The inside of the Doctor's dwelling looks like the place of the Tesh: all cold lights and sharp angles and straight walls. But it feels entirely different. Warmer, more alive, more like the village, or the forest. Leela notices it immediately, the first time she enters. Something in the scent of the air, perhaps. Something in the way the lever she reaches for leaps beneath her hand like an eager hunting-beast.
She is very perceptive. The Doctor has told her so, but she hardly needs his strange wisdom to know that. She has always been able to spot game, no matter how still it holds itself in the brush, has always been able to sense the presence of a friend or an enemy, no matter how quiet their approach. And there is a presence here. The longer she stays in this place, the more she feels it.
Leela does not believe in spirits, but she does believe in her senses and her instincts. Whatever it is that turns the lights on for her when she enters a room and dims them again when she closes her eyes to sleep, that might be Tesh-like machinery. But when she muttered to herself that first night about the sleeping platform the Doctor had selected for her being too soft and returned to the next to find it firmer and more pleasing... Surely something had listened, and heard, and acted. She is certain it is the same something that thrums under her fingers when she touches a wall, that made that lever alive under her hand.
"What is the creature that lives here with us?" she asks the Doctor.
"Creature?" The Doctor's brow furrows. Either he is thinking great thoughts, or he is very confused. Leela cannot always tell which is which, though she is coming to suspect the he often does both at once.
"The one that controls the lights, and makes the water in the bath always the temperature I wish it to be. I have never seen it, but I know it is here."
"Oh!" he says. "That's just the TARDIS. She is a sentimental old thing." He strokes what Leela has learned to call the "central control console," and smiles. There is fondness in his eyes.
The TARDIS. The Doctor has told her that the TARDIS is a machine. Like the tools of the Tesh. Like a crossbow. But Xoanon was also a machine, a machine that the Doctor said was also a living being.
"So the TARDIS is like Xoanon? A living machine?"
"Yes," says the Doctor. "Well, no. Well... Yes, if you like."
"What I like," says Leela, disapprovingly, "does not make a difference to what is true."
The Doctor flashes a grin at her. "Excellent! You're learning, Leela."
She did not need to learn that from him, but she does not say so. She can tell from the look in his eyes that he is no longer listening to her. His attention is all on the console in front of him as his hands fly over the controls. He is telling the TARDIS where to take them next. Or asking, perhaps.
Leela can feel the TARDIS's ever-present hum shifting slightly. It -- she -- is eager, Leela thinks. Eager to take them along with her.
She presses her palm against the console, closes her eyes, and in a soft whisper, utters words she was taught as a child. It was once a prayer of thank-you to Xoanon, but Xoanon having proved unworthy of it, she feels it will be better directed at this machine-who-is-a-being instead.
There is warmth tingling beneath her hand, and a feeling like gentle fingers brushing against her mind. An ally recognizing an ally. The manner of it may be strange, but Leela knows it for what it is.
She is glad. The Doctor, she has come to know, is very old, and he will live a very long time yet. She will not always be here to defend and protect him. It is good to know that even when she is gone, he will always have a friend.
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