Slipping

I was dreaming. No, no, because this was too much for a dream. I was falling or flying, I wasn't sure which. I passed through times and spaces, seeing but not yet participating.

Flashes

of me, Frem, River, Doctor, Amy, Rory… Faces I couldn't place in my head. The light was almost overwhelming; there must be a place in my mind I could control, somewhere.

Sifting

I think I understood. This was me, all of it. My memories, myself. Everything was abstract; I couldn't take them all at once without it hurting. But then I saw him, Frem's face, and he saw me, pulling me up in a way only he could.

I can see

He was everywhere in my mind; lips and skin, laughing and crying, lusting and loving. I could see bits and pieces of it- life and all it brought to me. The planned future and the past molded into one strand of consciousness, and I remembered everything about us.

Spinning

Endless spiraling through my life, soaking in tears, dancing in laughter, crawling through anger, singing in sadness. It was a strange, strange thing, this life.

But then, as soon as it had begun, it was over. My head felt like it was going to split open with pain, as the force of the recall pushed against my skull. I couldn't even open my eyes- they felt glued shut as I remained trapped in the world of dreams. The world was silent too, but I could feel my throat vibrating as I screamed.

My skin was numb, but I hoped that Dad had moved me by now to the TARDIS to get me sorted. My senses were completely gone again; the only thing I was conscious of was my throbbing head and my thoughts.

And then I felt something cold spread through a point in my thigh and I slept.

I had no idea how long I dreamed for. There were memories, too many to account for, feelings I began to understand. It didn't feel like new memories were suddenly popping into my head; it was something deeper than that, something I couldn't touch.

The past was at my command, and I lived in it for as long as I slept. I glanced over my childhood, at the stability that came from the Doctor's erratic visits and trips with River and I. My life had been in jeopardy so very many times, almost as many times as Earth had been in trouble. I made a lot of mistakes, hurt a lot of people, and was responsible for deaths. I shared a history with my parents that was filled with tragedy and loss, but there were the shining days, the brilliant moments that were the reasons I carried on as I did. I understood everything now, could see the motives and fallout that came along with my kidnapping, and I could feel their pain at what I became in that time. I mourned the loss of my own memory, unable to believe I had stayed so healthy when I was missing out on so much… life.

All of history was woven through my DNA, side by side with the time vortex itself. I was created with time all around me by two people who could not be more important in the fate of worlds. And I think that is what made all the difference.

"This switch here?" I stare at the console, trying to focus.

"No, that's the mustard. Try again," Dad says calmly, sitting back as I learn.

I sigh. "This is useless. The TARDIS must hate me. She won't let me learn."

He laughs. "No, no, I would know if she hated you. You just need… a little more confidence. She's not the boss of you, you can fly her if you want to."

I furrow my brow in frustration. "This one then?" I ask, pointing to a blinking purple light bulb wired onto the glowing panel.

Dad smiles. "That's the one. Now, I'm going to give you a destination and you will take us to it. Ready?"

I take a deep breath and shrug. I will probably mess it up like I always do, but I know Dad will stop me if I'm about to blow the damn thing up.

He checks his watch and makes a face. "Well, I was going to take you somewhere fun, but time tells me you have to be back to your mother by now, so take us there."

It is an easy destination, one I flew to once before. Slowly, I type the coordinates into the machine, triple checking the numbers and letters. Then: right red lever down, middle one up, left one at forty-five degrees. Time gauge check, good. Then: two steps right, twist hydron accelerator, fire engines, stabilize gravity field. And land.

It is the smoothest flight I have ever piloted. I look at Dad, and he is beaming at me. He shakes his head and says, "Nice work. Now go, your mum's expecting you and a past me is coming for dinner."

I hug him, and he smells like mint and time vortex.

I smiled at the ease with which I could call memories to mind, and dissolved into a more recent one.

"It's raining," I say, not making any move to run for shelter.

"Is it?" Frem laughs at me as the rain falls around us. We stop walking in the middle of the sidewalk and just stand facing each other, looking like complete idiots.

I shake my head in wonder, tilting my face up so the drops hit my bare skin. "I haven't actually felt rain in years, Frem. Isn't that strange? Everything I've seen… and no rain. None."

"What are you talking about? We had rain just yesterday," he says, staring down at my quizzically.

I barely know this boy, but there is something in him that draws me. I ignore his comment and take a step towards him, my face still tilted to the sky.

"Who are you?" He asks quietly, and I know he knows that I am different.

I meet his eyes with a snap of my head, our faces so close now. "I'm either a girl you met one day in London and never saw again… or I'm the girl who showed you the entire universe." His breathing picks up as I move closer I can feel his anticipation, and we are both thoroughly soaked and shivering from the rain. "You pick."

"Ariadne…," he breathes, "are you real?" The question stirs something in me, something in the back of my mind.

Our noses are close enough to touch, and I know what will happen next is the defining moment of his perception. Just as I feel his cold hand brush my cheek, I whisper, "Stick around and see."

And his lips fall into mine as we tumble into forever for the very first time.

I felt the memory as if it had just happened, and it startled me back to consciousness. But waking up this time around was far more peaceful than the last time. I was in the white medical room again, but it seemed softer, less of a threatening place and more of a safe home. I wasn't in any pain aside from my head, which was quickly adapting to the extreme intake of memory.

I turned my head to see Frem, his head leaned against the wall, asleep in the chair. His mouth hung open, and I could hear him breathing slowly, his chest rising and falling effortlessly. His face looked pretty beaten up, and he had a bandage on his neck from where I assumed the knife had been pressed, but otherwise unharmed.

I didn't want to wake him yet, partially because I knew he needed some sleep but also because I was almost nervous to face him. I didn't know how he would react to me being back "just like that" if he had thought of me as a completely different person for the past few months. Truthfully, I felt like the same person I was without my memory, just with more stuff in my head. And that scared me.

I woke him up after a few minutes of adjustment; I sat up slowly, ignoring my aching head, straightening the sheets. I wanted to get up and change, as I saw a pile of clothes across the room, but I didn't think Dad would be happy with me if I ripped out my IV and other monitors. Carefully, I reached out and put my hand on his cheek, his skin just as soft as I remembered. It was then I realized just how much I missed Frem, how much my body missed him. It was just how it had always been- I just couldn't resist him.

He jumped awake, his eyes finding mine immediately. There was nothing I could say, nothing I needed to say to make him understand that it had worked- that I knew who he was now. He stared at me as I touched him, a wild tearful look in his eyes. Slowly, he leaned closer, bringing his hands up to take mine, kissing it and holding it to his face. "Ari…," he breathed, a tear slipping out. "I'm so sorry. For what I said about you, about you not being real. You were so real, I was just emotional and stupid, well, you know how stupid I can be. I just… I'm sorry." He buried his face in my stomach as he spoke, but I understood perfectly. It was so Frem, how he had acted. He was rash and impulsive, and had a habit of swallowing things so they could eat him from the inside. But that was why I loved him; he could apologize.

"Frem," I said, reveling in the name. "It's okay. I don't care. I love you." I hadn't told him that in a long time, and it felt so good coming out that I needed to say it again. "I love you."

He knew it, too, because he straightened, all tears gone now. He shook his head, smiling in disbelieving wonder. "I love you, Ari. So much." He stood up abruptly. "How do you feel? Does anything hurt? Should I get your dad?"

I laughed, simply because I had never felt better. "No, no I'm fine. It's just my head, but it's not too bad."

He grinned mischievously. "Well then," he said, moving towards me again. "Surprise!" And he jumped into the air, landing expertly on top of me, hands braced on either side of my head so that none of his weight rested on me. He had done it a thousand times before, but never in a hospital bed that creaked quite so loudly as he crashed down.

I laughed, smiling up at him. "You're impossible," I breathed.

He pressed his lips to mine once, twice, three times before pushing off me. I leaned into him as he lay next to me, and we fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. We stayed like that for a long time, barely speaking, neither of us quite coming to terms with the rightness of it all. "I missed you," I said later on, entwining my fingers with his. "I can't believe I forgot how much we love each other." I laughed. "And we never got to finish our vacation! Italy was the best." He looked down at me and didn't say a word, just kissed me again. "Mm, well I suppose we have to pick a honeymoon spot now…," I trailed off, biting my lip to hold in a huge smile.

Frem laughed, a beautiful, natural sound. "So now you're in a rush to get married. No more putting it off? And who says we have to pick one place, anyway. We've got a bloody spaceship."

"If I could, I would marry you right now, do a quick version. But I don't think my gran could ever forgive me for that. She's quite keen to get me in her wedding dress."

He just shook his head and crawled out of bed. "I promised I'd call for your mum when you woke up. Brace yourself," he said, a hint of regret in his voice as he yelled for my parents.

Mum got there first and I could tell she knew I was fine right away. "Oh, Ari…," she breathed, shaking her head. She walked over to me and hugged me so very tightly, but I gripped her just as hard; she was mum, and I had missed her.

And then Dad came in and hugged me too and the world just felt so right for once in a long while. "Okay okay okay," Dad said, calming the frenzied reunion. "Before this gets too emotional, Ari, how did you get your hands on the crash code? This is very important, because if my theory is correct, we still have work to do. I scanned it, and it has a low-level perception filter. Does that mean anything to you?"

I nodded. "I remembered seeing it whenever light got into the cell. I don't know, I just sort of felt like it was important, so I took a gamble. I didn't even get a good look at the thing… it was just there and I didn't think it was important until… well, until it was."

Slowly, he reached into his pocket and pulled it out, unfolding it so I could see the writing. And then it clicked. "That's my handwriting," I murmured, taking it from him. "I didn't put this in the cell yet. But I think I will…"

"Of course! A simple time loop- you know the crash code because you gave it to yourself, hid it, protected it, and survived because of it. Oh, you are good," he babbled excitedly. "Right, well, we can do that without much trouble- I checked their records and the base was empty up until 6 months before they brought you there. You can go as soon as you feel up to it!"

I laughed and shook my head, marveling at it all. "It's good to be back. It's weird, because I can't quite remember how it felt to… not remember. But everything that happened… it was real." I trailed off, thinking for a moment. "But they're still out there, aren't they?"

No one spoke, but I knew. They were still afraid, still aware of the danger out there, however weakened it might be. The universe would never be safe, I knew that, but nothing could last quite as long as the Silence had. "Nevermind that for now," River spoke softly. "What matters is that we made it."

Life would move on as it always had, long before I came into the world. Planets would spin and fall amongst each other, galaxies and systems would form from dust, and stars would be born and die, immersing the universe with their terribly brilliant light. And we, a group of anomalies, would fly across them, the eye of the storm following us until there was no more. We would keep going because we wanted to, because of Earth and home and everything free we ever had.

And the moment I realized I was alright, I had not a clue of what the future held for me. I only knew what I wanted from it. I was ready for a quieter life, one with family and friends and only occasional aliens. If I had learned anything from losing my memory it was this: families work. There would always be room for one more on the TARDIS if I wanted, but our house on Earth looked like the best place in the universe.

THE END…

I really am so happy with how this story turned out, so thanks for sticking with it for as long as I have. I am not sure if there will be a full sequel story, but I don't think Ariadne is quite finished with me just yet, so maybe a one-shot or two will pop up soon. Otherwise, I have two more fanfics fully outlined: one 3-parter in the Harry Potter world and one 10 chapter story in the 11th Doctor's world.

Please leave a review so I know what you think of my very first DW fic! It's much appreciated!

xJessica