Two hearts are better than none
This was probably a bad idea, Graham thought, staring at the woman from the woods - now the woman on his ancient, badly-upholstered sofa. He was normally a cautious man; any other night, he would've steered clear of someone so clearly impaired. She'd stumbled out of the trees into Graham's path, babbling deliriously about police boxes and explosions and alien signals, before collapsing at his feet. He'd almost thought her drunk, maybe an escapee from a costume party if her clothing was anything to go by.
Yet he'd brought her home, against his better judgement, and tried to remember his basic first aid. What did you do for someone unconscious?
Scratch that - formerly unconscious. (Graham did not scream like a small child as a result, and he will take that to his grave.)
"Oh!" The woman bent double, gasping, a hand pressed to her chest, and Graham was taken by a chill as he steadied her ("Easy, easy!"), remembering his mother doing the same during her heart-attack some months ago. The pulse that fluttered against his fingers as he pressed them to the woman's wrist only frightened him further, thready and too-fast.
Yet an attempt to reach the phone and call an ambulance was met by a steely grip, as the woman gasped out, "No, no hospitals-" and coughed up a cloud of glittering, golden mist.
Well, thought Graham, that’s new.
The woman noticed him staring and smiled, almost sheepish. "Sorry. Still a bit fizzy." She looked down, and the corner of her mouth quirked up. "How's the hearts?"
He’s still holding her wrist. The pulse at his fingers beat in double-time. But then it would, wouldn't it? Hearts. Plural. Graham swallowed, and amended his earlier thought.
What did you do if you found an alien someone unconscious in the woods?
....When in doubt, Graham...."Er...can I get you a cuppa?"
Her answering grin proved it was the right call.
We all bleed red, metaphorically speaking
There's a coppery-umber liquid smeared on the Doctor's pale face. If it were redder Yas would think it blood. It looked like blood, minus the colour; it smelled like blood, though a bit sweeter than Yas was used to; it definitely felt like blood, drying tacky on her fingertips.
Alien physiology, Yas reminded herself, and pressed the moistened compress to the gash struck across the Doctor’s temple.
“Ouch,” the Doctor muttered, wincing away from the towel. “Careful there.” Her alien friend wore a pout that promised Yas she’s more disgruntled than concussed. Yas counted their blessings. Mouthing off to the police in the middle of a civil rights demonstration was a guarantee of violence, and the Doctor had gone in all guns blazing like she wasn’t 5’6”, foreign, and female. It could’ve been much worse.
“I warned you not to provoke them,” Yas muttered sympathetically. “I think the...bleeding stopped. I guess. First aid wasn’t my best class.”
“I heal fast. Perks of being a Time Lord,” the Doctor reassured her with a smile. “Thank you for the nursing, Yas.”
“You’re welcome.” Yas rinsed her hands in the flow from a public drinking tap, ignoring the sign posted over it that reads Whites Only. “We’d better wash up and find the others.”
“They’re safe. I saw them head off with Mrs. Parks when the police started connecting water hoses.” The Doctor collected her jacket from a nearby railing and shrugged it on. There’s umber on her lapel, like a sunset against sky-grey clouds. “Let’s get to the bottom of this nonsense.”
Float like a duck, drown like a witch
Hands grabbed Ryan’s coat, preventing him from leaping into the frigid waters, where the Doctor had vanished only moments previous. Bubbles still rippled the surface, but the woman did not follow.
They watched as the bubbles slowed, then ceased altogether. Beside him, Yas trembled with fury and fear, as Graham rounded on the village headman with far more vocal rage.
“Are you pleased with yourself then? You just drowned an innocent woman!”
The headman looked unmoved. “Her soul is now with God, and cleansed of whatever witchcraft poisoned her.”
“I’ll show you poison!”
“Graham! Graham, this isn’t helping! Stop!” Yas released Ryan in order to stop Graham from punching the headman’s light’s out, and Ryan stumbled forward, searching the pond for any sign of the Doctor’s blonde head.
He kept looking, barely registering the headman leaving them to “grieve and reflect on the Lord in peace.” Hah. Graham’s threats of bodily harm had finally made it through that thick skull, more like.
TARDIS travel was dangerous, he knew that, but the Doctor was over 2000 years old; she had to have some trick up her sleeve. Surely she couldn’t be gone, just like that?
She’d been down there a really long time.
There was a ripple, and another, and a burst of bubbles that broke the surface, followed by the Doctor as she took a great, gasping breath.
“Doctor! You’re all right!” Ryan caught her hand, helping haul their bedraggled friend onto shore. Behind them, Graham and Yas too let out exclamations of relief, and the ensuing tackle of hugs nearly sent them all back into the muddy shallows.
“Oh course I’m alright,” their alien friend said, patting them on the shoulders and backs and heads as much as she could reach from the middle of a three-way human sandwich. “Sorry to worry you all. Haven’t had to use my respiratory bypass in a long time, but really, once you’ve mastered H2O conversion breathing it’s a breeze - no pun intended.” She was definitely preening. “Knew it would come in handy some lifetime or so.
Ryan’s shoulders sagged in relief. “You can breathe underwater? That would’ve been nice to know earlier.”
“Don’t be silly, Ryan,” she admonished with a teasing twinkle in her eyes, patting his cheek. “I’m not a fish. I can just hold my breath longer than most humans.” She sighed. “Really, the only difficulty was getting out of those ropes. Harry would be so disappointed in me.”
“Harry Houdini. Now there was a fellow who knew the ropes of escape. Hah!”
Scream a little dream for me
The Doctor is approaching him, a look on her face that is pity and reluctance and sorrow all at once, and he wants to tell her to stop it, stop looking at him like that, stop looking like that, she should never look like that-
The Doctor is approaching him, hands raised, and she is saying “I’m sorry, Graham” and “Stay calm, Graham,” and “Don’t hate me for this later, Graham, but I have to” and-
Cool fingers brush his temples, settling like pressure points, and an alien mind slips between the cracks of his psyche, fractured and fragile as it is, filling the noise with dampening softness and blessed relief.
Graham stops screaming and sleeps.
“Will he be okay?” Yas fretted by the bedside. Her cheeks were pale and her eyes bloodshot, but she was given less of the drug than Graham did and it’s already clearing her system. Ryan was curled up on the cot opposite, head buried in his arms and muttering about the worst hangovers in the galaxy not comparing to the headache he’s got. The Doctor sighed, releasing some of her focus to give Yas a glance, full of worry and reassurance.
“It’ll take a few days, but he’ll be okay. The human brain is remarkable resilient, and Graham is more hard-headed than most.” She offered a wry smile, but Yas couldn’t return it, worry still dominating her thoughts. “The main components of this drug are non-addictive to human biology, and at most you’ll probably experience just a touch of hyper-empathy for a few weeks while your brain chemistry readjusts.”
“Yas, I promise. You’ll all be fine.”
“No, but, you said human biology,” she said, and watched the Doctor wince with some alarm. “Doctor, what would happen if they’d given you this drug?”
“Probably go insane,” the Doctor responded, her blithe response at odds with the seriousness of her statement. “The compound opens up latent telepathic receptors. Mostly harmless to non-telepaths, but Time Lords?” she shrugged, giving Graham a further, gentle mental nudge to deeper unconsciousness, and then stood from the bedside, brushing wrinkles from her pants.
Yas looked up at her, the lingering horror in her eyes faintly broadcasting through temporarily-opened mental channels.
The Doctor bent and brushed fingers against Yas’s temple with a smile, bolstering the other woman’s mental shields like a kiss to the forehead. “Want to help me topple a drug cartel, then?”
Horror morphed to wildfire determination. “Yes.”
Time is a thief’s best friend
Ryan tucked his knees closer to his chest, shivering despite the weight of the Doctor’s coat draped over his shoulders. Darkness had fallen some time ago, as evidenced by the twinkle of foreign stars beyond the clouds that occasionally darkened the room further as they drifted over the moon’s face.
The Doctor was kneeling by the door to their cell, fiddling with something cobbled together from the contents of her pockets that their captors hadn’t managed to confiscate. Her grumbles about primitive locking systems and thorough strip-searches had long-since faded into quiet seething. Ryan pitied their captors when she finally got out; they’d gotten handsy when they were relieving her of her sonic screwdriver and TARDIS key; never mind that the latter was useless if the TARDIS didn’t like you and the former was - well, no, the Doctor really liked that screwdriver. He’d watched her build it from scratch, baffled and amazed the entire time. No wonder she was pissed.
“How long do you think it’s been,” he wondered aloud, just to distract himself from the damp drip of water, the mugginess of the cold air, the mold coating the far wall probably slowly giving them black-lung pneumonia.
He stifled the sudden urge to cough.
“Three hours, twenty-seven minutes, and 3 seconds,” the alien muttered, oddly precise.
Their captors had taken Ryan’s watch, and the Doctor didn’t wear one. That was also odd.
“How can you tell?” Ryan asked, to further distract himself from the urge to sneeze.
The Doctor stopped fiddling and muttered in triumph, kneeling closer to the lock on the cell and inserting the thing she’d been fiddling with - clearly, Ryan now realised, an improvised set of lockpicks. As she did so, she looked over her shoulder and smiled at him. “Well, I wouldn’t be a very good Time Lord if I couldn’t keep track of time, could I?”
“Oh,” Ryan said, feeling like his voice was getting raspy. “That makes...a lot of sense, actually. So, what, you can just tell what time it is, no matter where you go?”
“Sort-of,” the Doctor replied, distracted, as she inserted the lockpicks and shifted them a little, testing. “It’s a tad more involved than that. Like, being able to peek at the author’s notes of a story, look back or forth in the narrative, see what’s gonna happen or what’s gonna be chucked in the bin for rubbish alliteration.”
“I bet all writers wish they had that ability.” Was it getting warmer in here, or was it just his imagination?
The Doctor grinned. “Remind me to tell you about Edgar Rice Burroughs some time.” She turned back to the lock and closed her eyes. “Of course, if you have the ability to see timelines-” she carefully maneuvered the lockpicks, precise and sure of each minute adjustment, “- then it’s not far a step to manipulating them...for, say, finding the precise moments in which to move...a…lockpick.”
The lock clicked open.
“Et voila,” the Doctor exclaimed, bouncing up and hauling Ryan to his feet. “One escape at your service. Who needs a sonic screwdriver?”
“Congratulations. We’re still getting it back, right?” Ryan asked wryly, shaking the pins and needles out of his legs and wiping his nose on the back of his sleeve.
“Oh, you bet your biscuits. And then, soup and tea and bed for you.”
Being human is a matter of personal tastes
Daleks. Cybermen. Weeping Angels. Public transit. Many things had tried to kill the Doctor over the centuries. All had failed.
It figured it would take one of her companions to do her in properly.
“You’re not dying,” Graham said with an exasperated sigh, poking his head into his flat's cramped bathroom where Ryan was rubbing the Time Lord’s back soothingly. “It’s just food poisoning.”
“The key word there being poison,” the Doctor stressed, giving a nauseous hiccup. “What on Gallifrey was in that concoction?”
“Hey, I’ve never had any complaints about my bread pudding before. It’s just veggies, eggs, milk and cheese, for the most part. I can’t believe none of you liked it.” The older man was not pouting, whatever the annoyed looks his fellow TARDIS travellers were giving him.
“Two words for you, mate: lactose intolerant. I don’t do dairy,” Yas told him. “The results are not attractive at all.”
“Oh,” realised Graham, looking at least a little contrite. “I didn’t realise it was an allergy. I thought it was a personal choice.”
“It’s not an allergy,” Yas sighed, “It won’t kill me to eat it. It’ll just make me wish I was dead later. So yes, it is a personal choice not to suffer, and a personal choice not to talk about it to other people.”
“And I hate eggs,” Ryan piped up next, looking sheepish. “I’m not allergic or intolerant; I just can’t stand the taste, the smell, the feel of it in my mouth. Goes for egg-based puddings too. No offense, Graham.”
He looked from one to the other, confused. “So why did neither of you say something?”
The two shared a look of joint puzzlement, before Yas offered, “You went through so much trouble, we didn’t want to hurt your feelings?”
“At least until you poisoned the Doctor,” Ryan added wryly.
“I thought it was very good, Graham,” the Doctor offered politely, before conceding Ryan’s point with a grimace, “up until the...well, this.”
Graham huffed. “Well, next time, let me know before I make a complete arse of myself, will you? My Mum would be ashamed of me. A good meal with friends isn’t supposed to alienate half the guest list.”
“I didn’t think there’d be a problem, honestly. I like eggs,” the Doctor muttered, “especially in custard. And ice cream, so it’s probably not the dairy…” She hiccuped, appeared to come to a realisation, and groaned, knocking her fist against her temple. “Oh, the cheese, of course! I knew something smelled off.”
Graham spluttered. “The cheese was perfectly fine! I bought it last week!”
Yas smacked Graham on the arm. “Differing gut flora, you idiot. Cheese is practically rotted cow’s milk. It’s got mould and stuff in it for taste.”
Ryan made a face. “Thanks for that, Yas; never eating cheese again.”
"Only some kinds," Graham protested weakly, because yes, he had used a few of those some kinds in his dish; it was an old family recipe, in fact, that his mum had sworn him to secrecy on, so he hadn't bothered to disclose it to his friends before they'd tucked in and-
"Oh my god...I did poison the Doctor," he said with hushed, horrified realisation. "With my mum's cheesy bread pudding."
Yas patted his shoulder, entirely unsympathetic.
Graham buried his face in his hands. "If she rises from her grave to haunt me for this, you have my permission to kick me off the TARDIS."
"We'll have a proper exiling party and everything."
“Nobody's exiling anybody," the Doctor stressed, resting her forehead on her arm. "Just, please, stop talking about food. What do you humans do for this sort of thing, anyway?"
“I’ll get you some ginger beer,” Graham suggested, eager to be of more help. “That always settles my stomach.”
“Ugh, no, please, I don’t need to be drunk on top of this.”
The humans all paused and looked at her.
“You get drunk on ginger beer?” Yas repeated with amusement.
And Ryan followed, “Okay but is it the ginger or the sugar carbonation that does it, you’ve got me curious now-”
Graham didn’t hear the Doctor’s response. He’d done enough damage for the day. Making a tactical retreat, he left the others to the Doctor’s assistance and began a search of his cupboards, for something, anything, hopefully Time Lord-safe.