If You Just Smile
By Romana Dante
“Smile though your heart is aching, smile even though it’s breaking.
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by.
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile, and maybe tomorrow you’ll find the sun come shining through, for you”
All she had wanted was a cup of coffee, plain and simple. It was him who had suggested something more extraordinary. When he had grinned and said “best coffee in the universe,” she had laughed and expected some sort of futuristic Starbucks. What she did get was entirely different.
They were orbiting on the edge of a burning galaxy, an entire solar system reaching the end of its time. There were no people, no panic; the system had been uninhabited for nearly two thousand years. Only the Doctor and Martha were there, sitting on the floor of the TARDIS, dangling their feet off the edge of the doorway into the oblivion below, the sole witnesses to the passing of a entire galaxy. It was, apparently, something the Doctor had always wanted to try, the addition of gourmet coffee from Spain being an added bonus. The coffee shop in 2025 had run out of seats, so he had simply ordered their coffees to go and told her they’d sit somewhere better.
And they definitely were.
“This is beautiful,” she told him between sips of her coffee, “definitely better than Spain, not that I have anything against Spain, mind you, it’s just…”
“I know what you mean,” he said, and took another sip. Martha watched as he stayed silent, staring out at the galaxy while drinking a coffee, a perfect mix of the ordinary and the extraordinary.
“You said you had always wanted to do this,” she began slowly, “how long is that?
“A long time,” he said, “a very long time.”
“Since you were a kid?” she asked.
“Yep,” he answered, looking back at her, “a long time.”
“Was it something you always dreamed about?”
“What do you mean?” Martha sighed, and rolled her eyes.
“When I was a kid, I always dreamed I would be on stage. I would sit by my window at night sometimes and imagine myself being on stage, with an audience clapping for me and everything,” she laughed a bit, “even as I grew up, went through school, I still clung to that dream, but I was always too scared. I never worked up the courage to try-out for the school play, I never preformed with the school choir, I couldn’t even stand up at church without nearly throwing up. It wasn’t until I met you…”
“And we went back to 1599,” said the Doctor, grinning, “you were onstage with Shakespeare,”
“I was,” Martha smiled back, “I was onstage with one of the greatest playwrights in history, holding hands and bowing to an clapping audience, just like I’d always dreamed.”
“Must have been quite a feeling,” said the Doctor.
“It was,” Martha agreed, “But what I mean is, this whole sitting on the edge of the TARDIS, watching a galaxy burn in the middle of space, was this something you used to dream about, like how I used to dream about being onstage, is this like that?” The Doctor leaned back against the doorframe, and looked back out into space.
“I suppose it is,” Martha took another sip of coffee and grinned.
“Did you used to look out your window at night and dream about watching solar systems burn while drinking coffee?”
“Sort of,” he replied, his eyes distant, “though I never…”
“…You never what?” he turned to look at her.
“I never imagined the coffee part,” he grinned, one of those big, showy grins Martha had grown to adore since coming aboard, but one she knew was entirely fake. He may not want to talk, she thought, but smiling couldn’t get him out of everything.
“What did you imagine?” she asked, looking him in the eyes, “What were you like when you were a kid, what did you dream of?” She kept staring at him, silently demanding a response, never taking her eyes off of his. After a moment he turned and sighed, talking yet another sip of coffee before staring back out into the galaxy.
“When I was a kid,” he began, “dreaming was all I ever did. It was frowned upon, in my society, to just sit there and daydream and wonder how your life was going to go, it wasn’t productive. We were always taught, never waste time, never interfere with time, and never question time, dreaming was considered a waste of time, and considering the things I used to dream about, I surprised they let me stay in the Academy at all.”
“What kind of things?” asked Martha. The Doctor smiled a bit.
“Anything,” he said, “anything and everything. I used to sit there in classes and just dream, all the time, about the things I’d seen, things I hadn’t seen and things I knew I needed to see. I used to dream I’d find a way out of there, find a way to escape all the order and rules of my planet and see everything there was to see in the universe. They’d teach us about all these different planets, all these different timelines and events but they would never actually show them to us, and that was never enough for me. Sure, we could learn everything there is to know about the fifth sun of Rhalana but I always thought it would be more interesting to actually see it, to experience it for myself instead of relying on some book to tell me what it was like. I always used to dream I’d go there, go anywhere other than my planet, I’d dream I’d see everything, but especially the stars. Through any daydream, there was always stars. One of my teachers once told me I had stars in my eyes…” he trailed off for a moment, “…he told me I should see through the stars, focus past them and keep to my studies. He said I great potential…I just needed to stop dreaming.”
“But you couldn’t,” said Martha.
“I couldn’t,” he agreed, “I made quite a reputation of myself as a dreamer, no one was quite sure what to do with me. As soon as I could, years after I graduated and attempted to settle down, I sort of…borrowed, an old, disused Type 40 Time Capsule and set off to prove my people wrong, to make my dreams a reality.”
“And did you?” asked Martha, “Did you get the dream and prove them wrong?” the Doctor’s face fell, his eyes grew distant again as he stared into space.
“Doesn’t really matter now,” he said, “everybody’s gone now. Teachers, classmates, students, all gone. There’s only me and my dream, with nothing left to prove. Everything’s just…” he stopped, mouth open, eyes far, far away and filled with more sadness and pain than Martha could possibly think to comprehend.
“Are you…” she began. Quicker than she could tell, he smiled wide and looked back at her.
“I’m fine,” he said in his typical, over-enthusiastic voice, “I’ve got coffee, I’m looking at one of the most beautiful sights in the universe, I’ve got a friend, everything’s good, everything’s great, everything’s…”
“Smiley,” said Martha.
“Yes!” the Doctor burst out, “Everything’s smiley! I like that word, smiley, I’ll have to use that sometime, it’s sort of got the same appeal as “wibbley-wobbly”, or “timey-wimey” or something similar. Definitely have to use that again,” He grinned even more, and Martha could see it wasn’t real. His eyes didn’t match his face, still distant and full of pain. For a moment, she had thought he was going to cry. She had thought maybe, just maybe, he would finally confront his grief and his guilt in a way she could understand. Instead he just smiled, a hollow, lonely, painful smile, and sipped his coffee.
“You’re an actor,” said Martha suddenly.
“I’m a what?”
“You’re an actor,” she repeated, “No matter what happens to you, the show goes on. All the things you’ve seen, a lot of it sounds like it’s been amazing, but a lot of it sounds like it’s been terrible. No matter what horrible things happen, no matter what tragedies occur, you smile through anyway. No matter what you’re actually feeling at the time, the show has to go on for the people watching you, like an actor about to go onstage. You hide your true emotions and show off the ones you think people want to see. Your show always goes on.”
“There’s no point in stopping it,” the Doctor said seriously, his face now matching his eyes.
“Why not?” she demanded.
“Because it can’t be changed.” He looked back at Martha, the two of them silent and still, looking at each other’s eyes. His eyes were desperate, pleading her to let him be, to just leave him alone and stop asking questions. After about a minute of staring, she let him go. She turned away towards the outside spacescape around them, only to find the galaxy nearing the end of it’s demise. She started to drink another sip of her coffee but stopped to gasp when she saw the end.
“It’s amazing…” she said quietly. And it was. Explosions of lights and burning stars swirled in front of them, mixing and dancing before the black backdrop of space as the fire consumed an entire world. She turned towards the Doctor, whose face was in a broad, childlike grin, with eyes finally matching. He was a picture of wonderment, and for a moment, Martha could almost see the Doctor as he was when he first left his planet, the excitement in his eyes of finally seeing the things he had always dreamed about. The only difference was that that Doctor hadn’t seen the universe yet, hadn’t known pain and struggle like he did now. It was amazing how similar the two images looked, the young and the old, the experienced and the novice, both with the excitement of a child, both with the universe in their hands. It was then she realized what the Doctor had meant, why the show never stops, why he always moved on.
“What do you think?” he asked her, still grinning like a lunatic and desperately in need of her approval. Hiding his emotions, smiling, and moving was the only way he keep on going, it was moments like these, where the smile was genuine, that he needed the most. One smile would never be enough for him.
“It’s beautiful,” said Martha, grinning with him and moving closer with her coffee, leaning up against him in the doorway, “it’s absolutely amazing.”
Somewhere in space, a galaxy died. There were no disasters, no panic, no fuss, just stars and dust to mourn the worlds. At the edge of it all, just within sight distance, was a small, square, blue box floating quietly in the night. Two people sat on the edge of it, protected by force field, there only for the sight and to finish their coffee. Both people had many things to cry about, death, betrayal, lies, loneliness, all things that could possibly consume them if they let it, but they didn’t. Instead they sat on the edge of the galaxy, watching the planets burn and the stars shine, smiling and dreaming together.
“Light up your face with gladness, hide every trace of sadness.
Although a tear may be ever so near.
That’s the time you must keep on trying.
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile.”
- “Smile” by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons