Character/Pairing: Ten/Rose, an OC, with appearances from Mickey, Martha, and Donna
Summary: It isn't about how he always saves her, or how she always saves him. It's about how they save each other.
Disclaimer: Not mine, alas.
Author's Notes: I couldn't resist it. The siren's call was far too strong, and so kidfic was produced. I've had such a fun time writing it though, spending time researching the places in the story, remembering my very rusty foreign language skills, and developing the child into an actual character, and I hope that everyone enjoys reading.
As always, my heartfelt thanks to paiger1218 for the support, time and effort, and the occasional beating me 'round the head when I contradict myself on paper. Thanks love!
It was the smell that followed him back, the sharp, acrid tang of fire and ash, carrying one of the last Time Lords up to the heavens. The Doctor walked away, the scent filling his nose. He shut his eyes briefly, a moment to mourn the life long enemy he wanted to save at the end.
Even now, the Doctor imagined he could feel the Master’s presence in his head, like a phantom limb, taking away the absence in his mind for just a little while. It was a small feeling, reaching out over the distances of space and echoing in his brain like the tiniest of heartbeats, screaming with life. It faded quickly, as if it were a wave going back out to sea, and left him alone in his head once more.
It never occurred to the Doctor that the feeling wasn’t just a phantom one, but a very real and very tiny presence that was going to need his help quite soon.
* * *
Que pura deum paris
Salva nos, stella maris
Et per rubum signaris
Nesciens viri thorum
For late fall anywhere in the world, the weather was beautiful. Being in Florence, Italy just made it all that much more spectacular. The sunlight gleamed and reflected off of the maze of sandy brick buildings and turned the Arno into a river of golden glitter. On one of the small side roads around La Chiesa da Santa Maria Novella, a small boy sat on a comfy lounge chair on a balcony, reading his book and enjoying the afternoon sunshine.
“Carlo, viene qui!” a voice from below called out, making the little boy grin and look up from his book. He peered through the bars of the balcony down into the street and saw the crowd of young boys down there, one of whom was tossing a football in his hands.
Charlie got up, ready as anything to join the game, when a sudden wave of dizziness overwhelmed his small frame. He slumped back onto the lounge chair, sighing heavily and ending with a small cough. He hated being sick. It felt like he was sick every day of his short, five-year-old life. He’d have much rather been down there with the rest of the boys playing football, but the way he felt right how he wouldn’t even be able to make it to the front door of the flat without having to stop for a break.
“Non posso, mi dispiace!” he called back. He’d picked up the native language fantastically fast when they arrived in Italy, and had spent a good few months being translator for his mum which was rather fun, because Mum knew everything and this was finally something she didn’t know that he could help with. It made him smile, and made his Mum ruffle his dark brown hair until it became even messier than it normally was. “Guarderò di qui!”
One of the boys shouted out something about him being the referee to their game, which Charlie wholeheartedly agreed to. He might not be able to play, but his eyes were quick and wouldn’t miss a thing.
It was when Charlie was standing on the lounger, leaning halfway out over the balcony pointing at one of the boys and calling him a cheat rather loudly that his mum came out there, carrying a tray with their dinner on it. He didn’t notice this until he felt Mum lean over the balcony next to him, her steadying hand falling on his back. “What’s going on?” she asked him in English, a distinct contrast to the Italian echoing up from below.
“Renzo’s not really that bright,” Charlie sighed. “He tried that same move last week and it didn’t work.”
Mum peered down at the scene below that was fast becoming the sort of brawl that boys get into on a regular basis. One of the older boys though caught sight of Mum standing there and decided to throw a wink and a grin her way, followed up by an air kiss. Mum just arched an eyebrow at that. “Cheeky,” she commented. She patted Charlie on the back. “Come on, my bright boy needs his dinner.”
They set up on the lounge chair, the dinner tray between them, and set out to eat. Mum was considerate enough to pull a small portable heater through the balcony doors so they could stay outside as long as possible, and he knew it was all because of him. He’d live outside if he could, really. He hated leaving that big sky behind just to hole up in a tiny room with only one window.
* * *
The sun had fallen, leaving behind a sky slightly clouded with smog and streetlamps, but a few stubborn stars managed to poke their way through so Charlie’s eyes could hunt them down. He sat between Mum’s legs on the lounge, and she had a thick blanket wrapped around both of them. He could stay warm and stargaze all at the same time; it was brilliant.
“So what were you reading today?” Mum asked him, pulling him back down to earth for a little while. Charlie grabbed the book from the balcony floor and handed it to her. “The Journey Through Wales, by Gerald of Wales,” she read from the cover.
“It’s interesting,” Charlie said, twisting around to look at her. “Can we go to Wales someday?” he asked her.
Mum flipped through the book, a frown growing on her face. “I don’t even think I read stuff this difficult back when I was in school.” She looked up at Charlie, a bit incredulous. “And my five year old son is tearing through it in two days.” She laughed, and ruffled his hair.
“Can we go there?” he repeated, ducking out from under her hand.
“Wales,” he insisted. Sometimes Mum could be rather silly-she had a tendency to wander off a bit.
She looked down at him, her blonde hair shining gold in the streetlamps. “Hmm, someday, I think, we’ll get there. Your dad and I went there a couple of times,” she said.
“Really?” Charlie asked, turning back around and settling into the circle of her arms, hoping to hear a story.
“Yep. Now those were an interesting few trips.”
Charlie loved hearing stories about his dad. Mum didn’t talk about him often, as they were separated before he was even born. He knew, though, that his dad was the reason that he was so different from the other boys, why his brain worked in a different way than theirs, why he couldn’t wait to get out there and see the stars up close…why he maybe wasn’t as human as everyone else on the planet.
He wasn’t supposed to know that last bit, but he’d found out a little over a month ago when an old friend of Mum’s had visited them. After learning it though, things just made so much more sense.
Charlie liked Dr. Jones. She had a sweet smile that shone white against her dark skin and made him feel comfortable, even when she was sticking a thermometer in his ear or pressing a cold stethoscope against his bare back. “You’re doing great,” she reassured him with her sweet smile as he took a few deep breaths. They could have been deeper, but he was getting dizzy again and couldn’t get as much air in as before.
Dr. Jones made some more notes on her pad, and nodded to herself. “All right Charlie, I think we’re just about done here.” She tugged his shirt back down and tucked him back into his bed. “Now you rest up, you hear me? Your mum should be here in a few minutes.”
“Okay,” Charlie nodded at her, waving as she left the room. She waved back, and closed the door to the bedroom until only a crack was left that peeked onto the rest of the apartment.
He tried to sit there and be patient, but he was too awake to fall asleep now. Maybe he could sneak out onto the balcony though, and watch the stars until he was a little more tired. Charlie hauled himself out of bed and over to the door. He stopped to peer through the crack, frowning when he spotted Mum sitting at the kitchen table, staring deep into the tumbler of wine she was clutching. He was just about to turn around to peer out the window instead, when the other visitor came into view, making Charlie pause, just for a moment he figured.
“Martha’s gone off to explore,” he said, pulling out another chair at the table. “She’s never seen Italy before, figures she could use this business trip to do a little exploring too.”
“Thank you, Mickey,” Mum said, pushing some hair back behind her ears. “I knew you could find someone trustworthy to take a look at Charlie.”
“Well, she’s shown herself to be a good asset to Torchwood, and knows how to keep a secret as well.” Mickey shrugged and helped himself to the wine. “Something you apparently know how to do damn well too.”
“I-I’m sorry,” she stuttered out, seeming to be at a loss for words for once.
“No you’re not. Gotta say, Rose, you pulling a runner makes a hell of a lot more sense now. One day we’re standing on a beach in Norway watching you rip your heart out as you say good-bye to him, and then by that time next week you’ve practically disappeared off the face of the planet. Six years pass, and only then do I get a message from you asking me to come to Italy, and if I could bring a doctor who specialized in alien biology along it’d be great, because your son was sick.” Charlie wasn’t the best at spotting it, but even he could hear the sarcasm in Mickey’s voice, even if he didn’t quite understand why he was using it.
Mum smacked her hand down on the table, making Charlie move back a quick step. “You didn’t see what I did, Mickey. I found this out right before Bad Wolf Bay-there was a group of people there in Torchwood who wanted to study me because I’d been into space. They wanted to lock me up and perform whatever tests they could on me to see how interstellar travel affected the human body. If they found out I was pregnant-pregnant with a child who’s only half human...no. They were not going do that to my baby. So I’m sorry for all the grief I’ve caused for you and Mum, but I had to go.”
For a brief moment, Charlie thought he should have been more surprised about the half-human thing. But for some strange reason, it seemed like it made the world just make that much more sense to him. He was different, yes-now he had a reason why.
“So, Charlie’s father is-is...?” Mickey trailed off, and Mum seemed to know exactly where to pick up the sentence.”
“It wouldn’t be anyone else,” she continued with a small laugh. “Look at him! He’s like a mini-Doctor, right down to those manky old trainers I have to practically pry off of his feet with a crowbar before he goes to bed.”
“Does he know about Charlie then?”
Mum’s face seemed to collapse in on itself at that. “Tried to tell him, on the beach. Ended up being a coward and said that Mum was three months gone instead of me. So I never told him.” She looked up at Mickey again, with that strong look in her eyes that made Charlie feel protected and others extremely nervous. “But sometimes I’ll dream, and I’ll see things, and all I can think is ‘oh, he knows.’”
Mickey looked like he didn’t quite believe Mum, but obviously wasn’t going to say anything. He seemed to know also just what Mum was like when she was mad. “I’m not going to argue,” he sighed. “Even though you probably made a pretty boneheaded decision by not telling him.”
“Frankly, it’s too late to worry about it. Whether I made the right decision or not, the chance to change it is long past.” She sniffled once, then looked back up at Mickey. “Did Martha find anything out about Charlie when she took a look at him?” she asked.
He reached over and grabbed a small notepad. Charlie recognized it as the same one Dr. Jones had been writing on back in his bedroom. “Nothing aside from stuff you probably already know-has trouble breathing sometimes, but there’s no apparent biological cause for it. Gets a bit dizzy sometimes, she spotted his blood pressure dropping at those moments but it didn’t fall into the danger zone. And his body temperature is hovering somewhere around 28 degrees centigrade.”
“Nothing surprising then,” Mum sighed, resting her chin on her knuckles. “Sometimes I wish that Charlie was normal, you know, so that he could go outside and play like a regular kid, so he wouldn’t be picked on in school for being smarter than everyone else, so he wouldn’t always be so sick. But it’s only a brief thought, ‘cause then I look at him and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Mickey’s brow wrinkled. “You think him being sick has something to do with his father? Whether the Doctor knew about Charlie or not, I really don’t think he’d want him to be sick all the time.”
“No, it’s not like that,” she shook her head. “I have a theory. Might not be true, but it’s the best I’ve got right now. You remember the very first time we got to this universe, how badly it fried the TARDIS? The Doctor couldn’t make it work without the connection back to our old universe, the one where the Time Lords were from.”
“What if Charlie needs that connection back to our universe also? What if that’s why he’s so sick always, because in this universe where it appears that the Time Lords never existed in the first place—there’s not even any legends about them here, and believe me, I’ve looked—anything connected to them can’t work properly, and that includes their people.” Mum’s eyes practically glowed in the dim lighting, her speech impassioned.
“But that didn’t happen to the Doctor though. He was his normal hyperactive self the whole time we were here,” Mickey said.
“We were only here a matter of days then, maybe it wasn’t long enough to affect him. Even if he did maybe he didn’t even recognize the feeling, he hadn’t traveled to parallel universes since before the Time War. He’s also had nine hundred years plus of experience. Charlie’s five. Not exactly a lot of time there to build up an immunity. And he just keeps getting sicker.” Mum slouched back in her chair. “I don’t know though. Looking for answers to explain the unexplainable, I guess. But I want to give him the best life possible. I want him to have at least a good human life here, considering that getting back to the other universe is impossible. He might not be able to have the life-span of a true Time Lord, but he’ll have a life.” Charlie could tell his mum was almost about to cry. She didn’t cry often, just late at night when no one else was around and she didn’t know he was awake. He wished he could have gone out there to give her a hug, but something inside him was telling him not to disturb the story.
“Well, Martha will be back here tomorrow, she’ll run some more detailed tests on Charlie and maybe we’ll get a better idea of how to treat him over the long term.” Mickey paused briefly. “Rose, why’d you decide to name him Charles anyway?” he asked. “I don’t recall any relatives of yours being named that.”
To the little boy’s surprise, his mum giggled. “Our second ‘date’,” she said. “We were supposed to go to Naples, ended up in Cardiff instead, and met Charles Dickens. I’d never seen him act like such a giddy fanboy before! So I decided to name Charlie after something he loved. I thought it was fitting.”
Charlie leaned against the door, smiling himself. He always liked to hear things about his dad, and this was a little tidbit he hadn’t heard before. Unfortunately he forgot that slightly open doors didn’t stay in place when leaned upon. The door swung outward, depositing Charlie in an ungraceful heap on the floor.
Mum and Mickey jumped up as if ready for a fight, but calmed down quickly when they saw that it was just him. Mum shot a quick look at Mickey, who nodded and grabbed up his jacket. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Rose. Charlie, have a good night,” he said, making a quick exit and shutting the apartment door behind him. Mum went over to him and sat down on the floor, helping him up to a sitting position.
“You heard all of that, didn’t you?” Mum said, running her hands down his arms.
Charlie nodded. “So my dad’s an alien?” he asked, blurting out the first thing that came to mind.
“Yes, he is.”
“And you? Are you an alien too?”
Mum laughed at that, taking Charlie’s hands in hers and squeezing. “No, I’m just your ordinary average human.”
“So I’m half-alien?” It really did explain so much about him.
“Well, yeah. Half Time Lord, to be precise.”
“Time Lord?” he asked. “Is that like a Martian or something?”
“Not hardly!” Mum laughed again. “That’s a story for another day though, after you’ve had some sleep and I’m more prepared for all of your questions.”
Charlie grinned back at her, but felt the smile begin to slide off his face. “But he doesn’t know about me.”
Mum’s smile faded then as well, and she moved to cup his face between her hands, her thumbs tapping at a few of his freckles. “No, he doesn’t. I found out I was going to have you after we were separated, and I blew the one chance I would have had to tell him.”
He bit his lip, not wanting to ask the next question. It slipped out anyway though, compelled by some inexplicable force. “D’you think he would have liked me?”
“Oh yeah,” Mum said, that smile of hers spreading across her face again, stroking his cheeks with her thumbs. “He would have loved you, our bright and brave boy with the map of the stars in his freckles.” She stood up, taking Charlie’s slight weight with her and scooping him into her arms. “Come on, it’s time for you to sleep,” she said, carrying him back into the bedroom.
That night Charlie dreamt of stars and time travel, with a faceless and invisible figure at his back, but a figure that always protected him and made him feel loved.
* * *
After that incident Charlie started carrying around a backpack with him. It was an ordinary backpack, with no ‘bigger-on-the-inside’ qualities or anything like that, and it wasn’t carrying all that much anyway. There was a photo album, a couple of his favorite books, an old football jersey (Rangers, all the way), a model of a spaceship from some sci-fi show, and an old house key on a chain that Mum had given him, stating that it was a good luck charm. He never let the backpack out of his sight, even slept with it under his pillow. He wanted to be prepared for anything.
* * *
O virgo specialis
Salva nos, stella maris
Sis nobis salutaris
Charlie pulled at the ends of his hair, which were in even more of a jagged state than normal. Stupid hair. Caused all sorts of problems. He glanced up at Mum, who hadn’t said a word to him since they had walked out of the school. He certainly wasn’t upset that he’d left class early, but he didn’t like to see him Mum so mad at him. It made him feel all bad inside. However, it wasn’t his fault that they left him alone with no more work to do and a pair of safety scissors. At least only his hair had suffered before they caught him.
Mum’s hand dropped down on his shoulder, tugging at his backpack strap and making him look up at her. She still wasn’t smiling, but had seemed to calm down a little bit. “Charlie?” She tilted her head towards the bakery’s display cases, racks upon racks of delicate little creations, tarts filled with little candied fruits, marzipan made to look like every conceivable food available, tiny cakes frosted with cream with shaved chocolate on the tops, and so much more that made Charlie’s eyes light up in anticipation of the oncoming sugar rush. “Che cosa tu desideri?” she asked.
Charlie looked over at the cases. He didn’t think he was going to get anything whilst at the bakery that they stopped by at least twice a week for snacks, but Mum nodded down encouragingly at him. “Io vorrei…questo…questo…e questo,” he said, pointing at a selection of items that caught his eyes.
Mum paid for their treats and they walked off, moving down the crowded city street. Charlie picked a mille-feuille that was layered with almond crème and raspberry jam out of the bag and began to munch on it, getting crumbs all over himself.
“I’m sorry I yelled at you back at the school,” Mum said, speaking loud enough for her voice to carry over the traffic on Borgo Ognissanti. Charlie looked up at her again, nearly tripping on a poorly-set cobblestone on the sidewalk. “I just didn’t expect to get a call this morning saying my son was caught sitting in his cubby-hole cutting his own hair.” She glanced down at him, a glint in her eye and a quirky smile on her lips. “At least it was your own hair and not someone else’s.”
“I was bored,” Charlie shrugged, shoving more pastry into his mouth. “The teacher didn’t want to give me any more work. And I didn’t wanna cut out any more pictures of trees. I know what a tree looks like.”
“You’re just too smart for your own good,” Mum said, though not in an insulting sort of way. “Same as your dad, really. Although, he did have 900 plus years of experience to back him up.”
Charlie paused in his chewing and stared up at her, quite wary. “Dad’s 900 years old?” he said, more than a bit skeptical. There was alien, yes, but that seemed to be pushing it.
“’S what he always said,” Mum replied, pushing him back into movement. “And obviously he knows a lot more than I do about things like that.”
The pastry was gone, leaving a lingering taste of raspberry jam on his lips. Charlie darted out from her grip and began to walk along the curb as if it were a balance beam, holding his arms out to the side. “Did he have tentacles?” he asked. “Am I gonna turn green when I’m 13?”
Now it was Mum’s turn to stop dead on the sidewalk, almost crashing into a tourist rushing somewhere or the other. “What?”
“You said he was alien. Most aliens on the telly are all green and slimy.” Charlie frowned. “I really don’t wanna be slimy.”
Mum rolled her eyes mightily and grabbed onto his shoulder, guiding him across the street when there was a break in the traffic. There was yet another piazza there, and they sat down on a bench placed strategically so as to admire the statue of a man wrestling a lion that was in the centre of it. “Okay,” Mum said, sitting cross legged on the bench and turning to face Charlie. “Time Lord biology, 101.” Charlie nodded and reached for his next pastry, a baby chocolate tart with whipped cream on top. “First question – if you see a Time Lord on the street, how could you tell?”
Charlie shrugged. “Look for the tentacles?”
Mum shook her head. “Nope. It’s a trick question. You wouldn’t be able to tell; they look exactly like us. Or maybe we look like them. I always got the impression that the Time Lords are ages older than humans are. The first time I saw the Doctor I didn’t know that he wasn’t human. It was only when I saw his ship—“
“The TARDIS,” Charlie interjected with a nod. He’d heard about that ship before, that wonderful ship that could get into one’s head and was far bigger on the inside than it appeared to be. It had originally started out as a made up bedtime story, and had only realized after he had found out the truth about his dad that it wasn’t as imaginary a ship as previously believed.
“Yes, the TARDIS,” Mum continued with a smile. “That was what made me realize he wasn’t quite like the other people on Earth. The real differences are underneath the skin. His blood is different. It looks red, but if you saw it under a microscope…something about the shape of the cells, and the chemicals in it. It’s all technical stuff that I have no idea about, but I know it’s so different from mine.” She pushed some blonde hair behind her ears, out of the way of the chilled December air that was whipping it around. “He was telepathic as well, could see into people’s minds if he wanted to. What else…” She wrinkled her brow, deep in memories.
“Something that’s going to make me turn green or purple when I’m a grownup?” Charlie grinned.
“No. Oh, I’m forgetting two of the most important things.” She leaned in close, as if imparting a great secret. “He has two hearts,” she whispered to him with a wide grin on her face.
“That’s imposs—“ Mum’s look cut him off, reminding him that nothing was really impossible sometimes. Charlie prodded at his own chest, feeling for his own heart and finding it beating steadily on the left side of his chest. “I’ve only got one.”
“Maybe it’s because you’re half human,” Mum shrugged. “I’m not sure. But I know for a fact that he has two hearts. You could put your ear to his chest and listen, and there’s one on the left side and one on the right. Sometimes, when I had trouble falling asleep, I’d lay down and put my head over his hearts…it was almost like a lullaby.”
“Is there anything else that made him really really alien?”
Mum nodded, picking at her own blueberry tart. “There’s one thing, a little trick that the Time Lords had as a way to sort of cheat death. It’s called regeneration, where every cell in the dying body is replaced by a brand new one. I’m not sure how many times he’s had to do it, but I get the feeling it’s been a few by now. I saw him do it once, saw him explode into this golden light right in front of my eyes.” She munched thoughtfully on a sugar glazed blueberry.
“He exploded? What happened?” By this point, Charlie was truly enraptured.
“He was saving the Earth from this horrible race called the Daleks. All they wanted to do was take over and destroy. But your dad was brilliant enough to stop them, but he got injured so badly in the process that he had to regenerate. He exploded…and he changed.”
“How did he change?”
“When I say every cell is replaced it means every cell. By the time it was over he looked like a whole new man. When I started traveling with him he looked like he was a tall human man in his forties, with very short cropped dark hair. He hated his ears, thought they stuck out too much. It was a face full of character, with these intense blue eyes and a manic grin, and I just loved it. He had a thick northern accent, and always wore this beat up leather jacket with a jumper and dark jeans.
“Then, after he changed…the first thing I noticed was the hair.” She laughed softly. “It looked like a brown thatch had burst out on his head. He’s a bit vain about it. Speaking of vanity he decided to change his clothes too. After he regenerated he always wore a brown pinstriped suit and a long coat, topping it all off with a pair of trainers.” Mum shot a pointed look down at his own beyond grimy sneakers, at which he just wiggled his toes. “He was a bit skinnier than the previous version, younger as well looks wise, by about ten years or so, and he had big brown eyes and the freckles to match. Same wild grin though.” Mum finished her tart and cupped Charlie’s face in her hands. “You know what? You look exactly like that too.” She leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “Which is why I should not have been the least bit surprised to hear that you’ve been bored silly in class.”
“I hate it there,” Charlie said, reaching for his third treat in the bag, a very lifelike marzipan banana. For a sickly child he could pack a surprising amount of food away.
“I know you do. So what I think we’re going to do is call them up tomorrow and tell them you’re not going back.”
Charlie nearly jumped and looked up at her, startled. It was like every child’s wildest dream come true. Mum nodded. “Christmas is in a couple of weeks, and then you’re going to be on vacation anyway. So what we’ll do in that time is find a new school for you, something more suited to your abilities. Or maybe we’ll just move again. We’ve been in Florence for a while, could be time for a change.” Charlie just shrugged.
“Well, we’ve got time to think about it. You know, I’ve always fancied going to Barcelona.” Charlie couldn’t quite understand why she was grinning like a loon at him, but he trusted her (she was Mum, after all), shrugged again, and shoved more of his marzipan banana into his mouth.