The Days That Never Came

The TARDIS drifts through silent space, an infinite spot of life inside infinity. Night is near eternal for its inhabitants; they're swathed with blackness, spangled only occasionally with stars.

Rory dreams.

He dreams of his many inadequacies. He dreams about his long nose and his skinny body, and about how other men's arms swell with muscle. He dreams about being beaten up in the schoolyard and called names, and how a few words from the new Scottish girl sent the bullies running. He dreams of being the kid left till last against the wall, while the girl who dazzles him is always picked first for football. He dreams of acne, and stammering, and watching his best friend go on dates with cleverer and wittier and better-looking men.

He dreams of a ponytail that didn't last, and feeling his life draining out of him. He dreams of a madman who snatched his Amy away with well-chosen words and promises of adventure, while gravity still trapped Rory.

He dreams too of the things Melody went through between the times they knew her as either Mels or River. Amy scoffs about those times. She reminds Rory how capable Melody is of looking after herself. But he remembers what River confided in him when they first searched for the Silence, and he is still worried. Frustration at Amy's carelessly accepting attitude boils in his brain.

He dreams of the feel of armour against his skin, and Amy looking right through him, and spending two thousand years being twenty-two. He dreams of dangers and treasure-seekers and disease threatening the treasure that lay sleeping inside that box, and how, with no hope of medals or glory or a snippet of credit, he trudged on.

Rory shifts in his sleep, and smiles.

Amy dreams.

She dreams of a swing and a lullaby and her parents' smiling faces. She dreams of wind-chimes and a magical blue box. Of wonder and joy, and yet, with a seven-year-old's certainty, knowing that this man and his box was real, because of course magic existed. Of carving her lost parents' smiles into an apple and her fingers and nose growing numb from the cold, as she waited. She waited.

She dreams of the morning afterwards, when the numbness crept further into her. She dreams of empty loo rolls painted blue and biting grown-ups' hands until, with vicious satisfaction, she saw blood. She dreams of how she told her class the truth about Santa at eight. She dreams of how, as she grew older, she saw the way boys looked at her, and how she bought her first miniskirt. She loved it when they asked her out; it proved she was in control, she was properly grown-up.

She dreams of stepping into that blue box again. She dreams of how scepticism fell from her like an unzipped coat when she stepped into the enormous space. She dreams of a killer angel inside her mind and a screaming space whale. She dreams of getting her parents back and wearing a white dress. She dreams of the fear that shot through her when she felt the first contraction, and the love she still has for her best friend and daughter. (Concern churns under this too, for where Melody is and what she does when she is cut off from all her loved ones. To vocalise this, though, would be to admit that there is something to be concerned about.)

Sometimes, she dreams that the Doctor never returns for her. That she is the vulnerable seven-year-old in the back garden for the rest of her life. And in a way, Amy is – only Rory knows that inside she's still Amelia. (He faces death by spousal stabbing should he tell anyone.) Sometimes she thinks it's a good thing. More often she thinks it's terrible. But the roar of the TARDIS and stepping onto a new planet always remind her why Amelia needs to be kept alive, rather than squashed down as she used to do.

Rory has nightmares too, about times as the Last Centurion when he thought his wait would never end. They don't tell each other about their nightmares. But even if they've argued before they go to sleep, they awake from their nightmares with their hands clasped together.

The Doctor dreams.

It's a quirk of Time Lords that they need less sleep than humans. They can also dream of more than one thing at a time. It makes for some very perplexing mornings. He dreams of his old faces and old bodies and old personalities, and what they would say if they saw him now. He dreams of Earth and Gallifrey: how different they were, and yet how alike. Sometimes he dreams of faces he's never seen. Sometimes he sees those faces again, after another regeneration.

He dreams of billions of bodies exploding into golden light and how they were forced to do it over and over until they ran out of regenerations. In those dreams he tells himself that it was his only choice. Sometimes he even believes himself.

In the mornings after those dreams, he tells Pond and her Rory that last night he dreamed of fish custard and new designs for rubber duckies.

He dreams of being chased by Daleks and Cybermen, how he can never seem to eradicate them. He dreams of River, of her mane of curls, of her cunning and wit, and how he both adores and is terrified of her. (She knows about it. She laughs, and kisses him on the nose whenever he blurts it out.) He dreams of their first time together. After he kissed her against the TARDIS console she grabbed him around the neck, grinned, said, "Brilliant," and proceeded to give him startlingly firm and explicit instructions.

He had gulped.

He dreams also of Rose, Martha, Donna, Sarah Jane, Susan – everyone he has loved and left. He walks on the beach where Rose told him she loved him. He dreams of the day Susan led humans back to their home, how angry he was with her. He was such a fool then. He dreams of that wonderful and terrible time the TARDIS could speak to him. Idris the TARDIS still weaves her way through his dreams, with her wide eyes and her ragged dress that suited her better than anything newer. When he wakes from those dreams, he runs his hand along her controls and murmurs to her. Sometimes he swears she talks back.

Sometimes, when he dreams of how he has the power to travel twelve years in five minutes or go from someone's birth to death in an hour, he feels like the TARDIS and he are the only beings truly alive in the universe.

Millenniums into the future and trapped in a high-security prison, River dreams. Her dreams are unusually tangible. Even if she doesn't remember what the dream was about, its tastes, colours, scents always linger in her head. She dreams of how odd it feels to regenerate when she has a body that's only half designed for it. She dreams of the bizarre, lonely childhood that was growing up alongside her mother, also growing up. (It was certainly awkward when Amy wanted to joke about her boyfriends.)

She dreams of all the relationships she has had with boys and girls. Some fizzled with eroticism. Some were pathetic. Some were brief. Some were serious. She dreams of how she lost her virginity – to be honest, she felt much more like she was gaining something. All of the relationships ended, however because River's boyfriends and girlfriends sensed that she was distracted by something else. Some of them accused her of cheating on them. Which, in a way, she was.

She dreams of her Doctor. She dreams of the training she received to kill a man she knew only by one word, and how she wholeheartedly soaked it all up. She dreams of laying eyes on him for the first time, his demeanour that of an overgrown pixie. She almost regretted it when she kissed him with her poisoned lips. Almost. She dreams of how it felt to have the power of regeneration sucked from her. It was the first time she ever did something completely selfless. Mels had laughed at herself afterwards, at how she was finally growing soft. Then, she had smiled.

She dreams of archaeology, of the fascination that grew within her, not only of clues to find the Doctor, but of the past itself. She dreams of all the adventures she had sans Doctor, off to find a million types of artefacts. She dreams of how gradually through meeting after meeting with the Doctor, she discovered the perplexing and terrible and wondrous nature of their relationship. The night after she began to know, River cried for the first time since childhood.

She dreams of the pride she felt in getting her doctorate at last. She dreams of the horror she felt when Madam Kovarian found her once again. She dreams of her guilt and bitterness at her seemingly inescapable fate – how many people are forced to murder their lover, after all? She dreams of the great escape, the Doctor's secret and hers. She dreams of her greatest sacrifice (that she knows of, anyway), consenting to be locked away and utterly dependent on the Doctor for adventure in order to convince the universe that he was indeed gone.

She dreams, too, of the day she knows nothing about, but dreads. She dreams of the day the Doctor will look at her and see just another middle-aged woman, will know nothing of their nighttime dates and wild sex life, of their conversations and flirtations and arguments, of the blue diaries holding them together, of them. Perhaps he will be cruel. He has a lot of enemies, after all, and she doesn't exactly seem trustworthy. She will bear the burden of explaining while keeping face. She must tell him the bare facts without emotions, without revealing his future. Spoilers are both unpleasant and extremely hard to avoid. And after that, she will most likely be left to rot alone in jail.

River stirs, uneasy in her nightmares. But there is no one in her cell to comfort her.

The TARDIS is a paradox: she never sleeps, but is always dreaming – of the past, of the present, of the future, of everywhere and every person and every time. She dreams. She dreams of her sweet stolen Doctor. She dreams of his current little strays. She dreams of the Doctor's other wife. She dreams of them, and she weaves their dreams together like strings making a jumper.

In the morning, Amy wakes with the taste of red wine on her lips. Rory wakes and remembers psychiatrists who dared tell him he was wrong. The Doctor wakes under the weight of the Pandorica. River wakes and knows what it is to have eleven different faces.

They will get up. They will live their day the same as any other. They will forget this strange intertwining where all four swore they were part of each other's minds, if only for a moment.

They will forget. But for now, they remember. And they smile.