The Doctor yawned. This was unusual, so he stopped with his hand halfway to the switch he'd been aiming for and blinked. He shook his head to clear it and got back to recalibrating the dimensional field-stabiliser.
Or he would have, had he been alone.
“I think it's time you took a nap, sleepyhead.”
He turned, irritated, to face Nardole. “I'm not tired.”
“You should be, you haven't slept for three weeks.”
“I'm a Time Lord,” said the Doctor, because that usually sufficed to answer any questions.
Nardole was unmoved. “Even Time Lords need to sleep sometimes.”
“I slept last week.”
“You didn't,” said Nardole, patiently, which annoyed the Doctor even more.
“How would you know?” he countered. “You're asleep eight hours out of every twenty-four — which is an absurd waste of your life, by the way. How do you know I wasn't asleep while you were?”
“You weren't, though.”
“That's not the point I'm trying to make,” said the Doctor, quite aware that it was.
“You'll make yourself ill,” said Nardole. “Or worse, you'll fall asleep while we're in flight and we'll crash into a supernova and die.”
“The TARDIS can easily handle crashing into a supernova,” said the Doctor. “She's stronger than she looks.” He saw an opportunity to change the subject. “I don't think that you appreciate just how amazing my ship is. There was this one time -”
“I think you should sleep,” said Nardole, and the Doctor glared at him. It was a good glare, it was the sort of glare that terrified people. It spoke of unknown but alarming threats. It was only slightly undercut by the yawn that followed it.
“Sleep is for tortoises,” said the Doctor.
“And for exhausted Time Lords.”
“I don't want to sleep!” he snapped.
Nardole took a step back. “I'm only trying to help.”
The Doctor sighed. Nardole meant well, and he was persistent. This could go on for days. “I tried to sleep,” he admitted.
“And it didn't happen.”
Nardole nodded. “This is about her, isn't it?”
“You think everything's about her,” said the Doctor, because he really did.
“Well, to be fair, it usually is.”
“That's not true! I have plenty of thoughts in my head that have nothing to do with her!”
The Doctor opened his mouth to talk and then realised that his brain had yet to come up with a convenient lie. “Well,” he floundered, “I'm not going to share them with you.”
Nardole looked at him with a peaceful and benevolent expression. “If you're afraid -”
“I'm not afraid of anything!” the Doctor protested. “It's just... can't you let it go? Just this once?”
“I know why I'm here, Doctor, and I take my responsibilities very seriously.”
“Since always.” Nardole held up his hands in a placating gesture. “If you're open to suggestions, I do have an idea that might help.”
The Doctor considered his options. “What idea?” he asked.
“This is ridiculous,” said the Doctor as Nardole climbed into the bed beside him.
“No, it isn't,” said Nardole, shoving a hot water bottle under the covers.
“And what's that for? The TARDIS maintains a comfortable temperature at all times.” The Doctor may have compromised his own dignity, but never that of his TARDIS.
“I know,” said Nardole, “but you've got cold skin.”
“Then don't touch me.” The Doctor stared up at the ceiling. Why had he agreed to this? It was stupid and rather pathetic.
Nardole switched off the light and the Doctor wondered if his friend snored. He wasn't going to be able to sleep anyway, of course, but snoring certainly wouldn't help. He turned onto his side, closed his eyes, and started counting backwards from four hundred million.
“Are you asleep?” asked Nardole after only a few numbers.
“Give me a chance.”
A few minutes passed in silence. The Doctor, still awake, abandoned his counting in favour of naming every planet in the Andromeda galaxy.
“You're still awake, aren't you?” asked Nardole.
“You are, I can tell.”
“This is a waste of time,” said the Doctor, turning onto his back. “Can I get up now?”
“Did Professor Song sing to you when you couldn't sleep?”
“No, she didn't. I didn't have a problem sleeping when she was there.”
“I don't know,” said the Doctor, tightly, “perhaps it was something to do with her not being dead at the time.”
“You can't stay awake forever,” said Nardole, quite reasonably. “If you want I can sing you a little lullaby. There's quite a nice one about a small child with a pet -”
“Do you want me to kiss you?”
“Do you want me to -”
“That won't be necessary,” the Doctor, quickly.
“Well, the offer stands if you change your mind.”
“You don't fancy me, do you?” asked the Doctor, worried. Things got terribly complicated when his friends fancied him.
“You're not my type, Doctor,” said Nardole. “I just thought it might help if I pretended to be her.”
“I'm quite certain it wouldn't.” He suppressed a yawn. “I'll try counting sheep.” Which wouldn't work, he knew that, but it might shut Nardole up for a bit.
The Doctor woke up. The room was dark for a few moments before the TARDIS realised he was awake and obligingly switched on the lights. He must have nodded off, somehow. He couldn't remember any dreams as such, though he had a vague impression of a weak narrative about apples and vacuum cleaners.
He mentally checked his internal clock to discover that he had been asleep for six hours and thirty-three minutes, a length of time that he considered ridiculous under normal circumstances but he really had been very tired.
Nardole was still asleep, which was very good indeed because somehow he and the Doctor had somehow become entangled during the night. Or rather, the Doctor had for some reason wrapped his limbs around his friend, who had otherwise kept to his own side of the bed and couldn't in all fairness be blamed for the Doctor clinging to him like gangly limpet.
The Doctor attempted to manoeuvre himself out of this compromising position without waking Nardole. This was easier said than done, but luckily Nardole was quite a heavy sleeper as it turned out and the Doctor managed to complete the task without him waking up.
“I don't want to go to school today,” Nardole muttered as the Doctor gently shifted away across the bed.
The Doctor sat up and swung his legs off the side of the bed. He reached down and picked up his boots, thought about putting the same socks back on, and then decided against that on hygiene grounds, shoving them into his pockets instead. He was about to stand up, boots in his hands, when Nardole said, “Oh, you're awake.”
He looked round. “Yes. And I didn't need any help getting to sleep,” he added, trying to nip that idea in the bud. “I would have fallen asleep even if you hadn't been there.”
“Quite sure,” said the Doctor, gripping his boots.
“If you need my help again -”
“I won't, because it made no difference to anything. I'm perfectly happy to sleep alone, I've been doing it for centuries. Old habits don't go away just because I spent a few years sharing a bed with River.” There, that had settled the matter.
“You're very welcome, Doctor,” said Nardole, amiably.
The Doctor stood up. “I'm going to make tea,” he announced. “I'll be in the kitchen.”
Nardole nodded. “Three sugars, please.”
The Doctor waited awkwardly for a few moments in case Nardole wanted to say anything else, but apparently he didn't. He thought about perhaps saying a few words about the value of friendship and so on, but he managed to leave the room before he did.
It wouldn't do to appear needy, after all.