The jumps, she thinks, are still random: pulled across universes at the whim of the direction of the wind, the fullness of the moon.
But as home vanishes from her sight she hears a low note, a slow, sad song, calling her.
"Hello," the girl says, waving cheerily, as if strange blondes appeared in front of her every day, as she sat in the library with a warm cuppa and a dog-eared paperback on her lap.
"I think I'm going to be sick," Rose says, and true to her word, she is, right on what turns out to be a collection of first editions of F. Scott Fitzgerald's entire oeuvre.
"It's no bother," the girl says later (Jo, she introduces herself, with a funny smile and a little lilt that suits her hair and her face), "the Doctor can pop over and pick more up any time, if he wants."
Rose stops short, and the glass in her hand cracks. She looks at it, startled, while Jo frowns.
"You're not supposed to be so surprised," she says, hand on her hip, lip stuck out in a worried pout.
"Have we met before?" Rose asks, feeling the universe contract and expand around her, the buzzing in her head growing steadily louder.
Jo smiles, eyes dancing. "You could say that. Oh dear, you seem to be evaporating."
Rose reaches out her hand in desperation — it's too soon to be pulled again, she'll be sick for days when she lands — and Jo's fingertips brush her palm, but they're both a fraction too late. As the buzzing envelops her, the universe opening up just enough for a lost woman to slip through, Rose has the sensation of memory in her nerves, of her hand fitting perfectly within Jo's. She falls through time and space with a question on her lips.
She stumbles on her next landing, knees giving out. Seasickness is gone, miraculously, but it'll be a while until she gets used to this, she thinks. She rests for a moment, until she realizes someone is standing over her, holding out a hand. She takes it, gratefully, and stands up to see Jo in front of her, smiling.
"Had too much to drink?" Jo asks, with a knowing look in her eyes. "Come, let's go let you take a rest. You must be tired."
"The Doctor," Rose says in a rush, "you're with him, where is he, the stars are, the stars —"
Jo puts a finger on Rose's lips, and shakes her head. "Not here, dear. Come on."
Rose follows Jo, curious. She notices Jo's wearing fancy dress: an elaborate ballgown, sparkling even in the low light in the corridor.
They sit down together on a low loveseat, Jo adjusting her layers of tulle to make room for them both.
"You're travelling with him," Rose says, more statement of fact than question. Jo shrugs her shoulders.
"Haven't seen him for a year now," she says. "I know he must be in here somewhere, but this ship is just so big."
"We're in the TARDIS?" Rose asks, unable to process what Jo is telling her; she didn't know the ship had pretty little ladies' sitting rooms like this, she thinks, then feels foolish.
"I'm actually speaking French right now, but she's translating," Jo replies, then giggles. "Oh, but I've had loads of time to learn all sorts of secrets." She reaches over and takes Rose's hand.
Rose shakes her head. Out of the corner of her eye she can see reality wavering; she shuts her eyes tight, grips Jo's hand tighter. She's close, she's so close to getting it right.
"Don't worry, Rose," Jo whispers, and before she moves in Rose knows what will happen: remembers this couch, remembers her hands in Jo's hair, pulling out hairpins while Jo puts her hands on Rose's hips, breasts, moaning into her hot mouth as layers of fabric rustle loudly, the light catching the sequins and dazzling her.
Her eyes fly open as the memory takes physical form, but it's a moment too late — she's gone, gone, gone.
She comes to on the ground, her leather jacket saving her arms from getting cut up by the metal grille. Above her, the central column of the time rotor is pulsing gently up and down, with a soft, green glow.
She sits up with a start. Jo is standing over the controls, a look of deep confusion on her face. She reaches out and tentatively pushes a button, then jumps back before the resulting sparks can singe her.
"I really don't know how to fly this," she says, apologetically. "We figured out the mechanics, the guts of it, but honestly, how the Doctor ever got it to go where he wanted, I haven't a clue."
"He didn't either," Rose replies, then blushes. Jo grins, and Rose is struck by the way she sticks her tongue out a little bit between her teeth, opens her lips up wide.
"You're copying me," she says. "Hang on, you know how the ship works?"
Jo smiles again, a little more mysteriously this time. "I built it. Well, with the other girls, of course. All us girls together, you could say."
Rose knows her mouth is hanging open, but her brain is ticking over as fast as it can and she still can't make heads or tails of what Jo is saying, or the fluttering in her stomach that implies warmth and comfort and intimacy. Jo moves over to her, and puts an arm around her shoulders, brushes her lips against Rose's cheek.
"Where am I?" Rose whispers. She knows she should feel lost, but somehow, she feels hopeful, strong.
For a moment, Jo — she flickers, and suddenly she's a pretty, dark-skinned girl, spiky hair and a big fat grin, and then she's short, with pixie hair and a mouth that looks likes it could chew her up. And then she's —
"I'm scared," the girl says, all wide eyes, dark hair, soft curves, and real, in her arms.
"I know," Rose says, hugging her tight. "I know. But we'll put this right. Start from the beginning, and we'll figure out how to put this back together." She can hear the music in her head again; she suddenly remembers where she's heard that song before.
The girl flickers again as the universe contracts once more, and then it's just her and Jo, standing in a dark and cold console room, its magic slowly seeping away.
"You have to go back further," Jo says. "There's a girl. A woman, actually. And an officer. You have to fix things. The timelines are all wrong."
"What about the Doctor?" Rose asks, but Jo shakes her head, a solemn look on her face.
"It's up to you. Please."
As she nods her assent Jo kisses her again, and a last breath of power, of stardust and artron energy slips down her throat, soaks into her bones, binds to her heart.
She takes the next jump through universes at a run. She doesn't stumble.