Summary: when the Duplicate Doctor cannot find everlasting love he decides to do something about it scientifically.
Disclaimer: today Doctor Who, Pinky; tomorrow the world! Or not, as the case may be. So none of it is mine.
A/N: I was encouraged to write a story with Chris from "Learners" by tardis-mole, but this was the only way I could think to do so.
A Doctor On Call
The voice on the answer machine sounded brutally honest, and once again Chris was relieved that he had not personally taken the call.
"Hello, Christopher. It's Ellie here. I thought about what you said last night, and it's only fair to let you know that it's me and not you. I like you but it doesn't go deeper than that. Sorry for making it seem more. Hopefully we can still be friends. See ya!" And then the machine clicked off.
Chris sat on the stairs hugging his knees in self comfort whilst twiddling the St Christopher that hung around his neck; reminding him that he had felt loved at one time. Okay, it had been brief, but it existed in his memory; within his own, personal memory rather than someone else's.
Why couldn't anyone love him in this alternate universe? Why had everything gone wrong as soon as he had been left there on that Norwegian beach? Rose had kissed him back with enthusiasm but when they had got in the Zeppelin her interest had started to wane.
All he could put it down to was the fact he had told her his plans to shave off the sideburns, tame his hair, get something different to wear when he sought out a job; somewhere nice like a library or a bank. In fact she had been agog when he said it, now that he thought about it properly. Not that he had exactly fallen over himself to lavish her with attention. He'd been more interested in the machinery that drove the Zeppelin, how it was fabricated and the exact composition of the gases it contained. Stealing away to get a better look hadn't been the right thing to do in those circumstances, he admitted that to himself. Perhaps he should have sat and held her hand all the time as they headed back to London; but he couldn't do that. It felt wrong for him, and evidently it felt wrong for her, because they stopped pretending soon afterwards. Oh, he had clung onto that relationship far longer than was healthy; but Rose was right. They weren't meant to be, and he wasn't the man she wanted and vice versa.
Soon after he found himself dealing with the big wide open world and his need to find someone to share it with. His next choice had been Jennifer, but she had rejected him without a backward glance. Well, she was a supermodel in a magazine and he was just some bloke who had tried to contact her. His practical side knew it was a no-hoper.
When he started at his current office he met Ellie. After being 'burnt' by pretty girls he decided to try someone a little more 'homely' and with less ideas about who was and wasn't suitable. They had even been on a date or two. That's if you can count buying lunch in Boots as a date before scurrying off to your own corner of the building.
What was it one of her friends had said? It was something about his clothing being a bit granddad-ish. The cheek! He wore practical clothing that did the job whilst washing well each time. Since when had he been a fashion victim? Striving for his own style, he had ditched the suit and gone for smart trousers and a light jacket. He had also gained himself a permanent pair of glasses because his eyesight was myopic at the best of times and he liked the college look it gave his face.
All in all he thought he looked approachable, intelligent and a man of simple means. He had left dressing up like a peacock to others and his former self. People should be able to take him for what he was rather than what they expected him to be.
He mentally reasoned it out as he stirred his microwaved risotto and then winced when he tasted it. Yuck! It was absolutely tasteless! Once again he wished that he had inherited Donna's cooking skills, because his were seriously lacking.
Sweeping his gaze over his neat kitchen as he sat at the small table to eat his meal, he wondered if he would ever get to share a living space again. He had bought this property, a one bedroomed house, fairly recently. It had cost him an arm and a leg, but property prices in London had never been cheap. It had seemed like a good investment when he had viewed the show home of the brand new housing estate, not that he was overly interested in making money out of the place. He had viewed the large bedroom as having the potential to be divided up into a bedroom and nursery, should the need ever arise; ignoring for the time being the ardent wish that lay underneath that sort of thinking. Anyway, he liked where he lived, there were decent people living nearby, the city centre wasn't too far away and nor was the river which often beckoned to him to walk along the bank when he was feeling particularly claustrophobic. Somehow the activity on the water always calmed him down.
With a large sigh, he picked up the evening paper and flicked through it. Not much caught his attention, although he made a mental note to watch certain shows or films as he did so. But one half-page advertisement captured his wandering gaze; it was for the local adult education college, offering all sorts of courses, including cookery classes and DIY skills. Hmm, now that looked interesting. He knew the theory but he was rubbish at the practise; and someone had said that evening classes were a good way to meet new people and make friends. Yes, this idea seemed to be getting better and better. The sign up date was the following Tuesday, saying that potential students could enrol after 4pm, giving him plenty of time to give it some thought before taking the plunge.
In the end it hadn't taken him too long to make his decision. The cookery classes would be on a Thursday night and the Home Handyperson classes would be on Tuesdays. There was also the temptation of ballroom dancing classes, but they clashed with the cookery so he mentally pencilled that in for the next possible term. One step at a time, as they say…
That was how he found himself sitting at a classroom workbench the following Tuesday, keen to learn how to put up a shelf and decorate his house beyond keeping it clean. After a few minutes the class instructor, Mr Alan Wilkins, arrived so he didn't even notice when the seat beside him was hastily taken until a large pink and fluffy pencil case appeared in his peripheral vision, a luminous pad of paper, and what could only be described as a fluorescent Tribble. As he turned his head his senses were assaulted by a waft of perfume that seemed strangely familiar, and then he saw her properly. Flashing him a shy smile was Donna Noble!
He immediately smiled back and looked coyly away as he tried to recover from his shock. Taking in some huge, deep breathes; he risked peeking at her as Alan broke into his introductory speech. She was avidly taking notes as if her life depended on it; scribbling away with a pen that had a fancy hairy pen-topper. That explained what the Tribble was for. He had to clamp his hand over his mouth to stop himself from
a) pointing out how daft she looked, and
b) using her name when they hadn't been introduced yet.
Unfortunately she caught him, and gave him her patented glare-of-death. He wanted to laugh even more.
"Let's have a quick word from everybody," Alan suggested as he eyed his new pupils. "How about we start with the lady of the group?" he asked pointedly, staring at Donna.
She started immediately and dropped her pen on the bench top in a panic. "Who, me?! Well… I'm Donna Smith. Hello! I live on my own now, and I can't even change a plug. It's made all the worse because I work with all these techno geeks at Torchwood, so I thought it was about time I learned some of this stuff," she stated for all the room to hear, and tried to smile her friendliest smile.
Chris was smiling encouragingly at Donna when he realised that Alan was now staring at him. "Oh! Hello! I'm Chris Noble. I recently bought my own small house and would like to make it look half decent. And I'm one of the techno geeks at Torchwood," he added the last bit for Donna's benefit, hoping it would work in his favour.
"So you've come here together from Torchwood. That's nice," Alan commented.
Chris had just opened his mouth to deny this when Donna spoke up. "We're not together. Oh no. That's not going to happen."
He wanted to slap her one for that! 'Not going to happen'? Why the hell did she say that about him to everyone? Good grief!
By this time Alan had moved on to someone else, and Chris sat there with bright pink cheeks, trying to rein in his humiliation. Then there was a tender touch on his arm.
"I'm sorry," Donna whispered to him. "I didn't mean to upset you. Can I make it up to you by buying you a coffee during coffee break?"
How could he refuse such an offer; especially when she was looking at him so sadly? "That's okay, honest; but a coffee would be nice. Thank you," he answered; and returned his attention to the introductions being made.
There were a dozen people in the group, making it small and intimate; and Chris found himself growing more excited at having met this universe's Donna. True to her word, she had bought him a coffee and he had politely drunk it thanks to the practise he had been having at Torchwood. His preference would remain as tea, but coffee was gradually ingratiating itself with him.
"I noticed no ring; are you recently divorced?" he asked her as they sat sipping their coffees.
She shook her head. "No, widowed," she explained, and pulled a face. "Not that he didn't save me a load of paperwork by getting himself taken by the Cybermen. He'd been playing around, you see."
"I'm sorry," Chris immediately sympathised. "I lived with my ex-girlfriend's family after I lost my parents, and I've just bought my first place. It's strange being suddenly on your own, isn't it?"
Donna readily agreed. "Were you with her long?"
He thought carefully about that. "Sort of two years, then we parted, and we got back together recently but it didn't work out," he admitted. "She did the whole 'it's not you it's me' talk."
She winced in sympathy. "I know that one all too well. It's never easy to hear that one," she said and placed a consoling hand momentarily on his arm before whipping it self-consciously away. "You'll find someone else. There's bound to be another girl out there for you."
"Yeah," he agreed without much conviction. "What about you? Are you going to look for another husband?"
"I don't think I'll bother," she replied with a shrug of her shoulders. "Perhaps I'll get a dog instead."
Any further conversation was halted when another member of the group approached them and started to chat to Donna, obviously thinking they were in with a chance. Chris slunk away and left them to it. He really wasn't feeling up to playing that sort of possessive game and he had no claim to stake anyway.
Feeling quite despondent, Chris tried to console himself with the thought that he would hopefully find a female friend at the cookery class. Well, he did until he entered the cookery room and found as many men as there were women. Damn TV chefs!