“Iris Wildthyme, is that really you?”
“Woah, there. Settle down lovey, I haven’t even—Doctor?”
If someone was able to listen to the sounds played in the time stream, one would hear the wheezing of the Doctor’s TARDIS rather frequently. Most of the time it would be the one distinct sound, but in this particular moment, one would be able to notice that the sound had a slightly lower pitch than normal. This wasn’t because of any technical faults on the part of the machine, the old girl’s gotten used to those. No, this was because of the ship’s connection to its pilot. TARDISes are connected to their owners in a very unique way, and can sometimes suffer from this if the pilot in question feels great sorrow. This is nothing that the TARDIS hasn’t gone through before; the Doctor’s very good at running, but he can’t run from his feelings forever.
The emptiness of the TARDIS was what got to the Doctor the most when he was alone. It seemed so much more lively when Rose was around. He idly picked at the controls, like a chicken occasionally pecking at the grass. There wasn’t any particular destination in mind, just anywhere that had a good enough distraction. Who knows, maybe he’ll run into that Donna girl again at some point. Before he could get lost again, something on the console blinked. The reason it was blinking was beyond the Doctor; this was one of the settings that hasn’t done anything in ages. Probably best to make a landing, see what all the fuss is about, he thought to himself. As the TARDIS was landing, the pitch of the vessel’s signature groan was closer to how it normally sounds. This sudden change might have thrown off someone listening into the time stream, but not as much as the other TARDIS following behind.
When the TARDIS landed, the Doctor put on his trenchcoat and strolled outside. He would’ve checked the scanner, but what was the point? Odds are he’ll be fine once it’s over anyway. The air when he stepped outside was a bit brisk, but he was dressed well enough for the weather. Breathable, that’s a good sign. The surrounding area seemed mostly empty. He thought about just going back in the ship and reading a few dozen books, until he looked behind him. The bus that had landed near him made him feel a lot of emotions in very quick succession. Firstly, he wondered what a bus was doing here, quickly followed by remembering those he knew who traveled by bus, and finally, when the doors opened, he had the widest grin on his face since before he lost Rose. He truly couldn’t believe it was her. It wasn’t Rose, but he was happy to see her all the same. Her hat barely fit through the door as she stepped outside. The Doctor was so full to bursting with what he was feeling, he couldn’t stop himself from running at her full speed and embracing her as if they were characters in a Studio Ghibli movie. While unexpected, she took it in stride when she saw who was hugging her.
“Iris Wildthyme, is that really you?”
“Woah, there. Settle down lovey, I haven’t even—Doctor?”
“You’re here! How?”
“Well, I took the bus, same as always!”
“You haven’t changed at all, still as radiant as ever!” The Doctor went back to hugging Iris.
“Well, this is new. Normally you’re the one who has to pry Aunty Iris off of you! And here I thought Wild Bill Hickok would’ve been my favorite body of yours,” replied Iris in a flirtatious manner.
“Oh really? Here I thought I was able to sweep you off my feet in my 6th body.”
“Maybe after I downed a few shots of tequila. And don’t you mean sweep me off My feet?”
“Not after you pulled me on top of you.” The two laughed together, with the Doctor wondering why he was stupid enough to want to avoid Iris in the past.
“What regeneration are you on, chuck?”
The Doctor paused for a moment. Technically, this would be his 11th body, more or less, but he didn’t want to say that, mainly because he knew where the conversation would lead. Iris was a Time Lord as well, at least the Doctor thought she still was, but does she know?
“My word, you’re burning through them awfully quick. How old are you now?”
Iris burst into laughter, “That can’t be right, you were older than that back when you were the little one with the umbrella.”
“Well, I may or may not have lost count some time after.”
“You too, eh? I stopped counting how old I was after my 4th body.” She pulled out a flask which seemed like it would be impossible to hide in such a, um, well-fitting outfit, but the Doctor learned on Excelis that impossible doesn’t matter to Iris. “Your ship’s still a phone box, eh?”
“And yours is still a bus.”
“Gotta leave a calling card if you’re gonna save time and space.” She winked at the Doctor. “The Rani would’ve probably made fun of us for not bothering to fix the chameleon circuits.”
The Doctor’s smile faded a little as he agreed. Iris, noticing this, probed a bit further, “Have you run into any of the Deca? You’re probably still bumping uglies with the Master every now and again, I’m guessing. Have you two finally made out or does he keep pulling his little stunts for your attention?”
The Doctor looked at her for a moment, before asking, “You don’t know, do you?”
You see, some time ago, Iris took any sort of information about her out of the Matrix on Gallifrey, effectively erasing herself from the collective consciousness of the Time Lords, like Salyaven before her. This was able to keep her free enough to do her own thing whenever she wants, but had the side effect of keeping her out of the loop for what goes on back home. She hadn’t even heard anything about Gallifrey since she ran into the 6th Doctor shortly after he was on trial.
The Doctor continued after seeing the puzzled look on Iris’ face, “There was a war. Everyone was involved.”
Some of the battles he fought in flashed in his mind, particularly ones where he could see the destruction wrought by Dalek and Time Lord alike. “Even me.”
She cupped his face in her hands, “Oh, lovey. I’m so sorry.” She felt something resembling maternal instincts kicking in, “You poor thing. How long has it been since then?”
The Doctor shrugged, “A couple years, I think.” He considered trying to get Iris to stop holding him, but he realized that it felt rather nice.
“I won’t ask any more. You’ve dealt with enough as it is.” The feeling of an idea lit up Iris’ face somewhat like a clown about to do something silly, “You know what would do you some good?”
As the Wolfman closed in on his latest victim, the Doctor bunched up in his seat, anticipating the next jumpscare. The dimensional stabilizer in Iris’ TARDIS is on the fritz, making the inside a little bit smaller than the outside. Despite this, Iris was able to make it her home, which was helped by the fact that double decker buses are rather big. It felt cozy for the Doctor, being nestled up in here next to his old flame, watching classic scary movies together like they used to when the Doctor was around 2 or 300 years old. She was right; this is doing him a great deal of good. He keeps thinking that flinging himself into another misadventure will cheer him up, and it does sometimes, but this reminded him that every now and again he needed to stop and breathe. He took a sip of the martini Iris made for him, and rested his head on her shoulder. They sat in silence for the most part while watching the movie, and for a bit after the movie was over. The Doctor broke the silence with, “I wonder how things would’ve gone if I followed your footsteps.”
“What do ya mean, chuck?”
“Erasing myself from the Matrix.”
Iris chuckled, “I doubt that would’ve been possible after that time you saved Gallifrey from Lord Archeron.”
Iris debated on whether or not she should ask more about what happened to Gallifrey. On one hand, curiosity seems to be getting the better of her, but on the other, she knew the Doctor since he was a Time Tot, and nothing she’s seen could shake him this much. “Do you think anyone else might’ve made it out?”
The Doctor shook his head very deliberately. “Couldn’t have. I saw to that.”
“Oh, come on. You can’t believe that, can you? Sure, most of the stuffy bunch following the rules were probably stuck on there, but there are plenty of us who know how to do one thing better than everyone else.”
“What would that be?”
“Running away from our responsibilities.” He smiled a bit at that, something Iris considered a small victory. “What about your grandkid? Didn’t you keep her safe on Earth after the Dalek occupation?”
Uh oh. A tear fell down the Doctor’s face. “She was one of the people leading the charge.”
That didn’t sound right at all. Susan wouldn’t do that, would she? Iris could only picture her as the Gallifreyan equivalent of a baby; she was the first person to actually call her Aunty Iris.
The Doctor continued, “The Time Lords sent her a draft notice. I tried to intercept it, but couldn’t get rid of it in time. Being where she was gave her a bit more understanding of the Daleks than most, and she wanted to help her people. I never thought I’d be proud of someone for wanting to fight in a war.”
Iris scratched the Doctor’s back gently in a circle, attempting to comfort him. She didn’t want to imagine the things he’s seen. “It’s over now, lovey. What matters is that you’re here.”
The Doctor looked at her before saying, “You’re right. Gotta keep my mind on the present.”
“I don’t think we’re really the only ones left.”
“Oh? you aren’t one of the Clockworks now? Is that what you call it, Trans-Temporal Adventuress?”
Iris shrugged, “What’s good science fiction without a few contradictions here and there?”
For a moment there, the Doctor wondered if they could stay together like this, and explore the universe together, but he knew better than that. The Doctor considers the other rogue Time Lords to be a family of sorts to him; they’ll always be important to him, but they’re best experienced in short bursts. Any longer than that and there’s more bickering than he did with himself fighting against Omega. It was one of the reasons the Deca kept breaking up after they graduated. But soon, the Doctor was back in his own TARDIS, his mind losing grip of the details of his encounter, but keeping hold of that small bit of warmth he needed in an emotional blizzard.
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