The Doctor woke in a TARDIS guest room, featureless other than the silver-sheeted double bed on which he was reclining with Jackie Tyler. She was wearing a short satin dressing gown, black as soot and barely touching her thighs, and she had a cosmopolitan in her hand.
"About time you woke up," she said.
"I'm not entirely sure that's happened yet." He blinked at her, at the stubbly coral walls, at the shiny, slippery sheets he had no memory at all of purchasing, not that this ever stopped the TARDIS from making her own interior decoration decisions. "What ... what exactly are you doing here?"
"I popped by to pick up Rose's laundry – honestly, that girl, out with her mates without a care in the world, expects her dear old mum to take care of everything for her – then you started wittering on about the TARDIS ... and next thing I know, I'm in bed with you and half my clothes gone. Well, wouldn't be the first time I've woke up next to a bloke who didn't remember the night before. At least you bought me a drink first." She sipped, smacked her lips. "Could do with a bit more Chambord."
The blinking he might normally do when things started to go funny wasn't nearly enough to process what in bed with you and half my clothes gone could mean, and the Doctor was forced to his fallback manoeuvre of sputtering coughs. "Jackie," he said carefully, "what exactly do you think we've been doing?"
"Oh, calm down. I might be in my nightie, but I don't think we've done anything yet."
"And how do you – no, never mind, I really don't want the details."
"A woman knows these things." Another sip of the cosmopolitan. "Besides, you've still got all your clothes on."
* * *
Which would be a pretty decent idea, come to think of it, considering he was naked as the day he was born, or loomed, or however he'd come into this universe, because he was too young to remember at the time. He'd have to go back and check sometime. Oh, wait, Gallifrey had gone boom. Right.
So: naked. In bed with Jackie Tyler. Who seemed remarkably unpredatory, under the circumstances, but the Doctor still scrambled beneath the shimmery duvet.
"About time you woke up," she said. "That's weird – I've got the funniest feeling I said that before."
"What ... what exactly are you doing here, Jackie? In fact, what am I doing here?"
"I don't know. I popped in to look for Rose, and – you know, it's like déjà vu. I'm sure this happened before."
"Honestly, Jackie," said the Doctor, still naked as could be under the covers, "I'm very, very certain it hasn't."
"Maybe it has and I've just put all my clothes back on," she said sweetly.
"Maybe I'll hide under here forever," he muttered.
"Oi, that's a compliment, that is. You think you're so special I'd have it off with you?"
There were at least two answers to that question, and travelling down the potential conversational chains to which each response led, the Doctor decided the best course of action was, for once, to say nothing at all.
"Well, we didn't. Or at least I don't think we did," Jackie continued. "Besides, Rose has first dibs, now, doesn't she?"
Saying nothing at all. An excellent choice.
* * *
"Before you say anything, Jackie," he said, "yes, we've been here before, and no, I don't know what's going on. Yet."
"Well, I wish you'd work it out, 'cause I'd like to know why we keep winding up in bed together." She wriggled lower, flipping on her side to face him with what he assumed was a sultry look. It involved a lot of eyelashes and pouting, and frankly looked distressingly familiar relative to his usual onboard companionship. "If you're looking for suggestions about what to do while we're here, I've got a couple of ideas."
"A nice game of cards?" he said hopefully.
"Silly man. Try again."
"You're right, of course, very silly of me. We haven't got a deck of cards. I Spy?"
"I spy, with my little eye," Jackie said, and judging by the way her eyes were moving, she was spying a whole lot of the Doctor, "something that begins with the two of us lying awfully close to each other on a bed."
"That doesn't begin with a single letter."
"Does it really need to? Aren't you getting the point?"
"Well, if by 'point' you mean a vague, in-the-neighbourhood idea of the innuendo you've been circling around for the last few minutes, not to mention our recent states of dress and undress, then I suppose – Jackie! That's it! You've got the point!"
"Took you long enough." She leaned a little closer to the Doctor, tucked a stray hair behind his ear.
"That's not what I meant. Well, it is, but at least give me a chance to be clever about it first."
She sighed and flopped back on the bed. That, too, was a distressingly familiar physical reaction to the Doctor's upcoming speeches.
"Our clothes, or occasional lack thereof. The way we keep waking up in bed together, not knowing what happened. It all makes perfect sense, don't you see? The TARDIS is hiccoughing! ... which, now that I think of it, might ever so slightly be entirely my fault."
"There's something new."
"See, my last refuelling stop was on Alpha Alphatrax Minor. Now, Alpha Alphatrax Minor just happens to be a temporal nexus, which – oh, human, right, going to have to dumb it down a little – well, between the tau-sub-beta-1 particle relativistic eddies and the Priz'klghr-Shaw levels being completely off the charts, seriously, you should see the output on the quantum collision detector, colours you wouldn't believe, not that your eyes can see that part of the spectrum in the first place – but anyway, I always, always forget about the temporal cross-currents. Which you'd think I wouldn't; they're right there on the detector in a perfectly lovely shade of splorange. But when they're at high tide, they're a little too powerful for the old girl, and they give her hiccoughs."
"Hiccoughs. At least there's one word out of your mouth I understand."
"Don't worry, it gets worse."
"Of course it does."
"So, believe it or not – and honestly, Jackie, I'm sure we'll all look back on this and laugh someday, really we will – Alpha Alphatrax Minor's temporal cross-currents carry a certain level of psychosexual energy. You see, while tau-sub-beta-1 particles are totally neutral on the Angevoort D sexual reactivity scale, the particles they decay into, which as I'm sure you know are mu-sub-zeta-3 particles, well, those pesky little buggers vibrate on Angevoort D like you wouldn't believe."
"You're right; I don't believe it."
"And on top of it all, their vibration frequency causes short-term memory loss. Interesting coincidence, that, the memory loss coupled with high sexual reactivity, but particle physics: always full of surprises. Anyway, to make a long story short, I, er, made the TARDIS a bit sick because it turns out I'm suffering from the psychosexual effects of the mu-sub-zeta-3 particles, and – funny, I know – apparently, between that and the nasty cross-currents, I've got us caught in a temporo-sexual loop, and the only way out of it is to ... um ..."
"You're joking. That's the worst chat-up line I've ever heard."
"The cross-currents alone wouldn't have been a problem! It's just me. I'm sorry, Jackie; I'm so sorry." He leaned over Jackie and took her shoulder in what he hoped was a sufficiently serious yet vaguely seductive manner. "Jackie Tyler, we need to burn off the psychosexual energy to cure the TARDIS, and there's only one way to do that."
Her mouth dropped open briefly, closed again. "You're telling me your barmy little ship needs us to shag just to make her feel better? You can't just, you know, have a wank?"
"I'm afraid the remaining mu-sub-zeta-3 particles have affected you by now, too, Jackie; just not to the extent they've affected me, because, well, primitive human brain pathways and all."
"That's well creepy, that is. And insulting. You could really use some help with your pillow talk."
"But I thought you wanted – you have to admit, Jackie, you haven't exactly been subtle. And not just here – ever, really."
"Aw, I was just having a laugh. I know you're not really interested." She sighed and looked away from him, picking at a loose thread in the duvet.
The Doctor took in Jackie's bleached-blonde hair, her overmascara'd eyes, her winsome and sincere face. He was certain, given proper application of brainpower, that he could identify numerous other desirable qualities of Jackie's; after all, she was a human, and he was pathetically weak when it came to the species.
Fact one: she was both fierce and loving when it came to her daughter or anyone else she cared about, qualities the Doctor had long admired in his companions, even the ones he hadn't unexpectedly found himself in bed with.
Fact two: as much as Rose rolled her eyes about her mother's pursuit of a mate, Jackie had been on her own for some time, and was every bit as deserving of romantic companionship as any other human.
Fact three: she filled out that top rather nicely.
Fact four: her lips, iridescent pink and glossy, were surprisingly alluring too.
Fact five: it was ever so slightly possible that, as occasionally happened, he had allowed his arrogance about being the Last of the Time Lords, the Oncoming Storm, the Destroyer of Worlds, and the Plunderer of Hair Gel to get the best of him, and that he'd been perhaps the teensiest bit rude and dismissive to Jackie when she'd shown interest in the same sorts of ordinary things the vast majority of humans cared about: pop culture, whether she'd made enough last week to afford the good chip shop, what him next door was up to with that racket at three in the morning.
All of which led to fact six: Jackie Tyler, actual desirable human being entirely outside of her relationship to the other bleached-blonde with whom the Doctor was currently associating.
"Maybe I've changed my mind about that." He lowered his voice a quarter of an octave and tried to speak from deep in his throat. Humans were supposed to find that sexy, or so he'd heard.
"Don't be stupid. Rose would kill me if we ... if we did that. There's got to be some other way to sort this."
"If I knew another way to fix her, I would," the Doctor said. "But I don't."
"You can bloody well sod off until you figure one out, then." Jackie rolled over, leaving him facing her back, and saying nothing more.
* * *
Jackie stared at him, stared at herself, stared back at him.
"Nice bloody try," she said. "And this fabric itches."
The Doctor sighed the long-suffering sigh of a man who actually hadn't been suffering all that long, but who was nevertheless convinced he was deeply oppressed. The engines of his timeship would have sighed, albeit unsympathetically, were they capable of sighing in the first place.
Instead, the TARDIS hiccoughed. Again.
* * *
Jackie failed to stifle a laugh.
"What?" the Doctor said. "Just because you've got the squishy bits for this doesn't mean it doesn't suit me. I like a nice pink bow."
"Do you wear that under your suit all the time? I don't have a problem with it, takes all sorts, you know, but it's just a bit of a surprise. Also," Jackie continued, cocking her head as she examined him, "I don't think black's your colour. Too dark. You need a nice, bright red. Ooh! Or purple! Oh, aubergine would really suit you."
"Jackie Tyler," the Doctor said after brief contemplation of whether he should flutter his eyelashes for emphasis, and a decision on a couple of slow blinks to draw attention to the rich and not in the least bit ordinary brownness of his eyes instead, "are you suggesting I should wear ladies' underthings more often?"
"Whatever shows off the goods," she said. "But I'm still not shagging you."
* * *
"Really?" he yelled at the ceiling, not that it bore the slightest blame for his predicament. "Really?"
Jackie didn't even bother trying to stifle herself this time. She simply collapsed on the bed and laughed until she was wiping mascara streaks below her eyes.
"I give up," she said through a few last giggles. "Come on, big boy, let's go."
"This is what does it for you? This?"
"Doctor," Jackie said with sudden and surprising calmness, "if the only way I get out of this bed is by shagging bloody Babar here, I'll do it. Besides, I think he's already waving hello. Hello down there!"
"Jackie, no, please, just don't – don't talk to it –"
But by then Jackie had stopped talking anyway, and started doing something with her mouth that was much more compelling.
* * *
"That ... that ..." the Doctor began. There were words to describe what had just happened; many, many words, he was sure of it, that collectively, could vividly describe the sensations he had just experienced: the creativity, the daring acrobatics, the startling yet tantalising use of that whirring thing they'd found while under the bed. And someday, perhaps, he might be capable of using words again.
"Yeah," Jackie said, drawing the word out with a sigh. "You're not so bad yourself. For an alien, I guess."
"You guess? Oh, you've never had better, Jackie Tyler. Why, I'm known in three galaxies for that little" – he made a swirling motion with his finger – "you know, that thing. The one I did."
"Yeah, that was nice." She smiled dreamily for a moment. "Wouldn't mind trying that again. You think one go was enough for you and your ship?"
The Doctor paused, breathed deeply, set several of his psychic senses in tune with the TARDIS. Her humming vibrated smoothly now, without a trace of stuttering, and he and Jackie had been lying in the same bed for several minutes now without a hiccough.
Jackie's fingertips swished back and forth across one of his nipples. "Honestly, she's probably fine by now," she said. "But might as well make sure, yeah?"
* * *
"Probably should get going now, yeah?" she said.
"Um. Yes, I suppose so." The Doctor's arm stretched across what had been Jackie's side of the bed, now cool as if no human had ever been in it, much less been in it during a set of increasingly desperate and ridiculous attempts at shagging. "Don't want Rose to wonder what's been going on."
The sticky portions of his body beneath the sheets suddenly reminded him what, in fact, had been going on, and the Doctor shot straight up in bed. "Jackie. Rose can never –"
"Blimey, you're stupid sometimes. Do you really think I'm going to tell Rose what we did?"
"I just had to make sure."
"Yeah, what my little girl really wants to hear is all about how her mum shagged the bloke she fancies."
"Well, I might tell her about that thing with –" She twirled her finger. "That was awfully nice."
"I'm joking, you plum. What Rose doesn't know won't hurt her."
"Or me," the Doctor mumbled, slinking almost fully under the sheets.
"Listen," Jackie said, dropping back to her side of the bed and tugging the top of the duvet until the Doctor's face was clear, "we just had a bit of fun, that's all. Your ship's fixed, and honestly" – she leaned in, kissed his cheek softly – "I think we both needed a little tumble."
"I'm a Time Lord, Jackie. I don't need regular bedtime shenanigans the way you humans do."
"Is that a complaint? I'm not hearing a complaint."
Damned humans. It was bad enough he couldn't keep away from them; it was worse still when they saw right through him.
Jackie rose and headed to the door. There was actually a door this time round; that made for a pleasant change from earlier. "Next time your ship's feeling poorly, you know where to find me," she said with a smile, and disappeared into the corridor.
"Next time," the Doctor grumbled to himself. "As if there'll be a next time."
But there, peeking out below Jackie's pillow, was the elephant thong, trunk empty and waiting to be filled.
He kept it, just in case.