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timebox (timeboy)

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The first time he meets her, he’s four-years-old with snot and tears running down his face as he sobs behind a dumpster. He doesn’t know where he is - all he knows is that the blue was so pretty and beckoning and it took no effort at all to reach out and just -

Fall.

Except he doesn’t know where he came out, has never been outside of the safe walls of the academy or the watchful eyes of the nannies. He’s in an alley and he’s scraped up his hands and knees where he fell and there’s noise on the street and he can see all the strange people and the nannies said to never talk to strangers and -

It’s too much.

So Five is four-years-old and crouched behind a dumpster with his hands over his ears trying to breath through his sobs when he hears the noise. Warping and gasping in and out, like the breaths of an ancient monster. He can’t help peek out from his hiding place to check it out, tears and sobbing stopped in his confusion.

And that’s when he sees her. A blue box that wasn’t there before. Five is really good with his letters already (the best of the siblings save perhaps Six) and he reads the po-lice box words on the top. It doesn’t really help with figuring out how it appeared from nowhere though.

The doors of the box whip open and Five stumbles back, frightened all over again. But his curiosity is a powerful thing, and he peeks out again anyway. It’s a bunch of grownups, all coming out of the box.

The man in the lead is gesturing excitedly, his eyes only for his companions. His voice is loud and enthusiastic as he leads the little procession out of the alley. He feels - there’s something about him that Five doesn’t have words for. He feels like the color blue. Not the everyday blue, but he feels a bit like Five’s blue. People aren’t supposed to feel like colors, are they?

None of them notice Five.

He waits a minute, and then a minute more before tentatively exiting his hiding spot. He approaches cautiously, gazing up at the box with wide eyes. She’s blue. She’s blue in the world and she’s Five’s blue all at once. She feels - a little bit like home.

He scrubs a bloody palm against his little uniform jacket to at least make an attempt to tidy it up before he placed it ever so gently against the wooden door. There’s a tingle, something between a static shock and the pins and needles you get after a limb goes to sleep, and then -

The door opens.

He knows he probably shouldn’t, but that little logical part is overwritten by a powerful curiosity. He enters, and he marvels, because it’s so much bigger on the inside. It’s a magic room. A magic box. The most incredible blue box he’s ever seen, and he feels the safest he’s ever felt in his entire life.

He twirls around, trying to take everything in. There are corridors leading off into the unknown in almost every direction, and Five gets the feeling that he could explore forever and never run out of new things to find.

But he doesn’t walk down any of the winding paths. Instead, he walks directly to the center. There’s a sort of console in the middle, with lots of interesting looking buttons and gadgets. But Five is more interest in the glass case thing on top of the console.

There’s something red inside of it, but all Five can think is blue blue blue.

It takes a minute for Five to find something for him to stand on and then drag it over to the console. He clambers up, hoisting himself up. He steps on a button or two and they beep wildly, but he pays it no mind because he’s exactly where he needs to be.

He presses both palms against the glass, bringing his face in close. “Hello?” He asks, not quite sure why he does.

But then there’s a thread of amusement not his own unfurling in his mind, and a quiet hello there.

Five rears back in surprise, losing his balance. His arms pinwheel but there’s nothing to be done and he falls off the console and lands hand on the ground. Tears well up in his eyes and a sob catches in his throat, but already there’s warmth and comfort and a crooning apology humming in his veins. It startles him enough to stop his crying for the second time that day.

“Who’re you?” Five asks, blinking in confusion. It doesn’t look like there’s a person there, but it feels like there’s a person there.

I’m the TARDIS, the answer springs to his mind. Who are you?

“I’m Five.” Five introduces himself to the floor since he’s getting his arms under himself to hoist himself off the floor to stand on unsteady legs. “Did you know that you’re blue?”

More amusement unfurls in his mind, and he can’t help the smile that comes to his face at the feeling. He gets an image of the police box with it’s blue outer paneling, a stark difference the white of the inside.

“No!” Five shakes his head, “You’re blue blue. My blue. The pretty blue that makes me fall.”

A questioning nudge, a hint of confusion.

Five frowns. He doesn’t have the words to explain. He’s never had the words to explain. It frustrates his father to no end. But maybe he can show? His father still never understood, but the TARDIS was blue like him, so maybe she would?

He concentrates, holding his hands out in front of him. He concentrates on the blue, but not going into the blue. It shimmers around his hands and up his arms, leaving tingles in its wake - very similar tingles to the ones he felt pressing against the glass, now that he thinks about it. He grins in delight, looking up into the empty room and waving his shimmering hands, “Blue!”

Instantly he’s filled with a delight not his own. The red in the glass case moves and there’s a brief vwarping noise, and it shimmers with his blue.

Five nods enthusiastically, “Yeah!”

What are you? The voice prods, delight in it, Are you a TARDIS?

Five frowns. “I dunno, what’s a TARDIS? I thought you were TARDIS.”

The voice hums, and for some reason feels a tiny bit sheepish. The name Susan popped into his mind, though he wasn’t sure what for. A capsule? The voice suggested finally, A timeship?

“I don’t think so,” Five says apologetically, “I’m a boy, not a ship. Is that what you are?”

Time And Relative Dimensions In Space. TARDIS. I travel.

“Oh!” Five exclaims, putting two and two together, “You fall through blue, like me!”

An affirmative warm feeling meets this declaration.

“You’ve been lots of place?” Five asks, waiting for another affirmative before looking down at his feet to continue, “D’you uh, do you know where the academy is?”

A questioning prod and some concern. More information necessary.

Five brings up a finger to tap against the crest on his jacket, “I live at the academy. With my dad and the nannies and my brothers and sisters. I - I fell through the blue again. But I got lost, I dunno.”

A long pause. Five almost thinks the TARDIS won’t answer, but then a gentle suggestion trickles in. You could stay here, with me. Live here, with me.

And Five wants to. He really does. He feels safe here, cradled in the heart of a machine with every wall only a second away from shimmering with ethereal blues. He likes the TARDIS, more than he’s liked just about anyone. She’s warm inside his head, delighted by him and she wants him to stay.

But - “I can’t leave the others.” Five tells her, wrapping his arms around his stomach. “We’re family, an’ family means I can’t just leave them.”

There’s another pause, longer than the last.

“‘M sorry.” Five offers, because he really is. If he was just leaving behind his dad, he wouldn’t hesitate. He’d run through the TARDIS’s halls and play with her for all eternity. But he promised Six that they’d practice reading tonight, and he’d said that he’d be the damsel the next time Four-Five-Six played superheroes together.

There’s a sorrowful understanding winding in his bones.

“Just ‘cause I can’t stay with you don’t mean we can’t be friends.” Five tries to assure her, and also tries not to let his excitement show to obviously on his face. He’s never had a friend before. He has his family, but they don’t count.

Suddenly there’s information in his head that wasn’t there before. Suddenly he knows exactly how to press against the blue and control his fall, knows exactly how to jump so that he ends up at home.

“Thank you!” He smiles, but hesitates. He doesn’t just want to leave - that feels rude.

Go on, the TARDIS tells him, fondness and sorrow intermingling into one strange feeling in his chest, This will not be the last time we meet, little timeboy. Know this, if you call, I will answer.

“Thank you,” Five says again, this time much softer. He feels warm and safe and happy, so much so that he almost feels like he glows with it. It only takes another small nudge for him to fall forwards, bright and brilliant and blue.

He stumbles out into his bedroom feeling oddly empty. There’s a loneliness inside his head now that aches, but he can still feel her across town. He could still jump to her, now that he knows how to control his jumps better. She’s there, in his mind’s eyes. A brilliant splash of blue-not-blue tickling at his senses.

But then the door is pushed open, and little number Seven peeks in at him with wide eyes, and Five forgets his yearning to go back to the TARDIS. Just for a second.

Later, at dinner, everyone is puzzled when Five bursts into tears. Reginald yells for Five to get ahold of himself, but he can’t. He just can’t. His hand fists in his sweater above his heart and he cries, because she’s gone and he’s empty and he feels the loss of something so keenly it hurts.

She’s out of his reach, and that’s all he can think about even as Reginald grips his elbow with hands that bruise and yanks him from the dinner table. She’s gone where he can’t follow, and he grieves.

But she told him they would meet again, and he believes her. She said she would answer if he called, and he believes her.

He sits up later nursing his bruises with shaking hands. But when he looks down at his hands he notices that they are pristine and clean. They shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t be, because earlier he stumbled out of his jump onto the gritty alley floor and scraped them up along with his knees.

When he checks his knees, the scrapes are still there. It’s just his hands which are fixed.

He remembers pressing his hands to glass, remembers the tingles, remembers conjuring shimmering blue along his arms and laughing.

He presses his pristine hand against his mouth to muffle his crying.

But he knows that they will meet again.

And he is right.

 

---

 

It’s two years later and he’s six-years-old and much better at jumping than he was at four. He’s been practicing. He’s in the middle of training when there’s a warmth that wasn’t there before and blue in the corner of his eye.

He’d half thought she was a dream, but here’s proof that she wasn’t.

Five wants to go to her immediately, run to her now, but Reginald is looking at him and demanding he jump and Five knows that disobeying is unwise. But there are other things he can do.

It’s not the healthiest of options, but Five reaches into his guts and tugs at the blue living there. There’s something twisty that lives there, something uneasy and less easily tamed than the blue that he can call to himself so naturally. Pressing against it is always weird and a little bit wobbly, and if he tugs just right - nausea.

Five doubles over and throws up on his own shoes, gagging miserably against the bile. He only narrowly misses his dad’s shoes as well.

Reginald dismisses him with disgust on his face, and Five tries not to look too cheerful. He can’t use this method to get out of training too often, or Reginald starts ignoring it and makes him “push through” or however he phrases it. But regardless, it gets him out of training.

Grace escorts him to his room and tucks him into bed, pushing his hair out of his face and telling him to get some rest.

As soon as she leaves the room, Five is kicking off the covers and reaching and it’s the easiest thing in the world to just -

Fall.

And there’s the blue-blue box, standing there on the side of the street. Some people give him odd looks, but he presses forward through the people. They ignore the TARDIS, walking right past, and Five can’t imagine why anyone would do that when she’s so beautiful.

He presses a hand against her door, and they open easily.

He stumbles inside with a smile on his face and hope in his heart.

Hello, Five. A warm voice unfurls behind his eyes and he has to choke back the water gathering in them. He missed this. He missed her.

“Hello,” He said quietly, almost shyly.

He feels like he’s home.

 

---

 

It goes like that over the years. She never waits as long as she did between the first and second visit. Where she shows up varies, but it’s like Five has a built in homing beacon for her. She’s so bright she’s impossible to miss.

Sometimes Five sees people on the street who have blue clinging to them, wisping off as they go. He always looks harder at them than everyone else, but they’re never like him. Not in the way the TARDIS is like him.

(He doesn’t notice that a lot of the people with blue have it concentrated around wrists and briefcases, doesn’t quite know what it means to see the blue on ordinary people.)

Across the years, he never speaks to the TARDIS’s charges. She speaks to him fondly of her mad man, her stolen man. The one who the blue never fades from, which pulses against his skin. It confuses Five at first, because sometimes it’s a man he’s seen before and sometimes it’s someone new entirely. A parade of different faces with the same blue that dances around him like it wants to play. Unique and individual, and Five learns to spot the TARDIS’s mad man no matter what skin he wears.

There’s other people as well. Sometimes repeats, sometimes not. Brilliant people with blue that clings to their skin even as it flakes away. Wide-eyed and wonderful. The TARDIS calls them companions with a certain sort of fondness.

Five tends to avoid them, the mad man and the companions alike. If the TARDIS’s mad man found out that Five kept sneaking in, then maybe he would tell the TARDIS to stay away. And even though Five loves the TARDIS and knows that she loves him, he knows how much she loves and adores her mad man, her stolen man. Five would never want to force her to choose.

It’s a dance. The TARDIS arriving and Five sneaking away and avoiding the mad man to talk with her. They talk for hours. The TARDIS is made mostly of feelings and impressions, and Five gets good at interpreting her. She still uses words on occasion, but less and less as time goes by.

Every time they meet, the TARDIS teaches him something new. Presses new knowledge about how to wield his powers into his bones.

Every time, he climbs on the console and presses his hands against the glass and breathes in deeply. She’s constantly changing. Sometimes she’s small and squat enough for him to perch upon her, sometimes the casing shoots into the ceiling. Sometimes she’s red, sometimes she’s blue, and he’s even seen her be orange. The walls are white and grey and brown and gold. She usually keeps the circles on the walls, in varying forms, but there always seems to be something different. Something new.

There’s always a tight sort of fury coiled in the back of his mind whenever he shows up with new bruises and wounds upon his skin. He tries to soothe her by saying that he’s used to it, but that always makes the fury stronger.

Every time he goes, she asks him to stay. Soft and gentle, she offers him a home.

Every time, he says no.

Their training gets worse, gets harsher as time crawls by. Four (now Klaus) gets bags under his eyes and twitches and jumps at nothing Five can see. Six (now Ben) curls up against Five’s side and presses shaking hands to his stomach, confiding his nightmares about the Horror escaping and rampaging without anyone to stop it. Seven (Vanya) ghosts through the house with lowered head and sad eyes.

Five can’t leave them.

Every time, he says no.

Every time, he wishes he didn’t.

 

---

 

He’s twelve-years-old (almost thirteen, just a week to go) and sitting inside the TARDIS, tucked under the console and fiddling with some of the dangly bits hanging off. Today she’s busy looking, bathed in gold and blue light. He likes her best when she looks busy, prefers it to the stark white walls and the simple console she had the first time he met her.

“You travel in time and space, right?” Five asks slowly, half of an idea forming in his head. He receives an affirmative. “Do you think - do you think I can travel in time, too?”

There’s a pause, and Five strains to listen for the TARDIS’s response. After a solid minute, the answer comes: an affirmative.

“Could I - d’you think I could take passengers?” Five asks gently.

The TARDIS gives the equivalent of a mental shrug, tossing him a few images of the various people she herself has shuttled through the timestream. And then, a little more thoughtfully, shows him a man clinging to the side of her and screaming.

Five blinks. “Did he live?”

The TARDIS gives another mental shrug and a sort of brain wiggle that substitutes for a so-so gesture. She doesn’t much like discussing the Wrong Man on the best of days.

Five hums thoughtfully, leaning back and closing his eyes. “You could find me though, wherever I am, right?” An affirmative, “Whenever I am?”

Another affirmative.

Five chews his lip. The tingling of an idea of forming more and more. If he can jump to a time where Reginald doesn’t exist, he would be safe. If he jumped his siblings to a time where Reginald didn’t exist, they would all be safe. Even Luther, who is loyal to a fault. None of them can jump like him. Not even Reginald would be able to follow, and none of them would be able to get back to him either.

Though admittedly it would probably only be Luther who would wish to go back.

And - and if they were safe, then they wouldn’t need Five anymore. He could visit them, like the TARDIS visits him, but he wouldn’t have to stay every second. Wouldn’t have to act as a human shield against their Father’s fury. He could finally take the TARDIS up on her offer, finally get to stay with her. Finally get to come home.

“Teach me?” Five asks, suddenly frightened that she might say no. But she doesn’t. She nudges him, ever so gently. She nudges him again, and the twisty blue that lives within him shudders.

Five blinks - and it can’t be that simple, can it? But it’s true, that the blue within him doesn’t act the same as the blue around him. Is different in a strange wobbly sort of way.

Five suddenly gets an image of the mad man with brown hair and red shoes saying wibbly wobbly timey wimey and snorts laughter through his nose. The TARDIS radiates fond amusement.

He prods at the blue in his gut cautiously and unwinds a tiny strand. It travels up his arms like electricity, eager and leaping and vibrant. He holds it in his hands for a moment, but does not push against it. Just holds it and lets it fizzle out and return to curl up against the rest once more.

The TARDIS hums warm approval into his bones.

“Thank you,” Five says fervently, unfolding himself from his little spot under the console and shaking out his legs as he stands, “Thank you.”

Will you stay? The TARDIS asks, as she always does.

Five bites his lip and looks away for a moment before coming to a final decision. “Ask me again,” He tells her, “Ask me again the next time we meet. Ask me again.”

The TARDIS sends him a warm affirmative, and then Five is gone in a flash of blue.

-

He’s thirteen-years-old and he’s been thinking about it for a month. The TARDIS hasn’t returned in that time, but he’s still waffling back and forth on whether it would be safe to take his siblings with him.

He needs to practice. Five had thought Reginald would encourage it, would be delighted by the idea of having time travel at his disposal, but clearly he knew Five well enough to know that he would never truly be under his father’s thumb. He was forbidden from practice, and without practice Five wasn’t sure it was wise to try bring passengers.

It comes to a head at a dinner table, with a knife stabbed dramatically into the table. With Reginald denying him and Five feeling fury overflow. With Vanya staring at him and shaking her head and him leaving anyway.

He goes outside, and thinks that what Reginald doesn't know won't hurt him. Five could practice. He had time at his fingertips - he could be gone and back before Reginald even noticed he was absent.

So he pulls on the blue, unfurls it and lets it climb up his arms, and then he jumps. And he is somewhere new - or not quite. He's somewhen new. Delighted, he peels off another tendril and jumps again. And again.

And again.

He staggers out of his jump into fire and ash, a burning world. The blue inside of him contracts and screams. Wrong wrong wrong. Something is terribly hopelessly awfully wrong.

He turns on a dime and sprints back. There are the gates to the Umbrella Academy.

There is no academy behind them.

Numb, Five’s feet take him further. Take him past rubble and ruin. And then he finds the hand with the eyeball. He finds the bodies. He finds the umbrella tattoos and he sees what he had refused to see.

His siblings.

Their bodies.

They're dead.

And Five screams. He plunges his hand into the writhing blue within him and screams. It writhes like snakes, not taking him home. Not taking him anywhere. Short circuiting and frightened and wrong. But that didn’t matter, because he isn't trying to get them to take him anywhere.

He is making a call.

Something wheezes behind him and he spins around, watching for the first time as blue split open the universe and glowed around the most beautiful soul in the universe. The TARDIS comes for her boy.

The doors fling open and people tumble out and freeze. They stare at him, in his filthy uniform with red eyes and tearstained cheeks. He looks at them. Two men, two women. Except - except one of them is the mad man. Mad woman? He hasn’t seen the mad man switch genders before, but he’s seen them switch faces often enough. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

“Wha - ” Is all the mad woman get out before Five bursts into motion, sprinting forward. The people recoil backwards at the sudden movement, and Five ends up slamming into the other woman and sending her to the ground in his haste. He hears a cry of “Yaz!” behind him, but he doesn’t care because he’s already in the TARDIS.

He’s being followed, the people hadn’t taken his invasion lying down. But he knows where he’s going, even if he doesn’t exactly recognize where he is.

She’s different than he’s ever seen before. All crystal and golds. But the console is still in the center, and Five makes a beeline and skids underneath it, curling up in a tight ball and letting the warmth and concern of the TARDIS wash over him as he sobs.

Feet follow him, but are more unsure the closer they get. “Doctor?” A voice says, older than the rest and sounding awfully concerned, “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know,” The mad woman responds, sounding frazzled. Five would sympathize if he could feel anything outside of the loud they’re gone they’re gone they’re gone pounding under his skin. “I don’t - this is 2019! The earth's supposed to be fine! I don’t understand!”

2019. Five had jumped only seventeen years in the future. His siblings only got thirty years before they died. His sobs intensify.

“Hey,” A voice comes from his right, gentle and soft like it’s trying to coax a feral cat into trusting it. Which honestly, isn’t far off. Five allows a quick look from where’s he’s squashed his face against his arms, folded in on himself in the safest place he can think of to be. It’s the woman, the one he knocked down. The one the mad woman called Yaz. “Hey it’s okay. It’s okay now. Do you think you can you tell us what happened?”

Five doesn’t want to talk to her. She’s stupid. It’s not okay. What part about all of this could possibly be okay? His family is dead and he doesn’t want any of these people. He doesn’t want to talk to the mad woman or her companions or whoever, he just wants to curl up right here in the heart of the blue until the world starts making sense again.

The TARDIS gives him a gentle nudge, and the mad woman’s head snaps up. She squints at the crystal above the console, and then looks at Five, and then back to the heart of the TARDIS.

“It’s all wrong.” Five croaks out, because he can take a hint. And if his insides are writhing and screaming, he can’t imagine how uncomfortable and painful it must be to the TARDIS. It needs to be fixed, and she’s sending him trust vibes all over the place.

He loves her, he does, but she can’t make him trust the mad woman. She is saturated in blue, but it isn’t the same as him and the TARDIS. She might not understand.

“What’s all wrong?” Yaz asks, just as gently as the first time.

Five doesn’t know how to explain. He doesn’t have the words, he’s never had the fucking words.

“You’re a time traveler.” The mad woman states, coming over to Yaz’s side and crouching down to see under the console.

Yes and no. He doesn’t have the words. Panic steals them from him. He is time and time is him. It lives inside of him, screaming in pain. Him and the TARDIS are the same and different. Timebox and Timeboy.

“TARDIS.” Five manages and doesn’t notice her look of surprise, “I’m - ” Timebox, timeboy, something in between, but he can’t continue the thought because time twists like an eel inside of him and he doubles over even more than he is already, “It’s wrong. Time is wrong.”

Please, mad woman,” Five gasps just on the edge of begging, choking back more tears. She rears back at the title, looking confused. “Please, you have to fix it.”

The TARDIS blankets him in love, trust, I’m here now, will fix, don’t cry, here now, safe safe safe. It’s almost enough to calm down the time writhing in his gut. Almost.

“You know who I am?” The mad woman asks, squinting at him as she points at her own face. Maybe it’s very new? It’s the first time Five has seen it, after all.

“Mad woman, stolen woman.” Five forces the words out from numb lips, nodding, and her face looks even more puzzled. Five struggles for words, wishing that everyone was as easy to communicate with as the TARDIS. “You have as many faces as she does. Where one is, the other is not far behind.”

“She?” The young man in the back asks, looking at Yaz for some reason. Five’s face scrunches before he realizes that maybe they don’t know the TARDIS’s pronouns or something? The TARDIS rumbles fondly in the back of his head.

“She,” Five unfurls enough to open his arms, gesturing around him, above him, everywhere. He still doesn’t come out from where he’s tucked under the console though. He might not be convinced to leave for a good long while. “TT Capsule. Timebox. TARDIS.”

The mad woman has something out. A little whirry thing. It gives him some anxiety before the TARDIS smooths it over with feelings of warmth and safety. She points it at him, and he blinks.

“This can’t be right?” The mad woman says, shaking the little tool like that would change anything.

“Doctor?” The young man prompts, coming closer. Five curls back in on himself and the man’s feet stop.

“What are you?” The mad woman - the doctor? - asks, wonder in her voice. It reminds Five a tiny little bit of when him and the TARDIS first met, when he was tiny and small and lost.

“I’m Five.” Five tells her, feeling only a little bit hysterical. “Did you know that you’re blue?”