Rose jumped. "Oh my God, you scared me!" She pressed her hand against her chest, heart pounding at her ribs. "I didn't hear you get up."
"The wise tread quietly, for they understand the necessity of silence." The Reader shrugged and sat herself down beside Rose. "Where's the Doctor?"
Rose took a moment to catch her breath. "He went out to buy us hamburgers. He wanted me to stay behind in case you woke up."
The Reader nodded, a soft smile on her lips. "Typical Doctor," she murmured, turning her attention to Rose. "So, you're the Doctor's companion, hmm? For how long?" Her American accent had faded into a subtle one, only slightly noticeable. Her voice, however, was heavy with a solemnity that Rose had only heard once or twice from the Doctor himself.
"Umm…I dunno. It's been quite a while, though."
The Reader nodded again. "I never did understand why the Doctor wanted company. Most of the time lords did, actually – always dragging along some person."
Rose's brow furrowed. "What, you never had a companion?"
The Reader shook her head, folded her arms across her chest. "Nah, I always kept to myself. You could call me a loner. Even on Gallifrey, I was always off by myself. The Doctor was my only real friend, now that I think about it. I suppose he figured I needed saving." She smirked. "More like the other way around, though."
Silence descended. Rose plucked at the seam of her pants, fiddling with a stray thread. She glanced up at the Reader from beneath her eyebrows, eyeing the woman. The time lord – time lordess? Rose wondered – had a distant look in her eyes. The lines on her face had grown deeper, aging her for almost another ten years at that very moment. Rose cleared her throat.
"D'you have a TARDIS?" she asked, snapping the Reader out of her memories.
"Yes, actually. Don't know where it is, but I'll find it. Can't be far from home," the Reader replied, the lines in her face melting away as she smiled and shrugged off her solemnity.
"Is it a police box?"
The Reader chuckled, shook her head. "Nope, can't say that it is."
"Then what is it?"
"Whatever it needs to be." The Reader stood up, stretching her legs and suppressing a yawn. "The TARDIS was designed to change its appearance wherever it went. It would change into something that was completely familiar and inconspicuous, something normal in whatever planet or era it landed in. End up in the woods, it changes into a tree. End up in a storage place, it changes into a box. Only a time lord can tell the difference."
"Yeah? Then how did the Doctor's end up like this?"
"It was frozen." The Reader rapped her knuckles against the console, feeling the TARDIS hum beneath her touch. "It malfunctioned and became stuck as a police box."
"Is that normal?"
"Is the Doctor normal?"
Rose grinned. "Touché."
The Reader grinned back. "Now that I think about it, my TARDIS is probably a tree – right in my backyard, I suppose."
"How're you supposed to get into it?"
"I'll figure out a way."
"I'm back!" The Doctor, bags in hand, waltzed through the door of the TARDIS. "Is the Reader up yet?"
"Yes, I am." The Reader stood up, eyeing the bags. "And I'm starving!"
The Doctor hopped up beside the Reader and handed her one of the bags. "Take your pick. I bought cheeseburgers, double cheeseburgers, plain hamburgers – you name it."
"Did you get the chips?" Rose asked, getting up as well.
"Of course." The Doctor fished a big bag of French fries out of one of the bags. "They're not the same as London, but they're good enough."
"Doesn't matter," Rose said, snatching up the fries. "I'm too hungry to care."
With three burgers in hand, the Reader sat herself down and began to eat, trying her best not to stuff her face. The Doctor sat himself down beside her, leaving Rose to sit all alone. Rose felt a pang of jealousy as the Doctor grinned at the Reader and dug into his own hamburger. She hadn't realized that the Doctor would be devoting most of his attention to the Reader, what with her being a time lord. Rose swallowed thickly, a feeling of foreboding settling in her stomach. The Doctor and the Reader were the last of the time lords…and the Reader was a female time lord. What if…?
Rose shook the thought out of her head and focused on her food. Nevertheless, the fries lost their appeal, and the hamburger was thick in her mouth. The Reader smiled at her and leaned her head back, a sigh of happiness escaping her throat.
"These are so good," she said, grinning at the Doctor. "Thank you."
"Figured you'd be hungry." He grinned back. "I always am after a regeneration."
"How many has it been now?"
"Oh, I dunno…" The Doctor frowned, his brow furrowing as he counted in his head. "Eight or nine, I think."
The Reader nodded. "I'm on my sixth."
"Of course you are. You've never had any fun!"
"I have, too!" The Reader shook her head, chuckling. "I regenerated twice when I was traveling with you."
"But after that?" The Doctor looked at her knowingly. "Seeking knowledge – boring!"
The Reader turned to Rose. "He never was one to understand the power of knowledge."
"Knowledge is power – sure, and being a time lord doesn't have anything to do with it," the Doctor scoffed, taking another bite out of his burger.
"Well, it does have its advantages," the Reader admitted, "but that still doesn't account for how powerful knowledge really is! Just ask any human who understands."
Rose nodded. "I knew this bloke that knew practically everything. Became president of the class, or something."
"Where's he now?" the Doctor asked.
Rose shrugged. "Dunno. Never heard about him again."
The Doctor turned to the Reader, a smug smirk on his face. "See?"
The Reader punched his shoulder. "Careful," she warned. "I know all the weak points of the body."
"Ooh, I'm so scared. I'm quaking in my pants."
Rose stared at the two as they laughed. The Doctor poked the Reader in the ribs, causing her to jump and swat his hand away. Real mates, Rose noted, frowning. Well, they grew up together. Makes sense. Her frown deepened. But Mickey and I grew up together…
The Reader finished the first of the hamburgers she had grabbed. "With all the rooms you have in the TARDIS, why on earth did you put me on the floor?"
"Where else was I going to put you? In my bedroom?" The Doctor shook his head. "Rose took the other bedroom."
"What, no guest rooms?" The Reader rolled her eyes. "You have all these companions traveling around with you, and you only have one guest room?"
"That's more to say than your TARDIS," the Doctor retorted, swallowing the last bite of his burger. "You just had your room, and that's it."
"That's all I needed, thank you very much."
"Speaking of which," the Doctor said, "where is your TARDIS?"
The Reader shrugged, a smile on her lips as she shot Rose a knowing glance. "Don't know," she replied. "I figure it's nearby, though. Probably a tree or something."
"It hasn't short-circuited?"
"Why would it? I didn't steal it."
The Doctor grimaced. "I borrowed it and forgot to give it back."
"Technically, you stole this TARDIS," the Reader repeated.
"What?" Rose glanced between the two, suddenly lost in the conversation.
"The Doctor stole this TARDIS," the Reader told her, unwrapping her second burger, "from another renegade time lord."
"He wasn't using it!" the Doctor cried. "She was so dusty and neglected…she just wanted to be used!"
The Reader rolled her eyes, mouthing 'He stole it' to Rose when he wasn't looking. Rose smirked, her food starting to taste like normal again. She figured she could like the Reader once she got to know her. She was much like the Doctor in quite a few ways – well, if they were mates in their youth, then, yeah, they would've rubbed off on each other – but she was also different…different enough to make her interesting. Although the pangs of jealousy still coursed through Rose, she noticed that the Reader wasn't being hostile to her, nor was she in any way threatening to anything that was there between Rose and the Doctor.
"What do we call you, exactly?"
The Doctor and the Reader glanced up at the blonde, the same puzzled look on both their faces.
"Well," the Reader said slowly, "my name is the – "
Rose shook her head. "I meant, are you a time lord? A time lordess?"
"Time lordess?" The Reader's eyebrows arched in amusement. She turned to the Doctor. "I like the sound of that."
"Time lady." The Doctor glanced over at Rose. "That's the right name."
"Time lady," Rose murmured to herself. "Were there many time…ladies back home?"
"Well, I suppose so," the Reader replied, pursing her lips in thought. "There were more time lords than time ladies, though. Skewy genes, I used to say."
Sadness descended on both time lords' faces. The Doctor glanced down at the grate of the TARDIS, staring down into the depths of the machine's wiring. The Reader shook her head, squeezed the Doctor's shoulder to snap him out of it. Smiling, she climbed to her feet and stretched, reaching for the ceiling of the TARDIS. A series of cracks and pops followed.
"Much better," the Reader sighed, shaking out her shoulders. "Almost thought I had to go to a chiropractor to get that fixed."
"Your back still bothers you?"
The Reader nodded her head. "And it's your fault, Doctor."
The Doctor jumped to his feet. "Me? I told you not to jump!"
"If you hadn't angered those creatures, we would've never been in that situation!"
The Doctor threw his hands up and hopped over to Rose. "She's always like this," he told her. "Always blames me for all her problems."
"You were the source of my problems," the Reader pointed out, jabbing a finger at him.
"Told you," the Doctor muttered, grinning at Rose. "Done with those chips?"
Rose nodded. "Help yourself."
"Well," the Reader said, taking a bite out of her second hamburger, "I suppose I need to find my TARDIS now, don't I?"
The Doctor jumped to his feet again. "We'll help."
The Reader smiled. "Great. I know where we can start looking. It's probably not there, but it's worth a shot."