“Oh, I’m still the same old Doctor underneath, the Doctor said airily. “May I come in?”
Mike was about to step back and pull the door wide when he paused. “How do I know you’re the Doctor? How do I know you’re not trying to trick me?”
The Doctor blinked. “Why would I want to do that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe you want to get to the real Doctor through me. You could by the Master for all I know.”
The Doctor flinched and his voice became a little high-pitched with indignation. “Please! I’ve never been so insulted.”
“I’m sorry,” said Mike, “It’s just… you’re so different. You don’t seem as…”
Mike shrugged embarrassedly. “You said it.”
“Yes, well,” said the Doctor, nonplussed, “when one matures, one irons out these little foibles.”
“Matures?” said Mike. “But you look so much younger!”
“Appearances can be deceptive, you know.”
“My point exactly,” said Mike, triumphantly.
The Doctor sighed. “The thing about regeneration is that it’s something of a lottery. But whatever I look like, I’m still fundamentally the same underneath. How can I convince you of that?”
Before Mike could reply, the Doctor’s eyes widened. “What date is it?” he asked.
Puzzled, Mike told him.
The Doctor gazed into the middle distance as if looking through time. “So you’ve not been back on active duty for long. You’ve been recovering from the events at Llanfairfach.”
Mike frowned. “Go on.”
The Doctor snapped out of his semi-trance. “How are you feeling now, Mike?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
The Doctor looked at him strangely, reached out and patted him on the forearm. “You’re a good man, Mike. I’ve always thought so.”
Just as he was about to disappear into the strange eye-defying darkness beyond the doors, Mike stepped forward and took hold of his arm. “Doctor?”
The Doctor looked back, blond hair swishing. “Yes?”
Mike suddenly realised he wasn’t sure what to say. “I just… thanks for your help, Doctor.”
“Thanks for yours,” the Doctor said. An odd, unreadable expression flitted across his eyes, and just for a moment Mike had the impression that he was about to say something momentous or significant. Then abruptly the Doctor said, “Goodbye,” and, before Mike could respond, stepped smartly in to the TARDIS, slamming the door behind him.
Deep Blue by Mark Morris
(This book is full of tiny terrible moments, when you think about when this is in happening in Mike’s timeline. The Doctor knows Mike’s been fucked up since Llanfairfach (i.e. The Green Death). He knows that Mike’s been feeling depressed and worthless, that the Brig has forced him to take some leave, and the Doctor knows that he wasn’t there for him. He knows that, as soon as Mike gets back to London, he’ll be approached by the people from Operation Golden Age, that his mental state will continue to worsen, that he’ll be brainwashed (again) and manipulated until he’s discovered and forced to leave UNIT and all the people he knows and cares about in the world. But, of course, he can’t say a word, because he can’t change the timeline. And Mike’s in a bad way, suspicious of the people around him, pretending everything is fine, and MARK MORRIS I LOVE YOU).