The Cost of Living

by vegetables [Reviews - 0]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Alternate Universe, Drama, General, Horror, Hurt/Comfort, Introspection, Mixed, Series

On the previous day the Doctor wore different clothes, and gave little thought to groceries. She had bigger problems to think about in her life. Bigger, police box-sized problems, as her TARDIS stood on the living room’s crushed ruins.

“Home!” she’d cheerily said to her child companion, throwing open the doors of her blue machine. And then: “your mother with a knife!” less cheerily and with a note of panic. Chris looked disapprovingly at her mum as she held the blade in her hand, before she saw who’d arrived in her house and it was sheepishly squirreled away.

“It’s you!” said Chris’s mum. “Making that awful sound. Gave me a bit of a panic; I thought my washing machine had broken down. And then I thought it might be terrorists, although I don’t know what they thought was worth blowing up around here. But it’s just you,” she said. “Crushing my furniture.”

“Ah! Yes. Sorry about that. It's just that the houses I’ve landed in recently have had… well. There’s been a bit more space than this.”

“You’ve broken the television,” said Chris. “I was mad at you and then you broke our television!

“Don't be mad at the Doctor, Chrissy,” said her mother in a vague way. She saved both our lives a few hours ago. That's worth not having a television for a while! Although,” she added quietly, “it might be quite a long while.”

“It's not been half an hour,” said Chris. “We got lost on the way home. We met Charles Darwin, and a candy man. And a baboon!”

“Gosh,” said her mother, “I would love to meet Charles Darwin. Did you ask him any questions, Chrissy? It's bad to let a chance like that go to waste.”

“No, he was quite upset. I wasn't going to bother him.”

“Sometimes you have to bother people,” said her mother, “if you’re going to get on in the world. But you’ve had a busy day. We should relax, Chrissy, do something that doesn't need the telly. I think we’ve some dominoes in that awful cupboard.”

She looked sadly around the ruined room.

“I’ll get all this replaced,” said the Doctor awkwardly. “I’ve a few furniture-related favours to cash in, somewhere or other in the universe.”

“I wasn't thinking about that!” said Chris’s mother a bit too quickly. “Just that it's getting late. I’d’ve let you stay on our sofa bed, but…” she gestured at the chipboard that lay strewn across the floor.

“Oh, that's not a problem!” laughed the Doctor, pointing her thumb at her blue machine. “I’ve got loads of bedrooms in here.”

“Loads?” frowned Chris’s mother. “But it's so ugly and small! Like all of our homes, these days.”

“It's bigger on the inside!” said Chris. “There's a whole forest in there, and the Doctor says there’s a room full of video games that never got made–”

“Gosh,” said her mother. “That’s very modern. But then I suppose you’d make quite a bit, wouldn't you? As a qualified psychiatrist.”

“Well, I don't do that anymore. Handed my notice in. I was going to go off to that planet of wheels; ride one around for a while.”

Chris’s mother frowned. “You don't do it anymore? But… I mean, it takes loads of time to become a psychiatrist, and you can’t have been one for very long. You can't be much older than me.”

“I'm much older than you,” grinned the Doctor. “I just don't look it. You’d be down here” — she crouched down with her hand stretched near the floor — “and I’d be, oh, up there.” She pointed her hand up as far as it would go. “A long way up there.”

“Up there,” repeated Chris’s mother sadly. “Well. You’ll have lots of things to do, I suppose. Enjoy, you know, all your bedrooms. And thanks for saving our lives; we’re both very grateful about that!” she said as Chris looked down at her hands.

“It's no bother!” said the Doctor. “It's what I do, whether I'm a psychiatrist or not. Stay safe– and when you're not safe, don't forget to be afraid. Goodbye, Chris, and… uh, Chris’s mum.”

“My name is Lorna,” said Chris’s mother. “I was a lot more Scottish, back in the day.”

“Weren't we all,” said the Doctor with a smile.

“And look, I'm sorry about the knife. It's just been a hard time for me of late. Even before the skulls. They think they can cut the staff with all these new machines, but they break so much that if anything we need to hire more–”

“New machines?” said the Doctor, who was no longer smiling.

“You know! So people can do their own shopping. We’ve had them for years in the shop, of course, but these ones are supposed to be better. Good as a man should be, at understanding you. They said ‘man’ instead of ‘person’ too, at the presentation. We all noticed that in our row.”

“It's funny, isn't it?” said the Doctor. “The things you notice.”

She paused, deciding to try her luck.

“It’ll be hard, too, with the people going missing. Stressful. At times like that I bet people’d just stop turning up to work, without even mentioning where they'd gone.”

“It's been getting pretty bad,” said Lorna. “There aren't a lot of us regular staff left. We’ve got someone coming in from corporate tomorrow; just ‘cause we can't get the cover.”

She laughed.

“But you're the Doctor, aren't you? Killing your alien skulls. You don't care about how many shifts I'm working.”

“I care about everything. And it wasn't me who killed them, in the end. You bashed them good, with that big old pan of yours.”

“Pans and knives, eh?” laughed Lorna. “Getting quite threatening, the older I get.”

“It's always the way to be,” said the Doctor. “Take care, won't you? Both of you.”

She closed the doors of the TARDIS, and the two of them watched as it faded away. You wouldn't have thought the living room could look worse without the ruin of a box in the middle of it, but somehow it managed to anyway.

Chris and Lorna looked at the splinters and shattered glass for a while.

“Some people dream of being psychiatrists,” said Lorna to no one in particular.

Chris had been waiting for the Doctor to leave. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but it seemed the worst thing in the world if that woman would see her cry.

“Mum,” she said. “I– I’ve been–”

And then she was in her mother's arms, sobbing and bawling away. She hadn't meant to cry this much, even after the things she'd seen. And it somehow felt so wrong, to cry after travelling with the Doctor. But it was worse to keep it all in, so she cried until she couldn’t any more.

“Well,” said her mother after a lot of time had passed, “I'm sure there’ll be other doctors, eh? Anyway, Chrissy. I think I’ve got some tiddlywinks in the drawer.