Work Header

A Fairy Tale Called Gallifrey

Work Text:

After stout refusals to name her daughter Rigel, Celaeno, Adenine, Pentachlorobiphenyl (Penny for short), Mabel, or anything else the Doctor suggested, River said that without a doubt, their girl was definitely an Astraea. He liked it instantly, it put a smile on his face the way a daughter's name should. Of course, there was no name beautiful enough in any language but he supposed if they must then they could do worse than Astraea.

"You'll have to bear with me, it's been awhile," he told Astraea, holding her close to his chest. He thought holding on to her was going to feel like holding his other children, or grandchildren, but he'd forgotten: it's different every time, because they're different. Little bodies just waiting to grow up into people. She shifted and yawned.

"Well, thank you. I like to think I still have a trick or two in me," he replied. "Mm? Sorry, repeat that?"

Astraea gurgled, and her hand waved. "Oh, no, that's just your mummy. She's had a time of it, popping you out and threatening to send me into my next regeneration. It's all very exhausting. I expect she'll be asleep for a bit." He saw the question in her beautiful greenish eyes before she even asked.

"Well, I'm a different sort of person," he answered. "I can change myself if I get hurt. I expect you'll be able to do it as well. But don't worry, you're never going to regenerate because I'm never going to let anything touch you." He paused; she was all of an hour old and he was already making promises he's worried he won't be able to keep. "… and no matter what my face looks like I'm going to love you."

She motioned, and he frowned. "It's a bowtie. It's cool." She squealed. "Oh you sound like your grandmum."

"No, that's not a bad thing," he answered, and pondered how to continue. "She's a dear thing. Courageous. Your granddad too, he's a good man. Possibly even a great one. Certainly one of the best I've known, and I've known a lot of people." He stopped at her interruption. "No don't be silly." She insisted again, louder.

"Of course they're going to like you!" He stood and paced with her. He seemed to remember that some babies liked the feeling of being in motion. "You're beautiful, you're smart, and River's. And mine. And they like all those things. So you're up their alley, really. And they're going to have fun with you."

"Hm?" he questioned. "Oh, yes, I suppose it is a bit chilly out here. We are in space."

He picked up another blanket and wrapped her a bit more tightly. She made a noise of relief and looked up at him, and he melted again. "You can ask me anything you want," he told her, and listened as she made her request.

He was loved and feared from one end of the universe to the next and even a little beyond that. His name sent armies running, there were entire worlds that trembled when he came to call. He was the Destroyer of Worlds, great warrior, the Oncoming Storm, and his daughter undid him with no more than a look and a question.

"A what? A song?" he said as she repeated herself. He hesitated for a moment, but the moment she asked the words were there and the melody was in his throat. "All right," he said. "This one is from my home -- a planet called Gallifrey."

He grew sad with her next question. "It is far away, my beautiful girl, very far away." A long time ago and far away and with him always; the fairy tale book which the gallant trickster-wizard-Doctor had leapt from. "You will never get to see it, I'm afraid." He could give her any place, any time from the alpha to the omega except for her father's people. Her life would be large and mad and impossible and full, but he could never give her that.

He would have to spend her life making that wrong seem trivial. "Now shut your eyes, Astraea. You've had a busy day."

When River awoke, the Doctor was still singing softly to their daughter, cradled tightly against him.