This was intended to be posted in time for Father's Day, last month, but real life (and just being me) intervened. I was inspired to write this when my own daughter, Hope, spent about a week prefacing nearly every conversation with me with the dreaded words: "So here's the thing…" The very last of these was the monumental discovery that she had finally reached womanhood. So naturally, I thought, weeell… what would Tentoo do in this situation? And it took off from there!
My huge thanks to mrsbertucci and Rose-Nebula who both helped to provide invaluable inspiration when it was needed and did a bang-up beta job to boot! I tweaked bits since they gave me their suggestions, because of course I did, so all mistakes are mine, but they always were anyway.
I also want to credit the writers of the recent Twelfth Doctor episode, The Eaters of Light, for the fantastic, extremely Doctor-y use of the word "embryo". It just fit so well in this context, too.
Part of my These Two Hearts and my Domestic Bliss series. Hope you enjoy!
ADDITIONAL TAGS: Pete's World; Family Drama; Family Fluff; Kid Fic; Teenagers; Tweens; Parent-Child Relationship; Domestic Fluff; Menstruation; Teen Angst; Touch Telepathy; Telepathic Bond; Parenting Angst; Mild Swearing
So Here's the Thing…
The Doctor could handle anything that was thrown at him. He was a Time Lord, after all. Weeell… half Time Lord. Weeell… a smidge more than half. A good, big smidge. A really, really, good, big smidge. Practically three-quarters Time Lord! But the point was, sometimes even Time Lords needed their significant others… weeell, at least, this Time Lord did. Better with two, and all that. And there was no one more qualified to be his plus-one, no one else he could ever wish to be his main squeeze, his lucky pants in all of space and time, than one Rose Tyler. Who needs two hearts flopping around in their chest when they have someone who literally is their second heart?
But that second heart of his wasn't around for at least a week, possibly longer. Pete had recalled them from their adventures in space and time so she could go gallivanting away (with the TARDIS, no less) on some mission or other. Weeell… he would have gone too, but really, this was more Rose's area of expertise, comforting and calming an entire community of alien-traumatised humans. Besides, with Jackie off on some tropical island on a girls-only getaway, and Pete up to his proverbial eyeballs in work, someone had to look after the Doctor's third, fourth, and fifth hearts: his (and Rose's) children. And who more qualified for that job than him? Domestics! Bring 'em on!
It wasn't that they were bad children. Bloody hell, no! Just… precocious. There again, that's what happened when you crossed a very-nearly Time Lord with a completely-brilliant human (who also happened to have retained a drop of Time Goddess in her DNA). And without adventuring on the TARDIS to keep the offsprings' superior intellects occupied and their manic part-Time Lord energy in check, they… weeell, they made their own adventures.
The first day had gone swimmingly, with no major mishaps, and he was feeling rather chuffed about his superior parenting skills. Then, on the second day, as he sat in his study tinkering with new parts for the TARDIS, there was an urgent knock at the door. He looked up over the tops of his specs to see his first-born, Hope, peek around the door with a pensive expression on her face. This couldn't be good. Rubbing at the stubble on his cheek, he raised his eyebrows in an invitation for her to speak.
"So, here's the thing…" she began.
He groaned. Nine-hundred plus years' experience, and nothing good had ever come of anyone starting a sentence with those four words (five if you included the contraction). He furrowed his brows at the fourteen-year old. "Do I want to know?"
"No, I doubt it, but you probably should." She forced a toothy grin, presumably in some fruitless attempt to lessen the blow of the news she was about to impart, and stepped into the room.
As if he would ever fall for the Grin™. He'd had plenty of experience with the Grin™. That grin was Rose Tyler's grin, that and the caramel eyes with the cheeky glint of gold, hinting of hidden power. But that's where the outward similarities ended. Hope's hair was chocolate-brown and she was tall and willowy, certainly surpassing Rose in height by several inches. When had she grown so bloody tall? It was only when he saw her in the not-so-transcendental interior of the little blue house that he actually became aware of the changes in his daughter. With a sharp shock to his single heart he realized she looked… feminine… mature! Her hair was brushed out, cascading past her shoulders, almost to her waist, not tied up in a ponytail as it always was when they were aboard the TARDIS, adventuring. Blimey! Was she wearing make-up? Where the hell had she found make-up?
He narrowed his eyes. "Are you wearing make-up now? Is that what you've come to tell me?"
She flushed, ducking her head and twirling her hair, channelling Rose again. "Not exactly… no."
"Oh… Well, I suppose you look very nice. A bit too grown-up for my taste but…"
"Dad, I'm fourteen!"
"Precisely! Practically an embryo! An embryo should look like an embryo not a–"
"Right! This is kinda important! Do you want to hear what I have to tell you or would you rather I just…" She gestured with a jerk of her thumb over her shoulder. Manipulative! Definitely her mother's child.
"No, no, no, no, no! Nope!" he exclaimed, setting down his sonic and taking off his specs. "Sorry. I'm all ears."
"Weeell…" she hedged. (Now that's very me! Daddy's girl!) "I miiiight have forgotten my sonic in the kitchen this morning…" (not a great start) "…and Wilf miiiight have nicked it…" (oh, fuck, fuck, fuck!) "…and he miiiight have added a setting for wood and…"
"Stop! Just a tick!" The Doctor's rather advanced cerebral cortex (extra lobe included) nearly short-circuited. "He added a setting for… for… wood?"
"But that's… that's impossible! Over nine-hundred years of–"
"Dad! He's melted the bits of the treehouse together! With Charlie inside! She can't get out. She's probably running out of air even as we speak."
"Oh for the love of…" The Doctor grabbed up his own sonic screwdriver and bolted out the study with Hope at his heels. "D'ya think you could have started the conversation with that critical bit of information, eh?" he barked at her as he bounded into the backyard where, indeed, he found the treehouse with its parts weirdly melted together to form a solid, smooth, sculpted surface. Charlie's threats to her brother emanated from the interior. At least she was all right for the time being. "It's okay, sweetheart," he called to his younger daughter. "We'll have you out in just a tick."
He scanned the back yard, searching for his son. The ten-year old mischief-maker, however, was making himself scarce. "Wilfred Jack Michael Tyler-Noble!" he shouted. Something about hollering the child's full name exuded Time Lordish authority, whilst also offering a sense of order. If he was able to keep the name straight, it was likely he would be able to exert some control over the scramble of alarming thoughts threatening to overwhelm him. Besides names had power… "I'm warning you, I'm counting to ten," (another useful strategy, and ten was a good, solid number) "and if you're not standing right in front of me by that time, I will be coming to get you. And, let me tell you, you are not going to like that! At all!
"One. Two. Three." His gaze swept over the yard again, pausing briefly to glare at Hope, who seemed to shrink in the wake of the Oncoming Storm. Good. Maybe this will teach her to look after her things. "Four. Five."
A rustling of bushes at the far end of the huge property caught his attention. "Six. Seven. Eight."
A small, round face framed by short, dark hair, peered from its hiding spot.
Charlie's angry shouts continued from within her prison.
The little boy scurried over across the grass.
"Nine and three-quarters..."
Wilfred skidded to a halt in front of his father, eyes downcast and scuffing his shoes on the ground.
"…Ten. You just made it!" The Doctor frowned down at the lad. "Look at me, Wilfred."
The boy's piercing blue eyes met his and they were brimming with tears. (Rose was convinced he got those eyes from Jackie, but the Doctor was sure there was some influence from his previous regeneration. The child's ears are quite large…) The Doctor felt the Oncoming Storm settle, and knelt down in front of his youngest child. "I will deal with you properly later–"
"But she… urrrrgh! She was being so… Sorry." The boy quelled as the Storm made a resurgence.
"Charlie is in danger right now. She must be frightened. And that's not helping her situation. So I need you to give me Hope's sonic and show me the setting you created. Immediately." He presented the boy with his hand, palm up.
"Sure doesn't sound frightened to me," Wilf muttered as he reached into the inside pocket of his black jean jacket (The child also wore black denims, and shoes. The only colours he ever displayed were the deep tones of his T-shirts. Definitely influenced by his ninth self!), pulled out Hope's sonic lip gloss, and placed it in his father's waiting hand. "Setting W-00D. But," he gestured violently in the direction of the tree house, "I didn't expect it to do that!"
The Doctor peered at the sonic. "No, I don't imagine you did. Dammit! My tools are in the TARDIS. Hope! In my study, there's a small tool kit. TARDIS-blue. Top drawer of my desk. Run! Bring it to me!"
Hope rushed off to do his bidding, and Wilf groaned. "Charlie's going to kill me when she gets out of there."
"Yes, I think you might be in serious danger," the Doctor agreed frankly, standing up again. He activated his own sonic against the lip gloss, making adjustments.
Hope rushed back, the toolkit in her hands. "You'll need the microfilament resonator and the magnetic flux stabilizer… and the quantum dot," she said, readying the tools for easy accessibility. "What else?"
"That should do it." He took the tools in turn, making adjustments to the lip gloss.
"You're not going to turn it back, are you?" Wilf wailed.
"Not a chance! That programming's bloody brilliant!" the Doctor beamed, then tamped down his enthusiasm and forced a scowl back on his face. "Not that I condone your tampering with your sister's sonic in any way whatsoever, mind. All I'm doing is creating a subprogram so it cuts into the wood too. Never been able to do that before!" he muttered under his breath, barely able to contain the smile of pride and excitement that unwittingly curled his lips. "Amaaazing!"
"Oi!" Charlie yelped from the treehouse. "You gettin' me outta here, perhaps? I have unfinished business to take care of." Almost twelve years old and she already had a temper that rivalled Jackie Tyler's and the Oncoming Storm combined…
The Doctor pitied Wilf in that moment, but handed him the sonic lip gloss. "You put her in there. You can get her out again."
"Up that ladder and cut a nice doorway back into it! Now!"
"Can't I just make it like a cage with a bunch of bars? She'd get plenty of air. And we could bring her food…"
"Sorry… it's just…"
"I know. Just get her out of there, yeah?"
Fifteen minutes later the little blonde fury was released back into the world, and the Doctor (thank the stars for superior Time Lord reflexes!) was able to restrain her before she did her brother serious damage.
"Fine," she shot daggers at Wilfred through narrowed eyes, "be free… for now. Dad can't watch me every second. And I will get you."
"Oi!" the Doctor snapped. "You'll do no such thing! Now, the lot of you, inside. Kitchen table. And sit there without injuring one another. We'll discuss what happens next…"
Hope was assigned to sort and organize all the random tools and gadgets in the basement the next day, a project the Doctor had been putting off for some time. Since Hope had proven she had more than enough knowledge about the various devices and was sensible enough to call him if she found something dangerous, he felt the tedious task would do her some good, ground her a bit. She was getting "airs and graces" (Yeck! Imagine, borrowing one of Jackie's adages!), and this manual labour would bring her down a peg or two. She had taken the news of her punishment in stride, chin up, but when the Doctor announced he would also be confiscating her sonic until she showed she could be responsible with the technology, keeping it safe from those who shouldn't have access to it, she was absolutely inconsolable, irrationally emotional, and she stomped out of the kitchen, disappearing upstairs, into her room, with a firm slam of her door.
The Doctor rubbed his hands over his face, exasperation threatening to take over. Wilfred and Charlie's punishments were a little more difficult to sort out. They had been at each other's throats for ages, and Charlie had not been completely innocent in the theft of the sonic. Wilf reported she had also airdropped slime balloons on him using remote-control stealth drones of her own creation. It was time for them to learn to work together.
He dug out one of his old T-shirts and cut the neck big enough for both their heads to fit through. He had read about "Get Along" shirts online and was eager to try the idea out. Each of them would have the use of one arm, and they would wear the shirt until they could learn to work together. And work they would! Long, monotonous hours were to be spent cleaning the house from top to bottom. They would be freed from the shirt only to use the bathroom and sleep. They were furious. It would be a long couple of days, but the Doctor was determined to see their punishment through.
To be honest, he was feeling quite proud of the sentences he had handed out, but he missed Rose terribly, and wished she wasn't working half way around the world. He was sure none of these punishments would have been necessary at all had she been around (brilliant mum, she is…) or had they all still been on the TARDIS and not Earth-bound. But he was a (mostly) Time Lord, and although things were always better with two, he was more than capable of setting things to rights on his own. He had over nine-hundred years' experience dealing with all sorts from all over the multiverse. He could certainly cope with three naughty, albeit incredibly intelligent, children.
The rest of the evening was relatively quiet. Hope's weeping had finally subsided around midnight, and the Doctor assumed she had cried herself to sleep. Charlie and Wilf bickered for the first two hours in their Get-Along shirt. After that, they had tired of the drama, and worked out how to wash and dry the pots and dishes together.
The Doctor spent the evening tinkering in his study again, feeling accomplished but lonely, having no Rose to talk to either verbally or over their telepathic marital bond. She was far away in a primitive area where she was not permitted to use technology. The only reason she had taken the TARDIS with her was in the interests of reaching her remote destination as quickly as possible and to take advantage of the time ship's natural ability to act as a universal translator. Also, having a fully functional Chameleon Circuit, it would be able to blend in with its surroundings very effectively, and the indigenous peoples would never suspect a thing.
He supposed it was just as well she didn't witness to what he had permitted to happen today. He would never have heard the end of it. Of course, he would have to fess up eventually. Come to think of it… how does she always know when I'm lying… even a lie by omission? But if he could be spared a few days, the incident wouldn't be so prominent in his mind, and easier to tuck behind a mental door, away from Rose's (wonderful) probing mind. This way, it would be easier to gloss over some of the more worrying details… Yes, definitely for the best.
The next day was remarkably quiet (a bit disconcerting, to be honest), although there was still the odd outbreak of violence from the two-headed monster, and Hope was still hypersensitive and emotional, not behaving like herself at all. They all begged to be freed of their penances, but the Doctor proudly stuck to his guns (figuratively only, of course… no weapons in this household! Weeell, except for the slime balloons, and heavens knew what else had slipped under the radar…) and ensured they faced the consequences of their earlier transgressions.
By the end of the day, the house was sparkling and organized, and Wilfred and Charlie were permitted to have their own personal space again. They had actually spontaneously hugged one another as they parted, and disappeared into the redesigned treehouse to play. They even spent the night together up in the bows of the tree, camping out, where they devoted the bulk of their time to trying to devise a screwdriver setting that could make the wood transparent so they could stargaze from the safety of their treetop perch.
Hope watched her siblings from the window, sullen and uncommunicative.
Better sort out this teenage business, pronto! Pronto. That has a good ring to it. Pronto. I'll have to use that again. "Love, come over here, pronto! Erm, please… (Perhaps, not the best place to use it, out of the blue like that…) We need to talk."
She shrugged her shoulders, otherwise ignoring him. Her mum all over!
Well, at least this one is expected to toe the line. "That wasn't really a request. Come here, Hope."
She sighed and turned to him, eyes swollen and red. "I'm sorry, Daddy. I am. I'm soooo sorry!"
"Do you understand why I was so disappointed, love?" He reached out and took her hands in his, squeezing gently, sending her waves of love through their connection.
"Yeah… at least I think I do. I'm to blame for everything that happened."
"Weeell, I wouldn't exactly say you were to blame. You didn't force your brother to nick your sonic. But our actions, however innocent, do have consequences. Carry on."
She snuffled a runny nose and continued. "I didn't force him, but I did leave it where anyone could pick it up (the unintentional action). Charlie and Wilf could have been in serious danger because of me. And they were… at least Charlie was. And Wilf was too, I reckon, once Charlie got free…"
He supressed a chuckle. "And…" he prompted.
"And, if I am to be entrusted with a sonic of my own," she sniffed back fresh tears, "I have to show that I'm responsible and not let it fall into the hands of someone who could use it to do damage… or use it as a weapon."
"Give the girl a prize!" he crowed, booping her on the nose with one hand, and returning her lip gloss with the other.
She hesitantly took the device from his fingers and, as she wrapped her arms around his neck, he felt her warm love and appreciation fill his mind. Too soon, she danced off, back up to the secret recesses of her bedroom. "Love ya, Daddy," she sang out from the top of the stairs.
My precious girl.
The next morning, the Doctor was lounging on the living room sofa, immersed in a book on the history of the Great and Bountiful Human Empire (Pete's World edition) he had picked up at a bazaar on an asteroid belt in the Feruuni system, 2 billion years in the future. Suddenly, he became aware of Hope standing before him.
"So, here's the thing…" She was biting her lip and looking at him with a rather wistful expression.
Those four damnable words again… "Out with it!"
"Some of my friends are going to the shops today and I was wondering if I could go too…"
Seemed innocent enough. She didn't see her human friends very often, as she was away, traveling in the TARDIS, most of the time. Still… she's not divulging everything. Trying to deceive the master of deception, eh? "Which friends are you going with, then?"
Ah-ha! There it is, that single word, combined with the tugging at her ear! Seeing his own tells being mirrored back at him, it was obvious she wasn't disclosing the entire truth. With a sinking feeling in his gut, he suddenly understood why he could never get away with anything. Maybe not so much the master of deception, then…
He offered her a few suggestions, threw her a bone. "Serena? Aparnha? Annie?"
She shook her head, scrunched her face up, and bit her lower lip (so much like Rose). "It's Hamish."
"I see. So not friends, plural. A friend, singular. And a boy?" That single heart of his began to ache as he faced the idea of his precious Hope having a man in her life; a man that wasn't him. Blimey, it hurts so much… Is it normal for a father to feel this way, so protective of his daughter? He counted to ten (definitely a great strategy!) in his head as Hope began to babble, trying to justify her request.
"Yeah… but we're just going to the shops. I'll keep my mobile on the whole time, I promise! And…"
He willed his tension to ease away, to let his daughter's eager anticipation soothe his soul. "Yup, no problem." If he made a big deal about this now, if would backfire on him later. He had learned early on with Rose that she generally did the exact opposite of what he asked. It had taken him years to learn to give himself permission to just accept she was going to do her own thing and not try to control her. He mentally high-fived the little Rose-shaped angel on his shoulder who hinted this would be the best policy with Hope too.
"What? You mean it?" Hope squealed.
"Yup!" If he was being honest with himself, his heart was pounding and he knew he would be sorely tempted to stalk her the entire time she was away, but…
"Yup. I'll be here if you need me. Just ring me."
She leaned in and planted a big kiss on his cheek. "Love you, Daddy! Thanks for not being weird about this!"
"Yeah, no problem," he muttered to himself as she skipped from the room.
She was back in fifteen minutes, hair brushed out long and sleek, make-up applied to perfection. "So, here's the thing…"
He sighed. Big problem on more than one front!
"…could I borrow twenty quid? I'll pay you back. It's just… the shops here don't take credit sticks, remember?"
"My wallet's in my coat by the door."
"Thank-you, Daddy," she cheered again. "Love you!"
Hope slunk in from the shops much earlier than the Doctor expected. She almost managed to slip by him as he played holo-games with Charlie and Wilf, but his (still-rather-superior) hearing picked up on the sound of a sniffle, the telltale sign of his daughter in emotional distress. She was two steps up the stairs when he found her.
"Hopie! You're back early, love. Wasn't expecting you for at least another couple of hours. Did you have a good time?"
She kept her back to him, trying to conceal her misery, but her voice, tight and strained, betrayed her. "Was all right. I'm just going up to my room." She hurried up another few steps.
"Hope. Look at me."
She stopped in her tracks. "Daaaaa-aad…"
"Turn around and look at me."
When she turned around, he took in her runny nose and her tear-streaked face. She looked completely defeated. "I don't want to talk about it, okay?"
"What happened, love?" Then it struck him like the proverbial bolt of lightning: that tosser had done something to hurt his Hope. "Did he… did he… touch–"
"Daaaa-aad! NO! No, nothing like that." She'd wiped her nose on her sleeve (definitely channeling Rose, this time!)
"But he did do something…" He began to pace, fists clenched when they weren't worrying his hair into a spiky mess. The Doctor was seething. It was all he could do to prevent himself from marching over to Hamish the Idiot's house and not go all Oncoming Storm on him. He hurt my little girl! No one, no one hurts my little girl!
"I really, really don't want to talk about it! I took care of it, okay?" She spun around and started back up the stairs.
The Oncoming Storm was spiraling out of control. "Okay? OKAY? NO! Nothing about this is okay." He lashed out at his daughter with displaced anger. "YOU!" He jabbed his finger at her. "You are never going out alone with a boy again! EVER!"
Hope wheeled around, seething. "WHAT?"
"You heard me!" he countered, as he frantically grappled to regain control of his temper.
"Urrrrgghh! You are such a complete prick! I cannot believe you're making this about me!"
What? What did she say? The Doctor was stunned into silence, and suddenly, remorse for his earlier rage and thoughtless words crashed through him. Quite right, too…
"I did nothing wrong!"(Blimey! Was that a flash of Bad Wolf in her eyes? Rassilon help Hamish! Not to mention−) "I told you, I took care of it! Oooooh, I bloody hate you so much!" Fresh tears streaming over her cheeks, she stamped up the stairs. "Why can't you just mind your own business?"
As the sound of Hope's door slamming shuddered though him, he became aware of Charlie and Wilf watching the entire scene from the living room sofa, with wide eyes and wider grins.
"Whoooooa! That was…"
He groaned. "Right! You two, out of here! Nothing to see! Tell you what. How about you go on out to the treehouse again tonight? Go on! Go!"
"Sure thing, Dad!" Charlie chirped. "C'mon, Wilf! Show's over." She grabbed her brother's hand and the two of them trotted away, heads together, gossiping.
The Doctor flopped down on the sofa, rubbing the heels of his hands over his eyes. He was useless: an utter failure as a parent. Rose was going to kill him… Well now, isn't that just wizard!
An hour later, the Doctor made cocoa and took some out to Charlie and Wilf, piled high with tiny marshmallows, the way they liked it (the way Rose liked it). Returning to the kitchen, he prepared two more mugs for himself and Hope and topped them with whipped cream. Now this is how hot chocolate should be consumed. At least we can agree on something…
A few minutes later, he was knocking on Hope's door, the two mugs clunking together in one hand scalding his fingers where they touched the hot ceramic. (Pain totally deserved.) "Can I come in, love? I've brought hot chocolate…"
"I don't want to talk to you."
"It has whipped cream..."
"And chocolate curls…" he wheedled. "And we don't have to talk."
The door swung open, and Hope turned her back on him to walk back to her bed, where she slumped under the covers. He followed and juggled the two mugs onto her nightstand, immediately sucking on his burned knuckle once his hand was free. "By the Second Sun, that's hot!" He sat down on the edge of the bed. Silence loomed between them as he handed her a mug.
They sipped their chocolate, but his tasted like chalk in his mouth. 4.46 interminable minutes passed before she met his gaze, and giggled, pointing at him. "You have a whipped cream mustache!"
"So do you!" He grinned back, his spirits soaring to be able to joke around with her in this familiar way. But his grin quickly fell and his hand came up to scrub at the back of his neck. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, sweetheart. I should never have said what I said, earlier. I was angry and I just… I just want you to be safe. I worry so much."
"I was safe, Daddy."
"I know. I just… my imagination just got a bit carried away. I was frightened. Properly frightened. And really very angry, and weeell… I just struck out, lost control of the Storm. You didn't deserve that." He reached out and squeezed her ankle through the duvet.
"I'm sorry too, for what I said. I didn't really mean it."
"I know, precious girl."
"So, I'm allowed to leave the house again?"
"Yeah, I suppose." He smirked, arching an eyebrow at her.
"With a boy?"
He feigned a glower. "Now you're just pushing your luck!"
"Daaaa-aad!" She laughed and his single heart swelled with joy at the sound.
He chuckled and stood up, gulping down the last swig of his cocoa. "Even with a boy." He leaned over and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "I love you, my Hopie-girl. I suppose I'll just have to get used to the idea of you growing up." He made his way to the door, and turned back to her as he stepped out into the hallway. "But, that doesn't mean I'm never going to like it."
The Doctor made banana pancakes for breakfast the next morning. "So," he announced over the cheerful chatter around the kitchen table, "I heard the British Museum has a new exhibit open…"
The chatter ceased, and all eyes turned in his direction, riveted.
"Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia! Ha!"
"So, are we going?" Charlie blurted around a mouthful of pancake.
"Weeell… I just might have snagged us some tickets." He waggled his eyebrows at the kids, beaming. "Can't waste this opportunity!"
Hope frowned, crossing her arms irritably. "Mum wouldn't like it…"
"Oh, stop being such a stick-in-the-mud," Charlie sneered. "You like to act like you're soooo grown up."
"I do not! I just think−"
"Yeah," Wilf piped up, "as if you don't enjoy pointing and laughing at archeologists."
"Weeell, your mum isn't here," the Doctor cut in, "and as long as you lot don't mention anything…"
Hope was still annoyed. "That's not very nice, by the way, Dad. And you have to admit, she does have a point. It's a bit rude."
"That's me! Rude and not ginger." He beamed at her, but she wasn't budging. (Rose, all Rose…!) The smile dropped off his face. "Sweetheart, I love your mum more than life itself. I do. You know that. But this is just a little bit of fun. It's educational. Aaaand, you never know, we might learn something new−"
He was interrupted by an eruption of loud guffaws from Charlie and Wilf over that last statement.
"Oi! The day you lot think you've learned everything, you might as well just pack it in. There's always something new to learn, whether we're in the TARDIS or here on Earth," he admonished. "The universe is brim-full of wonderful discoveries and new ideas." He was pleased to see the Dynamic Duo looking somewhat mollified. "Besides we might find something we want to explore later, with the TARDIS, when your mum gets back…"
"Okay. Fine." Hope rolled her eyes. "When do we leave?"
The other two cheered and high-fived one another, and the Doctor sighed in relief. It might have got off to a rocky start, but this is going to be a great day!
It had been a terrible day. Dreadful. Disastrous. Catastrophic, even. That was it! Catastrophic. On a scale of one to catastrophic, a parenting catastrophe!
Nothing had gone right from the moment they set foot on the Tube. And, that evening, as the family stumbled back through the front door of their little blue house, the Doctor collapsed on the sofa, and rubbed his aching temples. The almost-completely-Time Lord needed his precious plus-one, his second heart, his main squeeze to give him a squeeze. Pronto! He needed to feel her soothing presence in his mind. (Blimey, even her scathing, angry presence would be a blessing, and after today… weeell…)
"Right," he announced, gathering the shreds of his sanity, "I'm ordering take-away for supper. You lot get into your jim-jams, and we'll have an all-nighter movie-thon!"
"Woah! Really?" Wilf's eyes widened in astonishment. "You mean it?"
"Yeah," Charlie scoffed at her brother, "after today, I was expecting you to be placed in solitary confinement, at the very least."
The Doctor rounded on Charlie, his growl cutting off Wilfred's retort. "Right, Little Madam, you of all people should not be passing judgement after your performance in the little shop. It just so happens I'm in a charitable mood, tonight." Too exhausted to deal with the little ba…bas…bast…beggers, to be honest.
"Oi! What did I do that was so bad?"
Wilf scoffed. "What didn't you do?"
"All I did was make the remote control toys more realistic! Anyway, a bit rich coming from you! At least I didn't get arrested. I was just trying to help out."
"Hey! I was helping out! The exhibits needed fixing. They had everything all backwards. Besides I wasn't arrested! That was just museum security."
"You stole an artefact from one of the exhibits, you plonker! If Dad hadn't come looking for you right then, they would have been calling the police!"
"I had to get it back!"
"Point and laugh, idiot. As in, you don't actually touch the exhibits."
"But it belonged to me! It didn't belong to Ancient Mesopotamia! I got it in that market in the Bat'nitnoth Quadrant, last year. I lost it when we visited Ur."
"You could just have waited and gone back with the TARDIS when Mum got home."
"Crossing timelines! Are you that thick?"
"To the museum, you moron! Not back to Ur!"
"Oi!" the Doctor interjected with a shout. "Do I need to pull out the get-along shirt again?" He smirked in satisfaction as his two youngest immediately stopped their bickering, and violently shook their heads. "Good. Glad we've got that straight. And be warned, I am more than happy to rescind my offer of the movie-thon." This is good. I have control. I have control. I have control.
"By the way," Hope chimed in, her tone acerbic, shattering the Doctor's brief sense of calm, "if I were you, I wouldn't be so proud of the stunts you pulled today. Soooo stupid and juvenile. You little sh… terrors are just lucky Mum isn't here."
NO! No, no, no, no, no! This is bad! Losing control again! MAUVE ALERT! Roooooooose! I need you! Oh, blimey, how much longer do I have to do this on my own? Roooooooose! MAUVE ALERT! SOS! SOS! S-O- bloody S!
"Urrrrghhh, you think you're so impressive!" Charlie rolled her eyes at Hope. "Who died and put you in charge?"
The Doctor released a resigned sigh. Charlie had been needling Hope all day, taking advantage of the older girl's headache and erratic emotional state. The two sisters had once been so close. Now, with Hope rapidly maturing, their interests were diverging, and it seemed Charlie was leaping on every opportunity to ensure the rift between them would continue to grow. The Doctor found himself wondering if even the TARDIS's transcendental interior would be big enough to house the two of them at once; not to mention Wilfred as well…
Hope tossed her hair back over her shoulder in a haughty gesture the Doctor supposed was intended to exhibit her superiority. "I am so impressive!" (Now, where would she get a notion like that?) "Just because you're so immature. As if anyone would prefer to buy a toy that bit them! Pfffft."
"Helloo-oo! Velociraptors… They're supposed to bite… As if you know anything about toys, or dinosaurs for that matter, anyway! All you do all day is moon about boys! Oh Hamish, why don't you love me anymore? Oh, Hamish, we were meant to be together. YUCK!" She stuck her finger in her mouth, making gagging noises.
"STOP! Stop this now," the Doctor snapped.
"Why don't you just mind your own business?" Hope screeched at her sister, tears welling in her eyes. She turned and ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time.
The Doctor glowered. "Nicely played, Charlie."
Charlie's arms folded firmly over her chest. "She's so full of herself!"
"She's having a tough time of things right now. She'll settle down eventually… with my luck, probably just about the time you get started. I know you two still love each other, yeah?"
"Love is a strong word…"
He arched a threatening eyebrow at her; the same eyebrow that had once made warriors bow before him.
Charlie barely flinched. "I guess... a bit."
"And you'll apologize to her tonight."
"Daaaa-aad… Oh, all right."
Still got it!
Hope refused to come down for supper, and didn't even want anything to be brought up to her. It was with a pang of regret the Doctor snuggled up on the sofa with just Charlie and Wilfred. Not that he didn't enjoy snuggling with the two little mischief-makers, that wasn't it at all. It was just he had been hoping they could all try to get along and enjoy a relaxing family movie night after the chaotic day they had experienced. Now, not only was Rose going to be missing from their little gathering (oh, how sad she would be when she found out!), but now it seemed Hope (precious baby girl) was slipping through his fingers.
Movie snacks arranged on the coffee table in front of them, the three Tyler-Nobles nestled into warm, fluffy blankets to enjoy their first movie. The world of magic seemed to be the right type of escape for that evening, so a Harry Potter marathon was set in motion. Peace stole over them, with the Doctor only whinging very occasionally about the minor differences between the Pete's World version of The Philosopher's Stone and the version he had known in the Prime Universe. After Wilfred had groaned "We knooooow…" and Charlie had told him, "Shut up, Dad!" two or three times, he had settled in to enjoy the Pete's World version for what it was.
Harry had just been sorted into Gryffindor, when a loud clamour interrupted their peace. Hope came barrelling down the stairs in sheer panic, begging for her mum. Even without touching her, the Doctor could sense the waves of intense distress rolling off her.
"Hope! Sweetheart. I need you to tell me what's the matter."
"I… want… Mummy! I want… my muuuuum!" she wailed, gasping out the words between her sobs.
Believe me, I know how you feel. I need your mum too! "Sweetheart…" He set his hands on her shoulders, slowly starting to activate their telepathic connection. "I need you to take deep breaths, sloooow, deeeep breaths. Shhhhh… Take yourself to a quiet calm place. Somewhere you can relax and think." He allowed his hands to creep up to her neck, and rubbed calming circles into the skin beneath her hair. He sent waves of reassuring thoughts, burying his own worry and panic deep in his mind. He pulled her forehead against his as her breathing began to even out, with just the occasional hiccough or cry for Rose. His hands were massaging her temples now. "All right then, Hope, what's the matter?"
"Not here," she sobbed, gesturing with a twitch of her head in the direction of her siblings.
"In my study, then. Will you be all right if I release the connection?"
She nodded, a bit frantic and uncertain.
"You'll be fine! Hold my hand, love, and it'll still be there. You know what I always say: the one thing you need to get across the universe, most of all, is a hand to hold." He felt her hand slip into his, and loving warmth surged through him. It had been a long time since she had held his hand, a long time since his little girl had needed to, but in this moment he could let her know he would always be there to do just that, any time she needed it.
Once they were sequestered in his study, she released him and he reeled at the loss of their connection. He reeled again when she spoke those ominous words: "So here's the thing…"
Seriously? She was going to start another conversation this week with those words? "Go on, sweetheart."
She twisted her hair, and bit her thumbnail (more reminders of Rose) and then the words gushed out of her mouth, tumbling over one another so fast he could barely make them out: "I think I got my period and I don't know what to do!"
"Of course!" Everything clicked into place: the mood swings, the headaches, the forgetfulness. "I'm so thick! Of course you have your period! The signs were all there and I wasn't paying attention. Your mum would have known. She always notices the things I miss."
She just stared at him, wide-eyed, and he rushed in with what he hoped were upbeat words to divert another panic attack. "But no need to worry. I've dealt with your mum and her period for years now. I think I know a thing or two about a menstrual cycle. In fact, you might say, I'm the expert. I'm her go-to guy when Auntie Flo comes to visit. When I'm around, she never needs to fear the Crimson Horror.
"But first things first: congratulations are in order! Hope Susan Donna Tyler-Noble, welcome to a new era of your life!"
"Seriously, Dad?" She eyed him incredulously.
"Oh, all righty then… back to more practical concerns, I suppose. First, for uterine cramping, you can forget the paracetamol. The best thing is a quick pass with the sonic. I'll make sure you have the right settings on yours. And if the pain is really too much, the TARDIS has a full med bay of options I'd be happy to show you… if she was actually here. And your mum, too… But they'll be back soon… eventually… some unknown time in the future… and I digress. Third… No, not third, second−"
"Daaaa-aad! What do I do about the bleeding?"
"Oh… right. Well, now here's the brilliant thing: a few years back, at Torchwood−"
"Is this going to take long? 'Cause I… you know… Should we maybe go to the chemist?"
"Nah, no need. Your mum still has a bit of that stuff kicking around, up in the bathroom. But, as I was trying to explain, she hasn't needed it for some time."
"You mean you can get rid of it? My period?"
"Weeell, no, that wouldn't be entirely safe. Best to let your body do its thing. But I can make you practically forget that it's there! Sound good?"
"Sounds great!" She smiled, and he realized his little girl was no more. She was a woman, albeit one with a lot of maturing yet to do, but, still… Blimey, remarkable time sense or not, wasn't it only yesterday when she was learning to walk?
He tucked the wistful thoughts away and began to explain to Hope about the ultra-absorbent material he had discovered in a derelict spacecraft during a mission for Torchwood. He had managed to recreate it in the laboratory and it had proven to be extremely useful in a myriad of ways, not the least of which was incorporating it into some of Rose's knickers for when she had her period. "… and soon I'll jiggery-pokery you some knickers of your very own! But in the meantime, let's see what your mum has upstairs, and then how about we get you some supper and you join us for our Harry Potter all-nighter movie-thon?"
"Thanks, Dad!" She leaned in and placed a little kiss against his cheek.
"Any time, my love." A parenting win, if he ever saw one. Rose couldn't have done better, herself! Weeell, maybe a bit better. But not by much! She would be proud. Still… it would have been better if she had been here...
His still-very-accurate, Time Lordy time sense told him it was 4:53 am. He was groggy and content, with three warm, sleeping bodies curled around him on the sofa. His mind was more at ease than it had been all week, despite the calamities of the previous day, filled with a very familiar warmth and love that curled along his bond…
His eyes flew open to the sight of Rose, his beautiful Rose, his plus-one, his saviour, his precious girl, standing over him, arms folded over her chest and a fondly judgemental expression on her face.
"You had an all-nighter movie-thon without me?"
He quickly became aware of the incriminating evidence of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" playing in the background, and the ecstatic, incredulous grin that had been growing on his face shrivelled as he floundered for an explanation. "So here's the thing…" he stammered out those awful words, all his parenting failures of the past several days ready to spill out of his mouth.
And then Rose was kneeling before him and pressing her lips to his, sending him joy and love and boundless compassion, soothing his guilt. "Shut up. You can tell me all about it in the morning. Is there still room for me?"
He beamed. "There will always be room for you, Rose Tyler. You are my plus-one."
"Budge up then." With a bit of careful wriggling so as not to awaken the children, she was soon curled up in his arms, her head nestled over his single, human heart, right where she belonged.
He was a Time Lord. (Weeell, almost. Practically three-quarters Time Lord!) And he could handle almost anything that was thrown at him. But the point was, sometimes even Time Lords needed their significant others. This Time Lord certainly did, but Rose Tyler would always be more than just his main squeeze or his lucky pants. She truly completed him. When she was beside him, with her hand tucked in his, he became a full Time Lord again, because then, he had two hearts. Oh, he could always get by with just the one, but how much better it was with two, especially when that second heart was cradled next to him, safe inside Rose Tyler's chest, beating forever in time with his.