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Fic: Heritage, Chapter Five

Title: Heritage, Chapter Five
Author: NP-Complete
Rating: General
Characters: OCs; historical Rose/Ten
Spoilers: Doomsday
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not even close.

Summary: Half Time Lord, all human

Author's Note: Thanks to everybody who commented on my previous chapters. Special thanks to kalleah for beta and persistent encouragement.


Previous Chapters


“He left her with a mission and a baby.” John said. “The mission he intended, the baby he didn’t.” He stopped and looked at her. “He didn’t intend to get her pregnant. That I’m sure of.”



She opened her eyes to find she had a faint headache. It was probably from an excess of wine with dinner. Not having made drinking her hobby, she didn’t have that strong a head.

Pale yellow sunlight was filtering in through the window, through sheer curtains made of some natural material, a little too heavy to be called gauze. She was under a pale yellow duvet, in a double bed. Disappointingly, the sheets smelled of detergent, not of anything that might be associated with John. Very likely he had changed them while she had been in the loo the night before. It was very considerate of him, all things considered, even though there was something very appealing about potentially sleeping surrounded by his scent. But she had slept surrounded by his things: that would have to do.

A wardrobe stood at one wall, while yet more plants cast shadows against the far side of the curtains, nestled in the window sill. Waist-high bookcases lined the longer wall, full mostly of paperbacks—mostly non-fiction, on subjects ranging from Iron Age archaeology to teaching yourself the guitar—and various odds and ends were scattered across the top. The walls held large framed prints of drawings, mostly nature scenes and abstracts. A few were concert posters of bands she’d never heard of, art and design clearly done by amateurs. There was also one professionally printed poster, yellowing under the glass, from a rock band that had been popular when she was seven years old. It had been signed. On the floor by the wardrobe was a collection of shoes in a more-or-less straight line.

She rose, lifted off the borrowed t-shirt, put her bra on, and then slipped the t-shirt back on. She wanted to see what the effect on John would be of seeing her in his clothes. Then she put on enough else to be decent. She made the bed and straightened the pillows, left her other clothes folded in a neat stack on the edge of the bed, and ventured forth to see what John was doing.

Faint music was coming from the other side of the flat as she wandered into the hallway. She wandered past photos of unfamiliar landscapes, a watercolor of a country house among spring trees, and a 19th century engraving of the Cambridge colleges. John was in a chair by the kitchen table, leaning back, bare feet propped up, doing the crossword. A steaming mug of tea sat next to him. A media machine was playing the sound of acoustic guitars as someone sang with rueful familiarity about love and loss.

John put down the crossword when he heard her enter. “Hello,” he said, his face brightening. “Sleep all right?”

“Fine, fine,” she said. “Your room is very comfortable.”

“Yes, it’s a good bed,” he began, and then turned slightly pink. She grinned. After a moment, John grinned back.

“Thanks for letting me stay here last night,” she began.

“You’re quite welcome,” he said. “I’m glad I was able to help.”

“I should do something nice for you,” she said. “Get you breakfast, perhaps?”

“Oh, there’s no need,” he said. “In fact, I should be offering you something.” He glanced over at the mug on the table, and said “Tea, to start with.” He looked back at her. “Would you like some tea?”

She smiled. His chair landed on all four feet with a thump. “Or coffee?” he said, as he untangled his legs and tried to get up. “I’ve got coffee. Would you prefer coffee?”

“Tea would be perfect,” she said. “Thank you.”

“I’ve got bread,” he said, as he disappeared into the kitchen. “We could have toast.” From inside, he called out “I’m making toast. Do you want some?”

“Toast would be lovely,” she called back.

While John was in the kitchen, she wandered over to a bookcase, over which a number of framed photographs were hanging. There was Rose Tyler, of course, young and beautiful, and then older and handsome. There was one that had to be John as a little boy, holding the hand of a good-looking black man, looking up together at a balloon. There was a posed portrait of an older couple, the man recognizable as an older version of the Pete Tyler whose animated image still appeared in Vitex adverts. There was one that seemed to be a very young John sitting with friends around a pub table, all doubled up with laughter. The others were of people she didn’t recognize, at various ages—old friends of John’s, perhaps.

There was a small folding frame of the kind that holds two photos lying on the top of the bookcase, face down. She picked it up, idly, and opened it. The photo on the left was a snapshot of a tall, rawboned man in a leather jacket, squinting in disapproval at the bright pink plush penguin he was holding. The other appeared to be John himself, sitting in a massive leather armchair, reading a book.

She’d never seen him in spectacles before. His hair was different – more flamboyantly styled. She studied the photograph, and realized that the face wasn’t actually John’s. There were similarities, but it wasn’t John.

“That was my father,” said John, from over her shoulder. She jumped a little. “Sorry,” he said.

“He looks like you,” she said.

John made a noise of agreement that ended in an expulsion of breath, almost a sigh, and she knew he must have pored over the photograph many times, looking for meaning in the resemblance. Wanting to get his mind off a melancholy subject, she asked, “Who’s the other bloke?”

John didn’t answer. She turned around to look at him, and saw his eyes were down, his face masked, as he considered something.

“John?” she said.

He looked up, and his expression was regretful for a moment. “It’s a long story,” he said.

“Another one of those,” she joked, but John didn’t smile.

“I can trust you, Penny, can’t I?” he said, wistfulness in his tone.

“Certainly,” she said, wondering. “Yes.”

He looked at her, intently, seeking something in her face. “Promise me…” he began, but fell silent, eyes cast down again, lips left parted.

“I promise,” she said, reaching out to set her hand on his arm, not knowing what she was promising, but wanting to give him what she could.

He looked up. “Let’s go out,” he said, abruptly, voice serious.

“Okay,” she said, wondering.

“You may not feel the same way about me after you hear this,” he said, in that same serious tone. “I’d rather not associate that with this place.”

~oOo~


Outside, she buttoned up her coat against the brisk early Spring air. “Where are we going?” she asked.

“There’s a park over that way,” John said, shutting the door behind them. “I thought we could walk there.”

“That sounds good,” she said, and they started walking.

John was silent as they walked, his shoulders tense, his hands shoved in his pockets. Whatever he had to say, it made him uncomfortable.

“You had something you wanted to say?” she prompted.

“Yes,” he said, glancing at her. “It’s going to sound quite mad.”

After a moment of search for an encouraging response, she settled on saying “Many unlikely things turn out to be true,” as reassuringly as she could.

“This is more unlikely than most,” he said.

“Well, then,” she said. “Might as well get on with it.”

“I suppose so,” he sighed, and glanced at her again. “This has to do with my mother.”

“Go on,” she said, encouragingly.

He took a deep breath. “This is what I didn’t want to tell Leo last night.”

“How your mother got started?”

“Yes,” he said, and paused. She waited for him to continue, looking up at him.

“Imagine this,” he finally said. “A nineteen year old girl. A brave girl. A smart girl. An ordinary Earth girl, from South London. One day, she met a man.”

He took another breath. “He was a very special man. He was … an adventurer. His hobby was saving the world. And he took her traveling with him. And they had adventures. Wonderful adventures.” He glanced at her. “You should hear the stories. So vivid. The most wonderful adventures, the most wonderful sights, wonderful places, wonderful people.

“And then, one day, they were separated. And they never saw each other again. And she had to make a new life for herself. And nothing on Earth was ever as good. And, of course, as she found out a few months later, she was pregnant.”

“And that was your father?” she said, just to confirm.

“Yes,” he said. “My father. A hero, a legend. The most wonderful man in the universe. My father.” This was said with a great expulsion of breath, as if he were ridding himself of something heavy.

After a minute, she said, “That doesn’t sound at all mad.”

“I left out the mad bit,” he said.

“What was that?”

“He was also a time-traveling alien.”

“What?” she said. He looked down at her, eyebrows raised, and nodded. So she had heard correctly. “What?” she said.

He smiled, in a way that was both affectionate and bitter. “I’m half Time Lord,” he said.

~oOo~


“Time Lord?” she said at last.

“That was his species, my father – Time Lord.”

“What?”

“He was from a different planet, in a different time, in a different universe – a cosmic wanderer. Time Lord.”

“And your mother told you all this?”

“Oh, I know what you’re thinking,” he said, walking faster. “And I wouldn’t believe it either, except that I know for a fact that my mother doesn’t lie, and isn’t mad.”

She was quiet for a minute, and they walked on, briskly, silently.

“So your father wasn’t human,” she said, trying to make sense of this.

“Nope,” he said succinctly.

“And you’re …”

“Human,” he said. “As far as anybody can tell.” He turned his head to look at her, rather intently, holding her eyes with his. “They did tests,” he said.

Just what those tests had been was left to the imagination. She still half expected him to laugh and tell her he’d been taking the mickey, but that wasn’t like him. It seemed that he meant what he said.

“So you’re …”

“Human. Half alien. Both.”

“Oh, you seem human to me,” she hurried to say, feeling as though the reassurance was necessary.

“I am human,” he said, shoving his hands in his coat pockets and walking even faster.

“John-“ she called out, struggling to keep up. He stopped, and looked back, and then, head tilted down, stuck out his hand for her to take.

“Sorry,” he said, quietly.

She took his hand, squeezed it, and said, “Don’t run away.”

“I’m sorry,” he said again.

“I’m not running,” she said, bring up her second hand to hold his between hers. “Don’t you do it.”

He smiled, a bit sadly, and squeezed back.

~oOo~


They turned, and walked off in another direction, hand in hand, towards the south side of the park. “So what do you know about him?” she asked, venturing on the subject.

“Quite a lot,” he said, “and not nearly enough. I know he had two hearts—Mum and Gran both say that. I know he claimed to be 900 years old. I know he could travel in time – he had a ship, the TARDIS, it could travel in time and space – and I know he was the last of his species. His planet had been destroyed in some war, and the last conflict of that war was what sent her and Gran and Mickey over to this universe.”

She wondered who Mickey was. “Hold on – your mum and your gran both came over from the other universe? So was Pete Tyler not your mother’s father?”

“Pete Tyler was my grandfather,” he said, “just not this universe’s Pete Tyler. Gran was the parallel universe’s equivalent of Granddad’s first wife, who was killed by the Cybermen. They never had any kids in this universe, but they did in Gran’s universe. So Mum was the daughter Granddad and his first wife would have had, if they’d had any children.”

It was too complicated for her to follow, but it seemed as if Pete, Rose, and John Tyler were indeed all related to each other in some approximate way. “How did they meet – your mum and d—father?”

“He came in the shop,” he said. “My mum had a job in a shop, and he came in, saving her from something. That’s what he did — he rescued people. Rescued Earth from aliens. Mum founded the Institute because of what she learned from him.”

Something struck her as off. “Your mum had a job in a shop?”

“Yes,” he said, blinking at her, then caught on. “Oh, I see what you mean. Pete Tyler in Mum’s universe was already dead by then. He never founded Vitex in that universe. So she left school early, went to work in a shop.”

“And then your father came along,” she said, musing.

“Just picked her up, and took her off for adventures. Like a fairy tale, really,” he said. “You know, for all intents and purposes, he was a magician,” he said, glancing at her. “He had technology that just boggled the mind. Had some kind of device that could do just about anything you could think of, given the right setting. Cut metal, scan brains, cauterize wounds, you name it. And, yes, I know this is all quite mad. It’s just that Gran and Granddad and Mickey and Mum are not mad.”

She had to smile for a minute. “I’m just thinking of you as the magician’s son,” she said.

“Yes,” he said, smiling a little. “My father was a magician from another universe. I used to wonder if I’d have to pull Excalibur out of a stone, or—what was the name of Arthur’s horse?”

“I have no idea.”

“I’m pretty sure it had a name. Wasn’t ‘Bucephalus’, that was Alexander the Great.”

She didn’t have anything to add to that, and they walked on, John swinging their clasped hands back and forth. Finally she said, “Did you always know this?”

He nodded. “From fairly early on,” he said. “Mum would tell me about him, trying to make him real for me, telling me he’d be there if he could, but he couldn’t. She had a couple of pictures of him, from her phone.” He paused. “I look quite a bit like him, as you saw.”

That put her in mind of something. “They never saw each other again, you said? Could he not get to this universe?”

He shook his head. “It was a fluke that Mum and the others could get here at all. It wasn’t supposed to be possible. She sort of – fell into a hole between universes, and then Granddad teleported in and rescued her. She saw my dad one more time after that, and he said it was impossible for him to cross again. He wouldn’t even be able to communicate with her again.”

It sounded sad — and, to be honest, a little bit convenient. “And you said your mum didn’t know she was pregnant at the time?”

“That’s what she says,” he said, letting go of her hand and stuffing his in his pockets. He was looking towards his feet when he said, gruffly, “He doesn’t know I exist. I have no idea what he would have done if he had.”

She wondered. Basic genetics said that this couldn’t be true – there was simply no way a being from a different planet could impregnate a human. But, then again, perhaps he wasn’t really from another planet – there was the time machine: perhaps he was a human from the future? But then there were the two hearts – but he might have been genetically engineered. If he could travel through time, perhaps he even was from another planet, one populated by descendants of humans. Or – conceivably – humans and his species could have had a common ancestor. For all she knew, humans were an offshoot of his species. Or perhaps he had some incredibly clever little nano-engineering cell bodies in his gametes, doing gene splicing on whatever they encountered. Yes; perhaps it was the proverbial sufficiently advanced technology, that cannot be distinguished from magic.

For practical purposes, assuming she was to take all of this as putatively true, she might as well bundle it all under “magic.”

“Well,” she said, “I can see why you don’t tell this to just anybody.”

He shrugged. “I go in and out of believing it even now. I obviously came from somewhere. He was a real person, you’ve seen his photo. He certainly persuaded Mum he was what he said he was. Ninety percent of everything I’ve ever been told about him is completely preposterous, but Gran, Granddad, and Mickey always backed up what Mum said. So I don’t know.”

Very likely he would never know. “And he inspired her to create the Tyler Institute.”

“He left her with a mission and a baby.” John said. “The mission he intended, the baby he didn’t.” He stopped and looked at her. “He didn’t intend to get her pregnant. That I’m sure of.”

But, of course, he had. The hero, the legend. Always an absent presence, there to be implicitly compared to.

“I suppose on the one hand, he’s an inspiring role model,” she said, “doing heroic things and saving people. But on the other . . . I imagine you’d much rather have had a real father, hadn’t you?”

“He was off in another universe, doing something much more important than having a family,” said John, rather bleakly. “And that made it all right for my mother to do the same thing.”

~oOo~


They held hands again as they walked out of the park. She was musing over what had been said.

“’Bactrian’?” she finally suggested.

“Hmm?”

“King Arthur’s horse.”

He was looking straight ahead, but his lips twitched a little. “That’s a type of camel.”

“Oh, of course.” she said.

He squeezed her hand, drawing her arm up to slip into his, next to his body, and he smiled. “Don’t mind having breakfast with an alien?”

“Depends on the alien,” she said, and squeezed his arm. “I like having breakfast with you.”

“And I like having breakfast with you,” he said, smiling down at her. He moved his arm in front of him, the better to draw her close.

She thought there was perhaps a slight spring in his step now. She hoped so.

Glancing down again, he added, “Gives hope to aliens everywhere.”

Next Chapter


Comments

funkeemunky
Jun. 18th, 2007 12:26 am (UTC)
I'm really enjoying this. It's so well written and also so real. I cant wait until the next chapter.
np_complete
Jun. 20th, 2007 12:27 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you're enjoying it! I'm going to try hard to get the next chapter out faster than I've been able to do so far.