathroom, the toddler wailing every step of the way.
Rule one, the Doctor decided. Never leave human children alone.
After another tumultuous bath and the Time Lord having to get changed for a second time, he took Eli to the wardrobe to try and find some clothes.
He hadn't been expecting to find anything that fitted the child, but was delightfully surprised to see among the swathes of clothes that some things fitted Eli – though the Doctor was pretty sure that they weren't originally intended for little humans. Still, he got Eli dressed into a chequered shirt, jeans and shoes, and took him back to the console room.
Eli obediently sat on the chair sucking his thumb as the Doctor checked his DNA against the Hax database. It didn't take long to find him.
Elijah Ke-to [deceased … pending information]
Mother: Sarah Ke-to [deceased … pending information]. Father: Jed Ke-to [deceased 46.6.1-8].
Species: Homo sapiens 96%, Kergalan 4%.
The Doctor checked the relatives, and found a huge list of people. He scrolled his way down, but every single name was suffixed by the word "deceased", most of them extremely recently. Victims of the war.
He realised very quickly that Eli had absolutely no one left in the entire universe.
The Doctor turned back to the boy, still sitting there sucking his thumb. 'Alone,' the Doctor mused out loud sadly. 'Me too. Don't worry, I'll find you somewhere.'
Eli pulled his thumb out of his mouth, and smiled at the Time Lord. The Doctor smiled back. Eli then yawned, stretching widely. He slipped off of the chair and hugged the Doctor's leg. It was apparent that the search for a home couldn't continue until Eli had slept. The Doctor would have to look after him for a while.
The Doctor thought briefly about calling someone for help. He thought about Martha, who would want to submit the boy to a thousand tests. He thought about Sarah, who probably wouldn't appreciate a small, hyperactive child running around her house. He thought about Jack, and the numerous inappropriate jokes about which planet the Doctor had "got it off" on.
'Nah,' the Doctor decided out loud, looking at Eli. 'Right. I can do this. You're a human, basically, and I know humans. All grown-up humans need is sleep, food, something to amuse them, and some attention. Right? So you need that too. Just in smaller doses. So. Sleep.'
The Doctor paused, thinking. He had plenty of bedrooms in the TARDIS, but he was pretty sure that none of them were to Eli's scale. He moved to the console and hit a few buttons. Eli stayed faithfully by his feet. Within a few minutes, he'd created a new room; a small-scale version of a typical human bedroom.
'Done!' he announced proudly when he'd finished, drawing back from the screen. 'Let's get you to bed.'