"The Other Side of the Desk"
"Where Did You Come From?"
STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm not making any money from this. Doctor Who belongs to the BBC. Detective Munch (who is only mentioned in passing in this one) belongs to Dick Wolf and NBC television. Also guest starring Drox and Warinbabylon… um… Surprise, ladies! I've put you in my fic!
"You can't just barge in without an app – "
"Watch me," the Doctor said, pushing past the officious little bureaucrat. He strode purposefully through the reception area, the long tails of his green velvet coat flying out behind him.
"Lord Zeta – " the bureaucrat began.
" – is an enormous pain in the toches!" the Doctor finished. He reached the double doors to the Dean of the Prydonian Academy's office and threw them open with a flourish. The black-haired Time Lord sitting behind the ornate desk looked up from the document he was reading.
"Theta. You're late."
"Oh really? Well, you can – "
"Do you know this… person, Lord Zeta?" the bureaucrat interrupted.
"Yes. Very often to my dismay, I might add." The Doctor opened his mouth, but the bureaucrat cut him off.
"So am I to assume that you don't want him arrested?" he asked, sounding very disappointed.
"No. Not today," Zeta said dryly. He raised his eyebrows at the bureaucrat. "Thank you so much for your diligence, Arlan," he said ironically. The bureaucrat gave him a bow and departed. The Doctor dropped into a chair in front of Zeta's desk.
"You're looking good, Zeta. Power seems to agree with you."
"It's very strange sitting on this side of this desk!" Zeta said, and both Time Lords laughed. The Doctor glanced around.
"I like what you've done with the place." The windowsill behind Zeta's desk displayed a variety of small explosive devices, a sonic screwdriver, a handheld temporal disrupter, and even two old fashioned Earth-type squirt guns, all confiscated from students. On the bulletin board was a flyer advertising a fraternity event at an Earth university. One of the graduate students on a research assignment to that planet had found it taped to the wall in a classroom building and had brought it back for the Dean, whom she knew would find it amusing. It read:
All you can DRINK $5 cover
Food and BEER!
PARTY PARTY PARTY!
"'Zeta Week', hmm?" the Doctor asked. The other Time Lord followed his gaze.
"Oh yes. Quite entertaining, isn't it? I wish I'd known about that particular human celebration during my days as a student here."
"It would have provided an opportunity for you to spend more time in this office!"
"Doubtless you are correct. I sometimes think our Lady President offered me this position because I've spent more time in here than anyone else on the planet!"
"Are you sure about that?" the Doctor wondered. "I spent more time sitting in this particular chair being told off by our dean than I care to admit! Why, it should have a plaque on the back of it… The Theta Sigma Memorial Angry Lecture Chair!"
"That could be arranged. You know, it's amazing that either of us graduated. You've no idea how many times I was almost expelled!"
"Oh I bet I do!" Both Time Lords laughed again. "So," the Doctor said, sobering. "What do you need, Zeta?"
"What makes you think I need something?" he asked, his dark green eyes widening innocently.
"I assume you didn't invite me here to talk over old times… did you?"
"Not entirely. Lord Psi has regenerated."
"Oh?" the Doctor asked, leaning forward, looking interested.
"And I am given to understand that this regeneration is a bit… mmm… unstable," Zeta said tactfully.
"I believe the term that Detective Munch used to describe Lord Psi's new incarnation was 'flake' The term your daughter used was 'daft git'."
"Ohhhh!" the Doctor said, beginning to understand. "My sixth was a bit like that."
"Yes," Zeta agreed. "I've heard stories."
"I can only imagine," the Doctor sighed.
"Naturally, we can't have someone in that… condition… teaching Intermediate Temporal Physics."
"Naturally," the Doctor said.
"Since your eighth appears to be marginally stable and at least somewhat sane most of the time, I've decided to offer you the position."
"Me?" The Doctor sounded shocked and horrified at the same time.
"At least until we can fill the vacancy permanently… unless of course you decide you want to stay on."
"Will you at least fill in until someone suitable can be found?"
"I don't know…" the Doctor said, sounding decidedly unenthusiastic.
"I wonder what Tegan would say if she knew you passed up an opportunity for the both of you to spend time here with Angelina," Zeta mused, leaning back in his chair.
"You wouldn't!" the Doctor exclaimed.
"This is blackmail!"
"I prefer to call it 'negotiating'," Zeta told him with a smile, his eyes sparkling with amusement.
"Listen, I haven't taught since I was a graduate student – "
"Doesn't matter," Zeta replied tranquilly. "You're fully qualified."
"But I was never any good at Temporal Physics at school. Surely you can find someone – "
"With more practical experience than you? Really, Theta? I can't think of another Time Lord alive today who's spent more time operating a TARDIS than you have… can you?"
"And it's only temporary," Zeta reminded him. "We're actively looking for someone to fill the position, you know."
"I have your word on that?" the Doctor asked, eyeing him suspiciously.
"Time Scout's honor," Zeta promised seriously, holding up two fingers.
"You were never a Time Scout!"
"I was, but they kicked me out."
"I should've known. All right, when do I start?" the Doctor asked with a sigh.
"How does tomorrow sound?"
"Tomorrow?" the Doctor protested. "That's a bit sudden!"
"It's better than this afternoon, isn't it?"
The Doctor sighed.
The students were already in their seats when the Doctor arrived at the classroom, carrying a briefcase in one hand and a travel mug full of hot tea in the other.
"Good morning," he said cheerfully, putting his briefcase on the desk at the front of the classroom. He moved around to the front of the desk and sat down on its edge. He sat quietly for a moment, sipping his tea and surveying his new students, a group of twenty or so prepubescent boys and girls dressed in the scarlet and orange tunics that were the uniform of the Prydonian student. The class gazed back at him with expressions ranging from cool interest to eager anticipation. "I'm the Doctor," he introduced himself. A red-haired girl sitting directly in front of him in the very front row immediately put up her hand. "I'm sorry, I don't know your name," he told her, motioning for her to ask her question. The other students began whispering, but he ignored it.
"I'm Elana. And – "
"Hello, Elana," he said, smiling.
"Lord Theta – " she began.
"Please," he said, looking pained. "Call me Doctor." She frowned.
"Page 4, paragraph 9 of the Student Handbook clearly states that instructors are to be addressed by their proper titles at all times," she reminded him.
"Does it?" he asked, sounding surprised.
"Yes. And why aren't you wearing your teacher's robes? Page 9, paragraph 6 of the Instructors' Handbook clearly states - "
"Wait a minute," he said, holding up a hand. "How do you know what's in the Instructors' Handbook?" The other students were snickering now.
"There's a copy in the library. Anyone can read it," she informed him coolly, her tone suggesting that he should do so himself.
"I don't need to read it, do I?" he asked with a smile. "Not with you around to quote it to me!" This earned a laugh from the rest of the students, and a rather disapproving frown from Elana. "Now, perhaps we should begin with taking roll – " He opened his briefcase and pulled out the roll book, and then patted his pockets for a pen.
"Doctor, I've got a pen!" one of the students offered, brandishing it at him.
"Why thank you – "
"Ansel," the boy supplied, passing the pen forward.
"Thank you, Ansel." The Doctor opened the roll book and thumbed through the pages until he found the correct one. "Ansel," he read out. "Well, you're obviously present!" He made a mark in the book, and the class seemed to move forward in anticipation. Ink squirted out of the top of the pen, coating his hand and part of his face in black goop. The students burst out laughing. The Doctor gave Ansel a significant look.
"Sorry, Doctor," the boy said, staring back at him with a look of supreme innocence. "I had no idea it would do that!"
"Hmm," the Doctor said musingly. "There's one in every class, isn't there?" Thing is, I'm used to that "one" being me! he thought. With his clean hand, he pulled a handkerchief out of his coat pocket and began wiping the ink off his face and hand as best he could. "Elana, have you got a pen I can borrow?" She gave him another frown.
"Page 3, paragraph 7 of the Instructors' Handbook clearly states that all instructors are to come to class fully prepared to – "
"Elana!" the Doctor interrupted a bit more sharply than he'd intended. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose with his inkless hand. "Have… you… got… a… pen… I… can… borrow?" he repeated in as calm a tone as he could manage.
"Yes, Lord Theta," she said rather contritely, handing him one.
"Thank you." He went back to the roll book. "Arsan," he read out.
"Present!" Out of the corner of his eye, the Doctor saw Ansel's hand disappear under his desk.
"Beran," he continued, standing and slowly walking up the aisle.
"Present!" The Doctor reached Ansel's side and put a hand into the cubbyhole under his desk, pulling out a small firecracker. He licked his finger and pinched out the lit fuse.
"Present!" The Doctor walked back up the aisle, resumed his seat on the edge of his desk and placed the firecracker next to the booby-trapped pen. The door to the classroom opened and a boy entered, breathless in his tardiness.
"Sorry, sir," he apologized. "Kroxner was acting up again."
"Hmm," the Doctor replied, uncertain what – or who – "Kroxner" might be. "All right." The boy sat down at a vacant desk next to Ansel, and the Doctor did a double take. The new arrival and the troublemaker were identical twins. "There's two of you!" the Doctor blurted out.
"Yeah, our family's loom made two of us by mistake," the new boy told him, sounding almost apologetic about it.
"Double the fun!" Ansel said, grinning.
"I heard that it started to make a third one," the late boy continued, "but Cousin Draxel managed to pull the plug and stop it." Elana put up her hand. The Doctor could hardly pretend that he didn't see her; she was sitting right in front of him.
"What is it?" he asked her with a sigh.
"So he is," the Doctor agreed. "I can tell time, believe it or not."
"Page 17, paragraph 12 of the Student Handbook clearly states that all students must be seated at their desks when the final bell rings."
"What would we ever do without you, Elana?" the Doctor asked rhetorically. He looked at the late boy. "I'll let you go today, but please do try to arrive on time tomorrow." The boy nodded soberly. "Now, what's your name?"
"And I'm the Doctor," he said, making a mark in the book beside Daran's name. Elana's hand went up again, but this time he ignored it. "Bolan," he called out.
"Present!" A paper airplane sailed through the air, neatly wedging its pointed nose in the loose curls on the right side of the Doctor's head.
"Caxna," he called, absently removing the airplane from his hair.
"You know," the Doctor mused, looking up at the class. "If you bend the wings at the ends like so," he said, working as he spoke, "it'll fly much better!" He demonstrated by shooting it across the room, where it landed perfectly between Ansel's hands. "Let's see, Daren's here… Drox?"
"Present and very happy to be here, sir!" she said, grinning. The Doctor looked up from his roll book.
"It's nice to see a bit of enthusiasm," he told her, returning her grin.
"My Cousin Merak was at school with you," she informed him.
"Merak," he mused, trying to remember. "Merak… oh yes, I remember him. Short fellow, with dark blond hair – "
"Oh yes… right," he agreed.
"Is it true that you once disassembled Dean Gamma's hover car and reassembled it in his office?" she asked. The Doctor blinked.
"Of course not," he assured her. She looked disappointed. "No one could do that by himself. I had help." She grinned again, while the rest of the class looked shocked. Elana's hand went up again, and he continued to ignore it. "Elana is obviously present – "
"Yes I am," she agreed right away. "And I think that you're – "
"Good cook, are you?"
"Never mind." The Doctor stood and walked up the aisle, arriving just in time to intercept the note that Ansel was trying to pass surreptitiously to his twin. He went back to his perch on the edge of the desk and unfolded the note. "Wellll," he said, his eyebrows going up as he read. "To satisfy your obvious curiosity, Ansel, I am not carrying on a homosexual love affair with Lord Zeta." He glanced up from the note to give Ansel a meaningful look. "But I do thank you for taking an interest in my personal life." The class laughed, while Ansel's face reddened in embarrassment. The Doctor put the note on the desk next to the firecracker and the booby-trapped pen. "Shall we see if we can actually get through the class roll before our time together is up for the day?" He went back to taking roll, finally reaching the last student's name without further incident. "Warin?"
"Present!" she said brightly, a smile lighting her face. "Do you have office hours?"
"Um, I haven't arranged for an office yet, let alone office hours – "
"Well, I have a feeling I'm going to be needing lots of extra help with this class," Warin told him, giving him a dreamy smile.
"Ahhhh…. Well, I'm sure that one of the graduate students could help you with – "
"No, I'm going to need help from you," she told him firmly. She was still young enough that a giggle escaped her lips, and she blushed furiously. Oh dear, he thought. I see trouble ahead there. Elana's hand was up again.
"Yes, Elana?" he said, more to distract himself from that worrying thought than out of any real interest in what she might have to say.
"Lord Theta, if people are having trouble in class, maybe you should form us up into study groups."
"An… An excellent suggestion," he said, caught off guard. He'd been expecting another quotation from a rulebook or another thinly veiled criticism, and so her useful suggestion took him completely by surprise. "And perhaps we should go over the more difficult problems from your last assignment," he suggested. There was a general murmur of agreement. He took a thick textbook out of his briefcase and briefly thumbed through it. A hand went up in the back of the room, which he didn't see because he was absorbed in his textbook.
"Um… Lord Theta… uh, I mean Doctor?" the student finally called out timidly.
"A lot of us are… um… really lost. Lord Psi got kind of… ah… confusing after he regenerated. He's got us working problems on page 147,445.
"Goodness!" the Doctor exclaimed, having found the page in question. "Look at problem 31… why, I'm not confident that I could work that one!" The students laughed at this remark.
"I've worked it, Lord Theta," Elana informed him smugly. He was very, very tempted to give Little Miss Rulebook detention for talking out of turn, but decided against it when he recalled that he would be the one stuck with supervising her if he did.
"Have you?" he asked instead. She nodded. "All right. Why don't you come up to the board and show us?" She looked shocked for a moment by this invitation, but quickly recovered herself. She stood and went to the board, picking up a piece of chalk. "I'm very interested in seeing how you've mapped the dimensional tangent," he told her casually. Her hand faltered for a second at these words, but she recovered herself and began writing equations. He shifted slightly on the desk to watch her, his back now to the class. For a few moments, the only sound in the classroom was chalk on the chalkboard as Elana wrote more and more elaborate calculations. "Ansel, if you have something to say, you should share it with the whole class," the Doctor suddenly said without turning around.
"Um," Ansel began.
"I have excellent hearing, Ansel," the Doctor informed him. "But not quite good enough to make out your exact words."
"It's not important," Ansel told him.
"What? It's not some amazing insight into the problem that Elana is working for us?"
"I'm shocked! Well, I think I'd like to hear it anyway. And so would the rest of the class..." He glanced over his shoulder at the class. "Wouldn't you?" They all nodded or gave other affirmative responses. "So, it's unanimous. Out with it, Ansel," he instructed, turning on the desk to give the student his undivided attention.
"I was just wondering…" Ansel's voice was barely audible. "Where…" he muttered something incomprehensible and blushed, looking down at his desk.
"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that," the Doctor said, his eyebrows going up. "Can you repeat it?"
"I was wondering where you came from."
"Where I came from?" the Doctor wondered, puzzled. "Most recently, Earth. London, local date October 3, 2003 to be precise. Does that satisfy your curiosity?" Still blushing, Ansel bit his lip and nodded. The Doctor leaned back and regarded the student thoughtfully. "Why do I think that's not really what you were asking?"
"I know what he wants to know," Elana said without even looking up from her work.
"Really?" This was an unforeseen development. The Doctor was now very curious indeed.
"Yes." The Doctor waited a beat. Elana kept writing.
"Would you care to share that information with me?" he finally asked.
"Certainly," she agreed. "Everyone knows that you weren't loomed. So where did you come from?"
"My mother was human – " he began, having to revert to English for the word mother.
"No," Elana said, shaking her head. "Ansel wants to know exactly how it was accomplished, how you were made."
"Are you asking me where babies come from, Elana?"
"Yes. The male and female who created you… how they did it. The exact mechanics of it." His mouth fell open in utter astonishment at her audacity. Elana drew a huge circle around a figure on the board, put down her chalk, and turned to face the class. "I've finished," she said coolly. The Doctor was still mentally reeling from the wallop of her question about his origins, so it took a moment for her words to register in his mind.
"You've… you've finished?"
"Yes. Don't you want to check my work?" He opened his mouth, closed it again, and simply stared at the long, complicated equation on the board behind her. After a moment, he took a piece of paper out of his briefcase and worked the problem out for himself in a fraction of the time it had taken Elana. He looked up at the chalkboard and nodded.
"Looks right to me. Very good." Beaming triumphantly, Elana returned to her seat. The dismissal bell rang and the Doctor began gathering up his things, but none of the students moved an inch from their seats. "Oh," he said, glancing up at them. "You're dismissed. We'll go over this problem in detail tomorrow." And still nobody moved. "I've dismissed you," he reminded them.
"You haven't answered Ansel's question, Lord Theta," Elana said quietly.
"Oh. That." He sighed. "Look Elana, if you really want to know, ask your biology teacher. I'm really not up to delivering the birds and the bees speech, all right?" Elana's eyebrows went up.
"I know exactly how you were made," she informed him, sounding a bit insulted at the implication that there was something she didn't know. "It's Ansel who wants to know." The Doctor took a deep breath.
"Well then you can explain it to him!"
"All right," she agreed, turning in her chair to look at Ansel. "You see, the human female's reproductive system releases an egg every month. Fertilization of this egg is accomplished by – "
"Elana," the Doctor interrupted quietly.
"Yes?" she asked, turning back to him with a puzzled frown.
"Later. You can explain it to him later."
"What on Gallifrey happened to you, Theta?" Zeta asked, indicating the Doctor's ink-stained hand and face.
"For your collection," the Doctor told him, dropping the booby-trapped pen on the Dean's desk.
"Ah, that explains it."
"And there's more," the Doctor said, producing the firecracker and Ansel's note from his coat pocket. Zeta picked up the note, read it, and burst out laughing.
"How marvelously amusing!" he exclaimed, laughing some more. He put the note, the pen, and the firecracker on his windowsill. "Ansel, I'm guessing."
"Yes. You know, it's quite different being on the other side of the desk!"
"You don't have to tell me!" Zeta agreed. "And you know, half of the time I find myself wanting to congratulate Ansel… I keep having to remind myself that I'm meant to be giving him a stern dressing down!"
"Oh, I know," the Doctor agreed, dropping into the chair facing Zeta's desk. "You'd better not order that plaque for this chair just yet," he mused. "It might end up having to say The Ansel Memorial Angry Lecture Chair!" Both Time Lords laughed.
"And how do you like Elana, your star pupil?" Zeta asked wickedly.
"Don't get me started!" Suddenly, the Doctor glanced over at Zeta's bulletin board and frowned. "What happened to your flyer? You know, Zeta Week?"
"I…" He thought for a moment. "I don't know," he admitted. He exchanged a look with the Doctor, and both men simultaneously jumped out of their chairs.
"Ansel!" they said in unison, running for the door.
CONTINUED IN CHAPTER 2, "Practical Experience"