Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Singing of the Song

Fandom: Doctor Who
Character: The Tenth Doctor
The Specials, oneshot, angst
Rating: PG-13 (mentions of suicide)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the BBC, not to me.

He staggered as he entered the TARDIS, the song of the Ood ringing through his mind. He’d fought this moment as long as possible, but at last it was upon him. He could feel the energy burning at his core, scorching his nerves, surging against his skin. Before long it would consume him.

He made his painful way to the console, each step an excruciating effort, and threw the lever that dematerialised the TARDIS, setting the controls to send it into orbit around the Earth. It wasn’t home, but it was the nearest thing to home he had, now that Gallifrey was gone. Somehow, the thought of regenerating near the Earth comforted him.

And he badly needed comforting, because he truly didn’t want to go through this again. He’d changed so many times in his lifetime, and he was tired of it. So tired. It was strange, because he usually welcomed adventure. But the adventure of becoming a new person, of discovering a new body and a new personality and a new hairdo, was wearing thin. He’d grown to like this body, and this personality, and even his unruly mop of hair, and he didn’t much care for the idea of turning into an entirely new man.

He’d fought it as long as he could, but it was always a losing battle in the end. Regeneration was an overpowering physical process that couldn’t be stopped once it had begun.

He closed his eyes, thinking of the Master, who’d somehow managed to resist regenerating. He could do that, too. He could–

But he knew that he couldn’t, not really. In him, the urge to live was simply too strong. He loved life, despite the pain and loss that were inevitably part of it. He couldn’t just quietly let himself go–what was it that Earth chap had written? Dylan something-or-other. He couldn’t seem to focus enough to pull the name up out of his normally encyclopaedic brain, but the words came to him readily enough. Do not go gentle into that good night… rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Yes, that was it. Raging against the dying of the light was what he did, what he had always done. So many times he’d stayed alive only through grim determination and stubborn resolve. He’d fought his way through appalling odds and come out victorious, over and over again.

In nine hundred years, he’d only given up once. At the end of the Time War, his eighth incarnation had done what he had to do. He’d saved the universe, but destroyed two species and his own world in the process. That version of him had been a gentle, poetic soul, and the pain and guilt had been too much for him. He’d fled into the TARDIS, flown away from the destruction he’d caused, and landed on a distant world, staring at the empty place in the sky where Gallifrey had once been, tears rolling down his cheeks in the darkness.

And then he’d blown his own head off.

At least he’d tried to. His intention had been to damage his body so severely that regeneration was impossible. But he’d never been much good with weapons, and the gun he’d used had had a depleted battery, so the energy discharge had left his body intact. And when he’d regenerated, he found he’d transformed into a soldier, better able to cope with the horrors he’d seen. That version of him had been angry, and bitter, and perhaps slightly unhinged–but he’d hung onto life fiercely, with everything he had.

Since then, he’d never once considered taking himself out of the universe entirely. And he wouldn’t do it now, either. Because if he’d succeeded in killing himself way back then, there were so many people who might have died if he hadn’t been there to help them. And besides, he would never have encountered all those who meant so much to him now. Rose, Martha, Donna, Wilf, Astrid, Jack…

None of them were here with him now, and yet he wouldn’t have traded meeting them all for anything in the universe. And who knew who else was out there, waiting to meet him? Who knew what other adventures awaited him?

Another snippet of Earth poetry came to mind. Strange, how in the midst of this very Gallifreyan process, all he could think of to console himself with was Earth poetry.

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done

Death did close all. He knew that. Even the grand lifespan of a Time Lord was as nothing to the vast sweep of time itself. His nine hundred years were less than a grain of sand on a beach when compared to time’s billions of years.

In the end, he was as mortal as any human. In the end, he would die.

But it was not yet time for his death. There might be people out there who needed him, people he could help. Some work of noble note… something ere the end

So he would regenerate, and he would go on.

He remembered struggling to explain to Wilfred Mott what regeneration was like, but it was impossible to describe to humans. He’d tried to explain that it felt like dying, but it was far more than that. He couldn’t describe it adequately because English lacked the words and concepts. There was no human analogue, no similar human process. Regeneration was death and birth, pain and ecstasy, grief and joy.

And it was something he devoutly wished he could escape.

The song of the Ood swelled in his mind, and he remembered the words of Ood Sigma: This song is ending, but the story never ends.

The song might be ending, he thought, but that didn’t diminish the importance of it. His song had been composed of the people he’d met, the lives he’d touched, and the adventures he’d had along the way. His song was interwoven with the song of everyone he’d ever met, creating a vast chorus that even his Time Lord mind couldn’t hope to comprehend. Even the Ood song was only the vaguest echo of it.

His song, he saw, was very small and irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, and yet somehow it mattered.

No, he thought. What mattered was the singing of the song. Like everyone else, his life, his every action, contributed to that chorus.

Even if the tune changed, he had to keep on singing.

He opened his eyes and held up a hand. It glowed with a golden light, and he knew the time was upon him. Just as Ood Sigma had said, his song was ending. He knew he should submit to the regenerative process, but submission had never been his style. Words of protest broke from him.

“I don’t want to go!”

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

He’d raged too long against it, and he knew it. This regeneration was going to go badly. He should have given into the process days ago, but he’d simply been unable to let go. But now the energy roiled within him, an overwhelming force, demanding that he surrender.

He fought it back stubbornly, battling for one more second of life in this body… one more… just one… more… second

The energy too long contained by his fierce determination exploded from him in a golden flare of light, setting fire to his surroundings, transforming him, and the music in his head faded away.

His song ended, and a new one began.

-The End-


Anonymous said...

I came here via the LJ community, and this story is just... incredibly beautiful. The Doctor's anguished thoughts about regeneration just make so much sense; his loneliness and stubbornness and everything else come through so clearly. The idea of the Eighth Doctor killing himself after the Time War is so haunting.

I just loved this story. Thank you for sharing it.

Tonya said...

You have my tears. Poor 10.

Meg said...

Thanks very much. I'm pleased you both liked it.


Anonymous said...

Oh, this is beautiful, it really is. I love your description of Ten's last moments, and the idea of Eight blowing his head off is so sad, yet it felt so real.

Meg said...

Thank you, ghostdude. So glad you enjoyed it.


Sarah said...

What insight into the Doctor's final thoughts on being the 10th. He was in so many ways wanting to stay and work it out. He had to go on and change.

EllyF said...

I *think* this was my first Who story. As such I wasn't sure I got the characterization quite right. I'm glad you enjoyed it!