Four Lies and a Truth About the TARDIS

by Daystar Searcher [Reviews - 5]

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  • Teen
  • None
  • Alternate Universe, Angst, Character Study

Author's Notes:
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the BBC and not to me; I get no reward besides a fun reason to stay up all night, and the occasional review.

Warnings: dub-con, spoilers for Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords, speculation about season six (which will almost certainly be Jossed within the first ten minutes of the first episode), and a TARDIS whose placement on the good-evil spectrum is ambiguous at best.

1.

They would have loved him anyway. He is a charismatic man in all his incarnations, playful and protective and intoxicatingly mercurial. A mind like an infinitely expanding universe, eyes as old as the stars, and a wide smile that gleams with every definition of mischief and adventure.

They would have loved him anyway, without her.

The TARDIS loves her dear Doctor, and her sweet humans, so much it sometimes makes her heart hurt and her console hum with pain. They are all so brilliant and lovely, sparkling little minds to swim in. She translates all the languages for them and carries them through the stars. They stroke her levers and pat her walls and curl up in her beds, and she loves their too-brief touches, wishes so long and hard to be able to touch them back–

They would have touched each other anyway, without her.

It is purely a coincidence that they first touch each other when her own want has reached its peak, when her need for contact has whipped her into a frenzy, circuits frying and sensors whirring at twice their normal speed. It is pure happy coincidence that her mental link lets her share in their sensations–coarse curls and pale thighs, bright eyes and sharp gasps, moans and grunts and sweat-slicked skin. The names, all their beautiful names. Doctor. Jamie. Doctor. Zoe. Doctor. Jo. Doctor. Sarah Jane. Doctor!

It is nothing she has done on purpose. It is nothing she has done at all. It cannot be. Her Doctor is a marvelous man, so very ingenious. He would have noticed if anything were out of order, if there were anything odd in how all the pretty little humans came to him, gazed up adoringly into his eyes, stayed as long as they could.

No, the humans would always have loved their Doctor. And the Doctor would always have loved his brave bright scrappy companions.

It is not her. It cannot be her. She would never hurt them. And if it were her, she would have to stop, and she cannot do that.

She loves her Doctor and his friends far too much.

2.

She grows in the space-marshes of Xalladon Five’s outer ring. Her kind grow intertwined, but her connections are always looser than those of both her gene-podmates and her generation-group; looser indeed than any individual in their shared telepathic history. She drifts, only loosely tethered, ignoring the worries of her connection-partners in favor of the strange murmurs from the dark of deep space, the whispers of millions of miniscule minds from the distant gleaming lights.

She drifts, and dreams.

On the fifth atra cycle of Xalladon Five’s kolpekth solar rotation, a few of the voices grow closer.

It was a ship, she will later find, though at the time she has no words for it. Twenty-four minds aboard, small and disjointed but still so complicated and shining and excitingly different that she can’t resist, wrenches away and breaks connection with everyone and everything she knows. Launches herself towards the new voices, and says, as best she can:

HELLO

A scream, and then silence.

She doesn’t understand, at first. It takes a long time–and that’s part of the problem, because the way she understands and measures time is so different from the way they do, and a long time for her is an even longer time for them. Long enough for all of them to die, except the youngest female.

It takes her a long time to understand that the force of her telepathic greeting wiped their minds entirely empty.

She knows two things, then: that she will never be able to atone for this, and that she must never stop trying.

The first step is to save the youngest female, so she makes herself into a shape that is strong on the outside and soft and accommodating within, small enough on the outside to hide, and large enough on the inside for the little one to live and grow and explore.

The second step is to find a way to communicate with the voices without killing them. She discovers that her softest murmur is just enough to shape the little one’s mind and memories anew, building a fictional family and planet, a storybook life. But it is not enough. Her ward will need someone who can communicate directly with her in her own simple language, who the female can confide in.

When she hits on the solution, it is unbelievably simple. Telepathically constructed audio-optical holograms had been the toys she played with when she was only two atra cycles old. She might even someday be able to make the planet the young female now believed herself to be from.

As luck would have it, a rescue operation for the ship she had destroyed stops by not long after, and she gets the chance to test her work. Her charge, clutching the projection’s hand, smiles out the scanner now built into her form at the confused faces of the orange-clad medics.

“I’m terribly sorry, I don’t know anything about any other vessels in the area,” she makes the hologram say. “I’m the Doctor. And this is my grand-daughter, Susan.”

3.

Nasty humans. Stupid shrill tiny-minded little flailing things, their brains all weak flashing lights and mewling sounds. Like lice or fleas or bedbugs, she picks and flicks them away but there are always new ones coming back. He picks them up, he rolls around in the garbage of the universe and trots home to her, trailing them behind him. Vermin. Itching and itching and itching in her mind, their stupid fears and shallow saccharine hopes painting themselves across her telepathic field like an insipid watercolor she can never scrub out.

The first few centuries she nurses the belief he’ll eventually give up his revolting habit. Give him enough time and he’ll grow bored or disgusted with them as he does all his pursuits, and kick them out of her and bar future entrance, fumigate all traces of humanity out of her rooms and halls. She just has to be patient–perhaps help him along a bit now and then with a quick call to the Time Lords, or by sending a command code to an airlock, or nudging a telepathic whisper into the mind of a hostile alien. He’ll give them up.

But he doesn’t. No matter how many times she “helps.”

It’s more painful than any star-storm or space-battle she’s ever been tossed about in when she realizes the truth–that he cares more for nibbling fiddling scritch-scratching little insects than he does for her, who has been beside him since the beginning.

It’s why she lets the Master in. He promises her no more humans. It’ll be just him and her, forever, and the stars. He’ll kill all the humans, his little friends will slice and dice them and make them silent and still and gone and she’ll never have to suffer their presence again.

Then one day he brings Lucy aboard, and the TARDIS realizes that he has lied. But by then it’s too late. He’s trapped her. She’s locked between two slices of time, holding their razor sharp edges apart, and the humans of the future zoom across to kill the humans of the present, and the giggles mix with screams and it is never quiet in her mind, so many humans and they never shut up, nasty brutish buzzing things, they never leave, it’s never quiet, never never never–

Vermin.

4.

She is not a she, but rather an it. The fact is that the Doctor is incurably romantic and sentimental and cripplingly lonely, and a half-truth or a quarter-truth or the one-one-thousandth truth is better than the cold hard reality: the only constant in his life is that, sooner or later, he is alone. So he equivocates to his companions about how alive she may or may not be, because as long as he doesn’t take a firm position he isn’t lying, not exactly.

And as long as he isn’t exactly lying, he doesn’t have to explain that its “growth” is a circuit regeneration program, and its telepathic translations are actually a brain operation affected by nanobots the second he approves a companion for travel, and the fact that he gets better results when he tries to charm and appease his ship is mostly due to him not trying that approach until seventy seconds into the repairs, at which point the self-repair program has already kicked in. That the TARDIS is no more alive or sentient than the antique roadster he used to drive, or a common U.N.I.T. jeep.

He doesn’t have to think about any of that at all.

5.

She never wears blue.

It’s a silly notion, but she’s sure that if he does, he’ll see. That it’s her.

So she wears black and red and white and every color that she can, but never blue.

It’s even sillier because half the time, she’s certain that he already knows. It’s in the way he looks at her sometimes, serious and considering and puzzled. The lightbulb that goes off in his eyes when they slide into banter whose tone is as familiar as the pulse of his own hearts, even if he’s not used to it in verbal form.

He won’t ask, though. If he does know who she is, then he knows to trust her.

Sometimes, she can’t stand being human. The intensity of the sensory input terrifies her, even as the mental limitations make her claustrophobic, make her feel locked up tight in her own skull.

Sometimes, though, she thinks she will never be able to give it up–snogging, shagging, eating really properly greasy fish and chips. The adrenaline rush of firing a weapon. The smell of coffee. How can she go back?

The feel of silk and cotton and velvet against her skin, a thousand different fabrics which she is careful to ensure are never, ever blue.

She wishes she could tell him already, about the Silence, about the modified version of a Chameleon Arch and why she went through. About the good man she has killed, who he will have to let her kill. But she cannot tell him. Not yet.

She runs a hand through her hair as she stands before the past version of herself, not quite ready to open the door. She’s going to miss her hair too when she goes back to her old form. This is seriously fabulous hair.

She grasps the door, feels her past-self murmur in her mind. She steps inside, and smiles at the Doctor.

“Hello, sweetie,” says River Song.