I'd like to think that the Beeb are borrowing Who from me…but it's not the case. Nothing you are about to read is mine, and is the property of the BBC.
I know I've said in the past that I wouldn't be writing any more Ten fics since the arrival of the very respectable Eleven, but I came across this fic in its unfinished state, and thought it needed to be finished. If you're new to my fiction, this is a hella' of a thing to start with, and very much out of my comfort zone of light-hearted banter and a very British way of writing. If you've been reading my stuff for a while, I'd love to hear your views on this – I've never written anything like this before, and I'd like to see if I can expand on this. What the heck, review either way. Thanks for reading, guys.
He visits her once a year, every year. Oh, the things she will tell him. Oh, the things she has seen. Rated for suicidal references. Post JE.
In a TARDIS Mark Forty, the last TARDIS in existence, there is a long, long corridor that goes on for exactly a mile. Its walls are painted a blood red, and its floor is black stone.
And at the end of this red and black and mile long corridor stands a mirror.
It's just the right size for a tall, slim man. The mirror has a chameleon circuit of its own – it changes whenever the reflection of the person does. Its frame has been attended to by the skill of an artist – there is not an elaborate golden curl and twist out of place. And upon its glass are no scratches, chips or impurities.
It is a flawless work of art.
But its reflections are flawed. Always flawed.
Have you ever stood at a mirror, seeing wrongs that should be right in your eyes, or admiring yourself in your vanity, and seen something move in its corner? You look sharply towards it, and you find nothing. And although you will chide yourself for your overactive and silly imagination, you cannot shake off the feeling that you are being watched.
Suddenly, the only thing on your mind is to finish your mental moan about your face or give your hair a quick shake and flee from the room as fast as you can, and slam the door shut.
You are right to run.
The corridor is dark at the moment.
But then there is movement.
A door that hasn't been used in a long time utters a shrill creak as its pushed open, and a beam of yellow light is thrown across the opposite wall momentarily before the door shrieks again as it closes.
All stone floors can make shoes with hard soles click and clack louder than they should, and you always are startled by it – your shoes have never made that sound before. But then you cannot help but enjoy the sound your shoes make when you walk across the floor. The clicks make you feel important. When you walk quickly, people look up and scuttle out of your way. You're obviously in a hurry. But when you walk slowly, people stop and stare. You feel noted, envied and admired.
But trainers cannot make a sound at all. You can be as inconspicuous as you like when you wear trainers – people push past you with their clicking shoes, because they'd like you to think that they're awfully important and in a hurry.
You're practically non-existent to the bored and ignorant eye.
And that's partly the reason why he chose to wear trainers.
The man in question politely shakes his head when a female voice, soft as a child's lullaby asks him if he would like light. She understands the reason behind his decline, and gently withdraws from his mind.
Imaginations run better in the dark.
Think back to all the times you have been frightened of what may or may not be behind you, what may behind the door you were about to open, or what will be there when you dare to open your eyes. Were all those imaginings full of smiles and sunshine?
Fear runs better in the night. And so imagination flourishes in the dark.
And it takes imagination to convince yourself that there is someone breathing down your neck, that there will be something horrific lurking in the darkness when you throw open the door, and that there will be something leering into your face when your eyes snap open, unable to stand the tension any longer.
It takes imagination to convince yourself that something moved within your mirror.
The Doctor begins to walk down the corridor, his trainers silent against the tiles.
He has no urge to run.
Running in any pairs of shoes will make a noise. It cannot be helped. And every nerve in your mind is screaming at you as adrenaline pumps through your body, because you have to run to get away from whatever is chasing you.
It is a likely fact that you're running because you're terrified.
But what if the thing that you're running from hounds you and hounds you, never once leaving you alone, taking on the form of guilt in the pit of your stomach?
You keep running. You won't look back because you dare not to.
The Doctor doesn't want the guilt in the pit of his stomach. Nor does he want the shame in looking behind him.
He just wants a moment to indulge in the things he shouldn't.
He carries on walking until he reaches the mirror.
The mirror has a chameleon circuit of its own. It adapts to the needs of its owner.
The Doctor doesn't require a reflection of himself. So the mirror doesn't give him one. Instead, it gives him a reflection of the empty corridor behind him.
He sits down, crossing his legs underneath him as he rummages within the pockets of his long brown coat. After a minute of fumbling, he manages to bring out a deck of tattered playing cards, extremely creased and their corners worn. He looks down from the mirror for one second as he begins to shuffle them with an expert's hand, and looks up again a moment.
His eyes meet those of the little girl who stands at the end of the corridor. Her dress is pretty and her blonde hair is tied back in a plait with a red ribbon, tied tenderly by a caring mother who is long since dead. One hand remains limp by her side, but the other holds a red balloon that floats on a piece of string, stock still with the absence of wind in the corridor.
Until she begins to skip.
She nears him with every nimble jump she makes, and the balloon she holds begins to follow her in a series of sharp tugs.
The Doctor continues to shuffle the cards, and doesn't look up when she reaches him.
She's not behind him.
She's trapped inside the mirror itself.
She's clear to him, because he can focus upon her with all his imagination. It's a lot of imagination, so that's why she's so real.
Imagination runs better in the places where you can't see a thing.
She presses her tiny palm up against her side of the mirror, watching the Doctor shuffle the cards with a look of longing on her face.
When she's in the reflection of a glass window in a hot, sunny day, the breeze ruffles her hair, but it doesn't cool her down. When its raining, and she's reflected in the glass of a tower in central Cardiff, her hair becomes straggled and tangled, but it doesn't get wet.
And when she's reflected in a shard of a broken mirror in the bottom of a canal, her hair is thrown up all around her and there are diamonds reflected on her tiny face, but her breath still flows naturally from her lungs.
She's been trapped inside a life with no feeling for two years now.
But it already feels like forever.
She gives a long and gusty sigh, knowing that today is not the day that he will free her, and sits down cross legged.
Its time for their annual game of Snap.
There is something about a game of Snap that appeals to children everywhere. You're apprehensive – when will the match be made? And then when its there, you smack your hand down on it with a yell, claiming the cards for your own.
It's a game of luck, chance, victories and losses.
And life is the exact same thing.
'Hello, Time Lord.' She greets him in her tiny angel voice.
'Sister.' The Doctor looks up to tip his head in greeting.
'How do you fare?' She asks politely, watching the cards fall on top of one-another with her head tilted to one side. Every child knows that when you tilt your head to the side, you get a better view of things. Before the Doctor can answer her, she continues for him.
'I cannot help but think you are not feeling all too well of late.' Her head rights itself, and tilts the other way. 'With all your companions finding new lives.'
He looks down, focusing on the cards more than needs be.
'I assume it wasn't their choice?' She asks politely.
His fingers slip, and the cards spill from his hands and onto the floor. His hands are frozen in their position of trying to catch them.
She smiles, relishing in the result her words have given.
'No.' He admits in a murmur that is barely a breath, and scoops up the cards again, righting them with the movements of his fingers before beginning to lay them down on top of one another once more.
'I've been watching them all.' She adds, looking intently at the Doctor for his reaction. He does not look up from the cards. 'The Martha girl, she has left her partner. I don't think he could ever understand. And I don't think he ever will.'
Still, the Doctor does not look up from his cards. She glances at them briefly, before her eyes snap back up to his bowed head.
'Sarah Jane and her son – I've seen them to. Oh, he goes on about the Doctor. On and on and on. So many questions. She won't answer him. She doesn't want him to hear. She knows it'll lead him astray.' Her eyebrows disappear into her hairline, incensed by the recalling of those who are struggling.
Still, he doesn't look up.
'And that useless Mickey, getting sacked from job after job, his work poor and his eye distracted.'
He's focused on the cards, and she's verging on desperation – look at me! Look at me!
'The Torchwood team – what's left of them, anyway. Jack Harkness, Ianto Jones, Gwen Cooper. I've seen them all – their repulsive love and agitating habits! Each and every one of them, distracted entirely – watching for the wonderful blue box in the sky!' She cries.
Look at me!
'And the Donna girl. The one who remembers nothing.'
His fingers freeze. Yes! Look at me!
'So lost. So alone. So quiet. Her relationship with her grand father, strained, and her relationship with her mother, practically non-existent.' She leans a little closer, her red balloon bobbing. 'They can't understand her. And she cannot understand them.'
The Doctor's back swells and deflates with deep breaths, hunched over himself, the weight of his guilt almost too much to bear. He calms, and continues laying the cards.
'But the Rose girl is who I watch the most.'
Triumph swells within her as his head snaps up, his eyes wide and demanding, never leaving hers.
She looks around airily. She is playing the Doctor, and she knows that her casualness will only sharpen his interest and desire.
Too sharp an interest can cut deeply.
'Where is she?'
'Who is she with?'
'Her mother. Her parallel father. Her half brother.'
'And the – '
'The Human Time Lord?'
His eyes stare into hers, and she delights in returning his gaze.
'…Yes.' She says finally, her gaze slipping down to the cards again. She catches the Doctor leaning forward out of the corner of her eye.
'And is she happy?'
Her gaze snaps up back to his again. His eyes are wider, desperate.
'How can she be?' She answers, eyebrows raised. 'How can she be happy with a cheap imitation? A consolation prize?' She sneers. 'Second best?'
He says nothing, but doesn't loose that desperate look. She leans a little closer, a wicked edge to her eyes and her tone.
'Oh she tries to pretend it's the man she loves, but it isn't. It never will be. The days are long, and the nights are awkward.' She sneers again. 'Sometimes, the nights are almost an apology. There is no warmth, no love, just lust and the desire to find what once was. They are not the people they were.'
She can see the horror flicker behind his eyes.
'But it's over now.'
'Yes. Over. Although she doesn't know it yet.'
The Doctor's bruised emotions betray his confusion.
'The imitation was holding a looking glass before he did it, staring at himself. I was in plain view, sitting on a bench. He caught sight of me, I know he did. His eyes met mine, and he knew that you would know.' She twirls the string of her balloon in her hands, and her supposed disinterest is killing the Doctor slowly. 'He smashed the mirror then, against the metal railing he was standing on, and there was blood, oh the blood…' She's running away with the memory now, entranced by the sounds of the imitation's cry of misery and pain as the blood spurted against his clothes and the shards of the mirror – the glint of her eye as it slipped from his slick palm and spun through the air, down and down and down until it sliced through the water, where it came to rest on the canal's floor –
She is bought back to reality by the sounds of the Doctor's murmured pleas for it not to be true, his head deep in his hands as he rocks back and forth, the cards scattered around him.
The game is nearly won.
'I saw him tumble over the rail, fall and fall, so limp he was, so limp…and the rush of bubbles as he hit the water and his – '
'NO! NO MORE!' The Doctor cries, and she is delighted to see him sob then, his tears falling thick and fast.
That's the thing with reflections. They mimic your smile, your tears and your laughter when you face them, but when your back is turned, what do they do? What do they do when you leave them to their own devices?
'Go.' She hears him command in his broken voice. She doesn't wait, nor does she argue, but she happily jumps to her feet, her balloon bobbing with her.
'Until next year, Time Lord.' She says pleasantly, and skips away until she reaches the end of the corridor, slips into the realms of the corner of your eye, and out, grabbing one last look of the broken, sobbing Time Lord before she slips out of the mirror completely.
She wonders amongst the shining portals in her little world, scanning the millions of openings for the one she recently left.
She slips into it, and appears at a bottom of a canal, looking up into the surface of the river. She can see the warped shapes of the lamplight, and the railings and the bridge, but most of her view is obstructed by the lifeless form that floats above her, its arms outstretched and blood pouring in liquid curls from its wrists and into the water around it.
It has been an hour since he fell. And no one has come looking. Not yet.
Grinning in a harrowing delight, she settles herself down for the wait, her hair thrown up about her and diamonds on her face, but her clothes remain dry, her balloon sways and her breath slips in and out of her lungs.
She pictures the look on the imitation's face, floating above her, and the glimpse of the face of the broken Time Lord she left behind.
Desperate. Broken. Lost. Hopeless.
Well, if all the angst here has given you a song in your heart and a skip in your step, drop us a review, won't you?