"That," said Rose, "was amazing."
"It was okay," said her partner, whom she still called 'Doctor' on account of how he hadn't yet found a name that fit.
"Mmmm," said Rose, dreamily. Then her hormone-addled brain caught up with her ears and she said, "wait, what?"
The Doctor shrugged. "The way people go on about it, I thought the human male orgasm was something special." He pushed the blankets aside and went into the bathroom. "I mean," he added, "it wasn't bad. Just not all it was cracked up to be." He switched the light on and stared grimly at his reflection. "A wrinkle! I think I have a wrinkle!"
"I'll give you a wrinkle if you don't shut up," Rose murmured. "Come back to bed, Doctor."
"One orgasm, and it's over as soon as it's started. And now I'm getting wrinkles. Is this what I've come to?" He ran a hand through his hair. Male pattern baldness, and no new body to fix it. Oh the humanity, and all that. "I was human, that one time. But he was too busy being ashamed of his sinful fleshly desires to take notes on his orgasms. I should have been paying more attention. And poor Martha had to wash my sheets. She probably knows all about male multiple orgasms. Probably did a course on it in med school. Or something."
Rose snored gently.
The Doctor climbed back into bed, and wondered if there was an appropriate time to tell your universe-traversing girlfriend that you were maybe sort of a bit gay now. You were a strident red-haired woman in a skinny man's body. Or something. One thing about Donna, she'd been utterly certain of her heterosexuality, and the only clitoris she was interested in was her own.
"I wish I had a clitoris," the Doctor mumbled into his pillow.
"That's nice," said Rose.
"I miss my boobs, too."
This time, Rose said nothing.
In the end, he went to sleep.
"I think I have clitoris-envy," said the Doctor.
"Ah," said the Torchwood-mandated psychologist, making a note. "Tell me about your mother."
"Um," said the Doctor, "she's nothing special. Always on at me to get a proper job, find a husband, pop out some kids -- wait, no. I mean -- she's dead. My mum. My whole family's dead." He tugged at his earlobe. "Also, my brother seduced my best friend. This was before I knew her -- she was his student -- but it was a bit awkward."
"Tell me about that," said the psychologist.
"Er ... it was awkward? Also the three of us were in a fairly life-threatening situation when we found out, which wasn't really conducive to deep and meaningful conversation. Did I mention that my best friend was also my lover? Because we had sex. Frequent, satisfying sex, in a relationship of mutual honesty, which is a lot better than seducing your student when she's barely out of her first century, but that's probably all you get when you're a giant prat." He trailed off. "They're both dead, now."
"I tried wearing my girlfriend's knickers, but they didn't fit."
The psychologist made another note.
"Frankly, this would be a lot easier if I could just get a new body. Are those lollipops? Can I have one?" The Doctor opened the jar without waiting for permission. "Anyway, this has been great, really helpful, I've really come to terms with, um, stuff."
"Can I go back to saving the world from aliens now?"
"In the kitchen," he called, adjusting the hot plate.
"Sorry I'm late, I came straight from the airbase. I got some vodka for Mum and Dad, and some of those little Russian dolls for Tony, and I just couldn't be bothered going past the office with all that stuff -- you should have seen St Petersberg, it's amazing -- all these big monuments and stuff, not that I got to see much, apart from Trotsky's body -- anyway," Rose gave him a bright smile and reached for a bottle of wine, "how's work."
"Brilliant," said the Doctor, adding lemongrass to the stir-fry. "I got fired!"
"That's -- wait, what?" Rose paused, corkscrew in her hand. "Is this about that psychologist, 'cos Dad told me he didn't give a damn about your maternal neuroses, as long as you weren't going to go all genocidal -- do you want me to talk to him?"
"It's not about the psychologist."
"I sort of may have damaged the dimensional cannon a bit."
"Oh," said Rose again.
"I sort of blew it up, actually."
"By sort of, you mean--"
"Okay," said Rose. Her jaw was set.
"Okay what?" said the Doctor. "Aren't you ... angry? You spent a few years directing that project, didn't you? Pete said it was your baby. Metaphorically speaking, I mean, not like he saw it as a substitute grandchild. Although, the way he acted--"
"Right now," said Rose, "I'm feeling ... sort of like I want to drive this corkscrew through your eyeball. I think that's anger."
"You blew it up?"
"We can rebuild it."
"I also wiped all the files." He gave her a winsome -- he hoped -- smile. "It's just too dangerous -- people aren't supposed to have that sort of power. Not even my people."
"We're your people, now," said Rose, crossing her arms, "and you're an arrogant prick who thinks that being an ex-alien gives you the right to play God."
"I'm the same as I've always been!" the Doctor protested, not entirely truthfully.
"Yeah," said Rose, "that's sort of the problem." She threw the corkscrew onto the table. "I'm going out. Might have dinner with Mum and Dad." She grabbed the car keys. "I'll be back late. Don't wait up."
"I nicked some stationery," the Doctor called after her. "A three-hole punch, and some staplers. Can't have too many staplers. And some post-it notes, and all of Accounting's pens, 'cos they're stuck up pricks, the lot of them--"
The door slammed.
"I like stationery," the Doctor said sadly.
The problem with being human, the Doctor decided, was that it made being the last of the Time Lords look like a walk in the park. A park full of muggers, monsters and tentacle creatures, true, but it was better than the alternative.
"Don Noble," he said. "Do you like it?"
Rose frowned. She'd been doing a lot of that, lately. "It makes you sound like a gigolo," she said.
"Oh, that's nice. How many gigolos do you know?" He tried to hold his tongue, but some dark, unspeakable Donna-part of his brain compelled him to add, "blondie."
Rose sighed, and didn't answer.
"No point in being John Smith again. Might as well call myself John Citizen. Imagine the credit card applications. We had one this week, man calling himself--"
"You should get a proper job," said Rose. "It's a waste, your brains and experience in an office."
"I have a proper job! I'm a temp!"
Rose said nothing.
"Shorthand, filing, hundred words a minute, plus I helped a family of Harvvian refugees sort out their credit histories last month."
"Aliens? Why didn't you call Torchwo--?"
"And anyway," the Doctor ignored her, "least I'm not messing about with the walls of reality. That's the problem with you lot--"
"Oh, so it's my lot now?"
"Humans! The whole lot of you running around, hitting buttons--" Not that he didn't like a nice button, especially if it was red, but at least he usually had a pretty good idea of what they did, and if he didn't, he could shout at them--
He was just working up to a good tirade when Rose said, "I don't think I want to do this anymore."
"Oh," he said.
"You and me, I mean."
"I mean," said Rose, "you're kind of ... unstable. And obnoxious, not in a good way. And I don't think you like having sex with me anymore." This last was delivered in a rush.
"It's not you," he said, "I mean, it sort of is, because you're a girl, and Donna's straight, and I've always been a bit gay, so together..." He shrugged.
"Also, it's a bit weird, how you're, um, part Donna. Not that I didn't like her, but ... I liked her better in her own body."
"Me too!" said the Doctor. "I tell you, you don't miss your tits until they're -- is this what you're talking about?"
"Yes," said Rose. "There are way too many people in this relationship, and most of them are in your body. Shouting."
He was on the verge of telling her that part of him came by the shouting honestly, but this probably wasn't the time to bring up his sixth incarnation.
"Martha was right," he said unhappily, "I'm a rubbish human."
So it turned out that he'd been wrong about humans all along. And right, too. They didn't just spend their lives mired in an eternal cycle of eat-work-reality TV-shag-sleep after all -- it was much worse than that: they recognised the cycle, they thought and created and consumed, fighting against their own mortality.
He'd never quite understood it before. Only now he was going to die, maybe not tomorrow (he hoped), but one day. And he was spending his finite life working and sleeping and watching reality TV shows about competitive hairdressing.
He was thinking about this as he left the office on a wet, cool evening in September. His flat was empty, and smelled faintly of cat. He went in the other direction. He thought he was wandering aimlessly, until he saw the newsstand, and the familiar red hat. Thank you, Donna.
He couldn't look at Wilf -- it was like being fifteen again, sneaking into the house after staying out to snog a boy, and Gramps had seen right through her in a second -- no, wait--
A by-line on one of the papers caught his eye, and he picked it up to read Sarah Jane Sullivan's report on questionable practices at a Bane bottling facility. She quoted Vitex magnate Pete Tyler saying, "The thing about 'organic' is that it can mean anything--"
"Am I running a library then?" said Wilf.
"Sorry, Gramps." He reached for his wallet. "Distracted."
"I reckon it's the government," said Wilf, nodding at Sarah Jane's article. "Putting stuff in our drinks to keep us distracted and happy. Bread and bloody circuses. That Tyler, he's in it up to his neck. You watch, it'll be the government behind this."
Wilf laughed. "What would aliens want with this old rock?" he said. "That Torchwood lot'd lock 'em up." He looked up, but no stars could be seen through the clouds. "Aliens have better places to be, son."
"Like that, is it?"
His smile faded. "You sound like my granddaughter."
"Is she single?" He'd meant it to sound slightly flirtatious -- in a respectful, talking-to-granddad-way. It came out sounding more desperate.
"She's dead," said Wilf. "Bloody Cybus. Always had to have the newest thing, my girl. Didn't stand a chance."
"She ... was converted?"
"Not Donna. Her mother. Donna fought 'em. Protecting her mum." Wilf's smile was distant. "Went down like a soldier, she did. My little general."
"I'm sorry," said the Doctor.
"You get a lifetime, son. No one said it'd be fair."
"You look, um, introspective," said Rose, leaning on the doorframe.
"I had an epiphany," said the Doctor. "Can't I come in?"
Rose stepped aside, looking wary. "I'll put some coffee on," she said, "and you can tell me about your epiphany."
He sat down, pulled the sugar bowl towards him and ate a spoonful. "So it turns out that I'm rubbish at being human."
"Yes?" said Rose, pulling the sugar out of his reach.
"Sorry, I was hoping you were going to try and argue."
Rose made a sort of keep talking gesture, or maybe she meant keep digging.
"Anyway," he said, "being human. It's like when you're a kid, and you're playing at being grown up. But your idea of what grown ups do is half sitcom, half the stuff you pick up from watching your mum and dad. So you're keeping house, polishing the commemorative teaspoons of Rassilon, come home from a hard day's temporal engineering for your martini and footrub -- then you suddenly are grown up, and you're living your own life, but you're still playing house and wondering when the laugh track kicks in. Does that make sense?"
"No," said Rose.
"Anyway, I've had enough. I've tried to be a proper sitcom human -- girlfriend, flat, job, gender-normative underwear. And I've had enough. Life's too short, and all that."
"But what are you going to do?" Rose asked.
He grinned. "I'm going travelling!"
"That's ... now?" Rose blinked. "Where are you going?"
"Yes," said the Doctor. "And I don't know yet. Egypt, maybe, I sort of buggered that one up last time I tried. Haven't been to South America for a while. Probably won't recognise the place."
Rose was concentrating on pouring two cups of coffee. Eventually she said, "It'll be weird. Not having you around." She gave him a wry smile. "Not that you're around anymore, but ... you know."
"I know." The Doctor accepted his coffee. It was in a floral mug. Nice. Domestic.
"Are you on your own?" Rose asked.
"For now," said the Doctor. "See how it goes. I'm not going to wait around for the right person to come along, that's not me. Anymore, I mean. Used to be Donna, sort of."
"It was never you," said Rose.
"I'm not that man anymore."
"It's weird," said Rose, "thinking of you travelling like ... like a normal person. With, like, a passport and stuff."
"Oh, right. I'll need one of those. I'd forgotten."
Rose looked like she wanted to say something. She opened her mouth twice, then blinked, shook her head and said, "This is going to be interesting."
"I'm not allowed to overthrow governments, am I?"