Happy March 4th!
Happy March 4th, y’all! On this day in 2005, Rose Tyler met the Doctor.
To celebrate, I spent the morning introducing @sandalhat101, who’d never seen Doctor Who, to the fandom. We watched the first three episodes! It was great to go back and relive the olden days. ((One day she shall know my pain…)) I mean, what? :P
In addition, I’d like to share a bit of something I’ve been working on. It’s a JE fixit fic in which Rose was the one who was pregnant on the beach, instead of Jackie. She gives birth to a boy, who’s nearly eight years old when the stars start going out. It’s Mickey who does the dimension hopping instead of Rose, since she has a child to think of, and he finds the Doctor immediately following the events of Midnight. Mickey gives the hopper to the Doctor, who then gets recalled to Pete’s world, which is where the excerpt begins. I hope you like it!
WIP Excerpt (2531 words)
He materialized on an empty, quiet street. Actually, materialize was too kind a word for the way he burst into being, feeling physically shredded on a level to match his mental disorganization. It felt apt, in a way, allowing his physiology to go to pieces, unable to keep himself from stumbling to his knees on the pavement. Even though his superior time senses prevented him from being sick like Mickey, he took a moment, crumpled there on the stone, to just be. Here, in Rose’s universe, no entity, no companions, no TARDIS. He’d taken Rose’s instructions to never let himself be alone. She’d been right, as she usually was, but after all these years he was so tired of running. Of putting on the performance, always being all right, never letting himself feel what he felt for fear of giving into madness. Safe in the knowledge that Rose was here, somewhere, the Doctor finally allowed himself to shatter.
“Are you okay, Mister?” The quiet, cautious voice of a child broke into the miasma of his consciousness, and quite right, too. Here he was, going to pieces on a perfectly respectable suburban sidewalk, while Rose needed him. He wondered how much the child had seen – if he’d seen a man appear out of seemingly thin air and then collapse into a shuddering heap. He was being remarkably calm if so.
He let out a shaking laugh. It was easier to pull himself back together with the child’s presence at his shoulder, and he was appropriately grateful. “No. No, I’m really not all right.” There was a sort of subtle triumph in saying the words at last. He drew in great gasps of air, trying to bring himself back under control.
“Do you need a Doctor?”
He almost misses it, the subtle capitalization the child’s tone lends the term, but the next words don’t leave any room for doubt. “My dad’s a doctor, we-l-l properly speaking he’s the Doctor, but I’ve found other people who want you to call them doctor get cross when you imply there’s only one proper Doctor. Mum says the Doctor helps everyone, though, so he’d help you too, or would do if there was one in this universe. There’s so many different universes, with different versions of people, but not the Doctor, he’s a Time Lord, you see, and his ego is so big it can’t be divided up among different bits of him around different universes. That’s how Mum explained it to me, anyway.” A sniff. “As if I didn’t understand the concept of multidimensional nontransferrence.”
His mind was spinning worse than it had been when he popped out of the Void – he heard every word the child said and it all added up to perfectly rational English sentences (especially the last bit about multidimensional nontransferrence, which he thought was inspired), but at the same time it didn’t make any sense because it was impossible.
He didn’t realize he’d spoken the query aloud until the impossible voice continued, “oh, it’s all quite simple really. You see, Mum told me all the Time Lords had gone, and that they were the ones who used to keep an eye on all the different dimensions. It wasn’t that much of a stretch to infer that they must all have had to stay in one place, the prime universe, if you will, because if there were multiple versions of themselves running about keeping an eye on things separately then they would keep stepping on each other and mucking everything up. Mustn’t cross the streams and all that. I guess that’s why Mum keeps insisting we watch that one movie with the ghosts over and over.”
The unbroken stream of words faded into silence as the child seemed to become lost in thought for a moment, and the Doctor took the time to try to come to terms with what had just happened. In the space of less than twenty-four hours, he’d visited a leisure planet orbiting an Xtonic star, had his mind invaded by a malevolent mystery entity, discovered that Void travel was not only possible, but feasible, been presented with the prospect of finally being reunited with Rose after so long, and nothing, nothing, about all of it has shocked him more than being schooled in basic M-theory by a child. A child who spoke of the Doctor and Time Lords as facts. He couldn’t bring himself to look at the boy, was quite incapable of motion at all, in fact, because he’d just managed to convince himself that it all might be true but with this encounter all that hard-won certainty was slipping away.
“Hey, are you okay? Sorry, there I go again, Mum’s always saying I’ve got this gob from someone but she won’t tell me who. It does seem to have a mind of its own though, because here I am babbling on when you might need a doctor. So do you want me to get you one? A doctor that is. If you need the proper Doctor you’re out of luck, I’m afraid, because I can’t go get my… Dad?”
The child put his hand on the Doctor’s shoulder and the Doctor turned his head to look at him in the same instant. A charge, like an electrostatic current but ten times more potent, jumped between them, but the Doctor barely felt it. Didn’t need to feel it. Slumped on his knees so that he was looking up into the face of this extraordinary boy, he felt his hearts lodge themselves in his throat.
He has her eyes.
That single thought knocked every other one out of his head – given the state of his mind right then, not the feat it could have been but nevertheless impressive. He couldn’t count the number of times he’d drowned in those honey chocolate eyes and there they were: staring out at him from the face of a six year old boy.
He was so drunk on the sight of those eyes it took him a moment to realize that the face they were set in had the same bone structure he saw in the mirror every day.
“What.” The word was hardly a puff of air. His gaze drifted up to discover hair sticking out at all angles like his did when he’s been running his hands through it, except that it was…
“Yup!” Apparently unperturbed, the boy rocked back on his heels slightly, even popping the ‘p’ and leaving the Doctor to wonder absurdly if the tick was somehow a genetic trait or if Rose had picked it up and passed it along, because that’s the sort of thing one did when the world has been turned upside down. “Mum said she laughed herself sick when she saw, but I don’t remember, being so young at the time and all. I’m not sure what exactly is so funny about recessive alleles but apparently they’re supposed to keep me from being rude? Or at least that’s what she says when I’m being rude. Allegedly. Most of the time I think she’s just being sensitive.”
The Doctor let out a stuttered breath which was the closest he could get to laughter without bursting into tears. This had the potential to be the most fantastic thing ever to have happened in his life (well, with the exception of one or two other notable instances) and he was in absolutely no condition to properly appreciate it.
The boy next to him was practically vibrating with excitement and the Doctor could only admire his restraint in the face of his own obvious discomfort. Once his emotions were working properly again through the haze currently clouding his brain, he knew he would be harbouring quite a towering state of rage against the entity who had stolen what should have been, not just one, but two joyous meetings. Instead, he climbed unsteadily to his feet, trying his level best to keep it as much together in front of the child who could only be (he can’t believe he’s admitting it, even to himself) his son - if the nascent bond that had just tried to jump between them through four layers of clothing was anything to go by.
He wished fiercely that he could give the boy the attention he deserved, all the more so since he had apparently missed quite a large portion of his childhood (and oh, how his hearts ached at that thought,) but his miniature double didn’t seem disappointed. On the contrary, he was grinning up at the Doctor as though he personally had hung the sun and stars. The hearts that had been squeezed to nothing in his chest did awkward flip flops. He put his hand on the boy’s shoulder instead, feeling again the jolt of the bond that tried to connect even so far from their telepathic centers, and looked seriously into the eyes that he so adored.
“You know… who I am, then?” he asked, unsure of how to broach such a massively emotional topic.
“'Course I do! Mum knew you’d come back someday, wanted me to know everything about you so I’d be ready when you did – or if we figured a way back first. Not one to sit around and do nothing, Mum.”
The Doctor felt a small, but genuine smile cross his face for the first time in a very long time. “No, certainly not,” he agreed.
“I mean, obviously, she was counting on being the first one to see you so she could explain… well, us,” his son said, scratching the back of his head absently, the Doctor watching his every movement in rapt fascination. “I’m making a mess of things, I know I am, but you’re not mad, are you? At Mum? For not telling you?” Somehow, the chipper, talkative genius he’d just been interacting with had vanished, leaving a boy looking very young and uncertain indeed.
The Doctor had pulled him into his arms before he was consciously aware of the action. “No. Nonononononono,” he breathed, over and over into his son’s (ginger) hair. “Never. Not ever. You are brilliant and perfect and so is your mother, and I could never be mad at either of you. Not really.” A thrill ran through him as he said the words your mother knowing they applied to his own son. His Rose.
“Dad?” the child asked, pulling away the slightest fraction necessary to look up at him, an uncertain, heartsbreakingly hopeful smile on his face, a universe of questions contained within the three-letter word. The Doctor’s own hearts attempted to occupy too little and too much space simultaneously, convulsing in a desperate emotion he’d never felt in all his 900 years.
“Yes,” he replied, pulling his son tighter, answering at least some of them. “Yeah. I’m your dad.” It was one of the hardest sentences he’d ever had to say, his voice faltering halfway through. What right did he have to claim anything of the sort, having only just dropped into his life? But the child let out a happy sob, the sound of which embedded itself into the Doctor’s chest, and clutched himself closer to his waist. Both of them were trembling as they embraced in the quiet street. The child’s hands kept clenching and unclenching in the folds of his suit jacket, under his overcoat. They stayed that way for a long time, the Doctor inhaling the scent of young boy that was somehow still unique to his son, all honey and bruised grass and wind and sunlight, until he felt like it was safe to relinquish, just a little, the death grip he’d been keeping on his sanity. It served to throw into sharp relief, however, just how tenuous that control really was, and he knew he needed to make it to Rose before he completely broke down. He bit back a curse. It wasn’t fair to the child to leave him like this, but neither was it fair to keep him on the hook for his emotional wellbeing.
“What’s your name?” the Doctor asked, all the while railing at the universe for making it necessary for him to have to ask this question of his own son.
“Oh! Uhm…” A slightly muffled cough came from the vicinity of his navel and the boy pulled back to look up into his face. “I’m called Connor.”
“Connor.” The name of his son. He savoured it in his mouth, tasting out the sounds. “It’s, oh, so very nice to finally meet you, Connor.” He could feel tears starting in his eyes, and might have lost the battle with them were it not for the sight of the same in his son’s eyes. Despite his trauma, it was somehow the easiest thing in the world to be strong for both of them. Connor’s mouth tipped up in a watery smile.
“You too, Dad. You too.”
The Doctor’s hearts stuttered in his chest, and he bent to his son’s eye level. “Is it all right if I ask where your mum is right now, Connor?”
This time his son’s grin was decidedly cheeky as he gave his father one final squeeze and let go, shoving his hands in his pockets and rocking back on his heels. “I’m impressed, Dad. It took you a whole fifteen minutes to ask about Mum. Were you shooting for some sort of record?”
The Doctor’s hands found his own pockets, his posture mirroring his son’s as he studied him. “I’m always impressive, me. Also, never predictable if I can help it. More fun that way.”
Connor sucked in a breath through his teeth, his tongue poking between them slightly. “Dad, that was where you were supposed to say that I’m just that brilliant and engrossing.”
The Doctor winced playfully, but his eyes were serious as he caught his son’s gaze. “Is that so? I guess I’m just rusty at this whole fatherhood thing.” And if that isn’t the understatement of the millennium… “You’ll have to be a bit patient with your old man, yeah?”
Connor nodded solemnly, wrapping his arms around his father again, an embrace which the Doctor returned wholeheartedly. “'Course, Dad. Always.” When he pulled back, he had a box in his hand, which he then offered to the Doctor.
“What’s this?” he asked curiously.
“It’s for Mum,” Connor replied. “It’s why I’m not with her right now. Apple tea. I bring her some every year, on the anniversary of… well…”
The Doctor looked about himself, taking in the early spring scent of the air. “Do you mean to tell me it’s the fourth of March today?”
“Got it in one, Dad. Mum said you were good.” The Doctor winked at him, and then sobered. Apple tea. Every year, the scent of apples, and Rose, alone with her memories the same way he’d been, without her. No more. He let out a long breath, holding out his free hand towards his son.
“Well then, Connor Tyler, let’s not keep your mum waiting!”