"Oh, that looks exciting, I want to go in, go and see what it's like, it can't hurt, oh, do come on, please, let's go in, I'll bet it's brilliant." She wasn't making sense, just spouting meaningless noise.
"Yeah, brilliant," he said with forced enthusiasm. It seemed a silly place to go. But nothing seemed amiss here; all was well; it wasn't as if they were busy. He let her pull him along into the building.
Bright lights, flashing colors, techno music—it was barely different from the equivalent back in her time, on Earth. Well, she was happy. That was good, at least. Happy was good.
"Blimey," he said. "This'll give you a headache. Give me one too, come to that."
"Doesn't matter," she said, shrugging it off. "Just take an aspirin afterwards, good as new."
He didn't bother to tell her that he was allergic to aspirin. "Go on, have some fun."
"Why're we in here?" came a voice from behind.
"Because I wanted to come," she said cooly.
The redheaded woman in the door frowned. "Bit noisy, isn't it?"
He grinned at them. "Ah, go on, the two of you."
"Come on. It'll be fun. Come have some fun yourself."
"Nah, you two'll be sorry if you drag me along. Never any fun with me. Get out there. Just don't let anyone in on anything."
"Positive." He grinned and pushed them both towards the crowd. "Go on!"
They wandered into the throng of people, glancing over their shoulders, before they got into the music and forgot all about him.
Oh well. Not as if he wasn't used to it. He shoved his hands in his pockets and looked around. Flashes of other people's lives caught his gaze. The flash of bright eyes, the toss of shining hair, two hands brushing, a smile, a laugh. Stinging tears rose to his eyes and he looked away, pain flickering briefly across his face before he got control of himself again. Don't think about it.
He began pushing his way through the crowd, shoving people to the side. You're being rude. No. He swallowed against a lump that had formed in his throat. Don't think about it.
It was a mantra, four words that he repeated over and over, all the time. Four words that kept him focused. Four words that kept him controlled. Four words that kept him sane, and able to keep up a mask of cheerfulness, and as whole as he was going to be again. Don't think about it. Don't think about it. Don't think about it.
He paused in his path as he saw dancers in the way. A young man and a young woman, laughing, grinning. Their eyes shone and when they caught each other gaze, something flashed between them. Don't think about it. They fit together perfectly, their hands laced together, their steps matched perfectly even though they were out of time with the music. Don't think about it. He couldn't bring himself to push his way past them. Don't think about it. He went around them instead.
The only empty seat was at the long black glass counter. He sat down and laid his cheek on the cool, smooth surface, put his arms up around his head. Don't think about it. Don't think about it. Don't think about it. But it was so hard.
"You look like someone with a story to tell," a soft voice said, breaking into his thoughts.
He sat up. The girl had curly dark hair, pulled back from her face in a ponytail. Her eyes were dark, sad, thoughtful. She'd seen a lot of pain. She had the look of someone who'd survived her whole family. Someone who had no one left. Someone who was lonely.
"Do I?" he asked, unsure how to answer.
"I can sense stories, like it's visible, like an aura. I can see pain and loss and sorrow. I can seek out the people who're going mad, keeping their stories hidden. I know what it feels like." She gave him a hard look, and he saw a glimpse of insanity and desperation in her face. "And that's what I do. I listen to the stories."
"Ah." He watched her, frowning slightly. She knew a lot. How much?
She blinked. Glittering, alien eyes were on her eyelids, which was quite disorienting. The pain inside her didn't seem to fit with her appearance. She was hiding it. Like him.
"I listen to the stories, but I don't tell them." She watched him carefully. "I'm sworn to secrecy."
"I'd guess you want to hear mine, then?" he asked bitterly.
"I'm not sure I do," she replied. "But it is my job to listen. If you want to tell me, I will."
He thought. He didn't want to tell anyone. It didn't seem right. But she was right—he was going mad. He had told pieces of the story before, but never the whole thing. She wouldn't, couldn't, repeat a word of it to anyone. He didn't know her well, but he could tell she'd suffered, and some of the pains were similar to the ones he'd felt.
"I'm the Doctor," he told her.
"I'm a Time Lord," he said, and took a deep breath. "The last of the Time Lords."
Her eyes were wide. She didn't speak, just listened.
"I watched the rest of my people die," he whispered. "I watched my home destroyed. I lost everything. I thought I'd lost everything it was possible to lose."
She didn't move. She might have been a statue.
"I save the world," he told her. "I'm the Doctor, and that's what I do. I save the world. I save the universe. I make things right." He sighed. "But then, not so long ago, I had to save the world—Earth. But this time was different. This time, I lost my world..."