The Doctor and Eli slept soundly in the Time Lord's bed, both without nightmares. When the Doctor woke up, he left Eli sound asleep and went to the kitchen. He had breakfast to make.
He threw away all the baby food, and instead searched the entire food stocks far deeper than he had before for something he could use. He had food from Jimpa to Nai Major, but he'd seldom had a companion who was happy to try alien food, so as someone who travelled with a lot of humans, his Earth food area had been eaten right through. However, right at the back of the cupboard in a different time zone he discovered two packets of instant porridge, half a bottle of milk, and some scrapings left in a marmalade jar. That'd do until he could restock.
After a bit of hard thought, he eventually worked out how to cook it in the equipment he had. He finished making it just as Eli came in the door in his pyjamas, rubbing his eyes and holding the phone.
'Daddy?' he asked, and yawned loudly.
The Doctor nodded, taking the phone and setting it down on the side momentarily whilst he served up the porridge with a dollop of marmalade in it. 'There you go,' he said, and took the phone as Eli started on his breakfast.
'Is he breathing? Eli!' Jack asked in Haxun.
'Yeah, I'm conventional like that,' the Doctor replied in English.
There was brief pause. 'Doctor?'
'Um, what are you doing alive?'
'I don't know, I find I tend to enjoy things more that way,' the Doctor replied brazenly.
'You were dying!'
'Oh! Yes, probably was,' the Doctor realised, and frowned. 'Wait, how do you know?'
'How d'you think? Eli called, freaking out, then you woke up and told him to press a button on the console and you both just disappeared.'
'Oh!' the Doctor said again. The past three days suddenly made a lot more sense. 'Yeah, I'm fine now. Well, mending.'
'Where did you go?'
'Doesn't matter. Is that it? Can I have breakfast?'
There was another pause.
'Jack?' the Doctor tried. 'Can I have breakfast now?'
'Sorry, Martha's on the other line, just telling her you're not dead.'
'So I can have breakfast?'
'Get over to Unit as soon as you can before she explodes.'
The Doctor internally sighed a little, but conceded he probably owed it to them. 'Okay, see you later.'
He hung up and finally got to his bowl of porridge, sitting opposite Eli. He tried a bit. Not too shabby, he thought. 'You called Jack for help?' he asked the boy.
Eli nodded, his mouth full of porridge and marmalade.
'How long was I out for?'
Eli shrugged. 'Coupla days.'
'What did you do for that time?'
'Alphabet,' Eli replied, beaming. 'A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z!' he sang.
The Doctor grinned. 'Nice. What else?'
'Um, that was kinda it,' Eli confessed.
'You were sat here alone?'
Eli shrugged. 'On the phone a bit.'
'Yeah, cos you weren't, um, talking and you were really sick.'
'You looked after me,' the Doctor realised.
'Thank you,' he said to the child.
Eli just beamed, his teeth caked in porridge.
'Hey. I've got a question.'
'Yeah?' Eli asked.
'Do you want to live with me?'
Eli nodded furiously.
The Doctor smiled. 'Good.'
'Martha, I'm fine, honest!' the Doctor was protesting as the woman tried to drag him off through the corridor with Eli in tow, sucking on a lollipop the UNIT receptionist had given him.
'You were nearly dead!' Martha insisted as they reached the medical centre. She took him straight to the scanner.
'Martha, I've checked myself already!'
Martha ignored him, pushing him under the high-tech metal apparatus. Eli ran off to go and talk to some UNIT soldiers in the room as Martha buzzed around various terminals between physicals. In the end, the Doctor gave up and just laid there, waiting for Martha to finish her work. She emerged and showed his scans to him.
'Your lungs are damaged, your brain's a bit swollen and your right heart is a little bradycardic,' she told him. 'I need to …'
'... Do nothing, because I've done it all already,' the Doctor completed. 'Martha, seriously. I'm fine.'
'I know you, I'm not letting you just fob it off.'
'It's not been "fobbed off",' the Doctor insisted. 'I've done it all.'
Martha paused, gazing at him for a moment. 'You really have, haven't you?'
'Yes,' the Doctor replied honestly. 'Why's that surprising?'
Martha ignored the question. 'How did you get sepsis? I mean, your immune system is very hard to break.'
The Doctor was a little embarrassed. 'I compromised my immune system with a potent painkiller. It was just a temporary thing.'
'You thought just giving yourself a painkiller would sort you out?'
'I was going to look into it deeper later,' the Doctor insisted. 'I was busy.'
'What were you doing that was so much more important?'
The Doctor's eyes flashed to Eli. He'd been trying to get rid of him. But he wasn't going to entertain that thought now. 'Nothing, doesn't matter now.'
Martha rolled her eyes. 'All right, if you're sure. Just try not to do anything crazy for a week or so, okay, mister?'
'Got it,' the Doctor confirmed, giving a mock salute.
'Oh, did you decide what you're doing with Eli? Because I found this Unit couple who can't conceive and would love to have him if …'
'No,' the Doctor interrupted. 'He's sticking with me.'
Martha's eyes widened. 'Really?'
'You're adopting him?'
For a moment, Martha just stared at him.
'What?' he asked seriously. 'You were one of the ones telling me I should.'
'I know, I just … never imagined you'd actually do it. I mean, don't get me wrong, I think you'll be okay, it's just, well … single dad of a four-year-old human?'
'I know,' the Doctor said, hands in the air.
'You're committing yourself, you know,' she said. 'You're gonna need to school him, find him friends, throw him birthday parties, then puberty, hormones …'
'So now you're trying to talk me out of it?' the Doctor asked, bewildered.
'I mean, he's gonna be with you for at least fifteen years, and then be a huge part of your life for a very long time after that.'
'I'm not exactly limited on years,' the Doctor pointed out.
'I'm just making sure you know what you're getting into,' Martha insisted. 'He's a complete commitment. He's vulnerable, naїve, and he's going to be completely reliant on you for everything.'
'You just described almost every companion I've ever had,' the Doctor mused. 'Besides, one thing Eli isn't is naїve. I'll work all of that stuff out when it comes.'
'And he's going to die before you. Have you even considered that?'
'He's four-years-old, Martha. He's not going to die tomorrow.'
'But it's coming. He's got a small human lifespan, Doctor. He will die before you.'
'Most people I know are going to die before me, and many have,' the Doctor pointed out. 'I know how this works.'
Martha looked a little sad at that. 'Yeah. But he'll be different to them.'
'I know, but what else am I going to do?' the Doctor asked. 'Eli needs me.'
'And you need him.' She paused. 'You have to be sure you're doing the right thing, for him and for you.'
She gazed at him for a moment. 'Okay,' she finally said, nodding. 'Just … be happy, okay?'
He smiled. 'Already am.'
Martha smiled in return. 'I know.'
'Why don't you go to the living room and play for a while? I've got some things to sort out,' the Doctor told Eli after the TARDIS was back in flight.
'Okay,' the boy said and disappeared in a blur of speed.
The Doctor turned to the console, tapping away to finalise Eli's room to make it a permanent fixture inside the TARDIS, and at the same time made it a bit more homely with some standard decor that his human companions appreciated. After he'd done that he went to the library and pulled out every book on humans that he had. He read through all of them in double-quick time, making notes on food intake, sleep cycles and everything that made humans tick over nicely. He then looked through some basic learning books and drew up a set of lesson ideas for the next two months that he could teach Eli. He also consulted Jamie Oliver's cookbook and some other books on nutrition, and drew together a basic shopping list. After which, he piloted right back to Tesco.
He stepped in the doors, avoided an old lady with her trolley, and then picked up a basket. He liked to think he knew the drill, now. He dug into his pocket and pulled out the list he'd made of basic human foodstuffs he could make Eli meals out of.
Bread, butter, milk, chicken, chips, sugar, salt, pepper, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, rice, cereals, beans, pasta, mushroom, beef, ham, cheddar cheese, ketchup, brown sauce, vinegar, eggs, apple, banana, ice cream, chocolate, Coca-Cola, lemonade, fish fingers, peas, biscuits, mince, potatoes, green beans, carrots, sweet corn, cream, cake, stock, soup, pie, prawns, beef
He looked up, checked the aisle, and began his hunt.
It took a few trips to get everything he needed since he only had the use of one hand, but the people in Tesco had been lovely about it and he'd had many offers of help. The human race were helpful when they wanted to be.
Once it was done, he transported all the new Earth food and drink into its rightful place in storage. He then programmed the food cupboard to only yield Earth food for a while so he could get used to it, before cleaning up all his Tesco bags and leaving to find Eli.
The boy was contentedly playing with his warping Buzz Lightyear ship, jumping up when the Doctor entered, beaming.
'Daddy!' he cried, running to him for a hug.
The Doctor obliged, and ruffled his hair. 'I've got a great afternoon for you,' he said when Eli let go. 'We'll have lunch, and then I thought we might go to Foamia 12.'
'Wassat?' Eli wanted to know.
'It's a planet where absolutely everything is made of foam,' the Doctor told him, grinning. 'I've always wanted to go there but my companions all laughed at me. I think they thought I was making it up. But I'm not. There is actually a planet call Foamia that's full of foam. Then after Foamia, I'll start your first proper lesson.'
'I'm going to teach you lots of things, like words and numbers,' the Doctor told him. 'We'll have a one hour lesson every day after dinner. So we'll have you parsing Shakespeare in Ancient North Martian and analysing paleomagnetic geothermal hydro-diversity in quantum-based biomechanics in a week.'
Eli stared at him, bewildered.
'Or maybe two weeks,' the Doctor added, and grinned. 'Right, lunch?'
'Yeah!' Eli said happily. 'Then the Foam-ah-thing?'
'Yep,' the Doctor said.
The little boy's smile was so wide as he hugged the Doctor again.
For a moment, the Doctor just held him. Due to his utter idiocy in painkillers, he had caused this poor boy to go pretty much alone through days of panic. In Eli's short but chaotic life, the Doctor himself was now his only stability. And the Time Lord had been stupid enough to temporarily take that stability away from him. Before that, he'd been even worse by even endeavouring to get rid of the poor boy.
How could he have ever even considered that?
The Doctor had been so fixated on Eli's part in his life, that he'd forgotten to consider his part in Eli's life. He'd been making stupid rules and treating Eli like a science experiment that needed the application of logic to "work out", but he was a parent, now, who needed to be an immovable rock. Eli needed him to hold onto. It didn't matter how dangerous it got, as long as he and Eli stuck together.
He'd been wandering for so long, but now he had a destination. A mission. A role. The target of raising an intelligent, confident, mature young man that Eli was more than capable of becoming. The little boy who'd seen relentless atrocities held no grudges. No malice. He just wanted a daddy to love, and he'd picked the loneliest man in the universe.
Eli wasn't his genetic son – he didn't have his smile or his eyes – but he had the Doctor's hearts. And that was all that was needed.
'I love you, Daddy,' Eli said.
'I love you too,' he replied, before Eli smiled and left to the kitchen.
As the Doctor got up and followed, he mentally erased all the rules he'd made, and started again.
Rule one. If you're a lonely old Time Lord who is still traumatised by the actions you took in the worst war in universal history, get a four-year-old child and relearn the art of unconditional love.
And possibly a nightmare bear.
A/N: Aww! It's over. Sad times. As always, utterly bucket-loads of thank yous to everyone who's taken time to read this, and especially to those who left a review! :D It's very much appreciated, I really hope you enjoyed it. I don't think there's going to be a sequel, though.
I'm about to enter third year university so fic-rate will slacken, but I do have something I've been working on for Hallowe'en that I hope I can finish in time :D
Tyty to all!