Title: Measure Of A Man
Pairing: Smidgy hints of 10/Rose
Spoilers: TCI and (bizarrely enough) the new series trailer – although can you really spoil a trailer?
Summary: What kind of man is he?
Harriet Jones had been wrong, even she probably realised that now. He was not absolutely the same man, not by a long shot. Each new regeneration brought its own surprises, its own little quirks. But this time the differences were so pronounced it almost made him doubt himself, doubt his own existence and sense of being. The old him was so different to who he had been previously that it made the change this time even more marked. No wonder poor Rose had taken some time adjusting. It’d taken some adjusting to himself.
“Ah, you see, he’s stuck! Not as smart as the old Doctor, eh?”
He looked up at the broadly grinning Mickey.
“Au contraire, Mickey my boy,” he returned with an equally large smile, “I was just trying to figure out how to beat you without making you look too bad. Don’t want to humiliate you in front of the ladies.”
Mickey rolled his eyes, “Just move genius”.
The Doctor paused momentarily, his hand hovering over the chess board like a bird of prey about to strike. Then he made his move swift and sure, no sense of further hesitation.
Mickey studied the board for a moment, eyes flicking over the pieces, planning his next few moves. He didn’t quite manage to completely conceal his grin of triumph. As he took the Doctor’s kingside bishop he looked up at his opponent and the glint of impending victory was still in his eyes.
“Hope you two are playing nice,” Rose called across from the sofa. At the start of their game she had sat with them, watching their every move, but she had soon gotten bored and had wandered off to be distracted by Christmas TV programs she had already seen at least a dozen times.
Rose. Yes, she felt different to him now too; he was more aware of her, more attuned to her presence. It was like she was always there, sitting in the back of his mind, reminding him of her existence no matter what else was going on. It was comforting in a way. When he had first regenerated, things had been odd between them. He was confused and disorientated enough as it was and although he had tried to make it easy for her, his desperate attempts to reassure her and carry on as normal had been to no avail. But it was better again now. Clearer. As they had stood outside in the falling ash he had felt the hand in his once more. Felt it properly for the first time in fact. Before it had always been as if some mist was clouding him, vivid memories of dying planets and screaming enemies making it hard to give his full concentration to anything. Now that was gone. Or at least it had faded somewhat, like the remnants of a barely remembered dream, and it was as if he was finally beginning to feel other things for the first time.
“Men,” Jackie said with an exasperated sigh and a shake of her head as she carefully poured herself a glass of sherry, “Just goes to show that they’re all little boys at heart, no matter what galaxy they’re from.”
The Doctor smiled but said nothing. That had changed too. It was far easier to be more tolerant of Jackie and Mickey now. In fact, he actually found himself liking them in a strange way. Before, they had been little more than a nuisance to him, people who were in his way, a constant irritation. At best they were humans who had been some small help to him when times were desperate, although that had often seemed to have been more by luck rather than judgement. At worst, they were Rose’s ties, the things that made her keep coming back to this time and place instead of staying with him and becoming more than she was. Now he could more clearly see their care for Rose. Not that he hadn’t seen it before of course, he’d just never paid much heed to it. He’d never understood why they couldn’t see she was better off with him. They still probably didn’t but now he could just nod and be good humoured about it. They meant well.
He actually found himself able to appreciate their good points a little more too. Mickey had his uses after all and was brave in his own way. Loyal as well. Calling him ‘Rickey’ just to spite him may have been little childish for a Time Lord he now realised with some embarrassment. Jackie was loud and brash, but her heart was in the right place even if her brain sometimes wasn’t. He did have a sneaking and rather disturbing suspicion that she fancied him though.
Even so, he decided - making his next move, his calm exterior showing no hint of concern – there were distinct advantages to this regeneration. Everything felt much clearer now. He felt freer inside. His last regeneration had been born of disaster and despair, and it had always tainted who he was. Now he felt more stable, more light-hearted. Cheekier, he realised as he caught Rose looking at him and gave her a quick wink. He was more sensitive to the individual too. He took the time to study them and he could easily see what made them tick. He could understand it better. And he knew exactly how to turn it against them.
The program Rose was watching came to an end as Mickey was contemplating his next move and in the background the Doctor heard the now familiar news theme. The headlines were of course again about the alien threat and the Prime Minister’s apparently failing health. They were soon talking to some so called expert who was doom mongering about the future.
“Yes, we have new technology but we still only have a limited defence capability. I think it’s clear to all that to whatever is out there we are just as primitive as cavemen would seem to us. It is my firm belief that we need to be working towards diplomacy. Alliance is our greatest form of defence. We need protection.”
“We’re doing alright so far,” Rose said, looking back at the Doctor with a large, almost proud grin.
“Yeah,” Mickey added with a laugh, “How’s it feel eh, Mr Hero? You’ll be wearing your pants outside your trousers next.”
“But he’d look terrible in tights,” Jackie piped up, taking a sip of sherry from the now half empty glass she was holding. Half empty? Did that make him a pessimist?
The Doctor smiled but said nothing yet again. Which was a bit unusual really because he’d gotten the impression that he was a right talker. Shutting him up may be a bit of a problem. He already had a feeling that his mouth was going to get them into trouble in the not so distant future. Or past.
The moment that he’d realised what was going on, that the Sycorax were holding the world to ransom, he’d discovered something else about himself too. He was a fighter. He always had been to some extent, but now he felt even more determined than ever to lay his mark out, to tell the universe that he was looking out for planet Earth and that they’d better not get in his way. It was almost a challenge and he dared anyone to come and take it. It was stupid really. He couldn’t be here all the time, he couldn’t guarantee they’d always be safe, but for a brief, ecstatic moment anything had seemed possible. For the first time in an age he felt like a proper hero. Well, at least worthy of trying to be one. He felt the confidence and the power to know that protecting this planet was within his grasp and he was going to try his hardest to do it.
He wasn’t going to fail like he had with Gallifrey.
What else was he like, he wondered, forcing the darker thoughts from his mind once more. Well, he realised as he made another move, he was right handed for a start. Which meant that he was rather fortunate that it had grown back; would’ve made things rather awkward otherwise. Must be lucky too. And a bit sarcastic, but he’d been rather cheeky before so that wasn’t much of a difference. He was definitely charming, even if he did say so himself. The gift of the gab certainly helped there. Remembering how long he’d taken to pick out some new clothes, he realised he was probably a little bit vain too. Oh well, no one was perfect.
One thing that hadn’t changed was his desire for exploration, although he didn’t feel so tied now to the overwhelming desire to get out there and put things right. Before, he had felt like it was his mission to go into the universe and make amends. Now he felt like it was an added bonus to seeing all the amazing things it had to offer.
He was definitely a showman. A bit theatrical. He’d been in his element up on the Sycorax ship, revealing their plan with flair, delighting in its flaws. Playing with them almost like a cat toying with a mouse. He’d probably come across as a little bit hysterical, drunk on the high that the superheated infusion of free radicals and tannins had given him. Everyone bar Rose had looked at him like he was dangerously unstable, which as far as he was concerned wasn’t such a bad thing. He liked to keep people guessing. They may have thought he was slightly off his trolley, but they couldn’t have been more wrong. He knew exactly what he was doing all along.
He was more calculating, he knew that. More ruthless. He thought far more carefully about his opponent and how to unravel them in the most effective way possible. He knew humiliating the Sycorax leader in that way would be the best method of making them leave with their tails between their legs. He had planned it from the moment he had stepped out of the TARDIS.
Yes, his mind was clearer now. He had a greater sense of focus and purpose. A greater confidence in his own judgement. It made him harsher to those who stepped outside what he perceived to be the line. It made him unable to give second chances.
And, he realised, if it had been him back on the Game Station, he may have been the kind of man who started the delta wave.
“Check,” Mickey announced with a satisfied, almost smug look.
The Doctor looked up at him with a nod, the troubled expression fading from his face. “We’ll that’s very good, Mickey,” he said, all too pleasantly, “The Dragon variation of the Sicilian Defense, am I’m right? Haven’t seen that used well for ages. I’m impressed.” With a light touch he made his own move. “Checkmate.”
Standing with a hint of victorious satisfaction, leaving a dumbfounded Mickey staring at the board, he walked over and joined Rose on the sofa. Without seeming to think, her eyes still fixed on the current debate about the Prime Minister’s fitness for duty, she shuffled slightly closer to him. The new him liked this. He was at last comfortable with it. He wasn’t a loner anymore and he enjoyed being part of a family or sorts. He liked belonging somewhere.
As a grumbling Mickey packed away the chess set, The Doctor caught Rose surreptitiously glancing down at his hand.
“Will you stop it!” he protested, with a dramatic roll of his eyes, “It’s perfectly normal. Look!” he shoved it in her face, proceeding to mess up her hair for good measure.
She wrinkled her nose in distaste, pushing it away. “It’s just a bit weird that’s all. I keep thinking it’s gonna fall off or something.”
“Nope,” he said, shaking it vigorously around, “Perfectly well attached. In fact, I think this hand’s actually better than the old one. Our old Sycorax chum did me a favour there.”
He could still feel it, the power flowing through him. In fact, it was stronger than it ever had been before. He guessed that he was still slightly buzzing from the post regeneration high but it was invigorating. Made him feel like he could take on the universe and win.
Rose, she was his constant, he realised as he studied her for a moment. She hadn’t changed at all. And neither had his feelings towards her. In fact, they were all the more apparent now, less crowded by confusion and guilt. And he felt at peace with them. In the end, it didn’t matter what they were to each other, just that they were together, going off on adventures and saving the universe, running along hand in hand. It felt right. She brought out the best in him, no matter what kind of man he was.
He smiled to himself then, realising that all along he’d made a terrible mistake. He’d spent so long wondering what kind of man he was, he hadn’t stopped to think that he was completely wrong. He wasn’t a man at all, he was a Time Lord. The last of his kind. Unique. And ready to let the universe know it.
“You ready then?” he asked, grinning at her.
“Ready for what?” she replied with a curious frown.
“Well we can’t sit around here all day,” he protested brightly, “We’ve got to get out there. Get back on the wagon. Saddle up the horses. We’ve got a responsibility to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and civilisation…”
“Don’t you dare,” she said with a laugh, pointing at him with a warning finger.
“To boldly go where no shop assistant and her Time Lord companion have gone before?” he offered. He received a whack in the ribs for that.
“Why’d you have to come back with a knowledge of pop culture references, eh?” she asked, rolling her eyes in mock disgust.
He grinned, “Luck. Come on.” He stood, holding out his hand.
“Now?” she asked, still slumped on the sofa following a heavy dinner, not looking at all in the mood to move, “Can’t it wait ‘til morning? I mean the universe isn’t going anywhere, right?”
Sluggish companion? He knew just how to deal with that.
“Oh, getting blasé, are we?” he scoffed, “Think you’ve seen it all?” He leant in conspiratorially, whispering to her with all the charm and persuasion of the Pied Piper’s melody leading the children away, “Think again. Outside those doors, we might see anything.”
She smiled as she saw the promise of adventure in his eyes, the glint of a thousand ideas all more wonderful in than the last. “Anything?” she queried.
He smiled in return, knowing that he had her hooked, “You never know until you look.”
Her smile widened to almost impossible size. He could see the adrenaline sweeping through her, he could feel the excited racing of her heart as she took his hand. It made him feel more alive than ever.
“Come on then,” she said with unabashed glee, “Time waits for no man.”
“Ah, but I’m not a man,” he pointed out.
“Well, don’t worry, you’ll do,” she promised with a laugh.
Yes, he realised, he would. This regeneration may not be such a bad thing after all.