An entry for the "Ail" challenge on the LiveJournal community who-contest, because I always seem to come back to the First Doctor and regeneration. Thank you for reading and enjoy!

Wearing a bit thin.

He is ailing, he knows, strength falling just a bit shorter day by day, light-headedness slowly settling in. His hearts are roaring mutedly, never seeming to find the vigour of old, however fast they race; his mind feels very clear and sharp and detached, almost gazing upon his flesh like a stranger's, already. They don't notice. His companions are young, loud of voice and merry of heart, tiny buzzing beings that fill the empty space in the control room, the immensity of time and the pause between each breath. They are packed with a life so short and so powerful. They would not notice his gradual decline—or maybe read it wrong, read the weakness as an ending when it is something so much greater, so much stranger, so much darker in some ways…

He knows what is coming, when no one else around him does—and indeed, no one should. Susan would have known; she would have been afraid, of course, and supportive. One day the same will happen to her. Sooner or later they are all reborn, the ancient children of time, watchers of centuries. Only he will know this blaze, this tempest on foreign soil.

When? he sometimes wonders, when alone in his ship, in those suspended moments when the quietness feels like night—yet a night that is artificial and singular, created like a bubble around him. When, and where? Which world will stand around him, as he falls and rises again? What species and which friends? Will he make it to the safety of his TARDIS, finding her guidance in the chaos of his first recreation? And the new face, will it still feel like his, mind embracing flesh like a simple reality?

He is preparing in his weariness, the slow progress of his body towards alienation, not rest. It is an illusion when he finds himself yearning for a sleep long and deep. Merely comfort, yet he welcomes it. It is easier than the notion of simply dissolving.

He feels the nothingness grow, the timelines sharpen, his sense of self shift. Everything and nothing at once feels ever so real, and yet falling away. The universe is made of conflicting forces, push and pull, change and motion. A pebble drops. A civilization collapses. A Time Lord is born anew.

Small things, immense things, and he embraces all. His hearts thud. He is terrified. He is ready.