This arose from a drabble prompt, 'shuttle' but refused to stay drabble-sized. Third Doctor, just after 'Planet of the Spiders' (his last episode).
A Weaver's Shuttle
My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent without hope. - Job 7:6
Time moves differently when death is near, he thought. There was a strange detachment in that observation, as if he were standing aside and watching himself, a tall man now crumpled against his beloved console, fighting to keep radiation sickness at bay as long as possible.
But in the long run (and his people had very, very long runs) why fight? If it was as he feared and the radiation would stymie any chance of a natural regeneration, wasn't this the end? He couldn't comprehend it. He'd seen death, God, how he'd seen it. Seen it more times and in more ways than he cared to think. He knew that particular aspect of death, recognizable in any life-form, that fading of light from their eyes or other appendages.
He still couldn't imagine it in himself. Goodness knew he wanted the physical misery to stop, the feeling of every cell of his body slowly dying around him. He wanted it to stop so badly he truly understood that mortal longing for nothing, when the something was simply too much to bear - but he couldn't imagine a nothing that stayed nothing. Permanence had never been a strong point in his life.
Yet didn't his brief-single-lived friends face this mortality every time danger raised its head? They were always telling one another how no-one lasted forever, to bolster their courage.
Courage. He tried a cynical laugh and it hurt.
Everyone only had so much thread on their shuttle, weaving through the fabric of Time and Space. His people just happened to get more than one colour. Perhaps he would only have three, it was still more than most beings were allotted.
It was a thin, cold comfort, which was frankly disappointing. He'd like to think of himself as someone who could be bolstered by brave, poetic analogies for mortality but it looked like he wasn't.
Pulling himself up to his knees, he pushed the levers, then laid his face against the cool, comforting metal while the TARDIS rematerialized. He lifted his head again and squinted at the readouts. Still not right. Trembling, he managed to reset the coordinates and tried again, then slumped back down to the floor wondering if he should lighten the gravity another notch. Everything felt heavy.
His fear had been faced, true, but it had shattered his body in the process. The fear was no longer his master, but it was distinctly possible that soon nothing would be.
The dance was over; Eternity had chosen other, more nimble partners, leaving him behind.
"Now that's an analogy that's fitting. I'm tired enough." The roundels hummed softly.
One of his hearts slowed, then stopped. He lay against the floor fighting the pain and the pressure in his chest as the remaining one laboured, fighting for stabilization. It fluttered, then started beating again.
No, not yet.
He slowly levered himself upright, leaning on the console's base.
"I suppose if I'm going to die, I really ought to get my affairs in order," he muttered. "Not that I know how to do that." A bit of introspection was usually called for, wasn't it? The standard questions. Did he wish he'd used his days more wisely? Were there regrets?
Well, yes. Come to think of it, there were regrets in plenty but who lacked those? And Time Lords, living as long as they did, had more than their fair shot at racking up a great heaping lot of them. Came with the territory, the bad with the good. And there was plenty of good. For instance, would he have changed his path, spent more of his days back on Gallifrey? Never. Not for a moment.
The TARDIS hummed around him and he lay, hurting and thinking how interesting it was that something as basic as breathing could become almost too much of an effort to bother with.
His shuttle slipped across the weave of Time and, he thought, the last bits of thread were terribly thin upon it. Next time, if there was a next time, he wanted better thread. And more of it.
She rematerialized yet again.
He slowly pulled himself up on the edge of the console and leaned forward, pushing his hair back as he tried to focus his eyes on the readout.
Earth, yes. UNIT! And reasonably close in the timeline as well.
With an effort he coughed, then shakily pushed himself upright and tried to balance with something like his old stance. The scanner showed his own Sarah-Jane was there, lovely in blue, and the Brigadier as well. Just seeing them again was sweet, sweeter than he could express. If this was the end, he was overwhelmingly grateful that he had a chance to at least say good-bye. And if this wasn't? Well, at least he would still be among friends.
"I'm getting downright sappy in my old age," he grumbled to himself. "Open up, old girl." He pushed at the door control. "After all, where there's life, there's hope."