Bella marched toward the cliff with more confidence than she really felt, accompanied by the protests of the imaginary Edward. It felt good to make the decision though.
She wasn't far from the edge when she heard a strange sound behind her.
She turned slowly. There, just a few yards from her, a blue box was appearing out of thin air. And to think she thought seeing an echo of her ex-boyfriend was bad. When the box opened and two people stepped out, she decided it was about time to recall what she knew of the signs of head trauma. Still, the ghostly Edward insisted that going to investigate a strange object that appeared out of nowhere was an even worse idea than cliff-diving, so she wasn't about to miss the opportunity to show him how little say he had about it.
"Blimey, I thought we were supposed to see the Seattle strike of 1919? Are you telling me you landed in the wrong place again, Doctor?" A girl, who seemed only a touch older than Bella herself, spoke with an unmistakeable English accent.
"No, of course not. Well, probably not. Not really. And we can't be that far off anyway, even if there was a slight miscalculation."
"Slight miscalculation? Wasn't that what you said when we landed on Argola Seven instead of the Hiratean market? My head is still rumbling from that pterodactyl screeching."
"Argolans are not pterodactyls, Rose. As a matter of fact, genetically speaking, they couldn't be further-"
"Doctor, they look like a giant earless bats with long, toothy beaks."
"Well, the comparison to bats, now that you have mentioned it-"
"I still want to know where we are. Are we even on the right planet? No, don't tell me, we are in the right place. Only Columbus still hadn't got to America and Seattle hadn't been founded yet."
"Nah, I would be able to tell if we were... Oh, hello there!" The strange man the girl called the 'Doctor' suddenly looked right at Bella. "Let's see, jeans, trainers, very good choice that, digital wristwatch, I'd say we are either in the end of the twentieth or the beginning of the twenty first century, am I right?"
The question was apparently directed at her. Problem was, she had no idea what to do about it. "Um," she managed finally.
"Don't tell me you aren't sure either. You don't seem to have a vortex manipulator on you, so I thought you would know. You didn't lose a vortex manipulator in the middle of the turn of the twenty first century, did you? Please tell me you didn't lose one. That would be a right mess to deal with, paradoxes all around."
The blond girl snorted. "Doctor? Maybe I should give it a try." She stepped around him and smiled at Bella. "Hi, I'm Rose. We seem to be a bit lost. Could you tell us where we are?"
It took about three tries, as Bella was opening and closing her mouth before she took a deep breath and reminded herself that if she could handle vampires and werewolves, this should be a piece of cake.
"Forks," she managed before taking another breath. "We're close to it, anyway. State Washington," she added for good measure.
"Ha!" The Doctor exclaimed. "Told you we weren't much off."
"Oi! You just admitted it was a century off already. Next thing we know we'll be meeting werewolves!"
"How did you know?" The question escaped Bella before she could think. "I mean..."
"There are werewolves here?"
"Any of relation to Queen Victoria?"
"Never mind. If there are werewolves here we should probably move the talk somewhere safer." The blonde told her looking pointedly at the man and before Bella knew what was happening, the other girl pulled her inside the box.
That was when she realised that vampires and werewolves actually did very little to prepare her for this.
It wasn't very often that the TARDIS complained about her companions, especially not the ones that seemed otherwise likeable. And even then, the range of the problems was somewhat ordinary: not caring about her equipment, smuggling a malevolent creature onboard, inappropriately storing high explosives (Ace) or planning an orgy next to sensitive mechanisms (Jack). Which was why, as soon as the ship communicated her problem, the Doctor went to investigate more out of curiosity than anything else.
He found Bella standing in the bare bedroom Rose led her to, staring confusedly at the walls that kept changing colours rapidly enough that by this point it was safe to assume that the girl wasn't suffering from epilepsies or she would already be having an attack.
"What's going on here then?" he asked as soon as he entered and the human looked at him with relief. Possibly because there was finally someone to mediate but most likely because that gave her something to focus on that wasn't a wild array of colours.
"I don't know. The walls keep doing that. I didn't do anything."
"The TARDIS says you are stonewalling her."
"That I am... wait. The TARDIS said that?"
"Of course she did. Who else do you think would complain about it?"
"No, I mean, how could the ship say that?"
"Ah, that might be because she isn't an ordinary ship. She is a brilliantly wonderful vortex ship that happens to be bonded to me. She communicates telepathically."
"Oh," Bella nodded. Then she blinked. "Oh. Uh-oh."
Not moved by this display of eloquence the Doctor waited for her to continue. She didn't, but that might have partly been because Rose chose that moment to enter the room and stared at the walls and lack of furniture in disbelief.
"Problem?" she asked.
The other girl actually blushed. Curious, that.
"There might be. I..." she broke off and looked around helplessly. "I was told my mind isn't exactly easy to read?"
Now that, there, was definitely interesting.
"What do you mean 'not easy to read'? I can assure you that the TARDIS is excellent at reading not only simple human minds," he ignored Rose's dirty look, "but also those much more complex. Otherwise there wouldn't be much point bonding with a Time Lord, would there?"
"No, I mean, my thoughts... He said he couldn't hear them."
"Who said that? And of course nobody can't hear thoughts. Wouldn't be very efficient if one had to process mental impulse transition the same way as sounds."
Both girls blinked. Then Bella kept blinking and looked down.
"He..." her voice was suddenly hoarse. "He was my boyfriend."
"And why would your boyfriend consider himself an expert on mindreading?" the Doctor pressed on before being elbowed by Rose. Still, the other girl cleared her throat preparing herself to answer.
"He was a telepath. Said I was the only person whose thoughts he couldn't hear."
"What is this with hearing thought? I already said..." This time the brilliant blond human at his side elbowed him harder and he went silent for a moment.
"Did something happen to him?" she asked the younger girl.
"No. Not really. He left me." Bella cleared her throat again.
"Because he couldn't hear your thoughts?" Rose frowned.
"More like because he got bored of being with a human."
"Oh, one of those." As far as the Doctor was concerned the glare that was sent his way was completely uncalled for.
"I gather he wasn't a human?" he asked and saw the girl pale. "What was he then? Egharian? Lejiren? Xigherthi? Arcateenian? They are pretty big on telepathy."
"No. It's not like that. He... Um, he was from Earth."
"Humans don't generally communicate telepathically," he observed.
"I know. He wasn't."
"Communicating that way? You said..."
"Ah. Then coming back to the original question, what was he? Humans have pretty much monopoly on being sentient Terrestrial species. Was he part alien?"
"No! It's... it's a long story and I promised to keep the secret."
The Doctor sighed. If there was something he didn't like, it was being refused answers. Especially if those could solve a mystery.
"Right then. Back to the problem at hand. How can you be stonewalling the TARDIS?"
Rose's "She is doing what?" came only a second before Bella spoke.
"I don't know. It's not something I'm doing consciously. Maybe I'm immune to telepathy."
"You can't be immune to it," The Doctor all but rolled his eyes. Really, Earth's level of science was never all that impressive but this was ridiculous. "For that you would have to internally eradicate the mental impulses, which would translate to virtually being brain dead. Which you don't seem to be at the moment, I might add."
"Then what? If I'm not immune how come neither Edw... my boyfriend nor the TARDIS could read anything?"
"Well, the most probable explanation would be having some latent telepathic ability yourself and somehow developing it in the direction of filter and block. Uncontrolled, it would eventually mute all the mental communication when it got strong enough."
"How can it be telepathy? I never heard other people's thoughts in my life and nobody can hear mine."
"Do you have any idea how chaotic mental communication would be in the long run if everyone just broadcasted all their thoughts as they went? Honestly. That's something you'd expect from little kids not..." he broke off when he realised both girls were looking at him strangely. "Anyway, if you were born with any telepathic ability, I would expect you'd have learned to put the filters on within the first year of your life because of all the background noise of people thinking around you. That's long before any lasting memories are formed. And having never interacted with a telepath in that time you wouldn't have known not to bring it too far or learned how to shut it down. Not that I blame you. The way people keep blubbering in their thoughts gives one a headache after little more than an hour."
"Oi," Rose suddenly interjected. "What do you mean by that? Are you telling me you've been listening to my thoughts?"
"Why would I do that? Terribly impolite, listening in like that. I know humans can't generally stop themselves from projecting but it doesn't mean I don't stop myself from listening."
"But still, you never mentioned you could."
"I could also walk into the bathroom while you're occupying it. Doesn't mean I don't know better."
Rose blushed. "Oh."
"Exactly, oh. Now, Bella, would you let me take a look?"
"Take a look?"
"At your mind. I'd like to see if I'm right and you managed to overdo a telepathic filter or if we need to look for another answer. If I'm right though, I'll need to train you a bit. Can't have you and my ship ignoring each other, can I?"
"Can you do that?" she asked with some curiosity. "Look at my mind, I mean."
"Well, metaphorically speaking. Mind as such can be only perceived mentally so there is no 'see' in it per se. But first, could you just speak out loud what colours you want the walls to be before you drive the TARDIS crazy?"
"Oh. Right. That light violet from a second ago was fine, I suppose." The walls settled finally, with the TARDIS sending him an impression of utter relief. He grinned.
Humans. You never got bored around them.
At seventeen Edward Masen knew he wouldn't have much more time to enjoy his youth before he would need to follow his father's footsteps studying the law and starting work. Which was why he fully intended to make the most of the summer now that the school holidays have started.
He only had time to greet his parents when, still in the school uniform, he went to meet with some friends. It was in the late afternoon when he made his excuses to return home. He didn't expect anything extraordinary on the short distance he had to walk but still enjoyed the feeling of freedom that came after completing the year at schooling. That's when he saw one of the more peculiar sights he could recall. A young woman – for there was little doubt she was exactly that, wearing man's clothing, seemed to be looking for someone.
The opinion on the 'suffragettes' in his house wasn't generally very high and he could recall many times his father commented the articles on them with some mockery, even if the general tone seemed to mellow down with time. All the same, it didn't seem a matter to discuss at length in a polite society. Still, from everything Edward knew of the movement, the young woman he could see was most definitely not a part of it. If anything, she looked lost.
That is, until their eyes met. When they did, she gasped and paled considerably to the point when he started to wonder if she wasn't going to faint. Then her eyes narrowed as he strode to her.
"Are you feeling all right, Miss..."
"I..." She gasped. Then, in a move he completely did not expect, she slapped him. His hand went to his cheek almost automatically as he looked at her with question in his eyes.
"That's for when you left me crying in the middle of the forest," she informed him, promptly making him wonder how to explain the worst case of mistaken identity he could imagine. What kind of man would leave a woman crying in some perilous place? And how such person could possibly bear any likeness to him?
Before he had a chance to even begin to explain, two more people appeared. A man and another young woman in ill-selected man's attire, doing as poor impression of a man as her apparent companion did.
"What did you do?" The blond woman accused and only now he saw the brunette had tears in her eyes.
"I don't know," he admitted. "All I did was ask if she was well."
"And she slapped you?" the man questioned before turning to the blonde. "Rose, remind me not to let her meet your mother. I'm not sure the universe is quite ready for that."
The young woman in question snorted and punched his arm in an apparent attempt to display some male behaviour after the man made a slip up with her name. That, however, didn't make her any more convincing.
"Is there anything I can help you with?" Edward heard himself asking, not even sure himself why he would want any part in this poorly though-out deception, aside from the fact that he felt strange protectiveness for the pale young lady with tears in her eyes.
"Nah, we'll be fine, thanks for asking. We should be going now, though. See you later!"
The trio retreated, with the brunette, whose name he never managed to learn, walking away quite shakily. He had no idea what to make of it all but was sure that the event would be memorable for quite some time.
How wrong this certainty was, he learned only a short while later when so many of his memories were lost in the fires of the change. This particular memory didn't return until he was aboard a plane, with the pilot announcing they were approaching the Fiumicino airport in Rome. As the memory regained some focus, he went still.
Half an hour later, when he finally managed to locate a payphone, still in shock, he selected his sister's number.
"Edward! Don't do anything rash, please! I know I lost her somehow but..."
"Alice..." Something in his tone must have told her to grow silent. "I think I know where she is."
"You found her? Wait, you found her in Italy? Please, tell me they didn't find out about her," she pleaded.
"Not as far as I know. I found her in Chicago."
"Yes. Only, when you said you couldn't see her in the future? I think you were looking in the wrong direction."
"Don't you just hate it when you get this 'I'm sooo much older, I know better' look when you can see there is a hole the size of Alaska in his reasoning?"
The Doctor stopped just as he was about to enter the kitchen and sighed at the giggling that erupted inside. It was gossiping with Sarah Jane all over again. Why did he discourage Rose in her 'that Dalek just followed me home' stage? At least they killed you outright instead of making you slowly die of embarrassment.
"And did he ever say anything like 'it's not like I can read minds' despite being a telepath?"
"You know, now that you mentioned it..."
More giggling. He would just need to brave it.
He stepped into the kitchen. "Oh, hello. I thought the console room was surprisingly quiet. Tea anyone?"
"Sure. We were just having a bit of a girl talk."
The fact they admitted it could only mean they wanted confrontation. He looked around hoping for some distraction but found none. To make things worse, the TARDIS hummed approvingly, siding with them. He was doomed.
"Were you?" he tried neutrally, fishing the box of M&S Gold Label and cups out of the cupboard. He was answered with more giggling. Stifled this time.
"Yeah, one doesn't often get to talk with another girl fancying pretty, much older telepaths of another species." Rose kept a perfectly straight face saying that and for a second he only stared. Then he blinked.
"Oi, who are you calling pretty?"
"Face it, you are. Cute too."
"I'll have you know that I cannot possibly be cute. Cuteness is specifically an aspect of physical appearance that is displayed only by small animals and is, in fact, an evolutional trick to encourage the feelings of protectiveness that make other species more likely to foster any lost young. Time Lords are decidedly not cute."
"Well, you are. Live with it. If it makes you feel better though, I liked you even before you were this cute."
"I'm not cute," he grumbled as he turned back to making tea. But he had to admit, it did make him feel better. "So, any plans for today, girls?"
"Um," Bella started carefully, "Rose mentioned that there was this place Tukr-something that had really good shops. I didn't take anything with me..."
"Tukhrevier," he corrected automatically.
"Which of course reminded me that I could really use a new shirt," Rose cut in. "And didn't you say that you wanted to look for some plugs for something or another?"
"Secondary sub-impulse generator," he admitted with resignation. "So all this plotting was just so I would take you shopping?"
"Don't worry," Bella reassured him. "I just need a few things. I don't really like to shop as much as Rose does. But when we get back to Earth I'll need to introduce her to someone."
The Doctor had a really bad feeling about the smile the younger girl sent to her co-conspirator. Usually when someone smiled like that, they were at least half-way through taking over the world. For now, though, he needed to focus on appeasing the two.
"How do you take your tea?"
"Just one sugar. I can't believe you two are adding milk to it."
"Oi, nothing wrong with a bit of milk! Have you even tried it before you started making a face?"
"I just don't see how it could work."
"Well, it does," Rose asserted. "Want a few biscuits?"
"You mean cookies?"
"I think there are some custard creams left. And ginger nuts."
"Sure. But I still don't see why you call them that."
Sitting in the last Gallifreyan ship, the girls entered a heated discussion about the proper name for the tea snacks. Cultural differences, the Doctor decided while busying himself with his own tea, were funny thing to observe.
"You know," Rose whispered to Bella, "When I heard about you being able to do that telepathic thing, I was a bit jealous. Thought it would be brill to be able to talk with the TARDIS like that and if you could do that then maybe I could learn too, if less efficiently."
"I just thought I would let you know I don't think that anymore."
"No, really, is that all from just asking if the Doctor was back from shopping for parts when we returned from the market?"
"Could you stop talking?" Bella moaned miserably.
"When he's back, I'm sure he'll give you something for the headache."
"And do you really have to blink so loud?"
"I'm sure the Doctor will be here soon."
"That's it. I'm telling him you asked to learn as well. We'll see how much fun you're having then."
"You don't need to bother, really. I'll be fine without it."
Bella threw a pillow at her. Too bad that with her coordination hitting the target really wasn't an option.
"How can you not know where she is? You are the only thing I've ever met that was blocking my vision, you stubborn mutt!"
"Watch it, leech. I told you all I know. I returned home and she was nowhere in sight. I though she went cliff-jumping but..."
"Cliff-jumping?!" Alice screeched, "Bella? Are you out of your flea infested mind?"
Jake shrugged. "She saw some of the guys doing it and was interested. I promised her I would take her."
"So now you are admitting to planning to kill her? What did you do to her?"
"I didn't do anything to her, you dumb bloodsucker. I thought she went by herself and rushed to the cliffs only to learn that while she did go there, her smell never reached the edge so she couldn't have jumped."
"Maybe one of your mangy dog friends threw her the rest of the way!"
"And maybe one of you leeches kidnapped her."
They glared briefly at each other.
"So where does it leave us?" Alice finally asked.
"How would I know? Her scent didn't lead anywhere else. Though, to be fair, it was already getting muddled because of the rain."
"It's always raining here. Are you telling me you still haven't learned how to go around it?"
"If you're so brilliant, maybe you can tell me where she is. For all I know, one of the leeches could have taken her and you are just a decoy."
Alice growled. "Are you suggesting I would help kidnap my best friend?"
"How do I know? You leave her for God knows how long and then you miraculously come back when she vanishes."
"I came because I couldn't see her! How hard can that be to understand? I would have seen if she went somewhere on her own or if she was taken by any human or vampire. That only leaves the wolves."
"Don't you think I would have noticed if someone from the pack was thinking about kidnapping my friend?"
"Oh, yeah, that explains everything, " Alice spat sarcastically. "Obviously, seeing how your involvement is completely out of the question, an alien spaceship must have appeared out of nowhere and taken Bella right from under your nose. How stupid do you think I am?!"
"Want an honest answer?"
Alice growled again, quickly eliciting a matching response, when her cell rang.
"Don't go anywhere," she instructed, glaring at the young Quileute. "I'm not done with you."
She stepped a few steps away as she answered the phone.
A moment later found her staring at the phone in disbelief. "Looking in the wrong direction? What was that supposed to mean?"
"Does that mean you know where Bella is?" Jake's voice carried surprisingly little hostility in the face of the news.
"Possibly," she allowed, despite the cautious wording as hopeful as he was. "Unless my brother is currently suffering from a nervous breakdown. I guess I'll find out when he gets home. But whatever keeps him from being suicidal."
"Let's just say he overreacted to Charlie's voicemail a little bit."
"That was absolutely brilliant!" Bella stumbled into the TARDIS clutching her freshly autographed 'Pride and Prejudice'.
"It wasn't bad, I have to give you that," Rose grinned back at her. "Jane was great. And I think I have a new appreciation for literary classics."
"Yes, anything to unglue you from the OK! Magazine," the Doctor offered, looking at the blonde who was currently in the process of removing her period-appropriate hat.
"Oi! I read normal books too!"
"Not sure if most of those qualify as literature."
"So what? I enjoy them. And after our meeting with Dickens I read all of his books too." She grinned cheekily. "Speaking of which, it's a wonder we actually landed where we were supposed to and got to meet her. I was half expecting to get right into the middle of Napoleonic wars' battlefield."
"It's not like we always land in the wrong place. Plenty of times we're right on spot."
"And most of those aren't the times when we're supposed to get to some fun event."
"Well, the TARDIS might have a bit of an opinion herself and prioritises timelines' disturbance and time off accordingly."
"I'm just saying. This makes it even stranger that we actually landed right on spot."
"Well, this time she might have felt bad and tried to make up for giving Bella that headache. Speaking of which, she promises to be more careful next time. She just wasn't used to direct contact with someone as fragile as humans."
Bella groaned. "Not another one."