G, gen. The Doctor and Rose one sleepless night.
An attic is a fixed space, with boxes and creaking floorboards,
sloping ceilings and large skylight windows close to the sky, where sunlight
swirls through dust, and through memory. The Doctor had been travelling through
time and space for five hundred years before he found the TARDIS attic.
“Why?” Rose asks, her face strangely illuminated by the flickering gas ring.
“It’s in my blood,” he says, smiling to himself.
“I didn’t mean why were you travelling, I meant why you didn’t find the attic.”
“So did I,” he says, and takes a sip of cocoa. It’s the middle of the night, or,
at least, the artificial ship’s night that keeps humans on an even keel when
drifting through the vortex. It’s touching, he thinks privately, that such a
small thing, an electric cycle of lights growing brighter and darker can keep
their little human minds held together. Almost like sleeping with a stuffed
animal, it calms them. It calms him too, although he doesn’t like to think about
that. In truth, the TARDIS is a place without time or shape on the face of the
Rose finishes stirring her own mug, and moves to turn off the gas, but he
reaches out one hand to stay hers. He likes the gleams and reflections it casts,
blue flames that render the room alive with low-level light, flickering below
perception. She doesn’t understand, but she doesn’t switch it off. “Doctor,” she
says, a little peevishly, “how can an attic be in your blood?”
Quite easily, he thinks. It’s no less likely than an attic in a dimensionally
transcendent ship with no levels or storeys to speak of. “It’s hard to explain,”
he says slowly.
“So, if I wanted a muffin tin,” Rose begins, and grins. She does want a muffin
tin, ever since the Doctor mentioned, in passing, the joys of muffins with hot
cocoa in the middle of the artificial night when neither of them can sleep. The
blue-flame light is visible through closed lids, and he thinks about the
symbolism inherent in that; he doesn’t need sleep and he doesn’t need night, all
things are alike to him.
“The TARDIS does probably have one, yes,” the Doctor agrees. “Although I’m not
entirely sure how you use them. I’ve never had English muffins outside of
America. Why’s that, I wonder?”
“Doctor,” Rose persists. “If the TARDIS attic is in your blood, then how do we
get a muffin tin out of it?”
“With great difficulty,” he says, and wonders why the banter is coming slowly to
him. There’s a joke here about giant syringes and mad scientists, but he can’t
reach for it. The room is unsettling and too dark, but he thinks he prefers the
darkness in front of his eyes to that behind. There are places all around the
universe he’s been, and places all round inside his head he hasn’t. He doesn’t
open his mouth to say this to Rose.
He looks up, and the dim, white-tiled kitchen has disappeared. He’s standing in
what looks like Kew Gardens mixed with the forests of Arcadia mixed with the
willowherb fields of southern Gallifrey. He realises too late that it’s not
willowherb, that he can’t remember the Gallifreyan word; his mind has replaced
it with a flower that won’t evolve for a million years, a million light years
“Grandfather,” says a voice. “Grandfather.” After a moment, with a certain
He looks up finally, gaze shifting from the clumps of pink and green to meet a
girl sitting on a broken stone wall. She’s seventeen. Somewhere out there she
regenerates thirteen times, destroyed by ripping timelines after her grandfather
saves the universe, but here, now, she’s how she always was, a remembered sylph,
the first girl whose life he ruined.
“This isn’t the TARDIS attic,” she states. “It’s not dusty enough. Too much
“It’ll do,” he replies mildly.
She glances at him with sun reflected in her eyes. “You’ve forgotten, haven’t
you,” she says, and it isn’t a question.
“What?” he asks. He can feel her brushing against his mind, a strange, familiar,
comforting touch. “Where is this place?”
“Where I grew up.” She smiles. “Where you grew up. You’ve forgotten.”
He wants to tell her that he hasn’t forgotten, that she and they and this, this
garden beneath a bright sky with the flowers such vivid splashes of colour
across his vision, they are all a part of him, the buzz you don’t notice until
the lights are turned off, the sound of spray you don’t hear miles inland. But
he can’t tell her that because she’s right there, so close, right inside his
head where he never wanted her to be. She was going to grow up away from him, he
remembers angrily, hearing the old man’s crackle and vinegar inside himself. She
was going to rebuild Earth and live happily ever after, she wasn’t supposed to
become like him.
She stares mildly at him, then turns so she’s facing out of the garden at the
rolling landscape. He feels pain when she moves. He was born a Time Lord, and he
died with them, their minds rolling to nothingness. He was dead when the silence
entered his head, became flint chips behind his reflection’s eyes, and now he
feels one touch, one mind, and the loss hurts too much to breathe.
“I need to tell you something,” she says suddenly.
“What is it, Susan?” – and there’s a comfort in her name, the name he gave her,
a Terran name that sits alongside her Gallifreyan finery. He wants to smile for
a minute, at his girl with her pretty face and bright eyes, so quick, so clever.
So sharp she’d cut herself, he used to say, but her mind drew his blood, too.
She ponders, swinging her legs. “You were young once.”
The Doctor laughs, looking up at the sky and around at the greenery. He notes a
hill in the distance, remembering K’anpo Rinpoche, he looks at the house, the
high attic window, the casement opening out to the dawn. “Yes,” he says. “Yes, I
was. A long, long time ago.”
“So was I.” Leaping lightly down from the wall, she walks across and presses
something in his hand. “Do you remember this?”
He looks at a piece of cheap, faux silver jewellery, a heart pendant on a chain.
“I didn’t think you would. I want you to have it.”
“I don’t need it any more.” She grins impishly, swinging her legs again. “I’d be
long married, with children and a life of my own. I was happy. I don’t exist, so
I never died. You did the right thing.”
In the sunlight, the Doctor wants to destroy it all, the universe of people and
sentience that makes this the right thing to do. He wants to shout and scream
and pick her up, force her into reality though the tears in his own heart and
soul, have her live though nothing else will.
He says: “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” She stands up. “Time for you to go, Doctor. Your cocoa’s
getting cold. Don’t come back again for a while, will you?”
“I won’t,” he says. “I have, I have a friend. On the outside. Not a Time Lord.”
“A human.” She smiles. “I’m inside your head and this is all a dream, if you
like. Go back.”
“I will.” Awkwardly, he puts an arm around her shoulder and kisses her forehead.
She doesn’t pull away.
“Goodbye, Doctor,” she says, quietly, and then she’s gone without fanfare. The
garden is empty except for the flowers.
He knows it’s not a dream, so he goes to sleep in it. He lies down on the grass
and basks in the sunshine, pulling off his Chucks and sitting them like
incongruous white sentinels at the base of the garden wall. The intensity of the
light makes livid red streaks behind his closed eyelids. After a while the
warmth carries him off, takes him away from the house he was born in, takes him
“Doctor?” Rose is staring at him in mild surprise. “You fell asleep on the
“Why didn’t you wake me up?” he asks sleepily. He realises his voice doesn’t
have the Estuary accent, and wonders why.
“You looked comfortable.” She grins and passes him a mug. “Drink up, it’ll do
He doesn’t argue and takes the mug from her. Something clinks against the
ceramic, and he stares at his right hand. A thin chain is threaded firmly
between his fingers, and as he turns his hand over, the silver heart drops into
“What’s that?” Rose asks curiously.
“Found it in the attic,” he says slowly. “I was given it. So was she.”
“Who? What?” Rose is beginning to sound exasperated, putting her head on one
side so she can stare at him harder.
He laughs, wryly. “Her name was Susan. She travelled with me a long, long time
“Oh,” Rose says, very simply. She has turned off the gas and turned on the
ordinary electric lights, shining soft yellow on her face and eyes.
The Doctor doesn’t say anything. He stands up and paces up and down, noting
without surprise that he’s barefoot. After a moment he opens one of the kitchen
cupboards and pulls down a large, heavy metal object with two rows of circular
“Why don’t you mix up some batter?” he says, without looking at Rose. She
ignores him, her eyes fixed on the object in his palm.
“Is it silver?” she asks, reaching for it. The Doctor doesn’t let it go.
“No,” he says, peering down. “Probably got for sixpence off a market stall. It
should have tarnished into nothing centuries ago.”
“Why didn’t it?”
“The gift of a Time Lord.” He peers down at it, trying, trying so hard to
remember. “A little cheap thing made to float on the seas of time, because
she had it, because she loved it. She wore it against her heart and now it’s
going to last forever.”
He’s pacing properly now, his feet making no sound on the tiled floor. “Doctor,”
Rose says nervously. “She was a Time Lord? But that means there might be… I
mean, you might not be the last…”
He shakes his head. “No, Rose,” – and it’s said so gently that it doesn’t come
out as flat contradiction. Only in his head does he feel the weight of it, the
finality. “She’s a memory now. Do we need eggs, or something? I don’t remember
ever doing this before.”
“Neither have I,” says Rose doubtfully; there’s a wariness in her eyes that
isn’t quite dispelled by a quick rummage in the fridge. “We have eggs, if we
The Doctor sits and watches as she cracks them into a bowl. “That’s the funny
thing about memories,” he murmurs, and throws the little cheap trinket onto the
table. He brings her forth in his mind; a girl younger than Rose is now, a girl
who wanted to belong, who would have cheerfully thrown eggs around the kitchen
without a scrap of notice from him.
“Here,” he says. “Let me help you.”
“Do you know how to do it?” Rose demands, staring up at him through a haze of
“No.” He laughs, suddenly. “I’ll help and we’ll learn together.”
Not the way you had to learn – and the chain is cool against his fingers,
slipping through away from him into space – for a brief moment, suspended – and
then into a jacket pocket, next to his heart where she used to be.