You've failed them.
They fall and they die and you hear your own stupid naive words ringing in your ears; promises of keeping them safe. Promises that they'll get out alive. Promises that there would be no more. No more dying. No more death.
Your mind is positively spinning. The ship is righting itself and things are coming back to normal, but there are just too many. Too many you can't save. Too many who were just working or cleaning or sleeping or trying to have a good time. It's just a party. They shouldn't be---it shouldn't be---why is it---
"I keep falling."
She was the last one. You listen to her voice, see her start to form and all you can think is this one, you can save. You can save at least this one poor little soul from Sto who only wanted to travel. If you could just save her, then it would be like the rest of them lived, too. All two thousand people on that ship. Just one woman. You can just save this one woman.
Mr. Copper's voice is there, buzzing in your ear. Something about the ship being too badly damaged, something about how you should let her go. No he doesn't understand, he doesn't get it. You have to save her. You have to. She's the only one you can save, and you have to. The wires spark and your hand burns, but you won't stop, you can't stop. You can do this. You can do it.
You turn your head and look at her. She's right there. She's so close. You can see her. She's so close. So close but you can't make the machine work.
You throw a kick into the side of the machine. The stupid bloody simpleton Sto-made machine that's probably mass produced by underdeveloped robots. You should be able to fix it! It should be so simple!
"I can do anything!" You saved the Earth. You stopped the Titanic from sinking. You saved all those simple lives down there. You're the Oncoming Storm! The Bringer of Darkness! Destroyer of Worlds! The bloody fucking Doctor! You can turn water to wine with a twist of the sonic screwdriver and angels will lift you up to the heavens at your command, but you're still not a God. You still can't bring her back from the dead.
One little machine. It holds the rest of her and you can't get to it. Just one. You just need to save her.
"Stop me falling." You can almost imagine she's asking you. Begging you. If you can do anything, Doctor, please---
And Mr. Copper again, worse than a bloody gnat. An echo with the ghost of consciousness, he calls her. Stardust. So bloody romantic. She's only halfway there, that's what she is. Further sign of your failure. Of the Von Hoffs who didn't understand fashion but loved good Soaps and each other. Of Bannakaffalatta who was gutsy enough to flirt with a woman twice his height. She might've married him, too. She was sassy and he was proud. You try to imagine what their children would've been like but you can't because they're dead. All those people. All of them. The ship reeks of death. It's all death because you failed. You can save the world. You just can't save the ones who matter to you.
And Astrid. Astrid Peth of Sto. Looked at the stars and dreamt of traveling. Peth. Your mind randomly informs you that it's Welsh for 'part' and the irony hits you like a slap in the face. She wanted to be part of something, and now she's almost nothing. No one home on Sto to miss her. No one here who really knew her. She'll vanish and be gone. Completely gone. It's like she never was.
Oh, but she does exist. She's right there. You find your feet have moved you over to her, and your mouth is saying what you're thinking before you can stop it. She looks almost confused. Maybe she thinks she's still falling. The pretty waitress who turned out to be braver than the captain and crew, falling forever.
"There's an old tradition."
You don't hesitate; you lean down and press your mouth to hers. She still feels like Astrid, but so thin. Like her lips are made of rice paper. You don't put the force behind the kiss like she gave you earlier, you just kiss her gently. A goodbye for the ones you couldn't kiss goodbye. For Rose and Reinette and Martha and Romana and---so many. The old tradition of kissing a loved one goodbye. It's almost nice to see that those things carry over no matter the planet.
The kiss is fairly chaste because you don't want to break what's left of her, but it's more than you've given to someone in years. Longer, even. You don't love. You don't share yourself because the next thing you know you're saying goodbye as they fall away.
So many goodbyes. Too many goodbyes. Too many times you know you'll never see them again.
She can travel forever. She can travel forever. She can travel forever. The words repeat themselves over and over in your mind, but it doesn't make her crumpling into energy before you any less horrific. It doesn't make the sight of her slipping away hurt any less. She's going, going, gone. Astrid Peth of Sto.
"You're not falling Astrid, you're flying." The words come out of your mouth, but they taste like a lie. She's still gone. You still failed her.
Below you, excited children are opening presents and fighting over crackers and parents are working over what they're going to return on the 26th and retail workers are sleeping in because they haven't in weeks.
And there you are. One of four survivors on a ship of thousands, grieving over one waitress you couldn't save. You tried to explain to Mr. Copper that Christmas is a time of birth and joy.
Good will towards men.
Peace on Earth.
For someone it might be. But not for you.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 1,023