Never Change

by vegetables [Reviews - 0]

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  • All Ages
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  • Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe, Angst, Character Study, Drama, General, Introspection, Mixed, Series

“Here we are,” said the Doctor as she flung open the TARDIS doors, “The tooth planet of Dentaplax One!”

Chris looked out at the partially decorated restaurant which she’d already known would be there. It was the ancient one not that far from their house, which served terrible food and had decor that was older than her gran. It never seemed like it had any customers, and there was only one person sitting at any of the tables at all.

“Surprise!” said her mother from under a giant party hat. “You’re not surprised,” she added as she saw her daughter’s expression.

“It knew it was all made up,” said Chris. “There’s no such thing as a tooth planet.”

“Is too,” said the Doctor. “It’s a wonder of time and space. And I was going to take you there, but your mother said this place would be better.”

“I felt bad about your eleventh birthday,” said her mum. “How we were going on an adventure but then everything got destroyed. So I thought, we have a time machine, right? We can go back to the day when it actually was! So you can have a proper birthday party, as it’s your birthday all over again now.”

“But it’s not,” said Chris. “That’s not how a birthday works. I’m already more than eleven years old, because of how much I’ve aged. It doesn’t matter what day it is right now.

“I told her you were going to say that,” said the Doctor.

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“She did,” said Chris’s mother. “I hoped I knew you better.”

She sighed very heavily indeed.

“I know you’ve not really just turned eleven,” said Chris’s mother. “But we’ve had a hard time lately, haven’t we? I expect even the Doctor’s not seen that many cities burn down, and one’s been too many for me. And now that we’re all together, I thought it’d be nice. That it’d be good, to have something that was nice.”

Chris looked up at the balloons, which were the exact colour that she liked. Months ago she’d mentioned that they were her favourite, and she hadn’t thought that her mother would ever remember.

“It is nice,” she said, smiling. “I’m still eleven, and also eleven days. I’d like to have a party about that.”

Her mother beamed at her, and went to light the candles.

A shrill and tinny beeping went off in the Doctor’s pocket.

“Oh Hell,” said the Doctor, “I really have to get that.”

“But it’s my birthday,” said Chris, not even angrily.

“It’s my pager,” said the Doctor, “and I’m on call right now.”

“You do know,” said Lorna with a sigh, “that you’re not actually a real doctor–“

“A psychiatrist is absolutely a real doctor!”

“You know that’s not what I meant,” said Lorna, but the Doctor wasn’t listening. She was frowning over a massive book that hadn’t obviously come from anywhere, with the words DUTY LOG written on it in an ominous font.

“Time Lords have a rota system,” said the Doctor, “and everyone’s on it by law. Every so often, once in a few thousand years”– she scowled –“we all have to go on duty.”

“Oh,” said Lorna. “Could you not just go on duty here?”

“Only if something really awful was happening! Like that cake had a black hole in it, which it doesn’t, because I checked. On duty’s when we clean up all the messes our species ever made. And that’s a lot,” she winced, “even by human standards.”

“You’re making a pretty big mess of things right now,” said Lorna.

“Well, this’ll be worse,” said the Doctor, frowning at her book. “Handwriting’s terrible,” she said. “Either I have to fight Robespierre, or I have to fight the Robosphere. Either way, it sounds pretty urgent.”

“Oh, go, then,” spat Lorna, “it’s not like it can wait. Even though it’s Christina’s birthday, and you literally have a time machine.”

The Doctor looked incredibly uncomfortable, and shut her book to look up at her friends.

“I don’t want to miss Chris’s birthday,” she said, “I really don’t! But not going now, that’s not how any of this works”–

“And leaving’s not how we work, either,” said Lorna. “We’ve had enough of that going on in this family. Do you have any idea how important this is?”

The Doctor looked trapped. “I really need to go,” she said as she played with her hands.

“Fine,” said Lorna. “Maybe it’s for the best. Heard they cut a lot of heads off, back in the French Revolution. Makes you wonder where all of them were coming from.”

The Doctor looked at her to check if she was joking, then hastily reached for the TARDIS when she couldn’t tell. In a moment the restaurant was filled with the sounds of her ship slipping away, and Chris wondered if her mother had paid the waiters enough not to make a big fuss.

She hadn’t said anything throughout the whole angry conversation. She was too young to be able to talk about what she was feeling, to put it to words and make it all true in her mind. But she still felt it: that sense of being defended in a way she didn’t want to be, to protect a version of herself that wasn’t really there. The feeling that she was the mother and her mum was the child, which might have destroyed them both in a world where there weren’t bigger threats. But now the Doctor had gone Chris saw how crushed her mum looked, and for a second those feelings didn’t seem like they mattered at all.

“The cake is nice,” she said. “And the balloons.”

“Thanks, love,” said her mum. “I wanted you to have a lovely time.”

“I am,” said Chris.

“I know,” her mum replied.

They held each other close as her mother began to cry.