Theta shows up at Torchwood with buns in the oven
The Quillafraxian Child: A Doctor Who Fanfic
Summary: No. Ten makes a visit to Torchwood...
I don't own Doctor Who. Wish I did. He's brilliant! A beautiful concept.
Whirrrrrr-URRRRR-rrrr! Whirrrrrr-URRRRR-rrrr! Whirrrrrr-URRRRR-rrrr! Whirrrrrr-URRRRR-rrrr!...
Captain Jack Harkness set the file he was holding on Ianto's desk and ran to the stairs. There was no mistaking that sound. It was him. It was the one he'd been waiting for.
"Well! The Man of the Hour!" he said cheerily as a tall, thin someone in brown and blue flowed into view from the other side of the opening door.
"Torchwood! Jack! Fantastic!" the figure said, scrubbing one hand through gelled, marvelously unruly hair. "Is there a room open?"
"Ha!" Jack laughed at it, but the question in his mind just wouldn't keep still. Neither would his tongue... "This isn't a hotel, Doctor! Why come here now, when you could go anywhere? It isn't like we would be able to do anything for you if...wait." He could feel himself freeze inwardly as the Time Lord's lips melted into that single, solitary smile, that little line that moved only the corners of his thin mouth, and nothing more.
"There you are. Brilliant! I wish I could say this was a social visit, but..."
Jack waited for the customary '...welllll...', but it never came. Instead, the Doctor ran both hands in slow, measured movements along the length of his torso, his long, tan summer coat strangely closed against his body. And he was wearing layers.
"You're cold." Jack said, trailing off into spirals of worry within his own mind. "Let's get you into the building. There's fresh coffee, and tea..."
The Doctor just smiled harder at him and took his arm. "No. I'm not. But I can't have the coffee, Jack." And as he smoothed his coat again he caught Jack's worried look, his eyes as darkly bright as Jack had ever seen them. "Right then! In we go!" Ever the walking, talking enigma, that impossible, improbable man. With such a tight and lovely...figure. Then they used the lift, and reached the Torchwood office in two short strides from the self-sealing door.
"Splendid sofa! Lovely splendid sofa! OOHHHHH! Gaaah! Makes me want to fix up that one section of the TARDIS I've been avoiding..."
Jack groaned. The man could be so infuriatingly evasive! He held out a cup of white porcelain filled with boiling hot tea, which the Time Lord took and uncharacteristically downed as if it were plain water. "All right, Doctor. What's wrong with you? I can't help if I don't know what's going on."
"All in good time, Jack. All in good...ugh. Let me alone for a bit. I need...to process something." Then the doctor hunched over, and Jack knelt at his side, hands out, but never touching. There had to be something Torchwood, or Jack himself, could do for him, because otherwise he would never have shown up. But what was it? Jack asked the question warily, looping an arm around the Doctor's feet and lifting the rest of the Time Lord's lanky body onto the long couch. "I am asking you to tell me how we can help! YOU came HERE, now say it!"
The alien looked over at him then, and all the tragedies of nine lifetimes became a mask which slid across that hollow face, darkening his pallid features even more. But he was too white, his skin too clammy. "I just needed...to see you. All of you. That's all, my Jacky-Jack-Jack. Just that!" He grinned weakly and proceeded to settle himself into the cushions.
"Really? You just called me...mmmm." Jack blinked. "Hey! Wait just a minute! Did you just say my Jacky-Jack-Jack? That's it. I'm getting Sarah Jane over here right now! Just...stay there and drink all the scalding hot tea you like. The pot's over there." A small, sighing chuckle arose from the couch, but nothing more, and so he reached to dial the Doctor's former companion.
But when he turned back to the couch, the Doctor wasn't looking at him anymore. He wasn't looking anywhere, at anyone. There was a Bing! and soon Ianto stepped out from the lift too, and as his gaze drifted forward his mouth plopped open and he ran toward them, calling out. "Jack! Jack! The TARDIS is out on the lot! He never lands it in the open! What's he doing he-" Suddenly a sound akin to breaking glass wracked the room, such a tiny little reverberation, really, but as Ianto and Jack looked at one another and then at the floor, they knew something horrible had happened, partly because of the liquid now running under their shoes, swirling, steaming with vital heat, pooling beneath their feet in a sticky mess...and partly, because they both recognized the sound of porcelain shattering.
The Doctor had dropped his teacup.
"...don't count him out yet, Mr. Jones." Sarah Jane Smith said firmly, applying yet another cloth, damper and colder than the first, to the Doctor's forehead. "Are you two the only ones here?"
The two men looked down at the Doctor and nodded. He still seemed to be asleep...
"Oh god!" She gasped aloud, dropping the rag from her trembling fingers. "I was so distraught I left Luke alone! Mr. Jones, would you? He's only fourteen, but he's special, in a...-whatever-passes-for-normal-with-us- sort of way."
Jack grabbed Ianto's shoulder. "I think you ought to stay with him until this is over. The Doctor's visits are never this serene... be expecting a call."
Ianto looked back and forth between him and the Doctor, until finally he caught Sarah Jane's beaming, worried gaze. "Mum. Jack...Doctor." He bowed his head, grabbed up some keys and headed back toward the lift.
A faint groan came from the couch just as the lift door closed, and Sarah Jane instantly spun toward the Doctor, who had sat up and was watching them. "Look at you two!" He said softly, resting his chin in his hand for he'd managed to pull one leg up onto the couch. "Ha! You're...I dunno! Are you supposed to be my nursemaids? Look at me. Do I need a nursemaid? Come to think of it, I haven't looked at me, recently, either! No! I really haven't...welllll..." He grinned, that intolerably sugary, deceptive, mystified grin that always seemed to melt whomever, or whatever, he laid eyes upon. "...maybe Sarah Jane can stay. She's a good little nurse! Just brilliant! Yes, I always did appreciate when she had to take care of m...uhhhhh." She caught him before he could fall onto the hard floor, grimacing as she tucked the Doctor back into the blankets he'd thrown off again in his less than sleepful thrashing.
"I can take a hint, Doctor...but if you try to get up again...I'll bring up one of my toys from downstairs." Jack said, trying not to look too frightened at all the shadows dancing across the alien's too-white face as he backed out into the other room.
"Smart lad! A bit knobby, but still, a good man. Yes. Good man." The Doctor said coyly, linking fingers with the older woman who had pined for him. "Oh, my Sarah Jane! Why are you here? OH! Ch ch ch ch! Jacky-Jack-Jack must have called you! Ohhh! Dependable, loverly, go-to-it Captain Jack! Such a...such a..." He grabbed his head, struck by a sudden, though not altogether undelightful, bit of dizziness.
"Doctor!" She raised her hands again, thinking he was going to keel like before, but he only looked at her. And that look...it froze her in place, froze her to the marrow, to the soul. "Oh God! Please, Doctor! Try to get some rest? I'll just clean up this tea spill here, so you can't hurt yourself. You just lay there, Doctor, just rest. It's all better now, I'm here, see? Sarah Jane will take care of everything! Just, please, don't die!"
"Sarah Jane." He said softly, smiling that faint little bruised smile that always seemed to calm her anxiousness. "I need a rubbish bin. Could you, ah...get that one over there, for me? I'm not going to die just yet, love. Why would I want to? Seriously, I mean look at me!" He mused, clicking his teeth and winking wolfishly at her. "'Course, I'm not exactly up for a run." Then he closed his eyes, careful of exhausting himself further in light of his...condition. He knew better than to let on too early. It always led to nasty bits of yelling that he'd rather avoid...or was it that he always told them too late? He couldn't remember. Well, he WAS getting tired again, right on schedule, which meant that everything was coming up...roses. "Roses..." He'd said it aloud... "Roses...roses...roses..." He let the obvious remembrance spill off his tongue, savoring the taste for the first time without the pain of loss he'd carried for what had seemed like so many ages ago. He let himself sink into that little word, so full of feeling for his former love...he'd had many, but she'd saved him, she had, so many times, in so many blessed ways. The thought of her face brought a smile to his thin lips. "Sarah Jane! Jack!" He cried suddenly, leaping up from the couch and staggering, wobbly as a newborn Adipose. "Think of it as de-tox! Roses! Roses-roses-roses-roses-roses-roses-roses! Roses! Oh, my precious Rose...and that Donna! My Donna Noble! What a bloody miracle she was! Even if she did only know it for a few hours...She was...she was...she was...she was my-" He choked in it then, and diamond tears ran down his sunken cheeks while he shook his head at no one in particular. His whitening lips curled in another half-smile, and soon he was swaying in Sarah Jane's grasp. Jack was holding a blue plastic mug, staring at him as the woman helped her beloved Doctor back down onto the couch where they both knew he belonged.
The smile was still there. "You know, I think I'll name it Rose." The Doctor said softly, tossing beneath the blankets and looking green, as if he might throw up again. "Jack, is that more tea?" But his friends were not to be misled. "You're impossible, and we need reinforcements." Jack said flatly, punching in the number of a certain UNIT member. Sarah Jane just clapped a hand to her mouth, touching her stomach with the other as what the Doctor had just said finally made a dent in her worry-fed confusion. "Jack, I don't think he's talking about the TARDIS."
The Doctor closed his eyes against uncustomary tiredness and let himself smile at them one last time before speaking. "Good! Good! You were always so clever, my Sarah Jane...right then! I ran into a Quillafrax on my way to...to Barcelona, and...it gave me a gift I didn't expect...didn't deserve any such thing, really, but here I am, come to share the big event with you...with...with...with what's left of my family. Yes! Family! You lot! There. I said it!" He paused, turning paler, and then started to speak again. "You see, Quillafrax incubate in the bodies of other beings, that is, other beings with large amounts of natural depressants in their bloodstream. Gods only know how much of those I had bandying about in mine after all the nasty things I've seen...and done. And what have I forgotten? I forget... That Quillafrax...it truly believed it was doing me a favor when it kissed me. Lovely creatures, Quillafrax! Sort of, sort of like one of those, you know, earth concepts...which one which one-ch ch ch ch ch! FAIRIES! Fairies and jellyfish! Right. Think of a fairy, crossed with a jellyfish, crossed with an Easter-egg-colored squid! Fantastic! It's like...uhhh. It's like I said. Detox. Oh, Donna...oh my poor, miraculous, wonderful Donna...she was my friend, you know! She wanted...she wanted so badly to stay...but enough of that! Now I really ought to...to rest. Yes, that's...all I needed... Good night, then!" And then he was unconscious again, wrapped in Jack's coat, hers, his, and all the sweaters he'd been wearing when he'd first arrived. "He's like an anorexic caterpillar." Jack said, holding out another mug for Sarah Jane. "What do you think he was trying to say?" She just looked at him for a moment, with tears flooding down her cheeks. It was quite a few minutes before she found the wherewithal to bury her face in Jack's chest. "Oh, Jack! I don't know, I don't know! But what it is, what he's got...I think it's killing him."
"This is not good. We need-" Jack hissed, looking around for something to throw. But just then the door opened, and the Doctor's former companion, Martha Jones, member of UNIT and a doctor in her own right, came striding down the hallway. "What's going on here? I got a call about the Doctor, and..." Then she saw him lying there, swathed in blankets with a damp rag on his forehead, and she rushed to the couch.
What's happened?" She knelt, taking his pulse. "This is..." She breathed, pressing her fingers to his thin neck. "They're slow, both of them are slow. They're slowing down! When is someone going to tell me what's going on here? What's wrong with him? Do we know anything?" After receiving worried stares from both directions, Martha searched again, then fumbled for the stethoscope in the Doctor's coat pocket. "Nothing, yeah? Never hurts to check it twice. Here we go!" And as she pressed the thing's ear to his chest, listening for the old, familiar rhythms, there was one. And two. But then she stiffened and pulled the ear lower, across his abdomen, following some other sound. And she found it. "He has a third heartbeat, people. What do you think of that, yeah? It's faint, but it's definitely there."
A hand touched her shoulder as she rose. It was Sarah Jane Smith. "Are you saying...there's something growing inside him? If that's true, then...we've got to get it out! It's killing him!"
"Is it? We don't know that yet." Martha said, brushing his hair back from his face. "But I think I know how to wake him. Hold on." She stuffed the stethoscope back into his coat pocket and got down on her knees beside the couch. Then, sliding her fingers under his sweat-soaked head she muttered something in his ear. "Doctor! It's Martha! We need to know what's ha- OH!" But before she could finish, the Doctor jerked upright, knocking her aside. "Oh, it's Martha! Good old Martha Jones! Er, I'm sorry, love. Have you got a bruise?" He reached down and pulled her to her feet, an easy thing despite the pallor in his cheeks. "I told you I'd be up and polished! I just needed time to let my body adjust to the Quillafraxian Child's superior waveforms. You see my body maintains a lower temperature than it could tolerate, so I was forced to alter my blood chemistry slightly so that my internal temperature could raise and allow the Child to feed, but I couldn't use anything on board the TARDIS because my use of anything too advanced, mechanical, sonic or otherwise, would eventually have disrupted its biorhythms and killed the both of us in the process while it was maturing. So, I threw on every wool sweater I had and came here, hoping for a bit of English generosity so I could help the surrogacy progress along its natural course. But, because I was distracted I arrived some time later than I'd wanted, and ended up, welllll -not exactly barefoot but exactly pregnant- standing in the snow on Captain Jack's front doorstep. So!" He threw his neck from side to side, and a cracking sound issued from the bones there. "Everyone ready for the second phase of gestation? I can't wait! I've never seen a Quillafraxian Child before, and now I get to be its mother! Isn't that brilliant? I love it! I do! OHHHHH! This is wizard! So very, very wizard! OHHHHH! Gaaaah! Brilliant! Just brilliant! Donna would've loved this, she would!" His fingers arched toward the rubbish bin again, grabbing at it. "But seriously, I AM rather tired of sicking up. Are there any salty biscuits about? Oh. Wait." His thin face dropped like an avalanche as he looked about the room, as his cheeks turned pasty and his free hand clung to his scrawny middle as though expecting something to burst out.
All three humans gathered around him, watching his every movement as his boundless black gaze met each of them in turn and then crawled back to the rubbish bin, his thin features turning greener by the second. "Bollocks." The Doctor croaked stoically, grabbing both his gut and the edge of the bin as he bent forward and emptied into the bottom. "ugh." He groaned, wiping his mouth with the wet cloth Sarah Jane had mopped his brow with earlier. "Hopefully that was the last of it. I should be entering phase two soon. Don't need these sweaters anymore, being as that I'm all finished altering my cellular makeup for warmth." And much to his surprise and amusement, three pairs of hands pulled at the wool garments, tugging them off his slight body in a matter of moments. "A fantastic effort!" He mused, breathless with exhertion as he sat back down on the couch again wearing only his usual pin-striped suit and long summer coat. "Do you want to see it? Help me out of this suit, then. I find I'm still a bit drained from those first few hours. Off it goes, then! That's it! A bit more and...there!" The suit was removed, leaving only the red tie, night-blue office shirt and dark pants. He played with the hem of the shirt, brushing it with his fingers. "The Child's gaining mass, and swiftly. It won't be long before the birth at this rate, and it'll be a caesarean, mark me! AHHH! But first," The Doctor eased himself halfway down the couch cushion and pulled his legs up, crossing them only when he'd stolen enough breath to ease the strain of the Quillafraxian Child's accelerated hyper-gestation on his two hearts, and then he pulled the shirt up to his neck. There, a hard, tight bulge clearly showed along his once-flat stomach, and he rubbed it gingerly, cupping the firmness of his flesh and cooing. "Oh, yes. It won't be...uhg...long now. Soon you'll be free of my nice hot belly, and then you can go along your merry way, repopulating the universe with your beautiful species, you pretty little thing. Oh, yes! That's right! Oh, I know! I know! Oh yes! Ohhh...uh." He clutched his head, swaying as a sudden fit of vertigo laid him out nearly flat on his side. "AHHH!" Pain erupted along the swell, and he clenched instinctively, balling up on the long couch as though he'd been shot.
"DOCTOR!" Jack and Martha cried at once, while Sarah Jane just stood before the couch, hands frozen in place about to reach for him, but stopped. Biting back decades of unshed tears she scooped him up, cradling his gangly frame in her arms as he shivered through another flash of all-consuming pain.
"No! Please, everyone! It's all right! I'll be fine!" He groaned, gritting his teeth against the throbbing, tidal ache that was blasting his lower abdomen. "It's just...a spasm, a growth spurt! It will pass! It will p...UGH." And then, shut-eyed and sickly, the Doctor twitched like a spider in pesticide and fell still against the pile of sweaters, his breathing stiff and shallow as an invalid's.
"Blimey, if that weren't downright unpleasant..." He whispered, coaxing one black pupil from beneath its pale shade and casting it towards the woman who now held him to her breast. "Oh, my Sarah Jane...always my little mother, but look! You've grown even more lovely and maternal in your flowering...I wished I could have come back...for Romana, for you, for Rose. And Donna, dear, poor, sweet Donna...If only...could've...them all. I still...I wish so many things, but...am tired. Always, so tired." Exhausted now, the Doctor paused, trying to catch enough breath to speak again, and sagged against her, lending all of himself to the pursuit of ephemeral comfort in the lee of her loving embrace. Seeing him like that, being so very close to him like that, Sarah Jane could bar her tears no longer, and she cried for him, for all of those he'd found...and lost...and left. And her tears ran across his cheeks, dragging on over the pasty landscape of his ailing flesh, running and running till they spilled like crystal lines of magma over the tautness of his thickened belly. Suddenly, his mouth began to quiver, his lips quaking with warmth as though they held back the sun, until his whole body was afire and vibrating with some strange resonance, and he moaned. Then, as they all drew closer, his teeth clacked together and apart like the sounding of a drum, and in a burst of cloudy white mucous a long, fragile spindle-limb plopped up and out from deep in his slender throat, emerging into the drying air a smooth, pastel tendril-tentacle of marvelous rainbow hue.
Only, its entire length was limp. Something was wrong.
"His hearts! His hearts have stopped! Martha cried, her fingers drifting between the stethoscope she'd taped to his now-shirtless chest and the Quillafraxian Child's one visible limb, which dangled like a stillborn infant across the Doctor's silent form.
"Remember, he said no machines!"
"What do we do?"
"Just...I don't...hey! Beat on his chest! Just, just hit him, there! And there! Now on the back!"
"Yes, that's it! Jack, Sarah Jane! Again! Be careful!"
And so the Time Lord raged to life again, hands already gingerly collected at his throat and feeling down the limb of the unfortunate Quillafraxian infant, who had yet to suffer so much as a quiver of thanks. His fist struck the ground, summoning a tiny, silent crack in the cement. At least his color had returned. His eyes were flaring. The three humans in the room felt compelled to back away from that flare, that dark, determined fire that sometimes lit his dark gaze like the void itself. But then his face softened instantly, his fingers flapping back and forth in front of them, assuring them, and the tendril shivered in his free hand and proceeded to slip back down his gullet. He coughed, once, twice, three times, a fourth, until the last of the telltale mucous had left him, and someone offered him a towel, which he used. The shirt was still on his back at least, open and loose and completely unbuttoned though it was, -but thankfully, free of mucous- and he slid his free hand over the slim, firm arch of his flesh, blinking back tears of stress and charity in appreciation of their desperate efforts towards the saving of his last few lives, and of course, that of the unborn baby fluttering beneath his slim fingers. "Thank you, all of you. You've saved my lives, and this Child's entire species." Then his pale mouth lifted into an honest grin, and he gifted each of his anxious-eyed friends with a genuine, joyous smile. "Oh, gobs. I nearly aborted, with that one...but you all were brilliant! Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! Gaaah. Hugs! We must have hugs!" So he grabbed up each of them in turn, even Jack Harkness, who blushed.
"Ah, Doctor?" Jack said, so the Doctor looked at him. "I think I felt that tool of yours when you hugged me. No one laugh. I'm...being serious." Even so, he was still blushing.
His thin mouth working into a groan, the Doctor's hand went instantly to his right pocket and came out with his little tool, the sonic screwdriver. Then he clutched it, hard, flicked the button to OFF, flung back his arm, and...pitched it across the room. Everyone stared, holding their breath.
"Stupid, stupid Time Lord!" He yelled, smacking his forehead with the backs of his hands. "It was on the whole time, my screwdriver. Isn't that just wizard?" Then he caressed the bulge in his swollen waist, patting and rubbing and calling out soft little nothings. "Sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." The Doctor sank back onto the couch again, grumbling while he fussed with his hair. "What's that now? You don't think I'm quite that off? Oh, you sweet little thing, you!" He cooed to his burgeoning waist, once more awestruck by the tiny life that was growing inside him. Then he sucked in a breath, turned to Sarah Jane and Captain Jack and Martha Jones and said, "Martha...I need juice, preferably something with an exceptionally high concentration of Vitamin C. Jack! What have you got to eat in this place? I could swallow a horse..." He watched the two go off and rummage, then he turned to Sarah Jane and he said, "Sarah Jane, you just...just sit with me. That's all I need you to do. Do you mind?"
She flinched at the realization, just as he knew she would, and came closer. "No! How could I? Of course, Doctor. Anything you need."
"My Sarah Jane..." He said, holding her with his eyes just as he always had, his dark black gaze shining bright like sunshine. And for the first time in a long, long while, the young girl she had once known, and been, was in love with life again. The Doctor was smiling down at her now, and somehow she'd agreed to lay her head in his lap. His fingers were in her hair, petting her like the child she was inside, like the girl she knew she was no longer. He just kept doing that, stroking her head as though he were some all-knowing father taking time off from life to scare away his little girl's nightmares. And in a way, he was. "I'm sorry, Sarah Jane, I am ever so sorry that I couldn't come back." His murmured apology just melted her heart away into nothing, and she was on the TARDIS again, laughing with him, sharing adventures with him, loving his antic way of cheering her every sorrow. He could do that just by showing up, just like he'd always done, like he'd done that first time. Suddenly her eyes were heavy, weighted down by the years of longing that were floating up from her, as though called by some otherworldly light into forgetfulness, sweet destruction, and she fell asleep in his arms. Then, when he knew her to be sleeping peacefully, he slid her onto the couch with a gentle twist of his wrists and rose, needing, -and wanting- to walk for a while before the next feeding. "Was that a good enough breakfast, little one?" He murmured, touching his swollen belly, which had grown more pronounced since his last meandering bit of exercise about the room. "Yes? Well then, a few more meals like that and you ought to be popping out. Do you like that idea? Yes? Yes! I know! You do, don't you! Oh yes! Ohhh...such a cutie, you are! Well I promise, as soon as daddy can free up more anti-dopamines he'll give them right to you. How does that sound?"
"How does what sound, Doctor?" Jack called out from another doorway, where he was leaning with a steaming soup cup and a sandwich of sliced meat and cheese on a tray.
"You might want to set the tray down, Jack." The Doctor said softly, drawing nearer to the man as he used his slim form to mask Sarah Jane's where she lay against the couch. Jack stared at him a moment, then settled the tray on Ianto's desk in slow motion, trying in vain to get a glimpse of the couch, because the room was far too quiet. But the Time Lord's slim fingers were creeping over his stomach once more, and as he rubbed at the bare flesh he caught Jack's wandering gaze with his own, drawing it back with the ease of long practice while he readied himself for what was to come. The third phase was not long off... He smiled, thanked Jack for the food and then let him see where Sarah Jane was sleeping half-on, half-off of the couch. "She was tired. The Quillafraxian Child consumed quite a lot of her suffering. Fascinating process...tiring for me, as well, but fascinating..."
Jack's eyebrows lowered. "What? You can't mean I'm next! Someone's got to be awake when you deliver that thing!"
The Time Lord frowned, feeling the first signs of anger-lethargy beginning to overtake him. "Nevertheless, you're here, and Martha's not. I'm getting weary again, Jack. And this THING, as you call it, this completely harmless, starving thing, is the absolute last of its kind, and I am not having you or anyone else destroy its one chance to live out a proper lifespan!" He held his head as the vertigo made its triumphant return, spilling through his limbs like floodwaters. "Bollocks! Now look at me. I can't keep my feet because of you! This is wizard, just wizard! I can't be fainting now! I need to...need...to feed the..." But he found he couldn't finish. Cursing, Jack ran to him, catching him just as his long legs buckled and slid out from beneath his crumpling body. They fell together, and as they both struck the floor, Jack's hand slapped quite accidentally across the Doctor's swollen girth, touching the bare skin. "Oh, damn." A tiny jolt loosened his nerves and he shook, his fingers pressing against the bulge as if glued there, and suddenly he thought of home, and dying, and wanting to, and being lonely, and as the last vestiges of consciousness left him, he felt at peace there, on the floor lying next to the Doctor, half-naked and big with some alien's offspring though his friend undoubtedly was. Still, his soul was not so heavy as it had been, and before long, sleep came.
"...Doctor. I need you to wake up for me. Come on, wake up! Please!" Running forward to see to her three unconscious friends, Martha Jones checked every pulse in the room, then pulled the Doctor's scruffy head up onto her knee and slapped first one bony cheek, then the other, trying to pull him to wakefulness. He only moaned, a soft sound, and then up came more of the white mucous he'd expelled before. Chewing her lips, she reached for the summer coat he'd been wearing, dug in the pocket and retrieved the stethoscope again, then pressed it against his heaving chest. "Still two. And I can hear the baby's heartbeat, yet. That's good, at least. Course, I'd like it better if you were alert and talking at me about all this." Looking at where Jack's hand had landed, she gave a sigh and changed position, making certain not to touch the Time Lord's naked stomach. "I don't know that I'll be able to wake you up without touching you, but I don't think I'll be touching you in that precise spot anytime soon." She murmured, talking to him while he rested. "Not until you're awake enough to tell me what's gone on since I went to get you your juice." Using the cloth Sarah Jane had dropped on the table, she wiped at his mouth, dabbing until she'd gotten all the milky fluid from around his graying lips. "You had better wake up, mister! I am not kidding!" Looping her arms around his chest, she dragged him slowly to the couch, easing the older woman aside with her body as she struggled to get the Doctor's limp form upright. But that was all she needed, for as soon as she got his upper torso against the cushions he began to rouse, slowly, languidly, stealing a breath every now and then as his impossibly agile, multi-hemispheric brain struggled to accommodate her request. Then he gasped, jerking forward, and another gush of white flew from his mouth, sending what must have passed for his lungs into a raging fit of the hacks. More and more of the cloudy fluid came up in the next few moments, and as he fought to sit up against the strength of his convulsions, the bulge at his waist began to stir within him, growing and growing until his belly resembled that of a human mother in the second trimester. Then, the movement, the coughing, everything, stopped as suddenly as it began, and he shivered with the strain of those last few moments, leaning his sweat-soaked head back against the cushions as though it would have fallen had he not. Indeed, he probably would have fallen with it. Her facial muscles tensing in concern, Martha grabbed a fresh towel from the opposite chair and dabbed at his mouth again, drying his hair as she thought about the bottles of orange juice she'd brought. "Do you want the food, now? I brought some orange juice. Vitamin C and protein, you said. Will the soup and the sandwich be enough? Pregnant human women as big as you usually end up wishing they could eat the tray." She pointed to his swollen middle. "The...Quillafraxian Child...it's grown again. It will come soon now, won't it? You don't look up for much more of this."
"I'll be fine," he said, without moving. "Just, don't touch it unless you want to free up some unpleasant emotions for junior to chew on. Then again, the baby shouldn't need to feed again for a few hours, so this is a perfect time for me to try and..." He paused, waiting for his breath to catch up to itself. "...get something down. Uhhh. Thank you for the juice, Martha. I...appreciate it. We...both...do. Now!" Charmed, the Doctor raised his head up and looked about. "Where's that tray? I'll eat something, at any rate. You know what, Martha Jones? It really is too bad that more dinnerware's not made of oats...did you know about that? Yeah, they invented edible service a while back, in the late 60's, I think. And now they're catching on again, what with all the Going Green and what. Can you imagine? Plates! Made of oats, all pressed together like, I dunno, ladyfingers! Ah, humans! Lovely! Oh, well...want to share?" He held out a half of the sandwich, thick-sliced salami and yellow cheese on rye, plain, with double everything.
"Not unless you're sure you have enough to eat, Doctor." Martha said quickly, glaring over at him as she reached for the half he was offering. "I don't want you passing out on me again. You scare me half to death, sometimes!" He stopped with the sandwich mid-way to his mouth and just stared at her, his features dropping like ripe fruit in an orchard. "...oh. I AM sorry, Martha. Very much so..." Water trickled down his cheekbone then, and he shivered briefly. "So very, very sorry." Then he blinked, fitted the mouth of the plastic juice bottle to his lips and took a long, contemplative swig, his dark eyes turning inward, into the deeps of his soul.
"I know that, Doctor." She breathed, reaching to touch his face. "You poor old thing. You're worn out, and yet you just...keep going. Look at you! You're playing surrogate mum to an alien life-form and loving it! How great is that?"
Laughing faintly, he patted his stomach and picked up the soup cup again. "Isn't it? I never shirked my duties as a parent. Bollocks, but this soup is bloody marvelous! I always did like chunky chicken and noodle. Sooo, the others should be waking up soon. Do you want your turn, before they rise and shine?" The fingers of his left hand, idle for the moment, slid up and down along the cup's thick handle.
Martha stopped folding her napkin and looked over at him. "What do you mean, my turn? Does the...baby...need to eat again?"
He nodded, carefully. "Yes, Martha. It does. You see, the Quillafrax live by consuming the depression-inducing hormones of other species. This Child...I've been meting out my own over all this time for both our sakes. However, if I were to allow myself to feel all of my grief at once, well...you see, my hearts would burst. It's been too long. My body wouldn't be able to handle the strain. So, I have been forced to let the Child sample all of you instead, while keeping my own release at a safe minimum, a mere trickle. It won't be long before the labour starts, now. But before that can happen, I need to adjust my levels one last time. Can you do that for me, Martha? I promise nothing will happen to you. And..." His eyes darkened again, almost as though he was already feeling it. That, she knew she didn't like. "None of you are in any danger! Though, I am sorry, for involving all of you in my problems, but I would never, EVER do so if I thought for one moment there was any other-"
Martha set a finger to his lips and just stood there, touching his mouth with that one digit. Suddenly he felt so far away, just like before. "You don't have to say anything, Doctor. I...love you. Always have, always will. We all do. So let's get on with it."
Then the Doctor reached up and grasped her hand in his. "Thank you, Martha. Thank you from the both of us. Now just relax." He held her against his flesh in a gentle embrace while she moved her hands down over his thickened belly, grasping the weight of him and the warmth of new life, and tears flowed down her cheeks. She could feel her grief pouring out of her, filling him, being eaten by the alien child growing within his lanky body. Afterward, she slept in his arms, until he knew he should not hold her any longer, and so he laid her on the couch with Sarah Jane and Jack, and all their dreams. "GLURG!" He croaked, for his mouth was now spewing the cloudy white mucous in thick streams. It was time for him to be delivered of his happy burden, time to give birth to the last Child of Quillafrax. So at last, he fell to the floor in his weariness and half-curled, half-writhed, striving for some small shred of comfort in the face of what he knew must happen next...for every Time Lord had been born a telepath, slight empaths all, and he could see it, feel it coming. The bleak shroud of his own sweet grief overtook him in a massive avalanche of fallen stars, dragging him down, kicking and biting and gagging through oceans of pain, of angst, into the very deeps of his war-ravaged soul. His memories were screaming at him...tearing, reaching back through all his nine long lives to rend him into nothingness.
"Martha! Talk to us!" Jack yelled as he fought to keep hold of the Time Lord's flailing limbs. "He's fading fast..."
"Yeah, Jack I know! He's sweating! He never sweats! Could be poison, could be toxic shock, some sort of alien virus! It could be labour, for all I know! I haven't learned enough about his physiology!"
"I'll get more wet cloths, you two." Sarah Jane said softly, casting a hopeful glance back at the ancient alien shivering on Jack's couch. "He can't die. He won't." Then she was gone, out to the lavatory to pick up more water-soaked towels, as though her best friend in all the world wasn't lying in a deathly-ill stupor on someone else's couch.
Jack looked down at his charge. The Doctor's whole body was quivering with some colossal effort, his lips parched, his thin skin grown white from the stress of whatever he was facing now...some inner trial, perhaps, or a memory too long buried. In any case, the man seemed to be dying, for all that he thrashed about in a blazing fever as though he were a fish caught on an angler's hook, a creature bent on survival. An insight struck him then, as he watched the Doctor struggle against fate on the new office sofa. So he slid out of range of his friend's flailing and ran to the other side of the room, his brown, intense eyes staring down the furniture and shelves, hoping for a glimpse of the thing he was searching for. Not too long afterward, a glint of blue beneath a bookcase told him he'd been looking in the right area. He bent down, screwed up his arm and stuffed it beneath the shelf, reaching for that saving glint. A little further this way, a little bit to the left, until his striving fingers found a small metal cylinder, cool to the touch and conspicuously free of cobwebs from the undershelf. Jack then pulled out and stood, turning the object over in his hands. "His sonic screwdriver!" Sarah Jane called out from the door, her arms full of cold towels.
"Yeah, if it works. I know what he said, but maybe if we gave his system enough of a shock, we could..." Jack felt the desperation creeping back up again, and he hated it.
"You found it, then. But we can't use it, even if it does still work." Martha said between wipes of the Doctor's mouth. "If we used that thing now, who knows what it could do to him, to the Child? We can't take that ri- What's..." She looked down then and her eyes grew wide, for the cloudy mucous spilling out of him had taken on a strange bruised hue, almost as if it were...bloody. "Sarah Jane, Jack, I think you ought to come and see this." So Sarah Jane moved to Martha's side, and looked where she was pointing. Jack, too, came nearer, and as the shock flicked across his face, he whispered to them both in awe. "I agree, Martha...I think it's happening. I think the Doctor...is about to give birth!" None of them noticed the smooth fingers clutching the side of the cushion, or the eyes that now shone with a hint of golden light. Nor did the three companions notice when that same hand forced itself to open wide, to slide from the safety of the cushion and clutch harshly at the air as pain ricocheted like shrapnel through its owner's slim and straining shape. What they did see, though, that...was something...wonderful, for the Doctor flowed upright like a trained seal, uttering a final wisp of mist from his aching mouth before pale white light rushed forth from every inch of him, enveloping them all. When it was done, all eyes but his were closed against the brightness of the light, and so he collapsed backward against the soggy couch cushions, his arms and hands and lap filled with the wriggling, pastel-skinned result of his afternoon-long labour. Gobby splotches of dark blood, the thick and gooey evidence of his pregnancy, stood out like fresh wounds on his ruined pants, while his open shirt hung from his sleek runner's carcass in tatters, his fair skin showing through the shreds, white as the birth-mucous and just as bloodied. After taking a moment to recover his breath, he held the newborn Quillafrax against his chest and smiled down at it, delighting in the new life he had just birthed. "Blimey..." He managed, sounding hoarse and quite drained as he struggled to focus on the three faces in front of him. "Well, now! Look what I've got here." As he gazed upon the child his body had harboured, he chuckled softly to himself, then shifted the little creature to his other arm, settling its weight between his two thundering hearts. "I love baby showers! So many presents, and lots and lots of children running about, mucking up the hardwood floors! Or is that birthdays? Ohhh..." He grabbed his head and, swaying, stood up slowly, still clutching the Quillafrax to his bare upper torso. "Just look at you! Just look! You are such a pretty little baby, yes you are! Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. You. Are. Just. gorgeous." He held the baby out to Jack, who just stood there, staring at him. "She is rather gorgeous, isn't she, Jack? Jack-Jacky-Jack-Jack-Jack?" Then he reached up to scrub a hand through his hair and swayed again. "Oh. That's not going to work. Time to sit down!" Using the table for leverage, he sank to the floor cross-legged with the baby in his lap. He poked at the Child, dancing his finger about until a tiny pastel tendril slumped up and grabbed it. Tight, loose, tight, loose, tight, loose...it went on that way for minutes, and as the Quillafrax's translucent skin brightened with pleasure, so did the Doctor's coloring. Before long most of the pallor had gone from his face and he was walking around again, dancing with the baby, playing fingers with its three mouths, kissing each dainty, pucker-dotted tentacle. Later, the three humans began to tackle the mess of cloudy white birth-fluid coating the couch and flooring, while the Time Lord rested himself in a swivel chair, nursing a fresh bottle of orange juice on Martha's orders in case his vertigo returned. The infant Quillafrax was in his lap, hale and moist and gurgling happily while it snuggled under the fresh blue shirt Jack had given him. Of course, the Doctor had left the shirt unbuttoned for just that purpose...whereupon the three humans' adoring sniggers bubbled over several times during the course of the couch restoration effort.
"I can't have Rose here on board the TARDIS until her nerve bundles have had time to mature, say, in half a week or so. I'd take her home now, if I could, but...she's still too sensitive to the ship's dimension-straddling," he said softly, his gentle voice commanding their attention. "Every mechanism on the TARDIS operates within a state of temporal flux. The mish-mash of energetic residues would disrupt her life processes, not to mention mine, at this point."
His human friends stopped giggling in unison and came to him, insistent. "Then why don't you stay with one of us, at least until little Rose is all set and you've...re-adjusted your blood chemistry?" Martha Jones said, biting back a grin as she stepped up to speak for the others.
The Doctor stiffened, looking from Jack, to Sarah Jane, to Martha, then down at Rose, who was busy aimlessly suckling his chest with her three mouths. Out-angled for the moment, he slumped, then stuffed a hand into the pocket of his nice new blue trousers, a gift from Sarah Jane and Martha. He was still barefoot, though, and knew it. "Right then! 'course I'll stay over for Christmas holiday!" Grinning like a manic toddler, the Time Lord nodded his scruffy head toward Jack Harkness, indicating the Quillafrax who was now seriously engaged in nibbling his fingers. "Jack! Come here, you lucky man! Guess who's got first shift?"