You see strings of time and possibility passing through your mind’s eye. The moving, swirling worlds of might haves and would nots, the other realms of possibility.
You see a world where you kept the duplicate You.
You didn't want to say yes, and "no" still sits at the tip of your tongue, but It's really not Rose's responsibility or anyone else's. So back onto the ship you and Rose and this thing go. Your companion and your albatross, hanging heavy on your neck.
It is everything you hate about yourself. The way It laughs, the way It walks, the way Its hair doesn't look quite like yours. It's done so many horrible things and you hate It because you've done them, too.
You're far too wired on that first night. Too much has happened and the TARDIS is at once too empty and too full. Too empty because Donna is gone (and your hearts hurt from that loss) and too full because It is here. It is walking around the hallways and chatting with Rose and eventually heading towards your bedroom.
You're not tired, but you're not giving It your room. You cross your arms and stand before the door. It looks sleepy, but It reminds you of a petulant child. And the room is yours, like that face It wears and the suit It wears. But It can't have your room.
"Bed," It explains.
"Not in there," you counter.
There's always the corridor that Mickey slept in for a while. On those first few trips while the TARDIS was making him up a room. It can sleep there. There's probably still a blanket. The pout on Its face grows and you hate It for looking so immature. It slinks off and you go into your bedroom. You stare at the mirror for a long time and wonder if your face could look like that. To your surprise, it can.
Another reason to hate It.
You're ridiculously excited to land on your first planet. A real trip with Rose and the Doctor (and It). The final part of that makes your stomach twist with anger. You don't want It with you. It doesn't deserve a planet, not yet. And if you wanted some alone time with Rose, well, It would have to go elsewhere and you can't trust It on Its own.
You ask the TARDIS to break. Just a little. A few minor repairs to keep It occupied while you're out with Rose. Just for the first few trips, until you can learn to trust It. The TARDIS agrees.
It looks ridiculously disappointed when you tell It that It needs to repair the TARDIS. Fix it up a while, then meet up, you promise. But you know It never will.
The planet is wonderful. The sky is purple, the grass is soft, and you run hand in hand with Rose. She tells you that she missed this and you know that you did, too. So much. It's been years for you both but when the sunlight hits her hair she looks as she did when you first met her.
You forget there's someone back at the TARDIS.
There's adventure, of course. Someone did something to someone and you both have to fix it. By the time you make it back to the TARDIS, you're both breathless. You think about kissing her, because if there's a better time, you can't think of it. You've wanted to kiss her for so long. But, you can't. Because It is there.
It is angry. It has Its arms crossed. It knows what you did, It says. Isn't It clever?
You look at the unfinished repairs. The TARDIS in your mind can't stop apologizing. She didn't mean to tell It anything.
Not bad, you mutter. It figured you out, good for It.
It starts to rave. Rose looks startled by Its anger. It demands you admit what you know you did. It is so immature. It swears and shouts and you roll your eyes and walk off.
Rose catches your arm and tells you that you can't just leave It.
You tell her that yes, yes you can. She draws away from you, upset by your actions more than Its.
And you hate It so much for ruining this day.
It starts forcing you to take It with you. The perpetual third wheel, that's what It is. You hate it. You hate that it won't just leave you alone. You hate that you agreed to bring It with you. And you hate Rose for saddling you with It and then leaving.
But she fell in love with some dashing bloke from Dersen, so you can't blame her. So you make it easy on yourself and you blame It.
You find another companion. She is an EMT from Georgia. Her name is Larisa and she thinks that It is your older brother when you first meet her. Ridiculous girl, but she's a good fit for you. And in some strange way, you're almost glad she likes It. Watching It all alone reminds you of how long you've spent alone.
But It is such an idiot at times. It runs into the line of fire as if It were still immortal (or at least, mostly so). To Its credit, It hasn't been hurt yet. Just when you start to think that maybe It is just ridiculously lucky, you hear a scream from behind you. It has fallen off a ledge. God, It is so stupid.
You pull out your sonic reflector and startle the creature away. Larisa is still screaming, but this time it's for you. You sigh and walk over. That's when you see it.
No, not it. You. This thing that looks like you, lying in a pool of Its own blood. There's a piece of wood sticking out of Its stomach and It is pale and shaking.
It's You. It's You and It's dying. No regenerations, no second chances. Just cold death with a block of wood and a stupid mistake. There is nothing more terrifying in the universe than watching yourself die.
Larisa screams again. "Help," she says. Help It. Help yourself.
Focus clicks back in and you run over too It. You both have to move It back to the TARDIS. You get the legs, Larisa gets the arms. The moment you start moving It, It starts screaming. A primal scream, a scream of pain. After a moment, It passes out. Larisa checks Its vitals.
"We have to get him to the sickbay now."
The move to the TARDIS isn't fast enough. Your trainers and pant legs are covered in blood, to say nothing of your hands. Larisa isn't a surgeon, but she's capable enough. She works on Its wounds (a miracle the wood missed any organs) and you hand her tools. You place your finger next to Its heart as she ties another knot, moving some tissue aside. You can feel the steady single beat. The organ is wet and warm and so very human.
She connects you both to a tube to give It blood. She has pernicious anemia (a family disease, she mentioned it once before), her blood will make him sick. Your blood is a lot like Its and even though you're not the same species she thinks it will suffice.
"It almost got Itself killed," you grumble as she sticks the needle in Its arm.
"He," Larisa snaps, taping him up and turning to leave. "He's a person. Even if you don't like it. And yes, he is very lucky."
You sit there with It---with him for a long time, watching the blood move from your arm into his. Your arm has a dark Paradox dragon tattoo---a symbol of your exile from Gallifrey---while his is bare. You hate him a little for that, for his freedom from your past.
You get more and more tired as you share your blood. You lay your head against your arm and watch him sleep. You hate how deeply he sleeps because you've never slept so well, not in your whole life. Not even now, not even while you're so tired.
You hate the little lines at the corners of his eyes. He's growing old and you'll never change.
You do, of course. Phelenox poison on a dart, getting hit was your own fault. The regeneration energy shoots through you and changes every cell. Blue eyes, white wing-tips in your hair and an older face.
Oh, but it's just great! Such a different personality with so much promise! Sure, you haven't got the mole of your last regeneration, but now you've got pizzazz. You've always wanted an incarnation that had pizzazz. You top your new suit with a bowler hat and grin at yourself.
He's standing behind you, you can see him in the mirror. Like a regeneration that's come and gone. A shadow of you. A reminder that you haven't got freckles or a mole or a boyish grin, not anymore.
You hate him a little bit for not being new like you.
One day, he doesn't come to the console room. Joy asks where he is and you tell her you don't know. The TARDIS tells you he's in the library. He's been going in there more often, but this time he just didn't bother to come out for breakfast. The TARDIS still makes it for him and it goes cold on the table. She makes him lunch and you sigh and bring it over to the coffee table in the library.
The TARDIS makes you and Joy dinner, then makes one for him. On your way to your bedroom, Joy reminds you to drop it off. It becomes a ritual, even after Joy's long since gone and there's no one around to remind you to leave food for your not-companion that lives in the library.
You wonder what he reads in there. What fantastic adventures he's not having, you think as you run away from a new monster. A new planet.
You miss him and it feels silly to miss him. He always bumbled around everywhere. He always made you think of who you were. But he's not there now and everything seems less important. There's no one to say something silly, no one there to hold the tools. You chased him away, just like you chased away Rose and Larisa and Jess and Joy. And the Master.
It's not quite a year after your next regeneration that you go into the library again. He's in the biographies section (it's always been your favorite section). An old man now, his bony fingers curled around a book like he was born with it.
"When did that happen?" he asks about your regeneration.
Your new incarnation is very calm and you like that about it. "A few months, maybe a year." You can count it to the day, but that just shows how long you've been apart. How long you've been leaving him dinners rather than sharing them with him.
You run your hand through your curly hair. You hadn't even noticed, but he looks at it with such envy. What a man you were, obsessed with your hair. You reach out and touch his, but it's so thin now. Thin and white and wilting.
"You're old," you say. "Were you really hidden away that long?"
You know that he was. He was here and you were out there. It feels like you stole something from him.
He takes in a breath. "I think I lost track of time."
Adventures aren't so important anymore. You're surprised to find how much you like sharing time with him. He's got a sense of humor that makes you smile and you can share stories of Gallifrey with him. You're both two old men nearing the ends of your lives, but his shows more than yours.
You love him, you think. It's surprising how you can admit that now. You wonder how long you've cared for him. A long while, you think. Since that first time you saw him so upset that you'd tricked him into staying behind while you ran off with Rose.
He leans forward in his chair and he's fallen asleep again. You put down your tea and lift him up in your arms that only look young and carry him to your bedroom. The peace you denied him that first night, there's no reason for you not to give it to him, now.
He sleeps a very long time. You worry he won't wake up many times. He does, but he doesn't speak anymore. It looks like it hurts to breathe. You put a hand on his chest and feel the slow beat of his single heart.
He's you but he's not and now he's going. He's slowly going, fading, dying and somehow it's harder than if the wood had killed him. It's harder because you have to watch him fade. Watch him fade and think of the times you could've had if you'd just regenerated into who you are now sooner.
You want to say you're sorry. You want to tell him something, anything. Part of you wants to beg for forgiveness and you're positive that part of you once wore the blue suit that doesn't fit him anymore.
His eyes close and they don't reopen. Part of the Doctor dies with him.
You open your eyes, and you’re thin and brown-haired and young again. And Donna and Rose and Jackie are here. Along with the other you. The one who came from you.
You say Bad Wolf Bay. You say it and you can tell It knows. You see what you have to sacrifice and it's worth it. You know you can't keep It. You can feel a life crumbling apart in your mind. Pulled and extracted and decimated until it is nothing but dust.
And you're just tired.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 2,339