Author's Notes:
In some ways, Peri isn’t gone at all.

Triple drabble, Six & Peri (who isn't there) & Mel (who is).

Title from the folk song "The Lover's Ghost."

Originally posted to AO3 as a treat for CeruleanTactician in the Seasons of Drabbles Summer 2022 exchange.

There’s one point, in the chaos that follows the trial, when you become convinced you’re looking for Peri in the wrong places entirely. You can’t get back to where you left her, and you can’t find her anywhere else. You don’t even know who was lying to you, anymore, the Valeyard or the Master.

So now you’re convinced that they both lied. She must have escaped Thoros Beta, because you refuse to live in a world where she didn’t. And how could she have escaped but on the TARDIS? So if you haven’t seen her, she must still be in here. And that’s why you’re constantly thinking about her, why you can’t get away from her.

It makes perfect sense when you explain it to Mel. There’s no reason she should look so worried, or tell you to sit down and drink your tea. Pacing helps you think. You ought to take Mel back to her proper timeline—after you find Peri, of course. She’s probably in the kitchen.

She’s not in the kitchen. Or the other kitchen.

She’s not in the hydroponic garden you tried to make her.

She’s not in the library, sitting on the arm of your chair and reading over your shoulder.

She’s not listening to music. The thumping bass doesn’t rattle your sensitive hearing.

She’s not in the wardrobe. She’s not getting ready for another adventure, and the clothes she’s not wearing hang like tropical birds, dead (don’t think it) in a museum.

Her absence is so present that you embrace it, hold it, tell it you miss her and you’re sorry everything went so wrong, and that’s how Mel finds you. She makes you sit down at last, takes your hand in her cold little one, and instructs you, “Tell me all about her.”