Just finished watching Journey's End, and I'm ashamed to say I didn't cry. Much, anyway. :P So, I wasn't really planning for this to turn out so angsty, but it did. *sigh*

"Why don't you ask her yourself?"

For a moment, both his hearts stop because he really can't stand another glimpse of her, not again. He's worked so hard to put the memory of her away, and he can't dig it out now. But Donna has this look in her eyes, and he knows. Rassilon, if he doesn't turn now, he'll regret it for the rest of his miserable life.

So, he turns slowly; just a quick glance over his shoulder, he tells himself. But then he's grinning because she's right there, his pink and yellow human he thought was lost. She's not his imagination, some cruel specter to haunt him everywhere he turns. Rose- his Rose- is here now.

He's distantly aware of running because he can feel his feet hitting the pavement in an easy pattern, but he can't focus on anything but her. He can't see, hear, smell, taste, or feel anything- it seems his "superior Time Lord" senses have failed him, but he doesn't care. She's running toward him too, her face so full of happiness and relief and love, and all of it is directed toward him. She smiles at him, and he doesn't care that she's toting one of the largest guns he's ever seen or that her hair is styled differently or that she's carrying a harder edge to herself than before. He doesn't care because his Rose is right there, and they're so close.

He watches a look of horror cross her face and his steps falter for a moment. It looks so wrong on her now after her smile, but he knows why. He doesn't have to turn to know, because only a second later the bolt slices through him and the pavement meets his limp body.

Rose is by his side a moment later, pulling at his jacket and cradling him close. There are tears in her eyes, even though she's trying to smile. He thinks she says something to him, and maybe he replies but he really can't be sure because it all hurts and he just wants Rose to stay beside him forever.

He's aware of Rose and Donna lifting him, and Jack is shouting something and pointing a gun everywhere. He looks around, aware of the familiar interior of the TARDIS, and Rose and Donna lay him down on the grated floor just beside the console.

"Too late, I'm regenerating," he whispers in answer to Rose's anguish. He doesn't want to change either- she's here, and he wants to take her in his arms and whisper sweet things in her ear. He wants to slip his hand in hers and they would run, and then he would smile down at her and her eyes would light up with all the missing joy of two years.

The power takes over his body, but he has enough conscious thought left to channel the energy into his hand in the jar, and it's over. Rose and Jack and Donna stare at him as if he's grown another head, but he knows that isn't right. Why would he want to change? Rose is here now, and things will go back to normal.

He tries to ignore the voice in his head that whispers otherwise.

The chaos that follows is almost too much to take in at once, and when it's all over he's standing in the TARDIS with everyone he's ever met and taken on adventures through time and space, and his meta-crisis. He explains the TARDIS actually requires six pilots, and the joy on everyone's faces is incredible and he loves it because they're all here with him, just like it should have been from the start. His gaze pauses on Rose, and even though she doesn't look his way, she smiles in that way of hers, and he knows she's aware he's staring. He swallows past the painful realization of what is to come, but maybe he can keep pretending for just a little while longer.

He's really good at that.

Sarah Jane dashes off with a smile and a wave, and Jack, Martha, and Mickey stroll off like an old married trio (he really isn't surprised Jack is holding Martha's hand, but he doesn't bother yelling for Jack to knock it off). Donna, Jackie, and Rose- dear, sweet Rose- are still in the TARDIS with his meta-crisis, and he knows.

He walks back inside, forcing a jump into his step. It isn't worth alerting them to the battle raging between what he wants and what is right, so he fakes a smile and takes them home.

They step out onto the sandy beach of Bad Wolf Bay, and Rose looks at him as if he's just ripped her heart out of her chest while it's still beating. Perhaps he has, but this is how it needs to be. The walls between the worlds are repairing themselves, and Jackie and Rose belong in this world.

"And how was that sentence supposed to end?" Rose demands, a tremor in her voice, and he so desperately wants to take her in his arms and whisper those three words to her. But he can't, because the meta-crisis needs her and she needs to stay in this world. It was for the best, he tried to reason, even though he was failing.

He watches his meta-crisis whisper into Rose's ear, and then she is kissing him with as much passion as she can. And it hurts too much to watch her in another man's arms, even if that other man is exactly like him in every aspect except a Time Lord's lifespan.

He and Donna return to the TARDIS and he shuts the door behind them. He throws his coat over one of the TARDIS corals and moves over to the console and flips a switch to take them back home.

The joy that he held earlier that day was just a bitter taste in his mouth now, and he avoids looking at Donna.

"It's for the best," he whispers, just to reassure himself of what he knew all along.