the stars in your eyes, do they shine for me and me alone?
This is a story about love, and this is how it ends – as narrated by Time and Death. | All of everywhere and everywhen at their fingertips—and yet, still they are mortal. | As inspired by Windows Like Cemeteries by baobabs, who wrote in the same style as The Book Thief, I believe. (I, myself, have never read it but it is on my list of things to get around to reading.) It also should be noted that I quote but do not credit a line from Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes quite near the end of this. Also, I am posting this even though I have not slept in roughly twenty-one hours.
Stories from "The Book of Life and Death", Tale Eleven Hundred Thousand, Chapters Ten and Eleven: entitled "The Only Water in the Forest is the River"
This is a story about love, and it begins—really begins, I mean—when a boy—and he was a boy at this point, if I am to be true—still fresh-faced and wide-eyed and trying to flee a rebellion, this boy—it begins when a boy steals away a tardis. He steals away my daughter, one of my many daughters, and he loves her.
He loves others, as well, perhaps countless in number, every bright-eyed soul that tumbles across his worn eyes and wonders if there is a story behind them, behind those old, voracious eyes—and he loves all the ones that look just long enough to stay, if only for a little while. He loved, loves, will love my daughter and took, takes, will take her to see the trembling universe. This wanderer and my daughter they loved, loves, will love—and, for this, I am happy.
But this story begins with my children—traveling together for lifetimes. My daughter, soul brazen and wanton again, takes my son where he must go. They exist, now and forever, immortal in the eyes of Us both, We who see all and know all, only in relation to one another. My daughter the survivor (only by Luck and the design of Fate), cursed and gifted to exist allwhere and everywhere at once. My son who believes himself a coward and who carries the burden of a thousand worlds, who is now the last being forced to know all possibilities—excluding, obviously, Me.
I weep for my children—for their then and now and will be. I weep for my children, whose stories will never be a happy one. My son, who gives all to the wanting universe, only to foolishly ask nothing of it in return, my almost-selfless son. My daughter, who was with this boy from the very beginning and will be with him to the black end. I weep for them.
At the beginning, there were azure-tinted journeys and adventures tinged with orange—but then there was red-rooted pain and the sharp kind of betrayal that smears saccharine sapphire memories into the long-lost past, to be rooted and forgotten there. At the beginning, it was resplendent—but then came the war.
The war that nearly took apart the universe—not neatly, that is to say, as a human dissembles a shelf and organizes their pieces into a box of their choosing; but as a Toclafane would do to an organ: cut it without thought or reason, messily. The war that could have ended, of all things, Me.
And there was Death, watching over the war, plucking and pulling and expelling. And there was Life, giving more than She wished, and She looked down upon my children, who had forsaken their mortality, at first for meritorious reasons, which were then, sadly, forgotten in Me. And I, I was there to end it.
And I, Time, looked, looks, will look at my son with heavy eyes and I will give him a choice.
And my son had, has, will have taken it.
I will admit—although this is quite an awkward thing to need to admit, for me—that I did meet him once, twice, a thousand times before this moment. (I knew him long before that whirlwind romance had consumed him.) His deaths—and I do mean his, and his alone; those he sent to the grave could range from too many a number for me to bother counting—were brief; an easy encounter for me, as all time lords are. But then, this one was different.
I do, of course, hear stories of this one they call a Doctor and who some claim to be a demon-god. The last of his kind. He who changes his face, destroyer of worlds, savior of civilizations, the Oncoming Storm.
And, after all, how could I not know him? The child of Gallifrey had beckoned for me many, many times. We are practically old friends now. I doubt he fancies the thought.
This death, though, this death was different. Time lords tingle when they renew, dead for one moment and here the next. But at their final passing, they seem to make me vibrate—and the lionwoman in her chair-cage made me vibrate. And the trapped Doctor weeped, another one he could not save. I was there as he pleaded, as she reminisced with a smile and her sad lion eyes. I watched, and waited, as a secret-shrouded man was handed one of his biggest by a lion-hearted woman he did not know. Still, he pleaded—but not to me.
(He does not realize, may never realize, I think, that there will always be those he cannot save, that I must take—that even with all the Time in the world, you still die.)
No! he screamed as I welcomed the lionwoman into my arms, into my embrace. No!
And all the sonic screwdrivers and Doctors in the world could not save her, the lionwoman who made the ultimate sacrifice, only not so ultimate in relation to him. (She would remake Time for him, I learned. She would remake my friend and her father for him.)
The lionwoman, who saw her Doctor weep with me, afterwards, was the kind to shed tears without sound, and we were silent. And I, in respect, as I always do and always will, waited a few moments, before we were off.
Most of the dead do not keep me; I tell them where to go, where they want to go if they do not wish with me, and they will make their trek. But the lionwoman was fond of journeys. We travelled and she collected with me, and I learned of her, the lionwoman who goes by many names and many titles.
Melody. River. Odd words to describe a woman who is so clearly a lion. With that beguiling tongue that is both witty and clever, and a sort of honey-sweet coquettish voice—yes, in that sense I can see why she is a Melody. But a River? This woman is so clearly fire.
I'll also admit that it took me long to understand her lineage—as I had not collected a time lord in ages, and she was here, I was confused. But this lionwoman with her mane of unruly golden hair had all the Time in the world to explain it to me, and she did.
Perhaps it should be of note, that those whom love my wayward son always get their poor hearts broken.
It is not always he who breaks them, I should be clear. Sometimes it is Circumstance—the wolfgirl who was, is, will be trapped in another of My finite universes, to whom my son gave his fickle hearts—(well, perhaps not two, perhaps one, but it seems that he loved her more than was capable with just one heart, but he has loved others more than the wolfgirl, and I have no concept of Love, so I am uncertain as to the amount of his heart he gave her). Sometimes it is something else, sometimes it is him.
But this time, perhaps it was Circumstance—or, I should think, it was everything, all things that ensured that this one would never have a happy ending or fairytale kiss to send them on their way. My almost-daughter who loved my son with everything that she was, is, would be. My son, who finally changed from boy to man by the time he met her, who knew much grief by this time and needed her, the woman who gave everything for him.
There is a song in my son's hearts and it is guilt sprinkled with grief; and she, my almost-daughter, cut from the same cloth, she sang it too. Maybe you have not yet realized the fact—they loved each other the way that anyone should love, if they have the courage: wholly and infinitely. They loved each other the way anyone ought to be loved, with every fibre of their being.
There were smiles in their palms and anguish held there equally, but the little engraved always and completely shone brighter than both. How nice. If there is something I admire about mortals, it is how they love. Always and completely, they were to love.
And they did.
He was, my son, there long before her and should still be long thereafter. But, still, my almost-daughter left her —hello sweetie on both his hearts, and that will last longer than she ever would, ever could. —Hell in high heels, my son likes to call her. He fashions many nicknames for her, sweet forms of endearments that I suppose he made, makes, will make for her.
There was, is, will be a Time when she destroys Me for her love. She begins to unravel me, delicately and intentionally, with her silver fingers, so that she may tell my son that yes, yes he has worth, and how ever could he think otherwise? —I can't let you die, trips from her valentined tongue and into the wintry air, —without knowing that you are loved - by so many and so much, and by no one more than me.
And how could my son deny his bespoke psychopath, who unthreaded Time for him, who gave him her everything and more, who would suffer more than every living thing in the universe if she was the one who ended him?
And so my son, with his crescent hearts, took her for his bride.
And so my almost-daughter heals me with, of all things, a kiss.
Ten becomes Eleven even though he does not wish it, even though every fibre of his being tries to deny it, the blued transformation from this body into the next. I don't want to go, he murmurs in his rain-filled voice. And the lionwoman beside me whispers, Oh, sweetie, with such pain and hope that I wonder how she can fill it with only two words. But then he is there, the lionwoman's Doctor, in a pin-striped suit that does not match his baby's face and a sunlit silliness.
And the River next to me sighs.
A NOTEWORTHY FACT FROM YOUR SECOND NARRATOR
The lionwoman gave everything to him, her love, yes—but that does not mean her being revolved around him.
In a way, of course, it did—it would always. But this woman with a wild soul had a life of her own, and I visited her many times in her Life. Oh, yes, she gave many over to me, in all sorts of manners. Quietly and messily and violently and I did quite like her. She gave me entertainment in an entertainmentless job, as if she somehow knew my boredom and wished to cure it. Perhaps I gained a degree of schadenfreude from it—but I am Death. Who could expect anything less from Me? But then, My heart is so tired.
I apologize; I have digressed.
There are much more important things of which I am to tell, like—
The lionwoman, and her lionlife.
She was, I believe, a woman who found beauty in destruction. It was her job, as an archeologist, to scour through ruins and find a certain pulchritude hidden underneath. She was a woman who found beauty in destruction. She was also a woman who caused it.
I do not wish you to believe that this was a woman without fault. If I am to do her justice, then I do not want to overglorify. But then, she was a glorious soul and I want you to realize that as well. But she was, also, terrible. A woman of terrible deeds, born to kill and take joy in it, birthed to a loving mother and then cruelly ripped away.
I want you to understand that this lionwoman was as lovely as she was horrible—and it was because she had been made that way.
By this time, a young girl with strawberried hair was bathed in golden light on a street corner in New York, and she looked about it in a sort of awe. Finally free from a constricting spacesuit, only now to have to wander lost. A pity. But I was there for her, and she changed without a tear to be shed or a cry to be heard.
The young girl was, of course, the lionwoman.
Their wanderlust will never be quite soothed and it is for this reason, I believe, that they will never settle down and find their pale pink, cotton candied happy ending.
But they have wandering souls and that, I believe, is a shame.
Of all My universes, one thing is mostly the same: they try to protect each other.
(The operative word, of course, being try.)
They do not always succeed.
He saw her death—her final Death, but my wandering son did not know that until later, much, much later—quite a while before he got to know her. He saw my almost-daughter, noticed the glint in her eye, the silvery way she walked and how she effortlessly talked with him as though she knew him. The Doctor first met her in, of all places, a library.
A wondrous place, a library. Where else would one wish to meet the love of their life?
He met her and then Death took, takes, will take her. —You and me, she whispered, with words like silk and like a promise, to a brilliant, crying man who refused to let her go, —time and space. You watch us run.
My poor son—how could he watch his strawberried girl cry her stardust tears, how could he bear being so helpless and impotent, how could he stand it: being witness to her honourable passing with the knowledge that he would, one day, love her? Now isn't that the question? How could he bring himself to care for my almost-daughter? That is something I do not understand.
Because this is the answer: loving her, with all its' heartache and anguish, was infinitely better than not loving her.
And I wonder why enduring pain can be so much better than avoiding it—all because of one emotion. Perhaps I cannot, can never, understand. Or perhaps the answer is simple, really—anyone can handle any amount of pain if, near the beginning or during the middle or at the end, there are given a moment, however brief, of all-consuming love.
He could never tell anyone his name of names, his final secret, the one that burns in the stars and is wrapped securely in the folds of the universe, hidden neatly in its' centre—yet she knew it. She hopped around his timeline, knowing they would meet out of order, remembering every time she saw his old-young face that she would be his end. They keep their secrets from each other for a little while. But then—but then they reveal them. Because what they have is inevitable, and why should they even bother trying to avoid that?
Do you understand now?
Always and completely.
This is a story about love—and this is how it ends.
Only that's the thing: it doesn't, not really.
If you gave someone your heart and they died, did they take it with them? Did you spend the rest of forever with a hole inside you that couldn't be filled? Or does pain fade with Time, allowing you to, however unsuccessfully or not, fix yourself in some form or fashion—grotesquely or perfectly or otherwise? (—When one is in love with an ageless god, one does one's best to hide the damage.) (—I thought it would hurt me, and I was right.) Does anyone, when faced with Death and living to tell afterwards, ever really move on?
Now that, We believe, is truly the question.
(—You and your secrets, Doctor - you'll be the death of me.)
And he was. (But so, it seems, was she.)