AN: I started this on Morganeth Taren'drel's birthday, and the idea sparked from something she said to me, so naturally I wrote it as a present for her. :3 She urged me to share it here, too, though, so here it is.
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who.
In Every Moment
Words like "history" and "future" have no real meaning to him, other than to be used as concepts to explain things to his travelling companions. Time means everything, and nothing at all. Every moment, every great achievement and heart-rending tragedy, all the small victories and failures throughout the universe; it's all happening right now.
He can't possibly feel all that at once, it would be far too overwhelming, and so he immerses himself in his surroundings instead, in what is happening around him. And yes, the glory of the ten-thousand-year empire of Xreccht VII is coming to an end, but it's ending somewhere other than where he is, and he will mourn it when his travels take him there in person. Because if he did it any other way, there would just be too much to mourn at once. It's also just beginning, the dawn of a bright era of art and invention and peace, and so much life. Too much to celebrate.
Time is not a death sentence to a Time Lord, not something intangible and inevitable. Instead, it is a place the Doctor travels and explores, much like humans travel the world. And just like those human travelers, he aims to see as much of it as he can, picking up memories (and occasionally memorabilia) that complement his knowledge of the events around them nicely, make them a little more personal. Because it's no longer just something he knows happened, will happen, is happening. He was there, he saw the sights with his own eyes, and he can still remember the way the air tasted in every critical moment.
Living in the moment with everyone around him, just as they are - it makes him feel less alone. He might be the last of his race but he isn't the last of every race, and sometimes he is lonely, but with the billions and billions of other people living in time with him, never quite alone.
The Doctor throws himself into every moment, with every fibre of his being. Sometimes he changes things, sometimes he rights them, setting time back the way he knows it should be. That is the way a Time Lord can leave his mark on the universe - not by writing on a bus shelter with permanent marker or on the side of a bridge with spray-paint, but by changing things a little. Saving a person here, a civilization there, and occasionally the entire universe, and then moving on to the next moment. Some bring him overwhelming joy, or the excitement of lives risked and saved, or the tragedy of those he could not save, and he savours and experiences each and every moment as though it could be his last.
Because that is the only future that remains a mystery to a Time Lord - the future of his own personal timeline. He cannot know exactly where or when he will find himself as he steps out of the TARDIS, only perhaps where he intended to be (and there is sometimes quite a discrepancy between the two, more often than he would like to admit).
And so, despite all the omens and warnings he has been given, he does nothing but keeps on living every moment, and seeing everything he can, until that fateful day when death catches up with him at last.
He will knock four times...