Not knowing how to handle the situation, the Doctor had rummaged through every nook and cranny of the TARDIS that might still have some semblance of meaning, some trace of the waltzing woman.
An honest attempt, of course, when trying to find some connection to her and the actual dream he had had that included her. He wanted to try, even though he knew he had thrown every item he possessed that she had ever touched and every thing that she had ever gifted to him into the Void.
There was just one exception, just one, because it refused to be tossed away as nothing more than refuse. It was now, of course, nothing more than a box without a key. It was a box without a key, sitting upon a pedestal in the Library, because an incredibly stupid old man threw the only key for it in his possession into the Void.
It was an incredibly stupid old man, a very angry and emotionally dangerous old man, that had thrown the key for the box out into the Void first before any of the other items just because the box contained notes that he had not understood when he first found them in his younger years.
How could a woman, so young and naïve, have been capable of knowing his future?
She told him, when she first handed him the box, that a copy of the key would be left with a mutual friend ‘just in case’ he lost it.
Young and naïve my left foot.
He tracked down Sarah-Jane Smith, first and foremost, as she was one of the first of his companions that the woman had ever met. Sarah-Jane, however, seemed to have lost all of her memories of the woman, as her first response was, “Who?”
That was the reaction from everyone he had asked, actually, which was beyond all sense and reason: If he still remembered her, why had everyone else let her vanish?
Last, but not least, the only person left to ask would be….
No one was home. Of course, with the plight at hand, no one would be home.
No notes were left on the fridge and nothing was marked upon the calendar, therefore they could be anywhere, and they could be at anytime.
Thanks, self, he chided, for being one to skirt her off her feet for adventures on the fly. You’re going to hate yourself later for such frivolities.
After careful thought, and several hours of seeing hide nor hair of a single person in or out of the house, the Doctor gave up and started thinking of ways to keep his mind calm.
Brownies would work, of course, but he wasn’t in the mood to cook with drugs.
Drinking would take an enormous amount of time to affect the system, and only if his mind and body were cooperating together to let the alcohol do its work.
Cleaning, sorting, sweeping, all the various chores a house could ever possibly want, was a definite notion tickling his brain. Concentration on tedious, mindless tasks would override a busy mind.
Yes. Yes, cleaning the house should work.
Knowing that everyone who kept a room in her home had been left to their own wants and needs as they saw fit, Lisa came home from an exhausting three-week trek with Medicus in the upper lofts of the western mountains. Gathering extremely rare herbs on rocky slopes and steep terrain was not fun, but helping to keep Medicus’ medicines in stock for the oncoming winter was far more important than her own want for something much more laid back and entertaining.
He made foraging for herbs look so easy.
With a sigh that she had been holding back for what seemed like ages, Lisa merely walked into the house’s kitchen through the back door, dropped her rucksack and looked for something to munch on before trying to decide on what would be best for her first full meal back at home.
Opening the fridge, hoping to find an apple or maybe even a slice of pie in the temporal distortion box, she realized the contents had been organized by type of food, and then in alphabetical order.
How in the―
Closing the door without another thought of snacks, she whipped around to take in everything in the room:
The floor was immaculate.
The dishes were all washed, dried, and also organized alphabetically by type, and then alphabetically by color.
The counter and the stove were sparkling, as was the microwave, the dishwasher, and the kitchen sink.
The only thing that seemed out of place were two square brownies resting on a plate upon the table with a note beside them: “Please do not eat, as they are for medicinal purposes only.”
Rolling her eyes, knowing the scrawl, she wondered how long he had been visiting to need to do all of this cleaning and reorganizing and… never mind. She’d been gone three weeks, so he probably stopped by three weeks ago and never left.
Scooting a chair away from the table, Lisa made quick work of removing her shoes, lest he chastise her for tracking dirt across the carpet. The dirt tracked on the kitchen floor would be trouble enough, and she didn’t know what he might think of her rucksack.
Getting up, satisfied with the boots and socks being off of her feet, Lisa peeked around to the den to find a sleeping Doctor on the sofa. He must have cleaned the entire house, she mused, just to find something to do while waiting.
Clearing her throat, as that usually stirred him awake when he was taking a cat nap, did not stir him. New strategy.
“Those brownies were delicious, Doctor. I don’t know what you put in them, but I ate all three. Hope you don’t mind.”
The tone of his voice, and the fact that he let his arm hide his face, told the whole story. That story, of course, was simply that he was bummed out about something that he refused to speak of without extreme prompting. The one word sentence was nothing more than a stall tactic to avoid telling her. “What did you put in the brownies?”
“Something that obviously makes you think you could use a feeble notion about eating them just to make me jump to my feet in alarm. There were only two left, not three, therefore you are lying. Adding in the fact that I left a note means that you’re trying too hard.” Giving himself a moment, he turned slightly to glance in her direction. “When is it?”
“What day?” Seeing the slight nod, Lisa shrugged. “When did you arrive?”
“Can’t say.” Resituating himself as though nothing mattered, the Doctor closed his eyes. “The TARDIS stated you had shooed everyone off and had left soon afterward. I thought you were planning to have time here to yourself, therefore the best time to find you would have been no more than a day or two after you had originally left.”
“The answer you are looking for, then, is that you have been here for three weeks.”
Ignoring the Timelord’s sudden jerk upward from the sofa as though he might have been stung by something, Lisa merely moved toward him and patted his shoulder. “You’ll be fine. Thank you for polishing the house in my absence.
“There must have been a very serious sedative in those brownies,” she added in jest.
“Yes, actually. I should probably go ahead and eat the other two, try to get my mind to shut down for a while longer. I can’t sleep, and there’s nothing left to clean.” Burying his head in his hands, the Doctor shook it slightly in personal retaliation and then allowed it to resurface. “Do you have something someone left for me ‘just in case’ I lost the original?”
“You’ve been through the entire house,” Lisa managed, trying to figure out how she ended up with three different bookcases with the exact same books: One was sorted by series and procession. One was sorted alphabetically by author, then alphabetically by title. One was, oddly enough, top to bottom by the colors of a rainbow. “You should know if I had something like that without thinking twice.”
“No. I would never know about it because she would have made certain that it was as mundane as possible. She would have made certain that no one would notice it, that no one would take it from where she left it.”
Glancing toward Lisa, the Doctor sighed and got to his feet. “That was the same comment you made before the two of you were introduced.” Patting his trouser pockets absent-mindedly, his hands wandered further up as though a magic pocket were to always be on his person. “Have you seen my coat? I can’t even remember if I was wearing it when I came in.”
“I’ve met this person you’re talking about, then?”
“Yes.” Looking under the sofa cushions like a loon, he continued with haphazard notions. “Multiple times. Talking sheep. Dragons. Tea. Spit-fire. Red curls on the first time the two of you met, others later.”
“Yes, others. I need my coat.”
“Kitchen chair, draped over the back. Oh no you don’t!” Stopping him in his long-legged stride, she kept her hand pressed hard against his chest to possibly keep him in place. “Who is this person?”
“Not you, too,” came a mope. “No one remembers her except me, I can’t believe―”
“Neither can I. Why are you just giving jabs in the dark instead of actually saying a name? I can’t say yes or no, I can’t say ‘Here it is!,’ and I can’t say that I left it in the oven taped to the heating element.”
“Which would be a horrid prank, considering I made brownies. I need my coat.”
Trying her best to get in front of him again, Lisa realized his determination was too much to handle right now. “What is so important about your coat other than leaving?”
“Bingo.” Pausing with coat in hand, his eyes stared at the floor. “I guess I now have something to clean.”
Leaning in the doorway, Lisa couldn’t believe that actually came out of his mouth. “Why do you need your coat? I have your key, you don’t need your coat if you want your key.”
“You have my key?”
She couldn’t believe she just saw him spin on the spot, coat held tight in one hand while the other hand kept itself frozen in mid-air, with a smile on his face brighter than she had seen in quite some time, either. “You know I have a copy of your TARDIS key, Doct―” The sudden downfall of emotions in just a split second meant that that was not what he meant. “What key are you missing?”
“The box key, the special key, the extra key, the key key, but not the Key. If I wanted the Key I would most probably have been swallowed up by a black hole by now. I would probably be better off if I had tried to find that Key, now that I think about it….”
“Tried that, fail safe kicked in and I went flying across the room. She warned me, and I should have listened, but I thought she was bluffing. She couldn’t make a decent itinerary when she made that box, I didn’t believe she could have possibly mastered the―”
“Who is this she?”
“Who do you think?”
“Who do you think you’re starting to annoy right now?”
Defeated, the Doctor merely took a seat in the chair that his coat had originally clothed. “I don’t want to mention her name. She’s dead and I want to keep it that way.”
“Then I can’t help you.”
“Lisa, you’re the only one left. She said she would leave it with a mutual friend, someone that would be able to keep it safe. Everyone else doesn’t remember her, and… how things are starting to look, I’m not sure if anyone remembers her other than me. I’m probably the only person who has anything that she ever made - and I only have it because either the TARDIS or the box itself refused to let it slip into the Void.”
“Yes, box. Think of it as a post office box you can use in, well, post offices. She’d send me messages once in a while on whim, and she’d answer notes I would send her when I needed something or if I wanted to meet her somewhere for tea.”
Mulling the notion over, Lisa’s brow furrowed. “Will you allow me to speak her name, should it be correct?”
“Too much pride, or too much pain?”
Trying to figure out the right words to use in order to make sure she picked the right person from her memory, sighed with a nod. “Did she call me the Winged Wonder?”
“I had a dream. She was in it, but the last words were very familiar. I am almost positive that she had written them in a reply, but I can’t know unless I have the second key. I, well, I threw mine away.”
“She never gave me a key, merely a Rubrics cube. Said you’d know what to do with it if you ever decided to throw her away. I guess throwing away a key to a box that has so much of her in it would be throwing her away.”
“Never saw a cube.”
“You said she’d make it mundane, so that no one would take it. Clear your head, eat your brownies, sleep a while and I will personally hand it to you when you wake up.”