...he let the fires of regeneration consume him...but what happened next..?

...during its blinding, destructive conflagration, he lost consciousness for an instant, and then found himself able to move again. The pain of the radiation poisoning was gone and he felt life and strength starting to return to him. The console room was lit up with the extreme energy output that poured forth from his body, and he noticed with concern that the large spires holding up the ceiling were tumbling down around him, the console was catching fire and exploding and all hell had broken loose, but...

...the screams of the damaged TARDIS were strangely muffled in his mind when they should have been all-consuming. He frowned.

"It'll be all right," an unfamiliar voice broke into his thoughts. "I'll take care of her."

He looked directly ahead of him and a strange man came into focus amidst the increasingly out-of-focus room. He had a more pointed jaw, a flatter nose and smaller, deeper set eyes. The new face seemed put together with bits and parts from different men (or even his prior incarnations), but somehow, when he spoke, it all worked together to shape handsome features. His hair was dark and swept up over his right eye in a floppy bunch. His height was the same as his own, but he was built quite differently.

"You're the new me, I take it," guessed the 10th Doctor.

"Yes. Looking forward to it." The other man smiled a manic grin and it was his grin, but on a new face. Then the newcomer softened. "Look, I know it was hard to do, stepping aside and all - "

His predecessor sniffed. "No, no, well, yeah, I guess. Yeah, I wanted to hang around a bit longer, yeah..." he trailed off, looking back through the radiation blasts at the fluxuating features in their physical face. "I suppose it was time, though," he said softer. "It was starting to hurt...too much..."

"And now it doesn't have to anymore," the 11th told him. "I'll take the burden. You do feel better already, don't you?"

The 10th turned his thoughts inward for a moment. "A little, I think." There did indeed seem to be a steadying cessation of the pain and guilt and suffering in his long life. A small relief, but building, like a long, drawn out sigh of satisfaction.

His future self smiled. "It'll get better. Trust me. I'm the Doctor."

10 laughed. "I guess you are now." 11 joined him in the joke.

"So, what do I do now?" he asked his new self.

The 11th put a hand on his former self's chest. "Just relax...accept...and dream..."

At his touch, his former self felt an enveloping peace as the new Time Lord assumed the burden of his life, banishing centuries of self-loathing, of doubts, fears and pain. He felt his soul become lighter and closed his eyes briefly, savoring the release. When his eyes opened again, the Time Lord found himself drifting effortlessly above the ground, watching the new incarnation walk towards their physical form. Dimly, he heard his body yell, its cry abruptly ending as new eyes opened, the man staggered forward and the fires of regeneration died away.

It was at that moment he felt his job was done, though what to do now eluded him. Where would he go? What would happen...?

He turned and suddenly he was back at Bad Wolf Bay. Despite the frigid winds whipping its coastline, he didn't feel cold. He strode to the water's edge, watching its agitated froth try to lap at his feet. It invited him to walk its length and he did, strangely absent of the feelings that had twice tortured him here...feelings that had torn him apart with regret, with soul-crushing pain and desperate longings...


He froze. The woman's voice had come from behind him. Hardly daring to believe, he turned slowly around, knowing the tears would flow once again.

This time from joy.