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Trials

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This story is No. 16 in the series "The Child of Balime". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: The Doctor gives Seo a test — she has three chances to prove to him that she can responsibly travel through time. But then… Seo's never really been very good at tests…

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Dr. Who/Torchwood > Buffy-Centered > Pairing: The DoctorShoshiFR131326,7370243,73313 Sep 1325 Sep 13Yes

Introduction

Author's Note: I hold no rights over copyrighted characters from the Doctor Who and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandoms.

Intro's a little slow on this story, but stick with me until the next chapter! You'll see!

By the way, the panel on the base of the TARDIS console is a real thing! I saw it in one of the Doctor Who episodes, and actually had to scroll back Netflix because I couldn't quite believe it was there. But it is. And it says basically what Martha claims it says, here.

Bet you all thought, in "The Years that Never Were", that Seo's inability to feel pain from Jack's wrongness was a good thing. Now... you'll get to see... it's actually a really big problem.

Enjoy!



Introduction



"Do you really think Seo should be floating around while you're fixing the TARDIS?" Jack asked, leaning down and handing the Doctor a spanner.

"Best keep an eye on her," the Doctor replied, grabbing up the spanner and making a few adjustments. He squinted, then buzzed the bit he was fiddling with with his sonic screwdriver. "Sides. 99 years old. Not like she'll be able to make anything of it."

Jack raised his eyebrows.

That wasn't even worth dignifying with an answer.



Martha and the Doctor might have been floored. But Jack wasn't actually that surprised when, a few weeks later, just as the Doctor was almost done with his TARDIS repairs, Seo unveiled her own space-time ship she'd constructed, in imitation.

Jack would have been disappointed in her if she hadn't.

Seo's ship was a hexagonal pillar made of black-tinted one-way glass, sparkling obsidian beneath the sunlight. Smallish, but looking large enough to fit maybe two people in a tight space.

Martha frowned, knocked on the outside. "Is that real glass?"

"Yep!" Seo beamed, bouncing on her toes, eyes twinkling. "I want to look out the window when I travel through time. So I can see if everything turns blue when I go forward, and red when I go back!"

The Doctor looked a little too taken aback to speak.

"What kind of shielding you got on that?" Jack asked.

Seo quirked an eyebrow at him. "I need shielding?"

Oh, boy.

Seo raced forward, and flung open the door. "But look inside!" she called, running in. "It's brilliant!"

It was bigger inside than outside.

Not excessively, but in moderation. Enough to think it was an optical illusion.

Except if you looked up.

The whole thing went on and on, upwards and upwards, spiral staircases ascending into an eternity of levels and rooms.

It looked like a tree-house. The staircases and floors all made of bamboo and strung together with leaves and branches. The central console looked like it had been carved out of an old tree stump.

The central console was, in actual fact, metal. And completely mechanical, no organic elements whatsoever. Unlike the TARDIS, which had an ambience of being alive, this machine clearly wasn't.

The Doctor went over to the central console. An unreadable expression on his face.

"I thought TARDIS's had to be grown," Martha commented, coming into the ship.

"This isn't a TARDIS," muttered the Doctor. "More like… a time-space hopper." He opened up the paneling, and examined the wiring inside. Stared. "This is all based on Jack's Vortex Manipulator."

Seo seemed supremely proud of herself.

Jack stepped over, studying the console. Couldn't help but be a little proud of her, in his own way. Brave, brilliant Seo, making all this despite the fact that she had no idea…

Jack spun around. "Where's the coordinate panel?"

"I don't need one!" said Seo. "I don't want to know where I'm going!"

Oh, boy, again.

"How are you expecting to get home?" asked Jack. "Or make sure you don't materialize into the middle of a building? Or inside a supernova? Or into a black hole?"

Seo's cheer fell, a little. She grimaced. "Um… oops?"

"Does it translate alien languages?" Martha asked. "Like the TARDIS does?"

The look on Seo's face showed that it very clearly didn't.

The Doctor clanged the central console shut. "Well!" he said, turning to Seo. "Impressive. Good try. Maybe someday, you'll make one that'll work."

"But it does work!" said Seo, racing up to the central console and poking a button. "See? I just need to power it up, and then…"

The machine made a whirring sound. Then gave a groan. And a clunk.

And the power cut out, completely.

Seo stared at it. Utterly and completely shocked. "But… but it didn't do that before! It shouldn't have…!"

The Doctor put his hands into his pockets, and strolled out of the ship. That blank expression still on his face. His eyes filled with determination and just a hint of regret.

Martha exchanged a look with Jack.

They both knew the ship had probably worked fine before the Doctor had entered.

And, now?

It would never work again.



Seo sat on a step, facing her time machine. A lost look in her eyes. Utter devastation in her face.

Martha sat down, beside her.

"I liked it," she offered.

Seo said nothing.

"It's not fixable, is it?" Martha asked.

Seo shook her head. Her eyes still fixed down on the pavement.

"Well… time travel isn't everything, you know," said Martha. "There are plenty of places on Earth you can travel. You can go to Egypt, or South America, or even—"

"You can," Seo mumbled.

Martha turned to Seo, a little surprised. "Money?" she guessed.

"I don't show up on film," said Seo. "Or metal detectors. Or anything. Customs officials notice things like that."

Oh.

Oh, no.

And the more Seo kept babbling, on and on, about all the things she couldn't do and all the places she couldn't go and all the ways she felt trapped here, Martha knew.

It was up to Martha to do what needed to be done.



"You broke her ship," Martha accused, entering the TARDIS. "On purpose."

The Doctor didn't answer. Putting the finishing touches on his own ship, sonic in hand, knelt down by the base of the central console.

"I know it wasn't perfect," said Martha. "But you didn't have to make sure it'd never work again. You could have made it—"

"No," said the Doctor. Still not looking at her. He tweaked some of the wires, redoing the coupling cables.

Martha crossed her arms. "Why not?"

"Because someone as inexperienced as Seo shouldn't ever be traveling through time," the Doctor said. "No qualifications. No credentials. No training. No nothing. Can't just let her hotwire a time machine and go zipping off through the vortex without a by-your-leave."

Martha raised her eyebrows at the Doctor. Then flicked her eyes over to the gold-plated panel at the base of the central console, declaring the TARDIS as a museum piece, to be returned, in case of theft, to some prestigious-sounding place on Gallifrey.

"And you've never done that, yourself?" Martha asked.

The Doctor hesitated. Pausing in his work on the TARDIS.

"That was different," the Doctor said, quickly. Then got back to work.

"How?" Martha demanded.

The Doctor stuck his head inside the console. "Time Lord training," he said. "I know what can happen if you muck about with timelines in the wrong way. Had centuries of schooling, back home, before I… acquired the TARDIS. Completely different."

A flood of memories swarmed through Martha's head. Of people starving to death, packed into labor camps, devoid of hope and barely able to survive. Of a destroyed Earth, ruled over by a homicidal maniac who called himself a Time Lord.

"If the Master's anything to go by," said Martha, "I don't think much of your 'Time Lord training.'"

The Doctor didn't answer.

"And anyways, she knows more about mucked up timelines than anyone!" Martha continued, walking towards the Doctor. "She grew up seeing every way that a timeline could go wrong. Her dad taught her all about time travel-type things. She's ready for this."

And if the Master had once been able to fly around in a TARDIS, Martha saw no reason why Seo shouldn't be able to.

"Might know it all in theory," the Doctor countered. "Theory and practice are two entirely different things."

"So give her the practice," Martha said. "Let her go out there and try it out for herself!"

"No," the Doctor snapped, turning on his heel to face Martha. "I'm sorry, Martha, but it's never going to happen. That's final."

For a few moments, they said nothing. Both just staring at one another. Neither wanting to back down.

The TARDIS hummed in the background.

"She has family, you know," Martha said, very quietly. "In America."

The Doctor didn't answer. Looked away.

"She doesn't show up on machines," said Martha. "She can't fly on an airplane. Her mum's terrified that some government agency's going to snatch her up and take her away for experiments."

Still, no answer from the Doctor.

"She can't teleport," said Martha. "A space ship would be too flashy. All the alien transit devices I've seen, traveling with you, wouldn't pick her up. She's stranded here. Away from her family." Martha shuddered. Overcome with horrible memories. "I know what that's like."

A look of utter pain and guilt swept across the Doctor's face. But he tried to hide it.

Martha walked up to him. Put a hand on his arm.

"She shouldn't have to be alone," she said.

Then turned, and left the TARDIS.

She'd said her part.



The Doctor thought it over. Long and hard. Standing in the reconstructed console room of his TARDIS, the words Martha had said running through his mind.

She shouldn't have to be alone.

Then he closed his eyes. Sighed.

And went back to Seo's ship.



Buffy found the Doctor inside Seo's time-space ship prototype thingy. Sonic in hand. Buzzing around the central console thingamy with a frantic intensity.

"Whatever you're doing, it's not going to work," Buffy told him. "Seo says this thing's a write-off. The central whatever-it-is got super screwed up, and it'll never go anywhere."

"That," said the Doctor, shoving the top back on the console, "is because you didn't have…" He banged down a fist against the console, and all the lights turned back on. "...me."

Buffy stared around her. The whole place seemed to be humming with a kind of mechanized life. And something… just beneath that… something a little different.

"What did you…?" Buffy started.

"Something that links this ship to the TARDIS," the Doctor replied. "Just to keep an eye on her. Track her. Make sure she doesn't get up to any mischief." He thought a moment. "Well. Not anymore than I would, any rate."

"You put part of the TARDIS in there, huh?" asked Buffy, gesturing at the central console.

The Doctor didn't answer. Turned back to the console of Seo's ship. Gestured at it. "Added coordinate panel, various safety protocols she completely forgot about, a telepathic circuit to assist with language translation, and… well, enough shielding that this ship's practically indestructible. Bit of an oversight on her part, that one. Suppose we're not all perfect."

Buffy still couldn't quite believe the Doctor was actually doing this.

She'd figured the Doctor would never let Seo touch time travel with a ten foot pole.

"You're serious about this?" Buffy asked. "Seo? The person who's almost ended the world by accident super often? You're trusting her with the whole fabric-of-time-and-space thing?"

The Doctor paused, for a few long moments. A serious expression crawling across his face.

"She never compromised her morals," the Doctor muttered, running a hand through his hair. "No matter what." He glanced back at Buffy. "She's earned my trust."

Buffy frowned. Trying to figure out what the Doctor could be talking about.

The Doctor grimaced, spinning around to face Buffy. "Only problem is… her time-travel instincts. Some of them are numbed. She can see fixed points in time, but her instincts won't stop her mucking about with them."

"Jack," Buffy sighed.

She knew all about that one. Buffy had to stifle serious nausea, sometimes, when Jack jerked back to life. Seo never felt any of it.

"Certain events in history shouldn't be changed," the Doctor said. "She'll be able to see them, if she looks. Know what they are. But she won't get an instinctive feeling to keep away from them." He gave Buffy a pointed stare. "Up to you to teach her."

Buffy blinked. "Wait, me?"

"Best person for it," the Doctor said.

Buffy shook her head. "But… I'm not all with the time travel!" she insisted. "I don't know the first thing about fixed points in time or—"

"You know," the Doctor cut in, softly, "that sometimes, to do the right thing, you have to do something horribly, horribly wrong. And you know… that even with the most terrible monsters, sometimes the best thing you can do… is forgive." His eyes shone in the lights of the ship. "Teach her that."

Buffy wasn't sure what to say.

"I trust you, Elizabeth," said the Doctor. "Always. Even with this."

Buffy grinned, a little. Oh, God, she'd missed this kind of thing from him. Wanted to grab him up and kiss him until she passed out from lack of oxygen whenever he did it.

Only just barely stopped herself from doing so, now.

"Course, I'll be putting Seo through some tests and trials, first," the Doctor continued, walking past Buffy, and out of the ship. "Let's say… three! Three trials, just to make sure she's up to the job. Get her through those, and she'll be right as rain!"

Oh.

And if she didn't… Buffy was guessing this time machine was never going to work, again.

"Yeah," said Buffy, to the Doctor's retreating form, as he departed Seo's ship. "So no pressure on me, or anything."
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