Standard disclaimers apply.

Part I: Oneiros

Chapter 1

Rory gasped for air and, with one last heave, managed to drag Amy's limp body all the way into the TARDIS and slam the door behind them. He could hear blaster fire outside, but nothing penetrated the ship's defenses. Now that he was safe, the adrenaline drained out of him and he sagged against the door. Amy sagged with him, her head falling into his lap and her hair spilling over his legs. Her beautiful red hair.

Amy was dead.

The realization hit him suddenly like a ton of bricks. She was dead, gone, ended, not coming back. Never coming back. Hot tears burned his eyes and fell, only to splash against her pale cheeks. He grabbed her arms and pulled her up to be cradled against his chest.

"Amy," he whispered, his voice cracking. "Amy."

He sat like that for a long time. He cried and whispered her name and prayed that the Doctor would come back and save her again because there was nothing he could do. He held her close and stroked her hair and rubbed her cold fingers between his own. There was too much grief.

It was hours before he calmed down enough to realize that the TARDIS was making a strange humming noise that he'd never heard before. Strange, but... almost musical. If he focused hard enough, it sounded like a song. A lullaby?

Soft amber light pulsed around him, brushing Amy's skin just so - that was all it took; she looked alive again, only sleeping, nothing to worry about. Rory wondered, a little bitterly, if this stupid grasping hope would have been quite so persistent before he met the Doctor.

Before he could follow that thought too far, an alien presence warmed his mind, bringing a feeling of comfort. He swallowed. The TARDIS was comforting him.

He broke down.

"You?" The Doctor looked over the familiar, squat figure in a poor mockery of his own suit, then glanced away dismissively. He turned, eyes sweeping the room - they were in the console room again - but nothing seemed to catch his attention. "I don't have time to play games with you."

"Of course you do. In fact, you have all the time in the world. I mean, what else would you do out there now that you've killed Amy?"

The Doctor whirled around, roaring. "Do not toy with me!" His voice was full of rage, but it was only a disguise. His eyes spoke of pain and desperation instead. "There are no weapons in here. Are you going to make me blow up my own TARDIS again?"

"In such a hurry to leave, are you?"

"I'll take that as a yes." He spun again, moving to the console. He flicked switches, pressed buttons, typed in commands. The same sequence as before. He paused, then pushed the last button. Everything went white.

When he opened his eyes, he was still surrounded by white. That wasn't right. White walls, white floor, white ceiling - but the last place he remembered in the physical world had been dark and dusty. And there was something about this room...

He turned to the right and felt the blood drain out of his face. Those levers, standing alone on either side of the room, were burned into his mind. That wall, that cursed wall, tearing her away from him.

This was the Ghost Shift room.

Rose wiped a stray tear from her chin as she reached for the keyboard. She had listened to his message hundreds of times, but it was still seven years since she'd seen his face warm with life, felt his fingers twined with hers. She missed him so much that sometimes she couldn't bear it. When that happened, it usually meant one of two things: she would run as far and fast as she could from his memory, or she would play the message again and cry herself to sleep.

The first option was, truthfully, one she had learned from him. When you can't face your sorrows, run from them. She tried to stick with this one more, because it was more likely to leave her ready to face another day. The second one was for desperate moments, like when she thought she was starting to forget him. Then she would turn on his message and realize that she could never forget any part of him, even if she lived till the end of time.

Tonight was a desperate moment.

His image popped up in front of her, life-sized and comfortingly solid. He was smiling that sweet, tender smile that always melted her heart.

"Rose," he said. "My Rose. Don't cry. We always knew it would come to this. Even if it used to be the other way around. Remember those days? You promised me your forever, and I was so scared to accept because I wasn't sure how I'd survive when you were gone. And then - and then Canary Wharf, when you disappeared right before my eyes. I knew it wouldn't be forever, but losing you so soon... it nearly drove me mad. When I said goodbye to you at Bad Wolf Bay, I still couldn't put it into words. Our time ran out, just like that.

"But you came back to me. Despite every obstacle the universes put in your way, you came back." His smile wavered. "That's a gift, and I've never been able to figure out what I did to deserve it. But I cherish it. Our time together, Rose, it means more to me than I can say. So, now that it's come to this, please don't be sad. Not forever. Be happy for all these moments we thought we'd never have.

"And whenever you're ready, you can run Emergency Program Ten. Don't fuss at me, now; I know you probably want some time to yourself before you face them again. But don't forget this program, Rose, because it's really important. They love you just as much as I do, they'll be happy to see you-and you will never need to be alone.

"You made my life brilliant, Rose Tyler. I love you."

Rose clutched the keyboard to her chest as tears streamed down her face. "I love you, too, John," she sobbed, though there was no one to hear. Her heart ached for him, but he was gone. Nothing would ever change that.

The next morning, she woke up surprisingly refreshed. Perhaps sleeping in a bed instead of on that long cushion in the console room made a difference. She got dressed, brushed her teeth, combed her hair, scrubbed the tearstains from her face, and went out to greet the TARDIS.

She was about to ask where their next destination should be-since she wasn't quite ready to run Emergency Program Ten - when she suddenly realized that she would never be ready. She could spend the rest of her life running and it would never be enough.

She sat on one of the console chairs with a heavy thump, her good mood vanished. She was running and she needed to stop. "Oh, John," she whispered to herself, "you were right."

Making a very impulsive decision, Rose faced the time rotor and said, "TARDIS, run Emergency Program Ten."

A/N: This is my first published fanfic, so I'm interested in what people think about it, what you like, what you don't. Drop me a line!