The console room for the TARDIS was unnaturally dark as the Doctor stared down blankly, his great mind lost in thought as the gentle hum of the ship tried to soothe his uneasy conscious. They had just gotten back to the ship after the traumatic experiences with the Daleks on Necros and Peri had understandably wanted to go straight to bed and hadn’t spoken a word to him when she did so, despite him trying to comfort her.
He didn’t blame her for not wanting to talk with him though. Their relationship had strained significantly ever since his regeneration and he knew deep in his hearts that he wasn’t doing a very good job of trying to mend the tear that he had ripped open.
It wasn’t as if he wasn’t trying, at least. He still cared for her deeply, but with his new regeneration he found that harder to express. Placing a hand on the telepathic circuits, he closed his eyes. Perhaps, he could ask for help from the person who would know best this one time…
“You must be desperate, calling me like this.” Opening his eyes, the Doctor coolly leveled his gaze on his younger self, his previous incarnation. The soft, boyish like features and neat blond hair seemed to be highlighted in the dim light of the console room. He gave his older self a knowing, critical look. “You really think I’ll be able to help you with Peri?”
“I don’t see why not.” The Doctor answered, never taking his eyes off his younger self. “You were always more…. Open, with her. I felt it prudent to seek council for once.”
The younger Doctor hummed in doubt. “Of course, not that you need my council or anything. You already know exactly what you need to do, and how to do it. The problem is, is that you’re frightened of doing it. So you think by calling me you’ll get a pat on the shoulder because I’m seen as ‘the nice one’ and I won’t point out the blindingly obvious.” He gave the Doctor a knowing look, and he bristled in offense but ultimately said nothing.
It hurt the Doctor more than he wanted to admit that his relationship with Peri had deteriorated so badly. Whenever he closed his eyes he remembered her terrified and wounded face and the horror he felt when she revealed he strangled her. Even though she said she understood about his regeneration sickness and had accepted his hundreds of apologies, a small part of him was left wondering if she would ever forgive him.
"You're not giving her enough credit." His previous self pointed out, giving himself a knowing look. "Peri's a strong girl. I don't doubt that she was... traumatized, a bit, by your actions but from what we've been able to see, she's managed to recover nicely."
The Doctor shook his head, averting his gaze again and staring deeply into the time rotor. "I can see that my words hurt her, every time she thinks I'm not watching I see how that lovely smile just vanishes so easily, and..."
His previous self cleared his throat sternly. "The solution is obvious, you know. Be kinder, to her. I won't deny that you haven't exactly treated her fairly lately but we can't all be perfect." The Doctor scoffed in outrage, but said nothing as the younger man continued. "However, it wouldn't kill you to start letting her know that you do appreciate her." He paused, giving the Doctor a critical and narrowed look. "You do still want her on board, don't you?"
Standing to his full height, the Doctor glowered at his younger incarnation. “How dare you even suggest such a thing! I would never, ever consider throwing her off of the ship! The mere thought of doing such a thing is, is absolutely ludicrous! I want her to be here, and you should know that very well!”
"Then let her know!" The younger Doctor countered loudly, making his older self blink in shock a little. Undeterred, the younger Doctor gave his older self a glare. "You can't really expect me to believe that you just expect her to know while you constantly insult her intelligence at every turn do you? Do you really think insulting her and making her feel inferior is your way of showing you care?" The Doctor had said nothing, hanging his head in shame. "Well? Do you?!"
“No.” He answered quietly. “No I don’t.”
“If you weren’t so pompous maybe you could’ve seen the damage sooner.” His younger self gave in a quieter tone. “It is up to you to take that first crucial step towards repairing what was broken. I understand you are afraid of losing her for good, but please don’t let my sacrifice be in vain by having you drive her away from us.”
The older Doctor’s face sobered up when he was reminded of how close he was to his own death, and how desperate he was to save Peri from the same fate. “I would do it again, in a heartbeat.” He replied quietly, staring at the time rotor. “If I were the one on Androzoni Minor, I would have done the same thing. Saved her life, at the cost of my own. I would do anything for her.”
The younger Doctor nodded. “I know that. But I think she needs to be reminded of that.” He tilted his head. “And you can tell her that for yourself. Goodbye.”
Eyes widening, the Doctor wondered what his younger self had meant until Peri’s quiet voice caught his attention. “Doctor? Is everything alright?” He wheeled around, and saw her standing there, wearing her night clothes and huddled in on herself a little. “You were, um, talking to yourself. More than usual, I mean. Are you sure that you’re still not going through some regeneration sickness?”
Inhaling slowly, he walked over to his companion and gently placed his hand on her shoulder, and smiled at her. “I’m just fine Peri, merely… consulting, myself, about something.” He took a deep breath, wishing it were so easy to just tell her how he felt. “About how I’ve been treating you lately.”
The American’s eyes widened a little in surprise, and she shrugged a shoulder. “You’ve been treating me… fine, Doctor. Nothing really to worry about.”
He gave her another smile, squeezing her shoulder lightly. “Thank you Peri, but you can be honest with me. I know I can be rather… impudent, towards you. I tend to… too insult your intelligence and belittle you. And for that I’m sorry. You are highly intelligent, Peri, and I shouldn’t be trying to knock you down like that.” Gently, he brushed some hair out of her face. “I know saying sorry isn’t really good enough, but it’s a first step, and I’d like to keep making more steps, if you’ll allow me.”
Peri chewed on her lip thoughtfully, before carefully she wrapped his arms around his larger frame and hugged him close. “Of course I will. You’re… you’re my best friend. You died for me, Doctor. I… I overheard you saying that you’d do it all again if you had too. And that means a lot to me.”
He hugged her back, holding her tightly to his chest and resting his head against hers. “You are one of the kindest girls I have ever known, Perpigillum Brown, don’t you ever forget that.” He spoke gently into her hair. “Thank you, for putting up with an old man like myself.”
Peri gave him a little smile, nudging him gently. “Someone has to watch out for you, or else you’ll end up in a nursing home.” He huffed, but smiled back at her and raised an eyebrow as she yawned. “Sorry, I’m still pretty exhausted.”
“I can hardly blame you. You had a rather harrowing experience on Necros. The Daleks always seem to bring out the worst in people. If you ever wish to talk, I’m always available for you.” He smiled at her, brushing some more hair out of her face. “But now, I believe it’s time that you get some rest. We both need our strength, I have a rather nice idea in mind for where to take you next.”
Giving him a smile, she let him guide her back to her room and nudged him again with his elbow as she opened the door. The Doctor could smell the slight tint of ozone in the air, and noted a few flowers had been placed on the bedside table. “Are you going to take me to some word convention or something, Doctor? You’re a walking dictionary as it is.”
His eyes lit up in wonder. “You know, that isn’t such a bad thought. I believe we would be honored guests at such an establishment and I think I know where one is being held…” He grinned at her, and pulled her in close for one last hug. “You sleep Peri, I’ll be busy setting the coordinates.”
She nodded, and with a bit of reluctance pulled away from him and back to the bed. “Where will you be if you’re not in the console room?” She asked.
He shrugged a little. “The library, most likely. Nothing like a good story by the poolside to help one recharge.” The Doctor chuckled at the expression on her face, and pressed a kiss to her head. “Have pleasant dreams, Peri. I’ll see you for breakfast and tea when you wake up.”
She smiled, and gently leaned up to kiss his cheek before closing the door behind her, leaving the Doctor alone once again.
Heaving out a sigh, he headed back to the console room and started setting the coordinates for the word convention, trying to remember the exact time and date it happened on. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a younger man smiling at him.
The Doctor smiled back, feeling lighter than he had been in ages.