Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who.
"I don't want to go."
It wasn't fair.
It wasn't the dying in itself that was unfair… why he felt so betrayed by the universe. And it wasn't that he had to die for Wilf, sacrifice himself for one man who was approaching the end of his life anyway. It was his honour.
After Adelaide's death, he had started to think as he had at the end of the war. That perhaps Time Lords lived too long, and were destined to become corrupt no matter how hard they tried. He started to think that his life should end. Penance for the sins of a Time Lord.
Of course, he had always been ready to die. He had been ready to let himself be murdered by a Plasmavore to save thousands of people, to be pulled into a black hole with the Beast to save the universe, to have his mind burned out to save a library computer full of survivors. And so he had resigned himself to the fact that he would die as result of the Master and his four drumbeats, or saving all of existence from Rassilon.
But then he had heard those four knocks. And he realised just how little he had learnt from the corruption of his own people. An injury to one is an injury to all. There are no little people. Dying for one person is just as worthy, if not more so, than dying for many. And by travelling alone, he had forgotten that.
Wilf was right. He needed Donna, or someone like her. He always had. Someone to stop him… and yeah, someone to make him laugh. When he travelled with someone, he was ready to sacrifice himself to save a single human on the Dalek Crucible, to strand himself in 14th century France for one woman, to goad a Dalek into killing him in outrage over the death of one man.
He needed someone to remind him of the value of a single human life. Alone, he became a Time Lord Victorious. With someone by his side, he was the Doctor.
He had been so angry at Wilf, at the universe, but most of all at himself. The unfairness, the true injustice of it all… it was that he had to die again to truly learn that lesson. He could have done so much more with this face. So much more.
He would never find the new companion as this man. He would never race ahead of them with an 'Allons-y' and smile at the little shops and the different ways he could pronounce words like 'Kaput' and enjoy the little touches like his clever glasses and worn trainers… he would be gone. Everything that made him the particular, individual Doctor he was at the moment would die. Just as he told Wilf.
The energy was building in him now, more powerful than it had ever been before. He shouldn't have held it back for so long. But he had needed to track down his friends, his 'family', before the regeneration. Not to 'fix' their lives in huge, grand gestures, but just to nudge them in the right direction, help them in small, humanways. And yes, just to see them with these eyes, help them with these hands one more time… it was his reward.
It was time. In a few moments this iteration of him, the sadness he felt, would distort and change and ripple… and then he would be a new man. And everything he had done, and, hopefully, everything he had learnt with this face would be remembered and carried with him.
Blimey, he hoped he would be ginger.
(A/N: This is the chapter that inspired this whole story, really. Something about the reactions I read to Ten's fear of regeneration, as though it was un-Doctor-like, cowardly, rubbed me the wrong way. It felt like a revelation to me about all of the Doctor's regenerations, not just Russell T Davies making a grab for artificial sympathy. Although it's all opinion, I suppose.
Well, that's that. Maybe I'll add to this story a few years down the line when Eleven's swan-song hits the TV.
Anyway, please review, and thanks for reading, everyone!)