Pain. There is pain, and light, and it hurts so much. His muscles and cells are straining for freedom, fighting to hold on to life even as it slips away from him. He sinks to his knees but is barely aware of it. He can feel the tingle of regeneration on the outskirts of his mind, feel his body begin to prepare itself for the inevitable. He has been electrocuted before and, much as it hurts, he will live through it. It might be a bit of a shock to Rose, though. Will he have more hair this time? he wonders. Will Rose like him with hair? Then he wonders why he is thinking of hair, of all things, at a time like this.
The pain spreads through him like a disease, and soon he cannot think coherently any more, can just feel as the pain intensifies. He holds back a scream, eyes screwed shut so tightly he can see stars, but it escapes in anguish.
He has been so stupid. Of course it was a trap. Of course he shouldn’t have left Rose. Of course he’s going to die. Thoughts whir and beat around his head, chasing each other like some insatiable child. He isn’t aware of his surroundings, just of how he feels and how much he is going to regret. Five days he’s known Rose. Not enough for anyone. Forever wouldn’t be long enough to know her, he amends, but the fact that he’s not even going to get the chance to try hurts that little bit more. And he’s fairly sure this pain is nothing to do with the electricity shooting through his blood.
Rose won’t understand, he thinks. He will change and she won’t understand. He’ll be someone else, his tenth body already, and he’s only just getting to know her. What if it makes her leave? What if she doesn’t trust him? Why can’t he just hold on? Oh, the irony of the situation. Just days ago, he would have welcomed death, welcomed regeneration. Now a human ape has changed his outlook, because if he changes, she leaves, and suddenly, life will be so very empty. Lost Gallifrey. Lost Rose. The next thing you know, he’ll have lost his TARDIS, and then everything he ever believed in will have turned his back on him and laughed.
One thought rushes to him, and even though his muscles are contracting severely as he tries to fight, he can still hear it.
He never got to say goodbye.
He won’t be able to prepare her. She’s seeing someone being murdered right before her eyes, the first time she’s seen it, and he isn’t there to tell her it’s all right. She’s just standing, waiting for death to turn on her. She’s so scared, so terrified that she’s going to die, and the only thing she can think and hope is that the Doctor is safe and will make it out alive. That he’ll remember her.
Oh, God, Rose is in her last seconds and she’s thinking of him. He cannot comment on that too much, he supposes, but he curses the fact that being so close to regeneration has seemingly upped his psychic connection to her. He curses that he can feel her pain, hear her thoughts, see what she sees through closed eyes.
There’s a woman with her who is also terrified out of her mind. She thinks of her mother. Rose thinks of him. Why, why, is that fair?
His teeth bare in pain as another spike shoots through him. It is too much...
He won’t leave. He can’t leave.
Can’t die like this. Can’t leave Rose with a million questions that he may or may not answer. Can’t leave her in this mess. He has to fight, has to draw his strength, has to make sure she survives. Regeneration can have nasty effects. He may not remember. He may collapse and be out cold for hours. He may not even like her, though he’s fairly sure that whatever regeneration does to him, it won’t keep him from caring about her. But he won’t leave. Won’t regenerate. Not today.
He. Won’t. Do. That. To. Her.
With unbelievable strength he wouldn’t have thought was capable, the Doctor feels his hand snap to his chest, feels his fingers close around the hot plastic. It burns him, but he does not care. He wrenches it from his neck, the combined strength of he and Rose flowing through him. The chain snaps. He is free. His feet push against the floor; he feels every muscle in his body work to get him upright, feels them fight against each other like suddenly there is a war within him. There’s terror in Rose and he uses her fear, her prayers that he’s alive, feeds off them and fights to his feet. He hurts, but he’s alive. The throb of regeneration begins to dwindle.
He stands proud — eyes blazing with rage and victory — panting. Sweat glistens on his forehead, soaks his clothes from his effort and exhilaration. But he does not care. He feels glowing as the pain abates, feels more alive than he has felt in a long time. He has fought to hold on and he has survived. Is this what it feels like to be victorious? To win? Determination washes through him as his thoughts return, and anger blazes his hearts on fire. He is a living fury. He grips the ID card in his hand, hard, and it shoots electricity along his arm as sparks fly into the air around him. He barely feels it now, because he’s empowered by something more. Hate. Triumph. Passion.
He looks to the Slitheen with vehement anger, murder in his eyes, because how dare they try and take him from this world, this world that he has only just realised is so beautiful. They have tried and they have failed, and now they need to pay the price.
“Deadly to humans, maybe,” he spits with venom, then launches the device and plunges it into the throat of the nearest one.
Such is death.
Rose watches and there’s nothing she can do. A man is dying, right in front of her eyes, and all she can do is just stand and speculate, like she’s at the zoo. Sickness rises and she has a hard time keeping it down. She’s never seen someone die before, not like this, and this seems such an unnatural way for it to happen that she almost can’t believe it. He’s having the life crushed out of him, and then there’ll be just an empty shell where work and sleep and food once were. Perhaps the Doctor is right.
Harriet is terrified, and so is she. She’ll be next. She’s going to die here, and it isn’t somewhere alien. It’s not another planet, or another time, or place she’s never been before. It’s Ten Downing Street, in London, in 2006. It’s almost home. And she’s still going to die.
It doesn’t seem to matter, though, because ever since meeting the Doctor, she’s known she isn’t going to have a peaceful death. She’s not going to live until she’s eighty-nine and have grandkids that she spoils. She’s never going to be normal again. And she loves it. She can die, right here and now, when that alien turns on them, and she’ll be happier now than she ever was or would have been in the real world. The normal world.
And it’s all thanks to the Doctor, for showing her this life, for making it safe for her, for making her want it.
She smiles a little, even if only a bit. She’s going to fight if that thing comes near her. She’s not going to just stand and scream. Not since meeting the Doctor. She has strength, his strength, and she has courage — she can fight if she tries. Even if she knows it will be fruitless, because that man has just been killed and he’s just as capable as her.
At the very least, she hopes the Doctor will be safe. Hopes with all her heart, because he is so good for this world, and if there’s one thing she believes, it is that he’ll survive. He always does. Maybe he’ll remember her, because no matter what happens, she’ll always remember him. Maybe he’ll finally find the happiness she knows he’s looking for. Maybe he’ll keep fighting to save the Earth, because he seems rather fond of her race.
Right, that alien wants a fight? Bring it on. ‘Cause she’s got courage and she’s not afraid to use it. She smiles again, remembering what the Doctor once said when they were sat chatting in the TARDIS. The world had better watch out, y’know; it’s got a warrior on its hands. ‘Cause she’s got courage, this Rose Tyler, and nothing’s gonna stop her. So be it.
And then the alien drops the dead body and screams, clutching its throat like it’s being strangled. Bright blue sparks of electricity shoot through it and it is rendered helpless in pain. Rose stares in horror and awe for a moment then, without even thinking about what she’s doing or where she’s going to go, grabs Harriet and runs with her out of the room.
Such is life.
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