Another day, another adventure, another universe saved. It was hard, and thankless, and he had lost so much. So many things he lost when he hadn't even known he had had them. His long life was full of regrets, but that one might be one of his greatest. The loss of that which he hadn't known was his. Had been his all along.
The Doctor sighed and pushed his floppy hair back out of his eyes for the hundredth time that day. He took a deep breath, held it for a count, then released it slowly back into the world. He opened his eyes, and pulled the large lever on the console.
The TARDIS landed perfectly, as always. He had landed here often enough, he ought to know how to do it by now. And he always parked in the same spot. Sometimes, when you lead a life like his, you began to really appreciate the small consistencies of day-to-day life. He walked slowly out of the TARDIS and ambled over to a mass of cords on the floor. Over time they had moulded into a sort of circular, nest-ish shape, after years of his sitting on them every day. They made a comfy enough chair. Besides, it was just the right angle.
As he sat, he could feel the stress and tension start to relieve a little, and he sighed again. He had been doing that a lot lately. He was tired. He took his diary out of his pocket, but just sat it beside him in the nest. He didn't feel like paging through it today. He just needed to relax.
"Hello, sweetie, I'm home," he began. "Today was crazy…" he went on to talk all about the aliens he met, the people he'd helped, the monsters he'd vanquished, and the lunch he'd had. "Since we were so close, I picked up some Anlg berries and cider. I know how much you love them." He pulled a crumpled brown paper bag from one of his many pockets, and began to eat. "So sweet! You've always loved sweets, though. Sometimes I don't know how you don't have a mouth full of cavities."
There was a lull of silence as he munched. Another sigh. And so, so quietly, so that no one could hear, "I'm so tired… I miss you… I'll be home soon."
He got into his TARDIS and left.
It had been a long run. He didn't always get this long without a regeneration. Funny, in a way, how when he wants it, it runs away, and when he doesn't, it takes him. He knew by now not to try and control it. He had lived a long time. He was too old to be impatient anymore.
He felt it coming, though. His regeneration, and he felt relief. He had been far too tired for far too long. It was time to pass on the burden. It would still be him, but… but somehow it was different, it was like he got to hit a refresh button. He knew he needed it. As he felt the regeneration slip toward him, he did something he never did. Instead of feeling his consciousness drift into the nothingness, he directed it, like an arrow, he aimed and, with the last bit of strength he had as himself, fired. His aim was true; he had been planning this for a long time.
He landed in the same spot he always did. He landed there often enough, he ought to know how to do it by now. But instead of heading to his coil of wires- which, oddly enough, had begun to feel like home to him- he turned more to the side. To the console and wires and circuits and thingamabobs all amassed in a corner. And as he entered, he felt more than saw a golden ray, like an aura, blanketing the world, covering him, making him feel safe and warm. He keeps walking, through the blanket, and reaches the other side. It is a library, just as it is a library outside, but this one is different. Cosier, warmer, a fire glowing in the fireplace, casting flickering gold and yellow light on all the surfaces. He looks to his left, and sees a comfortable-looking worn red chair, and the back of a head, tight curls bent forward a bit, reading.
He closes his eyes for a moment, a split second, and breathes. He won't ever have to say this again after today.
"Hello, sweetie. I'm home."
The head stiffens, almost in fear, and slowly, painfully turns. She looks at him, confused, only realising after a moment that she has stood and put down her book. A beat passes, and her features morph into one of understanding- this is real, not yet another dream. And then she smiles at him, her old smile, one she had not used for many, many years. "Hello, sweetie," River replies.