More Powerful Than Facts
Rose/Doctor, Pete/Jackie, others implied
Written for the Crossover Challenge (Challenge 37) at Then_theres_us over on LJ. I'm proud and grateful to say it won second place, actually. :-) AU after Doomsday - a VERY special reunion fic
I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge - myth is more potent than history - dreams are more powerful than facts - hope always triumphs over experience - laughter is the cure for grief - love is stronger than death.
-Robert Fulghum, The Storyteller's Creed
More Powerful Than Facts
"Has anyone ever told you you look like David Bowie?" The Doctor peered over the top of his glasses at the blond man sprawled on a rather ornately designed circular throne. The TARDIS had only just landed and so far the Doctor was only certain this was not Kansas or anything like it.
"You're a fine one to talk of looking like a man called David," said the indolent figure of the crownless king. "Come now, surely you can say something more creative when performing such unlikely magic in my realm."
"Magic?" the Doctor said, then whipped his head around to look at the TARDIS. "Oh!" he exclaimed. "No, she's not magic at all, I mean, not the way you're using the term, anyway, unless you mean something you can't even comprehend, in which case I suppose that might be…"
"Magic," interrupted the man firmly, standing and summoning a small crystal ball from absolutely nowhere.
The Doctor considered. He knew all sorts of sleight of hand conjuring tricks, like the one the man was doing now, making the crystal dance across his fingertips, but the original trick of pulling it out of thin air was… "Ah. That sort of magic."
Time to wake up, Doctor, he thought to himself.
"So how did you perform your trick, if not by magic?" the blond asked.
"Long, long story," the Doctor answered vaguely, looking around for any convenient way out of this situation. Apparently, his experiences in captivity with the Master had done a little more damage than he thought. "Um… could I just ask? Who are you, anyway?"
"Interesting," the magic crystal ball juggler said. "Almost everyone who comes to me knows who I am, even those who come to me inadvertently. Hm. I am Jareth, King of the Goblins. And you are?"
"King of the…" the Doctor mused. "Right. Well, I'm the… erm… Lord of Time… and, erm, basically? Goodbye." He turned on his Converse to run for the TARDIS, only to trip over something small, fuzzy, and laughing, and land on his rather skinny bum. His bum then proceeded to remind him just how skinny it was by throbbing exceptionally painfully at him.
Nevertheless, the Doctor didn't have time for such things. He was caught up, absolutely filled with amazement and wonder. "Oh, what are you?" he asked, reverently, righting the creature that had tripped him and staring at it in delighted shock.
"It's an excellent goblin," the King said, turning a particularly pointy-toothed smile on the goblin in question. "As I may have mentioned, I'm their King. Tell me, Lord of Time, do you have some to spare?"
"Some… time?" the Doctor asked warily, picking himself up from his sprawl at Jareth's feet and shaking his head to try to get it to return to sanity – or at least to its usual brand of insanity. "I suppose I do…" The Doctor looked at the goblin that had tripped him, the one that was grinning and nodding at him now and suddenly decided that everything was fine. He was having a crazy dream. People did from time to time, and when they woke up, they sometimes didn't even remember them.
And hadn't Rose always liked that one film, with the goblins in it?
As always, the memory of her hurt. He forced it away, wondering why the grief hadn't dimmed even after all this time. He'd lost friends before, they'd left him, or he'd left them. Some had even died. Rose was alive, and Rose had a good situation, a family she loved around her, and everything she'd ever wanted as a girl.
Rose was also the one who'd promised never to leave him, the one he'd promised to never leave as well. They were staying together, forever, they'd decided, when the Universe divide opened up and swallowed her.
The Doctor shoved the thoughts away, like he always did. He'd had plenty of practice, after all. "Yes, I suppose I have some time to spare. Is that something important?"
The King of the Goblins flashed a particularly pointy-toothed smile at the Last of the Time Lords. "Yes, why don't you come up here, try out this chair, see how it works for you?"
"What?" the Doctor wondered.
"I've a mission Above, and I need someone to fill in for me down here. You are a Lord, used to governing others, and goblins are hardly difficult if you have sensible shoes for kicking them."
"What?" The Doctor considered the King's high-heeled, dark leather strutting boots, mentally compared them to his own trainers, and couldn't make any of that sentence make sense, either.
"Take my task for thirteen hours, Lord of Time, and at the end of it, you will have your hearts' desire."
"Yes, I'll feed him," Rose said into her mobile. "Yes, I'll change him. Yes, I'll tell him a story, rock him to sleep, whatever else he needs." She frowned. "Yes, I know to hold him right way up!" she exclaimed, indignantly.
She listened for a few more minutes, taking notes, until she realized she'd written the same command three times. Then, she smirked. "So, bathe him in the sink, let him run 'round naked 'til he dries, feed him chocolate cake and chips, and fall asleep with him on the sofa whenever he runs us both ragged, right?"
She laughed lightly at the shrieks of protest over the line. "Love you, Mum!" she called over the tirade, and rang off, then turned her mobile off altogether. Honestly. That routine she'd just described was exactly how Rose herself was raised, and just because her brother Tony was a billionaire's son, didn't mean he didn't have the right to have embarrassing photos of him in chocolate cake and nudity.
Mind, she didn't have any such things, but only because they were on the other side of the Void, along with everything and nearly everyone who mattered to her. As had become her habit, she turned all the affection she would have given her lost friends onto the baby instead.
"Come on, now, Tony Pony," she said, lifting the baby from his playpen. "You're the only child I'll get to blackmail, so let's get you ready for your photo shoot, yeah?"
Rose looked with no little dismay at the proffered copy of "The Automatic Elephant: A Cautionary Tale for Boys and Girls" and sighed. "No, Tony, this one's too old for you." What she meant was "this one doesn't even belong in this house, no one here would know caution if it bit them on the bum, so they can't fob it off on you," but she couldn't very well say that.
Who in the Universe would give a baby this depressing piece of rubbish, anyway? She looked at the last page, which showed the adorable elephant character being blown up, and shook her head. Stupid cyber-infested reality, trying to brainwash everyone into believing it had been an easy thing, instead of the least terrible of a lot of terrible choices.
"How about I tell you a story?" Rose said, before she could sink into a Torchwood-working, Doctor-missing, eternally-regretting funk. If Tony was going to be her sole consolation, she'd best get the maximum possible distraction value out of him before he was old enough to be thoroughly bored with her.
"Doc?" Tony asked.
Rose shook her head and pulled her brother into her lap. Looked like he was already starting to catch on. "Not tonight, darling," she said softly. "Mummy and Daddy are stuck in Scotland for the night. How about a fairy tale? They'd never approve, you know. Anything but Red Riding Hood."
"Oh-Oh-Kay," Tony said, the strange variation that Pete found so brilliant, he used it to advertise Vitex's equivalent of Ovaltine.
Rose smiled and ruffled his ginger hair and cuddled him close. She tried to think which story to tell, but nothing popped immediately to mind, except Star Wars, and she was almost sure he was too young for that.
Rose looked around Tony's room, until her eyes happened to light on the Escher print poster, Waterfall, that she'd bought him when everyone else was bringing him dead-depressing books and stuffed fluffies three times his size. She'd decided it would be something he could grow into, in case she disappeared on him or something, and besides, it reminded her of this one place…
No, she shouldn't be thinking about that. What else? Well, there was that one movie, with David Bowie in it.
Rose smiled to herself and leaned back, wondering if David Bowie existed in this Universe, and if he did, was he selling used Zepplins in York or singing Presley Twins covers in a pub in Ipswich? She resolved herself to look it up tomorrow and, for today, began her story where this one always began – at the end.
…Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the Castle Beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great. You have…
"Right," said the Doctor, looking at the goblins clustered around his feet. "Well, I think the first order of business is to clean up in here. If we're keeping small children, and it's my understanding that we do, indeed, keep small children, it would hardly be safe or sanitary to allow them to play in the chicken feathers and dirt. Not to mention these sausages." He snatched a string of sausages from a pair of goblins and inspected them closely with the sonic screwdriver.
"These went off during the Upper Cretaceous. Don't eat them." He sighed. "So, brooms, mops, dust pans? Allons-y?"
"Sing, Lordling," suggested one of the largest Goblins, wielding a makeshift spear and gesturing at the Doctor with it.
"Sing, sing, sing," the goblins all chanted.
The Doctor, thoroughly perplexed, wracked his brains for a song. It was reasonable to assume that a room full of fuzzy horrors, even tiny fuzzy horrors, could probably force the issue if they all flung their outrage (and themselves) at him at once.
Much to his annoyance, his recent experiences had made an indelible mark. "You're like voodoo, baby, you just take hold…"
Damn, damn, damn.
"What, exactly, are you up to?"
"Now that would be telling, Precious."
"And then, Sarah the hysterical teenager stomped out of the room in a hormone-filled huff. At the door, she stopped, flipped off the light..." Rose clicked off the light and Tony screamed a happy toddler giggle. She laughed with him. "And then she said it. 'I wish the goblins would come and take you away! Right now!'"
The Doctor stared at the ginger-haired child who had just appeared, wearing brown pinstriped pajamas. The little one stared back at him. "Was this in the script?" he asked the ceiling. The ceiling didn't answer him back.
He picked up the toddler from the floor full of goblins. It was completely unsanitary. Period. "You look very familiar," he told the baby. "I mean, your hair is rather ridiculously sticky-uppy, but I don't think that's what you remind me of. Something else, I can't remember really, but I'm sure it will come to me if I just think about it for a while. Where did you get these fetching little jim-jams, anyway? Did someone lose you, or…"
The baby started to scream.
"You remind me of Jackie Tyler," the Doctor realized.
Rose was standing on a hill overlooking vast acreage of countryside, every inch of which appeared to be covered with a sprawling, winding, twisting Labyrinth. "This cannot be happening," she decided.
She pinched herself hard but didn't wake up. "OK, so I'm not dreaming. But that doesn't mean I'm caught in an eighties hair-band fantasy movie. Could've been kidnapped by aliens. That's happened before."
"OK, so then I magically appear, and then the teenage girl is supposed to say 'you're him, aren't you, you're the Goblin King,' and then I say, 'I've brought you a gift…'" The shockingly familiar voice trailed off. "Well, that makes no sense. Why wouldn't I explain that…"
"I'm caught in some alien matrix thingee and just dreaming up the person I want most to see in the whole Universe?" Rose offered, absolutely unable to believe that she was seeing the Doctor, holding a red leather-bound book in one hand, and pacing up and down in front of her on the hill as if he had forgotten his lines.
"No," the Doctor said, vaguely, "because if I was seeing the person I most wanted to see in the whole Universe, you wouldn't just sound like…" He looked up and peered at her through his glasses. His mouth fell open, his eyes behind the spectacles sparkling overly brightly. His breath escaped him in an audible whoosh, but it was none of these things that made Rose do what she did next.
Rather, it was his voice, hoarse and choked, as he whispered, "Rose."
She was in his arms before either of them could blink, laughing, crying, hugging, sobbing, singing, she didn't know what else. He felt exactly like the Doctor, skinnier than she remembered, but his hands just as cool, with double hearts that thundered against her chest as he crushed her to him so tight it was like he was trying to squeeze her inside him.
Rose would never ever be able to say who started the kissing. She would just as likely blame the Doctor. He was the one with the oral fixation, but then she was the one who couldn't believe he was real. But he had to be. He tasted like the Doctor, like Time and tea and mysteries that could never be solved, like the air inside the TARDIS.
And then, she was lost in the bliss of kissing him, at last, after all this time. Tongues entwined and exploring, learning places they had never been, her Doctor… her Doctor.
Rose broke the kiss, or maybe he did, and they looked at each other in wary astonishment. "Sorry," they both said. Rose knew she was apologizing because she wasn't supposed to kiss the Doctor, but she had no idea why he was apologizing.
Combined with the wary, fascinated, nearly terrified look on his face, it made her burst out laughing. The Doctor, of course, just gaped at her like a landed fish.
God, but she'd missed him.
"So, the screaming tyke in the pinstriped pajamas," the Doctor began hesitantly. "Is he… yours?"
"Yeah," Rose said enthusiastically, "youngest of ten."
The Doctor boggled. "You've… kept your figure."
"And you've kept your dorkiness," she replied, rolling her eyes. "He's my brother, you plum."
"Oh, I knew that," the Doctor answered, not even knowing where to start on how relieved he was.
Rose shook her head. "Still don't get it, do you? I said forever, and I've not been gone long enough to give up yet."
"How long has it been?" the Doctor asked, trying to distract her from her eyes misting up.
"Too long," she said softly.
"Yeah," the Doctor agreed. "Way too long." He wrapped his arms around Rose again, hugging her as tightly as he ever had. "If this is a dream… Rose…" She was tugging away from him. He looked down at her, his brow knitting in confusion.
"I need to get Tony back," she said.
"Tony?" the Doctor questioned, disbelieving.
"Tony Tyler," he said, pronouncing the words with care, just to see how they fit. He grinned when they worked perfectly. "Tony the Tyler!" he exclaimed, laughing.
"Oh, lord, not you, too." Rose had her nose crinkled and her hand over her mouth. The Doctor knew that gesture well, though: It meant she was hiding laughter because she didn't want to encourage him.
"Tony the Tyler," he decided. "That's just brilliant. Now why would you wish a ginger headed step-brother away?"
"He's a half-brother, and I didn't wish him away," Rose said, indignantly. "I was telling him a story. Apparently, I fell asleep instead and decided to dream you were the Gobling King."
"No, no," the Doctor countered, "I'm sleeping. I dreamed the Goblin King bullied me into filling in for him. Promised me my hearts' desire."
"Which is?" Rose asked, her tone sullen and her eyes looking off into the distance.
The Doctor stared down at her. No, it couldn't… couldn't possibly… "Look," he began, uneasily, hand on the back of his neck as he tried to think, "I'll see if I can find that big haired glitter bloke who got me into this. You can…"
"I'll get started on running the Labyrinth," Rose replied. She smirked. "I've seen the film and lived in the TARDIS. I think I'll be okay."
The Doctor forced a smile, loath to let her out of his sight. "Course you will," he said, putting a hand on her face and tilting her chin up so that he could look into her eyes. "After all, you're no fairy tale princess."
She gave him that star-burst smile, the one that paled suns. "Not me – I'm the Big Bad Wolf."
"I cannot believe she said that."
"Why ever not? It is true."
Rose found the garden pond at the bottom of the hill, but much to her relief, the fairy tale illusion wasn't shattered by a dwarf adding to the water supply, as it had been in the movie. She did find the dwarf, but all he was doing was losing a fight with a flock of fairies.
They were attacking him like nesting robins, pulling at his hair and beard, clinging to his clothes, poking him with tiny sticks. Rose shook her head and pulled off her jacket, using it to fan the tiny menaces away.
They swarmed around her, one of them poked her quite solidly in the nose, and then they all flew off. "Evil little buggers, aren't they?" she observed.
The dwarf chuffed grumpily. "What'd you expect fairies to be?"
Rose snickered and, because she remembered this line (she'd always thought it rather funny), recited, "I thought fairies did nice things. Like granting wishes."
"Shows what you know," the dwarf answered gruffly.
"You know, I always thought you should say something like, 'A dirty great fairy just granted your wish and it landed you here. How's that working out for you?'"
The dwarf considered her with confused, watery blue eyes, then suddenly grinned as if revelations had just dawned. "I like it," he said.
"I'm not that sort of fairy."
"I dunno. Tight pants and glitter?"
"You like the tight pants."
"So, I've been informed that you remind me of Jackie for a reason." The Doctor bounced the little boy on his knee, grinning when the child laughed. "I think I really need to get you home, though. Last time I stole one of her kids, she hit me, and that one was old enough to look after herself. Don't think closed Universes will stop that woman if she finds out I've got you, too."
Tony gurgled quite contentedly and looked up at the Doctor through huge, sparkling brown eyes. The Doctor stared. The baby cooed, and reached out to tug on the Doctor's hand. His ginger hair wandered where it wanted, thick and wild. His dark eyes were bright and full of hints of gold, like Rose's had been turning. He had a long, elegant nose, which was currently crinkled up. He sneezed a tiny, toddler sneeze, blowing glitter everywhere.
The goblins clustered around them gave Tony a round of applause. "Doc," Tony said, giving the Doctor a look that he knew instantly was confusion, because it was identical to Rose's expression in the same mood.
"Oh, just look at you!" he exclaimed joyously. He couldn't help hugging the boy, or taking the offered, tiny hand.
And thus was the last of the Time Lords wrapped around the little finger of yet another child of Jackie and Pete Tyler.
Rose stood with trepidation at the foot of an ancient stair, her eyes scanning for any possible solution to her current predicament. "This is nothing like the film," she pointed out, expecting a mountain lion or a monster to come out of the cave at the top.
Her luck, it'd be a Dalek. Just because she'd finally found the Doctor again, there'd almost have to be one of those homicidal pepper pots at exactly the worst possible angle.
"It's the Labyrinth," the dwarf complained. "It's supposed to change."
"I thought it was supposed to have a true path, that led to the correct destination," Rose said. "That's what real labyrinths do." She shook her head. "Aren't you going to tell me I'll never get out again?"
"No," he argued. "Aren't you going to tell me thanks?"
Rose chuffed, her mood, like her voice, caught somewhere between frustration and amusement. The dwarf was certainly going out of his way to be aggravating, and to show he was being aggravated, besides. "Thanks, Hoggle," she said brightly, forcing every once of cheer she could manage, and bounding up the stairs two at a time. Might as well get on with it.
The dwarf growled. "Oh, it's…" He stopped. "You got my name right," he wondered.
"Have a nice day." Waving like a parade queen, she stepped through the wall and into the cave.
"If anyone gets hurt…"
"Such viciousness, Precious. Haven't you ever heard that you catch more flies with honey?"
"Fine. If either of them get hurt, I'm painting you with honey…"
"That sounds promising…"
"And leaving you on an ant hill."
"I need to find your king," the Doctor insisted urgently. "I've tried everything he left for me, and there's not one item of it that makes sense."
"Of course it makes no sense, my good man. It's a fairy story."
"A fairy story must follow its own internal rules, at least," the Doctor argued.
The tiny terrier knight considered him. "Alas, even this story needs must do so. His Majesty, the king, has often found himself persecuted by the self same fact. His chosen consort, the Lady Sarah, doth thereby thwart his pleading heart endlessly. He cannot grant his own wishes."
"Wait. Grant wishes?"
"Yes," the knight answered quite agreeably. "As long as one takes care, he may gain many wishes."
Rose walked through the cave, humorously amazed by what looked like ancient cave paintings of goblins harassing the deserving. That the victims were deserving was always made quite clear in the drawings, Rose was amused to see.
She stopped for some time in front of a large drawing of a familiar sigil, trying to remember where she'd seen the stylized infinity loop before. When she finally realized it reminded her of the TARDIS, she pushed against it and the wall fell away.
She walked down a strangely colored marble corridor, and came face to face with the Goblin King, the proper one. "Don't worry," he said. "You're perfectly safe."
"Has anyone ever told you you look like David Bowie?"
The King smiled. "You're a ridiculously well matched pair, you and your Doctor."
"Thanks," Rose said, amazed that, even after all this time, she still blushed at the thought of them as a pair. It was her happiest thought, but sometimes she suspected it was also the one thought she should not be thinking.
"I've come to ask you to make a decision," the King said smoothly.
"Oh?" Rose was instantly on her guard and wary. Mythological beings were rumored to play some very nasty games, offering what appeared to be heaven, only to have the recipient stumble into a hidden, waiting hell.
She'd already been entirely too close to hell entirely too often.
"The Doctor has wished for everything to turn out as it should. He's a clever man, with a very clever, indeed, one could say, forked tongue. Though you'd know that better than I, I think."
Rose couldn't help answering that wolfish smile with a matching one of her own. "Go on," she encouraged.
"We're hunters, you and I," the king said. "So as one to another, I offer you the opportunity to clarify."
"You're granting his wish?" Rose asked.
"I am inclined so to do," the King agreed with a nod.
Jareth paced in front of her, seven steps to her right, seven to her left, before coming back and staring her right in the eye. "I have my reasons, which I shall not illuminate here. Say that a mortal-born being with power that rivals my own amuses me."
"So he's left it wide open for interpretation as to 'as it should'," Rose said.
"Well, there are some who will suffer or sorrow in nearly every possible outcome."
"I can't let you keep Tony," Rose insisted firmly. "Not for any reason. There's no bribe you can offer, none whatsoever."
"The Doctor?" he said, a fang showing in the edge of his feral smile, now.
Rose felt as if she'd been punched in the stomach. "No," she said, at last. "No, not even then. He'd never respect me, and I couldn't live with myself."
The king shook his head, faint humor in his tone. "It isn't about the child in this instance."
"Anymore than it was with Toby?"
The Goblin King flinched. "I beg your pardon!" he exclaimed.
"Sorry," Rose apologized, watching her toes and hoping the king would believe her contrition. She'd needed to know how much of the story she was familiar with was accurate. From her observation, it was rather near to spot on.
"A forgivable lapse, I suppose, excepting that I know you were taught at the feet of Jack Harkness, and I believe he is known to have put the 'artist' in 'con-artist'."
"No, Jack's rubbish," Rose argued. "At least at conning. All you gotta do is flirt with him." She considered the man before her, and particularly avoided his leggings. "And, to be honest, your majesty, you wouldn't even hafta flirt."
The Goblin King pinched the bridge of his elegant nose. "Yes, I know," he said. It sounded extremely pained. Rose was afraid to ask.
After a moment the king shook off what sounded to be something she ought to talk to a certain Captain about, and leaned elegantly against the nearest solid object. It appeared to be a bit of black, no different from the bits of black around it, so Rose wasn't sure how it was solid. Again, she was afraid to ask.
"As I was saying before we went exploring the extreme edges of what I wish to tolerate, I should like you to decide for whom the 'everything' should 'turn out'."
"You're lucky he didn't make the wish in his own language. You'd never have room to maneuver." She looked at the barren black nothing around them.
"Can we sit?"
"As you wish," the Goblin King allowed.
Rose's kitchen in the TARDIS manifested, around them. "Excellent," the King said, considering the tea that was sitting in front of him. "Your imagination is positively exquisite. And this is all inside that little blue box of his?"
"It might be as big as the Labyrinth," Rose admitted ruefully. "You can bet I thought it was the night I arrived. But look, what do you want me to decide?"
"Your choice is simple. Who will you favor with the Doctor's wish?"
"Well, it's his wish," Rose said, confused.
"Indeed." The king took a sip of the imaginary tea. "Excellent tea. You learned from, I believe, your mother?"
Something very horrible started to bloom in Rose's stomach.
"Assuming your Doctor's idea of things turning out for him is not forgetting he ever knew you, what of the dear woman who taught you to make tea? What will become of her?"
"She… she has a new family," Rose stammered. "She'll… forgive me, eventually. As long as you promise to give her Tony back?"
"And if he does wish to forget you?"
"He wouldn't," Rose insisted. "He'd never."
"He replaced you since he lost you," the King pointed out, lifting a crystal and showing a beautiful girl, several years older than Rose, dark skinned and strong, with an incredible, indelible smile. But the Doctor in that picture looked far away and so very sad, his eyes not even on the girl, but on something else, the sky above them, maybe, the stars beyond, Rose didn't know. She could tell he liked the girl, but he'd also liked Jack and Mickey and even her parents when he spent time with them.
"He has loved since he lost you," the King added, as if he was still reading her mind, and another crystal appeared, hovering between them. It showed a woman in an early twentieth century dress, sitting before the Doctor, who was drawing her with an exquisite devotion to the curves and angles of her softly fair face. But he wasn't dressed like her Doctor, and anyway, Rose could see another picture, one of herself, in the center of a book lying open between them. 'She keeps walking away,' the caption read, and to Rose the words were the very definition of loss.
"He has lost since he lost you," the King finished, summoning a last crystal with a flourish. This one showed the Doctor, arms wrapped around a man who was obviously dying, or perhaps dead. His grief was such obvious agony that Rose physically hurt for him, her muscles tensing as if to force herself not to go to him. He looked, if she had to label it, like he'd lost a brother, a lover, a twin. It was too terrible to contemplate. She'd only once ever seen him so broken, and it wasn't this Doctor, not the smiling, laughing Doctor she'd lost at the wall between worlds.
"Stop it!" she pleaded.
"You have a right to know," the king replied impassively.
As always, Rose let anger and outrage fill her to deal with the situation until the rest of her could come to terms. "Oh my god, he trusted you, he had to have done, leaving it even that open ended. He must've trusted you to do the right thing, and here you are…"
"Expecting you to do the right thing instead, yes," the Goblin King interrupted mildly. "So answer me. Do you want him or not?"
Rose leaned on the table, looking at the perfect image of the scar she'd put in it the day she threw the tea mug at the wall above it, the burn marks from the Doctor trying to cook while lecturing, the score in the wood from the time Jack was peeling apples and managed to slice into the table by mistake. Her past was on this table. Her future remained uncertain.
"I love him," she explained. "That's the easy thing. I used to think it was the hard part, you know, loving him, but it's not. Anyone can do that; a hundred people have, easy. It's knowing him that's hard, really knowing who he is and what he believes. He believes he deserves to be sad and alone, believes he's done so much wrong that there's not enough right left in the universes to make up for it. He's not what you think, not what anyone thinks; he's so much worse and he's much, much better, and everything in between."
She looked up and met the king's mismatched eyes. "It's like that, when you really love someone, not just worship the idea of them, but you know that, right?" She felt a tiny smile crawl back onto her face when Jareth nodded, ever so slightly, as if he couldn't help himself.
"So I'd pick him, to do what would be best for him, provided no harm would come to anyone else involved. That means my mother gets her son back, no matter where I end up."
"Then his happiness is your wish?" the king questioned intently.
"Introduce her to the real you, one day," Rose advised. "And, no. I choose more than that – I choose his joy."
There was a very faint smile on the king's face as he caught one of the hovering crystals and threw it high into the air.
The world exploded into rustling fabric, tawny feathers and at last, mercifully, darkness.
Rose woke with a start, gasping and clutching at the sheet, trying to catch the fragments of her dream along with the handful of reality. She searched the room with increasing desperation but could see nothing through the darkness surrounding her. A little cry escaped her lips as fear, confusion, and complete lack of coherent thought all warred for a place within her.
Arms came up to encircle her, cool calloused hands pulling her back down onto the bed and against the body of the man who held her. "What's wrong?" the Doctor asked softly.
Rose shook her head, tried to clear it, couldn't understand why she was thinking she might be alone. The Doctor always stayed with her, even when he didn't sleep, had done since she started living in the TARDIS, although the nudity was, admittedly, more recent. "Bad dream," she said at last.
"You, too?" he asked.
Rose turned over and peered at him through heavy, bleary eyes as the light in their room gradually came up to about a quarter power. "More about the War?" she asked gently.
"No, nothing like that." He shook his head, mussing his already tragic hair to near disastrousness. "No, it was..."
Rose picked at the pieces of what she did remember of her dream. "I think I remember losing Tony… in some kind of… I think it was that movie Mum and Pete were watching when we picked him up, if I'm honest."
The Doctor blinked, then nodded, eyes wide, and hand flitting automatically to first wipe his mouth, and then rub the back of his neck. "Right. That was… what was it, anyway?"
"Something on some marathon, I dunno. I remember David Bowie was in it." She shrugged. "What'd you dream?"
The Doctor seemed to shiver all over. "I dreamed I lost you," he said, his voice sounding both blank and devastated at once.
Rose felt an answering shiver climb up her spine. It was weird, because she could have sworn… but no, Pete had gotten stuck here with Mum when they trapped the Cybermen and Daleks in the Void. The Doctor'd talked them into moving to America so there was no risk of someone wanting to know why Jackie was remarried to a dead man. They'd had Tony not even a year after that, and were living comfortably off the proceeds of the fiction novels Pete wrote which were really histories of his original world.
She shook herself, and shook away the fear, the nearly remembered ache of loneliness from her strange awakening. "You can't get rid of me that easy," she teased, and shrugged herself a little closer to him.
"I'm so glad I met you," he said, just as sincere and devout this time as the first time he'd ever said it.
Rose kissed the tip of his nose. "Yeah, yeah, love you too," she said flippantly. She really just wanted to cling to him, but one of them had to be the tougher one right now.
"I should think so," the Doctor said, his brow furrowing as he concentrated. "I remember dreaming that I set it up so you could choose…"
"I always choose you," Rose reminded him, unable to help the seriousness in her tone this time, unable to avoid it at all.
The Doctor gave her that bright, boyish, dorky grin of his, the shining, toothy one she loved so much, his hair a mess, his eyes aflame. "I remember," he agreed. "And from now on, I choose you, too."
"What did you just do?"
"Something generous, for someone who can give me no profit, pay me no kindness, return me no favor. Something for which I can never receive any reward. It was well worth it, I think."
"I reordered Time for its last Lord. It did not particularly mind."
"You did this to impress me."
"Perhaps. Or perhaps I did it because I rather like love stories with happy endings."
"Just once, if you'd just play it straight…"
"Do you know, that was her advice, something to that effect."
"Then, yes, Precious, I did it to impress you, to show you that a love even more hopeless than mine can be worked out correctly. With faith and trust."
"And faery dust?"
"You're a completely evil woman."
"You love me anyway."
"…Yes, I know."