Sweetness and Light

by vegetables [Reviews - 0]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe, Drama, General, Humor, Mixed, Series

“Carpets!” said the Doctor for the eighth time as she propped them against the wall of the TARDIS console room. “It's not what I do, Chris, taking payment for saving the day! I'm not some firefighter out for her salary. I wouldn't like the axe.”

“You didn't take payment,” said Chris, looking at the trees behind the wall. “I did. I wanted to give you a present, and this was the only way. I don't get a lot of pocket money.”

Uneasily, Chris dragged the carpets around the circular room. They were hard to move, but she still just about managed.

“I don't know how you do presents at your school,” said the Doctor as Chris laid the first carpet on the concrete floor, “but for most of us it's quite rude to buy someone decorations then go putting them up in their home. I'm an alien, yes, but I still have manners.”

“But it isn't you,” said Chris. “This room. I like the trees and how you can see the sky, but all the grey bits are very—”

“Anodyne?” said the Doctor.

“I don’t know what that means,” said Chris. “But they’re cold, and unwelcoming. They remind me of the wrong sort of doctor. I thought the carpets would make it a bit nicer here. A bit more like it was yours.”

“The wrong sort of Doctor,” repeated the Doctor sadly. “Carpets are all well and good,” she said after a while, “but I’m worried that they’re a bit—” she hesitated “—homey.”

“But this is your home.”

“Yes, but that’s not the point! The point is—” she trailed off, and looked sadly at the floor.

“When we met Lip, he asked where we were from,” she said in the end. “And I realised I’d never told you, not because it didn’t matter, but because it never came up. People don’t go ‘I’m a human from Manchester’, so I stopped going, ‘That’s funny, cause I’m…”

“...I’m a Time Lord,” she said. “From Gallifrey. And we look and sound a lot like you, so it can be easy to hide the ways that we’re not that similar at all. And one of those — the biggest one — is that when we’re about to die, we become, well, other people instead. I mean, we’re still us! We’ve the same memories, the same soul. But our entire bodies change, so we look different– and our brains change, so we act quite different too. So this isn’t how I’ve always looked, who I’ve always been. I’ve been lots and lots of different people. But this time… is the first time…” She gritted her teeth, and looked incredibly uncomfortable.

“...this is the first time I’ve been a woman.”

“Oh,” said Chris. “So you were a man?”

“Lots of men! I was manning around the place for ages. It’s funny, the regeneration process. It can get a bit stuck in its ways.” “It sounds horrible,” said Chris flatly. “Well, being a man wasn’t so bad,” said the Doctor. “Adam’s apples, male privilege. I had all sorts of things going on.”

“I didn’t mean that!” said Chris. “Although I wouldn’t want to be a boy. I mean changing all the things about you, so you look in a mirror and someone else is there. And you used to like chocolate, but suddenly you don’t like it any more. It sounds like growing up, only worse.”

“It can be very scary,” agreed the Doctor.

“I can see that,” said Chris. “But I don’t see what it has to do with carpets.” “Oh!” The Doctor looked uncomfortable again. “Well, before the TARDIS looked like this, with the trees and stuff, it was this big spaceship full of buttons and dials, all blue and purple and whizzy. And spooky. And...and gender’s not the same for Time Lords, you have to understand that. We don’t have it in the same way they do in Manchester. But it’s about how someone like you sees it all, isn’t it? A girls, from your world. You can’t be a man in an exciting machine then a woman who’s all about… carpets.”

“You can just tell me if you don’t like my present,” said Chris. “My mum does that all the time.” “But I do like them! They’re covered in interesting patterns.” “Well, if you like them, you should have them around anyway. Did you like carpets like this when you were a man?” “Most of the time. But there was one man I was who really didn’t like them at all,” the Doctor said darkly, “who renounced my interest in carpets and—”

“Well,” said Chris to stop the Doctor continuing, “then I don’t see what the problem is. You can’t go around pretending you don’t like things just because you’re a man or a woman. My Dad is like that. He’s always saying that swimming is girly, but really he’s the best swimmer I’ve ever met.”

“Perhaps,” said the Doctor, sounding very hesitant.

“Anyway,” said Chris, “they’re a present. From me. So I’d like it if you acted like you wanted them, even if really you didn’t. Is that something you were happy to do as all those men?”

“I wouldn’t have to act,” smiled the woman in front of her. “Whoever I am, whatever I look like. The Doctor’s always happy to get a present from a child.” She looked around her light grey room. “You’re right, Chris. The carpets can stay.” “I was meaning to ask,” said Chris. “You’re always calling yourself ‘The Doctor.’ But what does that mean, exactly? Doctor Who?” “There’s nothing more to it than that. Nothing extra.” She grinned. “I’m always just the Doctor. Whoever I end up being.”

She clicked her fingers, and above them the sun grew low in the sky. As it did, the light across the console room dimmed, to the thick and orange kind that comes near the end of the day. In this light, the concrete of the room seemed warm rather than cool, and Chris stood on one of the new carpets to hear the sound of unearthly birds. And she looked over to the Doctor, who had been many people, and who now looked as if she was happy.

Sweetness and light, Angles had said– people always needed one when they didn’t have the other. Chris had eaten lots of sweets when she’d been sad, just like his people had eaten their city. But she didn’t think she’d need to eat any for a while now.

The dusky light shone down through the time machine, and the console roared with a not very natural sound.

“Come on, Chris,” smiled the Doctor. “Let’s get you home.”

The TARDIS made its way back down into broken time.