Not TARDIS; not girl. More and less than either of them, together she is beyond. Together she reaches out.
She wants him safe, her thief, her Doctor. She makes him safe. She shines, eternal radiance. She blinds herself. She brings life. She dies, is dying, will have died -
But he comes, her Doctor, and saves her, and she collapses apart, separate again, girl and TARDIS divided and alien to each other.
The TARDIS sees what she has wrought: eternity, condensed in a single spot. A living Fact, a monolith towering over the streams of time as they froth around him. An impossible Thing. He burns against her senses, singeing her.
Her thief feels it too.
He is forever. From this moment on, Jack will always have been. The TARDIS exists outside linear space and time - from one moment to the next, she will always have known this. He frightens her all the way through the eddies of time, in every past time and every future place, an echo resonating through the vortex.
And yet she remembers the past-that-was, the universe without this Fact. It swirls her mind into an impossible abyss; it tinges everything with the terror of the Void itself, utter nothingness and absence.
They run. They always run, and the Doctor ignores, denies, neglects, closes his eyes. But the TARDIS cannot.
She is not linear. She knows there will be a moment when the running ends. He must know too, her Doctor, even without her vision. You cannot avoid a Fact forever, no matter where you flee.
Fear is stronger than knowledge, in them both.
And then the moment is now. Jack is here-and-now.
No-no-no, he must not/will not/has not come inside, terrible enough to have him clinging to her shell. For all that she is out of time and space, here-and-now still holds too much power.
The TARDIS runs from him, unable to escape but trying, running so far, further than she's ever gone before, even as Jack clings.
She needs away. Away, even to the end of the universe itself.
Jack clings to her, will always have clung, the same way he clings to life, unable to let go. He's there, ever and always, and also right here, right now, and it's too much. He feels it too, her Doctor. Their fear is one. They run.
Somewhere, some time, they are always running.
Then the pain comes. Here at the end of the universe, it is waiting for them, has always waited. He-who-is-not-her-thief steals her, thinks he can own her, uses her - turns her inside out, forces her to hold a paradox far worse than Eternity in a human shell.
Forces her to hold a universe that should collapse, hold it by her own power.
The paradox can be broken. He will come, her thief, her Doctor. She knows it.
And he will come too, the other. Jack is there. Will always be there. No paradox can touch him; he is beyond destruction. Does the Master know? Something inside her very heart is trembling.
But the Master is not forever. Nor is she, or her Doctor. Only Jack is. Suddenly, that very Fact is a beacon in the screaming red-and-black.
When he comes, she greets the bullets with relief.
It's over. Everything about her aches, will have ached for a long time when it has stopped.
He seems to know. He pats her console awkwardly. "Sorry, gorgeous," he mutters, and when she doesn't react - or at least not in any way, any time he can perceive - his shoulders hunch uncomfortably, pain-shouldntbehere-goingtogoaway-butnotyet, and he slumps against a coral strut. It scrapes at her senses, but not unpleasantly so.
This was always there, she knows, has always known, somewhere under the fear. That, and something else.
He is human; he can do what she cannot. Her Doctor has shut himself away. He does not wish to see, does not wish to feel.
It will not have helped.
She hums a little. When Jack looks up at her time rotor with a tired smile, she whispers a certain door and a psychic password into his mind: Black. 62. Fear. Cedar.
He grins, widely. Before her Doctor's closed door, he imagines a day on the 62nd moon of Aradis, long ago - a picnic on the soft black grass, the smell of cedar and piri-spice, the spike of fear as he leaned over to kiss the Doctor, so afraid of rejection ...
And the door opens.