Sol 3, known locally as Earth, a tiny, backwater planet when viewed from a cosmic scale. Centuries shy, by local reckoning, of the golden age that would be known as the First Great And Bountiful Human Empire. Time ran differently for him, though, and he had seen it all, had participated in most of it, until Humans, the dominant sentient race on the planet had expanded to the far reaches of the galaxy and the yellow dwarf known as Sol finally expanded to encompass its three closest satellites.
All of space and time at his fingertips and he found himself more often than not on this planet, in this century or the one previous, and in this town. London, early 21st century, local time. He sniffed the air, reaching out with his time senses. And something not quite right.
He walked the city, enjoying being surrounded by Humans and being accepted without question as one of them, all the while seeking out that niggling something that didn't belong. His wandering lead him to the basement of a department store, Henrik's, by name.
What was that? A flash of blonde hair surrounded by Autons. He managed to insinuate himself beside her and assess her even before she'd noticed his arrival. Blonde, dyed; young, by Human standards; petite compared to this incarnation of him; pretty, if one wanted to be completely honest; scared by the situation but not incapacitated. Interesting.
She looked over at him and he smiled reassuringly. His hand clasped hers -- his next words dying on his lips as he felt her timeline reverberate around him. It had never happened with a Human before, other telepathic species certainly, but he'd learned to anticipate that and compensate for it. There were several potential futures available to this young blonde Human female and, just out of curiosity, he plucked the closest string, slowing Time around the two of them to give him an extra few seconds.
He saw himself, holding her broken and dying body on what appeared to be the roof of this very building.
An hour remaining in her too short life, and she didn't even know it. That was unacceptable. He plucked the next string.
Himself, pushing her away, forcing her to leave the department store before he destroyed the relay device on the roof. Her, the next day, fighting her way back into his life only to leave him at the mercy of the Nestene Consciousness as she fled with her useless boyfriend.
That one ended with his own death. Also unacceptable. Another.
Her, leaving his TARDIS, refusing his offer to travel with him not once but three times.
Three times? He'd never offered such an amazing gift more than once. He pushed that one aside as improbable.
Him regenerating and her running away at this blatant display of his alienness. Thousands of humans falling to their deaths because of Sycorax blood control, him unable to even mount a resistance after her rejection.
Him on a white stallion, crashing through a mirror into what looked like 18th century France.
He rummaged through the strings of her timeline touching each briefly before discarding them all in turn. So many different ways where she would leave him or he would leave her, occasionally like the first, one of them dying in the other's arms. Each loss affected him more and more. But nearly every single version of her future included him in some way. Why was he so obsessed with this one Human?
Finally, he found the answer to that question in a shining string hidden way in the back, farthest from his reach, metaphorically speaking. He touched it and gasped, dropping it immediately. Impossible.
He grabbed it again, almost unaware of the way it curled slightly around his fingers, welcoming him. He was sucked into it and saw laughter and friendship, companionship in the deepest sense of the word. He saw how that grew into furtive glances, lingering touches, and innuendo laced dancing. He saw her reaction to his regeneration, her determination to stay with him regardless.
And then he saw her accepting him completely, their hands clasped together much as they were now, but across hundreds of planets and from the beginning of time until the end. He saw dozens of accidental marriage ceremonies and local binding rituals, some less accidental than he allowed her to believe. Their mouths and eventually their bodies coming together, followed by her body, ripe with his seed, growing and changing beneath his hands and before his eyes.
He caught glimpses of that child, those children, three and then eventually four of them, growing up, each of them brilliant, each of them piloting their own TARDIS as they left the nest, the beginnings of a bright new species. But her, constant beside him, never aging, their hands still pressed tightly together.
Could it be possible? Could this beautiful shining future really be waiting for him after everything that he had done, the years he had spent as the destroyer of his own people? He had to find out.
And it all started with a single word.
Focusing on that string, on that future, he returned to the present and the basement of Henrik's department store, his hand clasped firmly around that of this small pink and yellow Human, he opened his mouth to speak.