AN: This is what happens when I stay up too late thinking about the Hammer of the Gods. Spoilers for that episode, along with Changing Channels. For Doctor Who, spoilers for the Doctor's backstory, Gallifrey, the Master and stuff. In case it isn't clear, the first paragraph is about the Doctor, the second is about Gabriel, the rest is about both.
"Oh, [I was one of] the ones that ran away! I never stopped."
Running from the Timelords, a society corrupted by stagnancy. Running from the pompous and self-righteous immortals who observe everything but refuse to interfere. Running as curiosity and adventure win out over caution and obedience, as the most devastating war in all of time and space is waged, as they go to unimaginable lengths to defeat the enemy. Running from his people who wish to confine him, because he will never give up his freedom. Running from his guilt, unable to face the death and tears left in his wake. The flames of his dying planet climb higher, and all he can see for the future is loss and destruction. He will not stand to be trapped by their rules and restrictions; he is unwilling to see the universe destroyed in one last desperate act.
Running from the angels, a family torn apart by war. Running from the pompous and self-righteous immortals who won't see human beings as anything other than flawed tools. Running as brother turns on brother, as they fight and kill, stopping at nothing to destroy the other, willing to take the Earth down with them. Running from the Winchesters as they call him a coward, because they are right. Running from the truth, unable to face his fears and pick a side. The flames of the holy fire are extinguished, and all he can see for the future is loss and destruction. He cannot stand to watch loved ones hurt loved ones; he is incapable of murdering his kin in an endless, millennium old feud.
Their mistake, the catalyst that sets off everything else, is to love and care too much. To love their family, their people, their kind. And then to care for those who take them in when they run away, when they have nowhere else to go. Their second family sprouts up around them without conscious desire. They are unable to stand aside as family turns on family, gods against gods, lords against peasants.
Doctor. Loki. A name, a lie, a disguise, a mask of laughter and confidence, concealing the depths of their inhumanness, the otherness of an ancient being. So many names and titles, and while all are true, none of them fit completely anymore. Each word is only a small fraction of the whole. Doctor, Timelord, the Oncoming Storm. Gabriel, Archangel, Loki. Hiding behind grins and candy, as if those could sweeten reality. Covering up the horrible deeds of their past, the unseen wounds, those bloody gashes on their souls, born from catastrophic battles beyond human comprehension. Shame and grief spanning across centuries are locked behind dancing, clever eyes; quick, expressive eyebrows; and amused, knowing smirks. All the regrets, the mistakes, everything good gone wrong, lurk beneath the cheer and childishness. They are Tricksters relying on their wits and deceptions to survive the unforgivingly harsh universe. Lonely Gods wandering everywhere, worshipped, feared and hated by countless people, but still with nowhere to genuinely call home. The recipient of so much misplaced faith and trust. Too many expectations are placed on their shoulders, myths and ideals that they could never live up to. They may be gods, but they are also people, with flaws and failings of their own.
So, so incredibly old, living through countless eras, watching as civilizations rise and fall, as mountains grow and sink back into the ground, as inevitable and unrelenting as the tide. Unlike the rest of their kind, they not only watch, they also experience. They are in the midst of things, feeling pain and pleasure, interacting with others, meddling with history. They finally discover the joy and misery of being affected by things first hand. They delight in the freedom; their view of the world is no longer filtered and controlled by those of higher status. This is why they ran, why they exiled themselves, because they could never fit in with their kind. But even though it was their choice, it doesn't stop the pain, the aching emptiness that can only be filled by the kind of companionship they can never find, not while they live like this. It is worth it, however, and neither of them would go back and change that, even if they could.
Although they spurn their ilk and all of their methods and procedures, they still continue their duties, albeit in a completely different way. They punish the wicked, restore order to the universe and even follow and enforce some of the major rules, the ones worth obeying. They might be outcasts, but this does not change their nature, the core of what they were brought up to be.
Neither are truly good, not with everything they've done, not with the righteous storm inside. Not while they punish those they think deserving, with what they see fit, no one able to stop or veto them. Yet neither could be called evil, not when they defeat evildoers, saving people in the process. Not when they would die and kill to save those they love.
Both are betrayed by ones they call brothers, ones who seek to conquer and rule, to end the Earth. Despite its many flaws, humanity is still worth saving, because at least they try to become better. They cajole, desperate to talk their fallen friend out of their rampage, trying to make them understand, to make them appreciate the remarkable world the humans have built up from sticks and mud. They speak, not wanting to kill, unwilling to give up, even as they are shunned and rejected, even as the corpses of their slaughtered adopted family cover the ground, because they cannot despise the man who once was their comrade, and despite everything, they will always forgive them.
In the end they don't back down, turning against those who raised them in favor of those who saved them, because their true loyalty is with people. Burning Gallifrey for the rest of the universe. Fighting Lucifer for Kali (and for the Winchesters and the planet). It destroys them, both physically and mentally. In those moments, they face the truth: that it's too late to go back, and however much they strive for peace and reconciliation, things can never return to how they were, before everything changed, before they ran away. Once, after a very long while, they stop running, just long enough to face their nightmares and save the world.
"This is me, standing up..."
AN: The quotes come from the Doctor in the episode The Sound of Drums, and Gabriel in The Hammer of the Gods, respectively.