As I went down to the river
"Hold on tight! We are going to Oxymoron Proxymoron." The Doctor grinned over the console at Rose.
"Sounds like something my English teacher would have liked," she laughed, flipping back a strand of hair.
The TARDIS threw them back and forth, as the Doctor danced around the console bumping into Rose twice – each time with a bigger smirk on his face. Rose was just about to comment on it when the ship jerked hard to the left catapulting her onto the bench. The sudden movement also caught the Doctor off guard and he crashed down beside her.
"You so planned this," Rose teased.
He opened his mouth for a smart remark, but the sounding of the alarm interrupted him. He hurried to the display, pumped a few handles.
"Oh no! Nonononono!" He rounded the console, half-way pulled out the hammer and smashed buttons at random. Nothing happened for a moment, then the alarm stopped but the ship continued at full speed.
"What's wrong?" Rose got up.
The Doctor fished for his glasses and ran around to the display. He stared so intensively at the screen that his nose nearly touched it.
"Doctor?" Rose joined him.
He ruffled his hair, bouncing back and forth on his heels mumbling to himself.
Rose laid her hand on his arm. As he turned around, Rose suppressed a gasp at the despair screaming out of his eyes.
"The autopilot activated," he said tonelessly.
Rose held his gaze. "Where to?"
He looked away and stared into the air. Rose shook him gently. "Doctor, you're scaring me now. Where to?"
"The River of Time," he looked back at her, but she knew he was not seeing her. His eyes were dark holes - shadows flashed in them obscuring the sparkle that always twinkled in them.
"What is the River of Time?" she whispered, holding on to his arm.
He shook out of his stupor and looked at her. "It's what remained after Gallifrey was destroyed." He sighed; falling back on to the bench, and Rose followed him. Resting his elbows on his knees, he buried his face in his hands. She sneaked in a bit closer, her knee touching his long legs.
"Doctor?" She rested her hand lightly on his shoulder.
"The destruction of the last Time War created this river of stardust, time fragments and the remains of the Time Lords. It originates on the coordinates of Gallifrey and flows through my home galaxy."
"Why would the TARDIS want to go there?" Rose asked softly.
His hands sank down as he stared onto the ground. "It was programmed by my last regeneration."
"Why would he do that?" Rose rubbed her thumb gently in little circles.
Finally he turned to her, his look empty. "As a reminder of what he had to do to end the Time War. He wanted every new regeneration confronted with our past as a memento mori – so no matter where we were heading at the anniversary of the event, the TARDIS would change course and bring us there."
"Can't you override it?" Rose asked. "After all you are him."
He shook his head. "I tried. He had already thought of that."
"Well, at least you are not alone." Rose smiled trying to lift his mood.
He studied her for a moment. "And I am grateful for it."
They stood in silence in the open door looking out into space as the force field of the TARDIS protected them. Rose had smuggled her arm around his hip as he leant heavily against the doorframe. His face set in an impenetrable mask with his lips pressed hard together, he stared at the river flowing past them.
A stream of debris and other things Rose couldn't identify rippled in soft waves across the vast space. All hues of the color spectrum glittered in it, making it three dimensional like a strong current. She wasn't sure if she just imagined it, but she felt she could hear music. Not coming from the outside, but somehow resonating from within her body to the movement of the river. The music played softly to the rhythm of two hearts beating in one body, but not just his – it felt like the heartbeats of all the Time Lords gone as it crescendoed. Deep sadness invaded her, drowning out all happiness. She gasped as its iron grip forced the air out of her lungs, and her head started to spin. He put his arm around her to keep her from falling and her head sank onto his shoulder.
"You can hear it too," he said, barely audible.
Rose nodded, unable to express the feelings rushing through her.
"Every particle of the Time River is a lost Time Lord," he continued, tightening his grip on her. "My family and children, my friends and foes …" his voice faltered and he swallowed hard before going on. "All flowing though space – lost forever. A memorandum of the Time Lords."
Rose lifted her head to look at him. "That's why he wanted you here."
He turned his head slightly to look into her eyes. "I don't understand."
Rose smiled sadly. "He wanted you to honor them. To remind you of who you are and what you had to do. Like in the Earth saying: 'Lest we forget'."
"Yeah, right," he laughed bitter. "As if I would ever forget."
Rose touched his cheek gently. "Maybe he was afraid you would lose yourself in all the traveling. Spinning through time without halt."
He looked at her – his face unreadable.
"Like you were before you met me," Rose said softly, holding his gaze.
Time trickled by; it could have been minutes, seconds or hours for all she cared, but suddenly a big smile flashed over his face.
"Rose Tyler – you're brilliant!"
He engulfed her in an embrace. "'Lest we forget'." He whispered in her ear.
"'Lest we forget'," she answered back.