Author's Notes:
Sorry.


None of them had ever asked him if he could change back.

It was a perfectly reasonable question, though, wasn’t it? And it wasn’t like he hadn't accidentally caused offence himself a few times by asking someone if the extra eye was decorative or if that bit was prehensile. She didn't mean it as an accusation. But it was a bit disconcerting.

So he fixed things. In a ship as old and complicated as this one there was always something to repair, and they were generally things that were complicated enough to demand a fair bit of concentration. In fact, if he hadn't known better he'd have suspected the TARDIS of breaking itself based on his mood swings.

"I'm having an existential crisis here," he said to the empty room, "It would help if you'd stop looking at me like I killed your best friend."

The console hummed, which he decided to take as agreement.

"And," he added, sliding under the grating with slightly less care than was wise, "it's not like you really knew him that well anyway. I know you're going to keep calling me him, because English doesn't have the right pronouns. Let alone the right tenses. Honestly, how are you supposed to get by with just past, present and future? Mind you, I've seen her text messages. U is not a word. It's a letter."

He tore a bit of loose sellotape off a panel and stared at it. "When did I do that? What was I thinking? That'd never hold. It's not like I did on purpose. She's the one that came back anyway. I bet she’ll do that thing where she never actually says she wants to go home and just expects me to work it out on my own. I hate that.” He stopped just short of turning off the gravity by mistake. “Next time she cuts her hair I'm asking her if she can grow it back," he sulked.

Nothing like a bit of soldering to put things in perspective, he decided.

"It's not like I don't have my own problems. There's enough going on in my life without having to worry about other people being shallow."

"Who are you talking to?" asked Rose's trainers. Or possibly Rose.

Thankfully the Doctor had no sense of shame. "Myself."

"Can you do that? Like..."

"No, I mean talking to myself like crazy people do."

"Oh."

"Bit of a disappointment, I expect."

"Just a bit."

More than a bit, he thought, watching her feet shuffle. "You look really tall from this angle," he said, looking up at her.

"Get off the floor then."

"I don't mind being beneath you," he said. Not that he was in any way testing her, tempting her into cheap innuendos. Not that he'd be upset if she hadn't closed this new distance already.

Just for a second she looked like she was about to take the bait. There was a brief hint of a smile and then...

"Do you want tea?"

He managed not to sigh. "I'm trying to make this thing a bit less dangerous."

"How long you going to be?"

He took a quick look at the wiring above his head. "Umm... I think it depends on my attention span."

That got a smile. "Got one of those, have you?"

"Might have. Could be here for days. I find I don't get distracted all that... have we got any biscuits?"

Rose laughed and poked him with her foot. "What are you like?"

I don't know yet, he thought. “Put the kettle on?”

The shoes disappeared and he went back to wondering what exactly that blue wire was doing and whether it might be an idea to check why that LED was blinking like that. The problem with therapeutic maintenance was that sometimes you ended up fixing things that weren't actually broken, which often led to them breaking later on when you had other things to take care of.

The trainers returned. “I don’t mind that you... changed. It’s just all a bit... I was upset, because I like you and then you weren’t you anymore. Except you are. It’s like you’re dead but you’re not dead and I don’t know how to cope with that. It’s a bit weird, that’s all.” The shoes shuffled a bit more. “Do you still take sugar?”

“Just the one.”

“Milk?”

“Rose…”

“Yeah?”

“I know it's difficult.”

There was a bit of an uncomfortable silence then, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Nothing like as bad as it could have been.

"I need a haircut," she said after a few moments.

"I could do that."

Rose looked down at him with unconcealed scepticism. "Are you qualified?"

"Sort of. If by 'qualified' you mean 'owns a pair of scissors'."

“I’m not that brave, Doctor.”

“A wise woman once said that a change will do you good."

Rose rolled her eyes. “Right, cup of tea and then we find a hairdresser. A professional one.”

The trainers vanished again. But he was fairly certain that they’d come back.