TIME AND CHIPS
Summary: While waiting for The Doctor to return from his strange ritual of buying chips and sighing at them, Martha finds herself in the company of a stranger. A stranger with blue eyes and a black leather jacket… (Doctor/Rose)
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who. (typing it like this doesn't help with my denial) I'm borrowing the title from the wonderful fanfiction archive, Time and Chips. The title just popped into my head while I was writing and it fits beautifully, so there you go. I am not affiliated with Time and Chips. I just love them. The website and the chips!
A/N: I have no idea where this came from, really. I had a lovely dream about Egghead (my loving name for Nine) and I just had to write about him. And I've been trying to branch beyond Ten or Rose's perspective.
And this is the result.
Time and Chips
Martha tapped the console with a sigh. She was bored, ridiculously bored and alone. Once again, The Doctor had left her to her own devices while he embarked on a quest of the perfect chip.
At first she thought the mission was quirky and hilarious. One day, out of the blue, (it was after their trip to New Earth, if she remembered correctly) he bounded out of the TARDIS with a promise that he would be back soon with chips and vinegar. She had laughed and waved him off, wondering where on earth (or the universe, really) that craving had come from. When he had returned, however, he was morose and quiet and wouldn't share. She had pinched once from him in the end and he had glared at her so fiercely that she had nearly cried. Not that she was one for crying, of course. But sometimes he just confused her so badly…
The next time he went out for chips, he brought her a parcel of her own. He wasn't as sad this time, but he hadn't spoken, just set out his chips on the console and ate them. He looked at them sometimes with such a look that Martha giggled. This usually earned her a glare and she learned not to question him after that. (or talk to him, or look at him, or generally be in the same room while he was eating chips)
So it was that she came to find herself sitting alone in the TARDIS, with the light humming of the machine as her only company. The Doctor never let her accompany him on these missions and she was thoroughly sick of being left in the dark (although of course, the TARDIS was well lit.) She wasn't even allowed to leave the TARDIS. It was only ever for twenty minutes or so, but the order grated against Martha's independent nature. Who was he to order her around? It was just chips, for goodness' sake.
"Stuff this," she said to nobody, picked up her jacket off the floor and opened the TARDIS door.
It was fairly quiet out; there was barely a soul to be seen. Martha looked around her and took in the view. She appeared to be in a massive waiting room of some kind, like a big foyer of an empty shopping centre. She wandered through the room, making note of details so that she could find her way back to the TARDIS. Her shoes made echoing noises down the large hallway. Where were all the people?
She turned a corner to find a directory and a few chairs and tables. She looked at it vaguely, unable to decipher any of the shops, let alone the chip shop The Doctor had run off to.
"State your destination."
Martha jumped. "Blimey," she said, with a nervous giggle. "I'll never get used to this."
"Wouldn't want to," said a voice to her right. "Take all the fun out of it."
Martha turned to look at the stranger, who was grinning at her kindly. He looked friendly enough, with short cropped hair, blue eyes and large ears.
"Sorry, I didn't notice you there," she said, holding a hand to her chest.
"That's me," the man said, in a bouncy Northern voice. "The unnoticeable lone man." His head bobbed as he grinned again.
Martha smiled back. "You're here all by yourself?"
"No, not really," he offered, crossing his legs. "Traveling with friends. One's getting to know the locals," he said, making speech marks with his fingers, "and the other's in the store getting chips."
"So's The Doctor," Martha replied, taking the seat next to him.
"The Doctor?" The man asked. Martha didn't notice the way his eyes darkened or his ears perked.
"My friend," Martha explained. "Tall, skinny, talks too much…"
"Fantastic," the man groaned and rolled his eyes. He brought his hands to his nose and squeezed the bridge, uncomfortably.
"Nah, he's alright," Martha giggled. "They left you out here by yourself, though?" Just like The Doctor had left her out here. Well, not just like…
"My choice," the man said. "I've had enough apes for one day."
"Apes?" Martha looked around, half-excitedly. Was this some kind of monkey planet? The real-life Planet of the Apes?
"Humans" The man offered.
"You're not human then?" Martha asked, interested.
"Nope. Not me!" The man smiled again.
"Where are we?" Martha asked.
"Shopping planet of Sharlimain, Traxi System in the second great and bountiful human empire," he said grandly, his Northern accent hopping along the consonants. "Doesn't your Doctor tell you anything?"
Martha laughed, but it was a hollow laugh. "Not sometimes," she said, quietly. She didn't want to talk badly of him, of course. He was The Doctor, her Doctor, whether he knew it or not. "Not when he's out for chips."
"Oh?" The man gave her a look that made Martha frown. He looked as though he was forcing himself to not be interested. "That's not normal, is it?"
"Oh, it's alright," Martha replied. "He just gets sad sometimes. And goes out for chips. And never explains it to me." The man sighed and frowned. Martha looked at him curiously. "We've been everywhere for chips," she continued. "Women Wept, Klom, New Earth…" The man narrowed his gaze. "Usually it's just some shop near a council estate in London, but every now and then we go someplace really special." The man didn't respond. He looked far away, lost in…something… "Not that I'm allowed to go with him…" she muttered, lost in her own mind. He frowned at her again, looking concerned. "It's nothing bad," she struggled to assure him. "He just…gets this look sometimes. Like today. I asked to see World War Two and he got all sad and went for chips."
"You wanted to see a war?"
"I was curious," Martha shot back. "It's a great moment in history, you know. World War Two. My grandfather died in that war and I just wanted see."
"Alright, alright," the man said, "Forget I said anything."
"But he wouldn't take me. Something about time agents and gas masks and…"
"Are you my mummy?"
"Exactly!" said Martha, and then she narrowed her eyes. "Who are you?"
"Nobody," the man replied with a grave face. "How long have you been traveling with The Doctor?" he asked, seriously.
"About four months," Martha replied. "Best four months of my life, really. Most of the time…"
"And before that?"
"I was training to be a doctor myself," she said. She tried to think of it, all the text books and the observations, but all she saw were bright lights and aliens and The Doctor. "Not the space kind, the regular kind."
"I see," said the stranger, becoming more and more interested. "And him?...actually, no, I don't want to know."
"He was traveling by himself," she said, seeing through the man's reluctance. He was an odd man, this stranger. He seemed very curious, but at the same time, very uninterested. Like he was forcing himself not to listen to her. She was intrigued. "He had a friend before me though…" Martha trailed off, not really knowing what to say. "Sometimes I think he'd rather I was her…"
The man's eyes shot back up to her again. He looked at her fiercely, his pupils wandering around her own gaze as though he was trying to think of the right thing to say, but couldn't. "What happened…" he stopped himself. She watched him clench his teeth and sigh before shaking his head. "Never mind," he said. "I really don't want to know – "
"I don't know anyway," said Martha, shrugging. "I don't like to think about it. Neither does he, but you can tell he does." She shrugged again, worried that she was boring this man with her jealousy. "But it's ok," she said with a smile, "because he's mine for most of the time."
"Yours?" The man looked stern again.
"You know what I mean," she said, laughing. "Not mine mine, just…you know…" she trailed off. What was she doing? She didn't even know this person and here she was, spilling herself of everything she'd kept inside. She shook her head. What was it about this man that made her want to talk to him? She looked at him again for any sign that maybe she'd met him before. She saw none. Except there was something in his eye…no. It was nothing.
As she looked at him, she noticed his gaze snap from her to somewhere over her shoulder. He looked with such intensity that she nearly laughed. She turned around to see The Doctor, glaring equally seriously to the man next to her.
"Doctor!" she said, forcing her face into a large smile. He was finally back. He cradled two parcels of chips in his arms, as always. One for her and one for him. He always held them separately as though he didn't want them to touch. To contaminate each other or something.
"It's time to go, Martha," The Doctor said, his glare still fixed on the man by her side.
"Sorry," Martha said to her new friend. "Got to go." She smiled at him but he still glared at The Doctor. Martha frowned.
"What's going on?" she asked, looking from one to the other. The Doctor looked at her for the briefest of seconds, and exhaled loudly. He opened his mouth to speak, but only a glottal fry came out and he huffed again. Martha laughed. "Listen to you!" she joked, "What are you, the Big Bad Wolf, all huffing and puffing?"
And suddenly both steely glares were aimed at her.
"What did you just say?" The northern stranger asked.
"It was just a joke," Martha laughed nervously. "Look at you both."
"Those words, Martha," The Doctor probed, a desperate look on his face. "Where did they come from?"
"Bad Wolf," the other man said.
"I don't know," Martha shrugged. "Three Little Pigs. You know the story…" she held up her hands as explanation. What had gotten into him? Them?
'Martha, where did they come from?" The Doctor asked again.
"I don't know!" she fought. "They just popped into my head!"
"Bad Wolf," The Northern man repeated.
"Yeah," The Doctor said.
"Bad Wolf?" It was a new voice this time. Martha turned to see a girl, blonde and frowning and carrying her own parcel of chips. "Doctor?" Martha's eyes went wide, but the girl wasn't looking at The Doctor, she was looking at the Northern stranger. Martha looked from one to the other, then back to The Doctor, who stood, his gaze fixed on the girl and the man. He was deathly pale and his eyes were shining and watery behind his glasses.
"Martha, we're going," he said monotonally, and started to walk away.
"What?" she asked, looking at all of them. What was going on here? "Sorry," she said to her new friend. "I don't know what's gotten into him but I've got to…"
"Bye," she said, and followed The Doctor, confused and annoyed. He did this to her all too often.
Just before they were out of sight range, The Doctor turned around again.
"Best you'll ever have," The Doctor said to the Northern man. His voice sounded almost warning, somehow. "Those chips…"
Martha raised an eyebrow at him. He looked so ridiculously serious. She looked at the blonde girl who was staring at her companion with the same confusions with which Martha was staring at hers. Their eyes met for a moment and they shrugged together. Martha spared her a smile.
"Love them while they last."
Martha barely had a second to laugh at his sombre tone before he grabbed her wrist and pulled her away. Back to the TARDIS.
He was quiet for a while. Quiet and horrible. But then he did as he always did, and spun her till she was dizzy with words and wisdom and promises of beautiful planets. And she followed him with laughter, though she couldn't ignore that his laughter never reached his eyes. His eyes were too full of something else. Something distant and dead. Somehow he was still haunted by that time and those chips.
She wanted to ask him about it, but she never did.
He didn't eat the last chip this time.
It sat on the TARDIS console for days.
It was as though he was afraid to finish it.
She wanted to throw it out, but she knew he would be furious. So she left it, and looked in on it as it seeped grease through the paper and onto the TARDIS's console.
A few days later, it was gone.
But the distance in his eyes never left.