A/N: I like Zoe. I think she and Leela might have two of the most interesting characters in the Classic Series, and I'm thinking of making this the first of a series about her. But I also don't know if I got anyone's voices right here, so any feedback - positive or negative - on this story would really be appreciated. (I'd also like to hear any thoughts on what instrument you think Zoe might play.)
If someone had asked her before she came aboard the TARDIS, Zoe Herriot would have said she didn't much care for music. She had some memories of liking it in her early childhood, true, but childhood tastes, as she would have informed her questioner, are well-known to be malleable and indiscriminate.
If questioned about her later attitudes toward the vocal and instrumental arts, she would have explained she had never made any real study of them, perhaps adding that she couldn't really see the point.
The truth is, the curriculum and training at the Parapsychological Education Centers, while strong on facts and logic, rather left such things as music out of their equations. Zoe's exposure to music had been practically nonexistent, but it was one of the gaps in her life which she had never fully felt.
The Doctor and Jamie, however, had quickly begun to change her outlook on the subject, as on many others. On the first tour of the TARDIS Jamie gave her (the Doctor was resting at the time, recovering from the mental strain of having displayed his memories for her), the primary stops had been the kitchen, Jamie's room, the library, and the music room.
"You have a whole room for music?" she'd asked, looking through the door. It was a curious room, very large, with a vaulted ceiling and shelf-lined alcoves along the walls. She saw a grand piano at one end, with a variety of what she supposed must be more obscure (or alien?) musical instruments displayed around it.
"Och, aye," he'd said easily. "I'm a piper, ye know - and the Doctor's better with tha' recorder o' his than he lets on. 'Tis nice to have a place full o' music - there's plenty o' recordings here too, if you ever want to listen."
There were indeed "plenty," she could see - not only did it have a digital database, but all the shelves held a vast collection of physical recordings; a collection which ranged from wax-coated cylinders, to plastic discs, to irregularly-shaped metal lumps she later learned were from an alien civilization.
This was her first introduction to a facet of TARDIS life which had not even occurred to her before, and it was a facet which only grew more important to her as time went on.
On the days when they did not make a landing, she would at first spend a good deal of her time in the library; however, after the first time she went looking for the others in the music room, and found Jamie skirling away there, she began to change her habits.
Now she would often curl up on a couch that sat against the wall, bringing a book or three, but listening more than she read. The room had apparently incredible acoustics (she couldn't judge it very well herself, but Jamie had told her so), and an equally good sound system, and she had discovered that she found music very interesting.
She began a sporadic attempt to systematically familiarize herself with the various genres, though it could be difficult to navigate the huge selection. There were also various interruptions to her plans.
Sometimes, she would enter to find something already being played, even though the room was empty. Always loath to turn it off, she would usually abandon her own choices and simply listen.
And there were times she deviated from her program herself - such as the day when, browsing the fairly obscure genre of cello rock, she unexpectedly came across a song she knew. Searching her memory, she realized her father had enjoyed the genre, this group in particular. The piece was from an album she had often heard in her childhood, and she spent many hours after that chasing down similar memories.
Perhaps the most common bar to her intentions, though, were the occasions when the sound systems were simply turned off, and she would find Jamie, often with the Doctor, in the process of using the actual instruments in the room. However, these times, planned-for or not, were also some of her favorites of all spent in the music room.
It was one of the last-mentioned times now; both the Doctor and Jamie performing some sort of duet with bagpipes and recorder. (This wasn't quite a traditional combination, but far be it from those two to let that stand in their way.) Zoe was, as usual, comfortably seated with a book, but she had barely read a word since they had started.
She watched them, letting her mind be carried away by the wailing sounds. Of the music she had heard on the Wheel, none of it had been remotely like traditional Scottish bagpipes, and the first song she'd heard Jamie play had been a revelation to her.
Even beyond the wild, yearning voice of the music, though, she loved to witness her friends' skill. Jamie especially; though his instrument always left spaces for the recorder to fill in, its half-improvised song was still complex, and he played it quickly and smoothly, without hesitation. His young face was furrowed in concentration, his whole body seemingly devoted to his music, and his fingers danced, swiftly and surely bringing out the desired tones.
Zoe watched him, and though she did not know it, her expression grew wistful.
Looking back to the Doctor, she realized he had been looking at her. For an instant, there seemed to be a contemplative look in his eyes, but they changed to an affectionate twinkle as soon as they caught hers. She smiled quickly back.
After they had finished playing, while Jamie was properly storing his bagpipes, the Doctor sat down on her couch.
"What did you think of that, my dear?"
"Well, I don't know much about music, but I thought it was lovely."
"Ye dinnae know much about music?" Jamie repeated in mock astonishment from across the room. "An' here I thought ye knew e'rything about e'rything!"
She threw a pillow at him. "Very funny, Jamie. Music wasn't a subject we studied at the school I went to. It wasn't practical."
"Well, it may nae be a subject for schoolin', unless ye're goin' to be a piper or some such, but ye could still listen, couldn't ye?"
She looked away, grimacing. In the Center, if a thing wasn't studied, it didn't exist.
"Her lack of musical knowledge is actually quite normal, considering her culture, Jamie," the Doctor stepped in.
Then he clasped his hands, beaming at them both. "But if you liked that, Zoe, I know of a music festival you might both be interested in - it's in New Edinburgh, in the thirty-third century. I've heard some marvelous things about it."
"Thirty-third, eh? Well, I'll be up for anythin', after a meal and some sleep, Doctor. Jest as long as there's nae giant crab beasties at this one!"
"Giant crabs?" Zoe inquired, her curiosity piqued. "I don't think I've heard that story."
"We never told ye about the Macra? Proper nasty they were..."
And for the moment, the shortcomings of Zoe's old school was forgotten, in favor of mind-controlling aliens with poor taste in music.
A week or so later, however (after a few stops, none of which had actually involved New Edinburgh), the topic resurfaced in a new context.
Looking for the younger two, the Doctor finally found them in the music room. A concerto by Bach was nearing its end on the speakers, while Jamie was getting out his pipes. Zoe was on her couch, and had evidently been listening to the concerto while reading a book; however, the book was now forsaken, in anticipation of Jamie's playing. She was watching him assemble his instrument, and the wistful look was back on her face.
The Doctor wandered over to her, and she obligingly made room for him. He sat down, smiling gratefully at her.
"Zoe, my dear," he said suddenly, "I think you ought to learn to play something."
She blinked, startled. "What?"
"Just what I said. You ought to learn to play a musical instrument." He raised his voice. "Don't you agree, Jamie?"
"What? Oh, aye," he agreed quickly, looking up from his bagpipes. "Well - if ye want to, that is. I'm all in favor o' music, though, ye know that."
"There, you see? Jamie agrees with me."
Zoe frowned doubtfully. The thought may have crossed her mind recently, but... "Aren't I a bit old?"
"What d'ye mean 'old'? Ye're a wee bit of a lassie!"
She rolled her eyes. "Thank you, Jamie. But I've read studies about these things, and people learn to play music much better if they start when they're small children. Why, I've already graduated from school! I'm not nearly as impressionable as I ought to be to become proficient." She finished with an assured nod, sure the facts, however little she might like them, were indisputable.
The Doctor, however, merely looked surprised. "Oh my dear Zoe. No one said you had to be 'proficient' in anything, did we? I just thought it was something you might enjoy. It's never too late to get a new hobby. Why, I was centuries old when I learned to play recorder! I may not be proficient now, but I can make music after a fashion, and I certainly gain a great deal of enjoyment from it."
"Aye, you enjoy hearin' yerself..." came a mutter from across the room, clearly meant to be audible.
"Jamie! Do be quiet, you're not helping at all." The Doctor frowned in his direction, then continued.
"Now, where was I? Ah, yes. As I was about to say, before I was so rudely interrupted," he glared at Jamie again, "I think you could become quite skilled, if you chose to apply yourself now. You're certainly far younger than I - why, graduated or not, your brain hasn't even fully matured yet!
"Don't let any studies or such silliness dictate what you do, Zoe. Why, goodness gracious, that would be giving up before you even tried!"
She tilted her head, considering that. "You're right," she said after a moment. The Doctor had a way of changing her perspectives. "But...you really do think I can still learn - and be any good, I mean?"
He put a hand on her knee. "I think, my dear Zoe, that you could learn to play quite well enough to satisfy yourself, and, after all, that's the really important thing."
It was, wasn't it? "How will I go about learning, though?"
He smiled in approval at her answer. "Well, the first step is to choose an instrument, I should think. And after that, well, I'm sure I have a number of music tutorials on the TARDIS someplace, or we could stop somewhere for a while to find you a teacher. Now, how does that sound?"
She hesitated a moment longer, but all her objections seemed to have vanished. "Well, all right, then!" she said, dimpling into a smile.
The Doctor nodded happily. "I'm glad we've got that settled. Now. Do you have any ideas as to the instrument you'd like?"
"Well...I once wanted to play the violin when I was a little girl," she confessed, a long-buried memory resurfacing. "I'd have to think it over now, though. I feel I might prefer something a bit...simpler? Perhaps another stringed instrument, like a guitar, or mandolin."
"I dinnae know much about the other two," Jamie interjected, "but a fiddle's a fine instrument, I can tell ye that."
She nodded contemplatively. "I'll have to do some research, I think. Perhaps I ought to start now..."
"You go right ahead, Zoe," the Doctor agreed. "Do it in here, if you like - I'm sure Jamie's perspective on music could be useful at some points. He wouldn't mind helping at all, would you, Jamie?"
"Eh?" The young piper had grown distracted, but once he realized what had been said, he grinned agreeably. "Oh, aye, not a bit. I'll just do this one piece I was plannin' on practicin'..."
"Oh, I shan't interrupt your playing," Zoe assured him, smiling back. "I'll just wait till you're between songs to ask questions." She rose, moving to some nearby bookshelves. "Doctor," she asked, "why are there books in practically every room of the TARDIS?"
"Well, because I've got books on every subject, I suppose. This is one of the music rooms, so you see, it's got books on music. Handy, isn't it?"
"In a way," she admitted, gathering volumes as she spoke, "though it doesn't exactly make it easy when you want a specific book."
Apparently giving up on narrowing down her selection, she sat cross-legged on the floor to browse the Galactic Encyclopaedia of Music. Within a few moments, she was lost to the world.
As Jamie began to play, the Doctor leaned back and surveyed both his young friends with a smile. That wistful look was finally gone from Zoe's face, replaced by one of enthusiastic concentration, and he rather thought that it would stay that way.