The Doctor had enough time facing a dark and rocky cliff wall to adequately pique his annoyance. He was not in any way thrilled that he had to rely on the assistance of the Chancellory Guard Rescue Ops to come and save his arse. He was certainly not impressed that he wasn’t simply offered a rope and allowed to head up on his own – and maintain some of that dignity and reputation that he’d carefully crafted over the years. No, he had to be tethered like a loomling to a young Time Lord who was probably fresh out of the Academy and all gung-ho and trying to impress the time Ladies (Read: Rose) with his bulk and life-saving abilities…
…Yeah, well try saving an entire planet. Been there done that, and didn’t need to skite or preen about it.
“Don’t you worry, Sir,” Nespar said with a chuckle. His head was levered up to look at the distance above them, and his focal attention was definitely on the thin rope holding them both safe. “Your mate is in very good hands with Primdar. He’s one of the best aerial and cliff rescue ops members we have. Trained by the Castellan himself.”
The Doctor pursed his lips. Obviously he was projecting his annoyance. Thankfully, this youngster was reading it not for the jealousy, but for the concern toward Rose. “You better trust your own word, young Lord. I shouldn’t need to tell you…”
His chuckle interrupted what was to come next. “It doesn’t need to be said, Sir,” Nespar stated with amusement and understanding in his tone. “Your mate is your universe and if something happens to her, then you have the capability of destroying not only the three of us, but also Gallifrey herself. It’s a threat we all take very seriously – particularly when we are warned by our Lady President of the same.” He paused their upward momentum and tugged on the line as they neared the top edge. “Lady Romana doesn’t just randomly attend rescue operations. Trust me, with her eyes on all of us, we’re not going to make any mistakes.”
He watched Rose be lifted safely onto the ledge, and waited for his turn to be the attention of the surface rescue worker.“ She’s safe,” he assured the Doctor. “Primdar’s already up top. We’ll start moving a little quicker now, and should be up there with her in a short moment.”
Irritation shifted to urgency, and the Doctor started to scrabble his hands and feet against the wall to assist Nespar in getting them both up top as quickly as possible. The top was reached quickly. No sooner had the Doctor’s feet touched the red grass on the surface, and scrambled to release himself from his rescuer to run and check on Rose.
A shadow in the light of the bright orb set in the middle of the grasses fell upon him. The Doctor slowed the unfastening of the clip attaching him to Nespar slowed as he looked up with a scowl on his face, ready to spar with Brax if necessary. His scowl softened at the sight of a companion who he’d once felt so deeply for that he actually contemplated a future with her.
“Romana,” he said softly.
She saw his urgency for pleasantries to end so that he could check on Rose’s well being, and held up a hand to ask him for pause.
“I wouldn’t be too concerned about Miss Tyler,” she advised him with a smile. “She’s currently berating Castellan Andresaselus for ordering the male Dahrama tranquilized before we send the team down.”
The Doctor shot a look toward the moving shadows around a prone wolf and noted that she was, indeed, standing firm on her toes growling at an otherwise unfazed Andred. He couldn’t hear her exact words, but could see by the twitch in the Time Lord’s cheek and jaw that suggested they were far from kind. Beside them, the young Lord that rescued her was chuckling with amusement as he packed up his line and harnesses.
The Doctor’s eyes were wide, but not necessarily with surprise. He’d discovered on this evening that this little companion of his could be quite the firecracker who wasn’t going to back down no matter how regally or importantly dressed someone was.
Romana was amused herself. “She barely had her feet on the grass before she was yelling at him. Bless, the Castellan is quite used to the fire of humans, and knows not to asset any form of authority on them.”
“Leela,” she Doctor breathed out with fondness. He passed a look toward Romana. “And how is she; and her child?”
“Their child,” she corrected. “And they are all very well. I’ll send her your regards.”
“Appreciated, thank you.” The Doctor had shifted his attention and was now looking across the way with his eyes locked on the still angry figure flanked by an equally upset Dahrama wolf. “Now if you will excuse me…”
“I will not,” she countered sharply. “Doctor, I’ve spoken with Brax at length about your Rose, and I have to admit my concern for her impact on the coming fixed point.”
“I wouldn’t be too concerned,” he answered with a huff. “I have it in hand.”
“Obviously not,” she shot back. “The fact that you allowed her to put herself in such a perilous position as to have to call in support for retrieval of you both tells me that you don’t have anything in hand except ongoing danger.” She tipped her head warningly when he looked ready to argue. “You forget that I travelled with you for quite some time a few centuries ago. I am fully aware of how well you court … no … worse than that: How you invite danger.”
The Doctor’s lips pursed and his cheek lifted in a petulant scowl. “And yet I seem to come through each and every instance of danger accepting my invitation without incident.”
“And which regeneration are you on right now?” she asked in a more rhetorical manner than the Doctor had assumed it was. He readied to mouth the number but stopped when she shook her head. “As is my understanding from Brax, your current companion is just as danger-friendly as you are.”
The Doctor’s brow flicked up and a smile started to cross his lips. “Brax?” he asked with humour. “That’s awfully familiar of you.”
“Referring to my brother as Brax, and not as Cardinal Braxiatel,” he clarified. His borrow waggled teasingly. “Is there something that I should know?”
Her expression shifted to shock, then downshifted to embarrassment and then light sheepishness. “Don’t read too deeply into that, Doctor. There is nothing to assume between the Cardinal and myself.”
He winked. “I don’t buy it for a second,” he said, amused. “He is an arrogant, self-righteous creature, and I offer you my best wishes for you to either tame or survive him. Should you need any advice at all on the best ways of blackmailing into submission, then please reach out.”
Romana smiled and shook her head. “Don’t confuse my familiarity with Brax as anything other than friendship, Doctor. He is one of my closest confidents and someone I trust implicitly.” She stepped forward and turned to stand beside him. She watched Rose Tyler, still angrily stating her case toward Andred, while batting off the first aid attempts of the Rescue team on her arm.
“There was a time,” she began softly, “where you and I both considered the possibility of entering into a relationship.”
“That wouldn’t have served either of us well,” he suggested without openly admitting or agreeing to it.
“No,” she agreed softly.
“You were too young, and I too jaded.” He didn’t look at her, but he let his hand brush tenderly against hers. “Your destiny was Gallifrey, and mine…” He smiled. “Mine was anywhere but.”
“Still,” she breathed. “The prospect of rebelling against the universe’s plan was quite enchanting.”
“And they say that it’s only the women of Earth that want to marry the renegades.”
She chuckled. “Marrying you, Doctor, that was never an intention.” She looked at him with a glint in her eye. “But a rebellious flight of fancy…”
“Is surprisingly not my way,” he cut in. He shook his head and looked toward Rose, who was finally calming and allowing the medic to administer first aid on her wolf bite. “Random flings and irresponsible partnerships of my hearts…” he let out a breath. “I’m not strong enough for that.”
“It’s stronger to give your hearts to another,” Romana corrected him. “And you wouldn’t have dared offered them to me as you have done her.” She turned to face him directly. “Brax told me that she’s from your future – a mate to your older self.”
He nodded short and shallow. “She is.”
“And to your current self?” She tipped her head to one side. “Has she captured you here as well?”
He blew out a breath through an open mouth and lowered his head. “The promise runs from the future and into the past.”
“And her future holds the key to the Universe’s survival?”
The Doctor inhaled deeply and let out that breath as a huff. “In her past. Such is the way of the Time Lords.” His full attention moved to Romana. His voice shifted toward that of curiosity. “You hold the rod, sash and keys of Rassilon. Your ability to look ahead and interpret the prophecies of the matricians is beyond any other Lord or Lady of Time.”
She smiled only on one side of her mouth. “I won’t tell you what lies ahead, Doctor. There are still several paths ahead that are in flux and can change outcomes.” She gestured toward Rose with a jut of her chin. “What is fixed is your human companion and the importance of her remaining on Gallifrey for the next little while.”
“Little while?” the Doctor queried for clarification. “Brax suggested that it could be quite some time.”
“Marry her,” Romana suggested gently. “Set up a home for her here with you on Gallifrey.”
“That’s an offer for my future to make, not me.” He rubbed at the back of his neck and winced with discomfort. “I have done so, in the ways of our people, in my future.”
“She doesn’t speak enough of our language to accept.” It was question as much as it was fact.
“Then teach her,” she answered with a shrug of her delicate shoulders. “You are a brilliant teacher, Doctor, but if you feel this is a task too great, then I can assign a tutor to assist.”
He had to laugh. “You of all people,” he groused on a whisper.
“Meaning what?” she shot back with a sideward glance.
“I would think that after our time together, where you witnessed the society of Time Lords trying to choreograph and control my life and my destiny, that you would refrain from doing the same.” He narrowed his eyes to look toward his brother who was analysing the work of the medics. “As I told my brother earlier today: I will not manipulate her in any way. Her destiny, and the love she has, are for the men who are my future – not me as I am now.”
“I am suggesting, not demanding, Doctor.” She clarified shortly. “Do, or don’t. It’s up to you. Your ability to keep her here on Gallifrey will be far easier on you if you chose to make her your wife. If you push her back toward your future, then she’ll leave.” Her head twisted to stare at him with a glare of warning. “I will make it difficult for you to leave, don’t think that I won’t. Knowing you and experiencing first hand how you move to defy council and bypass their restrictions, I believe I am more able to effectively ground your TARDIS than anyone else.”
“Then do it,” he challenged her. “Because if she asked me right now to take her home to me, then I’d do it without a second thought.” He smirked. “However, the greater risk is her asking to go home to London. She’s not exactly happy with my future right now.”
“So Braxiatel said,” Romana said with a sigh. She softened her voice. “Do your hearts beat for her, Doctor? Now, not in the future, but here and now?”
“I would think that’s obvious,” he huffed. “Not to her, of course, but they do.”
“Then make her believe it,” she urged supportively. “Brax and I, between the two of us, can ensure you both all of the conveniences you’ll need to be happy here.”
The Doctor was quiet for a long moment. While he certainly appreciated the support of one of his closest friends toward his desire to become a mated partner to a young woman from Earth, there was something just a little off about it. He walked around her to stand in between Romana and her line of sight toward Rose, who had now foregone her anger with Andred, and was now laughing and joking about something with the medic.
“Why are you and my brother so eager to push me into marriage?” He moved in closer to take in the look in her eyes. “Specifically marriage to Rose?”
She was undaunted. “I want you to be happy, Doctor. That’s all. It seems as though that young woman would be capable of providing that happiness.”
“Which can be achieved travelling in my TARDIS across time and space together as companions.”
She put her hand on his shoulder. “It’s time that the renegade who’s spent the best part of 800 years running from responsibility finally settles down with a woman who holds his beating hearts…”
He brushed her hand from his shoulder. “Don’t give me that bunch of nonsense,” he grunted. He saw the flicker in her eyes to tell him her reasons ran deep. “Be honest with me, Romana. What’s coming? Why is this so important to you that it’s the first suggestion that either of you make?” His eyes chased hers when she tried to look away from him. “What do you see?”
“I see you happy,” she tried with a weak smile. “Blissfully so, with a wife and a family. Here on Gallifrey, with a post at the Capitol heading up our medical departments. A doctor, Doctor, like you always wanted to be.”
“You are my dearest friend,” he said with disappointment in his tone. “But I don’t trust you on this – especially not right now. I know you’re hiding something from me,”
“Trust me or don’t,” she hissed out in an exasperated breath. “But you are now officially forbidden from leaving Gallifrey. You can either serve whatever time I decide to ground you happy, or miserable and full of unreasonable mistrust toward all. Your choice.”
“With all due respect,” he muttered. “No one on council has ever given me any reason to offer them my trust.”
“You know how to hurt me deeper than anyone, Romana. I have to be more guarded around you than with anyone.” He heard his name called from across the clearing and immediately his entire demeanour changed. His face lit up and he smiled. “Be right there, Rose,” he called out cheerfully. He looked back toward Romana with a respectful nod. “It’s been nice to see you again, Lady President. Goodbye and safe travels back to Arcadia.”
The Doctor swiftly ran from her, a small jump in his step as he ran to Rose and scooped her up into a hug that spun both of them in place.
Romana watched with a crease in her brow and a fold of her arms across her chest. She felt the presence of Braxiatel behind her, but waited until he had pressed his hand into her lower back before relaxing any.
“How much did you tell him?”
His hand shifted across her back to settle on her hip. She leaned back against him, thankful to feel his presence against her mind. “About what, exactly? My entrance into the house of Lungbarrow, or his future destiny that I can’t share with him at any cost?”
He chuckled against her ear. “He’d have a neural implosion to hear about the two of us.”
She turned in toward him, pressing her fingertips to his chest – one set of fingers surrounding each of his beating hearts. “No, Brax. He’d be much happier about it that you think he would.” She lifted her eyes to his. “The inability of the two of you to properly get along, and your penchant for competitiveness against each other is beyond reproach … but he would put all of that rivalry aside to know that you’re happy with your chosen mate.” She smiled. “It was he who put us on the same path to begin with, remember.”
“I’ll tell him myself,” he agreed. “When the time is right.” He looked across at his Brother crouched down and petting the heads of two rather excitable Dahrama wolves. “As for he and his potential bride? Did you push the suggestion?”
“Merely suggested it,” she answered softly. “You know him as well as I do. If you push the issue, even if he did want to do it, he’d work against it just out of spite.” Her face creased. “I hate this, Brax. The games the universe wants to play with him are just cruel.”
“Crueler on her,” he whispered with a look toward Rose. “She’s the one who has to bear the entire burden.” His eyes flicked to the Doctor. “He won’t even feel it.”
“Which will kill him if he ever found out,” she sighed. “And he’ll singlehandedly destroy reality himself in revenge. I know what he’s like.”
“It’s our duty, Romana.” He reminded her. “We have no choice. We can’t warn either of them in advance. Without that sacrifice, we will fall.” His voice actually shuddered on his exhale. “This has to happen. Gallifrey’s survival depends on it.”
“It does,” she agreed. “But I won’t let her go through it alone. You and I, Brax. We need to make sure that her sacrifice isn't in vain and unappreciated by the chapter houses and people of Gallifrey." She shuddered. "I just hope when the dust settles and the truth comes out that he be able to forgive me.”