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Some people want to forget. For the Doctor, that's the last thing he wants to do. Hint of 9/Rose.
a Ninth Doctor story
PG, by Great Writer Sarah
A long time ago in a bohemian cafe in SoHo, New York, he had heard that one could tell a lot about a man from looking at his bedside table. Two hundred years later, the Doctor knew his own table could tell a stranger volumes about his past. It was a simple bedside table, an oak piece with two drawers and curved legs, very Victorian. An innocent piece of furniture, if one dismissed the bottles of melatonin laying on the top like dead soldiers. Years ago, an earlier companion, a young German boy who drank and smoked too much, asked about the melatonin and he could give no answer. Looking at them now, lying in bed with his blankets up to his chin, the Doctor doubted that he could give an answer to Rose if she asked. That is, if she ever found out.
The first time he needed melatonin was after his eighth regeneration. A night of thrashing around in oversized pajamas - he had yet to grab a pair from the wardrobe that wasn't meant for his eighth reincarnation - ended as he fell into a troubled sleep. Pictures came to him in fuzzy fragments, cells taken out of order from a can of film. He could see people crying, then just one girl crying, asking where home was. That turned into a sudden drop out of nowhere, which changed into crashing down onto a rocking TARDIS floor, and as his head made contact with a piece of stationary exercise equipment, he fell out of bed with a start, waking up. Late at night, he found himself crying himself to sleep, trying to remember.
The next day, the Doctor managed to drop ship in a small American town which had a drug store. Looking at his old clothes, he winced. How was he going to walk into a twenty-first century drug store looking like he just dropped from the eighteenth century? Rummaging around in his wardrobe, he found a t-shirt and leather jacket with pants to match. Shrugging, he donned his new apparel, assuring himself it was only temporary. The trip to the drug store found the Doctor paying around thirty dollars for several bottles of 5-methoxy-N-acetyltryptamine, or as it said on the label, melatonin. That night, he saw faces. He identified voices and recognized locations. From that night on, he remembered what came before him.
Now, back to the present, back to the Doctor lying in bed, about to take another dosage of melatonin before drifting into the arms of Hypnos, when he heard a knocking at his bedroom door. He furrowed his brow in irritation. Who could that be? Climbing out of bed, he walked across the room and threw open the door to see a shivering blond in fuzzy pink pajamas and bunny slippers, clutching a white throw pillow.
"It's so c-cold in my room, Doctor," Rose said, shaking for emphasis.
"You came to me about that why?" he said, even as he walked past her towards the console room. Rose followed as if he had said aloud to do so.
"This is your time machine, I figured you'd know how to fix a room's temperature."
"You live here too, you know. Why didn't you try to fix it?"
"I figured you wouldn't want me poking around your precious machine's console and accidentally setting something off."
"True enough. I was just testing you." By then, they had reached the console room, and the Doctor was looking at a miniature screen while clacking around on a set of small keys. "Did it feel like forty-five Fahrenheit to you?"
"Forty-five? Wotcher! Didn't know it was that cold. Can you fix it?"
"Can I fix it?" The Doctor made a /harumph/-ing sound as he began working different buttons and levers on the console. "Please, Rose, I haven't had this TARDIS for five hundred years and so on and not be able to fix the temperature in a single room. Beauty of the TARDIS really . . . You can take a part of it and work on it as though it's a separate entity, then drop in back in place and have nothing around it fixed. Mind you, when the real big changes come, and the cloister bells start a-ringing, changes do start to ripple thorough the different parts of the TARDIS. Have you ever heard the cloister bells, Rose? . . . Rose?"
The Doctor turned around to see he had an audience of none, bar himself. Then, he heard the sproing of steel coils underneath a mattress. Cursing under his breath, he punched a few digits into the keyboard, then dashed to his bedroom in under ten seconds flat.
He found Rose sitting on the bed, scrunched up with her back facing him. He could tell what she was looking at. The ten or so empty melatonin bottles. She was still shaking.
"Rose . . ."
"Aren't these the drugs addicts take to wean off cocaine? I saw it on BBC Everyman. Is that why you have it?"
"Oh, Rose, of all the stupid things you could come up with ---"
"Don't lie to me, Doctor!" She spat her words with such intensity, it almost surprised him. Almost. "I used to date a guy who worked at the shops, he'd get prescriptions all the time from detoxing druggies . . ."
"Rose, you are being ridiculous. Look at me." Rose turned to see the Doctor had managed his way to stand beside her. He held out his arms as if saying, "Look at what I truly am". "Do I look like some crack head from the London slums aching for a fix? Or some sort of junkie doctor with a pill problem? Of course not! Please Rose, use some sense?"
Rose bit her lip and looked away from the Doctor for a moment, before looking back. "I'm sorry. I just wanted to see inside your bedroom . . ."
The Doctor took a seat beside her, their sides touching. "Was it really that important?"
She sniffled. "Well, I've seen Mickey's bedroom, so . . ."
He snorted. "Well, of course, if you've been in Mickey's bedroom, you've got to see inside all of your guy friends' bedrooms, look at their undergarments and whatever."
"Doctor! Honestly!" Rose bopped the Doctor on the arm with her throw pillow before resuming to look at the melatonin bottles, looking guilty as sin with almost all of them empty. "Looks like someone needs a refill. What are they for anyway?" When she did not hear a response automatically, she turned to see the Doctor with his head in his hands - and, although he was not weeping, it was a sad sight to behold. Rose instantly regretted asking her question - then took said regret back - why should she feel sorry for asking about something so important?
A silence grew between the two, and it almost felt like space was filling where the Doctor and Rose's arms touched, pushing them apart with each unsaid word. After an unlimited amount of time - was it seconds? minutes? hours? - the Doctor spoke, softly but enough that Rose could hear every word, and the pain carried with them.
"After the Time Wars, I had lost everything. My home was destroyed and I wandered the cosmos alone, the last of my kind. It was a sad existence, but I knew it had to go on, if only to make sure other worlds didn't see the end Gallifrey did. When I changed into . . . what you see now, I began to forget. Memories of my past, of all the reincarnations before me blurred and dulled in my memory. It was horrible, like Alzheimer, but having to face such a powerful loss with full competence of the mind. Every time I reached for a memory, it would elude my grasp like a tendril of smoke. So I had to turn to unnatural means to restore what was lost."
"The melatonin," Rose said, finishing the Doctor's thought. "I had heard it could affect memory, but . . ."
"Time Lord physiognomy absorbs chemicals differently than mere humans. Two doses of melatonin are enough to catch the most elusive memory from the recesses of my mind. For me, they would come in my dreams - that's why I take them before bed."
The Doctor felt a heavy warmth on his hand, and looked to see Rose's hand on top of his. "But I thought your past was too painful. Why remember?"
"Because to lose my past," he said, looking into Rose's eyes, "would be to lose what I am."
"Do you remember me?"
The Doctor frowned. "Of course. Do you think it's some sort of short-term memory problem? I can remember everything now, thank you very much."
"Then you don't needs the melatonin."
"But I do." He shook his head. "I recall my memories in my dreams, and the melatonin strengthen both." Seeing Rose look upset at the last remark, he added, "Do you have a problem with it?"
"I just don't feel comfortable knowing you have an . . . addiction."
"It's not an addiction." Though the Doctor's voice was level, his eyes were sparkling with anger. "I can quit whenever I want to."
"So why don't you?"
A pause formed between them. Rose quietly marveled at how similar this conversation was - the typical confession between the junkie and the junkie's best friend. A never ending cycle of lies and denials, a dark path lined with good intentions. After a couple of minutes, Rose decided she had had enough of the Doctor's inane sulking and walked out of the room in silence. The Doctor followed her absence with sullen eyes, but kept mute.
That's what we've become/, the Doctor thought, /not judged by actions but by the words left unsaid. Rose . . .
The next morning, Rose groggily managed her way to the TARDIS bathroom, unconsciously trying to avoid the Doctor in the process. Standing in front of the mirror yawning, she noticed the wastebasket in her peripheral vision. She walked over and looked to see several boxes that looked like they came from a pharmacy. Some were empty; others look unopened and some revealed rows of unused capsules. They were accompanied by little orange bottles, in the same mismatch of empty and full.
The Doctor woke up five minutes later and almost rolled into a rectangular object left on his bed. Rubbing his eyes, he saw it was a wide brown book; opening it, he saw it was a photo album, empty minus one note. Hastily scribbled on it was the message, "You need it more than I do. Try to recall the past now without turning into Hunter S. Thompson. ---ROSE."
He laughed as he placed the album on his beside table, lying flat on its cover. "Please, I told him to write for Rolling Stone. The man owes me." As he got dressed, he made a mental note to buy a digital camera and film. Lots of film.