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Bar TARDIS

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There is a cyborg banana tree in the TARDIS kitchen.

Banana trees don't grow well in most climates, the TARDIS interior included, so sometime in the distant past the Doctor rigged up some implants that feed it properly and make sure it's extracting enough sunlight from the out of doors, whenever they're on a planet. Banana plants also move -- Rose thought this was bollocks, but it turns out they really do walk around, just a little. So if the banana plant is unhappy where it is, the implants help it get to where it wants to go. Rose sort of knows how it feels. She lives in the TARDIS too, but she needs sunlight and space to move around in.

She's never had as much space as she does now, after the Doctor picked her up. Like a banana tree. Not that she's not grateful, and she's sure he likes her more than the banana tree (well, pretty sure), but once in a while she looks at the tree, carrying little implants it was never meant to have, and she thinks, "Yeah. Me too."

One night the Doctor catches her talking to the banana tree and gives her a one-eyebrow look that means he's wondering why she's acting....well, so much like him.

"What you need," he says, "is a drink and a bit of quiet."

"That's not likely to happen, is it?" she asks.

"How d'you mean?"

"Well," she says, "trouble sort of follows us, doesn't it?"

Then he cocks the other eyebrow. "I can think of somewhere it won't."

He changes course mid-travel, which means riding the mix manually, the Doctor and the TARDIS working together, all the way to their new destination. When they step outside it's night on some new planet that --

Well, most planets smell like something. Grass or smog or something. This one has no smell, and the air is sterile. And there's only one building, and it is a pub.

"This is Bar TARDIS," he says.

"The planet?"

"No, the pub. Come on."

The pub is bigger on the inside than the outside. Rose senses something very strange is going on.

"This is the one place in the universe where nothing changes," he says, shoving his hands in his pockets and looking so pleased with himself. "Nothing happens. Nobody dies. Nobody really lives, either, mind, but some prefer it that way."

"How...?"

She sees it then; the familiarity of the place. The circular console in the middle is a bar with a shaggy-haired man behind it, serving drinks, standing where a column ought to be. Instead of the detritus the Doctor's picked up on his journeys, there are dim booths and tables filling the control room.

"It's a TARDIS," she says. "Another TARDIS."

"Yup," the Doctor skips down the steps and walks to the bar. "Two please. Whatever's on tap. Oh, and I brought this." He offers the barman a wine bottle filled with glowing amber liquid. "It's not credits but it ought to cover the tab."

The barman stares in disbelief. "Too right. Where'd you get this? You could buy a planet for this. A really nice one, I mean, not some crappy little moon or something."

"I pick things up," the Doctor answers.

"You want some chips?" the barman asks, taken aback by the Doctor's barter.

"Just the beers, thanks."

"What is it?" Rose asks, as the barman pours. "And where did you get it?"

"Wine. Finest vintage in the world. Grew it myself."

"You never did."

"Sure I did. You know the poky little stairs behind the broom cupboard?"

"The one in the kitchen or the one near the jukebox?"

"We have a jukebox?" he asks, looking excited. Once in a while, Rose feels a bit like a chaperone for a particularly bright ten-year-old. "No, I'm thinking of the one by the big...stuffed thing."

"It's a woolly mammoth, and you said you were getting rid of that."

"I like Charlie. Where were we?" The beers are up; he sips his happily.

"Broom closet."

"Right." He grins. She loves that grin. "The stairs behind it. If you go up and make a left on the landing, second door on your right."

"Wine cellar?"

"Nah. Vineyard!"

"We have a vineyard?" she asks.

"Yup."

"On the TARDIS."

"You're always so surprised by these things. Why are you so surprised by these things?"

It's a good question. She rubs her forehead. "I really couldn't tell you."

"Aa-nyway. The grapes are only good every few decades, and the last pressing mostly got broken when we made that dodgy landing on Gh'Zhalkenu. Only a few bottles left, but I don't even like wine very much, so it's no use to me. Still, drives the values up."

"So that's..." she purses her lips. "TARDIS wine?"

"Doctor's Specialty. Sounds like some kind of fake cure for baldness, doesn't it? Drinks well, though."

She looks around, uncertain how to answer that. There are other people drinking here, mostly alone or in pairs. Nobody's talking to anyone, not the way you usually do in a pub. The Doctor leans over her shoulder.

"Nothing ever happens here," he says, voice low in her ear. "See that bloke over there? He'd like to chat you up. He'll think about it -- but he won't. Or he might find someone who wants to be chatted up, and then he would, if he liked the look of them. Nothing ever happens here unless it does."

"Sort of Zen."

"Not really, but I'm not in the mood for comparative religion. This is the place between time," he says, gently. "A long time ago, this TARDIS died. Someone -- probably one of my people -- found it drifting, or perhaps it was theirs. They brought it down gently. Inside, time doesn't pass. That's what it means, when a TARDIS dies, but usually they're destroyed."

"But we're still moving and talking."

"Time isn't moving round us, though. Oi," he adds, to the bartender. "How long've you been here?"

"Dunno," the man answers. "You lose track after the first few centuries."

"Don't you get bored?" Rose asks.

"Nah. M'writin' a novel."

The Doctor nods and turns away from him with a grin, spreading his hands as if to say, You see?

"Isn't it sort of...morbid? Drinkin' inside the dead?" Rose asks.

"Can't think of a better afterlife, myself," he says. "It's -- sad, but not terrible. It's a memory of another..." he laughs a little, "...another time. Someone must have loved you," he adds, touching the bar affectionately. "Someone must have loved you very much. Couldn't bear to wreck you."

"Sort of like those old historical places they turn into parks or museums or things."

"A bit, yeah." His mouth twitches unhappily.

"How do they build TARDIS...es?" she asks.

"They don't. If they did any old person could have one. You've got to earn a TARDIS."

"I thought all your people had 'em."

"No. Oh no. I mean, a lot did, I suppose. But a TARDIS isn't just a tool. It's a decision. You get your little seedling and it grows..."

"You grow a TARDIS?"

He's lost now in some other world, but she doesn't want to pull him back. He's quieter than usual. Maybe it's that time isn't passing.

"You grow it, and you learn what it thinks and feels, and after a while you can start carving. That's the hard part. Have you ever met Michaelangelo?"

She actually has to stop and think about this.

"No."

"He says he doesn't sculpt things. He just frees them from the marble. It's like that. Then, one day..." he smiles. "It starts telling you what it needs. Everything else just becomes...background noise. You work yourself right into exhaustion, helping it become what it was meant to be. But when you're done..."

"Freedom," she murmurs.

He looks at her, surprised. "Yes. Freedom."

"Nother beer?" the barman asks. "Or some peanuts or something?"

The Doctor passes his glass across. Rose has hardly touched her own.

"Have you ever been here before?" she asks.

"Yeah, well. Not for a while. It makes me think. The other kind of thinking. You know what I mean." He pauses. "I wonder who grew it."

Rose slips her hand in his, briefly, squeezes and is rewarded with a smile. They drink and don't talk much, and it's good, really. He was right; he usually is.

When they return to the TARDIS, their TARDIS, the banana plant has decided it likes the hot bit near the sonic frigidaire better than the little empty spot next to the sink. Rose pets it as she passes.

"Where to now?" the Doctor asks. "It's your pick."

"Can we stay here for a bit?" she replies.

"Course, I suppose, but there's not much to see out there."

"I wasn't thinking about out there," she says. He gives her a mild, questioning look. "I want to see the vineyards."