The Doctor lay beside Rose beneath a clear night sky, the three moons of Azura illuminating the untouched landscape. Rolling hills carpeted in pristine white grass glinted in the moonlight, the lustrous expanse seeming endless. This would one day become a thriving epicenter of industry and commerce, after being discovered and populated by a once-nomadic species of galactic travelers.
But not on this night. Now, the hidden pearl was known only by two.
Ever since departing from the leisure planet of Paradise where the Doctor and Rose had finally established a building point for their new relationship, the Doctor had been on a quest to dazzle her with every new destination. It wasn’t simply that he was out to impress his new bond mate (though that might have been a factor. Just a bit…). He wanted to ensure, above all else, that there would be no more regrets with her this time around. They’d had more than enough already. He couldn’t control what may come their way tomorrow or the next day, but he could make the most of the here and now. That’s exactly what they had been doing each new day.
The Doctor knew that the undelivered gift of the Bazoolium and the inevitable return visit to Earth was weighing increasingly heavy on Rose’s mind these days, but she continued to consent to putting it off for one more trip, which led to yet one more, and so on. Procrastination couldn’t last, and he wasn’t entirely sure why he dreaded that day’s arrival. But he would continue to take hold of these moments while they were within his reach.
He had not yet settled on where to take Rose next, but wherever their wandering steps led them, he had a budding idea for how to get there.
It had recently been suggested that he let Rose be the designated driver now and then. He had no doubt she was more than capable of taking on such a task and could learn with a degree of ease few possessed. No other had ever been linked with the ship in the profound way she had once experienced. In addition, the new heightening of their shared bond would greatly assist such an undertaking. It might even make for a rather…stimulating experience for all involved. An involuntary tingle rippled through his body at the thought.
Rose rolled on her side to face him then, eyes shining in the silver glow of the triple moons as she propped her head on her hand. She had that spark of wanderlust in her eyes which fed his own.
“So…we’ve seen the dawning of new civilizations, the passing of solar systems, shaped a bit of history and discovered new worlds — and that was just this week.” Her countenance fairly glowed, her voice soft and whimsical. “Where could we possibly go next?”
He mirrored her side-lying position, perched on his elbow in order to have a better vantage point into her moonlit face. “Oh, Rose Tyler, we’ve only just begun. We can go anywhere. Any when. Why don’t you decide?” With an outstretched arm, he gestured to the limitless expanse above them. “Pick a direction that strikes your fancy.”
She rolled supine on the luminous blanket of grass and tipped her face upward. Her arm soon followed her line of sight as she pointed toward a twinkling constellation. “That way.”
“As my lady wishes.” Before she could blush or grin giddily over the candid reality of her new title, the Doctor sprang to his feet and extended his hand.
“What…now?” Rose questioned. She took his hand and he pulled her up, connecting flush to his chest with a soft little “oh.”
His eyes sparkled down at her, making no move to place breathing space between them. “No time like the present and no time to waste.”
Her arms came to settle around his shoulders, forming a true embrace. “But…what’s out there, specifically?”
His body relaxed into the close hold as if this was always intended to be their natural pose. “Ah, a more apt question would be, what isn’t. You’ve chosen the Canis Major constellation, which is home to just about any type destination you could desire. Shintara, with its shimmering white sea and crushed diamond beaches; Astra Minor, a planet of perpetual daylight; Forbidia, with its clothing-optional region…” His eyebrows waggled roguishly.
The Doctor had the distinct and suddenly-nervous feeling she was about to take him up on that one just to see his reaction in such a situation. So he quickly sputtered out the next option, pulling her attention back to the original topic.
“And located within the same system is also Barcelona — very similar to the Earth version, actually, thanks to the principles of the Quantum World. In fact, physicists in the year 2285 finally proved that the—”
Rose stopped the Oncoming Babble with a question. “You mean…the same Barcelona with the noseless dogs and such?”
“That would be the one. I’d always planned to take you there.” His voice was veiled in regret. “Never quite got around to it.”
Her fingertips brushed the nape of his neck, sending little sparking sensations down his spine, refocusing his attention on the present. “Nothin’ says we can’t still make it, yeah?”
A slow smile stole across his face. “Nothing at all.”
Inevitably then, his body began responding to her proximity, becoming acutely aware of every single millimeter where they touched. He had recently discovered his traitorous body had an alarming tendency to surrender all control when it came to this human female. If he didn’t take a step back now, they would not be making it to Barcelona any time soon. But they would no doubt be spending an excessive amount of time in this one spot.
Not at all an unpleasant prospect, but it wouldn’t get them to their new destination. Very inefficient, this embarrassingly out-of-control flood of hormones Rose seemed to have unleashed within him. His life was becoming a balancing act of randy versus rational.
Gathering a shred of composure, the Doctor shot her a manic grin as he leapt back, grabbed her hand and tugged her onwards. “Barcelona awaits!”
The Doctor and Rose walked back to the TARDIS, on a quest for yet another new destination. As they stepped inside, the Doctor asked Rose the question that had recently been on his mind.
He turned to her, and indicated the console with a tilt of his head. “How would you like to take us there?”
Her eyes widened. “What…me?”
He shrugged. “You’ve helped me pilot the TARDIS many times.”
“Helping and doing aren’t quite the same.”
“I could teach you.”
Rose wasn’t sure why the offer surprised her. Maybe because he had such a close connection to his ship, and she had always accepted that it was just the two of them in that regard — the Doctor and his TARDIS. She considered his relationship with her and his relationship with his ship to be somewhat mutually exclusive.
“You’d do that?” she questioned.
“Of course I would. Should have done so sooner, actually. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to do this as well. And…I want to share this with you.”
Her surprised expression softened to tenderness. “I’d like that. I’d love it, actually.”
His smile was hopeful. “Really?”
She gazed at the glowing Time Rotor with fondness. “’Course I would.” A still slightly bruised part of her couldn’t resist the next quip as her eyes cut back to his, though she kept her tone light. “And then I’d never have to worry about you leavin’ me behind on random spaceships while you hold your own personal…Tour de France.”
He blanched. “I…well, that is to say…that was…in the past. The very...erm...distant past,” he finished lamely.
She smiled sweetly as she turned back to the console. “Just sayin’...”
“Duly noted,” he muttered.
Rose stood at the helm of the TARDIS and chewed her bottom lip. The dials and levers and buttons and gizmos had never looked quite this imposing before, and the task suddenly seemed daunting. “I don’t even know where to begin.”
Stepping up beside her, the Doctor drew a hefty breath and began to explain.
“Well first, you activate this circuit right here.” He reached across her to point at a familiar circular knob. “Then dematerialization begins with the sublaminar processes being modulated by a stepped series of quantum-depolarized couplings…those right there.” He indicated a panel of buttons to her left. “The resulting gravimetric packets are then filtered through a reciprocating amulator to convert their subneutronic spin from anticlockwise to inside out.” Her eyes began to glaze over at that point, as he dashed ‘round to the other side. “Then, with the dematerialization complete, the TARDIS uses the subneutronic spin as a basic Space-Time Warping Template for the mesonic collapse of the interstitial mesh which opens and then seals the breach in space-time. But sometimes it…sticks. Have to watch for that….here, with this gear. You then need to activate the Synchronic Feedback Checking Circuit to ensure that the TARDIS doesn’t arrive upside down, and the Multi-Loop Stabilizer to be sure the TARDIS lands firmly on the intended surface. When the TARDIS reaches the correct location in the Vortex, it exits, and this is where you have to keep this dial here extremely steady. That’s critical. The TARDIS then seals the Vortex breach by collapsing the interstitial mesh once you’ve completed the dematerialization sequence. And there we are!” He finished with a climactic flourish of his hands in the air, having completed a full circuit around the console.
Rose gaped at him. She closed her mouth and shook her head to clear it. “Umm, yeah. Okay. I think you lost me at, ‘Well first.’”
He offered an understanding smile. “It’ll be easier than you think.”
“Somehow I doubt it.”
The Doctor stepped closer. “You were once one with the TARDIS, Rose. That’s something that can never be completely erased from who you are on a fundamental level. The TARDIS had a connection with you that no other has shared. The details might sound overwhelming, but some of this will be instinctive to you. And then…there’s the fact that while you were once one with the TARDIS, you are currently one with…well…me. I’ll guide you through this.”
Her heart sped. “You mean…telepathically?” They had continued to work on strengthening their connection, and their sessions were some of the most…intense encounters either had experienced.
He nodded solemnly. “Yes.”
She drew a breath. “Well then, it seems we have a sublaminar process to modulate.”
He beamed at her. “You were listening!”
Rose gave him the fond, you’re such a geek smile. She turned her attention back to the intimidating controls, trying not to let anxiety get the better of her. “Alright then…let’s give this a go.”
She startled at the unexpected sensation of the Doctor pressing up directly behind her. His hands came to rest on her shoulders, face moving in so close she could feel the warmth of his breath on the side of her cheek.
“Relax, Rose,” he breathed out. “Just take a moment to feel what’s around you…in you.”
She exhaled and allowed the tension to leave her limbs. Her posture slackened, and she let herself ease back into his embrace.
“A part of the TARDIS is nestled deep within your mind. Has been since you first stepped inside her. Close your eyes. Can you feel it?” he whispered.
Rose let her eyes slide shut and concentrated on the deep hum of the ship. It was a hum that had become a part of her subconscious mind, even when away from the TARDIS. In this moment she comprehended that the faint drone was not merely an echo which lingered. The hum really was there, inside her. Always. Whether within the ship or without, steady as the blood coursing through her veins.
Rose nodded, her face brushing his. “Yeah,” she murmured. “I feel it.”
His voice was low, soothing, hypnotic. “Now let the TARDIS feel you more deeply. She’s always there, all around you and just a little bit inside you. But she won’t take more than you want to offer. So give her as much as you’re comfortable with, and welcome her in.”
She had once resisted the ship’s slight infiltration into her head. But that was long before the implicit trust she now held for the TARDIS. Rose focused on the hum of the ship deep within her mind, the pulse of the Rotor reverberating around her, and she attempted to send the mental equivalent of an open door within her mind as invitation.
The answering touch was subtle, almost like a light tickle along her cortex. At once, she realized this new sensation wasn’t new at all — it was warm and familiar. She’d felt this before, but on a more immense scale. The song that had once reverberated in her mind was coming back as a distant echo. Within the haunting tune, the far-off words Bad Wolf could be perceived — very faint, very subtle, but very present. Rose let herself become enveloped in the ancient melody of Time itself.
The Doctor’s connection with her intensified simultaneously, and for a span of time she could hear the same song channeled through his own subconscious — deep and resonate. He, too, carried this within. The three were joined. Fully. Rose’s very breathing fell into sync with the rise and fall of the Time Rotor. The expanding and contracting of the Doctor’s lungs pressed behind her mirrored the same tempo. The synchronicity was beautiful, intimate and profound.
“The TARDIS accepts you in the same way you do her — fully,” the Doctor breathed into Rose’s mind. “Now take that trust in your hands and guide her through Time…”
Through the gentle direction of the Doctor, and through the inner guiding of the TARDIS, Rose reached for the first lever and pulled.
“That’s it,” he encouraged. “Now, here…”
His hand slid to cover hers, crackles of energy radiating through her at the touch. He directed her to the operation of the next instrument. His mind showed her what to do while the TARDIS herself guided Rose’s timing.
“Now try the next step without the guidance of my hand,” he urged, fingers slipping from hers.
Rose concentrated, could feel the tug of the TARDIS in her mind, leading her next move. She blinked her eyes and focused with clarity on the dial to be adjusted next in the sequence. She reached for it. The Doctor gave her an encouraging nod. Rose began to twist in an anticlockwise fashion.
He leaned in beside her, observing with pride. “Just like that,” he whispered from within. “Slow and steady.” He sent her a mental image of his own hand on the device, conveying the tempo he’d used countless times in the coordinated dance of flight.
The three then fell into a natural rhythm. The Doctor and the TARDIS guided Rose within and without as she moved around the console, twisting, pumping, pulling, piloting. She was doing it. She was actually doing it!
“Oh, that’s gorgeous,” the Doctor remarked in wonder, and Rose knew he was in awe at the sight of the two beings he loved most working synergistically.
Not only was Rose awash in this deeper connection to the TARDIS, she felt an even deeper connection to the Doctor in being able to join in something that was such a fundamental part of who he was. This shared experience was sacred.
The TARDIS landed (actually landed!) with a gentle sway.
Rose released a breathless laugh and turned to the Doctor with the brightest grin that had ever stretched across her face.
He was not grinning back, but rather watching her intently with rapid breaths. For a second she was confused, then completely understood his current emotional state as he strode swiftly forward and, quite literally, pounced on her.
How do you turn-on a Time Lord? Just arouse his mind.
His mouth crashed impulsively to hers, and Rose found herself weak-kneed amid one of the most soul-searing kisses to date, body crushed to his as he literally lifted her a few inches off her feet to pull her body flush against him.
Not bad for a formerly-repressed being who not so long ago claimed he simply didn’t do any form of…this.
She finally detached her lips from his, took in some much needed air and spoke in a breathless yet sultry tone. “Why Doctor, if I didn’t know better I’d say that turned you on.”
He blinked hazily, as if stunned by his own reaction, and eased his tight grip. “I just…never knew piloting could be so…well…sexy.”
“Finally realized that, eh?” She smiled coyly as her hands slid down his chest. “Maybe now we can even the score.”
Their exit onto Barcelona’s soil was thus pleasantly delayed.
Barcelona, as it turned out, had been under attack upon their arrival. It shouldn’t have been surprising, really. It seemed they rarely ended up anywhere without finding trouble in the process. And as it happened, the Doctor and Rose had been instrumental in ending the conflict. The usually peaceful planet had come under an unexpected assault by a rogue group of Sontarans out for blood. In the end, the Doctor and Rose not only helped the Barcelonans thwart the attack, but the Doctor had been able to aide in strengthening their defenses and assist in creating a series of planetary shields.
Still, Rose had felt a little guilty over the thought that her piloting effort had landed them in the midst of such circumstances. In recalling her deep connection to the TARDIS during flight, however, she began to understand with much more clarity that sometimes the TARDIS guided the pilot as much as the pilot guided her. The wise, ancient ship always seemed to take them where they needed to be.
Now having a greater appreciation for the sentient ship’s instincts, it was even more unsettling to return to the TARDIS after this latest trip and feel that she was in a state of unease. The Doctor and Rose could both feel it. This was subtle — not a pulsing mauve warning but a niggling feeling of disquiet. The Doctor explained, however, that the TARDIS was an extremely sensitive creature of Time, able to sense even the slightest little out of place thread in Time’s fabric. Such acute perceptiveness often left the old girl feeling out of sorts and even queasy on occasion.
Rose placed a hand on the console upon returning to the Vortex and sent the mental equivalent of reassurance, hoping whatever it was had passed, and they would sidestep any storms on the horizon for yet another day.