The setting sun set the sky on fire. It blazed from palest yellow at the horizon, fading through orange and red and then deepening through the spectrum to dark indigo. The dying light tinted the land red so it appeared that the ground was bloodstained. The picture was not lost on the sole observer.
The Doctor sat, arms resting on his knees, and watched the sun. His eyes were distant, as his thoughts shifted between the memories of the Earth destroyed and the final dying moments of his own world. The irony was one world lost despite every attempt to save it and other surviving despite no such attempts. He sighed, his mood was melancholy. It was easier to feel mild regret, to allow himself that much, rather than face the darkness of the grief that ran deeper within.
Jabe had been the first being he had encountered to realise what he was and everything that it entailed. Her condolences, as sincere as they had been, had served only to remind him of something he tried very hard to forget. It wasn’t just that though; it also made him think about why he’d brought Rose to watch the end of the world. Her world. He hadn’t thought, he acknowledged that now. It was only really later, watching her watch the remains floating, burning, and listening to her, that something connected inside him.
Desperate to reassure her, he had done for her the one thing he couldn’t do for himself — go back to her own time and see it as it was. He had told her then, of the war. Whether or not she’d noted the similarities, he didn’t know; she hadn’t mentioned it one way or the other. She was bright enough. Maybe she’d just forgiven him. Hopefully. The Doctor watched the sun sink beyond the horizon and sighed. He was so out of time.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Rose sat in her room inside the Tardis. She could have sworn that it hadn’t existed the last time she’d been inside, but she supposed that anything that was bigger in than out could be changed. She found it was easier on her brain if she just accepted things like that and didn’t think about it too hard.
Like the world being destroyed.
That was something she definitely didn’t want to think about. However, she just couldn’t stop it — like she couldn’t help picking at a scab. Why had the Doctor taken her there? If she were less of a person, she’d put it down to a cruel streak, having learnt that his planet resembled the earth in so many thousand years’ time. Yet she couldn’t quite believe that of him. He had actually thought it was a good idea.
“My planet’s gone.” His words echoed through her mind, making her shiver. He had seemed so detached, but one look at his eyes had told her everything. She had experienced it herself, however briefly. Watching her world burn, the knowledge that she was the last true human being alive. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what it must be like to suffer that day after day. Her heart wrenched within her; he was alone, so terribly alone. It was why she had chosen to continue to travel with him, the excitement aside. She could not have walked away and still lived with herself.
Rose got up and walked into the consol room. It was empty. She blinked and wondered where he’d gone. Crossing the room, she pushed open the door. Outside, it was evening and the sunset was spectacular. She stood for several moments, just drinking in the beauty, before she remembered what she’d been doing. The Doctor wasn’t hard to spot and she walked over to where he was sat. She plonked herself down next to him.
“You okay?” She asked.
The Doctor startled slightly. “I guess I think I feel alright.”
“That’s a ‘yes’ then?”
After a pause, he looked at her. “You okay?” The question was voiced softly.
They settled into silence, but it was a companionable one and not at all uncomfortable. Minutes passed, then the Doctor suddenly flopped onto his back. Rose looked at him in puzzled amusement.
“What are you doing?”
Rose looked up. The sky was empty. “Erm…”
Ever so slowly, the sky grew darker. Rose caught a glimmer.
“Starlight, star bright,” the Doctor chanted under his breath.
“First star I see tonight. It’s a rhyme.”
“Oh. I don’t get it.”
The Doctor ignored her. “I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.”
Rose stared at him. “Never heard of it.”
“It is quite old.”
“Well that will explain it then.”
“Why you know it and I don’t.”
The Doctor glared at her and she giggled. He sniffed. “You wound me.”
Rose snorted. “Oh yeah? Where?”
“Oh that’s lovely. Arse indeed.”
“Didn’t say arse, said ‘earts.”
The Doctor’s expression was innocent indignation. “Did too.”
“No you didn’t.”
Rose shook her head and let it drop. Then realised something. “Hearts?” She asked, stressing the s. “As in.?”
He lifted a hand with two fingers up and then dropped it back to the ground. “I am alien,” he reminded her. Rose blinked. Of course, she knew that, she just hadn’t considered the possibility of differences.
“Two,” she murmured, trying to get the concept into her head. She found herself staring at his chest.
“Go on,” he said softly.
“Ah come on, you’ve curiosity all over your face.” He gave her a slightly manic grin.
Rose laughed; he was so daft at times. Still. Biting her bottom lip, she reached out a laid a hand on his chest. The rhythm that greeted her was unlike anything she’d felt before. Alien.
The Doctor watched her. He noted how her eyes widened as she touched him. Her expression hovered somewhere between awe and fear, and her hand trembled. Her gaze shifted and she stared at him. Something was bothering her; a small frown creased her brow.
“Is that… I mean…” she struggled to form a coherent sentence. Finally she blurted, “Are you human… ish? Or is this just a… dunno. Shell?”
“You know what I mean,” Rose snapped, sitting back. Her discovery just underlined how little she knew about the Doctor and it unnerved her. Why on earth did she trust him? For all she knew, he could be intergalactic murderer. She shivered.
“Oh stop it,” he said, irritated. “This is me, I assure you.”
“I have to take your word for that though,” Rose pointed out. He looked at her, rolled his eyes and then turned his attention back to the sky. She sat for a moment, just thinking. Her hand seemed to tingle, but she was fairly sure it was just her imagination. She shook herself, she was being ridiculous. Having two hearts didn’t really change him, just her perception of him. “Okay, I think I can do that.”
“I’m so pleased for you,” he replied dryly.
After a moment, she asked, “Doctor?”
“What did you wish for?”
“Before, that rhyme. What did you wish for?”
He sat up slowly and in doing so was that much closer to her. Rose found herself pinned by a soul-searing stare. His eyes seemed impossibly dark in the fading light and they held something she was scared to identify. Her mouth went dry and her heart rate raced. Then he broke eye contact and the world returned to normal.
“Nothing,” he said firmly.