The timelines snapping back into place had startled the Doctor to attention as he stepped away from the TARDIS controls. He recognised the strange feeling that overcame him. He’d just had to forget something to protect the timelines. He reached up to fix his bowtie as he tried to search his brain for what he’d forgotten, what was the reason for it. As he reached up though he noticed a soft buzzing coming from his sonic screwdriver inside his inner pocket. He frowned and reached in to pull it out. It was flashing periodically on and off, making him aware that it was storing some kind for information for him on it. He frowned in confusion at it, searching his memory banks for any idea of where this stored information would have come from, but he was drawing a blank. Must be from that information that he had to forget.
He could delete this information. Probably would be better if he did. Especially if his brain and the timelines had decided that whatever he’d blocked was better being forgotten. His curiosity obviously got the better of him. He activated the information. A recording started to play.
“Master.” His own voice spoke and the Doctor tensed, immediately moving over to one of the chairs at the edges of the console and lowering himself into it carefully as he prepared to listen to the pretty sizable recording he had logged on the sonic. It wasn’t a function he used all that often. Was actually one he normally forgot he had. He’d apparently thought it important enough to use this time.
And the Master. How could the Master be alive? He’d gone back with Rassilon, sacrificing himself for the Doctor and to end the Time War once and for all. It would be impossible for him to be alive. None of it made sense to him.
“Doctor,” a male voice that he didn’t recognise spoke up, the taunting nature of it telling him almost immediately that this was some future incarnation of the Master speaking, “You know, you weren’t meant to be here. But I’m anything if not a fast adapter.” There was a sudden light buzzing noise that sounded somewhere near the sonic’s recorder but the Master’s voice could still be picked up passed it, “Come on Doctor, we both know this is just between this me and this you, don’t we. Besides,” the voice turned away and suddenly there was the unmistakable sound of Cybermen marching forward, only about two by the sounds of it, “I can always have fun with him inside his mind. You know, I can always be in two places at once.” A drawn out evil cackle followed it, and the Doctor only had to be confused by the mention of an apparent third person for a moment before another, distinctly female voice spoke up, making it distinctly apparent that he was the third person in this conversation.
“So, what are you gonna do? Kill me?” the Sheffield accented voice was dry, unimpressed sounding.
“Oh Doctor; I’m- I’m not going to kill you.” The Master giggled. The Doctor stared down at his sonic in shock. This woman was him?... He was supposed to be the last incarnation of the Doctor. He had no more regenerations left. Suddenly there was a flash of shoulder length blonde hair and of a woman strapped to a chair screaming. He startled back into the present and stared down at the sonic as it continued playing the recording. “-About what the Time Lords did to you. Wiping your memories of your whole life before. And I got to wondering, how?” What whole life before? He stared down at the sonic, mildly horrified and confused at the prospect of forgetting a whole lifetime of information. What was he talking about? What did the Time Lords do to him? Where was this even taking place? He looked to the console and suddenly had another image hit him. A man in purple, laughing hysterically, evilly, with his fist slamming against a glass wall.
“- I know we hate one another but you can’t do this.” The apparent future version of him pleaded in the recording and the Master’s response made his blood run cold.
“I can do whatever I like. I’m the last Time Lord in existence. Rassilon only knows what you actually are.” What the hell did that mean? They both were Time Lords. What did he meant ‘what you actually are.’
Another memory hit him like a brick to the head. Himelf, trapped in paralysis rings, watching the man in purple speaking these words to the blonde woman strapped to a chair behind a glass wall.
He felt it then, the moment the fraying timelines finally snapped. He was all but launched from his seat, grasping desperately at the console to keep himself upright as he gasped in desperate breaths. He could remember everything. He remembered Gallifrey, he remembered his future self. He remembered what he’d been shown in the Matrix. Bill Potts, Clara Oswald. What happened to his precious Ponds. A choked sob escaped him and he clasped a hand over his mouth to try and smother it before the Ponds heard but it appears the attempt was in vain.
“Doctor?!” Amy called to him, clearly panicked by his clear and obvious distress as she rushed to his side. Her and Rory having just come from down the hallway leading further into the TARDIS, “Doctor? What’s wrong?”
“Amy,” he choked out and quickly shut off the recording on the sonic, mentally planning to finish listening to it later as he tucked it away. He reached to cup her face for a moment, “Amelia.” A flash of a memory of what was to come shot through his head.
“Raggedy man, goodbye.” That tear stained face faded into the confused looking one in front of him and he tugged her into him in a tight hug. The plan to drop her and Rory off at home already solidifying in his brain. He had to keep them safe, no matter what.
One image stuck in his brain. One sentence uttered by a future self. The image of Gallifrey, ruined but still there, and a Sheffield accent explaining,
“The Time War is time locked. This isn’t the Time War. This is long after.”
He knew what he had to do. He had to find Gallifrey. Figure out how he saved it and stay away from any of those people he loved in the future. Let them live their lives and not die because of him. Not have their loved ones remain forever wondering what happened to them. No more. He had to get over his loneliness. Find his people.