A Teaspoon And An Open Mind: A Doctor Who Fan Fiction Archive
Ninth Doctor
The Ragged Edge by Jonquil [Reviews - 23] Printer
Author's Notes:
Thanks to Nestra for beta, as well as for many other things. No spoilers.


On Gallifrey, each baby falls down only once.

The first time it's a surprise; after that, the babies recognize all the possible futures that lead to falling and avoid them. Gallifreyans are good little children, learning instantaneously and permanently from each mistake.

Long ago, when he still had a name, the infant Doctor fell so often that his parents took him to a specialist, afraid that his centers of balance were so badly damaged that he could not visualize any stable future. No, the specialist had said, he seems just to like falling down.

It turned out to be an omen. Other children failed one test, found the consequences unpleasant, and succeeded brilliantly thereafter. This child failed, found it intriguing, and then sought out a new way to achieve the same result. Having his homework sucked into a time vortex. Regressing to infancy just as the oral examination began. Speaking only in rhymed couplets. (That one actually earned him a spectacular pass, after which he refused ever to do it again.)

Other Gallifreyans stuck to the broad golden center of the probability tree, the path that led to 99%, 97%, or, at absolute worst, 95.5% probability of success. Venturing into the low nineties was vulgar, sensation-seeking. The Doctor frolicked about in the forties. Nobody was surprised when the Doctor decided that Gallifrey offered insufficient scope for thrill-seeking and sallied off to (shudder) influence the universe.

People who weren't Time Lords (and hardly anybody was) perceived the Doctor's subsequent actions as random. A broken teacup here, a proffered jelly baby there, a frantic dash down six or seven corridors, and suddenly the day was saved. How lucky the Doctor was, and how ridiculous. He didn't tell his companions that it took intense focus to be capricious enough to discover the path to stability. On Gallifrey, it had been trivial to keep the time stream smooth and ordered; a million gentle nudges reproved it when it became the least bit unsettled. Out in the wilderness, it took a precise, delicate touch to influence the raging torrents of consequence into the proper channel. The path to the happy ending often began well out at the borders of possibility, in a time-tree that had only a 1% chance of succeeding at its branching point.

Every moment he walks through a branching and rebranching tree of possibility. The small adjustments are reflexive. He doesn't spill his tea unless it seems useful. He doesn't bump into things unless he has decided to explore the aesthetic qualities of bruises -- he was exceptionally bored that week; fortunately, the universe needed saving within a few days.

Since he met Rose, he has begun to stumble, to collide. She thinks he's just making chances for a quick grab, and she's not entirely wrong. But the real reason is that he's ignoring the probability tree, not very successfully but with great determination. When lives are at stake, he opens himself to the universe, makes the necessary changes, and then shuts himself off again. There are some books he simply doesn't want to read.

There is no future in which she survives him.
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