File It Under Unfinished Business
Fanfiction Contest Winner 2016
written by @badismyname
“Let me get this straight,” The Doctor is looking at you intently with those big brown eyes and adjusts his tie. “You just let it in?!” He points his arm emphatically at the Tardis door. “What if it gets caught up in something? Or gets lost?”
All you can do is wince at his tone of voice and look embarrassed. “I didn’t mean to. I heard a noise, I thought it was you. I just opened the door a sliver to peek out and then it ran in…” Your voice trails off and you give the Doctor the most innocent look you can muster. His eyes soften at the corners and he quirks a small smile.
“We’ll just have to find it then, won’t we?”
Phew… he wasn’t actually mad. You’ve seen the Doctor upset or sad, he could be dealt with then, but when he was mad you didn’t want to be on the receiving end. As many Daleks would attest if you could get past “Exterminate”.
The Doctor’s look turned more mischievous and he’s placed an index finger on your breastbone. “I’ll help you find it. But you let it in, so you have to catch it.” He removes his finger leaving tingles behind and you’re breathing quicker than you were before. Damnit, he has such an affect on you. Hopefully he won’t notice. You glance at him to check. His hands are already stuffed into his pockets and he’s strolling towards the stairs. “Come on. You’re not going to catch it standing around like that! Did you see which way it went?”
“Well, always up for an adventure, me.” The Doctor shrugs, dances down the stairs then out of sight.
Follow the Doctor, please. You will your legs to take steps forward. It was just a finger!
The Doctor calls back to you, “Did you happen to see what color it was?”
He sounds far off already but you’re sure that you hear him mumble, “Why does everything else get to be ginger?”
You follow the sound of clomping trainers and find him staring at a wall panel. It looks pretty innocuous to you but the Doctor whips out his sonic screwdriver and starts to scan. The blue light and familiar sound reminds you of the first time you met the Doctor. You smile inwardly. It seems like only yesterday he invited you into the Tardis. Yesterday and a million years ago. Almost quite literally.
You snap out of your reverie, quickly focusing your gaze back on him. Like always, he is still in his own mind trying to understand why the panel was panel. You can only speculate.
“Something wrong Doctor?”
He turns his head, squints an eye at you. “This panel is different. Different color, different texture.” He licks the panel. “Different taste. Why is this panel different from the rest?” He’s standing up straight now, pointing at the panel, looking at you for an answer.
“It looks that same as the others to me. Maybe you repaired it and don’t remember?” You offer, eyebrows raised. You purse your lips speculatively.
Did that really just happen? You are very sure the Doctor just looked you in the eye then at your lips then quickly looked away.
Now you’ve never said anything to the Doctor about the feelings you have for him. You weren’t sure if the feelings were mutual which is why you didn’t. That look though. Maybe you are thinking too much into things. You file that look under unfinished business, a file that was getting fatter by the day. Time for that later. You’ve got something to find and no time to think about odd looks from the Doctor.
He looks back at you and slips his screwdriver back into his suit pocket.
“Hmmm, I don’t trust things that don’t taste right. Especially when they’re in my Tardis.”
Trying to keep the Doctor from getting distracted again you grab him by the hand and begin tugging him down the corridor. “Come on, Doctor! Let’s get back to the weird tasting panel later. Right now, we’ve got a cat to find!”
You’re certain when you took the Doctor’s hand he smiled a smile he thought you wouldn’t see.
“Puss! Here puss!” The Doctor calls. You were both shouting down corridors looking for the small ginger cat that you’d accidentally let into the Tardis. He’d let your hand go a few junctions back somewhat reluctantly. You can still feel his warmth and the butterflies in your stomach from his close proximity. Thank your DNA you weren’t prone to blushing, you would still be red now if that were the case.
“Maybe we should go back to the control room? I don’t think it got this far into the Tardis and cats have a good sense of direction. It’ll not want to stay once it realises we don’t have any food.” You advise but the Doctor’s not even looking at you. He’s wandered ten feet away and is glaring at another wall panel. He’s definitely not just curious this time and now he’s licked it. And again. You really wish his tongue didn’t get around so much. Being jealous of inanimate objects was not very becoming.
He turns to you and points his sonic at the panel in an off-handed gesture, “This panel is exactly the same as the other. Same color, texture, and taste. They match only themselves and not the rest of the wall panels.” The Doctor starts pacing a little and runs his fingers through his already disheveled hair. “You could be right. I repaired it and I just don’t remember. But two that I don’t remember is more unlikely. If we find a third…” He says, walking down the hallway looking intently at walls, feeling each panel in turn.
“What about the cat?” You ask, following, taking a quick look at the panel the Doctor claimed looked different. It looked the same.
Focused on a panel and stroking his chin the Doctor says, “The cat…will…have…to wait.” He takes your hand in his and whisks you back the way you came.
You finally get back to the first different panel. You, regretfully, let go of the Doctor’s hand to steady yourself and catch your breath. He’s distracted by the panel. He’s so intense yet curious. That face makes your heart melt. While you’re busy being dreamy eyed and melty, the Doctor’s got your hand again running down another corridor in the opposite direction of the last. He’s looking more quickly, he now knows what he’s looking for. It’s really hard to concentrate on helping when he’s so close. His hand is warm but dry. Fingers long and thin but strong. You wanted him to do things with those hands. Feel his fingers on your cheek, his thumb sweep across your lip.
“Ah ha!” yells the Doctor, all teeth and eyes, and he stops up short. You very nearly run into him. He’s got his hands on the panel now, nowhere near you. Maybe he and the panel should get a room. You cross your arms, you look at the panel then back at the Doctor.
“I just don’t see it, Doctor. They all look the same.” You say crisply before you realise how childish you sound.
The Doctor stands up perfectly straight and doesn’t seem to notice your snark.
“You’re looking but you’re not seeing!” He gestures with his hands around his face frantically. Like the gestures could help you see. The Doctor really thought more of you than you thought of yourself. But you are sure they all look the same.
TRY harder. For the Doctor. You look back at the panel he had been inspecting and focus. The color was a bit different. More blue than the surrounding walls. So subtle that you would miss it if you weren’t paying attention and happen to be concentrating on the Doctor’s hands instead.
You place your hand on the different panel and one next to it. The blue panel had a slight ribbed texture to it where the regular panel was smooth.
“Taste it.” The Doctor says.
“Oh, no. I’m not putting my tongue on that. It’s different. I can tell now without licking it.”
“Myah well,” he rubs his neck, looking maybe a bit disappointed. “That’s three panels in my Tardis that are not of my making. Where did they come from?” (He’s got his crazed face on now.) “Why are they here? Who put them there? Why are they almost exactly the same but different enough for me to notice if I just looked a bit harder?” The Doctors head snaps around. “And would I have found them if we weren’t looking for that cat?”
“Maybe we should find out how many more of those panels there are, Doctor?”
“Right then. Allons-y!”
There were fifteen blue panels set oddly about in the walls of the Tardis.
Once you put your mind on the task and away from your infatuation with the Doctor you were pretty helpful. Being helpful to the Doctor made you feel good. He’d held your hand three more times and he’d talked you into licking a wall. Even though you were concentrating on being helpful, you couldn’t quite turn all your feelings off. That worked to his advantage, not yours. Hence the wall licking. Damn him and his stupid eyes.
The wall did have an odd taste. Like rotten eggs or sulphur. Through all your panel investigating, you still hadn’t found the cat. You tried to get the Doctor call it Heathcliff instead of the cat but he refused. He said he would call it by it’s name when the cat gave it to him. Because he spoke cat. The know-it-all.
There didn’t seem to be any connection in the positioning of the panels in relation to each other, the Tardis, or in the collection of oddities they contained. They were made of the same material the other panels were made of according to the scans he’d done. Now back in the control room, the Doctor was leaning over the console speaking out loud mostly to himself trying to make sense of it, ticking (which slowly turned to banging) off each thought.
“Sulphur, blue, textured….fifteen. Four evenly spaced down one corridor. Two facing each other. One close to the control room. Five at the ends of five separate corridors. And three in dead ends. Where’s the connection!?” The Doctor is looking flustered and he kicks his foot against the floor. You wish you could help him but what could your puny brain possibly conceive that a 900 year old Time Lord couldn’t?
“Maybe there isn’t one?” You speculate and it’s definitely a question not a statement.
He turns towards you and his eyes focus,
“What did you say?”
“I said maybe there isn’t one. A connection in relation to the Tardis. Maybe they’re just random anomalies.”
The Doctor takes three steps and has you by the shoulders. He’s shaking you in an affectionately excited way.
“Brilliant. You’re brilliant. Not the anomalies part but the random in relation to the Tardis part. You can’t get it all right but brilliant.”
Before you can smile at him for calling you brilliant, his lips are on yours. What seems like an eternity passes and as your body finally decides to respond and relax into the kiss it’s over. The Doctor’s pulling you back down the stairs into the first corridor to the panel closest to the control room.
You file that kiss with the rest of the unfinished business.
You’re breathless from running around rechecking all the panels. And from that kiss. The Doctor kissed you for being brilliant. Put that away for later.
Their positioning on the ship was random so he had to figure out what else connected them. All the panels you and the Doctor checked together, he noticed the texture was the difference. Each went in a different direction, created a different pattern. The one closest to the control room pointed up in an arrow motif. The two facing each other were horizontal lines. The four in the same corridor were swirls; two to the right, two to the left. The Doctor was checking the five at the ends of the corridors and he sent you to check the ones at the dead ends.
The first one you checked was a diagonal from left to right. The second was the opposite. You’ve been searching for the third dead end but it’s not where you remember it being. It was definitely 10 steps past the four way junction but it’s much farther down now. 30 steps. Huh. Maybe you missed counted. There had been a lot of hand holding going on at the time.
Walking up to the panel, you place your palms flat and feel the ribbing. Interesting. This one, following the pattern, felt like a teardrop. Pointed at the top, ballooning out at the bottom. You wonder what the Doctor would make of the panels. They were almost like a puzzle that needed to be put together. Maybe it was. You’ll suggest that to him when you get back.
As you turn to the sound, you see a little ginger cat rubbing it’s cheek against the corner of the entryway. You didn’t get a great look at it when it ran into the Tardis but now you could see how desperately cute the thing is. It couldn’t be more than a few months old and so fluffy.
“Oh aren’t you adorable. Come her kitty.” You try to entice it over with your fingers and a soft voice. It takes a few tentative steps towards you and attacks your fingers playfully. After a few moments of play, you scoop the cat up cradling it like a baby and scratch it on the head. While you are gushing over the little fuzz ball you think you hear the Doctor calling your name but it’s far off.
“Doctor? Is that you?” You call back down the corridor.
The Doctor turns right around the corner from the corridor on the left and his face contorts from frantic concern to wide with relief. He steps forward hurriedly, looks like he’s about to hug you but sees the cat. He takes your shoulders instead (a little put out).
“Where have you been?”
“I did what you asked me to do. Checked the panels and I just so happen to also find the cat.”
“But you’ve been gone for five hours.”
“Well that doesn’t make any sense. I couldn’t’ve been more than half an hour. You told me to be quick.” You say a little defensively. You had two tasks and managed to kill two birds with one stone in no more than 30 minutes. You were sure. He still had his hands on you and his eyes now looked worried.
“You have been gone for five hours….I was very worried about you.” He says quietly. You can feel the tickle of his breath on your cheeks, his lips are so close to yours. The Doctor’s eyes are pools of dark water you’re drowning in and you want to. Maybe now was the time to bring up that unfinished business. Better he should know than not, right? Either way he felt, he would be more conscientious about how he acted towards you in the future. That could mean no more random you’re brilliant kisses but it could also be the exact opposite. You can make the choice. Break the surface or let yourself sink deeper…
“I think it’s a puzzle.” Coward.
“What?” His hands drop away from you.
“The panels, I think they might be puzzle pieces.”
Just like that, the magic was broken. He is back to pacing the corridor thinking about what you’d just said.
“Let’s get back to the control room. I need you to tell me what those other panels look like and see if your theory is correct.” The Doctor says sternly walking back the way he came. “Bring the cat.”
Crowley. The Doctor said the cat’s name was Crowley. You would know if you spoke cat. The name sounded familiar but couldn’t quite remember where from. You explained to him in detail what your panels looked like but before he could tell you about his five he got distracted. Now, he was on the floor playing with tiny little Crowley looking the definition of adorable. If you looked up the word in the dictionary there would be a picture of the Doctor playing with a ginger kitten. It bounced around his ankles chasing the loose laces, catching them and trying to run off with its prey only for the lace to rebound back home when it reached the maximum length. The Doctor was laughing and his eyes sparkled with delight.
“Oh we’re just going to have to keep you, won’t we? You brilliant little thing.”
The Doctor scooped up the kitten, looked up at you his face full of child-like wonder, “Shouldn’t we?”
“I think Crowley would make a great addition to our family, Doctor,” you say smiling at him from a few feet away. You would have liked to be sitting closer but the view was better here and you could more easily hide your staring.
“Do you mean that?” The Doctor’s face turned a bit serious. He stood, kitten in hand, suit crumpled from his time on the floor.
“Of course! Every Tardis should have a cat.” You chuckle trying to soften that look but it turned even more serious.
“No. Not that. The part about us being a family?” He looked down at Crowley and his voice was quiet. He was so uncharacteristically quiet you weren’t sure what to do. His shoulders shook a bit and when he turned his head back up to you there were tears glistening in his eyes. “I was so worried about you today. I couldn’t even imagine what had happened. I yelled your name and you didn’t answer. I was about to start tearing out walls before I finally found you.” He set the kitten down on the console (you note that it promptly found a warm spot near the center and fell asleep) takes a few steps towards you before stopping within arms reach. “You are like family to me.”
Now it’s your turn to look down.
“Sure, sure. Like a kid sister, right? That you have watch over, protect.”
He puts a knuckle under your chin, thumb just below your lip and lifts your face to look at him. “Not like a sister. Did that kiss not mean anything to you?” The tears in his eyes are on the verge of falling, his heart is wide open.
If only you could’ve seen inside his head. All that unfinished business you filed away for later has been tossed into the air of your mind now and you don’t know where to start. The looks, the smiles, the hand holding, the kiss. He was trying to be subtle, feel you out. The Doctor’s thrown caution to the wind and he’s looking at you with those deep dark orbs waiting for an answer. You’re finding it hard to take a deep breath. The Doctor’s seen so much, he carried so much sadness. He’s laid his heart on the table with a few words and a look. You always hoped but never dare say and now he’s giving you your chance because he feels the same and doesn’t know. The Doctor wants you and he doesn’t even know you want him back.
Say Something! Anything! Start Somewhere. Anywhere.
“Everything. That kiss meant everything to me.”
The Doctor’s hand slides to your cheek, his kiss is soft and sweet. You lean into him, wrapping your arms around his waist. You can feel the muscles of his back through his suit. A little moan escapes your lips. The Doctor returns it with what could only be described as a growl, and the kiss deepens.
Unnecessary questions start to pop into your head. What about the weird panels? What about the time lapse? What about the cat? SHUT UP! You are just going to have to figure that stuff out later. The Doctor will remember too, eventually. There are much more important things going on right now that need all your attention and you did not plan on letting anything interrupt this moment.
I am absolutely delighted by this fic. There’s marvelous romantic tension, which is probably one of the best things to have in an imagine, or in any story with romance, really. Using present tense is nice for emotional pieces, especially when they had suspense, so that was a great judgment call on writing style. The cat was a cute touch. The mystery of the panels is excellent, mostly because I don’t have a single clue of what the answer could be, which is one of the better options in mystery. In my personal opinion, there are two options in mystery that work really well. The first option is the one seen here, which is to give clues that don’t tell the reader anything until you get to the end, when the final connection is made. The other option is to give clues that are potentially misleading, so that the reader thinks they have it all figured out until you surprise them with a completely different explanation than what they were expecting. This is an excellent balance of mystery and romance, and I hope to see a continuation very soon.