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Title: Dreams of a Thing With Feathers
Author: Aenaria/io_aenaria
Character/Pairing: Ten/Rose
Rating: PG
Summary: In a most improbable fashion, across improbable times and impossible distances, two people somehow manage to connect and find one more thing to hold onto. A story set within the story of Sonnets Writ in Skin.
Disclaimer: Not mine. In my dreams...
Author's Notes: Response fic to two of irishlullaby's fic challenges, the June fic prompts (the pictures inspiring this fic are #17 and #33) and the Time Lord Tidbits one. Combine the two together with a long standing obsession with locks and keys, and this is the result. Given that this technically takes place within my last story, it really is necessary to read that one first, otherwise this story could be a bit confusing. Thanks for reading, and I hope you like it!

On her first night there, on the planet where things come to life once the sun falls and people begin to move in the night, Rose dreams.

There are no people in her dream, just images, of a storm roiling and boiling off in the distance, with a fiery sun blazing at the centre of it. And then there are the words that echo across the storm, spoken in the voice of a young boy who hasn’t had the opportunity to see the world beyond his garden and yet knows far, far more than that.

“He’s like fire, and ice, and rage. He’s like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and he can see the turn of the universe.

“And he’s wonderful.”

There’s only one being in all of the universes that could describe. She feels privileged that she was given the chance to love him for all he is, the dark and the light. There’s also a strange but good feeling that he loved her in return. In her sleep, she strokes the writing over her breast that bears his testament to her.

* * *

“What’s this one say?” Rose watches with a smile as her little sister carefully traces the circular writing on her left forearm. She decided to let Gemma in on the secret; after all, sisters have to share things between them that no one else knows. At six, Gemma is young enough as well to appreciate the mystery and magic of the Gallifreyan writing.

Rose picks her head up off of the pillow and looks down at her arm, held in place by Gemma’s small hands. “Hmm, now that one talks about Cardiff, of all places. We had a few interesting times there.”

“Where’s that?” Gemma asks, her thin summer nightgown decorated with small pastel flowers moving as she shifts around to get comfortable on the large bed. The bed is only one part of this luscious room. The walls are a warm, pale stucco, but the furniture scattered around is made from a light grey wood and carved with rich little designs that are typical of the planet. Some walls have matching pale greyish silver draperies, and another has a tech centre that would make Mickey salivate, with nearly every sort of gadget imaginable. And she isn’t going to get started on the bath-the Jacuzzi tub with twelve different settings was a thrill and a half.

“S’in Wales. In both universes, actually. For some reason Cardiff is just one of those places where weird stuff happens.” There are plenty more technical terms for why Cardiff was such a hotbed of activity, but Rose feels it necessary to keep it simple. Gemma just wants to hear about the magic.

As Rose adjusts her own pajamas, a filmy and loose gown loaned to her by their hosts, Gemma flips her arm over, exposing her inner wrist and the mark there. “An’ what about this one?”

The sight of that one makes Rose smile again. There is a sadness about that particular bit of writing, as it is one of the last words the Doctor had given to her before they were separated, but it is all about the beginning of things, and she can’t help but cling to the idea that things will circle round and begin again. She rolls over and puts her face close to her little sister’s, her wrist lying on the pale sheets between them. “Now that - that one’s special.” Rose adopts her most gossipy, secret-sharing voice, and the two girls lock nearly identical hazel eyes. She recalls her dream from the night before and decides to use some of the words from there to tell the story, because they are him. “Once upon a time, there was this man. Ooh, how to describe him… He was dark and dangerous, the storm at the center of the sun, and ancient and he could feel the turn of the Earth beneath his feet. And he’s the most wonderful man I’ve ever met.”

“The Doctor!” Gemma cries, remembering all of the stories Rose has shared with her about the last of the Time Lords.

“Oh yes. The very first time we met, I was in the basement of the store where I used to work, surrounded by plastic shop window dummies come to life.” Gemma’s eyes are wide, possibly scared but mostly fascinated. The light brown curls on her head are tousled, a scattered halo. “Thought I was done for. But then, I feel this hand wrap around mine, tight and strong, and I hear one word. This word, right here.” Rose taps the tight concentric circles and radiating lines with a finger. “Run!” she whispers fiercely.

Gemma giggles brightly and wriggles about. Rose’s stories always thrill the little girl, full of enough drama and adventure and just a smidge of romance to keep her heart happy. Rose edits out some of the sadder parts, because her adventures weren’t always appropriate for young ears, but no matter what the story she tries to bring out the hope in it. Because really, especially now, hope is the most important thing they both have. “And now you, little one, need to go to bed,” Rose says, maneuvering off the bed and pulling the sheets up around Gemma.

“It’s too bright to sleep though,” she grouses, although her eyelids are definitely droopy.

“That’s just the moons out there. I’ll pull the doors closed, okay?” Rose kisses her on the forehead. “Love you, baby.”

“Love you too Rose.” As Gemma drifts off to sleep, Rose heads out onto the balcony of their loaned room, being sure to close the wooden doors behind her. She had told everyone that she was taking Gemma to Blackpool for the weekend. That was a bit of a fib. In reality, they are on a planet called Artagon where, if all of the clues she has managed to piece together are correct, the way to get back to her real universe was. She leans on the parapet and looks over at the city. The place gleams in the light from the twin moons, a strange mixture of futuristic metal and ancient stone structures. Vehicles buzz around, weaving in and out of the people who walk along the streets also. The moonlight highlights the artificial light that comes from the buildings, making the whole city look as if it were glowing, and so alive.

In the past when she’s investigated the ways to get back to her universe, she never took Gemma along with her. The risk was too great, and she wanted to keep her as safe as possible. But then, then…well, it was nothing short of a disaster. Jackie and Pete were in an accident. A stupid, silly car accident again, just like the other world, however here the results doubled. All that Rose and Gemma have are each other, and they’re not going to let the other go, not without a fight. And so now Gemma tags along, a wide eyed spectator. In most places, the inhabitants are charmed by the little girl’s bubbly personality and wide grin, and it does make it a little easier to get some answers, Rose must admit. Hopefully this is the last trip though, because she feels she is so close. The Artagian people have the key, she knows it.

Rose sits down on a chaise lounge out there, and settles in to watch the two moons and all of the strange constellations in the sky. Soon, she slides into sleep and dreams herself.

* * *

John Smith is dreaming again. It’s strange this time though, he’s not that madman but himself, wearing his winter greatcoat and hat shoved tightly on his head. But there, perched on the wall of this castle-like structure is the girl from the other dreams, Rose, shimmering in the moonlight of the two moons high above his head. And this time, she’s not walking away. Her dark eyes turn towards him and she smiles, a wide and nearly wolfish grin.

“Hello, Doctor,” she says.

He shakes his head slowly. “No, I’m not the Doctor, whoever he is. My name’s John, John Smith.” He looks around at the vista below him, an alien world that would be more appropriate for the daredevil madman in his dreams than his human bones. “And I suspect that I’m dreaming again.” He watches as Rose’s face slowly falls, like a crumbling mask.

“No…” she whispers. “You once told me that Gallifreyans don’t dream, or if they do, it’s so rare and never about stuff like this. What’s happened to you?” The tears that suddenly drip down her face are like an icicle to the gut, and he doesn’t quite know why she’s making him feel like this. She’s just a figment of his admittedly overactive imagination, not reality. Even in dreams she shouldn’t have this pull over him.

“Miss…Rose, I don’t know what you are referring to.” He moves closer to her, close enough to touch if he so chose, however that would be improper. At least this time she is more modestly dressed, in a loose and flowing floor length shift with sleeves that drape off of her shoulders.

Before he can say anything further, she reaches out to touch him. John knows he should move, should take her hands away from his body, because it’s not proper. A gentleman would be able to restrain himself. There’s a small part of him, however, that one tiny part where the daredevil sneaks out during the daylight hours, that says he should embrace her touch. One small hand goes to his neck, and with her thumb searches for his pulse. The warm hand then slides down to his chest, directly over his heart. Her other hand goes to the other side, leaving both palms pressed flat against him. By this point, John is barely breathing, the humid air stuck somewhere in his throat and deciding not to move. “One heart,” she murmurs lowly, more to herself than to him. “Oh, God. You’re either sick or somehow, I don’t know how, but somehow you’ve become human. Why?”

Funnily enough, he had dreamed about the two hearts himself just the other night. He thinks he shouldn’t be surprised that the motif emerges again in his dreams. “Miss Rose, I’ve always been human, always had just one heart. By strange coincidence I had it checked out earlier this day.” He should move her hands away. It was quite improper for her to keep touching him like so.

Rose shakes her head slowly, hair loose and gleaming. “You may have a human brain, human body, but the Doctor I know is somewhere inside there.” She bites her lip and stares at something behind him. “I can use this,” she mutters. Her fingers curl tightly into the scratchy wool of his jacket, and she brings her dark eyes back to his. “When you come back to yourself, when the Doctor part of you comes back--”

John shakes his head again and cuts her off. “I’m not the Doctor. He’s imaginary, there’s nothing to come back,” he feels he has to insist, although for a brief, shining moment, Rose’s strength of belief almost makes him believe.

Her lips quirk a bit. “You’ll come back. The universes need a Doctor, always have.” Rose’s hands stretch out on his chest once more. “When you get back, when you become who you’re meant to be again, give him this message: I’m coming home. Can you remember that? I am coming home.”

He grasps her upper arms carefully, the way one does with the mentally unstable. There’s a small part of him that wishes she had never started to talk, that she had stayed silent and walked away like all the other times she’s appeared in his dreams. But there’s another, right now a far larger, part that is thrilled she’s here, not leaving, and talking to him, even if it is in enigmatic and nonsensical riddles. “Miss Rose,” he says, “how can I take a message for a man who doesn’t exist? It would be impossible.”

“Now I know you’ve gone and addled your brain somehow,” she responds with a slight grimace. “You always used to love doing the impossible.”

He is about to protest for the final time that while it is a bit of a fun fantasy, he is not this Doctor character she thinks he is, when his hand slips a little on her right arm, skidding over the warm skin there. The sudden movement brings a pattern into view on her upper arm, like a sailor’s tattoo. The design is a tight mass of concentric circles and tiny specks scattered like stars, black and soaking in the moonlight from above. The pattern is actually similar to the design on a fob watch that he has; the one that his mother had given him when he completed university. “What is that?” John asks, leaning in and squinting to try and understand what it means.

Rose looks down to see the specific mark that he’s focusing on. “That is a word that you-“ she corrects herself quickly, perhaps to appease him although it is clear that she doesn’t believe it, “he gave me once upon a time.”

“He put a word right on your skin?” That didn’t make sense either; this dream is fast becoming memorable as one of the strangest ones he’s ever had in his life.

“It was just how we did things,” she replies with a shrug.

“What does it mean?” John asks, obviously fascinated, eyes still glued to the mark.

“He told me once that it means ‘thank you’, but I’m not all that sure it’s accurate. I’ve worked on my translations and that just doesn’t seem to fit with that bit of text,” Rose says.

“Bad Wolf,” he murmurs, the words coming into his head from nowhere, as if they were just dropped in like a telegram.

“What did you say?” Rose gasps. Her hands go to his face and pull it close to hers. “What did you say?” she repeats, the desperation growing in her voice.

“I said ‘Bad Wolf,’ but I don’t know why I said it,” John says. “It probably doesn’t even have any connection to that thing on your arm.” But a little whispering voice speaks in his mind: don’t be so sure about that…

“But why those specific words?” she murmurs, mostly to herself. Suddenly, something snaps, as if there is an audible click in the heavy air. ‘Almost feels like a storm is coming,’ John thinks absently, as Rose’s hands twitch slightly on his face. Her eyes bore steadily into his, as if searching for something back there. There’s something going on in there, he knows, some sort of rapid-fire thought that he is not going to be privy to. The gleam that grows in her eyes, flickering in the moonlight, unnerves him a bit, but he still can’t pull away from her. “That writing, my writing, it didn’t appear until you touched it, right?”

“I’m not sure,” he shakes his head. A quick wind grabs his hat and tosses it away, battering it against the wall of the castle like structure and ruffling his hair all about.

“It did though. You don’t want to believe that, but you only saw them when you rubbed your hand on it,” Rose insists, her lips turning up just slightly.

“And if it did?” John asks. “What does that mean?”

The smile on her face doesn’t change, but the knowing look grows in her eyes again, staring practically down into his soul. “I’m not sure,” she tosses his words right back at him, “but I think it means that no matter what you do to yourself or what happens to you, there are some things you just can’t hide.”

With that puzzling statement Rose pulls his face to hers and kisses him, lips red and soft and warm against his own. This is not a kiss of polite courtship either, this is passion and heat, tongues clashing with each other in that oldest form of give and take. She tastes like he imagines a star would, bright and sparking with life. The proper part of John thinks he should pull away, but maybe he isn’t that much of a gentleman, because more than anything else this feels right. His hands drift down her arms and settle on her waist, pulling her close. Rose’s hands go to his hair, thumbs stroking the delicate skin behind his ears.

As her hands move down to his chest, drifting over the buttons of his coat, there is a sudden rush of electricity that goes through his body. Something golden glows behind his closed eyelids, and he gasps sharply against her mouth. On the right side of his chest, something bursts and flares—

pressure and pain, but also life

the sound of drums, far in the distance

rushing, pulsing

gold spreading through his body

synapses fire, all bodily systems online

they beat

John wakes up in his quarters, single heart almost pounding its way out of his chest. He stares around the room blearily, until it settles in that as intense and strange as it was, it was just a dream. He reaches for the Journal of Impossible Things to record this dream also, but then he remembers he loaned it to Joan the day before. Well, he’d be able to get it back from her. Maybe, if he was really lucky, he’d get up the courage to ask her to the village dance tonight as well.

* * *

“I didn’t expect it to be so…literal,” Rose says, staring down at the large key sitting in her palm. It looks as if it is made of cast iron, but she knows it’s a far more alien material than just a basic iron. Still, it looks as if it should unlock a wooden door set in a stone wall in the Somerset countryside, not the one remaining way to move between universes safely. She looks up at the Artagian who had given her the key-Koios, his name is. He is a tall and slender alien, humanoid, but with a slightly larger head and webbed fingers. His eyes and teeth are a deep black, and his skin is icy-white with a bluish cast about it, similar to the moonlight that falls on this planet every night.

Koios sits down at his desk. He is a priest, a scholar; on Artagon there isn’t much difference between the two. He is astute enough to know that the best time to reveal such sensitive information is after the sun rises and the rest of the Artagians head to sleep. “The Time Lords weren’t exactly known for being the most creative of races. I guess when they discovered they had something to unlock universes, it was only logical to make it in the form of a key.”

Rose looks out the arched window, sees the watery sunlight dulling the city below her. Everything here looks better in the moonlight. She wonders if it was designed that way, knowing that this culture seemed to come alive after the sun set. The key’s weight is heavy in her hand, ancient and comforting. For a brief moment, she flashes back to the strange dream she had the night before, with the Doctor who claimed he wasn’t the Doctor, and wonders about the odd nature of it; it didn’t feel like any other dream she’d had in her life. She forces her attention back to the key, deciding to pay attention to what she had within her grasp. “And somehow this key managed to survive the Time War…and end up someplace where I could actually get to it,” she marvels, an odd but good feeling settling in her stomach all of a sudden.

“Dreams are not as bound to a universe as other things are,” Koios says. “My theory is that once upon a time, one of the Time Lords gave an Artagian the key to protect, possibly as a bit of a failsafe if they got stranded in this universe, and one of my ancestors stored the key in a dream.” He waves at the shelves behind him, full of little boxes of different shapes and materials. “Those are all stored dreams, which we can access when we need to.”

“I think I read something similar in Harry Potter once,” Rose murmurs. Koios shoots her a puzzled look and she shakes her head briefly. “Never mind, just something from an Earth book. So the key was in one of those dreams, and when you went to get it, you brought it back here and made it solid again.” Again, she stares in wonderment at the large key.

“Well, there are more scientific terms for the process, but in essence, yes.” Koios leaned forward. “What you need to know about this key is that you need to have something from the universe that you want to get to in order to use it properly. If you don’t have something with the specific energy signature for the key to lock onto, you could end up anywhere in space or time, in any universe out there, or even in the void between them.”

Rose just smiles and tugs on the sturdy metal chain around her neck, pulling at it until it revealed the most ordinary looking key possible at the end of it. One would never think that this tiny little hardware store key could do so much, but it had the power to reveal the secrets of the universe to one who knew how to use it. “Leave that part to me,” she grins. She now knows what that feeling inside her should be called. Something she hasn’t felt for a while, but is now within her grasp again. Hope.

* * *

Sometimes, the Doctor looks in the mirror and wishes he could see John Smith there. John Smith was simple, human, with human hopes and dreams and desires. That human didn’t have the weight of the universe on his shoulders. He didn’t have to deal with the curse of the Time Lords either. When the day is done, however, he is the Doctor, and has to live with everything that implies. It isn’t a bad life. The phrase better with two echoes in the recesses of his mind in that sweet voice, but he has to push it back down otherwise he’ll never be able to move.

There is a brief moment of regret that he hadn’t recorded the last dream of John Smith’s in detail in the journal. He’d left the journal with Joan, a reminder of the man he was and who had left her, who had sacrificed himself for the sake of the world. He’d tried to make it up to her, offering the chance to travel the stars and possibly see where things would go, but she didn’t accept. It was all right though. As she asked the familiar questions, spoken so long ago by a young woman in a bright pink hoodie who could get into his heart no matter what face he was sporting, if could he change back and the like, he realized just why he hadn’t included any instructions to Martha as to what she should do if by chance he fell in love.

Still, there is something important about that dream, some minute technical detail that his brilliant brain can’t remember right now. All he’d been able to scribble down before getting distracted was a few words, descriptions of a place, and something about moonlight and a storm coming. What had managed to stick with him though is the feeling right after he’d woken up. The dream may have descended into a blur in those first few moments of awareness, but that feeling…oh, it is a powerful one. It’s that thing with feathers that perched in the soul and never stops, as an Earth author said once.

It’s hope. The Doctor smiles to himself and spins a few dials on the console, setting off on the next adventure. He likes hope. Hope is good.



( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 20th, 2007 10:43 pm (UTC)
This was amazing. The John Smith dream was simply fantastic - beautifully written and so compelling.

I loved it, like woah.
Jun. 22nd, 2007 02:27 am (UTC)
Awwwww, thank you! I'm so glad you thought it was beautiful. :) Thank you very kindly for your wonderful comments!
Jun. 20th, 2007 10:45 pm (UTC)
this was so wonderful and amazing; i kinda sorta... read it twice. john smith's dream was beautiful, and i loved their reactions towards each other. especially his. i love your 'skin' verse. awesome.
Jun. 22nd, 2007 02:29 am (UTC)
You read it twice? Wow, I really am truly flattered. :) I'm happy you liked John Smith's reactions too; they were really difficult to nail down, trying to get that mindset of the traditional human there but with a little bit of the Doctor bleeding through, so if they were successful, awesome. :) I'm glad you love this little universe too. Stay tuned, it's not done yet!
Jun. 20th, 2007 10:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you for a truly lovely story. I loved "Sonnets Writ in Skin" and it was such a nice surprise to find you've revisited that world. The interaction between Rose and John Smith was one of my favorite things about the story - it was well-imagined and so beautifully described. It didn't take Rose long to figure out what was going on, did it? I also liked this line:

She decided to let Gemma in on the secret; after all, sisters have to share things between them that no one else knows.

Will we learn what becomes of Gemma in later stories?

Jun. 22nd, 2007 02:32 am (UTC)
Re: Wonderful!
Hehe, it surprised me too, to be honest, to come back to this world. It suddenly seemed though that this story would fit best in there, and now I want to keep writing more there. I'm glad you liked the interaction between the two as well. And no, it didn't take Rose long to figure out things, but that's why I love Rose. ;)

As for Gemma, I'm not sure what's going to happen to her yet-I hate so say it but I haven't thought all that far ahead! I will tell you this though-I'm a sap at heart, so it's going to be happy. No one's going to split those sisters up. ;)

Thank you so much for reading and for your feedback!
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 22nd, 2007 02:32 am (UTC)
Why thank you! :) I'm so glad you loved it!
Jun. 21st, 2007 01:29 am (UTC)
ILOVETHISSTORYSOMUCH! (but you already knew that...) Can I be your best friend? Oh wait...done that too!!! I LOVE YOU! Talk to you when I get back, but I'm hoping I'll have 'net on Saturday so I can get the episode! BLAH!
Jun. 22nd, 2007 02:33 am (UTC)
*mwah!* Love you too honey. :) And yeah, I know you love the story (but you are biased, I showed it to you before anyone else *g*). I'm glad the flight went well today, and I know I'll speak to you sometime this weekend!
Jun. 21st, 2007 02:33 am (UTC)
This was so brilliant! I loved Sonnets Writ in Skin, and it was so fantastic to get a look at how Rose managed to make her way back to the Doctor. Plus, with all the angst we've been getting this season, it's nice to have some hope. Lovely job!
Jun. 22nd, 2007 02:36 am (UTC)
Brilliant?? Wow, thank you! I've been trying to write my version of a reunion story, and for some reason it's just turning out best in this universe (you can find an earlier version somewhere on this lj). And as the Doctor says, hope is good. ;) Thank you kindly for your lovely comments! :)
Jun. 21st, 2007 01:01 pm (UTC)
Sonnets was so beautiful, and I was thrilled to see your world revisited.

Your Rose is lovely - so calm and strong and hopeful.

Y'know...they say it's even better with three...

Jun. 22nd, 2007 02:37 am (UTC)
Aww, I'm so happy you were thrilled to see this! Makes my heart all warm and fuzzy. :)

I admit, I like writing strong Rose. It's so much more fun that way. She really is just a brilliant character on the show, and I just want to do her proud in the stories.

It's definitely better with three....hmm, am definitely going to have to work Jack into this world somehow. ;)
Jun. 21st, 2007 03:34 pm (UTC)
Oh. This was quietly beautiful. I loved the details of the skin, the power of dreams, and how Rose has grown up into a calmly powerful woman who doesn't give up. I love reading about John Smith, and his addition here was perfect.

Thanks for sharing!
Jun. 22nd, 2007 02:39 am (UTC)
Rose is stubborn and strong, at least in my head, so I'm glad you liked my interpretation of her. :) The whole idea actually came about from that prompt, saying that Gallifreyans rarely dream...however John Smith is human, and maybe for that one small moment they could connect that way.

Thank you for your comments and for reading! :)
Jun. 22nd, 2007 04:22 am (UTC)
This was brilliant! I love it when I find a new fic writer to love!

Will there be more? Please, please let there be more.

I would quote you the best bits but I'd have to include the whole thing so I'll just tell you that it's a lovely piece and I look forward to reading more of your work.
Jun. 24th, 2007 11:58 pm (UTC)
Awww, thanks for your kind comments! To answer your question, yes, there will be more. I actually just started working on it tonight. *ignores the prods from the ficathon story due in a couple of weeks* Thanks for reading! :)
Jun. 23rd, 2007 05:51 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed this. I loved the first story, so I'm thrilled that you're continuing in this universe. I also love the way you portray Rose here ... she's strong and stable and taking good care of her sister, yet always looking for the key back home. I really hope there will be more. :)
Jun. 25th, 2007 12:03 am (UTC)
Can I just say I love your icon there? *g* I'm so glad you enjoyed the story as well, and how I've been writing Rose. I like doing her this way-maybe it's because all of the strong Rose stories I've found have shown her being strong but staying in the parallel universe....since I'm a sap, reunion fic ahoy. ;) Stay tuned!
Jun. 30th, 2007 02:47 pm (UTC)
Oh goodness, please tell me that you'll continue this? Please?
Jul. 9th, 2007 10:04 am (UTC)
Oh, I definitely plan on continuing this, no worries! I've got a few pages typed up, and a bunch of handwritten ones to transcribe onto the computer once I get home from vacation (I was forbidden to bring my laptop with me. However, they can't stop me from paying out my own hard earned money to pay for the internet cafe to get my e-mail *g*). Not sure when exactly I'll get to the reunion part, but it will happen as soon as I come up with the right idea. ;)

Thanks for reading!
Apr. 7th, 2008 12:44 am (UTC)
I am *loving* this series. I can't believe it took me so long to find it. Every character you inhabit here is just beautifully drawn. And I love that Rose tastes like a star.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )