Author's Notes:
The Twelfth Doctor reflects on what the PE teacher had taught him. A missing scene with Rose in the background. ... because it's always about Rose. You can read it in connection with my other stories (specifically, 'Forever: Colours of Eternity' contains a reference to this one) but it's works as a standalone too. Again, I would like to thank Bria for betaing! :)

TIME SHARDS: A PROMISE


It took a PE teacher to teach him that lesson.

He thought nothing would ever surprise him about humans. He had studied them for centuries: watched them, followed them through history, admired them and hated them, saved their planet several times, argued with them, and lived among them. In a way, they were like a book in his library, one he had read through so many times that he knew entire passages by heart. Some were still so scary that he shuddered when he came across them again. Some made him cry, some made him laugh. And even though he knew it so well, he still liked to sit in his armchair and take the volume off the shelf, enjoying the rustle of pages as he turned them one by one, taking in every single word yet again.

But he didn’t expect them to teach him anything new. Not after all these years.

Least of all the PE teacher.

He never liked the PE guy, actually. The man kept turning up when he was not needed, kept telling him things he didn’t like to hear, and he was definitely not good enough for Clara.

Once his meddling nearly cost lives: not just the lives of the children at Coal Hill, but lives of everyone on Earth, when he accidentally removed one of the devices the Doctor had set up to send the Skovox Blitzer a billion years into the future, where it would not harm anyone. That alone was a sufficient reason to dislike him.

He saluted the Doctor and addressed him ‘sir’, straight into his face. An officer, he said. The ultimate insult that burnt in the Doctor’s hearts for many days after. An officer, lighting the fire and pushing his soldiers into it.

And Clara always lied to him about the Doctor. She tried to hide it from the Doctor but it was so obvious… So even she didn’t think the PE teacher was worth the truth. He was not good enough for her.

Even when he died, the meaningless death in the street, run over by a car, it was like a slap in the Doctor’s face. Not just because it made Clara betray the Doctor but because it made the Doctor suddenly understand how important the PE teacher was to her, and how he himself was wrong about everything, yet again. He wished he could have taken back the things he had said, he wished he could rewrite time: but he knew he couldn’t. So he did the next best thing he could think of, he took Clara on a journey in search of her PE teacher, or his soul, or whatever it was that remained after death. It was a lie all along. He didn’t believe in anything remaining after death.

It was the PE teacher that proved him wrong again.

But when hell was unleashed, when there was no hope left for the Earth, it was the PE teacher that gave him perhaps the only lesson in his life the Doctor knew he would never forget. The guy was dead, deprived of any human emotions, of anything he had ever felt. A corpse turned into an emotionless cold machine.

And yet, he saved the world. Not that he intended to. He was merely saving the woman he loved.

Because love was not an emotion.

Not a rush of hormones through your body, not a wave of tenderness and affection, not an electric impulse in your synapses. It could not be removed by an emotion inhibitor. It could not be taken away from you unless you wanted it to be.

Because love was a promise.

It was promise you made of your own free will and it was up to you to fulfil.

***

‘How long are you going to stay with me?’
‘Forever.’


***

It took a pink and yellow shop girl to make him love again.
It took a PE teacher to make him understand what love really was.

***

A tear trickled down the Doctor’s cheek.

He wasn’t’ sure what it was for. For Danny Pink, for Rose Tyler, or for the promise he never really dared to make.

It still lived in his heart, unspoken and unfulfilled. It burnt his soul whenever he remembered it but he still wasn’t ready to part with it. Not yet.

Blinking away unwanted tears, he pressed the lever in the console much too hard. He needed the TARDIS to take him far away from the Earth, far away into time and space, where he would fill his mind with new memories, exciting discoveries, and unfamiliar faces. That way he could keep the promise safely hidden until…

… until when?

He knew very well he would never get another chance to say it. He had moved on. He had had companions. And River, too. Why was he clinging to it then? No, he wasn’t, he argued. He was, well, preparing to let it go. One of these days he would.

Just not yet.