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More like Guidelines, Anyway

Big, unexpected, paradox-threatening, timelines-crossing gatherings are always bad.

Not for the danger, no.

It's the awkwardness.

The console room is filled with uncomfortable not-talk. Assorted companions are waiting as patiently as they can for The Latest Timey-wimey-ness to be sorted.

The Doctor is half-cursing the defrygulator into place and wondering what the hell happened to the pacer of the temporal shielding source, which was definitely here in his Tardis, see what you get for redecorating - all the while contemplating bopping the pinstriped idiot over the head with the sonic spanner. Especially if he keeps looking at Rose like that, the damn pretty boy.

The Doctor is concentrating very hard on fixing the adenosine doser and recalibrating the yearometer, and absolutely not thinking (nope, no way) about the people currently gathered in his Tardis and what a potential disaster that is, what with River and Jack in the same room, and how many beaches he'll have to endure to make it up to Amy, and what River is going to say about Ro- no, he's not thinking about all that, absolutely not, remember? Realigning the transconnections to the directional circuit, that's what he should do instead, yes, definitely. Also, he might need to start listing all the reason why he shouldn't hit his younger selves into oblivion, which would be terribly very not good. If satisfying.

The Doctor is wondering whether he should approach Rose, considering that on one hand, he misses her so much that just being close to her for a while sounds like the best idea ever, but on the other hand, she doesn't know about regeneration yet and even if she's sort of been temporarily informed due to the current circumstances, she isn't likely to look at him like he is her Doctor, and the chance of seeing indifference in her warm brown eyes makes this the worst idea ever, but on a third hand, which he doesn't have on him but could get from his Tardis in a jiffy, this might well be the last chance he has of holding her ever again, and he could do with a last dose of memories to keep him going, even if it's just managing to make her smile that smile of hers, the one with the tip of her tongue peaking out – oh, how he missed that smile, just the memory is quite distracting, if he could just see the real thing once more- except that, and now he's run out of hands but he could really use another, and not just to help keep this piece of the directional circuit in place, he might not be able to make her smile, or worse – and he's talking eating pears kind of bad here – she might give her smile to someone else – weelll, it'd be him, technically, of course, but the him with those daft ears who's glowering at him so rudely instead of properly fixing the temporal shields, and not the him with the really great hair who has a right to be rude (and not ginger) and- hold on, why is the bow-tied moron reconnecting the directional circuit, he's not finished recalibrating it, the bloody idiot – who wears a bow-tie anyway – weell, him, he supposes, but what in the universe will he be thinking?

Several pairs of eyes follow the complicated dance of cooperation and distracted arrogance, shared brilliance and insults the three of them are performing around the time rotor. From time to time, things like "Excuse me, I'm making perfect sense. You're just not keeping up!" and "Will you stop mucking things up? No, don't- don't- I'll do that," and "Budge over, I'm working here!" float over to them.

Donna, who has appropriated the only comfy chair in the room, is the one who voices the question on everybody's lips: "You doing all right, Martian?"

The Doctor waves his arms in the air frantically: "Totally all right! Yes! Don't worry! Not the slightest problem to worry about!" while the Doctor drops his sonic screwdriver and his jaw: "Oi! I'm not from Mars!"

At the same time, the Doctor's muffled voice comes from where he's disappeared underneath a panel: "Just peachy! Brilliant! Molto bene!"

There is a crashing sound from his general vicinity and he yelps in pain.

"What are you doing to my ship?!" cries the Doctor, flopping back his hair angrily.

The Doctor rolls his eyes and kicks the closest Converse with his boot, eliciting another yelp of pain. "Get out of there, let me have a look."

He kicks the Doctor lightly again, as a matter of principle.

"Stop that!" reproaches the Doctor, shaking a finger at the Doctor. "NEVER use force, you'll just embarrass yourself." He pauses. "Unless you're cross, in which case... always use force!"

The Doctor slips out of the panel, sonic screwdriver pointed angrily at the Doctor: "Now, see here, Leatherman...!"

By general accord, the companions turn to each other, leaving the three Time Lords to their quarrel.

"Think they'll manage to sort things out without killing themselves?" asks Jack, who looks inordinately amused by the trio.

He smiles widely at River when she winks at him knowingly.

From where she's perched on the strange railings of the Tardis, Rose swats him affectionately. "Stop it." Her smile fades: "The Doctor says everything's all right," she reminds him, loyally.

Donna smiles warmly at her.

River gives her one of her fathomless, superior looks: "Remember Rule One," she says forebodingly.

"Don't wander off," nods Rose sagely, with a weak but impish smile, at the exact same time as Jack cheerfully says: "Hands off the blonde!" and Donna, rolling her eyes, dutifully recites: "If we go shopping, you carry your own bags."

Blinking, the three exchange uncertainly amused smiles.

Meanwhile Rory is gaping: "There are rules?"

Amy shrugs: "First I hear of it."

River's face falls.