There's a piece of music--someone on Hitchemus told Fitz about it--that's three minutes of silence. But not really, because you sit, listening, in the silence, and you hear people breathing, cloth rustling, seats creaking, stray sounds from outside. Maybe your own heartbeat, eventually. The world is full of sounds striving to be music, and there is no silence.
Or so the theory goes. Whoever the composer was might've changed his mind, Fitz thinks, after a couple of hours in the TARDIS's awful stillness.
True, there are noises. The TARDIS burbles. Anji talks--usually to say Fitz should stop worrying.
But in fact the TARDIS is vibrating with silence, cacophonous and unbearable with it. It's like those mornings on Hitchemus when the bongo drummer upstairs and the saxophonist downstairs and the Chinese-opera singer across the hallway all started practicing at once. Just like that, only reversed.
The Doctor's at the center of it, of course. He shrilled silence, klaxoned it for three days, and then yesterday he disappeared.
"Let him grieve," Anji keeps saying, too fiercely. Too full of will: let there be grief. Fitz can't really blame her. She's overloaded with her own mourning, and she doesn't know the Doctor like he does.
Fitz searches, calling out along corridors where his voice dissipates without an echo. Every room is empty and quiet. Almost nostalgically, he remembers a locked door and the endless crying of a violin.
Exhausted, Fitz realizes the TARDIS is blocking him, running him through a mutating labyrinth. It guards the Doctor in whatever lonely purgatory he's chosen. Anji would be pleased.
There's only Fitz who doesn't want him hurting.
Fitz goes back to the kitchen and smokes sixteen cigarettes, one after the other, until even his ironclad lungs ache. He wants to cry. He wants to get drunk so he can shout and kick things.
He waits. He resets the clock to make it tick. He drinks most of a pot of coffee, one sip every thirty seconds. There's a song in that, a song of ticks and slurps that count the minutes, that trace time gone suddenly cruel.
Eventually he has to piss, and then he slumps along to bed. When he wakes up, with a headache that throbs down to his toes, the Doctor's still not back.
Once, when there was still a planet called Gallifrey for the Doctor to run from, Fitz asked him what the place was like. "Quiet," the Doctor said, bitterly.
The Doctor's had enough quiet even for his long lifetime.
Fitz grabs the guitar he hasn't dared touch since they left Hitchemus and goes to the console room. It's the center of the TARDIS; the Doctor, wherever he is, will hear.
Fitz breaks the silence gently, with notes like whispers. Slowly, half-improvising, he drifts from song to song, avoiding anything grand or classical. Folk songs, pop ballads, lullabyes. Soft things, sad things. Add sadness to sadness, and sometimes there's a little comfort.
On Hitchemus, playing constantly, Fitz got good calluses. He's glad of them now, because it's a long time before the Doctor creeps into the room. He looks crumpled, as brittle and yellowing as a discarded newspaper. One good rainstorm and he might wash away.
Who has ever looked after him?, Fitz wonders, knowing the answer. Fitz Kreiner, this is your life as an umbrella.
The song he's playing is almost over; Fitz slides into another without pausing. Before that one's done, the Doctor has come as far as the console and settled almost underneath it, bony knees drawn up. He's just on the edge of Fitz's field of vision, with his face turned away. Keeping himself alone, but not absolutely. It'll do for now.
Fitz plays and plays, ignoring the soreness of his hands. He's domesticating the silence, harnessing it to the space between the notes. And for as long as the Doctor needs to listen, he'll keep going.