"So when you mean on your own..." the Doctor said, pulling a bottle of milk from the fridge and shutting the door. He meandered over to the table, glancing down at the mess of newspapers and magazines.
"Yes, I mean on my own with the baby, yes!" Peter said. He was holding the infant boy in his arms, bouncing him up and down lightly on his hip. "Because no one thinks I can cope on my own, which is so unfair... because-" His hand jerked out and grabbed the Doctor's shoulder, forcing the Time Lord to look into his desperate face. "I can't cope on my own with him. I just can't. He just cries. I mean, do they have off switches?"
The Doctor sank down into a chair at the table, flipping a magazine open to the middle pages. He thumbed through it. Human gestational periods, mammary gland facts, the symptoms of a pregnant female human... well, then.
"Human beings, no, I don't believe they do," the Doctor replied.
"No. Babies!" Peter said. He put the crying baby down in his high chair, running a hand over his face. The Doctor put his magazine aside.
"Same difference. Sometimes this works though," he responded.
The Doctor put a finger to his lips, and Peter leaned forward, watching him intently. He made a shushing noise, and the baby's querulous cries slowly calmed down, fading to a faint whimper before stopping entirely. The baby's blue eyes stared straight at him, blinking. The Doctor leaned back in his chair, picking up another magazine on pregnancy, flipping it open. The other man looked incredulous, amazement shining in his eyes.
"Can you teach me how to do that?" Peter asked.
"Probably not," the Doctor admitted.
"Oh, please. I need something. I am rubbish at this," Peter begged.
"At what?" the Doctor asked.
"At being a dad. You read all the books, and they tell you you'll know what to do, you'll be fine." He rubbed at his eyes tiredly, nearly tearing his hair from his head. "Follow your instincts. I have no instincts. That's what this weekend's about. Trying to prove to people that I can do this." The man gestured vaguely at his child, tears of frustration welling up. "This one thing well." Peter broke off when he heard the Doctor let out a laugh. He set down his magazine, amused at the child's story he had found inside. The other man stared at him.
"So what did you call him? Will I blush?" the Doctor asked.
"No. We didn't call him 'the Doctor'," Peter retorted.
"I didn't think you would," the Doctor muttered.
"He's John," Peter told him with a wave of his hand toward the baby. John was gummily gnawing on his tiny hand, peering up at the Doctor with his bright eyes. "What are you doing here anyway?"
The Doctor leaned in closer to listen to the baby babble nonsensically, and he nodded.
"Yes, John, he likes that, but personally he prefers to be called Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All," the Doctor translated. Peter stopped attempting to wash the dishes and turned back to him.
"Sorry, what?" he asked, baffled.
"That's what he calls himself," the Doctor replied.
"How'd you know that?" Peter asked.
"I speak baby," the Doctor said in a matter of fact voice. He got up from his chair and started to rummage around in the cabinet by the kitchen.
"Of course you do," Peter sighed. He sat down heavily in the chair that the Doctor had just vacated. "I don't even know when his nappie needs changing, and I'm the one that's supposed to be his dad." He put his head in his hands.
"Speaking of which, don't you have a daughter? Six or so? Surely you have some experience with fatherhood," the Doctor said.
"Janelle was the one who took care of her. I was working overtime, and she stayed at home to watch her," Peter told him.
"Yes, he's wondering where his mum is." The Doctor twirled a pepper shaker around for a few moments before setting it on the counter. He turned back to the baby, leaning over Peter's shoulder to speak into his ear. "Where is Janelle?"
"She's gone away with Harriet for the weekend to her mum's. She needs a rest," Peter said. He massaged his temples, exhaling through his nose. John babbled a bit louder, and the Doctor bit back a chuckle. He smiled at the baby.
"Noooo. He's your dad. You can't just call him 'Not Mum'," the Doctor chided. His lips quirked up.
"'Not Mum'!" Peter burst. The Doctor whacked his back in a mimicry of a massage, rubbing the poor man's shoulders.
"'Not Mum', that's you. 'Also Not Mum', that's me, and everybody else is..." The Doctor moved to lean down next to John. "Peasants." He drew back up and looked at Peter. "That's a bit unfortunate." The Doctor smiled down at the baby and tickled the top of his head, fluffing up the wispy blonde hair with his long fingers. John gurgled happily at him. Peter sighed and thudded his head against the table, putting his hands over the back of it.
The Doctor was tossing some more whitish powder into the mixing pour as he furiously whisked it together, very intent on his task when he was nearly smacked in the face with a cell phone. He caught it before it could break his nose, but his whisk fell out of his hands in the process. Peter snatched up his keys on the way to the door, glancing back at him.
"I'll be at the store. We're out of milk. You know what to do if he cries," he said.
The door slammed shut behind him. The Doctor picked up his whisk again, sliding the cell phone into his pocket, and he was about to start again when he heard a distressed cry. His eyes widened. He got up from the table and walked up the stairs to the baby's bedroom. The Doctor peered around the frame of the door. John was on his back, wriggling around as he cried. He stepped inside the room.
"Hello, Stormageddon. It's the Doctor. Here to help." The Doctor gave the baby a thumbs up and moved over to the little table by his crib. He picked up a stuffed bunny toy, bringing it around so that John could see it. The cries quieted a little but didn't stop. The Doctor wiggled the bunny around. "There, there. Be quiet. Go to sleep." He set the toy aside and smiled. He spun the mobile around above John's head, and bright blue eyes stared up at it, blinking.
"Stop crying. You've got a lot to look forward to, you know. A normal human life on Earth. Mortgage repayments, working nine to five, a nagging sense of spiritual emptiness. Save the tears for later, boyo," the Doctor murmured. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. "Ugh, crabby. Sometimes I forget I was old. But I am old, Stormy. So old."
He looked down at the baby, who was grabbing his feet with his tiny hands, peering up at the Doctor inquisitively. The Doctor leaned down to place his arms under the baby and lift him up out of the crib. He balanced the little boy in his arms.
"But you, John, are so young. Aren't you? And you know right now, everything's ahead of you. You could be anything." John made a grumpy little noise and grabbed his nose. The Doctor smiled, bouncing him lightly on his hip. "Yes, I know. You could walk amongst the stars." He glanced up at the projected five pointed stars on the ceiling from the baby's nightlight. "They don't actually look like that, you know. They are rather more impressive."
He reached into his coat to pull out his sonic screwdriver. The Doctor pointed it up at the ceiling, whirring it to life. The tip of it glowed green for a moment, and the projection became the vibrant purples and blacks and whites of the galaxy. John made a babbling sound, the noise seeming excited. The Doctor grinned at him and nodded.
"Yeah. You know, when I was little like you, I dreamt of the stars. I think it's fair to say, in the language of your age, that I lived my dream. I owned the stage. Gave it a hundred and ten percent. I hope you have as much fun as I did, John," he whispered. The Doctor nuzzled the top of his fluffy blonde head, sighing softly. "Your dad's trying his best, you know."
John made an unhappy noise, almost whining. The Doctor chuckled.
"Yes, I know. It's not his fault he doesn't have mammary glands," he said. John cooed louder, looking up at him. The Doctor frowned, shaking his head. "No! Neither do I."
All of a sudden, a rather insistent beep beep beep beep came from the doorway. He froze in place, curling the baby closer to him.
"John. Why is there a sinister beeping coming from behind me?" the Doctor asked. He slowly turned around to see the metallic creature snapping its fanged jaws by the door, staring at them. "Oh, no you don't!" He whipped his sonic screwdriver up and pointed it at the robot, shooting a green light at it. It sizzled, the snapping of its jaws pausing. John started babbling in his arms again. "Come on, John, run. It's only stunned!" He turned on his heel and ran, carrying the baby.