Chapter Four: As The Memory Took Her
But it was not that easy for the Doctor to let go of the Stranger, for she dearly loved mysteries. Or they loved her. She was so often bumping into, or stumbling over them, that doubtlessly the mysteries themselves considered her to be some kind of creepy, klutzy stalker. Enough! She had to stop yammering to herself. Thus it was, with reluctance, that the Doctor, before she could spin it into flimsy threads of baroque conjecture, dropped the yarn of her woolgathering. She shook her flamey (extra flamey!) hair from her face, briskly smacked the palms of her hands together. Time to be clad! Time to get dolled up in flash, new togs. In a way, clothing defined the Doctor, set the tone for a given incarnation, made said incarnation a nonpareil, told miscreant monsters just who, and what, they would be messing around with this time.
From somewhere to her left, the Doctor heard a clickety-snick noise. She span about on the balls of her feet and peered inquisitively at the source of the sound. A door. An open door. Through which she could see clothes. Ha! That was nifty. For whatever bizarre reason a nine-dimensional consciousness might have, perhaps for the sheer joy of it, the Tardis sometimes liked to play hide-the-interior-dimensions-from-the-Doctor. Not on this occasion, however. The Tardis was being helpful for a change. The Doctor had had her hearts set on a bow-tie and a fez, fezzes being, in her humble opinion, cool. So when she entered her wardrobe, she was deeply disappointed, deeply desolated, deeply disconsolate to find that the Tardis had rather slyly hidden all her boy clothes. Maybe not so helpful after all. She pouted crossly. "Meanie!" Grumbling to herself (there was nothing wrong with her dress sense, nothing!), she stomped her way to the spiral staircase which linked the levels of the great, multi-tiered space, banged and clanged her feet on each one of its steps as she climbed it. All about her, racks of clothing in rallied ranks displayed a total galaxy of garb. Everything she could possibly want to wear. On the distaff side, at least. Still fuming, an expression of grim resolve hardened her face. Showtime!
After much dithering and deliberation, the Doctor had finally been able to put together the first of the many outfits that, in the next couple of hours, she would be giving an audition to. She surveyed her reflection with a critical eye. She liked it, this plaid dress over a blouse, but even to her alien aesthetics, those white tights were hideous. Utterly horrid. Besides, this particular combo? It made her look so young, it made her look like a child, and she was so not a kid. Childish, yes. She certainly couldn't argue with that. Her fourth incarnation had once told Sarah Jane that there was little point in being a grown-up if you couldn't be childish. The Doctor nodded emphatically to herself. Darn tootin'! She smirked reminiscently. Four could overdo the tantrumy petulance at times and to be truthful, he always had, but he had in no way been as bad as Six. Six. Six, Six, Six. She grimaced at the thought of that... excrescence. It brought a bitter odour to her mind, a noisome taste. Six had been a braggart and a bravo, seemingly colour-blind, sartorially challenged, violent. A bully. And the Doctor could never abide a bully. Never.
From the morass of her murky memory, a childhood recollection stuck its hurtful snout out of the Doctor's muddy past. On long lost, timelocked Gallifrey there had been this vile approximation of a shrub that had been imported to that world during an unhinged fad for the grotesque. You really had to see and smell the repulsive thing to comprehend its full awfulness. It wasn't anything at all like a malefic melange of a putrid bear, a haemarrhagic piglet or a leprous donkey. Not unless the light was very dim, not unless you were even more insanely optimistic than Pollyanna on ecstasy and crack. Oh, no, it looked much, much worse than that. And the stink of it! Abominable beyond both imagining and endurance. The plant, if that had been what it was, proved to be extraordinarily useful. Its exotic biochemistry produced a vast pharmacopeia of all kinds of wondrous things. So it alone had been suffered, long after all its unspeakable, fellow immigrants had been expunged, to exist beneath the orange skies and twin suns of Gallifrey, to befoul the planet's scarlet fields and silver forests with its noxious presence. It had become a naturalised, but still unloved, citizen of the worldscape. Sort of the local equivalent of the willow of Earth. It had been dubbed the doctor tree...
The Doctor! That hated, hated nickname. The Doctor's stomach convulsed in vain as it tried to void its empty contents. Bile burned her pharynx. Her fingers compressed themselves into fists, their knuckles whitening, their nails forced into her palms. She wanted to be brave but to no avail, hot tears of humiliation leaked from the corners of her eyes, bloody drops dripped from her clenched hands. She fell to her knees and screamed. A keening wail of grief for herself, a guttural cry of rage at the bitch who had thus branded her. When her throat turned too raw, too tender, when even she could not draw sufficient breath, her screaming broke down into muted, gulping sobs as the memory took her.