It's been five years here in Pete's World. Five years since standing between two versions of the man she loved, one in brown and one in blue, on Därlig Ulv Stranden. Five years since nothing she could do and nothing she said would make the one in brown stay. Five years since the other version in blue had, solemnly offering to spend the rest of his one life with her. Yes, he'd stayed, but she should've known that nothing could be forever. She should've known that the universe wasn't that kind and never had been.
"You lot, you wither and die, how could you watch that happen to someone you..." he'd said all those years ago, back when they were still travelling. But that's it, that's what she's done, watching him gradually fade away for the last three months. No one ever stopped to think that maybe the energy in this universe wasn't compatible; that someone who could feel the turn of the universe and see everything that was, is, and will be wouldn't be able to survive in a hybrid state; that being caught between the mortal and the immortal, the ephemeral and the abiding just couldn't hold. It was too precarious a balance, too uncertain a footing and the scales had been tipped from the beginning -- and not in their favor.
It started with headaches and sleeplessness; nothing major, they thought. He'd never been one for sleeping before and as for the headaches, anyone who missed enough kip was bound to get a right proper headache after a while, weren't they? Then came the occasional moments of forgetfulness, but he'd always been a bit absent-minded, so they'd not even taken notice. Took four and a half years for either of them to realize something was wrong. Four years filled with the occasional row followed by shagging half the night, walks along with river accompanied with laughter and banter, Vitex parties with lots of nibbles and no one ending up dressed like the hired help, and being followed to the cinema by the paps. Four years of birthdays, Christmas, going on holiday to the French Riviera, and just living a life. Living a life that was just wonderful, almost idyllic, despite not travelling through time and space. They had each other, plus family and friends, with the odd Torchwood mission thrown in for a bit of excitement and that was enough.
They'd been too happy to take notice of the nightmares that had gradually gotten worse and he'd said nothing about the flashbacks until it was too late. Far too late, what with him freezing in the middle of a confrontation with some purple spindly looking things that looked like giant ants. He'd gotten a dunt to the head that required stitches and ended staying overnight at hospital for observation, but he'd seemed fine at the time. Right up until a week later when she'd found him in the loo staring at the mirror, hand over his heart, with an expression of growing terror. When he'd heard her approach, for a beat there'd been no recognition in his eyes. A long moment that still haunted her now, since it had been the first real warning.
"R-rose," he'd sputtered, sounding like he was overcome with relief. When he'd wrapped her in his arms, breathing warmly into her hair as he held her close, she'd meant to ask. She'd meant to, but when she'd looked into his eyes after she knew it would be pointless. Even as more open as this part human version was, there remained some things that were still never said. The important things like I love you and him reminiscing about a few things from his past were alright; no more bombshells like I used to be a dad, but things like the war and the last days of his planet were still avoided.
And why not? There was their upcoming wedding to think about, university classes he was planning to teach in the autumn, and they were talking about starting a family. There were half serious arguments about him not being allowed to name all their kids unpronounceable names for her mum's sake and weekend walks through to the museum so they could laugh at what the historians and archaeologists had gotten wrong. Always they together, even when she noticed his thoughts were far away elsewhere. She'd done what she'd always done: held his hand and let him know she wasn't going to leave, ever.
She never thought it was going to be him that was to leave, not with all the promises and without a TARDIS. Never thought that there was something waiting in the wings; something lurking beneath the surface, unseen. But there was, because there was still a lot that he wasn't saying. Things like the fact that he'd had more an inkling of what was going on from the start.
God, she'd never forget that last row as long as she lived. That day that he'd ended up in hospital again with a burned hand, after forgetting that the cooker was on and nearly burning down their flat. It was that hand, of course, and her angry words of fear and worry had sparked his own. After they'd been left raw and torn about the edges, then came the admissions of what had happened to Donna, but he'd still not said what he suspected. That didn't come until later, much later, when he was having difficulty standing because he couldn't control his own limbs properly or remember her name half the time.
Now it's nearly dawn, the sun just breaking over the city outside, and it's five years to the day they got here. The fifth day of July, 2013 says the calendar, but she can't quite believe it. Like everything else, this seems like part of one long, horrible dream that she can't wake herself from. Forget blank white walls with your entire world on the other side, this is worse. Far worse, and the only sound in the room is the beeping of the heart monitor and the hiss of the respirator. She knows what's coming; no power, earthly or unearthly, can stem the tide now.
She's sat by his bedside all night, watching him breathe, knowing every breath could be his last. Nurses have come and gone, but no change since he'd slipped into the coma three days before. It's almost unbelievable, since he looks almost the same as he did when they first got stranded in Norway together. The same sideburns, but with a bit of scruff besides grown in since they'd shaved him yesterday morning; the same hair, just gone a bit flat without product in it; even the same face with its familiar smile lines around the eyes, just hidden behind the oxygen mask he had on. The only thing different was the absolute stillness and the blueish tint to his lips that had been creeping in since two days ago.
The doctors had warned her what to expect, that the likelihood was that he wouldn't wake up again, but she wasn't going to let go of that last bit of hope she still had. All she wants is to look into his eyes one last time even if he doesn't know her, as he hasn't for the last month. It's all she wants, what she needs to be able to let him go, and there -- there's a flutter of eyelids and a hoarse mumbling. She's there in an instant, leaning in with bated breath and heart in her throat. She mustn't cry, mustn't let him see the tears that are threatening to fall, and instead she forces herself to smile for his sake. Forces a bit of hope and joy that she doesn't feel into her voice.
His hand is in hers and it's cold, so very cold, but his fingers are squeezing hers and his eyes recognize her as he pulls the oxygen mask away, setting off the alarms on the medical equipment.
"You shouldn't," she warns him, seeing him gasping for breath already, but he's not listening. He always did as he pleased, and now isn't going to be any different.
"If... it's m-my last chance to say it," he begins unsteadily, voice barely more than a breathless murmur.
"Don't," she pleads as the tears begin to break free at the sound of his voice rasping in his chest. She wants to hear anything, anything but that, doesn't want him to spend his last moments rehashing the words that had hurt them both like nothing else before this had. She wants him stay like nothing else she's ever wanted, but he can't and how could she ever think she could hold onto someone like him forever? Because forever is just that little bit of time between now and when it's all over and that time is almost up. It was up before they knew it and it's only been five bloody years and it's not fair. It's just not fair.