Written for then_theres_us challenge 9 "Music"

The TARDIS is burning and she's inside, glass shattering and wood cracking all around her. She can taste salt in her mouth, feel sand scraping against her skin. She screams and the salt becomes ash and she becomes ash in the fire no one sees because it's being swallowed by the impossible darkness of a world without a sky. Everything is lost she is lost everything is lost but then there's music, strange and soft and beautiful, bright in the darkness like sunlight on snow—

Rose wakes up and for a moment she doesn't know where she is. The nightmare clings to her like a cobweb; she hasn't had one of that intensity for several months, working so hard on the dimension cannon and navigating parallel universes that when she found time to sleep it was akin to being comatose.

Gradually she recognises the peaceful setting of her bedroom in the East wing of the Tyler mansion, the moonlight streaming through the window telling her it's either very late or very early. She reaches out to the other side of the bed and discovers it's cool and empty. Strangely, the incongruous last image of her dream hasn't faded even as she slumps back against the pillows. She can still hear the haunting, stirring melody— in fact, it seems to be coming from downstairs.

Dilemma on whether or not to get up solved, she swings her legs out of bed and throws a silk robe over her I'm-only-wearing-it-because-I-was-planning-to-leave-this-universe-and-don't-have-anything-else silk and lace night gown. She moves through empty hallways, feeling like a ghost or an intruder in their eerie silence, until she finds him in the downstairs drawing room.

He is sitting at the piano, fingers sliding over the keys like they had so often slid over a console, caressing and coaxing with infinite delicacy. Rose swallows hard, and not just at the memory of those hands moving the same way over her skin. The music he is creating is beautiful almost to the point of being unbearable, a wrenching harmony of love and loss.

She drifts through the room as though still in a dream until she's standing behind him. He stops playing a second before her hand touches his shoulder and looks up at her. The moonlight saps all the colours from the room, leaving everything an ethereal blue save for his eyes which are dark as space.

Though he's technically only existed for a few weeks, Rose is just as good at reading the moods of this body as she was with his others, and can tell this is a time when he's glad of her company. She settles herself on the piano bench next to him, pressing against his still-surprising warmth in the chilly room. One of his nimble hands rises to play with her hair while she traces a finger reverently across the piano keys.

"Mum always wanted a grand piano," she murmurs into the glowing silence his music has left behind. "But we never had the money or the space at the Powell Estate."

It has taken her several years of living in this world and watching her mum and dad and new baby brother grow in happiness to accept the loss of that other life. There is no bitterness in her voice as she continues, "For Lady Jacqueline Tyler neither of those are a problem."

The Doctor trails his hand down her back and lays his head on her shoulder, unusually quiet and obviously in need of comfort. Rose takes her hand from the keys and places it on his knee.

"That music," she says quietly into his tousled hair. "I've never heard anything like it."

"It's from Gallifrey," he admits, shaping the word cautiously as though afraid it might burn him. Rose flexes her fingers on his leg but keeps her voice light.

"You had pianos on Gallifrey?"

"No, nothing so simple." He shifts, reaching into the pocket of his pyjama bottoms, energised as always by the opportunity of an explanation. "But I used the sonic to boost the resonance capacity and dampen the inharmonicity—"

He pauses as he glances at her, holding the sonic device he fashioned his first day at Torchwood limply in his hand. "What?" he asks in a small voice.

"You used the sonic on my mum's grand piano?" Rose says slowly.

"Um." He sets the sonic down quickly and assumes a deliberately innocent expression. "Yes. A bit."

Rose cocks an eyebrow, and he protests in a rather higher voice, "I'll put it back!"

"You certainly will," Rose replies forcefully, but can't help a smile from spreading across her face. The Doctor returns the grin for a moment, a flash of white in the dark room, before his gaze slides back to the piano and his face falls into shadow once more. It's obvious he's not really seeing the stately instrument in front of him as he murmurs,

"I wasn't sure I'd remember the song." His long fingers come up to hover like moths over the keys. "But I do. It… it isn't as sad as I thought."

Rose smiles again, pleased and moved to hear his voice also contains no bitterness. She nudges his arm, an acknowledgement and an encouragement, and he obliges her with barely a pause.

The stirring, sweeping music fills the room once more, and as Rose lays her head against the Doctor's shoulder she decides the song isn't as sad as she thought either. He continues to play, graceful and empyreal, until she begins to drift off into the warm oblivion created between the music and the moonlight.

Then he lifts her in his arms and carries her upstairs to their bedroom where they lay wrapped closely together throughout the rest of the night in peaceful, dreamless sleep.


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