The Doctor took one last look at himself in the shop mirror before bringing himself to the self-checkout counter with his newly-acquired goods: children’s clothes. He had plenty of experience in the field of regenerating, but twelve occasions had not prepared him for this body.
He was a child! Well, he was ginger, but he was now so easily confused for approximately one thousandth of his age! How would his friends believe him now?
Clara would probably embrace the opportunity of babysitting yet another young charge. The Doctor could already imagine the sight of burnt souffles and boiled baby carrots every supper in the name of nutrition. (It is one thing to tarnish the name of the Doctor, but nutrition?) She may not have been as impossible as he’d once believed, but having to deal with her now seemed all the more so.
He would just have to find another companion, he told himself as he left the shop. (He eyed the shop window dummies skeptically. One couldn’t be too careful around those things anymore. Especially because two of them were dressed like a Roman and a policewoman respectively.)
The Doctor considered his options when it came to electing (or re-electing) a companion. He didn’t think he’d have the patience to handle more than one anymore, and most of them had grown up and moved on with their lives (except for Barbara and Ian, his granddaughter’s nosy school teachers, who were said to have never aged). Rose and “Handy” were probably off raising a huge family back in their parallel world; he didn’t dare ask Donna; Martha, now a pediatrician, would be just as impossible to deal with as Clara; River…. Oh dear. He hoped River would never find out that he’d become a child! (Or did she already know?) And Jack … Jack had absolutely no child-rearing skills whatsoever. That would be incredibly awkward.
Standing alone on the sidewalk with two large paper bags, he felt he was attracting stares. How many little boys went shopping by themselves? It was bad enough that he’d had to sonic the system because he didn’t have any money on him….
A shrill, American-accented voice shook him most abruptly out of his thoughts. “Jack Harkness, give me my wallet back this instant!”
Moments later, he heard what sounded like a karate-chop, and a collective gasp as someone fell to the ground with a thud.
In the center of an ever-growing crowd, an auburn-haired teenage girl stood imposingly over the prone figure of Captain Jack Harkness. Not too far away from him was a plastic purple wallet. Only one person could have possibly succeeded in downing the suave ex-Time Agent: Carolyn Christine “Cece” Ryder.
When Jack did not regain consciousness with a gasp, the Doctor began to suspect something was up.
Cece nudged Jack tentatively with her foot. “Hm, I thought he was immortal.”
The Doctor restrained himself inwardly to keep from giving himself away, even though he was dying to know what his young American friend was doing here in Britain. Cece didn’t recognize him this way, and he didn’t want her to cause any more scenes if he could help it; the girl was highly strung.
He decided to play dumb.
“Hey, what do you mean by immortal?” he inquired, cringing as he forgot once again that his voice had become really high.
Cece looked down at him, a panicked expression momentarily crossing her face. “Uhhhhh, I didn’t say that. I said that … he’s … immoral for, er, stealing my wallet.” Gingerly, she picked it up and shoved it into the pocket of her jeans.
“Perhaps he’ll be immortal at some point in his future,” the Doctor mused, realizing only afterward that he’d said it aloud.
“WHAT?!” Cece exclaimed, drawing the dissipating crowd back. She got down on her knees in front of him, peering at his face suspiciously. “No way….”
“Yes way,” the Doctor heard himself reply. Now he actually talked like a kid!
“This can’t be!” Cece muttered, pinching his cheeks and rearranging his hair this way and that. “You’re actually…”
“Yeah, I know,” the Doctor interrupted, preparing himself for what was ultimately going to happen. “I’m a–”
Being ginger had been the least of his troubles.
Behind them, Jack moaned from where he’d faceplanted on the sidewalk. “I have an idea,” the Doctor suggested to Cece. “Why don’t we get out of here before he wakes up and recognizes us. Y’know, fixed points in time and all.”
“Yay, more running.” Cece rolled her eyes, but she followed him anyway. Not surprisingly, she overtook him and got herself a bit lost before they both entered the safe confines of the TARDIS.