My first-ever finished Doctor Who fic. Yay me. Takes place directly after "Parting of the Ways," during the 2005 Children in Need special, without which this won't make a lot of sense.

No Splendid Phoenix Wings
by LadyMoriel

Last night's stars, last night's winds,
By the West wall of the painted house, East of the hall of cassia.
For bodies no fluttering side by side of splendid phoenix wings...

—Li Shang-yin, "Untitled Poem III"

This is going to hurt,
he thinks hazily, as the change begins to flicker through him and his mind starts to unravel. Of course it hurts. Regeneration always hurts. He's gone through it so many times by now that he figures he should have got used to it at some point—and he does remember every single time; his memory's not that bad.

(As a child on Gallifrey, impossible ages and lifetimes ago, he read up on phoenixes after observing his first regeneration, for no other real reason than because he could. He wondered then if it hurt, the burning and the resurrection, and thought he would like to hunt down a phoenix—had to be one somewhere, hadn't there?—and find out.

But then he learned that no phoenix ever changed its face, and after that he lost interest.

Always sympathized a bit with the burning part, though.)

And it does hurt, now, more than he expected: looks like an explosion, feels like dying, every cell ripped away and replaced, bone and muscle and skin shrinking, compressing; eyes going blurry, blind, blurry again; all his senses scrambled, gone, different—and then new hair's growing in and it itches, and it's over and he's still standing, unsteady but upright.

Different. Everything's different—and how.

He's never really gotten used to this either, figuring out all over again what he looks like, how he moves, how he breathes, how he thinks, how his hearts beat (even that's changed—oh, still two hearts, still working well, considering, but...different, in a way he can't define, and that's saying something).

So he sets to work introducing himself to his new body, keeping an eye on Rose, who's half hiding behind one of the TARDIS's coral-like supports (on the plus side, it's the one nearest him, so at least she isn't trying to get away), hoping he'd managed to explain enough (Rassilon knew his brain wasn't at its best right before a regeneration), and when he observes that he's skinnier (a lot skinnier, in fact—no wonder he could feel himself shrink) and says, "Give me time, I'll get used to it," he's not just talking about himself.

And she's still staring at him, eyes fixed and fearful and a little angry, and the residual ache of regeneration is already fading, and there's no trust at all in her eyes when she looks at him, and that hurts, too.

But then she asks, "Who are you?" and that hurts more.