Catch a Falling Star
Standing before the giant replicate of a dinosaur, neck like a giraffe and teeth as sharp as a lion's, Rose Tyler could only look on in envy—she sure wished she could be taller. So, Rose Tyler, aged six and three quarters, thank you very much, decided to find something she could actually see.
She tried to tip toe away quietly, all bundled up in her winter coat; it's easy to disappear when you're so much shorter than your classmates. The teacher droned on about the dinosaur's extinction—theories about planets colliding, the surface of the world melting, stars crashing into the world, no wish made to be saved.
Rose made her way to the more deserted parts of the museum, lacking of dinosaur bones and famous paintings from people who died a long time ago. She walked back in time, past world war memorabilia and gowns of kings and queens and into things that didn't belong to London, belong to Europe. She walked through wild plains of Africa and saw dazzling pottery from Asia, but nothing floored Rose Tyler, aged six and three quarters, like the stunning grandfather clock before her. She stood on the tips of her toes, trying to read the information, right above the clock.
But she was too short, too small. Typical.
"Queen Victoria. Lovely woman, she was, bit weird though. This was her clock."
Rose jumped a bit, looking around. Standing right behind her was a grown up with funny boots and a tweed jacket, a bright red bowtie to tie it all up. "I saw you struggling for a bit, trying to read the plaque." He finally looked down, careful smile and cool eyes. "Would you like a boost?" He asked.
Her mother told her to never talk to strangers, but for some reason that didn't matter to her so much anymore. He didn't look scary, all scrawny and well-dressed. She nodded tentatively and his smile grew brighter before he picked her up and sat her on his shoulders. "So, what's it say exactly, hmm?"
Rose stuck her tongue between her teeth, cocking her head to the side in concentration. "I can't read much," she finally admitted.
The strangers shoulder's shook with his soft laughter. "Rightly so, you're only, what six?"
"Six and three quarters."
"Of course. Well, no better time to learn so go ahead, sound it out."
Rose squirmed up on his shoulders. "This Grandfather clock…" she mumbled, scanning the words. "belonged to many mo…mo…"
"Monarchs," he whispered encouragingly. "Keep going."
"Monarchs," the word was fancy on her tongue. "It last belonged to Queen Victoria until 1850, when it was stolen." Rose stopped a minute. "Who'd want to steal a clock?" she asked, trying to look down at the man, her hair falling in her face. "'cause it belonged to the Queen?"
The man laughed. "I don't actually know. But then it says?"
Rose leaned as far forward as she could, brown eyes squinting. "It was returned ten years later, in im—im—"
"What's that mean?"
"Means someone returned it looking just the way they found it" The man scratched his chin in thought. "Although, it was supposed to be 10 minutes, not 10 years," he mumbled softly, soft enough so she couldn't hear.
"So they just borrowed it?" Rose asked, tugging on the man's jacket.
"It would appear so." The stranger carefully set Rose back on the floor. "People are always asking for borrowed time, more so than you might think. But you'll learn all that, you'll see."
Rose was back to feeling small and short, her perspective on the clock skewed as it appeared to be knocking back and forth, ready to break through glass and smash her to pieces—a few feet shorter and she already felt a lot smaller. She craned her head up and smiled, pleased the stranger was still there. "Who are you?"
He kept looking at the clock, but she managed to see the corner of his mouth curl up kindly. "I'm The Doctor."
Rose found it strange, but her teacher always told her to never make fun of someone because of their name. She stuck her hand out. "I'm Rose Tyler."
She watched him take a sharp breath.
He was suddenly very still, and very stiff. His mouth kept opening, subtle movements of uncertainty. He turned to her slowly, crouching to the ground like she were something delicate and rare, like if he said the wrong thing she'd run away. She squirmed in her rain boots and coat as his looked her over, mouth parted in something like awe, eyes a bit glossy. "Rose Tyler," he choked on her name. "Right you are."
She smiled at the smile he gave her, bursting into a fit of giggles. "You're strange."
"Strange in a bad way?" he asked, his banana scented breath tickling her face.
"No," she said automatically. "I don't think so."
"Good!" He clapped his hands together. "So, tell me, Rose Tyler, have you seen the observatory yet?" She shook her head. "Perfect! Neither of I. Fancy going on an adventure together?" She giggled before he hoisted her up back on his shoulders.
The skipped down the hall, past the 1800's and took a sharp corner down the right. The ceilings vaulted higher until the Doctor tried giggling the door open. "Why's it locked?" He questioned allowed, reaching into this pocket.
Rose looked at the sign. "S'closed on Mondays."
He leaned over and read the sign before giving her an approving smile. "Right, you're right, but I'm not one to follow rules and judging by the fact that you're wandering a museum alone without an adult and you decided to follow an eccentric, bow-tie wearing stranger, I'd make a guess you aren't either, so," he flipped open his sonic screwdriver, it's green light glowing in the low lit hall. "Why don't we just go in and see what's inside?"
"Is that a glow stick?"
"No, it's…" he paused, twirling it about in his hands. "Actually yeah, it's a glow stick. A magical glow stick." He pulled a face. "No, no, it's not magic, it's science. A scientific glow stick, but—" he took a raggedy breath. "It's certainly magical." He winked at her, earning another giggle. "Come along, Rose."
He opened the door with exaggerated enthusiasm, revealing the closed off, dome-shaped room. The ceiling, made of glass, brought it sunlight that scattered across the room.
"How are we supposed to see the stars when it's still day?" Rose asked, looking up at the clouds that scarred the sky.
"I've got a scientific glow stick!" He reminded her, darting off to the corner of the room to fiddle with a small control box. "Go close the door and I'll show you."
She did as told and watched as he practically ripped the control box off the wall, sparks flying as he ripped out wires, rearranging them and holding them by his teeth and wrapping some around his fingers. "Alright, I think that should—"
A loud noise roared in the observatory as metal sheets blocked out the light, coming out the walls and covering the windows, isolating the two in a dome of complete and utter darkness.
Rose Tyler forgot to mention she was terrified of the dark.
"Mister Doctor?" Rose cried out, clutching at her jacket in fear. "Mister Doctor!"
She heard footsteps mixed with shouting. "Oh, Rose! Rose I'm terribly sorry. You're afraid of the dark, aren't you?"
Timid, she replied, "Yes."
"Oh, don't be scared, I'll be right there. Do you see the green light?"
She saw his "scientific glow stick" glow green across the room. "Yeah?"
"I'm going to come over there, and you can hold on to it, 'til you aren't scared anymore, sound like plan?"
She heard more footsteps and the green light grew bigger until she could see his face, dull and mixed within dark shadows, crooked teeth glowing green from the light when he smiled. He grabbed her hand, which she held on with all her might. He noticed, laughing a bit, giving a small squeeze back. "Would you care to hold the torch?"
She nodded vigorously and she held it with all her might. "Okay," The Doctor continued. "We're gonna walk across the room. You shine that light out in front of us so we can see just a smidge alright?"
"Mister Doctor, I'm scared."
He squeezed her hand again. "Don't be, I'm right here."
They started walking toward the other side of the room, and Rose's shaking was evident by the constant swaying light. "Do you know anything about stars?" he asked cheerfully, trying to calm her.
"Have you ever looked up at the sky at night, and tried to make a wish on one, but you can't see any?"
"…yeah. Mum says there aren't any stars in the city."
"Looks kinda like this, doesn't it?"
She nodded, before she realized he couldn't see it. "Yeah."
"Well," the Doctor continued, "The sky is bursting with stars! Hundreds and thousands! Millions and billions! Numbers you couldn't even count to."
"Billions?" she asked, astonished, causing the Doctor's heart to jump.
"More," he whispered, awed. He used his free hand to reach out when they made it back to the power box. "I'm going to let go, and you just keep holding this until I ask for it, okay?"
He started pulling at wires, reconnecting them once more before he continued. "The museum has this projection that they put on a wall to make it look like you're flying through space—it's right there, right at the top. Use for special museum events. But, if I tweak the controls there, move this wire, connect it to this, I should be able to manipulate the holographic images to adapt to a more spherical, three-dimensional plane and—"
The room lit up with stars.
"—I can bring you the stars," he said.
Rose looked around—the walls were covered in stars—moving, vibrating images that danced across her eyes.
"Very cool," the Doctor agreed. He crouched down, a hand on her shoulder, the other pointing. "That's Orion, over there, you see? With the belt? Ooh, and that star, that one right over there, that's a dwarf star. One of millions."
Rose giggled madly, running around the room. "This is so cool! It's like I'm an astronaut! I'm flying though space!" She stopped, pointing. "What's that one? Oh, and that one? They're so many different sizes."
"Stars are made of billions of gases, burning exploded. They're huge! Massive things, very bright and very hot but they are so far away, so so far, far away, that when you look up at the sky at night and your mum tells you stories of fallen gods and ancestors in the sky, you're actually looking into the past." Rose looked up at him and watched as wonderment painted his face as his smile stretched wide and the stars burned in his eyes. "Those stars have already burned, many of them already died, but you can't see it, you'll never see it because it takes to long for the light to reach here. And light's mighty fast! But at the same time, you don't see the millions of stars that have been born as well."
Rose shook her head a bit, confused. "We're looking…into the past?"
He smirked. "Something like that."
"Mister Doctor, you sure are smart."
"I know," he said rather smugly, but she still laughed the child-like laugh she had. "When was the last time you made a wish on a star, Rose Tyler? Go, on! Make a wish! Dream big!"
Rose reached out, like she could touch the images. "They aren't real stars."
He stood, looking, staring, and studying her, that same soft smile that never quite left since she told him her name. "Don't let that stop you from wishing and dreaming. Just because you can't see them during the day or even during the night, doesn't mean they aren't there." The Doctor explained softly. "So, go on, close your eyes and make a wish."
Rose sighed and closed her eyes, shutting them tight to match her intense concentration. He watched as she mumbled to herself for a few moments before one eye popped open, looking for him. "…anything?" she asked, nervous. "Anything in the whole world?"
He collapsed to the floor beside her, all smiles and crazed looks before he gently placed his hand on her head. "Don't you dare stop at the world," he swallowed. "Anything in the whole wide universe. Reach for the stars!"
So Rose Tyler closed her eyes and wished just for that:
I wish I could touch the stars.
When she re-opened them, the lights were back on and he was standing beside her, hand outstretched in offering. "Come on, it's best I took you back." She grabbed his hand readily and swung it back and forth as they left the observatory. He paused, thinking, "Mind you, where did you come from?"
"School field trip."
He huffed. "I always thought I'd make a better teacher than most anyhow. Rightly so."
"But you said you're a doctor." She reminded him.
"Among many things, yes, yes I am. Did you learn anything about stars today?" Rose nodded. "Then I'm a teacher as well, see?"
The Doctor placed a finger to his mouth, telling her to be quiet. He poked his head around the corner and saw a frazzled, middle-aged woman, blabbing on to some security guard about a missing child with blond hair and a pink jacket and—
He kneeled down once more and grabbed her gently by the arms. "Now, you go run over there and meet your teacher, you've worried her. Don't run away from groups like that again, okay? You're still young, you could get hurt. And don't talk to strangers, got it?"
"You're a stranger," she reminded him. "But you're good."
"I was a stranger, yes," he told her, "But I'm the exception. Besides me, don't ever run off with someone like that ever again, okay? Stick with your teachers and family until you're all grown up, got it?"
"Got it," she told him softly.
"Good," he said tightly. "Now run along—before you cause a search party," he teased. "But Rose?"
"You hold on to that wish, alright? I just know one day it'll come true."
Rose smiled. "Okay." He started to turn around when he was suddenly bombarded by all the weight of a six year old as she smothered him in the biggest hug in the world. "Thank you," as she pulled away, her hand lingered around the collar of his neck. "I like your tie—it's cool."
The Doctor smiled tightly. "I know."
And Rose Tyler ran away for the last time.
His old little star, burning bright with that smile, he watched as her teacher hugged her tight, scolded her a bit. He watched her pout and fuss like she always did. It hurt, like looking into a sun does, stars that burn from the past, but he kept looking anyway. Because while he was looking to his past.
She still had their future.
AN: I made up science and history and everything else for the sake of storytelling A+ for me