Things begin and end.
It's the way of the universe.
It's the end, now. It should feel like a beginning, but it doesn't.
This is worse than exile.
With exile, there is always a hope of freedom. A chance. A glimmer. At best, escape. At worst, forgiveness. But the result is the same. That universal vortex. That promise of an eternity of travel.
But not now.
When you stop walking, you're not far off of Glasgow. Largest city in Scotland, third largest in the United Kingdom. The air is heavy with cold you can't feel and the people are cheerfully bustling around in a manner you can't imitate. It is raining. The concrete is wet and hard and there are strange smells from new foods and automobiles and life all around you. It's a place you've loved to explore in the past, to take in the sights.
But you can't possibly think about that, now. Now, it's about necessity. This city is part of your survival. You must become a creature of survival. Why? Because she wouldn't want you to die. Even though it doesn't feel worth it right now. Not to go on living, not without her.
To survive, for her. You're cold and wet. You need shelter.
You sigh and turn down a street where a line of hotels awaits. A newspaper looks up at you with the date: October 15, 1998. If your timing is right (and it's never wrong) you have 1400 years to wait until humanity develops time travel. Another 2000 if you want to do it properly and without the possibility of being shot down by passing alien beings.
It'll take that long, you think. You don't want another time machine, not yet. It's too soon. It's too raw. Maybe you'll just wait a few centuries and pick up a space hopper. It'll be comforting to travel but not quite so familiar as to reopen a wound that you're not sure will ever close.
And any time ship after her will be…less. Even this place, this destination picked from the sudden need to crash land somewhere, even it feels less. Less because there's no one here but you.
To survive, for her. You're tired. You need to rest.
A hotel room in Glasgow goes for £60. You need money. Where do you get money?
You rifle through your pockets and come up with £35, pilfered from an ATM in 2002, so the dates on the bills are wrong. The sonic screwdriver doesn't work anymore, not without her, so using any sort of machine won't work. The clerk at the hotel suggests you phone your bank. Do you have a bank? She would know, but she isn't here. You remember that yes, you do have a bank. It's the one that Liz set up for your UNIT pay back in the 70s (or was it the 80s?). To your surprise, your account now has a rather substantial interest on it. Well, substantial for 1998, at least. One less thing to worry about. For now.
You take the key to your room and head upstairs. People bustle from space to space, never going anywhere important. You move like you're wading through concrete. Time is slow, now. Everything is derailing, moving to a different path. It takes time to get used to. Everything takes time.
The key turns in the lock with a loud click. You toss your jacket over the freestanding lamp and sit on the edge of the bed. The floor has mauve carpets. The windows have very thick white drapes. There's a generic print of a painting of a tree above the bed. The room is painfully quiet. Your mind is painfully quiet.
It hurts now, but it will hurt worse, later. You heard stories in your youth of Time Lords who would go mad if separated from their ships for too long. It was as if their minds were stretched over the fabric of time and they were without themselves. But your other half isn't stretched at all, it's simply extinguished. Gone. Finito. Nothing. There might not be any reaction at all.
You almost hope there is. At least then you would have a reminder that the TARDIS was there, in your mind. Something more than a vacant space.
You lean back against the bed and sink into the overly plush covers. Rooms are small. They've always been too small for you. Hotel rooms are smaller. The beds are small and everything is just so tiny. The ceiling is whitewashed wood and doesn't really match the rest of the décor. Light streaming in through the curtains moves along the wall, time passing in and out.
There's a hole in your hearts. It starts from one end and ends through the other and you feel like all of you is spilling out onto the covers of this bed in this tiny, tiny hotel room.
To survive, for her. You need a goal. You need plans. You need somewhere to go. Something to do. You don't do well with aimlessness.
You think that maybe you'll travel. Traveling is a goal. You haven't seen all of Earth, certainly not in this era. That'll kill a few years off of your time. By that point, your UNIT funds will have been drained and then you can get a job.
A job is a goal. It's a good goal. If you can hold out ten years, Martha will be working for UNIT. Jack will be working at Torchwood. They'll actually know who you are. You can hold out ten years with traveling. Then you can lean on your friends for a few more years. Then you'll have saved up more money and you can travel again.
One point to another. A linear circle spinning round and round. It's little wonder the Eternals went mad trying to figure out ways to entertain themselves. They had forever and nothing to do with it. You have 1400 years until you can properly leave and do all the things you want to do and even finding diversion in that timespan is enough to drive you mad. You can't figure out how Jack enjoys this life.
Rose once told you that you made her life better. You showed her a better way to live. It's the only way to live that you know. You can't fathom anything else.
You're so tired. You can't sleep.
Rain beats against the window. The small heater in the hotel room turns on with a loud whirr. It fills the silence of the room. It's almost enough to imagine it's the hum of a ship around you.
You lean across the bed to the tiny icebox in the room. It's got snacks and crackers and wine. To survive, for her, you're going to need real food. But the thought of eating anything solid and heavy makes your stomach recoil. You pluck out the chocolate candies and the brandy.
The candies are hard and stale and the candy seems to coat your tongue in sugar. The brandy sits warm in your stomach but doesn't seem to warm you. You pour it into one of the plastic cups and sit on the floor, poking your head out of the curtain like a cat taking in the outside world. Glasgow is foggy and rainy and gray. It looks like it's been put through a filter. So much gray. Earth feels gray.
Earth has always been home in many ways. You can make it home again. You used to be very good at making anywhere home. Or at least feel like home until you went back into your spaceship. Your real home.
You close your eyes and lean your head against the glass. It's not quite as smooth as the column of the console, and the whirr of the heater isn't quite the whirr of the TARDIS engines. It's all so not quite. Earth will be home, but not quite, too.
It's hard, losing someone. It's even harder when that someone is all you have in life. Still. Still. You'll survive. You'll survive and the warmth of the brandy almost convinces you that it's not going to be so bad that you'll survive. Maybe you'll do a little helping for your favorite planet. Interfere a little, your favorite hobby.
Your eyes snap open.
It's 1998. Next year, you will be in San Francisco and west London. In a few more years, you'll be spending time in Chiswick. A few more years, you'll be back here again. You think about warning one of your past selves about what will happen soon. What they can do to postpone it.
Postpone the inevitable. It's still the inevitable. From the Latin vitare, to avoid, with the prefix in, without. You can't avoid it, even if you tell them now. Even if you tell yourself back before you became the Doctor what would happen a thousand years later, you still can't stop it. Saying anything, doing anything, is just the equivalent of smearing paper glue to the cracks in a crumbling building. You know this. You can calmly, rationally think this.
But now, you have another part of what you need to survive. You have a goal. San Francisco in one year. With a plan. A plan to save her. If you need to apply paper glue to your ship while she was crumbling as if it was a salve holding her together, than you will.
You take your plan and hold it inside of you and it feels like it can almost fill that hole in your hearts.
If she were here, she'd tell you that you had to accept it. Learn what you can and can't do.
But you have never been one to simply accept the inevitable.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 1,650