She sat next to Hotaru.
"Oh, but the things I've seen. Faced the three-headed Crimson Shades of Saradun. Negotiated the exodus of the Will O' Wisps of Scotland. Surfed the endless diamond falls."
"Diamond falls?" asked Hotaru.
"Water falls, but with a thousand glistening diamonds in all directions. Like cascading through your most hopeful dream. So many times… The good, the bad… the Daleks…"
"What's a Dalek? It sounds cute," the young lady interrupted.
The Doctor snorted and turned to Hotaru, grinning. "Yeah, they were the cutest. Like kittens, really. But in all these different colors. I kept a fuchsia one as a pet for a while."
Hotaru smiled. "These all sound so wonderful. Why won't you take me with you?"
There was a silence before the light above the Tardis began to shine brightly. A soft click was heard, signaling the unlocking of the door. The Doctor stood and turned to the woman.
"It's recharged now," the Doctor said. She clasped Hotaru's hand between her own. "Hotaru Sato, thank you. Thank you for saving me. I won't forget it."
She snapped her fingers, causing the doors of the Tardis to swing open. As she walked away, Hotaru stood and shouted after her.
"Just one trip!"
"One hour into the future! I just want to skip 4th period."
"Not a chance."
"It's my free period! You won't even hurt my grades."
The Doctor scowled and turned. She walked towards Hotaru and glowered. She stood as a Goliath over the student.
"You have no idea what you're asking. At all. You humans never do. You live your lives agreeing to the Terms and Conditions without ever seeing the part where you can get hurt or break your hearts or lose track of the world around you. I have spent centuries making exceptions. Just this once or only for a few trips and it always end in pain. For them. For me. Hotaru, I owe you my life, and I'm paying that debt now by turning you away. Please. Just please. Walk away."
Hotaru's looked way from the Doctor. "You can't just… you can't do this. You can't just tell me the world… time and space… are nothing like what I thought and then just walk away. Do you think I'm going to forget you?"
"I hope you're going to try."
As the doors of the Tardis closed, Hotaru's eyes began to water. As the Tardis began to disappear, Hotaru sat on the sidewalk. And as the bell for 4th period began, all she could hear was the warping whine of the strange Blue Box now fully out of sight.
The Doctor locked the door behind her. She shook her head, the thoughts and memories of Hotaru clinging desperately to the sides of her graspings for peace of mind.
"It's America, is what it is," she muttered. "Americans always set me off my balance. A bunch of cue balls in a game of air hockey. My love," she said to the computer, "I think we need to go back to England. Just a brief stop for old time's sake. Then we can get on to that strange Cafitrax activity you are oh so subtly mentioning again and again on the window to my right don't think I don't see it, dear, I do."
She twisted one knob and pulled another level back, fluidly reaching to a series of buttons all different shades. She pressed the periwinkle button then Egyptian blue then ultramarine. She closed her eyes and cracked her neck, waiting for the familiar sound of the Tardis's descent upon London.
There was no sound.
Perwinkle, Egyptian blue, ultramarine.
Perhaps she confused the ultramarine with the Catalina? That couldn't be. If it was, they'd be in the fire oceans of Second Pluto. It wasn't something that goes unnoticed.
With cautious affection, the Doctor ran her hand across the console.
"Is everything all right, dearheart? Do I need to check 'round the wiring?"
The Doctor reached for the controls to the Tardis status feed. Before she could, the whirling shapes blinked out. After a moment, the video became a security feed of the school behind them. Students were walking past a softly crying Hotaru, each of her classmates pretending not to notice.
The Time Lady groaned and scratched her head. "No, don't… don't do this. We both know that I can't do that anymore."
Another monitor flipped to dark and then returned with a view from a student's cell phone. They were taking a picture of Hotaru.
The Doctor held her arms out.
"What do you want me to do!? Take her with me and lead her through all the danger? To fight the Double Shades or see the end of her own timeline?"
A monitor became a readout of Tweets. The most recent was the picture of Hotaru. It was simply captioned: "The little pyro crying in the middle of school. #loser".
She continued to argue with the console.
"I get that. You know I get that. But why her? There are trillions of people I could take with me. There are hundreds I've left behind. Why her? Why are you arguing with me now? What's so special about Hotaru?"
The monitors switched off. Then the lights. Then the engine. The room was all blackness. Then, all at once, every monitor flashed to life, each joining together to play the footage taken from Hotaru's own phone. In it, the Doctor was laughing.
"I would have never thought of that, really. I can honestly say 'I would have never thought of that in two thousand years'."
"Read it in a story," laughed from behind the camera. "I've just always wanted to try it."
The camera zoomed in on the Doctor's wide smile. Inside the Tardis, the lady sighed.
"Oh, how I wish you hadn't archived that. I actually thought I had deleted that before you saw it."
The school was empty again. The students all in class or home for the day. Hotaru sat next to the pond, scribbling into her sketch book. She looked at her latest work, a cat with three eyes and wings. The artist's fingers hovered over the fuchsia colored pencil. Then, with a small growl, she ripped out the page and threw it into the water.
"Oh, it wasn't that bad, really. I mean, the wings were a bit off, but you're learning."
She turned around and saw the Doctor behind her. With a huge grin, she leaped at the Time Lady and hugged her tightly. The Doctor burst out laughing at the unexpected display and, surprising herself, held Hotaru in return.
"Oh, thank you. Thank you!" Hotaru said. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
The Doctor let go of Hotaru and pointed a finger in her face.
"One place. One trip. We go 'round. We have a visit. You come back."
Hotaru pursed her lips and nodded.
"So you understand, then? Only one location or one time period and then we're even."
Hotaru's eyes widened and she nodded more vigorously.
The Doctor clapped her hands together.
"So, what'll it be?"
The student's eyes narrowed and her smile become wicked, knowing.