Summary: At the end of the episode "Journey's End" the Doctor thinks about what is, what has been, and what could be. My very first piece of Doctor Who fiction.

As he left Donna's house for the very last time, the Doctor was grateful for the light rain that was falling. The raindrops mixed with his tears and made them not quite so noticeable. As the door to the TARDIS closed securely behind him, he leaned his back against it and squeezed his eyes shut tight to force the tears to stop. He hated crying; hated the ache in his chest that saying good-bye to loved ones always caused. The sooner he got away from Earth and on to his next big adventure, the sooner the pain would start to ease. He took a shuddering, deep breath and wiped the moisture from his face with both hands. As he stepped slowly towards the console, it took him a moment to realize that his time ship had already started her engines and taken them into the Vortex. "Good girl," he sent her the message telepathically and received in return what could only be interpreted as a despondent sigh. Apparently, the old girl was just as heartbroken as he was.

The Doctor peeled off his rain-soaked jacket and tossed it aside, lamenting only briefly the loss of his blue suit. As he stood in front of the console, absently watching the rhythmic motions of the central column, his mind began to race through the day's events. Had it only been one day? All that activity, all those people, and now... so quiet. Amazingly different from just a couple of hours ago. The place had been packed, full of joyful voices, laughter and so much hugging. A regular hug fest. It was the best moment he could recall having in a very, long, long time. Everyone so cheerful and relaxed, even the TARDIS, pleased to be piloted the way she was meant to be. All too brief though. They soon departed, back to their old lives or on to a new one. They left him, or he left them, but all alive and all well, and that's what really mattered. Everyone sorted. Perhaps not the way they all would have liked, and not even how he would have liked, but still, sorted.

He strolled around the console wondering where and when he should go next. Admittedly, the idea of going nowhere and doing absolutely nothing at all seemed uncharacteristically appealing to him. He had done way too much already in the past few hours. He had helped to save a few universes -- which was a very good thing, indeed -- but he had also done something for which he wasn't quite so proud. He had hurt two of the most precious people in his life. He had done what he did to protect them, to keep them safe, but it had hurt them both terribly, and he knew that nothing could ever make up for his betrayal. He had developed a very bad habit of hurting the ones he loved and he wished desperately that he could break himself of that.

He couldn't decide which had been worse, abandoning Rose on the parallel universe or removing Donna's memories. With Donna there really had not been another choice. Clearing her mind of everything Time Lord was the only way to save her life. Still, it had been an unpleasant task, made even harder because she had understood what he needed to do and what the final results would be. She knew the procedure would save her life and yet she still fought him on it. Stupid woman. How could someone so wonderfully brilliant choose to accept her own death over keeping a few memories of what she'd been through with him? Especially considering the fact that many of those recollections held some rather harsh and terrifying events. She'd seen so much death, destruction and human cruelty that she'd seriously questioned her decision about traveling with him and at one point even asked to be taken home. It wasn't until after they had helped to free the Ood that Donna's perspective of the Doctor and time travel changed significantly. She had decided that life aboard the TARDIS suited her quite nicely after all and that she never wanted to leave.

He could still see her pleading eyes overflowing with tears as she begged him not to make her go back. But he had, and it felt very much like he had snuffed out her life. He may have indeed saved the body of a certain abrasive, redheaded, loud mouth...temp, but in doing so, he had killed the Donna Noble he had grown to love and respect. Love like a best mate, that is, not like a wife. Odd, that so many people thought that they were married. Must have been all the playful bickering between them. Oh, but he was going to miss her. The Donna Noble who had saved his life in more ways than she could ever imagine was no more. He thought of the woman he'd said good-bye to in the kitchen of her home. It hurt to see that she no longer had that spark of wonder in her eyes or the inviting and caring openness for total strangers she had developed while traveling with him. The well-tuned perception filter he carried in his pocket would have, of course, caused her not to take interest in him at all, but he somehow got the impression that it had not even been a needed precaution. This Donna would never have given such a skinny streak of nothing like him a second look anyway.

The Donna Nobel he knew was gone, but the other Donna was alive and well and all that was needed for her to reach her full potential was a few encouraging words and a chance to shine. Surely, he would not be the only person to realize just how brilliant she was and convince her of that. He hoped her mother would take his advice and tell her daughter what a terrific person she was. He was sure that her granddad would do it. Donna would be all right, 'course she would. He would have to send a message to Jack to let him know about Donna and to make sure that the captain and the rest of his ex-companions kept their distance from her.

Ex-companions...that sounded so wrong. They were his friends and his family. It had felt very much like a family for a while there. But now the loneliness was closing in around him. It didn't have to be this way, he knew. He could have kept Rose and his clone with him. One of the problems of being a Time Lord was seeing all the different timelines playing out in his mind and trying to decide which one was the right one to follow. He'd seen timelines without Rose by his side and he'd seen several with her. Most had her dying young, usually while trying to save his life. The few that had her living beyond a handful of years, showed her without any other family members around, no children of her own, and growing ever bitter and jealous of new, younger companions.

But there had been another timeline he'd seen a while back that had made no sense to him at the time. It showed him and Rose having a family and growing old together, much like he'd seen with John Smith and Joan Redfern. He had wondered if he'd used the chameleon arch on himself again. That was the only way to explain it until, that is, his half-human clone was born. New timelines leapt into his brain. One had his clone and Rose traveling with him on the TARDIS. The three of them the best of mates having a grand time traipsing through the universe together, until tragedy strikes. It would be Rose putting her life on the line again for one or both of her Doctors, or the clone Doctor sacrificing himself to save them, or both Rose and the clone doing whatever needed to be done to save the Time Lord. But the other timeline where Rose and the Doctor married and raised a family in a world of Zeppelins, that one seemed the better choice. The clone had seen it as well and had silently communicated his agreement.

Neither could afford to tell Rose beforehand. They knew she would protest. The clone wasn't her true Doctor even though he had the same memories and feelings for her as the original. But he would convince her in time that even without the ability to regenerate or fly her around time and space, that he was still the man who grabbed her by the hand all those years ago and said to her, "Run!"

Oh, but it hurt so much to let her go. He was still trying to convince himself that he had done the right thing. His actions would keep her safe and give her the kind of life she deserved. Besides, technically, he was still there with her. He would be there to love, honor and cherish her always. He truly regretted not being able to say those words she'd waited so long to hear from him, but she had to know that he felt them, her "proper" Doctor. She had to know that he wanted to say them, wanted to hug her one last time and kiss her with all the pent up passion he'd carried inside for the past few years. Surely she knew the truth without him having to utter a single word.

She would probably never forgive him for not taking the time to ask for her opinion and giving her the opportunity to choose. But he already knew what her choice would have been and he couldn't allow her to make such a poor decision. Soon enough she would turn her affections to his clone, not wanting to betray her real Doctor, but finally accepting the fact that they truly are one in the same and that they each love her equally. She would eventually realize that while one was willing to sacrifice his own happiness for her safety, the other was willing to sever his link to the TARDIS and remain earthbound for the privilege of spending the rest of his life with her.

The Doctor had no idea of how long he had been leaning on the edge of the console, gazing inwardly at his own reflections. A drop of moisture made an unexpected trail down his cheek. He wanted to believe that it was merely from his rain dampened hair, but he knew the truth. He quickly stood up straight and wiped the wetness from his face again. There was absolutely no reason for tears. His friends were all alive and well. The earth had been saved as well as twenty-six other planets, and all the other universes. Plus, the Daleks had been defeated once and for all. But that particular victory had been bittersweet. He had never wanted to be a witness to genocide again. He had not been able to push the button back on the Game Station even though it meant the end of everything he had fought so hard to preserve. He wondered how it was that his clone could do it. Perhaps being half human gave him a bit more courage -- or was it reckless stupidity -- to do what was needed to obliterate an entire species and end the threat to the universes. There may have been an alternative measure. The same magnetic field that had been used to incapacitate the Daleks, might possibly have been used to make them permanently harmless without destroying them. Unfortunately, all it would have taken was one overly clever Dalek to find a way to reverse the field and start the invasion up all over again.

The Doctor walked over to the jump seat and sat down. He crossed his arms over his chest and propped his feet up on the edge of the console. He couldn't help but think of Darvos' assessment of the Doctor's "children," claiming that he had turned his companions into murderers and weapons of mass destruction, noting that they all had been so willing to kill and destroy in the name of their beloved Doctor. But that really wasn't true. His friends weren't murderers. Murder implied a wanton desire to take the life of an innocent or unarmed person. None of them had been murderers in that sense. He had to admit to himself that on occasions they had aided him in scenarios which led to the deaths of others, helped him to push a button, or fashion a weapon. But it had never been simply for his benefit alone. There had always been a greater good at stake, whether it be the lives of a few people, an entire planet or the whole of space and time. It was never just about the Doctor. But people quite often thought he could more successfully save the day than the average bloke. Sometimes they were right about that but other times, a hero could be found in the most unlikely and unassuming being.

That hostess on the Midnight tour...blimey, he never did learn her name. The bureaucrats there insisted on waiting until after her next of kin could be notified before releasing her name to the public. But he had been too nervous to wait around, afraid they'd begin to question him and become suspicious of his inadequate replies. He decided to name her Angela. One might think she went out of her way just to save his life, but it had been more than that. She saw what that thing -- whatever it was -- was capable of doing, and she feared that it might continue to wreak havoc far beyond the passengers of the Crusader 50 tour. No one was willing to listen to her, and she realized that the thing would get away and --

The Doctor slammed the door shut on that particular memory. Regardless of why she had done it, Angela had saved his life. It could be argued that she had sacrificed herself for him while taking the life of another. Same as with Astrid, Jack, Rose, and Luke Rattigan.... "But they're not murderers," he spoke aloud, then shrugged sheepishly when he noted there was no one around to hear him. He had not turned any of them into murderers. They had all acted either in self-defense or to defend the lives of others. So many times he'd wished they had just done as he asked and stay back or run away, or have a fantastic life. He never understood how so many of them would simply smile and shake their heads at his feeble attempt to keep them safe.

There had to be something about him, some kind of pheromone he unknowingly exuded that turned those around him into self-sacrificing, Time Lord protectors. He'd love to be able to turn it off, whatever it was. Way too many life forms had perished because of him. Then again, perhaps there was something truly cosmic at work, something greater than he could ever imagine working hard to keep him alive at any cost. "Oh, but that's a grand bit of grandiose rubbish," he mumbled and rolled his eyes at the thought. Donna would definitely have taken him down a peg or two if he had come to her with that bit of nonsense. Still, he couldn't help but wonder sometimes why he was always the one to survive while so many others perished needlessly.

He stood and began another slow tour around the console. He wasn't ready to venture back into the other sections of the TARDIS. He wasn't ready to be reminded that he wouldn't be bumping into Donna along the way. He would not be hearing her voice call out to him to join her for meals or a cup of tea, or ask his opinion on an outfit for their latest destination. Donna had not been the easiest person to get along with in the beginning but she had quickly grown on him. He was going to miss being called Martian Boy and being reminded almost daily about how skinny he was. He would miss their long, rambling talks, the automatic handholding, the comforting hugs, the laughter and that wonderful smile whenever he did something to please her. That went for both Donna and Rose.

He closed his eyes and sighed wearily. Donna and Rose, his best mate and the love of his life. Just wasn't fair to have to lose them both. All on his own again. He hated the sound of that. Rose had spoiled him, made him crave companionship and the feel of a hand grasped warmly in his. After the Time War he had already decided to become a loner and had absolutely no intentions of ever taking on another companion. But there she was, a nineteen-year-old girl that strolled effortlessly into his solitary world, gave him smiles and a hand to hold and made him never want to be alone again.

"Gone now, " he sighed softly while glancing about at his solitude. And unless there was another genius mastermind out there who could manipulate planets and knock down the doors of alternate universes, Rose was definitely never coming back. "Never say never." But he seriously hoped there wasn't another being out there capable of such devastation. Although, he planned to thoroughly investigate that Osterhagen character. No one should have the authority to put into place devices of such total destruction. He was sure that Martha and Jack would make sure the devices were put out of commission, but just knowing someone had organized their implementation was a bit scary. "Osterhagen," he spoke the name aloud, then rolled it around in his brain for a second. "Hold on. Osterhagen. That's just an anagram for...earth's gone." Still, someone had to orchestrate it all. And that time bubble back at Torchwood that Jack told him had saved his team members, that would need investigating too. Time bubbles, though useful on occasion, could be quite dangerous. All it would take is one tiny miscalculation and a time bubble could quite easily cause uncontrollable time pockets leading to unfathomable chaos and more than a few missed appointments.

Oh, well, there was no real hurry in checking on either of those things at present. He'd just left the Earth in very capable hands. And according to the scanner readings, nothing much was going on in or around the solar system that called for his attention. He could just relax and take it easy, get some repairs done that he'd been putting off and make sure the TARDIS was all right after that scare in the Crucible's core. He rolled up his sleeves to begin work but paused a moment to reach up and gently caress the center column.

"Get you all squared away, then we'll go someplace nice and peaceful, yeah? We'll be all right, you and I." Together he and the TARDIS would travel alone. He wouldn't fool himself into thinking that he'd never take on another companion. Despite the pain he endured whenever he lost one, it just wasn't in his nature to pass up the opportunity to share the wonders of the universe to an inquisitive soul. He had high hopes that whoever it was would be just as brilliant as his last few companions.

"Professor River Song," he uttered softly as her name and face suddenly sprang to mind. He realized that he still had the lovely, smart and fearless Professor Song to look forward to. He had no clue as to when or where that meeting would take place, but he knew that she would become someone very special to him. Unfortunately, he also knew how that relationship would end. She'd give her life to keep him alive so that they would be together in the future that was already her past. It was intriguing to know that he could possibly love another woman as much as he'd loved Rose. It was quite scary as well. Realizing the agony he endured when he lost Rose the first time to the other universe, he couldn't possibly imagine how he'd get through the loss of a woman who was destined to become possibly even more dear to him, knowing that she'd given her life to save a younger version of himself. Perhaps he won't survive that heartache. Perhaps that would be the straw to break the camel's back. But that would be all right. He'd take the bad with the good. And when he meets her in the future, he'll make sure to give her plenty of wonderful adventures to write about in her journal. And he'll treasure each moment with her as though it might be his last. Perhaps later he'll make one final trip back to the Library and join her in that make believe reality where adventures are plentiful and happy endings are the norm.

He shrugged. "It's a thought." Until then, he would busy himself with looking after the TARDIS and looking after all of time and space. He'd do his best to remember everyone he's come in contact with over the years -- both companions and passing acquaintances -- beings who have touched his life, leaving him a little bit wiser, a little bit better. He would probably shed a few more tears over the loss of Rose and Donna but he'd try not to wallow in self-pity or bemoan the fact that for now he doesn't have a soft hand to grasp or easy access to an automatic hug dispenser. He would continue his travels and keep a look out for that special someone with a spark of brilliance, a hunger for adventure, and oh yes, at least one hand to hold.

The End