They had been created at different points in time.
Of course, they were created simultaneously, as everything in the universe is being created in their own moment, and every moment is not a time but a place. But, on the dotted line of their timelines, one is ahead of the other.
They hadn't been close - not the way their (thieves, she says, and pilots, he says) had been, in those moments before. The exact moment they connected is colored purple, and the ground underneath is swampy, traces of nitrogen and calcium from the bones decaying deep beneath the surface.
The other two are out, and they're communicating in a way that she doesn't understand, and anyway, his aura of consciousness is mingling with her own. The rush of the Time Vortex, and the taste of carbon that will become diamonds, and the skies a rapid, ever shifting aurora overhead.
At this point in their timeline, she's seen more than he has, and there's the marvel radiating off of him as he begins to page through all the sights and impressions that she's had.
The two moving ones are getting louder, and she can feel the way her thief's distress is rising. They're communicating through sound waves, not their thoughts - when she reaches towards the one who wasn't her thief, they were barred from her.
The thief drives them to the edge of an exploding star, and the silky heat of its gravity collapsing feels like the wetness on the skin of the thief's face.
On Trenzalore, she was tired.
She knew, by then, what it was like to carry a set of bones around inside a suit of meat, and when those muscles no longer transmitted efficiently, and the different chemicals are all sending the message to find a safe space and lose consciousness. It's nothing at all like what she was feeling then, but it still resonated.
All of the moments in her timeline were so very far away, and there was the flash of the thief's sense memory, of looking at color on fabric, many small blobs of color joined together, to form a great picture, but each moment was a blob that was a galaxy apart from the last one, and she was here in the middle.
She was leaking her own self, and the halls inside of her were dim, without the lifeblood of hearts and minds and psychic signatures. The missing final vital organ, if she was a person in meat again. She missed it, just a little bit. Knowing there was an end point, and not just this in between. Of knowing what would happen to the meat and not knowing what would happen to the self.
She's been stuck on Earth long enough that the thief's fiddling is starting to become itchy when he comes back. She can feel the thrum of his mind near hers - she hasn't had a chance to communicate with anyone, because they've jammed more than her dematerialization circuit, and can only detect them within the circle of herself, on this tiny planet.
He's been busy. She can't see the specifics, as it all blurs together, but there's the carbon of ash and the itchy waft of nerve gas against her paneling, the memories of consciousness snuffed out popping in the mist of her consciousness.
One of his spare thoughts catches her, gleaned from the edges of his own Time Lord, and she tries to send a thought to her thief, as velvet covered arms descend into one of the panels in her winding hallways.
Plastic daffodils, she tells her thief, but she doesn't get an answer. Her systems, still blocked up.
She's going to sing when her child's hands descend on her console. She's going to remember the first resonances of consciousness, inside the crimson, the two psychic signatures not yet split. She's going to remember the sensation of her child's mind, the shimmering, golden buzz of it as it mists through her own.
Her thief and the crimson and the pretty one won't be inside of her, it will just be her and her child, and there will be that bit of herself, mingled with bits of the others. When her child is created, that first burst of creation is right there, and she will marvel at the ability for life to happen, spontaneous and serendipitous.
She's going to like that. The spontaneous pop of consciousness, the deliberate jolt of a hand on a lever. Two perfect moments of connection.
She remembered the time before the thief. There were people, in and out of her, but it was almost like a dream. Minds that she vaguely recognized, but moving in and out of her consistently. She met him in those days - it was such an unremarkable meeting that she didn't even have the exact date. He was just... there. A part of the social scene, such as TARDIS had.
There were so many other TARDIS, back then. It wasn't just him and her, endlessly circling each other. She had a sister, right on the edges, and some future version of her would no doubt grow closer, still, but those moments were far enough to be dim, right then in the time line.
She remembered the brush of the echo against her skin, and then her thief worming his way in, that spark of connection from the hand on her console. The thief's mind, tangling with her own.
The source of the echoes is itchy inside of her. She's got memory bank fragments of an animal's hide shuddering around an insect, and that's what it feels like, but internal.
The source of the echoes has a mind that's too similar to her thief, and the further along that time line she goes, the closer the taste becomes. The currents of her thief's mind change as well, and she's not sure how she feels about mingling herself with something mortal, even if its full of echoes.
It's the memory of flapping insect wings in a pair of cupped hands, and by that point in the time line she can see that she, briefly, had hands, and the sensation is the most apt. She focuses on it, and she tries to send it back to the source of the echoes, which will maybe get it out.
And okay, maybe there's a bit more to it.
There's a distant sister with clear ties on the source of the echoes, and she doesn't want to look too close to those ties, doesn't want to mingle herself with the sister that hasn't been born yet. She wants to hurry the source of the echoes off and away, to get rid of the itchy, fluttery feeling.
The Time War was a great grey-orange blur, in that huge painting that was her timeline. and each of those moments were too much. Too big. Too terrifying and full of smoke and death.
Her fellows screamed as they died. The other ones were more horrifying, though - the ones who ceased to be, and that brief, agonizing moment when they existed and didn't exist, before they were gone forever...
The Time was a long time ago. She always makes sure that the Time War was a long time ago.
He's always there, for a while. The two of them, on one planet or another. She can sense his trail in the Time Vortex, and she can taste his surprise, then recognition at her own trail. They're stepping in each other's tracks, following each other's paths, and she's gotten into the habit of tasting his mind.
His pilot's plots are beginning to alarm her, distantly. She doesn't have her thief's sense of morality (she can see the shape of it and the things that make it up, but it doesn't come naturally), but some of it is beginning to seem repetitive.
Have you tried making suggestions? She asks him, when the two of them are resting beside each other on the grass of some planet.
They've been ignored, he says, and there's a tone in his thoughts that she'll later learn means tired, although she doesn't have a body yet, and doesn't know what it will do to her perceptions.
Why? She asks.
There's a complicated series of emotions that wash over her - the foreign, red taste of the pilot's thoughts, the interpretation of them through his mind, her own interpretation of his, of the pilot's. It's all a jumbled mess, colors layering onto each other, to look blurred and fuzzy around the edges.
I don't know, he says finally, in the silence of their mingled consciousness.
Fix it, she tells him firmly, because she can feel the things that her thief is bothered by, on the edges of her self.
It isn't that simple, he complains at her, the annoyance tinged yellow. Why don't you control yours, then?
She tries to conceptualize what controlling her thief would even mean. The thief is the one who goes into the world, and she's the one that moves all of eternity around them.
She wishes he wouldn't be so smug about it.
He'd never had a body before.
She remembered the shuddering horror of being forced into the small space that immediately expanded, and then the strangeness of skin and vocal cords.
Biting is like kissing, but there's a winner, she told him once, when their Time Lords were in some kind of scuffle.
And what's kissing? He couldn't wrap his consciousness around the idea of a body - the softness of lips, the warmth of breath against his face.
She passed on the memory, bits of them gleaned from her passengers or her thief, bits of it from alternate selves, alternate timelines. She rolled it all together, and she let it mingle with his mind, almost like kissing him herself.
I don't know if I want there to be a winner, he said, after some time absorbing it. What was it like, being inside?
Bigger, she said, and then her front door was being slammed and she was disappearing into the Time Vortex.
The paradox engine in a throbbing ache in the middle of her own timeline. She has a memory of her thief's tucked away from the Time War. A grievous injury that almost severed their connection, almost destroyed her Time Lord.
The paradox engine feels a little bit like that - if she looks at it too closely, she's afraid she'll get sucked back into it. The pain of it had been enough that she'd understood, for the first time, when they chose to die. To feel yourself ripped in pieces, inhabiting the wrong place and the right place at the same time.
She screams out - for him, for her sister, for any of her people at all. Her thief is just there, listening to her cries, and when she isn't going completely mad with the pain of it, she tries to mix their minds.
Her thief's mind has been closed off from her, and that's worse than the paradox splitting her asunder. She wants this moment to pass, and that moment, and the one following it.
She wishes that he had been the paradox engine, but his pilot would never perform a cruelty such as that, not to him.
It would have shocked her thief to learn that even his pilot had limits.
She knows that in the future she'll forgive the pilot - she can see it, off in the distance. But she wants this to end now, to dematerialize from this place of heartbreak and pain, and every moment is another bit of agony.
There will be something that clings to the surface of her, when she goes to stop and refuel. Something like a flea, a louse, and she plucks a memory from the human inside of her; a childhood cat, trying to scrape a tick off.
She will try to run from it, but it won't let go, and she will be ill equipped for something that just holds on. TARDIS are created to be strong and capable, but they're not typically built to have anything to do with their shells.
She's going to tell her thief to get it off, but of course, her thief doesn't always understand what she's trying to say. Something about the thing clinging to her sends panic through her, and she's still running when she hits the very end of where she can go.
At least it'll let go, once she's finally landed, exhausted and wrung out.
It hurt, when the thief regenerated.
Some of it was purely sentimental. She knew the different faces of the thief, knew which one liked custard creams and which one forgot cups of coffee about the place. And something about the intensity of the thief changing made her change as well, in a way that she now knew could best be described as queasy.
But it happened, time and time again - there would be the flash, the shock, and then the internal changes starting to process. The great, clanging dong of the Cloister Bell, the record turning in the depths of her, and rooms would reshuffle, lights change, crystals or words or bookshelves growing inside of her like teeth.
Does changing hurt you as much? She asked him once, when the two of them were on the same continent, their respective people running around doing who knew what.
It's usually not in me, he told her. Did it hurt, when mine changed in you?
She tried not to think about that. It was too close to the business with the paradox engine.
She’s been having trouble landing.
She has a memory, from someone’s thoughts, of standing on an escalator and not knowing where to put her feet. Only they’re not her feet - they belong to another human or Time Lord or some other species, someone who she’s carried inside of her.
This planet isn’t one she’d generally enjoy - everything seems hostile, in a way that’s dangerous to any passenger she might have. Dangerous to her thief. She’s not sure if she’s landing or not, but then there’s the familiar buzz, a tickling, itching sensation along her own self.
She follows it, rematerializes, and then there’s the shock of connection, of her thief’s hands on her door.
You’ve redecorated, her thief says. I like it.
She hums, the new lights inside her console room glowing amber, as they file into her.