Chapter 1: #Redinstead
“I don’t understand, Professor,” Ace says, following the Doctor as they wander aimlessly around the TARDIS.
“Of course you don’t, Ace,” the Doctor says, wringing their hands together. “It is after your time. You have no reason to know.”
“Yeah, I know that. What I mean is, I understand what you told me, but I can’t get it into my head why someone would want to do that.”
The Doctor sighs. “To be honest with you, Ace, I don’t either.”
They wander into the wardrobe room, and the Doctor ducks behind the screen. They peek over the top at her, trying to continue their conversation while they get changed.
“So, these people really want to cure autism?” she says. The Doctor visibly flinches and Ace regrets asking.
They sigh again. “Yes, they do, despite the fact that you literally cannot cure a developmental disability. They hate me and everyone like me. And that is why we wear Red Instead.”
The Doctor emerges from behind the screen, dressed in a red jumper and mauve long red skirt. They smile, not remotely embarrassed by their choice of a skirt anymore.
“It suits you, Professor,” she says.
“Thank you,” the Doctor says, smiling.
Chapter 2: Stimming
The Doctor’s hands are never still. Whether they are tapping their fingers as they listen to music, or drumming their hands to play the spoons, or rubbing their fingers together or wringing their hands or flapping their arms in excitement or stress… whatever the cause or type of movement, their hands always seem to be moving.
One day, the Doctor and Mel are wandering through the countryside when their companion brings this up.
“Doctor?” she says.
The Doctor makes a noise to acknowledge her. They don’t stop what they were doing: swinging their arms back and forth as they walk, sending their umbrella whooshing through the air. They smile, amused by the noise.
“Yes?” they mumble.
“I was just thinking,” Mel says, “and I noticed that you never stop fidgeting with your hands.”
“Yep, I’m stimming,” they say.
“You know, it’s an autistic thing. We fidget like this to self stimulate and calm ourselves. Hence the name.”
Mel smiles. “I understand. So you’re always… stimming because it calms you down?”
“Calms me down, keeps me focused, it’s just pleasant to do, that sort of thing,” the Doctor says. They smile, flinging their umbrella so hard they drop it. “Oops.”
Chapter 3: Special Interest
The Doctor loves to play chess. There is something about the game of stealth and planning and skill that the Doctor just finds fascinating, and they have a great deal of fun playing chess far more often than most people would ever want to. But they aren’t most people, are they?
But it is hard to play chess by yourself (they can do it, but it isn’t nearly as fun), so the Doctor insists on teaching Mel how to play. She is surprisingly good at it for a beginner, and gets the Doctor in check several times before they realise what she is doing. Because they weren’t expecting her to be so good at chess. They had never met such a skilled chess player before.
Later on, they end up teaching the game to Ace. She doesn’t pick it up as quickly as Mel, but is just as supportive of their attempts to teach her. And, given how Ace is bad at chess and shows no signs of getting better, their lessons are very fun.
The Doctor just loves sharing their favourite game with their companions. They enjoy chess so much, and love sharing their special interest with their friends.
Chapter 4: Communication
“Right, so, each type of piece as a different role. The pawns can move forwards one or two spaces. Rooks can move horizontally or vertically the length of the board. Bishops do the same, except only diagonally. Knights can jump over other pieces, moving in an L-shape around the board. Queens can move anywhere. And the king can only move one space at a time. If you are in a position where you can technically take the king, you put the other player in check. If there is no way for them to escape, you put them in checkmate and you win the game.”
The Doctor finally stops talking. They look at Ace and find her grinning. They duck their head, embarrassed.
“Sorry for rambling,” they mumble.
“Don’t be embarrassed, Professor,” Ace says. “It was really interesting. And I’m amazed you can remember all of that. My memory’s shocking.”
The Doctor looks up, a smile starting to cross their face. “Your memory isn’t bad, not for a human at least.”
“Charming.” Ace smiles and nudges their arm.
And the Doctor grins, so glad to feel accepted. “Thank you, Ace.”
“It’s nothing. Now, let’s play. I think I remember the rules.”
Chapter 5: Freebie
They grit their teeth as they clench a trembling fist, tears in their eyes and too many thoughts swirling around their overloading brain. It hurts so much, even more than when they swing their fist and punch the wall.
Pain shoots up their arm and they groan, tears starting to slide down their face. Everything is so painful and overwhelmed and they hate it. They punch the wall again, letting out a cry. Why is this happening? They hate meltdowns.
The TARDIS tries to make them stop, moving the wall so they miss and don’t hit it, but the Doctor doesn’t stop. They just punch and cry and long for the meltdown to end.
The TARDIS’s final intervention happens much later, when the meltdown is over and the Doctor is patching up their split knuckles, their eyes swollen from crying. They don’t know what it does, but their door disappears and Ace walks into the room.
She stares at them silently, taking in their appearance. And then she groans and whispers, “Professor…”
And despite the Doctor’s embarrassed protests, Ace stays and helps patch them up. And the Doctor leans their forehead against her’s, a nonverbal way of saying, “Thank you.”
Chapter 6: Food
The Doctor breaks another piece of chocolate off of the bar, loving the snapping sound it makes, and puts it into their mouth. They adore the taste of chocolate, and never tire of having a few squares of it as a snack.
As they eat the chocolate, they notice Mel looking at them. “Would you like some chocolate, Mel?”
“Not for me, thanks, Doctor,” she says.
“Are you having one of your healthy diet days?” the Doctor asks.
Mel shakes her head. “No, but—”
They grin and hold out the bar. “Go on, then! Treat yourself!”
“No, Doctor, you don’t understand,” Mel says, looking sort of upset (have they upset her?). “I can’t eat chocolate. I’m lactose intolerant.”
The Doctor smiles sadly. “I’m sorry to hear that, Mel.”
Mel shrugs her shoulders. “It’s not really important.”
But the Doctor doesn’t believe her.
Later that day, Mel finds wrapped package in her room. She unwraps it and finds herself looking at a bar of lactose free chocolate. Attached to it is a note that reads:
Now you can have chocolate too.
The Doctor knocks on her door, and there’s a smile on their face.
And Mel smiles too. “Thank you, Doctor.”
Chapter 7: Spoons
“Have you ever heard of the Spoon Theory, Ace?”
They are sat in a booth in a café, drinking fizzy drinks (and, in the Doctor’s case, failing to resist the temptation to play the spoons with the café’s cutlery), when the Doctor asks the most random question.
“Nope,” she says. “Never heard of it. What is it?”
“It’s a disability metaphor, one people use to explain how they’re more prone to fatigue than able people,” the Doctor says, drumming the spoons against the table and earning a glare from another customer. “I only mention it because of where we are. Because the creator of the Theory was in a place like this, trying to explain her levels of energy to a friend. And the only thing she had on hand to represent this was a load of spoons. And so she proceeded to explain how she has fewer spoons than able people, and her level of spoons runs low far more quickly. It was originally designed for chronic illness, but it works for most other physical and mental disabilities too.”
Realising they were infodumping, they blush. “Does that make sense.”
Ace smiles, looking at the spoons. “Yeah, I think so.”
Chapter 8: Crowd
“Are you all right, Doctor?” Mel asks.
The Doctor’s ears are ringing, but they raise their head to acknowledge her words. They are tapping their umbrella against the pavement, hunching forwards on the wooden bench and wishing they hadn’t to Earth on a national holiday (because there are people everywhere, and they are all too loud and it is making their head hurt).
“Not really,” they mumble, their voice coming out flat. They seem to be going nonverbal. “Too loud.”
“Well… would you like to head back to the TARDIS?”
“Don’t you want to stay?” they say, really having to force their words out.
“It does matter,” Mel says. “It’s not important. Come on, let’s head back.”
With help from Mel, the Doctor stands up and they head back to the TARDIS. Once inside, they shut the doors and slump against the panel, so relieved to be back inside the safe and quiet environment of the TARDIS.
“Are you all right now?” Mel asks, helping the Doctor take their jacket off.
“Much better,” they say. “Sure you’re fine with leaving?”
“Well, I sort of wanted to stay, but this is more important.”
They smile and squeeze her hand. “Thank you.”
Chapter 9: Phone Calls
“I demand to speak to your superior officer!” the Doctor cries, long having given up acting diplomatically.
Although Ace doesn’t blame them; talking to this group of soldiers is like talking to a brick wall. Not only have they arrested Ace and the Doctor for something they didn’t do, but they won’t listen when they try to explain the truth.
“Well you can’t!” their guard snaps, glaring at the Doctor (and at Ace, who glares back even worse).
“I think you’ll find we can,” the Doctor says, tapping their umbrella against the stone floor of their cell. “I know the laws of this planet. I’ve been here before. And I know all prisoners have a right to appeal to the superior officer before their case is taken to military court. So I think you should get her on the telephone right now.”
They give the guard one of their ‘don’t mess with me’ looks, and, to Ace’s amusement, the guard scuttles out of the room.
“Well done, Professor,” Ace says, grinning.
The Doctor smiles.
A minute later, the guard returns with a strange telephone. The Doctor claps their hands together and takes it from them.
“Now, let’s sort this out.”
Chapter 10: Labels
“Professor, what does gendervague mean?” Ace asks as they wander through a barren wasteland, the Doctor’s hat resting on her head at a jaunty angle.
The Doctor adjusts their open umbrella, trying to block out the burning sunlight. “It is a nonbinary gender identity for neurodivergent people, you know, those with developmental disabilities or mental illnesses, such as autism.”
Ace nods, clearly grateful for the brief explanation. The Doctor sometimes forgets that most people don’t know this much on this topic as they do.
“Well, because of my autism, I struggle to know exactly what my gender is. I know it isn’t binary, but it is a bit of a mystery to me; I usually feel like some mix of agender or even feminine aligned, but it all changes and I never really know what it is. And I know some people don’t need labels, but I need to feel like I have my identity recognised. So I chose the label gendervague to describe my gender. Basically, I am nonbinary, but I have no idea how to pin down my specific gender. Does that make any sense?”
Ace smiles, tilting their hat backwards. It rather suits her. “Yeah, it does.”
Chapter 11: Collection
“How many chess sets do you own, Doctor?” Mel once asked them, rummaging through one of the many crowded storage rooms inside the TARDIS. “Because I’ve already found six and I’m sure there are lots more.”
The Doctor smiles. “Several dozen, I should think.”
“What?!” Mel splutters, and they start laughing.
Whenever the Doctor sees a chess set on their travels, they buy it. They have dozens of the things, but they are all different. Some are futuristic with lights and pieces that move via voice commands. Others are hundreds of years old, made from marble or wood or clay. They even have one from Gallifrey, but they don’t really like to use that one.
Some might say that they already have enough chess sets, but the Doctor will still buy more if and when they find them.
“This is wicked, Professor!” Ace says, admiring the chess set out on the table.
It is one from the far future, the set where the pieces move by voice command. The pieces are made of red metal and flash bright lights when they get taken by the other player. Basically, it is extremely sophisticated and high tech.
The Doctor smiles. “Thank you.”
Chapter 12: Sensory Overload
There’s something wrong with the Doctor. Ever since the show started, they have started to hunch up in their seat. As though curling in on themself, the Doctor leans forwards, wrapping their arms tightly around their chest. They duck their head, and their face tenses up whenever there is a particularly loud noise on stage. And Ace knows how much the Doctor loves Jazz, so to be acting like this during a jazz concert is really weird. Yes, there is definitely something wrong.
“Professor?” Ace whispers, leaning closer towards them.
The Doctor flinches slightly. Their hands are clenched into trembling fists. They don’t say anything.
“Doctor?” she says, knowing calling them by their name is always a way to get their attention.
And the Doctor turns their head, but they still don’t speak. With their face so tense and their eyes too wide, they look like they’re in agony. Which they may well be.
She wonders if they are having a sensory overload. If that is the case, at least she knows what to do.
“Come on, Professor,” she says, offering them a hand. “Let’s go outside for a minute.”
And they smile, weak but grateful, and follow her outside.
Chapter 13: Autistic Character
“What’s wrong, Professor?” Ace asks, staring down at the Doctor.
They are sat cross legged on the floor, rocking back and forth slightly as they read a book. At least, they seem to trying to read the book; they often struggle to focus long enough to read long blocks of text. And they are frowning, chewing on their bottom lip.
“Nothing, Ace,” they say, looking up at her. “I was just thinking. You see, this book contains an autistic character, but… well, it isn’t very good autistic representation.”
Ace joins them on the floor. “What, you mean the character is badly written?”
“Precisely,” the Doctor says, sighing. “A collection of stereotypes that fit together to make a character who acts nothing like any autistic person I have ever met. Which is far too common.”
“I get what you mean,” Ace says, noting how poor queer representation is even in the future. “Is it like Rain Man?”
The Doctor actually shudders, nodding their head. “Even worse, I’m afraid.”
Ace grimaces, remembering their long conversation about the inaccuracies of that film and how it has skewed public understanding of autism. “I’m sorry about that. I hope you find a good book soon.”
Chapter 14: Nonverbal
Here is some information about the device the Doctor uses, the AAC, in case you don't know what they are:
The Doctor has just finished making their AAC machine (basically, you push buttons and it says words for you; people have them on Earth, but the Doctor’s version is much more high tech, obviously), and it turns out to be just in time. Because they’ve gone nonverbal, and need some way to communicate.
They smile at Ace as they switch it on, before pressing the buttons.
It works, Ace, says the AAC in a voice vaguely similar to the Doctor’s. It works.
“Why’d you ever think it might not?” Ace says. “I mean, you’re a right tech whiz, Professor.”
The Doctor smiles. Thank you. You know, I have never used one of these AAC machines before, but this seems a very good idea. After all, it is much easier to talk to you like this than to teach you sign language. Of course, I can still teach you if you wish, but it is easier like this for now.
It takes them longer to say it all than if they were speaking, but Ace understands the AAC loud and clear.
“Thanks, Professor, I’d love to learn sign language. And I’m glad you like your AAC.”
The Doctor smiles. Thank you.
Chapter 15: Stim Toys
“You own a lot of stim toys, don’t you, Professor?” Ace says.
The Doctor smiles, spinning their fidget spinner again. “I suppose I do.”
There is a large box full of stim toys in one of the many cupboards inside the TARDIS. Ace rummages through fidget spinners, chewable necklaces and bracelets, fidget cubes, marble mazes and literally every type of stim toys the Doctor has told her about.
“Where did you get all of these?” she asks.
“Some were gifts, some I made myself, and the rest I just collected over the course of my travels,” the Doctor says. “Would you like to try one?”
Smiling, Ace chooses a red fidget spinner and spins it around. It makes a soothing whirring sound and merges into a blur as it spins.
“I can see why you like this one,” Ace says. “It’s ace.”
The Doctor smiles, clearly pleased to be bonding over something important to them (stimming and Ace’s acceptance of their need to stim). “It certainly is, Ace.”
“But one can never have too many stim toys,” the Doctor says.
“What, so you’ll just keep buying more even though you’ve already got loads?”
They nod. “Of course.”
Ace grins. “Wicked.”
Chapter 16: Autistic Utopia
There are few times when the Doctor feels more relaxed when they are playing chess. It is their favourite activity to do, it is their special interest, and they are very skilled at the game. All in all, they just feel so happy and content whilst playing the game of chess.
Specifically, though, their favourite thing is to play chess with Mel. Mel is their best friend, so of course spending time with their best friend whilst also doing their favourite activity makes it the most relaxing and enjoyable activity possible for them in this particular incarnation.
Mel isn’t the best at chess, but she still enjoys playing it (“If nothing else, it’s funny,” she says, referencing her ability to mess up the game). And she loves how happy the Doctor is during their chess matches.
“You just look so… content,” she says one time, watching the Doctor study the board as they rest their chin on their hand.
The Doctor smiles. “I feel content. I love playing chess with you, Mel.”
Mel smiles back. “Thanks. I love playing chess with you too.” She giggles. “It sounds sort of sappy, doesn’t it? But it’s true.”
They smile. “Yes, it’s true.”
Chapter 17: Inspiration
“I’m so glad I met you, Doctor,” Mel says one night, when they are both sat in their favourite sitting room.
The Doctor looks at her, completely surprised by her sudden statement. But what she says surprises them even more. “Really?”
Mel blushes. “Y-Yeah, I am. I’d never met another trans person before I met you. And I know you’re not a trans woman but you’re transfem just like me… Is that what you call it?”
“Yes, transfeminine,” the Doctor says, referring to how they are a transfeminine nonbinary person. “So… you like that you met me because you feel like you’ve met a kindred spirit?”
Mel smiles, still bright red. “Yeah, exactly. That’s all right, isn’t it? It’s not awkward to hear me say that?”
“Of course it isn’t, Mel,” they say, smiling back. “I’m always happy to know that people feel like that when they meet me. A friend of mine once said it was inspirational to meet another autistic person, because he knew he wasn’t alone anymore.”
“That must have been a lovely compliment,” Mel says. “And I completely agree. I don’t feel so alone when I’m with you, Doctor.”
“Thank you, Mel,” the Doctor says, grinning.
Chapter 18: Puzzle Pieces
“Would you like to do one of these, Professor?” Ace asks, holding up a jigsaw puzzle.
Ace wanted to go on holiday somewhere secluded to ‘get away from it all’, but she didn’t appreciate how boring it would be without TV. So only a few hours into their holiday in a log cabin, she has had to resort to looking through the cupboard full of board games. But board games are more like ‘bored games’ and she can’t bring herself to play naffing Monopoly.
Which is why she holds up one of the five puzzles, wondering if making one of these jigsaws might relieve her boredom.
But then the Doctor looks at the puzzle, and the look on their face tells Ace something isn’t right.
They look oddly panicked, starting to bounce their leg up and down. “Um… I’m not sure about a jigsaw puzzle, Ace. Maybe we could play Scrabble instead?”
“Is something the matter?” Ace asks.
The Doctor sighs. “Not really. I suppose… well, jigsaw puzzles remind me too much of the ableist puzzle piece rhetoric about autism. About how we are puzzles with missing pieces. And it…”
Ace understands. “Right, then. Scrabble it is!”
They smile gratefully.
Chapter 19: Routine
“Rise and shine, Ace! The day awaits!”
Ace is awoken at an ungodly hour by the Doctor knocking on her door and shouting her name. She groans and tries to fall back asleep, but it’s no good. Last night was her first night in the TARDIS; she had a lovely sleep in a comfortable bed, but she had no idea the Doctor would come along and wake her up this early.
“It’s too early,” she moans. “Let me have five more hours.”
“It isn’t early at all,” the Doctor calls through the door, far too cheerful for this time of day. “I know that most humans need eight hours sleep. You have had nine hours. And it’s time to get up.”
“Nine… hours?” Ace mumbles. “So… it’s eight in the morning?”
“Exactly,” the Doctor says. “So I advise you to stop making a fuss and get up.”
She may have had enough sleep, but she’s so tired. She needs a lay in. but she also knows that the Doctor won’t leave her alone.
So, sighing, Ace throws on her clothes and opens the door. The Doctor smiles infuriatingly.
“Good morning,” they say.
Ace grumbles at them. “Whatever.”
The Doctor laughs.
Chapter 20: Animal or Pet
Whenever Mel sees a dog on her and the Doctor’s adventures, she will always go over to the dog’s owner and ask if she can pet their dog. And if the person says yes, Mel grins and crouches down beside the dog and starts to pet it.
“Why do you like dogs so much, Mel?” the Doctor asks one day, intrigued by their companion’s behaviour whenever she sees a dog.
Mel shrugs, grinning. “I don’t know, really. I just always had dogs when I was growing up and I love spending time with them. They’re so lovely and are truly the best pets ever.”
The Doctor doesn’t say anything about her choice of dogs being the best pets, but they smile and say, “I’m glad you like them. I have always been a bit weary of dogs myself (I once met a seemingly lovely dog who then bit me), but if I meet a dog I know won’t bite me, I like to give them a fuss. Dog fur is so soft and it tickles my skin if they lick me.”
“Well, next time I see a dog, why don’t you pet it too?”
They smile. “That’s a good idea.”
Chapter 21: Honesty
The Doctor is very skilled at knowing when someone is lying to them. They would make a good lawyer or detective, because they can just always tell when someone is lying. Ace isn’t sure how they do it, but they seem to work it out almost every time someone lies to them. This includes when Ace lies, making it very difficult to lie to the Doctor about trivial things like how much sleep she got last night (she likes to stay up late but the Doctor wants her to get enough sleep so she isn’t sleep deprived). Basically, you can’t lie to the Doctor without them noticing.
They are also very good at lying. According to the Doctor, sometimes in their previous lives, they’ve really struggled to lie, but the Doctor is very, very skilled this time around. It gets to the point when they can manipulate a bad guy without anyone (even Ace) working out that their words are a complete lie. It’s fascinating. Ace supposes it’s good that they shatter the stereotype that autistic people can’t lie. Because, trust her, the Doctor is scarily good at it. She just wishes they would teach her how to do it.
Chapter 22: Favourite Place
The Doctor loves the TARDIS library. If Ace can’t find them, it’s pretty much a guarantee that she’ll locate them in the library. In fact, she’d go as far as to say that it’s their favourite place in their entire TARDIS.
Most of the time, the Doctor is playing chess with themself (or Ace, if they can persuade her to join in), sat at the large table and playing chess with one of their dozens of chess sets. Other times, they are reading, working their way through their extensive collection of books from practically every place and time period in the galaxy.
Sometimes, they encourage Ace to read books too, saying things like, “Reading is the best way to learn new things, Ace.”
And Ace wants to read, but it’s such hard work, especially with some of these old books. So the Doctor caves in and gives her an anthology of old Earth comic books.
“Ace!” she says, and the Doctor smiles.
“Ace indeed,” the Doctor says.
So Ace spends more time in the TARDIS library than before, sitting in an armchair and reading comics as the Doctor reads their huge books. And they both smile, glad for the company.
Chapter 23: Happiness
“You like me, don’t you, Professor?” Ace says.
The Doctor looks up from their book, their eyes widening. “Of course I do, Ace! What sort of question is that?”
Ace sits down beside them. She folds her arms across her chest. “I didn’t mean to… stress you out. I was just, you know, checking. You don’t find me annoying, do you?”
They consider a sarcastic answer, but instead say, “Of course not. You are a friendly and enthusiastic companion.”
Ace smiles. “Thanks. I love living in the TARDIS with you. I’m so much happier than before I met you.”
The Doctor smiles too. “Thank you, Ace. I certainly enjoy your company. In fact…” They trail off, unsure of whether or not to say it.
Ace nudges them. “In fact what?”
“Well, you remind me of my granddaughter, Susan.”
“You have a granddaughter?” Ace says.
“Indeed I do, but we parted ways a long time ago. Still, you are far more… mischievous than Susan, but you share the same endearing love of adventure.”
They blush slightly, rather embarrassed. But Ace doesn’t mock them. Instead, she hugs the Doctor.
“Thanks, Professor,” she says. “That means a lot to me.”
“You’re welcome, Ace.”
Chapter 24: Support
Mel is very good at supporting the Doctor when they need help. When they are panicking or trip over their clumsy feet and fall or lose their possessions or they start to fall into a meltdown or even experience a flashback, the Doctor ends up very vulnerable and in need of help. And they find if humiliating sometimes that a grown, nine hundred and something year old Time Lord can end up so weak and scared, barely able to function from fear or sensory problems or just total confusion. And it is in moments like this that the Doctor needs help from Mel.
Some people might tell them to just grow up when things happen and they struggle to cope (like everyone they knew on Gallifrey all those centuries ago), but Mel isn’t one of them. She understands the way the Doctor’s brain works and always tries her best to help, leading them away from loud noises or sources of stress and helping them redirect their stims if they start self harming during a meltdown.
Mel is a great comfort to the Doctor, and a great friend. And they are incredibly grateful to have such a caring and helpful companion.
Chapter 25: Freebie
She’s horribly dysphoric today. The Doctor doesn’t often like to talk about it, but when she experiences it, gender dysphoria hits her hard.
Being gendervague, the Doctor doesn’t have the best understanding of her gender. But she knows she feels agender most of the time, whilst today is one of the rarer days when she feels very female aligned. And it is days like this when she feels the most dysphoric.
So the Doctor spends most of the day curled up on her favourite sofa in the TARDIS living room, hugging her knees to her chest and trying to distract herself from the horrible dysphoria.
Thankfully, Mel understands what she is going through. Mel is a trans woman, and frequently experiences debilitating dysphoria. So she knows how to help the Doctor when she starts going through the same thing.
“Distraction is the best thing for me,” Mel says, sat in the armchair opposite them and drinking coffee. “I don’t want to even think about the dysphoria so I watch films and read and do crafts, anything to engage my brain. Talking is quite good too. Would you like a coffee?”
The Doctor smiles. “I think I would. Thank you, Mel.”
Chapter 26: Echolalia
“Checkmate!” the Doctor says, clapping their hands together.
Ace looks up at them, smiling. Indeed, the Doctor has put her in checkmate, winning their game of chess. “Yeah, that’s checkmate. Again!”
The Doctor smiles. “You’re doing much better, Ace. It took me much longer to beat you this time. You know, I think you may prove to be an excellent chess player in time.”
Ace doubts it, but she smiles, still appreciating the compliment. “Thanks, Professor.”
The Doctor has gone nonverbal, only able to talk through short echolalia. That isn’t usually a problem, but they’ve left their AAC in the TARDIS and there’s no way to go back to get it. Because, once again, they’ve been captured.
Ace slumps on the floor of their cell, chewing gum and trying not to cry with sheer boredom. The Doctor, however, is over by the door, trying to break the lock. They jam a shard of metal into the lock and it breaks, swinging the door open.
“Ace!” she whispers, scrabbling to her feet.
The Doctor shushes her, and they creep out of the cell.
The guard turns and jumps when he sees them.
The Doctor grins. “Checkmate.”
And they run for it.
Chapter 27: Colour
The Doctor doesn’t really have a favourite colour. Their previous self loved pretty much every colour in the rainbow (as evidenced by his disgusting coat; they can’t believe that they ever thought that was a good thing to wear), but they now can’t name any one colour as their favourite.
All they know is that blue has been ruined for them forever by the people who hate autism. And they hate them back.
Mel’s favourite colour is soft pink. It seems a bit stereotypical, but what’s wrong with a woman wearing pink? She just thinks it’s beautiful and she would wear everything pink if possible. She even manages to get the Doctor wearing pink sometimes, much to her amusement.
Ace’s favourite colour is bright, shocking red. It’s the colour of the huge letter A on the back of her jacket. She loves red because it’s so contrasting: red is both the colour of love, and the colour of blood. It’s bright and loud, just like her. It’s totally her colour, and the Doctor agrees. So whenever they buy her presents, they make sure to make sure the present is red. Because red is just tonally Ace, and she loves it.
Chapter 28: Empathy
Empathy is a weird feeling for the Doctor. They know what it means (to experience someone’s emotional state, as opposed to compassion, which is to know how to appropriately respond to someone’s emotions, such as comforting them etc), but it still eludes them.
They hate how having low empathy is demonised in autistic people (and other neurodivergent people, for that matter), because lacking empathy doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s just another sign of struggling to relate socially to other people.
And this horrible stereotype hurts the Doctor, because they are one of those autistic people with low empathy. And it routinely makes them feel horrible, because something bad happens and they have no idea what to do. Maybe Mel starts crying, and the Doctor just stands there, knowing she must be upset, but not getting upset as well and certainly not knowing what to do. And when they do manage to offer some sort of help, their words seem stilted and the Doctor knows they aren’t really much help at all.
So empathy routinely annoys them, and the Doctor knows that, after over nine hundred years, they’re probably going to always have an annoyingly difficult relationship with it.
Chapter 29: Overthinking
The Doctor has a very analytical brain, working with logic and reasoning to solve problems. It’s part of the reason why they are so good at chess, because they can calculate multiple outcomes so they know they can almost always beat their opponent. Arguably, this is also why they are so skilled at manipulating their captors when they and Ace inevitably land on a planet and get captured for wandering around in a restricted zone, because they can think ahead and know that these people can be beaten with little more than clever thinking.
But, sometimes, they sort of have a tendency to overthink things. At least, that’s what Ace says.
“You really do overcomplicate things sometimes, Professor,” she says, laughing after it takes the Doctor three hours to solve a problem with the TARDIS console because they planned out every eventuality before even attempting to solve it (Ace, on the other hand, solved it in ten minutes).
“I just want to be prepared for every eventuality,” the Doctor says, raising their eyebrows and pretending to be offended.
“I know, but maybe it might be quicker to get to the answer if we spent less time preparing it.”
Chapter 30: Neurotypical
“So, what does neurodivergent mean again?” Ace asks, drinking hot chocolate as she sits next to the Doctor.
The Doctor smiles, part way through giving Ace an explanation of all of the terms they use about their autism, such as functioning labels (“They are really, really bad,” they said, and Ace didn’t need to ask why the Doctor hates them so much). They’ve had this sort of conversation so many times over the last few centuries, explaining autism and Neurodiversity to their many companions.
“Well, it basically is a term used for all people who are developmentally disabled or mentally ill. So, autistic people, people with ADHD, dyslexia, depression, anxiety… all of those things make you neurodivergent.”
Ace nods, sipping her hot chocolate. “That makes sense. So, that’s what the infinity symbol on your badge means?”
“Yes, that’s what it means,” they say, referring to the badge with a rainbow patterned infinity symbol on their jacket. “It’s the symbol for Neurodivergent pride.”
“Cool. So, what’s it called if you’re not neurodivergent?”
“That would make you neurotypical, Ace,” the Doctor says.
She grins. “Thanks for telling me about all this stuff. It’s really interesting.”
“It isn’t a problem,” they say, smiling.