Author's Note: I haven't decided if this 'verse crosses over into the Eleventh Heaven series where I have the same names for Susan's children or not, but I just really liked the names that I had picked for her children, so here they are again. :)
Previous Chapter: "Grandfather," states Susan firmly, "the only reason that I'm still alive is because you're the one who sent me back here."
He jolts upright and stumbles back a few paces in reaction to her words, shaking his head in bewilderment and denial before squeaking, "What?"
"I said that you're the one who sent me back, Grandfather," reiterates Susan. "But you sent me away before you placed Gallifrey in a timelock."
His expression is stern and full of reproach when he admonishes, "I think that I would remember something like that, Susan!"
"Would you though, Doctor?" interjects Rose as he pivots around and turns his gaze on her. "You said yourself that you didn't expect to survive. Maybe your last regeneration wasn't stable enough to carry everything over from the previous one?"
"Your last regeneration?" asks Susan with a bit of a pout. "I missed one."
Both the Doctor and Rose smile at her remark and the break in tension is just long enough to clear the Doctor's mind so that he can finally allow himself to accept that the woman standing before him is truly his Susan, alive and well in her proper time and place and with no worry of being taken away from him.
His soft smile quickly grows into a manic grin as he marvels, "Susan, my dear, sweet, precious girl…" and proceeds to pick her up and spin her around until he sets her down to pull her into the tightest hug that he can offer her.
Laughing at her grandfather's impetuousness and in sheer delight at his lighter demeanor, Susan joyously inquires, "So, I'm still your Susan then?"
He swings her slightly back and forth in his arms while grinning madly and vowing, "No complaints from me!"
Susan pulls away and holds onto the Doctor's shoulders as she gushes, "Oh, how I've missed you, Grandfather!" Then she grabs the lapels of his coat and with a cheeky grin, she tugs on both lapels and declares, "And I've missed this coat! Can I have it back?"
"Absolutely not!" he replies at once before pulling her back into an even tighter hug than before.
She returns his embrace heartily and is instantly filled with relief that this new man, for all of his frantic mood swings and wild hair, is still the man that she remembers and loves with all of her hearts.
As the urgency of their reunion wanes, Susan pleads laughingly, "Grandfather, you have to let me go, I'm running out of air!"
Unwilling to let go of either Susan or this newfound feeling of unbridled joy and relief, and dare he even think it…peace… He draws her even closer and implores, "Not just yet. Please, Susan. Can't you simply use your extra respiratory bypass?" And so she does.
She remains burrowed into his embrace until he slowly releases her so that he can cradle her face as he wipes away her tears while allowing his own to fall freely down his face.
Once he has taken care of her, he dries his own face of tears and clears his throat. "Susan, it appears that you have some gaps in my memory to fill in for me. Now, exactly when did I send you home?"
Susan replies, "It was right before your last mission, Grandfather, the one to end the war. Your eighth self came to me that day and gave me a Vortex manipulator. You had me put it on immediately and then made me swear that I wouldn't remove it under any circumstances, at least not until I arrived where you needed me to be. I tried to ask what you needed me to do but you refused to tell me anymore about what you had planned except to say that it was fitting that it should happen this way."
The Doctor pulls Rose closer to him in gratitude for her support but also for added reserve at what may come next. "What was fitting, Susan?" he asks tensely.
She stares hard at him and speaks slowly, as if afraid that by looking away from him will cause her to forget every word. "You said that when we left Gallifrey together that it felt as if you had just been born because it was the first time that you had ever felt truly alive. Then you spoke of how you much you had enjoyed the privilege of caring for me and watching over me for the majority of your first life so you deemed it appropriate that you should end your last life the same way."
Susan stops briefly to wipe away a fresh trail of tears before continuing, "Hours later, I felt a tingling throughout my body and then suddenly, I found myself back home. I knew then what you were trying to do but I also knew my duty and I was about to reverse the teleport when it hit me…the silence."
She swallows down the pain at the memory of when that moment came and comments almost as an afterthought, "It wouldn't have mattered anyway, you had obviously only ever intended it for a one time use as it hasn't worked again no matter what I've tried."
The Doctor runs his hands through his hair as he stares off far away trying to recall the memory but failing to do so. As he comes back to himself, his gaze travels back to Susan and he realizes, "So, you ended up where I needed you the most…home…away from the Daleks and safe with your family."
Rose darts a meaningful look in his direction and notes, "Well, that definitely sounds like something that you'd do."
The Doctor bears a sheepish expression as he rubs the back of his neck and remembers a Gamestation not that long ago and acknowledges, "Yeah, it does, doesn't it?"
Susan's voice becomes hard as she firmly states, "Yes, you wanted me to forego my duty as a Time Lady to defend our people and our laws against the worst enemy that we have ever had to face and instead live out the remainder of my lives with David and the children."
Her voice catches as it softens and she tells him, "And I never even had a chance to thank you for that or for anything else because right after you gave me the Vortex Manipulator, you hugged me to you and pressed a kiss against my temple and whispered 'My Susan' before telling me that you loved me and running out the door." Her gaze is slightly accusing when she mentions, "Once I was over my shock, I tried to catch you but you know you, Grandfather. There's nobody better at running than you."
Rose chuckles softly and agrees, "Now that really does sound like you."
The Doctor reaches out and grabs hold of Susan's hand and squeezes it tightly. "I'm so grateful that this happened but I still can't understand why I don't remember it."
Rose leans into his side and gives him a gentle squeeze. "Doctor, I think that I can help you there." When he stares at her in puzzlement, she divulges, "Last night when you left the console room, the TARDIS told me that Susan was alive."
Placing her hand over his mouth to prevent any interruption, Rose hurriedly carries on with her explanation. "I had the exact same reaction that you're having now and then she told me why she kept it from you."
When he continues to remain silent she reveals, "As you said, Doctor, nobody was meant to survive the Time War. From what the TARDIS told me, you were barely able to fully regenerate your complete physiology, much less carry over all of your memories intact."
"Okay, fine," concedes the Doctor while trying to contain his fury, "that I understand, but why wouldn't she tell me? How could she continue to stand by and watch me suffer over the loss of my people when she knew my granddaughter was alive?"
Rose moves away from the comfort of his arm and turns to face him. "She did try to tell you, Doctor. As soon as you were strong enough after your regeneration from the Time War, she tried to tell you then but every time she broached the subject of Susan, your mind practically shut down. And each time that happened, it endangered your link with the TARDIS. It became more and more fragile until she finally had to stop before it crumbled completely because it was that very link that she needed to bring you here."
Rose turns to speak to Susan as well so as not to exclude her. "You both know that the relationship between a TARDIS and her pilot is symbiotic. The TARDIS has the ability to take you where you want to go and where you need to be but she still needs her pilot." Her eyes fill with compassion and understanding as she looks at the Doctor. "As much as you wanted to tell David and the children about Susan, subconsciously, you just couldn't bring yourself to face them."
An intense look of sorrow washes over the Doctor's face as he casts a mournful gaze towards the TARDIS. "I'm so sorry, girl. I'm so sorry I wasn't as strong for you as you've had to be for me." A soft hum emanates from the TARDIS in reply to the Doctor's apology.
With a sigh of regret, the Doctor pulls Rose close and rests his forehead against hers. "Rose, my love, I don't even have the words to excuse my behavior towards you. The things that I said to you, I didn't mean them, not a single one. We are so beyond that, my Rose, beyond any past mistakes or judgments. I was angry and scared and I took it on you and I know that's no excuse and I don't expect you to forgive me right away, but I am sorry, Rose, I am so very, very sorry. Please, forgive me."
He kisses one cheek, then the other and finally, the gentlest of kisses on her mouth beseeching in action what he does not feel that he can convey with mere words. She eagerly returns his kiss, not just with love but with the promise of forgiveness and understanding before pulling back and wiping off a smudge of her lipstick on his mouth. "It's alright, Doctor. You have been hurting for so long on a level that I can barely comprehend and you were lashing out at the one person who was making you face that."
His eyes soften in relief; that is until Rose's tone becomes harsher and she starts jabbing his chest, hard, with her finger. "But don't you dare start thinking that gives you a free pass the next time you feel the need to treat me like that! You, who had Harriet Jones forced out of office when your last self told me that she was going to usher in Britain's Golden Age! Who knows what nightmare of a politician is going to take her place? And don't even get me started on Madame de Pompadour!"
At the mention of her name, he slowly starts to back away, not once taking his eyes off of Rose for fear he'll miss her fatal lunge. "If saving an ordinary man like my father could destroy the world then what do you think would have come about if anything happened to Reinette on a trip in the TARDIS?"
He gradually makes his way towards Susan in search of protection as Rose drives her point home. "You were the one that said she was going to do so many important things!" Fire seems to blaze from her eyes along with a silent plea. "I don't want to be one of those couples that keep fighting about the same thing over and over again, Doctor! We can't keep throwing past mistakes in each other's faces if we ever want to have any chance of moving on so be very sure of what you want our relationship to be because if this is what you want and you act like this again, I will give you such a slap…"
At this point, the Doctor scurries all the way behind Susan and peeks over her shoulder while pleading, "No need to continue, please! Message received and understood completely!"
Susan takes in the scene before and behind her in total amusement while taking the time to wonder when the TARDIS started singing 'Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?' While her grandfather continues to cower behind her, Susan inquires gleefully, "I take it no second chances, Rose?"
Rose declares with a smirk, "Nope," popping the p, "I'm that sort of woman."
A giggle is heard in response and the Doctor bears an affronted expression as he chastises, "Now that's rude, Susan! Just because you find my deference to Rose amusing doesn't mean that you should laugh at your poor old grandfather! Where's your allegiance?"
Susan turns to him with a quizzical stare and states, "That wasn't me, Grandfather." She hears another giggle and leans away from him to indicate with a nod of her head, "It was them."
The Doctor turns to face the culprit and becomes frozen to the spot as he spies eight children standing across the room in their pajamas. Unable to move, he simply stands there and stares at them with both hearts in his eyes, his grief at not having been able to see them all of these years as strong as thinking he had lost Susan.
The children however are galvanized into action at the sight of their great-grandfather. The oldest boy, David, points at the Doctor and shouts, "I told you it was him! Great-Grandfather, you're back!"
In mere moments, he is surrounded by a whirlwind of smiling faces all chattering wildly in unison as they clutch at his waist and legs. "Great-Grandfather, we've missed you! And Mum especially, she's missed you so much! What happened to you? You look so young and so pretty! What did you bring us?"
Rose and Susan remain off to the side with both their hearts and their eyes brimming with the emotion of the moment as they watch the Doctor kneel on the floor so that he can embrace all of the children. "David, Carole, Billie, Christopher, Ian, Sarah, Katy, Matthew! I've missed all of you too, so much!"
One by one, they all throw themselves into his arms and squeeze him tight before moving on to cling to any appendage that he may have available. When Billie runs her fingers through his hair, he crows, "I am pretty this time around, aren't I?" He waggles his eyebrows at the girls and questions, "And maybe a bit foxy?"
While the girls giggle, the ever inquisitive Ian asks his older brother, Christopher, "Aren't you only supposed to be foxy when you want to have sex?"
Purposely avoiding Susan's piercing gaze, the Doctor quickly pops up to a standing position and claps his hands together to draw their attention. "Alright everyone, let's move on, shall we? Now, this visit wasn't exactly planned so I didn't bring anything for you this time…"
Moans and groans immediately follow this statement until the Doctor shushes, "Now, now, none of that! I was about to say that I'm sure if we look hard enough in the TARDIS that we could find something for each of you. Maybe," he dangles the idea enticingly before them, "your very own TARDIS key!"
Ooohs and aaahs along with a few squeals of delight instantly greet this suggestion and it is the eldest girl, Carole, who inquires excitedly, "You mean just like Mum's?" as she points to an area of the living room.
The Doctor's gaze travels over to a corner of the room which contains a forgotten picture frame hanging on the wall that he gave Susan long ago which still proudly displays her TARDIS key. "You still have it hanging up?" he murmurs fondly. "I can't believe it, even after all of these years?"
"Of course I do," scoffs Susan. "Both you and the TARDIS were the foundation of my life and the two of you were responsible for bringing me to David." She crosses her arms and gives him an infuriating glare. "You were also both responsible for leaving me with him."
"But…but…" sputters the Doctor, "but you wanted to stay with him and…and…and you've been happy with him." Then with a trace of worry, he asks, "Haven't you?"
"Yes, Grandfather," she answers with a genuine smile, "I'm happier than I've ever been, even with you. However, it would have been nice to have been allowed to make my own decision regarding my future or at least be consulted."
She walks over to him and calmly takes his hand. "That's twice that you've sent me away, Grandfather. I know that each time you felt it was for the best but each time you made a life-altering choice for me without talking to me or even permitting me to make on my own decision."
She squeezes his hand in earnest, determination radiating from her stance to make him see reason. "I need you to swear to me, Grandfather, on all of your remaining lives if need be, but swear to me that Gallifrey was the last time that you send me away. Because I'm telling you right now that any future decision to send me to or stay anywhere or anywhen must be mine."
He hazards a glance at Rose who watches him with a knowing look as they've had the same conversation themselves that resulted in the same requested promise before Rose would consent to marry him. He stared down at Susan and knew that he didn't need to read her timelines to see that she was right, she had matured greatly over the years since he had left her with David and she was perfectly able as well as within her right to make her own choices.
He issues a sigh of surrender and does the only thing that he can do, the only thing that he really has any right to do. The Doctor nods his head in defeat and vows, "I swear on all my lives, past, present and future, that any and all decisions concerning your life will be of your own making, Susan. All I will ever offer you is my guidance when you ask of it but from the glimpse that I've seen of your life thus far, I doubt that will even be necessary."
"I'll always need you, Grandfather," assures Susan lovingly. She watches her children bouncing up and down in excitement behind the Doctor and adds, "And so will they."
He sees his great-grandchildren beaming back at him, the boys rocking back and forth on their heels while the girls tug on the ends of their hair in an effort to keep still and he grins widely as he knows he doesn't have to wonder where they received those particular traits from.
Eager to share his newfound discoveries with his great-grandfather, Ian sidles up alongside the Doctor and announces, "I've been waiting for you to come back so that I could surprise you! I've been working on something that your third self taught me and I know I have it down pat!"
He runs off down the hall as he yells, "Don't go anywhere, I'll be right back!"
Susan immediately looks to David for assistance and urges, "David…"
"I'm on it, Mum!" replies David as he darts down the hall after his brother.
Carole is the next to come forth and waits patiently for the Doctor to notice her. "Look at my scarf now, Great-Grandfather! It's at least four feet now and as you can see, I've finally mastered the cross-cable stitch!"
The Doctor glows with the satisfaction of knowing that each of his regenerations will never be truly lost as long as his progeny continue to learn and benefit from them all. "Well, then," he teases, "I guess that makes you a knit-wit!"
Carole laughs good-naturedly, at least until Sarah pokes her in the side and taunts, "Ha, ha! He called you a nit-wit!"
Carole returns her sister's mocking gaze with a condescending one of her own that would have made his Sixth incarnation puff up with pride. She corrects Sarah by noting, "That's knit with a letter k, Sarah," and smiles sweetly at the Doctor before smacking her sister on the back of the head once he turns away.
While the girls begin to bicker behind him, the Doctor turns to find the two toddlers, Katy and Matthew, rolling a cricket ball back and forth between them. "Hey, I remember that ball!" he recalls with assurance. "I thought that I lost it a long time ago but I must have just left it here after a game with the children."
"Yes, you did," states Susan rather regretfully as she gestures to indicate various parts of the living room. The Doctor and Rose both turn in complete circles as they survey the previous damage caused by the cricket ball. They notice vases that have been glued together several times over, knick-knacks with missing pieces and taped up picture frames and a set of china cabinet windows with empty panes.
Rose bites her lip to keep from laughing while the Doctor flashes a guilty smile at Susan. "Oh, I guess I did at that." He rubs the back of his neck before tugging on his ear as he offers, "Sorry about that."
Despite her strict expression, Susan laughs softly and comments, "That wasn't all that you left behind, you know. That reminds me, I'll have to give you a more extended tour of the house later so you'll know where everything is."
"Oho! So you and David finally took my advice and made the house transdimensional, did you?" queries the Doctor smugly. "It's about time with this lot running about!"
"Well, yes, we did, Grandfather, but that's not what I was referring to. We actually decided to add onto the house after the children gave David a can of shaving cream that they found onboard the TARDIS."
At the Doctor's perplexed look, Susan explains, "Thankfully, David noticed it was marked Nitro right after he pressed the button. Honestly, Grandfather, I really think it's time that you considered jettisoning Ace's room or at least locking the door."
Before the Doctor can muster a response, their attention is drawn to Katy and Matthew when they start shouting at the top of their lungs, "Dalek! Dalek!" The adults all take a step back when the shadow of what appears to be a Dalek plunger comes into their view on the corner wall.
Fortunately, the plunger belongs not to a Dalek but to the children's bathroom which David and Ian have just vacated. David is frantically waving the plunger around as he attempts to attract his mother's attention while Ian is whipping himself into an equal frenzy trying to keep his brother quiet.
"Shut up, shut up, shut up!" orders Ian as he endeavors to remove the plunger from David's grasp.
Susan's cry of, "Boys, enough!" startles them into silence although matching glares continue to dart back and forth between the boys.
She storms over to the boys and stares down Ian. "What did you do?"
Ian shifts nervously before clearing his throat and replying, "Well, as you know, we scientists tend to suffer slight drawbacks during experimentation and…"
Tired of his brother's stalling tactics, David firmly attaches the plunger over his brother's mouth and hastily explains, "Ian tried to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow but instead he reversed the toilet flow and now there's water everywhere!"
"Blech!" mutters Ian in disgust as he wipes his mouth off with his sleeve. He aims a puppy dog pout at his mother and defends, "I was only trying to be impressive like…" This time it is the Doctor who cuts off Ian's explanation as he firmly clamps a hand over the boy's mouth.
He turns to Susan and assures, "Don't you worry about a thing, Susan; I'll take care of everything." He whips out his sonic screwdriver and holds it between his teeth as he hops up and down so that he can remove his socks and shoes. "A little jiggery pokery and everything will be just fine!"
Susan's brow furrows in worry as she asks, "Are you sure, Grandfather, that you don't want to wait until David's home from his nightshift? He'll be back anytime now." She wrings her hands as she frets, "I don't want to be rude, but if I remember correctly, your plumbing skills tend to bring about an underwater menace."
"That was a long time ago," huffs the Doctor. "Besides, I can fix practically anything now. Just look at my TARDIS!"
Completely oblivious to the women's eyes widening in apprehension, the Doctor flashes a manic grin at Rose while rolling up his trouser cuffs and proclaims, "Welcome to the family, Rose Tyler! Much like the TARDIS swimming pool, you simply have to jump right in and get your feet wet!"
He unbuttons his cuffs and rolls up his sleeves as he instructs, "Come on, you lot! We're off to our next adventure!" Susan and Rose merely stand in awe of the man who has spent the morning running a gamut of emotions spanning grief, anger and joy to end it by commandeering eight tiny Time Tots to help him repair a loo.
Watching the ragtag plumbing crew leave the room, Rose and Susan simultaneously shake their heads in disbelief before their gazes meet and they break out into peals of laughter. Once they are able to calm down, Rose offers, "Susan, why don't you start making breakfast for this lot after you show me where you keep the mops and buckets? Knowing the Doctor as I do, I have a feeling that we'll need them."
Susan smirks as she acknowledges ruefully, "Knowing my children as I do, I know that we'll need them."
Biting her lip anxiously and turning serious for a moment, Susan's voice becomes grave as she shares, "Rose, I had no idea that Grandfather thought I was dead all of this time. I just thought that he needed the time to come to terms with losing Gallifrey. When I think how he's suffered needlessly…at least I knew that one day he would come back…Rose how could he stand it? How could he…"
She chokes on a sob and Rose immediately takes her into her arms until her tears subside. When she is sure that Susan is feeling stronger, Rose pulls back and tells her, "I'll admit, he's had his moments, Susan, both good and bad. But I promise you this, now that he's seen you and the children and he knows that he come back anytime, he'll definitely start to heal. All you lot will fill a void that I never could and then, well, we'll just go from there."
Susan smiles gratefully before embracing Rose one more time and whispers, "I'm so glad that he met you." However, having caught the undercurrent between the Doctor and Rose, she feels the need to ask, "Madame de Pompadour, hmmm?"
"Yes," replies Rose with a trace of bitterness.
"You know," recalls Susan, "Grandfather took me to France once when we traveled with Barbara and Ian. We landed during the Revolutionary War, I didn't care for it very much." She lays her hand on Rose's arm and confides wholeheartedly, "I much prefer London to France."
It's Rose's turn to smile in gratitude when she admits slyly, "You know what, Susan? So do I!" They giggle briefly before they head into the kitchen and Rose remarks, "We actually just came back from visiting Barbara and Ian."
"Oh, really?" exclaims Susan excitedly. "How are they? I've missed them so much!"
Rose's answer trails off as the TARDIS hums merrily as she envisions all of her children's timelines. Over time, each and every member of the household slowly unites as one unit, whether they are human, Time Lord or Lady or caught somewhere in-between. Their familial bonds hold fast even as each person follows their own strengths and passions and continues to go forward in their own beliefs.
The Doctor was finally able to continue keeping his promise to Susan to come back, yes he came back often and always with his Rose, but with no more regrets and no more tears. Though his hearts had been grieving, the TARDIS had kept on believing and waited for a young slip of a human child to make their dreams come true. A soft hum of delight resonates throughout the TARDIS as she suddenly realizes, Hmmm, that's a bit like Cinderella.