It’s her fault that Gallifrey has been, as K-9 would put it, ‘zombified.’ She is the President of Gallifrey, after all, and all leadership is by example.
She went away from Gallifrey once with a madman in a blue box, and learned to live in a way that she had never known before. She went away a second time, unwillingly, in the clutches of an unspeakable evil, and by the time she came home she was the walking dead. And it’s no wonder, really, that her people flourished under that Romana and perished under this one.
She never went looking for anyone to shock her hearts back to beating. If asked, she’d have expressed a hope that they wouldn’t. Anger and fearlessness may have been all she had left, but that worked for her, thank you very much. She never asked Brax to remind her of the reckless thrill of pleasurable terror, the beauty of dark things circling beneath still water. She certainly didn’t want Narvin pushing her fury until it broke, feeding that fire until it burned itself suddenly out. And she was never remotely ready for Leela, who Romana is afraid for, afraid to lose, too attached to hide the fact with anger.
If she’s breathing now in a way she wasn’t for so long, if she’s alive again, that is their fault. And when the strength of their love for her takes her breath away again—that is their fault, too.
He keeps a certain puzzle box in a secret room of the Collection. The lock is exquisite in its simplicity. There are only three possible combinations. But to unseal the box, all three must be entered together. No one has opened it yet.
“Do you really expect me to fall for your pretense of self-righteous morality—or your pretense of civilized unconcern?” Narvin laughs bitterly into his glass, and, perversely, sits up a little straighter in Brax’s armchair. “Spare me. You’re no better or worse than the rest of us.”
“You aren’t the only one who receives messages from the future, Braxiatel,” says Romana, pacing up and down her office, shooting him fretful, furtive glances. “Do you know which way you’re heading? Do you know the kind of monster you’re becoming?”
“Whatever you do, I know that your reasons will be right,” says Leela, laying her hand on Brax’s arm. “I have seen your hearts, Braxiatel. I know the good man who lives within you, and he will always steer you true.”
He would have sworn, before, that he could never be unlocked. There are too many layers, too many half-truths and secrets and forgotten, buried lies. It requires one to accept him for what he presents, one to dig deep for the darkness within him, and one to find in him more light than he has ever truly shone.
He submits with his usual sedate good grace to be undone at their hands, and leans into their touch against his skin.
She will never be warm again.
Andred explained this in his words, once. Entropy, he called it. Heat is the vital force of all things, from a stalk of grass to the mightiest creature. But it diminishes always. It is only lost, never created, never gained.
Leela told him in return something that he did not understand: heat is also happiness. Soaking in the summer sun or nestling with a full belly beneath a pile of furs in winter, these mean something to those who have known true cold.
“You say that my body is in-fish-ent, because my skin is warmer than yours,” she teased him, “but this is why you need me. There is no happiness in your cold people. It is well for you that I love you enough to share my warmth.”
It was a joke, but she knows how true it was, now.
There is only so much heat in her. One human can keep one Time Lord and herself. But she is not warm enough for three. There is not enough of her to melt Romana’s cold, and to warm Braxiatel’s hearts, and to thaw through Narvin’s frost, not all at once.
And yet there is no choosing between them. They need her so badly, and she wants so much to give to them. She cannot turn any of them away.
In the mornings she wakes up shivering between them. But when the entropy of their love drains her dry, she knows that it will still have been worthwhile.
The difference between them—there is a difference, always—is that he’ll be the one paying the price.
He analyzed the risks before beginning this endeavor. Some men would blame the heat of passion, but Narvin prefers retaining the right to roll his eyes at men like that. He knew, beforehand, precisely how much the new light of respect in Braxiatel’s eyes meant to him. He calculated the exact value of Romana’s smiles. He understood perfectly what he would give up to retain the poetry of Leela in motion. And when he had summed it all up he double-checked, and triple-checked, and still came to the startling conclusion that all of this would be worth it.
And it is. He wasn’t wrong. Even recognizing how much this will change him, how much it has changed him already, he knows he wasn’t wrong. Yes, this...relationship will eventually end, there is no question about that, but whatever happens, it won’t be him that ends it. Because afterwards, he’ll be left a different man than he was, and existing will never be easy again.
He knew the cost from the beginning. He’ll spend the rest of his lives pretending, painfully, to be the person he once was in fact. His part has always been to take the punishment they avoid.
He will embrace his fate, for their sakes, when it comes. And in the meanwhile, there are other embraces to be had.
He slides a little closer, and he stays.