A/N: Spoilers for The Doctor's Wife. What a mega episode it was. So much love for the Gaiman right now. Check out his novels as well, because it's mega.
He only talks to her when they're alone, long after Amy and Rory have gone to bed. When he's sure they won't walk in on him.
They'd probably understand, but there would be more pity in their expressions than understanding, and he doesn't want that. He doesn't need that.
He only needs her.
He strokes the side of her console, running his fingers along it softly, and he can almost feel her hum in contentment. He's well aware that he's a fool, clinging to a desperate dream, but he doesn't care, because that's what makes him the Doctor.
He's been stealing parts of other ships whenever he's had the opportunity. Amy and Rory haven't caught on yet, or if they have, they haven't said anything. They've been landing on more and more industrial planets lately, and the pair of them are getting a little tired of it, he can tell.
But he needs to try. If he doesn't try, then what exactly is the point of him?
She told him he'd never been reliable, and the words still burned in his mind, taunting him. He's let her down so many times, but not this time. He won't let her down ever again.
He knows she can hear him, she can even hear his every thought, she can hear him right now, but that's not enough. He's been doing one sided conversations with her for seven hundred years, he's had enough of his own voice. He needs to hear hers.
He feels closest to her when he's sitting on the swing, under the main console, all of her workings trailing down around him. He feels enveloped by her, almost like he's being cuddled by her, and it is always where he comes after one of those days where things didn't go according to plan. He's sure she soothes his mind, with an unheard song. He knows it's there, he knows she's looking after him, but he wants more than just a feeling.
He's tried lots of things. Things that haven't worked, and sometimes, he thinks she's just being stubborn, trying to prove a point to him. She's not constructed that way.
He's fallen asleep on the swing by the time Amy and Rory make an appearance, his head resting against the thick cable supporting him, his mouth hanging open, light snores filtering out of him.
Amy shakes him gently awake and he starts, grabbing his sonic screwdriver and pressing the button, unsure of the setting, but wanting to make it look like he's very busy indeed. Sparks shower over the two of them and Amy shrieks, covering her head with her hands and darts out of the way.
"Ah," he says. "Sorry old girl."
He fiddles with the settings on the screwdriver and repairs the damage he's just caused, Amy watching him curiously, while Rory sits on the steps, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
"Where are we going today then?" Amy asks.
The Doctor frowns. He's not really considered that yet. Entertaining a couple of humans is a bit of an inconvenience, when you're trying to communicate with your Tardis, in all honesty. Then, like a falling roof tile, he is struck by an idea.
"Er..." Rory says, turning to look at him through the bars of the bannister. "What?"
"You know, Brief History of Time, all that. What a liar by the way, there was nothing brief about it, and plenty of it was guesswork. Good guesswork, I mean, I see what he was trying to do, but it was still wrong."
"So you want to go and see Stephen Hawking to tell him he's wrong?"
"No no no," he says impatiently. "But he can talk!"
"Yes..." Rory says.
He was right, the pity in Amy's expression far outweighs the understanding.
"Never mind," he says quietly. "I've tried voice synthesisers anyway..."
They end up going to the Eye of Orion, and nothing exciting happens.
She could have told him that would be the case. He could have told himself that, really. He feels like she doesn't belong to him anymore, not in the way that she used to.
"What makes you think I would ever give you back?"
He opens his eyes, realising that he must have fallen asleep again. It's the swing he decides. It sways back and forth in a gentle, calming motion, making his eyelids grow heavy, and his grip on the sonic screwdriver slacken.
Either that or he's getting old.
"You're going to have to stop this eventually."
He turns around quickly, and Amy's there, arms folded, eyebrow raised just a little.
"I'm not torturing myself," he says, but he can't meet her eye, and instead looks at the floor, his fingers reaching to fiddle anxiously with his goggles.
"She's not built to talk," she says softly. "You know that."
Amy draws closer, her hand reaching out to grasp his own. "Just because you can't hear her, it doesn't mean she's not listening. It doesn't mean she doesn't care."
He knows that. He knows all of that. It's just so hard to feel it. Knowing it isn't enough, a bit like knowing that the sun is ninety-three million miles from the Earth. Knowing it doesn't mean you can appreciate it. Ninety-three million. No one can appreciate that, just like he can't appreciate that the mad bitey lady is living in every single atom of his ship.
"D'you want a fish finger sandwich?"
He looks up at Amy, features stretched into a watery smile, and nods gently.
"Cup of tea?"
He nods again and she squeezes his shoulder.
Once she's out of sight, he pushes himself backwards on the swing with his foot, then lets go. He's still swaying when she returns, his arms wrapped around the cables, his head resting against them glumly.
"Fish don't really have fingers," he says aloud, brightening slightly as the comforting smell of processed food wafts towards him. "It's just little fingers made out of fish, covered in breadcrumbs and cooked for...ooh, twelve minutes? Yum."
Amy smiles, and passes him the tray.
"PC World!" he says, flipping a lever on the console before darting around the other side to twist some dials and make himself look clever.
"There's an actual planet called PC World?" Rory asks, frowning slightly.
"Do you have to say chalkboard instead of blackboard?" Amy adds, giggling slightly.
"And troubled young person instead of little sh-?"
"Not PC as in PC," the Doctor says, cutting Rory off. "You're being far too clever for your own good. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
"What?" Amy says, her eyebrows knitted together in confusion.
"Never mind," he says, and he trots down the ramp, flinging open the doors, outwards now. Always outwards.
There is a sea of cars, badly parked, ignoring the lines that some poor soul once painted in the hope of organisation, and in the distance, a row of big grey buildings, one of them sporting the sign he was hoping to see.
"So when you said PC World..." Amy begins. "You actually meant...PC World."
"Well of course I did!" he replies exasperatedly, stepping out of the Tardis and waiting for Amy and Rory to follow.
"What are we doing here?" Rory asks.
"I need a laptop," he answers simply, and he locks the door, his hand resting against the wooden panels a few moments too long.
It's a long time before he can decide on the right one. He needs one that fits with his Tardis, one that looks like it ought to belong, but all of these newfangled laptops are far too sleek and shiny for his retro cool control room. He blows a raspberry when he sees the Macbooks, and doesn't give a damn about the Samsungs that look far too smug and insufferable.
The shop assistant can't tell him if the iPad has an app that can convert Tardis coding into speech, but apparently he can catapult birds at little green pigs and blow them up. He has no idea why he'd want to do that on an iPad when he could do it on a much grander and much more exciting scale on Porsa Minor, so he skulks off, hands dug deep in his pockets, wondering whether he'll ever find something that could work.
"What makes you think a normal laptop can make it happen?" Amy has taken to talking to him in a low, delicate voice, like he's in a hospital, and it would usually bother him more than it does. Maybe it's not irritating him because he knows she has every justification for using such a tone.
"There's a text to speech function on human laptops," he tells her. "It's a long shot but...it's still a shot."
"She can't type though, can she?"
"Not exactly but -"
"Doctor," Rory calls from a few aisles away. "How about this one?"
The Doctor and Amy look up to see Rory point at a large grey machine, and they hurry round to where he's standing to inspect it.
It's huge and awkward, like the last kid picked for the football teams at school. It's also clunky, and may as well have 'TENDENCY TO FREEZE AT INOPPORTUNE MOMENTS' written across it in large red letters. Everything about it is badly designed; the mouse buttons don't click properly, the keys get stuck if you push them too hard but don't do anything at all if you push them too softly.
He flashes his psychic paper at the cashier, who picks up her scanner, which beeps loudly as it reads the non-existent gift voucher bar code.
"Did you find everything you need today, sir?" she asks, sounding a little confused.
"Yes thank you," he says brightly, and he can tell by his tone that he's getting his hopes up way too much.
"Would you like to take out insurance on -"
"No he wouldn't," Amy says sharply. "That's all, thank you."
The cashier hands over the receipt quickly and pushes the hulking great box towards them.
"She only asked if I wanted insurance..." the Doctor mutters to Amy as they leave the shop.
"Yeah, only asked if you wanted to be ripped off," she retorts, teeth gritted.
Rory holds up a hand in warning, shaking his head, and the Doctor lets the subject drop.
"Come on old girl..." he whispers. "You can do this."
He's alone. He's sent Amy and Rory off to find the garden. Told them it's sunny out there. In truth there isn't a garden and they're going to be lost for a good long while, but that's not his problem.
At least it's not his problem until he sees Amy again.
He's hooked the laptop up to the underside of the console, and the cooling fan is whirring away, working harder than the designers ever thought it would need to. He zaps it with the screwdriver a few more times, trying to find the right frequency. That's all it is, it's just the frequency.
"Just think the words and they'll come," he says, resting his forehead against the swing cable, his eyes squeezed shut. "Just think them and I'll hear them. Please."
He sits there for a long time, the sonic screwdriver buzzing gently amid the hum of the Tardis. He can feel his eyelids drooping. He's not sure how long he's been at this for, but his brain has slowed its process considerably and his limbs are starting to feel heavy.
"You're tired, go to bed."
He whirls around, expecting to see Amy.
There's nobody there.
His face breaks into its first genuine smile in months.
Suddenly, he remembers what being alive is like.
It's like this.