Summary: April 27, 2007. The Doctor takes Rose stargazing.

Disclaimer: don't own.

A/N: First time I've ever written using present tense! I don't know why it's like that, but I think it suits the story. And this took about two hours. I'm a slow writer…

Castle in the Air

"See that one, right there? That little twinkly one. That's Epsirion. It's the brightest star in the Machnyar Constellation." He lets his hand flop lazily back onto the grass and breathes deeply. He can just manage to catch her sweet smell on the wind, and if he strains his ears, he can hear her light, calm breaths next to him. High above, the night sky is a brilliant, transcendent blue dotted with shimmering, silvery, sugary ball bearings. He has to show her all the planets, moons and stars, seen and unseen. He has to keep talking.

"For something a bit closer to home, Venus would be just about…there." He waves his hand at a seemingly empty patch of sky that is no less beautiful than one that is filled. "No wait, make it…there. Yeah?" He smiles and continues quickly, "The Kasterborous system is to the left of that – if you squint you can just make it out. Go on, squint!" Out of the corner of his eye he can see her smiling and laughing, just for him.

He is happy. More elated than he ever has been, yet there is an underlying… He shakes his head and silently chastises himself for almost breaking the wondrous spell of the evening.

"Krop Tor?" He muses her unspoken question. "Well, I'm pretty sure it's right there. Not all that far away, really. And I don't mean with the TARDIS, I mean normally. Rockets. You know. Oh, and over there is Vrelrthn, and no, I did not make that name up. That's what they call it. I'm not joking!" He smiles along with her. "The Vrelrthnyns – known as nymphs by you lot, did you know that? Well anyway, they have this rule, you see, where all words can only have one vowel, no more, no less." She breaks into giggles and he laughs too. "I am really not making this up!"

It is some time before they both calm down again. "That's where we'll go next, then? They have the most brilliant hymns in the universe, I tell you that now. Oh, and we have to go to Barcelona. Barcelona!" he repeats, putting on the funny little accent that they now both associate with the word. They grin at each other, reminiscing, but his is a little sad. Why didn't he take her there earlier when he had the chance?

She pulls him out of his dark mood as she always does and takes his hand, soft and gentle in hers. A little startled, he looks down. "Now that's familiar," he whispers. She shakes her head slightly, smiling, and entwines her fingers with his. Their eyes lock and his breath hitches. They are so close.

Suddenly the clock tower chimes and the moment dissolves. His eyes are drawn unwillingly back to the sky and he feels like he is falling. Falling and falling with no ground rising up to meet him.

He closes his eyes, silently counting each resonating chord to block out the screaming wind rushing past his ears. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve. The last chime is the longest and it dies away bit by bit, taking him with it. His eyes fly open.

It is silent. The skies have darkened to their normal dull blue and the incandescent shimmer from the stars is gone, muted. Searchingly, his right hand trails over his coat spread out beneath him, only stopping when his fingers brush the tickling, dewy grass at the edge. His head tilts to the side. Nothing.

There is a slight prickling in the corner of his eyes, but he blinks it away and stands up. The cold, brisk wind snags at the tails of his coat as he pulls it back on and he distantly remembers a time of apple grass, electrifying blue skies and the girl in her purple top. A tiny smile tugs at the corners of his mouth and he holds it there as best he can, because today is her special day and he shouldn't cry. He will not cry.

He looks up. Overhead, the sky is a blur – he just barely manages to see the brilliant, transcendent blue dotted with shimmering, silvery, sugary ball bearings. It is fading fast, and he desperately clings on to the remaining shards of the illusion. But it is gone before he knows it, and his eyes slowly lower to settle on the squat, hulking silhouette that is her apartment block. His mind stirs and a memory – not an illusion – rises up before his eyes, one of a Christmas dinner from two years past. His imagination automatically takes hold, replacing the festive decorations before his eyes with more suitable ones, replacing the cake and the banner and – he stops himself before he goes too far, because only disappointment lies at the end of the road. He knows this, but he can't help wishing anyway. And wishes her he does.

"Happy birthday, Rose."

Well, I hope the ending makes sense. If you can think of a better title, tell me!

Oh, and I took Rose's birthday to be April 27, 1987. So, 2007 is when she turns twenty. Yep. (That was a pointless note wasn't it?) :D

Please review!