It’d been months since the Doctor had lost Amy and Rory. The Ponds. His Ponds. He knew that the grieving had to end soon; it was getting ridiculous. Day after day, the Doctor locked himself up in the TARDIS, ignoring the outside world even if and when River would drop in and ask – plead with – the Doctor to snap out of it. He never did, and the pained expression engraved on his wife’s face each time he refused cut him deeply.
She stopped visiting after a while. A letter was the only thing telling him that he hadn’t lost her as well:
A bit caught up in some alien rubbish.
Promise to find you later.
With all my love,
Time dragged on. The Doctor was still alone with his grief. Though, instead of holing up in his box, the madman meandered about some backwater planet where the biggest native inhabitants were a bizarre colony of miniature troll-like creatures with an affinity for eating mashed rocks. The Doctor found the creatures amusing. Scuttling about frantically on hair, calloused feet, they presented him with an assortment of rocks and gems meant to be edible. He politely took them, but rather than breaking his teeth, he put them in a neat pile.
He contemplated staying on the planet indefinitely. No one demanded his attention there, and he didn’t have any companions to put in mortal danger for once in his long and extended travels.
… Or so he thought until the day came where the rock-gobbling creatures were caught up in a horrific tizzy. They dashed about, gravely voices rumbling about another foreign visitor from the stars. This hooked the Doctor’s attention and he questioned the natives, asking for whatever information they knew about the intruder. All he could make out was that the newcomer was a female of an ageless state – whatever that meant – and that she was excavating one of their sacred burial caverns to the South.
The Doctor tried to ignore and stifle the urge to traverse the surprisingly short distances to the caverns, but it didn’t work nearly as well as he hoped. In a matter of hours, (“Two hours? That’s nothing!” he’d exclaimed before leaving the main village), the Time Lord found himself in the mouth of the largest caver, listening to the clack of footsteps echoing up from within the darkness.
He wanted to turn to his Ponds and whisper his joy at such a terrific mystery, but the stark emptiness of the space beside him made his jaw clench and eyes sting. Instead, he carefully walked forward allowing the cavern’s blackness to envelop him. He took out his sonic screwdriver to create an eerie sphere of light around him.
He expected it to be dark and nearly impossible to see into, but to his surprise, the interior was covered with a brilliant copper that sparkled like starshine. Almost letting out a gasp, the Doctor trotted to the center of the room. He pivoted left and right, eyes wide and mouth growing a smile.
“It’s beautiful,” he mumbled, “Absolutely and completely beautiful.”
The cavern’s roof was much larger on the inside than it seemed on the outside. The Doctor didn’t fail in letting out a chuckled at the coincidence. On the copper there were intricate patterns that detailed the lives of every single rock creature that lay buried deeper within. He didn’t understand some of the pictures, but the Doctor couldn’t help but stare for what seemed like hours at the ceiling and walls. The Time Lord almost didn’t want to go farther in and nearly forgot what the creatures had been so up in arms about.
“Right, time to go,” he told himself firmly. With one last gaze at the main room, the Doctor reluctantly forced his legs to carry him through a tunnel into another section of the burial caverns.
This room was painted rather than plated with a metal. The colors seemed to resemble dusk’s light, and the muted indigos and pinks seemed to soothe whoever laid eyes upon them. It was smaller and less grand than the main room, but the Doctor found it incredibly lovely anyway.
He thought he was alone and he thought he’d have to go much deeper into the caverns to find what he was looking for. Unexpectedly, he found the intruder in the dusk room.
She was sitting atop of what seemed like a throne. Her elegant blue dress covered the throne’s arms and her hands were folded delicately in her lap. A smile graced her pretty face, and the Doctor found himself thinking that she resembled old Earth paintings of enchantresses before all thought processes ceased as she spoke.
“Well, it certainly took you long enough to find me, didn’t it, Doctor?”
The Doctor’s hearts very nearly gave out as he realized who the woman perched so gracefully on the throne was. His eyes filled with tears, and for once, he let them fall unabashed in front of a dear friend he thought he’d lost forever after the Time War.