Time is like water flowing over the land. At first, it's simple, a little trickle. As more possibilities are added, the trickle turns into a creek, then a stream, then finally, into a river.
Through each step of the way, each centimeter traveled, the water doesn't always move at the same speed, or even always in the same direction. It swirls. It twists. Fixed points jut out like boulders, forcing the flow in a different direction, even churning the currents into a deadly froth.
Sometimes, the water all but stops in a place, forming ponds and lakes before it continues on its journey.
But the water, like Time itself, relentlessly moves toward a destination. It might stop, turn in on itself, and go in circles, but there is always an end.
All ends are also beginnings.
"These look like the classic little green men," Rose told the Doctor as they strode through the Anthona festival in Alteria, the biggest city on Asgard.
They were surrounded by festival goers. They were all different sizes and shapes, and all were going on with their lives peacefully. Many of the people were of one type: tall and thin, with heads that looked like they were a bit too large for their bodies. They even had the large eyes and small mouths.
"That's not this lot," the Doctor told her. "Those are more grayish and from Rinlo." Rose shook her head and smiled, never entirely sure if he was having her on or not when he said things like that. She blamed an incident when he was in the first body she knew him in, where he tried to get her to believe one of the Muppets were really an alien and laughed about it.
"I'm still waiting for Thor," Rose teased.
"Ah, the Norse god of thunder is overrated," the Doctor replied, looking a little jealous. "There are eighteen different planets with sentient species that take the name Asgard independently," he lectured.
They stopped at a stall where brightly colored kinetic toys were displayed. Rose picked up a red, spinning toy and examined it, trying to decide whether or not it would be a good gift for her brother's fourth birthday.
"For Tony?" the Doctor asked from over Rose's shoulder. At her nod, he said, "I think he'll love it." He handed the vendor a few coins. The vendor thanked them and handed the Doctor the box for the toy.
While moving through the market, they also found some mercury putty and a toy spaceship. Mercury putty was a lot like the silly putty of Rose's time, but was silver colored and more motile.
A couple of people who looked like humans went by, holding hands and talking animatedly. Both of them had shocking red hair. The Doctor watched them go by with a grin on his face.
"You aren't being jealous, are ya?" Rose teased.
"Oh, no," he said sincerely. "They're newlyweds. Married just last week. In a month or so, she'll find out she's expecting."
"Awww," Rose cooed. "That kid's gonna have some seriously red hair, and I wouldn't want that skin," she commented.
"Me either," the Doctor admitted with a chuckle. "Their very strawberry daughter is going to make great strides in biomechanical research," he said.
She still wasn't used to that. The Doctor didn't used to point out details about random people's lives back when he was still one person. He'd say something about how so and so would go on to do great things, or their children would, sure. But it had always been people who had helped them or they saved.
This part human Doctor did it often. It was a deeper version of people watching, she figured. The other Doctor had started doing it a little bit too, but rarely.
"I wish I could do that," Rose said. "Get a glimpse into people's lives like that. I used to sit in the park and watch people. I'd try to figure out who they were by how they dressed, or how they acted."
She knew she had the ability to see timelines, but she could apparently only access the ability by accident or when asleep. It'd been the cause of close to half of her nightmares, and some good dreams too. The Doctors theorized that if she could gain control of her ability, she'd have a lot less nightmares.
Both Doctors had tried a couple of times to teach her how to follow the timelines, but so far, nothing worked. All Rose had been able to accomplish were massive headaches and confusion. Because of the headaches, it wasn't something they tried often.
"You can," the Doctor confidently asserted. "You'll learn to control the ability. Just remember that it's not all good stories." He wrapped his arm around her. "You've got something we don't have, though. You won't be having to block it out all the time. It should make it easier to lock on and follow a handful of possibilities."
"That's what he said last time we tried it," Rose told the Doctor. "Speakin' of 'imself, when are we supposed to meet up with 'im?"
"In, oh, about 27 minutes," the Doctor replied. He looked around at the festival and added, "Actually, we should probably start moving that way."
They were on Asgard to see the Dance of the Moons, a show only put on one day a year, when all four moons could be seen in the sky at one time.
Traditionally, the Dance of the Moons was observed while taking part in a picnic style meal. The people of Asgard would come from all over. Since their population was so low, the audience would have plenty of room. The Anthona Festival and the Dance had started becoming an attraction, though, and because of that, the Dance of the Moons had started being organized. Where a family could walk in to the grounds and pop their blanket anywhere they wanted to before, they now had to obtain tickets that told them where they could lay out their spread.
The locals didn't want to give up the tradition of picnicking while the dance was going on, so it had become hard to get one of the limited passes. This year's Dance was supposed to be extraordinary.
The current wait for passes was ten years, and psychic paper didn't work on these people. Good thing they had a time machine. The Doctor with two hearts popped back in time to get them passes. They'd have all gone, but, like the man standing next to her had said, the TARDIS would get back for sure if they were there.
They slowly made their way to the ancient crater turned amphitheater where the Dance was going to take place, stopping once to watch a street performer doing something with a glass ball that made it look like it was flying around.
Two minutes before they were due to meet the other Doctor, Rose felt her bonds with the ancient TARDIS, the Time Lord inside, and the TARDIS coral inside snap back into place. He was back.
They went to the TARDIS to meet up with the other Doctor. Just as they got to the blue box, the Time Lord stepped out, carrying the picnic basket.
"I take it you got the passes?" Rose asked the Doctor in brown.
"Yes, I did. As if that was ever in any doubt. I did one better, though," the Doctor declared, grinning. "I got us a good spot."
"Ooohh," Rose enthused.
The trio of time travelers went to the field that the Dance was performed in. After checking in and finding the spot marked with their pass number, they laid out the blanket and settled in to watch the show that would start soon.
"Oh, we picked up your present for Tony too," the Doctor in blue told his twin as he pulled out a plate of nibbles.
"Ooh, goodie. What'd I get him?" the other Doctor asked.
"Mercury putty," Rose answered.
"He'll love that," the Time Lord replied happily. "Jackie might not, though," he realized, pulling a face.
The Doctor in blue shook his head and said, "Well, then, you should have chosen your own gift."
"It'll be okay," Rose assured him.
They relaxed and watched the people around them. The blanket next to them had three older kids fighting over who would sit where until their parents sat them down and told them that was where they were going to sit. The blanket to the other side had a couple who were feeding each other small fruits. They called each other, "Sweetheart," and, "Dear." Various people who obviously knew one another were waving to and visiting one another. Two of the people were probably Time travelers as well. When they met each other, instead of asking the usual, "Hey, how are you? How long has it been?" they asked, "How long has it been for you?"
"You ever think we should have pet names?" the part human Doctor asked, watching the couple next to him. Gods, they were disgustingly sweet. Unfortunately, the most likely outcome for them was that they wouldn't last more than a year.
"Why would we need that?" his brown suited counterpart questioned, scoffing. "What we have now works just fine."
"Thank you for your opinion, Spaceman, but I was asking the other person with Earth based DNA," he shot back. Rose slapped his arm and pointed at him, wordlessly telling him to behave.
"See? We already have pet names," his twin responded, unperturbed.
"So, what do you think, Love?" the Doctor asked Rose, ignoring the man in the brown suit.
"Love?" she asked, grinning.
"Love," he confirmed, grabbing her hand and kissing it softly, as if it were a formal greeting.
"I like it," Rose told him.
"Ooh, is that-?" the other Doctor asked, perking up. There were people walking to the performance area at the bottom of the ancient crater. The other two Time travelers looked up and took the scene in as well.
"Looks like they're finishing the set up," Rose observed, gesturing to a few people carrying boxes.
"Won't be long now," the Doctor in blue commented enthusiastically. He pulled a few items out of the basket and handed each of them a drink and a bowl of fruits.
The last part of the setup happened quickly, the contents of the boxes were laid out over the area and the crew left. People around them started settling down and get ready to watch the show.
"The Dance will start when the first moon is fully visible," the Time Lord Doctor informed her. Rose looked up at the sky and could see the edge of one moon just poking over the edge of the crater.
"The first moon is called Vaniel. It's the slowest and the smallest of the four moons. The festival officially ends when it disappears on the other side of the crater. Technically, the festival really doesn't start until right now, but celebrations have been going on all day," the Doctor in blue explained.
The sun was going down quickly, turning the sky into various shades of blue and purple. A breeze kicked up and the air cooled considerably. Rose shuddered at the sudden chill and one of her jackets dropped on her shoulders a moment later. She looked back and smiled at the Doctors, not knowing which one had done it.
The lights in the pond that had formed at the based of the crater turned on and the pond turned into a swirling mass of color that reminded Rose of the colorful fiber optic toys from the time she came from. Every color of the rainbow, plus white moved around in circles in the water.
Rose could feel the excitement coming off of all the people around them. It was so strong, she could almost taste it. It made her feel jittery, so she closed her empathic abilities down so she could enjoy the show herself.
After a couple more minutes, a light instrumental music started up. It was a slow, plucking melody that reminded Rose of the melody that played in cartoons when someone was stalking someone else. Dancers came down from the crater, moving between the rows of people in time with the beat. Each dancer was wearing purely white clothing that fluttered as they moved toward the pond.
Once each dancer made it to the bottom of the pond, they started dancing in a circle, the clothing they wore changed colors as they moved around.
The show told the story of the four sisters who became the moons. The show included dancers who were flying over the pond using anti-gravity devices. The Doctors explained that the anti-gravity was a recent development. They had used wires before, but the technology had allowed them to tell their story better.
Rose watched, entranced. The show was beautiful. The moons themselves were incorporated into the story. The dancers would draw the spectators' attention to the sky whenever a key event took place, such as another moon appearing.
The first part of the show ended, and Rose turned her attention back to the Doctors, both of which were holding her hands.
"This is brilliant," Rose told them happily.
"I'm glad you love it," the Doctor in brown replied. "Credit where credit's due, though. It was his idea to come today."
Rose leaned over to the part human Doctor. "Thank you," she said, giving him a kiss. He hummed in happiness.
The other Doctor was digging around in the basket they had brought with them and pulled out a thermos with an, "Aha!"
The Doctor she had just kissed reached out his hand and took the thermos from him. He opened it up, sniffed the contents, and exclaimed, "Oh, Rose, you're gonna love this! Should have some crushed ice, though." He looked at his twin with his eyebrow raised.
"I got us the passes. I got us the basket. What more do you want from me?" he asked in defense.
"Crushed ice," he replied simply. When the Time Lord rolled his eyes, and Rose shook her head, he laughed and said, "I'll go get us some." He got up, and took off. All three of them knew that the ice wouldn't last long enough to have brought it with them, not for their purposes anyway.
Rose watched him walk up toward the edge of the crater with appreciation. The Doctor turned back and winked after she sent a thought to him. When she turned back to the Doctor in the brown pinstriped suit, she asked. "Do I ever tell you how much I appreciate those tight trousers?"
The Doctor watched Rose watching the show out of the corner of his eye. She was enjoying it, he could tell.
He himself had wanted to take in this particular show for a long time, but with many centuries ahead of him, he kept putting it off. This wasn't the case anymore. He had a humanish lifespan with human physical weaknesses. And now, because of it, he wanted to get the one time only things on his bucket list done.
This show was the third Dance of the Moons after they incorporated anti-gravity. They'd learned how to use it to its potential and the creativity of the choreographers was at an all time high. It made for a stunning display.
After the first half of the Dance was over, he took the chance to get some crushed ice for their Arkinplor slushies. As he walked up to the drinks stand, he heard, "Nice bum," in his mind in that dual layered voice Rose had mentally. He turned back and winked at her before continuing up.
At the stand, the Doctor picked up his bucket of ice and turned around. Right in front of him stood a woman with a familiar face, one he hadn't thought about in close to a year.
Oh, no. This wasn't going to end well. He'd hoped he wouldn't see that face again for a long time. And he was having such a nice day.
"I knew it had to be you. You're the only one that ever wears that suit. Nice bum." She winked and clicked her tongue. "I've been looking for you everywhere here." Then she said something that made his blood run cold.