They live, they breathe, they die. You go on. This is the way things work. You know this is how they work. You believe it. As Jack, still covered in his own blood and filth, leans over to pick up the Master's body where it lies on the ground at your feet, that belief, that rule of yours is pounded further into your brain. It's a bitter religion, knowing you'll always be alone.
There are three (working) carriers from the Valiant. Jack puts the Master on the carrier you'll be taking back to the planet. His swollen face is healing, but you can easily see the thick scars beneath that boyish face. It's been a hard year underneath this man's reign, and yet he handles his corpse gently. For you.
Jack has a cruel side, but he hides it for you. He loves you. He looks up to you like you're Jesus in converse, but you're sure you'll outlive him, as well. Even facts don't outlive the Doctor.
"Do you think the Master found some sort of peace?" he asks you, "After all of…that?" You can't tell if he's asking for you to say he did, or if he's begging for you to say he didn't. It's been a hard year, you can't fault him for desiring some vengeance.
You open your mouth to speak, but it's Lucy, still shell-shocked despite the cuffs around her wrists, that speaks.
"He told me that his people believed that the Sisters would save them. The Sisters: Time, Death and Pain. Mother, Maiden and Crone. Kept life moving in a circle. A paradoxical circle where the universe would never crumble and creation could be held together with life and death." She blinks, but she's not looking at anything. It reminds you of a coma patient with body twitches but no substance within. "And that the Sisters were powerless now, as they have no worshippers to give them strength."
Her eyes flit to you. "You were more of a God than they ever were. You had a billion souls cry out for you in unison." She sighs. "How did that feel?"
You don't reply, you just move to the carrier and strap yourself in.
The ship leaves the hangar, and you're alone with your best enemy's body. You think about living, dying, and regeneration. The comm buzzes with Jack's voice but you turn it to silent and fly on.
You want to be alone. You take the ship to the Earth alone, you pull the Master's body from the carrier alone. You build his funeral pyre alone.
Your hands ache with the physical labor. You've been nothing but a dog, an old decrepit man for so long, your muscles are practically atrophied, and everything aches as you build. A funeral fit for a King, and the irony of that doesn't escape you.
You've met Kings, and they die the same. Their bodies go limp, their eyes go dark, and they're gone. Nothing special for them in their last moments, just the cold and the dark.
(We have to run and run and run…)
No difference for the death of a King's mistress. You read about Reinette's death. At some point you got just masochistic enough to pick up Susan's old French Revolution book and skim through pre-revolutionary lives and deaths. Louis XV was a devout Catholic, despite his dalliances with a mistress, and begged her to take confession, to cleanse herself of her sins. He couldn't see her after her confession for it would be another sin, so she was forced to die alone. She died alone with a clean conscience so he could spend eternity with her.
Eternity, you think, is living on when everyone else dies. There's no way to know if the sky is made of heaven-shaped diamonds, though Louis always imagined that it was.
Yet you still can't believe in Louis' god. You can't wrap your mind around a deity that allows a woman to die alone because seeing the man who loves her is a sin.
John Smith wasn't Catholic, he was Anglican. You remember his encyclopediatic knowledge of the religion, of the customs. Of love after death, of God and country. You even remember when John Smith would pray. Pray for his family, pray for the boys at the school, for Nurse Redfern, that Martha would find a place where she could truly belong. You remember the words forming on your human lips, but you can't remember truly believing.
You feel cheated. John Smith would've believed, but the TARDIS was imperfect in his creation, and all he had was knowledge of how to pray, not a certainty that a God was listening to him.
It doesn't matter. You can't believe in a God like John Smith's anyway. All those prayers he said, and yet all those boys would die in 1914 fighting for God and Country. Either John Smith's God wasn't listening, or else he simply didn't care.
Caring. You remember asking Martha about her religion once. It was after some particularly annoying question she'd just asked you. Something about your feet, but you can't remember what. You brought up the topic of religion and she said she didn't really care. Science, facts, those were her religions. She knew when it was best to restart a heart and when it was best to give up, and those facts had nothing to do with how the owner of the heart lived their life.
You can't believe in a lack of caring, like Martha says she does, because you know she's lying. She walked the Earth for a year for you, spread the word of "Doctor" better than any minister ever spread the word of God, or any worshipper ever spoke of Mandragora. You're her god, and that, now, that is terrifying.
You lean over the Master, wrapped up in a sort of makeshift burial shroud made from the tarp that was your home for the better part of a year.
He's a Time Lord, and he spoke enough of your home world's religion to think he must have believed at some point. All little Time Tots gaze up at the sky and wonder if Lady Time is watching, or scream and curse at Lady Pain when they skin their knee on the Academy steps. He had to have believed at some point, and that means that you can imagine he might've found that embrace after he danced with Lady Death. That calm and peace the Chancellors spoke of.
You place a red disc over his right eye, a silver one over his left, and a white one on his temple. Your voice forms the burial rite, and you think how wrong it is, you praying for him. He would never have done the same for you.
It doesn't mean it shouldn't be done.
Your hand hovers over the Master's right eye. The red disc. Pain. Part of you wants to remove it, to toss it aside. The man lived with Pain, it was his mistress as much as Death is still yours, and you don't want to commit him to ashes with that symbol sitting so plainly on his face.
But then again, you can't believe in this, either. You can't hold onto a triad of women who watched their worshippers die, who willingly let a whole civilization slip through their perfectly-woven fingers. So many worshipped Death, and yet she did nothing.
Any faith you might've had in the Sisters was gone when they didn't appear during the Time War. It vanished when they didn't stop you from destroying your world.
The fire touches the pyre, and the whole thing catches. You smell the sharp, sweet scent of burning flesh, and you can't make yourself finish the ceremony. Your mouth is closed tight, and your muscles don't seem to listen.
You walk away, and he burns without you. You have faith in your workmanship, that pyre will burn until there is nothing but ashes. No, not faith. Just a knowledge.
You've only got one faith left, and it's small and terrible but it's faith so you cling to it because then you can believe in something. You may be alone forever, but you're still there. Still surviving, still living.
In the end, you'll always survive.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 1,399