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With All Certainty

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Whether spatial or temporal, their telepathic link has never depended on distance. The two of them--Pilot and TARDIS--are connected across the vortex of everything that ever happened or will, synapses shaped by the strength of likelihood. If they are separated, they will eventually reunite. If they are anchored, they will eventually fly. That truth is all they need.

And so at first, in the town called Christmas, hearing her gentle murmur as always at the back of his mind, he waits.

He waits three whole days, pacing the tower and placating the locals.

He waits three weeks. His fingers fidget constantly and he finds it necessary to grow his hair out as fast as possible, all the better to have something to worry other than the cuffs of his coat. His eyes adjust to the darkness; they sting in the flash of time he has with the sun, looking out each day at alleyways and empty hills, and the same set of rooftops.

Three months in, at dawn, Tasha asks her first parlay. He tells her to go away and stop blocking the light with her big, shimmery head.

He waits three years.

The peace holds, and he tries to keep busy. In the long summer twilight, he pitches in with the townsfolk to build a new shed for Edmard the root-sower, to keep his tools free from the dampness of his cellar house, with a heated stone floor so their metal ends stay warm to melt the earth. The Trenzalore variant of ochre and linseed sealant isn't red but cobalt blue when mixed under the work lights. They start to paint and his breath catches. He stumbles and sits down on a well-worn tree stump. He wants to tell them it's nothing, that he's merely tired. Instead, the truth field kicks in and he tells them it reminds him of home.

Tasha asks parlay over and over again, and each time he refuses. Not until he can visit on his own terms, he tells her. Not until then.

 

He carves toys for the children to clear his thoughts; solid things like wagons and houses and cows. The truth field gives them trouble with imagination.

"It looks like Edmard's shed," Annhalie says, taking the little blue box he has offered her.

"Ah." He taps her nose. "It also looks like a ship that's bigger on the inside and can travel through all of space and time."

Her eyes go wide. "But that is absolutely mad! It--it must be a--but, but it can't--" She hitches a breath, panicked, suddenly in tears, and he is on one knee in an instant, holding her by the shoulders. He realizes that of all the reasons Christmas needs him to stick around, the most important may be for this. For stories that are both mad and true.

"There, there. It's okay." He hugs her tightly before looking her in the eye, wiping her tears away. "You can say it too. Go on."

"It--" she starts, and falters. She turns the little blue box over in her hand. "It looks . . . like a ship!" Suddenly, she is beaming and stomping around the workshop and crowing at the top of her voice. "It looks like a ship that can travel through time! How does it? It doesn't look like an axe or a star, but I can tell you it looks like a ship! Why? How--?" She stops and looks up at him, still amazed. He smiles at her, as though sharing a secret.

"Because it's true somewhere."

 

A span of thirty years comes and goes, and with it the first breach of the peace. He is brilliant as always, sidestepping the foes that slip past the Papal mainframe, always ready with a parry here, a clever trick there. It's ridiculous and dangerous and for a time it almost feels like he's running again. The Cyber-guard ambush isn't the first time his blood is spilled on the snow, but it's the first time he feels his ever-present link to the TARDIS start to fade. (If they are separated, eventually, they will . . . they may . . . or . . . )

It's the first time he is truly afraid.

To hell with his own terms. Tasha's transport beam spirits him away, in time to save his life and to remind him to listen for the TARDIS' soft murmuring before he sets out for a stroll, or before he tries anything daring and brave and stupid. Later, when the battles are at a lull, he sits himself down on a well-worn tree stump, hands clasped on the handle of the cane between his knees. It's not Edmard's shed anymore that he's looking at. It's Kalliejen's now. She inherited it years ago, and it needs a new coat of paint. Maita finds him there, and when she asks what's wrong he tells her it's nothing. He's merely tired.

 

He sleeps more often than he ever did within her walls. And he dreams. He dreams of a question woven into the threads of his very being. He dreams of answering, and he dreams of silence. But the TARDIS is never, ever silent.

For three hundred years, she calls to him. Her message is a breath inhaled and held, a sunrise to melt the snow, a child encircled in arms, a budding branch, a vine crept upon brick, and so many more. In those years, a thousand million impressions play across his psyche like so many riffled pages, each one unique and brilliant and gone in a moment. But her meaning is true. It has to be.

Faith . . .
(any moment)
Returning