by Daystar Searcher [Reviews - 3]

  • Teen
  • None
  • Angst, Character Study, Het, Introspection, Mixed, Slash

Author's Notes:
Doctor Who and all its characters are the property of the BBC.

He shouldn’t be having these thoughts.

He can’t remember when they began, and that terrifies him almost as much as the thoughts themselves. That his brain can have been conspiring without his knowledge, twisting data input and logic and physiological responses into…

Angry, more than he should be and he can’t even say why, it’s not as if he’s gotten used to having them around, as if that stray thought–incompetent old fool–had hurt–

And then the two of them both so close, and smiling (hand on his shoulder) and soft words, and it doesn’t matter that he knows they don’t mean the flattery because it isn’t all flutterings of anxiety behind the deception, but a gentle amusement and a warm and steady fondness like a wool blanket cocooning their thoughts.

And Barbara brushes some imaginary lint off his coat, and they are both so near and blazing warm and human and smiling, and he shouldn’t be thinking these things, just Susan’s unruly pets, that’s all they are. Rude, impertinent, inconsiderate.

But he can’t just leave them without making sure he’d brought them safely home.

At first he’d been afraid of them, of having them aboard. Covered it up with bluster and posturing, because that was what you did with wild animals. You established dominance. Didn’t show weakness. Didn’t turn your back.

Their eyes, dark and flashing.

Their voices, harsh and demanding.

Their thoughts and their bodies, and he doesn’t know where to draw the line in between, because they are both fire and pride made solid, resolute and determined and filled with coiling-to-spring violence. Gunpowder in their bones, nitroglycerin in their minds, and he thinks he might be a spark. Hair-triggers on every joint and synapse, and he may any second grip too tight–

And yet.

They captivate him.

Their emotions splash out across their minds, slopping anger and love and fear through the air like a heady wine, like a tidal wave that will sweep him away.

But no. He should not think these thoughts. These thoughts are wrong. He cannot be thinking them, it cannot be him who wants–no! Nonsense, utter nonsense. Not him. Some psychic entity strong enough to pierce the barrier of the TARDIS, some neural infection he’d picked up from the Sensorites’ minds, some side effect of dementia as this body slowly wears down.

Anything but him.

They’d joked about it in the Academy, of course. Everyone in the required Xenobiology seminars had tried to outdo each other with insinuations and sometimes dares. But the entire point had been that it was a joke. It wouldn’t have been funny if the very idea hadn’t been so ridiculous, if they hadn’t known for certain that no one could be so perverted as to–

Nervous giggles in the dark, quickly hushed. Quick, panting breaths that smell of alcohol. The electronic beep as the professor’s TARDIS is unlocked seems unnaturally loud, makes their heads snap up, certain that someone will have heard.

No words, it’ll ruin it. But quick, sideways, slightly queasy grins, egging each other on. Elbowing in the ribs as they jab buttons nervously, yank levers and forget to take the parking brake off. Smacking each other on the shoulders, pacing, hugging arms to chests as the anxious energy arcs through them. They are being bad, oh so very bad, and it’s terrifying and thrilling beyond words.

There’s a planet, and a century, and an exile, and her house, and in her house all the many many reasons she was sent away.

They’re not going to do anything, of course. It’s just a laugh, a harmless student prank. They’ll laugh at her, they’ll look at the creatures she keeps–not because they want to, just to verify that the rumors are true, that she keeps barely sentient tentacle-beasts and quadrupeds and humanoids with a lifespan–too disgusting, it can’t be true–of less than two hundred years…

He had always liked the pictures of humans in the Xenobiology textbook. But not like that. Just…they were beautiful.

Like wolves, he thinks. Yes, beautiful like wolves. They frighten you but they make you feel alive, to know they are there, teeth bared and eyes searing as they howl defiance against the wind and the ice and the hunters and the whole universe. You look at a picture of them on page fifty-three and you trace the lines of their bodies with your hands shaking, and you know that somewhere they are wild and graceful and never to be tamed.

And it gives you chills, and a pang in your hearts that hurts like thirst and like hunger and like the sting of cold winter air when you walk down streets you have known all your life and above your head are more stars than you can ever count, and you want them all.

So beautiful.

But not like…that. Never like that.

Oh, how afraid he’d been in the beginning! Not even for himself, but for Susan. She couldn’t see that you couldn’t trust a feral animal, that even if you fed it and sheltered it, it would always be wild. She treated the humans like pets, soothing their feelings and flopping down amongst them and giggling with delight, and driving her grandfather mad with worry.

For awhile he’d tried to keep from leaving her alone with both of them at the same time. He reasoned that even in wild animals the maternal instinct was fairly strong, so it was alright to leave her with Barbara. And as long as his mate was with the Doctor, Ian wasn’t likely to put her in danger by harming Susan.

But they were so good at acting like people, you could forget–you could send your granddaughter off to the library with Barbara and mean to keep Chesterton with you in the console room to assist with repairs, but he could make some remark about seeing what your collection of Dickens was like and you could mutter distractedly that he might as well head off, seeing as he certainly wasn’t any help with the transtemporal dislocator mechanism. And then four hours later you’d suddenly realize what you’d done, and the mental image of Susan’s broken body–she’s had barely any training, who knows if she can even regenerate–would blare bright and far too real in your mind, and–

He’d ran to the library, calling out her name, praying frantically to gods that no Time Lord, including himself, still believed in. Foolish, sweet Susan, trusting them, and trusting him to protect her. No answer from the too-silent library. And–


Barbara gives him a mock glare, followed by a small smile. Susan’s head is pillowed in her lap, hands tucked under her cheek. A smile on her sleeping face. Her body curled cozily into the back of the sofa, a copy of
Harry Potter barely balancing on the edge of the cushion.

Ian is leaning heavily into Barbara’s other side, snoring softly against her shoulder,
Bleak House threatening to tumble off his lap.

“Couldn’t bear to wake them,” Barbara whispers, and he nods. He cannot speak past all the emotions pushing his hearts to bursting, his relief and his gratefulness and his joy and his remorse at having so misjudged them. They are so gentle. They are so kind. They are so strong but they do not hurt the weak.

Perhaps this is the moment he falls in love with them.

No! No. He did not. He will not even think the words.

It would be worse, now, if–but it is not. It is not happening. It is not him.

His brain feels as though it will explode.

He looks away from mirrors, doesn’t want to see someone else there. There must be someone else there.

They’ve been tamed, or perhaps they were all along, which is what makes it worse now. Because he knows he could. If he wanted to, which he doesn’t, he could. Take advantage. Humans are strong but they are fragile in the strangest ways, and it shouldn’t be intoxicating, the thought of their minds all open and inviting shouldn’t make him–No. No, no, no.

So much worse. Not him. But if it is… No! So much more terrible, what he might be, but he isn’t, he isn’t. Because they trust him now. They like him. They care. They protect him, and his Susan, and they don’t know–can’t know, can’t know, can’t ever let them know even if it is true, which it isn’t–the thoughts that sometimes come to him, that he can’t get out of his mind. The betrayal, if they knew. The hurt. Oh, he can’t ever hurt them like that.

He walks and walks around the ship at night, and he tries to avoid their quarters but still his feet take him there. And he hears them, and he knows, oh, he knows…

And in the day he hides and hides and hides, and smiles and grumps and straightens his braces. And watches them, he can’t stop watching them.

Susan treats them like parents, sometimes, like the parents she should have had. Not the distant, civil strangers his daughter and son-in-law had been. And the thoughts writhe their way into his brain: Would she really be so disgusted if she knew? Would she even see how wrong it was? Or would she just be happy that there was another reason for them to stay–

It’d still be wrong.

“Doctor!” Ian’s voice, reproving but amused. Coming from the library. “Stop tramping about the ship all night and come help Susan and me win this game. Barbara’s a fiend!”

The Doctor comes to the doorway just in time to see Barbara swat Ian’s shoulder with her non-card-holding hand. “It’s called a good vocabulary.”

“Oh yes, please join us, Grandfather!” Susan pipes up. “Balderdash is the most wonderful game ever! Even if Ian and Barbara will only let me use English words.”

She gazes up hopefully from where she’s sprawled on the floor, and two humans wait for his response as well, Barbara perched on the edge of a loveseat and Ian leaning against her knee.

“Hmph!” he says at last. Bluster, the old fallback. “Been looking everywhere for you three. A man of my years shouldn’t have to tramp about his own ship for hours just for a bit of, mmm, a bit of conversation.”

Barbara only smiles knowingly, and pats the empty spot beside her on the couch.

He’ll make the thoughts go away. He will.

This is not the person he is. And even if–don’t. No.

This is not the person he wants to be.