Okay, here it is. This story is set some time after "A Scene from a Texas Diner" and before Neighbours, during David's studies with the Doctor.
If you are so inclined to comment, I would love to hear your opinion on what I've done with David's character: is it interesting, is it too much, is it outside of the general boundaries of the DW universe, is it stupid, is it too common, etc.? Don't be afraid to tell me that it's not good. Even though the next story after this one uses this, I don't mind branching the storyline and going in a different direction, if this isn't good and interesting. Thanks!
Word count: 6432
Barely a day went by in David's life in which he didn't end up in a headlock before two hours had passed. He and Jenny started their daily skirmish on opposite ends of the gym, from which they warily danced closer to each other, waiting for the other to telegraph the wrong move or drop their guard for an instant. Taking advantage of either such opening, one fighter would move in to disable the other, usually in one fluid movement that immobilised their arms and caught their neck in the crook of an elbow. At least that's what David thought the experience might be like from Jenny's point of view; he certainly had no idea what it was like to win one of these contests. Jenny's superior training and fighting ability, brilliance at tactics, and grace and dexterity were more than a match for his greater strength and longer reach. He was learning, however, and only three days ago had managed to fight her off for three minutes. Today, however, he'd ended up in the stranglehold in less than twenty seconds; he hadn't done that badly in weeks. He'd been tripped and flipped over so fast that he had been stunned for a moment, and he coughed out a concession in Gallifreyan, pleased that the language was now so natural to him that it was the first to his lips when he wasn't thinking about it. Laughing, she released her hold on him and let him fall to his hands and knees.
"You weren't even trying that time, Big Brother. Your eyes gave it away, you know." She stepped back, wiping her hands with the satisfaction of a job well-done. "Distraction gives me any opening I want. What were you thinking about?"
"Sevratimonlan's Temporal Mechanics, Grade 3," he explained as he climbed back to his feet. "I've been trying to work through one of the examples in chapter five, and it's just not coming out. I've worked through it five times, and I'm finding a variance of point five three, whereas he says it's point four eight. Tracing through his work, he assigns the dilation a factor of three point two and I don't see why. According to Ilitmilanderas, presence of gravitic bodies, however small, should contribute at least point six to it, and I'd argue for one point two due to the..." He trailed off as he looked up to see Jenny smirking at him in boredom. "What? I was hoping you'd tell me how you worked through it."
"Me?" She began stretching, even though they'd both limbered up before their battle. "I've not finished Grade 1 yet."
"I just don't get temporal mechanics. It's hard to make it make sense." She shrugged. "And I don't speak Gallifreyan as well as you do. I’m spending too much time on looking up words and picking apart every sentence."
"I can understand that. The vocabulary and grammar for temporal phenomena is unusual at best."
"Obtuse." She jumped back to her feet. "Want to go again?"
He shook his head immediately, holding up his hands in a negation that he thought might look more like a surrender to her. "Not the sparring. You showed me that disarm technique yesterday. I'd like to practise that a bit."
"Okay!" She bounded over to the weapons cabinet and selected a practice knife to arm herself with. Turning around, she dropped into a ready stance. "Come at me!"
After about ten minutes of instruction and repeated attacks, David got to the point of being able to disarm Jenny three-quarters of the time. When he wasn't successful, he was rewarded with a stab in the stomach or a slice across an arm and Jenny's delighted laughter. However, he was confident enough with his technique that he began experimenting with variations of the move to catch her off-guard. When he executed a particularly smooth feint which ended with not only disarming the woman but also throwing her and pinning her to the mat, they grinned at each other, him with pride and her with a teacher's approval.
"You're really getting it, Big Brother!"
As she popped her chin up to peck him lightly on the nose, enthusiastic applause erupted from the doorway. "Excellent, David!" the Doctor beamed, leaning against the jamb. "Perfect feint. You’re getting better.”
David let go of Jenny and as she rolled away and sprang to her feet, he sat back on his heels. “I have to, or I spend the rest of the day bruised and sore.”
“Glad she’s training you. It’s always good to know how to defend yourself.”
Jenny retrieved the knife and jogged in place. “Want a go, Dad? Come get the dagger!”
The Doctor eyed her with an embarrassed smile. “Er, no. I prefer to keep my ego intact, thank you.”
If he thought that might appease her, he was wrong. Jenny smiled with the gleam in her eye of a predator spotting easy prey. “Aw, come on! Just once.” She dropped into a crouch and beckoned him with a hand.
Hopping up and stepping out of the way, David crossed his arms with a smirk. “Be careful what you ask for, Jenny. ‘Dad’ is not exactly untrained in martial arts, and he’s seen a lot more combat than you have.”
“And I didn’t come here to wrestle. I’ve less physical instruction in mind.”
“Oh, what’s that?" Though it had been his idea to get some combat training from Jenny, David was eager to cut the session short and save himself some pain. Jenny, however, looked disappointed. Whilst she did truly want to learn, book study was not her favourite part of the Doctor's curriculum.
"It occurred to me," the Doctor intoned as he strode into the gym, "that I've neglected an integral part of your education simply because it's a natural thing for Gallifreyan children, whether or not they become Time Lords, and they learn the basics almost before they can speak. I hadn't realised that it's not natural to either of you."
Both students were puzzled. "And that is?" asked Jenny, crossing her arms.
"Your psychic talents."
Whilst David nodded with comprehension, Jenny continued to be confused. "What's that?"
"Well, even moderate psychic ability is extremely rare among humans and non-existent in the Hath, so the knowledge and training ingrained in you whilst you were in the progenation machine didn't include that subject. However, all Gallifreyans are psychic." That didn't help her understand what he was talking about, so he continued. "You've felt it, I know. Do you feel us, me and David, in your mind? Like you always know we're here, but not when we leave the TARDIS?"
"Yes, of course." Her eyes flicked between the two men. "That's because we're family, isn't it?"
"No, it's because you're psychic. You're able to reach out and touch other minds. If there were other Gallifreyans, you'd feel them, too."
"Oh." She frowned as she thought. "Humans don't feel this then?"
"No, they don't." The Doctor waggled his fingers at the side of his own head. "You can hear them a little, more like background noise than what you feel with us, but humans can't hear you or each other at all."
"Oh.” Her face fell, sad like a child realising for the first time that others are less fortunate than herself. “They must be very lonely, then."
"No," David answered. "They're not. You can't miss what you've never had. It's not lonely if that's what you're used to. Humans bond through emotional and physical means, not mental ones."
"Like the way we talk and laugh together?"
"Right. We just have that extra bit where we can sense each other, too."
Jenny chewed on the tip of her thumb as she thought. "I think I understand."
"Good!" The Doctor strode forward, rubbing his hands in anticipation. "Now you're going to learn how to use your ability. Every Gallifreyan can sense each other, but there is more you can do, depending on your psychic strength. Most of us are strong enough to read minds and memories, and that's what we'll work on today, but the strongest were able to move objects with their minds, hypnotise others, or even dominate them." Jenny looked horrified, so he hastened to reassure her. "Very good instinct, Jenny. Reading someone else's mind without their permission is already questionable, and forcing someone to do things against their will is far worse."
"Are you able to do that?" she asked, her eyes wide and naive.
The Doctor nodded. "To some extent, yes. It took me a lot of practice. Some are far more talented, whilst others can't do it at all. But using it... It's not something I do often, and only with very good reason." He eyed David, who was regarding him with a carefully neutral expression, then glanced away. "All right. Let's get started." He rubbed his hands together as he composed his words. "We do best when we're touching our subject. Some species work well without touch, but not us generally. Now, when I learned this, my tutor described a mind as divided into four layers. I don't think it's a good model to live by, because it's far too simple, but it serves its purpose, so I'm going to use it."
Using his hands to delineate layers, he marked out a flat level in front of himself. "The top layer is simply your existence, and that's what we feel when we sense each other. Every other layer is hidden behind our mental defenses, and the deeper you go, the more you have to defeat the walls we put up." He made a punching motion directed at his flat other hand, to demonstrate breaking through layers. "Gallifreyans and other psychic races have good defenses, so they are difficult to break through. Non-psychic races have little defense, because they don't even comprehend what they're trying to keep out."
He then indicated levels beneath the one he had started with. "So, just below the top layer are the surface thoughts, what the person is thinking right now. Below that are the memories, and below that, at the very core of the person, is the person himself, his personality, his moral construction, his wants and needs." He demonstrated the last concept with his balled fist below all of the other layers. "Get there, and bam! You control the person."
The Doctor glanced at each of his students to make sure they understood so far and they nodded, Jenny more tentatively than David. "To read a person's surface thoughts, you aren't going too deep, but to see their memories takes more strength and skill. Then, to manipulate who they are and what they do takes more than most of us have." He grinned. "Which I suppose is a good thing. Anyway, there are two ways to do this. One is to subtly convince them to do it, and that's hypnosis, and it’s a bit easier, if not reliable. The other is to force them, and that's domination. The second is far harder, because the person will be fighting you all the way, whether or not they know that they're fighting. Only the most powerful psychics can completely dominate another person, and even then, it's not easy.
"Today, we'll work on getting to that second layer, but to do that, you have to get to the first layer. Jenny, you'll go first." She bounced with excitement. "Come stand in front of me." Taking her by the shoulders, he positioned her squarely in front of himself. "Now, you need to touch me, skin to skin. Anywhere is fine, but closer to the brain helps. Go ahead and do that." He closed his eyes.
Jenny reached up with both hands and placed them on the Doctor's cheeks, her fingers slightly spread. "You're too tall. Like this?"
"A good start. You'll decide for yourself if you like that placement. Now." He opened his eyes and gazed down at her. "You should feel a bit of a stronger connection with me." He waited for her to nod. "Follow that connection and push into my mind. I'm not going to let my guard down, so you'll feel resistance and you'll need to push through, and find the concept that I'm thinking of. Ready?"
She closed her eyes. "Yes."
"Go." He closed his eyes again.
After a few seconds of silence, Jenny grimaced, concentrating hard. The Doctor nodded. "Push harder. Don't worry. It doesn't hurt."
"There's a... there's a... a line, like a trail. A trail of thought."
"Yes, that's it," the Doctor replied with gentle encouragement. "Follow it in, and forge ahead when you feel you're being blocked off."
She grunted. "I can't. It's too hard to push through."
"You can do it. Try harder. Don't be afraid that you're going to hurt me."
"Okay..." Another few seconds later, Jenny's eyes popped open. "Hot fudge sundae?"
The Doctor shrugged. "Well, I thought we might go out for sundaes after this. There's this fantastic ice cream parlor in Chicago, in 1960..." Catching himself from going on his tangent, he grinned at her. "A brilliant first try!"
Her smile bright and proud, she shifted her hands into a hug. "Thanks, Dad!"
"We'll practise more, but first, let's have David have a go."
David had been quietly standing off to the side, apprehensive about trying this new thing. Though he'd abandoned identifying himself as human for over half a year now and he'd been studying Gallifreyan language and Time Lord technologies, this was the first innately alien thing he was going to attempt to do, and the mere thought of it made him a bit nauseous. It didn't help that he realised, whilst the Doctor was talking, that he'd known that the Doctor had used his power of hypnotism and suggestion on occasion but had not made the connection that he might be able to do the same thing. And finally, it sickened him to think that he was about to learn to do what that Polthite, Ana, had done to him, that had left him helpless and violated. He knew the Doctor's methods were far gentler and kinder, but they still felt like the same outcome. However, he knew that he needed to learn how to utilise his now-natural abilities.
"All right. Let's do this," he heard himself say with more enthusiasm than he felt. As Jenny stepped to the sidelines, he positioned himself in front of the Doctor. Being a clone of the man came in handy: they were the same height and he didn't need to reach high like Jenny had. He placed his fingers carefully on the Doctor's temples, the same way he had done it when he'd played a similar scene out with Sophia Myles' Reinette.
Immediately, he felt a tighter connection with the Doctor, and he sensed the mental barrier in front of him. From a distance, he heard the Doctor say, "I doubt I need to give you any instruction. Push firmly and tell me what concept I'm thinking of." David took a deep breath, focused his mind through the link between himself and the Doctor, and pushed hard.
Jenny saw the Doctor's body jerk, his face spasming as if in sudden pain, and she wondered if that's what he'd done when she'd tried. She stepped to the side to look at David and gasped: his eyes were shining bright gold.
"New Earth. Cleaning up after clearing the gridlock," he grunted.
The Doctor gasped. "That's not... that's not what I was thinking. You're in my memories."
"Your memories?" David's breath was coming short and quick. "How can I be in your memories? Wait, is that Traken? It's magnificent!"
"End this now, David." His eyes popping open, the Doctor grasped David by the shoulders and forcibly pushed him away, breaking the physical contact between them as David's hands grasped for the Doctor but found only empty air.
Frowning in confusion and panic, David groped for the Doctor like a blind man. "No, don't... I... Doctor, stay still!"
The Doctor jerked, his arms snapping to his side like they were bound down by ropes. "Please stop it, David!" he pleaded. "You’re hurting me!"
Clamping his hands to his temples, David cringed and stumbled backwards. "I... Doctor... It hurts... Help me!" The last words were uttered by both of them, simultaneously, in eerie stereo. David's eyes flashed and both he and the Doctor screamed in agony, the older Time Lord swaying on his feet while the younger one crumpled to the floor. Jenny leapt forward but not soon enough to catch him.
"Ohhh..." The Doctor groaned as he held his head in his hands, his eyes crossed.
Laying David out on the mat, Jenny then hopped to the Doctor's side. "Dad? Are you all right?"
"I will be. Ohhh."
"Don't know. He's strong. Stronger than anything I've ever experienced. And he doesn't need physical contact. But he has no control." Kneeling beside David, the Doctor wobbled as he reached in his pocket for his sonic screwdriver, and Jenny steadied him. Scanning the unconscious man, he held the screwdriver to his ear, then shook his head. "Inconclusive. We'll want to evaluate him in the sickbay. Let's go."
"You're in no state. You need to recover."
"This is far more important." The Doctor pushed himself to his feet and quirked a smile at Jenny. "I can do this. Come on, then." Gathering David into his arms, he gingerly stood and cradled his awkward burden to his chest, striding out of the door Jenny held open for him.
It took David a few moments to figure out where he was. Tucked under a thin blanket on an inclined soft bed, he blinked blearily in the low light, finally recognising the cabinets and strange machines that inhabited the TARDIS medical bay. A flash of memories stabbed through his mind and he jerked upright. "Doctor? Are you all right? Where are you?"
"I'm fine, David." The patient twisted to see the owner of the voice sitting in front of a monitor, studying the readout of a mass of bubbling circles and lines, the blond woman reading over his shoulder. "How do you feel?"
"Like someone hit me on the head." He tried to sit up, but the room started to spin and he swayed a bit as he propped himself on his elbows.
Jenny jumped up and applied firm pressure to his shoulder, urging him to lie back down. "You need to rest, Big Brother."
"Doctor." The word was a raspy whisper. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. What happened? What's wrong with me?"
"You still won't grow your sideburns back. That's the main thing, I'd say." The Doctor spun on his stool to face his patient.
"You know, Doctor. You know what's wrong. Tell me, please."
"Well, I shouldn't say that something is wrong, so much as something is different." He rubbed the back of his head as he spoke. "It's your regeneration energy. You can't regenerate. That system's broken, and I have no idea how to fix it, or if I could fix it, try as I might."
"I don't want you to fix it. I don't want to regenerate. I want to die naturally."
"I know, and I respect that. The thing is..." The Doctor licked his lips before continuing. "You've still got all that energy, all that power, and nothing to do with it, so it's manifested differently."
"Yes, I know that." David absently rubbed his left forearm. "That time Jenny snapped my arm in two, it healed in two hours." Jenny smiled sheepishly.
"Right. But there's much more. Your energy is feeding your psychic abilities. All of it, right there. You're the strongest psychic I've seen, or at least, you have the potential to be." He tapped his own head. "You pushed right in and dominated me. That takes some power, to do that to a fully trained Time Lord."
David stared at his hands. “I... I could feel the power bursting out of me and it was… it was intoxicating. I felt so strong, so free. But it hurt, and I couldn't stop, and that made it hurt more." Pushing himself up to sit on the bed, he peered up at the Doctor. "What's wrong with me?"
"Well." The Doctor began pacing around the room, rubbing the back of his neck. "This is completely new to you. Of course you don't know how to use your abilities. Too much, too fast. You've a lot of work to do to learn things that you should have mastered thirty years ago."
David sighed in exasperation. "I know you're not telling me everything, Doctor. I can tell when you're prevaricating."
Halting, the Doctor spun to face David. "I can't really say. The tests I've run seem to indicate that the psychic center of your brain isn't fully operational. You've got the ability but no control. If you had a normal level of power for a Time Lord, I'd say you'd be able to learn to use it with practise. But you have far more power than your brain can handle, so the more you try to use it, the more it gets out of hand, and the more it hurts you. You could probably severely damage your own brain if you tried to use too much of your power, though it's also possible that your energy will be able to heal the damage, given enough time. I don’t know which one would win." He shrugged. "It seems a pretty stiff price to pay, though, and a gamble I wouldn't be comfortable taking."
Frowning, David pinched the bridge of his nose. "That's horrifying. And I hurt you in the process, too."
"I don't think that was a direct effect. I think you panicked and lashed out. No harm done." Grabbing a tool from the desk next to him, the Doctor held it out in his palm. “David, can you move this? I’d like to see if you’re telekinetic as well.”
Frowning, David glanced at the Doctor, then, at the device, holding up his hand to catch it. It shot out of the Doctor's hand and smacked David hard in the chest with a firm loud thump. "Ow! That's not what I was trying to do!" He grabbed the device from his lap and rubbed his fist over the bruise.
Jenny giggled. "Lesson one: don't start with trying to bring something to you."
The Doctor jammed his hands in his pockets. "So, telekinetic, check."
"Let me try again." David held up the device and concentrated again. This time, it floated up to his eye level, jerking a bit as he adjusted his attention on it. Glancing at Jenny, he licked his lips, and this time the tool drifted across the room and laid itself gently in her palm. "Much better, but it's not easy to do it well."
"Brilliant! You'll get better with practice. What about more weight? How much can you lift?" The Doctor spun around, looking for a good test subject, when his feet left the ground and he hung suspended a quarter of a metre off the floor. He twisted his head around to look at David. "Well, that answers that question. How does it feel?"
"Easy, but like I'm itching to do more, to just let go. I have to keep a tight rein on it."
"How about this?" Jenny leapt up at the Doctor and threw her arms around him, clinging tightly. At her impact, the Doctor and Jenny bounced as David adjusted for her vector, then the two hung in the air.
"The sudden weight was a bit of a surprise, but it wasn't hard to compensate."
Licking his lips, the Doctor nodded. "Okay. Let's try a different tack. Applied force. Can you let us down?" They immediately dropped, landing lightly. The Doctor rummaged in a drawer, pulling out what looked like a metal tongue depressor. He placed it on the counter. "Can you bend that?"
The object bent into a "V" shape, then one of the legs creased. "Wait, wait, let me try..." David concentrated one more time, and a section curved into a smooth arc. "Better. Bending it isn't hard, but shaping it like I want is not easy."
"We're not working on art here." The Doctor crossed the room and pulled down a wall-mounted jointed swinging lamp. Its arm was constructed of steel pipe. "How about this?" Creaking under the stress, the section in his hand bent to forty-five degrees.
"That took some effort." His eyes wide and haunted, David hugged himself as he stared at the deformed lamp.
"One more thing I'd like to try. Be right back." The Doctor dashed out of the room.
"Are you okay?" Jenny sat on the bed next to David, her hand on his knee.
"No, I'm not. This is terrifying." He shivered, his eyes still on the lamp. "How can I do that?"
"Why is it terrifying? Why can't it be wonderful?" She took his hand and gazed up at him with bright, adoring eyes. "Think of all the amazing things you could do with this. It doesn't have to be bad."
"Oh, Jenny." He bowed his head. "I've never wanted any of this. Only a year ago, I was just a man, just a human. And then I discovered I was never really that, and since then, I've changed so much that I don't even recognise myself anymore. And now look at me! I'm a monster."
"You're not a monster!" Jenny immediately rejoined, staring at him in surprise.
He couldn’t face her. "Yes, I am. I can bend steel by just thinking about it, and I forced my way into the Doctor's mind. Do you know how dangerous that makes me?"
"You're only dangerous if you use your power in that way. But I know you. You'd never intentionally harm anyone."
"No, I wouldn't, but that's not the problem. I can't control it. I'm so afraid that if I try to use it, any of it, I'll lose control and hurt someone. It doesn't matter at all what my intentions are." He put his arm around her and drew her to his chest, stroking her hair as she leaned against his shoulder. "It's almost a blessing that this power hurts me, because it'll stop me from trying to use it."
"You still have to learn to use it correctly, Big Brother. It's like any other skill. And I know you can do it."
"I don't want to." He drew in a deep breath. "I don't want to ever use this because I... I don't know if I can handle it. Already, I'm wondering what you're thinking, if you're scared of me, scared that I'd hurt you, because that would break my hearts, and it's occurred to me that I could find out, right now. I could peer into your thoughts with barely an effort. I think to myself, 'I'd never do anything so reprehensible', but will I still think that in a year?"
Jenny wasn't swayed. Pulling back, she crossed her arms and stared at him like he was being particularly thick. "Of course, you will. You're good at that, all that stuff that you and Dad are always trying to teach me. You're just like him, you know. You always know what's right."
David stuttered a hollow, empty laugh. "Oh, Jenny. You are so wrong. I'm nothing like the Doctor. He's the image of confidence, whilst I do nothing but doubt myself. But what's far worse is that he doesn't always know what's right, but he thinks he does. And that's how one starts on the slippery path into darkness. I can already feel myself sliding."
"I think you're wrong. You’re not actually sliding. I think you're just scared of sliding. You're always worried about doing what's right. That's just you. And as long as you’re watching yourself, you’ll keep on the right track." Shaking her head, she peered at him with a pitying expression.
Jenny nestled back into his shoulder, and they sat for a while, lost in their own thoughts, David slowly rocking her in his arms. The Doctor burst in and sprinted up to the bed. "Sorry, sorry. I couldn't remember where I left this. Then I remembered that the recording studio needed a doorstop." He held up a bar of dense metal, about two inches in diameter. "Lolivmarian ultrasteel. Solid and very hard. Not the highest tensile strength by a long shot, but hard enough to give you a challenge, I think." He placed it on the foot of the bed. "Try to bend it or deform it, but be cautious. Start with a low amount of force and increase it as you need, but stop if it hurts or you feel you're losing control at all." He stepped around the bed and positioned himself behind David.
As Jenny hopped up and stood to the side, David nodded. Sniffing once, he eyed the metal with cool detachment. The rod lifted into the air a few centimeters and spun, as if David were inspecting the object. Once it stilled, David focused. His expression morphed as he applied power, from neutral to concentration, to a directed frown under eyes that began to glow with golden energy, and finally to a pained grimace with brightly shining eyes. He clapped his hands to his head and the rod thudded down on the bed, still straight but its surface warped. Clenching his eyes shut, he grimaced for a number of seconds, his breathing shallow, then opened his eyes and relaxed, puffing out a breath.
"Are you okay?" The Doctor squeezed his shoulder in concern.
"Yes," he panted. "I would've been able to bend that with a bit more force - it wasn't too difficult - but oh, god, it hurt. I couldn’t take much more.”
The Doctor pressed his lips together in a thin line of disapproval. “You weren’t supposed to do so much that it hurt. I don’t know what this could do to you.”
“I needed to try.”
Patting David's shoulder, the Doctor circled around and picked up the rod to inspect it. "You did manage to warp it a bit. Impressive." He tapped his lips with a finger. "If my calculations are correct, you could lift at least a car, though that will definitely hurt at least a fair amount. I wonder what your limit is."
David's reply was quiet and timid. "I think... I don't know, but I think it's many, many times that. I feel like I've only used a tiny fraction of what I've got."
The Doctor nodded. "You're probably right. You've so much in you, and no other outlet. Ironic, it is: you’ve got the regeneration energy and can’t use it, and Jenny can use it, but doesn’t have any." He gazed sadly at his beloved daughter, then, coughing, he shook off his momentary melancholy and tugged at an ear as he studied David's face. "We'll set up regular training, and that's a priority. Every day a bit of practice."
"No!" David choked out. "You can't be serious. I don't want this. I don't want to use it, ever."
"You don't have to. But you need to know how, and gain some control over it." Walking over to the counter, he picked up the first device that David had tried to lift, the one that he had hit himself in the chest with, and held it up for David to see. "Otherwise, you'll be a danger to yourself and everyone around you."
Pursing his lips, David nodded, rather reluctantly. "All right. You're right." He hopped off the bed and took the device from the Doctor to inspect it, idly running a finger down its handle. “You know. I sometimes feel like the universe is just punching me in the stomach at every turn. Every time I think I’ve come to terms with who I’ve become, a new horrible thing happens. When is it going to stop, Doctor?"
Dropping the bar on the counter, the Doctor leaned back against it and regarded David with deep pity. "I doubt it will. Never stopped for me. You could give such things less opportunity by shutting yourself in a dark corner of the universe and living the most banal life you can imagine, but would that satisfy you? You'd be trading the chance to write your own brilliant, unique story for safety and predictability. I don't think you'd choose that. This life we lead, by its very nature, buffets us around and tears out our hearts, but it rewards us with so much. We experience the marvels of the universe, and we do some good and effect some change, in our small ways. Who else gets that chance? Can't speak for you, of course, but for all the torments I've endured at the hand of fate, I still wouldn't trade this life for a safe bed."
David ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "I suppose you're right about that, too. I wouldn't have chosen this life, back when I was human, but now, with everything I've been given, even though it's nothing I ever wanted, now I want to do something useful, something good with it. There's always a price to pay, isn't there? I suppose this is my price."
"For now. Someday that will change, and there'll be some new thing that will slice your soul in half." The Doctor grinned, his eyes twinkling. "How's that for comfort?"
"You've a lousy bedside manner, Doctor."
"That's one thing I've never been known for."
"Come on." David hopped on the bed next to Jenny and bounced like an eager student. "Teach me - teach us - how to use our abilities. And then take us out for ice cream, ‘Dad’." The Doctor shot David an exasperated glare.
"Oh, yes," Jenny chimed in, "to both."
"All right." He pushed off the counter and, crossing his arms, regarded both of his students with a critical eye. "But this'll be a longer lesson than I'd intended. I want to get you both started out right."
David nodded, rubbing his hands together. "Excellent. But after ice cream, I need your help up in the library. Please tell me what I'm doing wrong in chapter five of Temporal Mechanics, Grade 3. It's driving me batty."
"Is that the calculation of spatio-temporal variances in higher-order dimensions?"
"That's the one."
The Doctor shrugged as he spun to turn off the lamps along the medbay workbench. "Oh, that one's all wrong."
He explained as he continued to shut down the facility. "Sevratimonlan's work is rubbish after grade two. He teaches the basics like no one else, but he's got no grasp on the advanced concepts. You'll want to pick up Omitendram's papers on the subject instead."
"But you said to work through all the books up through grade five!"
"I did. It's a great lesson in not trusting everything you read. When I took the class, we spent the entire term on it, and after the final exam, the professor told us how much of it was wrong, how much we'd have to unlearn.” Spinning back to face them, the Doctor grinned widely. “Oh, you should have seen Ushas - the Rani! Hopping mad, she was. Stormed out of the room. Probably because she didn't catch all the inaccuracies, and she should have."
"So you knew it was all a waste of time?"
"Oh no,” the Doctor breathed, rolling his eyes in self-mockery. “Barely understood a word of it. How could I tell it was wrong? None of us knew. We found out later that it was a standard test of understanding. Only the most brilliant temporal theoreticians could tell that something was wrong with Sevratimonlan's framework and would not be able to produce the results he did." The Doctor winked at David as his implication sunk in.
"What, me?" One eyebrow shot up in incredulity.
The Doctor wagged a finger at David as he spun around the room, picking up instruments and stowing them away in cabinets. "I've told you before. Your grasp of temporal mechanics is stellar. You could probably resurrect much of Time Lord temporal science yourself, if you wanted to devote your time to it."
David laughed and shook his head. "No, I don't believe you. Me, a temporal engineer? That's beyond insane."
Jamming his hands in his pockets, the Doctor turned back to him and rocked on his toes as he spoke. "No, the person you don't believe in is yourself. How many times did you try to work through the problem? I'm guessing that your first instinct when you couldn't solve it was to question yourself and not the proposed solution in the book, despite your reservations about the validity of its theory and data." When David bit his lip, the Doctor gave a sly grin. "I'm right, aren't I? You've got to assess your own strengths objectively and believe in yourself."
David shook his head. "That's unbelievable. I've never excelled at science. It must be something like my human side contributing something special, like Donna's did, right?"
"Whatever caused it is irrelevant. It's you who's brilliant.” The Doctor’s faith in David shone in his proud grin. “See? Becoming who you are brings good things as well as bad."
Considering carefully, David nodded. "I suppose I just see the bad things. There is a lot of good," he admitted. "Like both of you." Grinning at the both of them, he threw an arm around Jenny and hugged her to him.
Leaning into him, she laid her head on his shoulder. "I love you, too, Big Brother." Then she pulled back and punched him in the arm. "But I want ice cream. So stop delaying and let's do our lesson."
David saluted with his free hand. "Yes, ma'am! Okay, Doctor. Lead on."
"All right. We're going to start with learning the structure of another's mind. All species are different, but once you know how one works, you'll be able to adapt to another's quite quickly. You'll be working with mine, so that it'll be easier for me to direct you through the link. So, no poking around anywhere I don't want you to go. Got it?" He pointed a stern finger at each of them in turn.
"Got it, Dad."
"Right. Don't wander off." David winked at the Doctor.
"Rule number one. Good." Smiling, the Doctor positioned himself in front of Jenny. "Okay. Let's start."