He was used to traveling without warning, and, under any normal circumstances, he might've simply gone, but there were things he needed, now. Clothes and money and supplies for someone far tinier and less self-reliant as himself.
The nursemaid filled sachels with tiny clothes and tiny shoes and skins of milk, and he filled bags with jewelry and notes. Things to sell and barter, and plans to keep moving. When he finally raised himself to Arthur's saddle, he felt weighed down with plans and held back by no direction.
This was when he would've asked her what he needed to do next. He didn't doubt she'd tell him.
The child, wrapped with a scarf in his arms, shifted in her sleep. So young and so tiny, with no walls or bars or scars to litter her simple little mind. He envied that. If he had a way to remove all the things he didn't want to remember...
It would've been interesting if he could've, but now his memories were all he had. That, and the little creature that depended on him. Nothing of his past was left, not even his screwdriver, or the woman who saw it all through his mind.
He considered taking the pieces of the Clockwork men, but they were too heavy. They would be examined by the King's men, and eventually lost. He could accept that.
The day after they settled, he panicked.
Knees drawn up to his shoulders, he stared at the little bundle on the small cot, and listened to the crying. He didn't know how to be a father anymore, he hadn't been one in so long. He was too war-hard, too flippant, too cold to love something in the way a child needed to be loved.
And this child was so frustrating. The things that he'd tried used to work before, but not this time. It didn't need to be changed, it didn't want food, it just kept crying. It was only a few weeks old, so it didn't learn the language, all that came out was a frustrated yell.
He remembered his son, from back in his first incarnation, and remembered not understanding him, either. The boy grew up to resent him, but that was a loss he accepted at the time.
This child, however, this was different. It was all that was left of a woman he'd given up his freedom for, of his life and his happiness and everything he'd known. He'd never know what Reinette was hiding that final year, but, especially now, he didn't care anymore. He would've given anything to have her there, just to be there, to help him raise it the way it should've been raised.
It. No, she. His petit Reinette.
He stepped over to the bedside and picked up the crying child, holding her close. Please, stop crying. I'm not going to leave you. She leaned against his shoulder and quieted.
"They say," he murmured to the little girl, "That if you hold a crying child, you'll spoil it. I think your mother would've rather had you spoiled."
The day after her fifth birthday, she started asking questions.
Spoken with the voice and dictation of a girl thrice her age, she asked why the anatomy books did not have records of people with two heartbeats, as her and her father both did. Or why she dreamed of her mother so clearly, as if it was a memory she could never have had.
"You always know things," she said, crossing her tiny arms across her chest and looking for all the world like an irritated version of the child he saw through the fireplace all those years ago.
"I know a lot, that's the way it is."
"But you school me at home, no tutor," she said, "And you keep me away from public doctors. Maman says---"
There's a straw to his back, and he spun around, "You have never seen your mother, you were dreaming, do you understand?"
"Who was she?" the little girl demanded, "How am I to grow if you won't tell me who she is, or who you are?" Her voice carried authority, authority she knew she had over him. Stupid little five year old that had the wisdom and intellect of a fifteen or twenty year old (and all of the impudence as well).
He deflated and dropped to the bed next to hers, his face in his hands. He was reminded of his own youth, of demanding of his father as to why he was different from the other children at school. Why he wasn't the same. He would've spared his child that fate, as well, but it appeared that wasn't possible.
Nothing he ever wished for could be possible, in the end, he decided.
"We're different from everyone," he said, "I was born in another time, on another world, Reinette. I'm a Time Lord, and you're my child, which makes you more than just a human."
The little girl blinked up at him with wide, brown eyes. And, suddenly, it was as if she really was a mere five year old. Frightened. Confused. He had so much to explain to her. So little time. There was never any time.
"And Maman?" she asked, "Was she different, too? From...humans?"
"Not from humans," he explained, "But your mother was different. That's why I loved her."
"She loves you," she said, and there was the tone that suggested she knew rather than simply speculated, "She'll always love you."
"I know," he replied, "Oh, Reinette, but I know."
The day after the King died, she grieved.
It wasn't in the manner of the rest of the nation, most of whom had come to loathe the once-Beloved. It wasn't even in the manner of the Doctor, who hated the man in one aspect, but could only respect him in others.
No, no, she grieved as though she'd lost a friend. A very best friend. Seeing his ten-year-old daughter curled up in her room (another home, another country, as the next King was even more indifferent than the first, and the revolution was only another few decades away), he couldn't help but be puzzled. The news traveled quickly, but she knew more than he did about his death, and his life.
"He was shy, and would've loved to live the slow life, as you and I do, Père," she said, "He desired it until he was no more, and then he had nothing left to desire."
While he swore he'd never compare his daughter to her namesake, but in that instant he saw her again, speaking to him of her old friend and former lover after he and the King had one of their rather common disagreements.
"Your mother loved him," he said, nodding very, very slowly, "Saw him every day, practically. Her best friend, for all his faults."
"She knew him?" The revelation didn't seem to surprise her, but his words about her mother did. She was one of those forbidden topics, like religion and politics and the Great Pumpkin.
"She was a courtesan," he said, "Mistress to the King for many, many years. Earned position, fame, even her own title."
"Madame de Pompadour."
"That's right." He wasn't particularly surprised that she figured it out. She always had her mother's wisdom and his brains. "When they eventually parted as lovers, they remained close friends. When she and I became consorts, I couldn't deny her that friendship."
"Did you want to?"
"Oh, of course," he said, "Envy is...so very a human trait, though. Not one you'll see me fess up to that often."
"You should though," she said, wiping a line of tears from her cheek and regarding him very seriously, "Human looks good on you. It makes you real."
The day after they settled, he found it.
A click, a segment, a spot, a place, and the rest of the mechanism he'd been working on for the last fifteen years finally fell to where it belonged, and he had a signal into the future. Several hundred years, and to his ship.
(He wasn't sure why, but he was convinced that the TARDIS and Rose were no longer in the 51st century, but back in her time. It was a foolish thing to think, but no matter how much he tried to tell him self the contrary, his mind always returned to the image of her, thriving, in the era she grew up in.)
"Time Lord to TARDIS, come in TARDIS," the Doctor couldn't help the grin that spread on his face when he heard a return call. Someone was on board, and the voice sounded wonderfully familiar. A beacon. Spotlight in a decade's worth of darkness.
He turned, glancing back at the young woman at the door, her head tilted to the side as she looked down at his tinkering-turned-savior.
"It's the universe, Reinette," he said, all but leaping out of his boots. He figured he must never have smiled as wide or been as excited as he was right then, she looked so startled.
"You have found us a way back to the stars?" she asked. The way she said 'the stars', he could've thought she held the same meaning Reinette had, but there was no way she knew the significance. Excepting the time when she was ten, he hadn't spoken of her mother, and she hadn't inquired. Talking about her, about her death and life, it made it as though he'd accepted her loss.
Reinette seemed to understand that he couldn't do that. But, then again, she'd always been rather old for her age.
"It's a ship," he said, "My ship, my spaceship, it's coming here."
"To get you? Take you away?"
He might've been vaguely insulted if he wasn't bouncing around the room, grabbing the things he needed to take, "To take us, Reinette."
"This place isn't good enough for you, child," he said, "The whole universe at your fingertips. That, now, that is what I'd want to see my daughter have."
Perhaps it was his enthusiasm, or perhaps it was because it was so rare he admitted aloud that she was his daughter, but her face broke into the most magnificent of smiles and she reached around the door, where her bag was already packed. He opened his mouth to ask her how she knew, but decided it wasn't necessary. He'd long ago accepted that there were just some things about her he would never understand.
He extended his hand to hers, and she accepted it, curling long fingers that matched his and grinning a grin that could've only belonged to her mother.
Together they walked to the far end of the docks of Boston, where Rose would meet them. Halfway there, he felt someone brush his arm and mutter an apology. Something in his mind halted, and he turned, glancing over his shoulder.
An older woman, but far from old, dressed in a simple dress, a scarf covering her head. The turn of head, the way her hips moved, it was almost uncanny. His mouth opened to question, because for so long he'd been waiting to turn the corner and find her...
"Père, we have to go."
He turned back to his child, and walked away from the past. One day he knew he'd accept Reinette's loss, but that day was a long time in coming.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 1,917
Following this and this by myself and ambitious_woman, respectively. Based on roleplay in relativespace.