Sudden Changes @regenderate
Sudden Changes reposted from AO3! I'll be posting more of my old stories as I get used to this site. originally posted 31 October 2020 with these notes: SORRY this is so late in the day, I have been having quite a time lately! I hope you enjoy regardless, I enjoyed writing and I'd like to do more with Bill and thirteen in the future! ALSO I have no idea how this fits into any kind of canon. that's just how it is

Bill had not been expecting this.

Of course, she was always expecting a surprise, when it came to the Doctor. His lectures had always been one surprise after another, and then the TARDIS had been another surprise, and, well, it had really just spiraled from there. But all those surprises made some kind of sense— it was clear that the Doctor wasn’t quite human, after all, given how long he’d been working at the university, and given the content of his lectures. And if he wasn’t human, of course it made sense that his spaceship would have been in the middle of his office. It was a little weird that it was shaped like a police box from the 1960’s, but a little weird was to be expected from someone like the Doctor.

This, though. This was a lot weird. This was a whole other planet of weird. Or, well, Bill had been on whole other planets, and this was even weirder than that. She was standing on the same old TARDIS, looking at the Doctor, or not the Doctor, or some version of the Doctor, and the Doctor was a woman.

This, though. This was a lot weird. This was a whole other planet of weird. Or, well, Bill had been on whole other planets, and this was even weirder than that. She was standing on the same old TARDIS, looking at the Doctor, or not the Doctor, or some version of the Doctor, and the Doctor was a woman.

“Sorry, what just happened?” she asked. 

The Doctor— not the Doctor— the person the Doctor had just become— stood in front of her, younger, blonde, and looking totally pleased with herself.

“How’d I turn out?” 

“How’d you— is this normal for you?” Bill looked the new Doctor up and down. “Just get killed and become someone else?”

The Doctor opened her mouth to answer, but then there was a crashing noise, and Bill saw sparks coming from the console. The Doctor jumped into motion, but it was too late. The console exploded, and Bill felt the shrapnel whizzing past her as she ran backwards. Flames engulfed the console, and Bill found herself running into the corridors, losing sight of the Doctor as she fled the explosion.

The sparks followed Bill down the hall, though, until she reached her own bedroom. If she was going to be safe anywhere, she figured it would be here, and she was right: the minute the door closed behind her, everything went quiet. She sat on her bed, her heart beating in her ears, waiting for some kind of sign that the TARDIS was safe again. 

She didn't know how long she was in there. Time was always kind of weird on the TARDIS, anyway: Bill's phone clock always defaulted to 00:00 when she was on board, and sometimes she went what must have been hours without feeling hungry or tired. She just knew that she was sitting there, nervous, worried, and then all of a sudden the door to her room opened. She stepped out, curious, and realized that the corridors were a totally different color: a shiny copper instead of dull silver. She hadn’t known that was possible: the inside of the TARDIS, to her, was a dimly lit silver structure. 

She wound through the corridors until she got to what must have been the console room. It had a pillar in the center, surrounded by controls, and she saw the telltale police box door at one end, but that was where the similarities to the old TARDIS ended. This one was warmly lit, with crystal-like pillars and something that looked like honeycomb along the outer wall. It felt familiar, even in its strangeness: almost like coming home. 

“Didn’t know you could do that,” she said to the TARDIS. If she was being honest, she didn’t know whether or not the TARDIS was actually listening, but the Doctor talked to it like it was a person, so Bill would too. “Looks brilliant.”

The lights from the crystals grew brighter, and Bill smiled. 

“Any idea when we see the Doctor again?” she asked.

No response from the TARDIS.

“What’s outside the door?” Bill asked, walking across the floor. Not waiting for an answer, she pushed the door open and was immediately met with a wind that blew her hair back and stung her eyes. 

She slammed the door shut and retreated back into the TARDIS, where she realized that an image had popped up on one wall. It displayed what looked like a time lapse of a desert: there was darkness, then light, then darkness, then light, as days passed. 

“So what’s that?” Bill asked. She wished sorely that she could communicate properly with the TARDIS: the Doctor seemed to manage it, but then again he— or she— was a Time Lord, whatever that meant. She kept an eye on the screen all the same, though, until suddenly there was motion, and then suddenly the time lapse stopped: Bill could see three people, standing in the distance, and closer, there was the Doctor, the new Doctor, the stranger, dressed in strange new clothes. She had her sonic screwdriver — was that a new sonic screwdriver? — pointed at the TARDIS. As she came closer, the image on the wall flickered into darkness, and Bill ran to open the door.

“What was all that?” Bill asked, surprised and embarrassed to feel tears springing into her eyes. She hadn’t realized how worried she was. “What happened?”

“Sorry,” the Doctor said, and she did look sorry, to be fair. “I didn’t mean to be gone. I just fell out of my TARDIS, and then there was a mystery to figure out, and I made friends and everything!” 

“The TARDIS is all different now,” Bill said, mostly as a warning. “Didn’t know it could do that.”

“Oh, what’d she do?” the Doctor asked, peering over Bill’s shoulder. She wasn’t much taller than Bill now, which is a little disconcerting. Bill stepped  aside and lets the Doctor pass. The Doctor looked absolutely entranced by the new TARDIS, which is even more disconcerting. The old Doctor had never showed his emotions like this, and Bill wondered whether this Doctor was any different, or whether what looked like vulnerability was actually a smokescreen. The Doctor had way too much baggage to just shed it in a regeneration.

The Doctor’s new friends trailed in behind her. They seemed a little perplexed. Remembering her first steps into the TARDIS, Bill understood the feeling. It was a little strange the first time you walked into a little phone booth and realized there was a whole universe inside.  It was fun to watch, actually, and looking at their awed faces Bill understood a little better why the Doctor liked to bring humans along on her trips.

“I really like it,” the Doctor was saying, stepping towards the console. Her friends started asking questions about the TARDIS, and Bill stepped back— until the Doctor looked towards her.

“Bill!” she exclaimed. “Come meet my friends!”

Bill stepped closer to where the Doctor and her friends were huddled.

“Everyone, this is my best friend, Bill,” the Doctor said. “Bill, these are my other new best friends, Ryan, Graham, and Yaz.” 

“Good to meet you,” Bill said. 

The others responded in kind. 

“I’ve promised them all a nice cup of tea and a warm bed,” the Doctor said. “It’s been a long day, I think.”

“Definitely,” one of her friends— Yaz— said. 

“Maybe a bite to eat, too?” another added. Bill was pretty sure this one was Graham, but she wasn’t positive. 

The Doctor led the group to the kitchen, where they all ate. Bill was burning with questions to ask, but she didn’t know how to ask them with these new people around, so she held her tongue, instead answering Graham’s small talk as best she could. Finally, though, the Doctor’s new friends were ready for bed, and the Doctor sent them off with the cryptic advice, “Just wander around for a bit until you find a room that looks like it’s yours.” 

Finally, Bill and the Doctor were alone. 

“How’d you do that?” Bill blurted immediately. “With the face changing?”

“It’s a survival mechanism my species can do,” the Doctor explained. “If we’re about to die, we change our face instead.”

“Doesn’t that hurt?” Bill asked.

“As much as dying would,” the Doctor said. “So, yes, quite a lot. I’m still feeling twinges, if we’re being honest.”

“And—” Bill hesitated. “You’re different now. What happened to the old version of you?”

“He’s still in here.” The Doctor gestured vaguely at herself. “I mean, sort of. It’s complicated. But doesn’t everyone change? Don’t you?”

“I guess.” 

“It’s like that.” The Doctor shrugged. 

“It’s a big deal, though, isn’t it?” Bill looked the new Doctor up and down. “I mean, it’s a big change.”

“Very big deal,” the Doctor agreed. “I’m only supposed to be able to do this thirteen times. I got a couple more tries, courtesy of the Time Lords— but really, I’m a medical miracle.”

Bill hesitated. For once, she couldn’t think of a question, or, rather, couldn’t think which one to ask first. 

“Are you still going to travel around like we were doing before?” she asked.

“‘Course I am,” the Doctor said. 

“And can I still come with you?” Bill added, an anxious feeling in her stomach. 

“‘Course you can!” the Doctor exclaimed. “I mean, if you’ll have me.” She seemed genuinely nervous. “I’m never sure, you know, after these regenerations. Sometimes people get mad at me.”

“Are you kidding?” Bill asked, shaking her head. “It’s brilliant. I mean, really amazing. I want to know everything about it. I mean, how can you change so much and still be the same? It’s like— that one philosophy problem, about the ship.”

The Doctor frowned, clearly lost, and Bill rushed to explain. 

“I mean, imagine you have a ship, and you replace each section of it with new material. At the end, is it the same ship?” Bill paused. “But you’re definitely the same Doctor. Just replaced.”

“Exactly,” the Doctor agreed. “That’s me. Same old Doctor.”

“But brand new,” Bill added. “See, that’s brilliant. I can’t wait to get to know the new you.”

“That’s exactly what I hoped you’d say.” The Doctor grinned, and Bill grinned back. What she loved about traveling with the Doctor, after all, was learning new things about the universe, and it looked like she had a lot more to learn. 

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