“What about that one?” Clara asked, head kinked to the left, one eye closed as she directed a lean digit toward a reddish-orange dot of light in the night sky; she resettled herself against the warm, comforting false-wood exterior of the TARDIS until she felt its heat suffuse her, even going so far as to cheekily rub her itching shoulder blade against the rough contours of the door frame. With no atmospheric distortions separating them from the stars, each one seemed close enough to reach out and touch.
“That one,” replied the Doctor, tilting his head and following the line of Clara's finger to its destination, “is Groombridge 34. Eleven light years away, it has one planet and four moons, and it will be colonised by humans in about-” he allowed his head to wiggle from side to side as he did the arithmetic “-sixty years from now.”
“And?” Clara turned to look at the Doctor, her brown eyes alert and interested. Adventuring was all well and good, but sometimes it was nice just to have a break and reflect. It helped that the TARDIS was in need of refuelling and had locked them out of the console room for the duration of their pit-stop. When he was in the mood for it, the Doctor was a veritable warehouse of information and he was always looking to share it with someone. So long as the knowledge didn't foul-up the Space/Time continuum, that is.
“And what?” he asked, a confused look creasing his already wrinkled features, making him appear even more hawkish than usual.
“How many times have you been there, of course?”
“Oh. Just the once.” He let his head rest against the TARDIS' door, the backlit sign giving his greying shock of hair an eerie blue glow; already skinny and wraith-like, it was easy to imagine him as some supernatural being come to wreak havoc.
Then again, most of his enemies already thought of him that way.
The Doctor regarded Clara with a patient smile. “Third incarnation. Cybermen. They wanted a staging post that was close to the resurgent Dalek Empire so that they could keep tabs on them and probe for any weaknesses. Fortunately for the colonists, and myself, there were significant gold deposits close to the surface. I reprogrammed several captured Cybermats to attack their masters with heavily concentrated bursts of gold dust.”
“Sort of a glitter gun?”
“Yeah, that's what they called it, too,” replied the Doctor, throwing his hands up in exasperation. The ability of human beings to be incredibly facetious, especially under duress, both fascinated and irked him. “Of course, following the invention of the glitter gun, the Cybermen began reinforcing their artificial lungs with superconductors that repelled even minute traces of gold.” Such was always the case in warfare, he knew: a technological advantage only remained so until the enemy found a way of defeating it. In the Time War, the Daleks had eventually rendered the entire contents of the Omega Arsenal – the most devastating collection of weaponry ever assembled – null and void.
When Clara didn't say anything for a while, the Doctor pulled out his sonic sunglasses from his inside coat pocket and put them on. A low whirring sound emanated from them for a few seconds, and the Doctor hefted a sigh before returning them to his jacket. “It's going to be another hour at least.”
“Am I boring you?”
“Not at all,” replied the Doctor, “but this-” he gestured to the expansive view of the universe “-is a bit rubbish, isn't it? I mean, just sitting. Not doing anything. No running, jumping, or climbing over walls to escape from a horde of bug-eyed monsters.” He stuck his tongue out in distaste. “Is this what real life is like? Sitting and watching as things pass you by?”
“Kind of, yeah,” said Clara, trying not to show just how stung she was by that comment. Oh, she knew how irascible the Doctor was when he got bored, but he usually stopped short of insulting all the lower life-forms he lorded it over. Usually. “You'd never consider it, then? A real life? Settling down, getting a job, meeting someone?”
“I've met loads of someones.”
“And how are they all?” asked Clara, not at all certain that she was doing the best job of keeping the ire out of her voice.
“You have history books. You can see for yourself. Do any of them happen to make mention of the dashing Time Lord who so graciously threw his life on the line for them?”
“No, they don't.”
“There you go, then,” said the Doctor, chucking a bit of loose gravel out into space. He was momentarily transfixed by it blossoming into a cloud of dust, each speck glittering brilliantly in the effulgent rays of the sun, when it passed through the TARDIS' shields, but he soon lost interest in the minor spectacle and went back to moping. “They always forget about me in the end.”
“Not everyone,” Clara said quietly.
The Doctor considered this before offering a shrug. “Clara, you have probably the most intimate association with my timeline out of anyone I've ever met. How much of it do you remember?”
“Doctor, that isn't fair. It's all-”
“-Wibbly-wobbly, I know. The point is, if even you, who has literally lived my life alongside me, doesn't remember, then what chance does anyone else have?”
An hour passed in silence.
“So. What are we gonna do about this asteroid?” Clara finally ventured to ask.
“Leave it here,” the Doctor replied with a roguish smile as he pushed open the TARDIS' doors. “Earth has a second moon in the future.”
“Oh, shut up, you're making that up,” Clara said, punching him lightly on the arm as they made their way to the console.
“Am not,” the Doctor said protestingly as the doors closed.
As the TARDIS departed, the asteroid exploded into a million fragments; the resulting meteor shower filled Earth's skies with incandescent, cerise streamers that lasted well into the night.