Dreams and Realities
"There's no way it works," the Doctor said, his normal smug, confident grin paired with sparkling dark eyes.
"Oh so now you're Mr. Knows Everything, are you?" Kara asked, amused at his ever-over inflated ego.
"Yup." He popped the p like she had known he would and she rolled her eyes good-naturedly.
The sign on the door of the building read in bold yellow letters, 'Alternate Reality Projector! See All Your Wildest Dreams Come True!' A smaller sign hung on the doorknob, reading 'Free Trial Today. One Per Customer. All Species Not Guaranteed Compatibility' in smaller black, hand-written, letters.
It was fifty-third century technology and the pair had happened upon the little shop as they had wandered the location that Kara's three random numbers had brought them to. Kara had almost been ready to go back to the Tardis when the little shop's bright yellow letters had caught her eye.
"If you're such a skeptic, try it out," Kara challenged, tossing her red hair out of her face. Her eyes sparkled with mischief as his mouth stretched to match her grin. He strode into the shop, pulling open the door as she galloped after, grinning widely, pleased with her victory. Unfortunately, four words shattered the smugness that came with her win as the Doctor stood before the salesman, a short, pudgy alien with rough green-brown skin.
"Sorry, you're not compatible."
"What?" Kara asked incredulously, "Why not?"
The salesman's voice was oily and a tad overly patient. "It says on the sign that all species are not guaranteed compatibility. His species isn't in the database, so the machine won't read him."
"What about me?" Kara asked, "Am I compatible?"
The salesman grunted and waddled over to the machine. It struck Kara that he looked quite a bit like a giant armadillo and she stifled a chuckle.
"Human," he said, now sounding bored, "You're compatible. Ready for all your wildest dreams to come true?"
"How does it work?" Kara asked cautiously, "It doesn't kill my brain cells or anything does it?"
"It's really very simple," the salesman said and Kara got the feeling that she was about to be given the pitch. She glanced back at the Doctor, rolled her eyes with an exasperated sort of smile and looked back to the salesman who was now quite excitedly explaining how his product worked.
"The main part of this machine is the telepathic field regulator. It uses your memories and wishes to create the world. The other main part is what I like to call a dimensional peephole inducer. It uses flaws in the fabric of reality to peep into the alternate reality you're dreaming up (because there's always a real one) and it uses the images and sensory data to create the rest of the world. Anyone can take see the world you've created while you're in it, and can see you interacting in it as well, but the beauty of it is you can't see them. I call this part the reality filter. They don't exist to you until the machine is switched off. You can do this yourself by using a pre-set trigger word, having a set a timer, or you can have a friend turn it off for you. Also, it runs off of nearly any power source, can be set up in any space greater than a 3-meter cube, and gives off no harmful emissions or radiation! If you like what you see in the free trial you can get a discount of 5 off, lowering the price to only 700 million credits!"
Kara listened, actually fascinated by the machine she was about to test.
"It's like being a beta tester," she muttered to herself. Then, out loud, she asked, "Just to clarify, anyone can see the world I create when I'm in it?"
"That's correct!" the salesman agreed excitedly, "Are you ready to try it out for yourself?"
"Could I do it twice, once for him since he's not compatible?"
"No. One per customer," the salesman growled, looking suspicious, like Kara had tried to trick him out of something.
"All right then. Turn it on."
"Now all you have to do is think up the world you want."
Kara could have imagined a world where her friends in primary school hadn't been taken away, or perhaps a world where she was someone in power and important, but instead, she smiled at the Doctor, mentally calling up images she had once seen in his mind. And she wished up a reality where the Time War had been won without the destruction of Gallifrey. A reality where the Doctor still had a wife and kids, where he had never become the lonely wanderer that he was now, a world where he could be truly happy.
She didn't know how long it lasted. She could see his world in all it's alien beauty. It seemed strangely familiar, though Kara had never seen outside of the Doctor's memories. Gallifrey was beautiful, was perfect, was like something from a dream.
As Kara wandered wide-eyed through the world, completely wrapped up in her reality, the Doctor watched, his eyes open wide, his hearts wrenching.
"Where is that?" the salesman asked the Doctor, whom was staring at one of his children as Kara knelt down to speak with them.
"It's my world. It was destroyed a long time ago."
"Did she ever go there?" he asked curiously, his scaly green-brown skin catching the light from one of the two suns in the sky of Kara's reality.
"No. She'd never been."
"Then why did she create it? Everyone who tries it makes a universe for them, something for them to enjoy, even if their friends aren't compatible with the machine."
"She made it for me."
"But why?" the salesman was puzzled, "She got one chance to see her dreams come true, even if it's only for a little while, but she made something for you. Why did she do that?"
"Because she's Kara Angel." It was a simple statement and the salesman still didn't understand. He didn't understand why anyone would be selfless when selfishness was so easy, so gratifying.
"Wasn't an angel some sorta creature with wings that was all goodness and light? Someone had one'a those in a reality earlier today."
"Yes, that's what it is," the Doctor said without looking at the alien salesman. His world was everywhere in the room and the walls were no longer visible. Ever since the machine had started, it was like the reality was the room. There were no walls or floor or doors. Only his world, Kara, the salesman with the machine, and himself.
"Her time's coming up in a few seconds. She's gonna be a little disoriented for a second but it'll pass."
He flipped a switch and suddenly Gallifrey was gone. There was only the bare white walls, the hard stone floor, and the salesman with his machine. Kara put one hand to her forehead and closed her eyes, slowly shaking her head back and forth. Her back was to the Doctor; she couldn't see him looking at her, his eyes a little sad.
Once her head had cleared and the room was standing still again, Kara turned to face the Doctor. He merely smiled at her, his dark eyes saying everything and nothing at all. She looked at the salesman,
"Thank you. That was really amazing," she smiled briefly, then walked over to the Doctor, and he held out his arms. Kara hugged him tightly. Not a word was spoken, but she could taste his emotions; the gratitude, the happiness, the bitter sweetness of the gain and the loss.
Thank you. It wasn't spoken aloud, she didn't take it from his thoughts, but she could feel it as clearly as though he had whispered it into her ear.
They both let go at the same time and she followed him out into the sunlit afternoon. As the door swung shut behind her, he held out his hand. Looking up at him, she smiled, and took it. Together, they walked back to the Tardis, things not quite as they had been before, but somehow, much better.