Lesson Six

"Is that what Cassandra the Skin Flap meant when she said humans weren't humans anymore? They were mutations?"

"You remember her saying that?" the Doctor asked, draping his coat over one of the coral beams in the control room.

"Yeah, but I guess I just didn't think about it until now. I mean... some of the... combinations we saw were just... bizarre."

"Did you see the baby with the prickly things on his..." The Doctor waved his hand over his head, his eyes wide and a grin on his face.

"Yeah! Oh, God." Rose shuddered as she hopped into the jump seat, settling in while he prepared the TARDIS for flight. They'd visited a new colony on the outskirts of a nebula where the colonists prided themselves on the copious crossing of species to create a new society. "Wouldn't want to be on the birthing end of that one." She shuddered again.

"Well, I'm sure certain accommodations have to be made in some cases. Just as the..." He puffed his cheeks, dipping his chin. "Act of conception requires some interesting approaches from time to time, the gestation and birthing have to be adjusted for the particular mutation."

Rose shook her head. "Did you see that..." She couldn't even describe the alien she had seen. So, she held up her arm to indicate height, then width, and a big horn protruding from his forehead.

"The red one?"

"Yes!" She clapped her hands and pointed at him. "What was he?"

"New life," he said with a shrug. "He was half Sentaulain, half Nubi Ranif Corabora Piff. Should be interesting. His mate is three-quarters human, one quarter Torabelian. She had those lovely brow ridges that were painted different colors."

"Oh, sure. She was gorgeous." Rose pulled her legs up into the jump seat to sit cross-legged, wrapping her hands around her ankles. "What a wonderful idea. Just let anyone from anywhere come and just..."

"Breed to their heart's content?" the Doctor said with a smirk, looking up from the monitor.

"Well, yeah, that too. But, I mean... they all just lived together. No fighting. No wars. They all spoke the same language, they all just got along. It was great. We can't even manage to get along with the other countries on Earth, let alone other species."

"Oh, that come eventually." The Doctor came around the console to stand in front of her, leaning back on the edge, ankles crossed and hands pushed into his pockets. "You remember what I said about Captain Jack and the 51st century?"

"That by then, the human race was out there dancin' with anyone and everyone."

The Doctor smirked again, and she wondered if he was remembering their pseudo-dance in the basement of that hospital in World War II England. "Right. By the 51st Century, humans had spread out to all parts of the galaxy, covering every corner of the Mutter's Spiral... and they'd enjoyed themselves quite a bit along the way. The human race wasn't British or American or Italian or East Asian Alliance... they were just humans."

Rose leaned back, releasing a soft sigh. "That does sound nice."

The Doctor swirled away, flipping some switches on the maintenance boards... she was learning, slowly... but she was learning... before reading some swirling text on the monitor. She'd also figured out that the control read outs on the screen were in Gallifreyan, which was why the TARDIS didn't translate. It was his language, why translate? He hadn't told her that... but, she was also good at jigsaw puzzles.

"Around the end of the 52nd Century, humans began to actively manipulate their DNA so that it would be receptive to cross-species breeding. Course, some had happened before that in cases where the two species were compatible enough to allow a pregnancy to term. Wouldn't have happened between a human and a Nubi Ranif Corabora Piff, for example." He glanced up, tipping his head toward the door. "By the time this lot decided to create a colony, just about anyone could breed with anyone..." He pulled a face. "Once you were willing to look past horns and other hard, protruding parts."

"I kind of like hard, protruding parts," Rose said softly, sticking the point of her tongue out the corner of her lips.

The Doctor leaned sideways to see her around the engine piston chamber. "Feeling a little cheeky tonight, Miss Tyler?"

"Maaaaaybe."

"Well, hold that thought. I just have some minor system scans to initiate." He slipped on his specs and looked at her over the top. "You can go on, if you'd like. I won't be long."

Rose shook her head, shifting into a more comfortable position. "No, I'll stay with you. S'at okay?"

"Of course."

Rose liked to watch him in the control room. There was something so contrary and appealing to his geeky (though, he hated the word) and absentminded professor appearance getting down and dirty with mechanics. But, after a few minutes, he wasn't digging around in TARDIS parts... he was just punching in codes and watching the monitor screen. Rose sighed...

"What about Gallifreyans?"

"I wondered how long it would take you to ask." He didn't look up, but grinned.

"Oh, well, if I'm getting too predictable..." She swirled a bit of blonde hair, trying to feign boredom as she looked up at the ceiling.

He left his scans and came back to the jump seat, leaning against the console again. Rose looked at him from the corner of her eyes and saw the slight, smug smirk and gave up her act. She unfolded her legs and drew her knees to her chest, wrapping her arms around them to hug them to her. "So?"

"Oh, sure," he answered as he crossed his arms over his chest, going back to the question she hadn't fully asked. "There were a few Gallifreyans over the centuries who, for whatever reason and in whatever situation, cross-species bred with other similar species. There are several humanoid species in the universe, and probably a third of them or so were compatible enough at least for conception. But, the instances were few and far between since most Gallifreyans, unless they were Time Lords, never left Gallifrey." He squinched his face, making his specs go lopsided off his cheek. "Course, there was that whole No one is as good as Gallifrey, so why would you bother mentality."

"You don't think that." His eyes shifted to her. He didn't refute or deny her statement, so she continued. "You're always going on about how humans are thick and stupid, but then just as quick you'll tell someone how wonderful we all are."

"Potential," he said simply. "I know your potential."

"I get the impression that you were a bit of a rebel." Rose leaned forward, licking her lips. "Were you a rebel, Doctor?" She dropped her voice to her best seductive level.

His eyes stayed on her lips, but then a light flashed and something beeped and he cleared his throat before moving away again. "Gamma influx filtering nearly complete. Just a quick diagnostic of the temporal recyclers and we're all set."

"What about Time Lords?"

The Doctor raised his head and focused on some unspecified spot across the console room. "Once. Well , once that the Time Lord in question actually admitted the child was his and took responsibility. I suppose it may have happened at other times with other Time Lords, but no one admitted to it. The unspoken sin is the sin without punishment."

"Was that the Time Lord who was..." She knew he hadn't used the word when he told her about the Time Lord before, but it seemed to fit. "... punished? Had his TARDIS taken away and everything?"

The Doctor nodded, looking down again at his controls, his fingers slowly swirling a green crystal ball that Rose had yet to determine the purpose of. "Yep." He popped the 'p'. "Before my time when it all happened. But, I hear it was quite the hullabaloo since he hid the child and mother from the Council for years. He just never went to Gallifrey. His consequences stood as warning to us all."

"What happened?"

He looked up at her. "I told you. He was punished, had his TARDIS taken away, couldn't regenerate."

"No." Rose unfolded her legs and stood, walking over to him. A green light flashed and something beeped. The last scan was done, she figured. "What happened to the child?"

The Doctor's gaze settled on her, and Rose found herself holding her breath. She couldn't explain why. "Once the Council knew, Marnal accepted his punishment without argument and without plea, providing that he could bring his human lover and their child to Gallifrey."

"He loved her, then, yeah? He must have to give up everything."

The Doctor sniffed and looked away. "Like I said, before my time. Just heard the stories." He looked up again, and there was a tinge of sadness around his eyes and his smile had slid away. "But, yes. I imagine he loved her very much."

Rose smiled and nodded. He flipped a final switch and the engines lowered to an idle hum. They would stay like this until morning… relatively speaking. She stifled a yawn and held her hand out to him. He didn't take her hand but put his arm around her shoulder, pulling her to his side as they left the console room. They entered the hall, the lights already dimming for nighttime, and as they stepped into their bedroom, Rose stopped short.

"Rose?"

She hitched her chin up to look at him, her pulse suddenly pounding violently in her throat. Rose blinked, looking at him. Intense, dark eyes stared at her… that face, that sexy, rumbled hair… him…

"Rose!"

He reached for her, his fingers nearly touching her cheek before she shook her head and stepped back. She didn't want him to see her thoughts… not yet. Not so purely and honestly as they were in her head right now. Not if they were the wrong thoughts… wrong for him.

His hand hovered near her cheek, but he didn't approach. "Rose," he said again, her name a plea to answer.

"Doctor… " She swallowed hard, her eyes burning because she'd forgotten to blink. Blindly, she found his hand and gripped it in both hers, trying desperately to temper her emotions but finding it nearly impossible when he looked at her with so much worry and concern so evident on his face. She tried again, hoping her voice would stay with her long enough. "Doctor… can you and I… could we… could we have a baby?"

His gaze slid away almost immediately. "No."

"Why not? How do you —"

He raised his head, and the cold firmness of his eyes stopped her. He swallowed, his jaw working slightly before he said, "I know."

Rose nodded, but couldn't hold back the choking sob that exploded in her chest. She just kept nodded, sucking in air, blinking the tears down her cheeks. He touched her face, stroked her cheeks, and pulled her against him, wrapping her hard in his arms.

"I'm sorry," she choked out. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm crying."

"I do," he whispered in her ear. He shushed softly in her ear, his hand stroking over her hair as they rocked each other in the dim hall of their TARDIS.