Title: By the Numbers
Disclaimer: I own nothing. RTD, the BBC, and others own all. Point is, it ain't mine.
Spoilers: General S/2 stuff. No AoG or Doomsday here, though.
AN: I usually don't write stories like this, but I've been reading 'Rose regenerates' stories lately and I got bored and, well, this is what you get. Hopefully it's not to bad.
Special thanks to my lovely beta Charlotte
There were always surprises with the Doctor. Cardiff, 1869 instead of Naples, 1860. A dimensional crack in the Vortex that led to parallel worlds. Aliens in Downing Street. Queen Victoria being a werewolf and banishing them - really, how can one be banished from their home country a hundred years before they're born? Gasmask zombies. Cat people. Clockwork assassins. Delaks. Cybermen. His regeneration. Hers.
Surprise after surprise.
Some days, when she concentrated, Rose could remember things about how she changed. Well, that's not actually true. She could remember things like running, a flash of light, and him screaming her name, but nothing definite. But she could remember after. After. After, when it had hurt so much. After, when they were both in shock. After, when the Doctor had treated her like some kind of guinea pig or an especially interesting puzzle that needed to be solved. There was only one answer he could ever give her, and she still never fully understood. Bad Wolf.
Not that it had mattered. She was different. She had changed. Her old, human self was dead, and yet she remained, with new features, quirks, and voice.
Version 2.0 he had joked. Only once, though.
The Doctor worried about her, but she hadn't cared. She wanted to be left alone. She wanted to pretend that it never happened. She wanted to be human again. But she wasn't and never would be. The face and the voice and the strange way of thinking had been constant reminders of that.
Regeneration depression, she heard him mutter to the TARDIS. That had been true, but it had only served to enrage her at the time. He made it sound as if what she was going through was natural - common even - and all she needed to be better were some drugs and therapy. It hadn't been natural. It hadn't been common. It had happened to her and it shouldn't have. She was supposed to have grown old and died in the same body she was born with, but she suddenly found herself staring out into a long, lonely unknown future that had no end in sight. That was abnormal. That was uncommon. That wasn't...human. And as much as he sympathized, as much as he tried to help her, it was something that he couldn't ever really understand.
Two - Rose couldn't remember when she had started referring to her-selves by numbers - had been depressed. And scared. And suicidal.
The Doctor had been able to keep her in check for the most part. Even though there were many things about him then that she couldn't remember anymore, she stilled remembered the look in his eyes when they would find themselves in dangerous situations. Whereas before there had only been excitement and maddening glee, after there had been tinges of worry. Would this be the time she just gave up? Would this be the time she let whatever was chasing them catch her? Would that be the time that he finally lost her for good because they had no idea if her first regeneration would also be her last?
Two had actually ended up lasting for quiet awhile. After nearly fifty years, the depression finally started to subside somewhat. She had learned how to smile again. How to laugh. How to really run. She had come so close to learning how to be happy in Two with him, and then both of them had to go and die because some terrorist group on Neseromanicostes had wanted to prove some political point.
Eleven and Three started off cautiously. They were both older - the Doctor looked to be in his fifties now while she appeared closer to late thirties, early forties. She had liked sundresses then. He favored a smoking jacket and an ugly cane.
It should be mentioned that he still wasn't ginger; salt and pepper instead. She, though, did get to be a redhead and had laughed at his pouting. Really, that was not very becoming of someone his age.
She was better in Three; calm, understanding, and surprisingly intelligent. He still out-shined her, of course, but Three started to hold her own pretty well when it came to brains.
People had mistaken them for a married couple more than ever before. They often laughed about it and played it up.
She had left him for the first time not long after they changed - well, not long for them, but she supposed twenty years is a long time for humans. It was time, and they had both known it. She needed to be on her own for awhile. She needed to learn how to be on her own because, if she continued to regenerate, then some day...
It had been hard, but it had been right. He left her in fifty-second century Earth on May 14. She had a hundred years to explore on her own and then return here to the fifty-second century on May 15. That had been a hard century, but she had made it through. And then they were together again. Until she changed.
Four was young. So young most people mistook her for his granddaughter. She had thought it funny then and played up to it, even though she knew the Doctor didn't like it. She hadn't cared in that life. By the end of that time together, he hadn't liked her, but put up with her because of the memory of who she had been, like one does with old childhood friends who they had outgrown.
His eleventh self and her fourth were just too different, or perhaps too similar. They had parted, but there had been no heartbreak, except for what the memory of what had been so many years ago.
The next time she saw him, he was on his twelfth self. She had laughed when she saw him. He barely looked twenty-five and had those baby-fat cheeks. The Doctor would get so angry because people would card him. She would get angry because some stupid people would see was that she was slightly older looking and assume she was his very well aged mother. It hadn't helped that he took to calling her 'mum' sometimes, just to aggravate her. Revenge, he had said.
Still not ginger, she might add. Black-headed instead.
Twelve and Four had gotten on swimmingly, reminding them both of how they had once been, when he was the Last and she was only human. The time before she changed. They had energy. They had life. Most of all, they had one another.
Twelve and Four had a century together, and then she changed again because of a revolt on Zahn 9 that had gone pear-shaped.
Five was introverted and would just assume to be alone as with him. After a few short years, the Doctor had grown tired or lonesome, she was never sure which, and had picked up a new companion, a young girl from the American deep South called Tyranni. They had adventures together and laughed and drug Rose along, even though they knew she would rather not be there.
For some reason, Five had lost all sense of adventure.
She convinced them to leave her on the ship one day and left before they came back. He wasn't alone, she knew Tyranni would stay for as long as he let her, just like she would have when it had been her. She had left a note to Tyranni asking her to watch over him for her. She had left one to him asking him to be gentle when he finally broke the poor girl's heart.
The last time she had meet up with him she was on her seventh self.
Five had only lasted another three months after she left him, dying, by all the stupid ways, because of a stray bullet in late twenty-second century Tokyo.
Six, who had been brash, brunette, and a little bit sluttish, had lasted until the Lubren Invasion of New Earth in 770.832. She couldn't really remember what had caused her to change that time, only that she had woken in her seventh body amongst a group of dead Lubrian. She had left after that and accidentally caught up with him at the grand opening of the first Starbucks Coffee House in Seattle.
She was blonde again and had brown eyes, just like when he first met her. He bore a passing resemblance to a young Ewan McGregor, or so she thought. He had finally gotten to be ginger.
Thirteen was his last life, and the Doctor lived as such. His hyperactivity reached new peaks. He couldn't stay still, ever. He wanted to see everything, again. It was his last chance, after all.
She stayed with him the whole time. More than once she grew tired, wanted to leave if only for a break, but she couldn't - wouldn't leave him. This was the last time. On this trip, the Doctor was the companion with only one life. She was the one who was going to have to live on.
He had been so wrong about so many things, all that time ago when they stood outside the chip shop and discussed their inevitable future. Oh, she did leave him, but he had left her too, just as he promised he wouldn't. But he had gotten the best of it. He had gotten spend the rest of his lives with her. She was going to be the one who didn't get to spend the rest of hers with him.
Thirteen and Seven had the best run of them all, perhaps. So many years and adventures and total fearlessness about it all, about everything. No regrets had been the theme of his life. No regrets, not even saving that shuttle with less than twenty people onboard that had cost him his life.
At least, not on his part.
Some few hundred years later, she finds herself here, in her original time in her original home. London, 2005. She's on her ninth self and she's nine hundred. She can't help but smile at the irony. She had a fondness for men's button up shirts and short skirts in this lifetime, and sound more like she's from Wales. Cardiff, she thinks with a grin.
She has her own companions now, a female Chinese doctor named Xhang who was from the earlier thirtieth century and a young man from Colonial America named Charlie. Charlie had had a crush on her when she first picked him up. Xhang had been good for distracting him.
She sits alone in an old, familiar chip shop. Charlie and Xhang are off seeing the sites. Neither of them had ever been to London. She thinks it's safer if she stays here, so she sends them off with money and a map and waits to hear what kind of trouble they found themselves in.
She feels him before she sees him. He walks into the shop with her old self, the one that's still human. She's surprised how young she was. It doesn't feel like she was ever young before. And he...he looks exactly how she first remembered him to be. She had long ago forgotten the details of this incarnation of him, but they were all instantly recalled the moment she laid eyes on him. It was like reading your favorite book again after several years, you can remember the basic outline and some of the parts that loved, but it isn't until you are reading it again that you remember everything.
They're talking. Well, she's talking, the Doctor is listening with that bemused, superior smirk that she loved and wanted to smack off his face all at the same time. Her younger self goes to the counter, leaving him by the door, and she thinks it's a good time for her to leave.
She keeps her head down as she approaches him, but looks up when she feels his eyes on her. He's confused and surprised and so very tense. She smiles. He doesn't return it, but doesn't stop her from leaving either. He watches her walk away and she knows he can see the tattoo on the back of her neck. The one that says her name.
But she's still just Rose to her friends.