It was curiosity, Susan tried to tell herself. Curiosity had brought Ian and Barbara into the TARDIS, so it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, curiosity was essential for travelling the universe.
She was also well aware that Barbara’s room was hardly the universe.
It was curiosity. Even since she’d asked Grandfather to give them both a space within the TARDIS to make theirs, she’d been curious as to what those spaces were like. One quick look wasn’t enough, so she came back. A couple of times. Several times.
This was the first time she’d had to hide, though.
She’d been poking through the clothes hanging in the wardrobe when she heard Barbara’s approaching footsteps. The best plan of action, or at least the most obvious, had, at the time, seemed to be to scramble in the wardrobe and pull the door to.
She’s reconsidering the wisdom of this (hiding underneath the Earth-style bed would have allowed her to stretch out, even if it made her more visible, and her legs seem to think that a fair trade) when there’s a knock on the door.
“Barbara,” Ian says, and Susan wonders at the ability of those struggling with a crude language like English to express what their language hardly has words for in a single word, a name, taken from the Greek…
“It’s all right,” Barbara says. “We’re all right.”
Then come a few murmurs that Susan can’t quite hear and then it’s quiet for a time. She manages to shuffle along and peers out of the gap where the door meets the body of the wardrobe, checking if it is safe to leave, if they have gone.
It isn’t. They haven’t. (Of course not, she’d’ve heard their footsteps.)
“We’re all right,” Barbara repeats as they break the kiss and Susan knows this simple sentence means something very different to before; language is so much more than words.
The inhibitions and burdens of their culture seemingly discarded with their clothes, Susan shifts back to a different peephole and watches as Barbara straddles Ian’s hips and sinks down, tipping back her head and gasping.
They’d be quite appalled if they knew Susan was there, she thinks. Teachers are not meant to have any sort of love life in front of their pupils and certainly not like this.
If they knew Susan was there (watching, and knowing, and seeing from the way they fit together so easily and how Ian’s hand strokes round the curve of Barbara’s breast, then in at her waist, out at her hip, teasing, that this isn’t the first time and won’t be the last), they’d be mortified, she knows.
She watches, and is reminded of an empty classroom, dancing, and almost like before her hand glides down, her fingers twisting and flexing.
Humans have so many strange rites and rituals linked to this and all of this, like and yet unlike her people.
There are no drums; their time set by the movement of their hips, and the only beat Susan can hear is of her own two hearts, echoed, she imagines, by the two single heartbeats of the humans, Barbara’s faster than Ian’s as always, and both racing ahead of hers as their skin flushes.
Quicksilver humans with butterfly hearts and dandelion minds. One life to live, one life to lose, and they defy the danger and death they face with this chaos of life and love.
What Susan saw on Gallifrey was a public performance, solemn and portentous because it can afford to be, because it has to be, because Time Lords have more than enough time and the real intimacy of the act is hidden from view.
Ian and Barbara have only hands and tongues and fingers and mouths, three-dimensions, five senses, limited to the physical, and this is private.
Yet she watches.
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