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25 August 2006 @ 08:36 am
"Then Sleep the Season," for doyle_sb4.  
Then Sleep the Season
by cherryice

For doyle_sb4, who wanted Romana as the last Time Lord, with Mickey as her companion. I hope that this will suffice.


The TARDIS is not her home, and she is more a stranger here than she has ever been.




Then Sleep the Season

It's the sort of evening an artist would never be silly enough to paint – the sky overhead streaked ruby, violet, gamboge, saffron, the setting sun perfectly visible between the curve of two rolling hills. The stillness is broken only by two humanoid figures sprinting through the ribbon grass, and the larger hoard of armed humanoids chasing behind them.

"Remind me," one gasps, throwing a glance over his shoulder, "not to come here again."

"They've always been so friendly," the other says, blanket-wrapped object clasped to her side and booted feet easily navigating the tussocks of grass.

"Yeah, well," the first, Mickey, replies, "I guess they have some sort of problem with people nicking their religious whatsits." He is breathing hard, but not as hard as he would have been two months ago.

"It's a chonovarient isotropic wave inducer," the other, Romana says. Two hearts increase circulatory efficiency increase oxygen distribution to the muscle tissues. She has a scarce few droplets of sweat beading on her brow.

A spear passes between them, and Mickey, dodging, lets out a grunt of pain. Romana slows, reaches back, and grabs his hand with her free one. "I hardly think," she says, still running, ribbon grass whipping at their hands and exposed skin, "that this lot were utilizing it to its full potential." Another spear goes wide. "Their aim is rather rubbish, isn't it?"

"Won't catch me complaining," Mickey gasps. They're closing in on the TARDIS, paint shading towards indigo in the light of the setting sun.

"You'd think, though, that they'd be better, but they never are. It's not as if they have much to do at this level of civilization other than sit around and practice throwing their pointed sticks." Another spear arcs by overhead, embedding with an audible thunk in the side of TARDIS. "Oh, that will never do," Romana says, slowing to throw a glare back over her shoulder. Mickey, still running at full tilt, still holding her hand, passes her, yanking her after him.

They can see K-9 as soon as they corner around the TARDIS, door open a crack and his ear spinning rapidly in worry. "Mistress! Master!" he exclaims, rolling back as they burst inside. "Danger! Hostile indigenous life forms approaching!"

"Yeah, we noticed," Mickey growls, slamming the door.

"Yes, yes, yes," Romana is saying, distracted, balances the inducer on the control panel as she throws levers and pushes buttons, and the vortex swallows them.

*

This is how it starts: Earth, 2006, mid-November. London is dreary and wet, chill, thick with the grime of the preceding year. When she was there a few days before it was early spring, though the week was more like summer. There are still freckles scattered across her nose from the sun, but in the November damp her hair has taken on a mind of its own, all frizz and curls. She thinks it likely lucky that she finds this time around she doesn't much care.

The garage is closed when she lets herself in, condensation thick on the windows. Mickey, who she hasn't met yet, is working, sleeves pushed up and head beneath the bonnet of a hydrocarbon-propelled automobile. He is humming off-tune to the radio in the corner. K-9 is pressed against his leg, wrenches and ratchets balanced on his back.

"Ahem," she says.

K-9 spins at her voice, eyes flashing and tail wagging. "Mistress!" The ratchet clatters to the floor as he makes his way toward her.

"Now what have I told you about wandering off?" Her voice is cross, but she crouches beside him when he stops, lays a hand on his head behind his rapidly spinning ears. "I thought you were on board when I took off. You're lucky I managed to convince the TARDIS to come back for you at all."

"I had discovered information in relation to the Hunnic, mistress. When exposed to large quantities of water during the warming seasons, they –"

"Revert to the medusa stage of their life-cycle, yes. Rather messy process, that." She feels her nostrils twitch at the memory. Mickey is looking down at her, grease streaked across one cheek and a tear in the shoulder of his black shirt. She scratches K-9 behind the ears, brushed off her hands as she rises. "Hello," she says.

Mickey wipes one arm across his forehead, raises an eyebrow. "You mind if I ask what you need a talking tin dog for, anyway?"

Chill of the oncoming winter deep in her bones, Romana smiles. "I can do one better. Would you like to see?"

*

"What exactly is that?" Mickey asks. He's leaning with one hip against the console and a gauze pad pressed to his forehead. There's a single streak of blood across his blue t-shirt, and a rip in the knee of his jean.

"Something they shouldn't have had," Romana says, setting their coordinates. The rough-woven blanket has come loose from around the inducer, slithering down to cover the lifesystems controls. The machine itself is a dark and tarnished silver, all angles and curves, curling in and around on itself. There are no obvious external controls, just a single area, the size and shape of her hand, where the metal is polished to a mirror finish.

Mickey snorts. "Figured that much."

When she looks down at her hands, she finds they are tapping rat-a-tat-tat on the console edge. She stills them, pulling back and smoothing her blouse. "It's something we shouldn't have, either," she says. She wraps it back up, careful not to let her skin brush the metal as she does so. Even through the blanket, she can feel its warmth.

*

This is not her home.

When Romana thinks 'home' she does not think of these walls, the thrum of these engines. Once she would have thought of Gallifrey, of the white, maze-like corridors of the Academy and the tapestries she hung in her rooms. Once, maybe, she would have thought of E-Space and the scent of the herbs the Tharil used in all their cooking.

Now when she thinks of Gallifrey, she thinks of the weight of a mantle upon her shoulders, of the crack of thunder and a young man staring blankly at the sky. She thinks of E-Space with fondness and a smidge of fancy.

The Doctor is everywhere in the TARDIS. She still finds post-it notes on the walls, random messages to himself scribbled in Gallifreyan and faded with time. There's a book lying face down in the library, half-read. It's some lurid Benarian romance, the only volume out of place, and she hasn't been able to bring herself to shelve it.

The TARDIS is not her home, and she is more a stranger here than she has ever been.

*

"You get on with it," she tells Mickey, when he asks. They are sitting in a bar on Atrios when he broaches the subject. She doesn't talk about the Time War, had given herself another week before he would cave and ask.

"I don't think I could do it." He's leaning against the wall, head tilted back against the metal surface. He's drinking something that couldn't quite pass for beer out of a square bottle. She's on her fifth almost-gin, a drink choice based solely on the florescent pink colour of the liquid. He's matching her drink for drink, and she doesn't have the heart to tell him the alcohol doesn't affect her.

She rolls her glass between her palms. "It would seem rather a waste not to." On the screen above the bar, Princess Astra (Queen Astra, now) is giving a speech. The volume is on mute, and Romana watches her mouth as she speaks with a curious sort of detachment. The features are familiar but the expressions uniquely Astra's, the tilt of her head and set of her jaw nothing Romana has worn.

"You've got a time machine, though," Mickey says. "Couldn't you pop back and warn yourself?"

"It's not that simple," she tells him. She hopes he never has to learn what he can live with.

*

"It's not that simple," she whispers to the TARDIS, running her hand down the console. They are floating at galactic coordinates ten-zero-eleven-zero-zero by zero-two from galactic zero centre, orbiting a sun that has never known a planet. "This isn't the way." Last week, the TARDIS took them to Calafrax instead of Earth, took them to Tara, to Ribos. "I'm so sorry, old girl, but the Key isn't the answer."

Romana closes her eyes against the dim light of the console room, presses her hands flat to the panels. She can feel the TARDIS's slow-beating heart, feel her pain. She dreams her dreams sometimes, knows them by their curiously muted quality, by the way the Doctor slips sideways and backwards through time, unraveling. Romana's own dreams are of a wolf at the door, of Daleks inside the city walls and planets burning; of corridors that will not end and the distant footsteps she chases that never fell.

"I miss him, too," she says. They fought the last time they were together, anger better than resignation, tearing into each other with words and vitriol, opening old wounds and creating new ones, desperate and afraid and coming together almost violently, all teeth and tongues and trembling hands.

The TARDIS brushes against her mind, and Romana opens her eyes. "You know where we have to be," she says. "Please."

*

She remembers this.

Remembers the stillness of the Temple of Heaven, the way her shoes echoed on the stone. She is standing in the middle of the Vermilion Steps Bridge, hands clasped, moonlight casting bright around her. In the distance, she can see a figure approaching. It's too far away to make out details, but Romana already knows it will be a girl – blonde hair, two hearts, scar on the inside of her right elbow, wishing she'd brought a sweater against the cold night air.

Romana is better prepared this time than is her past self coming towards her, wool jacket tucked close around her. There's a tightness in her shoulders she can't dispel, a pressure in her eyes, and she feels as if she's setting something into motion, despite knowing she's ending it.

If she recalls correctly, six words are all she will need to speak.

*

Romana is sitting in the console room when Mickey staggers in, yawning. It's a full-body effort, back arched and arms stretched. "Hey," he says, dropping down beside her. "Hey," he says again when he takes a look at her. "You okay?"

"There are cultures," she says, "who believe that as long as someone lives who remembers you, you're not truly dead."

"And what do you think about that?" he asks.

She smiles. "I think it's a lovely sentiment."

"But?"

"But that's all it is," she replies. Mickey has a line between his eyes, like he was expecting another response. "We have to make a quick stop at Gullia Nine and drop off the chonovarient isotropic wave inducer."

She remembers Flavia at the end, on the battlefield. She remembers Drax in his shop, the way he got quieter with each new weapon he produced, remembers Leela and Andred and how they wouldn't let her send either of them away. She remembers the Doctor, his scarves and his umbrellas and his jelly babies, his bizarre fascination with tea and the planet Earth.

"And then?" Mickey asks, watching as she smiles, mercurially quick, then rises and starts throwing levers.

The console is warm beneath her hands, shaking the chill from her bones. She can feel the heart of the TARDIS, still beating.

She remembers them all.

"And then we're going somewhere new," she says, letting her fingers trail across the controls. "Some place warm."
 
 
 
Doyledoyle_sb4 on August 25th, 2006 02:51 pm (UTC)
Oh WOW. Thank god it's a Friday because I'm actually teary and I don't want to explain what it is I'm reading at work that does that :) This is astonishing and the best Time War fic I've come across and - the Key to Time! Drax! Flavia! I love the canon references.

Thank you so much.
Cherry: fourcherryice on August 25th, 2006 04:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you! That's high praise indeed -- I was hoping ever so much that you'd like it.

Thank you for the prompt, by the way. It was a pleasure to get to dig into.
AstroGirl: Four & Romanaastrogirl2 on August 25th, 2006 04:49 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's so lovely and sad! And what a great character combination... I really want to read the Continuing Adventures of Romana and Mickey now. :)
Cherry: mickeycherryice on August 26th, 2006 07:05 am (UTC)
Thank you!

Mickey and Romana are just two great tastes that go great together. *G*
Ne invoces expellere non possis: tardiskijikun on August 25th, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC)
I second astrogirl!

*pets the TARDIS* Poor old-girl.
Cherry: fivecherryice on August 26th, 2006 07:14 am (UTC)
Thank you for reading.

(Poor TARDIS, indeed.)
entertaining in a disturbing way: Aliensexfiendlyssie on August 26th, 2006 06:54 am (UTC)
*happysigh*

Oh, I love it.

There's... There's just so much, it works and it's sad, and there's MICKEY. And I'm now melancholy, but it's a good melancholy.
Cherry: romana II (gold)cherryice on August 26th, 2006 07:37 am (UTC)
Thank you ever so much. It was a pleasure to write, even moreso than I suspect with the double-win combination of Romana and Mickey.
(Deleted comment)
Cherry: romana IIIcherryice on August 28th, 2006 05:06 am (UTC)
Thank you, hon.
lizbee on August 26th, 2006 11:30 pm (UTC)
This is simply amazing, and I love it. And I expect to read it many times in the future.

(Mine is coming, really. I'm just having trouble with the Ood-wrangling...)
Cherry: romana IIcherryice on August 28th, 2006 05:02 am (UTC)
Thank you kindly -- I'm glad you liked it.

(You let me know that it was going to be late; you have no idea how much that counts for in the grander scheme of things. Best of luck with the Ood.)
lizbee on August 28th, 2006 05:20 am (UTC)
The Ood and I are not currently on speaking terms, but Romana is talking them round.

*uses up accumulated ficathon karma*
davethedorkygirl on August 27th, 2006 04:23 am (UTC)
A spear passes between them, and Mickey, dodging, lets out a grunt of pain. Romana slows, reaches back, and grabs his hand with her free one. "I hardly think," she says, still running, ribbon grass whipping at their hands and exposed skin, "that this lot were utilizing it to its full potential." Another spear goes wide. "Their aim is rather rubbish, isn't it?"

My favorite bit out of the whole thing, because it's so ... so companiony in one sense, because of the hand holding that seems an homage to the Doctor, but it's so truly Romana, especially that last line. Loved the whole piece.
Cherry: cherry (seasonal)cherryice on August 28th, 2006 05:08 am (UTC)
I was really hoping that I'd the characterization at least somewhat right, so that's especially nice to hear.

Thank you for reading.
dave: doctor/pain otp the only pairingthedorkygirl on August 28th, 2006 05:22 am (UTC)
I feel that this is a nice mesh between Rusty-ish companion role and Old School Romana. Going in my favorites!
(no subject) - d_benway on August 28th, 2006 12:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Cherry: romana II (gold)cherryice on August 29th, 2006 02:17 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you. It's actually the first time I've attempted something based in the old school, so I was ever so hoping that characterization and tone would be acceptable.
sheldrake: tardissheldrake on August 30th, 2006 10:57 am (UTC)
I think what I like best about this is how you manage to make Romana a real, feeling person, without losing any of her wonderful, spiky Romana-ness. Very lovely and very sad.

Plus, Mickey & Romana? Best thing ever!! :)
Cherry: jack (torchwood)cherryice on September 10th, 2006 02:38 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you ever so much. I was a bit worried about my characterization, so hearing that it worked is especially gratifying.

My apologies for the tardiness of my reply, but it appears LJ at this comment.
more fabulist than historian: doctor - romana IIItellitslant on September 9th, 2006 03:09 am (UTC)
Oh, hon. *flail* Yeah, seriously, seriously, this is lovely. This just broke me a little. The TARDIS trying to find the Key to Time again is amazing. And Romana and Mickey! And and and, oh, just, yeah, I have no words, but I was RIGHT, it is good. So there. (I can see some of the places where I think you might not be happy with it? But oh, oh it is good.)
Cherry: romana II (gold)cherryice on September 10th, 2006 03:19 am (UTC)
*blush* Thank you, hon. There are bits I just want to die, but it seems that it has had an overall decent response.

Thank you for reading, and for getting your story in, too. *G*
(Deleted comment)
Cherry: romana (gold)cherryice on February 1st, 2007 01:46 am (UTC)
Thank you -- I'm glad you enjoyed.
Worrals: That's our Mickey and why we love him.livii on March 18th, 2007 02:37 am (UTC)
So I'm truly rubbish at reading stuff, and finally got to this one in my bookmarks. Shame on me cos this is wonderful. I love your Romana, and your Mickey (yay Mickey!) and it's so well written. Great work. :)