This was it. This was the end of his song. He had so many regrets and he didn't want to go but he would regret it even more if he didn't see her at least once more even she didn't recognize him yet. He was willing to risk the paradox, the universe, just so he could regenerate with her face was the last one this face ever saw. So he waited in the shadows of the Powell Estates just to watch her walk by. He didn't dare for more, not in his condition.
He heard as Rose approached the area he was in with Jackie. Oh his Rose was always so sweet. He could feel that he would only have a few more moments before the impending burst. He knew it would be violent if the increasing levels of pain were any measures. Just as she was about to pass him by a jolt of agony caused him to flinch and ripped a pained sound from his lips. Unfortunately it caught her attention.
"You alright mate?" She asked concerned. She was bundled up for the weather and the color of her cheeks held up to her name. She was beautiful as she smiled at him.
"Yeah." He couldn't say more as another round of pain ripped through him causing him to stumble a little. He did his best not to vocalize what he was feeling.
"Too much to drink?" She asked mistaking his stumble.
"Something like that," He replied shortly. He hadn't expected to actually talk to her and here she was asking how he was.
"Maybe it's time you went home," She suggested.
"Yeah." He was home though even if she didn't know it. The place he had been born had been burned out of time by his own hand but he had adopted a new home. In all of time and space wherever she was, if he was with her, he would be home.
"Anyway, happy New Year!" She grinned beautifully at him.
"And you," He added concluding their small talk however as she turned to walk away he couldn't resist asking, "What year is this?"
She turned back to answer in an amused voice, "Blimey, how much have you had?"
"Well." He couldn't tell her the truth so just gave a little head shake.
"2005, January the first."
"2005…" The year they would meet. The year that changed everything in the world for the both of them. He couldn't hold back his smile despite the tears that were gathering just in the corner of his eyes. "Tell you what. I bet you're going to have a really great year."
"Yeah?" He could only give a nod before she gave him a smile that brightened her entire face. His smile was just as bright. He could see the thanks in her eyes at the well wishes. She gave him a farewell nod before her parting words, "See ya."
She turned and ran back inside sparing him a glance over her shoulder before leaving him once more to his regeneration. He was happy that he could make her happy just once more. His happiness only lasted a few seconds before the pain once again became too much and he started to limp to his TARDIS. Before he could get halfway there he collapsed in the snow.
It was going to happen and soon.
When he looks up again there is an Ood standing in the middle of the road holding up his communication ball.
"We will sing to you Doctor. The universe will sing you to sleep." And that's when he heard their song. That wondrous but melancholic song. It gave him the strength and the will to stand once more. "This song is ending but your song together will never end. It will carry on with her forever."
"What?" He tried to make sense of what the Ood had meant but then he heard the sound of footsteps running down the steps. He turned to see who was coming but the second he looked back at the Ood it was like it was never there. He decided to make it back to the TARDIS before whoever was coming would see him. He could feel his regeneration was less than a minute or two away. He was about to open his the door when he heard her.
"Hey! Wait up will you? I'm glad I caught you. Figured you've had enough not to get home on your own and I couldn't just leave you to the snow so I called you a cab. You can wait at mine until it gets here… If you want." She had caught up to him and stopped a few feet away from him. It was far enough to give him space but close enough to catch him if he fell.
"Stay back, Rose Tyler, stay back!" He started to panic which just made him stumble even more and he collapsed against his blue box.
"Hey, are you alright? Why don't we just sit down a bit until you sober up a little?" She helped steady him on his feet but he only tried to push her way. She was used to the antics of drunken people thinking they were fine and then accidentally hurting themselves when they couldn't walk straight so she persisted in her efforts to help him. She had the feeling she should stick around and help him when another thought struck her. He had called her by name when they hadn't been properly introduced. "And how'd you know my name?"
She was distracted enough by the question that he was finally able to push her far enough away that she wouldn't get caught in the blast that was seconds away. He quickly turned around and finally got the door open.
"I'm so sorry Rose, so sorry. I don't want to go." He turned to face her again looking her in the eyes. It was starting, the regeneration energy already started to emit from his skin. This only made her worry more.
"Go where? The cab isn't here yet and what's going on? Why is your skin glowing like that?"
He gave her a sorrowful look and let all the regret he was feeling fill his eyes as he took a few steps back into the wooden blue police box behind him. She tried to step closer but he just held up a hand stopping her.
"I wish I could stay a bit longer but I can't. Not this time. If this the last time I'll have to say it, Rose Tyler, I love y-"He was cut off as he burst into light. The brightness and intensity blinded her for a second and by the time it was over a new man was standing there. The area behind him seemed to be on fire but that couldn't be right. The buildings looked just fine and she didn't see any smoke. She was horribly confused as the new man tried to get his bearing straight as he stumble up against the door frame once more.
He finally looked up at her and gave her the biggest grin this new face was capable of despite the confusion and slight panic that was gracing her face. She looked as beautiful as always and his hearts swelled with happiness to see she was still there that she was within touching distance. He had missed her so much and had wanted to visit her younger self so many times but hadn't and now here she was to see the New New New Doctor! He hoped she liked him this way. Oh but maybe she shouldn't. There was a reason he didn't go back usually. This could be very very bad. He was conflicted.
"Rose Tyler! Still got Rose Tyler! Good- no not good! Well I mean yes it's good but not so good for-"
"Wh-what just happened?" Rose had finally found her voice again. "You were some bloke and then he exploded and now he's gone but you're here wearing the exact same clothing. What's going on?"
"Yeah, you weren't supposed to see that. In fact you weren't supposed to see anything like that for another year but time travel makes things… complicated."
"You're not making any sense!" She paused for a moment trying to process everything when a spark of recognition lit in her eyes. "So what? If what you're saying is true I'm supposed to see what just happened in the future because I know you then but sense I'm seeing it now something has gone wrong? I suppose that would explain how you knew my name. I mean there could be other reasons but I just saw a man explode and blame it on time travel."
"Well that part isn't because of time travel. I was dying and to avoid it my species has a special trick to avoid death."
"So you're saying you're a time traveling alien?" He always knew Rose was a quick study.
"Yes… Is that alright?"
"Y-yeah, I suppose you can't help you're species. I'm just a bit in shock is all… Wait, if I'm supposed to meet you later in the future then isn't this messing up something. Is that what you meant by having a really great year?"
"Ah, yes." He took a step closer to her and when she didn't flinch he took another and another until he was close enough to touch her face. He put his newly formed right hand on her cheek and she stared unto his eyes, defiant as to what may come and curious as to what he would do. She for some inexplicable reason, to him, trusted him.
"I'm so sorry Rose Tyler." He looked at her with the same amount of regret he did just before he had burst into all that golden light. Through that regret though she saw such tenderness and sorrow. As if his most precious thing was just out of reach and would always remain so. He looked at her as if the rest of the universe were meaningless to him. Unknown to her that was all exactly true.
"You said that earlier. What could be so bad that you keep repeating yourself? That you should give me a look like that?" There was a silent pause. "Do I die?"
"No… You are so alive and so happy and so in love." The tone of voice he spoke with was heartbreaking.
"Then why are you sorry?"
He lifted his other hand to her left cheek before leaning in and kissing her lips gently. Holding them in place he transferred some of his regeneration energy into her so that he could block the few memories he now had of him, of a time traveling man now in raggedy clothing standing in the doorway of an impossible blue box. She didn't even know his name yet but just remembering what she had seen could change the future and he could never do that to her. The blocks he put on her should dissolve with time and in a few years when she was with his meta-crisis clone in Pete's world she would remember everything that happened this night.
The mental stress of having her memories blocked caused her to go limp as she lost most of her strength. He carefully carried her to her room in the Estate. He was grateful Jackie was out as he laid her down gently on her bed and tucked her into her comforter. She was fighting to stay conscious and get answers but it was a losing battle and just as she fell asleep he whispered in her ear what only his clone ever got the chance to, "Rose Tyler, I love you."
As she closed her eyes and her breathing evened he walked back outside to his TARDIS. He noticed that the cab Rose had called for driving off, apparently not patient enough to wait for who called it. He noticed in the rear window a sticker of a howling wolf. He put the thought aside as he entered his beloved box only to find it in ruin. His regeneration had been even more explosive and violent than he had originally thought and he would have to completely recalibrate her internal mechanisms.
He was tempted to glance one last time out the door and towards her window before stepping inside completely but he resisted.
"Well old girl, time for a change, eh?" He pat the console when he reached it. "Let's see what you've got for me."
With that he did what he could with the control panel and they took off to his next great adventure because he dare not look back.