by TemporalPhoenix [Reviews - 4]Chapter or Story
Rose quietly padded out of the TARDIS kitchen in search of the Doctor with a cup of tea clutched in each hand. She was still shaking off the last vestiges of sleep, relishing the fact that she finally felt well-rested. Defeating the creator of the Daleks and helping save the universe (again) tended to take a lot out of her.
She frowned slightly as she came to a stop in the middle of the coral hallway, listening for any sign of the TARDIS’ other, mysteriously absent occupants. Other than the warm telepathic presence of the ship in her mind, everything was empty and quiet, far quieter than she’d experienced in some time.
Everyone who had helped defeat Davros had returned home by now. Mickey, Jackie, Tony, and Pete were safe and busy establishing new lives in the same universe as Rose—something she never thought would be possible ever again. Donna wasn’t due to be picked up until later today, having begrudgingly decided to stay home for a couple days to catch up with friends and family. Jack had declined to join Rose, the Doctor, and Donna for now, though the offer remained open.
Rose was relieved beyond measure about all this. Right now, however, she just wanted to find the Doctor before his tea went cold. ‘Where—' She’d barely begun to ask the TARDIS where her errant Time Lord was when the ship sent her a series of sensations over their strengthening bond. Each sensation of touch and sound layered upon each other to form a hazy but ultimately unmistakable impression of the console room.
That was not the answer Rose had expected. She’d checked the console room on her way to the kitchen and found it empty. But the TARDIS was certain about the Doctor’s location, so to the console room Rose went. She wasn’t sure what state the Doctor would be in when she found him, given the whole mess with Davros and the Daleks two Earth days before.
He’d been quieter than normal ever since they had done what they’d had to do to stop Davros’ newest Dalek Empire and the Reality Bomb. When the TARDIS had towed the Earth back to its usual orbit after the Crucible’s destruction, the Doctor had clutched Rose’s hand in his and all but refused to let go, holding her close whenever possible. He’d also partially regenerated after getting shot by a Dalek earlier that day, which had ultimately led to a very unexpected one-way biological metacrisis involving his severed hand, Rose, Bad Wolf, and previously unknown residual effects of a cat curse from Jyotaris.
After everything they had just gone through, Rose had been a little surprised (yet also not surprised at all) to wake up to an empty bed today. These days, the Doctor usually stayed with her while she slept, sometimes sleeping, sometimes not, but almost always there when she woke up. Her Time Lord was still a rather restless one, especially when it came to saving the universe, and dealing (or not) with things that brought the darker parts of his past to light.
Rose sighed as she recalled the events from two days prior, taking a fortifying sip of tea as she neared the console room. From what she could hear, it sounded like the Doctor was arguing with the TARDIS again.
‘Must still be fixing things that were damaged when the Daleks dropped me and the TARDIS into the heart of the Crucible,’ she thought.
She found the Time Lord standing in the middle of the console room a few feet away from the console itself. His back was to her, and he didn’t appear to notice her arrival at first. Even without a clear view of his face, Rose could tell he was irritated. His arms were crossed, his posture rigid, and he was staring at something on the console. Rose couldn’t quite see what it was from where she’d paused at the end of the corridor, but she had a feeling she might already know.
The Doctor had clearly been up long enough to dress in his brown pinstripe suit and trainers, and gather a few tools and spare ship parts from the storage rooms. His jacket was draped over a coral strut beside the ramp, and the sleeves of his light blue Oxford were rolled halfway up his forearms. A variety of TARDIS parts and tools were strewn haphazardly around the grating.
A faint purring sound reached Rose’s ears then.
(Oh yes, she'd been right.)
She took a deep breath and stepped into the console room. “Doctor? What’s wrong?” she asked, keeping her voice soft and gentle as she approached him.
The Doctor whirled around to face her. He was indeed scowling as he thrust an accusatory finger behind him at the object of his ire. “He’s wrong, Rose, ALL wrong! My biological metacrisis is a bloody cat, with one heart and the mental capacity of a Time Lord crammed into one very small, very feline brain! I've done many, many tests to verify that. He's going to be this way for his whole life, too! And, despite my attempts to help him, he is also quite rude. I mean, look at him!” The Doctor's voice rose in volume the longer his tirade went on.
The TARDIS-blue cat with white paws and fiery golden eyes that was currently sprawled across a section of the console raised his head with a meow of protest, giving Rose the most innocent feline expression he could muster.
Rose smiled in response, while the Doctor only narrowed his eyes. "Yes, you are! Now get off the console! Off!” he snapped at the cat, pointing impatiently at the floor.
Rose sighed, shaking her head at the scene that was becoming increasingly familiar. She had hoped the Doctor and his newly-created metacrisis would get along better, but it seemed they were either too similar or two different for that to happen easily. Other than the obvious species difference between the Doctor and his cat self, Rose’s single, human heart had led to the metacrisis form of the Doctor having just one heart as well.
Instead of commenting on all of that, and fueling the Doctor's ongoing tirade against his metacrisis self, she simply handed him his cup of tea. “Here you go,” she said, stifling another yawn.
The Doctor blinked down at it in surprise, accepting it with a somewhat belated response. He mumbled his thanks, wincing at the sight of greasy residue smeared across the backs of his hands as he raised the cup to his lips.
He didn’t speak again until half his tea was gone. Rose let the silence stretch between them, her unease fading now that she knew that he was merely annoyed with the antics of their new feline companion.
She wasn’t entirely surprised when the smell of tea drew the attention of the cat on the console. He narrowed his eyes at their steaming cups, sniffing the air curiously. Rose smiled faintly in recognition. That cat was definitely the Doctor, or part Doctor, anyway. No other feline would hone in on the scent of tea so quickly. (Maybe she should start giving him a saucer of tea in the morning. The original Doctor tended to be a little more amiable after a good cup of tea. Maybe his metacrisis incarnation would be the same.)
“Don’t let his innocent looks fool you,” the Doctor muttered darkly. “Handy caused all sorts of trouble while you were sleeping. That’s why I wasn’t there when you woke up. Sorry about that. I meant to be, but Handy didn’t like being left out in the hallway again, and I didn’t want him to wake you, so I tried to put him in the kitchen but he escaped, and anyway, now he knows to stay away from the pool and gardens unless he’s under direct supervision.”
Rose stifled a laugh at the images the long-winded explanation brought to life in her mind. She rested her head against the Doctor’s shoulder. “Sounds like you two had quite the adventure," she murmured.
He exhaled slowly, and she could feel some of the tension start to leave him. “It was less of an adventure and more me having to pull Handy out of the deep end of the pool after he fell in while trying to evade me. I had to rescue him from a tree in the gardens that he climbed and couldn't get down again, too."
“Regular cat-whisperer, you are," Rose teased.
The Doctor laughed, shifting a little so he could press a kiss to her hair.
After another moment, Rose reluctantly stepped back and took his free hand in her own, tugging gently until he turned to face her. “Doctor," she began, “we are NOT calling your cat self Handy. I thought we agreed on that yesterday.”
The Doctor had clearly chosen to interpret their conversation differently. “Well, yes, we did. But it was a very vague sort of...” He trailed off when he caught sight of Rose’s unimpressed expression.
“Donna made us promise to give him a new name before picking her up again, remember? That should be later today, for her.” She tried another approach.
It was technically true, Donna had insisted they stop calling the metacrisis cat “Handy”, and Rose had sided with her because she didn’t want to call him that either. That nickname would always remind her of the Sycorax, severed hands, and the Doctor being shot by a Dalek. The Doctor's feline metacrisis deserved a better name than that, in her opinion.
The Doctor sniffed. “Yes, well, in light of recent events, I think I’m going to have to rescind my part of that agreement."
The cat hissed at him from the console.
Rose just barely contained a groan of exasperation. “Oh for heaven's sake, can you two please find a way to get along? I mean, he's YOU!” She gestured to the blue feline with her nearly empty cup as she spoke, the remaining tea sloshing around the bottom with the jarring movement.
The Doctor remained as unhappy about the whole thing as he had been from the start. “I know! I get temporarily cursed to be a cat for 25 hours once, and now I have to deal with my biological metacrisis permanently being a cat.”
Rose arched an eyebrow. “Would you rather that he be more like you? Some kind of clone, more or less? Cause I’ll be honest, that would have been a lot more complicated to deal with.”
A strangely unsettled look flashed across the Doctor’s face. “I-” he broke off helplessly, staring down at their joined hands. After a moment, his grip tightened.
Rose didn’t quite know what to do to bring him back from whatever dark corner of his mind he’d stumbled into. All she knew was what something she’d said had sent him spiraling off into a place that couldn’t be good for him to dwell on for long.
She gave his hand a playfully squeeze. “I still think he needs a better name than Handy,” she said lightly, hopefully.
The Doctor jerked his head up, blinking hard a few times as he refocused on her. “Hmm? Like what?”
Still concerned, Rose studied his features for a few seconds. When he simply smiled back at her, she hesitantly continued with her original sentence, leaving her worries unspoken. “I dunno, why don’t you ask him, since you apparently speak cat? I mean, he’s as much the Doctor as you were as a cat on Jyotaris. Does he even need or want a new name?” She nodded to the feline, who was now sitting upright on the console, watching them intently.
The Doctor tilted his head to one side, considering the question. “He's also part you, you know. It's a small part, mind you, but still there. And I don’t so much speak cat as— Oh, never mind. Handy can't be the Doctor. He's a cat. The real question is, what do you name a cat that’s also part you? Oh! What about calling him John?”
Rose quickly shook her head. “No. Who even names their cat John? No. Alright, here's what's going to happen: You two are going to stay here until—"
“What?” The Doctor dropped her hand, staring at her in alarm.
An unhappy meow from the console let Rose know exactly what the resident half-Time Lord feline thought of that idea as well, but she plowed on anyway.
“—UNTIL you sort out this thing between you. And you’re going to decide on a name you can both live with.” She gave both cat and full Time Lord a stern, expectant look.
The Doctor was quick to argue. “Now that is just entirely unfair! Handy started it!”
The cat sniffed with disdain and hopped down from the console. He padded across the grating to sit at Rose’s feet, looking up at her with wide, pleading eyes. When she didn’t react, he huffed and circled her legs, fluffy body pressing insistently against her calves.
Rose had heard similar arguments from the Doctor at least eight different times now, and she was simply not in the mood to hear the same things all over again. She gently nudged the cat away with one foot. “Stop it, both of you!” she said. “It’s been two days, and I’m sick of your petty fights over everything— including me, don't think I haven't noticed that! I would hope that you, especially the 900-year-old one of you, might be able to draw on your knowledge and experience to sort yourselves out. When you’ve done that, you can come find me. For now, I think I'll go explore the TARDIS. On my own. Maybe I’ll even relax by the pool for a bit.” She gave the Doctor one last pointed look before turning on her heel and striding toward the hallway that would take her back to the kitchen. She was in desperate need of more tea, and possibly a few chocolate biscuits.
The Doctor sputtered in protest. “But, Rose! Wait, you can't just—"
She glanced back at him. “Doctor, you know I love you no matter what form you’re in, but this is really getting out of hand." (She cringed inwardly at her choice of words.)
The Doctor opened his mouth to reply, then closed it again in resignation. "Quite literally, too," he muttered under his breath, glowering at the blue cat beside him.
Wishing she didn’t feel like she had to do this for the sake of their collective sanity, Rose sent a mental request to the TARDIS to stop both the cat metacrisis and the Doctor from leaving the room until they’d figured things out. Once she was confident the ship would carry out the task in whatever manner She saw fit (it was for the good of everyone onboard after all), Rose swiftly departed the console room, wondering idly where she might like to explore first.
The cat’s fluffy blue tail lashed back and forth as he watched Rose leave. When she disappeared from view, and the hallway she had gone down vanished and transformed into a blank coral wall, he raised his head to gaze at the bipedal Doctor. The Doctor stared stoically down at him in return. Neither of them quite knew how to act around each other, not yet. For better or worse, if they ever wanted to leave the console room and see Rose again in the immediate future, there had to be some kind of reconciliation between them.
That was so much easier said than done.