It is like a desert. All brown and orange and red, in every direction. A bright orange sky streaked with peach clouds, dark sand and dark stones everywhere. And it’s so warm. Rose can feel the heat of the planet through her shoes as she and the Doctor tread through the village.
“Tell me again why it’s built on sand?” she asks, squinting up at him in the light of the three suns.
Hands in his pockets he continues striding on, keeping an eye out for the place they need to be. “The gravitational pull of this planet is slightly more than that of Earth, making the sand very dense. There’s no need to create anything else — no need for roads or pavements. The elements here are limited, which is why everything is built out of very similar material.”
Rose glances to the buildings they pass, feeling a little as though she’s been caught up in Disney’s Aladdin. The buildings have simple wooden doors and slits for windows. People are bustling to and for through the street they walk through now.
“Market Day,” the Doctor comments, noticing her eyes wander to the leather-skinned locals and around the stalls. “I’m here to pick up a spare part for the TARDIS.”
“Yeah, like I haven’t heard that one before,” Rose laughs.
He gives her a disbelieving look as they walk. “You what?”
“The TARDIS doesn’t need that many parts, Doctor. I’ve figured you out, you just like using it as an excuse to visit weird places.”
“I do not,” the Doctor scoffs, smiling politely as he steps out of a hurried local’s way. “And this is not weird,” he adds defensively, as an afterthought.
“Whatever, Doctor,” she smiles, as a small animal with four legs nips at his shoe before pulled hurriedly along by its owner.
He clears his throat. “Look. See that stall, over there?” He points, indicating a little place just up to the road. “That’s where the bi-atomic subsidiser for the subsonic dampener in the laundry room is. Well, its replacement, anyway.”
Rose blinks at him. “You talk total rubbish sometimes — you know that, right?”
The Doctor grins at her winningly and they weave their way through the jostling crowds towards the stall.
While the Doctor umms and ahhs over the various bits and pieces laid out (which look suspiciously like the innards of a radiator), Rose takes the time to really look around them. It’s a rather small village in comparison to other places they’ve visited, really, and the buildings are only just taller than the Doctor. It’s a strange little place, tucked away in the corner of the desert on this planet, but she feels an instant warmth to it.
She finds herself wondering where all the little roads and alleyways lead to and has an itching desire to explore. She’s almost walking off when the Doctor taps her on the shoulder, bringing her back down to earth. Or... wherever it is they are.
“Got it,” he grins, pleased with himself. He holds something up that — in all honesty — looks like a bit of rusty pipeline.
Rose eyes it sceptically. “You’re not serious?” she asks, meeting his eye over it.
The Doctor’s grin fades a little. “Why wouldn’t I be serious?” he responds, pocketing his little device. “I wouldn’t just come out here on a whim, on a sudden little visit to somewhere I knew you’d like. Not where the sand is warm continuously and it’s incredibly easy to tan.”
“Course you wouldn’t,” she answers.
She smiles the cheeky smile, the one where her tongue ends up in the corner of her mouth. She links arms with the Doctor and they thread their way back through the crowds.
He smiles down at her and things are happy between them. It’s the sort of time they spend with each other that they love.
Until Rose stops dead and stares, face slowly paling, at a building. The Doctor frowns and follows her gaze, but when he sees what her eyes are resting on even his hearts skip a beat. It’s simply a few markings on a wall, as insignificant as a scribble on a page. But the shape is unmistakeable, even if it is just coincidence.
“That’s a...” Rose starts, eyes glued to it and heart startled. She swallows.
After a long moment, the Doctor looks away. “It’s just a coincidence,” he tells her solemnly. “That’s it. They’re all gone.”
The markings themselves are fairly vague, meaningless to those who aren’t time travellers. But It’s the first time either of them have seen anything resembling a Dalek since Satellite Five, and the memories it brings for both of them are unpleasant.
Rose starts to walk again, feeling slightly unnerved, but the Doctor pulls on her arm and stops her.
“What?” she asks, turning to him.
Eyes lingering once more on the unfortunate markings, he says, “Did I ever tell you what happened on Satellite Five?”
“No...” Rose replies carefully, shaking her head.
With a sigh the Doctor turns his head abruptly to look at her. She blinks back with patient eyes.
“Is it important?” Rose adds when he says nothing.
Moments pass by and he just looks at her. She can almost see the cogs going in his mind, see the thoughts that flit and flicker behind his eyes. He’s watching her steadily, and she’s just about to ask him for a second time when he speaks.
“I think it’s time,” he begins hesitantly, a slight frown pulling at his features, “that you knew the truth.”
He reaches for her hand then and, silently, escorts Rose to a bench a few feet away from them. She follows without a word, entranced by the sudden change the markings have brought over her Doctor. Blood pumps around her body; she has the feeling he’s about to tell her something that may change her life.
The pair sit on the bench and watch passers-by. Or, rather, the Doctor stares distantly at the thin crowds while Rose stares softly at him. He can feel her gaze on him, awkward, like wearing clothing that’s a size too big. With a small nod to himself as if to prepare for the conversation he has rehearsed many times, he turns on the bench and — draping his elbow over the back of it as he angles his body — looks at Rose.
She looks back.
“Rose, I...” the Doctor begins, but finds himself too caught up in thoughts to be able to express them verbally.
“What is it, Doctor?” she asks, looking worried.
The Doctor frowns slightly, determined. “Rose. How much do you remember about Satellite Five?”
The shock is evident on her face as her features relax a little.
“Um... Bits and pieces, I guess. I remember going there with Adam, and the Jagrafess.”
“No, no, after that,” the Doctor persists, and shifts on the uncomfortable bench.
Now it is Rose’s turn to frown. “I remember the Daleks. And you, you had some sort of master plan... sent me home, an’ I still haven’t forgiven you for that. I was at home, I wanted to get back. Mum took me for chips, but I couldn’t let it go. You were 200,000 years in my future fighting for us all. Mum, she... she got a truck from somewhere. We hooked it up to the TARDIS, trying to get it open. I kinda... I thought, if I did that, I could help you. Then I don’t know. I think it must have knocked me out, or something, ‘cause the next I know I’m lying on the floor and you’re standing there like nothing’s happened.”
Rose eyes the Doctor meaningfully, all too aware that at that time he knew exactly what was happening to him at that time. He clears his throat and glances to the sandy ground.
“You really don’t remember,” he says quietly.
His eyes lift to hers, serene in the almost twilight, and he answers earnestly, “You don’t remember saving my life.”
It takes a moment or two for the words to sink in.
“But I didn’t,” Rose argues eventually, feeling slightly flustered. “I... I broke the TARDIS, and you fixed everything. You got rid of the Daleks then came and got me.”
The Doctor almost laughs. “No, Rose,” he counters, quite beside himself with her innocence. “You got rid of the Daleks. I had nothing to do with it. I was ready to give myself up. I was willing to sacrifice the whole world, Rose, and I would have. But then there you were. You looked into the TARDIS and saw a common goal with her: you both wanted me safe. So you absorbed her. You absorbed all the energy that my ship has, and then you came back for me. You destroyed the Daleks, every one of them, and ended the Time War. It was the most incredible thing you could have done for me, and it almost cost you your life.”
Chipped memories fall into Rose’s mind as she listens, and she frowns harder, thinking. “But... you said... you said you absorbed all the energy from the time vortex. That’s why you regenerated, that’s what you said. You told me you absorbed it.”
The Doctor swallows loudly and looks away. “I did.”
“But you just said — ”
“Yes, I know what I said, and I meant that too.” Bravely, he reaches across to take her hand; but he still can’t look at her. “You absorbed time and space. It was running through your tiny little mind, burning you up from the inside out. It would have killed you if I hadn’t... if I hadn’t taken it. From you.”
Confusion crosses Rose’s brow as she tries to comprehend the Doctor’s words.
“You... you took it from me? You just... you took time? Out of me?”
“Just like that?” She snaps her fingers.
The Doctor, smiling gently, shrugs. “More or less. I had to form a connection with the vortex so that it could flow out of you and into me. I took all the effects with me, which is why you survived and I...”
“Didn’t?” Rose offers fearfully.
“I suppose. That’s more a matter of opinion.”
Rose sits back on the bench and lets out a sigh, her gaze wandering over the market-goers beyond.
“So I did it?” she asks at length.
“If by ‘it’ you mean faced the Dalek emperor, defeated his raving hordes, saved my life, saved the world and won the Time War... then, yes. You did.”
“Wow,” Rose breathes, the shock of it hitting her like a brick wall. Then, with a sad smile, she adds, “Pity I can’t remember any of it.”
Without really thinking about the words, the Doctor replies absently, “You never know. Maybe one day I’ll show you.”
She turns to him with a strange smile. “Doctor?”
He gets to his feet, ignoring her unasked question.
“Come on, time we were off,” he says with a bit of a stretch. “Can’t be in one place for too long, it’s dangerous.”
Rose laughs and stands beside him. “There you go, making stuff up again.”
“I’m not making stuff up!” he replies indignantly. “I’ll have you know it really is very dangerous to stay in the same place for too long. Especially on Dracota — stay standing still for too long there and your skin starts to melt. Nasty stuff, all to do with the plasma-toxins that roam the atmosphere. Wouldn’t recommend there for a holiday.”
“Every day with you gets weirder and weirder,” Rose says, shaking her head laughingly. Before the Doctor can respond with a hurt expression, she looks up to him and adds, “I love it.”
His grin resounds in the air around them. “Good. So do I. Now, let’s see what time and space hold for us next, hmm?”
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