Title: Talking to your Ghost
Genre: Romance, angst, fluff, horror.
Setting: Well, that would be telling...
Spoilers: None if you've seen series 1 to 2.
Disclaimer: Doctor Who is © of the BBC.
Summary: He talks to her quite often. Even though he knows somewhere, in his heart of hearts, she can't really hear him.
A/N: Just an idea I got that wouldn't leave me alone. Goes a little AU eventually.
He is not facing her, but facing the console. Hands stroking, prodding and hitting the controls beneath him, he speaks to her in a joyous, excitable way.
"If we go somewhere in Spring, how about that? I quite like the Spring. Has that nice smell to it, doesn't it? Everyone loves the spring! Not too hot, not too cold. And so much greener than Winter, which is always a good thing. There's this planet called Slovet where it's Spring all year around. Well, it is in the right year anyway, but come a few years of it and Summer takes over. Gets very hot then. Shall we go there though, do you think? In the Spring, mind. To Slovet in the Spring?"
"Sounds good to me," she says and he can the bemusement in her voice. "Just to relax, yeah?"
"Oh, yes. Of course," he says, grinning at the console.
He does not turn to face her.
He takes the TARDIS out of the vortex and lands them on Slovet, in the Spring years. As he exits, he finds them in a beautiful field of light green grass and pink lilies; there is a deep, lively forest to their right.
"It's very beautiful," Rose says beside him, echoing his thoughts.
"It is, isn't it?" he says, watching the landscape.
They walk into the forest; he, because he's curious as to if it is the same as the last time he came; and she because it is hotter than she thought it would be, he thinks, and she likes the shade. After several minutes of walking they stop by a large tree that looks like an oak tree, but actually is not. He sits down at the base, where the grass is dry and there aren't so many branches, and feels her sit beside him. There is a silence for a few moments as they look out at their surroundings.
"Did you dream last night?" she asks eventually. But what she is actually saying is, "Did you dream about me again last night?"
"I dreamt, yes," he replies. But what he is actually saying is, "I always dream about you, Rose."
"What happened?" she asks, and he knows her head is lifted to the heavens and she is staring through the tree tops up at the baby blue sky.
"You were there," he says, even though he thinks she already knows.
"I know," she says.
"Actually," he corrects himself, and frowns, "You were and you weren't."
"What do you mean?" she asks curiously.
"I know you were there. But I couldn't see you; I couldn't find you." He stares ahead at another oak tree that isn't an oak tree and watches as something that looks like a squirrel, but isn't really, climbs up the trunk. "I think I could hear you though." He frowns, a contemplative mood keeping him calm. "I can always hear you," he says, though he thinks she already knows.
"I know you can," she says quietly, and she sounds oh, so sad.
"Doesn't matter though, does it?" he says quickly, only half joking. "Only dreams after all. Imagination, brightening up the darkness of rest. Mostly, anyway. Only dreams." His grin stops and he looks down at the grass and pauses. "Aren't they?" He shakes himself and gives a large sigh suddenly, pretending he didn't say that. His voice sounded far too much like a plea.
He stands and turns back the way they came. "Better get back I think." He doesn't give a reason because he can't think of one worthy enough. He just knows he wants to leave now; wants to be away from the Spring air, even though he wanted nothing more than to bathe in it mere minutes before.
She doesn't question his judgment though; she never does anymore.
It is as they leave the forest and are walking along the light green grass towards their blue box that she next speaks. Her head is bowed he knows, and she sounds so very thoughtful. "Do you think you'll ever find me, Doctor?" she asks.
He doesn't really know how to answer, even though it's the only thing that has been playing across his mind lately. The truth hurts, but he can never lie to her. He doesn't look to her as he answers sadly, "I don't think so, Rose."
He feels her nod at his side. "I'm sorry," he hears her say, "It'll hurt even more soon."
He is confused and makes the mistake of turning to her.
As usual, there is no one there.
He is laying out on his bed, not intending to sleep. He can feel her laid down beside him. Their hands are close but not touching; his little finger right beside her little finger. He stares up at the ceiling, watching the shadows.
There's a silence, but it's a nice silence. He can feel his breath and hear two heartbeats.
"Don't tell me not to miss you," he says eventually.
"I wasn't about to," she tells him, "I wasn't about to say anything actually."
"Good," he says, "I like it like this." There is a content pause. "Where would you like to go next?"
"Wherever you want," she says, and then repeats it and he can hear her smile, "Wherever you want."
"I know just the place," he tells her, "but not yet though. We'll wait here awhile first." He closes his eyes, the black oblivion calming his mind.
Her voice, gentle as it is weary, cuts through his calm, "Don't miss me too much though, will you?"
He doesn't open his eyes. "I'll try," he whispers into his darkness.
Under the lids of his eyes he can almost pretend her hand has moved onto the top of his.
"A dance!" Her excitement thrills him more than he can say, and he doesn't have it in him to tell her that he never meant to bring them here, that it was supposed to just be another quiet, secluded place. They can still enjoy it, he decides. "We're going to a dance?" she asks, excited, and he feels her look at him.
"Yup, certainly looks that way," he replies with a smile, peeping through the doors of the grand community center before entering and walking over to a man checking people's name off of a long list.
One look at the psychic paper sees them through in no time and they're soon walking through the grand hall, watching as twirling pairs of humans dance across the shiny wooden floor. They find themselves a table at the side and he takes a drink order from one of the many waiters. They watch as people come on and off of the dance floor, the beautiful songs playing from the front stage relaxing his mind and calming his breaths.
Rose disappears, and he tells himself it is to the bathroom, as a young, attractive woman in her late twenties walks over to him. "Hello stranger," she says with a smile.
He nods to her, "Hello."
"What's a pretty thing like you doing at a place like this all alone?" she asks, and her mascara eyelashes blink repeatedly as though she needs long pauses between looking at things for a long time.
"Actually, I'm not –"
But before he can properly reply the woman lets out a loud laugh just as another song starts at the front stage. "Oh, I love this song! Would you dance with me?" she asks suddenly.
The Doctor stares at her. She is attractive, and her dress is flattering her well, but Rose wouldn't like him dancing with her. And neither would he if he's honest. "No, thank you. I'm with someone."
The woman frowns and looks about the dance hall as if expecting Rose to suddenly appear right next to her She turns back to him. "Who?"
He doesn't reply; just stares her out, and eventually she sees what she's supposed to and turns on her heel. He watches her go for a moment, before taking a sip of his drink and leaning back. Rose returns a minute later.
"Somebody ask you to dance Doctor?" she asks, and he can hear the joking fear of her tone.
He smiles into his drink, not looking up. "Of course, but she wasn't my type."
She laughs beside him. "What about me? Am I your type?" she asks boldly
He feels passion fill him up, but can't even put into words what he wants to say. She knows anyway; she knows as soon as he thinks it.
"Will you dance with me, then?" she asks.
He laughs a little, but shakes his head. "I can't," he admits.
"This body isn't as good at dancing as the last," he says, even though he's perfectly sure it is a lie, and thinks she knows it is.
"Liar," she tells him. "Don't you even want to give it a go?"
"I want to," he says, and the words feel insignificant of their true depth, "but we would look like fools a little, wouldn't we?"
"You would," she corrects him. "Just you."
"Just me," he has to agree.
They are laying down again; this time on the floor in the console room of the TARDIS. He has hands full of wiring he is pretending to concentrate on; she is simply laying beside him, watching him. He can feel her, but again they are not touching – he does not look at her.
"What are you doing?" she asks, curiosity lighting her tone.
"Oh, this and that," he says airily, throwing a distracted hand, with his eyes down upon the wires in his hands. "Recalibrating, destabalising the temporal locater... that sort of thing."
He feels her smile cheekily beside him. "You know, sometimes," she tells him, "I thought you might just be making words like that up."
"Oh really?" He smiles at the wires he's clicking into place, "I can assure you I don't. Although... you thought I was making them up? Past tense, so you don't think it anymore then? Do you, Rose? Rose?"
She does not reply and it is suddenly very quiet. It panics him suddenly when he cannot feel her smile, or hear her frown. His work stills but he does not, can not, look up. He hears harsh breathing and recognizes it as his own. There is a terrible silence and her presence does not feel like it is there anymore.
He manages to last six minutes before he abruptly turns to face her.
He wishes he didn't, and looks back down at his work.
After moments of staring at nothing, he stands and leaves the empty console room.
"Do you know what repressed memory is, Doctor?" she asks one summer evening as they stare up the stars of a forgotten galaxy.
"Of course I do," he replies immediately. "It is when a certain memory, usually traumatic, becomes unavailable for recall. Why do you ask?"
There is a slight silence before she answers, "No reason." Another pause; then, "And denial," she says, "you know what that is, I suppose."
"Yes, course. It's when a truth too uncomfortable or terrible to accept is rejected despite overwhelming evidence," he tells her surely. "Why all the interest?"
"Oh," he hears her breath quietly, "just... no reason. Just interested." There is a quiet calm then as they both stare up at the night. If he concentrates hard enough, he can almost believe he can see her reflexion in the blanket of darkness between the stars.
"Where to next?" she asks after a short while.
"Why?" he says. "Bored already?" He grins up at the sky.
"No," she says, and he can hear her smile. "It's nice here, I was just wondering where we're going next. Maybe we could go somewhere busy, full of people; there might be some sort of mystery we can solve."
His face falls and he doesn't answer immediately. "Maybe a bit later," he says.
"You always say that," she reminds him.
"I like it here," he says, a touch defensively.
"So do I, but we do have a job to do, remember? Defending the universe." He feels her head rise and rest on the palm of hand as she gazes at him.
There is a pause as he look up at the stars; the specks of light among the cascading darkness. He doesn't answer, his face steadily resigned.
"You can't, can you?" she says after a moment. "You're too afraid of what might happen. You think it might stop if you run too quick, too hard."
He tells himself he doesn't understand, though he he's not sure it's true. "What might stop?" he asks, frowning.
"This," she says simply. "If there's others, it's harder to pretend–"
"Who's pretending?" he interrupts.
He feels her heavy breath and thinks there might be tears pooling her eyes. There's a sudden silence. "I'm sorry," she says. "Don't cry for me."
His jaw remain rigid, but he blinks at the strange dampness in his eyes. "We can go to Silver Plain next," he says and is relieved to find his voice is steady. "It's this huge planet, brimming with the most beautiful diamonds all over. The trees; the grass; the sky; the buildings... they all sparkle." He smiles, almost to himself, as he adds, "And it's completely uninhabited."
She does not answer, and he's not sure she can.
"There's two suns," he adds, his voice determined, "and three moons. It's one of the most wonderful places I've been to, I think." He frowns thoughtfully, and in a slightly more melancholy tone, he adds, "I only wish I'd taken you sooner."
Still, he receives no reply, and he isn't sure he ever will.
"Would you like to go then?" he asks, and silently he begs her to answer.
No reply comes and he swallows against something lodged in his throat. His glands must be a little swollen, he decides. It is probably colder than he thought it would be.
He stands but does not look to the place she should be. Instead he walks back to the TARDIS, alone.
"What do you miss most?" she asks one TARDIS evening, sitting at the kitchen table.
He stills. "What do you mean?"
"Your hand must be cold," she says gently. She has been sounding a little different lately. It's almost as if she's forgotten what her voice sounds like. "Do you miss... a – a hand to hold."
He stands abruptly. "Would you like more tea?" he asks. He quickly jumps up and walks to the counter. "Or maybe coffee? You know we haven't had coffee in a while. It's not as good as tea of course, but still. I think we should at least have some once and a while. I'll make us a cup, shall I?"
"Sorry," he hears her whisper. "I don't mean to–" She stops, and he knows it is because she knows she really did mean to. "I'm sorry," she says, and he feels that she means it.
"Yeah," he says, ans swallows. "I know. But, you know, maybe that is what I mi–" He stops, and frowns ahead. Abruptly, he shakes his head and gives a sigh. "Anyway, tea?"
"Yes," she says quietly, but her voice still sounds strange. Anyone could be speaking, he thinks. Then he shakes his head of the thought. He's being ridicules, he decides.
But he still can't look at her.
"You know, I was thinking we could go to Barcelona. I was doing some work on the TARDIS this morning, and I thought to myself how strange it was that I still haven't taken you there. I promised I would, didn't I? Well, I didn't promise, but I certainly suggested it, said we might do," he rambles. "So Barcelona, yes? Dogs with no noses, and there's this giant fair they have there, all year round. You'd love it, there's all kinds of rides, much more than those little things you have on earth."
He bounds around the console, filling the room up with his words.
It is too quiet.
"Then there's this restaurant they have. It's one of the best in their galaxy. You wouldn't believe the food they have – I doubt you'd ever find finer dishes. So! Barcelona next, okay?"
No answer comes.
No answer ever comes anymore.
He turns a dial on the console, sets the coordinates for Barcelona. As he does, the silent humming of the room consumes him and he is rendered motionless for just a moment as he listens to the nothing around him.
If he listens hard enough he can't hear her voice, but he can sometimes hear the sounds of distant sobs, of heartbroken tears. But he doesn't like to dwell on those sounds for too long.
His eyes trail around the part of the room he can see. Pillars and coral and the breathing rotor of his magnificent ship.
And a single purple top hanging over a railing.
A burst of a shaking kind of epiphany sees through his thoughts.
A far away grasp; an agonizing scream; falling away – cold, white walls; distant sobs.
He feels his lip tremble but snaps his teeth shut to stop it. The will to break digs into his mind but he resists. He stands fully and swallows, listening to the echoes of a dead silence. He swallows again, and drops, shaking, to the floor.
He doesn't get up again for seventeen minutes.
The darkness looks beautiful. There are no stars; no moons; no planets. Just an everlasting expansion of nothing going on for such a long, long time. He is watching from the doors of the TARDIS as she floats gently in the rims of dark space.
The first time he saw the ghost of Rose Tyler he wasn't shocked or awed. If he was things would have gone differently. A part of his mind told another part that she was there. There she is, it said, can't you see? Out of the corner of your eye. You feel her, in your soul. You feel her feelings and hear her thoughts. She's there and alive, and the battle never happened. Talk to her, it said.
Stupidly, he believed it could last. But like everything, it disappeared. Like his people. Like his home. Like her.
Which is why he is here now, standing at the open doors of his ship, staring into blackness. He balances his hands on the wall either side of him, pulling his weight forward and staring so hard into the dark, it feels as though his eyes are shut.
Everything inside of him is hot and burning with rage and grief and agony. Her memory hurts and her ghost can no longer comfort him.
And the darkness is beautiful.
Apologizing to Rose and begging his ship's forgiveness, the Doctor leans forward, lets go of the walls and everything he knows falls into the darkness of nothing.