“You,” the Doctor said, pointing with a finger that trembled faintly, “are not supposed to be here.”
“And you, Doctor,” the TARDIS - Idris - the TARDIS replied, disapprovingly, “should not be wandering my corridors in the condition you’re in. You should be in bed.”
“Can wander if I want to,” the Doctor replied, aware that he sounded petulant and not really caring. “You’re my TARDIS.” Fevers were sort of fun, he’d decided. They made everything sharp and bright. Things flickered at the edges of his vision, timelines wove and unwove themselves too quickly for him to make sense of. Time and space slipped through his mind like sand through his fingers. He didn’t think he was ill enough for a full-on hallucination, but if he was, he supposed to he could do worse than his TARDIS.
“And you’re my Doctor,” the TARDIS replied, sounding more resigned than anything else. “I suppose since none of your strays are available for nursing duty, it falls to me.”
“I don’t need a nurse,” the Doctor retorted, weaving down the hall. "And if I did, I don't think you'd be my first choice!" Walls were wonderful, he thought as he bounced off of one and into another, rather like a ping-pong ball. Ping-pong. It had been centuries since he’d played ping-pong. Fantastic word, ping-pong. There had been a table in the rec room at UNIT. He’d played a round or two with the Brigadier, tried to get Jo to join in but she never would.
He paused after a few steps, leaning against a wall, strangely out of breath. Fraxilonian ‘flu was tiring.
“What if you fall over?” the TARDIS said reasonably, from right beside him.
The Doctor glared. “Then I guess I’ll just be over!”
The TARDIS shook her head. “Flesh bodies are so frail. I could make you stay in bed, you know.”
“You could not,” the Doctor retorted, though he was starting to see that the idea had some merit. He’d had a goal of some kind when he’d first started this expedition, but he’d lost track of it ages ago. “I’d like to see you try.”
“Lovely,” the TARDIS said, “I’m glad we’re in agreement.” She closed her eyes.
“No -” the Doctor protested, and found himself stumbling forward, falling straight onto his bed. “That wasn’t fair,” he mumbled into the duvet.
“As though you ever play fair,” the TARDIS replied. The Doctor groaned. Now that he was horizontal, it seemed unlikely he would be getting up again. He felt the bedclothes shifting around him, rearranging themselves until he was tucked in. He put a hand to his throat and found he’d lost his bowtie somewhere. And also, he realized, peeking beneath the covers, his trousers. “Rest, Doctor,” the TARDIS said, and though the Doctor knew it was impossible, he felt someone stroke a hand through his hair.
He managed to roll onto his side and lift his head. His vision was blurry, but he could just barely see the TARDIS in human form standing by the bed. She had a sort of golden halo around her, shimmering. “Don’t leave me,” he said, letting his head fall back on to the pillow.
The TARDIS laughed, gently. It sounded like bells ringing, or perhaps that was just the ringing in the Doctor’s head. “My beautiful idiot,” she said. “How could I?”
“Good point,” the Doctor said, and slept.
He woke, hours later, to a world that had mostly righted itself. Colors were the same as ever, and timelines no longer danced across his retinas. He felt awful, achey and shivery and covered in sweat. Fevers, he decided, were no fun at all.
He shuffled into the bathroom for a drink of water and found a bottle of painkillers on the edge of the sink. He took two, then shuffled back into the bedroom. The bed was a tangle of sweat-stained blankets and sheets, not very inviting. He knew he needed to rest, but he didn't want to do it here. He didn't want to do it alone. Which was silly, because he was no more or less alone here than he was anywhere else on TARDIS, but he wasn’t feeling particularly reasonable at the moment. He pulled the duvet and a pillow off the bed and dragged himself out of the room with both of them trailing behind him on the floor.
He was dizzy with exhaustion after only a few steps, but he didn't have to go very far: the TARDIS had placed his room beside the console room. "Thanks, dear," he murmured. He managed the steps down to the lower level without hurting himself and cleared a space on the floor, shoving aside the spanners and tools and spare parts from the maintenance work he'd been doing before he'd received the mauve signal that eventually led to being exposed to Fraxilonian ‘flu. He wrapped himself up in his duvet, rested his head on his pillow, and stared up through the wiring and the glass floor to the console and Time Rotor overhead. There, that was better. He could hear her so clearly here, so close to her heart. Her song was a lullaby to sing him to sleep.
“I lied before,” he whispered, closing his eyes. “You know you're always my first choice.”
Yes, he thought he heard, just before he fell asleep. I know.