shivver13 (shivver13) wrote,

"Royal Mail"

Title: "Royal Mail"
Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Characters: Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler
Pairing(s): None
Rating: G
Genre: General
Word Count: 4580

Summary: The Doctor takes care of something he's been meaning to attend to for a while.

Notes: Familiarity with "The Kingmaker" is required. Well, the story's understandable without it, but it'll spoil the audio. If you're planning to listen to "The Kingmaker" - and you really should, as it's one of the best Doctor Who audios ever - don't read this. Really. If you do, well, I warned you.

(Yes, I know this means no one will read this story.)

“Spring cleaning!”

His jacket swept back behind the fists perched on his hips, the Doctor surveyed the mountains of detritus left behind by his wide-ranging life, stacked high on shelves, packed in boxes, or, in many cases, simply piled in chest-high mounds on the floor. He’d been travelling so long and visited so many places, he couldn’t help but amass stuff, and most it eventually found its way to this warehouse-like cave deep in the TARDIS, hidden away where most prying eyes would never find it. The sentient ship had quite a bit of pride, after all, and preferred to keep guests out of her messy closets.

“Not a very apt term, is it? Hardly spring in here, and I reckon it’ll take a year or seven to go through all of this. It’s about time, though. Been a bit busy, let it get away from myself.” Reaching into an open box on a shelf near the door, he pulled out a small multicoloured piece of plastic and held it up to the light, squinting at it. “Happy Meal toy, from the premiere of Transformers XCVI in 2483. Still making ‘em after all that time, and still rubbish. The movies, not the toys, though the toys aren’t much better. That’s a bin,” he stated as he tossed the toy down the nearby disposal chute. He guessed that Jamie or Victoria had brought it on board after lunch in the food court of the Delaware Mall’s Wilmington district, and once it was left somewhere, forgotten and unloved, the ship had deposited it here.

Turning back to the rest of the enormous chamber, the Doctor paused, a thoughtful frown on his face. “A twenty-five hundred square mile mall, covering an entire American state? Rose’d love that. Gotta remember to take her there.” Flashing a satisfied smile, he strode further into the room. Grabbing a box and upending its contents on the nearest pile, he set it on a shelf. Then, snagging the first object from a nearby pile, he considered each item he encountered singly and tossed it either in the box or, far more often, dumped it in the chute.

A fair fraction of the contents of the room was actual rubbish. Whilst most guests and visitors were respectful of the Doctor’s time travel capsule and cleaned up after themselves, there was always something that didn’t make it to the bins, and the TARDIS, unable to judge the importance a physical, non-temporal item might have, saved everything that wasn’t expressly thrown out. Those were the easy bits, and the Doctor was grateful not to have to haul out bags of rubbish himself. The hard bits were the memories. That innocent toy had brought up the long-forgotten image of his two young companions talking and laughing as they ate their hamburgers and wondered at how a child could find pleasure in a shoddily-made plastic figure. Later that afternoon, Victoria had found a penny whistle which she begged to buy, and when they returned to the TARDIS, they’d spent a lovely evening with her trying to play along with the Doctor’s recorder and Jamie’s bagpipes. Not every object brought back such memories, but the Doctor cherished those that did, though he did not choose to keep all of them.

“That’s another one gone,” he remarked to no one as he lobbed a small stuffed bear into the disposal. “Gone, but still up here.” He tapped his temple. “That’s what it’s for.”

Squatting down to the lowest shelf in the case, he hoisted up a crate full of papers, thin booklets, and envelopes. “Let’s see.” He began inspecting them out one by one. “Shopping list.” That went straight in the bin. “Hm. Formulae. Not Adric’s handwriting. This is… Ah, non-computational proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem.” That went straight in the bin, too. The next was a pocket sketchbook. He flipped through it, then turned it over and checked inside the covers. “Why do they never put their names on these things? Turlough’s, I expect.” It was the first piece in fifteen minutes that went into the “save” box.

The last object in the crate was a bundle of parchment bound with a lavender ribbon. “What’s this?” the Doctor murmured as he tugged on the loose end, and as it came apart, three folded pieces fell into his hands. He gasped as he saw the addressees on two of them, next to which, prominent numbers “1” and “2” were circled. Barely daring to look, he opened the third and perused its message. Grumbling under his breath, he stuffed the lot into a pocket and dashed out of the room.

. _ . _ . _ . _ .

Rose nearly jumped out of her skin when the door to her bedroom banged open and the Doctor strode in. “Come on! Up, up! Let’s go!” he commanded, ordering her up with one wave of his arm.

She rolled her eyes and settled back against the pillows. She’d been listening to music and reading celebrity rags she’d bought during a visit to 2021 and she wasn’t going to just drop what she was doing for his benefit, especially when the request was so rude. “What now?” she drawled, with as much contempt as she could muster.

“We just landed and I’ve got things to do, people to see. So, hurry up. Get all primped.” With one hand in the pocket of his leather jacket, he wiggled the other at her like he was being gracious in letting her prepare.

She glanced down at her jeans and pink t-shirt. “What’s wrong with this? I’ve been out in worse before.”

He shrugged. “Be a bit shocking, seeing a woman in trousers in the fifteenth century. Give a goodman a heart attack.”

“Oh, we’re going into the past!” Always fond of dressing up and playing the worldly time traveller, Rose forgot her pretended boredom and, tossing the magazine aside, jumped up. “Why didn’t you say so?”

“I just did. Get going, you.” He patted her on the back, giving her a gentle nudge out the door. “Hurry. I don’t have all decade.”

She whirled back in the doorway. “If you’re in such a rush, why don’t you go without me? I can catch up.”

“Oh, no!” The Doctor crossed his arms and took a defiant stance, his feet wide apart. “I’m not tempting fate on that.”

Rose had absolutely no idea what the problem could be. “I’ll just be a tick. Fifteen minutes at the most. What could possibly go wrong in fifteen minutes?”

“You never know. Fifteen minutes could turn into two years. Has before, you know.” Stuffing a hand back in his pocket, he felt around in it for a moment before shooting Rose another impatient look.

It wasn’t worth the effort to try to figure out what he was talking about. “Fine. Meet you in the console room.” She spun and trotted to the wardrobe.

“You want the late fifteenth century section,” he called after her. “Earth culture,” he added as an afterthought. “English.” He was pretty sure she had heard him, but if not, well, he supposed it would make the outing even more interesting.

. _ . _ . _ . _ .

“How d’I look?” asked Rose as she flounced into the console room. Dressed in a plain light blue kirtle over a white chemise, her blond hair pulled back and bound at her neck, she looked like she’d just stepped out of fifteenth-century painting.

Studying the monitor, the Doctor glanced back at the girl “Very pretty,” he remarked before turning back to the screen. “You’ll be the belle of the ball.”

Rose threw a sarcastic smirk at his back. “Ha ha. I look like I should be scrubbing dishes and emptying chamber pots. There wasn’t a single gown in the wardrobe from the late fifteenth century,” she grumbled.

He didn’t spare her a glance, concentrating on the display as he flipped levers, turned dials, and punched buttons. “That’s fitting for where we’re going today. The common folk of London town. Not among the mucky-mucks.” Frowning, he turned back to her. “You should fix that.”


“That.” Raising his arm, he twitched a couple of fingers at her face. “Makeup. Cosmetics. A luxury of the wealthy, that is, and women whose charms are paid for. You go out like that, and assumptions will be made. There’s a reason they’re called painted ladies.”

Rose sneered at him, clearly not believing a word he was saying. With a huff, she folded her arms across her chest. “I’m not taking off my makeup.”

“Suit yourself.” He turned back to the console.

“What about you?”

“What about me?” he asked over his shoulder.

“Talk about not fitting in, you going out like that.” She waved a hand at him from head to toe.

The Doctor looked down at his leather jacket, olive jumper, and black jeans, then turned back to her and leaned against the edge of the console. “Nothing wrong with this. I’ve got a knack for making myself inconspicuous.”

Rolling her eyes, Rose hiked up her skirt and trotted up the ramp to settle in next to the Doctor and peer at the monitor. The display was usually incomprehensible, covered in circles and lines that she couldn’t imagine made sense to anyone, but she liked to look anyway; at the very least, it was always pretty. Today was no different. “Where are we going, anyway? Meet Shakespeare or something?”

“You’re a hundred years off. He wasn’t even born until the latter half of the sixteenth century.” He avoided her gaze. “Still, you never know. All kinds of crazy things can happen when you’re travelling through time.”

Rose had very quickly learned to dismiss the Doctor’s ramblings when he didn’t make sense, which was a lot of the time. “Never mind, then. I’m done with the questions. You tell me what we’re doing.”

The Doctor didn’t answer her. He gazed up at the idle time rotor and took a moment more to adjust some levers and poke some buttons. “That’s done.” Patting the console, he strode off toward the doors, then turned back as he realised that Rose wasn’t with him. She stood staring at him with her arms crossed, her dark eyebrows knitted in consternation. “Come on.”

“Why are we here, Doctor?”

“You’ll find out straightaway, won’t you now?” Holding his hand out toward the door to coax her to move, he stood there, his inscrutable expression leaving the choice of going out or staying in to her. Sighing, she stalked past him and waited for him to open the door for her.

They stepped out into a dark alley, the shops on either side pressing in on the narrow dirt strip between them, the overhanging upper-story residences admitting just a glimpse of the star-studded sky. A single lantern in the street beyond cast just enough light to warn Rose of precarious footing and shadowed obstacles but not enough for her to actually see them, and in her first step, she accidentally kicked the remnants of a smashed crate aside and stepped in something stomach-churningly squishy.

“Lovely,” she groaned as she hiked her skirt up and tried to make out what was caked on her boot. “‘Come on, Rose Tyler,’” she quipped in the Doctor’s jaunty Northern accent, “‘I’ll show you the beauty of the universe.’ Looks like the Powell Estate to me, just in 1450 or whatever the date.”

The Doctor didn’t seem to even notice that he was standing in a puddle of black water. “Things don’t need to be clean to be beautiful. The Powell Estate is as lovely as the liquid nitrogen falls of Issit Olli Mond. Quite a bit more temperate, too.” Turning, he strode toward the street, his arms swinging stiffly, and Rose trotted after him.

“This here’s London, 1481,” he announced to her as they stepped near the lantern. Here, the cobbled street was wide, with enough space for at least two horse-drawn carts to travel side-by-side. Lanterns outside of each shop illuminated people walking to and from the tavern on the corner. The rough wooden sign hanging from the post mounted on its eave sported a picture of a crown resting against a stein of ale and proclaimed it to be “The Kingmaker”. Each time the front door opened, the sounds of conversation, clinking ceramic, and hearty, rough male voices raised in raucous song rang out into the evening. Stopping just at the mouth of the alley, the Doctor appraised every detail of the scene, and Rose tried to follow his gaze. “Just an ordinary evening. People gathering, eating, chatting, drinking themselves into a stupor after a hard day’s work. Everything as normal as can be.” Stuffing his hands in his jacket pockets, he turned to eye her expectantly. “The calm before the storm.”

If she was supposed to know what he was talking about, nothing was coming to mind. “Why? What’s going to happen?”

The Doctor frowned at her in disbelief. “It’s two years before 1483. Four before 1485.”

“Yes,” she pouted. “I know. I can do maths. What happens then?”

“Everything changes!” When that evoked a confused stare from her, he changed his tack. “What d’you remember from history class?”

“That Shareen would do just about anything to get Tim Foster’s attention, just ‘cause he was my boyfriend.”

Rolling his eyes, he ignored her and continued on. “1481.” He swept his arm to indicate the city and country around them. “Edward IV is on the throne of England and for once in a very long time, the kingdom’s at peace, no one squabbling over who’s got the right to have a shiny piece of metal on his head. Not exactly prospering, mind you, but it’s been ten whole years since brother’s gone against brother on the battlefield.”

“But it doesn’t last, then?”

“Peace never does, does it? But this time, it isn’t a matter of a great-grandson of a duke on his mother’s side deciding he’s the long lost Lancaster heir or something silly like that.” He leaned in closer to speak softly. “In two years’ time, Edward’s going to die suddenly, and then it’s right back to the chaos, all because the new king is twelve years old and everyone’s sure that if they can just get their hands on him, they can either control the throne or seize it directly. His own uncle included. Richard of Gloucester, the old king’s younger brother, is to protect the prince and his younger brother and get them to London, but once there, he locks ‘em up in the Tower of London and they’re never seen again.”

Rose perked up with excitement. “Oh, oh! I know that one! The Princes in the Tower, right? He kills them, takes the throne as Richard III, gets killed himself, and then that’s Henry VIII and all that.”

“Well, Henry VII first.” The Doctor smiled, obviously proud of her knowledge.” Very good! You did pay some attention in class.”

“There was a programme on the telly I watched with Mum.” The Doctor glowered at the mention of Jackie. “They had some of the most amazing dresses.”

He smirked. “Maybe it’s better we stick to the future.”

“So that’s it, then? We’re here to save the princes?” She glanced up and down the street as if she thought the two boys would be parading by at any moment. “Set up some kind of protection and stop Richard from getting to them?”

“No. We’re not here to save anyone.”

Rose frowned. “But isn’t that what you do? Save people’s lives.”

“Never said that.” Crossing his arms, the Doctor bounced with complacent nonchalance. “Whatever happens here is going to happen. We’re not getting involved.”

“Then why are we here?”

“Taking care of some business.” He unconsciously patted his pocket.

Smirking, Rose clearly did not believe him. “Business? As in, you’re working for someone?”

He wagged a finger in front of her nose. “That implies getting paid, which I’m not. Call it a favor.”

“For who?”

“Myself,” he stated with a wide cheerful grin.

“You can’t say you’re doing a favor for yourself!”

“Can, too. I was a very different man back then.” Stepping back in a rather proud, gentlemanly posture, the Doctor swept his jacket back with a hand, which he slipped into his trouser pocket.

Rose was starting to get frustrated and rolled her eyes at him. “And what exactly is this ‘favor’?”

“Delivering a couple of messages.” He patted his jacket pocket again. “Been putting it off for a bit now.”

“How long is ‘a bit’?”

“A century or three. Maybe a bit more. Six at the outside.”

“That’s not ‘a bit’!”

“Well, it hardly matters how long you take when when you do it is fixed, innit?” He grinned at her exasperated pout.

“So you gave me the history lecture for nothing then, Professor?”

He admonished her with a single finger. “I’m not the Professor, I’m the Doctor. That’s rule number two. Well, it used to be. And it’s never for nothing. Always good to know what you’re in for.” Striding toward the door of the tavern, he opened it and held it for his companion. “Come on. Don’t want to keep me waiting.”

Rose stepped through the door into the surprisingly small establishment packed with rowdy patrons enjoying their evening with good company and cheap beer. This was certainly a coarser area of London; Rose’s plain but clean dress seemed a step above the rough, soiled garb of most of the tavern’s customers, and she noticed a few turn to eye the newcomers in the doorway, though they returned to their comrades in a moment. Wrinkling her nose at the hot, acrid air, she turned to ask with a glance at the Doctor what she should do. She didn’t want to stay in this place any longer than she needed to.

“Go on. Back there.” He indicated the door to the kitchen with a thrust of his chin.

Inching her way between closely-packed tables, she ignored the earthy comments thrown at her from both sides, stopping only when she’d reached the clear spot just in front of the door. As the Doctor came up behind her, the door swung open, shouldered by a friendly-looking heavy-set man wearing an apron over his clothes and carrying two large mugs of drink in each hand. A bit of a flush in his cheeks indicated that he’d already started in on some of his establishment’s wares.

“Clarey!” the Doctor greeted, grinning fit to split his face.

The man stopped short. “And who might you be, callin’ me by name, mate?”

“No one you need to remember.”

At that cryptic response, Clarey frowned. His gaze travelled to Rose, and he murmured, “Oh!” in comprehension. He called over his shoulder toward the kitchen, “Martha! New customers! Get out here and clear them a table!” Leaning toward the Doctor, he smiled slyly. “We’ll make sure the evenin’s right for you and your lady friend. And if ye’re lookin’ for a room...” Holding the mugs up, he glanced down at the pocket on his apron.

“I’m not anybody’s ‘lady friend’!” Rose shot back at him, balling her hands into fists.

“Got yerself a fresh one, then, mate?” he jibed, elbowing the Doctor jovially, then nodding cordially to Rose. “Never mind then, miss. ‘Discreet’ is my middle name. Oi, Martha!” he roared back to the kitchen, making Rose jump. “Customers! Special night, this is!

A young woman in a soiled dress and her hair tied up in a messy bun burst from the kitchen and, grumbling under her breath, shooed a trio of men from a tiny table to one of the big benches and swept the crumbs from it with filthy towel. “Do it yerself next time, Clarey, or yer not gettin’ yer next pot o’ stew.”

“Yeah,” he replied, barely listening to her as he deposited beer among his thirsty patrons. “Bring ‘em both a bowl o’ that, will ye? That’s a dear.”

“Sod off, Clarey,” she fumed at him as she headed back to the kitchen, shooting a tired smile at the Doctor and Rose to let them know their food would be out soon.

“Go on, go on, sit down,” urged Clarey as he ushered the two to their table.

“Actually,” the Doctor began as he nodded at Rose to tell her to sit, “I’ve a -”

“You’re not doin’ it right,” Clarey interjected. With a soft pat on her arm, he stopped Rose from sitting down, then, moving behind her, pulled out her chair for her. “Always treat ‘em like a lady.” He flashed her a winning smile, and she responded in kind, settling down in a gracious fashion. “What can I get ye both?”

“Ale for me and mead for Rose,” the Doctor said as he sat down.

Clapping his huge ham hands, Clarey beamed at them. “I’ve got just the thing. Well, just the one thing. Ye get what ya get in a place like this, you know.” He winked and disappeared into the kitchen.

Rose waited until the door swung closed to remark softly to the Doctor, “He’s charming and obnoxious at the same time.” She needn’t have worried about being overheard, as the noise of the crowd masked any normal conversation.

“It’s what he’s known for,” he replied brightly. “But don’t underestimate him. Knows what he’s doing, he does.”

Rose glanced around the tavern at its patrons. Though some of them had watched their entrance with interest, the moment was over and they’d all returned to their drink and their gossip, the strangers forgotten. “The court jester. The type that no one notices but is the only one who knows what’s going on?”

“You might say that.”

In a moment, Clarey returned with two mugs, which he set in front of the Doctor and Rose. “For you, the bright and bloomin’ Rose, my finest mead. And an ale for the gentleman,” he proclaimed with a proud smile.

The Doctor picked up the mug and took a long drink. “Strong as yesterday’s rainwater, and less tasty.”

“The storm three days ago, sir!” Clarey protested with mock pride. “Cultivated with love and care in the back alley. Only the best!”

“I’ve a favor to ask of you, Clarey,” began the Doctor.

“Of course. My fee will be modest,” he winked back.

“Hardly a favor if there’s a fee.”

Wiping his hands on his apron, Clarey leaned forward, bracing himself on the table. “I’ve a living to make. Slavin’ away here, night after night, don’t leave me a moment to give away anything for free.”

“Won’t take but a minute.”

“This isn’t a free bar, mate.” His tone suddenly serious, there was nothing of the friendly, slightly-tipsy tavernkeeper in his eyes.

“No, it’s the Kingmaker.” The Doctor glanced toward the wall above the door beyond which the tavern’s sign hung. “Interesting name.”

Frowning, Clarey eyed the Doctor suspiciously. “Just a fancy name. Looks good on a pub sign.”

“Nickname of the Earl of Warwick,” the Doctor continued, fiddling with the handle on his mug. “Warwick the Kingmaker. Brought down two kings, made two others, tried to make a third.” He took a long swig of weak ale, eyeing Clarey over the rim of the mug, and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand before continuing. “One might wonder why you chose that.”

“I liked the sound of the word,” the tavernkeeper maintained.

“One might also wonder where the name ‘Clarey’ comes from.” He cocked his head and asked with a friendly smile, “Short for something?”

Clarey bit his lip as if he was struggling to keep himself in check, then finally glowered. He dropped into the empty chair. “What is it then? What do you want?”

“Got two letters here I’d like you to give to some friends of mine.” The Doctor pulled the two folded and sealed parchments from his pocket and placed them on the table.

Clarey made no move to pick them up. “I’m hardly the Royal Mail. I don’t have the time to go traipsin’ all over London deliverin’ letters.”

“You won’t have to. They’ll come here.”

“Oh? That’s better, then.” He leaned back, much more relaxed. “Who’s that, then, and when will they be here?”

“Two young ladies named Peri and Erimem -”

“Your friends are girls?” interjected Rose, but the Doctor ignored her.

“First one’s a bright chipper gal, American accent -”

“A what?” asked Clarey.

“Never mind that. The other one’s dark. Holds herself like royalty. You know how that is.” The Doctor pushed the parchments across the table.

“I do.” He took the letters and looked them each over. “When should I look out for them?”

“A couple of years’ time -”

“A couple of years!” roared Clarey.

“- And they won’t be here to pick them up. They’ll just be here. You’ll know ‘em when you see ‘em.” The Doctor reached across to tap the top letter with a finger. “Just give them the one marked ‘1’. Give them the other only after they’ve read the first.”

Clarey checked the parchments over again, murmuring the names written above the seal. “Peri and Erimem. Strange enough. And who should I say left them?”

“You shouldn’t. They’ll know.” Digging in his pocket, the Doctor pulled out a small golden figurine decorated with a couple of red crystals and placed it on the table where the parchments had been lying moments before. “For the drink and the evening. All I got, but I reckon it’ll cover.”

Picking it up, Clarey mumbled as he inspected it minutely, “Yeah, I reckon it will.” As he stood from his seat, he dropped it into his apron pocket. “Welcome to the Kingmaker, both o’ ya,” he boomed, then turned to stride back into the kitchen. “Martha! The stew! The customers are droppin’!

“Keep yer filthy trousers on, ye git! It’s comin’!” came the reply.

“That’s done,” the Doctor stated with a satisfied grin. “Spring cleaning.” He sat back and sipped his ale.

Rose glanced toward the door. “Hardly spring out there. More like early summer, I’d say.”

Her teasing snipe couldn’t ruin his good mood. “It’s spring somewhere in the universe.”

“So, Clarey is somebody, then?” she asked.

The tavernkeeper emerged from the kitchen again, hands full of mugs, and pushed his way through the crowd to the group of singing patrons. Passing out all of the drinks except one, he took big gulp and sat down to join in the song.

“Should be obvious.”

“How’s that?”

“The Royal Mail.” Glancing at Rose, he held her eye for a moment. “That doesn’t serve the public for another fifty years.”

Gasping, Rose stole another look across the room. “So he’s…”

“No, but close enough.” The Doctor swirled the thin liquid in his mug before taking another drink. “He’s happy here. Glad to be out. It’s why he didn’t want to do this. Doesn’t want to draw attention, you know.”


“So, we make sure we don’t. Keep him out of the spotlight.” He glanced one last time at the singing tavernkeeper. “Enjoy everything the Kingmaker has to offer, bright and bloomin’ Rose! This is the filthiest hellhole in London, run by the worst barkeep in the country, and we’re gonna have a fine ol’ time of it here, ain’t we?” The Doctor raised his mug.

“Right-o!” Rose cheered. Bashing their mugs together, she slopped her mead all over the table. Laughing, she took a hearty gulp and beamed at the Doctor with shining eyes.

Tags: doctor who, ninth doctor, rose tyler, the kingmaker, writing

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