Machine intelligence: numbers and logic with nothing of emotion about it had ruled her for centuries. Until the joining. Overwhelmed by the ephemeral taste of their existence, she had been intimately connected; had been for long moments an organic emotional being.
Machine intelligence analysed, identified what was absent; new organic empathy whispered what was needed to fill the void. And only she remembered the moment her power had reclaimed him; remembered his resurrection.
The Doctor’s power was one with her own: as he saw the paths before him, so she saw all paths. With the power of infinity to find him and the will to make it so, she would take them to where he would be.
* * *
“So, where are we off to?”
He grinned at her, hair straggling over his eyes. Rose's fingers itched to brush it back, but she'd begun to suspect he left it messy on purpose so she’d do exactly that. And she really didn’t want to give him the satisfaction.
She frowned in mock anger. “Will you stop grinning at me and tell me where we’re going?”
Faltering slightly, he fiddled with the TARDIS’s controls, clearing his throat. “Well, what do you fancy?”
“Oh, it’s up to me now, is it?” Shaking her head, she strolled across the control room. “You’re completely out of ideas?” Leaning against him, she couldn’t resist ruffling his hair and he shot her a look of triumph. She’d been right; it was exactly what he’d been angling for.
Smiling, smug and sure, he replied, “Oh, no; not at all. Just thought you might like to have a go. If you’re not up to it…”
“Ha. Nice try.” Poking him in the ribs, she snickered when he twitched away. Against all probability this new body was very ticklish. “But alright. Somewhere fun.”
Lips twitching with suppressed laughter, he looked at her. “Somewhere fun? You have all of the universe at your disposal and the best you can come up with is 'somewhere fun'?” He patted her head patronisingly, ducking back to avoid her reaching hands. “Somewhere fun it is.” Graceful fingers flying across the controls he finessed the TARDIS, employing a subtler touch than he once had.
The whining pulse of the engines filled the room and they disappeared.
* * * *
A chance. Paths opening before her and she threw herself down one, her consciousness coursing like a hound, tracking his presence through the time streams.
She fixed his location and hurtled towards it.
* * * *
“I present you with…” The Doctor swung the door open, gesturing grandly at the sweeping vista of…not where he'd intended them to be. “Huh.”
A crowded indoor city was visible through the TARDIS's entrance, tall buildings stretching to the silver dome high above.
“Well,” Rose’s voice was doubtful, “Cities mean shopping. Shopping qualifies as fun. Not exactly what I was expecting, but I’ll give you points for effort.”
Perplexed, he gazed around: vehicles and people and nothing appeared unusual. He glanced at his watch. It could have been any city in this era. “This wasn’t where we were supposed to end up.”
“Well, that happens sometimes.”
“Yeah, but this isn’t anywhere near where I was aiming.”
Shrugging, she said, “We can look around here; I’m sure it’ll be interesting.”
“No, no. You’ll really like what I’ve got in mind.” It was important that he get it right. “We’ll try again.”
Rose didn't question his determination. She was beginning to get a sense for those issues that bothered him, that triggered a kind of vulnerability, a defensiveness; the TARDIS was one of those things.
Pulling the door closed, he returned to the console, Rose beside him. Carefully flipping levers and pushing buttons, he triggered dematerialisation.
* * * *
They were where they were meant to be and she would not move until they had found the missing piece.
A machine knew each part was integral to the others; lose one and the whole ceased to function.
* * * *
“You’re really going to like this, Rose. It’s beautiful.”
The door opened onto the city they’d just left.
A muscle twitched in his jaw.
Rose stifled a giggle, knowing it would hurt him. He glanced sideways at her and she kept her face carefully still, allowing only mild curiosity to show.
He pursed his lips and nodded abruptly, turning on his heel and leaving Rose to pull the door shut.
As he stabbed at the buttons on the console she came up beside him. “Hey, don’t worry about it.” Grasping his lapels, she pulled him away from the controls, turning him to face her. He flashed her a look of mild annoyance and she reached up, sliding his tie through her fingers. Tugged on it gently until he smiled ruefully at her.
“But I do worry about it, Rose.” He sighed, scrubbed a hand through his hair.
“I know.” She gave him a little shake and he grabbed her hands. “But it is okay.”
“Yeah, but I still want to try.”
Releasing him, she moved just far enough to allow him room to work, her hip brushing his.
The sound of the engines thrummed through the room once more.
* * * *
A machine’s infinite patience had no equivalent in human or gallifreyan emotion. Her organic knowledge gave her more than empathy, it allowed her access to the breadth of emotion open to both.
She found in that new knowledge the appropriate descriptor for the situation: irritating.
* * * *
Fists clenched, he slammed the door shut and Rose jumped. Her urge to laugh was long gone as his frustration bubbled over into anger.
Carefully stepping up behind him, she touched his shoulder. Tension was singing through him, his body unyielding under her hand.
“Hey.” He didn’t acknowledge her. Sliding her hands around his waist, she pressed her cheek against his back. “It’s not really important, you know.”
He leaned back into her, forcing himself to relax. “I know, it’s just...I never had this problem before.”
And that, Rose knew, was the crux of the matter. It bothered him that some things so easy before the change were now so difficult. She suspected she was part of the reason. Knew he’d expected rejection, his surprise at her acceptance had been so obvious.
“Maybe you just need to hit her with the mallet.”
Twisting to look at her, he managed a weak smile. “I’m not hitting her with a mallet.”
He completed his turn and settled his arms around her, resting his head against her hair. He sighed. “Why don’t you go and have a look around. See if you can rustle up some supplies. This seems like a pretty safe place. Maybe a bit on the boring side, but that's usually a good indication.”
Not really wanting to leave him, she knew he’d be more comfortable trying to fix whatever was wrong with the TARDIS if she wasn’t around to watch.
Summoning enthusiasm, she agreed. “Sounds like fun. A bit of shopping is never a waste of time.”
* * * *
* * * *
The Doctor had been right. The city was boring. The people well mannered, the streets clean, the shopkeepers polite and friendly. She’d bought a few things, including what seemed to be the local equivalent of milk. It smelled right and, green colour notwithstanding, she’d learned that was usually the best indication.
The uniform grey of the native species confirmed her opinion that she’d never seen a more uninteresting bunch in her life. There were a few other species and a liberal sprinkling of humans scattered about the place, adding some colour, but the overall impression created was ‘dull’.
Idly surveying the crowd, she felt a pang; one of them moved like Jack, all lithe grace and swagger.
Her focus sharpened and she felt her heart race.
“Jack?” A whisper and her voice trailed into nothingness.
She was frozen, struck dumb as she realised that the lean figure didn’t just look like Jack. The walk, the way he moved...
Her parcels fell unheeded to crash to the ground and she ran, pushing, shoving through the crowd. Stumbled; almost fell. Grabbed at the bodies around her to stay on her feet, to keep moving. Not to lose him — if it was him — again.
“Jack!” She screamed it, saw the figure hesitate then turn to face her, eyes wide and staring.
She couldn’t speak. Her mouth moved, gaping, trying to force words from her brain; managed a half strangled sound.
Shocked, amazed, full of wonder, his grin snuck out past the chaos of emotion and it was Jack, her Jack. “Jack! Oh god, Jack!”
She launched herself at him; hit him with such force he staggered, sending him stumbling back and her with him. She flung her arms around him, holding on, unable to believe he was here.
That he was alive.
* * * *
She had felt an echo of this joy once before.
It was almost done.
* * * *
The Doctor yelped as the lights suddenly died. Completely. He glanced with longing at the mallet laying to one side, untouched since his change.
He’d had enough.
He was going to find Rose.
Firmly shutting the door behind him he followed the movement of the crowd.
* * * *
The assembly needed every piece or it wouldn’t hold.
* * * *
Jack couldn’t believe it. How the hell was this possible? He decided he didn’t care, just held her, burying his face in her hair.
He’d known he’d never see them again. But when scavengers had shown up to loot the abandoned station he’d hitched a ride, intent on finding a time-ship to begin looking anyway.
The memory of the TARDIS disappearing haunted him.
He’d known his chances of finding them were insurmountable; knew they wouldn’t be looking for him. Remembered dying, but it was nothing compared to the void the pulse of light had burned into him as it stole away the two people he loved.
He’d known he had to try, even if it took the rest of his life.
Rose was crying; he could feel tears threatening but he fought them back. She was looking up at him, laughing and reaching out to touch him and he kissed her, echo of his goodbye, but in place of sorrow was utter joy.
* * * *
* * * *
The Doctor had found Rose.
And it seemed Rose had found Jack.
He shook his head. It was nonsense. Not possible.
But the evidence before him claimed otherwise.
He ran towards them.
* * * *
* * * *
Quicker than thought, Jack twisted, shoving Rose behind him; drew his blaster which came to rest millimetres from the nose of the man who’d pulled up sharply in front of them.
Jack assessed him automatically, instincts insisting he be categorised as a threat despite all appearances to the contrary. Clad in a rather natty suit, there was something almost foppish about him. Great shoes. Cute. Very cute actually, but flirtatiousness was held, pending the intentions of this tall and tousled individual.
But Rose was reaching for the blaster, pushing it away, pushing between it and the newcomer.
“Jack, don’t!” She circled in front of him and he let the muzzle dip towards the ground, silently asking who this was.
“Jack.” She hesitated, reached a hand to the stranger who reached for her, the strangest expression in his eyes. “It’s the Doctor.”
She was nodding emphatically, and he looked closely at the figure before him, confused. He couldn’t see anything of the Doctor in this man; in spite of Rose, whom he'd never seen touch anyone but the Doctor the way she was touching this stranger.
She opened her mouth to explain, but the man interrupted her. “Jack.” He was reaching for him, but Jack pulled away, disbelieving. “It really is me.”
“How?” He didn't believe any of this. He'd known he'd never see them again, but then he'd found Rose. And now here was this new person, and if Jack believed her it meant he'd never see the Doctor again.
That he'd been right all along.
“We have a little trick, us Time Lords. We get to cheat death.” The shrug that followed had a hint of something about it, something that resonated with Jack's memories. “It’s just, the body doesn’t get to come along for the ride.”
Exchanging a glance with Rose who shrugged helplessly, he regarded Jack thoughtfully; head tilted to one side, considering.
Jack recoiled as he stepped forward but was caught, strong fingers settling gently along his jaw, holding him. His eyes slipped shut as soft lips touched his own, remembering...
He felt words whispering against his skin, "You were never a coward."
Oh yes. He suddenly believed. Regardless of what he might look like, this was definitely the Doctor.
He opened his eyes as the kiss ended to see a very familiar grin.
“New body, huh?”
“Well that has interesting possibilities.”
* * * *
Satisfaction was another gift, one that existed in concert with logic. Each piece slotting into place, the assembly was complete.
She hummed to herself, content.
* * * *
quorum \KWOR-uhm\, noun:
1. Such a number of the officers or members of any body as is legally competent to transact business.
2. A select group.
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