Chapter Twenty Two

Ten looked around when they went inside the restaurant. The majority of the front section was taken up by arcade games, an air hockey table, a basketball game, crane games and a skee ball game at the back. To the right by the door was a young woman sitting behind a glass display case that had little trinkets and toys inside with cards beside them listing the number of skee ball tickets it would take to claim them. On the wall behind her were more plushies and bigger prizes. Near the back was a window and counter where people lined up to order pizza and other food and get game tokens and beyond that was a doorway to another room. Every once in awhile, a number was called and someone came from the back to claim their finished food. The room was filled with the sound of video game noises, chatting and laughter. He put his hands in his trouser pockets while he scanned the room.

Meanwhile, Michelle was standing by her mother while they waited behind another family to get their pizza order. Michelle was staring at Ten across the room.

"He looks very lonely, Mommy," Michelle said to her mother.

"Who does, honey?"

"Other Doctor," Michelle said, pointing to him.

Lori looked at him and noticed he was now looking at an arcade game near the door.

"I think he's scared to die, Mommy," Michelle said. "I think he's sad that he made me cry too."

"Well, honey, I don't pretend to know everything about him but if he's the other Doctor's past self and he doesn't regenerate, the other Doctor won't come into being," Lori said as delicately as he could.

"That's what they were talking about downstairs. He's trying to run away from it," Michelle said, pointing to Ten.

"Well, why don't you go and cheer him up and I'll get the pizza order. You want pepperoni, right?"

"Mm-hm," Michelle said before giving her mother a kiss.

Lori smiled while she watched her daughter walk towards Ten who was now wandering off into the maze of arcade games.

Ten stopped and examined another unmanned game, watching while two Asian fighters battled each other in the demonstration mode.

"Hey, old man, you're not getting away that easy."

Ten grinned and looked over his shoulder when Michelle walked up to him.

"Old man, is it?" he said while Michelle came up to his side.

"You said you were an old man when you were a prisoner."

"And I'm an old man still," Ten said. "Just with a youthful body."

"Mommy is getting pepperoni pizza and a sausage and a cheese one and bread sticks and mozzarella sticks and Coke. And getting a cake for me."

"Maybe I die of a massive coronary blockage from all the food and that's why I regenerate," Ten mused. "Maybe the four knocks means that someone will knock on the door and tell me to stop eating before I keel over. Ah well, at least I'll die happy and filled with food. Pepperoni pizza sounds delicious."

"Are you sure you're okay?" Michelle said, taking his hand.

"Have you ever had to do something you didn't want to do, something that scared you but you had to do it anyway?"

Michelle nodded.

"I had to get up and speak in front of the school one time and read a poem. I was scared."

"But you did it anyway?"

Michelle nodded.

"Well, it's the same with this regeneration business. I have to do it but at my age it scares me because I like who I am. The other me seems okay but he's not me and I really don't fancy being him," Ten said, kneeling down. "You see what I mean? It's just weighing heavily on my mind, love. But I'm trying not to let it upset you. This is your night and you need to be a child and have fun and not worry about a geriatric alien, yeah? I'm not going to die tonight, I promise."

"Well, if I'm gonna have fun then you have to have fun too," Michelle said sternly. "You need happiness if that's gonna happen and you're gonna have it, by God!"

Ten chuckled and saluted her.

"Yes, Ma'am," he said gruffly.

"I'm not a mom, I'm a little kid."

"No, I said Ma'am," he said, pronouncing it like Americans do. It's just pronounced like mum when the Brits say it."

"Ooo, okay. Well, you come then, Sir, and have some pizza."

"Yes, Ma'am," he said, using the British pronunciation.

Michelle laughed and Ten smiled when she took his hand and led him back to the others.

When they got into the darkened room, they managed to find a long table near the front where the stage was. They had brought in a few pitchers filled with Coke and they were sipping glasses of that while they waited for their number to be called over the intercom system. There was a heavy red curtain over the stage and no show so far, so Tom slipped out of his seat near the front of the table and walked back to Eleven who was sitting near the back with River. Eleven smiled at him while he stood between him and River, rested his arms on the table and listened while he talked to Sarah Jane and Martha across the table. Beside him Jack was talking to Ten and Lori who were across the table from him. Jim, beside him, was talking to Dan and Ruth and Alicia and Tom and the children were on the end. When the show started, the lights went out and the curtains parted, Tom walked back to his chair and the adults continued talking while the children watched the show.

"I told the staff about Shelly's birthday," Lori said to Ten and Jack. "So they'll probably announce it from the stage. She gets a big thrill when they do that."

Sure enough, two minutes later, Michelle's name was announced with three other children and Michelle squealed with delight. Then Chuck-E-Cheese and his band sang a special birthday song for them. By this time, their number had been announced over the intercom so most of the adults got up to help bring in the food. Ten was about to get up but Lori asked him if he would keep the children company and squeezed his shoulder when he agreed. The other adults left and he watched the show with the children. The animatronic characters were singing silly songs and he thought it was cute, although he preferred a nice Italian restaurant in Italy to this. Still, the children were having fun and that was good enough for him. The show stopped a moment before everyone came back in and the lights went on again. Ten sipped his Coke but he paused when his eyes caught sight of someone sitting alone near the back of the room. She was young but she had long white hair that was in stark contrast to her white skin. Ten lowered his glass and observed her, feeling there was something a bit off about the woman. He looked over at everyone when they entered with the food and the children got up to get some. Ten glanced over at the woman and discreetly signaled his older self when Eleven sat some plates and silverware down on the table.

"Yeah?" he said, leaning in to Ten.

"That woman over there," Ten said, pointing her out. "Do you get a sense of something not being right about her?"

Michelle was taking a plate but her ears caught that and she quickly took her silverware and walked over to them, interested in what was going on. She looked up at Eleven who was quickly looking over at the woman and she followed his gaze. She looked at Eleven who had a deep frown on his face.

"What's wrong?" Michelle said to Ten.

"There's something off about that woman over there," Ten said softly to her while he pointed her out.

Michelle took her plate and silverware over to her seat while she observed the woman. She had long, white hair that she thought was beautiful but other than that, she didn't see anything weird about her. She took up her plate and noticed by now that Ten was whispering to Jack and pointing out the woman to her. Michelle wondered if something amazing would happen tonight and there was an adventure brewing while she went to get her food from her mother.

"Mommy," Michelle said softly to Lori when it was her turn to get her food. "The Doctors say there's something wrong with this woman over there, she's got white hair and they don't like the looks of her."

Lori looked over her shoulder and found the woman in question. She turned her head back around.

"Her hair's a bit white for her age but other than that, I don't see anything wrong with her. Why? What do they say she is?"

"I don't know but I'm gonna ask," Michelle said.

She took her food and walked over to Ten and Eleven and Jack.

"What's going on?" Michelle asked Eleven. "How come you're worried about that woman."

"Because we think she's an alien in disguise," Eleven said softly to her.

Michelle did a double take and looked at the woman again. She was sipping a mug of coffee but doing nothing else.

"Is she bad?" Michelle said to Eleven.

"Dunno but we wanna find out," Eleven said softly. "Go ahead and eat though, we're not going yet."

"Take me with you when you find out," Michelle said softly.

"We will but you have to be careful just in case she is dangerous," Ten said softly to her.

"Okay," Michelle said eagerly.

Eleven patted her head, wished her happy birthday and the three men rose to get their food while Michelle hurried back to her seat.

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