“Does it matter?” Rose asked.
“Does what matter?” The Doctor countered, looking at her out of the corner of his eye.
She squirmed a bit, wondering if this question would fall into one of those seemingly random subjects which were off limits. She peered at his face, trying to gauge what sort of mood he was in. That was like trying to read Ancient Xylophiaxodine: impossible.
She steeled herself. What was the worst that could happen? Besides, he was probably waiting for her to answer.
“How long you’ve lived. All those years. Do they matter? I mean, you said you’re 900 years old, but…well, I guess it’s kind of hard to tell if you act like it.”
He grinned slightly. “On your 20th birthday, did you feel different?”
“Oi. I’m only 19…I think.”
“All right then, on your nineteenth birthday, did you feel different?” he asked, turning to look at her.
His piercing gaze was kind of like those lamps in police interrogations on TV shows: uncomfortable, but it pretty much forced you to talk. She bit her lip.
“Not really. Most birthdays, I ask myself if I feel older, but usually I don’t.”
“Okay. Now when you think back to when you were, say, six, does that feel like a long time ago?” he asked.
Rose frowned and looked down at the drink in front of her. They were in the observation deck/restaurant of a space station, ostensibly admiring the terrific view of a double star. She swirled it around a bit and took a sip. Hmm. Tasted a little bit like raspberries.
“Yeah. I mean, I have a hard time remembering a whole lot from back then, but it does feel like ages ago.”
The Doctor leaned back and returned his gaze to the double star. “It’s kind of like that.”
“Oh come on.”
“What?” he asked, wearing that adorably clueless expression he used to try to throw people off. It wouldn’t work on her.
“Me remembering sixteen years ago and you remembering…oh, five hundred years ago is a little bit different, I’d say,” she said, giving him a Look.
“How am I supposed to describe it in terms you’d understand? My people — that is, I can live for millennia. You humans are lucky to reach a century.”
“Yeah, we must seem like mayflies to you,” Rose said, looking down at her drink again.
“The candle which burns brightest burns shortest,” he said vaguely.
He waved his hands in the air. “It’s like…well. I live long enough to see countries rise and fall, to see an idea become a religion and to see planets burn. I can be there when a star is born and when it goes supernova. Some of that's the TARDIS but, even if I stayed in one place for the rest of my life, I'd probably live to see everything I knew at the beginning dead or gone," he said, and paused. "When you break it down, I suppose it's not all that different from the way you live. I wake up every morning a live my life. I just live ten of your lives."
“Can you remember everything?”
He was silent for a moment again. He wasn’t looking at the star anymore but somewhere off into the distance. Rose was beginning to worry that she had managed to put her foot in her mouth after all but then he answered her.
“Yeah. I can. Some of it is clearer than others, but…there’s not really a day in my life that I can’t remember, at least a little.”
“Wow. That’s a lot of stuff to fit in one brain.”
“That’s why my head’s so big,” he said, knocking a fist lightly against his head and grinning inanely at her. She laughed.
And just like that his bad mood was gone. Rose would be lucky if she could ever figure him out.