Title: Vacation Destination
Fandom: Doctor Who (Eleventh Doctor)
Disclaimer: This is a fanwork. I received no money personally for its creation nor am I affiliated with the books/movies in any way.
Summary: The Doctor and Clara get stuck on what seems to be the wrong planet, and the Doctor suddenly isn’t feeling very well.
Word count: 3,138
Author Notes: Written for rhodochrosite as a thank you for donating on my fundraising page for the Walk to End HIV. The requirement was a 2,000 word fic.
“The planet Kaliframia. Annual vacation destination of billions.” He flipped a switch, and the TARDIS leaned slightly to the left. “Great dancers.” He pulled a lever and steam shot out from somewhere. Several lights on a terminal flashed manically. “Oh, and you should try their soup.”
“Kaliframian soup,” said Clara with a decisive nod. “Got it.” She tightened her grip on a bar as the TARDIS spun and bumped its way to the planet. As exciting as travelling through all of time and space was, she was still getting used to the travelling part of it. Jumping into the TARDIS wasn't exactly like hailing a cab. But, then, the Doctor was definitely no cabbie. He was clear but also a mystery. He was quiet but boisterous. He was both older than anything she'd ever known and younger at heart than she was.
He was also coughing. “Rough landing,” he wheezed, banging his hand against the video monitor. Smoke poured out of one of the stations and half the lights that were usually on in the control room weren't. He gave up getting the monitor to work. “I'm sure it's fine. It's Kaliframia, after all!” he tossed his sonic screwdriver up, and Clara watched the green end flip in mid-air before landing back in his palm.
The Doctor led the way out, with Clara right on his heels, so she ran right into his back when he stopped dead only a step outside the TARDIS. She leaned to the side, peering around him. “This is a vacation destination?” She thought it had its own... could you call this charm? Beaches were beautiful and relaxing, but this planet was only sand. So much sand. Sand everywhere. Sand as far as the eye could see. There were a few pillars protruding from the sand, but otherwise, the planet was sand, sand, and more sand. No dancing. Definitely no soup.
“Where...?” The Doctor took a few steps forward, stunned. He sunk into the soft, deep sand with each step, but managed to wade through it to one of the pillars.
Clara followed behind him in the sort of path he'd made, and tried to read the pillar. “Enjoy the gracious hospitality hasafrazen offer richtulak?” She shook her head. “I thought the TARDIS was supposed to translate this sort of thing.”
“It is,” the Doctor said, a serious note in his voice now that hinted toward curiosity or worry or suspicion or a little bit of all three. Then he pitched forward, suddenly, with a fierce sneeze. “ehhhptschhooo!”
Clara was just about to make a joke about that being some sort of translation technique—sneeze at something when it didn't make sense—when the Doctor staggered backward, falling against her. “Ho there!” She clutched his arms and tried to steady both of them despite the unstable sand underfoot. He swayed, turning, and leaned into her with a hand to his forehead. And that's when she knew something was definitely wrong. Wronger than crash-landing on the wrong planet. Wronger than the translation not coming through. Wronger than thinking this was actually the Doctor's idea of a good vacation location. “Come on, you,” she said softly. “Back to the TARDIS with you, I think.” He only nodded and let her pull him along.
Back inside the TARDIS, with the door closed, Clara thought everything would be solved. Those last couple steps had been difficult, requiring her to practically push the Doctor along. And now he collapsed onto the floor before even getting to the controls to fly them out of here. Wherever here was. “Doctor,” she said, glancing around. The control room looked... different. She might have been imagining it, but it looked a more yellowish-green in color. Everything was tinted in it, even the soft lights that were flashing sporadically all around the room. “I think the TARDIS made a mistake. We have to leave this planet.”
The Doctor lay in a heap of limbs, breathing so hard he might have just run a mile instead of walked a few paces through the sand. “Don't know... how this could be Kaliframia.”
“Maybe it isn't.”
He raised his head, hope in his eyes. Then those eyes closed. And his nose twitched. “ehhhhhHFTschhhhhhh!”
“Bless you.” That was instinct. She had no idea if Time Lords blessed each other when they sneezed. But as he didn't say anything about it, she assumed he didn't mind. “Are you all right?”
“Fine,” answered the man huddled on the floor, sniffling softly.
She squatted down and put a hand on his shoulder “Funny. You don't sound at all fine. And you don't look at all fine. In fact, you look ill.” She had an almost irresistible urge to straighten his bow tie and perhaps feel his forehead as if he were one of her students.
“Impossible.” With this, he raised himself up, pushing off the floor with both palms and then hauling himself into a standing position against a railing. He stumbled down the stairs. “I can't be ill,” he muttered.
“Coulda fooled me.” Clara bounced down the stairs. “Anything I can do to help?”
The Doctor, busy fiddling with dials and buttons on one terminal, ignored her. Or maybe he just hadn't heard. Or maybe there was something so wrong it required so much of his attention that he couldn't be bothered to even give her the job of sweeping some of the sand out of the TARDIS. He lurched about, leaning on whatever he could find, putting all his weight into pushing levers and punching buttons. The TARDIS made a groaning sound. Two lights flashed on the terminal and died then the sickly yellow-green tint intensified, so strong it made Clara almost feel ill to be there.
“ehhh-HIHShhhh! EhKutshhhh!” But not as ill as the Doctor, apparently. “ihhhKTChhuhh! Sniff! Ehhh-HRSchhhuhh!”
“What's happening here?”
The Doctor slammed a hand down on something and then collapsed to the floor, coughing and clearing his throat and coughing some more. “Nothing,” he said weakly. “Nothing to see. Nothing at all is happening. Hah...” He covered his nose and mouth this time with two steepled hands. “hahh-ehhhh...” Then he froze, waiting. And Clara waited, too. But he was right: nothing was happening.
She waited. And waited. And finally prompted with concern, “Doctor?”
“hahh-IHPTSchhhhhh!” He fell forward. Then he rolled to his side, curling into a ball with his knees tucked under his chin and his arms wrapped around his shins.
Clara walked over and knelt down beside his huddled form. “You're ill,” she whispered, placing a hand on his upper arm and rubbing.
“I can't be.”
“And why can't you be ill?” She was using her school marm voice. She tried to remind herself to not use her school marm voice.
“Because I don't get ill. Germs don't affect time lords. We overcame that genetically as a race centuries before I was even born.”
“Well, something's definitely wrong with you. You're sneezing up a storm here. And there's something wrong with the TARDIS. This isn't a vacation planet at all.”
He looked up, worry filling his expression. The control room looked overwhelming and complicated normally, but even more-so from down here. “She brought us to the right place, just the wrong time. Something happened here, something that's keeping the TARDIS from taking off.”
“You mean we're stuck here?”
He nodded weakly. Then he toppled forward with another strong, wet sneeze, this one caught in his sleeve. “hehhh-IHPTShmphh!”
“We're stuck here and you can't stop sneezing. Just wonderful.” She ended up saying this to herself, because he was already on the move again.
“I'm fine. I'll sniff! I'll fix this.” Up he went, his legs wobbling but his hands gripping tight to part of the console until he'd pulled himself to his feet. He punched something in on a panel and stared at the result. A second later, he sneezed at it. “ehh-HIHTshoo!” His sneezes were getting stronger. Strong and wet. Clara dug in her pocket, looking for a folded tissue. It wasn't much, but his poor nose sounded like he could use it. He started after him, trying to offer it. But he pulled away, definitely ignoring her this time. He checked wires that stuck out from the panels. He read displays. He pushed buttons. Nothing worked—not the TARDIS and not the Doctor. He shivered violently and closed his eyes.
“I think you really should lie down,” she told him. “That's what I'd make you do if you were one of my students.”
He didn't reply, but by now she didn't expect him to. She followed him around, tissue in hand, listening to him sniffle as if he were a little boy who didn't want to blow his nose. Or didn't know how. If he was telling the truth and time lords really didn't come down ill... could this be his first cold? It sure sounded like a cold. Or maybe a flu.
“Doctor, you really should take this,” she held out the tissue again, more insistently this time. She had a stubborn streak in her that usually got on people's nerves but that had always served her well.
“No,” he refused it, then looked curiously at it, as if he had never seen a tissue before. Had he ever seen a tissue before? Did time lords use hankies exclusively?
His nostrils gave a great flare as he took in a breath and he stuck his hand forward. But instead of reaching for the offered tissue, he batted it away and lunged past Clara. He leaned over a control panel, eyes fluttering closed, nose twitching helplessly, and ended up sneezing right at one of the sensors. “ehhhhHEHTShhhhh!” He scrubbed his nose with a finger, sniffling. “There. That should do it.”
Clara wasn't sure what that was supposed to have done at all. The TARDIS seemed just as stuck as ever, and he seemed just as ill. In fact, it looked as though he might sneeze again already.
“ehhh... ehhIHShuhhh! EhhIHKTschhhhhh!” He rubbed his nose with his fist then dragged his sleeve under his nose once. He started to do it a second time, winced, then shrugged off his brown suit jacket. Left in just a long-sleeved, striped button-down shirt, he shivered. Then he leaned against one of the TARDIS's terminals. “ihhh-KEHTChhooo!”
Something went ding. Presumably it was the dinging thing that went ding, but given how broken everything seemed all of a sudden, it might just as easily have been the honking thing. The Doctor stared at a screen for a moment, a set of Gallifreyan symbols Clara couldn't make, though they moved too quickly across the screen anyway. But the Doctor didn't look too happy about what he saw there. He shook his head. “She must be malfunctioning. I can't get ill. I cah... ehhhh... ehhhhhhh... EH! EH! EHPTSchhhhhhhhhhh!”
“Bless you, Doctor.” The TARDIS shuddered, perhaps in sympathy, and several of the lights on one of her terminal displays went out. Clara grazed her hand over that terminal. “Bless you, too.”
Understanding blazed up in the Doctor's eyes as if a light switch had just been flipped. “She's ill.”
He shook his head. “No, no. The TARDIS is ill. Some sort of virus.”
“Pot calling kettle, Doctor,” Clara muttered, but he didn't hear her.
He was off yet again, pushing more buttons, running different diagnostics, doing different tests. Finally, he slumped back down onto the floor with his eyes closed and hand plastered to his forehead. “Amy...”
Clara bit her lip. “Clara.”
He didn't open his eyes. “I don't feel so well. I think... hahh-IHUFschhhhh! HuhKSchhh! Go get Rory. He’s a nurse. Sniff! He’ll know what to do.”
Clara worried her lip between her teeth. “Rory isn’t here anymore. It’s just me, Clara.”
He grimaced, as if finally hearing her, finally understanding the situation. “Right. Clara… there’s a distinct sniff possibility that sniff I might be ill.”
“You don't say.” He tried very hard not to smile and failed. His eyes were still closed, though, so he wouldn't see. “What can I do to help?”
He scrubbed his arm against his nose, which seemed to keep the sniffles down for the moment. “You need to run a debugging routine on the TARDIS. That should flush it from her system and allow her to take off before it reinfects her. Hahh... “ He raised his arm, burying his nose in his sleeve again. “hahhh-UHFShkkkphh! I'll walk you through it. Should be easy.”
“How easy? Scrambled eggs easy or souffle easy?”
At this, he opened his eyes and studied her, as if he had forgotten who she was again. Then, slowly, he answered, “Omelet easy.”
She nodded and stood up, brushing her hands down the front of her skirt. “All right. I'm at your disposal, Doctor. Command away.”
He commanded. She wasn't quite sure what she was doing, but she followed everything to the letter. She even waited patiently when he had stopped talking because of a sneeze about to strike, which was more often than not. And twice he had her crawl under the navigational console to rewire something to something else. The instructions went on for so long that Clara began to suspect this wasn't working. Perhaps they would be stuck on this planet forever with a failing TARDIS and a sneezing Doctor. Oh, the irony of his name just now was not lost on her.
But then the TARDIS went dark. Every light winked out, every sickly glow vanished. Clara crawled around on the floor, blindly feeling about until her hand brushed the Doctor's leg. She squeezed his knee and he took her hand, squeezing it back. With a bright flash, the lights came back on. The usual, gentle hum of the TARDIS returned. The normal lights and displays were illuminated. And a smile appeared on the Doctor's face. At once, the vworp vworp sound started up and the TARDIS left this terrible vacation far behind.
“Where are we going?” Clara asked, unable to make heads or tails of one of the displays written entirely in Gallifreyan.
“To recharge in Cardiff. This trip took a lot out... out... hahhh-IHTChhkshhhh! Sniff! Took a lot out of her. She needs to rest.”
“So do you. Come along, Doctor.” He stared at her for a moment, eyes wide and full of something she couldn’t quite recognize. Without further prompting, she grabbed hold of his elbow and pulled. She hauled him to his feet, partly because he had a tall and thin frame and partly because he helped her. She wasn't sure exactly where she was pulling him to, but there were a billion rooms in this place; there had to be one with a bed for him somewhere. At the very least, she could show him to her bedroom and tuck him into her bed. Of course, then there would be the problem of where she would sleep.
He stopped in front of a door she presumed must be his. But when she tried to go in, his arm shot out and held her back. His other hand raised, fingertips caressing the door. “Pond,” he whispered so mournfully that it very nearly broke Clara's heart. The Doctor never spoke much of Amy and Rory, but when he did, she usually felt jealous of them and whatever close connection they had. Now, however, she realized he missed her not as a companion to go on adventures with but as someone familiar who cared for him.
Well then, she could be that for him. Clara took the tissue she had been carrying around and eased it into his hand. This time, he took hold of it, fingers wrapping around. A second later, he brought it to his nose and dabbed while sniffling. And when she tugged his arm, he broke out of his melancholy and followed her. Though where they were going, she did not know.
Luckily, he seemed to guide her in along, going down one hallway then another, making a left then a right then three more lefts. Just when Clara worried she might not be able to find her way back and wondered if she should have left some sort of train of breadcrumbs, he opened a door and stumbled inside.
This couldn't be his bedroom, could it? It was definitely a bedroom of some sort, though, as the only thing in it was a bed. In fact, the room itself was just a bed. It was an actual bed-room. The door swung outward, and the Doctor immediately climbed up onto the mattress just inside the doorway. Kneeling in the middle of the great bed, he stripped off his suit jacket and tossed it into one of the far corners. Then he crawled slowly across it to the top where his body flopped over and head sunk into a crisp, white pillow. The whole bed was pillows and blankets, all sorts of comfort and warmth.
Clara stood in the doorway, wondering if she should close it or ask him if he needed anything. Tissues? She might have a travel pack in her purse. Medicine? She suspected that Paracetamol wasn't going to do much to help a time lord who wasn't even supposed to be sick in the first place.
“Stay with me?” he asked, lifting his arm and patting the edge of the bed. “I don't want to be ah-alone. hahhh-HAHKUHTChhhhhhh! Don't leave me? Everyone leaves me.”
Her heart breaking a little for him, Clara climbed up onto the huge bed and manged to pull the covers up to his shoulders. Then she sat down with her legs dangling off the edge, out of the doorway. She knew she couldn't promise that she'd never leave him, but she could promise something. “I'll look after you until you feel better.”
At this, he smiled and snuck his hand under his pillow and pulled a handkerchief out from underneath. It wasn't going to last him long in his presently sneezy condition, but it would do for a while. He crumpled it into his hand and pressed it to his face. “hehhhKTSchhhhh! Kuhtchhuhhh! Heh-CHISHhhhhhhhh!”
“Too bad there's no debugging you.”
“Time lord virus,” he murmured, eyes closed. “That must be what I have. Someone must have set a trap on that planet for... for... hahh-KUHSchhhhhhhh! I blame the Daleks, of course, though I can't be entirely sure... who... who... wh... hahh-UHFMPshhuhhhh! HehSchhhshhhhh!.” He shook his head, sniffling. “What a waste of a good planet. Sniff! You should have seen it before. The dancing... the music... the soup!”
“I can make you soup any time you like, Doctor. In fact, in your condition, that might not be such a bad idea just now.”
As if to take her up on the offer, he smiled as he drifted off to sleep.