My most sincere apologies! It seems I haven't updated this story since February. Go figure, that's about the same time my son was born...
Anyway, here's the next installment. And it's nice and long :) Enjoy!
Beta'd by the wonderful GSRgirlforever.
Chapter 7 - Course Corrections
"Please, Daddy? Please, please, please, Daddy? Plee-ease, Daddy?"
River chuckled silently as the Doctor and Emily passed by the door to the library. Em had been after him all morning, on top of the past week of pleading.
"Maybe when you're older," River heard the Doctor reply.
"I'm nineteen!" Em shouted, indignantly.
"As of thirty-six hours ago," the Doctor answered.
John, Jr. caught River's eye from across the table. With a grin, he whispered, "She'd better not mess things up and make it harder for me when it's my turn."
A throat-clearing from his mother instantly sent Jack back to his studies. "Okay, Sue," Rose said, resuming the lesson with her youngest daughter with hardly a pause, "From the beginning."
As Sue closed her eyes and began the recitation of the TARDIS console controls, River turned her attention back to her book.
When River had first seen the TARDIS' library, she thought she could easily spend the rest of her life reading. But she had been wrong. Of course, there was no possible way for her to ever finish the volumes upon volumes that it held, but that wasn't the point. Every new book she read filled her with a desire to see each world it described first-hand. Thank goodness the TARDIS could help her do just that. River thought she'd go insane if she were ever stuck in a single time and place ever again.
Just now, River was immersed in a mythological account from seventy-eighth century earth, of all places. It was, strangely enough, an account of her native time (albeit highly romanticized, at least to her mind). It was quite amusing to see how warped history could get in twenty-seven centuries.
It amazed her that even on one world, the knowledge, history and culture could shift so drastically from generation to generation. How could even someone like the Doctor ever really grasp it all? He might spend the rest of his lives visiting all the planets in the universe, but there was no way even he could experience a significant sampling of each culture in each age of each world.
- As River herself had discovered, when they landed a couple of hundred years off from the Doctor's previous visit to Monshalla.
Accidents in time and space aside, River wondered which she'd prefer. To flit about the galaxies, only barely touching on the myriads of peoples and cultures, or to really get to know and understand the development of a single world...
"Great," Rose told Sue, bringing River out of her musings. "Now, go tell Em to give your dad a break, and show him what you know."
With a put-upon, sighed, "Yes, Mum," Susan left the library.
River watched her go, then asked, "Rose?"
"Yeah?" her adopted mum answered, straightening up the papers and books she'd been using.
"In all your travelling, I mean in your stories, you never really stayed anywhere for long, did you?" River asked.
"Well, there's a lot more that happened than what I wrote down," Rose told her. "An' I did a whole lot of sittin' around after what's in the journal, I can promise you."
River hadn't quite gotten to the end of the journal, yet. Rose had insisted that Sue let her hear the stories in order, and they'd only gotten up to the part with the Absorbaloff. "Well, yeah, but you never really spent the time to get to know a place, did you?" River asked. "And that's another thing, all the things you left out, and what you've been doing since then, and us travelling now, who's keeping track of that?"
Jack chuckled. "You volunteering to be the TARDIS' historical officer?" he asked River with a smile.
River glanced at him, afraid he was making fun of her, but his smile seemed kind.
Rose smiled, too. "I wasn't tryin' to create any historical document, at the time," she said. "Travellin' with the Doctor was more about the way we lived, not the details about what we did. I was just writin' to try and put things in perspective."
River tried to digest this, wondering why it suddenly just didn't sit right. Was she just being childish? Afraid of getting to the end of the book and there not being any more?
"I think it's a good idea."
River looked up at Jack, surprised. "Really?" she asked.
"Well, yeah," he said, a little uncertainly. "Like you said, Mum," he told Rose, "maybe it'd help put things in perspective. It couldn't do any harm, and at the worst we'd have something to laugh over at Christmas."
River couldn't help being hurt that he really did think it was a joke.
It apparently showed on her face, because he quickly added, "I didn't mean it like that. River?"
She raised her eyes from the table.
"I mean, we could all look back on the year, if we had some kind of a record beyond memory and the TARDIS' log," he explained. "It's really a good idea."
He gave River what she mentally labeled "the dreaded puppy dog eyes", and she smiled.
"There's plenty of room left in my journal," Rose volunteered, "if you want."
"What, me?" River asked. "Write in the journal? Really?"
The Doctor had allowed himself to be corralled into the console room, but only because he'd hoped the Captain might help him out.
"Please, Daddy?" Em continued. "Oh, hi, Cap'n! Please, please, Daddy?"
"Jack," the Doctor greeted with a pleading look of his own.
"Em, Doc," Jack Harkness replied with an annoying smile. The Doctor doubted he would actually be getting any assistance. "Getting ready for your first solo?" he asked the Doctor's eldest child.
No assistance, whatsoever.
Em giggled, and repeated her earlier argument. "I've passed all of Dad's tests, and I even caught that last-minute deviation en route to Zog that-" she turned to point an accusing finger at her father, "you missed!"
"And who says it wasn't just another test?" the Doctor countered.
Em just rolled her eyes while the Captain ineffectually hid a snicker.
"It's still too early to solo," the Doctor told her. She got that stubborn look he'd come to fear from her mother, but continued. "You haven't flown with fewer than two other pilots, why should you suddenly do it on your own?"
"Because I can!" Em pleaded. "You know I can, I just need the chance without you doing everything for me. And what if there were an emergency?" she asked. "Isn't it a bit of a risk that you're the only one who has piloted the TARDIS solo?"
"Out of necessity," the Doctor answered calmly. Perhaps a little too camly. Jack stood up, and Em blanched.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly. "But still, I'm right. Cap'n Jack's good enough to help, but he can't fly on his own. You need us, and I'm ready, I am, but you need to let me try."
The Doctor mulled this over for a moment, before the Captain spoke up. "What if you did try with just one other pilot?" he suggested to Em. She shot him a betrayed look, and he raised his hands defensively. "Just a suggestion."
"He won't let me do anything!" Em answered, pointing at the Doctor again. "I'd be lucky to control one full section of the console with him bouncing around doing everything important."
"I do not bounce," the Doctor put in.
"I didn't mean him," the Captain answered, then looked to the Doctor. "What If I helped her?" he asked. "I could keep my hands to myself unless something went really wrong."
Em was apparently shocked silent, and watched her father with the most hopeful expression he'd ever seen on his little girl's face.
The Captain gave the Doctor a small shrug, encouraging him to make the concession.
She was nearly perfect on every test the Doctor had given her. She certainly knew the console blindfolded, upside down, and backwards. Her time sense was impeccable, if slightly dulled by being part human-but even he couldn't fault her for that. There really wasn't any reason to deny her request, aside from giving her the satisfaction of winning the argument, having to sit on his hands while his TARDIS was flown, and, of course, the possibility of losing his little girl to her own TARDIS (which was secretly growing in the TARDIS nursery...).
The Doctor was just about to deflect the whole issue again, making some flippant comment about the Captain keeping his hands to himself, when they were blissfully interrupted.
"Daddy, I'm ready!" a new voice ironically announced from the corridor.
"Susan!" the Doctor answered, choosing option C: delay.
Rose had left the library after putting Susan's books away, intent on making some tea. She loved spending time with her kids, but lessons lately had been giving her a headache.
River was easier to deal with, she mused, as she made her way to the kitchen. When the Doctor set her a lesson, Rose would often try and learn it along with her. Like they'd just been talking about, it provided Rose with a fresh perspective. It was much better than the studies she'd undertaken in Pete's world. From motivation to subject matter, she'd been entirely on her own. Now, she had a fellow time-traveler to share with. Alright, a fellow human time-traveler. Okay, a fellow human time traveler who was within a hundred years of her own age.
It kept her thirst for learning alive, instead of letting herself be intimidated by her biological offspring's superior intellects.
Speaking of her little Time Lord hybrids, it seemed they shared their father's attention span. A particularly large tome that the Doctor had asked Em to memorize lay abandoned on the kitchen table. With a sigh, Rose started the kettle and returned to the library with the wayward book.
Jack and River were still at the table, but only River appeared to be studying. Jack was lounging back in his chair, book perched on his lap, but he wasn't reading. He was watching River.
Curious, Rose thought with a small smile. She stepped into the room and dropped Em's book on the table. At the sound, Jack and River jumped, but only Jack blushed. Very curious.
"Want anything?" Rose asked before leaving once again. "I'm makin' some tea," she offered.
"No, thanks," River said, returning to her book. Jack just shook his head, and buried himself in his own lesson.
Rose's grin was firmly in place as she returned down the corridor, until her stomach rumbled and her headache flared just a bit. Tea, she thought. Tea and nice, dry biscuits.
To be continued.