Fic Tennis: Gallifrey Records, Second Match.
Allison and I agreed to do this week’s fic tennis as another Gallifrey Records-themed round. As always, savior “fic tennis” (and in this instance, savior-ing “Gallifrey Records” would work, too) if you’d rather not away run away with the band.
Four days after the events at the swimming pool in Gallifrey Records: Part 2
The Doctor stared at Donna in shock, still trying to process the words that had come out of her mouth.
“Double booked at the O2 World in Berlin. How does that – how does that even happen? Aren’t there professionals working at these places so these sorts of things are avoided?” He started pacing, yanking at his hair and barely resisting the urge to shout at Donna. This wasn’t her fault.
“Massive, massive miscommunication,” Donna said, her expression somewhere between concern and empathy, her body poised between pulling him into a hug and tackling him before he ran out the door to do something stupidly rash. He still had plenty of righteous anger to get out. “Actually, I think it was a bit of deviousness on the part of their manager. He’s always been slippery – well, you know. It’s Davros.”
The Daleks were an industrial-metal rock group, fronted by a man named Davros, notorious for his use of electronic voice tracks, and even more notorious for his anti-social behavior. He was bent on worldwide domination, swore to out-sell and out-perform every other act on the planet, spewed never-ending hateful diatribes to the press about anyone he considered competition. The Daleks had risen to popularity not long after the Doctor scored his first number one hit, and Davros tended to fixate on the Doctor with unhealthy levels of obsession.
When the Doctor released the Scarf Album, the Daleks came out with Kaled. The Cravat Album, the Skaro Degradations. The Leather Album, the Mad Emperor. And two weeks before the Doctor’s Suit Album, Davros made Crucible available for pre-download; it out-sold any other Dalek album to date, and even out-sold the Suit Album for the first twelve weeks.
“Well,” the Doctor said, slipping his fingers out of his hair – it was wild, spiking in every direction like an angry puffer-fish. “We can handle this. We’ll start with some phone calls.”
“Already on it,” Donna replied, mobile in-hand.
At that moment, the door of his ancient blue tour bus opened. “Doctor?”
The Doctor couldn’t help the grin that twitched at the corners of his mouth; he was furious, but the feeling abated at the sound of her voice. “Come in, Rose!”
She walked up the steps, but she wasn’t alone. There was a bloke with his arm around her shoulders. The Doctor’s small smile faded.
“Doctor, I – umm – this is Mickey, an old mate of mine. Best freelance sound engineer in the biz. My mum thought I needed a bit of professional intervention, in that department.”
The Doctor had dealt with plenty of sound engineers in his life, and he’d never felt like wrapping himself around one the way Rose seemed to with this — Mickey.
Donna cleared her throat, elbowing the Doctor on the way to greet them, “Mickey, I’m Donna Noble.”
Mickey laughed, shaking Donna’s hand, “I know who you are! Even if this one,” and he squeezed Rose’s shoulder, “Didn’t talk about you all the time, I’m a huge fan of your work with the Chiswick Temps.”
Donna’s pleased smile to the Doctor indicated he’d just lost her, but he was more hung up on Mickey talking to Rose “all the time.” They’d only been on tour for a week and they’d been practically inseparable — when was she talking to him? Is that who she was always texting? He’d assumed it was her mum.
This time Donna leaned none too gently on the Doctor’s toes and he leaped forward to escape it, putting him right in front of Rose and Mickey.
The Doctor relented, “Well, nice to meet you, Rickey —”
“It’s Mickey,” Rose said.
“— but we’re in a bit of a jam. Seems we’re double-booked in Berlin, same night as Davros. Well, The Daleks, but still no time to chat, has to be dealt with!” He turned for the back of the bus when Mickey’s voice stopped him.
“Oh, at the O2 World? I’ve got a few mates over there, I could make a couple calls, send an e-mail?”
The Doctor spoke at the same time as Donna, “No, not necessary, we’ve got it.”
But Donna was louder, “That’d be great! All the help we can get on this one, yeah?”
Mickey beamed, clearly pleased to be useful.
Donna moved toward the door, “My laptop’s backstage, come on, Mickey. Let’s see if they’ve got the catering set up yet, too. I’m bloody starved.”
Mickey moved back down the steps and out the door, Donna behind him.
Rose shifted on her feet, “So,” and lapsed back into silence.
Moving to shuffle a stack of takeaway napkins on the counter, the Doctor rushed his words out.
“So, your boyfriend’s in the industry, too? Didn’t know — that. I mean, didn’t know you had a boyfriend or that he was in the industry. And I didn’t know that I didn’t know it, wasn’t like there was a big gap in my brain where I thought, ‘something’s missing here, wonder what it could be?’ Just thought, ‘I know exactly as much as I need to about this situation.’ The, ehm, boyfriend situation, I mean, otherwise maybe I would’ve not — well, the past in the past.”
And he caught Rose’s eye, curling one of the napkins into his fist.
“It’s not – I mean, we’re not – anymore,” she replied, dropping her gaze to the floor and crumpling up the hem of her t-shirt in her fists just like he was crumpling the napkins. “He’s a great bloke. Mickey is. I mean.” Her face was flaming red and she was looking at everything but his eyes.
It would be fine – this would be fine – if she’d just look at him again, so he could read what she wasn’t saying aloud, and there wouldn’t be a blip in the connection between them.
Because right now that connection was blipping, and the Doctor’s heart was blipping right along with it, and he didn’t like this feeling one bit.
Thing was, he knew full well his heart didn’t have a right to blip about anything. It’s not like Rose was anything more than a business partner. Artistic partner, too, naturally – really she was a brilliant songwriter, the few sessions they’d already had together had been the most creatively stimulating of his life.
She was a brilliant, stimulating personal friend.
Because personal friends did things like hold hands all the time, and invade each others’ personal space on a regular basis, and bring their hair-straightening devices and tubes of lipstick to each others’ tour buses and leave them there, because they tended to crash on each others’ couches and bunks more often than sleeping in their own bus.
Rose made a motion forward, and the Doctor thought for a soaring moment she was coming in for a hug; his arms lifted a little, ready to lock around her torso and squeeze, but she shifted sideways and scooted past him.
“Sorry,” she said, and he wasn’t sure if she was apologizing for the awkwardness, or Mickey, or what she was doing at this very moment: picking up her hair straightener and her lipstick and bundling it all into the crook of her elbow. Before she walked down the steps, she finally looked him in the eyes again.
“Mickey’s really good at what he does. And my mum admires him. And she got the tapes from our last show, and she’s never been away from me like this, with me off on my own. I think she’s a bit panicked, if you want to know the truth.” She took a deep breath, and it shook a little. “Donna said something earlier, about heading out for Berlin tonight? Do you think we ought to do a bit of rehearsal, before this circus gets on the road?”
He very deliberately dropped his eyes to the stuff in her hands, not answering her question yet, and she squared her shoulders at the challenge.
“I was just thinking how it might look, my things in your bus,” she shifted. “You know, if you brought someone back or — something.”
He physically recoiled, hands groping behind him to press on the counter.
“I’ve never made a habit of that before, Rose, and I don’t intend to start now, but if you’re concerned about propriety, maybe you should ride in your own bus to Berlin.”
Something in the way her fingers twitched, now clutched around the tube of lipstick, made him pause, “Oh.”
She twisted the cord to the straightener around her hand, blood pooling in her fingertips before she spoke again, “He’ll just be coming up to Berlin and then he flies back. It’s just the one stop.”
The Doctor pushed off the counter and ushered Rose down the steps, “No, no, if he’s brilliant, maybe we should invite him along.”
They made their way indoors and to the stage. The Doctor was just plugging into his amp when Rose finally broke the silence, clearly warring herself, “I don’t want to invite him along.”
The Doctor nodded and lit into Bloc Party, knocking out the beginning of “Helicopter” before Rose had even strapped her guitar on. Adam jumped up from his kit — was he just waiting back there? — and kicked in with the drums almost immediately.
Rose caught up to him before the lyrics began, singing pointedly right at him — running on bravado — and he was off like a shot.
Despite himself, he enjoyed the song, the quick push-pull of their guitars, Adam hitting every mark, and Rose growling into the mic that he was born a liar, he’d die a liar.
(And didn’t he know it.)
He was fidgeting with his capo, moving it up and down, debating another Bloc Party song — would it be too heavy-handed to sing about this modern love barely a week in, because he sort of didn’t give a toss — when Mickey stepped onto the stage.
“That was brilliant,” Mickey said. “Never heard you play like that, Rose!”
The Doctor felt a tiny point of pride, he’d seen her play like that plenty in the past several days, focused and furious, and clearly Mickey didn’t know her as well as they both thought.
“And you, on the sticks!” Mickey turned to Adam and Adam beamed.
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