Everyone knows what the best part of birth is. It's the moment when it's over, when the child is put in its mother's arms for the first time, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief, and of wonder.
For Rose, it didn't happen quite like that.
For Tish, the worst part of the birth was how manic the Master got. He was running all over the place, sending the maids up and down the stairs to get more towels, more sheets, more cleaning products to sterilise the room, more earmuffs for himself, more food for Rose, more energy drinks for Rose, more this, more that, more everything. All told, Tish didn't get a moment's rest throughout the whole fourteen hours that Rose was in labour. She stole drinks en route to the kitchen; occasionally she managed to nab the odd biscuit. But every time she delivered something else to Rose's room, now wired up with medical equipment, the Master would see her and order something else. Towards the end, when her eyes were running with tears of exhaustion and her feet were bleeding in their prissy court shoes, she stumbled with a glass of water and the Master stopped and screamed at her. She didn't catch the words, but she did catch the back of his hand across her face, flinging her against the wall where her head cracked and her ankle twisted. Vaguely she was aware of Rose screaming and the Doctor yelling, but the Master was shouting over both of them, and in the end she just crawled out then hobbled downstairs to faint on her bed. She would wake up to blood on her pillow and fluff in her head wound and an ankle almost twice the size that it should be.
For Tish, that was the worst.
For Clive, the worst part was watching his wife and his daughter being run into the ground with exhaustion. Tish got the worst of it, but he barely saw her. It was Francine who was liaising with other staff members, heading down into the kitchens to relay orders or triple checking with the electricians that there were at least four back-up generators in case of a storm.
He caught her once as she rushed through the bowels of the ship to commandeer spare linens. She barely looked at him as she stormed down the corridor, so he reached out a hand and caught her elbow. He wasn't sure what he wanted to say to her, maybe that she needed to calm down before she did herself an injury.
But she slapped his hand from her arm and paused only long enough to shout at him, "Not now, Clive!", and that hurt so much more than the slap, because her voice was more than stressed; it was disdainful. It was patronising. It was exactly the reason why he'd first wanted to break up with her, when she had believed that her problems were so much greater than his and she had begun talking down to him. Here she was again, talking down to him, dismissing him out of hand when all he wanted to do was help.
For Clive, that was the worst.
For Jack, the worst part was not knowing. No one came to see him all day; there was no food from Tish, no one to clean up his mess, no nothing. It took him the best part of ten hours to convince himself that he hadn't merely lost track of time and that something really was going on. Even then, he still wasn't sure if Rose was indeed giving birth. Perhaps there had been an attack on the ship. Perhaps it was just Francine and Tish who were being kept away – had Martha been found? Did they have some other relative who might have been brought up here to be killed? Only the next day, once normal service had been resumed, did Jack find out definitively what had happened with a single word.
Tish had once again come in to spoon feed him tasteless mush, and as soon as she walked in he began flinging questions at her.
"Tish! What happened? Were we attacked? Rebellion? Did Rose give birth? Come on, Tish, just nod or something!"
She glared at him as best she could and he paused. "You're limping."
Indeed she was, and that wasn't all. A livid bruise had risen on her cheekbone, puffing up her eye and giving her glare a distinctly pathetic look.
"What happened?" he pressed.
She stuck the spoon violently into the food and muttered a single word:
And Jack swallowed his spoonful of mush even with wide eyes and the realisation that he still had a thousand more questions: was Rose okay? Was the baby? Boy or girl? Did the Master have the kid? Was Rose being allowed contact? How well was the baby being guarded? Would they have a chance of getting the kid out when they went for their hopeless breakout plan next week?
He couldn't ask any of these questions because Tish wasn't going to answer. He was stuck knowing nothing, entirely helpless and, worse, useless.
For Jack, that was the worst.
For the Doctor, the worst part was being so close and yet unable to help in any way. Through the bars of his cage and the Perspex wall of Rose's room, he could see every detail: the harried human midwives obviously terrified to death, but battling through, gently manipulating Rose, giving her advice and fielding questions from the Master.
"How much longer?" he would demand periodically, and they would have to tell him that it would be a few more hours; she wasn't fully dilated yet; if they hurried things along it could hurt the baby.
At one point the elder of the two, a middle-aged woman who ten months ago might have been stout, turned to the Master and suggested that he leave, because he was distressing Rose. The resulting diatribe was hideous to behold, and eventually the Doctor had shouted himself:
"Stop it! Let her do her job – think about Rose! And the baby!"
"Do you think I'd leave this room?" the Master screamed back. "Do you think I'd leave this to anyone else?"
"They're not going to hurt her – they know what they're doing!" the Doctor yelled.
"They have no idea! It's my child!"
"Stop it, stop it," screamed Rose. Tears were pouring down her face. "I can't – please, stop it."
The younger midwife was at her side, stroking her hair back from her face and shooting fearful glances at both the Doctor and the Master now, and the Doctor felt terrible.
"I'm sorry," he said. "You're alright, Rose."
"Like you know what you're talking about," she joked through gritted teeth.
But the Master was standing, almost panting with anger. "I am not leaving this room!" he declared.
"Then don't!" Rose shot back. "But let them do it their way, yeah?"
Another contraction hit and she moaned.
"That's it, keep breathing," the elder midwife said. "Deep, slow breaths, well done, you're doing really well."
The Master was muttering mutinously, something about the stupidity of the midwives – as if anyone needed reminding to breathe! – and the Doctor was clutching at the bars of his cage so tightly, his knuckles white, his tendons standing out and his ragged, filthy nails digging into his palms. He could see where Rose was holding just as tightly to the sheets beneath her, and wanted nothing more than to hold her hand for her, to be there for her, to help her.
And throughout those long hours, as everyone but the Doctor was ground down into dust and blood, he felt more useless than perhaps he ever had, locked away, doing nothing.
For the Doctor, that was the worst.
For Francine, the worst part of it was the child.
By now she had heard of the plan to get out, to be staged when Rose was up and about again, but she had little hope that it might work. She was rather resigned to her existence on this ship and she had worked hard to make it work. She had cultivated relationships with the right people below decks, organised chains of command that included her and Tish, learnt everything she could about the Master in order to avoid upsetting him and generally set about making this existence as bearable as possible for herself and her family.
But her main strategy for getting through was not thinking about the future. She could deal with one task at a time, she could work through each day as it came, but she could not stomach the idea of being here forever.
She looked at Tish, saw the permanent bags under her eyes and the collection of scars that were accumulating on her skin, and knew that she couldn't deal with all of those scars together. She could wash each individual cut and try to scavenge plasters where she could, but she couldn't think that her daughter was going to keep being damaged. She'd been so proud of Tish, her firstborn, the first part of her legacy. She'd been doing so well with that job with Lazarus, she'd been going places. Now she was going nowhere. Francine's firstborn would die a slave.
Rose's firstborn would live as her master.
For Francine, this baby represented the most unavoidable symbol that this despicable state of affairs would never end. This child was the start of another legacy, the Master's legacy, and its existence meant that Francine's children were denied any chance at a life.
It wasn't in Francine's nature to hate innocent children, but she thought she could make an exception for this half-breed bastard.
And then she caught herself thinking that, and hated herself.
And then her daughter staggered downstairs with a concussion and a twisted ankle.
And after that she felt fully justified in her hatred.
For Francine, that was the worst.
Rose knew that she wouldn't remember this. She knew it because she'd been hurt plenty in the past, and somehow she never remembered how much it hurt until the next time she was grazed by a ray gun or whatever. She also knew it because it was one of those pieces of ancient wisdom from round the Estate – of course a mother never remembered exactly how much it hurt to give birth, because why else would all those idiot girls end up with four kids before they were twenty two?
"But you know the bit I'll always remember," Jackie would say to Rose during all those you're-better-than-those-sluts and don't-make-the-mistakes-that-I-did talk, "it was the moment when they put you in my arms, after they'd wiped you off a bit. And I was still hurting like hell, and your dad was white as a sheet, and god, you weren't half shrieking, but it sort of made sense. Not like it was an ending, but like we'd all realised that this was the starting line, and we were ready to start running. And bloody hell, you gave us a workout. You were a nightmare baby, you were…"
And she would trail off into tales of lost sleep and complaining neighbours and mental breakdowns, but Rose always remembered her mum's idea of the moment when she met her daughter for the first time. The moment when everyone was ready to start running, start fighting for this baby.
When finally the baby was out and the cord was cut, Rose felt like she was waiting for that moment, as if she couldn't quite relax until it had occurred. This was what childbirth was, to her. This was the point of it all.
"It's a boy," one of the midwives whispered, automatically moving back towards Rose, who shifted slightly back to better support herself against the pillows, stretching out her arms for her son – her son! – until –
"Give him to me."
The midwife hesitated, and then turned around, still looking down at the baby and not meeting Rose's eye. Then she walked forward and presented the child to the Master. He took him, and looked down on the wailing little thing with a smirk.
"Can I hold him?" Rose asked. "Please?"
The Master didn't even look up. "No."
He turned and left the room.
The two midwives looked at each other, and then the older one hurried after him to take care of the baby. The younger one turned back to Rose.
"I'm sorry," she said.
Rose nodded. She folded her arms against her chest, pressing them to her.
"Rose?" asked the Doctor.
Her breath hitched, and the tears which had fallen so freely over the past day began again.
"Rose," he said gently.
But she didn't respond, and he didn't press any further.
When she delivered the afterbirth, it was painful, bloody and shameful. And she thought to herself: I am a brood mare. My life is painful, bloody and shameful.
And I don't have my son.
For Rose, that was the worst.
A/N: I have an issue with this chapter. No, not the fact that it was published six months after the previous one - after all, I know how this story's going to end. I'm not on tenterhooks. No, my issue with this chapter is that it is title-less. If you haven't realised by now, all the chapter titles are modern Doctor Who quotes (apart from Exit Wounds, which is named after a Torchwood episode because it's pretty much all Torchwood based). So if you have any suggestions for titles, I would appreciate them, because my favourite transcript site is NOT WORKING!
As for the whole six-month-gap-thing... well, you have a choice. You can blame university, Downton Abbey and RL for distracting me. You can blame a lack of inspiration (though that's not true - this whole chapter has been written in my head since at least August. It's just not been written on my computer until tonight). Or you can just blame me. If I were you, I'd go for the latter.
EDIT: chapter title has now been found! It is "The child is lost," as suggested by jadesei, who is evidently a much better Whovian than me. Thanks, jadesei!