Doctor Who

They didn’t, in fact, get back to the TARDIS straight after breakfast. Even The Doctor, who could have strange blind spots to human feelings at times, realised that Jackie and Rose needed a bit of time to adjust after the trauma of the past few days. He suffered lunch, tea and supper in domestic limbo, itching to be back among the stars and as far away from the Lamb and Flag as he could get. Over supper Jackie was something like her old self, fussing over the fact that he was only ninety-nine percent sure that the TARDIS was functioning properly after he had used its parts to shift them from one universe to another.

Since that was something it was not even supposed to do, he was not entirely sure either..

“So you don’t even know if it's safe?” Jackie asked. “It might disappear and not appear again and where would you be?”

“I don’t know where I’d be,” The Doctor said. “THAT’S the point.”

“And it’s YOUR risk. But must Rose go with you?”

“YES.” Rose insisted. “I can’t stay here and maybe never see him again and not even knowing why. If there is a risk, I’ll share it with him.”

The Doctor smiled with satisfaction. She trusted him so implicitly, believed in him so completely. More, he thought, than ANY of his companions before. He could take the TARDIS to the heart of a volcano or expose them to the vacuum of space but she would willingly go with him. Among the many reasons he loved her was that unshakeable faith in him. It restored his faith in himself. He knew he made mistakes. He knew he was not invincible. But she made him think he could be.

“You could come along too, if you’re worried,” he told Jackie, though it was a trick card he dealt and he hoped it would play right.

It did.

“No thanks,” she said sharply. “I’ve had enough of the TARDIS to last me a lifetime.”

She at least came down with them to the yard and said goodbye without too much protest. She hugged Rose tightly and made her promise to phone from wherever they might be. Then, to his utter confusion she put her arms around The Doctor and hugged him, too.

“In case… I just want to say… I think you ARE a good man. I don’t think you’re a monster or a… well... you know what I mean. I just DON’T think you’re the right man for my daughter. So you just take care of her for me, and take care of yourself for Susan and those smashing kids of hers. And maybe I’ll start to trust you.”

“That’s a deal I can live with, Jackie,” he said gently. Then he and Rose went into the TARDIS and he shut the door.

“There IS a remote possibility that the TARDIS could blow us to atoms if I’ve put a single wire back wrong,” he told Rose as he went to the console and prepared for dematerialisation into temporal orbit.

“Yes,” she said. “I know that.” She slipped her hand in his and squeezed tightly. “We’re together – no matter what.”

Being blasted to atoms with her would be worth it, The Doctor thought. He pulled the switch and they heard the welcome sound of the TARDIS dematerialising. Rose looked at the viewscreen and saw her mother standing outside in the yard for a moment, and then they were in temporal orbit above Earth. She breathed out. The Doctor laughed.

“I thought you had faith in me.”

“YOU were scared, too,” she countered. “I could feel it.”

“No, that’s just indigestion,” The Doctor said, determined not to admit that he doubted either himself or the TARDIS for a moment. He set co-ordinates for a slow ‘impulse drive’ journey to the edge of the solar system. They could decide where they wanted to go later. “You know, Time Lords only EAT once a day, and our days are twenty-six hours long. Earth habits play havoc with my metabolism.”

“I didn’t know that. But I’ll still love you if you get fat,” she countered.

“That’s nice to know, but one of these days I ought to try getting back to some of the physical discipline I used to have. You know, the TARDIS USED to have a fully functioning dojo for practising five different forms of martial arts. I practiced daily. I am SO unfit now.”

“Why doesn’t it have it now?”

“Because I don’t use it. The TARDIS saves itself the trouble of having unused space by shutting down redundant rooms. If we want or need something it’s there, but if we’re not going to use it….”

“I don’t use my bedroom,” Rose said. “But that stays there.”

“The bedroom is necessary for you to feel at home here on board the TARDIS,” The Doctor explained. “Even if you don’t use it, it's there for you if you ever do.”

“So if I wanted….” Rose looked at the concealed door that led to the ‘other’ parts of the TARDIS, which could, she now learned, be as fluid as the imagination. She went to it and pressed the panel that opened the door.

The Doctor followed her, wondering exactly WHAT her imagination had created. The psychic connection between him and the TARDIS told him something HAD been created. But the TARDIS WAS female and it liked to play female mind games with him. It was conspiring with Rose against him.

The parts of the TARDIS beyond the console room had ALWAYS had the stamp of his human companions on them much more than himself, but even more so since Rose arrived. Her personality seemed so much more in tune with the TARDIS environment. The kitchen and bedroom resembling a London council flat were just the tip of the iceberg. Of course, the bathroom had ALWAYS been a feminine domain as long as he’d had female companions. But Rose seemed to make it more so. And HE never put the coke machine in the corridor next to the generator room, but Rose used it all the time for onboard refreshments. It wasn’t conscious on her part. The TARDIS had simply responded to her needs.

But this! He stared at the room she brought him into and wondered yet again WHOSE TARDIS it was these days.

Or at least whose side it was on.

“THIS is what you think we need on board?” He turned to Rose who was standing there smiling widely. He looked around again at the recreation of a late 1990s school gym decorated and lit for a dance. The lights blinked on and off in time to some piece of mildly irritating though probably harmless Brit-pop of that era.

“I used to like dancing,” she said.

“Well, ok.” The Doctor said. “But if you want me to dance with you, we need to refine this a little.” He surprised himself when he changed the scene around them with one wave of his arm. The school gym turned into a night club with subtle light falling on the dance floor and soft rock music playing. As the opening bars of a familiar tune began The Doctor reached out and took Rose’s hand as they stepped onto the floor. He held her close to him as they slow danced to Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings.

Yes, Rose thought, this was better. She couldn’t really remember TRULY enjoying any school dance. The boys she went with were unromantic and clumsy and really not interested in dancing with her, only getting her to go out to the cloakroom with them.

THIS was what she had dreamt of - dancing in the arms of a handsome man whose mind was on dancing with her at that moment and not on any possible ‘action’ when the dance was over. Ironically, if The Doctor HAD wanted that, she would have been putty in his hands. But she knew he NEVER would. He would dance with her, and she knew that in the far future where Jack came from dancing was a metaphor for something entirely different. But here, in his arms, it was just dancing, just tender romance with no strings attached and no obligation.

When Bette Midler was done the music slid into another soft romantic song from the twenty years of earth culture she had grown up in. And from that to a slightly more upbeat one in which he held her by one hand and swung her round breathlessly. Then she laughed as he snapped his fingers and the music changed to The Time Warp from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Could there be a more ironic and more appropriate song to dance to while a time and space ship gently slid through the solar system on autopilot. They both laughed at the joke as they danced together. Then he held her close again and he was her romantic lead as he whirled her about the floor. The TARDIS was the DJ. It played the songs they thought of, and for an hour or more they lost themselves in the sheer pleasure of it.

The tempo changed from a slow love song to the insistent beat of a rock song. The Doctor looked puzzled. “You didn’t choose that one did you?”

“I don’t know this song at all.”

“The TARDIS knows me well,” he said with a laugh. “Its seven hundred years or more since I last heard this…. And yet….” He shook his head and took her by the hand, swinging her around to face him. She followed his lead as he danced in a kind of electric frenzy that matched the style of the song. It left her breathless, but he, to her surprise, seemed charged by it and even more surprisingly, he sang out loud the chorus. It wasn’t until he sang it the second time that she realised why it should mean something to him.

“How does it feel…. How DOES it FEEL….To be all alone…. to be without a home… with no direction home…. like a complete unknown… Just like a rolling stone……”

The words could have been written for him, a man with no home, who truly WAS alone in the universe. But he wasn’t sad as he sang the words out loud. His eyes shone and he smiled. Perhaps it was the energy of the fast rock song that infected his mood. When it was over, he stood very still. The silence after the non-stop music of the past hour seemed eerie. Even the lights seemed to change.

“How does it feel?” he asked himself aloud and he pressed her close to him. “It feels ok with you here with me, Rose.” For a moment he was reflective before his mood changed. “But what do you mean you don’t know that song? How can anyone born on Earth in the late twentieth century not know Bob Dylan?”

“I don’t,” she said with a laugh. “But….”

He kissed her forehead and snapped his fingers again and another song began, one she did know from cover versions at least, but she had a feeling this was the original version. He took her hands in his and slow danced with her to Knocking on Heaven’s Door and chided her gently for her ignorance. “Sweet eighties child,” he said. “You haven’t lived until you’ve felt the passion they had in the music in the nineteen-sixties. You have no idea.”

“Teach me, then,” she said, aware as she never was before, of the age gap between them. She WAS still only twenty-one, and the last three years of her life had been out of her own time and space anyway. She had so little experience of ANYTHING compared to a man of nine-hundred and fifty years who had been there, seen it, and done everything. She was always running to keep up. But she WANTED to keep running, and that was the important thing.

The last strains of the song were just fading out when they both felt the change in the engine noise of the TARDIS and the floor vibrated strongly. The Doctor was away like a shot, his long legs carrying him across the floor and out of the door in seconds. Rose followed a little more slowly.