Ok, bit of a departure from the norm, in so that I'm not writing a fic about the latest episode, but rather something referenced in the latest episode. I mean, how could I resist when he said that line? So, here's my first real stab at writing for Classic Who.
Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock
You've Been Here Before?
He stood tall, back straight, doing his best to look as if he knew exactly what he was doing despite the fact that they both knew that was absolutely not the case. But his precious Arkytior seemed to take heart from his feigned confidence.
Arkytior, now Susan. He had to remember that. On the run from the Time Lords together, his granddaughter had decided it was awfully silly for her to have a Gallifreyan name when he, the Doctor, did not. In his logic and wisdom, he had suggested the English translation Rose, due to their outer resemblance to humans and their growing interest in them. She had refused, stating that the name was far too plain and that she wanted to pick her own. On this, he had let her have her way. It was the least he could do after ruining everything for the poor girl.
Pressing one last button and feeling a slight tremor from the incredible ship, he felt rather certain they had landed. Yes, he could tell that very easily now, through sheer repeated experience. Where they were, however, was as unknown as ever.
"Susan, child, we've landed," he informed her, turning away from the controls to see her face light up in interest.
She hurried over to join him, asking hopefully, "Where, Grandfather? Is it Earth?" The dear girl had developed such a fondness for Sol Three, the home planet of humans. He could hardly blame her, of course; it seemed as though every other time they set out on a new voyage, they ended up there. The Doctor could hardly guess why.
"Well, I don't know, I don't know," he replied. "We shall simply have to consult the monitor. Do turn it on, child."
"Yes, Grandfather," she said dutifully, flipping the necessary switch. Immediately they were bombarded with sound and color as a scene of busy, flourishing life was displayed on the screen. All manner of creatures were walking back and forth, conversing and shopping.
"It seems we have landed in the middle of a bazaar," he remarked, a smile spreading across his delighted face. Now this was surely something worth seeing!
Susan herself seemed rather excited at the image on the screen. "Oh, may we go have a look, Grandfather? There's so much happening out there the monitor can hardly capture it all!"
"I think a little visit would do very nicely, my dear, seeing as we're already here. Perhaps some of the locals can tell us where we are," he agreed, a fond smile on his face as she ran to the door, stopping right in front and waiting for him to open it. He did so, not without a cautioning, "Not too far, Susan; it's easy to be lost in a crowd."
Naturally by the time the Doctor had shuffled out the door she was already in amongst the throng. Tutting to himself, he did his best to follow, although it proved difficult as his attention was quickly diverted. There was simply so much to take in!
Creatures of all sizes and forms milled about, interacting with one another like it was just another day. So many images and faces popped out at him from the long-gone days of studying at the Academy. Pan-babylonians, Lucanians, and oh what was the one of that ended in Kush? He felt as giddy as a school boy going to see the Medusa Cascade.
A black cloaked figure with green-tinted skin and a tan fellow with bared chest were trading items, and he saw this action repeated between all sorts of beings. So it was common to barter in this society, was it? Invaluable information to them while they were here.
Speaking of here…"You there, my fine fellow!" He called to a vaguely humanoid creature passing by. It wore goggles and a hood, and seemed dressed almost for combat with green shoulder pads, breast plate, wrist guards, and so on. The alien grunted, moving its head side to side hesitantly as it regarded him.
Ah, a Qom VoTivig! Quickly the Doctor wracked his brain for the proper greeting. Though his knowledge of the vocabulary was not the best, the TARDIS' Translator Circuits—one of the few things he had managed to get working, mercifully—would take care of the rest. Slapping opposite hands together and shaking their heads back and forth, he couldn't help but marvel in the back of his head at how absolutely ridiculous he would look to anyone from Gallifrey right now.
Once finished, he continued with his inquiry. "What exactly is this place? I am a traveler, you see, and have happened upon your interesting little marketplace by accident." That, most certainly, was true.
"You have come to the Sun Sings of Akhet," the other informed him.
"Of course!" He nodded in comprehension, "A star system of seven planets, am I correct?" The other nodded, and he positively beamed. "Wonderful! Simply fascinating—and a gathering this large, I daresay there is to be some type of event, hm?"
The Qom VoTivig shook his head, however. "The Festival of Offerings, but you have just missed it. Now, we make our last exchanges and return home."
The Doctor did his best not to let his disappointment show. "It has already happened? A shame, I should have liked to see it. I've read that the Sun Singers have the most beautiful ceremonies. Ah well, perhaps some other time." He sighed, one hand resting upon his chest.
"The Festival only occurs once every thousand years," his acquaintance pointed out, but he waved off the other's concerns.
"No matter, I assure you. Now, I have one last question for you, my good man. How exactly does this 'exchange' work, hm? How do you decide what is a fair trade?"
"It is not about fair, it is about value," the other responded. "Only items with sentimental value to the customer may be used."
"Most interesting," he commented.
Unfortunately his conversation was brought to an abrupt halt as a scream he was quickly becoming accustomed to—and yet filled him with dread every time—pierced the marketplace.
"Susan!" He gasped, realizing that he had allowed the young girl to wander out of his sight for far too long. Not even giving his excuses, the Doctor broke into a run, doing his best to follow the sound of his granddaughter's terrified shriek. Abandoning politeness in favor of shoving his way through thick crowds and getting turned around the wrong way several times, he at last burst through to a corner where Susan was being confronted by a rather large, grotesque being.
Mustering the last of his energy, the Doctor shoved his way in between the two, shielding her with his arms. "I say, what are you harassing my granddaughter for? She's done nothing wrong, I can assure you!"
"I was just interested in- in buying something, Grandfather, and I said I'd go and get some money t-to pay, but- but then she started growling at me!" Susan told him in a rush, stammering a bit.
The protective anger and fear began to ebb away as he pieced together what must have happened. Lowering his arms in relief, he turned back to the child. "Susan, they don't use conventional currency here. You purchase things with objects of personal value, sentimental things, my dear."
"Oh!" The girl exclaimed, eyes widening in understanding. Her gaze darted up to the still somewhat disgruntled shopkeeper. "I'm sorry, I didn't know."
"Yes, please forgive us, my lady, we are but passing travelers, unaware of many of your customs," he added, doing his best to sound eloquent even as the adrenaline from his desperate sprint drained away. He was aware he was breathing quite heavily and could feel the sweat on his brow.
"Grandfather, you should rest," Susan fretted as he retrieved a handkerchief from a pocket to wipe at the perspiration.
"What? Oh no, I'm quite alright, child, simply too much activity at once is all," he did his best to reassure, but the worry did not go away from his granddaughter's eyes
"The arena is a quiet place when the ceremony is not occurring," the shopkeeper offered, pointing them in the right direction.
"Well, perhaps just a moment to sit down would not go amiss," he relented, allowing Susan to take him by the arm and lead him, unable to help the resentment he felt towards this old, frail body. It simply was not fair; he wasn't even close to maturity and adulthood by Time Lord standards!
He hobbled along as best he could keeping pace with her, but she slowed down considerably after he stumbled once or twice on weak knees and weary legs, casting concerned glances over her shoulder. The Doctor did his best not to let too many annoyed huffs escape, though he was hindered in expressing them by his labored breathing at any rate. Yes, he was aged, but he could walk without someone's help.
The view they were met with upon emerging out into the vacant arena was enough to distract him from these irritated thoughts.
They were on the very edged of Akhaten it appeared, looking out to the rings made up of asteroids. The ever changing, ever expanding vastness of space stretched on endlessly before them and around them. And as a drifting asteroid fell away, it allowed them to see straight to the Pyramid itself that this star system was so famous for.
The absolute awe on his granddaughter's face was the true joy of it. Susan had never asked to come on this journey, and though curious she did not have the same wanderlust as he. But that face—that very one—he wanted to remember forever. Because that was the face, filled with wonder and amazement and happiness and so much appreciation, that was the face that could keep him going. As long as he could bring that very look to her face with each new planet, each new time, the Doctor could convince himself that he had not done wrong.
They sat side by side on the first bench and bathed in the red glow of the sun for some amount of time that he did not even bother to count. When Susan snuggled into his side in contentment and he wrapped an arm around her shoulders, he decided to break the silence.
"What was it you were so interested in buying, Susan?"
"Oh, it was nothing really," she replied easily enough, but her head was ducked down and eyes averted. He raised an eyebrow in skepticism, yet ultimately chose not to challenge the girl. Not wanting to ruin this rare peaceful moment in their life of exile, he filed it away for later.
When at last he felt sufficiently rested, the Doctor placed both hands on either side, bracing them against the bench as he leveraged himself back up. Susan jumped to her feet and held out her arms as if to steady him, but holding his head high he refused the silent offer. They walked side by side out of the arena, the young child hovering rather near.
Back in the marketplace, he breathed in through his nose deeply and nodded to himself. "One more look about this place ought to do, don't you think, Susan?"
"Yes, that's alright, Grandfather," she agreed.
"Is that your name?" A female humanoid figure with a face chalk-white inquired to his right, and he turned to address her.
"It is my relation to her, and so she calls me by it," he answered simply. "Why?"
"It is one of many names we give to our God, Akhaten," she responded. "To hold such a title is a high honor indeed."
"Indeed, indeed," he concurred, both amused and pleased by this revelation. Imagine, he holding the same stature as a God! "Now that is most interesting, isn't it—Susan?" He'd faced back to his left to see her reaction to this, only to find the girl was no longer there. He couldn't see her at all through the still thick crowds of people. "Susan! Confound the child, she is always running off with no thought to—Susan!"
Feeling his heart begin to pound incredibly loud and fast in his chest again, the Doctor stormed off, his anxiety mixing with his frustration. But this troubling brew hardly had time to stir, as he'd gone less than twenty paces before suddenly she was before him once again.
"Susan!" He'd meant for it to sound relieved, yet she flinched. Still it hardly mattered; she ought to feel guilty for making him worry like that. "What have I said about wandering off, child? And what have you got behind your back, hm?" She was clearly holding something, only adding to the guilty picture.
"Well, I only went back to the TARDIS to get something so I could buy this, Grandfather," she replied timidly, slowly bringing the purchased object around. "For you."
"For me?" He echoed, unable to believe his ears or eyes.
It was a cane of dark brown wood, carved in a sort of spiral pattern as it approached the hooked handle. Unconsciously he must have reached for it and it felt sturdy in his hands when she placed it there. Sturdy enough to support him, so he could support himself.
"Susan, I…" blinking rapidly, he struggled to find the right words, shocked at this unfamiliar sensation of emotion overcoming him. "You needn't have— how- how even did you pay for this?"
She glanced away, a nervous expression taking hold of her features. "I traded the watch. The fob watch you gave me."
He gaped. "Your father's watch? Susan—oh, Susan, what have you—I wanted you to have that watch, child. And you traded it for me!" He was torn between amazement and horror.
"I didn't need the watch, Grandfather," she quickly defended, though he could tell by the stress on the word and her pained expression that it had been a difficult sacrifice to make. "And you needed this," she gestured to the cane which he still clutched in one hand. "Please don't be angry."
Well that certainly stopped his rebuttal. He sighed, pulling her in with his free arm and leaning on both her and the cane. "Oh, my dear, I'm not angry. What's done is done; I doubt these people have a refund policy, at any rate." And the cane likely did not have near the sentimental value to him as the watch had had to Susan. But perhaps…
He drew back, meeting her eyes with a stern gaze. "Now, young lady, you go back to you room on the ship and think about what you've done. I think that is fair, don't you?"
She nodded once, dejected. "Yes, Grandfather."
"Good. Now I shall be along shortly and then you may help me pilot the ship if you wish. Run along, now." He shooed her away, waiting until he was sure she was out of sight before pushing off with the cane.
He moved remarkably faster with its aid, cutting through the masses in no time until he found who he was looking for. "Excuse me, Madam!" He announced his presence, and the large shopkeeper from before turned his way. "I believe my granddaughter purchased this quite recently." He was met with a grunted affirmative when he gestured to his walking assist. "Good, good. I was wondering: might you still have the watch she used as payment?"
The shopkeeper dug through a box of smaller items and retrieved the item in question, holding it up by the chain.
"Ah, excellent, excellent! Would you be at all interested in reselling it?" Another grunt produced a smile from him, though it quickly fell as he realized—he had no idea what to use as currency.
He began taking inventory of his pockets, though that proved difficult; it seemed they were jammed full of things he hardly remembered putting in there, and many more things than could possibly fit. An impatient grunt reminded him of the tight schedule he was running on, and he snapped in agitation, "Yes, yes, yes, one moment!"
All he could even consider as sentimental were his ring—which he was reluctant to part with—his TARDIS key—unthinkable—and—
Oh my. Had he really held onto this the whole time?
The Doctor raised the long, skinny instrument up to the light, his eyes widening as he examined it. It was! His old sonic screwdriver, practically a toy from his Academy days. The time he'd invested in designing this little thing, the nights, the warm smiles and invitations, the opportunities wasted.
And yet, if he had not busied himself with this all those years ago, perhaps Susan wouldn't even be sitting inside the ship, waiting for him.
He nodded to himself, satisfied. "This, my good lady, will suffice." He exchanged the two objects with no regret. After all, what was a silly, forgotten tool compared to the memory, the link to family? He could replace a sonic screwdriver should he ever even deem it necessary. This, he could not.
"Thank you," he said with a slight bow, turning on his heel with help from the cane and making his way back to the ship.
"Susan!" He summoned her immediately upon entering, excited to present her with this gift for the second time. "We're leaving; but first, I have something for you."
"From the market?" She questioned as she walked into the main control room, a puzzled look on her face.
"Yes, and here it is," he dropped it unceremoniously into her open palms. Her mouth dropped open and he could not contain his giggles, walking around her to reach the controls and beginning the takeoff process.
"But, Grandfather, how—?"
"Just a simple trade, child, nothing more," he did his best to dismiss it. Of course, his Susan was far too bright for that.
"Oh, Grandfather, you shouldn't have—"
"And why not, child?" He countered, glancing over his shoulder at her. She quieted, looking down at her toes and shoving the watch deep in a pocket. The Doctor stepped away from the controls, coming to stop in front of her. "It is my job to take care of you, Susan, as best I can under the circumstances. And that includes protecting you from all manner of harm or sadness. For you, my dear, I would give everything I have. I would forego my own happiness if it would secure yours. I would run across all of time and space, knowing you were helping me every step of the way." He tapped the cane lightly on the floor, and at last she smiled. The girl embraced him tightly, and he wrapped an arm around her as well. She folded so neatly into the curve of him like that, her head tucked under his chin and his cheek pillowed on her soft brown hair.
"Thank you, Grandfather," she murmured, voice thick with unshed tears. Happy tears. Something unexpected, alarming, and altogether wonderful he had discovered on their journey together.
"Thank you, Susan. My precious granddaughter."
At last, thankfully, she pulled away, wiping at her eyes and he cleared his throat once or twice. "Where are we going now, Grandfather?" Knowing him so well, she changed the topic, allowing him a reprieve from all this emotion.
"Well, I don't know, Susan. But somewhere brand new, I have no doubt about that." He went back to the console, every other step accompanied by the staccato thunk of the cane. Once again, he took up the guise of seasoned pilot, despite them both being aware of the contrary.
The Doctor hoped, however, that by sheer will alone he could direct the ship toward Earth, just for her.
Ok, so kind of long, but I just had so many ideas! I figure Susan's dad would have had a fob watch—seems like Time Lord to have. A fun little introduction for the cane, and my headcannon explanation for why we never see the First Doctor use a sonic screwdriver on television, and also why the Eleventh would even consider it as currency in the first place. Ahhh, the episode was so good and the line about Susan got me so inspired. How did I do writing for these two? Any thoughts? Or you could just tell me your favorite part of "The Rings of Akhaten"! Thanks so much for reading, and please review!