Drinking Tactics for Nine Hundred Year Old Minors
A story involving squash, socks, and what happens when you prank the Doctor.
He looked rather like someone had slapped him with a wet gym sock. The barkeep didn’t look amused. Sally was dying.
“I swear I’m twenty-one.”
“Let’s see some ID then, wise guy.”
“I would,” he protested, patting himself down a bit desperately for what seemed like the fifth time. “But I can’t — I seem to have misplaced — Bloody hell, where is it?”
He rifled furiously through his pockets, looking genuinely disturbed, highly annoyed, and entirely baffled. She let him go on at this for a bit, because A: he kept frantically patting down his back jean pockets like their contents would have changed since he last felt them up and B: the expression of helpless embarrassed bewilderment was a rare jewel in travels with an unflappable nine-hundred-and-three year old Gallifreyan. Also, this Doctor could blush impressively and over the silliest things. He was a brilliantly cherry color just presently and the waiter continued to eye him with disapproval, which was impressive for an android with minimal facial features.
“I don’t —,” he said, surrendering. “I don’t know what happened. Sorry.” Then he noticed his companion’s sudden fit of giggles on the stool beside him and his face contorted immediately with suspicion. “You didn’t.”
She grinned, “Oh,” all beaming self-satisfaction, “I did.” and produced the required flap of black leather, flipping it open for the waiter’s inspection.
“A Shirley Temple for the minor,” he said curtly to the robotical bartender.
“You — you —!”
“I’ll have a bottle of whatever you approve of, sir. Something expensive. Human consumable.” She winked. “And not too heavy on the hops, alright mate?”
“Very good ma’ma.” The barkeep glided away.
“Sally Sparrow you stole my psychic paper!” the Doctor sputtered.
“Duh.” The young book shop keeper handily pocketed the thin wallet and knitted her fingers beneath her chin. “That was brilliant, by the way. You’re blushing.”
“I do not blush,” he retorted instantly, blushing. “And why would you steal my psychic paper?”
“Because it’s funny to see you get carded.” She patted his cheek fondly. “You’re so cute when you’re gobsmacked.”
“That’s not funny.”
“That’s a kick in the head, kid.”
“Call me that again and suffer, Sally Sparrow. I will leave you in the year 23 slash Gumdrop slash 4.2. Not a good year. Trust me. The New Feminist Movement’s started up and the bras they’re burning have the added charm of nitroglycerin. Also, once that the Blue Sock Society’s really gotten going and you don’t want to be around for it— well, actually, honestly, I don’t want to be around for it. I have the disadvantage of being male.”
She arched a brow. “The Blue Sock Society?”
“Historical holdover from the Blue Stocking Society except they assassinate chauvinist male pigs by strangling them with blue knee socks. Look, just gimme my paper back. Seriously.”
“I mean it.”
“I mean it, ” she mimicked.
“Oi, stop that.”
It had been a funny old Tuesday when the Doctor dropped in on her at Sparrow and Nightingales, grinning and wondering if she’d like to step out for a jot in the TARDIS. She hadn’t seen him in a while and was pleased to he’d managed to hang onto his face this time rather than get a new one and swing by without so much as a warning. That’s what he’d done before. Two years after the blue box, the angels, Larry Nightingale, and wibbly wobbly timey whimey stuff, Sally Sparrow looked up one day and found herself face to face with a stranger. He was tall, slightly pale and looking harried as hell in jeans and an old World War Two G-1 bomber jacket. Turns out he was being harried by aliens convinced he had treasure hidden in his shoes. He didn’t know why they figured that then. He still didn’t know now, but he liked his shoes and because they wouldn’t accept them without his feet inside, the Doctor elected running away was the best option. Running into her shop, even better.
Sally’s first impression was that he had a funny sort of face; a mish-mash of features that, individually, were kind of displeasing to the eye. His nose a bit too big, his eyes seemed lost under a wide billboard of brow; his mouth belonged on a girl, his hair was dark and thick and seemed as though it had gotten away from him, and something was weird about the way his chin fit the rest of his face. He also looked all of twenty-four. She wouldn’t have believed it was him if his greeting hadn’t been:
“Sally Sparrow. I got stuck in the year 1969 with a girl named Martha Jones. You found the blue box before the angels could get it open and saved us. I’m the Doctor.” He grinned and it was then, only then — when all those strange features came together suddenly and breathtakingly — that she recognized the time traveler from Larry’s DVDS: in that smile where he was beautiful. “Nice to see you again.”
The waiter returned with a bottle of something that smelled like brown ale and spiced apple cider and tasted absolutely gorgeous. He put the Shirley Temple at the Doctor’s elbow and earned a scowl that well over nine centuries worth of villains had endured across the span of Space and Time. It didn’t seem to bother the robot particularly and he went back to scrubbing the bar. The Doctor sighed and drank his non-alcoholic beverage. Sally grinned, knocking back another swallow of honey and fire across the back of her tongue and swallowing that second glorious sip with the small happy noise as the first. The Doctor sighed and rolled those pale blue eyes skyward.
“This is delicious. What is it?”
“Rube Goldberg Number Forty Five,” said the Doctor. “You will have a horrific headache tomorrow morning.”
“Brilliant,” chirped Sally. “I’ll have another.”
“Excellent, ma’am,” said the barkeep and sped away again.
“This is ridiculous,” said the Doctor at last, disbelievingly. “I’m nine-hundred and three years old. I shouldn’t be carded.”
Sally just toasted him with her bottle and went on drinking. This continued for another two bottles, the Doctor protesting each time with increasing alarm that she was a very small girl and those were very large bottles and wouldn’t she please stop drinking? Her reply was firstly, “You’re not the boss of me.” Secondly, “I’m half Irish.” Thirdly… well, she forgot her third reason because she drowned it in the bottom half of her third bottle. The Doctor’s face was an endearing mixture of concern and amusement that told her he’d probably let her get steamed because it made an excellent story for later (Sally was awesome pissed up the wall) and a hangover of epic proportions was just desserts for stealing his only workable form of ID.
“You should know that stuff will knock you on your back faster than you can say —”
“Rube Goldberg!” hollered Sally, slamming the empty bottle on the counter and throwing up devil horns. “Woooo!”
“Yeah, that,” sighed the Doctor wearily. A couple androgynous bipeds stared. “C’mon. You’re done.”
Sally didn’t travel with the Doctor. Not exactly. This was just a night out.
She and Larry had their run with him for a couple months; saved a couple planets, stopped a few wars, annulled an accidental three-way marriage between Larry, the Doctor, and a chair, and had a run in with an erratic defabricator. (Larry lost his pants, the Doctor his best T-shirt and Sally her favorite blouse. They managed to blow it up by presenting the garment hungry machine with a giant length of scarf that, apparently, could not be unwoven even by so hardy a contender as a defabricator.) They were good times. Some of the best. She and Larry were engaged under the rings of Saturn. The Doctor started smiling more.
Then things had gone wrong the way they tended to when you stayed with the Doctor long enough and the time Lord immediately retired their time traveling and they quite mutually agreed and returned home. Bad memories lingered still in the TARDIS for Sally Sparrow — sharp stabs of them, like voodoo pins at random moments — but these were held at bay by the hours and hours of bliss and laughter those old coral walls also held. For their sake, and the Doctor’s, she still took an occasional trip or two with him. He was never anything but casual, like the other Doctor, but she could sense lonely a mile away and the Doctor was always lonely these days.
Nevertheless, during her abbreviated time as companion, Sally had managed to pinpoint a few of the Doctor’s pet peeves exclusive to this regeneration.
One: He hated the color orange. Deeply and passionately.
Two: It drove him batty when people ate with their mouths open.
Three: He hate, hate, hated it when people questioned his age.
The running joke laid primarily in the Doctor’s having regenerated into a man even younger than his previous incarnation and the first version of himself in which people actually gave him a hard time over how old he was. For him, age had never been a stigma in particular. Occasionally, he’d get the odd comment about being a bit younger than they’d imagined or how he couldn’t possibly be that old, etc. but he’d never had people out right tell him the reason they didn’t believe his word on something was because he was too young. He hadn’t faced that particular (ir)rationale since he was a student on Gallifrey and at the ripe old age of nine-hundred-something he was not appreciating the déjà vu. The frequency with which such incidents happened now was a source of great amusement to Sally.
“Young man, do not fiddle with that highly sensitive piece of equipment.”
“You are not a Doctor! You’re not old enough to be out of uni!”
“Are you old enough to be driving this space flitter, kid?”
“You’re far too immature to understand the complexities of a temporal wave distribu — Wait. How the hell did you do that?!”
Gargle! Fizz! Pop! Snap! Crackle! (Translated: “You are too young to represent the Allied Confederation of Quasar Nine!”)
Squints. “You’re how old again?”
It was a beautiful star studded midnight over the city of Majestian. Its twin blue moons were, in fact, being as far from twin as possible, one a sliver of bright azure-white hung low in the south over the mountains, its sister full and blinding bright, set directly over the city like some great big lamp. The smooth mirror glass spires of the high rise towers and the skyscrapers clawed up in shining reflective spikes toward the glowing orbital body, shimmering, sharp and sparkling baby blue. Sally Sparrow, drunk as all hell and grinning like a loon, remarked that it was one of the more ‘beauuutiful fings’ she’d ever seen, drunk or sober, and the Doctor smiled fondly at his inebriated part-time companion.
“Better than the rings of Saturn up close?”
“Well, maybe not Saturn,” she said. “I love Saturn. S’my favorite planet.”
“I know.” He was looking around the sidewalk with some concern. “Sally, you wouldn’t happen to remember where I parked the TARDIS would you, ‘cause I’d swear it was on this street…”
“Oh bugger,” said Sally suddenly, looking wild.
“What?” the Doctor demanded in alarm. “What is it?”
“I’m wearing blue knee socks,” she said, grinning. “Does that mean I’m a super feminist?”
“Not unless you try to throttle me with them. Sally, really, do you remember where I parked the TARDIS?”
“I’m not the designated driver! I’m pissed! Shame on you, Doc.”
A sigh. “Yes, Sally. Look, you just sit here a moment, I’ll be right back.”
He helped her carefully onto a nearby bench and went around the nearest corner in search of the TARDIS. Sally amused herself by removing her socks and shoes and tying her stockings into a sort of crude garrote. Then she put her shoes on and fended off imaginary male chauvinist pigs with her stocking nun-chucks of angry female vengeance (forgetting it was originally a choke wire). She played at this game for a good four or five minutes before noticing that the Doctor was certainly taking his sweet ass time about getting back to her, all drunk and vulnerable and sitting on an alien bench in and alien city on an alien planet. It was a good thing she was a dangerous assassin for the super feminists or she might have been worried about crazy kidnapping aliens.
Sniffing, she hopped off the bench and wobbled her way down the street the Doctor had gone down to discover what could be the matter. She was approached immediately by several interested male parties, but she warded them off expertly by brandishing psychic paper at them and squawking: “Yeah, tha’s roight. I’m the bloody Queen ov tha Twin Moons. G’wan an’ run! Yeah! You better run! Tossers.” Then bobbling off in search of the Doctor again. The first five minutes of this adventure were sort of amusing. The next ten were less so, because through her inebriation was the knowledge that the Doctor, no matter how concerned for his missing ship, would not leave a drunk female companion by herself for a prolonged period of time because Sod’s Law, in the Doctor’s universe, was an imperative in the fabric of reality. Number One Rule: Don’t wander off. Seriously. No, seriously. Seriously.
She rounded the next corner, blinked and said, “Oh.”
The Doctor was in the lengthy process of being arrested by several baffled looking members of the Majestian Police Force. They had him cuffed and restrained against the side of the TARDIS and the reason, apparently, that it was taking them so long to arrest him laid primarily in the fact they were trying to empty his pockets. (This happened a lot. It was less funny the fifteenth time around.) They’d been at it for a while now because there was quite an accumulated pile of completely random knickknacks, a full dishware set, a goldfish in a plastic bag, several twitching balls of fur that might or might not have been alive, and — of course — a banana and several varieties of squash.
“Sally Sparrow! Excellent! See that woman right there, she has my ID!”
“Doctor, what the hell is going on?” demanded Sally, po-faced.
“Miss, do you know this man?” demanded the policeman frisking the Doctor. He abandoned a handful of yo-yos he’d just dug out of the Time Lord’s left jacket pocket and approached her instead. He didn’t look very happy.
“And you have his ID?”
“Yes.” She handed him the psychic paper. “That’s the Doctor.”
“Well,” said the police man, perusing the ID briefly. “We’re arresting ‘the Doctor’ for possession of a lethal weapon.”
Sally scoffed. “You must be joking.”
“What lethal weapon?”
“That yellow weapon there?”
Sally blinked. “Where?”
The policeman pointed. “There.”
He pointed again. “There.”
She scowled. “You putting me on mate? That’s a squash.”
“See! That’s what I said,” protested the Doctor.
“Not our fault it looks like a Type B anti-stabilization emitter, kiddo.”
“Oh, really? Really? Kiddo? You know what? Bite me, copper.”
“Doesn’t matter, really,” said the policeman, tossing her the psychic paper. “We’re also arresting him for having no ID.”
“What?!” Sally squawked. “I just gave you his ID.”
“Says there he’s Doctor John Smitty-Smitt. Bikini Inspector.”
“Mmm…” said Sally cleverly, realizing that using psychic paper while drunk was probably not a good idea in retrospect.
“Bikini inspector?” demanded the Doctor, flabbergasted.
“Oh I’m too pissed up for this nonsense. Officers, I’m really tired and that man is my only ticket home, yeah? So just hand him over, please.”
“Mmm, no I don’t think so,” sighed the officer dismissively. “If you have a complaint then file it at the station like everyone else, little girl.”
“Little girl?” demanded Sally Sparrow furiously.
And then something ridiculous happened, as was wont to happen whenever the Doctor was involved. So really it shouldn’t have surprised her at all after the amount of comparable ridiculousness she’d seen in her time as a TARDIS passenger, but it had to be said this was one of the more ridiculous things to happen to her while in tow of the bizarre Time Lord. During the course of her argument, the police officer holding the Doctor happened to notice something about Sally Sparrow.
“She has socks!”
The other policeman drew the obvious conclusion: “She has socks — she’s a Blue Sock Assassin!”
The Doctor, like a true opportunist, responded, “Oh sod this.” and went with it. “She’s been sent to kill me!”
Sally blinked. “Oh, you son of a…”
“Miss! Put the socks down!” shouted the other officer.
Passerbys began to scream and flee the scene. It occurred to Sally that the reason she may have not been accosted on the street was, in fact, because of the long pair of socks knotting in her hand.
“Save me!” the Doctor shouted, taking way too much obvious pleasure in his own theatrics.
“Oh stop it, you ponce!” Sally snapped. “You know what I am an assassin. Your death will be slow’n painful, Doctor. I’m now where nearly drunk enough for this.”
“Ma’am, I’m asking you to put the socks down. No one here needs to get killed, okay. No one needs to get hurt.”
“Err… yeah, thas right. I’m here on behalf of tha repressed female paradillo — paradigm! That chauvinistic lout’s a kidnapper of women, a breaker of hearts, an’ a menace to tha fairer sex. I’m gonna have justice on ‘is sorry foppish head and so help any man who stands in my way.” She brandished the socks in what she hoped was a threatening fashion, very near busting a rib to keep her face straight. (On an alien planet assaulting police with stockings — in no other reality could this happen save with the Doctor.) “No one calls me ‘little lady’ and keeps their bits, buddy.”
The police were literally shaking in their boots. The Doctor was trying and failing not to look extremely amused. It appeared as though the officers’ resolve was about to melt in mere moments and a comfy TARDIS-warmed bed lay in her immediate future… and then two women in blue knee socks appeared from the alley at Sally’s back and flanked her.
“And we are here to aid our sister in her noble womanly endeavor,” said the real Blue Sock Assassin on her left.
“You are no match for even one of our ferocious female number, much less three. Give up, pigs. Flee!” scorned the one on her right. “Give us the one in blue pants.”
“Oh bugger,” said the Doctor.
Sally Sparrow was not drunk enough for this rubbish.
“You can have him,” said the cop holding the Doctor and bolted for the nearest adjacent street.
“Sorry, buddy. I’m not dying for you,” said the other officer and with that followed his partner, leaving the cuffed Time Lord standing on the curb.
“Oh nice! Nice police work!” shouted the Doctor irritably. “Who needs ya anyway?”
“Well, well,” said the assassin on Sally’s right. “Where’s all that legendary male camaraderie when you need it, hmm?
“Okay, now, let’s just hold off a second,” said the Doctor backing away, stumbling slightly over the curb a bit. “There’s been a serious misunderstanding.”
“Umm,” said Sally. “Yes. Thank you… sisters, but I should probably take it from here. This guy’s…uh, a special case.”
“Ooh? How so?” inquired the assassin on her left, tugging her concealing mask down. Her smile was full of dainty needle point teeth. “What’d he do?”
“Err, yeah, know just — he’s the worst sort he is. Look.” She showed them the ID.
“Disgusting!” said the other assassin, nose turning up in what looked like a practiced gesture. “Bikini inspector indeed! May his death be slow and exacting.”
“Yeah, mate. I’ll make sure it is. C’mon you.” Sally grabbed the Doctor by the ear and dragged him toward the TARDIS. “This box looks pretty private. I’ll kill you in here shall I?”
“Ow! Ow! Ow! Please, I’d rather not, actually.”
She rifled in her pockets for the TARDIS key and prayed a bit under her breath as she dug furiously for it. It took her a moment to realize the Doctor was making slightly distressed umm-ing noises and yet another moment to realize she’d lost her grip on his ear. When she turned around, the pretty one with fangs had dragged the Time Lord down to her minute level by the lapel of his jacket and appeared to be sniffing him with gusto. The Doctor, in true Doctor fashion, was wriggling and blushing very hard.
“Oi!” said Sally crossly, leaving the TARDIS and grabbing the Time Lord back. “E’s mine, thanks very much. An’ sniffin’ is rude.”
“He does not smell of this planet sister. He smells of faraway places, countless in number. Of travels to worlds far gone,” said the Blue Sock Assassin very slowly, rising to her feet.
“Bikini inspecting is a very lucrative business.”
“I think you are lying,” said the other assassin, appearing suddenly between them and the TARDIS.
Sally pouted. “Mehbeh.”
“Look,” said the Doctor, with as much dignity as you could while in handcuffs (which was more than one might expect), “Sally has nothing to do with this. The cops thought she was a Blue Sock Assassin, so she pretended so she could get me back from them. It was just a trick.”
“Pretending to be a Blue Sock Sister is a dangerous ploy,” said the pretty one. “I should kill you both.”
“Unless you can come up with a very good reason why we should spare you,” said the other one, taking a menacing step forward.
Sally cringed. “Oh no. Now you’ve done it. Asking him to come up with things, oh gawd, this’ll be wizard…”
The Doctor scowled. “Thank you Sally, but the point still stands —”
“ —they can’t kill us because it was nothing serious and Sally’s drunk. She’s just drunk. She didn’t mean a word of it and I just didn’t want to get arrested. We’re friends. She’s a woman. What kind of feminists go around offing other girl’s friends? That’s not nice. And I’m perfectly fond of women’s rights. Some of the cleverest friends I’ve ever had have all be women and one time my most clever friend ever was a woman. She was cleverer than me for a while and that’s saying something if you don’t mind. She’s gone now, but they still have legends about her. Singing songs about her all across the universe they are and she was just a temp from Chisweck. And Sally here, Sally’s saved me and several planets to date not to mention a pan-dimensional time machine to say nothing of several entire bloody time-lines. DVDs! Easter eggs! Imagine that. Never met a woman quicker on her feet than this one, presuming of course she’s not drunk, so I can’t imagine why in the world you’d want to kill us over so petty a thing as borrowing your mystique for a second or two, I mean really it’s not that big a deal and you should really turn your attention to bigger fish if you get me. Like Vladamir Boxxabell the Third. Now there’s one of history’s biggest louts, let me tell you —”
“You’re free to kill him for the sake of shutting him up,” said Sally tersely.
“Seriously though, I’m sorry we impersonated your group thingee, but I assure you, you want to let us go.”
“Why would we do that?” said the pretty one suspiciously.
Sally picked up the squash and hefted it threateningly. “Because this is a Type-B Biological weapon, girlies.” She grinned maniacally. “And I’m just crazy enough to us it!”
The assassins recoiled immediately. “You wouldn’t dare!”
“Rube Goldberg Crazy Snuffle Bottoms Bumblebees!” she screamed, waving the squash wildly. “Tiddlywinks! Raffle Bits! Blom!”
The assassins fled so fast one of them forgot her left shoe.
“Souvenirs!” enthused Sally, tossing the squash picking up the shoe. “I’m keepin’ it. Let’s go Doctor.”
The Doctor picked his jaw off the curb only after she unlocked the TARDIS. “You are… brilliant when you’re pissed.”
“I know,” she said, producing the sonic screwdriver and adjusting it to setting 36-B. She unlocked his cuffs with it.
“Sally Sparrow! Do not steal my sonic screwdriver!”
The blue box faded with a whirring, whining sound that left its echoes and those of Sally’s laughter bouncing through the empty streets behind them.