Fandom(s): Doctor Who (modern)
Characters: David Tennant, Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond, Rory Williams
Pairing(s): None (well, Amy and Rory)
Rating: PG, maybe PG-13
Warnings: Character death
Genre: Sci-fi, adventure
Summary: While filming his final specials for Doctor Who, David Tennant finds himself in the TARDIS, face-to-face with a future incarnation of the character he portrays, his childhood hero. When he discovers that he can't return to his own world, he must determine his place in this strange yet familiar universe.
Word count (chapter): 3669
Master post link: Master post
If anything, the tour of Cambridge University unsettled David, rather than comforted him. Other than the Doctor himself, everything he saw was normal, making it difficult for him to comprehend that his life had entirely been set on end in the last two hours. He found himself falling into the trap of thinking that if he just saw someone he knew, it would prove that he was still in his own universe and could just pop back home any time he wanted. He began to realise that he needed proof: not that the Doctor and the TARDIS were real - he already had that - but that he didn’t exist in this universe. He wanted to go home and see it lived in by someone else; that would do it. Or, as he hoped beyond hope, it was still his and he could pick his life back up. Convincing this Doctor, who seemed to be flightier than most, to do such a thing would be difficult indeed. David tucked the idea away and put on a happy face, pretending to enjoy the outing. Being an actor came in handy sometimes.
The Doctor led them on a tortuous route through the different colleges of Cambridge, trying to explore the various departments and academic disciplines, and was disappointed he was denied access to all but the most public of areas. At the first obstacle, he started fishing the psychic paper out of his pocket, but Amy convinced him to simply move on, that the point of the tour was to help David, and not to entertain himself. He took every opportunity to lecture them on each display, though his talks tended to lack detail and consist mostly about how they were wrong. After the first few of these, Amy became bored and began asking when they would leave to go do something exciting, but the Doctor was adamant about seeing the whole university. David and Rory rarely said a word, realizing the less they objected, the faster the visit would end.
The three humans finally took a welcome break when Amy spotted a cafe near the medical school and insisted they stop for lunch. Without stopping, the Doctor dismissed them and ducked into the next building alone. David immediately relaxed, much of his tension released by the cessation of the Doctor’s relentless energy and non-stop chatter. After fetching their lunches, they sat at an outdoor table to eat.
“Feeling any better?” Amy inquired of David as she unwrapped her sandwich.
“A little, I suppose. It’s all a bit hard to process.” He tucked into the bowl of soup, only now realizing how hungry he was. It made sense: he’d worked a long day of filming and had been planning to have dinner once he’d finished the long drive to Birmingham. He probably hadn’t had food for a good eight hours now. “I know you’re trying to keep me from thinking about it too much. I think I’ve gotten used to him and the TARDIS, but… I keep thinking about home.”
“Yeah, well, that’s the hard part. I can’t say I know how that feels.” She leaned across the table and grasped his arm in a comforting manner. “But I promise, I won’t let him abandon you.”
“It’s probably best if you did,” he commented between slurps.
Amy was taken aback. “What? Why?”
David put his spoon down and leaned back. “Better to just let me rebuild my life. I can start over. I’m sure there’s a theatre group that’ll take me.”
Even Rory was surprised. “You don’t want to travel with us?”
David shook his head and shrugged. “I’ve been a fan of the show all my life, and traveling with the Doctor was my greatest fantasy. But that’s the kid in me talking. I know everything about the show, and life with the Doctor is simply dangerous.”
“That’s not true. We get into some trouble, sure, but we’ve got the whole universe to explore. It’s beautiful out there.” Amy gestured at the sky before taking another bite of her sandwich.
“Have you met the Sontarans yet? Or the Zygons? Or the Daleks? ‘Cause the Daleks, they always find a way to come back.”
Amy pointed at the mention of the Daleks. “Aye, those we’ve met.”
A note of horror shaded David's eyes. He took a deep breath and rubbed one hand down around his mouth and jaw. “They never just stay dead, do they? Look, there are hordes of murderous aliens out there, and I know what they can do. I’d be rubbish in front of them.”
She shook her head. “It’s worth the risk. And you’ll be fine. It happens less often than you think. I’m sure your show only shows the exciting moments of the Doctor’s life.”
“I suppose that must be true. No one wants to watch the Doctor reading a book on a beach somewhere.” David’s lips curved into a slight smile.
The next few minutes passed in silence as they ate their lunches, until Rory looked up and murmured, “That’s never a good sign.” Amy and David followed his gaze to the Doctor striding towards them, reading the sonic screwdriver in his hand. David sighed.
“Doctor, what’s up?” called Amy.
“Birds,” the Doctor replied. As he arrived at their table, he stashed the screwdriver in his inner breast pocket.
“Now he’s worried about birds,” groaned Rory.
Amy ignored him. “Birds are good. Any particular kind of bird?”
“Oh yes. One of those.” He pointed at a large raven that was sitting on a nearby roof. “They’re called Arrenids. Not really birds. Can't fly. More like a feathered mammal. From a very long way away.”
At that moment, the Arrenid spread its wings and glided down, into the building it had been perched on.
"I suppose that counts as ‘swimming through air’ and not flying," Amy snarked.
"Come on. Let’s go.” He continued scanning the buildings around them for birds as the humans exchanged annoyed glances with each other. “They lost the ability to fly a hundred thousand years ago. The wings are really just feathered hands, and they have mechanical implants under them. Wired into their whole bodies, really. Does all sorts of things, especially fly. That's why they don't flap."
Amy, Rory, and David reluctantly rose and discarded their plates and cups, stuffing their mouths with the last of their lunches. "What are they doing here?" the redhead asked.
The Doctor paced back and forth impatiently. “That’s what I went to find out. Arrenids are traders by nature, like to acquire goods and sell them. If they’re this far away from home, you can bet they’re after something very valuable.”
“And what would that be?”
The Doctor spun, and seeing that they were more or less done, answered, “Human organs,” and strode off.
Amy ran to catch up with him, as Rory and David jogged up behind them. “Ew! Who would buy organs?”
The Doctor waved his hands around to indicate everything. “They sell to the universe! Somewhere there’s someone who’ll buy anything you have to sell. There’s always a trade for parts.” He waggled a finger at Amy. “It might be a kidney to you, but it’s a medicine to someone, or a delicacy, or, when powdered and mixed with oil, a fine wood polish.” She grimaced at the thought.
David recalled an episode in which the body parts of humans were wired into a spaceship’s engineering. It was an intriguing idea at the time and made for a good story, but the thought sickened him as he realised that it had actually happened here. He didn’t share this thought with the Doctor, though, as he was getting tired of the Doctor’s insinuations about how he knew these things.
The Doctor continued to explain as they trotted up the steps of one of the medical school buildings. “I’ve been seeing them all over the university, probably about fifty of them. Tracked them to the medical college. Been listening to them talk. They’ve been harvesting the cadavers, but the staff has been noticing and making it far more difficult for the Arrenids to get in. They’re planning to harvest humans directly now. Who would suspect the birds?”
Amy sped up to get ahead of the Doctor and spun, walking backwards to talk to him. “Stopping the great alien organ harvest! What can we do?”
“We tell them to leave. And if they don’t, we knock them out. Pack them up. Take them away.” He stopped at the doors and turned to the rest of them. “Rory, you’re a nurse. Ever operated an MRI?”
Rory started, being addressed directly for once. “Uh, once, yes, in school.”
“Good. You’re going to do it again.” The Doctor showed him the sonic screwdriver. “That building. Get to the MRI. Find the main control circuit. Should be just under the control panel. Apply this setting for five seconds, then activate the machine. Oh, then this setting for five seconds. That’ll put it back to normal.” He handed the screwdriver to him.
Rory took the sonic uncertainly. “And what will that do?”
“EMP pulse. Knock out the Arrenids for a good thirty minutes. They’re completely dependent on the electronics under their wings. Knock out the electronics in a two-mile radius, too, but can’t be helped. Amy, come with me. If we need the pulse, send a text to Rory.” Spinning on his heel, he headed towards a different medical college building with Amy in tow.
“What about me?” David called to him. He was apprehensive of getting involved in a dangerous situation and had no skills or knowledge that he could contribute, but he didn’t want to be left behind. He was also concerned about appearing to be afraid, especially when both Rory and Amy were fearless.
“Here.” Rory tossed him his mobile. “You keep in touch with Amy. Come on.”
Unlike a hospital, the medical college didn’t have signs indicating which rooms were which, and the two men spent some time studying the building map in the lobby, looking for the likely location for an MRI. Rory finally pointed to a corridor and shrugged. “I’d guess the radiology machines would be here.” Heading there, they found that the nurse’s intuition was correct: the corridor, closed off by a partition with a desk at which a receptionist sat, led to rooms with signs indicating their contents: MRI, CT, x-ray, PET, and other imaging machines. Rory and David came up short and retreated into the hallway they had come from.
Rory leaned into David and put a hand on his shoulder. “We can’t get in there. That woman controls the scheduling of the machines. If we’re not on the list, then she won’t let us in.”
David peeked around the corner and surveyed the area. “Mmm. I think we can. You’re my student. Follow my lead.”
He walked up to the desk, and the woman turned a lazy eye toward him. “Can I help you?”
David affected a pretentious English accent, instead of his normal Scottish one. “I’m Dr. Tennant, from the Royal Hope Hospital.” He pulled his studio ID out of his pocket and flashed it at the woman, hoping that she wouldn’t recognise the BBC Wales logo on it. "This is my intern, Mr. Johnson. We're here to take a look at your MRI."
The woman looked him up and down, skeptical that David could be a doctor while dressed like he was, in his jeans, Star Wars shirt, and jacket. She consulted a schedule and replied, "I don't have you listed for any time with the machine."
David waved dismissively. “Oh, we're not running any scans. We're meeting with" - he pulled a name that he had seen on the faculty directory in the lobby - "Dr. Latimer to evaluate the machine. The hospital is considering purchasing this model. Latimer should be meeting us down here any minute now.” He glanced down at his hand to check the time on Rory’s mobile. “We’re on a schedule. Do you think we could go in and start looking it over?"
She looked uncertain. "So you're not going to run the machine?"
"Oh, no, unless you're volunteering as a patient.” He laughed loftily.
She responded with a smile. "Not me! I guess I can let you in early. Just don’t touch anything." She pressed a button and the door buzzed. Rory pushed it open and let David through first before following him.
"Thank you kindly." David nodded graciously at the woman before heading into the MRI room with Rory. He checked the mobile again. "No message yet." His accent was back to normal.
"Okay." Rory inspected the machine. "This is different from the one I used, but I think I can turn it on. The controls are here, and the main system is here." He started fiddling with the screwdriver. "That was some great work, by the way."
“Thanks.” David shrugged. "That's what I do: make people believe I'm someone else. Though it's been a long time since I had to improvise. I always have a script."
"My name's Williams, by the way."
"Ah. You never said." David leaned against the machine and kept an eye on the door.
"Okay, screwdriver's set. And yours is Tennant, then?"
"Yeah. Stage name. Was McDonald. Though I had to change it legally." The phone in his hand buzzed. "Oh, there's the text. She says go."
Rory knelt and applied the sonic screwdriver to the panel casing, and David's heart both leapt and sunk at the sound of it. After five seconds, Rory jumped up and punched a few buttons on the control panel. The lights in the room and the MRI itself immediately shut down, and David heard the receptionist swear in not-so-ladylike terms. Ten seconds later, the lights came back on again, and Rory started fiddling with the screwdriver. "Urgh, I hate this thing," He then applied it to the MRI. "There that should do it."
"Let's go." David stepped out of the door, bumping into the receptionist.
"We had a bit of a power loss. Is everything okay?" she inquired.
David remembered to switch accents. "Oh, fine, just fine. The MRI will need recalibration, so I'll just head up to Latimer's office now to let him know. Thank you for your kindness. Come along, Johnson." He beckoned peremptorily at Rory and strode off. Rory nodded a nervous smile at the woman and followed.
Once out of the imaging department, they broke into a run, dashing out of the building and heading for the one that Amy and Doctor entered. On the way, they passed a couple of stunned birds, and as they reached the stairs to the entrance, they bumped into Amy coming out, hauling a large cardboard box.
“Come on, you two! Come help!”
Rory ran up the steps and took the box from her. “Uh, heavy! What’s in it?”
“Birds.” She pulled her TARDIS key out of her pocket and looped the lanyard around Rory’s neck. “Take them to the TARDIS. The Doctor’s going to take them to some shadow place.”
“The Shadow Proclamation,” corrected David.
“Yeah, that. Something about harvesting level 5 planets. But hurry. We only have thirty minutes before they wake up.”
Rory staggered under the box. "I guess we're lucky they weren't cows."
They spent the next twenty minutes searching for unconscious birds, packing them up in whatever containers they could find, and hauling them to the TARDIS. David was looking forward to seeing the Shadow Proclamation in reality, having finally visited it in a recent episode, but when the time came, the Doctor refused to take the humans (“Pretentious lot. A bit touchy when it comes to lesser races leaving footprints on their shiny floors.”), so they were left behind to wait on the lawn. They settled down, Rory and Amy cuddled next to each other with their arms around the other’s waist, while David laid nearby, head on his hands as he stared up at the sky.
“How’d your first adventure strike you?” Amy threw out at David.
“Less life-threatening than I expected.”
“Maybe on your end. The birds were ready to peck us to death. The pulse couldn’t have come too soon.” Rory hugged her closer.
“So they were really planning to kill people for their organs.” David shivered.
“Yeah. They needed to scale up their operations to make the trip to Earth worth it. Apparently, we’re far out on the galactic arm.”
David closed his eyes. “This universe is horrifying.”
“I hear ya,” Rory agreed.
“Yours doesn’t have aliens?” Amy asked.
David glanced at Amy. “No. Well, not that I know of. People claim they’re abducted, but there’s no proof.”
“But then that means there’s no Doctor, either.”
“I suppose that’s right. No Doctor.”
Amy replied immediately, “This is better.”
“Home is better.” David hadn’t meant to sound so bitter.
After a minute of silence, Amy spoke again. "He doesn’t believe you."
David’s thoughts were a universe away. "Who about what?"
"The Doctor. He still thinks you're him turned human."
"But wouldn't he remember being him if he was?" asked Rory.
"Not necessarily,” David explained. “There's all kinds of weird things that can happen when the Doctor meets himself, and in most cases the paradox can't be remembered."
Amy snorted. "Ha! Pair o' Docs."
Rory grinned, but David ignored her. "Doesn't matter. I'm not him. I'm me. See, that chameleon arch we talked about, it changes a Time Lord to another species, and fills in his memories with the facts about his life, but not the details. So, if he was turned into a forty-year old human, he could remember he lived in Basingstoke when he was twenty and what his house address was, but he wouldn't remember specific friends, or what pub was his favourite, or where he first kissed his girlfriend. Any real memories.
"But I remember. I remember watching TV with my Da when I was three, and hiding from my brother Blair when he was trying to get me to play football with him when I was nine, and my favourite chemist's, because they sold those little chocolate biscuits. I remember all those things a human would remember, because that's what I am."
Staring up at the sky, David couldn't see Amy's tender, sympathetic smile. She reached over and patted his shoulder. "Well, human, I'll try to explain it to him sometime. I can't imagine it's easy for you when he keeps prodding you like that. He's an inconsiderate git sometimes."
"All the time. He's a Time Lord. That's how he is. I just never imagined all that snark I saw on the telly would ever be leveled at me.” He snorted an incredulous laugh.
Rory broke into the conversation. "So all this stuff on your telly, it's all real here, then. Is that how you know so much about the things the Doctor does?"
"Yeah, sorta. I was a huge fan, even before I got the part in it. It's what made me want to be an actor, so I could play the Doctor. So, whatever you can know from the show, I know. Like, I could name a bunch of parts on the TARDIS console, but I wouldn’t know how to fly it."
"Someday," Amy declared, "I am going to have to pick your brain, so you can tell me all about him."
The rhythmic groaning of the TARDIS filled the air as the blue police box materialised next to them. Amy and Rory jumped up as the Doctor emerged, but David didn’t bother.
“That was quick!” Amy seemed excited to get a move on.
“It’s a time machine. It can come back to whenever it wants,” David muttered.
“Okay!” exclaimed the Doctor. “All taken care of. Forty-three little birds in forty-three tiny little cells awaiting trial for harvesting sentients from a level five planet. Come along now. I think we’ve seen enough of home for the time being, eh, David?”
Without waiting for an answer, the Doctor stepped back into the TARDIS, with Rory and Amy following him. Unwilling to be left behind, David rolled his eyes and got to his feet, taking one last look around at the university before disappearing into the police box.
David sat on his bed, curled into as much of a ball as his long gangly legs would allow, wrapped in the comforter. He was glad to have survived his first adventure with the Doctor. Granted, it hadn’t been that dangerous, but still… He had to admit, the adrenaline rush had been very addicting, it was great to be doing some actual, tangible good, and he felt good that he’d had something to contribute.
Touring Cambridge had not achieved the Doctor’s intended effect of making him feel more at home, but the adventure had distracted him from missing home and feeling sorry for himself, at least for a little bit. It blunted the pain, and now, his exhaustion from a long day of filming, getting abducted into a new universe, and saving the university from murderous avians drove all thoughts of his predicament away. He stretched out on the bed and drifted off to sleep.