Travelling in a wibbly wobbly liney whiney
"My kind, your kind or in general?"
He considered for a moment. "No. I haven't heard anything. Why do you ask?"
"I could be wrong," Dawn warned him. "But I'm outside your building, and I think I'm looking at the TARDIS."
"Don't go near it," he told her. "I'll be there as soon as I can." Hanging up, he looked apologetically at Sanjay. "Sorry. Dawn's in my room and she says my computer's smoking."
"Luke, if I had a girlfriend like Dawn I'd blow off study when she called too. I'll talk to you later." Luke blushed – it had been a few months, but he still wasn't used to hearing Dawn described as his girlfriend – and hurried off, stuffing his things into his bag.
As he walked he dialled his room, waiting through his own greeting. "K9?"
"Yes, Master Luke?"
"Dawn says the TARDIS is outside the building."
K9 beeped for a moment. "Yes, Master Luke."
"It's definitely the TARDIS?"
"Readings match all previous recordings. Percentage of error, less than zero point zero zero zero zero..."
"Got it," Luke interrupted him. "Thanks. Keep your scanners active. Let me know if anything changes." Hanging up, he dialled again. "Hey, Sky."
"Hi Luke. How's Dawn?"
She made kissy noises down the phone and he laughed. Sky was integrating into human life far better than he had or ever would. "Shut up. Are you at home?"
"Yes, but Sarah Jane's not here."
"Doesn't matter – in fact, that's better. Do me a favour, activate Mr Smith?"
"Right. Is something wrong?"
He could hear Clyde in the background, asking the same thing. "No. At least, I don't think so. Are you there?"
"Mr Smith, I need you!"
"Luke, what's going on?" Clyde added.
"Nothing yet." He raised a hand as he reached the green in front of his building; Dawn waved back, jogging towards him. The TARDIS was tucked into an alcove and, as normal, everyone passing by was completely oblivious to it. "Mr Smith, did you know the TARDIS is here?"
"Is it?" Sky asked. "Clyde, did you know?"
"Nah, I have to be right up next to it for anything to happen."
"TARDIS presence confirmed," Mr Smith announced.
"I'm looking at it, Mr Smith. I know it's here. How did it get past us?"
"Have you approached it, Luke?"
"Not yet. Keep an eye out in case it vanishes or something, please."
"Luke, you're sure you wanna go near it?" Clyde asked.
"He hasn't come looking, so it can't be anything serious. And I'd rather go in there after him than have him running around Oxford."
"He'd have gone to you guys, or to Torchwood, if anything was really wrong. I'm sure of that. I have to go. Don't call Mum yet, I'll call you back in a little while."
"Do you want us to call the Council?"
Luke mouthed 'Council' at Dawn, who shook her head. "No, thanks, Sky. Dawn's done that. I'll call you in a little bit."
"Make sure you do," Clyde told him.
"Well?" Dawn asked, linking her fingers through his. "Is it really him?"
"It's really the TARDIS, but no one knew he was coming."
"What do you think?" She leaned against him, eyeing the silent TARDIS. "I kind of wish Connor was here."
"Nothing dangerous can come out of there. Nothing gets in without the Doctor's permission and no one else can fly it except him."
"You're not very convincing."
"You wish he was here too."
"Kind of, yeah." Luke had been learning, and Dawn had known for years, but Connor was still a better fighter than both of them put together. "How is he, anyway?"
"You're stalling. Are we going into your friend's space stroke time ship or not?"
"He's not really my friend, we've only met twice." He debated trying to talk her into staying back but decided it wasn't worth the fight. She wouldn't let him walk in there alone anyway. Taking a breath, he eyed the TARDIS. "Andrew would never forgive us."
"Never ever," she agreed.
"Come on." Holding her hand tightly, Luke led her into the TARDIS.
"Finally," Kennedy complained. "I thought the point of an emergency phone was that in an emergency, you answer it."
"Whadda you wand, Kennedy? I'b sick."
"So I hear. Where is everyone?"
"There's only Andrew, ad he wend to buy lebon. Whad do you wand?"
"Captain wants to talk to you."
"I can'd flird right now." Xander held the phone away as he sneezed heavily.
Kennedy waited patiently until he'd finished blowing his nose. "He says it's important."
"He would," Xander muttered. At least the sneeze had cleared his sinuses a little. "All right, put him on. Tell him if he tries anything I'm gonna hang up. Or sneeze on the phone. One or the other."
"Got it," Kennedy agreed.
There was some rustling before Jack said cheerfully, "Want me to come kiss you better, Xander?"
"Yeah, let's get Ianto mad at me and give Wales' premier alien fighting team the flu at the same time."
"You say the sweetest things."
"Why are you on my phone, Captain?"
"Oh. The Doctor's in Oxford."
"What?" Xander sat up, trying to ignore the way the room spun around him.
"Well, the TARDIS is in Oxford. And since the emergency destination is Leadford at the moment, I'm assuming he's in it. I thought you might like to check in with Dawn."
"Anything for you, sweetheart."
"Go away." He hung up, concentrating for a moment before dialling Dawn's number. It rang out and he cursed, dialling again.
"Do you want super soft or balm?"
It took him a moment to follow that. "Forget the tissues, Andrew."
"You say that now, but when your nose is all dried out and scaly..."
"Andrew. Have you heard from Dawn?"
Andrew paused; Xander could hear him swallow nervously. "Recently?"
"Today. Probably in the last..." Xander stopped, rubbing his face. "She called, and you went out so you wouldn't have to talk to me."
"That sounds like deceit, which is certainly not something someone on the side of good would do," Andrew said hurriedly. "And I'm in the checkout line so I really should go."
"Well, if you're in the checkout line you'll be home soon. I guess I can ask you then."
Another long silence followed before Andrew hissed dramatically "I'll call you back."
He called Dawn again, though he wasn't expecting her to answer and wasn't surprised when she didn't. He tried Luke as well, just for the sake of it, still not surprised when it wasn't answered. He called Rachel, one of the slayers on campus and Dawn's unofficial guard, but she'd been in class and didn't know anything. He told her to keep an eye out and hung up to answer Andrew's call.
"She threatened me."
"She played on my natural sympathy for you in your weakened state."
"She said it was nothing but you'd just fret..."
Andrew sighed. "There s no need to yell, Xander. And it's bad for you."
"Yeah." Xander coughed, trying to ignore the spike of pain in his throat. "Where's Dawn?"
"She's not answering her phone."
"Well, Oxford, or somewhere in the boundless regions of space and time."
"Andrew," he said on a sigh.
"She saw the TARDIS near Luke's dorm. No one went in or out while she was watching. She promised not to go near it, she was going to wait for Luke."
"And what was she planning to do when Luke got there?"
"Um, I don't..."
"Andrew. If Luke goes into the TARDIS what do you think Dawn will do?"
"Follow him," Andrew said reluctantly.
"Right. Get back here, we have to go."
"Back here now. And just be glad Buffy's in Asia. I wouldn't give much for your chances otherwise."
"Yes, boss," Andrew agreed miserably.
Xander hung up and took a moment to breath before turning to his computer, set up on his side table. The program he wanted was sitting on the desk top and he switched it on, typing carefully 'Mr Smith?'
'Yes, Xander' appeared on the screen.
'We're going to Oxford. Please let us know if anything changes.'
'Done. Do not worry, Luke is with Dawn.'
Xander squashed his first response to that, instead typing 'thanks' and turning it off. "Great thing about computers," he mused, "you don't have to bother with the social niceties."
He thought about that for a moment, adding, "Of course, I thanked him."
"And called him a him."
"I need clothes."
It wasn't the Tenth Doctor's TARDIS.
Luke hadn't really expected it would be. The Doctor usually came to them and to Torchwood in chronological order, and he'd already met the Eleventh. But he'd never seen inside his TARDIS, and he wasn't sure what to expect.
It wasn't that different from the console room he'd seen before. The console itself was raised off the floor; a man was lounging on the ramp, watching them. "Hey. Luke, right?"
"Rory Williams," Luke said carefully.
He grinned. "Nice to have my own name. Doctor!" He stamped on the floor a couple of times. "Your guests are here!"
"Guests? Plural? I don't remember sending out invites!"
Luke edged to one side until he could see the Doctor, hanging from a harness and working on the underside of the raised floor. "Doctor."
"With you in a minute, Luke!"
Rory shrugged when Luke looked back at him. "He's been fiddling down there for ages."
"Around. Looking for the library, I think. She does that whenever she gets bored. Hi," he added to Dawn. "Rory."
"Oh, but you're beautiful."
They turned to see the Doctor pulling off his goggles, staring at Dawn. "Gorgeous," he said again. "Rory, isn't she beautiful?"
"I'd answer that, but my wife's on board," Rory told her, and she grinned.
"No, really! Look at that colour!"
Luke felt Dawn tense. Taking a half a step forward, he said quickly, "Why are you in Oxford, Doctor? Is something wrong?"
"Can you see that colour, Luke?" he continued as though he hadn't heard.
"I know who Dawn is," he said carefully. "Don't," he added, plucking the screwdriver out of the Doctor's hand.
"But look at that! Fabulous work, by the way, kudos to the workmen..."
"Doctor," Luke said firmly. "We're leaving."
"No, don't, I'm over it. Bored now, no one likes green anyway, have you met Rory? Rory, have you met the beautiful young woman, and Luke?"
"Yes." Rory came down to join them anyway, shaking Dawn's hand. "Nice to meet you."
"Likewise. You're a..."
"Companion," Luke murmured when she faltered.
"Really? Is that what we're calling it now?" the Doctor protested, swinging up the ramp to examine a screen hanging above the console.
"I like it," Rory said thoughtfully.
"So do I, it's great. Luke, how have you been? No – issues?" He waggled his eyebrows ridiculously.
"No issues, thank you," Luke agreed. "Are you just here to ask me that?"
"What? No." He leaned against the console, watching them.
"Doctor," Luke said warily, "what are you doing here?"
"That's a very philosophical question, and it deserves some deep thought. We should ponder that. What are any of us doing here, when you get right down to it?"
"What are you doing here in Oxford?" Luke asked patiently.
Dawn turned suddenly, crossing to the door and pulling it open. "Luke?"
"He isn't in Oxford."
"He isn't in Oxford. Neither are we. I'm not quite sure where we are, actually. Why aren't we decompressing?"
"Atmospheric bubble extending around the TARDIS," the Doctor called down. "You're very calm."
"It's Tuesday," she said with a shrug. "Where are we?"
"I could tell you the numbers if they'd mean anything to you."
"They would to him." She gestured to Luke.
"It didn't make any noise," Luke murmured.
"Blue boringers." The Doctor bounced back down to join them. "Not to worry, Sexy'll have you back before anyone knows you're gone."
"Everyone knows you're here, Doctor. I called home and Dawn called her council. Mr Smith and K9 were watching you. They know we're gone already."
"Not to fret, we'll be back."
"Where are we going?"
"I promised Clyde a trip. And I thought you'd want to come."
Luke glanced at Rory, who shrugged. "He told us he was stopping for milk."
"Milk, did I say milk? Can't think why. I don't even like milk. Cows, yuck."
"Yeah, I did think that was odd," Rory agreed.
"And you didn't complain?"
"Complaining never does any good, you don't listen to me anyway."
"Rory the Roman, I listen to every single word you say. I just ignore some of them. So! Where's Clyde, Luke?"
"He's in Bannerman Road, but school's not finished yet, Doctor." Luke moved up the ramp, eyeing the controls. "What's this?"
"You tell me." The Doctor leaned against the console, watching him.
"They'll be a while," Dawn murmured. "Rory, right?"
"How long have you been with the Doctor?"
"Dunno. What year is it? Anyway, it's not the same in here."
Dawn smiled faintly, glancing up as Luke poked at a control and the Doctor slapped his hand away. "You know Luke?"
"By reputation. We've never met, but the Doctor seems very fond of his mother."
"So I've heard. Did you really not know where we were going?"
"Knowing doesn't really help, it's really better to just go with the flow."
Rory looked up, grinning. "Dawn, this is my wife Amy. Amy, Dawn is Luke's friend."
"Luke?" Amy repeated, coming to join them.
"Sarah Jane's Luke. We were in Oxford briefly."
"Oh, yeah. Hi, Dawn." She waved, looking up at the console. "Hi Luke!"
"Hi Amy!" He waved back, still studying the console.
"Give him ten minutes, he'll be flying that thing just as well as the Doctor," Dawn murmured.
"Oh, he's clever, Luke. Luke!"
"Can you get us back home yet?"
"Uh – almost!"
"Did he kidnap you?" Amy asked. "He's always running off with people."
"Dawn!" Luke was hanging over the rail, eyes bright. "We can go to Washington!"
"Maria?" she guessed.
"Sounds like fun. I haven't been to Washington for a while."
"Who's Maria?" Amy asked.
"Friend of his from the Bannerman Road gang. She moved to America three or four years ago and they haven't seen each other since."
"Old friend, huh?" Amy nodded thoughtfully.
Dawn made a face at her. "They were thirteen. Or maybe fourteen, I guess. Quit it."
"I didn't say anything." She was grinning, though.
Dawn turned away, heading up the ramp. "Are we there yet?"
"Ah, backseat drivers, how I love you." The Doctor grinned at her before pointing to a seat. "Sit and stop backseat driving. No, new plan. Stand here and if that light turns orange, hit it."
"What does that do?"
"Don't ask," Luke broke in. "Just hit it if it turns orange."
"Good advice," Amy agreed from below. "Never ask him to explain things if you don't already know the answer."
"What's supposed to happen when I hit it?" Dawn slapped the console.
"It's supposed to stop being orange, obviously."
"And what if it doesn't?"
"Hit it again!"
"That's pretty much how he explains everything," Amy advised her. "That, and 'think of a thing – it's nothing like a thing, but it'll make it easier.' "
"Tiny little monkey brains," the Doctor muttered. "Although you probably don't have to worry about that, do you, Dawn?"
"Stop that," Luke warned him.
The Doctor peered intently at Luke's forehead. "Don't suppose you have to worry about it either."
"And stop that. It's creepy."
"Nonsense. Amy, is this creepy?"
"Yeah, little bit." She leaned on the railing, watching them. "Something we should know, kids?"
"Nothing," Luke said firmly, overriding Dawn with a look.
"If you're sure."
The Doctor clapped his hands together, grinning. "Right! Next stop, Washington! Off we go, Luke my boy."
Xander and Andrew were only a few minutes out of the Slayer House when Mr Smith and Jack, almost simultaneously, called to tell them the TARDIS was gone. They diverted to Bannerman Road, reaching there almost three hours after the original phone call.
Sky met them at the door and led them up to the attic. Sarah Jane was back, watching Mr Smith run deep space scans.
"Hi, Xander, Andrew," she said when they came in. "No sign of them yet, I'm afraid. Do you want something to drink?"
"No, ta." Xander looked around, impressed. "Wow. Very nice."
"Oh, it's just a little something I've thrown together over the years," Sarah Jane said with a smile. "Andrew, please don't touch that, it's very sensitive."
"Don't touch anything," Xander agreed. "Sit down and keep your hands in your pockets."
"Here." Sarah Jane tossed him a small box. "This is – sort of like a video game. It was a present to Clyde, but he won't mind."
"How does...ooooh!" Andrew blinked, tilting the box.
"Holographic display that only you can see," Sarah Jane told him. "Have fun."
"You're never getting that back from him," Xander murmured.
"It doesn't matter. Clyde hasn't touched it for a while. It's for a much younger child – their equivalent of a teaching game."
"Still, pretty cool." He watched Mr Smith's screen for a minute. "No sign?"
"No, but Mr Smith can only scan relatively close to Earth. The TARDIS could be anywhere."
"TARDIS located," Mr Smith announced.
"The TARDIS is in orbit around Saturn."
"I hear it's nice there this time of year," Xander agreed wisely.
"Call it, Mr Smith," Sarah Jane ordered.
"Certainly." His screen hazed and then cleared to reveal the Eleventh Doctor, grinning.
"Hello, Bannerman Road!"
"Doctor. Did you kidnap Luke and Dawn?"
"Kidnap is a very strong word, Sarah Jane Smith, you should be careful where you're flinging it around."
Sarah Jane smiled. "Are they with you?"
"We're here, mum," Luke said from off screen. The Doctor glanced over his shoulder, tilting the screen so they could see.
"What are you doing, Luke?"
"Learning to fly the TARDIS." He was grinning, clearly thrilled. "We're going to see Maria in Washington."
"It's term time, Luke."
"Not to worry," the Doctor assured her, "I'll have them back before they miss anything."
"You always say that, and somehow it never quite works out that way."
"Before they miss anything important?"
He made a face. "You've got boring in your old age, Sarah."
"She's not old," Luke told him.
The Doctor ignored him. "Are you in the attic?"
"Yes," Sarah Jane said patiently. "We called you, remember?"
"Good. Stay there."
The screen flipped off and Sarah Jane turned. "Sky, come here. Xander, you might like to step over there to Andrew."
"Why?" Xander asked, obeying.
"Temporal flux escalating," Mr Smith announced, and the noise of the TARDIS filled the room.
"Oh. That's why." Xander backed up a little further, watching. "Is it going to fit?"
"Yes. More or less." She wrapped an arm around Sky, watching the TARDIS fade into solidity.
The door opened and Luke put his head out. "Right on target!" he crowed over his shoulder.
"Showing off is very unattractive," the Doctor said from inside.
"You show off all the time!" a Scottish girl protested.
"Yes, but I'm actually better at things. Plus I'm older than you."
"Then I should be allowed to show off," an English man said.
"No, that doesn't count." He stepped past Luke, grinning at them. "Sarah! And – new girl, I don't know you, who're you?"
"This is my daughter Sky," Sarah Jane told him.
The Doctor frowned, looking at his bare wrist. "Now, I know it's less than a linear year since the last time I saw you. And I'm not very good at human growth rates, but I'd be willing to wager she's older than that."
"Sarah Jane adopted me," Sky told him.
"Yes, the Captain and the shopkeeper left her with me," Sarah Jane said.
The Doctor didn't react. "Well, you are rather making a habit of picking up children, Sarah. I'll remember that next time I find one. Hello, Sky."
"Hello," she said cheerfully. "May I look in your ship?"
"Luke, don't let her touch anything," Sarah Jane warned him. He nodded quickly, drawing her into the ship.
"Oh! Oh! Oh! Me me me please? Please?" Andrew burst out.
The Doctor stepped around the corner of the TARDIS, eyeing him. "And you are?"
"Doctor, that's Andrew and Xander, they're Dawn's friends. They got worried when you kidnapped her and came here for my help."
"I didn't kidnap her. Kidnap is a very loose description. It was all her own fault. Andrew and Xander?" He turned on Xander, staring at him. "Harris."
"Ye-es," Xander said warily. "Sarah Jane, why does he know my name?"
"Alien teams," the Doctor murmured. "Andrew, you may look at my ship. Touch nothing."
"Really?" Andrew threw his arms around the Doctor, hugging him tightly. Startled, the Doctor tentatively hugged him back. "Thank you thank you thank you!"
"He's serious about not touching anything," Xander warned him.
"I promise." Andrew let go, bouncing on the spot. "An actual alien spaceship! Oh, wow..."
"Go on," the Doctor said, pushing him gently towards the door. Andrew went, stopping to run a hand over the doorframe.
"Was that wise?" Sarah Jane asked.
"Amy'll keep him in line. She's good at that. So! Why am I here?"
"That was our question," Xander told him. "Why are you here?"
"You called me, Sarah."
"After you ran off with my son, yes," she agreed lightly.
"Kidnapped is such a harsh word."
"I didn't say kidnapped."
The attic door opened, bouncing off the TARDIS and back into Clyde. "Sarah J – ow!"
"Careful!" the Doctor called cheerfully.
The door opened again, more slowly, and Clyde edged around the TARDIS. "Oh," he said, eyeing it. "That explains it."
"Explains what?" Sarah Jane asked, touching his chin and angling his face into the light.
"This." He held up one hand, crackling with blue energy. "I'm fine, it didn't really get me."
"What is that?" Xander asked, poking at his hand.
"Artron energy. It's what the TARDIS runs on, so whenever it's around I get a flare up. Is something going on?"
"That's what we're trying to find out," Xander told him. "Your Doctor doesn't much like direct questions."
"Luke and Sky are in the TARDIS, Clyde," Sarah Jane told him. "Where's Rani?"
"Helping her mum; big wedding order came in the shop. I called her, but since it didn't seem like anything was wrong I told her to stay there. I can call her back..."
"No. I think we're all right. Go on." Sarah Jane smiled and he nodded uncertainly, stepping into the TARDIS.
"Amy! Rory!" the Doctor called. "You're being very rude. Come and meet our hostess."
Rory appeared in the doorway. "Hello, Miss Smith –"
"Sarah Jane. It's Rory, isn't it? How's married life?"
"Everything I hoped for, except I hoped for rather less cannonballing around space and time."
"Oi," the Doctor said warningly.
"Amy says we can't come out because the tall guy –"
"Andrew," Sarah Jane told him.
"– keeps trying to push buttons or pull wires, and she doesn't trust Dawn to stop him."
"Hey!" Dawn protested from inside.
The Doctor grimaced. "Well, be careful, then."
"Yep." Rory withdrew back inside.
"Now." The Doctor turned to Mr Smith. "What year is it, Sarah Jane?"
"Just checking; it's hard to keep track, you know. Mr Smith! Can you check –"
The TARDIS vanished.