Too Long in a Cage

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A/N: A series of four vignettes looking at the Doctor's status as a renegade among his own people. The Second one is set just at the end of 'War Games.'

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One

He slid along the quiet corridors, the clean, calming corridors with their perfectly balanced and spaced décor. Silent portraits of well-known leaders, elaborately framed in their previous regenerations, alien landscapes carefully labeled and categorized and set aside to fade.

He would not be categorized. One life was already fading and he would not allow it to happen again. His people were static lifeless shades of what they should have been, stagnant pools, never knowing the tumble and sparkle and froth of living within those pictures instead of merely viewing them.

He knew his own planned fate, the fate of his granddaughter as well. They would be caught and tagged and effectively left within some jar upon a metaphorical shelf. They would be pinned down by the cat's paw until there was no fight left in them, forced to slowly fade, to accept their lot as a prisoner one day might accept his prison.

Clutching Susan's small hand he held her to him and hushed her fears against his dark coat. She trembled with fear, he with excitement. The hall opened up into a mechanic's bay and there it was, just as he had hoped, its doors left standing open as if to accept them. Perhaps that old TARDIS just wanted one more chance at freedom as well.

A technician stepped down from it, checklist in hand. She would have all her useful parts taken from her before they left her to die, her chances at freedom would be stolen away from her bit by bit, plug by wire. Perhaps it was suitable that they should all share the same fate in their own way, should they be caught. Renegades were stronger when they had a common enemy.

It was life, for him, for Susan, for that old TARDIS.

He took a breath. Just one more dash. The universe was waiting for them.

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Two

"You are to be exiled."

The Doctor straightened his coat with a tug and scowled his defiance. Even the recent execution of the War Lord, taken from all time before his very eyes could not cow him into any true submission to such as these. He had known the risk, that his own dearly bought freedom might be compromised, but he'd still sincerely hoped their pigheaded stubborn adherence to rules and regulations might be swayed in his favor.

"Your appearance will be changed."

How dare they. "You can't just…change my appearance!" He almost spat at them with the force of his reply. His hearts were already torn with the fate of his companions, how dare they snatch away all that was familiar and dear to him like this, even his own identity. Did their supercilious pride know no bounds? Hadn't he paid enough?

The lives he'd saved were uncountable, the hideous injustice that he had halted in the name of mercy and all that was right had given them pause…. And yet.

The light half-blinded his eyes, but still he could see them, he could see their faces.

Yes, he knew what it was, how he stuck in their craws. The War Lord had been the embodiment of their fears, that any renegade leaving their neatly compartmentalized society would wreak destruction and death upon innocent lives. That judgment and execution had been straightforward and uncontested. The War Lord had made them feel comfortable and justified and smug.

The Doctor did not. He was a brighter light, a higher, stronger flight straight into the sun. They, proud songbirds in their self-imposed gilded cages, could not comprehend it. The black crow that preyed upon the weak was dead; now they faced an eagle with nothing else to lose, and his clean-edged freedom and righteous strength frightened them.

If he was allowed to fly, who else might think of taking wing? The peace of their own static world could not risk it; he must be made an example of. His wings must be clipped.

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Three

One more attempt with the wiring, one more experiment with the dematerialization codes. It was nearly morning, again.

The Doctor took a breath and picked up his latest delicate repair-work. A careful touch of wire, the promising warmth of power to the dormant circuit, of hope to his dormant hearts. Spark, shatter and flame.

Fists clenched upon yet another unusable link. He closed his eyes and tried again to remember. Just to remember! He knew the codes were there, flitting just out of reach within his mind, just beyond that wall. A pain made him open them again, glancing down at his hands before he released the bloodied sharpness of broken wire and metal to fall among its darkened brethren.

A single world. A single point in time.

His wounded hands slammed down onto the worktable with frustration. He'd been captured and caged without bars, but the bars were there nonetheless. It was all the more bitter that they'd left him in a place he had once loved, tearing at his hearts, turning it into a prison.

His gaze went to the windows, where the first streaks of pink and peach and lavender were lighting the sky. The Earth was still beautiful, yes, and he loved it still. And yet, it could never be all that he loved.

He could never forget all the worlds that lay beyond that sunrise, all their names and scents and breezes. They'd tried to sweep him away, off into some small corner where they couldn't hear him, couldn't see him; somewhere his existence wouldn't distress their ordered lives. And they'd left him broken, both he and his TARDIS, broken and exiled together.

I mustn't be bitter, he thought.

Bitterness could turn to cruelty, and he would not give his captors the satisfaction of warping him to suit their prejudice. He would not fulfill their prophecy of the renegade-turned-criminal. There had to be a higher road.

He bandaged his hands and began again.

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Four

The TARDIS hummed; music, sheerest music, an entire symphonic score to him. The console's central pillar stood lit, ready and waiting for his confirming touch.

Once again he flung open the doors, just to see the familiar faces goggling at him. He saw them with new eyes in more ways than one, the proverbial scales had fallen away. He grinned as if he could never stop grinning. They, the Brigadier in particular, tried looking at him sternly, talking to him firmly. They were trying to bring back the responsible, controlled man they'd thought they'd known.

Humans, he thought, they were so at home in their little dolloping swirl of time, they wouldn't understand.

He shut the doors. All of his mind was his to explore, every inner room opened to his touch, every hallway lit up before his eager steps. So much! How had he forgotten so much!

Restraint of custom, of dress, of manner fell away, crumbled at his touch. These old friends - it was no wonder they now regarded him with confusion and alarm. The muted, controlled personage they'd known had been a pet-store pet by comparison.

Fearlessly he swung from intense to dismissive, from controlled to manic, feeling out his boundaries, rediscovering and remembering.

He opened the doors again. The men, the girl, they were still there. Their world was small, but it was comfortable and familiar, and, he reflected, he had no other friends to speak of. Perhaps he might stay with them a little longer, just to show that he could. He could go or he could stay. It was his choice.

Imprisonment, his former captors would no doubt surmise, had changed him. Staid debates of stuffy monologues: had they been right to exile him? Had he been kept too long in the cage? Or was this merely the looked-for renegade behavior surfacing at last to vindicate them?

He no longer knew nor cared what they thought. He'd do as he liked and that was the beauty of it.

He'd found the leash and snapped it.

At last.

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