THE DOCTOR'S STORIES
A/N: I apologise in advance if this chapter sounds a bit contrived. I really struggled to write this bit. It was harder than I expected!
"How long has it been?" Hope asked, lying with her back flat against the TARDIS floor. She didn't even care.
"I told you-"
"No-long, I know" she rolled over and looked up at him. He was still reading that goddamn book. "But still..." she whined. Hope felt like a 5 year-old in a very long and dull car trip. "I didn't sign up for this".
The Doctor gave a half-smile at that and closed his book. "We have lots to do! No time can be an awful lot of time! What do you say?" he asked, jumping up from his seat and twirling around the TARDIS console. "We can play chess!"
"I don't know how to play chess!"
He did a 360 degree turn on his heels. "We can learn how to play chess!" And winked at his own smart-ass comment.
Hope just laid there, with her chin propped up on her hands. "Uninteresting" she replied, defeated.
"We can compose an opera!"
"Write a novel!"
"Do some knitting!"
"No way, grandma!"
"Paint a portrait!"
"Already did, remember?" and she pointed at the freshly painted portrait of the Doctor that she had been working on. The title was "The Doctor Reads".
"Oh, yeah, you did. Nice job, by the way!" he winked at her. She liked watercolour, and so did the Doctor. The first days of Hope inside the TARDIS were quite pleasant - the Doctor took her to meet William Blake and Turner, two of Hope's favourites watercolour artists. And it was also during that first adventure that Hope lost her long braid. Long story short, she thought it was wiser to have short hair - god knows where else the Doctor would take her. Her long hair could be a disadvantage.
Hope rolled over and got up. "Seriously, Doctor... Just..."
"I don't know..." she shrugged, struggling with her words.
"What?" inquired the Doctor, curious.
Hope was fidgeting. "Well..."
"What?" insisted the Doctor.
"Tell me a story".
The Doctor frowned, but didn't hesitate: "Well, once upon a time there was a bear family..."
"No, Doctor!" she interrupted him, crossing her arms. "You know what I mean".
"What do you mean, Hope Lightfoot?"
"A story. One of your stories. The ones you don't tell me about".
It was the Doctor's turn to cross his arms and mumbled: "I always tell you my stories, Hope".
"No, Doctor. You just babble about them. You don't tell me things, you never do. Like, where did you meet Professor River Song? And what happened to Amy and Rory, or Rose and Sarah Jane? And why you never let me introduce you as my mate?" The Doctor bit his lower lip and looked down. "See, you don't really say anything... And there are people you don't even talk about! The TARDIS showed them to me once..."
"Did she?" he looked at the TARDIS console, a bit surprised. "You bad girl..." he admonished her.
"Well?" Hope insisted.
"Hope, they're all-"
"'Fine', I know. I know they're fine, but that's pretty much all I know. It seems that's the only thing they are, after all".
The Doctor reclined against the TARDIS console and frowned at Hope, still with his arms crossed. He was clearly uncomfortable, and Hope could read the worry and the sadness in the lines of his young yet ancient face. "Why the sudden interest, Hope?"
She was still sitting on the floor, like a child looking up at their parent. "I've always been interested, Doctor... You were the one who always changed the subject, whenever I asked".
He bit his lower lip and looked down at his own shoes. His next words were spoken in a very low, very sharp voice. "I told you, there were many people travelling with me during the years... But it ended" he looked down at her. "What could you possibly learn from my stories?"
"Well, how I will end up, for instance" she said, truthfully.
The Doctor grunted and turned around, gripping the TARDIS console. "I hate endings!"
"Figured that much" replied Hope. "Doctor..." she pleaded. "I bet you'd feel better if you talked to someone".
"Don't justify your curiosity, Hope Lightfoot" he warned, turning back to look at her. He wasn't mad. He was just... disappointed? Was that disappointment in his eyes? With himself?
Ouch, she thought. "Alright, then. Yes, I'm curious. But don't you think my curiosity is legit?"
The Doctor let out a unhappy growl, fidget on his feet, and sat down on the floor, facing Hope. "Alright, then. But don't you go thinking that I'll answer all of your questions or anything like that... Just some things", he warned.
"Sounds fair to me" she replied, trying to hold back her excitement. She knew that the Doctor's past was painful, so she felt awkward that she was basking on his misery to a certain degree. But it wasn't as if Hope wanted to know for the sake of knowing. She wanted to understand him and, more than that, she wanted to know if she could help him in any way. He had already done so much for her, and she felt so small and insignificant sometimes, while standing beside that wonderful man with so much knowledge and who had done her so much good. What could she possibly do to return all his favours?, she wondered.
The soothing humming of the TARDIS was still very faint, which meant she was still recalibrating... And that could take forever, as far as Hope was concerned.
"Ask away" he said, leaning back against the console.
"You said you had a family back on Gallifrey".
The Doctor looked at her.
And that was all he did. Hope could see it in his eyes: "don't go there". She dropped the subject. "Where is Rose, exactly? You told me she had gone away, and that you could never meet again... But where is she?"
"A parallel world" he answered quickly.
"Did you, like... Were you...?" she was embarrassed to ask. She didn't see the Doctor as someone who could have relationships. It was weird to imagine him romantically involved with anyone besides the TARDIS.
"Yes" he answered with hesitation. "Yes, we were".
"And will you ever see her again?"
His answers were almost emotionless now. "Would you want to see her again?"
"Alright then..." and she sighed. Was it always like that? When her time came, when she went away, would the Doctor not want to see her as well? "Do you check on any of the people you leave behind?"
"I didn't leave all of them behind. A lot of them left me".
She shook her head, finding it difficult to accept that. "Some left you? How could anyone leave this?" and she gestured in the general direction of the TARDIS around her, sceptical. The only way she'd leave the TARDIS would be if she died or if someone locked her away.
The Doctor smiled a sad smile. "For plenty of reasons..."
"Would you want them to come back?"
"Oh, god, no" he replied quickly.
"Not a single one?"
"Why would I? There's plenty of people to meet and..."
"What would be the point, Hope?" he asked her, and this time, he genuinely wanted an answer. He wanted her to tell him a good reason, so he could pursue the idea.
But Hope didn't have an answer for that. She didn't know what would be the point of that as well. "Not Rose, granted, she's in another universe, but the others... Maybe you could just, you know, drop by, visit them..." she thought for a second. "Why don't we go visit the Ponds? You said they were like family to you!" she said, in an attempt to cheer him up a bit. She could feel his mood quickly descending into a pit of self commiseration, and she was starting to regret her curiosity.
"Can't. They're stuck in a time glitch, I can never go there".
"Oh" Hope felt like she had been stabbed in the guts. "What about..."
"No, Hope, stop it" the Doctor was fed up. "They're gone, for one reason or another, and I don't have the right to pop into their lives again and mess it up again. They came, we had adventures, and they went. That's it".
"Is that how is going to be with me, then? I'm here, we have adventures... Until, what? Until you find someone else, fresher and brighter? Until I marry someone? And that would be it, I'd never see you again in my life?"
He gave her a sideways glance, but he didn't deny anything that she said. He just stood there, waiting for her next question. Hope felt like descending into that same pit of self commiseration as the Doctor.
"Who is Donna Noble, Doctor?" she asked. She had been meaning to ask that since the beginning, but didn't expect to see the Doctor so sad when she mentioned that name.
The TARDIS had shown her a lot of the Doctor's companions, and at that time, Hope knew almost all of them by name, at least the most recent ones. The Doctor had told stories where he mentioned Rose, and Martha Jones (who she knew was working for UNIT), Mickey, the Ponds, River Song, Captain Jack Harkness, even the unfortunate story of one Adam, who turned out to be trouble. From recent years, she recognised the names as the TARDIS screened them for her... That is, up until Donna Noble's face and name appeared. Hope didn't remember the Doctor mentioning her. Not once, and that intrigued Hope to no end.
The Doctor gave a sad smile. "She was the one who called me Spaceman" he said, and Hope remembered him mentioning a couple of times a friend who did so. "She went to the Oodsphere with me, and remember when I told you about Agatha Christie? She was there, too".
"Well... Did she... Died?"
"No, she's alive and well. Very rich now, living with a lovely husband on Earth".
"Hmm" she mumbled, a bit confused. "That sounds nice".
"Yeah, it does" but the Doctor couldn't sound more miserable when telling a happy ending.
"So why you never mentioned her? What happened?"
"Nothing happened" he replied, getting up from the floor and circling the console, as if he was checking up on the TARDIS readings. "Not in her point of view, anyway" he mumbled, gloomily.
"Wait" Hope knew she was getting somewhere here, and she wasn't as excited as she thought she would be. She was feeling dread instead of joy. "What does that mean, 'not in her point of view'? Who was she, Doctor? What happened to her?"
He sighed. "She was my best friend... And, at least in a way, she died for me". The deep sound of sorrow filled the Doctor's voice.
"Did she... betray you or something?"
"No, nothing of the sort".
"Did you have an argument, did she kill an innocent?"
"Did she abandon you?"
"Not at all" he replied, all the while not looking Hope in the eyes. "She was my best friend, Hope. We had the best of times, and she understood me like nobody else did. She helped me in so many ways... She was brilliant".
"Doctor!" Hope was getting impatient. "What happened to her? What could possibly happen for you to leave such a wonderful person behind?"
The Doctor made an enormous effort to raise his head and look Hope in the eyes. He was drowning in sorrow, and Hope could only watch. "I did".