As soon as he woke up, the Doctor knew something was wrong.
He shot straight up in bed, disoriented, and it took him a moment to figure out that his room smelled quite unusual. It didn’t usually smell of flowers and laundry and also, there wasn’t usually something warm lying right next to him-
The Doctor squeaked quietly as he fell out of the bed onto the cold floor, his limbs flailing in surprise. His mind whirred as he tried to find an explanation for this sudden incongruity in his normal morning routine. The loops of wire and sheaves of notes that he had fallen asleep on top of last night hadn’t suddenly morphed into a living body, had they? Not unless he’d let the blue and purple wires touch, creating a temporary animated-sentience field response in the surrounding matter, and he would never be so careless...
Silently and deliberately, he gripped the bed-frame and lifted himself up, peering over the edge.
Amelia Pond stirred, groaned, and turned over in bed, burying her long red hair beneath her blanket, but she did not wake up.
Sinking back onto the floor, the Doctor bit his lip and furrowed his brow. How on earth did Amy get into his room?
But then- this wasn’t his room! The ceiling was at the wrong angle and the bronze roundels on the walls were in the wrong patterns and then there was that smell again!
He lifted his hand to rub his chin in thought as his gaze roamed around the strange room, but he missed and ended up poking
himself in the eye.
“Ouch!” he hissed, and went to rub at his eye with his wrist. But he missed again, and smacked himself in the forehead with a bony arm.
Now, the Doctor would admit that he was a naturally clumsy person. But two instances of accidental self-injury in a row was a shocking lack of coordination on his part, quite above and beyond his normal slight wibbliness.
As his quick mind moved at a great speed through thousands of possible reasons for this recent string of strange happenings, a sneaking suspicion began to occur to him.
Slowly, the Doctor ran a hand through his hair- hair that was usually long and thick and resiliently untameable. But the strands he felt were short and straight and thin, and as he moved down his face he felt a brow that was flatter and eyebrows that were coarser and a nose that was much, much longer than usual.
“No... no!” he whispered incredulously.
Could it be- had he regenerated during the night? Had he been slipped poison while sleeping, had both his hearts been stopped at once by a remote electric pulse? He didn’t feel that different, though, his mind felt unchanged...
“No!” he murmured again, and, as he probed farther down this strange body, he encountered something that made him have to practically restrain himself from shouting out loud and waking Amy.
The Doctor was missing a heart.
He scrambled to his feet and dashed out of the room into the connecting bathroom next door, careening around the corner and, with a huge amount of racket, crashing straight into a pair of metal cabinets. Pill bottles and toiletries spilled all over the floor.
He recovered himself quickly, ignoring the mess he’d made, and stood up again, his knee aching from the impact. The Doctor looked in the mirror.
Amy’s voice came from the bedroom, groggy: “What’s going on in there?”
He didn’t respond; it wasn’t even like he had the capability to at this point. He stared at his reflection in the mirror unblinkingly, a mirror showing a face that was most certainly not the Doctor’s.
Again, Amy’s voice came from the other room.
“What’s happened? What’s going on?”
The face staring at the Doctor was a face looking as scared and bewildered as the Doctor felt, but a face that was not his own: it was that of his companion, one Rory Williams-Pond.
“Rory? Are you okay?”
Footsteps were heard, and then the silhouette of Amy Pond appeared suddenly in the doorway to the bathroom. She had a concerned look on her face as she scanned the floor that was littered with toiletries.
She was also quite naked.
Rory turned over in bed and went to cuddle with Amy, but she wasn’t there.
He was awake immediately, a tiny shot of adrenalin coursing through his body as it always did when Amy wasn’t present. It was absolutely unreasonable, of course; she had probably gone to the loo or something. But he couldn’t help it.
Sitting up, he went to rub the sleep out of his eyes, and was a bit bemused when he missed and knocked himself on the forehead instead.
Chalking it up to exhaustion (they’d gotten back to the TARDIS late after a wild night on the town in the sprawling Lohtis-Jaleeha Metropolis of Mocine IX), Rory swung his legs over the side of the bed and padded sleepily to the bathroom to brush his teeth.
He then proceeded to faint, and hit the floor with a loud thunk.
Last night had been crazy, even by regular traveling-with-the-Doctor standards. After ridding the sewers of the huge city of a stinking arachnid menace whose name was unpronounceable by the human (or Time Lord, for that matter) vocal system, with the help of a conveniently placed street musician and a ball of exotic purple twine, Amy, Rory and the Doctor had celebrated their victory by going out to dinner.
However, their happiness had been short-lived.
Amy had gone to use the bathroom, and as she retreated between the crowded tables of the hazy, dim-lit restaurant, Rory had taken the opportunity to bring up something that had been bothering him ever since their underground escapades.
“I still can’t believe you didn’t think to close the door behind us after letting the- the, er, the spi- that thing into our branch of the sewer,” muttered Rory, picking over his food.
“I told you, Rory, it couldn’t have gotten to us!” said the Doctor. “I’d planted the twine in three separate places along the tunnel, and-”
“I know what you did, Doctor. I was there. But Amy-”
The Doctor groaned. “Amy was fine! The tentacles couldn’t reach her, I made sure-”
“But there was no way you could have known that the sewers had stunted its growth! She could have died down there, don’t deny it, all because you were reckless and didn’t close the-”
Throwing his hands up into the air, the Doctor practically shouted, “So I’m reckless! So I’m just a little bit irresponsible! News-flash, Mister Pond, I saved the lives of everyone in this city down there, and our lives as well, and if you want to just-”
“I do ‘want to just,’ as a matter of fact, and-”
“Look, if you could just see this from my point of view, I think you’d-”
“Well, if you could stop being so bloody self-centered and realize what’s going on right now in my head, I-”
“May I offer you something to drink, good sirs?”
A waitress arriving at the table suddenly interrupted their argument. The Doctor and Rory hadn’t even realized that they had gotten to their feet, but there they were, breathing heavily, fists clenched. Slowly, they sat down, glaring at each other.
The waitress, dressed in a shimmering scarlet toga and matching veil, repeated herself.
“May I offer you anything to drink, sirs?”
“Not right now, thank you very much,” said Rory through gritted teeth, eyes still locked on the Doctor.
“I recommend the Elixir of True Seeing, my good sirs. It is one of our most popular offerings.” And seemingly from nowhere, she pulled out a blown-glass bottle full of a deep purple liquid. White vapor floated on its surface and out the neck of the bottle, suffusing the air with an enticingly fruity scent.
“Thank you, but no thank you,” said the Doctor, waving the waitress away with one hand while keeping his eyes fixed on Rory. Underneath the table, he was digging his nails into his knee.
“Oh, my good sirs, I really do insist you try it,” said the waitress, and produced two glasses into which she quickly and skillfully poured the drink.
“No, we-” began the Doctor.
“Free of charge, just for you,” she said, and quickly vanished into the haze before they could protest any more.
The Doctor stared dully down at the smoking drink. He raised the glass to eye level and inspected it, turning it around and then sniffing it. Proceeding to dip a finger in it, he licked his finger, and then, satisfied, he lifted the glass to his lips.
“You’re... just going to drink it?” said Rory.
“Why shouldn’t I just drink it?” said the Doctor, setting down the glass slowly and giving Rory a glare.
“Well, let’s see, shall we,” said Rory sardonically. “You were given a drink, free of charge, by a veiled waitress in a dimly-lit, smoky restaurant on an alien planet. The drink is purple and steaming. For gods’ sake, do you even have any common sense whatsoever-”
“Quite a lack of it, in fact,” retorted the Doctor, “and seeing as I’m 908 years old and still puffing along quite happily, it seems to have served me quite well. And I’ll drink to that.”
Rory scoffed. “What, drink to your lack of common sense?”
“And my intelligence, and perspicacity, and capriciousness, and-”
“Now you’re just bragging.”
“I am not! You know, dear old Rory, anyone else in this body-” and here he gestured at his own lanky, long-legged figure “-or any of my other bodies, for that matter, would simply be just another musty, ancient alien. They’re a dime a dozen out here. It’s me and my, well, charming qualities, that get all the work done.”
And with that, the Doctor downed his drink in one gulp.
Wiping his mouth, he said: “And if you’re not going to drink, then I will gladly take your glass. This elixir is intoxicatingly delicious.”
With determination and one last glare in the Doctor’s direction, Rory lifted his glass, gazed at the purple liquid inside, and, taking a deep breath, swallowed it down.
Amy chose this point to return to the table.
“Can you believe that they have a separate loo for the giant bugs?” she giggled as she sat down, completely and utterly unaware of the tension between Rory and the Doctor. “Giant bugs! Going to the loo, just like us!”
“Just like us,” said the Doctor. He gave Rory a long look, a look just a little bit longer than it needed to be. “Just like us.”
“Rory... what’s wrong?” Amy repeated.
The Doctor’s mind was whizzing along at double its normal speed (and that was really saying something) but it still wasn’t enough for him to come up with something to say that wasn’t “I’M NOT YOUR HUSBAND, THIS IS ALL A BIG MISTAKE!” or
“You’re... naked!” and he was fairly sure that both of those would sound very strange coming out of the mouth of Rory. And the Doctor had a hunch that it was in Amy’s best interest not to become aware of what was going on.
He didn’t want to raise any suspicions, so, without saying a word, he quickly scooted around Amy (attempting not to touch her unclothed form) and ran full-pelt out of the room, still wearing Rory’s cotton pyjamas.
In retrospect, this act had probably made her more suspicious than anything the Doctor could have said aloud.
He leaped over the laundry bin in Amy and Rory’s room, heading for the corridor that led to the control room of the TARDIS, but he undershot and toppled over, spilling clothes all over the floor and landing flat on his back. This body was going to take some getting used to- but he hoped desperately that getting used to it wouldn’t become something he’d end up having to do at all.
Amy was approaching him, coming out of the bathroom, looking very worried indeed, and, yes, still also very naked. Attempting to get up without moving his eyes in her direction, the Doctor scrambled backwards, legs pushing against the floor.
“Er... uh... I’m fine, Amy, really,” said the Doctor, wincing internally as a voice that was most certainly not his issued from his mouth. “I’ve just... er, got something to do-” he was on his feet now, finally, and he gestured out of the doorway down the hall “-got to talk to Ro- the Doctor, I mean, got to, er, tell him something-”
And with that, he backed out of the bedroom and then turned and ran towards the control room, leaving a very confused Amy standing there, wondering what exactly had just happened.
The Doctor collided into something hard in the corridor. He fell backwards, still not used to his newly positioned center of gravity- and his balance wasn’t exactly helped by the fact that without his two hearts he felt so asymmetrical.
He opened his eyes, and then immediately shut them tight again.
Slowly, he squinted. Was it- could it be-? His eyes were fully open now, and there could be no doubt as to what he was seeing.
It was like staring into a mirror, except- no, not really, because if he stared into a mirror he’d see the quite frankly ridiculous face of Rory staring right back. What he was seeing now was what he’d see if he had looked into a mirror this time yesterday, or the day before that, or the day before that- all the way back to his most recent regeneration. Floppy hair, largish chin, distinct lack of eyebrows, handsome as could be- but this face was coaxed into an expression that the Doctor doubted he’d ever worn himself: utterly terrified and bewildered. The Doctor felt a wave of secondhand embarrassment wash over him. His poor body! What torture was it being subjected to?
He stood up, brushing invisible dust off of the pyjamas he wore. Quite stiff and uncomfortable pyjamas they were, too, nothing like the soft and luxurious pink spun-silk ones he usually wore, purchased in a street market from an invertebrate vendor in the capital city of the Xoorish Collective and now currently being worn by someone he could only infer (by the process of elimination) to be Rory Williams-Pond himself- the man of the hour.
“Please give me back my pyjamas, Rory,” the Doctor sighed.
It was odd watching his own face move in ways he wasn’t commanding it to, but then again it must have been even more foreign for Rory. Rory had never experienced such a radical change in form, as the Doctor had so many times. Not only had the Doctor gone through numerous regenerations, but he’d also been possessed, hypnotised, stored in jars, ascended to a higher plane of existence, had his consciousness transplanted temporarily into a potato- he could go on and on. Rory, on the other hand, was a boy from Leadworth who, before he’d met the Doctor, had never gone farther than Glasgow on a school trip. So, the Doctor thought, if he himself was a bit confused, think of the turmoil that was erupting in Rory’s mind at this very moment.
The Doctor didn’t answer for a moment; he was too entranced by the fact that he was watching someone else move his own mouth. It was a very nice mouth, wasn’t it, though...?
He snapped out of his reverie. “Oh, yes, Rory, what were you saying?” Then the Doctor let out a laugh. “More like, what was I saying, you know-”
The face before him wore an almost painfully contorted expression of worry and fear, and with a sudden rush of empathy, the Doctor realized that perhaps it was not really the time for jokes.
Usually he would have reached out a hand and patted Rory on the shoulder or kissed him on the forehead or snubbed his nose or something like that, but right now, he didn’t exactly feel comfortable doing that to, well- to himself.
The Doctor gave the person in front of him a quick once-over, gazing intently at every inch of his body. That was the body of his eleventh incarnation, all right, pink pajamas and all. But the eyes- those eyes were young eyes, seeming so utterly out of place on a body he knew to be centuries old.
“It’s going to be all right,” he said, in a vain attempt to bring some calm into the situation, but it just didn’t sound the same.
“Don’t speak- don’t think about it,” said the Doctor, putting a finger up to his lips and subsequently realized it would probably be comforting for him not speak, either, but he couldn’t just not talk, could he? “I’ll have it all sorted out in a few minutes, just come down to the control room with me, don’t worry, there must have been some mistake-”
The Doctor looked down at what he was wearing, distracted. “I don’t understand how you can sleep comfortably in these wretched pyjamas!” he exclaimed. “They’re so stiff!”
Rory was (understandably) silent. Then, slowly, as though it was almost painful to hear himself speak, he said: “I’m... I’m going to go get dressed, then.” He winced visibly, biting his lip, the sound of the Doctor’s voice issuing from his lips almost too much to bear.
The Doctor slowly nodded in agreement, and then looked back up suddenly. Something had just occurred to him- something extremely important, something urgent and pressing that mattered more than anything else.
“Rory... you do know how to tie a bow-tie, right?”
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