Colonel Alan Mace and Major Marion Price – both retired, despite their relatively young ages – sat in the offices at UNIT in London, very very shaken.
“You're now temporary directors of UNIT, sir, ma'am,” said the young officer in front of Mace. Poor baby, probably just out of Sandhurst. His face was pale and smooth, almost like that of a teenage choirboy, and his dark eyes were wide with fear. “Stewart is in hospital. She's comatose. Vital signs stable, breathing on her own, but completely unconscious and unresponsive. And as for Miss Osgood – she's catatonic. Physically she's been stabilized, but she remains in some sort of shock. I'm not sure what we can do for them -”
“That will be all, Lieutenant Keene,” said Price, softly, her blue eyes sympathetic. The young man looked to be near tears. “Colonel Mace and I will see to things. Cleanup operations in the United Kingdom have been coordinated, we're managing the press, and as for everything else -” at this point even her voice, normally so calm, caught - “we can manage well enough. If there's a way to save Stewart, to bring her out, we will find it. Meanwhile, as for Miss Osgood, gather her family nearby. At this point if anything brings her out she'll be near people who love her – and if nothing else, they'll feel better to be close to her.”
“Yes, ma'am,” he said, saluting. Mace and Price saluted, and he exited the office, closing the door behind him.
Mace sagged back into the chair, and Price leaned down to kiss his cheek.
“Marion, I don't know what to do. Kate is the best, the most wonderful – her father's daughter – and I'm no doctor -”
“What about the Doctor?” said Price.
“Gone. And he was always rubbish with medicine anyway,” said Mace. “Read his file sometime.”
“Well, I'm merely a Royal Engineer, Alan. I certainly can't read. We all know that Engineers are only good for finding mines and defusing bombs,” she retorted, but softened it with a squeeze of his shoulder. “And he might be rubbish at medicine but he's saved the Earth how many times? Besides, if it weren't for the Sontarans showing up and the Doctor goading a certain very shy colonel into showing his true mettle – well, a certain timid Royal Engineer might never have felt able to let someone else know exactly how she felt -”
“By snogging the life out of him, of course. And a certain shy colonel might never have got up the courage to ask that beautiful Royal Engineer to marry him,” he finished, gently twisting the gold ring glinting on the fourth finger of his left hand.
At that time there was a commotion in the corridor, and both of them jumped to attention and ran to see what the hell was going on.
There, a fairly tall woman dressed in scandalously tight jeans, boots, and a plain but form-fitting blouse and possessing a positive abundance of curly hair was struggling to get past seven enlisted men and women, and the seven soldiers were hard put to keep her restrained.
“How did you get past -”
“Never mind that, I'm here to help -”
“WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS GOING ON?” shouted Mace. He rarely raised his voice, but when the man who was known as one of the few officers in the British Army to have done so to the Doctor raised his voice, everyone listened. The soldiers froze, and the woman eeled out of their grasp but didn't run.
“She got in with psychic paper, sir,” said one of the soldiers, a tall woman with dark skin that he recognized as Corporal Ellis. “Sergeant Lewes caught her heading for the hospital quarters and was escorting her for questioning when she somehow incapacitated him, broke, and ran.”
“All right,” said Price. “You,” she said, addressing the woman, “care to explain yourself? Short version, please.”
“I'm Professor River Song,” she said. “I'm here to help Kate Stewart.”
“Who sent you?” asked Mace.
“The Doctor,” she replied. “He sent a coded message, and I was able to make it back here. Had to call in some favors, but worth it.”
“And why didn't he come himself?” said Price.
“Because I'm the one who should do it, Major,” she replied coolly.
“Let her be, soldiers. Dismissed,” he said. “You, Professor Song, with us.” He and Price led her into the office, and indicated a seat for her. They took their previous chairs.
“So, how are you proposing to help Kate Stewart?” said Price.
“I can awaken her,” said River Song. “And I know what she'll need to recover after that.”
“And that is?” said Price.
“Complete rest. At least three weeks. Followed by another four or five weeks of gradual recovery. Preferably somewhere away from this city, where she can be close to nature and get her strength back. Somewhere safe, where she'll be with familiar people, but also have space for herself.”
Mace and Price looked at each other. In their retirement they lived on the farm Marion had inherited in Devon. Quiet, close enough to the village for necessities, but far enough from crowds to suit the retiring – in more ways than one – Alan and Marion. There were flower and kitchen gardens to admire – tended carefully by Alan – and plenty of room in the farmhouse. It was, after all, just Alan, Marion, Annie the border collie, Feathers the pony, a small herd of sheep, and their two cats, Sammy and Ginger, who disposed of the rodents.
“We'll take her back to our farm, provided we can find someone to direct UNIT activities in our place,” said Alan.
“For now,” said Marion, “let's get her awake. If this works, we'll concentrate on the details after, all right?” She looked at Alan, and he could read the skepticism in her eyes.
“Right. Professor Song, we'll go to the hospital quarters, and you'll do what you can. But if Stewart is in any way harmed by you, then we will hold you personally responsible, and we will personally deal with it,” he said, glancing briefly but significantly at his sidearm.
River Song only nodded. She hadn't missed his implication there. It hadn't been a threat, either. Alan Mace did not make threats.
The three of them headed for the hospital quarters. They were a rather sad and dismal part of UNIT, underground, and painted a stark white. Marion made a mental note to have a word with whoever was in charge of the building to have the place repainted something softer and more cheerful.
The nurses' station was not crowded. The charge nurse – a youngish woman with ginger hair - sat there doing paperwork.
“Where is Kate Stewart, Sister?” he asked her.
“Down the corridor, fourth on the right. Her son and daughter are with her, as is Sergeant-Major Benton.”
“Very good, Sister,” he said. “Thank you.”
They entered the room and found Kate lying in her bed, surrounded by people. On her left sat a young man, tall, with dark hair cropped close. He looked up. Alan sighed, as he always did. Young Gordon was the spitting image of the Brigadier.
“Colonel Mace? Major Price?” he said.
“It's all right, Gordon. Right now we're just Alan and Marion,” said Marion gently. “Benton, it's good to see you here.”
“Anything for little Katie,” the white-haired man said sadly.
“Fee,” said Alan, “this is Professor River Song. She says she has a way to revive your mum. And we're going to make damn sure she does, all right?”
Fiona nodded, silent. She was taciturn by nature, even though most fourteen-year-old girls – in Alan's experience – felt the need to expound on everything and anything.
“River?” said Marion.
“All right,” said River Song, and took a deep breath. “Kate and I know each other. And – well – this is better done privately.”
“Not a chance,” said Alan.
“We know,” said Gordon. “You and Mum. We knew about it.”
River's eyes widened.
“You did?” she whispered.
“Of course we did,” said Fiona. “You and Mum loved each other. She explained it all. There's a picture of the two of you here in the UNIT archive. And one in the house. She said you'd be back someday. She was sad, but she understood. Mum is -”
“Mum isn't like anyone else,” said Gordon. “I don't think she could have a conventional relationship with anyone. She's too independent, too much like Da. It's why she split with my dad and with Fee's dad. But you understand that, River. We were at school, so we didn't meet you. But I wish we had. You made her quite happy.”
River's eyes filled with tears.
Marion and Alan looked at each other, wide-eyed.
“You mean that you and Kate -”
“Yes,” said River.
“Oh,” said Alan. He hadn't known that Kate was inclined that way. Not that it mattered in the least.
“So, River, how are you planning to revive Mum?” said Gordon.
“It's...something a Timelord can do. I can do it. It's...Timelords have telepathy. I am not fully Timelord, but I'm slightly psychic. I believe it's called a 'Sensitive' here on Earth. I can project into her unconscious mind, communicate with her, and if anything will make her awaken, that will.”
“Okay,” said Marion.
“To do that, I'm going to need physical contact,” she continued.
“Okay,” said Alan.
She looked about nervously.
“All right, here goes,” she said. And she knelt by Kate's bedside and took her hand. She leaned over and looked into her eyes. Alan and Marion gasped as one.
Had anyone ever looked at anyone else with such love and affection? They had looked at each other that way many times – their first kiss, their wedding day – but they'd never seen that look on anyone else's face.
River touched her lips to Kate's.
Alan grabbed Marion's hand, and she squeezed it tightly. Then, Kate moaned softly, and her eyes opened.
“River?” she said softly.
“Kate, sweetheart,” said River. “Kate, I'm here.”
“We're all here,” said Gordon.
“Mum,” whispered Fiona, tears in her eyes.
“Little Tiger,” said Benton.
“I'll just get the Sister,” said Alan. “We have arrangements to make.”
Kate spent the next two months on Alan and Marion's farm with River. They occupied the guest room. At first Kate was only up for sitting in the spring sunshine, admiring the garden, laughing at Annie the border collie's antics playing ball with River or Marion or accepting kisses from Feathers the pony. Ginger the cat liked her, too, sitting next to her in the sun as she sipped tea and ate the scones that Alan made. Her children stayed in the village nearby and visited at times, occasionally staying a night or two, but mostly content to let their mum rest and recover with River.
River and Kate spent the nights together, tenderly renewing the love they'd found years ago. And Alan and Marion, now married four years, found their own love renewed by their example. Whoever said love couldn't revive someone?
Finally, after a month, Kate grew strong enough to take walks, to watch as Marion helped deliver lambs, even to help groom Feathers while River and Alan mucked out the stable. The fresh air gave her color, and the hearty cooking of Alan combined with the exercise brought her strength back.
“I must say,” Kate said one night over stewed rabbit and dumplings, “I feel younger than I have in years.”
“Then here's to River Song,” said Alan, raising his mug of ale. “And her powerful kiss of life.”
“River Song,” said Marion, and Kate echoed her. River smiled at Kate, and Marion knew what was passing between them.
That night, Alan and Marion made love, knowing that in the guest bedroom, something quite similar and just as beautiful was going on. Alan felt like a much younger man, and Marion, who was in her late thirties, felt eighteen again.
Another month went by, and Kate was back to full strength, and clearly getting restless.
“I need to get back,” she said at tea one afternoon. “Brigadier Bambera is wonderful, but she and Ancelyn need to get back to their own family.”
“And I need to get back,” said River. “I have a dig I'm due at, and classes to teach. Kate, darling -”
“I know,” said Kate sadly. “But you'll come back and visit again?”
“Always, sweetheart. Always.”
“When?” said Kate softly.
“Spoilers,” whispered River. “Spoilers, love.”
The next morning, River stood outside the farmhouse door. She and Kate had concluded a private farewell earlier.
“Tomorrow, we'll get Kate back to London,” said Alan. “River, I don't know how to thank you for this. You gave us our Kate back.”
River smiled, and kissed his cheek, then turned to Marion, and looked in her eyes.
“Well, you can name her after us, Marion,” she said. “After all, Kate and I were here when she began.”
“What?” gasped Marion.
River came over and lightly touched Marion's belly.
“First of next year, I should think. When you're in London, you should get a doctor to tell you the exact date.” And she smiled. “Now there's a spoiler for you.” She hugged Marion, and walked off into the distance. Then she touched something on her wrist, and disappeared.
“Well, what are we supposed to do with that?” said Marion, dazed.
Alan shook his head.
“Live happily ever after?” he said.
She was born January 6, and they named her Katherine River Mace. Kate Stewart was the godmother, and they – indeed – did live happily ever after – Alan, Marion, and even Kate. Especially Kate.