It doesn’t rain. The sky stays clear and still, a perfect mirror of the sea and while she’s looking up, searching for some unknown imperfection, she can feel his eyes studying her every move. She blinks slowly and wonders if he’s looking for some anonymous signal too; an assurance, maybe, or a sign for what their path will hold.
Something weighs heavily in her chest, a weird mess of longing and anger and fear and loss. And maybe a little rejection. Maybe something else she doesn’t realize. They’re both altered, estranged, disintegrated, lost. It’s all so confusing and she already knows she can’t sort it out just yet so she sighs, lets the breeze carry her breath to somewhere other than here. She imagines that it manages to slip through the very last gap–
He makes a noise in the back of his throat which means something along the lines of being a little cold, a little uncomfortable, and wanting to say something but very much not since she would slap him and laugh that he’s rude. It almost grounds her, the thought that he is him, him and maybe her too but not, but also---
“This is bloody confusing,” she breathes. Her eyelashes flutter gently from a northern wind, her cheeks flushed from the cold. He doesn’t say anything, just stares towards the darkening horizon with a slight nod, his fingers twitching at his sides. She can study him, silently, and find only the things she once knew but then, but then — he is something else. Her lungs can’t process the difference, and it feels like all she’s doing is holding and holding her breath, keeping the last exhale of a dead world, never taking the new air in. It’s stifling and heavy and maybe, she thinks, maybe it’s a bit silly.
He meets her gaze and after a moment, something stops in her brain and suddenly, suddenly, she can breathe out. She breathes in. The air is new, full of salt and chill and something almost like acceptance, but she won’t think of it that way for a long while. She will only remember the steady push and pull of her lungs, feeling something she couldn’t quite identify but knowing it was a start, maybe.
“All right then,” she manages, the sand sinking beneath her feet as she finds him and carefully slides her hand into his. “Let’s go.”
They don’t really reminisce in the beginning. She still feels oddly about the events surrounding her return, and it’s hard to talk about more than one of him at a time, an entire universe where he is alone, traveling with slow precision. She will imagine his voice softly hitting the edges of the TARDIS, the air still and the words hanging, no one to bounce off of. It pains the deepest part of her, burning acutely in her chest when he takes her hand.
Who was there to hold his hand?
She stays angry for what feels like a long time, a pulse in her blood that is too fast, too red, too everything and nothing, but then on some random Wednesday morning he says something incredibly daft and it unguards her so completely that she laughs for ten minutes straight, desperately clutching her sides to pull herself together and failing miserably. He laughs too, loudly and with his whole body, and they are eventually a mess of tangled limbs on the ground, giggles escaping when it becomes too silent.
Sunlight peeks through the curtains and illuminates his face, and all she can see is the warmth of him, all she can feel is the weight of him. Whatever anger she held seems far, far away, a distance too vast for her to contemplate. So she doesn’t.
Autumn, and the garnet leaves often glow when they stray into the sun’s path, but she doesn’t really mind that it’s coat weather when they sit close enough that there isn’t exactly a need for one.
“I’m going to die,” he says oddly, unsure if he should take it as fact just yet. Her hair twists outward with carelessness, strands tying and untying themselves before she slowly tucks the unruly locks behind her ear, deliberating. She watches three more leaves drift to the ground, and the wind picks up a little before she can think to say anything.
“How ridiculous,” he sighs.
She doesn’t quite know how to respond. She turns her head fully to stare at him, wondering if the thought had just occurred to him because he was sort of human now and was contemplating his remaining time, or that he left his dirty socks slung across the hallway with wild abandon and knew that she had found them.
Either was possible, really.
“We’re far too busy for it, I think,” she says evenly. His eyes are depthless, and when the nearly bare branches shift just so with the wind, light falls through and the freckles that dust his face are far more visible. Her fingers find his cheekbone and she quietly maps constellations into his skin, cool from the day, from the seasons in transition, and he hums contentedly. She presses her lips against each of his eyelids before looking intently at him with both hands holding his face and saying, very slowly, “The washer works best with larger loads.”
His laugh disturbs a cluster of birds in the distance and they rush to meet the sky.
They don’t adjust to the world the way everyone else seems to, only adjust to each other; she finds that she can understand him on the best of days, adore him in his inept cooking endeavors other days, and can hate him intensely for several minutes at a time for being what he is and not what she knew before it melts into something she can comprehend. She finds that she still loves him, daft idiot that he is, and even now, when he’s really fretfully burning the toast, she accepts it wholly and wonders what sort of adventure the evening will bring.
(She stumbles upon some aliens trying to repopulate the earth with their kind by way of roughly a million cans of Spam. Complete rubbish, he tells her later, pulling pink chunks of it out of their hair. She idly listens to him tell her about a planet that worships tofu or bananas or something, but he promptly forgets what he is saying when she pulls him into the shower.)
He is hopeless with things like curtains and working the dishwasher, but hopes she doesn’t mind, hopes she remembers that he cannot forget what he knew, still knows, the names of people and places and how to calculate the exact velocity of a mug she might or might not throw at him for saying something about her mother. He is only months old but his head carries the weight of a millennia — years upon years of life, the universe, and everything and — oh, he should really tell her about that time when he met Arthur Dent.
They sleep in separate rooms until she can’t anymore, and needs to remind herself that he is real and here and she can feel the vibrations of his heart, the hum of his skin, to know that it wasn’t all some fantasy created in her sleep, to know that her life expanded across universes to find him — and it is him, with the exception of snappier comebacks. He can also type really quickly — a hundred words a minute, even.
They work for Torchwood, more or less — generally he grabs her hand and they will run wildly toward any loud sound, known around the offices as active trouble-seekers, though they haven’t filled out paperwork since he wrote a ten page essay about the politics of tea in Sanskrit, which took about four months for them to translate. Pete only laughed when the decoding team came to him, furious.
He fashions a sonic screwdriver out of a microwave’s insides, an advanced walkie-talkie happily stolen from the Torchwood labs, a spanner, sixteen cups of tea with lemon, and quite possibly some expensive appliances from Jackie’s home — she hasn’t been able to find her remote for about two months, and the washing machine has suddenly begun to dye all her clothes a murky grey for no reason. He winks at Tony whenever Rose needs to visit, and the boy will smile without fail and give him a cheeky thumbs up. This is entirely suspicious until Jackie finds some sort of electrical contraption hidden away in his closet which turns his drawings into holograms. She sighs with resignation and only lets him use it on weekends.
“Wisconsin,” he will say out of the blue, “is supposed to have really great cheese. Absolutely superb.”
“Really,” she says, turning a page of some glossy magazine. “So is Switzerland, I hear.”
She’s not looking at him for a reason because they’ve only just got back from Argentina that morning and they’ve yet to unpack, and she really doesn’t trust him with doing the wash. When she’s finished reading an article about the launching of some satellite she glances in his direction, his silence disconcerting. One pleading look from him later and they are already on their way, map-less and grinning, him fidgeting with excitement and her hoping that he won’t overdose on dairy products.
There is an entire ordeal with cows which he refuses to acknowledge, though sometimes when he’s being far too arrogant and alien she will moo quietly in his direction. His mouth will shut immediately and her answering smile reaches her eyes.
“You are completely mad,” he observes, voice heavy with an admiration often reserved for that thing she does with her tongue.
“Mm,” she agrees with a hum, hair frazzled and her apparently very admirable tongue peeking out from her teeth, a look of utmost concentration gracing her features. Her breathing is slow, careful, as if one wrong exhale would utterly destroy the planet. Her fingers drift across the wood block, pulling gently, gently, gently. There is a moment when the structure nearly topples, but it steadies and her success is met with a sigh a relief and a displeased huff, respectively. One minute of silence and three minutes of complete deliberation later, his fingers bumble when he catches her licking her lips in his peripheral.
There is a loud crash, blocks clacking against each other as they scatter in every direction across the table, sliding on the floor with purpose. There is a heavy pause.
“JENGA!” she crows with glee, her fist punching the air. She laughs with triumph, and although his expression could match Webster’s definition of sullen, his heart is light, and when she turns her grin on him, his stomach flips unevenly.
“You’re not married but you might as well be,” Jackie says once. “The way you two carry on, like there’s no one else in the world, talkin’ about aliens and that, then quick as a wink start yelling at each other about toasters and humans and things — I’ll never figure it out, long as I live.”
The next week they’re dining with the president of Burundi, the banquet hall decked with ornate carvings– which he ignores, of course, and in doing so manages to be halfway finished with his meal before he notices the entire party of guests are staring at him, slack-jawed.
“Fork,” Rose says to him helpfully.
They aren’t invited back.
Winters come and go, grey light suffusing the rooms of their home and casting pale shadows across the floors. They live, fairly happily, in a house with no doors — forever open with sound flowing from room to room, huge floor-to-ceiling windows facing west so the inside glows gold when the sun sets. She is sitting on their bed, removing her trainers on a Monday afternoon when he suddenly looms in the doorway to the room, and she is sure he has either lost something she values or is ready to tell her that his reversed neuron trans-something is finally complete. But what she hears instead is her name in the gravest of voices.
“Rose,” he says thickly, “we need to talk.”
His steps to her are soundless before sitting solemnly on the bed next to her. She pulls her legs underneath her; worry coursing through her blood, washing her mind with the worst of scenarios, panic fleeting at the edges.
“I have got. A grey hair.”
She is silent for one minute. Two minutes. He nods with despair at her stunned expression, as if revealing a great and horrible truth for the first time, and after a moment she pats him comfortingly on the head.
She manages to actually leave the room before cackling with gusto in the kitchen, the sound of it ringing through the house, echoing in the corners where evening shadows begin to gather. He can’t seem to agree with her reaction.
Luckily there’s an attempted invasion by blue aliens the size of her thumb and she’s eventually forgiven when she saves him using incredible heroics involving a pit, her left shoe, and toothpicks. She kisses his forehead and promises that she’d stay even if his hair began leaving his head and started growing out his ears. He is briefly disgusted.
“It’s a mark of wisdom or something, anyway,” she says dismissively. “I just think it’s another way to remember we’re alive together.”
He doesn’t mind so much after that, but still complains winningly whenever he finds a new one. She always laughs and says he looks more dashing than ever.
Sometimes they will lie outside and watch the night form, the shining dusk of London seeping into something deeper, stars seemingly caught within the vaulted dark, their illumination slight but beautiful. These moments are ephemeral; often they are too busy being bright young things, orbiting one another with smiles like comets, a sudden burst of light as they continue to discover each other through windswept fields and unfamiliar skies.