“I,” the Doctor crows dramatically, arms outstretched, “am king of the universe!”
His yell echoes from the cliff as he breathes the fresh morning air. Hyalus is the second planet of the Irritum system, and it’s breathtaking. The tourists won’t get their hands on it until the next decade, so everything is so wonderfully fresh and nature-y here.
Amy rolls her eyes. “It’s ‘I’m king of the world’, you idiot. It’s Titanic, Doctor. It’s not that hard to remember.” And for good measure, she starts to hum a certain hit song of Celine Dion’s quite loudly.
Rory groans. “Amy, I’m here too, you realise. We’re hiking, and the Doctor’s badly misquoting cliched movies, and you’re humming.”
She punches him in the shoulder with good cheer, swinging her arms back and forth as they stride across the multi-coloured rocks. But she does stop humming. “So, what’d you say was here? Besides pretty rocks. And being almost virtually identical to your typical Earth mountain.”
“It’s not ‘pretty rocks’,” the Doctor frowns. “They’re like plants, Amy. You know how sunlight makes Earth plants green through photosynthesis and green chlorophyll? Well, there’s a different sort of sun here.” He indicates the red orb above. “So the rays make these Hyaluscian plants all sorts of colours.”
“Fascinating,” Rory intones, deadpan.
The Doctor glares at him. He makes his trademark pouty face. “You’re human. You can’t appreciate the miracles of nature.”
“And you can’t appreciate the miracles of Leonardo DiCaprio,” Amy mutters. “I can remember that silly little line perfectly fine, thanks.”
Rory buries his head in his hands.
“And that scene in the automobile -- can’t forget that hand on the window,” Amy continues, ignoring her husband. “And that scene where everyone’s complaining about not letting go and all that rubbish. And that scene where Kate Winslet’s posing naked for a sketch, and you can see her--”
Rory clears his throat hastily, his cheeks tinged red. “Anyways. What were you saying, Doctor?”
The Doctor is standing there, stunned, in the moment -- and he’s flushing furiously, too. “Hyalus. Right. That’s where I was. Um. You’ll see when we get there.”
And the three of them trudge across the rocks (well, plants), kicking up clouds of rainbow dust under their feet. Rory begins to whistle My Heart Will Go On with a little grin rising on the edges of his mouth, and Amy’s hiding an amused grin, because goddamnit, the Doctor blushed.
“This is the Temple of Hyalus,” the Doctor says. He gestures at the fiery orange structure on the purple plateau, decorated with what looks to be stained glass patterned down its sides. The colours clashes really bad, but well, the tourists like this sort of stuff in the upcoming years. If he remembers correctly, there’s a quaint gift shop that’ll be built on the foot of the mountain. He bought a tea set there, actually.
“Is this for the local religion or something?” Rory asks. He tilts his head sideways. The Doctor recognises the gesture, combined with Amy’s furtive blinking.
“No, Ponds,” he says. “No matter how you look at it, it won’t get any more attractive. Trust me. I tried, when I was here before. I put on 3D glasses. And a monocle. And a blindfold.
“So, not a religion. It’s just a recent superstition that started cropping up ever since your friendly neighborhood witch doctor set up shop one year ago. All the kids are stopping by!”
A cough sounds from the temple doorway. The Doctor turns around, and he’s face to face to an elderly woman, clad in a robe covered in silver fragments, and looking decidedly unimpressed. “I prefer being addressed as a priestess. A charmer, at the very least.”
“Ah. Priestess...Athena, if I remember correctly?” the Doctor amends, shrinking from her gaze.
“That is correct,” she says, inclining her head a fraction. “Please refrain from disrupting the other temple-goers from your rambling, boy. This is charmed ground.”
“Sorry. Won’t do it again, I promise.”
Priestess Athena gives him a look, and then sweeps back inside, silver twinkling behind her.
“Good job, Doctor,” Rory says. “You dragged us out to go hiking; you have a selective Titanic memory; you made Amy get Celine Dion stuck in my head; and you made person in charge of this place give us the evil eye!”
“You’re the one who was whistling.”
“Concentrate, Amy. Concentrate!”
Amy flicks Rory a wide smile, and kisses him on the cheek. “Not today, Mr. Pond. Want to ask the Doctor if he give us an awesome new car, just like in the movie?”
Rory performs the eye-roll this time, but he still kisses her back, tangling his fingers into hers.
The Doctor watches this exchange, the warmth brightening his eyes. He clenches his own fists, fingers twining together.
When the couple pull apart, a young girl steps out from the temple. Like the priestess, she’s wearing similarly themed clothes -- a raven black cloak, covered in gold flecks. “The Priestess said that you’d be here,” she says. “I am her apprentice, and I am your guide.”
“Charmer Minerva,” the Doctor supplies. He sticks his hand out, and she pointedly stares at his arm, her arms still folded comfortably in the swathes of fabric. When he wiggles his eyebrows at her in encouragement, she doesn’t respond.
“I’m the Doctor,” he says. Self-consciously, he tucks his hands into his pockets. “Over there’s Amy--” he gestures to his left side, then to his right -- “and over here’s Rory. We wish to see the Hyalus Fields.”
“It’s true name is Placebit Vecordia,” Minerva corrects. “That is the name on the maps of the land. The fields are not of just the planet, it is of itself. It is the cultivation grounds of the physical manifestations and joining of anima.”
“Um, Doctor?” Rory interrupts. “Why is the TARDIS translator making her spew out a bunch of Latin? I thought we’re all supposed to understand ourselves now.”
“Must be a bug,” he says. “I’ll fix it later. Anyways, she’s talking about the names of places. And some spirit-name things. You’ll get the gist of it.”
Minerva studies the Doctor curiously as he turns to talk to Rory. When she notices him eyeing her back, she relaxes the intensity of her gaze, withdrawing. “Come,” she says. “I’ll explain the rest of our practises once we reach the fields. You will understand once we arrive.”
She turns and begins walking, and Amy mouths you will understand once we arrive with an incredulous expression plastered across her face.
Very Yoda, the Doctor mouths back at her, miming a lightsaber.
Rory starts to whistle Darth Vader’s theme from behind them. Do-do-do-doot-da-do-do-da-doooo. Amy lands a swift kick on his shin, and he yelps.
The walk is very long. Hyalusians don’t seem to sweat, despite the heavy cloaks/robes/etc., and Minerva’s forehead is spotless of moisture while Amy’s panting from the climb, and Rory’s wiping sweat from his brow. Or maybe she’s just gotten a lot of practise with all this hiking.
“What’s wrong, Rory?” Amy asks, swiveling to stare at her limping husband. The Doctor slows down as well, and Minerva follows suit, again with that puzzled, furrowed expression.
“Bruised my thigh on that rock--tree--thing,” he says, wincing, and obviously attempting to save face. “I’m a nurse, Amy. I can survive.”
The Doctor leans to observe the small wound. Besides the quick forming purple blossoming under his skin, there’s an angry red scratch running across his leg. Without a second thought, he tugs off his shirt cuffs and presses it onto the injury. “Here. You know how to wrap it up, right?”
Rory scowls. “Of course!” He ties the piece of white fabric in a careful knot, while Amy mutters under her breath how accident-prone he is and shouldn’t medical professionals like him watch where they’re going?
The Doctor smothers a trace of blood on his thumb into his sleeves, which are now hopelessly frayed. With a sigh, he tears out another piece, casting it to the green-tinted soil.
“Don’t litter, Doctor,” Amy says, tutting. She picks up the squarish shape of cloth, and she brings up pure white, stowing it away into her jean pockets.
They halt at a path marker, which means that they’re getting close to the fields but somehow still aren’t there yet.
“The sculpture here illustrates the bond of the anima of individuals,” Minerva says. Her hand waves across the surface of shimmering glass. “The joining of souls that will always remain together, never separate. There is nothing that can destroy it -- not distance nor death nor pain nor quarrel. The blending animas always remain.”
But, well, they’re not really listening. Minerva turns away, impassively, and closes her eyes before the stained-glass window figures -- it’s the winding and winding of gleaming hands twisted together, smiling eyes and rainbow glowing all round. Very abstract, the Doctor supposes. It looks like Minerva’s praying, or something similar.
“So this is like--like a schmoopy Valentine’s Day hangout for couples,” Amy says.
The Doctor screws up his face, and then nods, because it was rather crowded the last time he arrived here.
“And this is a date,” Rory says.
“Exactly,” the Doctor agrees. “Don’t Earth couples like this sort of thing? There were loads of vacationing humans here before, after all. Well, after, technically, but semantics, stickmantics.”
And Amy’s just looking at him, eyes dancing up and down the length of the Doctor’s body. The Doctor -- ever the cartoon character -- tugs at his bowtie, and babbles on, “No, that’s not right. Semantics, skimantics. Um. Actually, shamantics. Semantics, sea manatees. No, that’s something different--”
“Stop talking, you clueless git,” Amy says, and she grabs his arm and kisses him, roughly presses her lips and teeth. Before she does, the Doctor shoots Rory a questioning look, and he says, “All yours. Until it’s my turn, of course.”
The Doctor puts a lot of relish into this kiss. Amy nips and bites his lips, and he’s surprised that her teeth doesn’t cut into his mouth, and it’s wonderful, it’s just like that time she was wrapping herself around him before, so eager and wanting and utterly, beautifully human.
Then she steps away, unruffling her creased blouse. “All yours, Pond Junior,” she announces, and to the Doctor’s pleased astonishment, my turn meant a snogging session with him.
Rory gives the Doctor a quick look over and then their mouths meet at the same point. He kisses soft, gentle, unlike Amy, and this touch tingles on his lips. “Thought you said you weren’t gay, Rory,” he says with a lopsided grin.
“Because I’m bi,” he says, rolling his eyes.
The Doctor considers this. “No: omni, I should think. If you fancying that shy little agender blob on that moon a couple of days ago is anything to go by.” (Fancying. Hah. Stuttering and clumsy random compliments, more like. Zie was sweet, in a twee sort of way, and zie did help them with the Save the Day business.)
“Polyamorous,” Amy pipes up.
“And who was the one who making eyes at that stripper on that gambling planet--?”
Amy makes an irritated noise on the back of her throat. “She was a professional dancer, Rory. Her culture’s dancing just happens to involve with removal of clothes. Not like there’s anything wrong with strippers, though,” she adds, eyes glazed over.
“Can we start snogging again?” the Doctor whines plaintively.
“Hang on, just got to finish this,” Rory says, patting the Doctor lightly on the shoulder. “I have to say that I’m not Pond Junior, Amy. You’re Pond Junior. I’m Pond Senior.”
“I’m the Doctor of Fezzes and Fish Fingers, and under their supreme authority, I say,” the Doctor announces, “that we have to start snogging now. Got a problem with that?”
“Not at all,” Amy says cheerfully, and Rory nods, although he’s murmuring bitterly under his breath Pond Senior, Amelia, it’s Senior.
Of course, Minerva has to began walking now, which prompts a chorus of simultaneous of groans on a level that the Doctor believed only primary students could achieve. But, well, they go on, Amy in the centre of her boys, the Doctor on her left, and Rory on the right as they continue forward.
Amy’s nails are a startlingly brilliant shade of blue.
Inexplicably, the Doctor thinks of a door closing shut.
A voice haunting him: rule one the doctor always lies.
The Doctor always lies.
Even to himself.
The Hyalus Fields, or Placebit Vecordia, as Minerva had corrected them is -- well. It’s breathless. It could be an ordinary meadow in any other time or any other place, but it is vibrancy in itself: specks of transparent rocks dotting the land, seemingly spanning the length of the sky.
“This is gorgeous,” Amy whispers reverently.
Rory nods numbly in agreement. “I can see why they worship this place, or whatever they do here.”
“Valentine’s Day,” the Doctor reminds them, but he’s glad he’s here again, even just for the stunned looks on the Ponds’ faces.
Then Minerva speaks, and she tells a tale.
Anima bonds, she says in one second. Matching, she says in another. Together, she says in the next breath. Always, is her last.
It should be bloody cheesy, be some stupid Hollywood movie waxing about never letting go, nothing on Earth could come between them. But the Doctor’s shaking.
He’s a scientist, at the core.
He knows that she’s spewing fantasy, not legend. He knows (or should know) what’s real and what’s not.
He knows that he’s a fool, that of course, he would come back to the one place that would reinforce his belief that Amy and Rory are here, that they always would be at his side. Of course he would lap up myths at the drop of a hat; he’s a myth himself, after all.
Minerva says, “What souls linger with you still?”
The Doctor dips a finger into a pool of water at his feet, and sucks on it curiously. Rainbow-tinted shaded, how strange. “Ponds,” he says, and perhaps he was listening to Minerva and perhaps he wasn’t.
The water tastes nothing sweet or sour or unusual. It is rain water, fresh with petrichor, leaving red and yellow streaks on his tongue. It’s not real water, because there is no blue.
Amy bends down to cup the shards in her hand -- three: red blue yellow -- glinting on her palm. “Oi! Doctor, Rory!” she calls.
“Yeah?” Rory says. He stoops down to kneel by her side.
“They clicked,” she says. “Look, all three of them fit.”
The Doctor squints at the three piece puzzle gleaming in Amy’s hand, and she’s right. The shards slot together perfectly in a triangle, a pyramid.
“It’s a clover, Doctor,” she says, and she’s suddenly very far away. “It’s a three leaf clover.”
The Doctor’s vision blurs as he reaches to catch the glass. The wind breaks past him: the pieces slip through the cracks, and the Doctor is left in the middle of a field of china flowers, tears smudged in his face, and jagged glass pricking into his skin. He whispers,
“I’m the king of the world.”