He faintly remembers the sound of screams, echoing in his mind, but cannot reconcile them with his current position on the floor of his TARDIS.
The floor of his TARDIS?
Before he can ponder why he is there—or, indeed, who he even is, there is the sound of a key scratching into the lock. He tries to lift his head, to see who would have a key to his TARDIS—everyone’s dead, now. That’s why his head aches so, why he cannot remember his name. He knows this.
Everyone is dead, and it is his fault.
The door to his ship opens, and he hears footsteps on the grating. Grating? That’s new—or is it? He cannot remember, and thinking about anything over than the present threatens to cause a horrific, blinding headache. His mind is, after all, already screaming from the loss of an entire race.
“Doctor? ‘S that you?” a voice calls softly. It seems familiar, conjuring up images of a swirling box and a red button shaped like a rose, and a howling Wolf. Then the pain begins again and he moans feebly, his hands going to his head, as though this can stop the agony.
“Doctor, what’s wrong?” that voice asks.
Doctor, that must be his name. “Not the Doctor,” he grates out, his voice unfamiliar. “Not—anymore.”
A cool hand touches his face. “You look like you’ve jus’ regenerated. Is it regeneration sickness?”
“All dead,” he whispers brokenly, cracking open an eye. There’s a blurry golden shape above him. “Who—“
“Shh,” the shape hushes. “M’ name’s Rose. ‘S the Time War, isn’t it? You jus’ ended it.”
He licks his lips, feeling like he should be frightened. She knows too much. “How—?”
“’M from your future, Doctor.”
“’S a fantastic one, you an’ I. But you’ve got to go out an’ find it.” Her hand ghosts over his face, and he leans into it without thinking, desperate for the comfort.
“Can’t. I want to die, Rose,” he croaks out, feeling tears on his cheeks. “Why can’t I just die?”
“Oh, Doctor,” Rose murmurs gently. “C’mon, let’s get you cleaned up an’ into bed.”
She pulls him to his feet, and he leans heavily on her. She leads him into his bedroom—how she even knows which one’s his, he doesn’t know. But he doesn’t question. She soothes him with nonsensical words, calls him ‘love’—he doesn’t understand that one. How can anyone love him?
“You never stop asking that question, do you?”
He must’ve said that last bit out loud, he realizes.
“Yes, you did. Hush, Doctor. The Old Girl’ll help you, jus’ rest. An’ when you feel up to it—when you’ve got back your strength, an’ you feel a bit more like yourself, then follow those coordinates. There might jus’ be a pesky Auton invasion threatening the whole Earth,” and she’s winking at him, with a wide smile, and is that her tongue in the corner of it?
He doesn’t mean to sound so desperate, but he is and he does and so he reaches out, catching her hand and tugging weakly. “Please?”
“When you wake up, you won’t remember this. Not really. That’s the way it needs to be. But I’ll stay until you fall asleep, an’ I’ll keep the nightmares away.”
He lets go of her hand, satisfied, and closes his eyes.
The Doctor frowns, blinking awake. The pain in his head has receded enough to allow him to think clearly, and the first thing he questions is how he got to his bedroom.
There’s a hazy memory of a golden goddess and the phantom brush of lips against his own, but that’s all. He shakes his head, more than a little bit confused, disoriented, and then notices the slip of paper—and the pink and yellow rose—on his nightstand. He lifts up the paper.
London, England, Earth. March 6th, 2005.
“Seems as good a place as any, eh, Old Girl?”
He rises from his bed and heads to the wardrobe. It wouldn’t do to go traipsing around London in pyjamas, after all.
No matter what he’s done, he is still the Doctor, and there is still a universe to save.