The Doctor looked up in shock as he registered Jamie tipping over in his peripheral vision, then chuckled briefly as he caught his companion.
Jamie was always falling on him or clutching onto him, the Doctor smiled to himself. After getting over the initial shock of his very first regeneration, it had felt good to have someone to care for and who cared in return — like Susan had done when they had first left Gallifrey and they had realised that any return would be impossible, for Gallifrey would condemn them. He had finally recovered his sense of self by the time he had left her on Earth, knowing that she had taken care of him all this time and that she deserved to live for herself.
After regeneration, Ben and Polly — well, Ben's initial refusal to accept him had hurt, obviously. And that being his first regeneration meant that it had taken some time to find his bearing. And then this wonderful Scot had come along, and it had been like learning how to love all over again.
He found his hands petting Jamie's hair, weaving through the strands. It felt oddly natural, sitting in the shade of a fig tree, Jamie's head on his knees, his fingers wandering through Jamie's hair, maintaining a conversation with Socrates about the intricacies of a direct democracy.
Loving people felt different in every regeneration — he had witnessed Time Lords oscillate between icy and distant in one regeneration and passionate and fiery in the next. Loving Jamie was like loving a very dear friend, one he couldn't bear to lose.
But he would. He had — had he? Hadn't he?
All of them? So many names in his head, Time Lords, Time Ladies, old and new Gallifreyans, lost but not forgotten, displaced but not destroyed, not really.
Something was wrong in his mind, something was wrong with time itself, and here he sat, his companion in his lap, merely conversing about that which is written in stone with a man long dead or long unborn.
The empty expanses of his brain, yet to be filled with all and everything in the universe, ached.
Golden sands, stretched to the end of the land and beyond, crowned by ochre hills, sky swirling blue and orange. She shouldn't see.
Red rain tumbled, no, flared down from the starless skies, exploding on the ground beyond and before him, exploding the enemy in the alien armour.
Saucer upon saucer upon saucer ravaged the cities and the country, poisoning the golden streams running from mountains of red grass and silver-leafed trees. Their green fire blew into the bases of the towers of the Citadel, bringing buildings crashing down on him and the people nearby, trapping them for eternity.
The only light came from the fires raging in the pit of living quarters, whilst soldiers — Gallifreyan soldiers! The closest the Time Lords ever had come to having warriors were the Chancellory Guard, and yet Gallifreyan soldiers managed to stand up and keep their own against Daleks — fired beams into incoming battlers.
Crying horror wandered the streets in search of comfort and found none.
Ashes and dust rained up and down.
People fell and were felled.
Yet here he stood.
He could end it now, and kill them all, or refuse and let them kill themselves and all of the universe with them.
The tin can voiced abominations roamed the streets of the Citadel, like tentacled sick in a metal shell.
Their one-armed cousin, known even as an abomination to the abominations themselves, fired shot after shot, razing down the civilisation that he had once fled.
He had fled because he had wanted to get away. He had fled because he had been bored.
Broken bricks and wires lined the clearances.
There was no other way in the vast golden sands of his mind.
He felt himself there, his future self — selves? - and sighed.
So many lives he failed to save.
So many lives he would save by pursuing.
Dust particles swirled around his head — heads?
This was the end.
The universe would burn if he didn't.
A swirling blue and orange dawn would be no more.
The Doctor awoke from his hallucination and found his hand clutching onto Jamie's hair — Jamie, who looked at him with a mixture of fear and pain and concern painted on his face.
Socrates coughed. “I suppose, Doctor, that we'd better head back.”