• Red, yellow, green, red, blue blue blue
Red, purple, green, yellow, orange, red red
Red, yellow, green, red, blue blue blue
Red, purple, green, yellow, orange, red red
Blend them up and what do you get?
Ceries, chartous, and aqua
Mauve, beige, and ultra marine, and every colour in between
Hazo ka li ka no cha lum bum •
Companion to this amazing story.
Oh, little prince! Bit by bit I came to understand the secrets of your sad little life . . . For a long time you had found your only entertainment in the quiet pleasure of looking at the sunset. I learned that new detail on the morning of the fourth day, when you said to me:
"I am very fond of sunsets. Come, let us go look at a sunset now."
"One day," you said to me, "I saw the sunset forty-four times!"
And a little later you added:
"You know--one loves the sunset, when one is so sad . . ."
"Were you so sad, then?" I asked, "on the day of the forty-four sunsets?"
But the little prince made no reply. ~ The Little Prince
River is 23.
The Doctor is not.
He’s reached the very old point in his life, the point where he no longer truly remembers how old he is and he really doesn’t care to remember. After all, what good comes from remembering one’s age?
To River, in all of her youth, she sees him as some sort of impossible statue of time. He could tell her he was 78 and she’d gape in awe. She’s of the opinion at this point in her life, however, that she is terribly wise and confounding. She is always confounding, but she’s not wise, not yet.
She will be, one day.
He stands at the door to the TARDIS, watching her reaction with eager eyes. He’s always taken her places after she met the TARDIS, never knowing when the first time was. She would never tell him, she would say it was ‘too personal’, or some other excuse that went along with her confounding nature.
The first time in the TARDIS is always special. Even now, to River, whom he has known for years (although she has not known him nearly so long). He thinks about the first time Ian and Barbara walked through those doors, believing it all to be an illusion. Or the first time Leela proclaimed it magic, or when Martha announced it was all bigger on the inside.
They’re all gone, now.
It has been lifetimes since he’s had a companion on board, but it has also only been days. Everything is happening and has happened at once and, in a way, he can see all of them on River’s face, now. The way she sees everything for the first time, as they did, once.
It takes him a moment before he realizes that she’s spoken. "It’s beautiful," she says.
"She’s beautiful," he says. He presses his hand to the coral of one of her columns. "Bit of a small word for her anyway, really. But close enough."
River grins, and he’s certain for a moment that she’ll begin some sort of a verbal spar with him. In his loneliest, saddest days, she always makes sure the sparring is vicious, mean-tempered, and hard. She knows it will bring him up.
But River is too young, now. She doesn’t know it, yet. She drops the subject, believing the TARDIS something not to be argued over. She does tease, which feels good. It feels normal, the way it does when they’re both on the same timeline. It’s far less frequent, lately. She’s constantly behind him and he’s struggling to make sure he doesn’t spoil her.
She grins at the TARDIS, and the whole room seems to light up with her smile. It never ages, even when she does; that smile. It’s like a thousand lights bursting at once or a billion stars swirling around a galaxy or a thousand sunsets. It’s radiant. So radiant, it makes him think terribly romantic thoughts, which is never a good thing, for him.
"All right," he proclaims, now full of romantic desire. "Off we go!"
She demands where, something she doesn’t realize will be a frequent demand of hers in the future. He doesn’t reply, something she doesn’t realize will be a frequent response to her demand in the future.
He is engaged. Preparing for departure, departing, already gone, there, next place, all of them, hasn’t even arrived to pick up River yet. Everything is happening right now, and she doesn’t realize it yet.
Forty-four sunsets. He read it somewhere, he’s certain, but he can’t remember where. She teases him that certainty is a beautiful thing.
He knows that sunsets are beautiful.
The first sunset, dark red against a darker sky, she’s not so impressed with. Granted, it’s her backyard, but he loves it.
"Are you looking?" he asks.
"Yes," she says, though she looks distracted because he’s landed on one of her packs.
"You’re not looking," he says, and he’s surprised by the amount of disappointment in his voice. If she won’t take this excursion seriously, how will he?
Well, he supposes he wouldn’t be so impressed if he were her, either. After all, he’s landed in her cottage and they’re staring at the red sunset out her window.
"Something else then. I was never good at appreciating the view in my own backyard either. Dorothy gave it her best though."
He imagines she wants to ask about Dorothy, and she does open her mouth slightly to ask something, but he's already off, already gone, going, there, back again.
Two, three, four, five, six, seven.
They're on an underwater platform for these. The lights split apart through the water and he keeps thinking that each should make him happier, somehow.
He turns to watch her expression, and the way the light plays across her hair is enough to lift his spirits, just a little bit. Just for a little while.
Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen.
"It's dangerous," she says, watching the place he's plugging in for their next few sunsets. It's an old prison planet, but the shape of the suns and the refraction of their light against the hazy sky (a process he describes until her eyes glaze over) should be spectacular.
"You're sure you're ready?" she asks. "To risk it?"
"Always," he says, and she doesn't know he's stealing a line from her.
Fortunately for them both, when they do end up captured (which isn't all that long into their arrival), she's the one who's ready to risk it, and she picks them out of the cell they've been locked into in no time flat.
Captured, locked away, being chased, dashing back to the TARDIS. It's all happening. It's all happening right now.
The sun is setting over China. For all that it's just an Earth planet and it's just a simple place in the 17th century, this is one of River's favorite time periods. He knows it, because he wants to see just how she'll react.
Because, at some point, it stopped being about seeing sunsets and started being about watching River watch the sun set.
And it's glorious. She's breathless with awe, sitting on the roof she's got a tiny fragment of back at her cottage and watching the world she thought was dead and gone slowly dissolve into darkness.
"You can stop your smirking, sweetie," she says, her face still a little flushed with emotion despite the darkness.
He counts off the sunsets as they pass them. Thirty-five, thirty-nine, forty. He has to show her the best of every single one of them. Every single perfect sunset, that's what he needs to do.
The more they see, the more tired River looks. It's like she's stopped being 23 all of a sudden, or like the speed he's rushing through each sunset is propelling her downwards, like centrifugal force. He's a force unto himself and he knows this, but maybe this is the time that River learns. But she already knows, doesn't she? She's already learned, she's just learning, she'll never figure it out, she's trying to teach him.
Forty-two is terribly impressive, if he does say so himself. The skyline is a shimmery silver, and the way the sun reflects across the world makes River's olive skin look almost like it's sparkling.
The sun sets, and the sky seems to fill with glittering dust. It settles like a fog, thick between them.
"Forty-two," he says, gesturing to the sky like he's ticking off a list.
"I hate you sometimes, you know." He can't see the smile on her face through the fog, but he knows it's there. He knows she's there, and if he concentrates, he can see her glittery form through the pink haze.
It's like she's a spirit, walking through a magical world.
In a way, she is. She's a ghost, to him. A ghost he's clinging to without any remorse. He thinks he might as well be Heathcliff, clinging to Catherine. After all, if there ever was a murderer begging for his victim to stay with him, it was him with her.
I cannot live without my life. I cannot live without my soul. But he will, one day. Because, for a man who lives as long as he does, he can't believe in soulmates or love-of-a-life, because they always, always, always end.
Always end, still beginning, never relenting.
He wants to tell her that he knows she hates him, because that's what he always says. But he doesn't. He doesn't because right now, he can't.
"Not yet," he says, finally. "Not yet, you don't. But you will."
"Stop it." Her voice snaps like fresh ginger. It will mellow when she ages, but she's already aged, and she's aging now, and every second he spends with her is exactly one second closer to losing her.
The dust seems to level out, and he nods to the sky again. "Forty-three."
She's right next to him, now. He's not sure when that happened, but it's always happening. "Just stop."
"What?" he says, innocently.
She lets out an undignified snort. "Spoiling things. You know very well I don't hate you."
He looks away from her, out to where the TARDIS is waiting. One more sunset. One more escape. One more, and then he'll be happy. That would be all it would take.
So why wasn't he happy yet? Why was time not folding back and offering him release?
"Stop," she says, again.
Her hand slips into his. It's small and thin and she's much, much too young to already be dead in his mind. There's too much left for them too do. Too little left to be wasted. Before he realizes he's doing it, he's squeezing her hand very firmly, clinging to her like a man to a lifeline.
But he can't cling forever. Forever is for young lovers and Agatha Christie novels, and he happens to be neither.
"Come on then," he pulls at the place where they meet. "One more to see then."
No, no. River can't say no. She never says no, and when she does, it's only because she's being genuinely stubborn. She can't say it now, not when he's so close.
He affects ignorance. "Want to stay here then for a bit longer? I can see why. I saved the most brilliant ones for --"
"No, we're not going anywhere else."
"Not even home?"
"Not yet, no. No more trips. No more surprises. No more sunsets."
One more, he thinks. He only has one more left. And he needs to spend it with her. Their relationship doesn't make sense and it's all jumbled up and it's all happening at once, but in a confusing and fairly convoluted way, he needs her.
"I'm not going anywhere," she adds. "Save that last one, all right?"
Save it. He can't save it, they need to see it. They need to. In a way, they already are—
Her voice is firmer, now, with more meaning. "I'm not going anywhere."
They stay until the light is gone.
They're gone. They're there. They haven't met yet. They're in love. They despise each other. She's lied to him again. He's let her down again. They're meeting at the Library. He doesn't know who she is. They're meeting at her school. She doesn't know who he is. They're like two lines drawn on a crumpled-up piece of paper, and they touch and don't touch all over their lives.
And maybe, just this once, he wanted to do something linearly with her.
And maybe, just this once, he did.
When they turn to leave, he doesn't look her way, but he can feel her smile next to him. Feel the way that time moves around her mouth as her lips curve upwards, feel the way the dust changes in her presence.
And he thinks---
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 2,126