"Why the hell is your wife in prison?"

"Because she killed me," the Doctor explained. "Or, well, that's what we want the rest of the universe to think," he said as he fiddled with the sensor array, half not paying attention.

"That's not what I mean," his Companion said in a huff. "You're just letting you wife fester away in prison?" she said in disbelief, and distaste.

His head jerked up and he stared at her as if she'd just said the most insulting but incomprehensible thing he'd ever heard.

"What gave you that idea?"

She glared at him in blank incredulity, a frown between her brows. "You just told me she was in prison, while you're out here wafting around, free as a bird." She waved her hands for emphasis, coming close to smacking him in the jaw.

He backed up a step, eyeing her warily.

"You make it sound like a bad thing," he said, looking a bit hurt.

She growled under her breath. "Why. is your wife. not with you?" she gritted out, as if he was the densest bit of alloy in the universe.

He beetled his almost hairless eyebrows at her, as if she was speaking gibberish. Suddenly he straightened up, his eyes widened in realization. He carefully set the wires he was working on aside.

He came over and gently gripped her by the shoulders and moved her to sit in one of the Tardis chairs. She was as stiff as a board with disapproval, and he handled her as if she was a dog about to bite. She seriously considered it, the bastard. Treating his wife that way. And to think, she used to respect him.

"No, no, it's not like that," he said calmly. He scrunched down in front of her. He suddenly had that very old, wise look on his face. The one that reminded her that he was over a thousand years old, and not so stupid as he appeared.

He smiled at her gently. There was a sort of whimsical fondness in the smile, as if he wasn't looking at her at all. He looked up at her, and his eyes were breathtaking, a pale, piney green so clear she felt like she could see eternity.

She gulped, and her heart started beating fiercely. There was such love in those eyes.

He smiled gently at her, suddenly a powerful creature she didn't know at all. "You think I don't love my wife," he said in that calm, oh so ancient voice. He shook his head softly, his smile widening with a fondness deeper than galaxies. "You've got to understand. We're not like you."

Her flesh creeped a bit. It was like having God talking to her. She sat frozen, in awe, not quite scared, but feeling like a mouse looking up at the stars.

She squeaked. She didn't mean to. He laid a gentle hand over hers where she'd clasped them in her lap. Such old hands, on such a young body. She'd never realized the significance of that before.

"You think I've left my wife in a cage," he said, giving her that understanding, deep-eyed look.

She nodded, nervously.

He smiled and shook his head. "You've got to understand. My wife is like me. To tie her down, would be to kill her." He nodded down to the floor of the Tardis. "To expect her to stay here, constantly, tied to me by invisible bands. Devotion in the form of restraints. That would be the cage."

He flung one of those long hands out. "The Stormcage is no more a jail to her than the Tardis is to me. It is walls to keep the rain out. A puzzle to play when she's bored. A trick, an illusion, a con."

He grinned, showing that lean cheeked dimple and twinkling eye that was the him she knew, a mad man in a box, eager for the next adventure.

"You don't cage an eagle. You don't hold fire in your fist. My wife is a River, it flows over and around all obstacles, it wears down what dares to obstruct it, drowns what will not give way. You can't dam it, control it, or contain it."

He stood up and held out a hand to lift her up. "But one thing about the River," he said, looking down at her with immense satisfaction, and a hint of his own awe, "It always returns to the ocean." He waved a hand around at his blue box.

He looked down at her with very old but patient eyes. Eyes that glowed with wonder, with the eager springtime magic of a man in love. "And the ocean is always waiting."

Her heart reverberated at those words.

"You don't cage an eagle, you don't dam a river, and you don't smother a flame. Not if you love it," he said simply, giving her a shy little smile.

"She chooses her own roost. Soars where she will. All I can do is help her fly." He looked down at her, with those clear, pine green eyes. A god, besotted.

His smile broadened until all the stars in the universe twinkled in his eyes.

"Would you like to meet her?"

For more stories by this author click on "betawho" at the top of the page.

Includes the sequel, "When a Prisoner isn't a Prisoner."

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