"HANG ON!" the scream tore from the throat of a man who clung to a great wooden box, the whole of time coursing around him, crashing into him like a wave. Some of the temporal matter splashed his face, singing his cheeks, but that didn't matter - not when so much was at stake. He grit his teeth as his frantic eyes searched the depths of the murky atmosphere around him. He cried out again for the name of the girl that traveled with him. His tie bat against his face as the flop of hair stung his eyes with the raging torrents of wind around him.
The girl's name yet again wrenched itself in a garbled roar from his lips, the line of his arm stretched taut as he reached into the vortex itself, trying his valiant best to secure the woman he knew had fallen in there, forever lost to him just like everything else was. Everything always left him in the end, but not this time. He couldn't let her leave, he couldn't let her go. Not like this. Not without even a proper goodbye, not again, not like how all the others had played out. This wouldn't be how it ended, not by a long shot.
"Oi!" that other voice called again. He whirled around, stunned, to find a ginger-haired woman marching over to him from within the heart of the console room. His eyes scrunched as he tried to discern the fact that she looked so achingly familiar yet not knowing how she got into his machine in the first place. He didn't register the foot that connected with his stomach until his face hit the floor with a resounding thud.
"Hey!" Bleary-eyed, brown eyes squinted up into the cross-armed silhouette that was the irate girl before him. Groaning, the little boy rolled up into a seated position, rubbing his eyes and cheek to alleviate them of their pain. "I've been calling you for ages!"
"D-D-" the boy tried sleepily. "Donna?"
She rolled her eyes with a huff. "Yeah, stupid, it's me. Mum called us down for breakfast and you wouldn't answer so she made me get you," haughtily, she stuck her nose in the air. "I don't see why I had to be the one, why couldn't it be him?" she nodded her head to the other side of the room where a sloppy bed was left unmade, a worn leather jacket hung slackly around a bed post. "Not like he doesn't share a room with you. Just 'cos we're twins doesn't mean I'm your caretaker."
"I never asked that anyway!" the little boy defended indignantly, hopping to his feet, his eyes illustrating how affronted he was by the comment.
"Go on, get dressed," Donna ignored him, tutting at his loose garments like she were a hen. One shoulder hung off its support, his robe collected at his feet, his pants sagging.
The boy hefted it up with a shrug of his shoulders. Donna ushered him to hurry once more, calling him by a name to which he scowled.
"Is that how mum called me down, then? You know I don't answer to that." He sniffed.
With another great show of rolling her eyes, Donna relented, "Alright, Doctor,now hurry up and get dressed already would ya! Your oatmeal is gettin' cold and you know how Dad feels about throwin' good food away."
Grunting, he watched his sister part without another word, tromping down the hall with her pocketless dress swishing around at her knees behind her. Snorting, he ran a hand through the thick waves of his hair and sighed.
Most days, he really did wish he was that man he saw in his dreams - always hoping that to be what his future should entail, despite the heartbreak he always saw bleed through the surface of that imaginary man. A life of adventure, of worry but immense glory at the end of the day. He wanted that life so badly, but settled for wasting away hours each day just dreaming of him, whittling the time by, of the him he wanted to be. But who was he really? Just a little boy in England on Edin Drive. Not a time traveler, not a spaceman - not really. But he could pretend to be. He was only ten. It was still acceptable.
Even if his father didn't deem it so.
Huffing, he dragged clean pants on and yesterday's dirty trousers atop that. He pulled over his head a nice shirt with a painted-on suit design and marched his way to the door where stood his white trainers. On the desk beside his bed he snagged the mini portable screwdriver he had stolen from his brother's stash of below-the-bed tools and stuffed it in his pockets, marching on his way, stumbling as he wriggled his toes in place.
"Mornin'," he greeted in a heavy exhale, tromping to take his empty seat beside his two siblings.
His elder brother grunted as he had been so prone to do as of late. Ever since he had entered his adolescence, he had become a recluse. Only ever leaving at night, walking streets alone, wearing black or dark burgundy jumpers, and shaving his hair close-cropped to his head. He rarely ever spoke and when he did it was only to utter out some sarcastic comment or other. Donna made a constant note that one of these days he'd have his great, big ears pierced, or so they'd see. Though she personally thought it'd be a nice change than the bareness of his floppy earlobes. She would get a right push for those type of comments, but he went easy on his baby sister. If the Doctor had been the one to say it, he'd have gotten his face pushed into his simmering oatmeal and deserved it.
There used to be a time when the two would play together. When they would run around the backyard and scale the treetops in search of an adventure within their treefort. In the treefort just around the back of the house, they found the words Gallifrey scribbled into the wood crudely and named it such. The two would sit up there for hours, dreaming about stars and painting them on the roof, telling stories about each and giggling like mad at the ridiculous names they had given for them. There used to be a time when he was the Doctor, just the Doctor, and never explained why. Never had to because the little boy understood and hoped one day he could be the nameless "Doctor." That fabled and figmented vagabond that scoured the globe and those around it for fun and insight.
But that all changed the moment their father got the better of him.
The Doctor, as he refused to be called by anything else, glared at the man in question as he sat down at the head of the table with a plate of steaming eggs and bacon, newspaper in hand. Just as he had done with the first, his father had set to straighten out his second son. Trying and plotting every way to get him out of his head and into the real world. Countless hours were spent berating and verbally pounding the mentality of growing up into his head, but the Doctor would have none of that. Not when there were whole universes exploding behind his eyes, pouring from his ears with the steam of his fervent thoughts.
Up in the secrecy of his little world Gallifrey, the Doctor came up with a name for his father like he had done with the stars. In his mind, he called his father Rassilon; the name of a protector, but one who had forgotten his path and set to harm those he was meant to guard.
That was how the Doctor saw him anyway. Just another figure bent on ruining his imagination, cultivating his mind like the teachers in school who tried their hardest to stunt his fictitious growth. He thought he would prosper in a better learning environment that tolerated creativity. Everyone seemed to disagree.
The tableware clattered, rousing all around from their languid states. The Doctor blinked as across from him sat his youngest brother, grits smeared all over his face as he blinked and chuckled madly. The little one roared with laughter even as their mother chided and tsked him, wiping his face clean with a napkin.
"Not again, we've told you to behave yourself how many times now? Seven years old and causing a mess like you're just a baby, honestly!" their mother chided.
Rassilon hardly lifted his eyes from the page, the hushed whisper of it turning was loud to him. The Doctor ignored the man as he called out to him idly. The paper rustled as he tried again, harsher this time. The name went ignored.
"I won't call you Doctor but as your father you will look at me as I am talking to you." His voice held the warmth of rising anger, controlled under a temperament of vast patience. But still, that patience had been tested and it would do no one any good for it to be pushed and grated against.
The table fell silent as all eyes turned to stare at the boy and his father. Donna exchanged a side-glance at her brother, the two others silent and stoic.
The Doctor finally managed to cut his eyes over to him. His brow puckered as it converged on itself defiantly.
Rassilon hmmphed and returned his eyes to the paper, achieving the obedience he sought to instill in his children. Education, respect, honor, and gratitude. That was the only time he ever spoke to his children, to preach. And the Doctor was sick of it. Only ten and he had the defiance and the mind of one so much older. Breakfast went on silently afterwards. Even the young one remained still, clinking his spoon only slightly against the lip of his bowl, peering up periodically at his older brother.
Once finished, the Doctor deposited his dishes and let the water run on them, bolting the minute the task was finished. Grabbing his long brown coat, he whisked away to the outside world where the fresh air cleared his mind. He inhaled several grateful gulps and proceeded at a slower pace.
He loved his backyard, spacious but not vast. Cozy, with little pockets still left unexplored, undiscovered. But for now, he wanted to go to his safe house, the one place that could never be changed. Locked in a space of time from his very first memory of it.
Parked beside the back wall of the house was a cardboard box painted blue. Jogging over to it, he slipped it over his head, the straps across it secured over his shoulders, and began to run. He laughed and giggled and hollered as he ran in circular spirals all across the field, his arms extended like wings of a jet. He loved this blue box like it were a second skin, wearing it as often as one. It fit and molded perfectly to him, or what felt like perfectly. With this box he truly felt like the Doctor, like the title he had set claim to.
With his wild imagination, he saw stars where there were glass blades, planets where stood bushes, galaxies at every post and picket. All because of that blue box. It was the conduit to his dreams. Sometimes he could even see things in black and white like an old film - even the sound felt silent in those times. Sometimes it felt like he were just a flat piece of paper, floating along the breeze as his clothes whistled and the trees sang with the happy wind around him.
That's why he dubbed this blue box the TARDIS. It stood for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space, something he picked up from one of his older brother's school books that lay across the floor and desk and wardrobe haphazardly. He saw things differently in his world, more different than any child before him. He crafted whole worlds out of nothing but a vegetable and a kettle he borrowed from the kitchen. In his realm, he could even save the universe with them.
"Whoa!" he laughed, tripping over a stray rock he hadn't paid the slightest bit of attention to.
Tumbling, and tumbling, and rolling, he saw things in a light and way no other had - no other could. Everything now, as he fumbled and flipped down the yard, was all sort of connected. Green meshed with the blue of the sky, the white of the house and the red of the roof until it all converged in a hue so beautiful he couldn't give that dizziness a name. He laughed with giddy childhood excitement as everything became just one big ball of stuff.
He wobbled to his feet, feeling rather wibbly after his fall, chuckling breathlessly to himself. It was a lucky thing he stopped too. Shadows crept closer around him as he stood beneath the wide girth of the looming tree. He stared up at the large mast and patted it fondly. With a grin, he hooked one foot then the other and shimmied his way until his head hit the floor of his fort.
"Hi, Gallifrey," he called out to no one, to everyone, to all the creatures in the painted stars above the roof that shone through the tree's canopy. He grunted and squirmed his way past the entrance, settling his bum on the rim of the opening. He grinned and shook his head out, hair flying out at odd angles. "Did ya miss me?"
He stood and traced his fingers along the interior, feeling the coarse wood rub friction against the pads of his small appendages. The rough wood felt more like a home to him than the one beside it. That was just an empty box compared to this. Gallifrey was his true home, not that shame with a mortgage - whatever that was. He didn't think he would like it too much, seeing as his father complained about it incessantly.
The Doctor plopped to the ground in an unceremonious heap and stared up at the fake stars that blinked back at him like fond smiles. He felt his lips pull back in one of his own. "I missed you."
He closed his chocolate eyes, the fountaining pools of immense imagination, and inhaled deeply, savoring the pine smell around him. With his breath, he felt the walls of the treehouse expand, grow, panels emerging and shifting beneath him, until the fort became a space that stretched on for eternity.
"Bigger on the inside if I just close my eyes," he had heard his brother once say, lying in the same position he was.
His happy moment was short-lived as he heard his sister calling him from inside, her voice sounding distant, or at least he made it sound so.
"Oi, spaceman!" she called out with slight derision, picking up the name due to his penchant for the outer worlds. "I'm going to the park and you need to watch Rags!"
Rags was what the diminutive Donna and the Doctor used for their littlest one. It was short for Raggedy because he looked just like a raggedy doll; hair all a-flop, tossed to one side like a chocolate wave, clothes two sizes too big - a child's Sunday best ripped to shreds and patches, passed down from the Doctor himself unto his younger brother. The little boy perpetuated the name himself and it caught on, Rags' best friends calling him such. The little Scottish girl especially had a fondness for that name.
Without getting up, his bones relaxed and at peace with where they were at, he yelled back, "Why do I have to?"
"Because I'm not going to!"
The Doctor suggested she leave him to the care of their older brother.
"Can't, he's gone out again!"
The Doctor groaned. He hated that his brother had such freedom, able to do as he pleased and squandering that ability by meandering through dark alleys and streets with no one to share.
He should at least get a girlfriend or something.
"Fine, I'll watch him," the Doctor grumbled with the utmost displeasure.
By the time he made it down from the treefort, Donna had left and in her place stood an eagerly waiting boy. He hopped down from the last rung with a 'Hup!' and turned to see his younger brother, proverbial tail wagging excitedly.
"Hey…Rags," he gave an uncomfortable smile, scratching the back of his head.
This was going to be a long day. He could already feel it.
Constructive criticism appreciated *hesitant thumbs up*
Next chapter, things take a turn for the...Rose?