Despite the cold reaction I kind of had the feeling the Master would look at the blood as soon as I left the room. So I did exactly that and asked the TARDIS to bring me to the Doctor instead. It probably was for the best not to think about the Master's behaviour too much. He was switching between being funny, considerate, downright dangerous or simply a prick within fractions of seconds. Maybe it simply was his character, maybe there were a thousand thoughts running through his mind at once and his mood changed according to whatever just came to the forefront. That was a thing I was familiar with. Or maybe he still was torn between hating and... well... whatever for him meant not hating someone was.
The Doctor was in the console room, tinkering about on a part of the console. It appeared he had ripped it out completely to strew all gears, screws and cables over the ground.
"How do you remember where what belongs?" I wondered out loud.
His head snapped up and a goofy grin spread on his face. "Ah, there you are, Lucy! Was wondering how long it would take you to recover from that hangover. What do you think about rainforests?"
"Uh, what? Why rainforests?" Confused, I blinked at him.
"Because there is a whole rainforest...y planet near the Hlochpla nebulae. Thought we might visit. Try out the local berry cocktails. They are infamous!"
The Doctor's face dropped visibly, like that of a child who had just been denied a cookie.
"No adventures then? The last no-adventure didn't go so well after all."
I exhaled into a laugh. It was almost adorable to be stared at with such puppy eyes. It seemed he really loved showing people around.
"Not now. The dragon got me a little during the fight. And I'm now having a fever."
Immediately the Doctor shot up, stumbled over some parts and still managed to keep on his feet while simultaneously rushing towards me.
"It got you?! What do you mean, it got you? Are you hurt? Bleeding? All internal organs intact? Where is the wound?" While babbling he hurried around me as if that would reveal anything.
I had to grab his arm to get his attention and he stumbled to a halt, almost bumping into me in the process.
"The Master bandaged it already. It's just a few scratches. But there's still the..."
"He did... what?"
"Uhm... bandaged the wound? And put some weird salve on it. Now it barely hurts."
I blinked, once, twice and finally let go of the Doctor. "Yeah?"
A good bunch of seconds passed in which the Time Lord only stared dumbfounded at me. Eventually I raised my hand chest-high and waved a little. "You alright?" I wanted to know, half mocking, half concerned that I had done something stupid on accident.
That got the Doctor out of his stupor. He straightened, furrowed his brows, raised them, pursed his lips and finally thrust his hands into his pant pockets. "That's a first."
"What? The patching me up?"
"Yeah, it's not... Are you sure he hasn't put something dangerous on it, or-"
"I am!" I snapped and rolled my eyes. "Seriously. You act as if he's a ticking bomb."
The Doctor opened his mouth, popped one hand out of his pockets to hold a finger up and snapped his mouth shut again. The finger sunk. "Well, you can't know. But actually, yes. He usually is."
I shrugged. "Then go, give him a head pat."
That made him grin for a second, but his face turned serious fast. "I'll watch him. Since we're together he did change, after all. Somewhat. Only a little. I'm never sure it's only a facade or real, but... well... you have a fever. Fevers aren't good. Come, I have something for it."
While striding past me, he somehow managed to grab my hand to drag me along. On instinct I winced and tried to get free, but quickly calmed. He didn't mean me harm, after all. And he didn't seem to think anything, doing this.
Is he also able to sense my thoughts?, I wondered, glaring at our hands and being totally unaware of the corridors we walked through. It felt so strange to hold someone's hand. In both, a good and a bad way. Different. But to what?
When he had abducted me, the Master had also dragged me through corridors. It seemed so long ago, the details were already blurred. It had been strange, too, to walk like that, but in a purely confusing way.
And before that? My ex-boyfriend had always avoided it, had never wanted to show any connection to me in public. One of the first red flags I had willingly ignored back then.
And before that? I remembered small fingers, much smaller than my own. Those of my nephews. I had visited so often I almost raised them, to a certain extent. Had seen them growing up, going from helpless bundles I fed with bottles to teenagers taller than myself.
And now? What did I feel? The same confusion? A vague sense of security? If things were different, would we be friends?
I almost didn't notice that we had stopped. A door opened and I found myself in the same med bay I had seen before. By now I was freezing. Stupid fever.
"You really don't look so well, Lucy. Better sit down." The Doctor gestured to one of the sick beds and stepped to the grey shelves.
Was he concerned? Would he treat simply anyone like this? Sure, a doctor wouldn't deny help, would he? But, then again seemed his name not to be his occupation. At least not in a human sense. Maybe he wasn't a doctor of medicine, but of something else. Maybe it had a completely different meaning.
"What's your real name?" I wondered aloud, recognizing my voice to be a little shaky. "Doctor isn't really a name."
He turned to face me and brought a glass of water and some pills. I downed both in one go.
"It's the name I chose. Because it's what I wanted to be," explained the Doctor. "Someone who helps and heals."
"I see... You allow me to stay out of some sense of duty."
The Doctor's face dropped and went sad. A tired sigh escaped his lungs as he swiped a hand over his face.
"Sort of, yeah. We talked about that already and you know I..."
"It's okay." I smiled up at him and chuckled at his confused expression. "I prefer honesty over politeness. And... back in the console room..." I hesitated, unsure if my observation was correct.
"Well, you immediately asked if I wanted to go somewhere. That's... would you hate me, that probably wouldn't be a thing on your mind."
I felt genuine happiness when he suddenly smiled widely. The memories of my nephews returned for a moment and I had to think that he was a lot like them, when they had been little. Which was weird, because of his age. And he did seem to be very capable of being all serious and even dangerous. In stark contrast to this childish expression of joy. Well... alien. Somehow I kept forgetting the fact.
"You know what? That medicine of yours seems to be working quite well."
"Why, of course it does!"
"And, as it seems, I have two options."
The Doctor slightly tilted his head and nodded to show me to continue.
"Either I try and stay away from you. You wouldn't have to content with me, wouldn't have to bother..."
"Lucy, I don't..."
I stopped him by holding up a hand with a smile. "Or, what I would prefer myself, we simply get to know one another. I don't know if we can become friends. I... would hope we could. But it would be at least nice to be on friendly terms."
The Doctor chuckled into his fist. "Always ever so logic. And you have something in mind, I see that. Tell."
"Uhm, nothing special, actually. Just thought... I'm obviously not up for something big, right now. But let's just have a small adventure? Like... really small and-we're-back-for-dinner-adventure?"
"Oh, I like how that sounds! Are you okay enough for that? Don't try to cover up how you feel."
I cringed at that, because he had hit a point there. "I... don't know. But I always get bored when I have to stay in sick bed. And I hate being bored. I... hate being alone with my own thoughts."
"Mhm... I get that." He hooked his thumbs into his pockets and bobbed up and down on his heels. "How about... we simply go somewhere nice and have a coffee? You like coffee."
I giggled and nodded. "I definitely do. And I bet you know a fancy place to have some. You now," I drawled with a hopeful smile, "something with exotic alien creatures and stuff?"
"You like that, huh?" The Doctor showed me a big, approving grin, then his eyes widened. "Ohhhh! I know exactly the place!"
"That's what you said the last time. And then we stumbled into Skyrim." I sighed, but grinned. "Alright. Lead the way."
"Doctor... is that..."
"It is! Brilliant! Isn't it?"
He beamed from ear to ear, leading the way to the entrance of what seemed to be an enormous park. And not just any.
"It's a zoo," I finally stated the obvious, blinking surprised while I watched what seemed to be humans running around and taking photos. This, obviously wasn't on earth though. And the animals... "An alien zoo."
The Doctor flashed his wallet at the entrance.
"Oh, you're from the security inspection!" The woman behind the glass gasped and handed us two tickets. "I won't tell anyone. And..." She leaned a little forward. "Could you take a look at the jarogya cage? They escape so often, it's unbelievable!"
"Oh, we definitely will!" The Doctor beamed a toothy grin at the lady and we slipped into the park.
"Security? How did you get her to believe that?" Suspiciously I eyed him from the side.
"Psychic paper." He tossed his wallet at me and I glanced inside, finding a white piece of paper in it. "Shows you what you want to see, expect to see."
"I see nothing."
"Think of something. Something..." He drawled, looking into the air while walking. "Something you... maybe something you would like to happen?"
Something I would like to happen. I had no idea what to pick and blankly stared at the paper, my eyes widening when some letters appeared on it - in a strangely sharp, but elegant handwriting.
I know you think I hate you. But you are important, don't forget that.
My heart leaped to my throat as I recognized the handwriting. I swallowed and blinked away some tears that had come out of nowhere. Was that really something I wanted?
With a deep sigh I closed the wallet and handed it back to the Doctor. "That's cool. You have to tell me how that works, someday. But let's enjoy the zoo, for now." Once more I took a breath, then smiled.
"Right! Then on we go!" The Doctor clapped his hands, swiftly grabbed mine again and we meandered through the crowd. "The people you see here are humans, if you were wondering. We're in the eighty-sixth century on the colonized planet Florsch. Named after an incident with a space travelling seashell... long story. The colonists decided to make this place a home for endangered species. Collect them all over the reachable universe."
I glared at our joined hands and pursed my lips, contemplating to tell him that this wasn't exactly human tradition or anything. But while I listened I decided to just go with it. It wasn't as if this would hurt me or anything. And maybe Time Lords needed this contact to form connections with others? A thing I decided to ask another day.
We visited countless of cages, compounds, aquariums, aerial spaces and whatnot. Some places needed to be entered through a special tube because the air pressure inside was different. In one such places lived a species of huge creatures that seemed to consist of only three legs and no perceivable body. The fourth actually was a snout with which they dug out food from the ground.
Others required us to wear oxygen masks, because the species inside were breathing different air. Like that we visited translucent butterflies and a species of big blue ant-things that lived in symbiosis with a certain kind of tree.
One small guided tour occurred in a submarine and showed tiny fish like creatures, but with hands. They had built whole, tiny cities below the water and waved at us, when our vessel floated by.
There were birds and mammals and apes and all the things you would imagine finding in a zoo. And so many more that I could impossibly list or describe them all. The Doctor, of course, knew most of them and had many stories to tell, not all of them his own, but many.
In between we also had our coffee and chatted with some of the locals. Well, the Doctor did most of the talking. And waffles! They had real waffles! Way too sweet and hot and just so deliciously reminding me of childhood visits to zoos. I probably sat there, grinning like an idiot while eating it.
We also found the jarogya species. As it turned out, they were a small combination of cats and monkeys. And so absolutely adorable that I wished they would escape, just so I could smuggle one out and keep it. But, for today, they were right where they belonged.
When the sun set we leaned on a chest high brick wall, watching some bio luminescent whales lazily breaking through the surface of an enormous basin that looked like a lake. By now I was tired, but still content and feeling weirdly nostalgic. Today I had truly felt like a child again, experiencing all those weird and foreign creatures. It reminded me of the few times my dad had visited zoos with us when we had been little. Just him, my big sister and I. If my mother had ever come along I couldn't recall. Somehow my brain had erased that detail, which maybe was for the better.
"Why are you doing that?" the Doctor asked, and when I turned to give him a questioning look, I saw his tilted head and raised eyebrows. "That smile just now," he explained. "You smile, but look sad doing so. That's not right."
I laughed at that, unable to explain it. How could I?
"That's not funny. If you smile, then why are you sad? And if you're sad, why do you smile? That's two contradicting emotions at once. It's like you're malfunctioning."
"Beep beep boop?" I answered, tilting my head to one side and laughed again at his utterly confused face. Playfully I slapped his arm. "Don't think about it, Doctor. It's... not important."
He gave me a sad look, one that made my smile drop instantly, one that told me he knew of pain much worse than mine.
During the day we definitely had laid aside some of the differences between us. Getting to know each other... that had been the goal, after all. And not having to worry about any dangers had made the whole experience quite enjoyable. I had no idea what he had learned about me, that day, but what I had learned about the Doctor, was that he was funny and bubbly and always tried to be there for people. Many of his stories had showed me that he was always eager to help, to fix things, to be kind. And while it could be annoying at time, I still came to appreciate this site of him.
So, seeing such a look in his eyes, now, made my stomach churn and I felt the urge to somehow cheer him up a little. And that made me sad again, because... I had no idea how. One of the many things I had never found out how to do in a proper way. No matter what I tried, it usually ended in everyone getting mad at me and telling me I'm an ice block.
"Oh no!" he exclaimed. "I shouldn't have said that, should I? Now you're properly sad. Which is good. I mean bad. But not confusing anymore, you know?"
I bumped my shoulder against his and smiled. "It's alright. Let's talk about something funny. It was such a nice day. Maybe I just got tired."
His eyebrows shot up once again, but it seemed he accepted my excuse - for now. A smile reappeared on his features. "Right, it's late already. Let's head back and I'll give you more meds for the night. Does that sound good?"
Together we strolled back, this time not visiting anything except what we passed anyway. Somewhere we found a small shop with souvenirs and the Doctor ran inside, delightedly. With a childish glint in his eyes he showed me some of the weird looking plushies and figurines they had to sell. I made fun of some t-shirts and flags and could convince him to use his psychic paper so we could take along a few of the items.
My first souvenir from another planet. A small figurine of a jarogya.
"Hey, let's take a few waffles back," I suggested. "For the Master."
The Doctor opened his mouth as if to protest, but quickly closed it again. "Well... he'll probably throw them away, though."
I shrugged. "Worth the risk."
The walk back to the TARDIS was spent in a comfortable silence. The evening was cool and smelled of fresh air. Inside, the Doctor gave me a few more pills. One for today and one for when I would wake up.
"Thanks," I said, giving him a smile. "That was a great day."
"It was!" He smiled back. "And your idea also was great. Way better than hiding from each other."
I chuckled and walked to the doors. "Yeah, definitely. Good night, Doctor."
"Ah, I'm not sleeping. Not now, don't need to... oh... I mean... yeah. Good night, Lucy." He wriggled his fingers in a small wave and strode away, leaving me to my own.