I don't know why, but I felt this random urge to take a break from either of my two stories and write out a oneshot. I don't normally do this, usually because I like to know all the details before I go into something, but the minisode and the trailer for the upcoming Christmas Special have been stewing in my head, and so this is my thoughts on how the Doctor might have gotten to the point of being this year's Scrooge. Enjoy!
Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock
Feel a Little Leaner, Colder, Sadder, Older
She dropped herself off, really, since he didn't bother to get to his feet until the ship came to a smooth stop- because River was so worried about him she'd used the bloody boringers again so as not to disturb him. Still, he owed it to her to see her out, even if she didn't look close to breaking down like he felt. She was so much stronger than him.
River stopped in the doorway, turning about and almost bumping right into his chest because he'd followed her silently. "What will you do?" It was a loaded question, but his wife never pulled punches on him before, sometimes quite literally. One time in particular.
"Well, you know me," he attempted casually. "Same old life, I suppose." The Doctor had travelled without the Ponds before, rather extensively. He was twelve-hundred after all, and he'd met- met Pond when he was nine-hundred and seven. But he'd always had the knowledge that they were home, waiting for him.
She smiled sadly, like she knew his thoughts, and said, "Don't hesitate to stop by."
He wondered if she was afraid, that because he'd lost her parents that being with her was too unbearable. Quite the opposite really, so he hastened to say, "Of course."
"Bring a friend, if you like. You know, I've always wanted to meet one of your companions that I didn't already know," she tried for a teasing smirk, but he simply couldn't return it. And not even because of the grief he felt he was being slowly crushed under the weight of, but because she will. She will meet Donna Noble, and it will be the death of her. He will be the death of her, and he won't save her like she'd saved him all these countless times.
"Ok," he agreed nonetheless, nodding once. His hand reached down of its own accord to take up her wrist- the one she broke herself –his thumb tracing over it, and for a moment he was unsure if this would cause her to slap him again. But instead her face softened out into a warmer smile.
"I mean it. Don't sit up here in this box all by yourself, my love." This one was harder to agree to, but at last he nodded again. She raised herself up on her toes, placing a feather-light kiss to his lips. He can't decide whether or not to pull her in closer, because he's scared that if he does he won't ever be able to let her go. But he knows that he has to, that he will, and so he keeps it chaste. "Good night, Doctor." She slipped out the door and he shut it, not even wanting to look at her house, at what was likely the professor's final dwelling.
He'd been able to ignore it for so long, because Dr. Song was something entirely different and far away from The End. And her parents have only solidified it in his mind, nothing is forever.
Except this. Except the Doctor and his box. He could stay here forever if he wanted, and never say another goodbye. He'd also never say another hello. Was that really so bad?
When the monitor flickered on and a lever lifted up, he knew the answer. After all, this had never been just about him, had it? His TARDIS…stole a Time Lord to steal the universe. Was it fair for him to stop at her expense?
"You pick this time," he sighed softly, trudging down the steps to the little hanging swing underneath. But he stopped halfway down, a sudden thought occurring to him. "Just not 21st century Earth, Old Girl—please." A subdued hum was the promise he received.
He pulled open the door to a blast of cold air, wet flakes swirling and melting as they met his face. Glancing about he takes it all in, the dark night, the people bundled up in long dresses, coats, and cloaks, the hats, the—
"Hark the Herald Angels Sing—"
The Doctor snapped the door shut again sharply, taking a few deeps breaths. "Christmas. Oh, you really are trying to make me feel better, aren't you?"
But he couldn't bring himself to go out there. Not yet, not with that song, though he didn't want to think about the implications behind that. So instead he headed back to the console, not pushing any buttons or pulling levers because the TARDIS chose to make a warning groan, indicating her personal mandate.
"I'm not leaving," he assured, "I'm just- I need to- to change—yes, that's it," he congratulated himself for coming up with such a sensible, rational explanation. Not emotional, never emotional because those humany-wumany emotions would get the best of him if he let them.
His feet had carried him to the wardrobe by now, and so he began the search for something a little more period-appropriate, not so conspicuous- he was trying to lay low, wasn't he? And he was tired of drawing everybody's attention anyway. He didn't pause to reflect on how his hands seem to find only darker shades, browns and grays and near-blacks. The lighter tweed was shucked off onto the floor.
He'd stolen it anyway, hadn't he, from a hospital of all places. Just like he'd stolen so many things—a magic box, a daughter from her young parents, and now those same parents from their daughter.
About as prepared as he felt he'd ever be, he donned a slightly battered top hat- no need to look too important, and he wasn't feeling particularly dapper at the moment –and strode out of the TARDIS. The carolers had moved off, likely to bother others with their singing, and so he was free to walk along the chilly streets with his hands in his pockets, just the observer until—
"Oof!" He felt the wind knocked out of him as a slight, young woman came darting out of the alley perpendicular to the sidewalk and crashed right into him. His hat was knocked off from the sheer force of it.
"Oh- begging your pardon, sir!" A rather familiar cockney accent apologized, and he sighed, bending to retrieve his hat. Of course it could never be simple. Of course his ship just had to fling him right into the next one, because no one knew what would happen if the Doctor ever decided to rest. What if he wanted to find out?
Jenny Flint kept rambling nervously as these thoughts occupied his mind. "I should have been watching where I was going, but I really do have to be getting back to the Madame, because I found—oh!" She broke off in shock when at last he lifted his head.
"Hello, Jenny," he said, resigned.
"Doctor!" She exclaimed in greeting. "I- I didn't know you were coming—"
"Just passing through, actually. So, what is Vastra up to, having you run about London alone this late?" It was a customary question, but he also felt some measure of concern. Jenny Flint might only just be in her late twenties. A young lady on her own at night in Victorian London was asking for trouble, highly skilled assassin aside.
But Jenny only seemed to beam at him in excitement. "That's just it- I've figured out who the culprit is, so I need to tell the Madame! Oh, it's so good you're here!" And quite abruptly she snatched his hand and yanked him forward, causing him to trip and stumble behind her all the way as they ran, the arm she'd captured nearly being tugged out of his arm socket while the other held his hat to his head. All this running, and what was it even for?
It unsettled him that he was having difficulty remembering what the point of it all was.
He watched from the sidelines as they figured it all out, whoever they were tracking down this time. For whatever reason, he couldn't seem to bring himself to actually listen, though he saw Vastra glancing occasionally at him with a curious expression, as if waiting for that moment when he would inevitably spring into the action with some mad plan. But that did not come to pass.
Still, they managed to drag him out for the chase, mostly because they were the only people- using that term loosely –that he knew here, and he was having trouble deciding if he wanted to be alone now that he'd found them. The Doctor sort of liked not being the only alien, the only odd one, it made him feel less…less than all those humans on the streets below.
And the people of London truly were far below, for whoever the criminal was had led them up onto the slippery, snow-dusted rooftops as they scrambled after him. He felt the adrenaline starting to kick in to power his limbs and provide him more oxygen, and for the first time since then, since Manhattan, his mind was absolutely clear. The running always did this to him.
Until their target made a rather daring leap, just clearing the gap between one house and the next, separated by an alleyway. The Great Detective was not far behind, her physiology an advantage to her. And Strax he was sure would be fine.
But then, just in front of him, Jenny Flint- oh so human and fragile and fleeting –put one foot on the ledge of the rooftop. About to jump off the building.
"No!" The scream was ripped from him, and the Doctor threw his arms around her from behind, tearing her bodily from the ledge. They tumbled backward together, his back pounding against the rooftop and her slamming into him.
"What was that for?" She shouted, the loudest he'd ever heard her and quite cross. Understandably cross. "We could have lost him! You—D- Doctor? Sir?" She questioned uncertainly.
For he had yet to remove his arms, he was shaking uncontrollably, and he'd buried his face in her shoulder, hot tears leaking onto her overcoat to wet it with the snow.
"We could have lost you," he spoke in a low, mournful tone. Didn't she, didn't any of them see? What sort of company did he keep, what was he teaching these humans that they would throw their lives away so carelessly? "I could have- I did- they- Ponds—why did they do it?" He sobbed, and the poor girl sat there and took it, stiff and likely freezing, until a calm voice sounded behind them.
"Strax has detained the culprit. I think perhaps we should relocate, Doctor." It wasn't until Vastra's cold hands closed over his wrists, gently prying his hands off of her assistant, that he quieted, swallowing and wiping at his eyes. By her shocked look, however, she had seen the evidence of his tears. "What has happened?"
It was when he saw the two of them standing above him, arms around each other and looking down at him with concern that he realized. They were so young and full of hope, the adventurous spirit, and love. Jenny Flint probably would have made the leap, but he wasn't so sure about himself. Not now, with everything weighing him down.
He'd thought about this regeneration, this body, as a way of healing, moving on, and putting everything in the past. Because before it had been nonstop running, fighting, losing—Rose, Martha, Donna—one after the other, leaving him reeling.
Crash-landing in a little Scottish girl's backyard had been the best respite a Time Lord could ask for. But all it had really done was numb the pain awhile, made him forget how to cope, and so it hurt all the more when it was over.
Over, end, stop, goodbye- they all meant the same thing. And everyone else he'd ever known, their time was over, had ended, they'd come to a stop and said goodbye. So why couldn't he?
No one could run forever. Not even the Doctor.
"I can't do this anymore."
They followed him all the way back to the TARDIS, Strax calling out to him every so often, Jenny crying and asking what she'd done wrong, and Vastra with a grave but respectfully silent countenance.
"Was it something I said? I'll take it right back, I promise!"
"And what exactly do you plan to do with your time instead, Doctor?"
"Do?" He turned about on his heel, kicking up a swirl of snowflakes and facing the stout Sontaran in Victorian garb. "Nothing! Do you hear me?" And he tilted his face up to the sky, shouting it to the darkened clouds. "Nothing! Who says the Doctor has to do anything? And that's the beauty of it, Strax—with nothing to do, there's nothing to lose- not for the man who's lost everything already!" He laughed though he hardly felt amused. He was laughing at himself, at the supposed genius who had never thought of this before.
"Please, Doctor, I never meant to upset you so badly—woah!" She ended on a surprised, almost scandalized yelp for he had snatched her up again and spun her about in a circle, just the one as Vastra looked a bit cross.
"Jenny Flint, apologizing to me? What for, you were right! I've been knocking about too long, way overdue to bow out. And I leave it in capable hands- the Great Detective, who could ask for better?"
"You over exaggerate my abilities, Doctor," Vastra calmly argued, but it was Strax who scoffed.
"A retreat is not honorable conduct, sir."
"And I don't care. Ha!" He barked a laugh at their completely stunned expressions. "Oh come now, what happens on days when I'm not around, hm? Nothing! You see, I'm hardly needed am I- the Earth, the universe, all of time and space can get on just fine without me. And it will have to do it, because I simply don't care!"
But all the noise he'd made attracted someone's attention. "Please sir, spare me some change?" A tiny, grimy, sickly looking boy, perhaps seven or eight, shuffled out from a darkened alley, one hand held out before him. The other was cradled to his chest and wrapped in rags. The ugly side of Victorian London, the side nobody else cared about either.
The Doctor extended his hand, palm up, towards Strax, waiting.
"What?" The alien asked in a gruff voice, but when he didn't say anything, Strax grumbled and began digging around in his pockets. The Sontaran produced a handful of change, which he took and approached the child with.
"There you are," he said softly, crouching down to be on the same level before unwinding the gray scarf from around his neck and wrapping it around the boy's. "For the cold."
The little child had finished counting the coins, his eyes lit up in amazement. "God bless you, sir!" And he scampered off as fast as he had come.
"You possibly just saved that small mammal's life," he heard the Silurian observe behind him, and he slowly rose to his full height. "That seems an awful lot like caring."
"You over exaggerate my abilities," he echoed her, turning once more to face them, and he didn't laugh again. Because they just weren't getting it. "I saved his life for one, perhaps two days. Coins run out and soon there's no food and temperatures continue to fall and wounds get infected. And he will die. I could live a thousand of his lifetimes, so what does it matter, Vastra? This tiny little rock on this stupid planet not even to the 2000s! You must see how finite you are- here I am talking to you, but as soon as I'm back in the Vortex, you might as well be dead." She was the only one of the three who did not flinch. "And I am finished with it."
He stormed back into his ship, working the controls and blocking out her protesting groans. There was so much turbulence that he felt compelled to check the monitor after the shuddering ceased. The Doctor squinted uselessly- why was the screen so bloody small, anyway? –before grabbing up the glasses- her glasses –and shoving them on.
"So this is how it's going to be?" He demanded in a low tone after staring at the readings for a full minute. A low hum was all he received in reply.
So the Doctor stepped out into the clouds and smog of London. She'd extended a sort of gravity field, how far he didn't know. And yet it was what he had wanted, wasn't it? Solitude, somewhere to rest, away from the world.
He could still hear the bloody carolers, though.
"The First Noel,
The Angels Did Sing"
He hated Christmas.
So yeah, I'm not sure about this one. But I kind of wanted to get my thoughts down. Plus I'm really excited for the Christmas Special.