genres: horror, drama, angst, romance
warnings: graphic violence, references to rape, very dark.
summary: Something terrible is trapped in the TARDIS with Amy, and the Doctor is powerless to stop it.
Amy's throat is hot and pulsing in his hands, her terrified eyes beginning to cloud as he squeezes harder, his fingers lacing together beneath the back of her hair, pinning her to the floor by her neck, the bucks and squirms of her body beneath his growing weaker by the second
and he reels back, throwing himself away from her, horror and bile rising in his throat.
"Amy—" and she is choking, her gasps coming in little screams, and she scrambles backwards, her boots squeaking against the glass.
"Amy, what happened—" She is pushed back against the railing and staring at him the way an animal stares at its hunter. He feels frozen. There is blood everywhere—her face and her arms are streaked with it, bruises have exploded across her cheek, and her eyes are swollen with tears.
"Amy—Amy—" "Doctor," she whispers, and he crawls to her. She is coughing and crying and paler than he has ever seen her; he kneels there and tries to touch the welts blossoming over her white neck, but his fingertips falter. "I'm…" He swallows. "Amy, I'm…"
She is flinching, though she tries to hide it. He feels himself overwhelmed with tears.
"What was it?" she rasps, and he cannot hear that brokenness in her voice—he seizes her head in his hands, stroking her face, her hair, he must make her better, he thumbs away her tears and kisses her forehead with his own. "I don't know," he says, and his voice sounds strange, flooded. "Amy, tell me what happened. I don't remember." His words drown in their own grief. "Amy, tell me you're okay."
"It took over you," she half-sobs. "It wasn't you, Doctor, what was it?" she screams. "What was it—"
"…no, no, no, no…" He clings to her, his own terror slowly building. This is bad. This is deadly. This shouldn't even be possible. He feels Amy shaking against him. She smells of blood and sweat, and his lips find their way into her hair, kissing and trembling. "Amy," kiss. "Tell me what happened," kiss. "Amy, Amy…" kiss, "…brave, brilliant Amy…" kiss. "Please, you've got to tell me everything."
He is collapsed on the lower deck, limbs screaming pain, mouth filled with blood. The stone of the floor is cold against his throbbing cheekbone. Groaning, he forces himself upright and feels his head spin.
"I'm sorry!" shrieks Amy from above him. His eyes snap to her, sharp in focus against the blurred brightness of the rest of the room. She is gripping the railing with white knuckles and her arms are bare—her jacket has been torn off, he realizes, and a sudden wave of nausea hits him.
"What happened?" he shouts, his voice cracking.
"It came back!" She leans forward over the rail, her hair falling over her shoulders. "I had to push it over, it was going to…I don't want to think about it…I'm sorry…"
"Right!" He jumps to his feet, and takes the stairs to the console three at a time. Amy is breathing heavily but standing on her own. His nose is bleeding and there are aches along his ribcage and his jaw, which he catalogs in some relief—she was able to throw him off the platform, that's good, she can defend herself. She will never have to again, he vows, approaching her and seizing her hand. "Follow me," he commands, and he races down a corridor he hasn't seen before, praying it's still the right one.
It is. He palms the lights on and throws himself inside the rusted-over Derenuevian cage: a jail cell of sorts, liberated for TARDIS use from its host facility decades ago, he can't even remember which of his past selves had been involved. Amy watches in suppressed panic as he swings the door shut with an awful clang and fumbles with his sonic, both hearts pounding, until the lock is secure—he tests it, rattles the bars of the door with all his might, throws his shoulder against it, until he is satisfied—he throws the sonic through the bars, across the small room, where it clatters to the floor and comes to rest beyond his reach. Amy's hands are over her mouth. He closes his eyes and sinks to his knees. He can breathe now.
"Amy," he says when he thinks he can speak normally again. He hears her step closer—"No, don't—stay where you are. It's not safe." He opens his eyes and looks up at her. "It could come back."
She nods, clasping her hands and crouching to sit at eye level with him.
He speaks slowly, as clearly as he knows how, gripping the bars before him. "I need to know what happened. You must tell me every detail, however unimportant—everything you remember."
"We don't know anything about this...creature, we don't even know if it is a creature, it could be anything—psychic parasite, mind worm, a Fearbeast, the extension of a telepathic swarm species, some sort of ancient nanocognitive program gone wrong, leeching or something—I have no idea, and I can't hear it when it takes hold of me. I go away. When it possesses me, you are the only person who can fight it."
Amy swallows, but she nods.
The Doctor takes a deep breath. "Do not come any closer to this cage. Don't undo the lock. You couldn't even if you tried, I sonicked it shut, but don't try. It wants to hurt you, I don't know why, but you must not, under any circumstances, allow it the opportunity. Amy." He presses himself up against the bars and feels his heart go tight. "I cannot lose you. I don't know how. Don't make me."
She nods for the fourth time, and behind the blood and the bruises on her face he sees heartbreaking trust.
"Okay," he breathes. "Tell me what happened."
Amy steels herself and squeezes her hands into fists, fingernails digging into her palms, to stop them from shaking. "Um. We got back from Aaeton. We came into the TARDIS. I closed the door, you ran up to the console and started mashing buttons and things. It was really hot, and I took off my scarf."
The Doctor is nodding, his hands wrapped around two rusty bars. His eyes seem to captivate hers—neither of them looks away, and even as she forms new words she is staring at their impossible color, brown-grey-gold, green-brown-blue, holding onto her own, like their gazes could touch each other.
"I came up to the…time…rotor…thingy, and I made a stupid joke or something, I don't know, and you laughed, just your normal laugh…" She struggles remembering. "You were looking at me with this normal, everyday smile on your face, and laughing. And then you…you said half of my name. You just said Am—." She pauses. "You stopped smiling. It was…like someone cut your laugh in two." She snaps her fingers. "And then it was…it. Not you. It attacked me."
"What did it do to you?" asks the Doctor quietly. "Where are you hurt?"
Amy looks away, running her eyes over her body, her knees, bare arms and painted fingernails. "Threw me around a lot. Against the console and the…whaddoyacallit, that hangy monitor screen. Beat me up. My face and my arms. Kicked me. It was trying to kill me when you came back. I couldn't breathe." She frowns. "Why did it go away? How did you get back?"
She looks up.
The Doctor's eyes are black.
He wakes up with rust slicing into his palms and his own blood dripping from the bars of the cage and down his face. His forehead is on fire. The room is dark. He shouts Amy's name, and the lights flicker on. She is standing by the door, sonic screwdriver clutched in her white hand.
"Put that down!" he says, startled.
Amy drops it. "It told me it could take it from me—get inside my head and make me let it out. I was going to get rid of it."
"It can't do that." He sighs and gingerly examines his forehead with his fingertips, wincing at the pain. "If it could possess you, it would have done so already. It's bluffing." He wipes the blood out of his eyes. "Did it say anything else."
"It doesn't know who I am," Amy says, shutting the door and moving to stand several yards in front of the cell. "It got really angry when I wouldn't tell it."
He feels the corner of his mouth quirk upwards. "That's my girl. What else did it say? Did it ask you anything?"
"Where are we, who am I, what species, how did I get here." Amy hugs her shoulders. "It threatened to kill me about six thousand times." A very small, grim smile crosses her face. "I don't think it likes me."
"But why?" The Doctor stands and paces, as much as the tiny cell allows. "It doesn't know you, it's never met you." He feels the sparks flying in his brain as he moves. "It's here by accident, or it sounds like it. It can't control when it comes and goes, otherwise we'd both be dead right now. It could have killed you—it almost did. Wait! No. Wait!" He stops and slaps his forehead, and curses loudly at the blinding pain that follows. "Amy. Tell me it just wanted to kill you. It ripped your jacket off—it was after something else, it wanted to hurt you in every way possible, to violate you emotionally as well as physically—to be tortured by your own best friend, what could be more painful? It might feed off that pain—raw emotional energy, it's perfect, it terrifies you and then makes me watch, it enjoys it—but why is it so angry?" He's talking faster than he can think right now. "It should be gleeful, that can't be right. Amy!" He spins around and seizes the bars of the cage door. "Get the sonic, set it to number thirteen, and scan me. No!" He slams the door with his palm. "Scan the room! It's not inside of me, it's trapped in the TARDIS. It keeps bumping back into me, why isn't it going into you?"
Amy is staring at him.
"Keep up, keep up! Sonic!"
"Good lord." She retrieves the screwdriver and spends the next fifty-three seconds examining it from every possible angle until the Doctor is positive his mind will short-circuit from impatience. He sits on the floor and determines to wait it out.
"Oh, come—it's the twisty thing in the middle!" he explodes after twelve and a half more seconds.
"Got it!" Amy tweaks the button with her thumb, and the tip of the sonic flares with green light. Amy frowns. "What, do I just…wave it around?"
The Doctor has his head in his hands. "Yes," he groans.
The familiar warbling whine fills the small space, and after a moment Amy appears satisfied and clicks off. "What now?" she asks obliviously. "Where do I look? I never know where you look at this thing, is there supposed to be a reading somewhere?"
"There's a number on the side," he mutters through his hands. "What does it say."
A pause. "Fifteen…point…two three six seven…cucumber?"
The Doctor's heart grows still.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Amy asks incredulously. "And please, tell me that's a cucumber."
He lowers his hands from his face slowly. Amy is scowling at the sonic like it's alien technology. "Does it regularly give you vegetables with your decimal numbers, Doctor?" she's quipping. "Crap screwdriver, you ask me. And anyway what can a number even tell you? Do you have every species from all of time and space in some sort of ditigal catalog system? Which you've then memorized?"
She glances over at him, and goes silent. He makes no effort to conceal the gravity in his expression, but speaks carefully.
"What, the…cucumbery thing?"
"No—Amy." He stands up and leans against the bars. "The creature. It's an incubus."
His eyes open in rage and he is screaming—and he drops Amy's arm and stumbles backwards into the far wall of the cell, breathing heavily. "What did you do?" he gasps as Amy staggers away from the cage. Her left arm is raked with deep scratches and bleeding profusely, and her shirt is torn—half of it lies on the floor on his side of the bars. His forehead is burning again.
"I told you to stay away!" he cries, "why do you never listen to me!" Amy is gritting her teeth and clutching at her arm in pain. "Are you all right?"
"Shut up," she manages. "I got it talking. I didn't mean to get that close. We were sort of in a shouting match."
"Amy, an incubus is a psychic creature. It exists on a basic, feral plane: birth, breeding, death. The only thing it knows how to do is take a host body and…propogate. Doesn't matter the species, doesn't matter the age. The incubi have no females, so they must…" He takes a breath. "They must force an alien female to bear their children."
Amy's voice, when she speaks, is dull. "It's trying to rape me then."
He nods, speechless. Never, he thinks, never should Amy Pond's face have to wear the blankness of this kind of fear.
"How do we stop it?" she asks.
Think, he demands of his brain. Work, now. Wakey wakey. "Gah," he declares, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes. "It must have gotten in from Aaeton, the incubi came from a single planet but it burned a long time ago, they can be anywhere in the universe, but they're so rare now, it's desperate for its species to survive, it'll do anything, even try to take on a Time Lord, but I'm a challenge, I'm incredibly psychically powerful, it didn't know what it was getting into, that must explain the blackouts, it can't keep hold of me for long enough at a time." He stops and stares down at his feet. "Why is my jacket on the floor."
Amy bites her split and bloodied lip. "You—it—was trying to take your clothes off," she mumbles.
He stares at her.
"That was when I punched you in the forehead." Amy winces. "Sorry."
"I wondered. Only fair, I seem to have damaged your arm…and a perfectly lovely camisole too, I'll buy you a new one, promise. So." He claps his hands together and refuses to avoid eye contact with Amy, because on top of dangerous, painful and traumatizing, this ordeal is not allowed to become awkward. "It can only possess me for short bits of time but it's already chosen me as its…thing, and it can't leave a job half done, it's trapped here until it dies. That's why it's so angry."
"So we wait until it dies. You said it has a basic life cycle, like a…fishfly, or something. How long can that take, a few days?"
The Doctor shakes his head. "Incubi are purely psychic creatures, they can live for centuries, alone in the dark. Birth and death, for them, needs a physical vessel, some sort of living, organic matter. Like growing germs in a petri dish—you've got to have the…petri. An incubus only dies after it's passed on its psychogenetic code, or if…well, if you…"
Amy raises her eyebrows meaningfully. The Doctor clenches his jaw and looks at the ceiling.
"You'd have to kill the person it was possessing."
"Nope," Amy shakes her head. "What else?"
He doesn't answer, appearing to be deep in thought, and Amy feels something twisting into a knot in her stomach. "Not an option, Doctor." She dares to step a little bit closer. "Okay, first of all, I couldn't do that, and second of all you don't die, you regenerate, you've told me, would that even work? I don't think that would work—"
"Time Lords can choose not to regenerate, I've seen it happen." The detail on the rust at the top of the cage seems to be of abundant interest to the Doctor. "It's like holding your breath. And…then never stopping."
She wants to be sick. "We're not doing that. I'm not killing you, or—or letting you kill yourself, or anything like that, it's ridiculous—"
There is a great creaking groan, and suddenly the bars of the cage have snapped. The Doctor rages forward, and Amy sees the incubus in his eyes, black with strength, and there is no time for her to run: he takes two great, terrible strides and captures her wrists in his hands, powerful fingers squeezing until she feels her bones must crumble. He shoves her against the wall and her head cracks against the stone. She does not even have a chance to scream.
When the world spins back into color, she wakes to her own retching, and the Doctor's hands are gentle again. He is crying, and she feels sick with fear. She finds herself held against his tattered shirt and wept over, and she cannot find the courage to overcome the aching lump in her throat and ask what has happened to her.
"It wants to kill you first," she hears the Doctor's voice breaking in her ear. "It hasn't…it's not done That to you yet," and she doesn't have to ask what—"it wants you dead, it's so angry. It's not used to it taking this long…"
He takes a deep breath, and she feels his body expand against her, and she presses her nose and cheek and eyebrow into his neck and tries not to cry. She is dizzy from the pain—blood is caking over her lips and her eyelashes and rolling in fat drops down her shoulderblades, tickling her bruised skin. It hurts to breathe and to move her knee or her left ankle or either of her hands. She is broken everywhere.
The Doctor separates them, holding Amy upright by the shoulders. The blood on his face is streaked through with teartrails.
"No," says Amy before he can speak.
He touches their foreheads together and hisses through his teeth at the pain it must cause him. "It's got to be one of us," he whispers. "If we don't kill me, it's going to kill you. It's going to do things to you that should never be done to anyone, and you, of all people, Amy Pond…" His hands are on her face, touching and trailing. "Amelia Pond, the girl who waited. I promised to get you home for tomorrow morning, for Stuff. I've let you down too many times." She feels his thumbs ghost across the back of her neck, the curve of her cheekbone. He presses their faces closer together until she has to close her eyes. "Not again," his mouth murmurs over hers.
Amy bursts into tears, and the Doctor kisses her eyes, one, two, soft as sunlight, and they help each other to their feet. She cannot stop crying, but the Doctor is pulling her out of the room, snatching up his sonic on the way, and slamming the door behind them. He pulls Amy around to face him.
"Incubi are fire creatures—"
"You said they were psychic!"
"It's—complicated!" He makes a vague, inane gesture of irritation at the air. "Their home planet burned, they have a very flamey past, fire is a very deep and basic part of who they are, or who they believe themselves to be—it's all the same for them really—"
"I'm not setting you on fire!" Amy practically sobs, wishing she could hit him without hating herself.
"No, not at all, just the oppposite." The Doctor takes her hands, and Amy almost screams: her fingers, the bones in her palms, flare with incredible pain. The Doctor quickly lets go. "I'm sorry," he says quietly. "The incubus crushed them. Some of the bones are broken."
Amy gulps back her self control.
"You have to drown me," says the Doctor.
This time, she thinks, she's pretty sure, that she can sense it before it happens, she sees something shift in his eyes that tells her to run, and she tears herself away and careens down the corridor under the flickering lights which is not helping, as she hears the Doctor's booted feet picking up speed behind her. Her left ankle pounds with agony, her aching joints and exhausted limbs beg her to stop, but she knows it's absurd, the whole scene is absurd, she's running from her Doctor, the problem of pain doesn't even enter into how convoluted the world has become. She can hear him closing in behind her and her own heartbeat terrifies her.
They break out into the glow of the console room, and the Doctor shouts, "Amy, it's me," as he stumbles up against her at the top of the stairs. Amy keeps running until she hits the console itself, collapsing against it sick with adrenaline. The Doctor appears at her elbow, looking as breathless and sick as she feels.
"That one, there," he gasps, and points to an innocuous purple lever tucked away amidst the baubles and trinkets that scatter across his time machine dashboard. "That's the one. After you drown me in the swimming pool you have to come back and use that one, it'll take you back to Leadworth—" he coughs, "back to your time, ten minutes after we ran away together. Leave the—" cough—"TARDIS in your garden, it'll self destruct, might blow up your shed again, sorry—just go up inside the house, go to your room, your nice blue room with the lovely bed, and…go get married in the morning." He wipes the blood off his mouth and stares at her. "Please."
Amy's voice feels alien in her throat. "Purple lever. Okay."
Her breath is back, and she runs again, down the hallway that she remembers the swimming pool was last time they swam, and she thinks she must have run too early, because the Doctor doesn't follow her, he gives her time to get ahead, and she wonders if the incubus is getting faster, learning the little tricks of how to override the Doctor's body, because she is only round the first corner before she hears him take off with a snarl that echoes through the console chamber. Corner, corner, door, corner, archway thingy, ramp, catwalk, small bridge, corner, doorway: it stings her someplace silent and closed in her soul that she no longer has to ask herself which way to go, the TARDIS has reached its kind hand so deep into her head that it has begun almost to translate directions as it translates words, and she wonders, and wonders how she can wonder at a time like this, if this is what birds feel like, guided by a magnetic north, constantly pulled in the right direction by something gentle in their head, something natural and perfect, something she cannot, cannot say goodbye to. Her head will feel so empty without her TARDIS.
She bursts into the room and falls into the swimming pool, and her body freezes with the shock, water invading her eyes and nose and mouth until she kicks her way to the bright surface, sucking air into her frightened lungs. The blood falls off of her in clumps and rivers, floating away on the chlorine waves. She gasps and shivers and kicks off her shoes, treading water as she watches her red flats sink slowly to the bottom of the pool. They hit the rippling tile and go still, and she swallows down her panic.
The Doctor rushes in, and when he stops and leans on the doorway panting, she knows it's him again. He sees her floating in the middle of the pool and walks to the edge, carefully removing his bow-tie before he slips into the water, almost fully dressed. Amy's throat tightens as she watches him duck under the surface and swim towards her, the blood falling away from his body as it did from hers, until he surfaces next to her, slicks his hair back and meets her eyes.
"When the incubus comes back, you'll be able to hold me down," he says without preamble. "The water will make it weaker, much weaker. We'd better—" he takes her good arm and pulls her toward the shallower side of the pool—"come over here, because you'll have to be careful it doesn't try to hold you down and drown you too. Hold onto the ladder if you can and keep your head up. You'll want to grab my neck like this and push down, it'll use my arms to try to fight you off but it shouldn't do it any good. You're fiesty."
She's staring at him, and she feels everything well up inside her until she blurts out, "I can't do it, I can't kill you, how could I kill you? I can't, I can't," and she's close to hysteria, the cold water is lapping against her neck and she thinks she might let her legs fold up and sink to the bottom with her shoes and go still and stay there forever.
"I can't, I can't, I can't—"
"Amy. You must trust me."
She closes her eyes, and there is just nothing left in her. No choice, no decision. Conditioned response. Autopilot. Trust the Doctor. What else can she do, empty as she is?
She puts her broken hand against his throat, and his eyes, before they change, are impossibly sad.
He awakens to shifting darkness and thick, solid silence. For what feels like an eternity he cannot even move—then his timesense snaps back into place and his brain screams four minutes thirty-nine seconds and he claws his way up, out of the heaviness and the silence, the cells of his body choking, faltering, until he hits air. He must be breathing again, because his vision is blurring back, and the pain is back, and the sounds are back, and he finds the metal ladder and clings to it, letting his body save itself slowly, until he can see, and think, and he can take a step up the ladder without passing out.
Amy is gone—he follows her puddled footsteps through the TARDIS, pausing when he reaches the top of the stairs that lead into the console room. He can see her there, utterly drenched, shivering, half naked and silent, her finger poised over the meaningless purple lever. Her back is turned to him, but he can see her face reflected in the time rotor. Never before has he had reason to describe someone's expression as hollow.
"Amy," he says.
She doesn't turn around.
He hurries to her, afraid that he has wounded her beyond repair, but she spins around before he gets there and points the sonic at him. "Not possible," she chokes, and she's…scanning him, which is entirely too surreal for him to handle, being the scannee from his own screwdriver.
"Don't do that," he admonishes her, plucking it from her hand and tossing it over his shoulder.
Amy's eyes are wide, and she opens her mouth soundlessly a few times before she stammers, "I don't understand—I don't—Doctor, I don't understand—"
"I know." He reaches for her hands, stops himself, and takes her wrists instead.
"You're not dead," she whimpers.
"Time Lord. I told you. We're very good at holding our breath."
"But." Amy takes a step backwards. "Then we didn't kill it. It's still here."
Her red hair is wetted dark, and he puts his hands in it, his fingers running up against tangles and bumping into her ears. "It's gone. Incubi are psychic. I was unconscious, you believed I was dead. Psychically, I was. And so, psychically…so was it."
Amy is going to start to cry any second now, but she chokes out, "You made me…"
"I'm sorry," he says quietly. "There was no better way to kill it. But we did. We killed it, it's gone. One less incubus to haunt the universe. Good thing, yeah?"
The tears seep slowly down Amy's cheeks, and he sees grief and gratefulness pouring into her expression, and at last the bands around his heart give way, as he sees that awful hollowness disappearing from her face. "I'm sorry," he says again, but she is holding him, leaning her head on his shoulder and tucking her arms around his waist, and he closes his eyes and loves her inexpressably. He will make them both better in the infirmary when it is time, set her broken bones and stitch his wounds, but right now is for standing still, breathing the chlorine in her hair, and loving.
When Amy does speak again, she pulls back, kisses him on the cheek, and says tremulously, "Thank you for not making me lose you."
He smiles. "I always come back," he whispers, and he tips her face upwards to to kiss her softly on the lips, so softly he thinks his heart might shatter.
Their lips separate with the tiniest of sounds, and Amy asks almost inaudibly, "What does the purple lever do, then?"
It takes him a second to find words again. "No idea," is what he ends up with.
Amy leans over and pulls it.
It starts to snow.