Whenever he'd truly needed to be alone, Central Park had always been there. There were hundreds of places to walk or to sit -- and in this part of the 20th century, some six or seven years before the iconic Towers had been constructed, New Yorkers were just jaded enough that he was usually left to his own devices.
If he'd have gone after their destruction, he would have been deluged by well-meaning souls trying to cheer him up. And right now, that was the last thing he needed.
Right now, all he needed was to be left alone to grieve.
Losing any companion was hard. Good-byes were usually sudden and always painful.
Losing Rose -- losing that beautiful spark that had made two of his lives brighter and better -- had very nearly killed him. Martha had helped, but he'd never really started to heal until a ginger whirlwind had entered his life.
Losing Donna -- having to have dimmed the fire of the most alive woman he'd ever met to save her life -- now threatened to finish the job.
He sat there on the park bench, a few hundred yards from where he'd left the TARDIS -- and silently cursed. He cursed Davros. He cursed the Daleks. He cursed the damnable Time War.
He cursed the stronger-than-usual telepathic abilities this form had. He had been so grateful to have them when they had saved Donna's life -- but the price now seemed unbearably high.
He wiped his hands over his face and groaned, suddenly feeling every one of his nearly 1500 years. Yes, he told his companions he was only 900 -- but come on, what sentient creature didn't lie about their age?
Realising he was babbling even in his thoughts, he struggled to calm himself. He sat there, eyes closed, and managed to get his whirling thoughts under control.
For about thirty seconds. Then he sat up as he felt a body settled on the park bench beside him with a soft groan. He kept his eyes closed, frowning softly as he felt a small buzz in the back of his skull, almost as if ---
No. They were all gone.
"It's a lovely day, isn't it?"
The reedy voice and unexpected British accent brought his eyes flaring open. He whirled where he sat, and found himself staring into an eerily familiar broad grin.
His first incarnation's imperfect teeth parted as the grin spread and he laughed. "My dear boy, such an expression! You look as though you've seen a ghost!"
"I...I might have," he mumbled, starng at his first self. He had thought meeting his previous selves impossible now, because of the Time War and its subsequent ripples through the universe.
But, clearly, he'd been wrong.
"Hmm," the first one said brightly, stil chuckling. "I've been called many, many things before. But I do believe that's the first time I've ever been called a ghost!"
Brown eyes were huge as he just could not seem to stop staring at the older-appearing man.
"What's the matter, my boy?" the first one chuckled. "Cat taken your tongue and scampered away with it?"
His eyes narrowed at hearing his mother's affectionate tease coming out of his own mouth. "Oh, you're a comedian, now?"
"Hmm. My granddaughter would tell you I'm a stodgy old doddard."
And he found himself smiling slightly, as he well remembered Susan telling him that on more than one occasion.
"Aah," the first one grinned. "So he can smile! You, my boy, are too young to be carrying such a burden."
"I'm older than I appear."
"As am I. So -- tell me. What's the matter?"
He turned away. "It's my burden to bear. I can't share it with you." I can't let you know your own future. What a monster you become.
He whirled back, his eyes huge with horror and his face paling so much that his freckles stood out. "I'm....what?"
"Broadcasting." His first self's head was tilted, azure eyes watching intently as emotions flit across the pale, freckled face.
"You.... You heard that?"
"More like I felt it. You're a Psionic, aren't you?"
A slow nod.
"T-Touch-telepath. I can receive broadcasts, but I have to touch to send thoughts." Among other things...
The first one nodded in comprehension. "A slightly stronger version of my own natural abilities, then. With high emotions broadcast without your awareness."
"At times," he admitted, colour returning to his cheeks.
"These...emotions. They have to do with a woman?" It had clearly been a guess, but the first one smiled to see the emotions rear in his eyes again. Yes... Yes. I thought so. She must be quite the woman, to turn you as inside-out as she seems to have done."
"She was... She was the most important woman in all the universe."
The first one sighed, a fond smile crossing his face. "Aren't they all, my boy? Aren't they all?"
He shook his head. "No -- not always. But she...." Again, the touseled head shook as words fled.
"I know how cliche this sounds, but this truly is the truth. Time does heal most wounds. At the very least --" He planted his cane firmly and stood with a groan of effort. "At the very least, it tends to supply a scab."
He just stared at the first one, painfully aware that those words were causing his hearts to constrict and completely stealing his voice from sheer surprise.
The first one smiled that broad, bedimpled grin with the imperfect teeth again. "Trust me, dear boy. The pain will ease. Things have a way of working themselves out in the end."
Apparently that was his good-bye, because with that, the first one began to walk away. He remained on the park bench, watching the dark-haired young woman -- "Susan," he whispered -- come up to her grandfather and lead the man away. They were engaged in a discussion that was threatening to turn into a friendly debate.
"'Things have a way of working themselves out in the end'?" he murmured, watching the pair vanish around a bend in the path. He shook his head in astonishment.
"I can not believe I was ever that young and... innocent."
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