Disclaimer: How I wish I owned them! Anyway, I don't; they're the property of the BBC.


Last Rites

He closes his eyes, and there is deep, echoing silence inside my head. For an Earth year the hole has been filled – filled, true, with insanity and murder, but filled nonetheless. Even on the darkest days, when I feared Martha dead, that spark of hope drawn from his consciousness melded with mine kept me going. I was not alone.

When, finally, I let him go and lay that head on the cold deck of the Valiant I feel Martha's hand resting on my shoulder. Brave, bravest Martha, even now offering her support in the wake of something she cannot possibly understand. They hate him, they are glad of his death, and they will not miss him or mourn him as I will.

Long ago – so long ago now it sometimes feels like a dream – we two boys met on the hills overlooking the Citadel, and spoke for the first time. He was just older than me, both of us maybe six or seven, already causing trouble in our own ways. In that we were alike. In that only, perhaps, though for many years we were almost inseparable. I admired him, his twisted genius and what I thought, back then, was courage. What he saw in the child that was me I do not know, but it was enough that he somehow needed to pursue me, to better me, as the centuries passed. But I do not think he ever truly understood me – and he never understood Earth, never really understood humans.

As I stand, Martha's hand falling to her side, I see Francine and Tish draw back. It's only now that these women, who have withstood so much this long year, who have watched me crawl on doddering knees and picked up that wheelchair countless times, are afraid. Perhaps, despite his ageing tricks with the laser screwdriver, perhaps they finally realise that I am as alien as he was.

Jack has got Lucy Saxon seated, a blanket around her thin shoulders. He looks up at me, meeting my eyes with that disturbingly direct gaze of his.

"What do we do with her?" he asks. "What do we do with him?"

"What about everyone else?" adds Martha, gesturing at the Valiant crew, the UNIT soldiers. "They'll remember too."

"Retcon," Jack says. "I can organise that. Doctor?"

Erasing their memories. Normally I would protest, but Jack is right, and I am not in the mood for arguments. I nod. "If you would. Martha, can you get her sectioned?"

"I've got a friend who works in psych, yeah," she says. "Isn't there anything else you can do?"

I look at Lucy – her blank eyes staring at nothing, a companion who should never have travelled – and consider for a split second the option of dealing with her broken mind myself. The thought is impossible; it would only destroy her.

"No," I tell Martha, and I'm aware my voice is clipped and cold, "there's nothing."

Martha shrugs. "Right, then."

"I'll get them to land the ship," Jack adds, swinging into motion and snapping orders at all and sundry. In moments two soldiers are marching into the room carrying a stretcher. They lay it down and go to pick up his body.

"No," I say, and they look up.

"We can't leave him here," Jack says.

"He's still my responsibility. There's a right way to do this."

With a sudden move, Francine steps forward from her family's embrace. "A right way? How does he deserve a right way to do anything? He murdered millions, Doctor; you watched him do it."

"He deserves to be thrown off the ship," puts in Clive, his voice quiet but tense.

"Then so do I!" I say, turning on them, and I do not care what they see in my eyes. "He was my friend, my enemy; he was the only survivor of imy/i genocide. The millions who died by my hand stay dead. Will you throw me off the ship?"

"Doctor ..." Martha tries, and I round on her too, knowing that she does not deserve my wrath. None of them deserve it, but in the dark emptiness I cannot care for human niceties.

"I will deal with him," I tell her. "Until then, nobody touches him."

Jack, wordless, passes me another blanket, before taking Martha's arm and steering her away from me. "Leave him," he murmurs to her. "Now's not the time."

Under Jack's firm commands the Valiant descends, and all about me is activity. But the people bustling by leave a space around us. I find my screwdriver, tucked into his jacket pocket, and use it to snap off the handcuffs and fold his arms correctly and formally. I've only ever seen the rites performed a few times, but I know what should be done. These are the rituals of a Time Lord's final passing, and the importance of such a moment is hardwired into me. I sit by his still, silent body until we land, and then I rise, shrugging on my coat, and lift him.

There's a jeep ready and waiting – Jack has seen to that – and with his body in the back seat I drive. It would have been more suitable to use the TARDIS, but she is broken still, not ready to fly, and so I drive to the site I've chosen. Here, he had one of his shipyards. On the high cliff above we had our last confrontation, the last of so many through the long years that have passed.

I build the pyre, fitting the logs together until they reach the right height, and lay him on top. In death, his face is serene, the years light on his youthful features now that the stars and the Vortex and the madness in his eyes are extinguished. Standing back, I close my own eyes, and begin to recite the words of ending. Words I never thought I would hear again, least of all from my own lips; words in a language that is again dead and gone. There is nobody in the universe to understand what I say, nobody to hear what I say, nobody to care. And yet, in the precise syllables of formal Gallifreyan, I give my old friend, my greatest foe, the ceremony of our burned planet.

In the words, I recall the days we spent together as boys amid the red grass of Gallifrey. The hours bent over the books of the Academy, the evenings arguing over temporal theory. Our contests and battles across the galaxies, the confrontations over the Earth, regeneration after regeneration. His decades as the kindly Professor Yana, tormented by the sound of distant drumming and the vain search for Utopia. The year in which he delighted in showing me the ruin of the planet below and the suffering of those I cared for.

I speak of the man who had been the Master, Koschei, among the last of the Time Lords, and finally I speak his name for the final time. Setting my torch to the pyre, I walk away. He will burn, as all burns in the end.

And I am alone again.