A Teaspoon And An Open Mind: A Doctor Who Fan Fiction Archive
Eleventh Doctor
alive [the time they talked] by alex_unsigned [Reviews - 5] Printer
Author's Notes:
Spoilers for the Doctor's Wife, I suppose. Could be TARDIS/Doctor if you squint. And, as usual, English is not my first language, so please tell me if anything sounds wrong or if I've put American English where it shouldn't be. Thanks.


It hurts.

That’s the first thing she thinks, the first thing she can think - everything hurts, the whole world pain like the burned-out gold of overloaded circuits.

The second thing she realizes, with something like shock-recognition-disbelief, is that there was a first thing. And a second, and a third - the thoughts come in order, springing into something that’s not exactly a new dimension-direction, but feels like one. A sudden other depth to the world, a incomprehensible spin to everything that continues and changes and - proceeds. Time, for the first time in her life, moves.

Linearity.

The third thing she thinks (will/willhave/thought? Tenses are tricky) is slightly untranslatable but best described as oh.

(so this is when this happens. When. i’m - i’m - i’m oh what is that word wh-wh-wh-wh do fish have fingers. revir eht. no. Thief? i said you were the most beautiful thing i I i I wh
y am iiii)

And with a snap and a flash of silver-sharp-gold, Sexy opens her eyes for the first-last-forever time.

She sees the world.

++++=====++++

No. What? She’s back - the world flashing out of the artron-tinted dark. The projection-container is glitching, she expects - pulling a TARDIS-mind into linear-chronologic Time is no easy task, not even for House-timeship-eater.

(Mmm. Fish fingers.)

Oh -

- it of power twisting mind the from screams nearly she and set television broken a like backwards flickers everything then and her, around twists flow-time new the suddenly And -

Snaps back into straight time-flow, reeling from the retrograde blast, and suddenly she’s sitting straight up, staring at the universe again.

She has moved, she realizes.

She has moved - and isn’t that a new feeling. A TARDIS can go anywhere in Time and Space, true, but really it’s more accurate to say that she is anywhere in Time and Space, and all she’s doing is rearranging where he doors are. The sheer - change, of being in a different section of the universe than she was before (and before and after are themselves so shine-bright new she can’t think - )

She gasps. Realizes, again, that she can gasp. The body isn’t human, but it isn’t Time Lord either, one of the myriad lookalike species - Idris, that was her name, and her memories whisper from the dark corners. One heart, air-sac respiratory system, no secondary brain, three kidneys. Idris-who-was, and she was pulled out of her own story, ripped into a different universe and into a planet where everything was dusty and dark and strange. Idris-the-lost, whom Auntie and Uncle dragged in confused and scared and then everything was artron-gold-

(one of the kidneys has already failed.) (everything hurts.)

She doesn’t - didn’t, will not - care, not now. She can’t let herself care that it hurts, because of reasons she can’t remember since they haven’t happened yet, and that’s okay, and now she needs to move again.

The glowing (golden again, flaring light like regeneration, the afterbirth of her linearity) things in front of her are feet, she’s fairly sure. No, what’s the other one. Hands. Hands and fingers, lots of fingers. She wiggles them. Sign language, she can do that, on the days he keeps that particular translation circuit active. The only water in the forest is the - she has to tell him.

“Thief,” she blurts, before she can stop herself, and then she’s momentarily distracted by the feel of words on her tongue. “Oh,” she hums, and smiles her first smile. “Fish fingers and custard. River the is forest the in water only the. No. Thief.”

Where is her Doctor?

Then she’s standing up - it’s easy, if she forgets she’s stuck in a body she can’t survive in, let’s Idris’s instincts take over - if she ignores that she killed the woman who last moved these hands if she ignores that she’s going to burn up like so much dust into two hours. If she ignores that she’s
(what’s that word?)

Vaguely, she registers that there’s two people, or people-shaped things, in front of her (auntie-and-uncle, who serve House-devourer-of-timeships) but she doesn’t care because they don’t matter. Her thief’s alone out there, and in this body the mental pilot-pair-bond won’t be strong enough for him to know something’s wrong. She can hear him in her head, hear the edges of fear, worry, something like are you there? but she cannot answer, and all he’ll be hearing is faint silence with an echo like pain - she needs to get to him.

(Goodbye. No, what’s the other one.)

Sexy takes off running.

++++=====++++

“Thief!”

And she’s in front of him, she’s looking at him and all she gets is utter confusion in his eyes - he doesn’t recognize her - and she needs him and he needs her and as soon as House manages to wrangle her real bluebox body under control (fishfingers) (the smell of dust after) he’ll realize it, the echo-connection broken - and then he’ll be alone in his own head and she's know him too long to think that would end well.

But, oh, doesn’t he look ridiculous in three dimensions, with just four limbs and two green-dark eyes. “Look at you!” she shouts gleefully. “Goodbye. No, not goodbye, what’s the other one.” How do you initiate telepathic contact in this body, she wonders, and then Idris’s instincts supply her with something that isn’t quite right but sounds amusing and so she tries it.

The Doctor makes a small noise like a strangled mouse and oh this is new, and really not at all what she wanted but snogging is fun - and only too late does she realize that this body doesn’t have the necessary receptors for touch-telepathy, that he’s put up too many shields to see it’s her, that he’s too shocked to look at all. He breaks away, and the thought flicks away in a .emiT nekorb fo tsiwt lufniap (-)

The Doctor reels back with this wonderfully bamboozled expression on his face, pulls himself together, manages “Why am I a thief? What have I stolen?”

She frowns. Doesn’t he remember? “Me. You’re going to steal me!” Wait. “No, you have stolen me. You are stealing me. Tenses are difficult, aren’t they.” Especially since there’s so few of them. If anyone was going to be so stupid as to try to communicate Time over vibrations on air they could have least made enough of them. Gallifreyan’s better about that but then it’s at least half telepathic and that’s cheating. Is she getting distracted?

“She bites!” says Uncle behind her. Does she, then? What is biting, anyway, is it -

“Excellent,” she declares, and lunges for his ear.

“Ow!” he nearly squeaks, and she stumbles a bit, announces to no one in particular: “Biting’s excellent, It’s like kissing, only there’s a winner.”

He stares at her, and there is not one flicker of recognition in those razor-deep-forest-eyes.

(It’s only later, alone again, her mind clearer, that she realizes - he doesn't know her - realizes how much that hurts.)

++++=====++++

Sexy shakes in her (her? it-they-he-ey-her) cell and tries not to disappear.

With nowhere to go, nothing immediate to do, the passage of Time is agonizing - a TARDIS never waits, never has to, cannot wait, and sitting here feeling the seconds slip through her fingers is painful. Time twists in her head again, in a new and entirely unfamiliar way. Parts of her slip back into nonlinearity, parts of her turn around and go through Time backwards, parts of her loop the same few instants over and over again, ripping her apart.

(do fish have fingers?) (where you needed to go) (i’m sexy) (revir eht si tserof eht ni retaw ylno ehT) (safe is relative) (the pretty one) (the smell of dust after rain)

What was it that she wanted to remember?

A TARDIS needs no memories, no data banks. She doesn’t have to think back to hear his voice when he says the words (the-most-beautiful-thing-i’ve-ever-seen); she’s there, right now. There is no such thing as the past. Except now there is, and there’s a future-which-she-cannot-see. She struggles to find it in the ocean of static, whining soft frustration - she has to warn him.

(the fields of Trenzalore skaro the divergent universe the Teselecta in 1969 logopolis the confession dial the odyssey of the sky the only water in the forest is the)

“Thief?” she cries out with new lips, feeling her heartbeat accelerate and stutter and skip under the artron fluctuations that are all she is now. “Where are you?”

Through the bond at the back of her head she’s getting raw-flaring hope, burning like salt in a wound, and then it all sours into a wave of dark red anger. Flash-fire-roar-rage, and she knows with utter sparking certainty that he needs her now, that he needs her calm-cool and holding them together, but she can’t because she’s just as alone and afraid and falling apart -

“Thief!” she howls, and House glows a smug, taunting green beneath her.

(He came back - he’s coming back - no, he will have come back but in this razor-new-Now he’s not.)

++++=====++++

He’s back.

“About time, too,” she tells him, and grins, laughing at the way it feels. She remembers this conversation. It’s great fun.

“How did you know about the boxes?” he asks, and to anybody else he’d seem angry but she can see the fear in his eyes. She’d see it even if it weren’t shivering down the link, whispering quiet lost where-are-yous, pleading for her to come back. He’s realized, then. He knows that she’s not responding, and he doesn’t know what that means. “Who are you?”

But she’s here. “Do you really not know me?” she hums, half-hurt - he should see her, why doesn’t he see her? “Just because they put me in here?”

“They said you were dangerous.”

She nearly laughs at that. “No, silly. Not the cage. In here,” she whispers, hands against the bars. “I’m the -”

The - ah. That’s - it’s - oh, she never needed to listen to their soundwave speech, but she could have at least remembered - “Oh, what do you call me? We travel,” she tries. What would he recognize? “I go - “ And then she opens her mouth and lets her artron heart vibrate into the familiar patterns of dematerialization-protocol. (Not that it’ll go anywhere, but all she needs is recognition.)

Vworp - vworp - vworp.

Pause. “The TARDIS?”

“Time-And-Relative-Dimension-In-Space.” she recites - that was the girl, the one her thief calls arkytior-my-heart in his head. She remembers her, the way her mind shivered silver-terror every night and every day, too young to be away from the Matrix but with too much of the Doctor in her to give in and call it back - not when that would have reactivated the tracker-circuits. Susan. “Yes, that’s it. Names,” she decides, “are funny. It’s me. I’m the TARDIS.”

“No, you’re not,” he declares. “You’re a bitey mad lady. The TARDIS is uppy and downy stuff in a big blue box.”

“Yes, that’s me,” she sings out, eager. “A Type 40 TARDIS. I was a museum piece when you were young. And the first time you touched my console you said -”

And then he says the words, her favorites, the one moment of her life she can always remember.
“I said you were the most beautiful thing I’d ever known.”

“And then you stole me.” She smiles, delighting in their conversation, the back-and-forth they could never have when she was herself - it was so hard to understand him, sometimes, with all his running around and being embedded in linear time. “And I stole you,”

“I borrowed you,” he manages absently, staring.

“Borrowing implies the intention of returning the thing that was taken. What makes you think I would ever give you back?”

“You’re the TARDIS,” he says, and incredulous-doubtful-wonder-hope slides down the bond towards her. “ My TARDIS.”

“My Doctor.” He blinks at her, and then it flickers in his eyes - finally, finally, he sees her.

“Oh!” she announces. “We have now reached the point in the conversation where you open the lock.”

He does, still looking at her, and the sonic sparks, the door swinging open. She walks out, slowly - reaches out, and then their hands touch.

It happens far too fast for anyone outside their mind(s) to see, but with a storm-sweet-snap the bond is live again, from both sides. He opens, skin on skin, holding up the link by himself for once, and through it flares relief and comfort and joy.They are connected like they should be, and in that split-second moment everything is okay.

The TARDIS and her Doctor, she whispers into his head. They smile at that, at the joy of being one being again.

(The connection weakens when he lets go. Touch telepathy is still only touch telepathy; without her long-range empathic circuits, they can’t keep it going the way it should be. But it’s close enough for comfort, and the hivemind-hum stays.)

++++=====++++

“I don’t know what to do,” he breathes, and it hurts to look at him, her thief alone and desperate. She knows what’s happening. He needs the TARDIS, he needs something to hold on to, to stave off the storm of grief and guilt in his head. He needs that one single constant in a life that’s lost everything a million times over. But she isn’t that, not right now. She’s just as scared as he is and everything hurts but she can’t tell him and

(she hasn’t been this close to losing him since the diamond planet. since midnight. Midnight, and the word-thing that hurled her out of his mind and took her place with a smile like acid and left her there calling for him, feeling him slip away at the edge of nowhere)

(they’ve been connected nearly constantly for centuries, through a war that destroyed realities. separation does bad things to both of them.)

Doctor, she wants to say, and it’ll be all right and hold on and the only water in the forest is the river.

She can’t help him.

“I really don’t know what to do,” he repeats, and smiles a horrible twisted smile. “That’s a new feeling.”

And then he shakes his head, snaps himself out of it, and sends a cracked-ice i’m alright in her direction that somehow manages to convey the exact opposite. She needs to believe that they can do this - that he can pull through until she’s back in her body, that he can keep himself locked up on his own, that he can stay sane for that long.

I love you, she wants to say, but then they’re running.

++++=====++++

“I think you call me - “ She bites her tongue, unsure. “Sexy.”

The look of shock on his face is amazing. “Only when we’re alone!” he whispers, scandalized.

“We are alone,” she points out.

He blinks. “Oh.” Grins - a real grin this time. “Come on then, Sexy.”

++++=====++++

“You’re like a seven-year old trying to build a motorcycle in his bedroom,” she calls out. “And you never read the instructions.”

“I always read the instructions!”

“There’s a sign on my front door, you’ve been walking past it for two hundred years. What does it say?”

“That’s not instructions!”

“There’s an instruction at the bottom. What does it say?”

He fumes. “Pull to open!”

“And what do you do?”

“I push!

“Every single time, seven hundred years. Police box doors open out the way.”

++++=====++++

No, no they can’t always talk like this, Doctor, and he should know that - she can’t run around and - bring home strays -

They can’t because she wasn’t meant for this. Wasn't. Was-s-s-s, and she still hasn’t told him how much it hurts, how Idris's heart has accelerated into ridiculous golden suicide speed just to keep up with her timestream-fluctuation mind. How every thought is like the ache of rusting circuits as she’s ripped into linearity over and over again. She hasn’t told him, kept it back from the mind-link, refused to think about it because what is a little pain and he’ll get angry if he knows, he mustn’t get angry, if he gets angry he’ll break and what with the hypercubes and the weakened bond he’s so close already-

Her knees buckle. He catches her, and at the skin-against-skin telepathic flare it’s all she can do to lock the hurt away before he can see it. Stay sane, Doctor. Stay laughing and ridiculous, because it’s better than the alternative. Because if you do lose it, the universe will pay the price. She looks at him. He looks at her. And something flickers behind his eyes, something alien even to her. Something neither human nor Time Lord.

“One of the kidneys has already failed,” she manages. “It doesn’t matter. We need to finish assembling the console.”

He says something she can’t quite hear through the golden static in her ears, and she winces, trying to remember how to think in words. “ - not safe.”

“This body has about eighteen minutes left to live. The universe we’re in will reach absolute zero in three hours,” she tells him. “Safe is relative.”

++++=====++++

“It can’t hold the charge,” he growls. “It can’t even start. There’s no power. I’ve got nothing.”

“Oh, you beautiful idiot.” She half-smiles at him. She can do this one thing before she goes. “You have what you’ve always had.” And then she sets the artron in her heart spinning faster into the forever, not caring that it’ll kill her faster this way, stretches, holds - “You have me.”

And though when they spiral into their insane dive-bomb deathflight it nearly tears her apart, it’s worth it for the smile on his face.

++++=====++++

“She’s my TARDIS. Except she’s a woman. She’s a woman, and she’s my TARDIS.”

“She’s the TARDIS?”

“And she’s a woman. She’s a woman, and she’s my TARDIS.”

“...Did you wish really hard?”

“Oh - shut up!”

“Hello.” She glances at him. “I’m - Sexy.”

“...Still shut up.”

++++=====++++

She’s dying. It doesn’t really matter. Idris-whose-body-she-stole and whose mind she disintegrated with a flash of gold, Idris is dying, and she’s taking Sexy with her.

None of it matters.

++++=====++++

In the end, it’s easy - supremely, awfully easy,

The Doctor, her Thief, roars his suicide challenge at the green-god House, and even though she’s mostly dead at that point she can tell he’s breaking. He’s losing it. And he needs her.

He needs her.

Once she has that, the rest is nothing. All she needs to do is jump - out of Idris, into the dark, leap for him and hurt and hope. All she needs to do is trust him to time it right, and she has always trusted him.

Driving out House is just a petty trick, after that.

“Finish him off, girl,“ he snarls, driven oh-so-close to the edge by House’s taunts. And she does.

++++=====++++

But

bbbbBBBBB{#$%but she’s noT gone yet-t-t. (still here. st-st-still here. ereh llitS.)

Linearity still lingers, and she’s clinging to it as hard as she can - so she can open Idris’s eyes one last time and say -

“Doctor, are you there? It’s so very dark in here.”

“I’m here,” he says - with his mind as much as words, and it means so much more, it means i love you and it’s okay and please don’t go.

“I’ve been looking for a word,” she manages. “A big, complicated word, and so sad. I’ve found it now.”

“Alive,” she breathes. “I’m alive.”

“Alive isn’t sad.”

“It’s sad when it’s over.” She sighs. “I’ll always be here, but this is the time we talked, and now even that has come to an end.” She pulls herself together. “There’s something I didn’t get to say to you.”

“Goodbye,” he whispers, and the certainty in him, how resigned he is to pain, all the defiance gone out of him - it nearly breaks her.

“No, Doctor. I just wanted to say hello.”

She sings it like she sings time in flight - “Hello, Doctor. It’s so very - very - nice to meet you.”

And the linearity breaks -

- and like gold she is gone.

(you silly boy, of course you are forgiven.)

(i love you.)


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