Standard disclaimers do apply. Mostly this is to keep me entertained and out of trouble whilst the big ole' gashes on my personage heal. YAY! GASHES! Anyways. Thanks to Krypto, who IS a super dog, for the beta. Thanks too Erica for the whole talking things out thing, and the handwriting idea. Go see Snakes on a Plane. It's awesome. Brief author's note explaining the location at the end.
Trolley Park Murders
Changing out bits of wire from the very bottom of the TARDIS control column, the Doctor tapped his foot against the floor to a tune that even he couldn't hear. He'd start whistling in a moment, if his attention weren't fully locked on the two inch bits of gold wiring that he needed to swap out. It was usually an annoyingly difficult task—the hatch was awkwardly shaped, the wires were thin as dental floss, and it required sticking his whole head under the base of the column, which was a kind-of warm place to be.
Today he didn't mind, however. He'd even replaced them willingly, instead of just waiting for them to fail and patching them on the fly, as usual. His last job with a wad of chewing gum acting as solder, connecting two foil-lined wrappers had been rather ingenious, and were still holding… but he'd found the wires in storage, and it had seemed like a moderately good way to spend an afternoon.
Violet was gloriously occupied, which was thanks to another bit of genius on his part. She was stacked hip-deep in his old school texts, and had been working steadily through them for a week.
He hated having too much time to himself. He'd end up brooding, or doing something stupid. Traveling companions helped with that. However, he'd never had a companion quite as… needy as Violet. Usually they had their own pursuits to engage in during the sometimes very lengthy trips hither and thither. The widow Dougherty liked to read, buried away in the library for days and days which was mutually beneficial to them. Rose would hang around the control room, but she'd usually be reading a drug store novel, and seemed fine with their silence. But Violet…There were the physical needs, mostly focusing on food, but then she'd go wanting things like attention and positive reinforcement.
But this little masterstroke of his… it kept her busy six to seven hours a day. And Universe-willing, she was actually learning something useful.
"The TARDIS is broken!"
The Doctor instantly bashed his head off of the access panel with Violet's spontaneous declaration. Ducking his head out of the panel, he saw her staring down at him, a paper clutched in her hand. "She's usually in a state of disrepair, but trust me—she's not broken." That whole part where they fell out of space and time was usually the big tip off.
The paper trembled in her hand. "It's not translating this."
The Doctor got up, wiping his hands together, taking it from her. "It's written in English." Handing it back, he began looking at the mess at his feet, knowing that he probably wasn't going to get anything finished any time soon, if this interruption was to be a gauge.
Especially with the way she was turning the paper round in circles, trying to make sense of it. "Well, then she's turning it into gibberish." Squinting, a few words became clear. "No, wait. It's just REALLY bad handwriting." She looked up at the Doctor, the look on his face betraying him as the owner of the terrible script. "Oh that's funny. Is that how they hand out jobs, where you're from? When you get to the end of primary school, they just look at your handwriting, and if it's completely illegible, they make you a doctor. My teachers would have made me rewrite this 'till it was right." And with no eraser marks, she wanted to add.
He made a face. "Never mind that, how far did you get?"
She shrugged. "All the way through the new-new maths book, and semi-quantum mechanics…which is why I started on the handwritten problems…" Her expression remained serious for a moment, broke out laughing, which she wouldn't stop.
Ignoring her, he pointed a finger towards the control room door. "So now you know my deep, dark secret. Lets go back to the library, check your work, then I've got a bit of a surprise."
The girl clapped, running to the door, down the hall, and into the kitchen. Sure enough, she had brought all of her work into the kitchen and had pulled a chair out for him. She was sitting studiously across from the stack of books. "Hungry," announced, an angelic smile plastered across her face.
"ALWAYS hungry," the Doctor clarified, sitting in front of the books. "You'll keep till I'm done with these, I hope." The crestfallen look on her face actually made him grin. Sometimes it was just far too rewarding, being a heartless bastard.
It only took a record three minutes before she began letting her forehead slam off the table. In another two, he was done looking everything over. "So, food now, or after you take a look at these few that aren't quite right…"
It was no question, and he knew it wouldn't be. "Food now. I'm dying of low blood sugar."
"You're a grade-A, first-class hypochondriac." Yesterday, she was going to die because he made her eat the crust from her sandwich and the day before that, it was because he'd given the staple remover back, after disabling the third setting and shutting down one of the internal computers. It wasn't good for much of anything, he had to admit, but he was hardly condemning her to 'extermination' just because she couldn't destroy the kitchen with it any more. But from the way she'd been moaning, you'd think he'd have personally shoved her in front of a blood-sucking alien unarmed.
The girl grinned. "Not my fault you're totally inept at child care and upkeep. 'Sides, if I were properly fed and hydrated, maybe I could read your terrible cursive…"
Opening the breadbox, the Doctor pointed a butter knife at her. "Inept? Inept! First of all, I didn't blow up the galley. Second of all, if you weren't so… complicated, we wouldn't have these problems. I mean—really? Who needs fed SIX times a day? I've met ninety-stone Larbees that eat less than you do, thank-you-very-much, smarty-pants." The girl was giggling to herself before he'd turned back to making the sandwich. He was glad he was so amusing. "Dinner, finish up what we were both working on, then by that time we'll be where we're going."
"And that'd be..."
"If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise." There was a twinkle in his eye when he said it, and she was certain he had something insidious planned. It was why she liked the Doctor so much. He was a different kind of evil than mum, but they were both thoroughly evil.
The Doctor had practically needed the Jaws of Life to get her out of the ship in a dress. He'd explained that it wasn't their job to raise a ruckus; usually those things raised themselves in good time. And a little girl in a black jumper with neon pink jeans would draw a bit of attention to herself, where they were going. And he hadn't seen anything at all wrong with the frock he'd handed her. But it was again with the 'you're killing me' thing.
Then he'd gotten her out the door, and she'd taken one look around, and decided it was far too 'babified' for her overly mature seven-year-old self. "Those roller coasters don't even have loops! And look how short they are…"
However, she'd changed her tune promptly upon him telling her that these might not be as large as the one she was used to, but they also happened to have absolutely no safety mechanisms. Sure enough, that perked her up straight away, and she dashed out the TARDIS door, the bow holding back her insane mop of hair coming half undone.
"Trolley park, that's an amusement park to you, early twentieth century," he informed her as he walked out, hands stashed in his pockets. They were under one of the coasters, the police box stashed safely behind old parts and unused lumber, and obscured by hundreds of crisscrossing planks that held up each curving piece of track.
She, of course, wasn't paying any attention. The fence in front of her was the only thing she was concerned with. "I need to be taller."
Not bothering to answer, the Doctor grabbed the fabric in the middle of her back and hauled her up over the small chicken wire fence, then stepped over it himself. As he did so, he thought about his shoes. He probably should have changed them. Oh well. If anyone was looking at his shoes so hard as to notice they wouldn't become fashionable for another ten, fifteen years, then they were paying too much attention to feet, and he could call them out on being a fetishist.
She'd run up ahead, mostly because he took his time meeting her on the main path, cobblestone lined and curving among the rides, then leading to a man-made lake, which was inhabited by people in row boats meandering around at a slow but steady pace.
It was a warm spring day, and he was enjoying the sounds and the smells. Metal wheels on wooden tracks, the creek of the wooden carts as they twisted going around each bend…the vendors hocking from their carts, fruit, popcorn, cotton candy…
It was early in the park's operating day; families were just beginning to filter through the enormous gate, a cement archway with a crescent moon atop. Mothers in long dresses, herding children in high socks and short pants and girls in fluffy petticoats (the thing Violet was despising most about this whole experience), all coming in for a thrill and a laugh and dressed in their Sunday Best. Fathers with handle bar moustaches and round straw hats standing neither too close or too far from their wives, not breaking unspoken rules of decorum. Most had saved up for this day, and were determined to enjoy it, the one planned outing for the entire summer for a working-class family.
They smiled in the sunshine, amusement and distraction the order for the day. These were people that didn't know and didn't care that World War I was on their doorstep, and with the firing of one assassin's weapon, dark times would descend upon the world.
"You're thinking, again." Violet poked him in the side. "The sign says I need tickets to ride rides. There's the booth. So either fork up, or get in line. No standing in the path, THINKING."
The way she'd said thinking, you'd think he'd have done something rude in public. "Right. I'm going to let you handle the money. We'll end up with tickets for two rides and fifty-seven candied apples." He knew how she spent her pocket money, when he gave it to her. He wasn't the greatest with it himself, but he'd never spent everything he had on a hundred and ten tiny chocolate ponies, either.
He'd gotten tickets, going on two rides with her, and then leaving her to get on "The Rockets" with two nice little children whose mother approved of the company. All three of them were crammed into a metal cart held onto a central motor atop a large metal tower by heavy steel cables, the unit making use of centrifugal force to "fly" the little rocket carts around in endless circles. He'd better let her do this before lunch; he didn't think she was the type to lose it, but he also didn't want to find out, either.
Once the ride was started, he walked casually to the cotton candy stand. Behind the cart was a rotund man in a striped shirt, spinning the sugary substance onto "Big one for me, small one for the tyke, and sixty-four relative rotor repair kits, if you will."
The man stopped with the paper stick inside the noisy cotton candy machine. "And then who'd you be, asking for such things?"
The Doctor grinned. "Oh Plazus, don't you remember your old buddy, the Doctor?"
Squinting the looked deep into his eyes. "You were much older the last time we met." Plazus frowned.
"And you were going to prison the last time we met. Didn't think you'd turn up in this place. I thought Earth was off-limits for another hundred years."
A frown cutting across the man's face beneath his moustache, he handed the Doctor the two cones of candy. "When you're a fugitive, you're not too worried about pointless treaties with dead races. I suppose I can thank you for both parts of that."
A foot clipped him in the shin. "See, I KNEW it wasn't just fun! Trying to drag me out here with just the 'no safety features' thing… you could have just said you had something… else planned."
Not breaking eye contact with Plazus, the Doctor smiled, handing her both cones of still-warm cotton candy. "Sixty-four kits, and I won't tell the Confederacy where you are. That'd be, what? A double life sentence? Life for what you've done, and life for the escape?" The Doctor pulled Violet out of the way as another customer approached. He folded his arms over his chest, watching.
The Doctor handed over two coins, then stepped aside as a teenage boy stepped up to the stall. He waited patiently as the transaction took place. "You know," the Doctor said darkly, "I was going to let you go, you spineless little worm. But then you went and betrayed my companions and me. Sorry, I don't play nice when good people end up dead."
The vendor put on a phony smile as he took money from the child who looked like he'd already had too much, if the green look about his face was any judge. Then a couple stepped up. Once they were gone, Plazus glared at the Doctor. "I don't know what you need sixty-four of them for. You planning on blowing yours out… twice?"
The look about the Doctor was equally dark. "Never you mind that. I know you've got an entire shipment hidden somewhere here. I should take the whole thing. You owe me."
Violet tugged on his sleeve. "I'm hungry."
When he looked down, she shoved both empty sticks at him. "You just ate."
Her face was just as serious as the two adults. "You're going to buy me food. Right now." When it didn't look like he was going to budge, her frown grew even darker. "You're going to get me something to eat right now, or I'm going to run off, and then you're going to tell mum you lost me in a time that doesn't even have television."
Plazus laughed, quite satisfied with the interruption. "Your companions get younger and younger… and so do you. Go on, feed the child, before she tattles to her mother."
Grabbing the girl's hand forcefully, the Doctor pointed a finger at the vendor. "We are NOT done."
Sitting across from her at a picnic bench, The Doctor watched her put away still more food. Perhaps there was a teeny tiny black hole in her stomach—or a tapeworm. "You can't use your mother as blackmail. What's this about?"
She licked her thumb. "I didn't like that man, and I didn't like the way you were talking to him." Her words lacked the childish frivolity that he'd come to love about her. It was more like a thorough scolding.
The Doctor slid on the bench, turning slightly away, uncomfortable with the scrutiny. "We have… history."
The girl let out a very unladylike burp. A few people turned their heads. The Doctor turned to them and shrugged with a smile, trying to laugh it off. Violet shook her head, really not caring what the natives thought of her. 'Blending in' wasn't one of her strong suits, he'd learned so far. "I didn't like it. You don't need-need parts. Otherwise the landing would have been a whole lot bumpier. There's something else, and… and I just don't like it."
It was almost as if she was prying in his brain again, but he'd been shielding, and he'd have felt it. She was just picking up that this wasn't a routine purchase or trade, or a routine blackmail for equipment. "Violet, you're very perceptive—clever. But there're some grown-up things you don't understand, so you'd be better off just letting me handle it, while you have fun."
And that was it… he lost her, she'd tuned out. It wasn't just what he'd said, but how he'd said it. Condescending. 'I'm the adult, you're the child, and you'll do as I say,' was the subtext, there. A teacher had said that to her directly once, and it had garnered much the same feeling. She knew she wasn't as smart as him. She knew he knew more about just about everything. But this was the first time he'd really rubbed her nose in it and really treated her like a small child, the way other grownups always felt the need to.
Her family knew better than to dismiss her as a stupid little kid, and the Doctor ought to have afforded her the same courtesy of humoring her. "Fine. Go do what you were doing," she told him coldly. "I have four more tickets, and the lines are getting longer. That should give you more than enough time. I'd also give me money for games, if you don't wish for me to bother you again."
She took the coins he'd stonily handed over and left the covered picnic pavilion without looking back. The Doctor took this as a testament to her ire, but it was only because she didn't want the Doctor to see the tears welling in her red eyes and catching there, unable to fall. Something was very, very wrong.
You get a biscuit if you know the park I'm talking about. If you do, please don't nail me on details, a few I stole from another nearby park that's still in operation (same with time period…I try my best, but I'm hardly going to cross my t's and dot my I's for a fanfic that I'm writing to amuse myself while I'm off work sick). I'm a font of useless information about theme parks. The original Ferris Wheel could hold over a thousand people at a time. See? Interesting… but won't save me in the case of a zombie attack.