The sky is burning. So are the trees, silver leaves crumbling to ash. The city is silent. Destruction reins, but there is no one left to scream. Men, women, children lie where they fell, shot down, robes covered in soot and char but bloodless. A small girl lies by her feet as he comes up behind. The child could be sleeping, if not for her crumpled position. Her hair, brown and wavy, is matted and partially covers her face. He kneels and gently brushes it aside. A futile, useless gesture, but he makes it none the less.
She is one of his people, after all.
One of his people who he has always claimed to detest. Perhaps he did when he was younger, when he bridled against their archaic ways, their suppression of his spirit. They were old and in the pride of youth he believed he knew better. Perhaps he did.
That didn’t make this right.
No one, no race, even if they had stood and watched all the horrible events of the universe, events they could have prevented, deserved this.
They weren’t all dead, of course. Some had escaped into the wild outside the citadel and might survive, given the chance. But they might not get it.
He knows. As he watches the burning city, as he considers the incoming ships, as he witnesses the fall of his race to another that wishes to control time, as he understands the terrible repercussions that are probable if they succeed, he knows.
As he realizes that she is crying where she stands, tears streaming down her face, making shining paths in the dirt and ash and blood on her cheeks, he knows.
They won’t get their chance. They will all die.
He didn’t come up with the backup-last-chance plan, but he did name it: Schrödinger’s Gamble. Everything was made ready with the hopes of never being used because it wasn’t definite. There was a 50-50 chance that the Daleks would survive. Hence the name.
Not the best odds, but better than none. Defeat the Daleks once and for all, perhaps. And the price?
“I love this planet.” It takes him a moment to realize that it is her speaking aloud and not some voice in his head because her words mirror his thoughts.
“I loved it when I was young because it was the universe to me. And I love it now again because, even with its flaws, even with its bad rulers and bad decisions, even though there are a thousand words with orange skies and I would love to see them, this is my home. Not the one I made for me, but the one I was made for.”
“I love it too.” He knows she must look surprised (or maybe she understands after all), but he doesn’t look at her. “I know what they’ve done to me, to my friends, even. But all the years I’ve traveled, it’s been here. I’ve always been able to come back and shake things up when I’ve felt like it. I used to think I hated this place and everything it stood for, but now…”
She sighs, looking at the sky, and runs a hand across her face, composing herself. Head high, regal bearing back in place, she turns to him. “You need to go.”
At first he doesn’t understand, but then it hits him: she expects him to initiate the sequence. They’ve discussed it, of course, but he was always the vaguely disruptive soldier in this war, never the leader. He always assumed someone else would end up with this job, if it even came to that.
But once he understands, he accepts without thinking. Maybe he’ll get to that later. As like as not, he won’t have a later because his TARDIS will probably not be able to withstand the concussion blast any better than the Daleks’ worships. Then his brain backs up to what she actually said.
“What about you?”
She turns away. “My place is here.”
“No, it’s–look, I’m probably a general by now, if I believed in that sort of thing. Come with me. That’s an order!”
She laughs, half bitterly, half with genuine amusement. “It is much, much too late for orders, Doctor. I’m still High President of Gallifrey, but when have I ever listened to you? You taught me too well, I’m afraid. I command my own destiny.” Her smile disappeared. “Please go. And hurry.”
He just stands there, looking at her. All of a sudden, and in an odd way, he feels overpoweringly proud of her–because–because there she stands in the midst of death and destruction, read to go tall and proud to her fate. He hasn’t made her this way, no matter what she says. She is who she is and who she is is tragic and beautiful and wonderfully, superbly herself.
And she wants him to leave her to die.
And he will because sometimes you just can’t argue. Because he had to get away and do his best and last to end the Daleks forever. Because he owes that to the universe; to everyone who died for Gallifrey; to Ace who he buried at Arcadia; to Romanadvoratrelundar, the last President of the High Council; and to Romana, the only woman he ever loved.
This, he realizes, would be a spectacularly bad time to tell her that.
What the hell, he thinks, I’ve never been much for rules anyway and kisses her.
Kissing is more of a human thing, so most Time Lords wouldn’t understand, but she’s known him longer than most Time Lords.
It is simple. His hands end up caressing her face; her hands grip his lapels. There is almost nothing sexual about it because that is not them. Because that’s not why he loves her.
They break apart and both turn away.
“I-um-good by,” he says, uncertainly.
“Don’t forget to initiate the primary and secondary sequences in order–it’s terribly important and more than a little complicated.”
And he laughs as he runs away towards his TARDIS because that was so implicitly her to give him instructions before dying, to not even really say all those other things that could be said.
He gets up to the right orbit and makes everything ready. A few switches more and that’s it. He’s almost happy: he’s had his time, his fun, and perhaps he ought to call it quits. Go out with a bang, take the Daleks with him.
He doesn’t stop to think.
He just does it.
And he watches the flames consume the planet below him and he knows he killed her. Killed all of them. Murderer of his own people. Last of the Time Lords, if only for a few minutes. When the concussion wave reaches the TARDIS, that will be it. Fire will engulf his ship, himself, and the Dalek warships and that will be the end. Two of the greatest enemies in the universe, the Daleks and the Doctor, wiped out in one fell swoop.
It seems appropriate because he knows he could have prevented this, life times ago. Funny that his wish to avoid genocide on Skaro had lead to a double genocide now. And yet he could not find fault with his earlier wish to let the Dalek embryos live. Oh yes, he’d changed his mind, but it had been too late. He knows he couldn’t have lived with himself had he done it back then.
He won’t have to live with himself now.
The shock wave hits the TARDIS and suddenly everything is fire, he is fire, the TARDIS is screaming inside his head and so is he and he is falling, burnt and dying into nothingness.