Chapter 8

"Rose! Get in here!" Captain Jack shouted out from the console room. "We need you!"

The TARDIS was parked in a quiet corner of a small play park somewhere in Swansea. Jack stood hunched over the console, glaring dubiously at the monitor screen. It showed half a dozen small children surrounding the Doctor's ship.

One particularly persistently little boy dressed in a footballer's kit, kept tugging on the handle of the locked TARDIS door. When that didn't work, he began banging on the door with what appeared to be a toy ray gun. Then several of the other kids joined in with their fists. Jack frowned deeply. The noise was seriously beginning to give him a headache. He seldom spent much time around kids, so Jack rarely felt comfortable dealing with them. But Rose was good with children. She could get them to clear off in no time flat.

"Rose!" An impatient Jack called out again.

"She's not here." Came the Doctor's voice.

Emerging from a nearby doorway, the Doctor came bounding into the control room. He'd changed jumpers again, Jack noted. This one, burgundy. It sort of suited the Doctor, Jack thought. Slipping his long leather jacket back on, the Doctor strolled over to the console and began checking it over.

"What! Where she'd go? Tell her to get back here. Those kids out there are driving me nuts!" Jack whinged.

"Since we're stuck here while I'm busy recalibrating the TARDIS' dendromorphic chronometer, I told her to take a day off. Go do something domestic. Rose has gone to some beauty salon to have her hair and nails done. Told me she's meeting Mickey at the train later. I suppose she'll have him take her out for some chips and a bit of shopping. You know Rose. She'll be back before you know it. When she gets bored with all that mundane human faff." He shrugged.

"Chips and shopping my hot, sexy bum! I can tell you what she'll be doing." Jack spluttered. He cast a nasty glare at the TARDIS doors as the banging grew louder. Incensed about being left out of Rose's plans as much as he was by the noise, he rounded angrily at the Doctor, "She and Mickey are probably holed up all nice and cozy in some little backstreet hotel right now. You picked a fine time to let her go off on a dirty weekend, Doctor. How much you wanna' bet we won't see her again until Monday?"

"Look." The Doctor said evenly. "I have a strict policy towards you humans and your little...domestic erm—things. Don't ask. Don't tell. At least while you're in my TARDIS" He said, ducking his head to avoid showing his discomfort towards the subject. "Rose can do whatever it humans do, just as long as she doesn't do it in front of me, thank you very much."

"You know I always suspected, deep down, that you were an uptight old prude. And I think I just got my answer." Jack said, raising his eyebrows in sudden amusement. "In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if I was standing in front of the universe's oldest virgin. Maybe you should think about becoming a monk, Doctor."

"For your information Captain Jack Harkness, I'm not know what. And I don't think the universe is ready for two meddling Time Lord monks, cheers. I've no desire whatsoever to shave my head, don some ecclesiastical bath robe, and chant rap psalms." The Doctor told him crossly.

Suddenly, there came a huge bang from the door, that sent vibrations throughout the TARDIS.

"What the hell are those kids using out there?" Jack puzzled, once again turning an angry stare at the doors. "A medieval battering ram?"

Look!" The Doctor blustered, sticking his head under the console and getting out his sonic screwdriver, "Forget the aliens at the front door, Jack! I'm not interested in buying any more subscriptions from them. I already get The Holovid Times, Intergalactic Football News, Venusian Vogue, and Horse and Hound." An unsympathetic Doctor replied.

" Aliens!" Jack peered again at the group of children huddled in front of the TARDIS doors. "What are you talking about, Doctor? They're just kids."

"No, they just look like children." The Doctor explained as he lay on his back and began working on the TARDIS. "They're Zlotzation's. Otherwise known as Zlots'. Their bodies stop growing before they reach the age of ten, so they spend their entire lives looking like children. Those out there are probably well into middle age. This lot are employed as fund raisers by Mr. Smooter's Happy Travelling University and Steak House on Kegger Prime. Best sales staff in the ten galaxies. They never take no for answer."

"Oh yeah? Just give me one little ol' proton pistol. I'll bet they'll take a no from me, real fast." Jack said, stomping aggressively towards the door.

"No they wouldn't, Jack. Because they can't. The word 'no' is completely absent from the language of the Zlots." The Doctor said over the gentle hum of his sonic as he worked. "They really don't understand what it means. Trust me on this. I had to take a twenty year gift subscription to Ballet World last year, just to get them out of my TARDIS. Told them to send it to Commander Starl of the Seventh Sontaran Battle Fleet. It was his fifth birthday. It was either that or a pony. Sontarans get seriously cranky when you forget their birthdays. Actually, scratch that. They're always cranky...what the—?"

Another heavy blow had just rocked the TARDIS door. This time, it was so hard that it shook the sonic screwdriver right out of the Doctor's hand.

"Right! That tears it!" The Doctor shouted, his head popping up from beneath the console. "Looks like I'm gonna' have to get tough with them."

With a face like thunder the Doctor got up off the floor and, sucking in his breath, walked sternly towards the TARDIS door. He stopped abruptly just before he got there. For the briefest of moments he stared uncertainly at the door.

Taking a deep breath the Doctor hesitated. He suddenly turned to Jack. Smiling and spreading his hands deprecatingly he said, "Tell you what? How'd you like a year's subscription to Classic Spacerods? My treat! What d'ya say?"

Jack had nothing to say. Throwing the Doctor a dirty look over his shoulder, he flung open the TARDIS door. Immediately one of the Zlots dashed inside. Jack quickly shut the door in the face of the other four. One of them was a ginger haired nine year old boy, whom in reality was a forty-one year old man with two wives and terraced house mortgaged to the hilt. He ran up to the Doctor and thrust a sheet of paper in his hand.

"Mr. Notnik with a personal message for the Doctor!" The boy in the three piece neon green double breasted suit gave a brief formal bow. Then stood upright and added with a happy smile, "And a special offer on a two-year subscription to Science Fiction Digest. Only fifty credits! That means each issue is thirty percent off the single cover price you'd pay at your local news agent..."

Taking the message, the Doctor quickly became absorbed in its contents. He absently nodded, sighing, "Fine, whatever. Put in on my tab. You know where to send the bill. Now get out of my ship!"

"Notnik thanks you once again, most noble and compassionate Time Lord, for your continued custom!" Bowing repeatedly, the Zlot beamed a smile at the Doctor. He backed away and then reverently opening the TARDIS door, he left. Once outside, Notnik high-fived the waiting group of salesmen. "What'd I tell you? There's a sucker hatched every minute." He chortled.

"What's in the message? Is it from Rose?" Jack asked after the Zlot had gone.

"It's from me." The Doctor said simply.

Handing the note to Jack the Doctor quickly set to, getting the TARDIS ready for flight. Jack read the note and smiled. This sounded like his kind of adventure. Suddenly he looked up, startled. Jack realized that the Doctor was taking off right that very instant.

"Wait a minute." Alarmed, Jack pulled at the Doctor's arm. "What about Rose? You can't just leave without her."

"Erm—I think you're forgetting something very important, Jack." The Doctor said, turning back to working the controls.

Slowly, the Time Rotor inside the central column began to lift. The wheezing grind of TARDIS' engines began to power up in pitch. Jack cast a perplexed look at the Doctor. In turn, the Doctor raised his eyebrows, then threw a meaningful glance in the direction of the central console. The time rotor was now gradually picking up speed, bobbing up and down like a horse on a carousel pole.

"Oh. Time machine. Right." Jack nodded as his mental penny dropped.

"I can get there and take care of our little emergency. Then be back here before Rose ever notices we've been gone." The Doctor smiled.

"Aren't you even gonna' leave her a note or something?" Jack asked.

"You were the one who said she wouldn't be back until Monday." The Doctor shrugged. "And she knows I'd never just abandon her. At least, she should do. She's a clever girl, our Rose. Tell you what. I'll pause the flight long enough for you to nip out and find her."

"And leave me behind? No way!" Jack objected. "All your selves in one place at the same time? I gotta' see this! One thing, though. Do all your regenerations have nice bums?" The Doctor frowned and began to open his mouth. Jack held up a hand. "Never mind. Why spoil the surprise. But I'll tell you what."

"Hmm—?" The Doctor murmured, not really paying attention while he was busy punching in the coordinates he was given.

"Rose is so going to be seriously ticked off at you. I'll bet she won't speak to you for at least a week."

"This is so un-fair of you, Mickey!" Rose yelled. She was hurrying off back to the TARDIS, with her disgruntled boyfriend trailing along behind her. The curtain of misty rain sweeping the streets of Swansea didn't help her mood any. "I'm not using you! I'm the one who called. Remember? Because I missed you."

"Yeah. You called me because you wanted to borrow twenty quid to buy your mum a birthday present." Mickey grumbled.

"That's not true!" Rose protested, slowing down somewhat. She knew in her heart that he was at least partly right. It made her soften her tone a little. She turned and glanced at Mickey. "I really did want to see you."

"See me? For how long? A couple of hours? A few days?" He said resentfully, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "Is that all I am to you, Rose? 'Cos if it is, I might as well start charging you by the hour." Mickey gave an indignant sniff. "Sometimes I don't know why you even bother calling me at all. I must seem like pretty tame stuff compared to the Doctor."

"Now you're just being childish!" Rose responded, her anger once again coming to the fore. "Feeling sorry for yourself. I don't know why I..." She shrugged, stopping herself from going too far. "Forget it."

"Why you what? Why you put up with me? Why you still want me around, when you've got the whole of time and space at your disposal?" Mickey fired back. "Since we're asking questions, I might ask myself why I allow you to walk all over me all the time."

"Can we just forget it? I'm going back to the TARDIS. I'll call you later when you've calmed down." Rose said, marching straight ahead through the gate of the play park.

Mickey began to follow her. He paused, shaking his head ruefully. Why should he allow Rose to manipulate him all the time? Mickey decided that he should go home and just get on with his life. Forget Rose. Find someone else. He was about to turn away when he heard Rose give a startled cry. Without hesitation, Mickey tore off down the cinder path to the far end of the park where Rose had gone. He found her circling a patch of crushed grass that was in the shape of a square. She was crying.

"He wouldn't do that! He wouldn't just leave without saying goodbye!" She was saying to herself. Tears began to form in her eyes. "How could he do this to me? Just leave without a note, or a word, or anything?"

A few minutes later found her sitting on a park bench with Mickey. He tenderly held a sobbing, heartbroken Rose in his arms, kissing the top of her head, comforting her.

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