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A bit flexible on the whole man-woman thing

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After the Doctor’s less-than-reassuring reassurances that he’ll try to keep her alive, the two of them lapse into silence. Bill slurps idly on her milkshake as she looks out at the stars – the ones the Doctor and his oldest friend had once pledged to visit – and thinks back on their conversation.

“So, have you always been a man, then?” she asks, tentatively. “If things are a bit flexible for timelords, I mean.”

The Doctor looks up at her and doesn’t say anything, and for a moment Bill falters. “Sorry, was that an impolite question?”

“Not impolite,” he says, looking mildly amused now.

“Right. Cool.” She gazes at the Doctor expectantly as he continues to eat.

“What makes you think I’m currently a man?” he says eventually. Bill stares at him in surprise. Apparently oblivious to this, the Doctor simply eats his chips calmly. After an extended silence, Bill abruptly closes her mouth – she’s been kind of gaping, just a little bit – and stops staring. She should really know better than to be so rude, and so presumptuous; she’s attended all the trans awareness workshops at the LGBT+ Society this year, so she’s well aware that a person’s outward appearance can be very different to their gender identity.

“Sorry,” she says, somewhat abashed. “I just sort of assumed. Are you a man?”

The Doctor shrugs. “Mostly. I think.”

“You think? So you’re… not sure?”

“It’s sort of hard to quantify.”

Bill’s about to ask what he means, when something more important suddenly occurs to her. “I haven’t been, like, misgendering you or anything, have I? Should I be using different pronouns?”

He looks up from his chips and smiles warmly at her. “‘He’ is fine. Or ‘they’. I don’t mind, really.”

A comfortable silence falls between them while Bill assimilates that, and for a brief period of time the only noises on the rooftop are the subdued sounds of a sleeping city and the distant cawing of seagulls by the harbour.

“D’you know, I’m not sure I’ve ever been wholly anything,” says the Doctor thoughtfully, breaking the silence. “I don’t know for sure, though. It’s a bit hard to remember.”

“That’d probably make you, like, genderqueer or something if you were a human,” Bill muses. The thought brings a small smile to her lips – it’s somehow nice to think that the Doctor could be part of the LGBT+ community, just like she is.

“Mmm,” agrees the Doctor, swallowing his last chip. “Humans are baffling sometimes. When I first came to Earth it took me ages to figure out that you lot like to categorise it all. I’ve never bothered with any of that. I’m just me, you know?”

Bill laughs softly. “Yeah, you’re definitely not anybody else.”

She watches him as he crushes the empty food box in his hands, eyebrows furrowing deeply when he notices the sheer amount of chips he’s dropped all over himself and the floor. Bill snorts in amusement and the Doctor shoots her a glare that contains no heat whatsoever. He brushes himself off, picks up his milkshake and gazes up at the stars again.

“D’you think humans will ever be like that?” Bill asks, picking up her own milkshake. “Less concerned with labels and more willing to just accept people for who they are.”

“Oh, you never know,” says the Doctor, with an enigmatic smile. “Maybe one day.”

He nudges Bill lightly with his shoulder and she nudges right back, before slouching down on the bench and tilting her head towards the sky.

“That’d be cool,” she says sleepily, resting her head against his arm. “I hope I’m around to see it.”