The Child That Time Made

The Doctor is gone and Rose is alone, left with a child she doesn't want. But when she presses her hand to her belly, she knows she cannot get rid of this, her last link to another (better) life.

She tries to speak to him sometimes: pretends her words are like starlight and in a few thousand years he'll hear her and come tumbling back through time. To see her, and to see his child.

She cries so often she stops wearing mascara.

Doctors' appointments, pre-natal classes, even just telling her Mum how scared she is, none are possible. She keeps quiet; she keeps her secret and nine months later she calls an ambulance on her mobile when she feels herself being torn apart inside.

Nothing matters except to keep breathing. Time is passing. Slowing. The pain is forever. And she can smell blood. She blinks and hears a child crying.

Something's wrong, though the mid-wife declares her the mother of a healthy baby boy. She holds him close and loves him. He looks into her eyes. Bright blue, and staring at everything around him. She knows perfectly well that babies a few hours old shouldn't be able to focus like that.

The green fields of unconcerned sheep are slowing down and this is their stop. Mother and child leave the train.

Rose wants to check the plane times, but the boy already has their whole itinerary memorised. He keeps a tight hold of her hand, tugging her along, impatient and curious and joyful.

She will remember these days fondly: when one planet and one time was enough. A whole world to explore and he didn't realise how insignificant that was.

One day he whispers to her, "Do you want to know how you'll die?"

He's five years old and should be in school. It took three days for him to destroy any illusions she had that that was a good idea. His paintings were as unskilled as any other pupil's, but he had toyed with his teacher's knowledge of mathematics and laughed when she couldn't answer his questions.

She continues his education in the only way he ever wanted. They travel and they steal (give to the poor) and they run. It isn't the life she craves but it's as close as she's ever going to get and he knows that.

Her son is not human, and she will never admit how fearful she is.

He can sense time: push and pull and twist it. It does not matter when space is his cage, but he tells her that nothing is impossible. She would believe him if she didn't know that wasn't true.

"Tell me about my father."

A forest (rainforest, southern Brazil, tropical summertime), a campfire, a tent. This could have been ordinary life.

She tells her tales eagerly; he listens impassively. Only his eyes are alive as she draws pictures of strange blue aliens and spaceships the size of cities. He falls asleep listening to her tell him how she saved the world and how the Doctor saved her.

The embers glow red and cool, and she watches them long into the night.

Tomorrow there will be a new tale. It will be some weeks before she must invent a story to satisfy his curiosity.

She closes her eyes, and the dreams are getting worse. It doesn't matter; she is still hungry for them, eager for them to cleanse her sorrow.

Tonight the Doctor watches over her, arms folded, eyes steady. Disappointed, somehow. The nights when he spoke to her are gone, and she is no longer sure what his voice sounds like.

She wipes away the tears as she wakes before sunrise, and makes sure the boy is still asleep.

"I want to meet him," he tells her in the morning, his mouth full of porridge, and she does not allow him to see her hope.

They go home.

The boy begins to spend all his time in the cellar; Rose brings him cups of tea and asks questions to which she might be able to understand the answers.

Some nights he comes to her, curls up next to her on the sofa and asks what he is.

Some nights he is more afraid than her.

He is working with human science that is far too primitive for his purpose and instinct that he understands too little to be certain of what he is doing. A surly teenager in the morning can transform into a laughing toddler by nightfall.

They steal what he needs. From government facilities, scientific establishments, the chemistry labs in the local high school. She knows she should be ashamed, knows that this is wrong, knows that there is a greater good.

He teaches her simple things, and she finds herself wiring circuits every free minute she has. This is her penance; it will lead to her salvation.

Often she watches her child working. His fingers are long and nimble; his concentration unbreakable. He would work until he collapsed if she did not remind him that he must sleep, he must eat, he must rest.

She is protective; she is supportive.

Sometimes she thinks she is a mother.

The cellar becomes their world. The days can stretch forever; collapse to a single point. It is always the same.

Rose does not bother to check the date anymore.

The work continues.

One evening she comes home with fresh milk and finds a hastily scribbled note on the kitchen table. Time stops as her throat constricts.

She rushes to the cellar.

He stands in the door of the tall grey box, and his bright blue eyes meet hers. A hand is held up. Still. Unwavering. Final.

"You can't - !" she begins. Ends. It is over.

Time bends.

The door closes. The box vanishes.