Light. Burning. Fire. Agony. Torment. Flash. Blinding. Bang. Still.
The Doctor screams and opens his eyes. He’s lying on the floor of the spaceship, sweat pouring down his face, trembling as if he’s in the middle of an Atlantic snowstorm.
No. It can’t be.
He pushes himself up onto his elbows, his shaking arms barely taking his weight, and turns his head towards the voice. Rose is sitting cross-legged on the floor opposite him, impossible and incredible and absolutely phenomenal. She cocks her head, smiling that lovely smile that makes him want to gather her up in his arms and never let her go.
“Hello.” She extends a hand to him and he goes willingly, crawling on unsteady limbs so that he kneels in front of her.
“How…how are you here?” He whispers, reaching up with a tentative hand to touch her cheek. It’s warm to the touch. Still smiling, she brings a hand up to cover his, soft and smooth and a perfect fit.
“Doesn’t matter.” She shakes her head and he just looks at her - looks, looks, looks - thinking how she’s a thousand times more beautiful in the flesh than in any of his memories.
Suddenly he’s overcome by the sheer impossibility of the situation and pulls her roughly towards him, sliding his arms around her back and holding her so tightly against his body it’s as if he’s trying to merge into her. He nearly weeps as she hugs him back, fingers flexing against his orange spacesuit and bringing an inexplicable comfort.
“Talk about déja-vu.” She jokes, pushing him gently back and running her thumb over his jaw. He grins a little ruefully.
“Ever the explorer, that’s me.”
Her face suddenly turns serious, her hazel eyes fixing on his and giving him a stern look. “Be careful. Promise me you’ll be careful.”
“Promise.” He gives her a slightly wobbly version of his trademark grin, crushing her against him once more as he realises just how much he’s missed her. “Where’s Martha?” He lets her go all of a rush, so ecstatic to see her that he forgot all about the others. “Did it work?” Rose is silent. “Come on, let’s go and see. You’re going to love Martha, she’s a friend of mine - always running off, just like you!”
Rose shakes her head a little sadly. “Stay here a minute.”
He sinks back down beside her with little protest. How can he possibly refuse her when she’s just done the impossible and come back to him? He feels that he’d do anything for her at this moment, but he settles for taking her hand in both of his and squeezing.
“Tell me how you did it.”
She looks quizzical, that familiar wide-eyed expression that appears when she doesn’t quite understand. “Did what?”
Did he bang his head or something? Is he just imagining he lost her? “Breach the Void. I’ve been trying but I…it’s so difficult. I didn’t want the universes to fracture. Is it safe? Is everyone all right?” As the first haze of joy begins to wear off, that logical part of his brain kicks in, begging for whys and wherefores.
“Everyone’s fine.” Impulsively, she brings his hand to her mouth and kisses his knuckles, her lips brushing in a feather-light touch over his flesh. He shivers involuntarily, skin tingling from her kiss. He’s enveloped in that light, dizzying cloud of honey and jasmine and Rose that feels like home, and suddenly, he remembers.
“Rose…” he clears his throat, wonders when his voice became so husky. “Rose, I never got the chance to say it. I…”
“I know.” She presses her finger against his lips and he kisses it, making her smile. “You don’t have to say the words.” Her eyes are twinkling, the familiar warmth of her gaze wrapping around him like a thick duvet on a cold winter night. “I always knew.”
Silence descends, comfortable and companionable, and he looks around him. “Come on, we’ve really got to go and check on them. If anything happens to Martha…” He tries to tug her to her feet again but she remains on the floor.
“You go. I’ll stay here.”
And then it dawns on him.
“You’re not real.”
She does get up then, standing on tiptoes and pressing her lips against his icy ones. “I thought seeing was believing.” The words vibrate against his mouth and he kisses her back, hands going to his waist as he pours his heart into a ghost.
“You’re not here.”
“I’m always here.” She presses her hands against his hearts through the padded spacesuit, and he swears he can feel her heat against his skin. “Sometimes you just need a push to bring me out.” She gives him one last kiss but all he can do is gape, not ready to believe she’s not really there.
“You’re not real.” He says again, quite unable to think of anything else. She smiles as if her heart is breaking, and tears glimmer in those deep hazel eyes.
“No.” She admits, coasting her hand lightly over his cheek. “But sometimes we all need a daydream.”
Falling. Darkness. Stars. Cold. Hot. Ice. Fire. Snow. Bang. Light.
He opens his eyes.
Martha is bending over him, frantic with worry and grief, and she’s gone.
There’s just him and her and that godforsaken spaceship.
But as he gets up, he’s sure he feels the ghost of two small hands pressing against his chest, just a breath of jasmine in the air.
He presses a hand to his cheek.
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