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Sojourn

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Jack knew it was a TARDIS, knew it had a chameleon circuit and, for reasons yet to be explained to his satisfaction, it looked like a blue box. What he couldn’t quite wrap his head around was why no one noticed the ungainly thing.

Materialisation had left them in a sub-corridor of Balen 6, one of the 42nd century’s busiest trade stations. It was a universal destination, filled with the cream of alien society and the flotsam and jetsam of humanity, bustling and crowded. Despite this, passers-by didn’t notice or didn’t acknowledge the TARDIS, as if she were wrapped in psychic paper bearing the message ‘I belong here. Ignore me.’

Jack leaned against the ship, idly tracing the grain of the wood, wondering what it actually looked like, listening to the voices drifting out through the door. Teasing and clothes and the foibles of humans, the banter between Rose and the Doctor was almost ritual. The appearance of the words ‘stupid apes’ inevitably heralded one of their moments as he’d labelled them. Moments when, for all intents and purposes, the world apart from them ceased to exist.

Glancing down the corridor, the universal grey: grey walls, grey carpet, grey writing, grey lights were in stark contrast to the sections that catered to the wealthier galactic traders. He’d had been here many times and each with a different role: Time Agent, playboy, galactic prince, merchant and, on one highly memorable occasion, as a concubine.

Tradecraft running the gamut from merchant cruiser to tramp freighter stopped at the station for rest, refuelling and trade. Balen 6 was a galactic hub and there was nowhere in space — or time, if you had the right connections - you couldn’t get to from here.

Nothing had been said, but he knew why they were here. The part the Doctor needed could have been found in any of the markets scattered across space; he’d decided on Balen 6 when Jack had mentioned his familiarity with it.

Obviously, this was the logical place to leave him.

He supposed he was grateful they’d brought him somewhere so advanced, but gratitude was drowned by ashen bitterness and an unsettled discontent he couldn’t trace.

That they’d taken him off his doomed ship had been a surprise. He’d been prepared to die, knew he was about to be blown to hell and that it was his own bloody fault.

He’d reached the safety of the ship, planning, intending to leave. Had begun the system checks necessary to fire up the engines and get him out of there. But his hands betrayed him, drifting from flight panel to teleporter, setting it to snag a bomb that left free would have obliterated all evidence of what his mistake had almost wrought.

It would also obliterate a man in a leather jacket who was so much more than he appeared and a woman dressed in a Union Jack: a man who replaced munitions factories with banana groves, a woman - his mind hesitated even as his fingers nimbly made adjustments and tweaked settings - a woman he suspected was unlike any he’d ever met. They’d loomed large in his mind as he frantically adjusted the settings, racing against time as destruction whistled closer.

He’d nabbed the bomb then, greatly daring, slid down the beam to straddle it, all bright-eyed bravado and grinning sass. Well aware of the picture he made he’d played the heroic farewell to the hilt. The Doctor had been willing to sacrifice him without qualm, his ubiquitous cynicism noted, but it couldn’t convince him Rose understood what was happening. So he’d had his moment and disappeared, last act typifying everything he wasn’t.

Ideas, impulses, thoughts racing on rivers of adrenaline drove him back for one last moment. Imminent death couldn’t breach his defences, but he packed everything into his tone: farewell and regret and something that almost sounded to him like ‘it was worth it’ and gave it to the blonde in the Union Jack.

Back in his ship, he’d laughed at himself, at how he’d come to the very end he’d tried to avoid: chance of termination - 100%. If the laughter was tinged with a touch of desperation, at least there’d been no one to see it.

He’d been played by a master.

The Doctor had known he’d save them, had somehow forced his hand. Jack was impressed despite the outcome — he was a master of manipulation, but even his talents paled in comparison to the subtle machinations the Doctor had employed.

Ah well, he’d thought sipping his martini and waiting, had to die sometime.

The appearance of the blue box had stunned him, shocked him immobile. Rose’s voice snapping him out of it, he’d bolted for the door, reflexively concealing wonder at the immensity - at the impossibility — of what waited on the other side. Immediately his mind had started playing the angles: what did they want, what was their game?

They’d rescued him. He still had trouble wrapping his mind around the concept; suspected Rose’s hand was strongly at play in that move — alpha males rarely invited another into their territory willingly — and her happiness at seeing him alive had seemed very real.

Leaning casually against the curved interior wall, watching them dance, he wondered just what the hell he’d gotten himself into, formulating plans to grab everything that wasn’t nailed down and calculating how long he’d have to do it.

He’d smirked at the picture they’d made. The Doctor was right — he wouldn’t be adverse to a dance with either one or both together. Charismatic, magnetic, the Doctor was undeniably attractive, sensual despite the lanky frame and ungainly features. He suppressed the frisson of fear that responded sharply to the Doctor’s presence, intimately understanding the double-edged attractiveness of power.

And Rose. He’d spared a moment to regret not pushing the issue when he’d had her, dancing in mid-air over the London sky. Warm and soft and sassy, he’d have tumbled her in a heartbeat. Then, profit and the con had won out: exploring Rose would have taken considerably longer than either of them had had. Now, he wouldn’t mind another chance.

She’d been happy, smiling and laughing delightedly, offering to dance. He was eminently familiar with that reaction: seduction would be easy. She was halfway there, and he knew her type: once bedded, he’d have a hold on her he could use to get what he needed. Firmly, resolutely, he shoved down the niggling doubt, the voice that said, yes, but what about?

Knowing time was against him, he’d begun the first steps in his planned seduction. Rose had rebuffed his overtures with laughing, teasing rejections that stung in a way an insult or a slap couldn’t. They’d just rolled right off the Doctor who’d grinned even wider than Rose and he’d retreated in disgruntled confusion to regroup.

Dragging his thoughts back to the present, relief eluded him. He wanted to be relieved; wanted the weightless euphoria that accompanied every close escape. From Balen 6 he could make his way anywhere.

Finger tracing the keyhole, his thoughts were heavy. Life was much simpler before he’d brought a Chula ambulance to earth; he should have known the con was too flawless to let him out unscathed.

They raised uncomfortable feelings in him. Not the sexual attraction, for he’d played even beyond the notoriously permissive standards of his era. Seduction was his art: the hunt, the dance of predator and prey, seducer and seduced, was his joy. Stalking his targets, plying his skills across time and space, they were precision instruments that excised fools from their money.

No, there was something about these two. Something dangerous. The Doctor was a predator in his own right, but the danger here was something different.

Watching them, he’d seen their connection, undefinable and undeniable.

Seen it in the halls of a London hospital, hand in hand in the beam of a teleporter they’d not even noticed, standing before a pack of monsters ready to defy them, dancing around the inside of a ship that shouldn’t exist. He’d been prepared to dismiss it as he’d dismissed his own uncharacteristic actions — as reaction to stress, to dangerous circumstances. Adrenaline and fear could have strange effects on people, effects he’d taken advantage of in the past.

Danger over, it was still there between them. Shared glances over tea, casual brushes and touches, leaning into each other, Rose’s head resting on the Doctor’s shoulder, the Doctor draped over the back of her chair.

It was something he couldn’t quantify. Couldn’t calculate, couldn’t work the odds on. Sex he could have understood and played the game on that basis. But it wasn’t sex and they didn’t seem aware of their attraction. It wasn’t as though he felt lost. It was just territory so unfamiliar, the map hadn’t been written for the likes of him.

Whatever it was, it was waking vague feelings he refused to identify. Not quite jealously and not quite longing, they were new and uncomfortable and he didn’t like it. They struck a spark with the void in his memories, recognition of a sense of something lacking.

Everything had to be factored into a con — one seemingly inconsequential detail could send it stuttering into ruin — and he couldn’t make the pair of them fit. So better that he got off the ship and away from them as soon as possible; they were throwing his reactions off and that could get him killed.

The swirling chaos of clatter and chatter that was the Doctor and Rose interrupted his reverie.

“Ready to go then?” the Doctor asked, brows lifted in inquiry.

“Hey, it may take me time to look this good,” he gestured down the length of his body, slid a hand through his hair, “but I was still ready before you.”

The Doctor poked Rose with one long finger, indicating she was responsible with a pointed tilt of his head. She responded with a light shove, exclaiming, “Oi! It wasn’t my fault. Blame the TARDIS, she’s the one that lost the wardrobe.”

It was true, Jack thought, the TARDIS had lost the wardrobe in Rose’s room, and the kitchen, several libraries and what the Doctor had goofily described as ‘a room of infinite wonder’.

Watching them, he had to admit that there were certain benefits to a lost wardrobe. Rose had scrounged in the Doctor’s room and was wearing one of his jumpers over jeans. Her curves hidden by its looseness, the amount of pale skin revealed by its deep v-neck made up for the loss.

Struck suddenly by how startlingly attractive they were he felt a bitter pang of regret at the glorious picture they made: Rose the golden sun to the Doctor’s dark mass, each taking it in turn to orbit the other in defiance of all universal constants.

He could have left — could have walked away instead of waiting, could have disappeared once they reached the crowds — but some perverse notion he refused to examine too closely was determined they would have to tell him to go.

Rose glanced back at him and a stab of anger rose: presumably he was meant to follow along like a good boy. Gesturing with her free hand, the other held tight by the Doctor, motioning him to hurry, but her face was open and guileless, reflecting no impatience. Either she was a phenomenal actress or he was just off, misreading signals, like he didn’t speak their language.

“So, please,” Rose implored, “please tell me we’ll find something here to fix the TARDIS. I need my clothes back.”

He watched her closely as she took in the station. Clichéd it might be, but the Doctor was an enigma. Jack could stare at him until entropy triumphed, and all he’d learn was that none of the 27 different versions of manic grin bore any relation to what was moving behind his eyes. She, on the other hand, was transparent, each emotion flashing across her face, shouting out her every thought, bright and clear. She was the Rosetta stone, the key to understanding the dynamic confounding him.

“Yup. Can’t get the actual part but I should be able to find something here we can rig up, hey Jack?” Grey walls were surrendering to bright primary colours, reflected in the guide maps spaced at regular intervals along the wall. The Doctor consulted one briefly, nodded to himself and pulled Rose around a corner.

Startled, he swung closer to the pair. The halls were becoming crowded, a low buzz of conversation filling the air and blending with the deep rumble of the station’s generators. “Excuse me?”

“The spatial locator is on the fritz. It needs a replacement bit, which we can’t get. With me so far?”

He nodded uncertainly, wondering where he figured into this.

The Doctor continued, “You’re pretty good when it comes to rigging up machines, yeah?” He didn’t wait for a response this time, “and I’m brilliant...”

Rose’s snicker interrupted him.

“I am!” he protested, voice rich with mock indignation making Rose laugh harder, leaning sideways into the Doctor, sending Jack stumbling into a tall creature trying to edge past the trio. Glaring, bright red crest drawn high in offence, it shoved bodily past them, and he crashed back into the Doctor. A strong hand under his elbow hauled him upright before he could hit the floor.

Rose was bent double with laughter, clutching her stomach, forcing them to stop. Neatly concealing offence behind a blinding grin, he offered a deep bow to the pair, only somewhat hampered by the press of people. “Here to entertain you, in any way you might care to take advantage of,” his voice laced with suggestiveness.

Rising gracefully, he checked abruptly as she reached out, still mirthful, and laid a hand on his chest. “I needed that, can’t remember the last time we had a good laugh.”

A sudden realisation took his breath away. Rose wasn’t laughing at his uncharacteristic stumble, she was just laughing — all her joy and excitement bubbling up and overflowing. His hand slipped up, touching hers, unconsciously responding to his realisation. She squeezed it briefly, letting hers fall with a last chuckle as the Doctor looked on indulgently.

“And if the words ‘stupid apes’ comes out of that mouth of yours,” Rose warned as the Doctor prepared to speak, “you’re going to regret it.”

Momentarily motionless as they slid into the movement of the crowd, Jack stared at his hand in betrayal — he didn’t do casual touching. Hadn’t done, unless sex was involved.

Exuding wounded innocence the Doctor continued, “As I was trying to say before someone so rudely interrupted, we need a part for the TARDIS’s spatial locator, and I’m sure we can find something here…”

The ‘here’ trailed off as he flourished his free arm at the huge doors now in front of them. Tall steel glinting 10 feet high, opening onto a sea of metal and plastic: the Balen Trade Hall, where parts merchants and scrap metal dealers, pirates and scroungers, plied their trade, offering for sale anything and everything mechanical.

Jack was struck by the smell. He breathed it in: grease, metal, sweating bodies of a dozen species, haggling over parts, the smell of commerce, of trade at its most basic. Table after table filled with metal and electronics, some neatly organised and catalogued, others strewn haphazardly across floor and table, tangled nests of wires creating hazards for the crowd.

He loved this place. Loved everything about it, loved tinkering with machines and electronics. The Doctor had damned him with faint praise earlier had he but known it: only his ability to beguile eclipsed his mechanical skills.

“Right,” the Doctor exclaimed, releasing Rose’s hand and rubbing his together in anticipation. “Off we go then.” He strode forward into the crowd, stopping suddenly, spinning back to them. “Hmm, no. This is a disaster waiting to happen.” Under his breath he added, “For once I’m gonna stop it before it starts.”

Jack was puzzled at the apparent non sequitur, a glance at Rose showed her expression equally baffled.

“You two, in there? Not good. Especially not you,” he added pointedly to Rose.

Enlightenment dawned as Jack peered over the Doctor’s shoulder. No women. Not a single female could be seen amongst the bodies jostling for bargains.

One of the peculiarities of the aliens who maintained this station was that females were solely responsible for governing and law. They did not engage in trade or commerce, and would definitely not be shopping for spare parts. Visiting ships tended to keep their female crew on board rather than risk offence, meaning Rose was one of very few women in evidence.

Despite the diversity of species represented in the cavernous hall they possessed a uniformity of appearance: middle aged, scruffy and from the covetous glances aimed at both Rose and Jack, likely fresh off their ships.

Trouble wasn’t going to come from a violation of their host species’ customs. It was going to come from some tramp freighter crew-member’s unwelcome attentions. Vivid pictures of the possibilities flashing across his mind, he grimaced.

“What? What does that mean? Especially not me.” Transparently displeased with the Doctor’s statement, she glared expectantly, awaiting an explanation.

Sliding to the side, out of range of any possible explosion, he waited. He was not getting involved in this.

“Rose, please.” The Doctor drew her away from the entrance, the movement bringing them next to him. He sighed. “You want your clothes back, yeah? Well, the faster I find the part, the faster that can happen. I can be in and out in a flash if I go by myself.”

Her stubborn expression didn’t bode well for the Doctor’s arguments.

“Besides, it’s all grease and metal bits, nothing you’d find fun.” Rose wrinkled her nose in distaste.

He was impressed. An appeal to her sensibilities might convince her; even a hint that she couldn’t look after herself would have her hurtling through the doorway.

Gaze lighting on Jack, the Doctor’s eyes brightened.

Uh oh. He had a sudden sense of impending doom.

“Jack!”

Deeply trepidatious, he answered slowly. “Yes?”

Attention back on Rose, the Doctor continued, “Jack’s been here before. He can show you all the sights. You can take in the human things — clothes and bits of tat and whatnot. Right, Jack?”

The question was accompanied by a frighteningly direct look.

He was forced to reassess his earlier conclusion. The Doctor wasn’t always an enigma. Sometimes he could be as obvious as a lighthouse, his thoughts as clear as if he’d shouted them in his ear.

I don’t want her getting hurt, don’t want her getting into that sort of trouble with these sorts of people don’t want them touching her, hurting her.

A jumble of emotions revolving around a single piercing thought: protect Rose.

He was stunned. The Doctor wanted to pass Rose into his care? Wouldn’t take her into a situation where she might get hurt and the obvious alternative was to send her off with Jack, traipsing around a station she’d never been to?

Pushing Rose next to him, digging into his pocket, the Doctor drew out a handful of credchips. “There you go,” he said, dropping them into Rose’s hand. “Have fun, I’ll meet you at Delvos.”

He looked questioningly at Jack, who nodded. He knew the place.

“Give us an hour.” Looking down at his watch he amended, “no, better make that three hours.” With a quick nod and a meaningful look he disappeared into the crowd.

Alone with a ruefully grinning Rose he had the uncomfortable feeling he’d just agreed to far more than a tour of the station.

“Is he always like that?” He was still blinking in surprise at the breathtaking speed with which the Doctor had executed his plan.

Rose nodded, smiling fondly, and replied, “Yeah, pretty much.” Shaking her head, she glanced down at the chips. “First time I met him he grabbed my hand and told me to run for my life.”

Huh. That was a story he was going to have to hear.

“So, what do you want to see?”

“Surprise me, Captain Jack.” Her grin was wide and open. “We’ve got money…This is money, right?”

Three gleaming chips in front of his face. He nodded. Without a reader he couldn’t be sure, but his practiced eye was telling him those three golden bits of metal and plastic were enough for a substantial down payment on a new ship.

“Right, so we’ve got money, three hours and I’ve got a guide. Let’s go find something fun.”

Gallant, he offered his arm, flashing a quick smile when she accepted, but his attention was fixed on the chips she slid into her back pocket.


* * *

Rose hadn’t found anything to buy.


He’d taken her to the safe parts of the station, the shops filled with communicators and electronic gadgets, tools and weapons, entire shops filled with anti-gravity storage lockers and stasis tanks. Were they his, those credits would have been gone in a heartbeat but he could see how nothing would strike the imagination of a girl from 20th century earth.

As the three-hour mark approached Jack began guiding their steps to Delvos.

A Delvos, he realised as they arrived, that had changed since he was last there.

It had always been popular but now it was filled with what were obviously crew from the bottom end of the merchant fleets. Worn clothes, a certain tightness around the eyes, suspicious glances from bar to tables and the scent of cheap beer confirmed his assessment.

The collective attention of the patrons had focussed on Rose. Jack’s presence at her side and his glare, directed at the bar in general, sent them back to their glasses and muttered conversations. If he’d had a way to find the Doctor, he’d have taken her somewhere else.

He headed for a table at the back, placing Rose in the corner, fierce glare and teeth bared in what could be mistaken for a smile, deliberately placing himself between her and the other patrons.

A disinterested waiter threw some menus down in front of them and wandered off without a word. He answered Rose’s raised eyebrow, saying, “Customer service isn’t a high priority here.”

“I guess not.”

He watched as she picked up the slightly sticky plastic flimsy. Puzzling at his behaviour he concluded he’d been trying to make life easier; trouble with Rose at its centre would inevitably involve him.

“I can’t read this.” Her voice was plaintive, cajoling. She was so obvious he grinned at her.

“Yeah, and?”

“So, I’m hungry. What does this say?” She pointed to the middle of the menu. He blinked, tempted for a moment: her reaction to what was essentially a cage full of live furry spiders would have been highly entertaining.

“I’m not going to read you the menu, Rose. If you’re going to traipse around through space and time, you really should learn some of the more common languages.” It was innocent teasing, surprisingly enjoyable, and he perused his menu with apparent unconcern.

“Jack!” He shot her a wicked glance. She was pouting, actually pouting, but her eyes were dancing.

“Oh, fine.” He surrendered, pretending annoyance. “But I’m really not reading you the menu.” He tapped his chin thoughtfully, miming deep thought. “I’ll order for you, but you’ve got to eat whatever I order.”

She was weighing it up; he could see it. “Okay,” she said with a little shrug, “I trust you.”

Automatically he continued what he was doing, reading the menu and tapping his order into the keypad set in the table’s centre.

Inside he was seething.

She trusted him? She really was naïve; she had no idea. He couldn’t believe she’d survived so long and was struck by a moment’s sudden sympathy for the Doctor. Trusted him.

He was torn, first impulse to jump on her admission, use it to get everything he could from her. Trust was far more potent than lust. Seduced, he could have made her a pawn in his plans. If she truly did trust him - and how stupid was she? he thought - he could probably get anything he wanted, willingly given.

The second impulse was utterly unexpected. He wanted to strangle her, grab her by the shoulders and tell her not be so stupid. Wanted to warn her that she was asking for trouble, setting up the guest room and inviting it to stay.

She was chattering on, oblivious to the turmoil her words had caused, telling him about something she’d eaten on another space station, a Crumpburger, something the Doctor had chosen, apparently made from penguins.

He was grateful when the keypad flashed, indicating their order was ready.

He worked his way across the crowded floor, weaving between tables, checking the exits, shaking his head in disbelief, trying to figure out exactly how he’d ended up here with someone who trusted him.

He suppressed a brief urge to bang his head against the counter.

Delay with the order — they’d given him gralk when he’d ordered flevan tres and gralk was poisonous to humans — kept him longer than intended, and he was confronted on his return by the sight of three figures, faded brown uniforms spotted with grease, hovering over Rose.

She’d been smart enough not to let them corner her, was up on her feet and facing them. Her back was to him and as he approached unnoticed he could see the credchips glinting from her back pocket.

He was poised, balanced on a moment of time, the clarity of choice blinding him.

This was the perfect opportunity. He could lift the credchips and be gone before she realised; her attention wholly fixed on the figures in front of her. All bravado and cheek, not backing down and barely afraid, she was innocent confidence personified. She saw only harmless leers and innuendo, blind to the empty greed, the casual violence behind them.

In her inexperience she didn’t understand the danger, didn’t understand how wrong this could end up.

He could lift those chips and leave her there; make his way anywhere with the credit she’d regarded so casually. They’d never find him; he doubted they’d even look.

He could…ah hell. No he couldn’t.

Even as he stalked forward, sliding the tray onto a table, he cursed himself. Why, why, why? - his brain screaming at him all the while. He ignored it, slid a deliberately possessive arm around her shoulders, pushing her behind him, sheltering her with his body.

He knew this sort: they wouldn’t back down unless they thought she belonged to someone else. Voice calm, almost bored, he inquired casually, “There a problem here, guys?”

The tall one, obviously the leader, paused, looked Jack up and down. “She yours?”

Tightened his arm in warning as she went rigid, felt her subside but not relax.

“Yeah.”

Nostrils flaring slightly, eyes half-shuttered, letting the predator peer out from behind his masks; muscles deceptively loose, concealing lethal potential.

Warning them they’d get one chance.

They may have been greasy and they may have been smelly, but they weren’t stupid and they were cowards. They backed down, mouthing obscenities he didn’t bother to acknowledge.

He didn’t move, didn’t let Rose go until they were back at their table, pointedly ignoring him. As his grip relaxed he felt her slip away. Eyes still watching the trio, he jerked in surprise when she hit him on the shoulder.

“Yours?” She was indignant, eyes glaring, lips set. “As if. I could have handled that, you know.”

It was hard, still riding the edge of adrenaline, normal persona slipped to one side and not yet resettled. He opened his mouth to respond, angrily, cuttingly, regretting his choice, but she sighed, and he hesitated.

“But thank you,” she said, smoothing her palm over the point of impact, soothing the minor pain, a tacit apology.

A half smile on her lips and something in her eyes, something warm and appreciative, and his regret ran away like water.

“Yeah, well. I guess I’m just a gentleman at heart,” he struck an exaggerated heroic pose, “rescuing damsels in distress across the universe.”

“Thought you were a criminal?” she asked teasingly.

That brought him up short, remembering his words, whispered to Rose on a London night: ‘I prefer to think of myself as a criminal.’ Even then she hadn’t taken him seriously, laughing at his description. Something shifted subtly in his thoughts, now unwilling to embrace those words quite so enthusiastically.

“People change.” Was that him? Voice so serious, so solemn.

Her gaze sharpened.

Turning, he retrieved the tray as she sat down, distracting her with a pointed glance at his watch as he slid into the opposite seat. “You do realise the Doctor was supposed to meet us here 20 minutes ago?”

“He’s always late. His watch doesn’t work.” She poked dubiously at the shredded green substance he pushed her way, flashing him a suspicious look.

“Hey, you said you’d eat it.”

“Yeah, but what is it?” She poked at it again, dragging a long piece out of the bowl and dangling it from her fingers. Sniffing it, her expression changed. “Hey, this actually smells good!”

“Rose, don’t sit there smelling everything, just eat it. It’s all good, I promise.”

She picked up the double-pronged fork, tasting everything, emitting surprised, pleased noises. He just watched her, watched as, apart from her initial uncertainty, she tried everything he’d ordered, without hesitation.

“Why does he wear it then?” At her nonplussed look he clarified, “The watch. If it doesn’t tell time, what’s the point?”

She swallowed before answering. “Well, it does tell time, it just doesn’t tell hours and seconds time. It’s set for years and decades, so he’s usually late.” Tilting her head thoughtfully, she added, “On the plus side, though, he almost always hits the right year.”

“That’s a comfort.”

“Of course, we did end up in Cardiff in 1869 when we were supposed to be in Naples in 1860.”

Rose’s story was interrupted by the arrival of the Doctor, who strode up to their table, clutching a paper sack. “There you two are, been looking all over for you.”

She couldn’t let that pass and the two of them were off, banter flying thick and fast, the Doctor settling next to her, snagging food off her plates. Jack tuned out the words and just listened to the sounds, watching them.

He continued to watch them, observing, mind and heart as calm as the eye of the storm, as Rose paid the bill, enjoying the wince of the cashier at the chip she passed over.

Followed, still watching, still eerily calm, as they made their way back to the TARDIS, hidden in plain sight and apparently still unnoticed and unremarked. Neither had told him to go.