A/N Because waiting is hard. And sometimes, so is life. But that's okay.
Set during "Let's Kill Hitler".
"Come on, more guilt!" the Doctor managed to get out, pain stabbing through his binary hearts.
Martha was happily married now. Donna was at least alive, and had good ol' Wilfred Mott to take care of her, and Wilf was brilliant, really. He could run away from Martha the soldier and poor Donna Noble's lost memories if he tried hard enough to focus on the first few facts instead. They were better off without him dragging them into danger at every turn.
It did get lonely traveling the stars by yourself though. And it was oh-so-easy for the memories to sneak up on him without a distraction and he couldn't afford to think about silver-leafed trees or red grass, laughing companions or the wonder and amazement in their eyes. This new regeneration, even with its rather large chin – blimey, it was almost as bad as the ears had been – was a new start. A new body for running, one faster and more exuberant than ever before.
Of course, he then landed in a little girl's backyard. The Doctor had sprung out of his poor battered TARDIS and right into Amelia's life. Oh, Amelia Pond. It was no wonder she caused the most guilt as her form flickered to life.
It shot through him, hurting worse than the poison ever could. The Doctor's face softened anyway as he saw her young face and red hair. Her face was blank – yes, he knew she was just the voice interface, but was it really that necessary to repeat it? – but he could easily imagine her eyes filled with that joyful wonder and amazement that the Doctor would never stop loving. It reminded him how much there was in the universe to look forward to, and how precious everything truly was.
He had promised he would be back soon. That promise was broken, shattered, left among the ruins and dust of crumbled hopes and dreams.
It wasn't the first time the Doctor had done that before either.
Gallifrey was red with blood and fire, smoke and shadows clogging the sky in an awful smog that reeked of death. The two moons, so bright and beautiful normally, were blocked out by the menacing darkness. The peaceful rustling of the silver leaves and crimson grass was smothered by screams and the sounds of weapons firing. Daleks swarmed over the ground, their eyestalks and waving weapons promising disintegration. Gallifreyans, their normally impeccable robes smudged with dirt and ash, their faces filled with fear, ran and fought with an almost animal desperation. Families would scurry across the ground, only to see children and mothers and fathers turned to ash and dust by merciless daleks.
The Doctor shuddered at the vivid flashes of memory. He was stuck on the ground, poison coursing through his veins – no running away this time.
The TARDIS, his beautiful, magnificent TARDIS that had carried him all over the universe, was creaking in pain. Burn marks marred the blue paint of her exterior. His hands flew across the controls, urging her onward, through the raging war. He hated every minute of it, trying to shut down everything in his mind except the desire to stop the war. No more. No more. It was a mantra he repeated to himself, to his TARDIS, the only one who really listened to him anymore. Being a renegade Time Lord was lonely without a companion, even though he had plenty to occupy his attention now.
His daughter though, on her third regeneration now and such a strong young soldier, had talked to him once, just recently. He was halfway into his TARDIS when she called his name and he turned, wishing he could hold her close and simply listen to the peaceful rustle of wind like when she was just a little Time Tot. He couldn't help but turn back to her, a wistful love in his eyes as he looked at her.
He promised her he would be back. That they could have the chance to talk. He promised himself that he would hug her tight even if she tried to pull away, because sometimes the heaviness of war was just too much to bear but he could do anything for his daughter.
Then there was The Moment.
And Gallifrey burned.
The Doctor gasped in pain, physical and emotional. Oh, his precious family. He had left her fighting a battle that couldn't be won, waiting for a father that would never return. He had done the same to Amelia Pond, hadn't he? He had just left her there, in nothing but a nightgown in a chilly breeze. There were some differences, but in essence the Doctor had broken the same promise twice. He'd done more than break it; he'd stomped on it, crushed it into tiny, razor-sharp pieces.
He had come back, finally, but it wasn't the same. Three psychiatrists, had Amy said? No, no, four. Four psychiatrists, all because of him. Stupid, stupid Doctor. When would he learn? If he could just pilot the TARDIS better, if he had paid more attention to where exactly he was landing, if maybe he could have convinced his daughter to come with him, if he hadn't set his world aflame…
If only. There were so many of those, so terribly many.
He was rambling now, trying to find a solution even as pain cramped in his chest, creeping down into his arms and legs. If only, if only. Maybe, maybe.
He needed someone to be brave for, because goodness gracious knows he didn't have the strength to do it for himself. He had seen too much for that. And then:
"Fish fingers and custard."
The Doctor glanced up at Amelia Pond, disbelief and hope flashing through his eyes for just a moment before a wide grin spread across his face. He was on the floor now, but he couldn't help but laugh, somehow finding the strength the pull himself up using the console. He repeated the phrase, ending up shouting it to the world as he pulled the lever and the TARDIS whirred into action. He wasn't giving up just yet.
Companions reminded him of the good in the world, all those wonderful, amazing, simple things that were so easy to forget sometimes. Because life was hard, and dark, and painful. It was scary and full of monsters. But there was so much joy at the same time, in all of those little moments – moments like sharing a bowl of fish fingers and custard in Amelia Pond's kitchen. And didn't that make it all worth it? You had to take the good with the bad and work with whatever you had. And if that wasn't what you wanted, you shrug it off, plaster a smile on your face, and pretend it's fine until it actually is.
Night doesn't last forever, and even when it's dark there are at least stars to look at.
The Doctor has always thought stars to be particularly beautiful, when one thought to look for them.
A/N It's so hard to focus on the good sometimes when everything feels like it's falling apart. Life hasn't been kind to me lately, but I look for the stars anyway, because they're there. Always. There is good in everything, and you hold on to that until the sun rises again. Don't ever, ever give up on that.
I don't know how many of you are religious, but having faith (in just a brighter tomorrow, but especially Jesus Christ) helps and strengthens. I love that Christ took not only our sins, but all of our pains and our grief as well, upon Himself so that we may never walk alone throughout the trials we may face in this life. I'm grateful for that, because sometimes I feel very alone indeed. I never am though; I just have to remind myself of that. And I have to remind myself that any of the pain we feel now is nothing compared to the joy we'll feel later. I believe that with all of my heart.
[I don't mean this to be offensive to anyone who isn't Christian; I have just made it a goal of mine to be more open about the gospel because it is very special to me. Thank you so much for understanding. So as a side note to that, if anyone has any questions, shoot me a PM. I don't know everything, but I'd be happy to try my best. ;) ]
As a note about the story itself, I hope nothing is too confusing and everything stays mostly within canon (of which I own nothing). This was a "spur of the moment" story to get things off my chest, so it probably won't be perfect. Feel free to point out any continuity errors in a review though; hopefully, I'll be able to edit this accordingly. ^^
Thank you all for taking the time to read this story; even that means a lot to me. You all are wonderful, amazing people; never forget that. :)