As she stepped into the console room, her breath caught in her throat. It was enormous! Beautiful! Exquisite! Incredible! Fantastic! Oh! After growing up with mere stories, it was a fantasy come true, and such moments often defy description. She had never been privy to anything so wonderful in her life. It was so very different from her little TARDIS, with gleaming surfaces and a bluish glow radiating from the enormous time rotor casting a dream-like ambiance over the entire room. She was so sleek! So… Well, there weren’t sufficient words, were there?
“You’re… You’re just… You’re amazin’. So beau’iful. Thank you, for invitin’ me to see you, er… What do I call you? D’you have a name?”
Swells of love and approval washed over Selene as though some titanic ethereal being were bestowing a gentle kiss. The TARDIS had decided once that she quite liked kissing – almost as much as biting, though she wanted the child to stay, and her thief hadn’t taken to the biting quite so well – so she sent the pup only this gentler type of affection. Not many who stepped foot inside her-magnificent-self bothered to ask if she had a name. It was novel, and rather gratifying. Of course, names were rather trivial. A name could not convey the importance of what she was, what TARDISes were, the history, the magnitude, but these lower lifeforms did set such an importance in titles that this TARDIS had grown rather fond of them, and was well pleased with the idea.
The Alpha hadn’t dared proceed more than two feet inside, so the TARDIS beckoned her to commit, and come forward. A message appeared in Gallifreyan on the console monitor.
Hesitantly, Selene closed the distance. It still felt wrong being here without the Doctor’s express permission, it was his home after all. It wasn’t as though staying on the ramp would make much difference, she’d already done the damage and invaded it, but it caused her a little pang to know she could be making their dismal dynamic worse somehow. How does one ask favours of someone against whom they’ve trespassed? And, favours were just what she intended to beg. She had little choice. Still, it would be just as rude to flout the gift the TARDIS presented.
She read the name the TARDIS had offered.
He called her—
“I’m never callin’ you tha’.”
Amusement from the TARDIS bubbled around the girl gazing at the monitor in horror. Perhaps, it was the reminder of how she liked kissing – and biting – that made her choose the second moniker she shared. Another name appeared.
“Alright, then,” Selene sighed in relief, “Idris it is. My TARDIS isn’t old enough to talk to me, you know. This… ‘s a bit weird. New. Different. Not bad different though. Good different.” She reached up and rested her hands on the glowing cylinder. “I think you’re the most beautiful thin’ I’ve ever seen. I hope he’s takin’ good care of you.”
More effervescent amusement.
The Alpha chuckled. “I know. ‘S the other way ’round, innit? You take care of Himself, don’t you?”
A new feeling hit the Alpha. Insistent, but open ended. Her senses felt overloaded, and she didn’t know what she was meant to understand. The monitor blinked three times in rapid succession, and the feeling assaulted her once again. Questioning. The TA—Idris wanted to show her something.
“Oh! Yeah, ‘course! Anythin’ an’ everythin’. Please, do.”
She closed her eyes as the TARDIS’s memories of the last few hundred years sped through her mind in reverse order; an altogether disorienting and heady experience, to say the least. She witnessed everything from having her matrix extracted, to blowing up, to crashing in a little girls’ back garden, and ending with a struggle to keep a mad Time Lord from destroying the Earth by summoning a reddish planet…
She put her hands on the console to steady herself while she got her bearings. The rapid download of information left her with a ringing headache and queasy knot in her stomach. Perhaps, the TARDIS believed her better equipped to handle such a transfer, but she struggled to right herself, nonetheless.
Processing complete, the implications of the memories were grim.
“Tha’s wha’ killed him last time? ‘S why he doesn’t look the same anymore then.” She sighed heavily. “You’ve been through a lot, haven’t you, I-Idris?”
A slight admonishment made her feel like the ship had just done the mental version of a glower and tongue click.
“Yeah, yeah. He has too. I get it.” She rolled her eyes, making to pull away and stand on her own with a huff. However, before she could, she got a shock for her insolence and jumped back, spine rod-straight and eyes wide. “Oi! Watch it!” She stuck her fingers in her mouth and knitted her eyebrows together. “Look, sorry! I didn’t mean to upset you, an’ I wasn’t tryin’a insult him, alright?” Her fingers tingled, and the pain vanished. “Cheers,” she relaxed. The old girl was certainly protective of the old man, even if he had run her through the mill and back. “Much better. You really are incredible, y’know. I can’t wait ’til my Little Girl is as flash as you, you incredible thing, you.”
Pride and affection came in a giant wave, though the Alpha couldn’t tell whether it was directed at her, or the idea of her young ship. Deciphering the messages ensconced in tidal forces of emotion was difficult enough. She wondered if it got easier with time and familiarity.
“So’d you invite me in jus’ to say, ‘hello,’ then?”
The image of the pompous man, with the dangerous gauntlet from the last memory of the near destruction of Earth, appeared in her mind.
“Who’s tha’ then?”
A name appeared on the display in Circular Gallifreyan. Rassilon.
“Tha’s Himself? He’s the one I want? Never had a proper name for ‘im, an’ he never looked like tha’.” She rubbed at her temples and pinched the bridge of her nose. Deep seeded fears combined with the mental barrage of the timeship were taking a toll. “Looks like a right prat, doesn’t he? I mean, he’s always looked like a prat, and really stodgy, but he… He hasn’t always looked so… angry or… forbidding… to me, anyway.”
The TARDIS gave her the mental equivalent of a shrug, then a painfully stern warning, as if to say he was nothing to a being like herself, but potentially very problematic for Selene. Her head rang with it.
“Is he really so dangerous?” She nervously adjusted the neck of her jumper and muffler to sit higher and pulled down at her coat sleeves.
What might have been agreement flashed momentarily, followed by a feeling of shaking concern, and profound sadness.
“I’ll be alright, Idris,” she rallied, as much for herself as the being with whom she conversed. “Really. I’m cleverer an’ stronger than I look. An’… ‘s wha’ I was born for, yeah? I’m… I’m gonna… I will, ‘s all. I jus’ will.”
“Wha’? I dunno wha’ you’re tryin’ to ask.”
Insistent, stinging questioning.
“Look, can you write it out or show me or somethin’?” she asked and tugged at her muffler, trying to hide her pain, and how much she was flagging from the interaction. “Blimey, I’m talkin’ to a ship tha’ knows all my plans! This is by far the strangest conversation I’ve ever been a part of, an’ you know? Tha’s sayin’ a lot.”
The image of the pompous looking Time Lord and the questioning tone again, though perhaps less forceful.
“Oh… Yeah, I dunno yet. Can’t properly plan until the first bit’s accomplished. I have to see it. Be there. All I know, I got from vague memories an’ anecdotes from my dad.” She released a hefty sigh. “Everythin’s sort of… a mess right now. I mean, I know wha’ I have to do. I know Torin an’ Lios have to… But getting’ there… I was supposed to have more time, you know? Was kinda hopin’ Mum would be here with us for everythin’, an’ she’d be the one to care for… but I also have a load of sortin’ to do for her. Mum’s…” A thought occurred to her. “D’you… I mean… I know you can do amazin’ things… D’you think you could help me with Mum? I jus’ need to talk to her.”
Wolves faintly howled somewhere in her mind, and she felt a sense of giddy anticipation from the unusually chatty timeship.
To her utter amazement – and abject horror – the ship initiated her own dematerialisation sequence.
“Oi! What’re you doin’? No!” she shouted in panic. She certainly hadn’t intended to nick the Doctor’s TARDIS to accomplish her goals, and she highly doubted he’d appreciate it either. “Nooooooo! The Doctor’s gonna kill me! No! I didn’t mean— We can’t go anywhere! Are you listening? Wha’—Oi!”
Her own TARDIS was suddenly sitting in the corner of the console room – still a violet-leafed Garazonian tree – and the door was opening. To her dismay, a furious Doctor was rushing out, and staring daggers right at her. She imagined she could almost see—feel the charge of the lightening gathering, reaching critical force inside the hurricane bearing down upon her.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he shouted. “What is wrong with you, you unendurable little miscreant? Do you make a habit of hijacking other people’s ships?”
“Wha? No! I was—”
“This is my home! What? A little breaking and entering before tea as a diversion, then on to robbing me of the last piece of my home world for sport? Is this a game to you, you miserable, conniving little thief?”
“How the hell did you even get in? What is wrong with you?“
Her brothers peered out at her from the young TARDIS doors, shock and confusion plain on their faces. Lios dropped his gaze from hers before eye contact was made. His disappointed in her meant no support would be offered. That, more than the insults, more than the unfairness and the Doctor’s unwillingness to let her defend herself, flared the anger within her. Every apology she was on the verge of offering burned away in her internal inferno. She hadn’t done anything!
…Except invade his home uninvited…
But, the TARDIS had invited her, damn it, and that was all the justification she felt she needed.
She stomped, boots crashing against the glass-like floors, up to the Doctor, standing mere inches from him as he glowered at her.
“I. Didn’t. Hijack. Anythin’!” she spat. “She did this all on her own, an’ if you don’ believe me, try askin’ her your-own-self! I didn’t wanna look at your daft, insultin’, too-important face ever again! Why would I go pickin’ you up while you were in my bloody TARDIS? She’s the mad one who did it!”
She pointed accusingly at the console, then put her finger inches from the Doctors face, eyes blazing with righteous fury, and the decision made to leave this insane ship and the mad Doctor behind forever, damn what her brothers wanted. Damn whatever trouble she faced planet-side. Damn all the obstacles in the universe, she was not staying another millisecond. It was too much. He was too much.
“You, oh, exalted an’ faultless Doctor—John Bleedin’ Cockwomble Smith! You can jus’ put us right back, right now! Go on! We. Don’t. Need you. Or your bloody mad ship! We were better off before you swanned in an’ cocked up our— everythin’! Every damned thing! You ruin everythin’ you touch! An’ this insane box of mental wires—”
“Don’t you have a go at my ship! Without her you wouldn’t even be alive, you ungrateful, faithless little br—”
Electricity hummed menacingly through the TARDIS as both received painful shocks from the railing they each gripped with white knuckles.
“Oi! Gah!”—“BUGGER! Ow!”
Waves of stern chastisement rolled over them like slaps to the back of the head. The TARDIS had had enough. She was accustomed to her thief behaving as though he were still an infant of his species from time to time— he was still so small and young when compared to her. She tolerated the smashing parts of her, and yelling indiscriminately at those around him, but she often displaced herself during such tantrums, preferring to let the outbursts pass before returning to his plane of existence. However, she was unfortunately invested in this current exchange for a multitude of reasons, and cared extraordinarily little for their joint behaviour. No one was stepping between the two, and they had work to be done.
“Mad! Absolutely bloody barmy! Tha’s the second time today. Does she do tha’ a lot? Bloody hell, it hurts.”
The dematerialisation sequence began again, and the Doctor hurriedly pushed past the Alpha and ran to the console.
“What are you doing? Where are we going?” he yelled at his ship. He began pushing buttons and throwing levers in a fruitless effort to halt the progression.
Something strange had gotten into the TARDIS, and he was at a loss to understand why her behaviour was so extreme. Never before, without some external duress, had she taken matters into her own hands, or acted without his authority… Unless you counted intentionally missing landings… or locking him out occasionally… or hiding things from him… or never taking Peri home… or opening her core to Rose… and Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen. Oh, alright. She was wilful. She’d always been wilful, but this time was singular in its directness. He couldn’t reason it away as forgetfulness, or bad driving. She had some unfathomable goal and was breaking rules to accomplish them. Not that breaking rules was new; they’d forged their very bond on the principle. The least she could do was keep him in the loop, however, and he was perturbed by her failure to do so.
A few uneventful, but thoroughly frustrating moments later, they landed, and he checked their coordinates.
“Cardiff? Of all the places – all the bloody rifts in time and space – why is it always— Oh, forget it! I’ll never properly understand you,” he admonished his rogue timeship.
He turned to address the three young Time Lords who were now standing together. Lios gingerly examined his sister’s fingers, like a concerned parent, while she stood ridged with her malevolent stare fixed on a far wall, red-faced and lips pursed. Lios’s guilt at his quick judgement of her evident in his posture, and the requisite forgiveness in hers not immediately forthcoming. Torin stood slightly apart, gaping at the room at large, trying to memorise every detail. He looked like he was twitching to explore the wealth of wonder the Old Girl promised in every curve and hall. The expression made the Doctor soften momentarily. His grin reappeared, and his anger took a backseat to the pride and joy at hand. He did quite like those boys, even if the girl was impossible – and not the good, impossible – to get on with.
“Welcome to the TARDIS,” the Doctor extoled, unable to keep the swelling pride from colouring his voice, “well, this TARDIS, my TARDIS. What do you think?”
Torin met his eyes. “Brilliant.” He nodded with genuine wonderment. “You know she is.”
“Well, only a small glitch, then,” the Doctor smoothed. “She’s taken us to Cardiff – I’m assuming for your little one’s benefit. There’s a rift here where she can recharge, so to speak, and help her heal.” He lowered his voice, the excitement of bringing someone aboard who appreciated his surroundings, tampered by the task of trying to ease the tensions still hanging like a fog in the air. “Alpha,” he began warily, “I’m… I… My Old Girl has obviously been planning things without telling me anything.”
She regarded him with brow-crumpled puzzlement at his attempted apology. She tugged at her coat sleeves and glanced away awkwardly. “You called me Alpha.”
“Well, that’s your name, isn’t it? Would you prefer Selene?”
She shook her head, her expression indefinable.
“Are we… alright?” he pushed.
She considered him with an expression akin to walking into an unpleasant odour. Lios nudged her gently with an elbow. She rolled her eyes and shrugged, turning her back to the Doctor to focus on some apparently very interesting part of the nearby railing. The old man took it as a sign that the storm had passed and they were clear to get on with the better parts. The seeing the ship parts. The showing off parts. The parts at which he excelled.
“Come along Noble-Smiths—blimey, that’s rubbish. No offence meant to your old dad, but why didn’t he just use Tyler? Brilliant name, Tyler. Noble-Smith doesn’t roll properly off the tongue at all, does it? I’m not using it. Tylers then. Much better. Come along, Tylers! Shall I show you to your rooms?”
“Oi!” The Alpha spun back around, grabbed hold of Li’s arm, and stopped the migration out of the console room in its tracks. “Who says we’re stayin’ here?”
Her brothers’ attention flew to her in respective shock and disappointment. Torin’s gaze nursed a rebellious glint that said he wouldn’t be giving in without a herculean fight.
The Doctor’s excited smile died comically on his lips, and morphed into an anxious frown. He hadn’t believed… even though their beginnings were rocky… She couldn’t be serious. They needed him! It was obvious. And it wasn’t like she spoke for all of them, she was outnumbered! He had no desire to separate them, but she couldn’t possibly be thinking she could keep her brothers from going with him if they wished.
“I just thought…” he murmured, unable to understand why the issue persisted.
A few heavy moments passed in which no one moved, brothers still staring at their sister in disbelief and anger, and the Doctor with his eyes fixed on his shoe laces. They were at a stalemate, and he did not want to lose the opportunity he’d been afforded. Rose’s children stood mere feet from him filling his mind with comfort. They couldn’t go so soon.
“Look, I’m not sayin’ we don’t appreciate the offer,” she began with clear prejudice, and Torin turned away from her in obstinate frustration, “an’ I’m not sayin’ we won’t go with you – you two prats jus’ settle down. Damage is done. We’re off planet. Wha’ choice do we have from here, an’ how stupid would I be if I made us go back now? We’re still dead in the water. ‘S jus’… we have a home, yeah?” She indicated the young ship still pretending she was a purple tree, “an’ givin’ us rooms here… I dunno… ‘S jus’ weird. ‘S like this is your house, an’ you’re askin’ us to move in with you when we barely know you. ‘S a little… fast, is all… don’t you think? This somethin’ you do a lot? Jus’ move people in?”
“Actually, I’ve never thought about it that way,” his brows were still pinched together, but he had relaxed considerably.
They weren’t leaving him. That was good. Very good; great, even. He wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet; so much was still a mystery, so much was left to do.
“Of course, you can stay wherever you’re most comfortable, even if it isn’t technically on my ship.” Trying to keep his voice light and casual was a strain. “You’re welcome here, is what I’m trying to say. I want you here. I would really, very much like you to be. Here. Please.”
She nodded, face still serious, but neither cross nor defensive.
“Well, I want to stay on this TARDIS,” Torin proclaimed loudly, defiance lining every angle of his person.
His sister glared, posture going from resigned to battle-ready in an eye blink.
“Alpha, I know what you’re going to say, and it’s all crap,” he reasoned, striding past her into the centre of the room and stand near the Doctor. “Our girl is better off not having to constantly maintain the life support systems for the three of us. She’ll heal quicker and grow faster. You know it’s true. Stop being such a contrarian!” He spun in a circle with his arms wide, revelling in the magnificence of the ancient ship which had once come from the planet of his forgotten people. “Look where we are! It’s brilliant!” He squared his shoulders and met her scowl with a hardened face. “You’re not stopping me. You do what you want.” He pointedly turned his back on her, and gave the eldest Time Lord a hopeful look. “Doctor, please give me a room? Blimey! Never had a room of my own!”
Selene couldn’t hide the hearts-break in her eyes. She turned her face up to her youngest brother, pleading silently. He couldn’t leave her too. Not him.
Lios met her gaze with patience and understanding, then pulled her into an embrace.
Relief flooded her.
“This’ll be good for us, Selene,” he whispered to her before returning his focus to the Doctor.
She tried to shove him roughly away, but he held on while she flailed like a thwarted child, never letting on how many of the blows would result in angry lumps, until she sighed in frustration and let him comfort her.
“Doctor, we’ve never been apart,” he admitted softly.
“Well,” the Doctor frowned again. Her displeasure and display made more sense in the light of the admission, but their dynamic was more complicated than he had imagined, and he wasn’t sure how to fix the issue. He feared he’d stumbled into a wall he might not be able to surmount. “I’m sure the Old Girl can make it so your rooms connect if it helps, or you can all have one room. It’s up to you.”
Lios nodded gently. He glanced at his brother whose hopeful expression steeled his resolve. “Connected is good.”
After settling in (the Alpha only taking a cursory look at their new quarters and disappearing into her own timeship while the others explored, Lios excusing himself shortly into the tour to check on his sister and mediate, and Torin following the Doctor around like a ducking,) they met once again in the console room.
“So, Cardiff,” started Torin in a pleased tone. “A rift, and loads of Welshmen. A bay; Roald Dahl Plass. Anything else interesting? How long will we be here, do you reckon?”
The Doctor pushed the hair from his eyes as he considered his reply. “A day or so should be all we need. And no, not really, it’s Wales, isn’t it? There is a branch of Torchwood,” the three stiffened slightly, “and an anomaly with an American accent, who, in all likelihood, is pacing outside those doors, but that’s about it.”
“Anomaly? As in time anomaly? Do you mean Jack Harkness? Really?” Torin beamed.
“If he’s still here on Earth, yes,” the Doctor replied with faint disdain. “Haven’t seen him in, oh, a couple hundred years, but this should still be around the time he spent in Wales. I take it you’ve heard of him.”
“Well, yeah! He was one of Mum’s best mates! Grew up on stories about the three of you, didn’t we?”
“You won’t like the way he feels.”
“Been told. Still amazing when things that felt like fairy stories show up in real life, though.”
“Well, then. What are we waiting for, Tylers? Geronimo!”
“Geronimo?” It was the first the Alpha had spoken in hours. She rolled her eyes. “Barmy old git…”
The Doctor opened the double doors with a grin, and strode out into the night air – only to be tackled to the concrete. The man grappling him in a bearhug, an immortal in a vintage military greatcoat.
“Doc!” Jack cried. “Oh!” The face attached to the body beneath him did not match the one he expected. “Hello, handsome. Captain Jack Harkness. Thought you were someone else. You’re travelling with the Doctor, I take it?” he asked in his most charming voice, not budging from the suggestive position atop the Doctor.
“Gerroff, Jack! I’m the Doctor! New face. Same man.”
“Blowing through those regenerations pretty fast, Doc. Last time I saw you, you had a new face too. But this one is so young! You gotta be moisturising.” He pinched the Doctor’s cheeks and moved back onto his knees, allowing the Doctor to sit up.
“Wait, when did you last see me?”
“The year that never was,” Jack replied casually while brushing dirt off his knees, the shadow of something dark and painful behind his eyes belied the easy smile with which he uttered the words.
“Oh, dear. Right. Well, this is very not good. You’ll see that me again, Jack, only don’t say anything about this me, that’s very extremely important—”
“Yeah, Doc. I get it. Former Time Agent, remember? I know how to be… discrete.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively, then turned his attention upward to the three captivated faces watching the exchange with varying degrees of amusement and disbelief. “Hey there,” he grinned. “Captain Jack Harkness. New companions?”
“Stop it.” The Doctor ordered and pushed him over as he got to his feet.
The Captain rolled onto his side gracefully and rested his head on one hand as he looked at the triplets. “And you are?”
“I said stop it, Jack.”
“What? I’m just being friendly.”
“You’re not getting ‘friendly’ with this lot. Ever. Understand?”
“I think I liked your last face better. You were more fun.”
Jack ignored the protests of the curmudgeonly Time Lord, and turned up the charm. “So, you three have names? He’s obviously not making the introductions.”