It was worrisome, the way the TARDIS wouldn't tell him where she was headed, but there was no way he'd
let Rose know that. The way he saw it, the old girl knew what she was doing so that would have to suffice.
Besides, as long as Rose didn't ask where are we going? he wouldn't really have to admit that he
had no idea.
So really, it was a good thing that the blonde had gone to her room to 'freshen up;' it would be at least an hour before she emerged again, likely to shower as well, maybe give him a bit of time alone. Hopefully by that point he might have half a clue where the TARDIS was swanning off to.
"What are you trying to tell me?" he asked, the only response the soft mental purr of his ship. "Why so secretive?"
The same response, meant to reassure that the TARDIS knew what she was doing, did little more than to further confuse the Doctor. For half a microsecond he was tempted to try and force a landing; that thought vanished with the realization that she would throw sparks at him and probably set his tie on fire if he even attempted it. When the TARDIS got like this it was generally easiest - and safest - to let her do as she pleased.
"All right, old girl," her murmured, patting the console lightly. "Your choice for this trip." The TARDIS trilled softly in reply and the Doctor sank into the captain's chair. Propping his feet up, he tilted his head back and closed his eyes.
Had it really been just a few hours ago that they'd escaped from the Bitter Pill? Time did indeed flow differently in the vortex, neither forward nor back very quickly, but it felt as if days had gone by. What especially weighed down his mind were thoughts of the one he'd had no choice but to leave behind.
The Doctor had never loved easily, and rarely did he love deeply. There were only three who could claim to have held his hearts: Romanadvoratrelundar after her regeneration (and the name was such a mouthful that 'Romana' was preferable even if she'd personally picked 'Fred'), Rose Tyler... and Jack Harkness.
That had been a bit of a surprise, even to him. After the Time War he had made a vow to himself to never let anyone - be they a human friend from a previous regeneration, a new acquaintance, or a Companion - get close to him than arms' length. But Rose had managed to find the cracks in his defenses and slid into his hearts as if she had always been there, and Jack had torn them away completely with his more subtle advances... small things like helping with repairs to the TARDIS and watching out for Rose in potentially dangerous situations and mild flirtation whenever the Doctor gave him an opening.
And now Jack was gone, leaving a ragged bleeding hole where he had once been.
The man had somehow managed to ingrain his presence into every inch of the TARDIS, every moment of the Doctor's daily life, and he wondered how he had managed to keep his grief a secret from Rose for so long. That was part of why he had carefully packed away the clothing he'd worn in his previous regeneration; even the leather itself reminded him of the only male he had ever loved, and it served only to pain him further.
He was pulled out of his thoughts when the TARDIS let out a trill and fell abruptly silent, although he could practically feel her buzzing joyfully in the back of his mind. It was also quite obvious, after he gathered himself once more, that they had arrived at whatever destination she had decided upon... and she still wasn't giving him any answers.
"Come on, love, give me at least a hint!" he grumbled, resisting the urge to kick the console when the TARDIS' only reply was to chirp in a manner that meant I know something you don't know.
Of course, that was about the moment Rose came running into the console room. (She would later inform the Doctor that the TARDIS had thrown her door open and clicked at her until she finally started his way.) The blonde slid to a stop, both hands on the rail, and took several deep breaths before attempting speech.
"We've stopped?" It came out as a question, and when the Doctor nodded she added, "Why have we stopped?"
The Doctor waved one hand to the main console and blurted out, "Ask her," before he could stop to collect his thoughts. He looked at the monitor which was finally displaying their location and frowned, muttering under his breath in Gallifreyan. When he looked back on the moment later he would once again be glad that the TARDIS refrained from translating his native tongue; his Companions really didn't need to know some of what came out of his mouth at times.
"Where have we landed this time, then?" Rose asked with a little frown of her own.
"The solar system. Earth. Great Britain. Wales. Cardiff. The year 2008." And he was rather cross to be in Cardiff; he really wasn't ready to travel anywhere he - they had gone with Jack just yet. At his Companion's stunned expression he couldn't help but add, "Local time: six-twelve in the evening. Chance of late showers."
Rose rolled her eyes and gave him a sad smile. "The TARDIS probably decided she needed to refuel what with the daring escape earlier and all," she offered, and the idea made sense. "Plus, she probably misses Jack, too."
The TARDIS trilled once as if in agreement, but the Doctor was almost positive that there was a smug note to the sound as well.
"It's possible," he conceded, standing up straight and brushing invisible lint from his sleeves. "At any rate, we're not going anywhere until the TARDIS is ready to leave, it's nearly supper time, and that little café down by the bay has fantastic chips. What do you say?"
Before Rose could even begin to reply, there was a faint sound by the door of the TARDIS. Granted, on rare occasion people did express some level of curiosity when they arrived somewhere, but the Doctor could quite honestly say that he'd never heard anyone messing with the lock itself before. His initial instinct was to step in front of Rose, which was closely followed by the instinct to ask the question that slipped out:
"Do you have your key on you?"
She once again rolled her eyes as she pulled said key out from beneath her shirt to show him. "Never take it off except to shower," she reminded him. "And you always have yours."
"And I somehow find it hard to believe that Mickey found a way back from the Other Earth just to pick my locks," the Doctor remarked dryly.
"Who else has a key?"
"Sarah Jane, but she would at least call first since I gave her the number. Susan had a key, but she's a good two centuries ahead of where we are now and she's probably a bit cross with me anyway. Ace might, wherever it is that she swanned off to. And the two of us, at least that's all the living," he concluded.
"So," the blonde asked, "if it's not one of them and it's definitely not us, then who--"
Her words were abruptly cut off by the opening door and a startlingly familiar voice that caused both time travelers to whirl around in shock:
"What's a guy got to do to get someone to notice him around here?"
31 May 2007
A second section of Changes up and looking great. Here's hoping you enjoy it. Please let us know what you think -- and part three should be out soon!