The TARDIS console room was practically empty, only the soft hum of the engines preventing the Doctor from being engulfed in complete silence. His long brown coat was draped over one of the padded handrails which surrounded the central area of the room, water dripping from it on to the mesh flooring of the time machine. The Doctor, too, was soaked though but it was the last thing on his mind right now.
Atmospheric disturbance, he had told Wilfred, causing a downpour across the world. A downpour that seemed to match the tone of the moment, not just for the inhabitants of Earth, but for those of twenty-six other planets, all of which would be in mourning for those they had lost. Just like the Doctor was.
Sighing slightly, the Doctor pulled down on the large lever of the TARDIS console, prompting the central pillar of light to pulse more rapidly, the groaning of the engines increasing as the machine began to dematerialise. As always, the TARDIS lurched and groaned as it entered the time vortex, but still the Doctor remained at the console, staring up at the central pillar on occasion. He did nothing, said nothing, only remembered.
Hours earlier, the console room had been full of life, the TARDIS manned, for the first time in a long time, by an entire crew. The Children of Time, as Dalek Cann had named them. Those whose lives had been touched, and changed, by the Doctor.
Martha Jones, wonderful, brilliant Martha Jones. When they had met, she had been a promising doctor-in-training, willing to take on the responsibility of holding the lives of others in her hands. Since then though, she had taken on so much more. Looking up at that screen in the Dalek Crucible, watching as Martha sat with the Osterhagen key in hand, he wondered what he had turned her in too.
Deep down, however, the Doctor knew that Martha would only do what she thought was right. He had seen that, when he observed her at UNIT during that mess with the Sontarans. She had been right to point out that she was one of the few who was unarmed. Martha may have been working for UNIT now, may have held so much more on her shoulders, but she was still a doctor. She was still out to help people. To make people better. Just like the Doctor himself. They were both doing it in their own way, not charging about a hospital following orders. Horrible things, hospitals, he thought. Apart from the ones that had a shop. He did like a little shop.
"Nevermind that! What about the Judoon?"
The Doctor smiled ever so slightly as he remembered Martha's words from their first meeting. Even then she had her priorities right, not being distracted by the sometimes fantastic things around them. Even the Doctor got distracted by the fantastic offerings of the Universe sometimes, exploding suns, wonderful species, little shops, but not Martha Jones. Throughout all of their journeys together, that determination had shone through.. And it was that determination that had saved not only the Earth, but the Doctor himself. He hated to imagine the year that she had gone through, under his instruction, travelling the world in order to overthrow the reign of the Master. He hated the fact that he had been forced to ask her to do it for him, but there had been no other way. Everyone else had forgotten that year, the year the Master was in control of the Earth, the terror and destruction that he had reaped upon the planet, but Martha would never forget, it was a part of her past.
But that was all it was now, part of the past. He knew he should look to the future, just like Martha would be doing.
And who knew what the future held for Martha Jones. She had left the TARDIS with Captain Jack, something that, a long time ago, the Doctor would not have considered a sensible thing for any young woman, or man infact, knowing Jack, to do. It had made him realise how he had much he had come to trust in Jack Harkness. Perhaps the only person still alive who might understand the curse of a Time Lord. However, unlike the Doctor, Jack would live for billions of years, not worrying running out of bodies to regenerate in too. On the downside though, the Doctor considered, no chance of ever being ginger.
Just like Martha, Jack had worked, in the name of the Doctor, to make things better. However much the Doctor disagreed with guns, bananas are much better for you he thought, he had admired Jacks vision of Torchwood. From the little he had seen, it was a long stretch from the almost sickeningly corporate organisation that had been Torchwood London. From what he understood, Jack had spent a lifetime, or lifetimes, trying to change things, to make a difference. He knew exactly why Jack Harkness was so dedicated. He knew what it was like to have an almost infinite life before him, knew what it was like to have the desire to do something worthwhile with it. The Doctor tended not to think about his own future, he knew he would die for good someday whether it be at the gun of a Dalek, the hands of a Cyberman or, god forbid, tripping over a brick.
Jack's future, however, was destined to continue for millions, no, billions, of years. When Jack had revealed the nickname he held during his youth, The Face of Boe, even the Doctor had been sceptical that the enigmatic captain could ever become the wise alien being that the Time Lord had met all so briefly. With time to reflect, however, it made sense. The Doctor had wondered how the Face of Boe could possibly know of the existence of the Master; but it seemed it was an old friend giving a warning of the future. The Doctor's future that was, the Face of Boe, Captain Jack's, past.
Oh, Jack. The Doctor thought. Just when he thought the ex-time agent couldn't get any more enigmatic. Impossible. That is what the Face of Boe had said to the claim that his life had spanned over billions of years. If there was anyone, anything, in the universe who could be described as impossible, it was Captain Jack. And perhaps the Doctor himself of course, though he liked to think improbable described him a little better.
Improbable. A long time ago, the Doctor would have used that word to describe the chance that Mickey Smith would ever help save the world. Granted, they had both changed since the pair first met, the Doctor more so, but the change in Mickey was so unexpected. So much so, in fact, that it had helped him find a new faith in people and what they could achieve if given the right chance, the right inspiration.
There was no doubt as to what Mickey's inspiration was, to start with atleast.
The Doctor sighed deeply as the central column of the TARDIS lurched up and down. He looked over to the handrail, where his coat was draped, where she so often stood.
Mickey had so wanted to prove himself to her, prove that he too could be a hero, that he was worth her affection. That changed however, during their time in the parallel universe, Pete's World as the Doctor had once dubbed it, when Mickey found something else to fight for. He had given up so much, someone he had spent so long waiting for, to fight for a world that was not his own, just because he was needed. The Doctor had gotten so used to just leaving, having faith that whoever he had just saved could look after themselves from then on. That approach had proven to have disastrous consequences in the past, but he had learnt it was for the best. For him, anyway. Never look back. Not Mickey though. He knew he was needed and that was all that mattered.
He seemed to have changed even more since the Battle of Canary Wharf too. He didn't know if he just hadn't noticed, but the Doctor was sure Mickey and Rose hadn't shared a goodbye. His relationship with Jackie, however, seemed better than it ever had been. He knew it had been strained in the past, particularly when Jackie was convinced that Mickey had murdered her daughter, but they had since put aside their differences, supporting each other whilst Rose was off travelling with the Doctor.
Oh, Jackie. Jackie, Jackie, Jackie. He knew what it was like to be lonely and that was a feeling he had thrust upon Jackie Tyler the moment he had invited Rose in to the TARDIS. It was only know that he truly realised how she must have felt. Her flat, her and Rose's home, so empty, so quiet, just like the TARDIS now was. Jackie and the Doctor had always had a slightly rocky relationship, what else had he expected, he thought to himself.
"900 years of travelling in time and space and I've never been slapped by someone's Mother."
Although Jackie had learnt to trust, like and possibly even respect the Doctor, he knew there was only one reason she had travelled between dimensions. What other reason would there be? The Doctor seemed to have quite a collection of determined friends, everyone with something different to fight for. Jackie and the Doctor, however, shared, for a time at least, their drive to carry on. The Doctor was forced to give up on the hope of seeing her again but he knew Jackie never would. Why would she? Rose was her daughter and the Doctor knew that she was the one thing Jackie Tyler would never stop fighting for.
The Doctor knew exactly how that felt, he had been so painfully reminded not so long ago when a sample of his DNA was manipulated, creating his 'daughter', Jenny. It was part of the wonder of nature, the Doctor thought, the bond between parent and child, the instincts of a parent to protect no matter what the costs. He had seen it in the eyes of Jackie Tyler and of his old friend, Sarah Jane Smith. Luke wasn't even her own son, but he had seen that bond between them as she looked at the boy on the monitor of the TARDIS. A boy, left without a place in the world until Sarah Jane offered him one. That was his Sarah Jane.
When he left her, all those years, life times even, ago, he knew that she wouldn't go on to lead a normal human life, that just wasn't her. As he had been told numerous times, the Doctor knew he wasn't always there. Someone had to look after the Earth and just like Martha and Captain Jack, Sarah Jane was doing it in her own way.
Back on the Crucible, Davros had claimed that the Doctor had turned his companions in to fighters. The Time Lord however, knew this was wrong. He had merely shown them the wonders of the universe, and the dangers that went along with them. It was their own decisions to do what they could to make a difference. Sarah Jane could have gone back to her life reporting, ignoring the strange occurrences throughout the country. Martha could have easily have turned down the job offer from UNIT. And Jack, well, Jack never was going to have a normal life, was he?
A normal life. Something the Doctor knew he could also never have; just having fun, growing old, enjoying life.
That is why he had made the decision he had on Bad Wolf Bay. The half-human version of himself could have that life. He could share it with someone, without the guarantee of outliving them, watching them wither and die whilst he lived on.
Although he loved his life of travelling, the Doctor did sometimes want a life like that. And he knew it was what Rose wanted. A life like that, with the Doctor.
So that was what he had given her.
Rose had given him so much, and whilst it broke his hearts to leave her again, out of choice this time, he knew he owed it to her to let her have that life.
Over their time together, Rose had helped undo some of the damage the Time War had done to the Doctor. Not entirely of course, he knew that would never be possible. There was part of him that thought she may have effected him too much. Immediately after the Time War, he would never have been able to get so close to people again, but Rose had taught him how, and that led him to getting hurt. On the other hand, if it meant he spent moments surrounded by his friends, becoming attached may not have been such a bad thing.
She had softened him, chiselled away the hard shell that had developed after the events of the war. She wasn't afraid to challenge him, which was something he knew he needed. As Donna had once said, he needed someone to stop him.
"Rose, get out of the way now!"
"No! Cause I won't let you do this."
"That thing killed hundreds of people."
" It's not the one pointing the gun at me."
"I've got to do this, I've got to end it. The Daleks destroyed my home, my people. I've got nothing left."
"Look at it."
That was Rose. Compassionate, caring Rose. She had made him who he was now, he had known that. Before Rose, he wouldn't have given the Sontarans a choice. He wouldn't have even considered helping the Daleks to find a new planet to inhabit. That is what she had done for him, made him a little bit more human. Maybe then, he thought, it was quite apt she had ended up with a version of him that truly was a little bit more human.
It wasn't just him though, he knew he had changed her too. Rose may have not started out as a doctor or a time agent, but she learnt that she could make a difference in the universe, and from that point was determined to do so.
But Rose was gone now, just like the rest of them. As he looked around the empty control room, the TARDIS jerking slightly as it hurtled through the Time Vortex, he knew they weren't truly gone. After all, the Doctor still had his memories of his adventures with them.
"Weird. I mean, you're not special. You're not powerful. You're not connected. You're not clever. You're not important."
Oh, how wrong he had been. In the end, Donna had been the most important woman in creation.
However similar to Rose and Martha Donna may have been in terms of her love for adventure, he knew that their relationship was different. Donna respected the Doctor, but she would never let him know it. She too had seen the glory of what lay beyond the Earth and had grabbed the opportunity to see what she could. It turned out though, that Egypt just wasn't enough for Donna Noble. She wanted more. She was destined for more.
Unfortunately, she was also destined to never remember any of it. The Doctor hated himself for doing it, for killing the Donna Noble he knew. Everything she had become since the fateful events of her wedding day, gone. Once again, the most exciting thing in her life was which celebrity was sleeping with who this week and alien invasions were things that happened to everyone else whilst she had a hangover or holidayed in Spain.
She had so much potential, potential that Donna eventually recognized but it had now been locked away, never to be realized. There were a few who knew of it though, knew how special Donna was. Special, both with and without a Time Lord brain.
A better person. That was how Wilf had described Donna after her time with the Doctor. It may have been true, but only because she had confidence in herself, because someone believed in her. The Doctor didn't doubt for a second that to Wilfred, Donna always had been one of the most important women in creation but knew that Donna would never had accepted that.
Who knew where Donna's life would end up now. The Doctor liked to think that something would remain in her subconscious, spurring her on to achieve more, to fulfill her potential.
The Doctor knew that good things didn't always follow him around, in fact it was normally quite the opposite, but it seemed wherever he went the Doctor was always finding people with potential. Sometimes that potential resulted in brilliant, fantasticjourneys through time and space as with Rose, Donna, Jack and Martha, or could result in a much more tragic end. Luke Rattigan, the child genius, who had achieved so much, could have achieved so much more. But he gave his life to save the Doctor's. Whether it was to make up for allying with the Sontarans or because he could see no further future for himself, the Doctor would never know. And then there was Harriet Jones. The Prime Minister whose time of office had been cut short by the Doctor. Cut short because she was doing what she thought was right, defending the Earth from alien threats. So the Doctor did what he thought, what he knew, was right.
"Doesn't she look tired?"
Yet still, Harriet Jones gave her life to get the Doctor to Earth, the one person responsible for ruining her career. But despite it all, she must have trusted him, Harriet Jones must have had faith that the Doctor could save her planet. So much faith that it was worth her life. There had been so many who had died in his name, Jabe, Astrid, the Stewardess, countless others and whilst he would always remember them, all of them, he much preferred to concentrate on those who lived.
The Children of Time, the Doctor thought as the TARDIS shuddered from side to side. The people whose lives had been touched by the Doctor, those he had inspired to fight for more, those who had changed for the better, the worse or that had been ended because of him.
And, he thought, manipulating the TARDIS controls as he gave a smile, those that had changed his life too.
And he wouldn't have missed it for the world.