A/N: All right, I have clearly spent too much time with kids lately. Still. Standard disclaimers apply. In the interest of internal musings, this is set post-Journey's End for the Doctor. As for The Magic School Bus, I'm not basing this on an episode, per se, but you know the bit at the end of the episodes, when all the kids all over the planet are trying to phone it? Well….
The Doctor had been wondering where he ought to go next when the TARDIS phone rang.
That made him grin. It ought to make the decision process easier. Someone wanted to chat, or for him to look into something, or maybe get some advice, or, ooh, perhaps someone wanted to invite him to a party. He was good at parties. Well, before the undesirables inevitably crashed it and he ended up sorting out whatever went wrong. That unfortunately tended to happen at parties he attended. Perhaps that why he wasn't invited as often as he might have been.
The ringing continued, and the Doctor picked it up, not bothering to see who was calling. Surprises were always better. "Hello?"
"Is this The Magic School Bus?"
"Is this The Magic School Bus?" the voice repeated. A girl's. Young. Midwestern accent.
"Is this the—what?" the Doctor sputtered again, unable to believe what he was hearing. "The magic school bus?"
There was a pause on the other end of the line. "Suppose not," the girl said, sounding resigned. "Sorry. I'll try again."
"Nononononono!" the Doctor quickly cut in. "I was just…surprised, that's all. You got this number how, exactly?"
"Oh, I was just dialling random numbers," the girl responded, sounding happier now. "But I've got a bone to pick with you about the last episode." And before the Doctor could so much as open his mouth to let out another incredulous 'what?', she'd continued, "I mean, everyone knows aliens aren't real. I thought this show was supposed to be educational."
The Doctor blinked, and spared a moment to glance around him at what many would call his impossible time-space ship. Then, "Who says aliens aren't real?"
A laugh. "Oh, come on. It's not like they have any real proof. And they shouldn't be making stories around things that aren't proven. I mean, they have stretches in every episode, but aliens? That's just plain ridiculous!"
"Am I?" the Doctor asked, frowning a bit. "Suppose I have my moments. Then again, we all do, don't we?"
"Look," the Doctor said, starting again, "everything doesn't need to have proof, does it?"
"It should when the point of the show is to teach kids things," the girl returned.
"Then what about teaching imagination?" the Doctor challenged. "Specifically, how not to lose it. Because that's the trouble, you see. People grow up and they forget. Some don't, true, but most do. They lose that wonder, that curiosity, that sense that nothing's impossible, and they find themselves stuck in a world of which they can never see the entirety because nothing's left to ever drive them to see it in its entirety."
Another pause on the end of the line. "I take it you assume that you haven't lost it, then."
"Aw, not much danger of that," the Doctor replied, grinning. "Seems that every time I think something's impossible, something else crops up to prove me wrong. Don't mind, really. Keeps me on my toes."
More silence. Then, slowly, "Are you one of the writers?"
"Me? Nah. I'm the Doctor."
"They need a doctor?"
He'd confused her. Oh, well. Bound to happen sooner or later. "Well," he reasoned, "even if you've got a magic school bus, you're not immune to scrapes and all sorts of those things. Not that I specifically tend to that sort of thing. I'd really rather do other things. I like being a doctor of other things. Well, other things not excluding that thing, which would really make me a doctor of everything, but—"
"Wait," the girl interrupted. "The magic school bus isn't real."
"Then why were you trying to ring it up?" the Doctor asked.
"I wasn't trying to phone it, I was trying to phone the producers, and…." Frustration now. "Look, I don't know why they need you around, but could you just ask them to make things more plausible for their next show?"
"Suppose I could, yeah," the Doctor agreed. "But you haven't managed to convince me that their last show wasn't plausible." He thought for a moment. "Or even," he added, "that the magic school bus itself isn't real. I've seen stranger things. Remind me, who's in charge?"
He didn't get an answer for such a long time that he thought she'd hung up. "Wouldn't you know that if you work for them?"
"Oh, I mean in the show," the Doctor clarified, not bothering to correct the girl's assumptions. The conversation was getting interesting, after all. "I haven't seen it for a while, you see." Or at all, actually. But it was sounding like it might, just possibly, be something that wasn't precisely what it seemed like.
"Ms. Frizzle, I think," the girl finally answered.
"And where's this show set?"
"Don't they tell you anything?" the girl asked, incredulous.
The Doctor shrugged, even though he was perfectly aware that she couldn't see him. "First day on phone duty," he confided. "Missed my briefing. You won't tell, will you?" Without giving her a chance to answer, he repeated, "So where's this all set?"
"Walkerville Elementary School, I guess."
"And where's that?" he asked, realizing even as he said it that the answer must surely be Walkerville, wherever that was.
"How should I know? It's not real."
"Oh, there you go off on that again," the Doctor said. "Is it so hard to just believe in things?"
A sigh. "Oh, you're just one of those nutters, aren't you? I got a wrong number again."
She hung up.
The Doctor sighed and did the same. Well, at least it wasn't a total waste. He had something to look into now, somewhere to go. Well, so long as the girl was wrong and it was real. Nothing he couldn't find out, though. He was really good at finding that sort of thing out.
What's more, 'magic' buses weren't entirely unheard of, not for him.
No matter. Even if it did turn out to be a fruitless search, it'd give him something to do.
And he needed a distraction now.
Besides, he had said he'd talk to the producer about plausibility. And that could turn into a really good conversation. He liked those. He didn't seem to have enough of them, for all his talking. His conversations were too often centred on explanations, or challenges, or warnings, or some random bits of fact about wherever he happened to be at the moment. Or something along those lines. He didn't have a lot of time to just talk.
He'd had a few good conversations on Midnight. And then things had gone a bit downhill. He'd never told Donna the half of it. He hadn't wanted to. He was glad he hadn't. But that had probably been the last time— No, no, he'd had a good barter with one of the shopkeepers on Shan Shen. Hadn't actually bought anything in the end, though. Not that time. He hadn't needed anything. He couldn't remember what tangent they'd ended up on, not now. It had been too long ago.
He was due for another good, long conversation for conversation's sake.
The Doctor grinned, and then he went to go find one.