Before Yesterday Comes and Tomorrow Dawns – It's Time!
By Sylva Dax
A/N: Sorry for the delay, but this story kind of got away from me as you can see by its length. Thanks once again to those who are following this story, especially to those who have added this story to their favorites list, left kudos, or taken time to comment (really love those!). Special shout out to JaneScarlett who not only leaves wonderful comments but has actually come to see one of my shows: I added Mickey just for you. This chapter is a bit timey-wimey so pay attention to the scene headings which indicate where we are in the Doctor's timeline.
Disclaimer: As usual, anything recognizable from the show belongs to the BBC (I'm just borrowing).
"It's time!" he read aloud in confusion. 'Time for what,' he couldn't help thinking as he stared at the paper he held in his slightly wrinkled hand. What kind of a message was that? It wasn't signed. It didn't even provide coordinates. It stood to reason that knowing the identity of the sender would at least put some kind of context around this ill-conceived broadcast. Had he forgotten an appointment with the Celestial Intervention Agency? Most likely it hadn't been scheduled yet in his own personal timeline. Perhaps the TARDIS could trace the psychic signature back to its source, he mused.
The Doctor proceeded to have the TARDIS scan the offending message. In seconds it posted a rather inconclusive reply, accompanied by a strange hum: SPOILERS.
"Spoilers? What kind of an answer is that?"
The Doctor married? She was having a difficult time coming to terms with the idea. It was silly, really. Wasn't she married herself, happily, and with children? So why was she having a hard time accepting the fact that he was finally able to move on from Rose… Because it hadn't been with her when she'd been with him and so obviously smitten.
"Well good on him," had been Mickey's reply, with a quick kiss to her lips, when she'd relayed her brief conversation with Kate to him. "Funny how things work out. I wanted to hate 'em for swooping in with his time machine and black leather jacket and stealing my girl, but being with the Doctor changes you, ya know; makes you want more for yourself than what you'd settled on." The warmth in his eyes had included her in that more. "I'm glad he's finally got somebody."
"Yeah, me too," she'd agreed with her husband.
And she really was glad. The Face of Boe turned out to be right after all. The Doctor was not alone. He'd finally found someone who could fill the void left by all he'd lost. And, according to Kate, the Doctor and his Time Lady were well on their way to replenishing the Time Lord population.
And here she was, flying in a UNIT helicopter, on her way to assist.
When would he see her? Truly see her. Smith and Jones: they made quite a team. They'd been on so many adventures together, risking life and limb. She loved it, but…She couldn't keep this up. She wanted so much more, and there was so much a heart could take before it broke. She watched him now as he puzzled over that strange message he'd received on the psychic paper: "It's time!"
"For what though? That's what I want to know," the Doctor exclaimed in frustration, one hand taking it out on his already spiky hair.
He looked up at her then and she had to press her lips together to keep from smiling at the adorable picture he made.
"Do you know how maddening this is? I've gotten this same message in every regeneration since the CIA first gave me this," he said, waving the psychic paper in her face. "And I'm no closer to figuring it out than I was in the beginning. And all she'll tell me is 'Spoilers'," he whined, indicating the TARDIS. "What kind of answer is that?"
His hand had rested on the well-worn diary when she'd come up behind him and smoothly removed it from his reach. She'd known "spoilers" and she'd sent him the psychic message that had brought him to this accursed Library. And it finally hit him that the handwriting had been the same as the "It's time!" message. Professor River Song had written both messages, and now she was gone!
"You have all of that to come… You watch us run."
The Doctor held up his hand and snapped his fingers. Smiling in triumph, he marched through the opened doors into the TARDIS to join his best friend, Donna Noble, whose life was one of the countless lives the courageous professor's sacrifice had saved.
"I'm Dr. Martha Jones-Smith, from UNIT," Martha told the exhausted-looking doctor who greeted her team at the entrance to the coma ward. "Where should we set up?"
"We've set aside a room right next to the birthing room where Mels is having her baby," he responded, already leading the way.
"Mels? I'm here for Professor River Song," Martha said, confused.
Rubbing the tiredness from his eyes, the young doctor paused to explain, "Yeah, that's Professor River Song. She was Mels when we were all kids growing up. Of course, a lot of things have changed since then, but I imagine you already know that, you being from UNIT."
The truth was that she knew precious little about her patient beyond the fact that she was married to the Doctor and having his baby. It came as a surprise to learn that she had grown up on Earth. Kate had told her that because of the sensitive nature of the situation, her patient's medical records could not for any reason be transmitted. She'd have access to them once she arrived.
Letting the doctor get her team settled in the room next door, where a team of four was already pouring over data, she entered the birthing room where she was greeted by a short, portly man of about sixty years who looked to her hopefully. A handsome woman, perhaps a few years his junior, looked up from the bedside of a woman with an incredible amount of curly blonde hair obscuring her face. She was in the middle of a contraction.
"Are you the UNIT doctor?" Augustus asked, his usually ruddy face a bit pale.
"Oh, thank goodness you've arrived," Tabetha said, letting out a sigh when Martha nodded. "Our granddaughter's in a lot of pain. Can you do anything for her?"
Moving instantly to River's side, Martha couldn't help asking, "Granddaughter? Then you're Gallifreyan too?" She checked River's vital signs and picked up her chart from the end of the bed.
"Gallifreyan? Of course not. We're just as human as you," Tabetha responded. "You are human, aren't you?"
"Yes," she answered absently, trying to process the information the chart revealed about her new patient. Human plus Time Lord? How was that even possible?
"Parents spent their wedding night on the TARDIS," River gasped as she came out of the contraction.
Surprised, Martha met River's eyes. Apparently she'd spoken her thoughts out loud. "Companions, really? Your parents travel with the Doctor?"
Mindful of her grandparents, River simply answered, "They used to."
Nodding in understanding, Martha moved on to more relevant conversation, asking, "How far apart are the contractions?"
"Fifteen minutes," Tabetha supplied, holding up a stopwatch.
"And eighteen seconds," added her granddaughter.
"Thank you," Martha responded to Tabetha. "Would the two of you mind stepping out for a few minutes while I examine your granddaughter?"
"Not at all," Augustus said eagerly, relieved to get a reprieve. "Come along, Tabetha. We can call Brian and Sharon to let them know what's happening."
"Thank you, Martha Jones," River said.
"I'm just doing my job," Martha responded, pausing in her examination.
"No, thank you for that too," River started. "But I've always wanted to thank you and Rose for helping his broken hearts to heal. You taught him to love again."
"Seven centimeters," Martha said at that moment.
"You're at seven centimeters," Martha explained. "And you're wrong. He loved Rose. He couldn't even see me."
River watched Martha carefully as she studiously listened through the stethoscope she held against River's abdomen. She'd been hurt enough times by the Doctor to recognize the signs. "Believe me," she said gently. "He saw you… and it scared him. He'd lost Rose on top of everything else he'd lost. How was he to survive losing you too? He did the only thing he could think of to protect himself. He hid behind Rose. I think Donna's friendship helped get him the rest of the way."
Her stethoscope left dangling, Martha stared at River. "He actually told you all of this? Doesn't seem like my Doctor at all."
"That's because he isn't," River said. "He regenerated a long time ago, and I've known them both. So different and, yet, so similar. The Doctor hates goodbyes. Meeting me had to have been quite traumatic for him: I died."
"But then you regenerated?" Martha said, frowning in confusion when River shook her head. "You're like Jack then!"
"No, I died. Our relationship has been mostly back to front, with us usually meeting younger versions of each other, though not always. The day he met me was literally the day I died."
"River, that's awful," Martha breathed out.
"It wasn't easy, but it was worth it," she said with a smile, thinking of Ryan and the little one about to make her entrance. "My husband has had to carry the specter of my death with him through nearly two hundred years of our relationship, unable to say a word because of the danger of spoilers. He didn't come to me without a fight, hiding behind distrust and harsh words in a vain attempt to protect his hearts. They were already mine."
"I must admit that I am totally confused," Martha confessed. "How can you be here if you died?"
"He and the TARDIS finally found a way to save me without his younger self ever knowing the truth," River explained. "We are finally living a linear life together with very few spoilers between us. With my death no longer a secret burden, the Doctor has opened up to me about a lot of things this last year, including past relationships."
"Oh," Martha sighed in understanding just as River was gripped by a strong contraction.
Still reeling from their kiss, the Doctor decided to give chase. Professor River Song couldn't just pop into his TARDIS in that delectable TARDIS-blue negligee, snog his brains out, and pop back out again without giving him a chance to…a chance to…a chance!
"What's wrong?" River asked as soon as she could catch her breath, allowing her grandmother to mop at her brow.
Martha looked up from her instruments. Frowning, she said, "That last contraction was a bit rough on the baby. I'm sure it's nothing to worry about," she added quickly, noting the alarm on all the faces turned toward her. According to River the Doctor had eased her and their first baby through the worst of the contractions via their telepathic bond. She couldn't help worrying herself about the Doctor's delay since River had sent out her telepathic S.O.S. some time ago. Without his calming influence, the baby was getting caught in the psychic backlash of her mother's pain, and without the TARDIS, she had no anesthetic on hand that was safe to give her patient.
Just then the door flew open, yielding to the excited flurry of River's friends and the lead researcher of Martha's team. Augustus jumped up, blocking their progress into the room.
Undeterred, Evangelista announced, "Our joint effort has resulted in a very satisfactory conclusion."
"We found the monsters responsible for what's happened to Jeff and all the others," Anita added.
"Excellent news," River said with what meager bit of energy she could muster.
"Lieutenant?" Martha looked beyond the excited friends.
"Coordinates relayed, Commander," the lieutenant reported. "The Tower has already dispatched a squadron."
"Now, if you all don't mind, my granddaughter is a little busy here," Tabetha interjected, helping Augustus herd everyone but Martha from the room. Just before they closed the door, an excited cry reached them.
"Look, they're waking up!"
After a rough ride, the TARDIS' doors swung open just outside the main entrance of Leadworth's only hospital. The Doctor darted from his ship and crashed into another fellow also racing to the main entrance.
Having each defied gravity's pull, they simultaneously pointed an accusing finger at the other.
"What are you made up to be?" asked the fellow in trainers.
"What are you doing here?" hissed the horrified fellow sporting a bowtie and purple jacket.
"You ought to know since I'm assuming you're me in the future," the fellow in trainers spat in distaste. "I've unfinished business with Professor River Song."
Glaring at his younger self, the Doctor shifted to block his way. "Time Lord Victorious. Have you learned nothing from your trip to Mars? Turn back around now. Get back into your TARDIS, and get as far away from here as possible. You have no business with my… River."
Shaking his head but already starting to back away, the younger Doctor muttered, "It's not fair."
Placing an understanding hand on his shoulder, the Doctor said, "Life seldom is, but good things come to those who wait." He'd learned that from his Ponds.
Wasting no time once the other TARDIS faded away, the Doctor sprinted through the hospital, pausing only long enough to find out where his wife was. Tripping into the birthing room, he came face to face with his past.
"Martha? Martha, it's time! It's time, Martha," he crowed, dancing her around until his eyes found his wife's.
Tabetha gave up her place beside River and led Augustus from the room.
Taking one of River's hands in his, he caressed her cheek with the other. Smiling tenderly, he said, "Hi, honey, I'm home."
"It's about time," she sighed.