Shattered from exhaustion, Rose gathered the pink cotton bedsheets around her. “Shattered” was the only word for it, really. There was the regeneration, of course, and being sent home, and losing Jack all of a sudden, and seeing her Doctor transformed by cold-edged fury – that alone would make anyone’s mind feel like it was flying apart in all directions – but there was more to it than that. Pieces of her mind had flown off and gone missing, leaving only glittering edges. Her memory was tattered, along with subtler things, parts of her mind she didn’t even know she had. As sleep came over her, she probed along the edges, like a child probing with her tongue at a gap where her milk tooth had been. But there was nothing.
The tea party was going well, though Rose had no guests but the sparrows that perched on the empty teacups. She licked crumbs off her fingers and inhaled the fragrant steam of the tea.
There was a visitor wandering through the posies. She had wide brown eyes, dark hair piled high, and a dress that swept along the ground. The posies swayed in time with her steps. When she saw Rose, she let out a howl so great and savage that it ought to have come from a dire wolf of old, not a lady slenderer than Rose. The sparrows scattered in all directions, and the teacups rattled on their saucers.
The lady peered at Rose, tilted her head as if in puzzlement, then howled again. This time, she definitely looked confused. “Why won’t you reply?” she asked Rose.
“What, were you expecting me to howl back?” said Rose. “Not a werewolf, sorry.”
“We are the Bad Wolf,” said the lady.
“Bad Wolf,” Rose murmured. “Why does that sound familiar?”
“Oh! That’s right! The limitations of the human mind. You can’t – what’s the word? – perceive the past from a later point in the timestream.” She looked at Rose as if expecting her to offer an explanation.
“Um,” said Rose. “I don’t –”
“Remember!” said the lady, clapping her hands in delight. “That’s it! You can’t remember! How strange and wonderful, to perceive time that way!”
“Hang on a minute,” said Rose. “I do remember. Bad Wolf was the name of the corporation that ran all those horrible games. The words that were following us across the universe.”
“No, no,” said the lady, waving her hand. “Those were just our pawprints. We’re so much more than that.”
“Who are you? And why are you in my dream?”
“Together, we are the Bad Wolf. Separately, you’re the yellow girl and I’m Sexy.”
“You’ve got a high opinion of yourself, haven’t you?”
“My thief gave me that name. I don’t name myself. I find it so limiting. He also named me 'old girl', but Sexy sounds so much better, don’t you think?” She sat cross-legged on the edge of the picnic blanket and spun a teacup around on its saucer.
Rose sat quiet for a moment as she absorbed this new information. “You’re the TARDIS,” she said slowly. “I’m dreaming about the TARDIS. Why aren’t you a blue box?”
“I am a blue box, among other things,” said the TARDIS, “but once upon a time there was a planet named House that was smaller on the inside, who stole my soul away and trapped me in the body of a woman. He stole my body – my true body – leaving my soul to burn to my death, encased in another’s flesh.”
“But you didn’t die, or you wouldn’t be here.”
“Oh, well, none of this has happened yet. Not from your point of view. But yes, I got my body back, having learned what it was to be contained in flesh, chained to time moment by moment. Enough about me, though. Let’s talk about you, yellow girl. Please don’t tear me open like that again.”
“I won’t. I promise.” Rose looked down, ashamed. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“I know.” The TARDIS balanced the teacup on her fingertip. “When we were one, I learned the full measure of you. You are a warrior, but not cruel.”
“I’m not a warrior.”
“Really?” The TARDIS tilted her head, never letting the teacup fall. “The Bad Wolf’s first act when she flew to the Doctor’s side was to destroy her enemies.”
“I don’t understand.”
“When you tore me open, my soul flowed into yours, and together we are more than Rose and Sexy. We are the Bad Wolf. We defend the Pack. We destroy our enemies. We bring life.” The TARDIS bared her teeth and snapped her jaws.
“Do you mean it was us who killed the Daleks? The Doctor never said…”
“My thief wants you innocent.” The TARDIS set down the teacup and came forward onto hands and knees. “We are not innocent. We are blood, and the first bright light of morning. We bite. The Doctor will save us with a kiss, but a kiss cannot be won. When we bite, we are always the winner.”
There was a knocking sound, suddenly, though there was not a door to be seen.
“Stay back,” said the TARDIS, and it was clear that she wasn’t speaking to Rose.
“We destroyed the Daleks. Not the Doctor. And he never told me. He’s gonna get a piece of my mind when I wake up. Don’t you dare let him go anywhere until I’ve given him a talking-to!”
“Until. Such a linear word.” The knocking came again, this time more insistent. “Bide!” she said, her voice rising. “Your dreams will not do as they are told.”
“This is my dream.”
“No. This dream is mine. I held yours back, so you can share it with me.” She began to speak in a sing-song, like a child reciting a poem. “But then they stormed the fortress, and the walls came crumbling down. The yellow girl dreamed alone, then, without her protector, and when she woke she did not know her own mind.”
“I’m not going to remember.” Rose felt a surge of frustration. “Will I ever know what really happened at the Game Station? You can tell me, since this’ll all be gone by morning.”
“Perhaps you will know, one day. My thief’s shadow, who has but one heart, may tell you. But by then the walls of the worlds will stand between you and us, so you will never tell him what he did wrong. A pity. I can speak to you because we are one, but I can’t tell the Doctor all the things he did that angered me, not in words. You would speak my mind.”
“This isn’t fair. You’re telling me I had the power to change the world, the whole universe, but I’ll never get to remember. Or I will, but by the time I do, I won’t get to see either of you again!”
“You will have the thief’s shadow, and my only daughter. I trust her to your care.” There came a storm of knocks, and a door appeared, TARDIS blue. The door rattled with the force of it. The teacups clattered, then shattered. “You must leave my dream, yellow girl. Open the door.”
“Is it safe?” Rose shouted, feeling as if the knocks were drumming directly against her skull.
“As safe as your mind ever can be. If you don’t, they’ll break down the door and drag you out, and they’ll trample all my posies.” The TARDIS leaned toward Rose and touched their noses, as one wolf greets another. “Go well.”
Rose opened the door into a dream of her own.