The Doctor closed the TARDIS door, the song of the Ood ringing in his ears. The pure notes echoed through time and space, like fresh morning dew in his weary ears (I don't entirely get this comparison), a sound more beautiful than the music of the universe, a song of freedom, of mourning, of an eternal memory. A song of finality.
He sighed, feeling the stabbing pains in his hearts, his muscles, his entire body.
Death was close. He could feel it. He knew that this time, he would not regenerate – the radiation had been too much, even for that. The price for absorbing the radiation from a nuclear meltdown.
'O Lord beyond the seas of Time, O light to us that wander here, amid the land of woven trees.'
The song echoed in his mind, mingling with the fading notes of the Ood-song. This was the song he always heard whenever he regenerated. He did not know where it came from, but he knew with heavy hearts that this was the last time he would hear it. He regretted not finding its source.
The Doctor staggered up the ramp, leaning heavily on the rail as the pain built within him.
'The Lord of Time! We sing to thee!'
He pulled off his coat, and threw it to the side, lurching towards the console. He paused, and glanced at his hand. The first golden tinges of regenerative energy were swirling around his flesh, slow, sluggish. Weak. It would not be long now.
'We remember, we who dwell, in this fair land beneath the trees, thy starlight on the open seas…'
The Doctor, wracked by internal pains, pulled himself around the console, to the activation lever. He grabbed it, blinking through the agony, pulling it with all his strength.
'We see your star fade in the evening sky, and we feel the loss, the greatest loss of all…' As he felt the TARDIS grind into action, he felt it tugging at his mind, breaking through the song. She didn't want him to go. She couldn't bear being left alone. He looked down at the console, the controls of his oldest, most steadfast friend. His TARDIS. His friend-ship.
He could feel her anguish weighing down his mind and body, the deepest ache he had felt since the War.
"It's too late, you know," he said to the TARDIS, the pain and weariness straining his voice. "The radiation ripped my cells to pieces, destroying the DNA. Including the parts that control regeneration."
He smiled at the ship, "This is it. Nothing can stop it."
A vision slammed into his mind, a half-memory of his fifth, sixth and seventh incarnations, 'We never, ever, never give up!'
"It's not about giving up," he sighed, "As the Ood said, my song is ending. But it's been a good life." He paused, a tear trickling from his eye. "I'll miss you, old girl."
U i vethed…
The Doctor looked up. The voice… it had sounded in his head. A voice speaking Gallifreyan.
Na i onnad. Si boe u-dhannathach. Ae u-esteliah nad, estelio han: estelio veleth…
This is not the end. It is the beginning. You cannot falter now. If you trust nothing else, trust this: trust love.
Then he saw it: the flash of light… the comet across the medulla oblongata. The regenerative process was beginning, but with the DNA that controlled it irrepairably damaged, there was no way he could survive it.
In his final seconds, the Doctor, the Ka Faraq Gatri, Time's Champion, looked around the room that had been his home for centuries, and felt its weeping.
"I don't want to go…"
Then it began.
For a microsecond, the Doctor thought he saw the face of Death, gloating at finally having the last of the Time Lords in her grasp, and in the next microsecond, the Doctor saw everyone he had lost – Susan, Jamie, Sarah, Leela, Romana, Tegan, Nyssa, Turloguh, Peri, Erimem, Jimmy, Peri, Mel, Ace, Hex, Charley, Lucie, Rose, Martha, Donna, Astrid, Joan – every single one of them, one last time.
Then their faces were obscured in golden light, and pain engulfed him. The Doctor screamed, feeling his body trying to force the regeneration… and nothing happening.
And the TARDIS screamed with him.
The console split in two with an agonised screech of metal and ancient coral, exposing the ship's core. A brilliant pulse of light lanced from the weeping heart, slamming between the Doctor's hearts.
The ship began to shake, explosions blasting the console to pieces, sending columns tumbling as the TARDIS performed the ultimate act of sacrifice, ripping itself to pieces to defy the laws of time. To save him.
Blue light mingled with the gold, and in his final seconds the Doctor realised what was happening, as the TARDIS poured her own life force into him.
"No…" he tried to whisper, but it was too late.
(AUTHOR'S NOTE) Thanks to Bad Wolf 42 for beta reading. (END NOTE)