He woke with a start, the sound of his True Name pressing painfully gainst the inner workings of his mind. He could still smell the red grass of Gallifrey from his dream. He could still taste the sweet air that filtered through silver leaves. “Ahhh,” he said out loud, alone in a room little bigger than what was needed to fit a twin bed and a chest of drawers, “don’t call me that. It’s a secret between you and I.”
He rolled onto his back, hands moving across wet cheeks and into mussed up brown hair. He’d had this face, this body, for six years now. It was very different from the one he saw when he dreamed. Thoughts of a blond child, perhaps fifteen years old according to human standards, filled his mind. He had been skinny then, thinner than he was now, with spindly fawn’s legs. He loved to run high steps and lifted knees across the crimson fields of his best friend's family estate. Every few minutes he would pause to wait for the glowering dark haired boy that huffed and puffed in the distance behind him, calling for him to stop.
Eventually, the blond would do as commanded and, hands linked with the other boy, the two would fall back to the soft ground and dream of how it would be to travel through time and space together. Always together.
The image of the two children, side by side in the grass, changed the moment he blinked. A Time Lord’s imagination made his memories come to life, painting themselves on white walls in clean, brisk strokes. Instead of a happy childhood moment, gleaned from billions of other moments in his mind, he was left with his last memory of his home world. The soft orange skies burned. The grass smoldered and turned brown, as dead as the people left as ash on great battlefields. The horrible mechanical chant of the Daleks – “Exterminate! EXTERMINATE!” – left his blood running cold.
“Doctor!” A face came on the screen by his bedroom door, the eyes of one Jackie Tyler so different from those of her daughter though their hair matched. Thinking of Rose first thing upon waking was never an option. Her loss still made his bones aches. He had had nine hundred years to get over the loss of his best friend, but Rose? It had been so-- “Doctor," that shrieking, Cockney voice broke through a slip back into thought, "wake your skinny arse up! The device is ready!”
Groaning, the Doctor sat up and flicked on the lights. His brown suit hung on the door, ready for the day ahead, cream colored trainers left in the corner. “I’m up, I’m up, woman!”
“Don’t you start with me!” Their needling had always been rather bristled, time never quite smoothing it all over for either of them. “Get yourself some breakfast on the way down, love. Mickey thinks he’s got it right this time!”
The Doctor dressed quickly, grabbing a banana on the way from his room to the testing chamber where the giant, sprawling console sat. At least a dozen technicians were actively crawling over it, inspecting everything for their first official test. This interdimensional communication device was one that he and the members of Torchwood in this world had been working on for the better part of five years now. That time was a blink of the eye for a creature like the Doctor, but for Rose Tyler, the Companion he left behind—
No, still no reason to think on her.
“Well, isn’t she beautiful!” the Doctor exclaimed, banana forgotten for the moment as he rushed down the metal stairs towards the device. “Let’s get her started!”
His team finished their diagnostics and prepared themselves for the test as the Doctor took his spot. The sound of power being cycled made him close his eyes. He breathed out slowly and opened his mouth to deliver his first message across the void.
All that the Doctor remembered after that was a flash of light and a single moment of pressure in his ears. Everything else dissolved away.