A/N And so we reach the end. I have been completely astounded by the response to this story, and I could never even begin to express my thanks to each and every one who has given their reviews and encouragement throughout, letting me know you're there reading along. You're the ones who keep me writing and inspire me to continue!
Several have asked if there will be more stories set in this series, and while I'm certainly leaving the door open, there are no immediate plans just yet. I have another Ten/Rose story that's been in my head for the longest time and is demanding to finally be written, so that's where my focus will be next, but it's going to be at least a month or two until I have enough down to begin posting.
I hope to see you then!
Fifteen months later
Location: Janyeer, in the Capital City of Shenreen
The TARDIS arrived at its destination with a little more gentleness than had been the usual, previous custom. The Doctor had been practicing smoother materialization sequences now that there was a very special, tiny new passenger on board. The task successfully complete, he moved from the controls and rounded the console, extending his hand to Rose as she stood from the jump seat, cradling three-month-old baby Jack in her arms.
Jack Peter Tyler, or JP as he was sometimes called – a name that represented the four people Rose loved most. He may, in time, also choose a Gallifreyan name, but for now he already went by quite a few. The Oncoming Adorable, Mummy's precious Time Tot, and My Progeny the Prodigy (so called by the Doctor, though Rose promptly nipped that one in the bud. The Doctor had to admit it lacked a certain ring). But whatever his title, this little Human/Time Lord was completely and unequivocally adored.
He was without question an utterly adorable child – not just an opinion of his besotted parents. He had the Doctor's wide, exuberant eyes and Rose's beaming smile. His whisper-soft, light chestnut hair inherently defied gravity in the same way as the Doctor's. He was undeniably his father's son; but like the Doctor, that meant he was also completely enamored with Rose. His face would light up in that same way as the Doctor's each time she would come into his field of vision and his little eyes would settle on her. Rose had never known such a level of all-consuming love. She didn't think it was possible for the love she had for the Doctor to grow any stronger, but this child created between them only magnified the love she had for him ten-fold.
Though the pregnancy had not been an easy one – not only with the complications early on, but the fact that it stretched on for a twelve month duration – the baby was worth every bit of difficulty endured.
He was already such an alert, inquisitive child. It wouldn't have surprised Rose if he began talking in a month or two's time. Actually, the Doctor had predicted as much. He already had a distinctive little personality. For one thing, it was noticed that he was singly fascinated with the sonic screwdriver, his rapt attention upon the whirring device whenever it was in sight. The Doctor already had plans to make him his own once he was old enough. Rose had thus forewarned the Doctor to limit the settings to avoid instances of frequent, unexpected explosions. They would no doubt be having their share of those in time as it was, sonic screwdriver or no. If his father was any indication, this little version of the Doctor was going to be a handful and a half.
He was a joy and the greatest adventure the Doctor and Rose had yet had. He was a contented baby, though he rarely slept for long stretches at night. But then, neither did the Doctor, so father and son made the perfect pair. After feedings, the Doctor would often stay up with their wide-awake son so Rose could finish sleeping, though she would sometimes still wake later in the night to check on her two Time Lords. She would often find them in the console room, the Doctor lying on his back beneath the console, tinkering, with the baby lying contentedly on his chest while he told his son of Gallifrey, The Laws of Time, or how to one day pilot the TARDIS.
Rose had overheard one of their conversations the night before, the Doctor telling their son of the important trip they would be making today. Today was a significant day for all three, and so as this day had begun the baby was dressed in what had become known as his "special outfit," the one with the grinning duck on the front. It was the first purchase ever made for him. He'd just grown into it and so had worn it on the most recent trip to visit his grandparents and now, Uncle Tony. Jackie had become pregnant a month after Rose, and Rose found it terribly unfair that her mum gave birth two months before her. But still, at least that meant the baby's uncle was at least a little bit older than him, by birth date, anyway. The two boys would no doubt be best mates growing up. Some days the Doctor still had to remind himself all this was true, and that his son would grow up having the family the Doctor had so often longed for himself but thought he could never again have.
Visiting his grandparents and uncle wasn't the only time the baby had donned his signature outfit. He'd also worn it on one of their previous visits to see his partial namesake, Uncle Jack. The ex-Time Agent loved the Doctor and Rose's child as much as he would his own son. There was a bond between all that was hard to put into words. He was the one person who the Doctor and Rose knew could literally be there for their son for the rest of his very long life. The visits were always a pleasure for all, even if the Doctor sometimes claimed he was cutting it short because he didn't want Jack corrupting his son. Jack laughingly took it in stride and told him he'd leave the corrupting in the Doctor's capable hands.
And so now the baby wore his special outfit again today. It somehow seemed fitting. This day had been a long time in coming, and it didn't come easily. There were bittersweet memories attached to this place. Bitter, because the Doctor still regretted his initial feelings of anger and pain. His fierce protectiveness of Rose would also keep him from ever fully brushing aside what was done to her against their knowledge – especially if things hadn't turned out as miraculously-well as they had. But he needed to make peace with the past once and for all and move on. That's why they were here today.
The three emerged from the TARDIS into the bright noonday sun of Janyeer, a mild breeze sweeping across the lush landscape. They stood atop the same hill they had arrived upon a little over a year before, overlooking the picturesque city of Shenreen nestled in the valley below.
With Rose cradling the baby in one arm, the Doctor and Rose walked hand-in-hand as they made their way down the hill and eventually through the stone-paved streets of the bustling city, a city now thriving with a population that would endure. They reached a home within Shenreen's central village, much like the villa the Doctor and Rose had occupied during their stay.
They'd contacted the hospital and had sent word ahead, and its occupant was now awaiting their arrival. They walked up the short pebbled path leading to the villa's front door, and a few moments after knocking, the door opened and Professor T'neer welcomed them inside.
Only a little over a year had passed since seeing him last, but for a people whose normal lifespan was markedly shorter than even that of humans, he had aged visibly. The wrinkles were etched a little more deeply, his hair almost completely gray, and his stride a little slower. Seeing the march of Time etched upon him, Rose was once again reminded of the pain the Doctor had felt knowing he would have to watch her age so much more rapidly than she now would. After experiencing so much anguish, life was for once kind to him, and that was a pain now vanquished. No one, of course, knew the number of their days, and neither the Doctor, Rose nor their child was immortal; but being forced to live on alone no longer seemed to be the Doctor's certain curse.
After stepping inside, they made their way into the main sitting room, T'neer bidding them to sit on the couch as he took the chair across from them. The Doctor held the baby for Rose as she sat, cradling him to his chest as the Doctor then took a seat beside her. The baby was blissfully unaware of the tension between the three adults in the room, happily engrossed in his own little world which at the moment consisted of the Doctor's tie. He thrummed one little arm happily against the Doctor's chest as he clutched the tie with his other tiny fist, sucking on the end of the fabric. That seemed to be one of his favorite activities when held in his father's arms, and Rose often teased that his son had inherited the Doctor's oral fixation.
As he sat down across from them, T'neer was feeling both uneasy and extremely relieved. The Doctor and Rose were two people he never expected to see again in his lifetime. Now, here they were with their child. He thought he would go to his grave always wondering, always regretting.
Once everyone was seated, he was the first to speak up and begin the conversation, tense as it might be. "I...I must say that I was very surprised to receive word through the hospital that you were coming. Pleased, though. Very, very pleased."
"And how are your people?" Rose asked.
"Thriving," he answered joyously. "The genetic mutation has been all but eradicated. Thanks, of course, to you, Doctor."
The Doctor simply nodded, rubbing circles on the baby's back as he propped the infant on his shoulder.
T'neer looked back to Rose. He knew this needed to be addressed and felt it was his responsibility to ask. "I see, much to my great happiness, that the child looks well – healthy. And how was...how was the pregnancy? Were there complications?"
"Yes," the Doctor finally spoke, "there were. Rose had numerous difficulties that endangered both her and the baby." The Doctor's voice softened marginally. "But her body adapted. Changed. The pregnancy brought about physiological changes to her. She nearly lost our child, but the baby's genetics caused her own to hybridize in order to sustain the pregnancy. Her cellular structure now has some Gallifreyan traits interwoven."
T'neer leaned back, absorbing this information. "I knew, of course, that there could be complications, but I did not expect changes of that nature. The truth is we had simply no idea the extent of the effects this could bring." He looked between the Doctor and Rose, his eyes remorseful. "I am so grateful to now have the chance to at least say how very sorr–"
"The way you carried out doing what you did was wrong," the Doctor cut in. He clutched the baby a little tighter in his arms, drawing a deep breath. "But my son is not wrong. He could never be a mistake or something I regret. Never. Regardless of what happened in the past, I wouldn't trade one day with him for anything in the universe." He paused. "So I just want to...to say..."
"No, Doctor," T'neer implored. "There is no need to say anything. Please. I am just so relieved to know all is well now, for Rose and the child."
The two held each other's gaze for a quiet moment. A measure of peace seemed to be reached for both of them in that moment as the Doctor nodded silently.
Rose spoke up. "We were told by the hospital that Dr. Kedra passed away two months ago. I'm so sorry."
T'neer's voice was contrite. "Yes. It was the mutation. She had a less virulent strain which afforded her a much longer life than most. But still, what she had dedicated her life to fighting claimed her in the end. Yet she lived long enough to see the day of our people freed from its grip."
The Doctor and Rose were both a little taken back by this. They had not been aware that Kedra suffered from the mutation as well. Her focus seemed to only be for her people. She'd made no mention of her own plight. Yet why had she been claimed by a malady for which a cure had been found?
"But what about the cure?" the Doctor questioned, his brow deeply furrowed.
T'neer paused before answering. "She refused to partake of it. She didn't feel she had the right. The cure came from your hand, while what came from ours could have cost Rose her life and destroyed yours."
Rose dipped her eyes, and the Doctor felt as if someone had temporarily knocked the breath from him. His voice was strained as he spoke. "But it didn't."
T'neer sighed heavily, the weariness of life showing in his eyes. "We didn't know that. We had no sure way of knowing just how much danger Rose could have been in. But even if we had known she survived, our actions were still wrong."
The Doctor's jaw clenched tightly as he sat in silence. This had never been an easy issue between right and wrong. Yes, they had been deceptive and violated Rose and put her at great risk. They had also been trying to save lives. Did that justify it? No. Yet in the end, the child he and Rose now had was, as so many had tried to tell the Doctor in the beginning, one of the good things to come out of all this. Kedra and T'neer's deception and the position of risk they had knowingly placed Rose in was wrong. Yet if they had been forthcoming and left the decision in the Doctor and Rose's hands, the Doctor knew he never would have made a choice that involved risking Rose. And their son would not exist.
And so the complex thoughts without simple resolution continued to circle round and round through his mind. There were no perfect, easy answers in any of this, but that was so often the way in life.
T'neer leaned forward, catching the Doctor's unsettled gaze. "All actions have consequences, Doctor. That is a fact that can never be ignored. But her choice gave her peace at the end of her life. She was at peace, Doctor."
Despite T'neer's assurance that Kedra's decision brought her peace, the Doctor's nature led him to feel guilt. If he hadn't reacted as he had initially, would she have felt as guilty for her actions? Yet it was the risk they had placed on Rose's life that had haunted T'neer and Kedra. They would have felt that same guilt over risking her regardless of his reaction.
Whether the Doctor and Rose had come to this planet or not, Kedra would have succumbed to the terminal condition either way. Just as Rose had once told him, he wasn't the one who controlled life and death.
As the Doctor held his son in his arms, he knew Kedra's memory would still live on. Their child would in time come to learn what had taken place here, both the good and the bad. Despite its complexities he would know the full truth.
The Doctor and Rose spent the day with T'neer, and they knew when they bid him farewell it was probably the last time they would meet, yet the memory of this day would live on. It had brought needed resolution, understanding and peace to all three.
The Doctor and Rose returned to the TARDIS, leaving Janyeer behind yet always carrying it with them.
Rose sat down on the jump seat and lifted her arms to take the baby as the Doctor gently passed him to her, brushing a kiss to his forehead before placing him in her arms, then lingering to kiss Rose softly on the lips. He gazed down at his family and felt his hearts swell to bursting with love. It was moments like this when the flames of Gallifrey that burned in his soul were soothed just enough that he knew he could still go on. The radiance of love, hope and the continuation of life, even with its imperfections, chased away the darkness that had once consumed him.
The Doctor walked to the controls of the TARDIS, ready to set the coordinates for their next destination, an intrinsic factor of their lives that hadn't changed. Each day, each moment brought something new.
"So, what will it be?" he asked with that spark of life glinting in his eyes. "Forward or backwards?"
Rose smiled softly up at the Time Lord she loved. "Forward. Definitely forward."