This was written for a request (10 + post-Doomsday Rose + fluff) from EpPeep. Well my dear, I'm not sure this is quite what you had in mind… but this one's for you. Hope you enjoy…
Disclaimer: Doctor Who belongs to the BBC.
Every race -human, animal or otherwise- sleeps; and every race dreams.
In fact, the Doctor thinks as he stretches out in bed, tucking his feet between the folds of duvet at the bottom, he has even heard it whispered around the universe that demons can dream. He giggles as he smoothes his cheek over the pillow, sparing a moment to imagine that. A demon lying in a canopied bed. Scaly red eyelids fluttering shut, taloned hands relaxing, perky horns drooping like dog ears out to the sides. Snuffling and snoring as they dream not of fire and rage, but of normal life and normal love; the type that humans enjoy but by the laws of nature are denied them.
Yes, perhaps even forces of darkness are able to dream. And while he might not be a demon, (yet also, certainly not the god he has the reputation of being on about fifty-four planets) he is not that different from the rest of creation on the oh-so-rare occasions when he lies down, closes his eyes and counts sheep...
Every race -human, animal or otherwise- dreams. And so do Time Lords.
He opens his eyes, squinting in the sudden light of the TARDIS after the darkness of his bedroom. It ought to shock him to see his beloved ship -long since redecorated- in an old configuration; but anytime he finds himself here he is beyond surprise. And it is equally as silly to expect anything different than what he is always greeted with when he opens the doors. Loud London voices as people hurry past where he is parked at Embankment. Red buses making bright flashes of colour in the distance, Zeppelins sparkling silver in the grey skies. He paces forward, looking down to catch a glimpse of beige trainers beneath a pinstripe suit; rakes his hand self consciously through short, spiky hair as he peers over toward Big Ben.
Everything is as it always is when he dreams. London; but not his London. The TARDIS; but not his normal TARDIS. The Doctor; but not his current self.
Yet she is always as he remembers her.
He smells her first, the clean, sweet scents of citrus shampoo and strawberry chewing gum wafting through the air, announcing her presence as clearly as if she'd spoken. He spins to catch her in his arms, swinging her around before gazing down at her and beaming.
"Hello?" she says, giving him the tentatively exuberant smile he thinks of as his alone. Brown eyes shining, dimple in evidence, tongue poking through her teeth.
"Rose." No need to say anything more than her name. He puts everything he can into that one word. How much he misses her, even now. How happy he is to see her again, even for these fleeting moments.
"You're here." She laughs nervously, fingertips patting down the lapels of his suit, and dancing on his shoulders before she hugs him, tight.
"I can't believe I found you again. I keep expecting," she admits softly, "the last time was the last."
He can't say anything. Just shakes his head, taking in her features, her smile, her smell. The tangible weight of her in his arms.
"No," he says finally. "You know me, Rose. Bad Penny is my middle name."
"Doctor Bad Penny?" She tucks her hand into the crook of his arm, laughing as she leads him back toward his TARDIS. "I like it. Always figured you had to have a middle name or something."
It is not his London, not his world; but he always whisks her off in his TARDIS the moment she arrives. Too risky in this reality to take her to planets even he might be unaware of; so they venture far and wide on Earth, staying between the present and the past. Pete's world is different in tiny, subtle ways from the one she grew up in, and he delights to feel her hand in his once more, blond hair tickling his cheek as he leans down to whisper the differences in the history she'd know to what they find.
And no matter what world it is, they do what they always do. They find trouble and dispense justice. Fix problems and right wrongs. See just one more small piece of what the Universe has to offer before sauntering casually back to the TARDIS.
They save the world together; but he is reminded during every second how she has saved him. She made him laugh; and for so long after the Time War he'd thought he never would again. Long ago now, a Doctor with a sharp nose and wobbly ears, short cropped hair and a sarcastic smile felt as though he might be cursed to exist forever. To always feel the twin weights of genocide in his hearts and despair on his shoulders; to roam the world trying to help it… because if he could help, even just one more race, he might find absolution for what his own people had forced him into.
And in all the time he travelled by himself, no matter what he did or who he saved; he was never able to save his own peace of mind. Until her. In the face of her innocent enthusiasm it was impossible not to feel reborn. To remember, in bright sudden flashes how it felt to see wonder and redemption even in misery.
Rose Tyler. The girl who made him remember how to be alive.
A tug of his hand recalls him to the present, and he quirks a smile down on her as she beams at him in reply.
"Home," he intones in a deep voice, "safe and sound!"
"First class service, this. Seventeenth Century Paris, then back in time for tea."
"I aim to please," the Doctor says, making a tiny bow; and Rose laughs as she gives the console room one last lingering look, before pulling him out the TARDIS doors.
"I'm… home." She sighs, slipping her hand into his as they stroll along the Thames. "It almost feels normal, now. Like I really have lived here all my life. Mum's afraid of the Zeppelins, though; so we'll never be 'that' sort of people.
"How are you here?" she blurts out, as she always has to at least once during their time together. "How is it that you're here, in this world?"
She always asks, and he always ignores the question. Distracts her by asking if Jackie has learned to cook yet, and how Pete's Vitex sales are going.
Her brother is an excellent topic of conversation, because Rose will eagerly talk for hours about Tony. He has heard about this child that he's never seen so often that the boy is real to him. He can actually see the Tony's round cheeks beneath a shock of silken ginger hair, the smile just like his sister. Rose giggles as she mimics his voice, earnest and piping when he demands milk or toys, the way he lurches from side to side as he runs and the way he falls asleep, thumb half in, half out his mouth.
"He's taken to stealing my clothes out of the laundry basket," Rose says, hooting with laughter as they walk by the river. "Mum caught him wearing my pink vest and a pair of knickers on his head."
"I'm sure Pete wasn't so amused," the Doctor responds, a grin creeping over his face.
"Nah… Dad thought it was funny too. I thought it was less funny when he stole my scarf and wadded it up like a bowtie."
"Hey!" he exclaims, making a face. "Bowties are cool!"
Rose stares at him before doubling over in laughter once more. "That's right," she says finally. "You told me that. You've…regenerated. Not here, but in your world.
"And now you wear a bowtie." She sobers, just a little as she reaches out to adjust his collar. "Same old Doctor, with a really different look. I wish I could see that, sometime. I've never seen you looking like him, not even once.
"You're always you…" Rose says wistfully, looking deep into his eyes, "when you're here. How does that work?"
"It just does," the Doctor says, shifting uncomfortably under her gaze. "It's not important, Rose. Come on; tell me more. What else have you been doing? Buying out the shops?"
"I don't always shop!" she protests, laughing. "But, alright… found this really cute shirt..."
If he finds the right questions, he can keep Rose distracted from asking things he doesn't want to answer. It's not that difficult. He misses her; and even the most trivial and insignificant details of her life -buying new trainers or cooking a successful lasagne for tea- make him smile and capture his interest, because it's her.
And in turn, she does the same to him. She asks about his life, wants to know about the news in the world she lived in for nineteen years; and he lets the words spill out to assuage her curiosity. He tells her about the planets he's travelled to, about his adventures and his Ponds. He assures her that she'd love Amy; and he thinks she really would. Amelia Pond and Rose Tyler… he can imagine the havoc they might wreak across the Universe, as they drag Rory and himself along for the ride.
"And what about the other one?" Rose asks, squeezing his fingers. "The one with the hippie name?"
He knows in an instant who she means; and he schools his face into a sober mien, hopes his body language doesn't give him away.
"Oh, River? Yes, she's fine too."
He'd mentioned her once after the Byzantium, and regretted it the moment the words left his lips. The look on Rose's face… sadness and a bit of jealousy. No one likes being replaced; and he was a fool for not even thinking that through before talking about a woman who flirted like mad and threw herself into open space trusting that he would catch her.
He's tried to explain it, since then. Told her about who River really is, given Rose titbits of the quest for baby Melody, and explained her genetics… though he's left out the salient fact that she was bred to be a weapon against him. He can't even find it within himself to admit the guilt that he will always feel for that. Perhaps if he'd been quicker, more of the unimpeachable god Rose viewed him as… River's entire history might have been different. It is cowardly of him not to tell her the full story, but he can't bear the thought of Rose losing her faith in his ability to fix everything.
Or -if he's honest- have her be afraid of his death, the way he was for so long before he found a way around it. He can't bear the thought of Rose upset.
"She's around sometimes," the Doctor says casually. "Pops in when she feels like it, or calls me to pick her up."
Over the familiar sounds of a busy London, Rose is quiet as she gives him a curious look, biting the side of her lip.
"And… you and her?" Rose is nothing if not intuitive; and she sighs a little as she waits for his response.
"It's different than you think," he says finally. "Her and me… I think, if you saw how things played out… who she is… what she's done for me."
"We've all done things for you," Rose mutters. "Some people ran through dimensions just to find you."
And River, he wants to sigh, ripped time apart.
"She's different," he says instead. "She's like me."
The crestfallen look on Rose's face speaks louder than words.
"Rose, don't you understand? She's like me, and that's… after Gallifrey, I never thought I'd find…
"She's River," he finishes lamely. "But you… oh, you.
"There's a spot in my hearts, both of them," he says seriously, laying her hand on his chest. "And they belong to you. Always.
"You're Rose. My Rose Tyler. And she could never replace you."
There is still the slightest trace of hurt in her eyes, and an even fainter whiff of jealousy; but there is a smile stealing across Rose's face as she squeezes his hand.
"I'm happy you're happy," she says finally. She's lying, he can tell, but she says it regardless.
"I'm happy," he responds, "that I'm here."
They don't talk anymore about River; in fact, if he'd thought a bit quicker, he'd never have mentioned River to her at all because she has no place here. She belongs to a far-away world of bowties and tweed; but in the right here, right now, Pete's world is about Rose. Rose, and a Doctor in pinstripe suits with spiky hair.
And chips. There are always chips, when he is with Rose. They sit on a bench overlooking the Thames, a paper cone between them, and a bottle of warm Ribena to share. Conversation has died down to a companionable silence; but if Rose always has questions that she asks, so does he.
"Are things alright with... ? He can't finish the sentence, focussing instead on surveying the chip he's holding between his fingers. Him. Me. The Other Me.
"Oh no, they're good," Rose says hastily. "We're happy, all of us. Mum and Dad and Tony... Me and him. We're good."
She is looking at him, head tilted to the side and brown eyes serious.
"He doesn't replace you either," she whispers suddenly. "He's John Smith, my John Smith. But you…" Rose breaks off, sliding her fingers through his.
"You're my Doctor. You always will be."
No one likes to be replaced; and he is no different. He wants her happy, he has always wanted her happy; and yet he always knew that rationally, he and Rose could never have been a permanent arrangement. A human's version of forever is very different from a Time Lord's… and yet he can't help the smile creeping over his face. That even if she is happy, she will never forget him either.
She idles her fingers of her free hand through the string of her hoodie, not meeting his eyes. "Did I tell you, we both work for Torchwood here? John's fantastic with technology."
"As clever as me?" He can't help the question and Rose pretends to consider for a moment, eyes dancing as she debates teasing him.
"Well, at least he gives me more Spock…" He frowns at her before she winks, playfully shoves at his shoulder.
"Unfair question, Doctor! Especially because he's your identical twin…"
On more familiar footing now, he smiles. "Hardly identical, Rose. Not now anyway. We might have started off that way but by now... Well, combined with that human spark from Donna and the experiences he's had since then...
"It's the question of nature versus nurture," he explains, warming to his subject. "The same genetic code might make you the same, but how you are raised, the things you do and the choices you make…"
He continues talking, drawing in examples from history and scientific trials; and Rose listens patiently as he talks, interjecting a few hums of agreement and 'oh really?' to the conversation before she grins.
"You talk the same anyway. All those technical maybes and 'lets-see-what-happens-when-I-do-this'… He's even figuring out travel," she says with a sigh. "Space travel, and a bit of time as well. Took me up with him the last time, once he was sure we wouldn't break apart in this version of the time vortex. We only managed about five minutes into the past, and ended up in Northampton… But it did work, and he said now he's managed the basics, we can try again."
"He must miss it," the Doctor mused. "The travelling. I know I-"
Her face clouds for a moment, and he almost bites his tongue in consternation, swallowing back the rest of the sentence. I know I would. He hadn't meant to imply that having Rose wasn't enough.
"I know I might," he finished instead, "if I didn't have you to keep me company every day."
Her face clears, and she smiles a little. "I think we both miss it. Seeing everything that's out there. But that's one of the things that binds us together, because we both want to be able to travel again like that."
"I asked him," she says softly, "if it would be possible to travel back to the real world. My real world. And he said he didn't think so. Which makes me wonder…
"You've never said, Doctor." Rose is staring at him, a stubborn look on her face that suddenly lets him know that today, it might not be so easy to distract her anymore. She waves her hand to make a small gesture encompassing them and their surroundings.
"This. Us. How are you here?"
"Do you always have to ask why?" he questions. "Isn't it enough that it does?"
"You'd never be happy with that explanation," Rose says, fixing him with a pointed stare as he shrugs.
"I might be."
"You wouldn't," she insists. "I know you. And I bet you've got all this worked out already, haven't you?"
He shrugs again, and Rose sighs. "Just tell me if I'm right, ok? Because I've thought and thought about it and come to a conclusion.
"I'm dreaming, aren't I? This isn't real; it never is. Seeing you, here." She waves a hand between them. "John says it'd impossible getting back, especially as often as we seem to meet. And he's right, isn't he? It must be a dream that I'm having, and you're not real."
Somehow, he never thought she'd figure it out. Because she is right -this is a dream- but her voice is so sad that he hastens to reassure her.
"No no no; maybe its me? Maybe I'm dreaming. You're a figment of my imagination. And these chips-" he pokes another one into his mouth, chewing vigorously "are really just an edge of my duvet that I'm eating in my sleep."
She laughs, shaking her head. "Maybe we're both dreaming then? Of each other. But it feels so real, you know. Being together again, like nothing's changed.
"I still think of you," she admits. "Not all the time, but sometimes. It doesn't always work, but sometimes if I think really hard, focus really hard… I get tired and go to bed, and when I open my eyes again I know that you're here. I have to come find you, because you'll be waiting by Big Ben for me.
"It's like you're calling me," she says, fidgeting next to him. "And I have to answer and come see you."
He nods, understanding what she means because it's the same for him. He doesn't try to think of Rose, or even try not to think of her. But sometimes she's there in his head, more than almost any of his other Companions. He can hear her and see her, almost smell her around the TARDIS. And if he gives in, lies down and falls asleep, then he knows he will wake up here.
It is a dangerous thing to be seduced by the past; and he doesn't always give in. Whether it is a shared dream or not, remembering Rose and living for these moments is not beneficial to either of them.
But sometimes, he can't help it. He has to see her again. Make sure she's happy. Remind himself of how much she changed him, and not even by trying.
"Does it matter how we get here?" he asks. "All that counts is that sometimes, we are."
She nods, a smile lighting up her face. "I like seeing you again," she says slowly. "My Doctor."
They talk and nibble chips long since gone cold, revelling in each other's company; but everything has an ending. Even this, a time away from time. He feels it, when the dream is about to end. A sharp cramp in his knee tells him that his body, his real body in the real world, is tired of the inactivity that comes with sleep, and he can smell something familiar and un-London creeping through the air, a faint perfume drawing him back. Rose's face is the same; a slight grimace and sidelong look, a small pout and downcast eyes.
"I should get back," she says. "Things to do."
"Yes," he echoes. "Things to do, planets to save, places to run…"
She looks away wistfully and says nothing as she throws herself into his arms. Hugs him tight; and he presses his cheek against soft blond hair and breathes her in. Citrus shampoo and strawberry chewing gum, her bright all-so-human energy and indefinable Rose-ness.
"See you," she whispers into his ear; and he hums in agreement before releasing her and walking back to the TARDIS.
They never say goodbye. She is Rose; and he never wants to say goodbye.
So he says nothing, gives her a wave as she blows him a kiss. Closes the TARDIS doors behind him, leans against them and closes his eyes tight so that he can remember every single detail…
And opens them again in the darkness of his bedroom, River's soft shoulder beneath his cheek and her arms around him, a few curly tendrils in his mouth. He spits them out, stretching and groaning, and he hears her chuckle softly.
"I think I drooled on you," he admits sleepily; and River laughs as she presses a kiss to the top of his head.
"You always do," she teases. "You were eating my hair, too. Are you part goat, sweetie?"
"Your fault. Your hair was in my mouth."
"It's your mouth. I can't control what it's doing."
"If you could control your hair, we wouldn't have this conversation."
"Oh, shut up. You like my hair."
He does; so he just sighs, burrowing closer into her side with a sigh and arching against her hand as she runs her fingers through his fringe, her palm cool against his cheek.
"Came in and found you asleep," River says, her voice soft in the still darkness of the room. "Happens so rarely, I didn't want to wake you."
"Thanks," he mumbles. "Glad you didn't. It was a good dream."
He can feel the tension in her shoulder beneath his head almost immediately, and when she speaks again, her voice is tentative.
"And did you see…?"
He nods, cracking one eye to look at River apprehensively.
"Is she alright?"
He nods again, pulling away so he can see River's face.
"Are you upset?" he asks hesitantly. "That I dream of… her. That I still dream of her, maybe I always will?"
If River were anyone else, she would be upset. But she laughs softly, kissing his forehead and the tip of his nose before pulling him closer in her arms; and he breathes in the lingering scent of her perfume clinging to her skin.
"No," she admits. "I'm not. Rose was important to you, and I'm happy you knew her. I'm happy you still care about her enough to dream of her and know she's alright."
"She taught me how to live again," he whispers. "I remember that, every time I see her. She made me remember how to be alive."
"She taught you more than that," River murmurs. She sighs, smoothing his hair back from his forehead.
"Doctor, I couldn't resent your past, any more than you could mine. Everything that happened, good or bad made you into the man you are… so I'd never begrudge Rose the pieces of your hearts that she still holds.
"She didn't just teach you how to be alive," River whispers softly; and he can almost hear the smile in her voice as she speaks.
"She reminded you of how to love."
He doesn't say anything, doesn't have to. She understands, so there is no need for any additional words.
Every race sleeps, and every race dreams. Human or animal, demon or god… even Time Lords. It is dangerous to be seduced by the past; but on those rare occasions when he closes his eyes and counts sheep, he is happy that sometimes he finds his way to her world. Because it is never just about seeing her, his Rose, who will always be in his hearts.
It is about remembering the girl who taught him how to live. And love.
The Doctor closes his eyes, presses his face into River's neck and drifts back into slumber with a tiny smile on his face.