His song was ending; that's what the Ood had said. They had sung in his dreams for weeks or months - in truth he couldn't tell how long anymore. He'd long since lost all track of linear time. Living in the TARDIS there was no time, not really. He could barely even calculate his own age anymore. He was over 900, of that much he was certain. Beyond that? No clue. He made stabs at it here and there, usually said a different number every time that he was asked. It had become a joke of sorts. But he guessed it really didn't matter anymore. He would live forever, that was his curse. But his song was ending now. So it had been prophesied, just as it had once been prophesied that he was not alone.
But now he was alone.
So desperately, terribly alone.
Martha had gone off with Mickey and Jack. Sarah-Jane had gone home with K-9 to take care of her son. Rose would live a happy life now with his identical human counterpart; it was the closest thing to his own love that he could give her; the closest he could come to saying it out loud was with a mirror-version of his own lips. It shamed him, but it was true. He couldn't let those words pass his lips, because to do so would have doomed Rose to spend her entire life traveling with him; never marrying, never having children, never settling down. Bouncing from one dangerous situation to another until one of them eventually lead to her death.
He turned his mind away. He didn't want to think about Rose dying. It was a possibility he had to face too many times while they were traveling together, and it wasn't something he ever wanted to think about again. She would be happy, that was all that was important. He would miss her terribly, miss her with an ache down to his very bones, but it would be worth it, because she would be happy, and in a lot of ways, the best part of him was already with her now. John Smith was, after all, the human part of him, the part that could love her without abandon.
At least she had gotten the happy ending she deserved.
He couldn't say the same for Donna.
Somehow, thinking of the feisty redhead who had so abused him during their brief time together made his heart hurt ten times more than thinking of Rose did. Because Donna had been his friend, his very best friend, and she had loved traveling just for the pure joy of it. Everything she saw, she saw with a newborn's wide-eyed innocence and wonder. She wanted to help everyone they met, wanted to save them all. She accepted alien life unconditionally; treated them all as her equals. She was a fantastic companion, and when it came time for her to sacrifice herself to save him, she had soaked up all the knowledge of the time vortex like a sponge, and she had been so briefly brilliant that she had surpassed even the Doctor himself in cleverness and intelligence. She had been the DoctorDonna, and the Ood would sing her name in their songs for all eternity.
And he'd had to be the one to take it all away.
To send her crashing, spiraling back down into the abyss of normalcy; into her humdrum little life in Chiswick that she had been so desperate to escape.
He'd had no choice, of course. To keep her in the TARDIS, to keep her traveling with him while that abundance of knowledge gnawed at her brain, eating away at everything that kept her human - everything that kept her alive - would be to sign her death warrant. It had started so quickly, so shockingly fast. She had been fine - more than fine, she had been brilliant - and then…
- Binary, binary, binary, binary -
She had been dying. And it was all his fault. So he did the only thing he could do. He took it away from her - took it all away. Every single scrap of memory linked to him and to the TARDIS and to all the worlds and times they visited together. And he'd doomed her to the life she had so hated.
He'd doomed himself too, of course. Because now he'd lost everyone. Everyone that had ever meant anything to him was gone.
But it always ended this way, didn't it?
The Doctor always stands alone in the end.
He sighed, leaning over the controls with his head hung low, his mess of brown hair sticking up in stiff peaks, his eyes troubled, his brows furrowed. There were ten billion universes out there and he couldn't think of even one planet - not even one moon - that would make him feel any better than he did just now. Well, maybe one planet. But that planet was lost to him forever.
He looked up at the controls, seeing levers he could pull, buttons he could push. When his friends were on board every flip of a switch had been a joy. Now it all seemed like so much work.
He straightened up, running a hand through his hair, making it even more unruly. He had no idea where he wanted to go, but in situations like this, it was best to let the TARDIS take him wherever she wanted to go.
"At least I've still got you," he softly said, reaching out and placing a hand on the console, stroking it adoringly. "You and me 'til the end, old girl, how does that sound?"
The noise - like the chiming of a little silver bell - had practically come by way of a response, and it took the Doctor completely by surprise. His eyes widened. "You've never done that before," he murmured.
He realized on its second go that the noise wasn't actually coming from the console, it was coming from behind him, and he whirled around, looking for its source. He found it after a moment, perched on one of the benches, and his whole face lit up.
"Ah-HA!" he declared, striding over to the device already half-bent to retrieve it, like a man about to cross the finish line in an egg race. He snatched it off the bench, where it had been resting so harmlessly ever since he and Martha got stuck in 1969.
It's my timey-wimey detector, he had explained to Billy Shipton, the unfortunate police detective who had been displaced in time by the Weeping Angels. It goes ding when there's stuff.
Ding when there's stuff indeed - time anomalies, mostly. Things that could not possibly be, and yet they were. People who should not exist in a particular place and time, and yet they did. And every now and then the timey-wimey detector - he really needed to come up with a better name for it - detected something else as well. Not just a poor lost soul wandering out of their own time, but a great big baddie that wouldn't do anyone any good if it persisted in loitering about. The more dings, the worse the situation would likely be - and, of course, the more exciting as well.
"Oh, you are beautiful!" he exclaimed, hugging the detector to his chest briefly before holding it out again, checking for a read-out. There was nothing yet, only flashing lights. "Ding again," he coaxed it. "Come on, let's have a ding! And a ding! And another dinnnng-ah!"
Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!
"HO YES!" the Doctor yelled, and ripped his glasses out of his coat pocket with one hand, snapping them open and slipping them on with expert, liquid grace. The little screen on the detector scrolled coordinates in green digitized text, and he memorized them with just one look, then set the detector back where it had been and whirled around, dashing back to the control board.
He hadn't forgotten his lost friends in his excitement - he would never forget them, not any of them. Not one face. But from the first time he set foot in this big blue box so many centuries ago, he had been running away. Running away from everyone he had ever loved, everyone who he had ever hurt or been hurt by. Running away from his own destiny. And no matter how far he ran, it kept catching up with him, but he could stop running no more than he could bring all those beloved faces back again and surround himself with them until the end of time itself.
He had to keep going. There were others out there to save. New worlds to see. New friends to make. New enemies to defeat - and who knows? Maybe some old ones, too.
So he flipped switches. He turned dials. He pulled levers. And he pushed buttons. Oh, yes. Lots and lots of buttons.
"Allons-y!" he finally cried, and hit the console with his rubber hammer.
The TARDIS boomed and whirred merrily as it took off, carrying him faithfully through time and space.
…To Be Continued…