It was silent, blessedly, wonderfully silent, the eternal rhythm so soft and so far in the back of her head that, in comparison to the roaring volume she had been used to for decades, she almost couldn’t hear them at all. They were gone. The constant noise was gone. It was silent.
It was silent, and it was so, so wrong.
Every time she woke up, she felt disoriented, like she was still caught in a dream. Not that her dreams had been silent either, not that the drums hadn’t been ingrained in her subconscious, but sometimes, in dreams, she had been able to ignore them. Now, they were gone, and sometimes she’d stop in the middle of something, blinking at nothing and uncertain, suddenly, if her surroundings were real.
She drummed her fingers against desks and chairs and walls and floors and against her legs and whatever she had in her hands at the time, a habit formed long ago that now irritated her whenever she became aware of it, a small glitch in her system. She started doing it on purpose, because it filled the silence and it felt like she should, but now she lost the rhythm when she didn’t concentrate, and that was worse than when she found herself tapping away subconsciously.
When someone was around, she tried to talk or keep them talking whenever the silence got oppressive. Sometimes she talked when no one was there, too, filling the silence with mindless chatter, but it wasn’t right. Wrong brand of crazy, she thought, it didn’t suit her. And it didn’t help much.
Occasionally she tried to sleep, when she was very tired, and found herself thinking with a sick longing of the nights when the drums had beat loud enough to keep her awake. That never happened anymore, but it seemed to her that the silence was worse, unnatural, wrong. She remembered blinding headaches that had her whimpering and stuffing the sheets between her lips so she wouldn’t cry out, and wondered if the same thing that had sometimes made her nights hell could now help her sleep, if she could only find it again.
Her fingers tapped away against her temples, sounding almost like the sound came from inside, but she lost the rhythm and felt dizzy even though she was lying down.
She tried listening to her hearts beating, only to realise that without the drums they seemed just as disoriented as she was, beating away in her chest irregularly, erratically, as if they were used to setting their beat to the drums, letting them lead the way and just following in their wake. Or perhaps she was imagining things.
When she found the Doctor and rested her head on his chest without explanation, he argued. He told her she couldn’t do that. He wasn’t her pillow, wasn’t her anything really, and what did she think she was doing?
When he figured it out, because at times he could be cleverer than he looked, he still argued, even though she still wasn’t arguing back, pretending she couldn’t hear him. He told her that now that the drums were gone, she shouldn’t be looking for a substitute. She wasn’t a drug addict, was she? His hearts weren’t supposed to be used that way, he didn’t want to be her drums. She knew that, of course, but he didn’t understand, and she was so, so tired.
He stopped arguing when she fell asleep, or maybe she fell asleep once he stopped arguing, she couldn’t be sure. But she could feel his arm that had come up to wrap around her, and she could hear his breathing and the soft, steady rhythm of his hearts that was the same as the drums and still so different, and she could feel her own hearts settling as she slowly drifted off.