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the air near my fingers

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It is silent.

(Don’t let go we’re going to crash did they see your face it's on firesmokesparksmetalbloodpaindirtsilence.)

It is silent, but for the ringing.

And one ragged, strangled breath tasting of blood and rot.

With effort, Rose rolls over, and the movement smothers the sirens; the press of her back to the world draws oblivion up and over her like a blanket, and she disappears.

When reality intrudes once more, it comes with pomp and circumstance, with a fanfare of pain and a choir of aches and cold and…damp.

It’s all very damp.

Shivering, she cracks opens her eyes, sticky and hot, but it is much too dark to see anything.  The pain in her head is obscene—a great, towering villain, lording itself over all the other, lesser pains in her body that are fighting to make themselves known, and she shuts her eyes again.

Just rest.  Sleep.

She has no idea where she is.

As soon as that thought intrudes into her consciousness, her body contorts, muscles fibers firing, and she flails, clutching at the ground.  Leaves crunch and crackle in her hands, twigs snap as she sits up. 

Outside.  That much she can tell, can feel in the rough, damp dirt beneath the leaves.  She is outside.

But where is the Doctor?

The magnitude of that question hits her right in the gut, and she doubles over, retching.  Vomiting leaves her lightheaded, and the world spins in the darkness as she staggers drunkenly to her feet.  Once she can stop gagging, she tries calling out. 

“Doctor?”  Her voice is rasping and weak.  “Doctor?”

There is no answer. 

How did she even get here?  Rose tries to remember what set of events led to this moment in time, but all she can recall is that they had been together somewhere and then something about a family or hunters and…  And then nothing.

The deep velvet black of the night doesn’t yield up any information—Rose can’t even see her hand in front of her face.  But she is here, so surely the TARDIS must be close by.  She casts about, feeling in the dark frantically for a sign of the ship or the Doctor.  The footing is treacherous, and she trips over the underbrush.  Staggering forward, she bangs a shin against the edge of a wooden panel.

The TARDIS.  Ignoring the pain in her leg, she stretches out a hand, trying to map its surface.  She can feel the wooden exterior, hotter than it should be and smelling faintly of smoke, but that’s all right, it’ll be alright, she’ll find the Doctor, and…

Her fingertips meet the door handle, but not where she expects it to be.  It is still there, still connected to the door, but it is too low and strangely slanted.  Tugging on it does nothing—it is sealed tight.  She finds the door seam and traces it up, following the unnatural angle all the way up to the windows, and walks face-first into a branch.

The pain of the contact is overwhelming, enough to make her bend and retch against the side of the ship.  Panting, she wipes her mouth and mutters an apology to the TARDIS—nothing like booting on the side of a living timeship.  Once she recovers, Rose makes her way, more cautiously now, around the other side of the ship, feeling for its base.  She finds it, tilting out of the earth and underbrush, and there’s no doubt anymore.

The TARDIS has crashed.

The obviousness of this conclusion flutters through her mind, but she is too tired and dizzy to wrap her head around it.  The only thoughts that she can hold on to are that the Doctor isn’t here and she needs to find help.

She tries shouting his name once more, but her voice is hardly more than a wheezy croak, and anyway, there’s no one here to hear her.  She reaches out but there’s no one there to take her hand.  She needs to find the Doctor.

She needs to find him.

She needs to…

Her feet start walking, stumbling down the slight downhill slope, the path of least resistance.  The terrain is rough, and she half-shambles, using her arms to navigate her way through the underbrush.

At one point, the angle of the slope increases, and she slips down the muddy incline, sliding over the wet leaves and landing in a pile at the bottom.  She lies there for a long while, dazed.

She is terribly, terribly thirsty.

It is enough to get her up again, keep her moving.  She has to walk, has to find something to drink.  That’s what she’s searching for, isn’t it?

Keep walking.

She drifts in and out of awareness as she stumbles along.  The underbrush is particularly thick in places, and she’s forced to push her way through, bushes and thorny vines tearing at her clothes. 

Without warning, she falls forward and plunges into cold water.

Instinct kicks in; her flailing legs and arms find purchase on the rocky riverbed, and she gets her head above water.  The river pulls her, tugging at her hair and clothes, but it’s not deep enough or strong enough to force her downstream.  Gasping, she claws blindly at the rocks, coughing up mouthfuls of water.  Her chest is still aching from the smoke, and the intrusion of water into her lungs is like a knife slashing with every spasm. 

Bracing her feet against the bottom, she manages to haul herself upright.  It’s no deeper than mid-thigh, navigable at a crouch.  She moves slowly and carefully, feeling for the bank.  When her hand meets the grassy, muddy edge, she whimpers in relief.  Luck is with her—it is wide and clear of debris.  With some effort, she manages to scramble up it and then flops down on her back, wheezing from the exertion.

The fall has left her disoriented, but adrenalin is surging through her, temporarily clearing her head and blocking out the pain.  She’s been too careless, she realizes.  Staggering about in the dark like this, not paying the slightest attention to where she’s going—it’s a wonder she hasn’t fallen off a cliff.  She needs to find help, and the best bet for that is following this little river. 

Right.  Time to get going.

Well…maybe in just a moment.

It feels so good to lie down, to rest her aching arms and legs and head.  Following a river in the dark sounds exhausting and wet and scratchy and dangerous.  Surely it wouldn’t hurt to wait here a while, at least until her clothes dry off a little, she thinks with a tired sigh.  Just rest here, enjoying the warmth of the sun on her face.

Rose’s eyes fly open.

No.  No, that’s not the sun on her face.  It’s still dark out.  Her head is killing her, and her eyes are gritty and hideously painful, but she would definitely be able to see sunlight.  So what’s warming her face?

She tentatively feels around, and it’s not just her—the ground is warm, too.  She digs her fingers into the dirt and finds that it’s cool and wet underneath the topsoil.  So the heat source is definitely coming from above. 

Something alien?  Some evil overlord’s towering, terrible heat ray, maybe?  With effort, she calms herself, slows her breathing, and goes still and quiet.  It’s too dark to see anything, but she can still listen.  Focusing on the sound around her, she first hears the river and all its musical gurgling.  Stretching out further, she listens for anything mechanical, anything alien, anything human.


Just the river.  No car engines or spaceship thrusters or evil heat rays.   Just the splashing noise of the water and the singing of the birds and the faint sound of wind in the trees and—


Bird song. 

Yes, now that she listens for it…

The birds are singing, all around her in the forest, the birds are singing, flying about and singing, just as if…

Just as if it were day.

For the first time, her fingers tentatively creep up her face, tracing the edges of the bruises and cuts until they reach the horrible swelling around the base of her eyes.  The mere thought of trying to touch her eyelids is nauseating, the pain outrageous.  But it doesn’t matter—she can feel enough to know the truth.

The world isn’t dark at all.

She just can’t see it.