Authors: _thirty2flavors & goldy_dollar
Characters/Pairings: Ten2, Pete Tyle (Ten2/Rose and Jackie/Pete)
Length: ~1,800 words
Summary: Jackie’s attempt to get Pete and the Doctor to bond doesn’t go precisely as planned.
Excerpt: This was meant to be "male bonding time", Jackie had said. The Doctor was family now, Jackie had said. It would be nice for them to spend some time together outside of work, Jackie said, and do something relaxing instead of butting heads over Torchwood weapons policy.
Author’s notes: The only real excuse we have for this is that we were bored one night and a joke turned into a round-robin. And then I wrote an ending and rushed to post it while it was still December 25 in my timezone. And for those who may wonder as they read on: yep, it’s a real thing.
"Are you sure you don't want a box?"
The Doctor was half-lying across the table, wrestling with a roll of holly-patterned wrapping paper and a pillow-sized plush alien. "Why would I need a box?" he asked, holding the paper in place with his elbow as he cut it from the roll.
"It would be easier to wrap," said Pete.
"Boxes are boring," said the Doctor. He pulled the paper together across the alien and pressed it down with his right arm and the side of his face while his left hand stretched across the table for the tape. "Why do you have so many boxes lying around, anyway? You can recycle those, you know."
Pete watched as the Doctor tried to pull off a piece of tape with one hand. "Do you need help?"
The Doctor brought the roll of tape to his teeth. "Got it," the Doctor said -- or so Pete assumed, anyway; he was hard to understand around the tape.
"You look like you could use some help," said Pete.
"I'm over nine hundred years old, Pete Tyler," said the Doctor. He pressed down on the plush alien, compressing it enough that he could just make the piece of wrapping paper fit. "I've toppled dictatorships, I've saved whole galaxies, I've fought witches with William Shakespeare." He leaned across the table, holding the paper in place with his chest while he put the final piece of tape in place. "I can wrap a present on my own."
He held the lopsided finished product up with pride. For a moment, Pete was nearly impressed; far less tape had gone into the construction than he'd imagined.
Then the plush alien, no longer being squashed beneath the Doctor's weight, expanded to its original size and burst out of the wrapping.
The Doctor frowned. "I may need more paper, though."
Pete sighed. "Well," he said after a moment, scratching his chin, "Jackie did say she was heading to Poundland. If you want more wrapping paper, you can join her--"
"No," the Doctor interrupted, shaking his head. "No, no, no. NO."
Pete felt like he was grasping at straws. "But Rose also said she might go..."
The Doctor considered this newest piece of information and then frowned. "Rose is working late." He paused. "And I've been to Poundland with Jackie. Do you know that this universe's Poundland doesn't sell Haribo Starmix? Well, I do. Do you know why? Because I've been to Poundland with Jackie."
"She has had trouble letting that go," Pete admitted.
"And of all the changes to make a fuss about," the Doctor continued. "Haribo Starmix? Haribo Starmix? Has she even read Harry Potter? Now that - that is a change to make a fuss about."
"There's no need to dwell on that," said Pete, trying to sound soothing, but vaguely aware that his voice was becoming increasingly high pitched and panicky.
Thankfully, the Doctor seemed to drop that line of thought as quickly as it had come. He was now staring at the boxes on the table, brow furrowed.
"You know what we could do..." he began.
Pete got a bad feeling. "What's that?"
"Crayons, markers, the Internet! Blimey, there's even Microsoft Clip Art!"
Pete stared at him. "Excuse me?"
"We can decorate the boxes," said the Doctor. He picked up the wrapping paper that had popped off the toy alien, crumpled it in a ball in his hands, and then threw it over his shoulder behind him. "Rubbish anyway. Tony will love this."
Pete forced himself to smile. "So we'll be spending more time together, then? That's... great, that is."
In the end the Doctor insisted on decorating the box with a to-scale drawing of what he called the Moxx System, which he insisted was a real planetary system several galaxies over and was home to a species that looked something like the toy. "Except," the Doctor had explained, "they have a second pair of eyes behind their ears, they're thirty feet tall, and they smell like Marmite."
Pete decided to look on the bright side, and be grateful that the Doctor wasn't making the toy more realistic. He was also beginning to regret not asking Jackie to take him to Poundland with her.
As he watched the Doctor painstakingly sketch the twelfth moon around the third planet with a compass, Pete tried not to mentally compile a list of the more productive things he could be doing. Like getting back to his lawyer about that life insurance plan, or filling out the Torchwood paperwork that was piling up, or planning that meeting with Vitex's CFO, or watching the E4's rerun of Desperate Scousewives. This was meant to be "male bonding time", Jackie had said. The Doctor was family now, Jackie had said. It would be nice for them to spend some time together outside of work, Jackie said, and do something relaxing instead of butting heads over Torchwood weapons policy.
Pete glanced covertly at his watch. Desperate Scousewives was on in ten minutes. He took a breath. "Doctor, do you actually need any--"
"Pass me the Pine Green crayon?" asked the Doctor, sticking out his hand without looking up from his work. His glasses slid down to the end of his nose and he stuck his tongue between his teeth in concentration.
Pete handed him the closest green crayon.
"This isn't Pine Green, this is Mountain Meadow," said the Doctor, sounding far more disgusted than a grown man discussing crayons colours had any right to be. He pulled the box towards him to look for himself.
"You know," said Pete, "those crayons were actually a gift for Tony."
The Doctor waved one hand absently. "I'll buy him a new one." He pulled another green crayon from the box and got to colouring one of the moons on the side of the corrugated cardboard box. "This'll be worth it."
Pete wasn’t so sure about that. A minute or two ticked by in silence as he watched the Doctor hunch over the box, his glasses sliding down his nose and his tongue peeking out between his lips in concentration.
Pete was fairly certain this didn’t constitute “bonding”.
“So... er...” He rubbed the back of his neck, fishing for some kind of conversational topic. “Did your people celebrate Christmas?”
The Doctor stopped what he was doing long enough to raise one incredulous eyebrow. “Of course not. Why would we do that?”
“Well, I thought maybe...” Pete trailed off and shrugged. He supposed it was a pretty stupid question. “You must’ve had other holidays, then.”
The Doctor turned back to his drawing, brushing the topic aside with a terse shrug. “Time Lords were never particularly celebratory people, to be honest.”
Judging from the tone of the Doctor’s voice, Pete guessed this was the wrong topic of conversation to explore.
“I like Christmas,” the Doctor carried on, his voice lighter again. “The sentiment, anyway -- peace on Earth, good will towards man, rubbish television specials and all that.” He frowned as he picked the next crayon from the box. “‘Course, my Christmases tend to be more chaotic than that.”
“It would be nice if alien invaders respected major holidays,” Pete agreed.
The Doctor snickered. “Yeah.” And then once again he was absorbed in the task at hand.
Truth be told, Pete wasn’t even sure what the issue was. The Doctor seemed to get on just fine with Rose and Tony and even Jacks, really, if you counted incessant bickering and teasing as “getting on”. He’d seen the Doctor chat the ear off just about everyone, from the household staff and taxi drivers to important foreign dignitaries and aliens with very large guns pointed in his face. Yet left to their own devices, between the two of them, the Doctor and Pete Tyler had managed only one long conversation that had neither descended into awkward silence or escalated into a moral argument. And it had been months ago, during the Doctor’s very first week in this universe, about the logistics of creating an assumed identity.
Pete fidgeted. “Er... do you want a drink? There’s beer in the fridge.”
“I’m all right, thanks,” said the Doctor.
“Course you are,” Pete mumbled, drumming his fingers on the table. He looked forlornly at his own stack of gifts, long-since neatly wrapped, and then looked at the clock again. Maybe, he thought, they were just fundamentally different people. After years balancing Vitex and Torchwood, Pete Tyler had become a very practical man.
The Doctor, on the other hand, was painstakingly colouring a cardboard box that would likely get torn apart in seconds come Christmas Day.
“Right,” said Pete, standing up, “with all due respect, Doctor, I’m sensing that this is an exercise in futility as far as ‘male bonding’ goes, so I’ll let you finish with this on your own while I go get some work done.”
If the Doctor was insulted, it was hard to tell, since he didn’t look up from his drawing. Instead he sniffed and said, “By ‘work’ do you mean catching the rerun of Desperate Scousewives on E4?”
For a second, Pete could only stare. Then he said, “What?”
“Jackie may have mentioned it,” said the Doctor.
“Jackie doesn’t know.... what?”
“It’s the one where Danny serenades Debbie and she rejects him,” the Doctor went on. Then -- with the same degree of certainty he used when asserting his authority in alien matters, he continued, “Which, frankly, I thought was wise, on her part. It was tacky.”
The expression of shock on Pete’s face began to mingle with amusement. “You watch Desperate Scousewives? The smartest man in the universe?”
The Doctor waved one hand. “Well, it’s Donna’s fault... probably.” He paused, and then he shrugged. “Besides, it’s not Jersey Shore.”
“See, I like Layla, but her relationship with Joe is holding her back--”
“I think that’s what Gill’s doing. She thinks she’s being overshadowed by Debbie, but really--”
Jackie folded her arms across her chest and leaned against the door frame, watching her husband and her just-about-son-in-law deep in conversation about Desperate Scousewives.
“It’s not really what I had in mind,” she told Rose later with a shrug, “but whatever works, I suppose.”