Author's Note: Just a reminder that there is an inside joke at the end of the story that refers to a scene from She's Worth It.
Previous Chapter: "I am truly sorry for that, Leela," she apologizes with heartfelt sympathy. "That woman has always been unpleasant at the best of times, but that was completely uncalled for." "Leela slowly turns back to Ambalika, her expression full of bitterness and resignation at the daily occurrence of bias that she has been forced to endure during her stay on Gallifrey. "It is nothing that I have not encountered before, Ambalika, nothing that I am not used to." "You do realize, Leela, that not only will this not be the last time that you suffer such insults, but this will most likely be an ongoing occurrence as long as you stay on this planet?" inquires Ambalika gently. Leela keeps silent but her gaze hardens to steel as she looks at the woman before her. Moving slowly, so as to not startle her prey, she reaches into a pocket of her robes and withdraws her knife. Alarmed at the young woman's actions, Ambalika is too frightened to react other than to gasp out a whisper. "Leela? What?" And then Leela throws the knife.
"Leela slowly turns back to Ambalika, her expression full of bitterness and resignation at the daily occurrence of bias that she has been forced to endure during her stay on Gallifrey. "It is nothing that I have not encountered before, Ambalika, nothing that I am not used to."
"You do realize, Leela, that not only will this not be the last time that you suffer such insults, but this will most likely be an ongoing occurrence as long as you stay on this planet?" inquires Ambalika gently.
Leela keeps silent but her gaze hardens to steel as she looks at the woman before her. Moving slowly, so as to not startle her prey, she reaches into a pocket of her robes and withdraws her knife.
Alarmed at the young woman's actions, Ambalika is too frightened to react other than to gasp out a whisper. "Leela? What?" And then Leela throws the knife.
Ambalika's scream of terror rings throughout the community dining area instilling alarm and fear into the other patrons while simultaneously calling her son to her side.
Andred reappears almost instantly inside the entranceway of the garden to find his mother slumped in her chair with her eyes shut tight and clutching at the robes over her chest in terror while Leela kneels before her in concern.
"Ambalika, are you alright?" she asks in worry. "Everything is fine now, the snake is dead."
"Snake?" she whispers to the young warrior without opening her eyes. "What are you talking about?"
Before Leela has a chance to reply, Andred kneels down alongside Leela and takes his mother's hands in his own. "Mother, are you alright? Leela, what happened here?"
Leela points to an area of the garden directly behind Ambalika to indicate the dead animal lying behind her. "There was a snake that was about to strike out at your mother, Andred, so I killed it."
Andred's eyes widen in shock before setting in a deadly glare aimed at the serpent. "It's a Taipan and they're venomous." His gaze is full of gratitude when he turns to look at his betrothed. "Leela, you saved my mother's life."
Ambalika begins to rouse herself from her stupor and croaks, "A Taipan? But they are only found outside the Citadel, how did it find its way in here?"
Andred rises and inspects the area behind the snake with a grimace. "There's a crack in the barrier that separates us from the outside. It must have occurred when the Doctor punched a hole in the transduction barrier." He lays a comforting hand on his mother's shoulder and states, "The workmen must have overlooked the garden area, I'll have one of the reconstruction crews see to it immediately."
Ambalika grasps her son's hand as if to draw support from him and finally opens her eyes to gaze wearily at Leela. "I'm sorry, Leela. I didn't realize that I was in danger…I thought…"
"You thought what?" inquires Leela in bewilderment until she receives her answer in the look of shame on Ambalika's face. "Oh, I see," comprehends Leela quickly, "you thought that I was attacking you."
Leela slowly rises to a standing position and draws herself to her full height as she calmly addresses Andred. "I cannot imagine that anyone would want to continue lunch after this, Andred. I think it would be best if you took your mother home."
"We'll both take her home, Leela," suggests Andred gently. He speaks in quiet and even tones so as not to startle her. He knows instantly that she is beginning to withdraw from him and the life that he is offering her and he doesn't need his Gallifreyan intellect to know why. "Once we're assured that my Mother is settled, we can return to your quarters and -"
"That won't be necessary, Andred," declares Leela firmly. "I will be fine on my own; your mother is the one who needs you now." She wears a wistful smile as she recalls, "The Doctor was always quick to call me a savage, whether I had done well in his eyes or not. At times it was an obviously an insult but usually…mostly, I believe that he meant it as a term of affection."
She flashes the barest hint of the sadness and pain that is tearing through her at the thought of losing the prospect of the life that she thought she and Andred were to have together. "That is not the case with the people of your world." She glances at his mother before meeting Andred's gaze with firm decision. "I would willingly stand up to all who oppose our marriage, Andred, whether it's the Council or residents of the Citadel, but I will not come between you and your family."
Leela stares down at Ambalika, both in sympathy and in affront. "I am alone in this universe, Ambalika. My mother and sister have long since passed and when I lost my father, I left my tribe and began my travels with the Doctor. I tell you this not to gain your sympathy, but so that you will realize that family means everything to me. So although I am alone, you need not worry about losing Andred. I will make no attempt to divide him from his family."
Without another word, Leela swivels on her heel and strides out of the garden area with her head held high. When she reaches the interior of the dining area, she takes note of the gazes that hold her in disregard and with open hatred. She stops momentarily to meet them head on and although her returning glare may never match that of the overwhelming power and authority that the Doctor seems to radiate so easily, she is still quite satisfied to see that for once she is not the one who has been made to feel uncomfortable.
Hours later in the living room of Leela's living quarters, she and Andred are deep in argument over her decision to leave. Andred is torn between frustration and begging when she makes another attempt to pass him to head out the front door.
He swiftly blocks her and grabs her shoulders while pleading with her to see reason. "Leela, please sit down with me so that we can discuss this, I know that we can work through this!"
She knocks his hands away from her and insists heatedly, "There is no longer anything to work through, Andred, now let me pass!"
"And where do you think that you're going, back to the Outsiders?" His voice is laced with anger and desperation as he reminds her, "You don't even have any supplies with you!"
"I didn't need them last time either! I don't need anything or anyone to survive the Wastelands, Andred, I can take care of myself!" She darts around him and struggles in his grip when he catches her, immediately stilling when she hears his next words.
"I thought that we were going to take care of each other. That was the plan, wasn't it?" he asks gently as he draws her tightly to him, her back pressing against the front of his body. "To take care of each other for as long as we have together?"
Her head drops slightly forward as she admits, "That was before I met your mother."
They both smile slightly as he confesses wryly, "Why do you think that I kept the two of you away from each other for so long?"
She leans back into him and takes comfort from his warm embrace. "I love you, Andred, but I meant what I said. I will not come between you and your family."
He draws his arms tightly around her waist securing her against him and rests his head alongside hers. "That doesn't have to happen, Leela. My mother was wrong; she admitted that after you left. Gallifreyans are not used to outsiders, our first instinct is mistrust of all other species and unfortunately, that was the path that my mother chose to follow when you threw your knife."
"It doesn't matter," declares Leela softly, almost timid. "If it hadn't been my attack on the Taipan than it would have been something else. We were foolish to think that we could be together. You told me yourself that your planet follows certain laws and customs in the interaction of outsiders, we should have realized and accepted that your family would be no different."
Andred's head jerks up at Leela's words, not merely at their meaning but at the tone with which she's voicing them. Her speech is soft, quiet and almost hesitant, and the words are not delivered in the manner that he has come to associate with the woman that he loves. He does not relinquish his grip, fearful that she will run if given the chance, but manages to slowly turn her to face him. "Leela, what is wrong? And don't tell me that it is because of my mother, there must be more. Not in all the time that I have known you, have I ever seen you look so vulnerable, I would almost say that you looked scared."
"I am scared," she confesses as she stares back at him sadly. "There has never been anything so important to me before and I don't know how I will live without you by my side." She lays her head on his chest and breathes in his scent as if to burn it into her memory. "I will survive of course, it is what I do best, but I will not live without you."
"And you won't have to, Leela," he insists as he takes hold of her chin and directs her gaze back up to him. "I will always be by your side. The wildest beast could not drive me away," he begins to show the hint of a smile as he vows, "not even you."
Leela has no choice but to smile in return and although still fretful, there is a spark of determination that is beginning to grow in her eyes and she asks pointedly, "And what of your family, Andred? What if they continue to disapprove of us?"
Andred's gaze falls to the side as he considers her question and then immediately returns to hers when he has his answer. "Then if you were still uncomfortable here, we would simply leave."
"Leave?" Leela releases a nervous laugh. "The Citadel or the planet?"
"Either, both," he readily supplies. "The Doctor was only a scientist when he absconded with his Type 40 TARDIS and left Gallifrey. I am in charge of Security, we would have a much easier time."
"Your family-" she begins before he quickly cuts her off.
"My family can visit us if they choose to or they can wait until we decide to visit them. I love my family, Leela, but I will not have them dictate my life and from the moment that you decided to stay with me, you became my life. If they want to continue to be part of our lives then they will have to learn to make concessions and accept you as my wife." His hand moves from cradling her face to tangling in her hair as he declares, "Because I will not leave you, Leela, and I will not let you leave me."
Their kiss is loving yet fierce, aggressive yet forgiving and somehow manages to convey all that they have ever felt and meant to each other since they met. All too soon they are interrupted by the sound of the front door's chimes alerting them to the fact that they have a visitor.
The couple reluctantly releases each other and it is Andred who strides over to open the door to find his mother standing stiffly on Leela's doorstep. "I would say that I'm surprised to find you here, Andred, but that would be a lie." When he continues to stand in place and merely stare at her, she rolls her eyes and huffs, "Andred, I have come to see Leela. Now, either move out of my way so that I may enter or I will move aside so that you may leave."
At the threat of his mother being alone with Leela, he hastily steps back and allows her to enter the room. She scans the room until she spies Leela and ignoring her son, she draws herself up proudly and immediately walks over to the young woman.
When they are face to face, Ambalika raises her chin defiantly at the uncomfortable situation while Leela continues to watch her impassively, refusing to speak until the older woman has her say. Glancing back at her son and seeing that he is wearing the same inexpressive countenance as Leela, she instantly realizes that he will be of no help to her in addressing her future daughter-in-law. In light of this, her defiance rapidly fades leaving only the distraught feeling that she has carried within her hearts since she realized her horrible mistake regarding Leela's intentions.
Steeling herself, she takes a deep breath and attempts to make amends. "Leela, I have come here to apologize to you. From all that Andred has told me about you and from everything that I have gleaned from meeting with you, I should not have jumped to the conclusion that you were attacking me. Granted, my experience with off-worlders is few and far between so I am not accustomed to having weapons thrown in my direction…" she glances up to note a look of fury flash across Andred's face and she clears her throat, "but still…I should have not leapt to such an unflattering conclusion and held onto it, especially since you were so quick to check on my well-being in obvious concern."
Leela listens to the woman while bearing a blank expression until she has finished speaking. She looks over to Andred who is wearing a satisfied smile and then glances over at his mother who is wearing an expectant one. When it is obvious that Ambalika is awaiting any sign of forgiveness or least some sort of reaction, Leela begins to open her mouth but then instantly shuts it in consternation. "That was an apology, was it not?"
The slightest bit of tension eases from Ambalika's frame as well as her eyes when she declares, "Yes, Leela, it was an apology."
The young Sevateem's gaze darts over to Andred and she sees that he is wearing an expression that is as hopeful as his mother's own, and with wisdom that she has accumulated throughout her life in addition to her travels with the Doctor, she knows that it is not only Andred's family who will have to make concessions from time to time if they are to make this work.
"Then I accept your apology," she proclaims graciously before pinning Ambalika down with a meaningful stare. "However, I would like to assure that you need never worry about my attacking you, there is no moment of anger strong enough to will me to hurt you. If that is not enough to relieve your worry than please know that in hurting you, I would only be hurting Andred and that is something that I never wish to do."
Ambalika has the decency to look embarrassed at Leela's vow of reassurance and in turn hastens to give surety to the young woman that that particular concern is no longer prominent in her mind. "I fully understand that now, Leela, and I cannot express enough how truly and deeply I regret my transgression at our luncheon in not comprehending it earlier regardless of my state of mind. Gallifreyans hold logic in the highest regard above all else and I am ashamed to admit that I was not up to the task when the Taipan made its assault."
Leela's befuddled gaze immediately seeks out Andred, who while sporting a huge grin immediately declares, "Yes, Leela, that is still an apology."
Leela smiles widely while Ambalika acknowledges Leela's acceptance of her apology with a small nod of gratitude. She then reaches into her robes and withdraws a diminutive wooden box ornately carved with several Gallifreyan symbols and gazes at it fondly before presenting it to Leela.
Leela opens the box to discover a silver necklace with what appears to be a glass rose open in full bloom with a silver backing hanging at the end of the beaded chain and tiny jeweled beads dangling from the chain, each an inch apart from the other, every other one either completely clear or displaying the softest hue of green. Ambalika's voice is full of pride when she announces, "That locket has been in my family for countless generations, every female ancestor in my family has received their own necklace when they announce that they are forming a union. Therefore, it is tradition in my family for the eldest matriarch to give it to the next daughter in line of our House. Andred's father and I have only produced male heirs so I have never been given the opportunity to present it as the other women in my family have."
Ambalika's countenance softens greatly as does her voice as she removes the necklace from the box and clasps it around Leela's neck. "You are a gift that I thought I would never be blessed enough to receive, Leela. We are honored for you to become a member of our family and we eagerly welcome you as a daughter in our name, in our House and in our hearts."
The room is held silent, all for different reasons. Andred is speechless with surprise at his mother's offering as he was not even aware of the necklace's existence which made sense since he only had brothers. Although when he searches through all of his memories, he does seem to recall a flash when his mother held his youngest brother when he was only a day old and…yes…she was wearing that very necklace. He didn't remember it before now because he was such a small child at the time and he had never seen the necklace since.
Leela remains silent as she takes in the ramifications of such a gift and the words that accompanied them. The Doctor always told her that words have power but Leela never gave much consideration to that statement. To her, strength was power or one's actions which proved their sincerity and their worth. Her hand trails up her chest to lift the rose into her view while she judges the strength of Ambalika's words and gift and what they mean for her and hopefully her new family.
Ambalika quietly stands by as she patiently awaits the judgment of her son's betrothed and possibly that of her son. She is devastated to know how deeply she has hurt Leela, now that she has met and come to know her, and aches for the pain that she has brought into her son's eyes at the possibility of losing the love that he thought that he would never find. For although Gallifreyans value logic above all else and frequently enter into arranged marriages, they are still capable of love. And when a Gallifreyan finds love, they love like no other.
The silence is finally broken when Leela's gaze rises to meet her future mother-in-law and states, "Thank you for both your words and your gift, Ambalika. You have spoken words that I thought never to hear from any of your people that would hold me in such a place of…of…" she stumbles through her memories with the Doctor in search of the right word until she finds it, "in such a place of high esteem. The fact that you would entrust me with such a cherished tribute proves to me that you mean what you say." She reaches a hand out to the woman to take her hand and smiling brightly declares, "And the honor of joining your family will be all mine."
Ambalika breathes a sigh of relief and extending her hand to cradle Leela's face, she leans over and kisses it gently before pulling back and assuming a more formal manner. "Please consider that as a small token of gratitude for saving my life today, that was very brave of you."
"Yes," agrees Andred heartily. "Not to mention lucky. Taipan's are as fast as they are venomous and I had no idea that you had your knife underneath your robes."
Leela bears a smug expression at the praising of her warrior skills and cleverness, even when Ambalika arches an eyebrow inquiringly at her son. "And what would you know about what Leela wears underneath her robes, Andred? You are only just betrothed!"
Without batting an eye and only a slight flush on his cheeks, Andred promptly replies, "I am the head of Internal Security, Mother, I need to know these things."
Ambalika's expression carries more than a hint of mistrust when she encourages, "Yes, well…you make sure that being in charge of Security is the only position that you concern yourself with, at least until after you have formed your union!"
"Mother!" exclaims Andred in mortification. "I would greatly appreciate it if you would not think about Leela and myself in that way!"
"Yes, please don't," adds Leela beseechingly. "Andred has told me how thoughts of his family do not allow him to focus on our lovemaking."
"Excuse me? D-d-did you just say…?" sputters Ambalika with an accusing eye aimed towards Andred.
"Mother, please remember your training at the Academy," offers Andred in soothing tones. "Remember what lovemaking was defined as? Hand holding, an innocent embrace, a touch upon the cheek, we've done nothing more than that."
Both Leela's and Ambalika's eyebrows rise at this declaration, but both women manage to hold their tongues. Too much bad feeling has passed this day and no one wants to incur anymore if it is not duly necessary.
Ambalika casts one last doubtful glance at her son before turning to Leela with a gentle expression. "It will be a great honor to our family and our House on the day that Andred's father and I can call you our daughter. It is a day that I fervently look forward to."
She places a final kiss on Leela's cheek and Leela in turn kisses her hand attempting formality in a gesture of honor towards Andred's mother. "Thank you, Ambalika. I look forward to that day as well, to know that I have finally found a people to call family as well as a place to call home."
Ambalika smiles softly at Leela before turning to Andred with a pointed stare. "Perhaps you would be so kind as to escort me home, Andred? After all, it would not do for you to remain here unchaperoned before your union."
Andred quickly concedes, "Of course not, Mother." She nods curtly and leaves them alone for a moment's privacy to say goodnight while she waits in the hall.
Leela is beaming at the day's turn of events but inquires resignedly, "So, I will see you tomorrow, then?"
Andred darts a quick peek over his shoulder before whispering, "I'll see you later tonight. After today, I think that I need to start running a nightly security check for weapons." He gives her a swift and heated kiss full of promise of the passion yet to come and then hurries off to join his mother.
As the door shuts, Leela cradles the rose on her necklace and rubs her thumb along the almost diamond like texture while she gazes into its many facets. Like her it is plain and clear to see through allowing nothing to hide, its exterior appears hard yet inside it is fragile, and with just the right light, it can shine more brightly than the stars so that it can be seen for what it truly is, a gem.
Leela curls her fist around the rose, clutching it to her breast as she takes a deep breath and releases a sigh of relief. For it is in this one moment above all the others on Gallifrey or even with her tribe that Leela finally feels as though she has truly found peace. She has a new home, a new family and love and she can at last say that she now has somewhere that she truly belongs.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the door, Andred is busy ushering his mother down the hall at a speedy pace. "Are you in a rush for any particular reason, son?"
Andred clears his throat nervously but continues his steady pace, practically dragging his mother alongside him. "There are some security checks that I need to perform."
"Ah,yes," she notes in understanding. "I believe that you said that you had a weapons check later tonight if I heard you correctly?"
Andred halts his stride and catches his mother when she trips from the unforeseen stop. "You heard that?" he squeaks.
"Gallifreyan hearing, son," she explains as she taps her ear. "That's how I was able to remain one step ahead of you and your brothers as children, remember?" He offers her a sheepish look as penance until she asks her next question with a completely straight face. "So, will you be discharging your weapon this evening?"
He gasps in horror as he steps back from her. "Mother, please!"
Ambalika laughs heartily at her son's distress and needs a moment to catch her breath before she can form a reply. "Oh, Andred, you are so inhibited for one so young! You are definitely your father's son. Poor Leela, she definitely has her work cut out for her."
She smiles as she tugs on his arm to continue their journey. "I hope she likes your wedding present as much as the locket. Your father is bringing it home with him when he returns from his business trip."
"Most likely she will, if only not to offend you," he says laughingly. "Are you going to tell me what it is?"
His mother's eyes flash with excitement as she shares, "It is a wooden statue of one of the ancient warriors of Gallifrey and her mate! I thought it would be fitting."
Andred grins widely at her thoughtfulness. "She will love it Mother, thank you."
"I hope so dear," responds Ambalika a bit fretfully. "And, well, if not, she can always use it for target practice with her knife."
Andred laughs at his mother's jest and replies, "Right, mother, as if that would ever happen."