A/N: This one was originally going to be about cowboys but... well, I'll have to do a bit research into the Old West and frankly, I couldn't be bothered :P But I'll do that one for Episode Six. I was also going to start this one off with a recap but... Okay, okay I'm a lazy sod. I'm sorry. But still, after the creepy detour in the museum I'm back into the series. This one picks up straight from the end of 'Virtual Insanity', and just forget everything you read in Education Isn't Always Healthy. For now, anyway xD
On Top of the World
She had expected the air to be cooler at least, but she couldn't notice any difference, even when she tried. The air was still and normal, like the doors of the Tardis weren't even open at all. But then she supposed there was no air to be normal. Space was just a big vacuum. It didn't have a temperature.
No, wasn't it meant to be freezing cold? Ashley couldn't remember.
She leaned forward slightly and peered down, past her dangling feet and into the black abyss of space below. Technically, this was impossible. Her feet shouldn't be able to dangle in space because there was no gravity, but here she was. She might as well have been sitting on a wall. She wondered if one of her boots came off whether it would plummet or just float away.
Behind her, the Doctor was cursing and muttering around the controls. Something had blown in mid-flight and he had to stop to fix it. Ashley didn't bother getting involved. She didn't have a clue how that thing worked, although she had now learned that it wasn't just a machine. Apparently it was living, the Doctor was very clear on that. But when she had asked it how its day had been, he had just laughed at her, leaving her embarrassed.
'How long do you think it'll be before you fix it?' she asked, picking a piece of popcorn out of the bag beside her – she had insisted they did a shop to get some food before they went anywhere else – and tossing it in her mouth. 'I mean, this is fantastic and all, but there's only so long you can stare into the depths of space before getting a little bored.'
The Doctor's head poked up from the other side of the control panel. 'You're amazing, you know that?' he told her with a sigh. 'There are billions of people who would give anything to be sitting where you are right now, eating popcorn and staring into space, and you're bored.'
Ashley shrugged her shoulders and pulled her feet up, tucking them underneath her. 'Don't get me wrong this is bloody fantastic. I don't think I could do something back home without dying of boredom or falling asleep. It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen in my whole life, and I'll probably never see anything like it again it's just…' She paused to toss another piece of popcorn in her mouth. 'There's just nothing much happening.'
The Doctor clicked his tongue noisily. 'You've got the attention span of a squirrel.'
Ashley frowned. 'That's not fair.' She flicked a piece of popcorn out of the Tardis doors. It soared for a moment, and then when it was about a meter away it slowed and floated away majestically. Ashley beamed happily and watched it. 'Oh that's hella cool.'
The Doctor half smiled as he went back to work. 'My point exactly.'
'How come I'm not blowing up or… like, we're not getting sucked out into the vacuum of space or something?'
'You wouldn't understand. It's complicated stuff.'
Ashley turned, leaning against the doorframe despite how easily she could tumble out in such a position. 'I wouldn't understand? For all you know I could be a rocket scientist or something.'
The Doctor laughed. 'You? A rocket scientist?' He laughed again, louder.
Annoyed, Ashley got to her feet and pushed the Tardis door shut. 'Okay, maybe not a rocket scientist, but surely you could explain it simply. In baby speak so my gormless little human brain can actually understand your superior intelligence.'
The Doctor grinned at her, sensing her annoyance. 'Trust me, even if I whittled it down to the simplest terms possible, you still wouldn't understand. Although thank you for recognising my brilliance.'
Ashley leaned against the console and crossed her arms over her chest. 'I don't like the fact that you think I'm stupid.' She frowned. 'I've saved your backside a couple of times already, and we've only been to like, what… four places? And one of those was my house. Didn't really count. Three faraway places and each time I saved your arse.'
The Doctor frowned. 'Each time? I don't think so.'
Ashley snorted and held up one finger. 'That BLFC place, you nearly had your face chewed off by little nanobots; who saved you? Moi.'
The Doctor half shrugged. 'I guess so… But I had it under control.'
'14,000 BC. I got that big rampaging spider thing and all it's little freaky babies before they ate everyone. Probably including you.'
'That's not fair. If I'd been there I would have stopped them.'
'But you went back to the ship!'
'Well…' He paused, frowning. 'It was important.'
Ashley rolled her eyes. 'Oh yeah, and don't forget me coming in to pull you out of your cushty little virtual reality world.'
The Doctor fell silent. 'I thanked you for that.' He said quietly.
Ashley winced, wishing she hadn't brought it up. It was a sore subject, but she hadn't been thinking. He hadn't said much about it. Actually, he hadn't said anything about it. She had wanted to ask but she hadn't been sure how. She mulled it over for a moment, and decided to just bite the bullet.
'What happened to it?' she asked. 'Your planet, I mean.'
The Doctor's good mood had now completely dissipated. He fiddled with the wiring, not looking up at her. 'I don't want to talk about it.'
'You can tell me you know,' Ashley said gently. 'If you want to talk about it. I know it must be hard for you and stuff but-'
He turned to her sharply, eyes wide. 'I don't want to talk about it.' He repeated.
Ashley's eyebrows shot up and she fell silent, surprised by his harshness. 'Okay,' she muttered, raising her hands. 'Sorry. Forget it.' Wounded, she turned and moved away from the control panel.
The Doctor continued to fiddle with the wiring, his eyebrows knitted together. Eventually he sighed and looked up. 'I'm sorry, Ashley. I just-'
But she didn't want to hear it. 'Where are we going anyway?' she asked, feigning interest in one of the coral beams. 'When you get that fixed, I mean?'
He watched her for a moment, saddened that she hadn't even allowed him to apologise, let alone accept it. He felt bad for snapping at her. 'Well,' he replied, trying to return to his happier tone. 'You remember me telling you about the biggest theme park in the universe? No of course not, you were unconscious. Anyway, that's where we're going.'
She returned to his side with a big, excited grin on her face. 'A theme park! Biggest theme park? Does it have roller coasters?'
'Of course it has roller coasters. What kind of theme park would it be without them? Certainly not the biggest, let me tell you.'
Ashley jumped up and down and clapped her hands. 'I love theme parks!' she squealed, summoning a bemused look from the Doctor. 'I'm sorry I can't help it. I get excited.'
The Doctor laughed. 'That's a good thing.' He told her. 'I just have to reroute this one thing and…' The Tardis began to hum again and the Doctor grinned. 'Bingo!'
'Does that mean we're going? Now! Right now?'
'Right now.' He grinned back. He reached for the lever, and then hesitated. 'Just one thing though… How do you feel about clowns?'
Ashley shuddered visibly. 'I hate clowns.'
The Doctor winced, and then shrugged apologetically. Ashley looked horrified but before she had a chance to question him, the Tardis began to shake around, knocking her off balance.