Actions

Work Header

For the Cost of a Nightmare

Work Text:

Art by the ever incredible pentapus. This was done as part of her first Treehouse Reverse Bang.

 photo tardisguilin.png

******

In retrospect, Rose really should have let the Doctor take her on that excursion to the Fordaria Quadrant. It had sounded like a silly name for a silly planet. The truth was she found herself, at long last, tired of extraordinary, her heart no longer able to accept the strange and fantastical like it once had.

Rose Tyler really was just an ordinary girl who wanted to go on an ordinary sort of adventure that ended with chips and a beer. She might even have added for once at the end of the sentence, like a spoiled child intent on getting what she thought she wanted, but that was completely up for debate. What she’d said and what she meant were two entirely different things most of the time, just as where he planned to take her was often different than where they actually ended up.

What she did end up saying out loud wasn’t any more mature than what she was mumbling in her mind. “That sounds... interesting.” Like she was a teenager who was sulking in the backseat of the family sedan, intent on making do until she could be with her friends once more. Even though she knew how it must look, she couldn’t stop the whine from pitching her voice low and sullen.

Sure enough, he heard exactly what she was hoping he would miss. All the indecision she’d ever had about whether to put her life in the Doctor’s hand seemed to hang between them, accentuated by her choices of late.

“Fine.” If there had been anything in his hand, he would have thrown it down. Instead, he shoved his hands into his pockets and stuck his chin out. In that moment, she couldn’t understand why she’d said no to him. Why she ever said no. He was her Doctor. Was she still his Rose?

With a fling of his overcoat, he walked away in one direction and she went the other, the conversation dead just as it started. Without anyone to give it directions, the TARDIS stayed in the orbit around the uninhabited asteroid they’d found. Everything would be better in the morning. The problem, Rose speculated as she wandered the corridor instead of going right back to her room, was that there was never any morning here in space. They needed the true night and then a morning, bright and shiny and full of promise.

“Quit thinking about what you can’t fix and fix the things you can,” she muttered to herself. It dawned on her that was something her mother would say, Rose realized. No wonder the Doctor had walked away from her the way he did. If she was turning into her mother... but that thought was too much to contemplate. Instead, she threw herself on the bed, wrapped herself tight with a blanket that she liked to think still smelled of home, and struggled not to cry. A few tears leaked out as she finally slipped asleep.

The tension between them lingered far past that first meal that might have been considered breakfast. Instead of laughing it off like he’d done so often before, the Doctor had taken offense and now Rose was making it worse every time she opened her mouth, saying things she didn’t mean to say at all. The easy camaraderie they’d had all these weeks and months (all without true mornings) was lost. It would have been nice to be able to blame the oddness on the Doctor but this blame was clearly in her court, even before her refusal to go to Fordaria.

It had been her idea to go with Jack to Blorge, against the Doctor’s wishes. Jack had made it sound so interesting and fun and not strange in the slightest. He’d smiled that smile of his, all teeth and sex. She hadn’t even looked over to see what the Doctor thought. In hindsight, she realized that was her first mistake. The biggest, perhaps. She hadn’t done her homework and she hadn’t consulted the resident Time Lord.

Worst of all, she’d hurt his feelings. How was she to know what the true nature of the planet was? Or that Jack had discovered the vacation destination from one of his contacts who was just primed for mischief? If they’d waited for the Doctor, brought him along instead of making this a thing for just the two of them, he might have told her that taking hold of Jack’s hand in front of the strange man would constitute a legal binding in three galaxies. He didn’t look like any matchmaker that Rose had ever seen before, not that she had seen many. It wasn’t until much later, when they’d arrived back at the TARDIS, that anyone had clued her in. By then, it was far past the time when she could do anything to save the situation.

She’d checked, though. Nothing about this marriage counted on Earth so she wasn’t married to Jack. Not where it truly counted. The cosmos had given her a giant DO OVER that she was grateful for. This could be brushed under the rug and forgotten.

Try as she might, Rose couldn’t forget. Neither could the Doctor. His lips were pressed into a thin line every time he came upon Rose, as surprised to see her roaming the halls as if he’d forgotten his invitation or the key she kept on the chain safely around her neck.

Weird things were happening around the TARDIS. At first, she thought she was imagining it. Then she worried that the binding between her and Jack was meant to be more permanent than she’d been led to believe and this was the universe trying to right itself as it pulled her and Jack back into the same sphere. He was long gone, eager to be away from the Doctor’s thundercloud expression.

But they were little things. Her favorite jacket kept disappearing and then turning up in the strangest of places, as if someone wanted to make sure she got it back. Then why take it in the first place? It appeared in places she was sure to be and not just in a location she might stumble upon. Just now, she found it in the sauna. The heat gave him hives (or he said it did - she wasn’t about to goad him into walking in when she was around just to see if it truly would) so the Doctor never came in and had thought about having the TARDIS get rid of the room before he realized that she liked the moist heat. It brought with it memories of so many of their adventures that she could see why he might not find the concept soothing. So why would he walk in to deposit her jacket?

The lights in her room had refused to turn off for four nights in a row. When she’d decided to sleep somewhere else, her room door refused to open. After she fashioned a sleeping mask out of an old bathrobe she’d found, her rest had seemed assured until a low humming filled the air, like white noise gone horribly gray. Ear plugs were useless against it. She’d finally stood on her bed and announced, with a fist in the air, “I don’t know why you’re doing this, but if you don’t stop, I’m going to tell him you’re being mean.”

In the light of day, it seemed silly to even think that the TARDIS was out to get her for hurting the Doctor. Even sillier, she was sure, to think that she’d actually hurt him. A Time Lord, able to manipulate time and space with the help of his trusty police box, didn’t need Rose Tyler in his life. And such a magnificent thing as his police box surely didn’t care enough about her to run her off like this. All it had to do was dump her out at their next stop and pretend it didn’t hear her cry for help.

This thought made her clutch at the key. The soothing metal was still there so even if the TARDIS did decide to get rid of her, Rose was fairly certain it would have to come back. Or so she’d been led to believe. The door would always open for her. Wouldn’t it?

Even still, the thought of being stranded in another galaxy or in another time had her harping about staying put for awhile. There were more times when she knew she sounded like her mother, times when the Doctor narrowed his eyes in a frown that told her he noticed the tone of voice and hands-on-hips stance just as she did - and didn’t like it one bit.

Much like how he didn’t like her demanding to know where they were going now that he’d decided they couldn’t stay here, in this place if not in this distant attitude with each other. “We’ll end up where we end up.” He flipped a few switches up down up down until Rose couldn’t remember in what position they’d started and in what position they should be in now. “And adventure will find us no matter what. I have no say in the decision.”

“You don’t?” she asked in a voice ripe with sarcasm built of fear. Rose struggled to push her arms down into a neutral position and out of complete shrew formation. “I think you like adventure. I think you need it more than you need oxygen and water.”

He mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like, “I don’t need either of those. I’m not human, you know,” but she didn’t press because her mouth was suddenly open and saying the most horrible things possible. Even she was appalled at her lack of tact.

“Jack always knew how to find a proper place for a proper holiday.”

There were so many ways she’d gone wrong with her statement that it was hard to figure out which one needed to go on the list first. She’d used the name both of them had purposefully been avoiding. Jack had only ever gotten to pick one location and that had been Blorge. He’d wanted to go because he’d heard about a ritual they did that was supposed to heighten... and it was here in his statement that he’d always lifted those beautifully sculpted eyebrows of his a couple of times, leaving everyone to wonder just what he meant. They, of course, had a pretty good idea of what he meant. Jack only ever had one thing on his mind.

He’d been wrong. The only thing the ritual had done was heighten the Doctor’s level of irritation with the man until Jack was forced to leave the TARDIS at the first available stop.

Because he’s jealous of me... or because he’s jealous of Jack? she wondered but that wasn’t what really mattered. What mattered was that she’d lost something precious on Blorge. She didn’t think the Doctor was ever going to forgive her. She wasn’t sure she had it in her to forgive herself. Not if she kept saying stupid things. Not if he kept letting her get away with it as if she had a right to these hateful actions.

He pulled out his latest pair of glasses, the dark frames accentuating the little wrinkles lining his forehead as he attempted to fool her into thinking he had deep thoughts about their destination and couldn’t be disturbed. Normally, she would have found something else to occupy her time when he was in this frame of mind, sticking close but not in the way. While she considered herself stubborn, he took it to a whole new level.

“I think we should have a plan.” Rose wasn’t sure why she was picking up the argument but she couldn’t let it go. It was the only thing they’d talked about for days now. Where to go. What to do. How not to be stuck in this same loop.

“A plan? Is that what they’re calling it these days?”

“Doctor, I-”

“Oh, brilliant,” he exploded, sending her back a step even as he turned toward her with one of his pedantic smile. “The three moons of Sellig U’Tambria. You’ve never been there. See, I can plan things. This will be perfect.”

She lapsed into silence as he began rambling about all that there was to do on the moons. There would be no conversation today about what had happened or how they could get back to their usual friendship. Now when he’d already plastered his Time Lord Tour Guide smile in place. This was official business and she would be treated as a guest. Nothing more.

***

The one bright spot on the second moon of Sellig U’Tambria was the small street fair they found underway in the town they landed in. Pushing aside the uneasiness that haunted her at the thought of leaving, she stepped through the door of the TARDIS.

“Ready?”

She nodded, trying to psych herself up for an adventure. This was the point where he would smile at her, offering encouragement and his hand. This time, he walked on ahead without waiting for her to catch up.

The sights and sounds were all what she’d expected of a street fair, even one on a far off planet. There was a distinct odor of chips but it turned her stomach. She couldn’t eat chips without thinking of the Doctor. While he was here with her, striding out in front like he was actually enjoying himself, he was as far from her as if they were separated by a galaxy.

Rose stopped in front of a stall awash in color. Streamers of every hue fluttered in a breeze she couldn’t feel. With each ripple of the fabric, a new color stained the fabric. Red... orange... yellow... green... blue... indigo... purple... and back to red.

“What are these?” she asked, reaching out to touch without thinking if it was a smart thing to do. “What do they do?”

“Dream streamers.” The voice was low and raspy, making her shiver. She didn’t feel anyone standing behind her but the sound was there, nonetheless. “Buy a streamer. Keep a dream.”

“Keep? What do you mean, keep? How do you keep a dream?”

“You keep it. Simple as that.” A hand rested on her shoulder and Rose jumped. “Sorry, there. Didn’t mean to frighten you.”

She’d expected a crone to be behind the voice but the woman was rather ordinary looking. Her hair sprouted from her head as if it was growing like leaves on a plant but it was an ordinary color of brown. Her dark skin wrinkled oddly, not exactly covering up whatever was underneath correctly. Her eyes were kind and that, more than anything else, was what kept Rose from running back the way she came, the Doctor’s idea of fun be damned.

“I’m not frightened.” Her voice sounded weak enough that Rose blushed. “Not much.”

“Not much,” the woman confirmed, a kind smile gracing her lips. “But you look like a girl who could use a dream or two right now. Am I right?”

Rose shrugged, fighting off another shiver. “I don’t dream anymore.”

“You should. Everyone should dream. And instead of letting the dreams fly up out of you while you sleep, the dream streamers allow you to hold on to one. Just one per streamer, but one is enough.” The woman winked. “Sometimes one is all you need.”

“How much?” Rose was already stuffing her hands into her pockets, searching for any bits or bobs that might buy her a dream. “How much for one of these streamers?”

“Nothing in your pockets will pay for one of my pretties. If I sell you a dream, I require something in kind.”

Even still, Rose pulled out a wad of bills. Some were from home, a gift from her mother even though she never had cause to use them, while some were from the random planets and universes she’d gone to with the Doctor. A pocketful of memories, mingled together.

“I don’t require metal or paper. But I will take one of your nightmares.”

“A nightmare?” Rose started to laugh, pushing her money on the woman regardless of the set price. “A dream will cost me a nightmare? I’ll take one.”

“And you won’t mind losing a nightmare?”

It felt like Rose would laugh forever, all her previous morose feelings forgotten. She wrapped a fluctuating blue-to-green scarf around her hand, delighting in the feel of the smooth material. “Mind. No, I don’t...

***

...mind.”

“You don’t mind what?”

Rose blinked her eyes several times, trying to recover her balance. She felt as if she’d been swung around by her ankles before being slung to the floor. At least if she’d been used as a mace, she’d have a reason for the dizziness.

Maybe this was a dream and she’d accidentally fallen asleep at the fair? It was a feasible option but nothing but her dizziness seemed out of place. Just in case, she bit the inside of her cheek. The resulting pain was certainly real. She thought about other tests she could give herself but she was willing to work under the hypothesis that this was as real as the fair she felt like she’d just left.

Instead, she was stepping through the front door of the TARDIS, her pack slung on her back. The Doctor looked back at her over his shoulder, the familiar suit jacket looking new. He’d only just put it on, she realized as she got a bearing on where she was in her timeline. This was early days for the floppy hair and long jacket over the suit. For no reason she could put immediately to words, his smile made her want to weep.

It certainly felt like a scene from another lifetime, one where she’d been a different person. Or, barring that, she’d been a better person. Yes, she’d most definitely changed in the resulting years. If she’d learned anything from the Doctor and these ramblings of theirs, it was that one decision could change everything. Was this where she’d gone wrong?

I will take one of your nightmares. Could a whole life be a nightmare? Or, in taking just one nightmare, had the scarf seller ended up giving her the opportunity to make something new to take it’s place?

It hit Rose like a lightening bolt from the heavens... she never had to tell the Doctor what had happened to them in the other timeline. It could just be her secret.

As if taking umbrage to her words, the TARDIS tilted to the side and the engines engaged. Rose was thrown to one side of the walkway and then the other. She had the good fortune to grab tight to the handrail. This hadn’t happened the first time she’d experienced this timeline.

“Rose,” the Doctor bellowed. “Hold on. I don’t know what just happened but it wasn’t me. I didn’t do this. Rose? ROSE?”

She tried to answer but she had neither the voice or the ability to form words. All she could concentrate on was keeping her fingers from slipping away from the metal she was clinging to. It might have been her imagination but it seemed to be alternating between too cold or too hot but she didn’t let either deter her. At this rate of speed as they were tossed about, she was sure to be injured.

“Something’s wrong. Something is definitely wrong,” she heard the Doctor yelling, as if he was just murmuring to himself as he was puttering with the controls instead of trying to right his ship before someone was hurt. Rose nearly lost her hold when she heard him change it up a little bit and instead say, “Someone’s wrong.”

Her first thought was that he knew that she was back from a different timeline. That he knew she was not his Rose. But she wanted to be. The more she thought about it, the more she knew that she wanted to make this timeline the right one. She wanted to get it right this time. More than anything, she wanted to truly be his Rose. No more second guessing the situation when he was the only person that was really important to her.

“Doctor,” she started to say but, before she could finish the thought, the door opened. She renewed her effort to keep her hand wrapped around the rail as the TARDIS did everything it could to get rid of her. It shook and rattled around like it was at the end of a string but she knew that no one was controlling this ship. She’d met the heart of the TARDIS, had been the heart of the TARDIS at one point, and she knew that it was angry with her. It certainly explained the clothing she’d been losing before. It hadn’t been the Doctor, after all, but his conveyance.

The new knowledge didn’t stop her hands from aching or her lungs from burning. They were still within the Earth’s atmosphere so she wasn’t having trouble breathing so much as she was petrified of where she might end up if this thing decided to dump her out. Her heart beat in her ears with a horrifying cadence, as if counting down the minutes until she would no longer be able to keep up this facade of strength.

“Gotcha.”

She looked up when she felt the Doctor’s hand latch onto her wrist. His legs were braced on the other side of the handrail so that he was able to keep them both from plummeting out the door. It was just in time, too, because she could feel the pull of the wind at the bottoms of her trousers.

“Don’t let go.” She wanted to cling to the Doctor’s hands but she couldn’t convince her hand to let go of her death grip she had on the rail. Now all she had to do was figure out how to gain forgiveness from the police box and she might survive this after all.

“I’m sorry,” she screamed, trying very hard not to flail her body around. The last thing she needed was to make it harder for her savior to keep hold of her. “I want to make amends. I’ve got a second chance to make things different.”

No second chances. I’m that sort of man. He’d said that only a few days ago in this timeline, in response to an alien bent on domination of the Earth. He hadn’t deserved a second chance and she understood that clearly enough. Did she deserve a second chance? Would the TARDIS allow her one?

As if in answer, the world began to right itself once more. The tips of her trainers touched the floor and she began scrabbling for purchase on the smooth surface, pulling in his hold as she tried to right herself away from the open door.

His smile was brilliant even though his face was still lined with fatigue. “You had me worried. If you don’t want to ride along, you just have to say the word and I’ll set you down somewhere safe.”

Rose wanted to hug him but she was still too shaky to even get a coherent sentence out. Instead, she shook her head and simply said, “No,” with the hope that he would understand what she was trying to convey. Even though his smile faltered a bit, it was still every bit the Doctor as it had ever been. Her Doctor. Hers.

The shaking started again and she thought, for a moment, that the TARDIS had once again taken exception to her intimate thoughts. It was the tentacle creeping in through the door that changed her mind but she missed that at first, only aware of the Doctor looking over her shoulder with growing horror. She followed his gaze, strangely aware of how very odd it was to be looking at opalescent suckers along a well-muscled appendage but at a loss for how to deal with this new danger.

We’ve never been under the ocean, she thought, rather dumbly as she forgot what it was that her feet should be doing. The Doctor screamed her name, a battle cry against this new invasion, but she was too far away for him to do anything without placing himself in danger.

From all around them, doors began to slam as the TARDIS realized the danger before either of them. Steel doors, like those that Rose imagined would be on board a submarine, slid up around the central control panel so that it was firmly protected against whatever it perceived was going to happen.

“I didn’t know it did that.” The Doctor sounded as flummoxed as she’d ever heard him.

Before either of them could guard themselves as well, they were being pulled down. That they would end up underwater was a given but still Rose stood there in front of the open door, her gaze captured on the single waving tentacle. “They shouldn’t grow to be that big here on Earth,” she had time to say before the wall of water washed over her.

It was only later that the Doctor explained that the TARDIS had a natural buoyancy and that it would spring up to the surface like a rubber duck when it was pushed under the water. Rose experienced that phenomenon but was only able to think something along the lines of this just isn’t my day for surviving adventures as she found herself being sucked out the door. Thankfully, the direction she was headed was away from the large shadow that most likely belonged to the tentacles. The fight-or-flight instinct took over and Rose began to kick her feet so that she would continue to be propelled away from the monster.

Something grabbed hold of the hood of her jacket. She was done letting other people decide her fate. No more waiting to be saved. No more seeing how fate felt about keeping her in one piece. Rose began flailing around, striking out at whatever she could hit with palms and elbows and knees. No monster was going to call her dinner tonight if she had any say in the matter.

The tension eased as she connected often enough to scare off her attacker. With several good kicks, she was above the waterline. Unfortunately, Rose had never been a strong swimmer but she knew the basics, thanks to Jackie’s insistence that she be able to save herself from... well, instances just like this one. Who knew that her mother’s paranoia would pay off in the long run.

Still, it wasn’t easy to keep her head above water without worrying about swallowing too much and trying to figure out where she was, where the Doctor was and where the TARDIS was. There were low clouds hiding most of the surrounding landscape but she could make out mountains, both in the distance and the foreground. This was definitely not London. From what she could see, she doubted she was in Great Britain at all.

The TARDIS erupted up from the water, bobbing like a large child’s toy. Even so, it was the only safe place that Rose knew. She moved her arms in the closest approximation she could make to swimming but she didn’t get very far. Her clothing was absorbing water, threatening to drag her back under. Each movement was agony but still she fought to keep her head above water. Whatever happened, she needed to keep alive long enough for the Doctor to save her.

But where was he? Where was the man who was supposed to save her? If he didn’t come soon, he was going to be too late.

Perhaps, this was the moment when she was supposed to switch roles with the Doctor. Instead of looking around for the Doctor, she began looking for her own means of salvation. If the tentacles were coming from her right, she was going to go to the left. It was away from the TARDIS but she wasn’t about to go up against that monster again.

“Honorable Lady, do you need help?”

Rose shifted around, her tired legs kicking in a circle so that she was facing a man coming toward her on a raft. As much as she wanted his help, she also didn’t want him to get into trouble because of her. He was too close to the monster and those long tentacles. If it decided to attack, his craft would be kindling and he would be in the same trouble she was currently in.

“Go back.” She waved at the man who kept paddling closer. “I’ll come to you.”

That was a lie because she didn’t think she could get any closer but he didn’t seem to hear her or care. When he got close enough, he held out a long wooden stick for her to hold on to. It took several agonizing moments before she was close enough that he could haul her sodden self out of the water. Rose wasn’t sure how he did it all by himself but she didn’t care. All that mattered was that she wasn’t currently drowning or being eaten by the creature that had sunk back to the depth.

“Thank you,” she found herself chanting through clenched lips as she lay huddled on the platform. There was nothing else she could do until her body realized that it no longer had to fight to stay alive.

The man put his hands on her shoulder, gently, as if he was afraid of hurting her further. “Honorable Lady, were you fighting the Leviathan alone?”

It had a name? It was a Leviathan that had pulled the TARDIS out of the sky? To give this beast a name that she had heard about, even just in passing reference, and then say that it had done what nothing else in recorded time could have done seemed wrong. It needed a much more fantastical name.

“Not alone,” she finally gasped, pulling herself together enough to sit up and look around. “There was a man with me. The Doctor.”

As if on cue, a hand rose up out of the waves and began waving around. “There,” she screamed, pointing it out just in case her rescuer hadn’t seen it. “He’s right there.”

Time slowed so that Rose heard the splash of the wooden paddle as the man moved the skiff through the water. There was a cry of a bird on the shoreline and a faraway answer from another. A harsher splashing as the top half of the Doctor bounced up into view, as if pushed up from below.

“Rose,” he yelled, his hand now outstretched toward her even though he shouldn’t have known where she was. It was as if he could hone in on her, as if he always knew where she was. A thrill of something she couldn’t quite name rippled through her. Something that ate away the guilt that she’d been feeling. Something that replaced it with something strong and pure. Something a lot like love.

But there was still all those secrets that hung between them. She felt every one of them as she huddled on the other side of the raft from the rescue attempt. There was nothing she could do to help, her useless arms hanging beside her instead of reaching out to help. All she could do was stay huddled in on herself, away from the action.

And then he was beside her, his soggy body huddled against hers. “Rose,” he said, over and over in his own chant as he celebrated being alive. “I thought I’d lost you. I tried to get hold of you but you slipped away.”

She flinched at the memory of being trapped under the water. While she had no way of knowing if it had been tentacles or the Doctor’s hand, she was still heartened by the fact that he had tried to save her, even at the cost to his own life. Two hearts, she reminded herself. He was hard to kill.

Just as she was about to admit everything, the Doctor looked up and gave out a cry of surprise. “What have they done to you, you beautiful thing.” His attention was on the TARDIS as their savior worked to get the raft closer. “You’re all wet. Your circuits won’t like that one bit.”

“Is that yours, Honorable Sir?”

“Yes, that my... police box.”

The man nodded gravely as if he’d been told it was a box of kittens that needed to be rescued instead of a waterlogged, time traveling box. “I have my rope with me and can tow it back to shore for you and your honored lady.”

“Honored?” Rose whispered as she noticed the Doctor narrowing his eyes at the man now guiding the boat in closer to the bobbing TARDIS. “He keeps using that word.”

“Excuse me.” When the man’s attention was back on them, the Doctor asked, “Why are you using that particular honorific?”

The man pointed to the sky. “You came from the sky in a box of blue. It has been foretold for centuries that you would slay the Leviathan and we would have a hundred years of good luck because of it.”

“Centuries?” the Doctor asked with skepticism as Rose shrieked, “Slay? The Leviathan?”

“Did you not come to save us from our tormenter? No one may use this river for anything. Not food or traffic. Not without fearing for our lives if we step near it.”

As if in answer, the tentacles wrapped around the TARDIS but it was ready this time. A surge of energy sparked from the highest peak and began to rain down the sides of the box, sizzling at anything touching it. An unearthly shriek made Rose cover her ears but she didn’t allow herself to look away, no matter how much she wanted not to see the carnage that went along with the sound. There was no way to escape the smell of roasted meat as the animal began flailing it’s many arms about.

“Make it stop,” Rose finally demanded when the Doctor seemed intent on his silence. “Aren’t you going to do something? The TARDIS is killing it.”

“It hurt you.” He ran a hand over her forehead. When it came back streaked with red, she blinked in surprise. She’d never realized she was bleeding but the evidence was there on his skin. His voice was strangely flat but it only reminded her of the other times that he hadn’t shown mercy.

No second chances. I’m that sort of man.

It was now or never. She didn’t think she would have the courage to tell him the truth if she didn’t say something in this moment. “I married Jack. In another timeline. I bought a scarf for the cost of a nightmare and it brought me back to this moment. Well, not this moment. The one where I walked through the door. The TARDIS... I think it knew that this wasn’t my first time around. That I’d done this particular time before.”

“Did we defeat the Leviathan another way the first time?”

“No. This part is all new.” She shrunk back away from him, concerned with how he’d react now that she’d told the truth. With the dying shrieks still coloring the air, she didn’t know if she could endure his anger or, worse yet, the deadness creeping back into his eyes. “It was all a mistake. A case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or, maybe, just with the wrong person.”

His voice, when he finally spoke, was hushed but not bitter. He sounded so sad that he might never ever be happy again. “I won’t keep you from him, Rose, if that’s what you want. It would be wrong to-”

Rose jumped to her feet, launching herself at him before he could finish whatever thought he was trying to articulate. “You’re the one I want. You were the one that I wanted in that timeline. You’re the one I want in this timeline. I won’t ever leave you.”

His smile went from dazzling, framed by her hands, to sad. “Everyone leaves me, Rose. It’s the lot for a Time Lord. You’re only a human.”

“Never,” she promised, feeling suddenly fierce about this particular point. It hurt too much to see the inevitable separation in his gaze. She rested her forehead against his chest, listening to the odd syncopation of his hearts. “I will never leave you. I made that mistake once. I’m not going to do it again.”

While he didn’t say anything, he didn’t push her away and that was almost as good as a declaration back. With a sigh, she let herself relax into him. Now, all she had to do was convince the TARDIS, once they got it towed back to land and got it dried off, she meant it so that it didn’t try to drop her off in the next body of water. She really didn’t want a repeat of this adventure.