narvin/leela, borusa, torvald, 5594 words, disassembled!au, pg13
a/n: I apparently like really terrible AUs, and if you've listened to Disassembled and are looking at the pairing/characters, you know how this is going to end.
Augh I don't know when the second part is happening. Sorry.
It was a veritable din echoing through the hallways, an interesting if unfamiliar composition to the walls of the Capitol, one made of animalistic growls and incoherent yelling. They brought her into the room firmly restrained, a guard at each manacle of her wrist and two for the leash around her neck. She thrashed and struggled in the restraints in a furious dance of desperation and expelled a series of sounds from her lips that were more likely to be found in a cage full of wild animals than anything humanoid. She was also completely exhausted; he wasn't sure if everyone in the room could see the tremors in her arms every time she pulled or the way her eyes were sunken into her skull under the shadow of her vicious scowl, but it was obvious to him that her bark had now been left much more fearsome than whatever was left of her bite.
"And what have you brought me today, Commander?" the Lord President questioned with slight wariness, though he had the posture and air of the disinterested.
"We've brought you a savage, sir," said Torvald curtly.
The woman hissed like a feral tea kettle, baring teeth she seemed long to sink into someone, and some of the lower ranking Time Lords closer to her edged back nervously.
"Yes, well." The President leant his chin onto his hand. "I can see that." He observed her with plainly expressed amusement for a long moment that couldn't be called silence when she howled her anger and indignation in such a manner, which was rather impressive if one considered that she had probably been doing that for at least several hours, and without the benefit of a respiratory bypass.
The guards were reluctant to let go of her hands when the Lord President waved them away from her, but they were obviously much more afraid to disobey him than they were of releasing something that was acting so rabid. And even as they stepped back with only slightly trembling shoulers, they seemed a bit relieved to just be more away from her than they had been. Her hands free, they dropped and slapped against the floor in a sudden silence that overcame her and everyone else in the room, and all breaths became baited for her next move.
The peace only lasted a second before she was up, a blur of grime and leather as she lunged herself at the President's seat with a speed that gazelle would have envied. The perfect arc of predatory movement was halted and skewed by a choked hack formed at the sudden restraint of the collar around her neck and she dropped to the floor in a miserable wreck.
"I like her," Borusa said, sounding most entertained and waved away the guards who had rushed to him aside. "And she's not difficult to look at either."
She growled. It rumbled threateningly in her throat like lightning clouds at a distance.
"Though a bit too unruly for my taste at the moment. Perhaps a little adjustment to her family life will tame her some." He made it sound like it was that easy and to them it was, of course. He clicked his fingers, the Lord Burner stepped forward and - "I would like you to Burn the savage's father. Can you do that for me, my Lord Burner?" - a few choice words, though they didn't have to be that mockingly sweet. That was all it took.
A low bow, to signify how terribly honoured they were to be ordered about. "Of course, my Lord President."
"No!" Two letters, one syllable, a word, possibly, in some interpretation, or else it was just the universal sound of panic and sudden fear as the Lord Burner removed himself from the President's side and disappeared as he usually did.
She was obviously a woman of instinct. And her instincts were right.
"She talks!" exclaimed the President with a condescendingly proud grin, learning forward. "And that was before he even left. Perhaps by the time the Lord Burner returns, a few more words will have added themselves to your vocabulary?"
If it had been sad and pathetic when she had been brought in, it was nothing compared to this. The Time Lords could only see and observe the threads changing around her as was their right and gift from Rassilon, but under all of that, she writhed there, having her entire history impossibly, unbelievably rewritten in her mind and her memories in ways that probably seemed beyond comprehension. He wondered how it would seem to her. A tree perhaps, that hadn't been there before. Or a door that didn't seem to lead anywhere, that no one had built. And then there would be a man, or just a figure, barely a shadow brushing himself out of thin air or perhaps she'd only blinked or looked away for a bit too long and suddenly her father had gone. And after that night, would come the years after.
She screamed. It wasn't physical pain.
"My father!" she wailed. "What have you done to him?! He is dead now, but... but... he is not! He was... not... You have repainted the memories in my very mind! My life..." Tears splattered against the floor, the only way Time Lords ever saw any - by creating it in others.
He didn't look away. He had forgone all privilege to be squeamish decades ago.
"Very colourful, isn't she?" the President noted easily.
"I will kill you!" She lunged again, unable to comprehend the uselessness of the gesture in her pain as she was once more yanked back by her leash. "You want to hear me speak, well hear me then, son of a mongrel bitch!" She tugged at her collar, but with a flick of the Lord President's wrist, the guards reappeared at her sides to restrain her arms once more. "I will pluck out your shrivelled hearts with my bare hands!"
He wasn't sure if he'd actually ever seen someone being dragged out of a room kicking and screaming before, but he watched it now.
"Valyes, you'll take care of her, won't you?" ordered the President in not as little words, once the threats were inaudible from the room. "Tell me when she's feeling more... civilised."
"Lord President," he heard himself interjecting, "I'm sure the Cardinal has better things to do than look after a simple savage. It's hardly a task fit for such a position-..."
"Then how delightful of you to offer yourself in his place, Interrogator General," Borusa replied insouciantly, even as his grip on his chair tightened just a twitch.
And they said the President was difficult to control.
"She's refusing to eat, Interrogator General," Torvald informed him, his voice infused with enough despondency for the Interrogator General to recognise that the young Commander had just gone through several hours of a particularly harrowing experience. And if his voice hadn't given it away, Narvin wasn't blind to the subtle tremble of the Commander's hands, which were gripping a tray of food like it was the only thing keeping him upright. Hands that had been tellingly kept behind his back during his attendance to the President, if he remembered correctly. Narvin found himself a little surprised and impressed. Torvald usually wasn't much for bravery unless it crossed lines with a certain kind of stupidity that perhaps some would view as noble or heroic and would possibly get him a promotio...
He knew that one of these days that he'd have to break it to Torvald that his career wasn't very likely to go very further, but he just couldn't bring himself to do it. It felt uncomfortably like telling a young time tot that their misfortuned and dubiously practical pet pigrat had not gone to the great sunny Outlands of the Hereafter.
"She has just had her father removed from her life, Commander," Narvin pointed out lightly, picking his words with careful precision, knowing the line he was toeing by even suggesting sympathy in front of someone he didn't trust, though with someone as clueless as Torvald, it hardly posed much of a problem. "I would think that the loss of appetite would be understandable in the circumstances, wouldn't you say?"
"Yes, sir," he replied grimly before tentatively adding, "She's also..." he faltered a bit under the suspicious, accusatory glare of a raising eyebrow. "She's also bitten one of the guards."
Narvin sighed. "Do tell me you aren't waiting for my permission to send him to the nearest medical station to see if he's caught anything?" One of so many problems with Gallifrey's hierarchy - people so afraid of doing something wrong that they ended up doing nothing at all.
Torvald's fingers only twitched and his lip pressed together just a little more thinly, but to Narvin he might as well have burst into tears of guilt and anxiety already.
"And if you haven't, then I can at least trust you to go do it now, Commander?" He jerked his head towards the doors in a very clear message. The Commander nodded quickly and rushed towards the exit. "Leave the tray. I'll feed her."
"Yes of course. Er... good luck, Interrogator General."
Which was something everyone wanted to hear in front of a lion's den.
Once the cell door finished slamming shut ominously behind him, the room was thrust into a silence comprised only out of lack of words, though certainly not lack of sound. Her harsh breathing was practically obscene in such stillness, and it filled his ears, every inhale and exhale scratching out along her throat. Against the plain, stark walls of her cell, she was a huffing, organic contrast. She appeared to have fallen there, against the wall, though he was more than aware that she could bound up at any moment and decide to have his neck as provisions rather than the food on his tray. Her lips and the floor below it were spotted with blood - probably the poor guard's that Torvald had spoken of, someone who had most likely stepped over the line of being a little too cocksure in front of a savage that still had teeth to bite with and claws to scratch with. Keeping that in mind, he made sure he didn't move with any suddenness but still set the tray down with a little haphazard finesse, making absolutely certain she heard every scrape and clatter it made against the floor, then observed her reaction. Her eyes flickered toward the small mound of food and back, but otherwise she remained still, giving no indication that she might perhaps be inclined to move towards it and grab even the smallest morsel.
"You'll have to eat eventually," he told her, sitting down with a companionable ease and his back leaning carefully against the exit. He picked a smallest morsel of the tray himself and popped it into his mouth. "And you are going to. Until then, you're merely wasting everyone's time, which will be annoying for us and unfortunate for you, given that time is something of an abundance here."
Her glare would have pierced through solid concrete, and her chin tipped up just so to an angle that was a degree more rebellious than before. It was haughty and determined and hiding nothing, and in return, he gave her his most political and charming smile as a contrast.
"Unless, of course, you plan to starve yourself to death in an act of defiance, but-... oh, aren't you going to be killing the President?" He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "It would seem to me that those are rather conflicting plans." He gave her a minute to think about it, then picked something else off the tray and threw it to her experimentally.
It bounced off her shoulder, but in seeing every muscle that twitched, he knew that it had taken herculean efforts not to grab at it immediately and thrust it into her mouth, so he had to admire her for that. It fell quietly and unobtrusively in front of her, and she scowled at it with reluctant longing.
"Aren't you even going to talk?" he implored. "I know you can. You showed that off quite impressively when you were threatening to violently murder my President."
She replied with a stolid silence.
"Speak?" he tried. "Sit? Heel? Roll over?"
"I am not a pet!" she snarled harshly through the blanket of ragged hair that partially obscured her face, her objection not so much sound as a blast of aggravated air rushing through her teeth, and her stance quickly evolved into something more poised for attack.
"I think you'll find that we're all pets," he told her reasonably, though unable to completely stop his satisfaction from showing on his face. She caught it and scowled, sealing her mouth shut again. "The only thing that is distinguishing me from you at the moment is my position and my rank. That's all that matters on Gallifrey; you should get used to it. You'll have to."
The woman scoffed in scornful doubt.
He shrugged. "Unless you'd like to stay in this cell for the rest of your life. And on this planet, I can assure you that it would be a very, very long life. You'll possibly even live longer than me if you stay in here. In fact I'm quite sure of it, considering you don't have a number of people who'd desperately love to be your replacement. At least no one healthy or in their right state of mind. You'll be Capitol's eternal keepsake. A leather wearing, ragged trophy that they can come and look at to remind themselves how sophisticated they are, how right they are to do what they're doing. You don't even have to put food in your mouth if you don't want to - there are more than enough ways of keeping you healthy without a single crumb going through your lips. Though it's not exactly the life I would choose if I had alternatives, but whatever works for you, ah... what was your name again? Do you even have one? Or should I just call you 'Savage'?"
She said nothing, jerking her head away as if the very sight of him made her sick, which Narvin knew wasn't an impossibility.
The silence was awkward, but no one would have thought so looking at him, not with his smile so cheerful. "You aren't the same savage that they brought in," he reminded her after a moment, almost admiringly. "If you were that savage, the one that Torvald first dragged in for the President's amusement, I don't think we would be having this conversation. You would probably already have torn my throat out, possibly have gotten yourself killed, died in what you'd have considered a 'noble' death. Not that I'm saying that you aren't a savage," he added a little hastily, lest she think he was being complimentary, "but I know that you can see the opportunities this place presents that you wouldn't have seen otherwise. A planet on which to better yourself. A planet that can offer you things your tribe couldn't. You can have respect here, though on Gallifrey I can hardly say it's worth much. But what am I saying? When you get your respect, you'll make sure that it'll mean something, won't you?"
"Savage?" he prodded, almost eagerly.
"My name is Leela," she muttered at last. "Snake breath."
"Oh, charmed," he said with a laugh. He offered her a loaf of bread from the tray and this time she took the offering, straight from his hands even, and stuffed it desperately into her mouth. "But on better days, you can call me Narvin."
"These robes itch," she hissed, and he heard her scratch irritably behind him, more refined claws dragging themselves across a more refined cloth, all so different than the woman he'd met such a short time ago.
"According to you," he murmured out of the corner of his mouth closest to her, dropping the sentence over the edge of his teeth surreptitiously, "everything that isn't your leather skins itch. But I think I can trust that a warrior of your calibre can get over a bit of uncomfortable clothing?" Her lower lip jutted out at him in an altogether not exactly unrefined pout, and yet he was forced to suppress an incredibly undignified grin by continuing on, "Instead of complaining about the robes, look at the silver lining." She rolled her eyes at him, but he was undeterred from his unexpected bout of sensible optimism. "You're out of your cell, at a very important gathering that the President himself invited you to, and if you manage to behave yourself here, the President will think about giving you your own quarters and free roam of the Capitol."
He heard her huff miserably and stumble uncertainly under her layers, trying to keep up with his more dexterous pace through the crowd. "I will still have this collar around my neck, will I not? That is like saying I should be glad that I am leaving a birdcage to enter a bigger one."
"That is what I'm saying," he said bluntly. "Unless you're suggesting that you'd prefer to stay in the smaller cage," he pointed out. She huffed, defeated, and presumably scuffed at the floor with her boot, though it was more than impossible to tell under the layers, and he would have hoped that he'd at least forced some of that behaviour out of her anyway. "Besides, you're moving along much more quickly than I expected," he tried to cheer her again, "Isn't that good? At this rate, you'll have the collar removed from your neck in practically no time at all."
"It has been a year," she bit sourly. "It does not feel like I am moving."
Perhaps it was condescending, but it was difficult not to be; humans with their shorter perceptions of time. Like trying to ask a fruit fly where they saw themselves a year from now. "I keep telling you that that isn't as long a time as you make it out to be. You've got to start thinking more long term, especially seeing as you're going to be living for a very long time, and the best of politics doesn't move quickly."
"And I keep telling you that I still have yet to live the centuries you are telling me I will live," she said irritably. "So to me, a year remains a year."
With an inward sigh that was much more fond than he was comfortable with, he very sensibly bit his lip over the all-too-ready rejoinder about never having mentioned that a year could be anything else, and let it, with much self-control, go. "Let's talk about this later," he waved, his ceremonial robes fluttering, flapping grandly, and utterly ridiculously as he did. He didn't complain, though the complaints were there. After all, as Interrogator General of the Temporal Intervention Agency, he had somewhat given up creature comforts of even with the most basic of things, which happened to include not dressing like an idiot. "In the meantime, you're not just here to enjoy yourself." He allowed the comment to slip from his throat blatantly sardonic and knew that she drew back a little behind him, eyes wide and blinking, startled to see him be blatant about anything. "I did want to get a bit of a practical lesson in while I had the chance." He gestured to the undulating crowd of constantly shifting colours and cloth. "So look around. Tell me what you see."
So she paused and she peered, ducking and weaving her vision under one arm, over one shoulder, in between the gaps of patently ridiculous and knocking headdresses, to the faces and expressions, to looks side glanced and greetings politely offered and politely accepted, which stilled their conversation enough for him to snag a few string jerking of his own in the fantastically organised illusion of chaos that was politics. A quiet nudge here, an implication there. After that it became a matter of time, pokes, adjustments, a week or two for the whispers to build and the dominoes to topple and then...
Politics, he had always been aware, had never been much of a moral game, but such was the craftsmanship of success that it made every match worth it, even if it was impossible to deny the lack of blood on his hands, metaphorical or otherwise, by the end of it.
He was in the middle of weaving a false suspicion in between the threads of a compliment, that would have festered in the mind of the Cardinal he was speaking to for weeks and have a rather naive and recklessly ambitious Captain have their career crashing down upon their ears, when she tugged at a fold of his voluminous attire in a bid for attention, and he excused himself with the most grace he could manage to fake, which was quite a lot.
"Many do not wish to be here," she concluded, a little grandly. He wondered if she was trying to sound proud about that - he wasn't impressed, and he expressed this to her with the half-drooped eyelids, and the highly lifted eyebrow.
"You hardly need to be a mind-reader to figure that out," he said, pursing his lips at her with some disappointment. "Try again. Be more specific."
"It is difficult!" she defended petulantly, her shoulders sinking a little at the bruise forming on her pride. "They are crawling all over the place like maggots over a week old carcass. I can barely keep my eye on one."
Anywhere else, he would have smirked, smiled, or chuckled as he usually did, been slightly patronising as he usually did, but this wasn't anywhere else. "Leela!" he admonished sharply. Under the glare of the eyes following them, he seized her arm and dragged them to a less populated corner.
"I am only talking to you," she exclaimed, her voice quieter, though not by much, not by enough. "You said that I could say such things to you."
"To me! And when we're not surrounded by Cardinals and Councillors on all sides!" he hissed fiercely, ducking his head so that the sound didn't have to cover as much air in which to be intercepted from. "And quite so loud? I'm not asking for a leap of common sense!"
She understood, at least, and had the decency, at least, to look a little sheepish. "You are right. I am sorry."
"You're lucky they still think you're a savage." Vicious words, meant to stab, presented in such a way that twisted the knife a full circle of degrees and kept it turning by implying that they, the ubiquitous 'they', whoever they were, were right. It wasn't the first time he'd done this to her - if he pressed hard enough, the white lines of the scars he'd left on her personality and psych would be more than apparent, but the severity of the expression it created on her face had not yet lessened, though he knew that it would, given enough time or if he used it in excess. Which he would never do. Her eyes were no longer looking at him, but they didn't have to for him to know what he'd see. If he had guilt, whatever remnants he had of the one he had given up centuries ago in joining the TIA, he didn't allow himself to feel it. He couldn't be satisfied with her simply understanding this lesson - if he wanted her to remember, he needed to grind it in with every force in the heel of his metaphorical boot. And he didn't just want her to remember. He needed her to remember. At the moment, he was not entirely sure why, but he did. "Only to the right people, at the right times," he said, his voice inexplicably softer, though it made no difference to her by this point. "And at the moment, that's only me, somewhere no one can hear us. Remember it."
"You have already burned it into my thoughts," she said bitterly. "You do not have to remind me, Interrogator General." His title, instead of his name, because she knew he hated it. And then she walked away, one careful step after another that still whispered huntress rather than politician.
He thought that he might have been sad to see her go.
But she got her rooms in the end, and then it really didn't matter what he thought.
In the flagrant opulence of the Presidential Suite lay the pale, cold body of the former-Lord President Borusa, formerly Lord President, formerly Borusa, his body quaintly decorated with stab wounds that were mainly focused around his chest.
"An accident," Narvin pronounced blithely, not exactly informatively. Then left.
A quick pace down the corridor brought him where he wanted almost immediately, with the determined cooperation of hastened feet and something that might possibly be identified as, of all things in his forcibly limited range of emotions, fear.
He knocked and tried not to fuss, stuffing as many fingers as he could into the leaking cracks of his control from where anxiety was spilling, which exhibited themselves plainly to anyone who might have been in sight with each involuntary jerk of muscle that threw his always so carefully coordinated movements out of their usual realm of perfection, with each palm to the eyes, forehead, cheek. He could have paced, and he would have tripped, especially with the pessimist of his thoughts feeding his vision some of the more ludicrous and nightmarish possibilities that flickered to the next one in the space of a picospan, like a horror slide show in acceleration.
This was the only door in the entirety of the Capitol, the entirety of the planet, that he knocked for. The controls to the side were still in fine working condition he was sure, and would let out a small noise to alert of anyone waiting to be let in, but for these quarters, he knocked and waited.
He was about to give it up for loss, run down to the cells to see if he could find her and arrange something that didn't involve her getting vaporised before the next President could pardon her, when door at last was sliced open, and he was dragged into it wrist first.
Two syllables, merged into a singular and carried out on a relieved sigh. "Leela." Was that elation in it as well? A worrying possibility. He dismissed it as quickly as he could. "I thought you might have been-"
In the sliver of time between her brushing her lips against his and her crushing them against his, he quickly deduced what he had intended but hadn't really needed to ask in the first place - if she'd done it. If she had indeed been the one to murder Borusa. But of course she'd been the one to murder Borusa, muttered that part of his thoughts which had the duty of organising such deductions with a grumble of bored expectation. What gave it away? The numerous stab wounds, the fact that they weren't the usual precisely burnt holes through both hearts? An obvious crime of passion, of all things on Gallifrey, and not the short, effective assassination that usually defined their President's murders? All good observations, concluded with one that was not entirely unrelated, but not entirely related either.
You didn't come here to ask anything at all.
The implications of such were multitudinous and every single one of them sank themselves into his head individually, helped into action by the small but sharp pain of his shoulder blades coming into contact with the wall with the force of a quite strong woman shoving him onto it, and all then sorts of curves coming into contact with him.
Words, words, he had no words, and therefore had no control, forced to step in the footprints that she left behind. He flattened his hands on the walls beside him as though he'd find even a morsel of a whisper of a noise there in which to regain his power, but found nothing substantial. He was unsure as to whether he should be impressed or not, and decided that he was - because what she had done, actually, was quite clever. Cut his influence off at the source. His most important tools were being sealed up and locked inside of his own mouth, and if he were ever to do something unfathomably stupid, such as unseal his lips, unlock his mouth, then she would surely steal the remaining words he had left from his very tongue.
Therefore it was quite simple to conclude that he was unfathomably stupid.
He was no man of particular instinct, so when logic and practicality was being thrown out the window, he felt he didn't have much left in the way of contributing anything to what was happening. Something that shouldn't be happening in the first place, but something he couldn't deny a significant longing for in an area of himself he'd kept so tightly restrained that he'd almost completely forgotten that it had been in there in the first place, but which had insidiously (he was glad that even such a strangely human part of him remained so wholly devious) been affecting his actions from the moment he saw her. The one that had refused to watch her go be led around by Valyes, the one that had thought best to offer her opportunity rather than forget about her in her cell for half a century at least, fed her ambition rather than her despair. The one that had quite lost the ability to breathe as he'd knocked and waited only a few feet from where he was standing now, terrified of the chance that she would not answer.
The one that seemed to know everything about what to do with this situation, if he was willing to let it. The one that was using his hands against the wall as leverage to push and tip and tilt his body into hers at that very moment.
As and when one of her hands began to work the topmost fastenings of his robes, he reached blindly, under the heavy fog of being utterly incapable of judging the prudence of every move he made, for her waist and got a handful of Guard uniform. The stiff fabric crunched in his fist and it shocked him, split a light of clarity through the haze, enough for a gasp and a jerk backwards. The movement was too abrupt for her to expect and follow.
"Leela," he breathed in his moment of freedom, and grasped onto it with sudden, if slightly drowsy, realisation. He'd found it. His escape. A sound, letter, syllable, word, control; he had splintered the wall of silence. "Leela, stop."
"Don't think I haven't seen you watch me, Narvin. You've wanted this longer than even I have."
The probability of that comment being true was something Narvin didn't want to contemplate, though he was happy to see her observation skills greatly improved. "Strange as it might seem, I don't think this is the time. You've just killed someone, and I have an investigation to go...," he sifted his mind for the right ambiguous phrasing, before deciding that he had no use for pretence at the moment, "fake. Unless you'd like to be the one to explain to the guards how the Lord President just happened to trip and fall on your knife not once, but several times in quick succession, especially seeing as how you keep your knife in your quarters and not, say, lying about the Presidential Suite. I know bad luck isn't uncommon in the Capitol, but accidentally stabbing yourself on a knife that isn't technically supposed to be there? I have a nagging feeling that they might very well doubt you."
She knew he had a point. But she had one of her own.
"You're running away from me."
"Perhaps," he acquiesced. "But you're wrong about why. I really don't want you."
Her eyebrows struggled with juggling frustration and confusion and ended up with neither. "You say that as though you've just realised."
"I did," he said, nonchalantly, almost cheerfully. He patted her on the shoulder. "Go find Andred." An implication of something he wasn't supposed to know about always helped to regain the last word, and it certainly helped him now. "I need to take care of the investigation." She didn't move, so he let himself out.
Once outside the door and back in the hallway, he barked out a short, sharp laugh, an auditory nod to this impressive state of affairs within affairs that he had created without even noticing.
When he'd reached for her, he had been expecting... he had been wanting, even... the touch of leather and crudely stitched together animal skins, not the smooth cleanly pressed drapery of her Guard uniform. He laughed again, the whole revelation seeming almost completely absurd; the fact that he had wanted her after all, in all her savagery and instinct, and then he had gone and taken those which had made her unique on this planet of identical snowflakes out of her.
It was either irony at its fullest, or incredibly genius. He decided on both. He'd just played himself, after all. He had a right to be impressed.
But he couldn't help feel a little envious of the President, in amongst meaningful and slightly threatening glares to the coroners that told them exactly what they would be finding in their reports, because although the formerly-Lord President Borusa remained cold and dead under the sheet punctured with at least six stab wounds, he also held the title of being one of the few people to have seen the Savage for the last time.
Narvin remained so incredibly and eerily chipper for the rest of the day that no one dared to question his investigation, lest something in him snap and have him go for their neck.