And then there was the ritual assigning of bedrooms to new arrivals. The Doctor usually enjoyed this bit, mostly because it gave her a chance to show off how cool her ship really was. The TARDIS decorated a room for Ryan with classic games consoles (some of which had yet to be invented in Ryan's time, but that didn't mean they weren't classic), and offered Yaz a large, ceiling-high window that somehow overlooked Venice. The Doctor's new friends were pleased, and grateful and – most importantly – impressed.
“I hope there's a fridge in mine,” said Graham, following the Doctor along the corridor.
“Ask her nicely and she'll be only too happy to provide one,” said the Doctor. She stopped so suddenly that Graham was a step away from walking into her. She waited.
He looked at her, blank. “What?”
“Ask her,” said the Doctor. “Nicely.”
Graham glanced at the ceiling, and then at the walls. “Um...”
The Doctor sighed and shook her head. “I'll never understand why humans are so weird about talking to the TARDIS.” She moved to the nearest door and opened it.
Graham looked past her into the room. It looked clean, the lighting was good, and there in the corner sat a small fridge with brightly-coloured alphabet magnets on the door. It was nice. But. He turned to the Doctor. “I know this sounds really stupid but... could I have a double bed?”
The Doctor looked at him, surprised.
“I don't want to have company round, if that's what you're thinking,” he went on, hastily. “It's just... well, I feel like Grace should have a place to sleep here. Even if she's not... actually here.”
The Doctor was quiet for a moment. Did she think he was being weird? Because if the Doctor thought something was weird then... well.
“Okay.” She closed the door and opened it again, revealing the same room with a larger bed.
“How did you do that?”
“If I told you I'd have to kill you,” she said, in that deadly-serious tone that told you she was joking.
“Thanks,” said Graham.
The Doctor shrugged. “I was the same when...” She stopped herself, went silent again.
“Doctor?” He wanted to touch her shoulder to offer some sort of comfort, but he wasn't even sure what he'd be trying to comfort.
She shook her head as if to clear it. “Breakfast's in the kitchen by the football pitch, third floor, second on your right. Don't worry about jet-lag or anything, you're in a TARDIS. And don't worry about me, I adjust to whoever I'm travelling with.” With that she spun away and walked quickly back towards the control room.
Graham stood for a few moments trying to work out what had just happened, then he shrugged to himself and went to look in that fridge.
They weren't running, but it didn't really feel like they were walking either. Too quick for that, and much too tiring.
“Hold on, Doc.”
The Doctor stopped and turned. “What's the matter?” she asked.
“I'm an old man,” said Graham, leaning on the wall that ran alongside the path they were following.
The Doctor didn't get it. “So was I until quite recently.”
He nodded. “And now you're a young woman and you can walk for miles without stopping for a breath.”
The Doctor looked up at the darkening sky. “We're supposed to meet the others before nightfall.”
“Don't worry about them. Ryan will take care of Yaz and Yaz will take care of Ryan.”
She nodded and walked back to where Graham stood. She hopped up onto the wall easily, sitting down to
keep herself still. “Are you okay?” she asked, a hint of guilty conscience in her voice.
Graham nodded. “Just give me a minute.” He arched his back to stretch it. “Exactly how old are you, anyway?”
She shrugged. “I just round it up to two thousand. Or round it down. Honestly, I'm not sure. I lost count ages ago.”
“Never think about retiring?” he teased.
Apparently that was the wrong question. The Doctor stood up. “We'd better get a move on,” she said, not making eye contact.
Graham accepted defeat and followed her along the road.
They walked back to the TARDIS as the sun rose over distant mountains. The Doctor caught up with Graham. “Can I ask you something?”
He nodded. “If you like.”
She looked around to see if the others were close enough to overhear, then said, “Why did you never ask if we could go back?”
“To save Grace.”
Ah. Was this some sort of test? Or was she just curious, as always? He shoved his hands into his pockets. “You can't. I don't understand time-travel, but I do understand you. You'd have saved her if you could have.”
The Doctor nodded, then said, “I could stop the cancer coming back.”
“I know,” he said, like it didn't matter.
“You've never asked about that either.”
He looked at her as they walked. The kids were some way behind them further up the hill. “Do you think we see our loved ones again when we die?”
The Doctor tilted her head. “I don't know. Not really my area of expertise.”
“One thing you do know, though. The longer you live the more people you lose.”
She blinked a few times and then said, “Yeah.”
Graham paused. “Doctor,” he ventured, “I'm sure that whoever it was... well, I'm not sure, obviously, but I'd like to think that...” He cleared his throat. He tried to think of something to say that would lift her spirits and had to settle for “It's crap getting old, isn't it?”
The Doctor laughed. “Sometimes, yeah.”
Well, at least the tension was broken now, even if nothing had really been settled. “Come on,” he said, “race you to the bottom of the hill.” He set off at a run, slowing as the gradient grew steeper and weaving his way between the obstacles nature threw in his way.
The Doctor followed him, and almost won.