to make us children
Sorrow makes us all children again -
destroys all differences of intellect.
The wisest know nothing.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
She never accepts it, not really.
Like a bitter pill, she keeps it trapped beneath her tongue, too great to swallow; it claws at her mouth, burning the length of her throat when she speaks, but she can't surrender to it, not yet (not ever, the voice says, though she knows the day is fast approaching with every skeptical glance and hasty, inadvertent touch).
For now (here: this moment, their hands clasped, their feet above the ground, wind at their backs, skyline straight ahead) she separates the fact (now) from the illusion (forever) and continues to chase the heavens as far and wide as she dares, and sometimes further. She continues, second to second, each division of time more precious than the one before it because she knows. She knows that if she stops (stops running, stops fighting, stops falling) even for a moment, even for a breath; that if she stands still long enough to accept it, it'll be too late:
He won't love her forever.
They stand on the edge of the universe, staring out at the colourless sea below, above and beyond. It stares back at them, glittering and dull, bright and dark. She sees faces in the emptiness, stories in the folds, her mind imprinting her reality on the vacuum that is somehow glorious and empty all at once.
As always, they're folded together like origami - creases overlapping, pages pressed together, lines diverging and intersecting in both physicality and spirit. His arms circling her chest, her neck craned perfectly back into the space along his shoulder; hips slotted together, weight distributed, her hands covering his.
They're like statues, here, gazing down (and up and over and far, far away) over their landless, skyless, waterless kingdom; all the gold in space and time and she wouldn't move from this place. The TARDIS hums and glows and the space around them sings and sighs and the Doctor presses his lips against the shell of her ear.
The End of the Universe echoes it all back into her skin, and for a moment, she feels absolutely infinite.
How do you stand it?
This, she whispers in the dark. Us. He traces warm words across her chilled skin. How is it not destroying you?
'Anger is a killing thing,' he quotes softly, sadly. 'It kills the man who angers, for rage leaves him less than he had before - it takes something from him.'
I'm not angry, she sighs.
He tightens his arms around her and presses his cheek against her spine. You will be.
Sometimes, she marvels at how simple it would be: one more trip. One more paradox. Just a little shift in reality, a few seconds, a stolen kiss. She teeters back and forth between the absolute (she can't) and the plausible (the press of a button, the flick of a switch). Whole worlds have fallen for less, she thinks sometimes; why can't just one fall for them, just this once?
I'll give it back, she promises to herself. She'll tuck it away somewhere in a distant corner - her stolen time, her cheated time, unravelling somewhere safe and indestructible. Just one more touch, one more glance, one more save, one more run, that's all she wants. I'll return it, she promises to the fragile air.
But she knows it's a lie - one more would never be enough.
Sometimes, when he sleeps too soundly and just a little too long, she sneaks away to the library to watch the blackness and noise float past the great bay windows. The Vortex has always calmed her, more than any lullaby, and she listens to its thrum beneath her skin, fluttering a third heartbeat in her bones.
It's on nights like this that she can't bear to watch him sleep. He's too still, too fragile - a broken china doll with too many faces. She wonders, when it's this still and this silent, if she hurt him more than she loved him. If it will prove inconsequential like it has for her, or if for him the scale's too tipped, the battle too long, and he just doesn't have the heart to tell her so. If it's worth it, to him.
If the love overshadows the heartache.
It's simple when he's awake - laughing, flirting, dancing, stroking his hands over her face and hair and arms and touching her like she's the most precious thing he's ever held; in 900 years of time and space, the only thing he's terrified of breaking.
She knows he loves her - knows he'll love her even more and someday almost as much as she loves him. But he's seen so much more, given so much more, and she wonders achingly, on nights like this, if it's what he wanted - this honest, broken longing.
They're a lot of things, the two of them - lovers, fighters, dreamers, keepers, singers, dancers, mediators; they've been everywhere and done everything and of all the bad and all the good she keeps those moments closer to her heart than anything. In the daylight she knows, can admit it to herself; but nights like this, when he sleeps so still like death, she cries for what they'll never be -
She'll never accept it, not really; but she'll love him forever and he loves her for now, with all the skies of all the worlds burning a backdrop as they run.