Darkness swirled all around him, the darkness he’d been running to avoid all of his life. Monstrous shapes emerged from the black, long dead enemies rising to take their revenge at last. As soon as one would come into his view, it’d be gone, replaced by another even more horrible. He tried to run, but he was unable to move, paralyzed and alone.
Screams filled the air surrounding him. The screams of all the lives he’d been unable to save. Their faces replaced the monsters, and were somehow even more terrible. Pleading with him, begging him to save them, and he relived each of his failures in rapid succession.
A planet, a very familiar planet. An image he could never hope to purge. The orange sky now ablaze as the inferno consumed it. Shaking hands, wide eyes witnessing the atrocity he’d just committed, unable to believe what he’d just done, but equally unable to deny the evidence before him. Endless fire, filling his entire field of vision as two entire species were wiped from existence. Hundreds of thousands of voices, his family, his friends, his people, crying out as they died before his very eyes, condemning him for what he had done. Murderer!
John sprang awake with a scream, still immersed in the all-consuming images of his nightmares. He was trembling violently, soaked in sweat, and he fought back another scream as he wrestled for control. His breathing was coming so fast he was nearly hyperventilating, and his single heart was pounding in his ears.
“John?” A voice came from the doorway, breaking through his panic like a beacon. Rose stood in the door, disheveled as though she’d just awakened, but her eyes were riveted on him, alert and immensely concerned.
He searched for words to reassure her, but he couldn’t find any.
“Rose?” he finally managed to get out, startled at how hoarse and weak his voice was.
He didn’t say any more, but Rose understood what he needed, as she always did. Instantly she crossed the room and reached out to hold him. He caught hold of her, instinctively clinging to her, his lifeline. All of his usual emotional barriers were currently down, and all that was left was a desperate need to hold her, to remind himself that she was real.
“It’s okay,” Rose whispered, wrapping both arms around him protectively. “I’m here. It’s okay.”
He could still feel himself trembling, but Rose’s warm, comforting presence was slowly banishing the worst of his terrors. It was only a dream, only memories. It was the past. This was now. He was here, with her, and slowly that truth permeated his frenzied mind.
Finally, he pulled back, though he kept his arms around her. She looked up at him, grief and worry for him plain on her face.
“John?” she asked, hesitantly.
“I’m all right,” he told her.
She reached up to push his still damp hair out of his eyes.
“You’re as bad a liar as always,” she informed him, and he had to admit she had a point.
“I’ll be all right,” he amended. “It was just a dream.”
“The nightmares again?” she asked, though he knew that she already knew the answer.
“Yes.” He nodded.
She shifted so she was sitting next to him on the bed, resting her head on his shoulder and looking up at him.
“Gallifrey?” she asked quietly. He nodded again, tightening his grip involuntarily. She squeezed his hand.
“Among other things,” he added, and Rose closed her eyes.
“I’m so sorry, John,” she whispered. “I…I don’t know what else to say.”
“It’s all right,” he tried to reassure her.
Now that the terror of the nightmare was fading, he was beginning to feel a bit foolish for his reaction. But Rose was completely serious.
“No it’s not. It’s…it’s horrible, and I don’t know how to help.”
“You’re already helping,” he told her honestly. “Ever since you came onto the TARDIS, you’ve been helping me heal.”
This wasn’t the first nightmare he’d had in Pete’s World. While none of his dreams weren’t exactly what you’d call peaceful, he’d actually managed to get to a point where he could go a significant amount of time without one of these incidents. But just when he’d start to think they were gone, they’d make a reappearance. It was always the same, the terror, the helplessness, the heartbreak…and Rose. Rose always came, whenever he had one of his nightmares, guiding him back to a kind of stability.
“They’re not as frequent as they used to be,” he told her. “And not as intense.”
“If that’s not intense,” Rose shivered, “I’d hate to see what you define as intense.”
“You and me both,” John agreed, trying not to think of a time in his life spent alone, drowning in darkness and despair, going weeks without sleep because he was too terrified to close his eyes, afraid of what he would see.
As if reading his mind, Rose spoke up.
“You had these on the TARDIS, didn’t you?”
It wasn’t really a question.
“Yes,” he said. “After nine hundred years, you see a lot. And that gives a lot of fuel for the subconscious.”
“You never mentioned them.”
“Didn’t see the need to burden you with it, back then,” he said honestly.
Rose went silent, not quite meeting his eyes.
“I knew, you know.”
“I knew about the nightmares. When I was on the TARDIS.”
"You knew?" He should have known.
“Of course I did,” she said, picking at a loose thread on the quilt distractedly. “I told you, you’re a terrible liar. I may have been a kid back then, but I knew you well enough to know when something was wrong. Couple that with your avoidance of sleep, and a few times when I…” now she really wasn’t looking at him, “…heard you.”
It was as though he'd been struck in the chest.
“Rose…” he whispered. “I’m so sorry.”
“I wanted to help!” she said, finally looking at him. “I wanted to help you so much, but I didn’t know how. I couldn’t…you know, do something like this, be there like this. Not then. It was like…” she faltered, struggling to find the words, “we were close, but there was this line. You had this wall that you’d put up, shutting me out to some degree.”
“I wanted you there," he said. "When I'd awaken from those nightmares, I wanted you to be there. But I was afraid, then. Afraid of letting you get to close. Because of what that would mean.”
Rose nodded. They’d had enough similar conversations to have come to terms with their former relationship, and the changes since he’d come to Pete’s World. He knew they still had a ways to go before they were completely healed from what happened at Bad Wolf Bay, or at least, as healed as they could be. But it was moments like these that gave John hope that they were heading for something more serious, and more permanent.
Rose gave him a smile, leaning back to get a good look at his face.
“You going to be all right?”
“Yes.” John nodded. “As they say, ‘this too shall pass.’”
“Actually, it’s not really clear in history who ‘they’ is. Some say Persian poets originated the saying, others say King Solomon, others…”
Rose finally laughed, and John grinned, having achieved his desired effect.
“You are such a show off,” she accused.
“Rose Tyler, I am insulted. But seriously,” he added, “these kinds of things do fade, in time. I’ll be fine.”
“But…” he hesitated only a moment, “I don’t think I’ll be going back to sleep tonight.”
“Understandable. Come on.” She shifted to the edge of the bed. “I’ll make you a cup of tea.”
He caught her smile and returned it, getting up to join her.
“Tea sounds perfect.”
“The solution for everything,” she added, and they both laughed.
And the night wasn't quite so dark anymore.
Doctor Who and its accoutrements are the property of the BBC, and we obviously don't have any right to them. Any and all crossover characters belong to their respective creators. Alas no one makes any money from this site, and it's all done out of love for a cheap-looking sci-fi show. All fics are property of their individual authors. Archival at this site should not be taken to constitute automatic archive rights elsewhere, and authors should be contacted individually to arrange further archiving. Despite occasional claims otherwise, The Blessed St Lalla Ward is not officially recognised by the Catholic Church. Yet. |
Script for this archive provided by eFiction. Contact our archivists at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read our Terms of Service and Submission Guidelines.