Never Stop Running
"You stand there, eight years old. Staring at the raw power of time and space. Just a child. Some would be inspired. Some would run away. And some would go mad. I don't know."
"What about you?"
"Oh, the ones that ran away! I never stopped."
What did they expect him to say? That he'd been inspired? Now that would have been more than a bit pretentious, and though he had no small ego whatsoever, he did have some standards. Very few, but some.
That, and they'd asked about his past, Jack and Martha. And when someone did that…they only got so many answers. He told them a bit about Gallifrey, much though doing so hurt. Told them a bit—really unimportant parts, but some parts all the same—about the Master. But not about himself. That simply wasn't something the Doctor did.
Not that countless companions hadn't tried to ask. But the only ones who'd known even some of the truth were Susan and Romana, who didn't have to ask. The only one he ever might have told the truth to was Rose, and somehow none of it had ever come up. A year later, he realized that he'd never even told her the name of the world he was from. She hadn't asked because she hadn't wanted to hurt.
Jack asked, Martha asked, because they wanted answers and because they cared about him. Decent reasons, those, but no different from dozens of others before them. No. He'd give them the surface knowledge, but never himself. Never that.
After all, what should he have said? Should he have told them the story of the little boy who'd walked up that hill immediately before the one who would one day call himself The Master? Should he have told them that the two of them, whispering so softly (as it wasn't done, talking whilst you waited to look into the Schism) had confessed that they'd both already chosen the names they would someday bear, horribly pretentious for children of their age?
Should he tell them that the eight year old who wanted to be "The Doctor" stepped up to the Untempered Schism and stared, stared into its depths and saw what he would do? Saw that he would grow, explore, live, laugh, love, defy, weep, and run? That the adventure would always drive him, and that he'd never stop wanting to make people better, even once he stopped believing that everyone had a good side? Should he have bared that part of his young soul to Jack and Martha, should he have told them that he'd not only be inspired, but he had been driven to inspire others?
No. He'd only ever shared that with one other, the same friend Jack labeled a sociopath. And he couldn't argue with that assessment. Not now.
Because now was a far cry from two boys caught up in their own defiance, from two boys who set out to change their world and, once failing, left it behind. Oh, they'd dreamed then—and perhaps such dreams required some madness. Perhaps they'd both been mad, rather than inspired. Perhaps he was mad now, because living required some sort of madness. Certainly, he would have had to be insane to tell them the truth.
Truth was, boys (and girls) who ran from the Schism never became Time Lords. If one couldn't stomach looking at the entirety of time and space, just the once, the Academy was not in their future. No training, no traveling, no knowledge, no anything. Those Gallifreyan children found a profession and lived out normal lives. Only those who stood and looked were admitted to the Academy.
Inspiration took many forms; often they were tiny. One child might be inspired to build a garden. Another to write a book. Another to teach, later in life. When the child that would become the Doctor told the Guides that he wanted to make people better, they thought he meant healing.
Healing would have been the easy, acceptable route.
When had he ever done that?
The boy that wanted to be known as the Master said that he wanted to master all things. The Guides thought he meant that in a studious way. Years passed before they figured out the error in that assessment, though the boys' mediocre grades should have been a clue early on.
It wasn't that either of them was stupid. In fact, they were each smarter than the rest of their classmates by a wide margin. The boy who would become the Doctor was even more so; perhaps it was inevitable that boredom won over class work, in the end. So did pranks. Small acts of defiance that would later become large.
Large acts being of the TARDIS-stealing sort, starting to run and never looking back.
But that was another story, not that of the eight year old boy who looked into the Schism and saw his own future—oh, not in detail, but in scope and in feeling. The story Jack and Martha asked for, the one he brushed off, was still one he'd only shared with one person, that childhood best friend who made the early years of his life worth living and remembering…even now. Even with everything they had done and everywhere they had been, the spirits of those two innocent boys were still with him.
No matter what the Master had done, the Doctor knew he remembered, too. He'd heard it in his voice—"I like it when you say my name."
"You chose it."
And so they did, standing half-awed and half-terrified on the side of Gallifrey's highest mountain, waiting for their futures to reach out and touch them. So they whispered, only to one another, about what they wanted to become.
He hadn't wanted to start running. That was just a side effect. He'd wanted to inspire, and the only way to do that was to start running.
Even now, he'll never stop.