Five minutes, she’d told him. Five minutes and no more. That alien had to return in five minutes with her daughter.
Jackie Tyler’s eyes were on the clock above the mantle; an old timepiece passed down to her from her grandmother. It was an old thing, but very reliable. Deep mahogany wood casing drawing a stark contrast to the white crocheted cotton doily it sat upon. Well, it was white, once. The years had turned the thread a more muted shade of yellow and had become so sorely brittle that she was scared to shift it lest it fall apart completely on her.
She ran her finger over the smooth arching shape of the top of the clock, collecting six months worth of dust on her fingertip and leaving a clear and straight, clean and dust-free line from edge to edge. Two minutes gone, and three more to wait.
Grief for the loss of her beloved baby girl was settling in quite nicely in the sit of her shoulders. It hovered at the very edge of her consciousness and knocked at the door just waiting to be freed and let loose to run rampant all over this small flat. She held it firm, however, bolstered by her demand to that ruddy Time Martian Alien to bring back her Rose.
One and a half minutes until the count was over.
The damn fool was notorious for not being able to get himself anywhere or any time – on time – so, perhaps she would offer him the grace of an additional five minutes, just in case.
A familiar whine and wheeze sang across the winds coming in from the courtyard and through her open door. A sob of terror flew out of her as she broke from the mantel and rushed to the door. She paused only a moment to prepare herself with a deep breath, not even looking into the courtyard for fear of what condition her Rose was returning in…
…It didn’t matter. Even if that return meant a casket. As long as she was home, that’s all that mattered.
She took the stairs two and three at a time with long strides and dangerous leaps to get to the courtyard as quickly as possible. Her daughter’s name called out of her mouth with each staggered step until she finally ran into the courtyard, fully expecting to see that blasted blue ship of his.
It wasn’t there. She twisted and turned in place, shielding her eyes with her hand against the sun, wondering if there was a trick of the light that might prevent her from seeing it clearly. No matter how hard she looked, however, there was not blue police box anywhere to be seen.
…But she was sure she’d heard it. Nothing else on the planet made a sound like that. Surely she didn’t just imagine it.
She slumped in place, defeat taking hold, and shifted her head to lead her into a turn back toward the flat. There was a hiss of released air, and the grating squeaking sound of metal shifting against unoiled metal. She stilled, with her head angled sideways to look down along her shoulder as a line of light split open to reveal a doorway in the middle of a large grey cylinder up against a wall at the edge of the courtyard.
Two men exited the cylinder. Both of them dressed like they were ready for a Shakespeare production. Well, maybe Shakespeare. Maybe not. She really didn’t have a lot of money to indulge in things like theatre. Though, if she did go, she’d imagine that these two fellows would fit right in.
Both of them wore very sharp and very bright red jacket and trouser set with a runway set of white racing stripes down the chest and each leg. Their gloves were gauntlets, their boots gold and to the knees. She didn’t even want to get into the cape and helmets that they both wore…
Superman versus Shakespeare…
She stood warily still as both of the men approached. One of them held a paper document in his hand speaking to his companion in a language she didn’t understand, nor even recognise. He looked up, pointed a finger up toward her flat, and looked at his partner with a firm nod of his head. They each twisted a dial on the left side of their helmets and then shared a look.
“Language, English. Earth,” one spoke with deliberate emphasis on each word. “Confirm translation matrix active.”
“Translation confirmed,” the other answered.
“Alright, Nexius,” the one who was obviously in charge ordered firmly. “Let’s move. We are time limited on this task, and Rassilon saves us both if we fail.”
The two men headed straight toward her, although didn’t seem to register that she was in their way. The Both of them seemed far more focused on the papers in one hand, the other was far too fascinated by the surrounding area. She felt it best to alert them to her presence before they collided with her and she’d be forced to make this a very unpleasant situation for all of them…
…But mostly just them.
“Excuse me,” she growled somewhat hotly. “Can I help you? You know before you run into me…”
One man stepped a stride backward in a respectful manner, while the other moved a step forward, snapping his ankles together and stiffly offering her a light bow of greeting. “Apology, ma’am.”
“Oh, I’m no ma’am,” she huffed out with amusement. “And I take it neither of you are from around here.”
“Indeed no. Nor from around here as you put it.” He looked upstairs. “But if you are offering assistance, might you be able to direct me in how I might find one: Jacqueline Tyler?”
She folded her arms across her chest, her eyes narrowing with suspicion. “And why might you be looking for her, then?”
Andred blinked slowly, recognising the fire of a human female readying to kick a groin, punch a face, or react in an unpleasant manner. Quite likely this woman was a close friend of Jaqueline, or even Jacqueline herself.
“I have an invitation from the Presidential Offices of Gallifrey, issued by her Lady President Romanadvoratrelundar to one Jacqueline Tyler, to accompany us to the city of Arcadia…”
Jackie started to laugh. How absurd was this? “Oh, you’re havin’ me on,” she blustered. “An’ I’d love to know who set this up. Tell ‘em, thanks, but no thanks. I’m actually waitin’ on someone right now who seems to be runnin’ a bit behind.”
Defintitely Jackie, Andred surmised. He held out his hand, palm up, in a gesture of greeting. “Mrs. Tyler,” he said with a light tip in his head of greeting. “If you will please accompany me, we need to transport you to Gallifrey…”
She swatted off his hand. “There will be no transportin’ anything,” she guffed with eyes wide and her lips pursed indignantly. “I don’t know what game you’re playin’, or what you’re trying to sell me young man, but I’m not interested.” Her eyes raked him up and down. “Despite being a bit fit an’ all.”
One side of his mouth lifted in a smile. He’d take that compliment home to his wife and boast about it.
“Permit me to introduce myself: I am Castellan Andreasalus.” He dipped his head in greeting yet again. “Your presence has been requested by our Lady President and Cardinal Braxiatel, Mrs. Tyler,” he urged with friendly gentleness. “It is of great importance that you accompany us to Arcadia.”
“Yeah,” Jackie interrupted with a snort. “Yeah, well. I don’t answer to no presidents,” she warned. “I have a Queen and a Prime Minister.” She sniffed. “And I’m not religious enough to ever have to answer to any church-folk.”
Andred looked back at his companion with a shrug in his shoulders. His companion smirked. “You’re the one who has experience with Human females,” he said with an answering shrug. “Shall I call Council Chambers and see if we can have Romana or the Cardinal transport down?”
Jackie’s eyes narrowed. “You just called me a Human female.”
Andres flashed her an apologetic look. “Are you not Human?” He looked at his papers. “I was quite sure that we had input the coordinates to Earth.”
“You an alien, then?” She caught just an upward glance from his papers and hope started to rise inside her chest. “Are you friends with the Doctor?”
Andred’s attention shifted immediately from the paper and he gave her a firm nod. “Cardinal Braxiatel is the Doctor’s brother,” he answered. “He has requested your presence at Arcadia at the appeal of his brother.”
Jackie’s eyes hardened to suspicion. “And why is it that the Doctor isn’t able to come to me himself?”
Andred smirked. “His Lord Doctor is currently in a rather provocative position right now that is demanding his full attentions. He is unable to leave Gallifrey at this juncture.”
“He’s got a time machine,” she muttered. “Tell him to drop by when he’s not in such a provocative position.” She pointed toward the cylinder behind them. “Because I ain’t gettin’ into that thing and transporting any-damn-where.”
Andred looked to his capsule and then back toward Jackie. His eyes were confused. “It’s a perfectly safe mode of transportation,” he assured her. “We’ve been travelling via T-Capsule for many millennia, and I can certainly assure that you won’t experience any discomfort or danger at all.”
“You’ve met the Doctor,” she drawled sardonically. “Well, so have I, and my daughter travelled with him. I know how dangerous travelling in that thing really is.”
“Yes, well,” Andred returned with an amused grin. “I’m not the Doctor. I actually know how to properly pilot this machine. Mine is also a much newer model than the Doctor’s museum piece is.” He held out a hand to her. “Please, come with me. Your daughter needs to see you.”
Jackie’s eyes lifted. Tears of relief flooded her eyes. “You mean, my Rose is alive?”
“Very much so,” Andred offered. “Please, come with me. I’ll take you to her.”
When the capsule materialised just off the maternity wing at Arcadia, Romana was waiting. She’d received word from Traffic control about the imminent arrival of the Castellan’s capsule, and rather than disturbing Braxiatel or the Doctor, she opted to be there to meet them herself.
She had made her way to the hospital almost immediately following the council meeting, which had mercifully finished a couple of hours earlier than originally scheduled. Such a rarity, but with the bulk of the proposed motions being from Braxiatel, and his absence at the meeting, meant that none were read…
…Although several new ones had been proposed, and seconded, which mean a reconvene on another day to hold vote when all members were present. This was to her advantage, however, as it gave her time to court the right members and make appropriate deals in order to see that the vote went in her favour. It also allowed for her to convene with those most trusted to her: The Doctor and Braxietal, in order to solve a few problems directly related to the votes first.
If she could get the Doctor to agree, of course. Which at this juncture wasn’t a high possibility. But then again: Doctor versus Dalek was usually a fairly effective carrot by which to dangle in front of her old friend. Having his wife’s mother on planet would also be an incentive of sorts.
When the doors to the capsule hissed open, and Andred stepped outside, Romana offered him a smiel and a light tip of her head in both greetings and appreciation. “Thank you, Castellan. I heard that you were able to fulfill your task rather efficiently.”
“If you could call it that,” he answered with a smile. He stepped aside, and the blonde head of Jackie Tyler poked out of the doorway.
“Are we here?” she queried with disbelief. “Surely we can’t already be on another planet. We only left two minutes ago.”
“Welcome to Gallifrey, Mrs. Tyler,” Romana greeted with a polite tip of her head. “I am Romanadvoratrelundar. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“That name’s a bit of a mouthful,” Jackie remarked with a lift of her brows as she walked in a circle in the corridor. There was definite disappointment in her tone. “Well. I must say that I expected a little more than this from a trip to another planet. Looks just like Earth, all sterile corridors and people running around.” She stopped and gasped. “Are we in a hospital?!”
Romana opened her mouth to speak, but quickly shut it again, her eyes wide with surprise when Jackie burst into talking without even taking a breath.
“Is my baby in here? Did the Doctor find her. Oh, bless. He brought her here and didn’t want to leave her.” There was a soft look in her eyes that suggested an affection for the Time Lord. “No wonder he sent the Dynamic Shakespeare duo to get me.”
Romana waited a beat to see if the woman would continue to speak. When Jackie’s curious eyes looked at her to answer the question, Romana;s eyes relaxed and a smile spread across her face.
“You may call me Romana,” she offered. “I am a close friend of the Lord Doctor, and of your daughter Rose. She is here, however, you mustn’t worry for her condition. As per the last update, she’s progressing quite well.” She waved her hand to request that Jackie follow. “She’s a strong spirit, Rose. The only one capable of keeping the Doctor in any semblance of what you would term toeing the line.”
Jackie didn’t feel like walking behind the woman, but she took position of stride at her side. “Rose isn’t exactly one for toeing any line. Little madam as been cartwheeling over it since she hit her teens.”
That was an image that had Romana’s brows seat themselves high. “I suppose she can rein in the master of the line jumping because she’s been so good at it herself,” she mused to herself. She heard a loud swear in her ancient language and lifted her eyes toward a door near the end of the corridor. Braxiatel waited just outside with a highly amused expression on his face.
Romana held a polite hand up to Jackie to ask for a moment, and approached her husband warily.
“Is everything okay, Brax?”
“In all my lives,” he muttered with laughter. “I don’t believe that I’ve been so thoroughly entertained.” He held out his hand to her. “My hearts, my most honest thanks for suggesting that I attend today.”
“Oh my,” she managed with a sigh that held slight amusement. “What’s happening in there?”
“Vengeance on behalf of all of Gallifrey for every misdeed that my brother has brought upon us.” He looked at her with awe in his eyes. “She’s absolutely obliterating, emasculating, and torturing him all at the same time. It’s perfection in its majesty. I will write screenplays and songs about this day.”
Romana shook her head with a smile. “Braxiatel, please meet Mrs. Tyler. Rose’s mother.”
Jackie curled around Romana and held out her hand. “Jackie, please. Mrs. Tyler was my mother in law, and not a real sweet woman. Rather not have that title thank you.”
Braxiatel’s was of a very uncharacteristic manner that shocked even his wife. He rushed forward and embraced a stunned Jackie Tyler in a very firm embrace. “My dear woman! It is a pleasure to meet the one who birthed that magnificent creature.”
“Very inappropriate, Cardinal,” Romana gruffed. “Especially as your mate is present.”
Braxiatel released Jackie, who really ended up more amused than miffed at the sudden explosive affectional greeting from a complete stranger. He held her shoulders and dipped his head with a smile. “My apologies for acting so familiar with you. It’s just…” There was a loud holler from the room and he stepped back, sliding an arm around each of the two women. “Watch this.”
“Get out! Just leave! I hate you for doing this to me!” There was a short moment of silence, where there was obviously an attempt at appeasement, but that was short. “I said get out!”
Jackie’s eyes were wide. “Is that my Rose?” She shifted to move forward, but was held in place by Braxiatel’s firm grip.
“Oh, just wait. Please. Don’t take this from me.”
The Doctor’s head made it out of the doorway, his hair a frightful mess of auburn curls, and his eyes full of utter confusion and some form of utter terror. He managed a desperate look toward his brother, a look that lasted a second before it fell to an expression of defeat when another holler followed.
“Are you actually leaving, Doctor? What makes you think you can leave! Get back here now and let me grab at something to hurt you as much as I’m hurting!”
Braxiatel threw his head back with laughter. “This has been going on for hours!”
Jackie’s expression shifted from amusement to startled concern. “That sounds like a woman in labour,” She looked to Romana. “Tell me that my baby isn’t here having a baby – and that she’s not havin’ one with that Alien git.”
Romana wasn’t quite sure hot to appropriately field that question. Her mouth gaped as she struggled to find an answer.
“Oh you don’t need to say nothin’,” she growled as her hands balled into fists and she began a stalk toward the room. “I’ll kill him if he found my baby and then kept her from me long enough to knock her up.”
Braxiatel’s grin only widened as he happily trotted behind her. “I’ve got to see this.”
Jackie entered the room with all the subtlety of a wrecking ball. “What the hell is goin’ on here?” She pointed a finger toward the frazzled Time Lord. “I said five minutes. I did not say do find her and put one in her oven.”
The Doctor looked stunned. “I’m sorry, who are you?”
Rose’s face widened with pleasant surprise, but quickly dissolved into a juvenile expression of calling to a mother. She held out her arms. “Mum!”
Jackie stood firm and levered a very miffed off expression toward her daughter. “Don’t you Mum me, little madam.” She did have a rant ready, but it quickly fled when Rose’s head lifted and she let out an agonised moan. “Oh my baby girl,” she cooed instead, rushing from the doorway to take her daughter in her arms. “It’s okay. Mum’s here now.”
“My God it hurts,” she whined pitifully. “It hurts so much.”
“Then take some painkillers darling,” she advised almost condescendingly. “And don’t gimme none of that but I have to do it natural, Mum. So you can skite about it on the internet. They’re not giving you a medal when this is over, they’re giving you a baby. Trust me, you’re going to want all the energy you can get those first coupl’a days, and you won’t get that being all sore and exhausted.” She looked toward a nurse in bright red scrubs. “You, make sure my little girl gets the good stuff, yeah? Epidural, Gas, all of it.”
The nurse looked toward the Doctor with question in her eyes. The Doctor was looking at Jackie with much the same expression.
“I’m very sorry,” he half growled through his teeth. “But we are in a facility with medical personnel, who..”
“And are any of them Human and given birth?” she shot back angrily. “Have you popped one out?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “No. I didn’t think so.” He pointed at her chest. “Whereas I have, which makes me more of an expert in the mindset of a labourin’ woman and the pain of childbirth than any of ya.” She looked to the Doctor and then to the nurse. “Am I understood?”
The Doctor – despite feeling some form of relief with her arrival, and Rose’s rising calm – steeled a glare at her. “Perfectly.”
“Good,” Jackie replied brightly. She slipped her cardigan off her shoulders and rolled up the sleeve of the long sleeved shirts to her elbows. “Glad we got that sorted. Now Rose, just breathe and relax as best you can. I know you hate ‘im right now, and love, so do I, but the poor man is only trying to help, so start playing nice with him.”
Rose nodded. “I’ll try.”
Jackie then turned to the Doctor. She let her eyes rake up and down his new look and shrugged a shoulder up with approval. “New look? Can’t say I disapprove, you do tend to get more fit each time you change.”
His jaw dropped. “Ahh. Yes.”
“And stop pretendin’ like you don’t know who I am,” she huffed. “Been through it, you ‘n me.” She looked toward her daughter. “Now, she’s in pain, a great deal of it. She’s right when she says it’s all your fault, because I’d hazard a fairly large guess that this condition is much more your fault than hers.” She flicked her eyes to him. “So if she wants your testicles in her hands so she can give ‘em a damn good squeeze to get out her frustrations, then you best give ‘em to her.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
At the doorway, Braxiatel leaned in toward Romana. There was a smile on his face. “My hearts, can we please keep her?”
Jackie shot him a glare. “And you, Mr. Brax-a-whatever, are not helping. Either you stop with your giggle-pussin’, over there or you can leave. This is not your show, it’s hers.” She pointed toward Rose. “And you’re not stealing her thunder, you hear me?”
Romana leaned into her husband with a soft voice filled with amusement. “Oh yes, darling. We can certainly arrange to keep her.”
Wrapped in a soft crimson blanket, edged in gold, and embroidered with a Gallifreyan lullaby, nestled a tiny naked newborn boy. His little tiny feel kicked, and his little fingers grasped at the thumb of his immediately besotted father.
“Hello, little one,” he cooed in a voice of utter reverence as he drew the little bundle up to his face and nuzzled his nose against the peach-soft skin of his newborn. Words in his native tongue followed, softly spoken and audible only between father and son.
Jackie sat on the gurney beside her exhausted daughter, her arm across her shoulder so that Rose could rest her head against her shoulder. “Look at ‘im,” she breathed out with pride. “A natural, he is.”
“I wish I was,” Rose admitted tiredly. “I’m not sure I know what I’m doing.”
“None of us do,” Jackie assured her. “I never had a clue when I had you. They put you in my arms, walked away, and I nearly had a fit. Your dad got kicked out because it was after visitin’ hours, and all of a sudden I was alone, with this squirmy little tiny human that I was responsible for…” She blew out a breath. “But I got through it. We all do. The two of you will.”
“Can you stay a while?” she asked. “Please?”
“I haven’t asked for any time off,” she replied with disappointment. “Could you come home?”
“I have a time machine,” the Doctor cut in as he handed over their little bundle so that Rose could coo over their child. “You can stay here with us as long as you want to. I’ll make sure that you’re returned the same day that you left.”
Jackie snorted. “With your piloting skills, I don’t think so,” she muttered. “That nice young man. The one who came to get me. Andred, is it? He can take me home.” She smiled and waggled her brow. “Is he married, by the way?”
“He is,” the Doctor answered. “To a very good friend of mine. Why do you ask?”
“Oh,” she breathed with disappointment. “No reason.” Her attention shifted to the youngster as his little head turned and his mouth gaped in search for food. “Oh. Looks like our little precious is looking for a feed.” She waved off the Doctor. “This is for the ladies, Doctor. Here Rose, let me help you with this. They say it’s natural, but I found it anything but.”
He gasped when Jackie unashamedly whipped up Rose’s top and took her breast in hand. “Oh-Kay,” he managed with a red face and pinking ears. He caught both his brother and Romana waiting at the doorway and offered them a proud smile as he walked toward them.
“Wasn’t she amazing?”
Romana gave him a hug. “Congratulations, Doctor. Your son is beautiful.”
“In other words, nothing like you,” Brax cut in with a smile of teasing. He held out a hand to offer a friendly shake. “Congratulations, Brother. May Rassilon, Omega and the Other watch over that youngster and let him rise to be as good a Time Lord as any of them were.”
“Better,” the Doctor assured him.
Braxiatel nodded. “We can only hope.”
The Doctor noted a somewhat uncomfortable sense emanating from the two of them. “Is everything okay?”
Romana looked toward Rose, who was still being handled by her mother in an attempt to master feeding off the breast. She then looked back at the Doctor. “Can we step outside a moment?”
The Doctor looked at his wife, and then his child still searching for a latch-point, and deduced that he wouldn’t be missed if he stepped out for a moment or two. “Sure,” he murmured as he led them to the corridor. “But I don’t want to be away from them for too long. I imagine once the adrenaline of our son’s birth has gone, Jackie is going to want some answers.”
“And ones you’re not all that eager to give,” Romana suggested.
He scratched at his head. “You cold say that.” He closed the door to the room and leaned up against the wall beside it. “So what do you need to talk about?”
Braxiatel and Romana shared a look, a very uneasy look, and one that immediately worried the Doctor. He tipped his head to one side with suspicious curiosity. “What’s happened?”
Romana looked off to one side. She winced, and then she turned back to him. “The Daleks have invaded Askola in the Terrapau system.”
Dread flooded his chest. “And?”
“We sent in five battle capsules, and three Genesis Arks in an attempt to rescue as many Askolians as possible. The battle capsules were supposed to hold back the Dalek fleet while our rescue crews worked to evacuate as many civilians as they could.” She sighed. “We were going to have them sent as refugees to Ferrioum…”
“I take it that it didn’t quite go to plan?”
She shook her head. “There weren’t enough personnel in our capsules. They couldn’t hold back the Daleks…”
“They took control of the Arks,” Braxiatel added. “Thousands of innocent Askolians trapped inside Genesis Arks with no way to escape.”
“At least there’s no way for the Daleks to get in and try to exterminate them,” the Doctor offered with a purse in his lip. “We have that.”
“But we still need to clear them of Askola and get them to safety.”
The Doctor waited for them to continue. When neither of them did, he let out a huff and lowered his head. “And somehow I have the feeling that this rescue in some way involves me.”
“I know that you’ve just watched your mate give birth to your child, and I know the timing is horrible,” Romana pleaded. “But there are women, children, and elders locked away under Dalek control. They might not know how to open up an arc…” she took a breath. “But it won’t take long for them to work it out.”
The Doctor’s eyes flashed. “Do they have any of our Gallifreyan soldiers as prisoners, or did they exterminate all of them?”
“I don’t know, Doctor,” she answered with regret. “The last communication we received from the scout ship couldn’t answer that question. We have to assume they’ve all been lost.”
“Worse to think any of them survived,” the Doctor admitted. “One touch is all it takes, Romana.”
“Which means we are very short on time,” Braxiatel added. “You are the one who knows them best. You, alone, can handle an entire army. We know that asking you this right now is asking far more than we should…”
“Bring Leela up to speed,” the Doctor said firmly. “Give Andred time away from Council to remain home with their son, and let Leela come with me. The two of us have faced them together in the past. I am sure that together, we can handle them again.”
“Are you sure?” Romana asked with a look to the door. “Shouldn’t you ask your mate before giving us your answer?”
“I’ll speak with her,” he said quietly. “I’m sure she’ll have no real objections to it. We have innocent people held by an enemy loathed by us both.” He flicked up a finger. “But you. Both of you. You will make yourselves available at any time you’re required if she needs it. No matter the time nor the request, you will honour it.”
Romana put her hand on Braxiatel’s arm before he husband could argue. “Consider it my honour,” she promised firmly.
“And if something should happen to me…”
“She will be treated with honour,” Romana vowed. “Although I’m confident that won’t be necessary.” She gave him a smile. “You have a future time line from here.”
“That’s not always a guarantee,” he huffed. He then pressed his hand to the door. “Give me until morning,” he said with a look over his shoulder. “Have Romana at my home when the suns break. We’ll travel by my TARDIS.”
“Thank you,” Romana breathed out appreciatively. “thank you, Doctor.”
“yeah,” he said with a sigh as he pushed against the door and walked into the room to be with his family – hopefully not for the last time.
Romana exhaled a shuddering breath as the door closed behind him. “I hate doing this to him,” she admitted. “But we don’t have a choice.”
“He knows that.”
“Still.” She huffed out a long breath. “It’s not fair to him – or to her.” She turned to her husband with worry in her eyes. “I’m scared, Brax. I truly am.” She looked back at the door. “Something’s coming, and I don’t know that any of us are anywhere near prepared for it.”