|Four Times Melanie Jane Bush Didn't Give Up, and One Time She Very Nearly Did
||[Mar. 1st, 2009|10:20 pm]
Melanie Bush Fans
Title: Four Times Melanie Jane Bush Didn't Give Up, and One Time She Very Nearly Did|
Characters: Mel, Six, Mel's parents and friends
Word Count: 3,500
Summary: She's a Bush, and Bushes never give up.
A/N: This was inspired by Mel's speech in The One Doctor. While it was a hilarious scene, I thought it said a lot about Mel as a character.
Also, this contains very slight spoilers for that, and rather larger spoilers for Catch-1782.
'Listen - the last thing Melanie Jane Bush is going to do is give up.'
'It's hopeless! You said it yourself!'
'Listen, I used to live in a small town called Pease Pottage. Every year my mum and dad organised a Christmas show for local pensioners in the church hall. We lived in a big house about seven miles from the town. That year, the snow fell eight feet deep - there was no way for us to drive in! Everybody else gave up, but not my mum and dad, and not me. 'We're Bushes,' said my mum, 'and we're made of stronger stuff! Those old folks are relying on us!' So, we put on our wellies, jumpers and sou'westers, packed a steaming thermos, hoisted our bags and boxes of costumes and props, and we strode off into the deep snow, setting our faces against the biting wind. And that was hard, and the road was long, but we made it to the church hall, and we gave that show! So don't talk to me about giving up - because I'm a Bush, and Bushes never do!'
'Did the pensioners enjoy their show?'
'No, none of them turned up.'
-from The One Doctor
Ten Years Old
'Come on, Melanie!' her father said, encouragingly, turning to look at her struggling though a snowdrift. 'Nearly there now, eh?'
'You said that hours ago!' she protested. 'Why can't we go home?'
'Do you really need to ask that, Melanie?' said her mother.
The child shook her head. 'No.'
And she was quiet then. It was hard going for such a little girl - she was small for her age and her boots were heavy, the wind was cold, and the snow was deeper than she was tall in places. Her father picked her up and carried her sometimes, for a little while, but then he would put her down again. She knew it was because she had to learn to do things for herself, and not put people out.
Melanie had almost forgotten why they were trudging through the snow when they arrived at last at the church hall. Her parents bundled her inside, and started taking out their costumes and props and bits and pieces. Melanie pulled off her mittens and wiggled her fingers experimentally. She couldn't exactly feel them, but they still moved a bit. She blew on them, even though her breath was still cold enough to be visible.
'Come on, Melanie!' said her mother. 'Only half an hour until the show! People will be arriving soon! Into your costume, there's a good girl!'
Melanie sighed, and started to take off her outdoor things, as quickly as she could with stiff, cold fingers, struggling with zips and buttons. Her costume, a blue party dress, was warm from being in the middle of the bundle of clothes, and she pulled it on as quickly as she could. Her mother helped with the buttons, because they were at the back, and her shoes were slip-ons, so not too difficult. By the time she was dressed, her fingers were beginning to sting and pulse with the blood returning to them, and her father gave her a bit of soup from his thermos to warm her through.
Melanie could tell the time, but she didn't have a watch, and so it was a while before she realised that nobody was coming.
'They're probably delayed,' said her father. 'It is a snowy night, it would take them a while.'
He and her mother carried on unconcernedly setting everything up - arranging the props, getting out the chairs for the audience. Melanie waited patiently, looking through the window into the darkness outside.
'What if they're not coming at all?' she asked.
'Now, Melanie, that's not an optimistic attitude, is it?' her mother asked.
'No,' said Melanie.
'What would the world come to if we all went around expecting the worst?' her father added.
Melanie shrugged, and sat on the edge of the little stage, pulling her legs up to her chest to rest her chin on her knees. It was a little while after that, that her father said:
'Well... we should get started.'
Melanie looked at him incredulously. 'We're going to do it anyway?'
'Well, call it a dress rehearsal. For when they get here.'
So they did the show, to the empty room. Mel tried to smile when she was told to.
'We might as well go home, then,' said her father, afterwards.
Melanie stared at him. 'What - walk all that way, again? In the dark?' her voice quavered a little, and she frowned, cross with herself.
'No other way, Melanie.'
'Well, I won't!' she said, shocked at her own daring, but too tired and upset to care. 'I'm only just warm again from the last time!'
Her parents looked at her, bemused.
'This is most unlike you, Melanie,' said her mother. 'You're usually such a good girl.'
'I don't care!' Melanie said. 'I'm not going out again in the snow, and that's that!'
'We can't just stay, someone has to go home and feed the dogs,' her father said, sensibly.
'You can go, then!' she said. 'I'll stay here by myself.'
'Don't be ridiculous,' said her mother. She frowned at Melanie, thoughtful. 'I suppose you could stay with Mrs Lewis,' she said. 'Her house is only around the corner, I'm sure she wouldn't mind.'
Mrs Lewis, the headmistress at the village school, looked surprised to see Melanie and her mother on her doorstep in what was rapidly becoming the late evening, but when the situation was explained, she was happy to take Melanie in for the night.
Her house was warm, and there was cocoa to drink, and jam sandwiches to eat, and she even let Melanie have her hot water bottle, saying that she probably deserved it. She was very nice, all in all, and the little spare bedroom where Melanie lay down to sleep was perfectly pleasant. She had got what she wanted - she wasn't trudging home in the snow, she was indoors in the warm, well fed and taken care of.
Still, once she was sure that Mrs Lewis was downstairs again, she cried until her pillow was soaked.
Fourteen Years Old
'Girls can't be in the computer club,' Nick said, as the three of them made their way across the playground, eating their Curly Wurlies.
'It's nothing personal,' Gary hastened to add. 'I read it in a book. Girls' brains are different.'
'Not everything you read in books is true, you know,' said Mel. 'I bet I could be just as good at computers as you two. Better.'
Nick snorted, and Mel and Gary both frowned at him.
'It's not that you wouldn't be good,' Gary said. 'It's just... well...'
He trailed off, and Mel sighed.
Mr Frost was even less helpful.
'I'm sure you can see why it wouldn't be a good idea, Melanie,' he said.
She shook her head. 'No, I can't, actually.'
'Look... why don't you go to cookery club instead? That would be useful, wouldn't it, for when you start your Home Ec O-Level in the autumn? And you'd be in with all the girls, then - wouldn't you be much happier that way?'
'The other girls don't like me, and I don't like them. And anyway, that's not what's important. I want to learn about computers. Why shouldn't I?'
He sighed. 'Melanie... it's not that you shouldn't, I just... look, I don't think you could keep up, all right? And I wouldn't want to see you upset.'
She stared at him for a few moments, wordlessly, and then turned and left the room.
The school library had a few books about computers, but they didn't go into very much detail, so she visited the town library too, and once she had finished all of the books there, she got on the bus to Brighton. She sat in the library for hours, reading, learning, remembering. She had still never really seen a computer up close, not properly, but she imagined as she read what it would be like, studying the diagrams carefully, drawing them out again to make sure she had every detail. But still, she had to see one, had to know that she would know what to do.
Once she had managed to get inside the School of Computing at the university, it was surprisingly easy to find a couple of students with time on their hands to show her around. They started her off on an Altair 8800, the same as the one the computer club had, and she was pleased to find that she could use it right away - everything she had read came back to her so easily, it was as if she had been using it all her life. The students were astonished. They quizzed her, the questions getting more and more difficult, and she answered them all right away. And they seemed impressed - they didn't laugh at her or talk to her funny like people at school did. This was something she could enjoy being good at.
They couldn't keep her out of the computer club after that. Not once she'd stormed in, reeled off a summary of everything she knew, and shown them a few tricks that even Mr Frost hadn't learned yet. The boys had looked at her with new respect, and Mr Frost had to admit that her keeping up wasn't a problem. It was them who would have to keep up with her.
Twenty-three Years Old
'Can't be done,' insisted the Doctor. 'Not by a human, anyway.'
'Just because it hasn't been done,' said Mel, 'doesn't mean that it can't be.'
'I'm telling you, you can't,' said the Doctor.
It was a week or two after they had met, and they were bobbing around in space for a few hours while the Doctor waited for some technological bits and pieces to restart themselves, or something. They couldn't go anywhere - it was the TARDIS equivalent of a rainy day, and so Mel had suggested they play a game.
The Doctor had assumed that a chess match or something might fit the bill, and so he had been a little surprised when Mel suggested hide and seek.
'It'll be a great way for me to get to know the TARDIS,' she had said. 'I've hardly had a chance to explore yet, what with all the dashing around.'
'Melanie,' he had explained, patiently, 'You wouldn't enjoy it. There would be no way for you to win. Not only is the TARDIS vast and incredibly complicated, it can't be mapped in any conventional way. Now, I have instincts that allow me to navigate her labyrinthine passageways with ease, but I think it's probably safer if you stick to the few rooms I've shown you.'
'Oh, really?' she had said, and the argument had continued for quite some time, until eventually he gave in, purely so that she would get lost, and understand why it was such a bad idea.
And so she wandered the corridors, alert but unconcerned. Navigation held no fears for her - she could remember in detail everywhere she had been, every landmark she passed, and exactly how it fitted in with everything else. As she walked, briskly, and in a logical pattern that allowed her to see the most of the TARDIS in the least time, it was as if a little map in her head was growing with every step.
And then she came to a corridor she had seen before, that should have been far behind her, and the map jumped and twisted, but wouldn't come out right.
'This doesn't make any sense...' she said, aloud, frowning.
She carried on for a few moments, to see whether the corridor led to where it had before. It did in one direction, but not in the other. It was most annoying. She stood for a few moments, thinking, and then carried on walking.
It was more than an hour later when she walked in on the Doctor, sitting in what seemed to be a miniature water garden, sitting on a sun-lounger and reading a paperback.
'Found you,' she said, smugly.
He jumped. 'Mel! But... you didn't... last time I checked on you, you were miles away, and going in the wrong direction! I thought you'd have given up and called for help by now!'
'I'm a Bush, and Bushes don't give up,' she told him. 'Oh, the thing with the rooms changing positions was a little bit of a challenge at first, but once I worked out the pattern, it was...'
'There's a pattern?' he interrupted.
'Oh, yes. Quite a complex one, I had to do some calculations, but I got there in the end.'
'Yes, well...I... well done. I'm very impressed.'
'Thank you!' she smiled, and looked at him. 'So?'
'It's your turn to seek!'
Twenty... Something Years Old?
Mel had lost count, over her time with the Doctor, of exactly how old she was. There was no day and night in the TARDIS, not really, and whenever they went somewhere there was day and night, they were invariably much too busy to be counting how fast they were ageing.
Like now, for example. It hardly mattered how old you were getting when you were pretty certain that you were going to stop it, very suddenly, in the next couple of minutes at the most.
It was ridiculous, really, Mel thought, in a funny, detached sort of way, even as she screamed until her throat hurt. Here she was, tied down to a conveyer belt with a big saw contraption at the end that was very shortly going to slice her in half. It was like something out of a James Bond film. What a way to go.
Still, she was a Bush, and Bushes never gave up, so she struggled gamely against her bonds, and screamed all the louder. If the Doctor was anywhere within a mile radius he would hear her, and she wasn't proud about being rescued. Rocking from side to side seemed to be loosening the ropes holding her down, so she redoubled her efforts in that direction, until they were loose enough that she could move her hands, still tied together, down to her pocket. The saw buzzed ever nearer, and she stopped screaming to concentrate at the task at hand, dragging everything she could out of her pocket until she reached her penknife. She hacked urgently at the ropes holding her down, and managed to slice them apart and roll off the conveyor belt onto the floor just as the saw was about to nick her toes.
The Doctor dashed in, seconds later, to find her sitting on the floor, quite calm, untangling rope from around her ankles as behind her the saw sliced merrily through the air.
'You took your time,' she said, a little hoarsely, looking up at him.
'Mel, I'm sorry...' he began, reaching down to help her up.
'Oh, it's all right,' she smiled, cheerily. 'You always come for me in the end.'
Shortly After Their Return From 1782
'Oh, why can't you follow them on your own?' Mel snapped, storming into the kitchen, and beginning to slam cupboard doors.
The Doctor followed her. 'Well, of course I can go by myself if you like,' he said, 'but I thought the challenge would do you good! You know, cheer you up after your... Sarah Jane used to have these moods sometimes, and the best thing for her was always to just get straight into the next adventure!'
'Well, bully for Sarah Jane!' Mel said, turning the tap on too forcefully and spraying both herself and the Doctor. 'But I don't want to! I don't want to go anywhere or see anybody. I just want everyone to leave me alone!'
The Doctor approached her nervously and attempted a soothing noise and a pat of the hand. 'Irritability is one of the side-effects of laudanum withdrawal,' he said. 'I'm sure you'll feel much more like your old self soon.'
'Irritable?' Mel cried. 'Irritable?!'
The Doctor took a step backwards.
'Wouldn't you be irritable,' Mel continued, beginning to pace the kitchen, 'if you'd been dragged through time and couldn't even remember your own name? Wouldn't you be irritable if you'd been locked up in the same room for six months, six months of being told you were crazy, six months of not knowing what was real, of missing places you weren't sure you'd ever been, of waiting and waiting for your friend to come and find you, and every day losing a little bit more hope, doubting yourself a little bit more, until you started to believe that maybe you were crazy - until you even started to wish a little bit that you were dead?'
She stopped and stared wildly at the Doctor, who stood open-mouthed. 'Well, wouldn't you?!' she demanded.
'Oh, Mel,' he said, sadly, 'I'm so, so sorry.'
Suddenly, there were tears rolling down her face. She made no move to wipe them away, and just stood there, shoulders shaking with sobs. The Doctor felt a bit of a cad for being somewhat relieved - Mel shouting at him was unheard-of, and confusing. Mel crying, he knew how to deal with. Perhaps the worst was over, then.
He went over and wrapped her in an enveloping hug, and she held on tight and sobbed into his jacket. He stroked her hair, and felt almost like crying himself.
After a minute, she pulled away, drying her eyes, her expression serious.
'Doctor, I've had enough,' she announced.
He looked at her. 'Yes, I suppose it's been a bit of a long day. I'm sorry, Mel, we can follow the smugglers tomorrow.'
'No, you don't understand, Doctor. I've had enough. Of all this. I want you to take me home, please. Back to Pease Pottage.'
He stopped, and stared at her. 'But... but Mel, you love travelling with me!'
She looked down, not meeting his eyes. 'Of course I do - it isn't your fault. I'm just not sure that I can do it any more. Not after everything that happened. I don't feel like the same person now.'
'Oh, Mel... is there anything I can...'
'No,' she shook her head. 'Just take me home. Now, please.'
She went to pack her things while he set the controls for Pease Pottage, and within half an hour, they were saying their goodbyes.
'I'm so sorry,' he said, for the umpteenth time.
'Don't be,' she said. 'I had a wonderful time travelling with you, Doctor. It was worth it.' She paused, listening to the sound of the TARDIS. 'We've landed, haven't we?'
'Well...' she shrugged. 'Goodbye.'
They shared one last hug.
'Goodbye, Mel,' he said, watching sadly as she pulled the lever to open the door, and headed for the threshold.
She paused at the door, one foot still inside the TARDIS, the other planted firmly in the world she had grown up in. She looked out. It was all just the same as it had been. The sun was shining. There were birds singing. Her parents' house, her childhood home, was a ten-minute walk away. This was where she was safe. This was where she didn't have to worry, or be afraid, or run away.
She stood there for several minutes, just looking, and finally she stepped back inside the TARDIS, put her bag back down on the floor of the console room and closed the door.
'I'll give it a week or two for starters, see how I go,' she said to the Doctor, who was watching her, holding his breath.
He nodded. 'All right. Whatever you want.'
'And I might still be irritable. And I might cry more.'
'Whatever you need. I'll be here.'
'I don't know if I can, do it, Doctor... but I don't know if I can give it up, either. In the meantime... let's get back on the trail of those smugglers, shall we?'
She picked up her bag to take it back to her room, and the Doctor set the controls.
(x-posted to bonnielangford)