Let's see, SPOILERS FOR "THE END OF TIME: PART TWO".
Disclaimer: Surprise, surprise, I don't own Doctor Who. Nor do I get anything from writing these stories-except wonderful, constructive reviews! Wink, wink; nudge, nudge ;)
Beta'd by GSRgirlforever.
The End of Ten
This was exactly why the Doctor never listened to prophecies.
Where was the fun in knowing when the end is coming? Now that he thought about it, he much preferred the sudden regenerations. It was somehow easier to be caught by surprise, caught up in whatever life-and-death events had finally proven fatal. No time for regrets, no time for self-doubt.
No time for goodbyes.
With what little time he had left, he was doing what he could. It was this incarnation that he was losing, so it was this incarnation's companions he found himself visiting. One last chance to see that his surviving friends were safe, maybe even happy.
Another wave of blinding pain hit as he closed the TARDIS doors behind him. He barely registered the added discomfort of his knees hitting the grating. Radiation sickness was not his first choice on the list of ways to go. Not that he had a list. Not a serious one, anyway.
He was almost willing to let go, now, just to make the pain stop.
And before he lost his hair. Or his teeth.
How much more could he do? How much time did he have?
He clambered to his feet as his head cleared, and he stumbled to the console. Where to? Who else? The list was depressingly short. The lost - and not just the dead - seemed to far outnumber the living.
An all too familiar urge to go back briefly reared its head, but he crushed it with the memory of so many altered timelines gone awry.
He moved around the console setting coordinates, when he suddenly doubled over with pain and nausea. He was vaguely aware of the TARDIS careening off course as he collapsed into a fetal position. He had absorbed well over ten times a fatal dose of radiation. This was going to be one explosive regeneration, when it finally came.
Ordinarily, he'd have regenerated hours ago, but something was holding him back. Knowing was holding him back. It was one thing to be the man awakening to a new face. It was quite another to be the one dying in order to let it happen.
And yet, he'd done it so many times before.
And how many more times in the future?
When the episode passed, he lay gasping. The TARDIS had, miraculously, stilled, apparently without crashing. Pulling himself to his feet, he checked their status. The TARDIS seemed fine, but they weren't in the Vortex. They had landed at familiar coordinates -
"No," he whispered, as his throat constricted. "Please, no."
The Powell Estates.
"I can't," he told his ship. He knew the TARDIS was trying to be kind, but this was the absolute last thing he needed. "I can't see her. I can't do it. If I see her now... I just want to forget," he pleaded.
He leaned heavily on the console as another, lesser wave passed. He could feel the TARDIS' disappointment on top of his own discomfort. To be more precise, she was angry. And he was - he squeezed his eyes shut tight against a much stronger onslaught - he was dying.
He collapsed back into the captain's chair, struggling to catch his breath. "Please," he begged, "I need to forget. I can't - I can't live another life like this."
The TARDIS' mood quickly softened to sympathy, but she was unrelenting. The doors opened, and he could see a snow-covered street beyond the threshold.
Don't think it, don't think it, don't even think her name, he told himself. "We're going," he said, standing again and intending to put them into the Vortex. No destination in mind; they'd just drift. That was a good a place as any for him to die. Alone.
The TARDIS refused to even close the doors.
"It's time to let her go!" He slammed his fists onto the console. After a moment, he broke, sinking to his knees. "Every hand I hold... it isn't hers. Every smile, every laugh -" he choked. If he did have to die, at least he had a chance of distancing himself. Regeneration could possibly dull the heartbreak, if he put it far enough out of his mind. "If I can just forget..."
But the TARDIS argued gently: he'd already forgotten. What he needed was to remember. He'd forgotten how she made him look at the universe. He'd forgotten the almost instinctual compassion she displayed, which she made him envy, which he'd tried so hard to emulate when she was with him.
He'd been trying to let her go - push her away, even - ever since he realized he wanted to hold on to her forever. Her mortality taunted him. He'd forgotten that he didn't need forever; an instant with her could change his life, if he let it. Even after she was gone.
His end was so close. He could feel it. Willing or no, he would die.
Briefly, he wondered if she would outlive him.
Regardless, this was his choice, now. Would he do her the injustice and insult of trying to forget, or would he allow himself one self-indulgent moment, one more reward, one fresh glimpse of her, no matter the pain it caused the next him?
She was so clear, now, in his mind's eye. "Rose," he breathed, as he cradled his head in his hands. He curled into himself, there on the floor, as another bout hit. When it ended, he made his decision. He rubbed his face, straightened, and climbed to his feet. Half reluctantly, half eagerly, he made his way out into the snow.
He quickly got his bearings and realized he could see the door to her building from where he stood. He was about to head that way, when he heard approaching voices. It was Rose... and Jackie.
He moved quickly across the way, hiding in a poorly-lit alcove. Soon enough, the pair came into view.
His whole being lightened at just the sight of her. She was so young, so unaware of what was coming, but still so... Rose. That indefinable quality which, however much she grew as life - with or without him - went on, never changed.
Jackie headed off in one direction, while Rose continued on towards the door.
He was glad, he was so, so glad he had let the TARDIS twist his metaphorical arm to see her. He didn't care anymore what happened to him after he died. If the next him loved her any less, it would serve him right if remembering hurt. What he felt right now, it was so worth it. He wanted to freeze this stolen moment, so that it would always be fresh. So that the way this him felt for her would never be diminished.
He staggered back against the wall as pain flared again. He gasped, and Rose was still close enough to hear. She turned, and spotted him.
"You alrigh', mate?" she asked.
He almost laughed for joy, despite the continuing pain. Of course she wasn't scared of the strange man lurking in the shadows. Or if she was, her concern instantly overrode her fear.
A few, all too brief words were exchanged, and he discovered why she was half-expecting to come across (apparently) inebriated neighbors. It was New Year's Day, 2005.
She would miss most of the year, once she decided to follow another strange man who would appear in a storeroom and take her hand.
It would be fantastic, he mused. And he told her.
And she smiled.
She eventually disappeared behind the stairwell door, and he turned back towards the TARDIS. His body felt as if it were already tearing itself apart, and he still wasn't ready to go, but at least he wouldn't die alone. She would stay with him, he knew, now.
And he would love her, whomever he became, and it wouldn't be burdensome. Her unsullied memory would uplift him, and as ever, she would heal him.
Some might think I'm making more out of the scene with Rose than I should, but look at it this way: with everyone else, he was either checking up on them, saving their lives, or helping them out in some way. With Rose, it was just for his own sake.
Oh, and I thought the TARDIS wasn't a character option, but it seems I just didn't see it on the list... sorry for any confusion.