“So, Mrs Sullivan—”
“Sullivan-Smith,” Sarah says effortlessly, rather sick of how many people assume she took Harry’s surname when they got married. Especially because their marriage was purely a legal thing (they had to get married to be allowed to adopt Susan), and all four of the Sullivan-Smiths used the same surname. Basically, being called the wrong name really gets on her nerves.
“Yes,” says Miss Richardson, one of the employees of the adoption agency, in a somewhat flippant tone. She looks back down at her notes. “So you are looking to adopt another child?”
“Well, we’re thinking about it,” she says. They’re still not sure, but looking into the option seems like a good idea.
Miss Richardson nods, and then her eyes focus on the Doctor. Sat beside Sarah, the Doctor is playing with his yoyo (it’s one of his favourite stim toys, because it looks so inconspicuous) and bouncing his legs up and down. She knows he’s bored stiff, because the Doctor frequently starts to stim when he needs something to do. And she doesn’t blame him, because trips to the adoption agency aren’t exactly fun.
The Doctor also has part of his long scarf pressed over his nose and mouth, looking a bit nauseous. Knowing how sensitive his sense of smell is, Sarah assumes the source of his problem is the potent incense stick burning in the corner of the office. To be honest, she doesn’t like it either, but not enough to actually point it out to Miss Richardson. But, of course, she isn’t a neurodivergent Time Lord with sensory issues and a distinct lack of patience (and social skills).
“Can you get rid of that incense stick, please?” the Doctor says, quite polite for him.
“May I ask who you are?”
“Of course you can,” the Doctor says without looking at her.
When the Doctor doesn’t say anything else, Miss Richardson raises her eyebrows. “Well? Who are you?”
“I’m the Doctor. Doctor John Smith.” Sarah resists the urge to raise her eyebrows as the Doctor uses his favourite fake human name. “Pleased to meet you.” Though from his flat tone it is obvious that he isn’t pleased to see her at all.
“He’s my... friend,” Sarah says, watching the Doctor do a fancy trick with his yoyo. “My husband’s busy at work, so the Doctor came with me.”
Well, that’s mostly true. Harry is a work (ever since he left UNIT, Harry has been working at their local hospital), and the Doctor has come with her. But she would be fully capable of going alone, and the Doctor is here because, despite what they’ve told the adoption agency, he is Susan’s parent too and so gets a say in what happens in these meetings. And the Doctor is less of a friend and more a queerplatonic partner who she’s married to under the law of several alien civilisations, but, again, she can’t tell Miss Richardson the truth. Basically, it’s easier to bend the truth in situations like this.
“Right,” she mumbles, not sounding too enthusiastic herself.
The Doctor does a fancy trick with his yoyo. “So, can you?”
“Can I what?”
“Can you get rid of your incense stick?”
“Why are you so interested in my incense?” Miss Richardson asks, clearly confused.
“Because I have a very sensitive sense of smell, and the smell is making me feel very sick,” he says.
Miss Richardson sighs. “Sorry, Doctor Smith, but this is my office, and I like the smell.”
“Charming,” the Doctor mutters, so softly that only Sarah hears. She resists the urge to chuckle, instead watching as the Doctor says, “Well, then, can I open a window?”
“If you must,” she says, and the Doctor stands up so quickly his chair clatters to the floor.
Whilst the Doctor crosses the room and pulls the window open (taking exaggerated breathes as he sticks his head out and inhales the non-perfumed air), Sarah quickly turns the chair back up the right way. Once the Doctor has sat down, giving Sarah a grateful smile, Miss Richardson looks at her notes again.
“Is there a reason why you’re considering adopting again?”
The Doctor frowns. “I thought we wrote it on the form.”
“You did,” Miss Richardson says, frowning back.
“Then why do—”
“I just want to hear it in Mrs Sullivan-Smith’s own words!” she snaps, cutting the Doctor off.
The Doctor flinches slightly; he still gets panicky when people shout at him. He glances at Sarah and pulls a brief face, but she sees the discomfort behind his silly expression. In a few seconds, Sarah’s opinion of Miss Richardson has gone rapidly downhill.
“All right,” the Doctor mutters, and he begins to rock back and forth in his seat.
Sarah pats the Doctor’s arm as she forces herself to smile. Her words are equally forced as she says, “Anyway! So, yeah, we’ve been thinking about adopting again because Susan’s an only child, and we were wondering if she might like having a younger sibling.”
Everyone appears grateful for the meeting to be back on track. Sarah tells Miss Richardson about how their home is more than big enough for another child, and how Susan is the only child in her friendship group to be an only child, and they’re worried she might be feeling left out. The Doctor is still bored, but seems in a better mood now the window is open, occasionally chipping in when Sarah doesn’t know what to say, but mainly sitting in silence, bouncing his legs and doing yoyo tricks. Everything seems to going to plan... until, in a single second, the meeting descends into chaos.
The Doctor is trying to pull off a trick he has only done twice before, leaning forwards in his seat as he flings the yoyo around in midair. He appears to have done it right – but then his hand slips and the yoyo smacks into a cup on the desk. The cup falls off the desk and smashes on the wooden floor, sending shards of china flying and coffee soaking into the floorboards.
The Doctor just looks stunned, freezing in place with a strange look on his face. Miss Richardson looks very angry. And Sarah gasps and clamps her hands over her mouth in an attempt to hide her sudden laughter.
“Oops,” the Doctor says, stuffing the yoyo into his pocket. He grins bashfully at Miss Richardson, obviously not noticing the somewhat angry look on her face.
“Oops indeed,” Miss Richardson says, glaring at him.
The Doctor glances at Sarah, pulling another silly face. And then he must see her suppressing laughter, because a smile crosses his face and he splutters with laughter. Seeing the Doctor laugh sends Sarah into a fit of giggles, barely able to process what has just happened.
But she does know one thing: Miss Richardson is not at all happy with them.
Through his laughter, the Doctor attempts to look serious. “I assume the adoption isn’t going to happen?”
“Just leave,” she says, her voice disturbingly calm.
“Come on, Doctor,” Sarah says, standing up and wishing she could stop laughing. “Let’s go. Sorry,” she says to Miss Richardson, but she simply glares at Sarah too.
In a rare display of obedience (the Doctor isn’t one to do what someone tells him to), the Doctor gets up and follows Sarah out of the room. Their laughter is dying down, but they’re both still giggling.
“And by the way,” the Doctor adds, sticking his head back into the office. “I wouldn’t burn incense sticks if I were you. You might give someone an asthma attack or send someone closer towards a sensory overload. It’s rather inconsiderate.”
“Get out,” Miss Richardson says, still eerily calm.
“Doctor!” Sarah hisses, tugging on his arm.
The Doctor gives Miss Richardson the biggest, fakest grin Sarah has ever seen. “Thank you for your time.”
“Get out, you irritating man!”
And then he finally turns and hurries alongside Sarah as they leave the building.
They burst out laughing again as they enter the TARDIS (who needs to use public transport when you have a time machine?), the Doctor howling with laughter as he slumps against the control panel. Once the TARDIS has dematerialised, the Doctor sits down, pulling the yoyo out of his pocket. Seeing the object that caused all of this trouble makes Sarah start giggling yet again.
She isn’t sure why she finds the Doctor’s accident so funny. Maybe it’s because it was just so unexpected, or maybe because she didn’t really like Miss Richardson anyway. But, either way, it was absolutely hysterical. And she has a feeling that this is going to become an anecdote of the Doctor’s, a story he’ll tell everyone he knows for the rest of his life just like he always does when something amuses him.
“I guess this means we’re not adopting,” the Doctor says. “Well, not on Earth, anyway.”
Sarah chooses to ignore the end of his comment, not wanting to think about living with another alien. “No, I guess not. Though it’s not really important, is it? I mean, we’re perfectly happy as we are, aren’t we?”
The Doctor smiles and starts playing with the yoyo again.
“Yes, we are,” he says, and he gives Sarah’s forehead a kiss.