"Grandfather, I don't think that's the right cactus–oh! Are you all right?"
No. Definitely not.
She is slightly annoyed. She enjoys picking new forms, hiding in plain sight–dressing up, a linear being might say. It's her favorite part of her youthful travels. Of course, that may be because it's the only independent decision her authorized pilots will ever let her make. Even as she ponders her choice of outfit, it's also two thousand years ago, and the Time Lord with the orange robe opens her door–and closes it again, and stalks back to her controls. A shock of disappointment, almost betrayal–it's such a little thing, a group of stranded primitives, something he'll sort out in minutes–except he won't, because he's making her dematerialize without an instant's curiosity about the forest he saw through her door. I can't work with it, he says of her some centuries later, it's erratic.
He's winded–his body too old for this–and they're gaining on him. He looks around at the pillars, turns the wrong way, and starts searching the one opposite her for a keyhole. He says a word that he wouldn't want the girl to hear and moves on to the next one even as the first beast scrabbles up onto the plateau and whistles to its pack–
She cuts off that strand of possibility just before horrible things start happening. Not an acceptable future. Not at all.
She's coming to quite like her thief. Centuries from now, she adores him. She doesn't always understand him, with all the talking and moving and only inhabiting a few dimensions at a time, but you don't have to understand a being to love them. Now, however–she has to admit that while he may be the bravest Time Lord she ever carries, and definitely the most curious, he might–just possibly–not be the smartest. He's absent-minded. He gets distracted. He gets very, very distracted and from there, he gets into trouble. And he forgets what disguise she's wearing.
Which means she has to settle on just one, and stick with it. With all the trouble they find, he'll have to get to her in a hurry. Often, in fact. And she is not going to the trouble of stealing him just to let him get–broken. Or destroyed. Or whatever it is when linear beings stop for good.
The primitive steps closer to the strange tree-like thing, which she thinks–quite rightly, as it happens–wasn't there five minutes ago. And then it opens. The poor creature stumbles back, eyes wide, seeing what she can't possibly be seeing. The geometries don't make sense, they hurt her mind, and she turns and runs even as the girl steps out, shrieking about witches and demons and calling for help–
She's not the sort of being which sighs, but she understands the urge. She would have liked to be a hatstand. They're elegant. Dignified. She would look a bit odd with her doors open, but she doesn't understand all the screaming. And a hatstand would be a perfect fit for the silly accident-prone blue world that her thief is getting attached to–maybe there's some possibility where she could–
No. The hatstand costume spooks people. He needs–something, something she doesn't quite grasp yet, something more than her and the girl, and the hatstand costume prevents that from happening. Perhaps she can persuade him to buy her a real one.
So. Something that's easy to find, something a little bit unique, and something nonthreatening even to beings that don't understand her. It's a taller order than it sounds because she doesn't understand them, either; her authorized pilots never let any on board. As she searches, she's also back in a war zone, a "place of interest" for arcane Agency reasons that no-one bothered to tell her. A primitive pleads with her chief pilot–I know you're messengers from the sky, I know you can take me away, please, I'll die here–and he shoves the child out of his way, barely looking at her, as he strides towards her door. Weeks later, she watches that Time Lord growl at the requisitions officer. Completely unreliable. It crashed–not landed, crashed–in the sulfur swamps of Clom. I was there for days! You cannot possibly imagine the stench, and the insects, and the mud . . .
Even as she aches from the ostentatious dive she took and watches all the possibilities bend toward her decommissioning, she can't bring herself to be sorry. He is callous and heavy-handed and he deserves mud.
Perhaps she needs words. Reassuring words. Something to mark her as a friend, something that tells the primitives that she's useful and helpful and not going to hurt them. A sign, a marking–
She brushes by a booth on the corner of a street, and the possibilities explode.
As she finds a quiet place in the junkyard, she's also feeling primitives step inside her for the first time–frightening, upsetting, what if they want to hurt her thief or her girl? But she also knows these two and she knows they never will. Never would. Friends. Even she can't quite catch the instant when she stops thinking of them as primitives and starts feeling them to be friends–
And more of them. She lets a curious one slip inside because she's a lot like her thief, sneaking in places she doesn't belong. A few with heads full of mathematics, all crystal and elegant. One sharp, fierce being who thinks in spirits and curses and legends, and another who compares her to someplace called the hollow hills–or perhaps he doesn't, not out loud, but if she stretches herself she can taste the tales he tells his grandchildren, and even though the words are about faeries and hobgoblins, the stories are about her. There's the one who likes to watch chemicals dance, the one she's not allowed to let in the larger laboratory because she might try to make something called FOOF. There are ones she lets fly her–
She lets them fly her. She changes so much, from that first scared moment when the two open the door, that she and her thief let the–not primitives, people–fly her.
Far, far in the future, past the expanse of crazed time that even she can't perceive clearly, she realizes that she's fallen in love with the silly accident-prone blue planet. She isn't just keeping it warm because he's on it, because he's the only thing that can haul her back from utter oblivion. She needs it safe. Even when she's exploding and dying, she protects it. Which is, as she reflects in less agonizing layers of time, what linear beings nonsensically call a full-time job–but she likes it.
And him. She's not sure if her thief is the most idiotic Time Lord she's ever met or the smartest. She doesn't entirely understand what he does, how he bends the possibilities by spilling words on them, how he makes things happen–but this is him. This is what he is when he stretches to his full self. Not the worried, lonely man he was becoming, in other possibilities, but the incandescent mad mystery who drags people and history in his wake.
It's rather more square than she wanted, she thinks now, but it's quite nice, really. The Assistance Available Immediately bit is absolutely her. And blue–well, it matches the skies of her someday-favorite planet, doesn't it? She loves blue.
It takes her, quite literally, no time at all to reformat her chameleon circuit.
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