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The Moment That Has Been Prepared For

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Once, a very long time ago, the story began. And all stories end.

The Doctor had lived many, many lives. Once a student turned renegade of his own people. That was thousands of years ago, by their standard. He was old. Balding, white hair, revisiting the face of an old favourite. This Doctor, who had once lived through the Last Great Time War, the Battle of Trenzalore, and the Universal War, now spent his days not reminiscing over these horrors, but of the travels he shared with friends. Susan, Jamie, Sarah, Peri. Izzy, Rose, Clara, Yaz. Megan, Lewis, Olive, Jean. He remembered them all. Days spent on moon-beaches and weekends exploring the anti-matter caves of asteroid fields. That was so long ago now. Hundreds of years. The Doctor wasn’t too sure how long he had lived. His incarnations even seemed to blur together, at times. Calls to who he once was, the paths they took. Fat or slim, man or woman, younger or older. He remembered the first time he had regenerated. The fear, the shock of it all. But over the centuries and over the dozens of forms, he had grown accustomed to it. And yet, there was one thing that The Doctor had never truly done. The Doctor had never died before.

He knew this was his last incarnation. The ill-effects of the uncountable number of centuries he had walked had finally begun to catch-up with him. His new body, at least when it was new, was already weak. And his TARDIS, even older than he was, was long out of commission. She clung to life, humming away. Never too far away from The Doctor’s side. But he knew she would never be able to fly again. There was no amount of temporal engineering, no amount of chronological alterations that would help. Everything has its time, after all. This incarnation, perhaps the fiftieth or hundredth or even higher, travelled the universe for a short time. But he settled on Earth, spending the last few decades living quietly in the English countryside. Once, his third incarnation owned a cottage, just outside of London. It was here that The Doctor retired, taking up bee-keeping and reading. He would meet with Alastair, one of his oldest friends, every Sunday. At least when he was alive. Alastair passed away in his sleep. The Doctor knew it was coming. His ill health was a give-away, and the fact he had heard of it, many years before. He knew the time and place it would happen.

The Doctor paid visits to other of his friends too, on occasion. Sometimes he wouldn’t tell them who he was. He would just be a strange old man on the London underground, or a man inviting them to sit with him in a café. He hoped they guessed who he was. At times he thought so, and others, perhaps not. After 2013, The Doctor retired from being the curator of the National Gallery. His own health slowly failing him. Hearts problems, the need of a walking stick. Kate, Alastair’s daughter, always came to check on him. She kept it a secret from his younger incarnations, that she was in many ways his carer. Time-travel, and all that. It was best to keep their future secret. She bought him food and supplies, everything he asked for. Well, not everything. She couldn’t supply him with every piece of scientific equipment he wished after. Still, it didn’t stop him from turning the fridge into a particle accelerator under Rowling’s seventh law of spatial-temporal engineering. Still, she would get him all she could. A new fridge, of course, and the likes of paper, pencils, and ink.

But it was here, in this cottage, that The Doctor lived out the remainder of his life. The TARDIS sat in in the corner of the sitting room. Her blue wooden frame beginning to chip. She whirred, at times, as if trying to talk to her aging friend. The Doctor understood her. “Oh, my old girl, I know,” he would tell her, his hand slowly running along the door. Inside, the console room had reverted to her original state. The white walls, however, were dim. The power was just not strong enough to keep the lights on. She couldn’t de-materialise any longer. There was no short hop to the moon and back. It was here that she lay. The Doctor discussed with her old travels, of the many repairs he had done to her over the many, many years. Time Lords and their TARDISes have this connection. Not physical, of course, but deeper than spiritual. Almost like the TARDIS was an extension of The Doctor, himself. He knew that, when that day came, she would go too. In many ways, he was glad. The thought of her being on her own, that emptied him.

In many ways, The Doctor hoped something would happen. That his youth would be restored, or he would wake up with a new set of regenerations, and that the TARDIS would be ready for more travels. He could meet so many new people. Help so many more people. But that day never came. He understood why. The universe, only very rarely, gave miracles. He already had more than he could count. The life he lived, in all his different incarnations, was a miracle enough, he thought. Still, he still wasn’t prepared for the inevitable. He still was not prepared for what had been awaiting him since the day he was born, all those years ago. Gallifrey, his home, somewhere in the sky above him. Thousands of light-years away. He was born there, but he never had any intentions of passing there. It was a warm night. The Doctor, asleep in his bed. The TARDIS in the next room. It was peaceful. The house quietened. The Doctor saw his life, then. Not in flashes but in full. Of years he had forgotten, of journeys he had no recollection of. But he remembered every face. Every foe, every friend, every lover. He remembered it all. He lived it all, one last time, before he took the hands of everyone he had once thought lost. “The moment has been prepared for.”

Kate let herself in, the following morning. She noticed it was quiet. The hum of the TARDIS gone. She knew immediately what this meant. For hours she stood by his side, wishing he would say anything. By his side laid a notebook. Kate had never seen it before. The cover read “The Further Journal of Impossible Things”, the letters neatly carved in with a familiar hand-writing. He had kept this a secret from her. Inside, a letter;

“Kate, thank you for being there for me over these past few years. Much like your father was. You’ve known me for quite some time. At least from my point of view. This is my life. Everything about me is written inside this notebook. You may do what you will with it. Just keep it out of my own hands, eh? Don’t despair, Kate. Where there is life, there is hope. I said that, once before. And I believe it. Always have hope, my dear. Even without me. This me, at least.

You’ll always be bumping into me, from time to time. That angry Scottish one, the one in the bow-tie, the one who couldn’t wear that bandana properly. They’re all me. And I’ll always still be there. Perhaps you’ll find comfort in this book. You and your family always were some of my closest friends. Give my love to all the others. I could list them but I would run out of paper. I know you refused to discuss this with me, but bury me here. Bury me with the TARDIS under the cottage.

I always hated endings. I would rip out the last page from books so it didn’t have to end. And yet, you’ve found my last page.

Brave heart, my dear. And good luck. Signed, The Doctor.”