Note: This one was written a little more quickly than the other two, and has a bit less editing, so I apologize if it seems rushed or the format is wonky. I'm working on a lot of crazy stuff right now, so I'm a bit pressed for time. I hope it's enjoyable anyway. Spoilers in this one for: "Flesh and Stone", "Amy's Choice".
Prompt: Celeripedean - swift-footed.
Behind them are fire and fear and upset tea-trays; behind them are roars of rage and vengeance and pain; behind them are rust and dust and grim decay; but all of that is always behind them, and getting further behind with every second, every step.
They leave the past in the past, unless it's the future, in which case they tumble into it, madcap and reckless and daring the universe to slow them down. It tries, and sometimes succeeds; but never for long. They treat Time and all its miseries like windblown sand, like it won't bury them if they move too fast to let it settle.
And there's so much ground to cover - the uneven edges of a thousand thousand worlds. There are endless corridors and staircases of ice and fire and stone; and the alien jungles, ancient iron roads, cloud-slides and the digestive tracts of monsters the size of meteors. There's always more to see, always more permutations of around, under, over and through, and always, always a glimmer of light ahead.
Amy Pond holds the Doctor's hand, and runs.
The light is vast and blinding, too huge for her eyes to take in, and Amy reels back instinctively as the Doctor throws open the TARDIS doors. She blinks the pain away and creeps up behind him, peering out at the glory over his shoulder. Outside the doors is space, full of stars; more stars than she's ever seen even in photographs, stars so near that each one is a fiery white or blue or orange marble, so crowded together that it makes the sky look like a pointillist painting, chaos dissolving into greater beauty.
"Where are we?" she nearly shouts, because the light and the silence are huge and loud and she can't bear to whisper.
"The center of the Milky Way!" he shouts back. "Millions of years in the future! Held together by grav-fields!"
But Amy doesn't wait for the technical explanation, she's already slipping around him to face the blazing glory head-on. One hand clenched in his jacket, the other on the doorframe, she edges one foot out over the threshold as though to trail her toes through distant galaxies – but instead she feels a solid surface under her foot, something invisible but strong, that holds her weight when she tests it. The stars beneath them blaze brighter when she steps on them, though she can't feel any heat except the warm pulse of the Doctor's double-heartbeat under her right hand.
The Doctor is still talking, but Amy's too busy bracing herself to listen – and then she jumps for it, landing with both feet on the invisible floor outside the TARDIS doors. She turns to find the Doctor gaping at her, and she laughs. "Come on!" she shouts. "What's the use coming to the center of the Milky Way if you're just going to stand there looking at it?"
The Doctor shakes his head, mouths something that looks like her name, and then he steps boldly out onto the invisible road and comes to join her. The stars blaze under his feet as he moves, and maybe Amy's senses are still a bit addled because she sees the beauty that the harsh starblaze shadows bring out in his face, and when he steps up next to her and takes his hand in hers that feels like a pointillist painting too, like the sudden dissolution of greater beauty out of chaos, and then he's talking again, all but shouting in her ear.
"All right then, Pond! See that big blue one, over there? That's Rasalhague!" She nods, waits for some explanation of Rasalhague or what lives on it, but instead she gets the Doctor, barreling away down the star highway, his jacket dropping from his hand and his braces flapping, his shout drifting over his shoulder – "Last one there is a ponask egg!"
"Doctor! You bloody cheater!" Amy cries, and takes off after him. She catches up with him easily, and thinks that maybe he let her, and when he reaches out and grips her hand she's sure of it. She shoves her hair out of her eyes with her free hand, laughing while she still has breath, and thinks about how she'll tease him later for being so lousy at racing – but that's later. Right now they're running towards Rasalhague over stars.
For Amy, that right now is enough to last forever.
After 900-odd years of picking up strays, rebels, and malcontents, the Doctor can tell pretty well by now which humans will say yes to the offer of all of time and space – even if yes sounds like get me back tomorrow morning, for Stuff, or you said five minutes. And he understands their motives, too, most of the time; they come for the glory, for the beauty, for the alien worlds, for love of him, for hatred of where they are. (And no wonder. He'd ditch Leadworth for the stomach of a starwhale, never mind the TARDIS.)
And then there's Amy.
"I want to go home," she says softly. The Weeping Angels never existed now for everyone but her, and she's pale with the memory of them, sitting curled up on the other side of the console and staring past him into void. Her eyes are flat, her expression one of terrible blankness.
That's it, the Doctor thinks, in a silent burst of sorrow and panic that doesn't make it as far as his hands or eyes. That's it, she's finally realized that the glory and distant worlds and the Doctor and the dull dread of stagnation aren't worth the monsters, and now he'll have to leave her there, standing still her tiny back garden, and then she'll go back into that huge, musty, crumbling house, to spin around with the skin of the Earth at a plodding sixty-seven thousand miles per hour – when he could take her so much faster, he's given her escape velocity from her Leadworth life but that's not what she wants, she wants to spin, to live, to take the slow path. As she should. Of course. Of course.
"Okay," he says simply, and flips the switches. Spins the dials. Doesn't look at her, doesn't move.
But then she moves, bounces up from the chair and over to stand beside him, her hand very nearly resting on his wrist. "No, not like that," she says, and it's all the Doctor can do to keep still. "I just want to show you something. You're running from River – I'm running, too."
The Doctor's companions come with him for all sorts of reasons, most of which he understands – and Amelia Pond is in it for all those reasons. But she's also there for another reason, the one the Doctor understands the best of all. She's there for the joy of running; running from, running to, running for your life or just because you can. He can see that in her, and it terrifies him.
So they go back to Leadworth, and she kisses him, and the kiss stuns him and sends him reeling for all sorts of reasons, but also because he understands everything she's trying to tell him with that kiss. He can read the signs she's making with her hands on his hips and his chest, and he knows that of all the ways there are to run away, the best and most dangerous is when you're running just because there's someone running beside you.
In the pressure of her lips he can taste the speed of light c, and forest fires blown at windspeed, and all that's heavy and slow about this ordinary Earth, and after that he doesn't worry about her asking to go back to Leadworth again.
In a moment of suspended darkness between the greying ghosts of Leadworth and the treacherous frozen TARDIS, the Dream Lord speaks to him with a mouth like a jagged split in the skin of the universe. "All alone now, Doctor?" he sneers. "My my, what an unexpected setback. And poor little Amy Pond all alone too – well, not alone, after all. She's always got me." He chuckles a little – no evil laugh for him, the Doctor has always found the evil laugh far too camp for his tastes – and, though the Doctor is floating in dream-void with no body and no brain, he begins to feel. It starts with soft fingertips gliding over his face, caressing his eyes, his mouth, tracing his cheekbones; and there, the brush of a stray lock of long fiery hair against the hollow of his neck –
It isn't real, of course, not even the kiss that comes next, and all that comes after. He repeats it to himself silently like a prayer; it isn't real. Amy is in another subreality, floating and trapped on the frozen TARDIS with a dangerous… thing – and the kisses are beginning to break through his defenses but he has to keep drawing back, because they aren't real, they're only illusions – unrealities – only dreams.
The temptation stops abruptly, and now the Dream Lord is laughing; huge, cruel, breathless bursts of laughter. "Oh, Doctor," he sighs, and suddenly he's there, in the Void, a wrinkled clown doubled over from laughter and wiping a tear from the corner of his eye. "My dear Doctor, how pathetically desperate you are! How innocent, how noble – oh, you dirty old man, scrambling for sanity in the dark! I know you're a great one for running away, cowardly Doctor, so I think I'll just tell you right now –" he blinks out and reappears again, an inch from the Doctor's face (that suddenly exists, it's nice to have a face again), grinning into the Doctor's scowl. "You can run away from everything, Doctor – even from me, for a little while. But not forever. Not for very much longer now at all."
He vanishes again, whooping with laughter, and the Doctor swallows, takes a breath of vacuum. "You know who I am," he says, but his dream-voice is hoarse and uncertain. "You know exactly what I can do."
"Right!" the Dream Lord crows, flashing into existence again. "Silly old me, forgetting something like that! You're the Doctor, the jumping prancing Doctor, of course you can just run and run and run until you drop down dead. But here's a question – can she?"
The Doctor feels a tingling chill of ice on his fingertips, but then he's awake and the dazzling burst of reality is already blotting out the Void-dream, and the alien pensioners are screeching outside the door of the butcher's storeroom and there's nothing to do but short out the light and make a dash for it, because speed is his best weapon now, got to find Amy and Rory and get them all out of here before that little bow-tie-wearing twit comes calling; before the dream itself forces them to wake.
"Doctor!" Amy yells, clinging determinedly to the silver railing as jets of fire blossom all around her. Down below somewhere, she knows, there's a roiling layer of magma hiding some sort of huge angry magma-turtle, and the only thing separating her from its jaws is a thin silver catwalk and half a mile of empty air. Behind her the way is blocked by the charred remains of a murderous worker droid, caught in a lucky magma jet; it sparks menacingly at her, and she inches away from it, suddenly unconvinced by its charred metal casing and fused circuitry. "Doctor, where are you? I get that you've got a new toy, but now is really not the time!"
A high-pitched whine explodes from an intercom grating a little ways along the catwalk, and suddenly it's babbling frantically in the Doctor's voice, "Amy? Amy? Amy, can you hear me, it's not a toy, it's a macropolaric gravity booster and it just might – Amy! Amelia! Are you even listening?"
Amy works her way down towards the intercom, using the railing for support as the whole structure shudders and shakes like it's caught in an earthquake. Just as she reaches it the catwalk gives a particuarly violent lurch, throwing her feet out from under her, and she lands hard on her knees, brusing them in the process. "Doctor, it's me," she says grimly, struggling back to her feet. "Sorry, it's a bit noisy down here, what with the spaceship exploding and all."
"Amy! Amy, listen to me," the intercom squawks. "I'm sorry, I made a terrible mistake, I should never have left you – but it's too late for that now, and you're going to have to come to me."
Amy takes a deep, steadying breath, closes her eyes, and opens them again just into time to see a spurt of magma splash up from below and land with a sizzle against the metal bridge supports, leaving a glowing gouge in the scaffolding. "I'm scared," she says grudgingly, through gritted teeth. There's rustling and clanking from the intercom, and past the fire and smoke she can all but see the Doctor, his eyes scrunched shut, his fist pressed to his forehead and his sonic screwdriver clutched in it like a lifeline.
"I know you're scared," he says, soft and reasonable but with an endless rage beneath the words – rage at her, at himself, at the universe. "I know you're scared, but – but that's good, it's excellent, fear will keep you fast, and you need to be fast. Amy, the structural framework of that room is desintegrating, the oxygen is being consumed, you need to get out of there now. If you're fast, you'll be fine. Do you hear me? You'll be fine."
"Yeah," Amy mutters. She knows it's a bluff not worth calling him on.
"Okay. All right. Okay." A brief whir from the sonic. "Listen, Amy, once you move away from the intercom I won't be able to talk to you, so remember –" There's a sudden hiss, a crackle, and then silence.
"Remember what?" Amy cries. "Doctor! Remember what?"
"Right," Amy growls under her breath, wiping at her eyes with the back of one hand and feeling the dampness there, sweat or tears, she isn't sure which and doesn't particularly care. "Here goes nothing -"
Wait, a voice says behind her – a clanking, grating voice she thought she'd never hear again.
She spins around, ready to do – what, she doesn't know, but do something. Sure enough, it's the droid's voice – but it's in no shape to attack, seeing as its head is a good two feet from its body, and its legs another two feet further on. We have a query to input, it says, its mouth flickering as though full of fireflies. Humans are illogical. We comprehend this. Yet you flee from agents of the Collective. Reason given: we are monsters.
"Yeah," Amy says warily, shifting back on her feet. "You lot destroyed an entire moon. The Doctor told me."
Confirmed. Yet records for The Doctor indicate: planets burned. Species destroyed. Danger Assessment: more powerful than the Collective by orders of orders of magnitude. This will help to understand human illogical behavior: you will run from monsters of the Collective. And yet you run to reach the greater monster: The Doctor. Please confirm.
The catwalk shudders again and sways dangerously, throwing Amy against the railing with a crash. She scrambles to hold onto it and pulls herself up again. No more time to waste. "You're damn right I will," she tells the droid's emotionless plastic eyes. It gives no answer, and she turns her back on it, taking off down the bridge to further danger, to safety, to the Doctor. (Always and forever to the Doctor.)
Humans, the droid muses, its final thought one of incomprehension as an unlucky magma spurt burns the last of the bridge supports away.
There are rules about this sort of thing (aren't there always?), but once you get to light-speed the rules start dissolving around you, and they travel at their own speed; much faster than light, than heartbeats, than memories and forgetfulness. They travel like one day soon they'll hit the magic limit where nothing else can touch you, not even Time, because it's all moving too slow.
After all, there's no reason that limit shouldn't be out there, just waiting for them to find it.
The End. Reviews are, as always, greatly appreciated. I'm kind of anxious about this one, please let me know what you think.
Rock on, dear readers.