Everybody knows that everybody dies.
Everybody except you.
You've seen them come and you've seen them go. Your companions, your lovers, your family. They move on or they get old and they die and you find a place deep inside your time ship to hide and just remind yourself that it's out there and you're safe within the TARDIS's walls.
You're never truly alone as long as you have her.
But even forever doesn't apply to your ship. Even she has aged while you've stayed eternally young. You can feel the groans and creaks in her hull even if she's too proud to show you. Rooms start moving around and you think she's just moving the dustiest rooms aside. She's trying to look tip-top for you.
She leads you to the cloister room often. You don't understand the significance at first. But then again, maybe you do. Maybe you just don't want to accept it.
It's not until later that you realize that the rooms aren't hidden, they're gone. Broken down by time. Crumbled and collapsed and vanished into the time stream. She's letting the ones that don't mean as much to you vanish first, trying to keep the things that matter. With each room gone you know she's starting to fade.
The aquarium with seven hundred and eighty fish named Jake.
This can't be happening. It isn't happening. You crawl into the corner spaces and put in new wiring. You take her to the junkyard of Saraihwna and search for replacement flux capacitors. She sounds so quiet in your mind and that makes you so frightened. She's hiding from you. She shouldn't hide, you're going to save her. You will save her. She's got nothing to worry about.
The pool room. The butterfly room. The kitchen.
How can she accept this? You kick the side of her walls and a hunk of coral falls off. You frantically try to put it back but the ridges won't match up. You shout at the closing space and tell her to stop being ridiculous. Stop trying to prove something and just let you repair her! You're her Time Lord! You know what's best! You will save her!
Ace's room. Adric's room. Susan's room.
Please, just one more trip. Just one more, she can do it. You won't give up on her. She's never given up on you. Time salve, nanogene extract, anything that might repair what's breaking. You try to breathe years of your life into her, but she won't accept them. She's being too stubborn. She doesn't understand that you have to save her. Please, please just let you save her. You press your head against the side of a coral wall and plead with her to stay with you. Don't give up, not yet.
Eventually it's just the console room and the cloister room (still unmarred and pristine) left. Your labyrinth in a box is now just a box. The halls shake and you feel the ship hurtle you both into some unusual atmosphere. One last trip, and she crashes to Earth. An invisible crater in the middle of rural Wales. You reach for the doors and they fall away at your touch.
The cloister bell sounds, sharp and strong and true. The console room is cold and dark.
The TARDIS is dying.
It's not until you feel the walls around you try to warm that you realize you are sobbing. You've collapsed to the ground and every part of you heaves and buckles and screams and she can't can't can't die. She's all you have. Literally, the only thing. She's your life partner, your best friend, your traveling companion, and true love---all rolled into one. She's going to die and you're going to be alone.
You're not sure how long you lie there, but at some point you manage to crawl back to the cloister room. Your feet drag against the cold ground and you eventually lean against the cold lump of atoms that was once the Eye of Harmony. Collapsing in on itself until it's nothing. Until she has no power, nothing.
You talk about Rose looking into the TARDIS and Grace looking into the Eye. You talk about Mel's obsessive workout regimen and Ian's fondness for squash. You talk about the thrill of that first flight, you talk about stealing her. You talk about when you were young and would sit inside of her and dream of the stars, you talk about your chidlhood. You can't talk about parting. You can't imagine her leaving.
You refuse to leave her, even when she tries to make you go. If you leave her, she'll give up. If she gives up you're alone. No, no, it's not even that. It's not even that you'll be alone. You'll be without her. And she's everything to you. She's like your arm or your leg or your eyes---you didn't pay enough attention to her before and now you're losing her. You'll be crippled; you'll be blind without her.
But she's in so much pain. There's so little holding her together now. She's standing strong only for you. She's hurting for you.
It'll be okay. It has to be okay. It has to. You tell her you're going out to eat. There's a million things you want to tell her, some form of a proper goodbye, but neither of you are very good at goodbyes. You never have been.
Each step to the crumbled front door feels like it's too short. Once you've stepped out, you know she'll be gone. You know she'll let go. And it has to be okay. You can't let her hurt. Not even for you.
One of your shoes presses into the soft ground of the crater around the TARDIS. The crater no one but you two can see through bonds between a Time Lord and ship. A secret hole in the world.
Another step. Another. You walk until the ground is grass and then road and then grass again. You feel the pain in your mind from your ship numb. Extinguished. Silent. You keep walking. You don't stop.
In your mind she is the Grey Lady, walking through the universe, completely free as you both always wished to be. She's beautiful and safe and there's nothing else that can hold her back.
You will think of this in the centuries to come, in the cold wastes of a solitary timeline alone. You will think of this when you're living your life one day after another all in a neat pattern. You will think about the homeless traveler and his old police box, their days like crazy paving.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 1,111
Inspired by this photo prompt.