After the celebration I kept my promise not to push the Time Lords closer together. Should they deal with whatever they had for one another themselves.
It was hard enough to keep track of the confusing emotions I harboured myself. They were unfamiliar, following not a single rule I ever knew of. There was attraction, sure, but the Master had made it clear enough how disgusting he found humans. There was curiosity, lots of it, and it had only partially to do with the fact that he was an alien. There was a certain fascination - for who he was. And what.
Maybe even an obsession.
Whatever it was, I probably should make sure he would never know about it. Even with our deal in place I was never entirely sure he wouldn't just snap my neck in case I got too bold. The sensation he had sent through my body when his fingers had touched mine… it had chilled me right to the core, had reminded me that I was dealing with a wild beast. And only because he decided to play nice did it never ever, for even a second, mean that I should let my guard down.
Which shouldn't thrill me as much as it did.
I turned around and groaned into my pillow. This was frustrating and I had no idea how to deal with it all.
Soon after, the Doctor brought the children away to their new home. It was a hearty goodbye with lots of hugs and even tears. Those rascals had stolen my heart already and it was sad to see them leave. Once again I was reminded of my nephews, whom I had helped raise and whom I hadn't seen in years - and probably would never see again.
The Master wasn't present when they left. Of course he wasn't. The way he had allowed himself to show a slightly softer side with them had probably broken what he thought was his reputation. It was a funny thought at least, so I stuck with it.
When the Doctor returned, he looked a bit sad, so I decided to cheer him up with what I thought was one of his favourite things to do.
"So…" I drawled, "You have any cool place in mind you wanna show me?"
"Uhm… weeeell…" He glanced from me to the console, rubbing his neck. "Sure… sure. Bet there's something. Nice and quiet, eh?" A small smile tugged at his lips and he tossed me a worried glance. "Are you sure? You haven't been so well, lately and-"
"Yep, absolutely," I assured hastily. "As long as it doesn't get too much all at once, I'm fine. Really."
The Doctor slightly pursed his lips and started to halfheartedly push a few buttons. "I want you to have fun, not collapse."
I snorted and crossed my arms in front of my chest. "I'm not that fragile. And as long as a certain someone isn't making a ruckus I shouldn't get so overwhelmed."
At that the Doctor tossed me another glance with raised eyebrows, one even I had no trouble deciphering, one that clearly said: I told you to stay away from him.
But for that, it was already too late.
"And you're sure you don't want to take another day's rest?" he tried once more.
"Nah. Had enough of that." I shrugged. "And I want to distract myself. And you."
"Me?" The Doctor let out a small laugh. "Why's that?"
Crap. I hadn't planned on revealing that. But now it was too late. "You seem sad, now that the little ones are gone. Just thought… and I like going out with you," I blabbered on. It wasn't a lie. "It's fun and I like your stories and the cool places you take me and…"
The Doctor laughed happily and stepped closer, hands in his pockets, bent down a little to meet my eyes. "And that's why you want to cheer me up?"
"Uh… y… yes? Is that… it's selfish, isn't it?" I turned away, suddenly feeling bad for even having the idea.
"Selfish?" The Doctor giggled and bent lower to get back into my field of vision. "It's not selfish to want the people around you happy."
I shrunk together a little and peeked up, rubbing my arms. "But… I benefit from it, don't I? If people are happy, they are nice to me. And then I can have fun times with them. And it makes me happy to see them smile. That's… all of that isn't for them, right?"
"Oh Lucy, you think way too much about everything, has anyone ever told you that?" said the Doctor, voice soft and smile gentle.
Maybe I shouldn't tell him who had told me the exact same thing already. Instead I nodded and sighed. "Can't change it. I… don't think I'm a good person."
"And that bothers you." It was a statement, not a question.
I looked up at the Doctor and nodded. "It does."
Oh, there was so much childish curiosity in his voice and in the subtle smile he wore. No judgement. It always amazed me how he could be like that and it was probably the only reason I felt free to open up around him in a way I had never been able to with others.
"I don't want to hurt people," I said quietly and wrapped my arms around myself. "I don't want to see anyone suffer. Especially not because of me."
"Weeell… that doesn't sound like a bad person to me."
"But I do," I whispered. "I do hurt others. I'm able to do it and I don't even flinch. Sometimes I have to. If I don't want them to break or lock me away, if they are bad to me… I… I can. I can do bad things, Doctor."
I winced when I suddenly was encased by arms and got pressed against the Doctor's chest. It took some seconds to even realise that he was hugging me, before the tension in my chest slowly eased.
"You're not a bad person for doing what's necessary," he said softly.
"But you think so too," I mumbled, voice muffled against the cloth of his jacket. "That's why you always want me to go."
"Hey, I don't!" he protested, hugging me even tighter. "I just know what a life like this does to people. I've seen it too often. And you…"
Finally I allowed myself the comfort of hugging him back and enjoyed the warmth he gave off. Somehow the Doctor always reminded me of how it felt to have sun rays shining through thick clouds on a cold winter day. Never actually dispelling the cold, but bearing hope and letting one relax for a while.
"My own life did a lot worse things with me," I mumbled and gently pushed myself away. "Now come. I want a nice coffee somewhere."
We ended up on earth, a few years in my past, where the Doctor knew of a diner that had already vanished in my own time. Somehow it was strangely soothing to be back on my own planet, even though I didn't know the location. It also was weird to see an American diner in London. The Doctor had been right, though, the waffles were amazing and I could get a refill on coffee as often as I wanted.
The sun had already set and rain was running down the windows, creating fascinating patterns with the street lamps outside. A nice and quiet evening, perfect for relaxing and just forgetting about the world for a while. Someone even started the old-school jukebox, letting a song play that was probably as old as myself, while the Doctor sat there, quietly reading the newspaper with his specs up his nose.
I tugged at my own glasses, still thinking about keeping the contacts the TARDIS was providing me with. They were a lot more convenient, but each time I looked into a mirror I had to cringe. The glasses always made me look a bit nerdy, which I liked, and without them something was just missing from myself.
A car drove by, splashing water from a deep puddle all over the sidewalk. The Doctor turned his newspaper and folded it to read the next page, while the waitress made her round to collect used dishes. I glanced at the paper to maybe find what date it was and instead spotted a weird little advertisement for a new weight loss pill.
"Adipose," I read and chuckled. "What a dump name for a pill."
"Huh?" The Doctor glanced up and turned the newspaper to see what I had been looking at. "Oh, what's that? You're thin enough, don't you think?"
"Mhm… nowadays." I shrugged. "I actually used to be quite overweight until some years ago. Had almost double my current weight."
"And this stuff worked? Looks suspicious." The Doctor raised both eyebrows and studied the ad.
"Noooo." I chuckled. "I just counted calories for a while. Those pills are all a hoax."
"Oh dear, they aren't," spoke a voice next to us. I turned my head to see the waitress, waving her coffee can. "I've lost forty pounds in just a few weeks. And no yo-yo effect or whatsoever. It's really a miracle! And cheap at that." She winked at me and refilled my cup. "Although your boyfriend is right. You don't need them, dear."
"Oi, Henry! Did you spoil the chocolate again?!" the waitress suddenly called out and rushed away.
I pouted at my coffee and heard the Doctor chuckle.
"Yeah, you find that funny, don't you?" I grumbled, but also had to laugh. "What do you make of that? Sounds impossible to me."
"Oh, absolutely! I mean… just consider the age gap!"
"Doctor…" I sighed and huffed, "I meant that pill."
"The… oh yeah! You're right. This does sound suspicious. And impossible. Literally. The human body… But that would mean… No, can't be. That virus is long dead. And I got rid of xirfuret worms ages ago."
"Uh… I actually was thinking of some worms. Tapeworms or something like that… Or some enforced thyroid overproduction. Both wouldn't be healthy. Probably…. Doctor?"
He wasn't listening, head somewhere in the clouds, or who knows where, tipping the blue end of the sonic against his nose. Sometimes I enjoyed getting into random conspiracies, but he definitely wasn't one to spin wild and useless theories over a cup of coffee. Not that this was a helpful pastime, but fun nonetheless.
"I have to go and investigate!" exclaimed the Doctor all of a sudden and jumped up from his seat.
"Whoa, calm down. It's not as if you could do much about some big company and their-"
"I can at least snoop around," he announced with a big grin. "Love snooping around. Especially in places I shouldn't be. At least until I know if it's safe for people."
"And if not?" I raised an eyebrow and followed him out of the diner.
"Then I'll make them stop, what do you think?"
"Riiight…" I shrugged.
I couldn't imagine he had the means to actually tear a company down, but then again… some of his stories clearly told something else. I hadn't anticipated that he would go that far, though. Maybe I needed to be more careful with what random thoughts I spoke out loud, in the future.
"Wanna come along to investigate?" he suddenly asked, eyes twinkling as he turned around to me, walking backwards a few steps.
"Wha'!? No way." I shook my head. "I'd be totally useless and obvious and scared and…"
He chuckled and patted my shoulder. "It's okay. You don't have to."
I gnawed on my lower lip and glanced at my moving feet. "Sorry. I'm not as useful or fun as your other companions."
"Oi, don't say that. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. As soon as I get some clues I'll let you look over them. You're good with your head. Patterns and all that."
We reached the TARDIS and stepped inside, greeted by only the hum of the ship. The silence was uncanny, after we had had the children on board for so many days. Maybe that was why the Doctor wanted to swoop down on a new adventure. Some distraction, some noise.
"Okay. Let's do that," I agreed.