If You Need To

i. things don't die or remain undamaged

The pain is the same the day Rose comes back.

Sarah laughs, a welcome. She's not bitter, but kind.

They share dinner, and wine.

They share stories.

Danger is exotic now, when there are four ordinary walls around you. It's something to laugh about, to laugh at. They talk about how the Daleks began and how they ended, the Doctor's taste in clothes and how big the TARDIS really is.

Sarah tells Rose about how she once visited Gallifrey and the strange, jumbled memory she keeps of the trip; Rose tells Sarah about how Earth burned in her sun and humanity survived in the stars.

They do not talk about the dead friends that they leave scattered through their narratives.

Silence, eventually. It's more comfortable than it should be.

Sarah shows her to the guest bedroom, lends her blue-striped pyjamas, and wishes her a good night. The curtains are not drawn and she leaves Rose staring out from a dark room to a dark sky.


ii. a head reconnects to a neck

When Rose can't sleep, Sarah is in the kitchen. Waiting.

"Nightmares?" she asks. Rose shakes her head. "They'll come, in time. You might like them better." Better than the ceiling, than the walls, than the soft duvet and pillows and knowledge that you are awake and alive and safe as a bug in a-

Sarah watches Rose standing in the doorway. She hasn't bothered to take off her mascara and it won't matter until the morning when it's smudged and smeared and everywhere but where it should be. She hasn't been crying and the pyjamas are too big, too loose. Sarah watches her and Rose tries to smile.

When Sarah hugs her, she can feel how cold she is and wonders how many minutes she spent standing by that window. Rose's fingers dig into her back, almost painful, and Sarah will wait for her to let go, however long it takes.

Her voice is warm in Sarah's ear, an uncertain whisper. "I don't want to sleep alone," Rose confesses.


iii. later this vision is not True

Rose gets a job. And a mortgage that she can't pay. Loans. Debts. Sequestration and repossession. It's all the inevitable culmination of the normal, everyday problems that she can't bring herself to care about. Her reasons for getting the mortgage were petty; her reasons for not caring whether or not she lived on the streets were childish.

Sarah invites her stay, of course. She accepts. Of course.

It's all very simple.

"But what am I going to do?" asks Rose at breakfast. It's coffee and croissants; Sarah is feeling adventurous.

A shrug, a not-meeting of the eyes. "Work with me. I don't know if you can write, but you sure as hell can investigate."

Rose smiles. It feels real.

Sarah makes a fresh pot of coffee and Rose pours herself a mug. Plenty of milk and two sugars.


iv. dead, not hibernating in a wolf's belly

There are other memories that aren't hers. Rose does not know the things her mind is telling her, does not understand the things it wants her to comprehend. She struggles to wake from these memories, struggles to forget the gold and the light and the strange burning inside her head that grows sharper and sharper till all her world is on fire and she can feel nothing, nothing at all.

"Something bad happened," she says one night, when Sarah's arms are wrapped around her and she's been staring at the wall for hours. "I don't remember what it was."

"Are you cold?" Sarah asks.

Rose shakes her head, her cheek brushes against Sarah's shoulder.

A few minutes later, they're on the roof terrace with sleeping bags and pillows and a flask of something hot.

They draw pictures with the stars.

Or find ones they've both visited.


v. the little grave in the fern garden

One day, K-9 dies. Again.

They have both lost a friend.

Sarah risks a call to a friend in UNIT, and after ten minutes of quiet conversation shakes her head at Rose.

They try some improvisation and manage to cut off the whole street's electricity for the better part of a week. They try to find spare parts from people that know people that know Sarah and a few days later a nice man with an official badge and clipboard and pen comes to their door and asks them a lot of questions.

Neither of them have ever heard of Torchwood or the Doctor or have ever seen a tall blue box that's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Rose makes him some tea and Sarah tells him precisely how ridiculous she thinks he's being.

Eventually Sarah puts K-9 in the attic and he gathers dust and cobwebs and rust.

Sometimes Rose goes up to talk to him. She doesn't feel particularly silly about talking to a dead tin dog.

She talked to a plant, once.


vi. one may wake in the morning

She sleeps softly, sometimes soundly.

Sarah sleeps next to her, close and warm.

In her dreams, Rose finds her unearthly memories and nothing is ever as it should be. There is no one to chase away the monsters and the monsters are angry and hungry and have very big, very sharp teeth. The imagined pain wakes her more often than not and she finds the same pale ceiling floating above her.

Rose rolls over, faces Sarah.

She does not stir, and Rose looks at her. The dark hair fanned out around her head and the eyes framed with their fine wrinkles and Rose stays very still, not wishing to disturb her. Sarah is peaceful, and Rose is watching and the monsters will stay away for a little while.

In the morning, Rose will wake her with a kiss.


vii. the child old enough to walk herself to school

They are running.

Because Sarah's job is more dangerous than it sounds and sometimes bad people get very, very angry.

Neither of them have ever been shot by bullets before. They don't want to change that now.

"This way," Sarah hisses in her ear. Her breath is warm. Rose does not notice, because their hands are locked together, fingers wrapped around fingers, and all she can feel is the beat beat beat of her own heart not quite matching the pulse she feels on her fingers.

Pulse. A single pulse. But she's being pulled down another corridor and another and down a flight of stairs and they could be safe, they could be, but there are footsteps behind them. Then the explosion of a gunshot.

Outside, and it's sun shining, thud of feet on tarmac and racing for their car.

A dodge down a side street and an impromptu trespass in an untidy garden.

Sarah pulls her down, ducking behind a redbrick wall. Breathing hard. They look at each other and a sudden burst of uncontrollable giggling from Rose causes Sarah to press her hands to her lips and try to stop her own mirth.

"Run for your life, Rose Tyler," Sarah whispers in her ear. And Rose bites down on her fingers, trying to control her laughter.

When they think they're safe, they find their way home. It's a leisurely walk and Sarah's hand is still in hers.

Inside, Rose still feels like she's running.


A/N: Section titles from Kimiko Hahn's 'In Childhood.'