With six pilots around the TARDIS console, everything is organized chaos. The Doctor flits here and there, pointing out buttons in need of pressing and levers in need of flipping. It’s glorious and familiar — his magnificent ship, her engines straining as she tows an entire planet through open space.
There is one person at the console not waiting for the brown-clad Doctor’s direction, because he doesn’t need it. He knows exactly how to fly the TARDIS. He even remembers seeing TARDISes under the guidance of six pilots before, when he was young. And while the Doctor bustles and directs and frets about his ship, about the Earth being towed along behind them, this other Doctor is still and collected.
He’s watching the faces of his companions, because he knows this moment should be savored. Grinning from ear to ear, his single heart hammering so fast he keeps expecting his respiratory bypass to kick in. Except it doesn’t, of course, because he doesn’t have one.
The brown-clad Doctor doesn’t pause his frantic movement, and this Doctor wonders about himself. Is he always so shouty? Does his hair always stick up that much in the back? Has he always missed the way Jackie’s face puckers into such hilarious expressions every time he turns around?
The Doctor has seen himself before — other regenerations, brief meetings and lengthy adventures and, very occasionally, some form of comfort. (Just after the Time War, when he’d woken up with rough hands and big ears and blue eyes, he’d been pulled from the wreckage by himself — a future regeneration, tall and gentle and ginger). But seeing another version of this Tenth him, for the first time, is morbidly interesting. Seeing how he doesn’t slow down to appreciate what’s happening right now, the beauty of all these remarkable people working together. Seeing how he doesn’t look Rose in the eye, how he brushes right past her over and over again.
Seeing him preemptively brace himself to be alone, again, because he can’t imagine a universe where that doesn’t happen, in the end.
There’s a subtle change in the sound of the engines, a shift in pitch so small most people wouldn’t notice it. This Doctor reaches out to adjust the compression levels on the temporal buffers, long fingers stretching toward a button. At that exact moment, the brown-clad Doctor rushes by again, popping his head over Rose’s shoulder and pointing at the temporal buffer button before he skitters away.
Rose immediately does as she’s told, reaches out, and her fingers land atop this Doctor’s. They push the button at the same time.