Title: With Universal Tinge of Sober Gold
Rating: T, for mentions of sex. I think.
Fandom / Pairing: Doctor Who, Ten/Rose, One/OC
Disclaimer: The Beeb owns it all / I'm just really tall / and would like a chat / with David Tennant.
Summary: Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is there adequate perception of the world.
Notes: I've been working on this one for months. I'm just sad that it's so short.
Notes II: Spoilers for the S3 finale. Do not read if you haven't seen that yet.
There's a pressure behind his eyes.
Between a thousand thoughts and a thousand more glimpses of time, in the space between synapses and bundles of nerves, is pain. It's pressure, a press; and it's fists thudding against his skull and the feeling of inevitable dread that always seems to follow. He grips the lever of the console and his knuckles whiten in the recess lighting of the main hub. He grimaces against the pressure so hard that spots of color dance against the blackness of his vision and he breathes.
It never surprises him how there is always room for pain.
Sometimes he forgets just how young Rose is. Hardly twenty and she's already reminding him of just how much he's seen. She's so naïve.
But the press of her tongue against his makes him think otherwise, makes him wonder if perhaps she's not nearly as innocent as he's led himself to believe. That's her leg between his and her hands in his hair and her mouth pressing back. They stumble somewhere, towards something and for once he's not paying attention because between Rose and the pressure behind his eyes there isn't much left.
She falls back, though, and he falls on top of her, her blouse half off her shoulders and him coming half undone. It's rushed because that roar in his ears refuses to dull and he's so incredibly unable to stop now. He can see the pale expanse of the flesh over her heart and the twitch of her pulse in her jaw.
When their hips are connected, the roar stops suddenly. Her eyes, below him, are smoky and glint mischievously even as she contracts around him. It's his breathing, the staccato of two hearts in his chest, and the sense of anticipation. He's losing his control even as he unravels.
The pressure's still there.
He's on a quiet moon, orbiting a quiet planet around a young star in the Orion nebula.
He tries not to feel unsupported, somehow. Tries to not think about hurtling through emptiness faster than should be possible at the whim of mere forces. His hands instinctively search out a hold in the blue grass and he has to think about letting go. It's not lost on him that even the universe loses, that in the end everyone is doomed to lose. Stars die and planets burn (and burn and burn and burn) and everything fades to dust and ash.
In the end, even the universe weeps.
He lies back on blue grass and looks up into a purple sky and sees a thousand yellow stars.
It's not lost on him how the faint light is the past.
"You know, you can see into the past."
She looks up from the glossy pages of a magazine, toast spread with jam poised in hand. He's bustling about the kitchen, fixing himself tea, and she simply chews slowly. "Really?"
"Oh, absolutely," he replies, and sits across from her, leaning so far forward that he's almost lying on the table itself.
"How, then?" She's got that look in her eye, the one where she's really just humouring him.
He doesn't really care, and grins widely. "In a mirror. It's the past, you see."
She kisses him very suddenly, and drops her toast onto her plate with a quiet clink.
It lands jam side down. Naturally.
He remembers firsts and thirds and seconds and eighths, every number in between.
He remembers kissing her for the first time this time, hands brushing across her shoulders and toying with her hair. He remembers the stroke of her tongue along his lip and the sensation of it against his.
He remembers seeing her naked for the fourth time, the way her clothes taunted him by only revealing scant inches each layer. She dared him to unwrap her and he dared her to undo buttons faster than him.
He remembers the seventh time they slept together. His thumb ran across her clit and she laughed breathily until it turned into a moan as he flexed his other fingers. He remembers she laughed again even as he sank into her.
He remembers the two hundred eighty seventh time she smiled, pressed against his collarbone just above his (right-hand) heart.
He remembers the thousandth time he held her hand, and told her to run.
Sometimes he hears the echo of of that last conversation. Mostly, when he's wandering the TARDIS in the quiet moments his ship decides it's "night," a habit from Rose, he suspects. It's nothing much, just the whispers of consonants against the metallic walls, the reverb in the hum of the air. The crisp cut of the T and the breath of air in the vowels.
He hears the echo, and the pressure ebbs a little.
He remembers taking her to the American revolution once. The little upstart colony, fresh from declaring its independence in pretty words and exalted language. She watches the ragtag group of farmers and merchants and drunks fire ineffectively at two ships making their way up the Hudson and laughs a little.
"I can't believe they won the war."
"Yes, well, they had a bit of help from the French." They're on a rise, in a tree, hidden by foliage. He'd told her to wear green and brown and trainers, the only warning she'd ever really gotten from him.
"Before they became rather useless, then?"
"Oh yes. Well. Marie Antoinette and the beheadings weren't far off. The French were quite powerful until their civil unrest came to a head."
"Mm," she murmurs, and watches the two ships continue to storm past the American troops. "What's the name of that ship there?" The points to the smaller of the two, the one with fewer guns and a smaller patch of red on the deck.
"That one there?" He turns to her and smiles widely, the grin threatening to break his face in two. "Her name's Rose."
It's her turn to face him, eyebrows high and eyes alight. "You're joking!"
"Time Lord's honor."
She bursts into laughter. "Well, then. I know who I'm cheering on."
"Smart choice. There's some twenty thousand more of ours on those ships over there." He points out to the bay, where some fifty more ships with names like Asia and with enough guns to make the colonists' heads spin bob in the water.
With the distant roar of canon fire echoing in the trees, she quietly - so quietly - laces her fingers with his.
For all the parallel processes his mind can run, for a while half of himself thinks of her. Blonde hair blurs into silver leaves and rouge skin into the orange sky and he's making associations he doesn't really want to. But he is. Because life is hard, he's relearning, a lesson he'd lost with the presence of a Companion.
He manages to clamber on top of his ship, and when he does he watches the yellow, acidic ocean crash against the black, obsidian crags. He wonders why he has to be reminded of loss again and again and again. He remembers losing the wife he took in his first self so many years ago, an attempt to try and understand. He remembers losing the son and daughter-in-law in the auto accident. He remembers the departure of his only granddaughter in the midst of the chaos of a battle.
Most of all, he remembers going with Ace to leave flowers at her headstone, and knew Ace simply wondered if it was another companion.
He wonders if he shouldn't tell the next one, let him or her know what she or he's getting into. And then he makes a mental note to visit their graves again.
900 years, and he's been to far, far too many funerals.
There's apple grass and the smell of clean water and he feels infinte, like he's popping out of the seams of himself. He feels vast and unfathomable. He feels like he is Olympus, existing where the earth and the sky touch. He grabs fistfuls of the tufts of green and feels the false Earth move beneath him like so much weight.
In all the vastness, he feels heavy.
Every creature wants. It's a truth universally acknowledged, to quote dearest Jane who travelled with him and lived a full life just like the rest of them.
(It's his own little fantasy, that he's changed every companion's life for the better somehow. Because if it's not true - Sarah, Sarah, Sarah Jane - then he'd drive himself mad.)
He really does try not to wonder why she never married and died alone the way he will.
But yes, every creature wants. It's the first instinct of any creation. A want to reproduce, the want for food (hunger is a powerful thing), the want for companionship. Evolution can't take it away from any creature. Even Time Lords aren't immune to want. Despite their citadel in the heart of the mountains, they still wanted, and no amount of starch or holier-than-thou could ever iron that most base of instincts out. Every single Time Lord he met wanted something utterly unattainable - power, control, knowledge.
He is not immune; now, in the infinite space between heartbeats, he's always, always alone. He seeks companionship, seeks a friend, a lover, a pet, a someone to stand beside him and make him feel less alone in the world. Last of his species and all he can think of is having another one of him to make him feel less the model and more the counter. He's thrived on being the antithesis; he'd forgotten that the synthesis becomes the thesis to war with a new antithesis.
Damn that Hegel.
Her name was Samantha. He met her when he was young yet, just 400 and fresh out of the academy. His first companion, a little human woman with whom he fell in love. For her, he made himself almost human. For her - for her spirit, for her smile, for her laugh, for her dark, dark eyes - he gave all of himself, only to shatter when he outlived her. And their children. And their grandchildren. His whole quasi-family (because for a Time Lord, family is different) wiped out within a century of his lifespan, of his first life.
Somewhere, in his study, there's still that family portrait she insisted they take, sepia toned and grainy, and the silhouette he begged her to sit for in ivory-colored carnelian.
He misses all of them equally, even the ones he hasn't met yet.
Every hello is a beginning. Every goodbye is, too. Egocentrism increases exponentially with power, and he's never claimed to be entirely selfless. (Good of humanity? Check. His own good? Er...)
He opens the door of the blue box of his TARDIS and steps into the sunshine, the greeting at the tip of his tongue.
It's a start.
My Mind has been the most discontented and restless one that ever was put into a body too small for it. I never felt my Mind repose upon anything with complete and undistracted enjoyment - upon no person but you. When you are in the room my thoughts never fly out of window: you always concentrate my whole senses. The anxiety shown about our Loves in your last note is an immense pleasure to me: however you must not suffer such speculations to molest you any more: nor will I any more believe you can have the least pique against me. - John Keats, to Fanny Brawne (March 1820).
[1 "Only in quiet waters do thing mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world." -Hans Margolius
[3 Again, part of my "Writ in Water" series, which is a series of fics based on excerpts from letter to Fanny Brawne from John Keats.
[4 Somewhere along the way, this stopped being about Ten/Rose and was just about Ten. I don't know; I'm always struck by the cruelty and heartbreaking loneliness they consistently write Ten with, be it the Family of Blood or Doomsday, or even The Last of the Time Lords. This is character study more than anything, but I'm somehow still intensely satisfied with this.
[5 Title comes from Keats' Endymion, a poem about the impossible romance between a poor shepherd named Endymion, and the goddess of the moon, Selene. (Those of us who watched Sailor Moon should recognize this. Represent.)
[6 Originally published 10 July 2007.