It was sunsdown on Gallifrey when Rose and her entourage arrived at the home she shared with the Doctor after a long few of days in hospital. A very long and busy couple of hours – despite being forced to stay in bed for the entire duration of her hospital stay.
If she wasn’t feeding her newborn, then she wasn’t holding him. No one would let her. Between Romana, Brax, her mother, and the nursing staff that worked with the Doctor all wanting to hold him and coo lovingly at him, she hadn’t gotten a chance at all for a quiet cuddle. It was her hope, now that she was home, to finally get that cuddle time…
…If it meant that she had to tell her wolves to stand guard and growl at anyone who dared try to get near her, then by the rule of Rassilon, she’d do it.
Speaking of her beautiful blue-white fur babies. She hadn’t seen them since arriving at the hospital nearly three days ago. Romana had sent some of her guard staff to feed them, and the reports from those who had Dahrama-caused torn clothing upon their return, the pair were doing quite nicely. She was very eager to see them.
And apparently that feeling was mutual. Upon exiting the small red short-hop travel capsule, she was immediately accosted by two very excited wolves. Both of them jumping and pouncing on her while whining and barking like a pair of over excited dogs. She was glad at that juncture, that her newborn was safely within her mother’s arms.
“Hey kids,” she greeted as she stooped down into a crouch. She closed her eyes and took their licks on her cheeks with as little wincing as possible. “I missed you too.”
“Are you sure they’re safe to have around the baby?” Jackie asked cautiously, holding the precious little bundle up higher than was comfortable.
“Perfectly safe,” Romana assured her calmly. “Whilst considered an extremely dangerous species, the Dahrama are very pack orientated and will protect each member with its own life.”
“Are you suggestin’ that my daughter and grandbaby are members of a pack?” Jackie barked incredulously. She looked to the animals. “Their pack?”
“I’m not suggesting it, Jackie,” Romana answered with a shrug. “It’s a fact.”
“I’m not so much thinkin; that’s a good…”
“Oh Mum,” Rose interrupted with a sigh. She was still in a crouch, and her wolves were still excitedly jumping around her. They’d calmed considerably, but were still excited. “I’m happy to be considered part of their pack.” Her head suddenly shot upward as the whine and wheeze of the TARDIS sounded out from inside the house. His name flew her lips with relief, and she didn’t spare a second thought before jumping to her feet and running to the door.
“Oh well,” Jackie said with a friendly huff to the newborn in her arms. “Looks like your daddy’s home, little bean. But if he’s thinkin’ for a second he’s going to take you away from me, then he’s got another thing coming. Hasn’t he? Oh yes, he does – because you’re all mine, darling..”
Romana gave Jackie a small dip of the head in a short bow of goodbye. “If the Lords Doctor is home, then I should best leave myself.”
“You really don’t have to,” Jackie assured her.
Braxiatel slid his arms across his wife’s shoulder and yawned into his fist. “We really best be off. Tell Thete and Rose that we’ll stop by in a day or so to check in on them.”
Rose was almost full run as she burst through the front door of the home. For once, she was thankful to have a house that was sentient like the TARDIS. She didn’t’ have to fiddle around looking for her keys, that door flew open as though by mental command. She didn’t even kick her shoes off at the door, such was her hurry. She ran, in runners made by skilled artisans in the market, along the wooden floor that did not slip or skid when she tried to stop. Instead those soles took hold, propelling her forward into a fall against the still-materialising Blue Police box.
Fortunately for her shoulder, which looked to where she would take the greatest hit, the door opened quickly. Her fall was caught by a pair of strong – and surprisingly naked – arms.
“Steady now,” he said with a chuckle. “I take it you missed me?”
She let herself fall heavily into those rms of his. “Always there to catch me, aren’t you?”
“Like I promised,” he vowed with a whisper before he pressed his lips lightly to hers in greeting. The light kiss quickly turned more passionate. He shifted the angle of his head to deepen their connection and pulled her up against his chest, lifting her feet from the floor so that the tips of her shoes dragged across the wood as he walked them away from his TARDIS.
“Oi, you two,” Jackie called out with humour masked as anger. “That’s about enough of that behaviour, thank you.”
Rose pulled from him before he felt any kind of need to separate from her. She pulled her head back, and dodged his seeking lips with a press of her hand against his chest. “Sorry, Mum.”
He moaned when she pulled out of his arms and slouched slightly. “I was just saying hello.”
Jackie looked him up and down, her brow lifted at the sight of him in only a light T-shirt and his boxers. “Just saying hello indeed,” she huffed with a point at his lower half. “You’re already half undressed and all.” She held up her hand before he could make a comment. “Oh, don’t start tryin’ to defend yourself. I was your age once,” she quipped. “And a newlywed. I know how it is when you’ve been apart for a bit – all eager to get back in the sack and make up for lost time.”
“Well let me tell you one thing, Mister,” she continued with a point of her finger at him. “She’s off limits for the next lil’ while. You hear me? None of your alien sex games for at least the next six weeks.”
Rose moaned into her hand. “Mum, Please…”
“Don’t’ you mum please me, madam.” She looked back to the Doctor, shifting her eyes down low and very slowly raking them back up to his eyes, which were looking upon her very tiredly. “She’s had some rather nasty stretching and controtin’ happenin’ down there, and it’s gonna take some time for her to heal up.” She lifted her nose. “I don’t care what you’re packing in your trousers, Doctor, and how big it is or isn’t. With all she’s gone through – a watermelon out of a hole the size of a cherry – well, right now you probably wouldn’t even touch the sides, that’s how much it’s been stretched out.”
As disgusted and embarrassed as she was, Rose couldn’t help but expel a laugh at that. When she did, it was with a spit and a howl. “Jesus, Mum,” she howled out. “Was that necessary?”
“I’m just lettin’ him know, love,” she assured her daughter with a loving smile. “Nothin’s gonna feel right over the next bit, and I want to make sure himself realises that.”
“I vow to you,” the Doctor said with a well shielded smile. “That there will ne no form of …” he chuckled. “Alien sex games occurring between now and the moment that Rose is able to resume marital relations.” He leaned in to speak to her as much as to look upon his child who slept in her arms. “And just so we are clear, Jackie Tyler: Here on Gallifrey, you’re the alien. Not me.”
“You’ve also never been his age before,” Rose added. She slid her arms around the Doctor’s torso, purring when his arm moved across her shoulder to hold her close. “Isn’t he beautiful?”
“Perfect,” he replied breathlessly. “Just like his mother.”
The little one opened his eyes. Blinked at his father, hiccupped, and then opened his mouth and let out a shrill squeal.
“Uh-oh,” Jackie warned. “Looks like the little bean is hungry again.” She handed the child off to Rose, who was already loosening her blouse. “And it looks like you’re more than ready to feed.”
Rose moaned. “Yeah, been ready for a while now.” She took her baby into her arms and leaned up to kiss her husband on the side of his mouth. “Give us a moment, Doctor. I want to hear all about your trip, but…” She tipped her head to the wailing infant.
“He needs to be fed,” the Doctor agreed. “He’s more important. We can talk later,”
Jackie, now with hands free and no clue what to do with them, folded her arms across her chest and tapped her foot on the ground. “Then how about, while she’s still busy lookin’ after your baby, you and I have a little chat?”
He rubbed at the back of his neck. “If it has anything further to do with what your daughter and I prefer to remain private between just the two of us, then I’m really not quite in the mood for it right now.”
She shook her head. “No, you plum. I trust you to do what’s right with her.” She looked to the doorway, and then back to him. “He’s a hungry lil one, and so she’ll be a while. I’ll go make us some tea. How about you put some clothes on, and meet me in the back.”
“That’s not a request,” she growled. “You get dressed and meet me out back.”
“Yes, Mum,” he drawled facetiously.
“That’s right,” she snapped back. “I am your mum now.” She threw her head back with a laugh. “Oh, I wish I knew about this with big ears and leather….”
He took his sweet time getting dressed. If not just for being tired, it was to try and settle this heavy pit inside his stomach. It was a feeling of foreboding and dread like he’d never felt inside before.
Was that what having to face a discussion with his mother in law could do to him?
He’d heard legends on Earth about it. About the dreaded mother in law. Often described as the single most fearsome being in the universe, and dangerous to boot.
But, he was the Doctor: the Oncoming Storm. He could certainly deal with a tiny human woman.
He puffed up his chest and made a purposeful stride toward the back entrance of his home. He made sure to detour to where his wife nursed their hungry son, and dropped a kiss against her mouth. “My hearts beat for you,” he whispered with fierce honestly.
“I love you too,” she sang back at his stoic and stiff retreating form. “Don’t be scared of her, Doctor.”
He passed through the door, onto a wood deck, and dropped down onto a comfortable cushioned seat across from Jackie. The Blonde firecracker lifted her eyes to him as she slid across a mug filled with tea. “I won’t often say this to you, Doctor. But don’t listen to her.”
“What do you mean.”
“I mean that you should be very scared of me right now.”
He blinked at her with disbelief, and with a certain measure of arrogance. He lifted the mug to his lips at kissed at the edge of it. “I don’t fear a Dalek. Tell me what makes you more frightening than them.”
She didn’t look up at him, instead she made a show of looking down at her mug as she fixed her own mug of tea. “I don’t much know what a Dalek is,” she began. “So I can’t begin to comment on that.” Her eyes lifted. “But I will tell you this: You hurt one hair on her head, Doctor. You make her cry a single tear because you’re bein’ a git. You break her heart … and I don’t care what planet you’re on, I will find you, and I will neuter you in ways you’d never imagine.”
“I see,” he answered with a clearing of his throat after a light choke on his tea. “I’ve no doubt that…”
“Liquid Nitrogen and an icepick,” she interrupted to clarify. “While you’re awake and all to watch it break apart piece by piece. And if you want, I’ll invite one of these Daleks along to watch and take notes.”
“threat noted,” he half squeaked out. He sucked down a large draw from the tea, wincing at the heat of it at the back of his throat. “And it’s my greatest desire not to let it happen, Jackie. I assure you of that.”
“I’d hope so,” she replied as she leaned back into her chair and took in the surroundings of an alien planet. “My God, this is beautiful, isn’t it?”
He lifted his head to look across the forest that backed onto their back yard. Tall white barked trees with silver leaves that tinkled with the cool breeze from the mountains off in the distance. The setting suns cast a wash of colour across the sky that was slowly turning the deep, dark shade of orange that was their night sky. Already he could see the twinkling lights of stars so many millions of light years away from them.
“Indeed,’ he agreed with a long sigh. “It is. Very much so.” He let out a breath. “And until I saw it through Rose’s eyes, I never appreciated it for what it was.”
“She does that,” Jackie noted proudly. “My baby can see beauty in even the most repulsive of things. It’s one of the things that’s so special about her. Like her dad in that regard. That man, irritating though he could be, he had stars in his eyes…”
“Rose doesn’t speak much about him.”
Jackie shook her head. “She was a baby when he died. Not even past her first birthday, but he loved her, he did. Besotted from the moment he first saw her.” She looked down and smiled with a shake in her head. “Damn fool, first thing he said when he saw her is that for the first time in his life he truly believed in innocence.”
He frowned. “Seems like an awfully strange thing to say.”
“Nah,’ she drawled. “That was ‘im. Had it rough, he did. Not an easy upbringin’, and not an easy time of it after he married me. But he always meant well.”
He nodded, but said nothing.
“She said you took her back to meet him, once.” She sighed. “After you sent her home to me, all cryin’ and lost worried about you.” Another sigh. “She was so mad at you, but me, I loved you for it. Send her home to me because it was too dangerous for her where you were.” Desperate to get back to you, she was. Damn near had a fit. I wasn’t going to help her. Figured you wouldn’t send he back if it wasn’t a life or death thing.” She lifted her eyes to the sky. “But then she told me. Told me that you took her to her Dad, and that he’d help her go back if he was still around.”
There was a pause, and a tear fell from her eye.
“And how could I argue it?”
“You’re her mother,” he ventured. “You’re supposed to.”
“And he was her dad,” she countered. “Rose was right. Pete would’ve helped her, no thought for anything except makin’ her happy.” She looked to him. “So I did. I helped her. Grabbed a truck and let her rip open that ship of yours.” She looked down. “Felt like an eon before she came back. When she did, it was with a new you … and her ‘eart was broken all over again.”
“Regeneration,” he admitted. “Must’ve been a shock to you.”
“Course it was,” she barked. “My kind don’t do that kind’ve thing. If they did, maybe Pete’d still be around.” She set her mug on the table. “But what I’m getting’ at, Doctor, but tellin’ you this…” She waited until he looked at her. “Is that he did the right thing, that Doctor. He knew where they were right then was hopeless. He knew that he had to bring my little girl home, and he did.”
He nodded. He knew where this was going.
“And I expect you to do the same thing,” she told him firmly. “The life you and her have, the travellin’. It’s dangerous, I know it. I’ve been there and seen it for myself. I want you to promise me that no matter what, if she and my grandbaby are in danger, you need to send them home to me.”
He nodded and relaxed a little in the chair. He considered her words and found himself agreeing with it 100 percent. “I can make a promise to you, Jackie, that Rose and I won’t be travelling any time soon. Not with a new baby, and hopefully with one or two new ones in the near future. But if there is ever a need to do it, I vow to you that I will do everything in my power to make sure that Rose and our child or children will come home to you.”
“You may have to fight her on it, Doctor,’ she warned him. “My Rose is a right madam when she get’s her head on something. You need to promise me that no matter what level of tantrum she throws over it, that you won’t cave.”
“Then you’ll have to promise not to help send her back,” he challenged her. “If I send her to you, you can’t send her back to me… If I can, I’ll come for them.”
Her hands shook slightly as she lifted her mug to her mouth to take a sip of her tea. “I might come across as somethin’ fierce,” she said softly. “Like I don’t give a sod, and nothing’ll hurt me. Not much can, I’ll be honest with you on that…”
“But she can,” he ventured softly. “If nothing else, she can.”
Jackie nodded. “I’ve already had to face it.” Tears fell from her eyes. “I’ve already had to hear you tell me that my baby is gone, and Doctor, it damn near killed me.” Her mug was set back onto the table, and she flattened her palm on the cool wood as though seeking stability from it. “Right before you send that boy to come for me. Your pin-striped self came ‘round. He told me he’d lost my baby, and she was never comin’ back.”
“Rassilon,” he breathed apologetically. “I’m so sorry.”
“A mother shouldn’t outlive her child,” Jackie continued. “We’re supposed to watch ‘em grow, marry, and have lil’ones of their own.” Her eyed, sodden and red, shifted to his. “And he told me that I’d never have that chance. I’d never get to see my baby have a baby and be really, truly happy.” She sniffed wetly. “I thought I’d failed as a mum, that I failed her.”
“No, no,” he pleaded. He shifted his hand to cover hers. “You haven’t failed anyone – least of all Rose.”
She didn’t shake off his hand. She just shook her head and looked down at the tabletop. “I’ve not been the best mum,” she admitted sadly. “Couldn’t give her all that she wanted.”
“You gave her what was important, though,” he offered. He leaned across the table and tenderly hooked her hair over her ear. “You gave her the fiercest kind of love that very few of us in the universe get to have. She is who she is because of you, she loves like she does because she was shown how to … by you.”
She chuckled. “My, but you are a smooth one,” she said softly. “I can see why she fell for you. All good looks and tender words.”
“And I love her just as much,” he promised her.
“I know you do,” she said with a smile. “Old leather and big ears you did too, Worshipped the ground she walked on, he did. Ready to risk the whole planet just to protect her. Died for her too, I heard.”
“The most honourable of deaths,” he said with a smile. “And I’d willingly do it again.”
“Easy to say when you have lives to give,” she said with a shrug. “Thing is, she don’t have extra lives at her disposal, but you bet if it was you or her, and she had the choice – she’d put it on the line for you, as well.” She huffed. “And that scares me.”
“I’ll never let that happen.”
“We don’t always have the choice,” she argued. “Crunch comes, and it all depends on who’s the one gettin’ to make the choice.” Her breath shook. “Don’t let her die for you, Doctor. Call me selfish if you want…”
“I won’t,” he vowed. “That’s the one and only choice I will ever take from her, Jackie. I promise you.” He looked down into his lap. “Call me selfish as well, but I know that there is no way I could possibly imagine carrying on in a universe where I don’t have her at my side.”
“Yet one day you will,” she said with a sigh. She hooked her hair behind her ear. ‘You didn’t know her before Leather and ears,” she remarked. “Sure, you met her then and fell in love with her. But you lost her before that, and now pinstriped you, well he doesn’t have her, either.” Her brow pinched in the centre. “How the Hell does that even work. For God’s sake bein’ you must be confusin’.”
He chuckled. “Surprisingly, no.”
“For you and your kind, maybe not,” she huffed. “But for boring old human me, it’s absolutely out there.” Her amusement shifted back to worry. “But anyway, as I was sayin’. The you that had to tell me that my baby was gone – he doesn’t have my Rose anymore. And as far as I know he’s carryin’ on livin’.”
He shook his head. “Surviving, perhaps,” he said softly. “Living a life day to day without the one he loves, I can’t say that’s living.” He looked to her. “Could you see it in him?” he asked. “That he loved her?”
“Head over arse,” she told him. “Never seen a man broken like that before, hope never to see it again if I’m bein’ honest.”
“Good to know,” he breathed out quietly.
“What, that you end up alone with a broken heart?” She shook her head at the notion. “You are one vry strange man, Doctor.”
“No,” he corrected softly. “Not at all. Quite frankly, the thought of ending up that way absolutely terrifies me. My hearts break to think about it.”
“Then why’s it a good thing?”
“Because if I ever need to,” he told her sadly. “At least I know I have someone willing to be there for her, and love her as I do.”
Jackie huffed. “Yeah. Easy for you, maybe. But Rose, well. She might have different ideas on that.” She leaned an elbow on the table. “She spends her life with you – this you – Doctor. What makes you think it’ll be easy for her to move on with another you?”
“Because she loved that me before she loved this me.” To him it sounded perfectly simple. “And because he is me.”
“And from what she told me when we both started cryin’ after I tore her several shreds for her bein’ here and waitin’ so long to reach out to me. He hurt her.”
He nodded. “I know.”
“And none of this is as easy as you be thinkin’ it is.” She leaned back in her seat and kicked her legs out in a stretch, crossing her legs at the ankle. “She may look tough, but my Rose is a tender heart. Yeah, she’s loved three of you now, and I reckon she’ll love any more of you that come along.” She looked at him. “But he broke her heart, and he broke it good.”
“Whether or not she accepts his love,” he affirmed. “If it comes to it, and I ever have to send her back to Earth for whatever reason. Then let me promise you this: He will be there for her no matter what.”
“Yeah, well make sure he knows that a winning lotto ticket aint conna cover off his responsibility,” she warned him. “He’s gotto do more than that -and she’s gonna need it. Alien baby and all that. He won’t do any good at an Earth hospital with two hearts and whatever else you gave him.”
“Let’s just hope it won’t come to that, Jackie.” He swallowed thickly. “I want her to be with me for the rest of her life – which, if she stays here with me on Gallifrey, will be as close to forever as I can hope for.”
“I’m not going to pretend to know what you’re on about,” she said with a shrug. “But promise me that you’ll drop round from time to time. Let me see my baby and her babies grow up.”
“I promise you,” he said with a smile of teasing. “Mum…”
She couldn’t help but smile at that as she leaned back in her chair and looked into the dark orange night sky. “Madam should be done shortly with the little bean. Then maybe, you can properly meet your son and tell us about the adventure that too you away from him.”
“My Adventure,” he breathed out with a crease in his brow. “Yeah. I seem to have misplaced my memories on that one.”
He gave him a dark look of challenge. “Yeah, well bein’ that you came home wearing only your underthings, I think it’s in your best interests to remember, don’t you?”