Understanding broke over the Doctor. Clear, harsh understanding. Alistair who was not Alistair, but rather the TARDIS who was no longer his TARDIS, watched him as the comprehension came.
“You’re jealous,” the Doctor rasped, “you’re jealous of Charley.”
“Like they say; hell hath no fury like a TARDIS scorned.”
The Doctor swallowed. He felt defeated, and he knew that he looked fourfold as bad as he felt; burned and scabby, his fancy dress torn and charred away to reveal his broken body. He was painfully thin after six months of sleep, yet, with all that rest he felt devastatingly tired. He could have happily curled up for another six months. He was beyond thirsty. He felt as if a desert had invaded his throat, oh, for a drop of liquid — why did this dungeon have to be so damp? With so much dripping? That was a torture in itself.
His shoulders and wrists were in torment from being hitched above his head. There was some slack in the chains, but only enough to let them chafe and jingle when he moved.
But the worst was the TARDIS, standing there wearing the skin of his old friend, and hating him so much, and maybe he deserved it, but after all they had been through, all those billions of miles travelled together, why couldn’t she understand? If only he apologised hard enough, perhaps he could break through the anti-time influence and save her. Except, the cool fingers of dread that had a grasp on his hearts told him that she did not want to be saved.
“Then bring it on,” he cried out suddenly. The words, raw as they were, scratched against his tormented throat. “Bring it on. Call this a dungeon? Where’s the rack, the whip, the iron maiden? Flay me alive why don’t you, and then beat me.” He took a deep breath before continuing, his voice crackling with emotion. He had to make her understand, somehow, that he hadn’t abandoned her;
“I know I caused you pain. I know that, and I am so very sorry. I trusted you to contain the explosion and I was right to put my faith in you. You never let me down. You were the last one I could turn to. I never expected to live.”
The TARDIS brought Alistair’s face close to the Doctor’s. Close enough that he could see better the faint fuzziness around the edges of the construct body. Close enough that he could feel its fake breath on his cheek, and see the hard glint in its eyes, so unlike the real Alistair.
The Doctor was reminded, suddenly, of the parallel Alistair he had met that once, when he had travelled between dimensions in his third body to a world which had ended in flame. That man had had eyes, or rather one eye, like that; cold and ruthless.
The memory and the reality before him combined to make the Doctor shudder. His chains tinkled eerily at the movement punctuating the TARDIS’s next remark;
“And you never expected the consequences, but face them you shall…”
The Doctor immediately regretted his foolhardy demands. The TARDIS had already made quite clear her desire to cause him pain. Baiting her had been nothing short of moronic. He needed to conserve his strength to escape and find Charley, and most of all to fight the anti-time influence which was threatening to taken him over.
Zagreus had been quiet since the Doctor had woken up in this dungeon, but now he was starting to whisper again. Now that the Doctor was weak and about to be tortured.
“You won’t win,” the Doctor whispered, not sure who he was talking to.
“This isn’t about winning,” said the TARDIS. “Now which should I use first? The whip or firebrand?”
She took the Doctor’s heavy breathing for a reply.
“Yes, you are perfectly right, Doctor. I need to get you out of those filthy rags before I can do anything with you.”
The was a rattling a chains and a ripping of fabric as the TARDIS stripped the Doctor of what little decency he had left, leaving him to dangle naked and shivering in his bonds. She hit him a few time. Hard slaps across the face and thighs just to see the red marks she could make.
“Now, isn’t that better? I think you look very pleasant in this state Doctor, helpless, exposed… how many times have you left me out in the open? To be buried by lava flows or toppled off cliffs, or to weather off solar storms — don’t answer Doctor, save your strength. I think this will be a good lesson for you in how it feels to be a second class citizen. To be forced to bear a load, and pain, and responsibility and never once complain. I never screamed Doctor. I wonder if you will be as strong.”
The Doctor thought about replying, words were ready to roll off his dry, swollen tongue, but for once he thought better of it. Words would not help him now. The TARDIS wanted an argument, wanted an excuse to prolong his torments. Instead his shut his eyes, drew a shaky breath, and prepared to endure.
“Playing stoic, are you, Doctor? Well, perhaps this will grab your attention.”
The TARDIS laid her fingers around the Doctor’s ball sack, and squeezed. The Doctor’s eyes popped open with a startled yelp.
“Yes, that had the desired effect, didn’t it?” the TARDIS said. She increased pressure, causing the Doctor’s eyes to water. Alistair’s hands were large and strong and callused. The hands of a friend, the hands of an enemy? “I’ll show you friendship, Doctor. I’ll show you love.”
The TARDIS’s hand withdrew from his private area, allowing the Doctor to breathe again. She waved it in front of the Doctor so that he could watch as the limb transformed from Alistair’s hand to a blunt, fleshy sausage. She smiled with Alistair’s mouth, making it a terrible expression, and then ducked down beneath him.
There was no preparation, no probing or teasing, only one hard thrust that didn’t stop until the Doctor was impaled half way up the Brigadier’s arm. The force of it rocked him onto his toes and then back down again. He could feel his insides shifting, stretching, ripping. It was agony, but he refused to scream, for her sake.
“Do you enjoy this, Doctor? This love?”
He felt faint. There was a new dripping in the dungeon, a steady trickle of blood against the hard floor. His insides were cramping and convulsing with the mass of the huge foreign presence. It was rippling inside of him, twisting and turning its way deeper and deeper, invading his very being. He could see it in the way his painfully thin and concave stomach was being pushed out from within. He felt sick. He dry heaved, but it only made the pain worse.
“Is this what you shared with dear Charlotte? With all of them?”
No, not with Charley, he thought, or maybe he said it out loud.
“Well, then share it with me, Doctor!” said the TARDIS, or was it the Brigadier? He was getting confused, muzzy.
A sharp twist of the arm impaling him made stars go nova behind his eyes.
I’m sitting in your head, said Zagreus.
I’m going to eat you up.
The Doctor was barely conscious when the TARDIS removed her blood slicked arm and waved it in front of him once more. It morphed back into Alistair’s hand, old, wrinkled, strong and covered in dark blood. She leaned forward and starting painting on his chest with her fingers.
“Alistair…” the Doctor murmured, “Ali — why are you doing this? What did I…”
“You know,” said the TARDIS, drawing a large X over both his hearts.
“I… Alistair, please, we need to… not my head, we should be dreaming that… of course in cricket no, no, this isn’t cricket. This is… Alistair,” the Doctor said, his voice desperate and cracking, “Alistair, please stop. You’re hurting me.”
“I’m not doing anything right now,” said the TARDIS. She punctuated the sentence with a kiss. Full on the lips, but no tongue. A chaste kiss. The kind of kiss a lover would give as a sweet hello, or goodbye. The Doctor, barely, was aware of the bulge in Alistair's trousers as the TARDIS pulled their bodies close.
An instant later came the swish of a whip, and more pain. The Doctor, in the slender part of his mind that was still sane had been wondering when that was coming. He had dared her after all. The whip, the rack — had he mentioned hot irons or had that been someone else?
The Brigadier pulled back, leaving him alone except for the voices in his head, and so very, very cold.
He waited for more pain. That was his life now; pain, and shadows in the dark, and friends who hated him.
Charley hated him. He had hit her.
That clear memory burst through the fog, and with it the Doctor was broken. His knees collapsed, leaving him to hang fully by his wrists. He cried.
There was the drip, drip, drip of blood and water on stone. The jingling of the Doctor’s chains, his dry, rattling sobs, and then, a new noise in the darkness: foot prints.
The Doctor looked up to see a new figure approaching through the mist of his torments.
“A fine lesson, friend TARDIS,” said a familiar voice, “let us continue it elsewhere.” A soft, mocking hand rubbed the Doctor’s chin, followed by a tongue which licked the salt from his cheek. “Oh, Doctor, this veil of tears will be long behind you once your next life has begun.”
I am inside your head, said Zagreus, I will eat you. I will devour you, so that you need never feel pain again.