He sits sideways on the rocking-horse and watches her -— them — cross the nursery. Hands in pockets he leans casually back, one foot on the floor and one balanced against curved wood.
It’s a glib copy of an old room, close enough to that lost architecture that he resents his ship for calling it forth. His own fault, perhaps, for never teaching her any other patterns, for allowing some small part of the machine to live forever in the past.
Or maybe Romana spoke to it, and asked for this. He doesn’t always hear those strange half-conversations, can’t be certain that woman and ship aren’t conspiring against him somehow.
He never used to be this paranoid.
"She’s so beautiful," says Romana, smiling down at the thing in her arms. He nods the expected agreement and fights a protective urge to take the burden from her.
"Dear little Time Lord," she continues, and he’s struck once more by the aching emptiness of having the entire species in one room. Romana has made an existential condition concrete, made their impending extinction feel so much less abstract. How funny it seems that he could ever have expected it to be any other way. A humourless mirth builds and he has to try so hard not to giggle hysterically.
She glances over as the corners of his mouth twitch, and returns a sunny smile. "I knew you’d see sense," she tells him. "You’re so stubborn sometimes. But you can’t be like that when it’s just us now. Just our family." She lifts her arms, holding her child against her chest. She cradles it like something precious and fragile, an irreplaceable wonder. A gift, she’d called it, some small amends for all their losses. A gesture that would earn him her forgiveness.
And he’d said no, felt far too pleased with himself for resisting temptation.
He’d stuck to that when she’d slapped him, when she’d drawn blood from both of them and when she’d sobbed behind a locked door for days. She was broken but she’d been broken when he found her and it was alright, he was going to fix her. He’d heal her by sheer force of will and then everything would be like it was before. It’d be different with just the two of them, but they’d never needed home anyway. Them against the universe for as long as they wanted.
Sometimes, at night, he watches her sleep and wonders if he should kill her before she wakes. A quick fix and if anything went wrong, well, he’d be there to make sure that it didn’t. She’d understand once she was herself again. Once he’d let his hand rest on her throat, but the hesitating pressure made her stir and turn away and he’d imagined himself alone again. So it was settled, then, that she’d live like this until he found his nerve, suffering for his weakness.
She sets her child down to sleep, arranging the blanket and kissing air. It’s become the focus of her attention and he can almost see it leeching at what’s left of her, suckling on her madness and if he doesn’t do something soon there won’t be enough left of her to save.
Tomorrow, he decides yet again. Tomorrow he’ll do it. He can justify another day, because he’ll do it tomorrow and then everything will be okay again.
"Thank you," she says, and he takes her hands and lets her wrap her fingers with his. When she kisses him he listens to her heartbeats and etches the sound into memory in case this really is the last time.
When they leave he turns off the lights in the empty nursery and tells himself, again, that it won’t be there tomorrow.