Summary: When he was dying, the Tenth Doctor revisited all his old companions. But there was one he could never visit...and two to whom he could never say goodbye.
Genre: drama, tragedy
Characters: The Doctor (5, 10, future), Donna, Tegan, Adric
Pairings: Ten/Donna, Five/Tegan
Warnings: set during and after "The End Of Time"
"Tragedy, he perceived, belonged to the ancient time."-George Orwell, 1984
In the future when he's not himself and some of the pain has ebbed he'll go back in Donna's life and watch her grow up.
She was a lonely child.
It shouldn't matter, not anymore, but it does. It's come down to unimportant things in the end like the way her eyes light up when she looks through a telescope for the first time and sees the stars so close she could put out her hand and touch them, or the way the sunlight dances in her hair like a flame rippling along a page from an old book.
He's careful, of course, to never let her see him, to never get too close, even if she'll never know him now, or remember him when they meet later. He's simply the background figure unnoticed in the corner of her eyes, the stranger who smiles when she pushes herself in the swing for the first time on the playground and laughs at the freedom of it. There's her first steps and birthdays, and then she's growing up and too close to when he knew her so he turns the TARDIS away and watches in his mind as the flame licks at her hair, time erasing all that could have been.
Like all the others who have come and gone before her there's nothing in the TARDIS that holds her memory. Her reflection, the clothes she once wore, even the scent of her perfume has faded and been replaced. No, he amends, not replaced. There's a part of him that will never be filled, an ache that will never vanish.
For a short time her arms took away the nightmares, and clinging to her somehow stabilized his world enough to go on, silencing the screams and horrors of the centuries he's seen pass and crumble into dust.
And then he lost her.
When he's dying he goes to see her.
He hasn't allowed himself to see her before, and through all the centuries of time he's traveled their paths have never crossed again. Whatever fate placed Tegan in his path all those years before has turned away from both of them.
She doesn't know him, of course. How could she, after all these years and different faces? And yet she turns his way, looking at him with an expression that tells him that she senses something, a connection, a shared memory, if nothing else. She always was too intuitive, he remembers, and a faint smile breaks through the pain.
But she doesn't walk toward him. There's that space between them, again, he remembers, like the one her hand stretched across that final day, a forced distance. She was always the strong one, the one determined to never stay behind, the one who always went after him and saved him in more ways than one.
It was he who needed her, and all those times he could have taken her back to Heathrow his fingers fumbled on the console, a twist to the left, a turn to the right, and she stayed a little longer, a few more days, until finally he couldn't hold her any longer.
And then she left him.
He still thinks of Adric sometimes. He's had a dozen companions since then and still that one stays burned into his mind. He thinks it's because that regeneration died with his name on his lips, stained like poisoned berries onto the mouth of every regeneration to come.
Adric wasn't the easiest to get along with but there was so much potential in the boy, so much brilliance. He could have saved worlds. He could have done just about anything. Anything but survive.
Tegan hadn't been the same after that. He'd seen it in her eyes when she looked at him, the flicker of hope everytime they went in the past, quickly snuffed out as she realized that he was never going back there, that that moment in time was gone, burned up in the stars like Adric, and all his muttering of converging timelines meant only couldn't save and numb apologies wrapped in excuses.
A few more deaths and she was gone, shaking his hand and telling him a day was too much. But it wasn't that day she was thinking of, but another one, the day Adric died, and it's his face she's seeing on the dead. He knows because every now and then he sees it there himself.
He wonders sometimes if he should have gone back and saved him, swept him out of that place before that moment, taken a chance on unraveling a bit of the past.
He thinks he's lived too long.
When he's dying there is one he can never see, a boy with a star on his chest who burned up across the galaxies, frozen in time with all the "could have beens" strewn around him. And there's two he can never say goodbye to, the ones he'll never be able to touch or even speak to again. They were nothing alike, he supposes, yet they had more in common than the others. They never gave up on him, pieced the broken bits of him together, held his hand fast through the darkness, and broke both his hearts.
In the end they all leave him. But only if he doesn't leave them first.