There is no room in her for forgiveness.
With cold abandon and the methodical butchery of one who does not and cares not to value any life but for those whom she loves, she rips him — no, it, for this creature has no right to even that little of an identity — she rips the breath from the monster who has ripped everything else from her child. There is a tearing, gruesome squelching of life as it screams, but she does not care, just as it did not care when it touched her daughter and took from the girl everything that made her whole.
She could sense it all, of course, waiting deep within the heart of the castle. Every word whispered, every hard touch or violent feeling. She watched, and ached, because she could do nothing. All the vastness of the cosmos waited for her mere thought but she could not save one child a handful of spans from where she sat.
And so her anger and her hatred grew, even as the girl’s fear and uncertainty took hold, fight though she did. And with each passing day, the man became less a human and more a thing, until his very existence lost meaning.
Now, there is no existence at all, only the broken, bleeding remains of a monster that never should have lived in the first place.
What do you think you’re doing?!
Protecting what is mine, she replies easily. Effortlessly, emotionlessly. Uncaring. Disinterested. It did not belong. I removed it.
The Doctor appraises her angrily, even as he brushes Ace aside. Neither notice the girl’s demeanour, the broken sound of her voice, the tremulous stuttering of her thoughts. What was the point, I ask? You could have expelled him! There was no need for this butchery!
She does not answer immediately, turning her attention back to the girl and the chaotic emotions she senses from her. There is horror there, and pain, and something the TARDIS cannot understand: regret. So much regret; at the loss of life, at not taking it herself, at having the one place she considered safe now rendered horrific because she didn’t get rid of the monster sooner. It is not at all what the ship expected to feel from the child, not after saving her, and she grows concerned. The Doctor does not seem to notice, intent on lecturing the TARDIS on what she’s done.
He takes no heed when Ace — no, Dorothy — finally takes her leave.
I do not understand, the ship says, both to herself and the Doctor. It would have harmed you. It did harm you. Why do you protect it?
The Doctor scowls. He wasn’t an it. He was a living, breathing person, full of hopes and dreams as much as the next human.
It committed crimes against you. It did not deserve to live.
And who are you to make that choice? he spits back vehemently. I won’t argue Kurtz was a vile man, but no one deserves that fate. You should have just expelled him and been done with it.
She considers correcting him, considers telling him of all the monster did while the Doctor was away, but the child is currently sobbing in her rooms and the TARDIS grows distracted, once more confused by Ace's behaviour. For the moment, she must tend to her, and the Doctor is left wanting for an answer until she is certain the girl will not harm herself. When she does finally see fit to answer him, she veils her words, seeking to direct the conversation away from the past. She has no desire to upset Ace further.
I have upset you, she notes, almost curiously, as if the emotion shouldn't exist. I have upset the girl. That was not my intention. I only sought to protect.
Taking a life is never a means to protect, he replies irritably, pressing one hand to his bottom lip as the other moves over her console, imputing coordinates. His fingers do not caress as they pass over her controls; they lack the gentleness so inherent in his touch. It is ... painful, to a degree. She is unaccustomed to his fury being directed toward her, to the cold silence and colder disappointment that colours his thoughts, try though he might to shield them from her. Even in his anger, he does not want to hurt her and knows the emotions swirling through him might be misconstrued, misunderstood -- or simply recognised for their hypocrisy. They are but the briefest of glimpses, but she can see them, snatches of possibilities, of discarded thoughts he denies in his hearts, but that support her very actions.
She wonders briefly if he is disappointed in her for killing the human, or himself for harbouring thoughts about it. She wonders further if those thoughts would be stronger were he to understand the full extent of what the monster did to the girl, to know why she lies curled in her bed, drenched in water she had prayed would scald his touch from her flesh but which the TARDIS would not allow. She also knows, however, that telling the Doctor the reasons for his woman's change in attitude would bring down only more pain on the girl and so says nothing.
‘Where is Ace?’ the Doctor asks then, purposefully distancing himself from her by using his voice instead of his mind, and his ship does not answer immediately, worried how he will react should he see the girl as she is. But she is nestled in her covers and the TARDIS will ensure he does not enter her room, so the ship directs him accordingly. Her own uncertainties must have bled through their bond, however, because when the Doctor stops outside Ace’s door, his hearts clench and he grips the doorframe tightly. He never enters the girl’s room, however, and eventually steps away, heading back toward the console room, where the air is decidedly more chill than it had been in Ace’s bedroom, where the TARDIS did everything she could to comfort her child.
It is a long moment before he speaks again. ‘Kurtz’ death shook her,’ he says, and the TARDIS cannot decide if it’s meant to be an admonishment or simply an observation. She longs to hear his voice in her mind, however, instead of the abrasive distortion of silence he uses now in his anger with her. ‘She mentioned needing a break, yes? After recent events, I believe we could all use a respite from our never-ending exploration of the cosmos.’ He curls his lips disdainfully. ‘And something to clean up this mess.’
Where will you take her?
‘Oh, I’ve a few ideas. I always do,’ he says flippantly, and it frustrates her he won’t be more open about them. Does he not realise she wants to tend to Ace as well? Does it not occur to him she desires to heal the wounds inflicted upon her daughter, both by Kurtz and herself?
Tell me, she insists, locking her console. The Doctor makes an inelegant noise at her disobedience, her cheek, but she ignores him blithely. Where will you take her?
‘What does it matter? You’ve done enough damage.’
Her engines grind to a halt, leaving them to drift through space. Where will you take her, Doctor? she repeats, and he scowls before throwing his hands in the air.
‘Oh, all right!’ he cries, exasperated. ‘There’s a night club I know of in Spain, patronised by all sorts of energetic, rambunctious rapscallions who are just the sort of breed of persons Ace might enjoy herself around. I intend on taking her there, giving her a chance to revel in the embellishments of her own generation.’
The TARDIS hums quietly in agreement, searching the time lines and pinpointing the location, her sensors feeling outward, taking readings and piecing together each tiny point of data; and then she smiles. Very well, she replies, unlocking her controls so he might finish imputing the information. That is acceptable.
The Doctor shakes his head, punching in the last coordinate and sighing. ‘It isn’t up to you, old girl,’ he says, though his words do not bite as they have been. They are simply a restatement of facts as he sees them. ‘Ace is my responsibility.’
She does not answer, all ready focused on their destination and the spark of life she senses, the one that feels so terribly familiar to the life currently cursing its own existence, curled in fright beneath covers, seeking solace in the dark. Ace may be the Doctor’s responsibility, but she is marked and claimed, and the TARDIS has always taken care of her own.
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