This is a drabble I wrote for the prompt Back on the LiveJournal community who-contest, and a prompt given by my lovely friend PhoenixDragonDreamer. Thank you, dear :)
Never enough of classic!Who… *snickers*
"When are we going home, Grandfather?" she asks candid and bright.
The question hits him like a shock of ice water through his blood, pumped from one heart to the other. He doesn't flinch or stutter, nor does he answer at once; however, his hands clench slightly against the controls. Susan will not notice. At least he hopes not: she is perceptive, but absent-minded and he finds himself second-guessing more and more each day. His complete responsibility over the sweet child chills him sometimes; but she wanted to come, so she did, and he will look after her.
As best he can, certainly. But how much does she truly realize? How can he tell a person he loves with all of his hearts that they can never go back?
He lets the pause linger for only a few seconds, wary of alarming her, of letting her think that he might be biding for time, shaping up a lie. He is not—not really… Only protecting her, he tells himself firmly. Only wording his way around the truth, walking her to the edge of the path and then letting her make her own way.
Guidance. He guides, doesn't take, doesn't steal.
That is what he tells himself, too.
"Do you miss it, child?" he asks her, willing away the tension in his back, tempering his voice to serene evenness. "Do you wish to return already?"
"Only because we're gone," she chirps. "I feel so free, you know. I love this, travelling with you, and I don't want it to end… I don't think I could ever want to return to the Academy, not really. I never liked it there, never felt quite at ease. But we could still visit, couldn't we? Maybe sometime. Just pop by. Say hello to everyone, tell them what we've been up to."
"Surely, surely," he says automatically, then hates himself for those words.
"Well, maybe not… tell them much. Oh, I know they wouldn't approve." She laughs. "It just feels nice, I suppose, to think they could know what we're doing. They never thought much of me, really. They thought I was strange—not so clever as them, I'm sure. But that's not true. I just don't like attention much. I never liked to show off."
He nods his approval, throat tight. "I did feel so out of place," Susan continues. "And I know you did too. But well, I also know we did steal the ship."
Her smile at that is sheepish and delighted, her eyes gleaming. "Borrow," he coughs.
"Borrow," she agrees. "So we do have to return it. But not right now. And not for good, is it? We'll just be visiting, in a while, when no one cares much anymore."
"That's right," he says. "That's right, child."
"I don't think I could let go of her, really. Nor you."
She lowers her eyes as she caresses the console, and his own hand clasps around her shoulder, squeezing as tight as he dares.