Part Ten — Trusting Things
The atmosphere on the TARDIS had lightened considerably since the Doctor’s telepathy had returned. No longer quite so isolated in his own mind, he had begun to find it easier to trust that the safety of their escape was real. This progress meant that Rose and Jack did not have to walk on eggshells around him, nor did he constantly need to seek out their presences and their pulses to remain in control.
He let the TARDIS bolster him, instead. Through their connection he could function almost as if all of his senses were working properly. He could monitor time through her, even if he couldn’t manipulate it as he should be able to. He could let her feed him an echo of the information that his sight and hearing would normally give him. All that was really lacking were his senses of smell and taste, leaving his oral fixation a bit weak. But that, he could live with.
He’d been so scared when she had been torn from his mind. When he found that she had finally returned, he had swarmed across their link and interwoven himself with her as closely as he could.
She had welcomed him warmly.
He had cried at first, in sheer joy and relief. Wanting to be as close to her as he could, he’d felt his way blindly into the console room, pulled the access panel off of the base of the console, and crawled inside. Curled up at the base of the time rotor, with its pulsing vibrations at his back and the console’s cabling snaking around him like an embrace, he felt completely and truly safe for the first time in a long while. Since long before their recent capture, if he was being completely honest with himself.
They had communicated their joint happiness telepathically when Jack and Rose joined him in the console room, and then they had continued to bask in each other’s mental presence.
The Doctor might have remained there, utterly blissed out, for a very long time.
The TARDIS wasn’t quite that patient.
Still sitting on the other side of the console’s access panels, Rose and Jack felt another dual consciousness telepathic brush. It made them chuckle.
Dirty / it’s mud / in the wiring! / oh alright.
And then the Doctor crawled back out from underneath the console, and, smiling sheepishly, felt his way out of the room in search of a shower.
He’d let Jack and Rose wash his suit for him soon after their return to the TARDIS, but he hadn’t wanted to be away from them long enough to take a proper shower. Consequently, his hair was still somewhat matted with dried mud. The TARDIS took exception to that mud getting into her cabling, and was not shy about nudging the Doctor mentally about it.
“They’re like an old married couple,” Jack laughed as the Doctor made his way out of the room.
Cheeky / we heard that / watch it / naughty!
Jack looked shocked for a moment, and Rose giggled. It was strange and wonderful to feel the TARDIS’s wry amusement so clearly, and so interwoven with the Doctor’s renewed cheerfulness.
The return of the Doctor’s telepathy had all of them in a good mood. It was easy to slip into something that almost resembled normalcy, and try to ignore the things that were still wrong.
Jack and Rose were finally able to sleep for more than a handful of hours at a time without feeling worried.
There were no more moments of panic and doubt, no more desperate grabs for a wrist and a pulse.
Despite still being deaf and blind, the Doctor found ways to stave off his boredom, often involving the TARDIS. He spent most of his time in the console room. Once, while Jack sat watching the Doctor fiddle blindly with something under the console, he had felt one of their telepathic brushes confuse him, and then amuse him.
Up and left / cheater / legal move! / not fair you always win.
They were playing mental board games, Jack understood after a moment. He smiled, grateful that the TARDIS could help keep the easily bored Time Lord occupied.
But, beneath the cheerful surface, all was not as perfect as they tried to pretend.
Jack found himself following the Doctor around, even though it wasn’t strictly necessary any longer. He just felt better when he could see for himself that the Doctor was well. When he was out of sight, Jack couldn’t help himself from seeing him as he had been, curled up miserably on the floor of that cell. He felt like he should have been able to do more to protect him.
Rose wasn’t really sleeping well. Guilt gnawed at her when she had time to think about it, and she could still feel the broken bones in the Doctor’s wrist move in her grip as she involuntarily squeezed. She felt like she had betrayed him by adding to his pain.
The Doctor remained largely uncommunicative except for the telepathic brushes that were always half TARDIS and often seemed unintentional. Instead of needing the reassurance of their touch, he began to outright avoid physical contact with both of his companions. He was throwing himself into his link with the TARDIS, trying to escape the memory of being trapped in his mind and overwhelmed with terror and pain.
Most disturbingly, three days had passed with no more of the Doctor’s senses returning. They had all hoped his senses would return as quickly as they had left him, but his mental reboot seemed to have stalled.
The evening of the third day since the Doctor had been able to reestablish contact with the TARDIS, he and Rose and Jack all sat together quietly in the kitchen, having just had tea. Rose and Jack watched as the Doctor fiddled absently with a banana, seemingly oblivious to their scrutiny.
He would usually obediently eat whatever they gave him, but the banana he seemed to prefer examining with his hands.
Suddenly, he dropped the fruit and slammed his fists into the table with no inconsiderable force. Both Jack and Rose nearly jumped out of their chairs. They felt the now familiar composite telepathic brush in their minds.
Frustration / hate this! / problem / stupid!
The communication was half sorrowful and half angry. In between the melded thoughts they could clearly feel the sorrow from the TARDIS and the anger from the Time Lord.
They each reached out to touch him, and he automatically went for their pulse points, something he hadn’t felt the need to do since his telepathy had returned.
“What problem?” Rose asked, knowing that the TARDIS would hear her even though the Doctor couldn’t.
Too close / hate this hate this hate this hate / won’t heal / don’t want to be alone again!
“Oh, no,” Jack breathed, understanding the TARDIS’s sorrow. “They aren’t supposed to be this closely connected, which is why we never heard them this way before.”
Understanding as well, Rose said, “Too close… she’s shielding him too much. He’s not going to heal unless they let go.”
Affirmative / isn’t fair! / need distance / need you! / so sorry / understand.
They knew when the TARDIS had withdrawn from his mind. His hands tightened into a desperate grip on each of their wrists and his breathing caught.
But those were the only outward signs. Tired of being afraid of his own mind, the Doctor forced himself to trust the TARDIS and let her retreat to her usual distance. Then he rationally reminded himself that his senses were in fact healing. It was just going to take some time, he just had to have faith.
Breathing shakily, sitting at the kitchen table between Rose and Jack, he started counting pulse beats again. The challenge of following their separate rhythms simultaneously helped to keep him focused, and their mere presence beside him was comforting as he was once again thrust into the dark and almost senseless world the chemical blindfold had created for him.
It was a long while before he was willing to let go of their wrists again.
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