The room was dim and silent. Books – real books, because she defied anyone to convince her the smell of real leather and paper didn't assist with concentration – lined the walls, their spines glowing a dull burnt orange with the reflected light of the night outside the windows.
Then, without warning, a long crack appeared vertically along one wall, the bright white light streaming through increasing as the crack grew in width. A figure stepped out, a small bundle clutched in her arms.
She didn't bother looking to make sure she was alone. She knew she would be. And no one could enter the room without her express permission. Not even by TARDIS. The child would be safe here until she should return from the council meeting she was currently at and discover her.
And, in fact, she already remembered that she did.
She set the infant down gently near her office chair, positioning the blankets around it to ensure its warmth. Without a backward glance – she knew she had mere moments of relative time before the planet would fully recede and the way back would be closed behind her and even she was too dangerous to remain – she stepped back through the crack, it closed behind her, and she and was gone.
His comm buzzed and he shook his head, frustrated. They knew he had a massive exam the next day, and he'd already told them to go along without him –
The comm buzzed. Again. Urgently. If a comm could sound urgent, of course. And at the moment, his was.
Sounding urgent, that is.
Apparently, he wasn't going to get a moment's peace until he responded. "Yes, what is it?" he called.
The muffled voice of his mother's personal assistant came through the speaker. "If you have a moment, you're wanted in your mother's chambers. Immediately."
It wasn't a question.
He dropped his forehead onto his keyboard. As if the stigma of having a mother instead of just being one of a batch of cousins wasn't enough. Why did she have to insist on rubbing his face in it all the time? Or calling him to come see her at all hours of the day or night when he really ought to be studying?
Pausing just long enough to grab one last biscuit from the tin she'd sent over that morning, he headed out the door.
Her aide escorted him into her study. His mother sat behind her desk, looking down at something in her lap. She glanced up as he approached.
"Mother," he acknowledged with a nod. "You wanted to see me?"
"Yes." She was looking him straight in the eye and, despite the fact he really wasn't a little boy anymore and was quite nearly a full grown man, and that, for once, he hadn't actually done anything lately to be concerned about, he couldn't quite keep from squirming under her gaze. At least a little. "Is there something you'd like to tell me?"
If only someone would tell her he was an adult now. He shook his head. "No. Why?"
She held up the object on her lap. "Then how do you explain this?" she asked.
"It's a baby."
She stared at him for a moment.
"A baby," he repeated.
She stared at him for another moment before continuing with a sigh, "Yes, dear. I can tell that. And I hope they've taught you enough at the Academy for you to be able to figure that much out on your own. I'd meant, where did it, or should I say she, come from?"
'How the hell should I know?' is what he wanted to say. What he did say, though, was, "I have no idea. There are, though, only two possibilities. Either its mother and father, or -"
She cut him off. "It's yours. So I'm asking you. Where did this baby come from?"
"I – Mine? Really? Are you sure."
She nodded. "Absolutely certain. The markers are unmistakable. She's yours and... well... something which at first appeared alien. Only there's no exact match for it anywhere in our records. So I'll ask you again, where did she come from? Before she turned up on my office floor."
This was all moving a bit fast. "Mother, I swear to you, there's no possible way that baby could be mine." He hoped to Omega and Rassilon and anyone else who might listen that she didn't ask any more questions than that.
"Yet," she said.
He stared at her for a moment as her meaning sunk in. Yet. Meaning...
"Don't stand there with your mouth hanging open, child. You look like a fish."
He obediently shut his mouth. Finally, he managed, "Mine? … Later?"
His mother nodded. "Exactly."
"What does she say?" he asked, pointing to the baby.
"You ask her yourself. I haven't been able to get a straight answer out of the poor little thing."
He stepped around the desk and approached the child in his mother's arms. "Hello," he said, kneeling down so they were face to face.
"I'm your father." The child giggled and reached for one of his hands, fingers curling around his finger. Unable to keep from smiling now himself, at least just a little, he continued, "Well, hopefully I'll live up to that expectation. You wouldn't happen to know where or when you're from, would you?"
The child started to whimper. He could barely make out any of the words.
"Don't wanna think about it, huh? Well, if you'd prefer boring, you've certainly come to the right time and place for that..." Above them, he heard his mother sigh. His grin growing wider, he continued, leaning closer and half whispering, "Hey, kid? You wouldn't happen to know who your mother is? So I wouldn't... you know... turn her away when I see her?"
The child gurgled her answer. Only it wasn't a name. Maybe she'd misunderstood.
He tried again, "No, sweetie. I mean, what's her name?"
She gurgled again. Same answer. Frustrated, he looked up at his mother.
She shook her head, echoing his frustration. "That's all I can get out of her, too. Something that sounds like 'danger across the water' – by which I assume she means space, which would explain why she ended up here and now – and that her Mummy sang her lullabies."
He was just finishing up when his mother entered the room behind him. Gently brushing off the last of the dust, he stood up and turned to her. She held the child – his daughter – in her arms.
"All done," his Mother answered his unspoken question. "She's been washed and changed and fed and, most importantly, I've assigned one of the servants as her nurse."
"You plan to keep her here, then?"
She nodded. "I can't see any other option. They won't take her at the family creche – not with her questionable background and genetics – and they don't exactly accept infants at the Academy. Unless you have another idea?"
He shook his head. He didn't. Her answer was perfect and he supposed he should be grateful. Still, he'd been sort of hoping...
His mother smiled gently. "Don't worry, son. You can always stop by to visit whenever you'd like. After all, she's still yours. And in a few years, once you've graduated and taken up your duties, there will be time enough for everything else."
This time he didn't have to force gratitude. "Thank you."
She returned his smile. "My pleasure." Looking down at his recent handiwork, she continued, "Now, tell me, what exactly have you been working on while we've been gone?"
He pointed down to the old cot his mother had dug up from somewhere. "I've written in her name next to mine."
His mother glanced down and read the name. "Celeste?" she asked. "It's beautiful. What does it mean?"
"It's an Ancient Earth instrument often used to represent the music of the Universe translated into our language. It's also a version of the name used to describe space itself. I thought, under the circumstances-"
He was interrupted by the baby herself, who clapped her tiny hands together and giggled. It was all the approval he needed. Reaching out, he gathered her into his arms.
"Hello, Celeste," he said. "Welcome to Gallifrey."