Tegan hadn't been measured for a bra in ages. Not since she had started traveling with the Doctor. And some time before that. So she had thought, What the heck. As long as we're here might as well go all out. If she was going to restock all of her bra wardrobe it had better be in the right size. Now she was wondering if it had been a good idea.
The sales assistant frowned as she examined Tegan's torso. The years of bouncing through time and space had not been overly kind to her body and she had collected quite a few scars and bruises. "I saw you walk in with two men. Are you sure you're alright?"
"Family... backpacking trip." Tegan smiled in what she hoped was a convincing way. "We were roughing it for a few weeks. If you check those two they'll be just as battered as I am." Which was true. Tegan shouldn't be upset with her. The woman was just concerned. She thought about putting her blue sweater on again just to stop the woman staring. But then she'd have to take it off again. "That's what killed my last good bra." Actually, her last good bra had died a while before now.
"Hmm." The sales assistant- Caroline, according to her name tag- checked the measuring tape. She didn't appear entirely convinced but she didn't push the subject further. "I'll go find a few for you to try on. And honey," she stopped, her hand on her hip, and pointed at the bra Tegan was currently wearing. "After you're done here burn that thing. It's a terrible fit and looks twenty years old." It probably was. She had dug it out of the TARDIS wardrobe just to have something to wear.
Caroline exited the dressing room stall and Tegan was left alone. Alone. In a familiar setting. With nothing trying to kill her. That was a change. She had sent the Doctor and Turlough off to another part of the mall with a fairly long shopping list so she wasn't worried about time. Unless there was an alien invasion, or something. That would be just like the Doctor to only bring her here because there was really an alien living in the cellar. Well, that was their problem then. They would just have to deal without her.
It had taken so much convincing to get the Doctor to take her here in the first place. She had been dropping hints about her need to go shopping for ages. Originally, she had tried to avoid spelling out exactly what she needed to go shopping for, but after the dress on the Eternal ship with a corset that provided actual support she put her foot down.
"Can't you find something in the TARDIS wardrobe?" Turlough asked. "It's certainly big enough."
That sent her off into a tirade about band width and cup sizes and elastic stretching. During this Turlough found a very interesting spot on the ceiling to stare at and the Doctor just watched her with a frown on his face.
"Tegan," he said after she was finished. "You could have just told me. I've lived with a lot of women over the years. I'm not a complete stranger to undergarments."
Turlough continued to be fascinated by the ceiling.
Of course, it had taken a trip through thirteenth century England and the Death Zone on Gallifrey to get here, but here she was at last. At a normal, human shopping mall on Earth. Some time in her relative future, she thought, but close enough.
There was a knock on the door and Caroline entered holding a stack of bras. "I've started out with neutral, just to get sizing, if that's alright."
"I'll just let you try those on then." She paused, her red polished fingernails on the door. "That red haired man is still out there. If you want me to call someone—"
"No, no, he's fine. Just my brother—" Damn, Turlough had a different accent. "—in-law. Raised by his crazy widowed uncle and sent to an all boys school for years. Doesn't get out much. If he seems a bit off." Too much information. She smiled again. "I'll just try these and browse a bit. Thank you."
She dropped the ill fitting bras on the return rack and stormed out to the floor. There was Turlough in a kind of waiting area in the corner sitting next to some man with hair like a rooster. She stalked over.
Turlough was sitting with one leg crossed over his knee. He leaned back casually, his tie perfectly straight. Of course. He had a magazine in his lap that he perused with minimal interest. She held all the hangers in one hand and put her free hand on her hip. "What are you doing?"
"Hmm?" He looked up. "There you are, Tegan. Are you ready? Those are a bit boring." He nodded to the bras she was holding. She quickly attempted to discretely hide them behind her leg. The rooster haired man was grinning wildly.
"No. I just started. Why aren't you with the Doctor?"
He idly flipped the page in the magazine. "He didn't want you to be by yourself. I did offer to do the shopping, but he said I would need to ask you what kind of tampons you like. I asked him if that was a type of fruit and he told me to stay here."
She decided to take the higher road and ignore the tampon part. "Probably left you here so you wouldn't get picked up by mall security."
"Tegan," he said mildly, "What on Earth do you expect me to be doing?"
"Does anyone need a reason to lock you up? And the sales lady seems to think you have bad intentions toward me so don't do anything stupid." She pointed a finger at him.
A slight frown passed his face, but it was soon back to its normal expression of barely concealed boredom. He flipped another page. "I'm sure she got an earful for that."
"I told her we were on a rough backpacking trip and that you're my under socialized brother-in-law, but I don't think she bought it."
Now she had his attention. If his eyebrows could have gone any farther into his hairline, they would have. "Really? Which one of us is married?"
"It doesn't matter, Turlough— Are you reading the lingerie catalogue?!"
"You really are adorable when you're angry; I wish you would believe me." Seeing this failed to pacify or distract her, "It's very educational," he offered.
In very many ways, she was sure. "You're disgusting."
"If I remember, you were the one yelling at me for not understanding bra sizing. I'm merely trying to fill in the gaps in my knowledge." He flipped back a few pages. "Apparently lacy balconettes are 'in' this year." He continued skimming the pages. "Although I don't understand why so many of the styles are named after women. I'm not going to wear pants called 'Mike,' am I?"
She would never get that image out of her head. "If you're such the expert, what should I be wearing?"
"Hmm." He looked up and scanned the racks in their general proximity. "That one has koalas on it. I'm sure you'll look darling."
Well, it was kind of— No. Not in a million years if Turlough suggested it. Deciding he didn't deserve a response, she merely glared and flounced off into the racks. Let him read the damn catalogue. At least he wouldn't be watching her shop.
Really, he thought, Tegan was ascribing him much more nefarious purposes than he possessed. Okay, maybe just a little, but mostly he was trying to figure out why in the name of God anybody would wear some of these. And it's not like other reading material was provided. He turned the catalogue on its side and squinted, but the orange zig-zags still seared into his brain. Wouldn't that show through your shirt? Was that the point?
Turlough became aware of the man sitting next to him. He wore a blue suit with a red tie and trainers and was smiling crazily at Turlough. "Can I help you?"
"Well, no. No. Yes." The man stretched his feet out on the small table and put his hands behind his head. "It's just, you seem rather confident for a man surrounded by brassieres."
"No one's wearing them." Anyway, winding up Tegan was more important than expressing any discomfort. Turlough set the catalogue down. "What about you? You're rather nonchalant about the whole thing."
"Weell, been around as long as I have and you'll have seen quite a bit of women's underwear. Noooooo. No no no no no." He dropped back into sitting. "That came out wrong."
"I'm certain." Yes, Doctor. You go buy celery and I'll just keep the crazy men away from Tegan. Sounds fun.
"Let's start over." The man was practically bouncing up and down in his chair. "Hello, I'm the Doctor."
"No you're not," Turlough said quickly. He kicked himself. Surely there had to be other doctors in the universe. Now he just looked stupid.
"Oh, yes I am, Vislor Turlough."
"How do I know you? You tried to kill me. Rather badly— see how well that turned out. It's a little insulting, really, how ineffective you were. Where are you now, eh? Just came back from the Eye of Orion? Or rather, the Death Zone? As to how I'm here when you know five of me, time's a bit of a jumbly... timey-wimey... mess. So! Here we are! Tegan's off shopping, your me is wandering around getting lost trying to buy soap, and you're just sitting here with slightly naughty reading material. Perfect!" He said all that without noticeably taking a breath.
Turlough searched the man's face for any recognition of the man he knew. Nothing. Except, something in the eyes... No, not really... "You're really the Doctor. A future version of the Doctor." A really bouncy, overly talkative, version of the Doctor. He wasn't sure he would ever be able to take the Doctor quite as seriously again. Who was he to take offense at a little noise and chaos now and then with what he would become?
"Yep!" The future Doctor continued to grin manically. The display of this amount of emotion from the Doctor was somewhat disconcerting.
"Your dress sense has certainly improved."
"Yeeeah." He propped his feet on the table again. "The celery's a bit—" he waved his hand back and forth. "Oh, you would have hated the me after him. Like he walked off with the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. Well, that's one of the reasons you would have hated that me."
Here he was, sitting in a room surrounded by brightly colored women's lingerie, talking to a future version of the Doctor about his fashion choices. Still, this was one of the least strange things that had happened to him in the past week. That was life on the TARDIS for you. Sure beat A-level maths. "What are you doing here?"
"Same as you. That's my friend, Donna." The future Doctor nodded over to a ginger woman halfway across the room.
She was arguing with the sales assistant. "Oi! If I wanted help, I would ask for it! I know what I'm looking for, thank you!"
"She seems delightful," said Turlough.
"She's a bit, well, you know," said the future Doctor, "Bossy, rude, loud, emotional—"
"Sounds like Tegan."
"—stubborn, ginger, brave, wonderful, my best friend—" He seemed to register Turlough's comment. "Yeah, a bit like Tegan. Like you and Tegan mixed together except different." Seeing Turlough's expression, he pulled a thin silver thing out of his inside jacket pocket and twirled it in the air before catching it. "And one hundred percent human. She's all Donna Noble, twenty-first century Earth girl. I checked."
Turlough had always assumed the Doctor and Tegan's relationship was based on some bizarre form of mutual toleration, but now he had to rethink that. "Do you really miss us that much that you went out and found a complete stranger that reminds you of us?" He intended it to be fully sarcastic, but it came out more desperate. The future Doctor didn't seem to notice.
"Well, the first time I met her it was an accident. And then she found me again. So..." He scratched the back of his head. "Yeah, a bit like Tegan. That's weird."
Tegan was browsing through the racks and collecting a pile of bras to try on. Too small, too frilly, too ugly, too sexy for anything she would be doing. She kept glancing intermittently to make sure Turlough wasn't watching her. Now he was talking to the rooster-head man. She wasn't sure which of them to feel sorry for. Neither of them seemed particularly socially adept.
A ginger woman came bustled up to the other side of the rack. She was talking to herself. "Like I don't know my own size. And wouldn't I love to explain how yes, you wind up with bruises while tangling with giant alien wasps trying to kill Agatha Christie." She looked up and saw Tegan. She rolled her eyes. "And now you think I'm crazy. Great."
"About as crazy as an armed giant chicken in Amsterdam," Tegan muttered.
"Nooo," they said together.
"I think we have a lot to talk about," said Tegan.
The Doctor was walking through the mall. By himself. With no arguing. He checked the list Tegan had given him. He was about half way though. "Soap," he said to himself. "Does it matter what kind of soap?" He turned off down the right hallway.
Tegan was in the fitting room with Donna and laughing so much her sides hurt. It had been much too long since she'd had another woman to talk to. And Nyssa was fantastic— she had loved Nyssa so much— but another human woman was great. "So I wind up wearing this boob tube with a built in for ages because it's the only thing I've got. Even that died eventually so I went and dug an old bra and dress out of the wardrobe. Next thing I know Turlough's staring at me doing this thing with his eyebrows he does and he says, he says, 'So humans don't wear the same clothing all the time?'"
"Men," said Donna.
"Aliens," said Tegan. "I think this one's a bit small."
"Too bad," said Donna. "I like the pattern."
Tegan looked at the bra sadly. "I used to wear fancy bras all the time, under my work clothes, just for myself. Then came all the running about and it's better to have boring and practical." She looked at the pile of nude bras she had collected. "And it's not like anyone sees them, anyway. Ever."
Donna was trying on a pink one. "I used to care about what they looked like. Now it's: Does it fit? Is it comfortable? Will it hold up to all the running around? Is it on sale? Oh, and will the underwire hold up? All that throwing yourself to the ground is a good way to snap your underwire. And then of course it's, 'Come on, Donna! We can't let them get away!' And you're jogging along with bits of metal poking into you."
"Don't I know it," said Tegan. She held up a black one. "This one fits well but I have so much trouble with lace and the TARDIS washing machine."
"Salad spinner," said Donna knowingly.
"Wash your bras in a salad spinner. It's the best way to do it. It's like hand washing, but they dry faster."
"And that really works?"
"Works like a charm. Learned it off the Internet."
"What's the Internet?"
Donna looked at her sideways. "When are you from, again?"
Tegan laughed. That was the question. 'When.' "I started traveling with the Doctor in 1981."
"I first met him in 2007. I suppose you'll learn about the Internet in oh, about, twenty years. Be excited, it's great." Tegan must have had an odd expression, because Donna laughed and changed the subject. "So. Living with two men. And I thought it was hard enough living with one."
"Well, Nyssa used to be there. Then she left to... go live her own life, so I can't fault her on that, really." Tegan let out a breath. "The Doctor is, well, you know the Doctor. You think he's a man, but then he does something so weird or insensitive that you realize how alien he is, and then he does something else that makes you realize that no, he really is a man."
"And Turlough is— look at me, I've been living with all these aliens for years— Turlough is... okay, actually. You can't ever let him know I said that, but... he's okay. He's aggravating and smarmy and condescending and rude and a liar and shady, but every time it's really come down to it, he's been okay. Still don't trust him that much, but I'm not worried he's going to murder us all in our beds anymore."
"Here's to standards," said Donna.
"Standards!" laughed Tegan.
The future Doctor was frowning at the two laughing women walking toward them. "Should I be concerned they're getting on so well?" he said to Turlough.
Turlough just hooked his thumbs together. "I'm more astonished that we've been sitting here for over an hour and nothing's attacked us, I'm not imprisoned, and no one's screaming."
"Oh, come on, Turlough, it's not all like that. Well, yeah, it is, but still." He craned his head to look at the clock on the wall behind him. "If I'm right, I should be getting back soon."
"How do you know?"
"I remember this. And then I say, 'Turlough, do you, Tegan, and I need to have a talk about-'"
"Oi! Spaceman! Have you just been sitting here the whole time? You could've been getting the eggs!" Donna was crossing her arms as best she could while holding shopping bags.
The future Doctor jumped up. "Just talking to an old friend, Donna. And really, if Rutons had invaded you'd be glad I'm here."
Donna was looking him up and down. "So you're Turlough."
"Donna Noble." He nodded while buttoning his shirt cuffs. He had rolled up his sleeves when the suspicious sales assistant walked by, hoping she would see the bruises on his arms, too. She seemed to calm down a bit and left him well enough alone after that. Under socialized brother-in-law, indeed.
"Heard a lot about you just now."
"Likewise. Although I presume Tegan has been making me out to be an outrageous bastard. I heard much better things about you."
The future Doctor clasped his hands behind his back. "What can I say? Getting sentimental in my old age."
"Tegan? Are you finished? I wasn't sure what kind of soap we needed, so I got—" Turlough's Doctor stopped dead. "Oh, no, not you again."
"Yes! Me!" The future Doctor was bouncing on his heels. "Not intentional, really. Kind of an accident. I think it should be fine. At least, it was fine when I was you. Donna! This is me. Me, Donna."
Donna was examining the Doctor like he was some exotic new specimen. "This is you? What's with the celery? And the cricket stuff?" The Doctor just opened and closed his mouth, speechless. "He doesn't talk much, does he. That's a change." She leaned in toward his face and he leaned back. "He's prettier than you. Not as skinny. Still had the thing about gingers then, I see." She said to the Doctor, motioning toward Turlough.
"Turlough," The Doctor sounded choked, "Do you, Tegan, and I need to have a talk about—"
"Aaand, that's my cue to leave. Sorry. Don't remember any more of that conversation. Come on, Donna! If we hurry, we can make it to the library before lunch!"
Donna rolled her eyes and followed along after him.
Tegan hummed to herself as they all walked back to the TARDIS. Today had been better than she had expected. She liked Donna. She'd have to look her up when she got back to Earth and their timelines matched up. She wasn't sure what the Doctor was so ruffled about. Donna had been perfectly nice. Okay, maybe a bit rude, but no worse than Tegan ever was. It was refreshing to have another human she was able to talk about life with. She wasn't going crazy, living with all these aliens. At least, no more crazy than others who experienced it. And she had a bunch of lovely, new bras to last her... until the next time they all got destroyed. Including the one with the koalas. Because it fit. And it was comfortable. And on sale. And Turlough could never, ever know.