With its usual wheeze and grunt, the TARDIS slowly materialized into being on a cold cement slab, tucking itself into a corner against a brown-grey brick building. There was a moment's stillness before the doors of the blue box swung open, a tall and lanky young man bursting out with a confirmative leap.
He inhaled deeply, analyzing the air before wrinkling his nose. "Burning," he mumbled, swinging his head wildly to the left and to the right, attempting to gain his bearings. "Burning…what?"
It was at this point that another person emerged from the TARDIS, standing nearly as tall as the lanky one, though this one distinctly female. She took one look around before quirking her eyebrows. At the instant she opened her mouth to speak, the lanky man took the time to speak instead.
"We're at a very average place on a very average day, Misses Pond," he said to her, turning on his heel and twirling his wrist in a mock-grandeur gesture. "How familiar you are with the United States of America I am uncertain, but we are in the Midwest, outside the city of Chicago to be precise – third largest in the country, though it tends to be glossed over between New York and Los Angeles."
A third person popped his head out from the blue box, seemingly hesitant to emerge but soon taking his place next to the woman. "Chicago?" he asked, looking at the sky and noticing a distinct lack of anything to suggest a city.
"97 kilometers away in that –" he pointed behind him "- direction. Though this is the US, what would they say…oh…Imperial system…about…sixty miles or so?"
"So…not Chicago," the other man deadpanned, sounding a touch disappointed.
"So – Doctor," the woman cut in, elbowing the man in the side, "Why are we here?"
The Doctor grinned, spinning on his heel again. "Well, there was a lovely little place I wanted to go to that I haven't been in ages, the most excellent" (his voice suddenly took on a deep Texan drawl) "hearty American breakfast you'd find anywhere." He winked at the annoyed and distraught looks he received. "Buuuut – burning smells!"
And with that, he bounded down the steps in front of him and rounded a corner of the building.
"Wait – Doctor, get back here!" The woman groaned and ran after him, leaving the remaining man with his arm outstretched.
"Amy!" he called before sighing, hopping on his feet a few times before chasing after the two. But as soon as he himself rounded the corner, he was left with a question: Did he go to the left and towards the street, or to the right and into the building?
A quick glance earned him the reward of seeing the tail end of Amy's red scarf fluttering down the hallway of the building. His shoulders slumped but they quickly perked to attention as he himself wrenched open the door glass door – then another – before galloping after them.
The chase came to a screeching halt when he rounded another corner and smacked straight-on into Amy. She stumbled forward but kept her ground, instead turning around and smacking his arm lightly. "Rory!" she snapped, annoyed. He gave her an apologetic but 'it's-not-my-fault' glance when he noticed just why she herself had to stop.
The trio had run into a gaggle of parents and disinterested students, who were currently listening to a stout middle-aged man with spiked white hair and a mustache lecture about ceramics. Amy eyed the Doctor, who had raised his eyebrows and puckered his lips as his gaze wandered the small hallway.
"Hey," whispered one of the students, looking up at the Doctor and giving a nudge when he didn't immediately respond. "You guys here for the open house?"
"The wot?" The Doctor looked down at her after he spoke the words, drawing his eyebrows together. He gave her a once over before being hit by an idea. "Why – yes! Yes of course." He paused. "Are you on the tour? What's it about?"
"Huh?" She jerked her head back. "It's for the school of art, for the open house. You sure you want to be here? You don't want to be at the business school?" She said the last two words with a touch of sarcasm.
"The burning – what's burning?" he asked, glossing over her questions. Her eyes narrowed a touch, more from irritation than from being offended.
"Kiln. Cooks clay. Stuff burns in it to make fire to which you produce heat to cook things. Sir, are you sure you want to be here?"
"Huh? I mean – yes. Yes, of course I want to be here – we, we want to be here." The Doctor then tilted his head, leaning forward an inch. "Why? Don't you want to be here?"
"It's kinda my job."
"Hang on." She turned to look at the group, craning her neck to give her shortened height a bit of an advantage and catching the eye of young man at the front. After a series of gestures, she gave a thumbs up and departed from the back, beckoning the Doctor to follow her.
"Sorry, I just didn't want to interrupt the group – uh – my job. I work here in the art department, as a student. Advising. I do open houses and orientations and the like. If you want any information on our programs, I'd be happy to tell you abou –"
Those words sparked a light in the Doctor's mind, causing his confusion to swap with a grin. A quick glance at Amy and Rory – who were more intrigued by the posters and sculptures adorning the hall – and he had a plan.
"You can indeed, young lady." The Doctor jutted out his hand, which she stared at. "I'm the Doctor, and I'm a scout for schools overseas looking for placement of students wishing to study aboard." With his other hand, he reached into his jacket and whipped out the psychic paper, which he flashed slow enough for her to read but not comprehend.
"We've got the British interested?"
He paused for a brief instant, momentarily forgetting that Earthlings thought he spoke with a particular accent. "Is this a surprise?"
"Kinda." She finally shook his hand. "My name's Ginger, by the way."
The Doctor smiled broadly, holding in a laugh. "Ginger?"
"But you're not a ginger." He bobbed at her hair, which was a close match in hue to his own.
"I get that a lot," she replied flatly.
"Well, Ginger," the Doctor said, still hiding a giggle and drawing far too much amusement from the situation, "I would think a tour of this building would be more than appropriate, don't you agree?"
"Uh, well – you came in at the last tour."
He blinked, still smiling. "Last tour? Last tour? Young lady –"
"- Miss Ginger (heheeeeeh you're not a ginger), is that any way to promote and spread knowledge and skill?" The Doctor then remembered what he had told her he was. "I mean, this is not exactly the ideal way to present your school to a potential interested party."
The way she looked at him would have made him chuckle if he wasn't trying to impress. There, clearly in her eyes, was annoyance at his commands. Her expression was so obviously telling of her frustration: eyebrows pulled tight, one slightly raised, her head titled low and staring up at him. Yet she didn't speak a word, as much as it hurt her not to, because it was her job to put up with him. "I can let you talk to Blaine or Erin or Jacqueline," she said at last. "They're actual advisers and do personal one-on-one tours for people wishing to explore the school." Another pause. Her mouth opened but then shut, and she turned around to face a set of twin doors, one of which she wrenched open. "Follow me, if you please."
The Doctor beamed, doing a single rock backwards on his feet before calling over his shoulder. "Come along, Ponds!"