There is one whole, universal, bleeding constant: you are never supposed to listen to the water sing.
Of course - water isn’t supposed to sing, but people are not supposed to hurt. People are not supposed to hurt, love is not supposed to hurt, hurting is not supposed to make the intensity of your love grow wings & fly fly fly away. So the water sings. So: human beings rot strangely. It really is that simple. It really is: love & love & love & love & love & hurt puckering inside of a body, sweet and sour. And the water sings. And people were not made for suffering, but they trudge through the toughness of life, suffering. And the water sings. And humans were not created hateful, but teach themselves hatred regardless.
And the water sings.
He’s good at this, you know: being alien, detached from all “love” when he needs to be. Oh. Yes, he loves - but it is love, and never Love. Love can make an entirely new being, transform parts & awaken parts, and we just - we can’t have that, we cannot change yet. He is good at it - he is good at - he is good, and the same unenlightened parts that compose him - they know the world. The universal, bleeding constant.
You are never supposed to listen to the water sing. It, of course, sings anyways.
The Doctor steps out of his TARDIS. “The Doctor steps out of his TARDIS” is the beginning of too many stories.
You are never supposed to listen to the water sing but the forest is beautiful, but the forest feels like some new kind of home. There’s home here; he follows the singing down every pathway, every pathway already in his mind - he already knows the way to the water, instinctively. Instinctively.
This part of Earth is barren. Yet the water sings on.
Something deep inside tells him to take his jacket off, wade in the water, submerge in it - everything will be okay because it always, always is - but the water continues to sing and the forest continues to be beautiful.
A little bit too beautiful.
Can you tell us the place where…
the elders chew the sky?
(The Doctor looks for the source of the music, spins around, three times, clicks t here’s no place like —)
Where love is like
(but the water looks so—)
a perfectly quilled arrow.
Can you tell us? Can you tell us?
A face pops out of the water, wing-fast. It stares into his eyes. It—oh, he —is beautiful, the water is beautiful, the forest is beautiful, beautiful.
“I don’t know what you’re —” but then there are cold, wet hands on his neck. Now he is one with the water, wing-fast again. The hands grasp his shoulders now. Can’t you hear the world’s heart breaking, plays in his mind - or bubbling in the water - sharp voiced. He fights upwards; don’t worry, says the hands, don’t be afraid.
It’s so cold underneath————
“You’re not human.”
The first thing he hears, upon regaining his consciousness, is: you’re not human. The voice is sharp. The voice is sharp, and the room around him is wooden, old, creaking, bonewhite. On a second glance: the room around him is made entirely of bone, old and creaking; his body is wooden.
“Um. No, I’m not.”
“Thankfully . ” A laugh, deep and distorted. “Come on, sit up.”
The Doctor tries - tries - tries to move his body. It is so heavy, and wooden-about-to-break-into-pieces. It is so heavy, like: his heart.
“I said sit up. You’ll choke on all that water if you don’t.” A pause. “At least, I think so. I’m so used to human anatomy.”
He grabs the Doctor, right around the ribs, oh, and pulls him upwards. They’re on some kind of bed; soft and inviting, like the water, like the song, like the man (“man”) touching him—
the Doctor could sleep here, forever. He coughs up the water and he doesn’t need the TARDIS—
THE TARDIS. Of course. How could he be so foolish? Of course. He needs to leave. He needs - so heavy - to - so inviting - leave, he cannot stay - so soft - here, even if he - bones - wants - wants - to.
“What are you, anyway?”
“What are you? ” he says in response. It is supposed to be defensive.
The man smiles; all teeth; all sharp teeth, razorsharp. One bite and he’d be gone. “I’m Turlough.”
“Is that your species?”
“No, that’s my name. ”
“Oh. So what—”
Turlough sighs. “I honestly don’t know. I was…” (he stops for a moment, shakes) “not here, then I was, and then…”
Hm. “And then?”
“Then I got hungry,” Turlough says, dark and distorted. In the bones he looks almost human, wrapped in a suit and tie, dress pants, dress shoes. The giveaway: the scales underneath his eyes, the bright color of his hair. Almost human, but not quite. Never reaching.
He decides not to press further. “Okay. Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll be going now.”
“You think you can leave?” says Turlough (he hopes it is Turlough) (it does not sound like Turlough). The whiteness of the bone begins to fade. Yellow and brittle, some with old meat still clinging to the center.
The Doctor stands up, body no longer heavy. No longer feeling. No longer soft. The - the bed - is flesh-colored and pink, is - is - skin piled on skin piled on skin piled on skin piled on -
You get the picture.
Everything is red.
“You can’t leave.”
Turlough is the only thing in the room that looks normal. That still looks inviting, after the reveal. He’s still sitting there, on the skinbed, face twisted into a smile, a smile, a sick smile.
“And why is that?”
“Because no one can,” he replies. “Because I’ve tried.”
It clicks. “You don’t want me to leave, though, do you.”
Turlough closes his eyes; a few red tears trickle down his face until they suck back up into his ducts, his cheeks stained crimson. “I don’t think you understand.”
“Make me understand.”
His eyes open. They are black, now, voidlike. Spacelike, the color of loving. “I have been alone,” he says, “for so long. ”
The Doctor stares down at him, suit clinging tight to his body. Turlough is pitiful, something to be pitied. Imagine being banished. Imagine being ripped from your world, and being banished. Imagine being Turlough, if Turlough is telling the truth; imagine being a monster, imagine being a body, a body, a body, stuck underneath the underneath of the water. How long has he been here? How long? Imagine suffering. He knows exactly how to imagine suffering.
[He knows that Turlough is telling the truth. It is so easy - to recognize brokenness.]
The Doctor sits down next to him, on the bonefloor. It cracks. “Tell me,” he says, “about your life before, then.”
Turlough wipes his cheeks. “I don’t remember any specifics.” He sighs. “What I do remember, is that it was terrible… I think - that I was exiled, and - so many people h…”
He looks up at the Doctor, doesn’t have to complete the sentence; something in him, the Doctor knows, can recognize other people who have been hurt.
The house is exactly like the TARDIS; it goes on forever, Turlough at his side, Turlough holding his hand, get lost in the bonehouse and you’re lost forever, he says, stick with me and we’ll unravel those forevers, and I will save you. He doesn’t say “together” out loud. He doesn’t need to - the Doctor can feel it, together. He can feel every flutter inside of Turlough; the bonehouse does this to you, Turlough tells him also, it was built this way. Eventually all individuality bleeds away into meat. Eventually Turlough’s essence absorbs any other human essence residing in the house, and he’s alone again, alone unravelling him like bones, alone unravelling his bones and everything else in his body, filling him up instead with lakewater.
Also, it isn’t a house.
The Doctor figures this out himself; it is a temple. The bones give it away. You don’t make houses out of bones. In every story: offerings. Gifts to the Gods, thanking them for their presence or, more often, to make them happy and benevolent so humans can live their lives peaceful and unafraid of wrath. The other inconsistency is the glamour, why it felt so calming and inviting during his first few moments inside of the temple, and how quickly reality faded when Turlough got - upset, boiling.
Houses are not magical. Houses are never magical. There is too much trauma buried in houses. There is too much trauma buried here, but the Doctor can feel it in the walls; the trauma is transforming. In Turlough’s mind: the trauma is transforming, and the Doctor has the sensation in the strings of his hearts. There is already a spark.
Turlough must feel the spark, too, because he squeezes the Doctor’s hand. “I trust you.”
“We’ve just met,” the Doctor says, frowning. “You have no reason to trust me.”
He places the Doctor’s arm behind him, pulls his closer. “I can feel you, though,” he says, “you’re a good person, you really are,” he says, running scaled fingers over the Doctor’s neck, “I want to be like you, I do,” he says, closer now, one bite and he’d be gone, remember, remember, would anyone remember, “but I forgot how to be good.” He laughs against the Doctor’s ear, soft and warm. “You will, too. Eventually.”
“I won’t,” the Doctor says-gasps. “I never will.” Something pulses through them, empty words, Turlough’s heart may have been ripped and smoked but oh the Doctor has enough for both of them, enough love, enough metaphors to run a heart for eternity. He would rip out one of his own if it meant saving this boy, who he just met, who stole him from the world. He sees a mirror in Turlough’s voideyes, watches himself desperate on the screen. He can feel how Turlough feels him. Like: salvation. Like the end of hunger. Like a guardian angel ripped from above, like a heart. Like he is learning how to love again. He will never forget how to be good. He is going to save Turlough. He is going to leave the lake. He is going to burn the temple. He is going to be good, he is good, he always will be good —
“You still think you can leave,” Turlough says, letting go of him (the warmth against the Doctor dissipates and), leaving his hand (and he), leaving him lost (and he wants), looking at the Doctor (AND HE WANTS) like he is the beginning of a story ( to be warm again ), the beginning of the world. “Why?”
“I have a spaceship.”
He doesn’t know. There is no way to get the TARDIS underneath the lake. There is no—
well there is always hope there is a l w a y s salvation he can a lways find a way, but —
they are trapped, truly, together.
“Just face it… Doctor” (the walls whisper his name) “we’re going to be here forever. You and me, always.”
He says nothing. Turlough takes his hand again, and then they’re walking through the temple, voiceless and wholly empty.
The most troubling thing about the temple is that time never seems to truly pass. It never gets dark. It is never light, either - the aura of the temple is just white, artificial and blinding, unholy. There is a door on one of the walls; the temple grows longer and more vast every time the Doctor guides Turlough towards it. They are trapped. It takes a while for the Doctor to adjust to being trapped; such positions are true rarities, he can always get himself out of every situation, he’s smart, he’s Everything—
but he is trapped.
He doesn’t know how long it has been since he was lured to the temple. It feels as if he’s walked with Turlough for many, many years. Many centuries. Since the “beginning of time”, to the “end of time”. Maybe time has ended and the temple is omnipotent. Maybe this is before time and the temple is omnipotent. Maybe. There are so many variables to balance here and not enough time.
He is brave enough to pull himself down and sit against the wall. Turlough follows, leans against him.
“Do you sleep?” he asks.
“I don’t need to anymore,” Turlough replies. “You don’t get tired here. It’s been like that for everyone—”
His eyes widen. The Doctor feels it immediately; he was not supposed to bring up everyone else.
“There have been others? Aliens, like me?”
“No,” Turlough says, biting his cheek, blood. “No one like you. Whoever put me here… sent me with… one of my friends. Human, if I remember correctly.”
“I didn’t kill him, if you’re wondering.”
“Yes, you were. I can feel your thoughts, remember?” Turlough looks away. “He tried to leave the lake. Made it out for about a second, then he fell back into my arms… his head and shoulders were burned completely. He wasn’t recognizable anymore, just… ash and char. It’s one of my only vivid memories, and I think whoever put me here made it that way on purpose.”
“And then you ate him,” the Doctor finishes. “I can feel your thoughts too, remember.”
In Turlough’s thoughts: painpainpainwhiteblackgraypainachelossfear fear and fear and fear andandaggression bubbles and bubbles and pains of loss and hunger.
“I didn’t want to. I liked him. I think I liked him, I mean.”
“But I got too hungry, too desperate. I couldn’t stand looking at Hip— his body any longer, either.”
He almost feels sorry. He looks at this monster with its big, sharp, monstrous teeth & its big, sharp monstrous claws and feels sorry. He looks at this monster with its humanhunger past and feels sorry. He looks at this monster and thinks: this is not a monster.
“I don’t want your pity, Doctor.”
“You don’t understand. I feel no pity for you.”
“Then what are you feeling?”
Love, the Doctor thinks, and says nothing.
It’s not - love - in the traditional sense. He doesn’t feel any romantic connection to Turlough, there is nothing in him that is foolish enough to love a hungry, hungry man---but he sees mirror shards inside of Turlough and his hunger. His own faces staring back at him in the body of a man who he is not foolish enough to love. He loves Turlough as what Turlough represents: an eternity of desperation, of the Doctor’s form in a monster, he was once like this, of course, an eternity of not loving, not being foolish, not loving, knowing, not loving, feeling, not loving, not loving, never loving. Repetition of the mind. He will never love Turlough in such a way, but he is certainly interesting company; their eternity together will be bright and scintillating, and he will not be foolish enough to love. He is intelligent. He knows.
Unless Turlough eats him. This has been a possibility since their first words---- can you tell us the place where-- --he gets hungry, eventually---- love is like--- -and kills and is monstrous---- haunting. But. But the haunting. But the haunting is. But. The haunting thing. But the haunting thing inside of the Doctor says: I would let him do it. I would let him eat me. The Doctor estimates that they have been stuck here for a year, now, he is getting desperate. He would let Turlough eat him, if Turlough wanted to. If Turlough felt the need to be alone again. He has done so many good things for the universe, has saved so many lives and worlds and souls and, he is content with his life. It can end here. It was always going to end up like this: the Doctor trapped, and falling.
He is not foolish. But he’s been here for a year; time has no true meaning, but he’s been here for a year. It should be torturous. It was never torturous.
The song continues to play. The hauntings, the hauntings. Like magma into the caverns, for the hauntings. Make a graph of our death
beat, pulse, murmur, quiet,
pulse, murmur, quiet.
There’s a hand on his shoulder. Turlough is colder now. “I’d never eat you,” he says, and something daggers into the Doctor, like: foolishness, “I haven’t even been hungry since you came.”
The Doctor sighs. “You can’t lie to me. I know the hunger has been getting worse.”
“I’d never eat you, ” Turlough says, and, like magic, like hope, hello? echoes through the temple. Someone has been listening.
Turlough is gone, leaving only cold air to bite him.
He was right about the temple; it is incredibly easy to get lost in, if you don’t know what you’re doing. But he can’t feel Turlough anymore, and Turlough is his only—
it is imperative that he finds Turlough. Neither of them deserve to be alone.
There are low growls coming from - the floor of the temple. He doesn’t let it bother him; find Turlough runs through his mind
beat, pulse, murmur, quiet
and he walks.
And he walks.
He turns and oh - Turlough looks - the scales and blueness of him have all faded, his suitjacket and tie have been discarded, and his eyes look nearly - hu - m - a - n
beat, pulse, murmur, quiet —
“I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” Turlough says. “Why’d you leave me?”
“I didn’t mean to.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Turlough says, and he grabs the lapels of the Doctor’s jacket, and —
then he’s kissing the Doctor, but his body is warm. He feels human. He feels like foolishness. He feels like - God - like love. Like everything the Doctor has or has had or knows or wants is falling out of him and he’s touching Turlough back and whatever they’ve been here for eternity and they can have the rest of time like this, like , like, like , like , he’s learning how to love , again. He is loving.
A hand slides to his hips, moves his clothing upward-- - - - - a hard hand, warmest hand--
he opens his eyes. It’s bone, now; body half-eaten, meat clinging to the skinless forearm. He pushes it away & it falls to the ground, its chest ripped open, heartless and lungless, open and desecrated. Its head has been bashed open & its brain ripped out. It isn’t Turlough. It was never Turlough.
The body dissipates into the air. He should have known.
Turlough touches his shoulder again. It is the real Turlough; he knows this by the blood and flesh clinging to his mouth, in his sharp teeth. His clothing is stained deep. “I’m sorry,” he says, wiping his chin. “I - really am. At least it wasn’t you.”
He would recoil in disgust if he couldn’t feel Turlough’s self-hatred pulsing inside of his own body. It grabs the Doctor’s entrails like eating and pulls them, hate hate what have I become what have I, and he does pity, he does, this is someone who has lost everything and he should hate Turlough like Turlough hates himself but he
just cannot stuff these things back inside of him. Turlough is a man with blood on his hands (and in his mouth in his stomach ruining his body—) and the Doctor just pities. He mourns the dead. There is a monster before him, but he has known this monster for years and years and years and years.
“What’s wrong?” Turlough asks; he keeps forgetting that Turlough can feel it, and it felt real—the kiss, the touches.
“I thought we were past the lies.”
The Doctor sighs, considers. “I’m going to figure out what exactly this place is,” he says. “It’s been too long. I should’ve - should’ve done this a while ago.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, this isn’t - this isn’t a house. It’s a temple, to some sort of Godlike being. And it seems like, whoever that is, is keeping you here on purpose, alone on purpose, forcing you to give it offerings. Or sacrifices, what have you.”
“You’re saying I’m a pawn,” Turlough says, and his eyes go dark again, dark.
“And you,” Turlough says, voice distorted, voice inhuman, deep and haunting (the hauntings and beat pulse) and, “knew. You knew this, and you didn’t tell me.”
“Turlough. I’m sorry.”
“I’m not someone’s pet. I’m not. ”
Turlough is restraining himself. He wants - he wants to hurt andpainpainpain murmur - but he doesn’t. He knows better. He wants to hurt but he doesn’t, but the Doctor is - oh. In Turlough’s mind: salvation.
“No, you’re not.”
His shoulders relax. He - melts, tension of the body unraveling. He looks up into the Doctor, defeated entirely.
“I want to know something.”
He approaches Turlough gently, watches him melt even more, even more when he puts both of his hands on Turlough’s shoulders. “When did you fall in love with me?”
Turlough bares his teeth, pushes the Doctor away, turns redbloodred. He is a monster now, truly. Nothing about him now is human.
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He’s still restraining himself. He is still lovable.
“Turlough, wait,” the Doctor says, wholly desperate. “I don’t mind.”
“Of course you would,” he hisses back. “Just stop lying to me. You can’t love me and I can’t love you.”
Turlough inhales, exhales. Claws poke out from his fingers, so he clenches his fists, hides. He goes even redder, scales on his body turning void black. ‘You know why,” he says, and his teeth are protruding from his mouth, down to his chin.
Oh. “I think you’re lovable.”
His body melts, again, into almosthuman this time, into normal, no teeth or claws or. “Really.”
“Let me show you,” the Doctor says, and touches him softly.