Disclaimer: I own them only slightly more than usual.
A/N This chapter takes place pretty much smack dab in the middle of the last one; it's an elaboration of their long-distance relationship.
"Give me good dreams," she requests sleepily. Three thousand miles away and three hours behind, he smiles.
"What would you like to dream about?"
"Dunno. 'nother planet. Stars."
It's a new ritual for them, but it's rapidly becoming one of his favorites. After five viewings of Inception between the two of them and thirty apologies in a single week from her for falling asleep on him, he'd proposed a new system: that she simply warn him when she's getting tired, so that he can guide her dreams. Nothing's really changed from before—he talks, she listens, she eventually falls asleep—but it feels different. To him, anyway. More intimate, somehow.
(And yes. If he's being very honest with himself, he must admit that there's a certain appeal to seeing her like this: relaxed and drowsy and… pliant… hanging onto his every word.)
She stretches like a cat, and his blood rushes south. Pears. People who don't return library books. Superboy Prime punching the timestream. Dolores Umbridge. Nuns. He chokes out some nonsense about cat-nuns; she chuckles.
"…the wind blows so hard you have to shout to be heard, and the grass… oh, the grass smells like apples."
"Applegrass," she repeats luxuriously, loving the sound and the feel of it. With effort, she slurs, "soun's 'mazing."
"Oh, it is. We'll go there one day. I'll spread out my coat for us to lay down on, so you don't have to stain your jeans, and we'll watch the cars fly past."
"It's the future, Rose. What kind of alien planet would it be if it didn't have flying cars? And hush, you're disrupting the ambiance. Close your eyes and no more talking."
"Kay…" she murmurs obediently, and he has to clear his throat before he can continue.
She soon drifts off to the familiar cadence of his voice and the memory of being held in his arms, the whir of her laptop a poor substitute for feeling his voice rumble through his chest. Hips rock absentmindedly and hands drift downwards, her body longing for the rhythm of his.
It's not applegrass she dreams of.
When she wakes up, he's playing with plastic dinosaurs.
"…and we shall rule over this land," he says in a grand whisper, ostensibly so as not to disturb Jack, "and we shall call it… This Land!" He waves his T-rex in the air. "I think we should call it your grave!"
"Ah! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal," she quotes dutifully along with him, as he gestures broadly with his stegosaurus. He looks up, surprised at the sound of her voice, and grins.
"Ah ha ha, mine is an evil laugh. Now DIE!"
"Oh god, oh dear god in heaven," she says in a monotone, brain still sleep-fuzzy. He pouts.
"Well that's hardly gonna carry to the back row, is it?"
"I think our audience is tired of seeing the same show every single time. Why not mix it up a bit?"
The Doctor puts down his dinosaurs, looking around his dorm room. "Well, I suppose… ah."
"What?" she asks, more awake now that she can see the clever gleam in his eye. He reaches for some things out of her line of sight.
"Well, let's solve the age old question, shall we? Star Wars," he holds up a Darth Vader bobble head in his right hand, "or Star Trek?" A Lt. Worf action figure pops into frame in his left. "Oh, but for the purposes of this exercise, Worf is just some generic Klingon, okay?"
She's already giggling. "Okay."
"In many ways," he wheezes in his best Vader, "our goals are similar, though your methods are inelegant."
He flails Worf around. "Klingons have no concept of elegance!"
"This is obvious. But consider our compatibility. Our Empire and yours, ruling the galaxy as one."
"You propose an alliance?"
"Then face… your desssssssstiny!"
He clashes the two plastic figures together loudly in battle; Jack gives a snore off-camera, and the Doctor jumps. After a tense moment, he hunches his shoulders to continue. A very sneaky whisper now, from Worf: "You have neither honor nor courage; that is why we will win this war."
"This is not war. This is pest control."
"We have two thousand Klingon Birds-of-Prey. How many are you?"
"Only two can there be… a Master, and an apprentice."
"You would destroy the Klingon Empire with two Sith Lords?"
"We would destroy the Klingon Empire with one Sith Lord. You are superior in only one respect."
"What is that?"
"You are better at dying," Vader says coldly.
Rose laughs until she can't breathe; hiccups and claps, tears forming at the corners of her eyes. "Have I mentioned lately that I love you?"
The Doctor beams. "I could always stand to hear it again."
"I love you."
"Anything fun happen today?"
"Mmm, kinda. Went to the comic book store with Mom, and Donna was working."
"Oh god. The three of you in the same room? I'm not sure I even want to know."
"It was nice, actually. Some other guys in there were arguing about classic X-Men stuff, and we ended up explaining the entire Phoenix Saga to her."
"We did! Managed to do it in under half an hour, too."
"Impressive. And she was able to keep up?"
"You'd be surprised. Most of it can be summarized by saying 'and at this point, Cyclops is a big moron.' And Donna realized that she and mom are both Days of Our Lives fans, which helped."
"Er… how, exactly?"
"Well, for one thing, having everyone come back from the dead wasn't as foreign as it could have been, conceptually speaking. But anyway. How were your classes?"
"Fantastic. Actually, something in Poetry of Central and South America reminded me of you today."
She grins. "Yeah?"
"Would you read it to me?"
"It's in Spanish."
"Like you can't translate."
"I was attempting to be modest."
She snorts. Rolling his eyes, he digs out his glasses and examines his notes. "Sonnet Seventeen, by Pablo Neruda. 'I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or—"
"Sorry, what was that?" she laughs. "I think I hear a pun just yearning to be free. Go on; I know you want to."
He grins, and starts over. "I do not love you as if you were salt, Rose, or topaz…" he reads; she smiles and closes her eyes.
"… I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride; so… so I love you because I know no other way than this. In which there is no I or you. So close that your hand, upon my chest, is my hand. So close that your eyes close as I fall asleep."
He waits patiently for praise that does not come.
She snores once, softly, in response.
(He'll read it again tomorrow.)
A little after 2 A.M., her phone rings.
"Rose, I forgot the alphabet!"
"The alphabet! I forgot it. Just for a moment, but still: worrying."
"What are you… have you been drinking?"
"Of course I have, Rose, if I didn't drink I'd dehydrate and die. You wouldn't want me to die, would you?"
"No! Well. A bit. But you're not listening to me! I'm losing my faculties of speech and recall! My brain could be decomposing at this very moment!"
"How is it even possible to forget the alphabe—"
"I don't know! I was talking to Tosh about Twilight, and she said that it was an insult to the English language, and then I said it was an insult to the very concept of putting words together in an order, and then I tried to sing the alphabet. And I couldn't!"
"But the alphabet isn't even words put in a—never mind that. You're drinking too much. I think you're turning into an alcoholic."
"Going out twice in my life doesn't make me an alcoholic, Rose."
She licks her teeth, warming to the subject. He's so much easier to string along when he's like this. "Sure it does. You're only allowed to get drunk once in your life. After that, you're doomed to a future of large bar tabs and awkward AA meetings."
"Poppycock," he scoffs. "If I'm an alcoholic, then you're a… a…"
"Yes?" she prompts.
"I—sorry, getting my key into the door was… alarmingly difficult. I should have a screwdriver or something. To break the lock. No hand-eye coordination required; just point and shoot!"
"I don't… I think your concept of how screwdrivers work is flawed."
"Well, this one would be sonic, obviously."
"What was I talking about, before?"
"Things that I am."
"Well, you're beautiful…"
It's stupid to blush, but she does it anyway. "Thank you."
"…for a human, of course."
Halfway through a particularly boring weekend shift at Henrik's, he texts her. How's work?
Ok. Played with bubble wrap and ate a Reese's cup. After a moment, she pulls out her phone to amend her statement. I mean. Other stuff's happened in between. But those are the highlights so far.
Jack has Plans for the evening. How should we take advantage?
She bites her tongue. Naked skype call?
…That is so superior to any of my suggestions.
"Wait, Rose, tilt your camera, I can't see—oh. Oh, yes, thank you. That's, um. You're."
He gulps. "Hi."
"Hi," she laughs. She considers her right hand, as if she's never quite noticed before that she had one, attached to her arm and fully dexterous and everything. "D'you want me to…?"
"…this is awkward."
"I miss you."
Her blinks are getting longer, but she hasn't given him any indication that she plans on going to bed. Which is ridiculous—she has to wake up in a few hours, and he knows for a fact she has a test in the morning.
Luckily, he knows the cure.
"I'm bored. Ask me stuff."
Rose bites her lip in thought. "Um… your Guilt Free Three: fictional guy edition."
"Oooh, nice one. But you know, while we're on the subject, I have a question about the phrase Guilt Free," he says, rubbing at the back of his neck. "Are we saying that your Guilt Free Three are the people you feel no shame admitting to liking, or are we saying that if, hypothetically, you found one of the three… drunk, or incapacitated or something, you would feel no shame taking advantage of them?"
"The former!" she squeaks, though he can't tell if it's from amusement or mortification.
"I was just asking. Okay. Um… Han Solo…"
"Wise choice; rugged yet reliable. Next?"
"Oh, go on. I know you have one."
He mumbles something unintelligible.
"Sorry, what was that?"
"I said Indiana Jones."
"… is there something going on between you and Harrison Ford that I should know about?"
"Only in my dreams, Rose."
"Well, mine too, so that's only fair."
"Can we have a Guilt Free Threesome?"
She laughs. "I wish. And you still have one more left, by the way. And don't say the cop from Witness."
The Doctor is silent for a minute before sheepishly admitting, "I didn't think this would be so difficult."
"If it were easy, I wouldn't have asked you. You said you were bored."
"Aren't you tired? What happened to you being tired?"
"Nope. Wide awake. One more."
"It's just a game, Doctor, you don't have to agonize over it. Just pick—"
"Spider-Man! No, wait. Peter Parker."
"They're the same."
"Yes, but no."
"No 'no' about it; they're the same person."
"You got mad at me when I said Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus were the same person."
"How is that at all different?"
"Well, first of all, Miley Cyrus is still a real person, whereas Peter Parker and Spidey are both fictional. But second and more importantly, I don't buy that the mask changes anything."
"You and your Bat fetish."
"It's got nothing to do with that. Yeah, Bruce Wayne is Batman. But Superman is also Clark Kent, and Iron-Man is Tony Stark, and you can't have one without the other."
"Well there's an idea."
"Lois Lane versus Pepper Potts."
"In a battle of…?"
"Tie. But really, we should narrow it down. There are too many canons to consider."
"Then we'll just do a Best Of grudge match: Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper from the movies, versus Dana Delany's Lois from the Animated Series."
"Well, they get equal scores in Snark. And in ability to pull off skirt/blazer combos."
"But Pepper is ginger. So she gets extra points."
"But Lois was designed by Bruce Timm, so that evens them out again."
"Well yes, but…"
An hour later, she's fading fast.
"Oh, I meant to tell you earlier, but I forgot," she says, snuggling down into her pillow. "Bad Wolf howled again this afternoon."
He grins. "Oh? Tell me everything."
"Went to see a movie with Shareen after school. And behind us, there was this little boy—three, maybe four years old—and his mom."
"What were you seeing?"
"Toy Story 3… don't you dare laugh," she warns, trying to look stern.
"Oh, I wouldn't dream of it. Anyway, you were saying?"
"Well, at the end the credits, Shareen and I were a mess, obviously, but the little boy was sobbing."
"It's an upsetting movie! … or… so… I've heard. Though I'm not sure if a three-year-old could really grasp the emotional complexities. In fact, he wasn't even alive for—oh. Interrupting. Continue!"
"Well, s'like you said. At first I thought he was just sad, but that didn't make any sense. Turned out, he'd lost his action figures in the dark. His mom was clueless."
The Doctor flinches in sympathy, knowing well the unparalleled plight of a small nerd denied his toys. "How'd you figure that out?"
"Well, as I'm turning my phone back on he just turns these huge, watery puppy eyes on me, and I was a goner. Got down on my hands and knees and looked under the seats, using my phone as a light. There's gum in my hair and my palms are still sticky, for reasons I'd really rather not think about, but on the bright side: Buzz and Woody are saved."
"My hero," he says with a smile so proud and a voice filled with so much conviction she has no choice but to believe he means it.
"Rose…" he warns, and she pouts at him.
"I know, I know. Bedtime." She pauses for a moment, then asks hopefully, "give me good dreams?"