When Donna got back with the Caution: Wet Floor signs, the Doctor was crouched down and bunched up, as if he was just waiting for someone to kick him in the offered target. If he made any more fuss than he already had, she reflected, that was probably going to happen.
“C’mere,” he cooed, waving a ream of paper under the copy machine. “That’s it.... That’s it....”
There was a metallic clicking and a snap and the Doctor let out a noise of victory, pulling the paper out quickly.
“Have you got it?” Donna called over, setting up the signs in front of the stairs and elevator, blatantly ignoring the carpeting. There were worse ways to close the floor of an office building off. Not that it was dangerous any more, at least not obviously, but she’d learned not to take these risks. Maybe one of the employees who’d gone running for cover would come back. Unlikely, but possible.
The Doctor replied with a few odd syllables that were probably words in some language somewhere.
“It’s always weird when you swear,” she mused, wandering back over to watch the Time Lord’s progress with the tiny invasion inside the copy machine. “It’s always angry, but it’s never words.”
“It won’t come out, Donna,” he told her, ignoring her and trying to offer the ream back to the creature beneath the copier.
“Use your sonic again.” She leaned back against a cubicle, idly looking around at the contents of the office building. “Made it jump ship before.” Jump computer, make that. Just a bit dangerous, that thing in a computer. She assumed. Really, as far as she could tell, the situation had already been resolved. No frightened-alien-dislocated-consciousness-whatever-thingy taking over the internet or, or whatever frightened-alien-dislocated-consciousness-whatever-thingies do when they’re possessing a computer.
“I think I hurt it,” he explained.
“You what?” She stopped eying the individually wrapped sweets someone was keeping in a little blue bowl on their desk. Those were the ones with the chewy bits inside, the kind that would fuse your teeth together. God, she was hungry. They’d shown up an hour ago to get lunch in the restaurant across the street, and then this had happened before they could so much as order.
“I hurt it,” he repeated, turning his head to look at her. He was wearing his glasses for some reason, even though she was sure he didn’t actually need them. The lenses didn’t distort his face. “I thought it was a-”
Words happened for a little while. Occasionally, Donna recognized one.
“But,” he concluded, “it was actually-”
Words happened for a while longer.
“Was it really?” she asked, looking interested.
“Yep,” he said, popping the “p”. He shook his head a little, by this point sitting back on his haunches. “Now all I need to do is get it out, isolate it, and then I can release it somewhere a little more appropriate.”
“You mean not in a possessed mini-stapler.”
“Yep.” He contorted himself again, pressed his cheek against the rough gray carpet and peered beneath the copier. He shook free a few loose leafs of paper from the ream and waved the bunch in the small gap between copier and carpet. Again, the metallic click, again the snap, and again the Doctor yanked out stapled papers and nothing else.
“I think we need better bait.”
“It’s a stapler,” he replied. “I have paper.”
“Didn’t you say it was just possessing the stapler?”
“Yes,” he agreed, starting to sound unreasonably testy, “but it thinks it’s a stapler now.”
Donna scoffed a little. “How can you tell what a stapler thinks?”
He waved the stapled papers at her pointedly. “I can tell.”
Donna treated herself to one of the sweets from the next cubicle over, watching the self-proclaimed genius encourage the stapler like a particularly shy but adorable dog.
Eventually, he sat down properly and sighed. “Any more and it might run out of staples and stop biting. How are you at moving copy machines?”
She stopped chewing on the thick caramel filling to ask, “Mind giving me some paper?”
“Fine, fine.” He handed it over, the very few pages that weren’t peppered with bits of metal.
She took four of them and spat out the caramel onto a corner of one.
The Doctor raised his eyebrow. “There’s a rubbish bin,” he pointed out, tapping it with his foot.
“I’d noticed, thanks.” She pressed the other papers down, making a paper and caramel sandwich. That done, she knelt and slid the four pages in at an angle, offering that corner first.
She looked up at the Doctor to find him grinning and then they both heard a metallic click that was distinctly followed by a lack of a snap. Abruptly, something started tugging at the papers in her hand and Donna pulled out the possessed stapler triumphantly.
“There you go, Spaceman. Could muzzle it with tape if you want it to stop snapping like that.” She passed the paper and trapped-alien-consciousness-thingy/possessed stapler over to the Doctor.
He immediately resumed cooing at it. “There you are. It’s going to be all right now, isn’t it? Yes it is. Yes it is.”
As strange as it was to watch, he may have had a point in talking to it like that. Once it was freed from the paper and caramel and gently held in the Doctor’s hands, it looked oddly, well. It looked content.
For a stapler.
But, then again, as the Doctor cooed to what was starting to look like his new pet, he looked pretty content for anyone.
Skinny alien git, she thought fondly.
“C’mon,” she told him, dumping all the stapled paper in the recycling. “If you’re keeping little Office Max there, we can get lunch.”
“We’re not naming him Max,” the Doctor protested immediately, following her out as she made for the elevator.
“That’s what you say, Martian Boy.”
He sighed, tucking Max into his breast pocket as if tucking him into bed. “Sometimes,” he told her, his expression Very Serious as the elevator doors closed, “I’m not sure why I put up with you.”
By the time they reached the ground floor, she still hadn’t stopped laughing.