If there was one thing the Doctor couldn't bear, especially in his Seventh regeneration, it was the sound of a child crying.
So as he pottered around the TARDIS to set the coordinates for his next destination, the quiet sound of a small child weeping bitterly echoed around the control room, and making up his mind on the spot, he diverted his course to focus on the child's location. When the TARDIS shuddered to a halt, the Doctor took a courtesy glance at the monitor. Destination - Earth. Local Date May 13th, 1997. Humanian Era.
Sticking his head outside the TARDIS door, he immediately spotted the one who had drawn him here. Sitting alone on a swing, her dark head bent and small shoulders shaking. The Doctor stepped out of the TARDIS and shut the door with a click before making his way towards the little girl. He sat on the swing beside her and they simply sat in silence for several minutes before he asked her, "Why are you crying?"
"Daddy came home cross," she hiccuped, rubbing a hand across her eyes. "He shouted at Mummy and me. He always comes home cross now."
The Doctor pulled out a handkerchief and offered it to her. She took it slowly, gingerly patting her eyes before moving to hand it back. He took it, pushing it back into his pocket as he settled a little more into the seat of the swing.
"Why is he always cross?" he inquired mildly, swinging a little.
"Ever since we moved here, he has to work very hard," the little girl explained. "Mummy says that his job is very important."
The Doctor glanced at the girl beside him.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Ivy Woods," she answered, scuffing the toe of her shoe in the dirt. "It's a silly name."
"I think it's a lovely name," the Doctor said with a faint smile. "Like something from a story book. And how old are you, Ivy?"
"Nearly six," she replied.
"Nearly six? You're practically a young lady," the Doctor said jovially, hoping to entice a smile from his small companion and feeling his own lips tug as he succeeded. "Where did you move from?"
"Ireland," Ivy answered promptly. "We moved just after my birthday." Her lips turned down as more tears began falling into her lap. "I want to go back. I don't like it here."
"Oh, but it can't be all that bad," the Doctor said reasonably. He should've remembered that he was talking to a five year old.
"But it is! We had to leave Nana and Granda and all my aunties and uncles behind and I'm in a different school and they're learning things I don't know and the boys pull my hair and the girls don't play with me and Mummy always looks tired and Daddy is always cross and I don't have any friends!" she howled, burying her face in her hands.
"But you do have a friend," the Doctor said, a tad desperately. "I'm your friend, aren't I?"
"Are you?" Ivy sniffled, peeping up at him through her fingers with one large brown eye.
"Of course," the Doctor answered in relief. "Friends share sweets, don't they?"
"Ye-es," she answered slowly as a small paper bag was held in front of her.
"Jellybaby?" Ivy plucked one from the bag and chewed it slowly. The Doctor mimicked her, and they chewed in silence, the ritual of offering and selecting happening for quite some time until the bag was empty.
"I do hope I haven't spoiled your dinner," the Doctor said with some concern. Ivy shook her head, pulling a face at her sticky fingers.
"Daddy sent me to my room without dinner," she mumbled. "I climbed out the window."
"Out the window?" the Doctor repeated incredulously. "That's awfully dangerous."
"I'm a good climber," Ivy said eagerly, "And there's a tree right outside my window. I just hung on to the branches."
"Be that as it may, that was still very silly, Ivy. What if you'd fallen and had an accident?" the Doctor admonished gently. "Your parents would've been awfully upset."
"S'pose," she muttered, scuffing her toe again.
"Come on," the Doctor said, after a few moments. "I'd better take you home before there's trouble." He glanced at her hands. "But first, we need to clean you up."
Motioning for her to follow him, Ivy followed the Doctor back to the TARDIS where she stared at everything with wide eyes. He brought her to the nearest bathroom and helped her to wash her hands, as the basin was just a little too high for her to reach comfortably. As they walked through the control room towards the door, she tugged on his sleeve.
"Is this your house?" she asked.
"This is where I live, yes."
"Oh." And then - "Is this magic?"
"In a way," he answered with a smile as they exited the TARDIS and they began the walk through the park.
"What's your name?" she asked after a moment.
"I'm the Doctor."
"That's not a name," Ivy snorted as she hung onto his hand. "That's a job - even babies know that."
"I picked out that name for myself," the Doctor said patiently. "When I was old enough. It means that I help people."
"Like a real doctor?" Ivy said, her brown eyes now wide with wonder.
"A bit," the Doctor said honestly, looking carefully both ways before crossing the road.
"Do you cut people open?"
"No. I'm rather squeamish." Ivy giggled, her free hand scrunching in her skirt. "What?"
"You talk funny," she explained, a little bubble of laughter escaping her. "Like the people in the story books Mummy reads."
"Well really!" the Doctor pretended to huff. Ivy tugged on his arm.
"I like it though!" she insisted, her eyes large. "Being different is good!"
"How true," the Doctor winked, swinging their clasped hands a bit. "Who wants to be all boring like everyone else?"
"Not me!" Ivy declared, tugging him towards a picturesque housing estate. "Down here."
"Do you think you'll like it in England, Ivy?" the Doctor asked. She seemed to mull it over as they walked slowly past the neat little houses.
"I don't know," she answered honestly. "Maybe?"
"Maybe is good," he encouraged. "It means that you'll give it a go. You will, won't you?"
"Oh yes!" she chirped, drawing to a stop in front of a primrose-coloured house. "Mummy will be cross with me."
"Now now, I'm sure it's not all that bad," the Doctor said soothingly, his eyes worried at the downcast face and slumped shoulders. "Tell you what, if you're a good girl, I'll come and have a chat with you again."
"You promise?" she asked eagerly, her demeanour brightening.
"I promise," he said with a smile. "I'll come tomorrow, yes?"
"You promise?" she replied after a moment. "You really, really promise?"
"In the park, I promise," he repeated with a little laugh, releasing her hand. "Now go on! It's getting late."
"Okay!" Ivy took a few steps forward before turning and surprising the Doctor with a hug. He smiled and patted her on the head as she detached herself and ran up to the front door, standing on tiptoe to press the bell. Feeling certain that she would be fine, the Doctor made his way back to the TARDIS where Mel and Margaret, both of them bubbling with excitement, insisted that they go to Paradise Towers at once. With a smile, the Doctor complied. He didn't realise it would be quite some time before he saw Ivy again.
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