I envy not in any moods
The captive void of noble rage,
The linnet born within the cage,
That never knew the summer woods:
I envy not the beast that takes
His license in the field of time,
Unfetter’d by the sense of crime,
To whom a conscience never wakes;
Nor, what may count itself as blest,
The heart that never plighted troth
But stagnates in the weeds of sloth;
Nor any want-begotten rest.
I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
’Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
“I’m Henry the Eighth, I am, Henry the Eighth, I am, I am. I got married to the widow next door — she’s been married seven times before — and every one was an Henry…” The Doctor stopped singing and cleared his throat pointedly. “Rose?”
“‘enry,” she repeated, and then returned to trying to salvage her ruined fingernails with an emery board made from a hunk of dried root.
“Wouldn’t have a Willy or a Sam…” He waited, but she said nothing. “Look, do you want to be backup or not?”
“You, Miss Rosie Tyler, are a party pooper.”
“And you, you nameless alien git, are tone deaf.”
He gasped, deeply insulted. “I am not!” There was a grunt as he pulled himself up to the hole in the wall between them. “You take that back.”
“Which bit? The part about you being nameless? Or the part about you being a tin-eared alien git?”
“Wouldn’t have a Willy or a Sam…” the Doctor sang, very loudly and very, very off-key. She stayed stubbornly silent. “I say, a Willy or a Samsamsamsamsamsamsam–”
“All right, you bloody lunatic,” she shouted over him. “Or a Sam!”
“I’m her eighth old man, I’m Henry. Henry the Eighth I am!” he crowed. “Two hundred and twenty-seventh verse, same as the first. A little bit louder,” he shouted, “and a little bit–”
The howl sounded again. They both froze in the silence that followed.
“It’s getting closer,” she said finally, breaking the eerie stillness.
“Sounds like it, yeah.” The forced nonchalance of his words did nothing to ease the chills along her spine.
Rose dropped the hunk of root and stood. “I’m sure of it, now. It’s definitely coming from the tunnel.” She took a hesitant step towards the passage that led from her cavern into darkness. “And you’re sure the singing is a good idea?”
“Oh, absolutely, my dear. Nothing better to frighten the beast away.”
“I know I’m terrified.” She paused. “Did you just call me ‘my dear’?”
“No,” he said quickly. “Definitely not.”
She smiled at the panic in his voice. “I think you did.”
“Did,” she teased.
“Did!” he concluded triumphantly. Then he realized. “Oh. Blast.”
She snickered. “I can’t believe you fell for that.”
“You may have noticed I’m not exactly operating at full capacity. Few screws loose. Some of the lights upstairs could do with replacing. Bats in the belfry got into the liquor again.” She heard him slide back to the rocky floor. “But seriously, have you ever seen a drunken bat? Not just tipsy, that’s nothing to toot your horn about, but a bat that’s really, truly pissed?” He laughed. “I get dizzy just thinking about it.” There was a pause. “Or maybe that’s the hole in the back of my head.”
Rose bit her lip. “Speaking of which–”
He groaned. “Rose, how many times do I have to tell you? I’m fine.”
“It’s funny. Normally you’re such a good liar.”
“Oh, me-ow! Little Miss Kitty’s got her claws out,” he said in a strangely American purr. There was an awkward silence. “All right, so maybe I’m not exactly fine.”
“But you could be fine. You could heal yourself.”
“And I will, just as soon as we get back to the TARDIS,” he replied tersely. This was the fourth time they’d had this conversation in as many hours, and he hadn’t had much patience to begin with. Unfortunately for him, it took more than a cranky Time Lord to intimidate Rose Tyler.
“The longer you wait the worse it gets, and we still have hours until the sun rises.”
“I see your point, but there’s one thing you seem to be forgetting–” He sneezed violently, sending up a cloud of ashes. “Here there be monsters. Or a monster, at least, and while it is perhaps simply either very lonely or suffering from severe constipation, it may also be hungry.”
Rose tried not to think about the last time she herself had eaten, though her stomach rather persistently reminded her that she hadn’t touched a thing since the piece of toast she’d scarfed down in her mother’s kitchen early that morning, nearly fourteen hours ago. “You really don’t know what this ‘monster’ is?”
“I have a hunch,” he said, his voice chipper and evasive. “I think we should get back to Henry. I’ll sing backup this time, if you like.”
“What’s your hunch?”
“My hunch is that it would be best for both of us if my hunch stayed just that — a hunch.” He blew a rather loud raspberry and she jumped at the sound. “Hunch hunch hunch hunch hunch. Isn’t it funny how words are just noise? Say them often enough and they don’t mean anything at all.” He spoke in a deep, ringing voice. “Dónde está el baño? Where is the bathroom? Me gusta la biblioteca. I enjoy the library. Yo tengo muchos gatos. I have many cats.” There was a significant pause. “Shifty creatures, cats. You can see it in their eyes.”
“I like cats,” Rose said hesitantly.
“Well, aren’t you just a puddle of gravy,” he snapped nonsensically, and she flinched. “Braca venusta, indeed. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it a conspiracy of misinformation.”
Rose rubbed her eyes hard, the sinking dread that accompanied these outbursts of gibberish returning. “Doctor, are you…what does that mean?”
“Hunch — a guess or feeling not based on known facts, an intuition,” he replied serenely, as if he hadn’t just been in the middle of a hissy fit about cats. At least, she thought it had been about cats. It wasn’t the first time in the past few hours he’d let loose a stream of nonsense and been unable to remember it afterwards. “Also, to round one’s back by bending and drawing the shoulders forward.”
She stepped up to the hole in the wall and looked through. “Doctor?”
“I’m scared,” she said softly.
She heard him leap to his feet, then fall back down again. After a moment, his face was framed by the hole in the wall that separated them. “You never say that. Never.”
“I figure that in most of our life or death situations it rather goes without saying. But this is different.”
“It isn’t, though,” he argued. “It isn’t even life or death. It’s boredom or mild panic. A game of I Spy or running about a bit.”
“Running about? You can barely stand.” Before he could get out more than a squawk of objection, she continued, “You’re getting worse. It’s scaring me.”
His face was in shadow, but even so she could see that he didn’t know what to say to that. “Well, you…your mum scares me all the time, and you don’t hear me complaining, do you?”
She laughed weakly. “You’re joking, right? You? Not complain about my mum?”
“That is entirely beside the point.” His head snapped forward suddenly and he sneezed. He looked down. “That’s interesting,” he said blandly. “I think a bit of my brain just came out my nose.”
“Aw, I was only teasing.” He sneezed again. “And it’s not like I don’t have brain to spare. I could give handouts and still have more than enough for myself. In fact, I could ride through the streets of London tossing out brain bouquets with little sprigs of potpourri–” He stopped, then leaned forward and pointed a finger at her inquisitorially. “Oi, what is potpourri, anyway? All the things I know, all the things I’ve seen, and I still have no bloody idea what potpourri is made of.”
His hands were shaking, the tremors clearly visible as he gestured. Rose felt cold despite the warmth of the dirt wall. “It’s…um, dried flowers and bark and stuff, I think.”
“Brilliant!” he cried, nearly toppling over in his excitement. “Just brilliant. Remember that, Rose — that is the stench of human ingenuity. Potpourri,” he said again, savouring the word. “With such things in the world, how can you worry? Everything’s fine. We’re fine.”
“I’m fine,” Rose said under her breath.
“You, missy, have great gaping holes in your hands.”
She shot back, “Better than great gaping holes in my–”
“I’m not leaving you alone,” he snapped. “If I go into a healing trance, you won’t be able to wake me until it’s complete. I don’t care if that howling is nothing more than a fluffy kitten with a kidney stone — I’m not leaving you.”
Her first instinct was to argue, to remind him that she wasn’t completely helpless, thank you, and that there were some things she could handle on her own. The small part of her that was still angry with him wanted to point out that, conscious or not, he wasn’t going to be much good to her in his current condition and on the other side of that damned wall. He was being overprotective and irrational, which…
Which, whatever his usual faults, was entirely unlike him.
Inane babbling was one thing, but this complete disregard for reason was disturbing. She watched as he seemed to take great interest in a bit of root that protruded from the dirt of the wall. She wondered if this was another symptom of his injury or if he was simply avoiding looking at her. Her voice wavered when she finally replied, “How exactly do you propose we play I Spy? I mean, we’re not even in the same room.”
He looked up from the root and beamed crookedly at her. “Listen and learn, Ms. Tyler.” He cleared his throat dramatically. “I spy with my little eye something beginning with the letter ‘h’.”
“Hole,” Rose said immediately.
“Yep. Your turn.”
“I…um…I spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘d’.”
“That’s…” she giggled a bit, despite the rising panic. “That’s amazing.”
The Doctor laughed. “Isn’t it? Just proves how perfectly in tune we are.” He jumped up and down excitedly. “Oh, oh, oh! I know the very next place we’ll go when we get back to the TARDIS. Earth, England, Carlisle. 1971, I think. We’ll wipe the floor with those old bats.”
Oh dear, Rose thought. More bats. “Which old bats are these, then?”
“Our fellow contestants on Mr. & Mrs. of course. Do try to keep up, Rose. It’ll be your fault if we get sent home with nothing more than that stupid carriage clock.” He sighed. “Honestly, I’m more than nine hundred years old. Do you have any idea how many carriage clocks you accumulate in nine hundred years?”
She gave a nervous little shrug. “I don’t know. How many?”
“Seventeen.” He clapped. “Or, even better, The Newlywed Game, Los Angeles, 1966. A good bit racier — Americans, you know — but with far better prizes. The TARDIS could use a new washer and dryer. With our inexplicable bond, we’re a shoe-in. Piece of cake. Easy peasy.” Suddenly coming to a disturbing realization, he stopped bouncing. “Oh, Rose,” he said, his tone dire. “You and I have never made whoopee.”
For a moment, Rose was quite sure she was hallucinating. “Sorry, what?”
“Sex, Rose. We have never had sex,” he enunciated carefully. “Sexual intercourse, carnal gymnastics, a bit of the old in and out. What, do I have to draw you a diagram?” He dragged his hand over his face. “Bob always asks about whoopee, nosy bugger. We can’t win without it.” He sighed explosively. “You humans and your sexual hang ups. If it weren’t for your prudery, I’d have an ultra modern Whirlpool washer dryer combo in avocado green by now.”
She had about two dozen things to say to him at that moment, things like If Time Lords call it whoopee, then no wonder you never get a shag and Who the hell is Bob?, but what actually came out of her mouth was, “My sexual hang ups?”
He laughed rather nastily. “Oh, so now I’m the reason we don’t have sex? Pull the other one, Rose.”
Rose slumped against the wall and closed her eyes. “This isn’t happening,” she murmured to herself. “It’s a nightmare, a terrible, terrible dream, and when you wake up you will no longer be going mad.”
“Going mad, are you? Congratulations! Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke.” He reached through the hole, grabbed her hand, and shook it vigorously. “I’m the Doctor, by the way. What’s your name?”
She stared at him, taking in his unsettlingly vague expression and polite smile. “That’s not funny.”
“Sorry, was it supposed to be? Let me give it another go.” He continued to pump her hand up and down, and said solemnly, “I’m the Doctor, by the way. Ooga booga.” He grinned. “Funny?”
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