"It's the same watch."
"It can't be."
Stabilize the gravity footprint, turn the keys, they're dead, all dead, he'd felt them all die and it had hurt worse than any mere physical pain, pain beyond imagining. Martha giving him the best news, the worst possible news, his insides tight with need and fear and denial. Why here, why now, at the end of everything, all the great civilizations dead (the Time Lords dead) and hiding, like he'd hidden, packed himself away. One of them, or was there more, had he been wrong all this time?
Genocide, the most horrific crime, one he'd already been put on trial for long before the last great Time War. He'd acted on his own, as he always did. Changed the universe, cut out its heart to save it, even as the last stronghold fell to the Daleks. There'd been no time. No time. He'd just acted, triggered the cascade failure that rippled and ripped out everything and he'd felt it all. The eye of the storm, the calm center, that was what saved him. He should have been ripped from time and space with his victims, but in the end what had killed him had been their screams. Psychic backlash, the sting of a whip countless million light-years across, a singularity of horror that had splattered his brains inside his skull.
When he'd woken, covered in blood and ashes, the wreck of his TARDIS already healing as it spun inside the Vortex, he'd thought he'd come back wrong. He'd stood up, clumsy and strangely numb, and rubbed at his ears. New ears, he'd thought abstractly, but they weren't working right. There was a static, a white noise, and he thought about shell shock, humans with bodies broken from war. Tinnitus, but it wasn't a ringing, and it wasn't in his ears after all. It was in his head, and it was emptiness, nothing, an unbearable absence, and it cut him off at the knees.
"No," he'd croaked, huddled on the floor. He'd screwed his eyes shut and sought and sought and sought please anyone someone I can't be the only one no no no but there'd been nothing, no one, not a single scrap of thought. From the Vortex he should have been able to reach every corner of the universe, every point in time, and felt kinship, no matter how distant. His plan had worked, his bloody stupid plan. His body rebelled, but in his new form he'd nothing but acid to gag on.
If he'd still had a plasma gun, or a shock grenade, he might have stuck either of them in his mouth and ended it all right there. Even regeneration has its limits, and that included being splattered across the walls. (Afterwards, more than once he'd wished he'd had the guts to do it, but he'd always been a coward.) But his wounded TARDIS had sung to him, soothed him, and he'd fallen asleep wrapped around her base.
It felt as though part of his mind had been cut out with a hot blade. Amputated, but not the cleanest of cuts. There were echoes, false signals, feedback from his own thoughts and memories. Hallucinations and phantoms. He learned to ignore them, but not the pain. He deserved to suffer for this greatest of sins.
At the end of the universe, an old man opened his old, broken watch, and the Doctor's mind came alive. In one single, horrible moment, the static vanished, and he knew.There in his head, real, alive, snapping into place like it had never left. It was impossible, but he was surrounded by impossible, vainly striving humans and immortal Jack and he wasn't the last, not the last. He was not alone.
For one horrible, blessed year, he was no longer the last of the Time Lords. It didn't matter how evil the Master was, how far his madness drove him. There were quicker ways to defeat the Master, no less risky than depending on hope and timing and fifteen satellites, but the Doctor didn't want this to end. From the moment he saw the paradox machine, he knew that none of it mattered. Continents could fall and in the end none of the humans below would remember. His lack of remorse horrified him on some level, but he'd made two almighty civilizations burn. What was one more, when he knew it would all be undone?
The Master was too precious. The Master was all he had, the only thing that stopped the static and made his mind whole again. He could forgive any atrocity to keep that. It was selfish, callous, and no human could ever understand it. But the Master didn't want forgiveness. The Master had been reborn to the cold emptiness of his own mind, just as the Doctor had, and he didn't want to survive it. Two alone could never be enough for him, the way they were for the Doctor.
He sobbed over the Master's corpse, clinging to the last echoes of his presence. And as the static crept back, he howled.