Ten-sentence ficlet. Prompt: "AU; an apple a day keeps the Doctor away." AU at some point between The Hungry Earth and The Pandorica Opens. I apologise in advance.

Beta'd by Turtle Rolling Downhill.

#insert 'stddisclaimer.h'

and this she did say

by Incendiarist

it will not be long, love, 'til our wedding day

"So," says a voice, one she doesn't recognise, and—

little girl lost so far away from home, where are you, little girl, and where did you come from, why are you

—here, a hand, colder than a human's; it starts at her shoulder, deceptively delicate fingers playing with the thin fabric of the neckline, running along the hand-done stitching, as much as twine in its glamour, and once tired of the tunic's embroidering, slips down the naked skin of her arm, fingertips ghosting along the tiny, near-invisible hairs, and—

(she shivers)

"So," says a voice, one she doesn't recognise, "I suppose I ought to introduce myself," and—

she knows immediately who it is because who else could it be?

she hadn't been expecting their meeting to go like this, she hadn't been expecting a meeting at

—all she can think is a wordless keen, joy and anger and relief and frustration, bound up together for the past seven years, she can't tell them apart anymore.

"You..." she begins, and has to stop, her voice shuddering; she feels like she's going to hyperventilate, and—

(she hears their shared silence in the crescendo of the white noise of life going on as nobody realises she's just come back to life)

"You..." she begins, and has to stop, "You left me," she says, and unspoken and wavering comes 'again', the girl who waited again and again and—

again and again and again and

—the Doctor has the grace to look uncomfortable, say "I'm sorry, if it helps any," and when she informs (him? her? she can't tell, it's all underweight-little-stick-of-a-person with androgynous features and a youthful voice which could have belonged to any sex) them it doesn't, they nod and—

(the broken sort of look in their eyes makes her forgive them just like always)

When she informs them it doesn't, they nod and say "It's going to explode," and—

how can they possibly leave it at that, she tells her Raggedy Doctor to explain in no uncertain terms, and they expand on that with

—"that's why it's been so unreliable, with the travelling, see, 'cos there are these, these, these cracks, like, in reality?" the question meant to make sure she follows rather than to show any sort of uncertainty and—

god if they don't sound like they came out of a Pratchett novel. Welcome to Ankh-Morpork, stay out of the Shades; she wonders if there's any way that adventure could turn out

"—well, to be honest, I haven't the slightest idea what to do, so, er, if you have any suggestions and—"

somehow that segues into this horribly technical rant about FTL signalling or something, she isn't sure because of that post-graduate degree in engineering she hasn't got and

"—whatnot, that'd be lovely, because unless we can figure out how to stop it, reality will be erased, and—"

(her attention is caught again)

"It's going to explode," and her world stops.

"What's going to explode?" she asks, already knowing and dreading the answer, and—

funny how all of this apocalypse stuff seems to happen all the time, isn't it strange that nobody ever realises it except for them, and part of her thinks it would be so much simpler to live a normal, uninformed life, but the other part never wants to give up the way the Doctor looks at

—her heart sinks when that fear is confirmed; it's going to explode, bringing the universe with it, and—;

(she sees the look on the Doctor's new face and wants to hug them and never, ever, ever let go)

"What's going to explode?" she asks, and the Doctor says "The TARDIS."

"But anyway," says the Doctor, "how long's it been for you?" and—

what the hell are they thinking; the world's end is emminant and you're making small talk, what is wrong with

"—you smell apples?" they ask, "because I smell apples, and they smell really good; I wonder if I like apples, do you think I like apples?" and—

apparently this one rambles when they're avoiding a topic, that's always good to

"—know if I like apples, 'cos of I haven't had any yet, and those ones smell really good," the Doctor continues, "and we've still got something like nine years 'til the universe goes all 'boom!'," complete with dramatic hand gestures and a Cheshire-cat grin, so that hasn't changed, at least, "so how about we go get some apples?"

"I don't eat apples," she puts in quickly, before they can go off on a tangent about something-or-other, and the Doctor's eyes give the illusion of theatening to pop out of their sockets, and their head is tilted Dutch angle, like a confused little puppy, and—

when all's said and done, that really is what the Doctor comes off as, like some energetic little mutt, isn't

—it seems they haven't any words, like they've been shocked into silence by some horrible blasphemy, and—


—what the hell.

"You don't eat apples?" asks the Doctor, eyebrows dissappeared behind the still-not-ginger fringe, and is practically pouting when they say "But why not?"

"A holdover from childhood," she says simply.

The Doctor looks about to say something for a moment, with that naïve sort of well-wishing, and she knows what it's likely to be, because she's heard it for years now from concerned little old ladies: 'you know what they say, dearie'; they'd be met with a short 'yes' and nothing else. "Oh," says the Doctor instead, "oh," and—

finally someone understands without that sort of exasperated humouring she'd grown up

—with the smile back in place, the Doctor halfway drags her to a market stall which sells these absolutely beautiful pens which don't look at all like they ought to belong on a planet in a star-system millions of years away from late-19th century Earth, rambling on about how the merchandise reminded them of this one time in South Dakota there was a pen which was also a mysterious and malicious artefact of considerable power, 'like the 2012 Olympics all over again', blah blah blah, and—

really, will they ever shut

"—up to Raxacoricofallipatorius," after finding a message on the psychic paper, heavens know how they can remember to pronounce that... "Come along, Pond!"

the beginning.