Was a Dad (Twice?)
Fandom: Battlestar Galactica/Doctor Who
Spoilers: Parting of the Ways II, Exodus Pt. I
Disclaimer: Neither Ron nor Rusty created this monstrosity.
Summary: This is not, precisely, the way I imagined my ‘Ten meets Laura Roslin and things go wacky’ fic to go. Ah, well. Admittedly cracktabulous and sentimental — though you know Rusty would do something like this iffen he could get away with it.
He wouldn’t stop looking at her. As though she were a creature from a dream, an impossibility, or a mistake — in any case, something he couldn’t take his eyes off of.
As if Laura were the alien, and this stranger hadn’t appeared out of nowhere in a pinstripe suit, sneakers, and mussy hair, and announced to a cave full of ready-to-fight-and-die insurgents that he was there to help.
“I know you from somewhere,” their stranger kept repeating, looking at Laura with a weird expression. She hadn’t expected him to be such a twitchy bastard, in all honesty. There was something of a Baltar-esque aspect to him, including the accent and the girl following him about and trying to make sense of nonsense. “Don’t I? I swear, I’ve met you before.”
The girl was bothering Maya and the baby, to the point where Laura finally sighed, walked over, and asked if she could have the baby for a bit. Maya sighed gratefully and Laura took Isis back over to the pinstripe suit, who was gazing at Laura and the baby with suspicion.
About damn time. She’d been warned he could be a bit slow, but honestly, Laura’s mother had never warned her that ‘a bit slow’ could mean ‘aggravatingly inept’ in critical circumstances.
“Pretty baby,” he said, looking at the two of them. “Your niece? Granddaughter?”
“Neither,” Laura said. “Though I’m close to her mother, so I play a bit of the Aunt Laura role as necessary.”
He scratched his nose. “I’m sure that’s all,” he said with a hint of amused disbelief. “Well, actually, you’ve got a blood connection, don’t you?”
“I…what?” Laura asked, shaking her head.
“You don’t need to look like that, miss…Laura, wasn’t it?”
“Laura Roslin,” she agreed, cuddling Isis closer. “And I’ve just finished telling you I have no biological connection to Isis.”
The man snorted and shook his head. “There’s a blood connection,” he said. “That’s different than being related. Then again, you ought to know that, being a bit — what you are. Though I’m not quite sure what you are, come to that.”
She waited. He looked at her, a nearsighted peer that made her wonder if it weren’t possible that he was related, somehow, to Gaius Baltar. They were quite remarkably similar in ways that gave Laura a scare.
There was no way in the seven hells that Laura would trust a Baltar again. Even if he was her only hope in the situation. Even if he was…more than that to her.
“What am I?” Laura taunted, stroking the child who had saved her life and prevented her regeneration. She was fully aware of the irony — having the possible damnation of humanity also be her salvation.
“Time Lord,” he whispered, drawing closer. “You are, aren’t you?”
“My mother was,” Laura replied, meeting his eyes fully for the first time. “I’ve been waiting to meet you for a very long time, Doctor.”
He had only tracked down the New Caprican rebels to get the TARDIS back. Wars like these had a tendency to go badly very fast, and worse yet, there were prickings of wrongness all over the place. Ripples in time, ripples of dread, things he couldn’t place.
Now he understood.
The Doctor found himself unable to stop staring and shuddering. It was impossible. Absolutely impossible. Here he was, in a cave on a broken-down little planet being oppressed by biological robots, and he had found…a Time Lord.
A surprisingly human, mortal sort of Time Lord, looking at him with ancient eyes and a low, burning anger, but the lady was one of his people or he was a much-mistaken man.
Possibly he was; he’d heard all about former president Laura Roslin from every human on this planet. She’d nearly died of cancer, and lived to tell. Time Lords didn’t die of breast cancer, and even if they did, she should have had two hearts and all sorts of equipment to give her away.
Something didn’t quite add up.
“You know who I am,” he said, deciding to play it wary.
“Yes. Do you know who I am?” she asked in a dangerous tone of voice.
“Laura Roslin, former and possibly future president of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, given the current bloke’s a traitorous bastard,” the Doctor said. “You’re a legend. Both humans and Cylons talk about all the funny things you’ve done, and now I understand. Time Lord.”
She was clinging to the child — the one that was somehow connected to her — while she looked at him with wary eyes.
“Yes and no,” she finally said. “It’s so difficult to explain. There was an unforeseen complication. I had to exist, so I do.”
The Doctor wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that. The woman — Roslin — clearly knew things about his own people that he didn’t, but had no intention of telling him a damn thing about them.
“Complication?” the Doctor asked.
“There had to be a leader. A dying leader who would lead the people,” she said, eyes going dreamy. Or perhaps it was shock. “My mother changed herself so that she could be human, almost. I don’t know the science of it. I’m not human, but I’m in this body that is.”
“Why?” he asked, shocked to the core. “Why would our people do that to you? Put you in a human body, a decaying human body?”
Laura Roslin’s shadowed eyes flickered up at him, and he could see how weary she was. Wearier than even these ragged rebels, with the wisdom of the Time Lords and an insufficient, aging body to hold it barely contained.
“If I didn’t exist — a dying leader who will save the humans — there would be a paradox. The end of humanity would cause a cataclysmic event. Besides which, my mother was fond of humans,” she said. “Something you taught her.”
She kept mentioning her mother, and he was certain this mattered. He must have known her mother, and the Doctor could see that. After all, Laura Roslin was familiar. Very familiar. Like something on the tip of his tongue.
And then he realized something else. Something horrifying.
“They left you here, knowing the future — knowing how many billions would die — without any way to stop it?” he asked. “They made you watch?”
“Yes,” Laura whispered, her voice keen with pain and rage and eyes blazing as she stared down the Doctor. “I had to watch my people die. Twenty billion people are dead, because I was a Time Lord who could do nothing except nudge. And fulfill my destiny.”
She had the child in a grip so tight that the Doctor suddenly understood. The child was important. There was another destiny that had to be fulfilled, and Laura Roslin would be damned if she failed now.
The Doctor closed his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“My mother told me so much about you,” she said in a dead voice, one that did not ask for nor desire his pity. “The rebel of Gallifrey. The only one who might be able to help.”
“Your mother,” the Doctor said, opening his eyes and looking at Laura, looking at her as closely as he could. Not exactly human, though she’d pass an inspection. Not exactly a Time Lord. And there was something achingly familiar about her. “I knew your mother.”
“You knew her,” Laura agreed, suddenly smiling. “She told me her whole story the night before she died. She told me that her name was Romana. Something longer…but Romana was what mattered.”
He staggered back a few steps, the world bottoming out around him. Romana. The Doctor had supposed she’d died with the rest of their people during the Time War. She had been the president for a long while, just like — well, just like her daughter, it turned out.
He wouldn’t have believed it from anyone else. Romana would not have abandoned her people. Romana would have been the first to fight and die against the Daleks.
But now that this half-mad creature had said it, the Doctor knew there was no chance she was lying. There was so much of Romana about Laura Roslin that it was unreal.
Almost explained the nagging feeling of knowing. Well, it explained the largest part of it, but there was more to the story. Including the connection to the baby.
“You’re Romana’s daughter,” he said, reaching out despite himself and grinning. “Of course, you’re Romana’s daughter.”
That brought a laugh from Laura, who looked at him — almost as if she was sure he was teasing her.
“It’s so strange,” she said, shaking her head. “The way you say her name. Like you’re glad to hear it.”
“She was one of my best friends. The only one I ever had from Gallifrey,” the Doctor said, not sure why the idea of Romana’s daughter — as cold in her way as Romana’s first incarnation — made him so glad. “I was glad to hear of her successes.”
“Good,” Laura said, her smile springing the trap she’d set in motion. “I need you to help me finish her last success and save us.”
For the first time in her life, Laura was sure she was looking at someone who knew more than she did. It was disconcerting; it might be easier if he weren’t a pert twentysomething in a pinstriped suit.
Also if he weren’t recoiling at the very idea of helping her.
She bounced Isis and walked them closer to him as he skirted away.
“I don’t do this sort of thing. Well, I do, but this is timestream interruption. And I don’t even know what that thing you’re holding is, but it’s not exactly human, neither, and I don’t change nappies,” he babbled, looking at Isis and Laura with the panic of all first-time fathers.
“If you don’t, reality as we know it will probably cease to exist,” Laura said reasonably. “I have safeguards in place, but they’re encased in a man that makes you look sober.”
That stopped the Doctor, who gaped. Apparently the idea of someone more twitchy than himself was appalling even to him.
“What would I have to do?” he asked grimly, staring at Isis. “I don’t have my TARDIS — my time machine — and even if I don’t, the space-time coordinates are notoriously a bit unreliable. Well, they’re mostly reliable, if by reliable you have a plus or minus a century tolerance.”
Laura smiled. There were a few things her mother had been very good for, and one of them was the narrow, long crystal she drew out of her sweater and dangled for the Doctor.
“Where did you get that?” he asked.
“My mother,” Laura said. “It will take you to the right place at the right time. If it doesn’t, we’re all dead anyway. So, can you hold up one side of a bargain? I promise to let you reach your destination if you’ll deliver my package.”
Well, maybe there were a few things the Doctor didn’t know.
At least one thing he didn’t know, even though he was blundering closer to it with every question he tried to ask that she aptly dodged.
Romana had promised her. Gods, she missed her mother, her clever, wonderful mother who had known so much better than Laura. Laura, after all, had none of the right knowledge — not even the right body.
Just instincts, and a slowly dying body with a single heart.
“If we can get my TARDIS, and you tell me what else is making you so damn strange and so damn familiar, we have a deal,” the Doctor said.
“Good,” Laura said. “The child is half-human and half-Cylon. Her existence will prevent a plague from wiping out humanity. The wiped-out human race includes two people whose actions will not only create the First Great and Benevolent Human Empire, they will prevent a small accident in space-time.”
He looked at her. “A small accident.”
“A TARDIS,” Laura said, not unkindly. “In the wrong place at the wrong time, causes the universe to splinter. Well, more than splinter. My mother used very large descriptive phrases to explain what would happen. I was trying to figure out what exactly a Time Lord could do without a time ship and how I could keep going when she died the next day.”
“The child’s connection to you,” he insisted, reaching out and touching Isis for the first time. “I’m not delivering a bomb, especially when you tell me it’s my TARDIS that’s going to go all cock-up on us, Laura.”
“It’s killing two birds with one stone,” Laura admitted. “Hera has to live, and by sending you to the right spot in space-time, my mother found the human who had the wrong coordinates. Or something. Again, you have to understand, I grew up believing I was human. She thought…she thought it would be for the best.”
And, Laura thought, glaring at the handsome, boyish Time Lord who was still twitching at the very thought of helping her, Romana had been absolutely wrong about that.
He was about to insist — for the last bloody time — that Romana’s daughter stop dodging the question and tell him the truth. But Laura was apparently done hiding her secrets.
“She saved my life,” Laura said, setting the child down for a moment. “I was dying of cancer. The same thing that killed my mother. I think I actually died, and then they stuck a vial of her blood into me. Killed the cancer dead.”
He thought about it. “And of all the implausibilities of today, that sounds like the most plausible of them,” he said. “She saved you, and you want to protect her from the rotten existence that was forced on you.”
She nodded, and the Doctor wanted to believe that was it. Time Lord, in a human form, preserved by half-Cylon cells. But that wasn’t all.
No, by the pricking of his thumbs, there was one last piece to the mystery.
“She has to do this, the same as I do,” Laura said, the baby’s hand wrapped around one of her fingers. “But I promised myself I’d protect this child. If I do it right, she can go back to her parents by the time she’s three. A happily ever after for someone in this whole mess…”
He would have offered her a shoulder to cry on, but Laura wasn’t crying, he didn’t really have a good shoulder for her anyway, and he had to figure out the last bit of it.
“Can your people get me to my TARDIS?”
“I can get you there. I know exactly where it is,” Laura said. “It’ll take us ten minutes.”
He shook his head. “You said the Cylons had it.”
“I lied,” Laura admittedly. “You weren’t leaving this planet without the cargo.”
Now he shook his finger at her. “Not very nice, Laura Roslin.”
“Saving the world’s an ugly business,” she said. “So, is that all?”
It almost was. He was almost ready to escape New Caprica, drop off the squalling little package, and go.
But he couldn’t. He had to know.
Because he knew what it was, now, that was so familiar about her. And he had to ask. Had to know for sure.
“Ask the question, Doctor,” Laura said, pushing her hair behind her ears and looking at him.
“What do you think?” she asked, smiling faintly.
He was right. Those little things that he knew that he knew about Laura Roslin — they were his.
“I am,” he said, perking up. “Well, unless you’re playing with my head or we’re not talking about how I’m your dad.”
His daughter cracked a smile. That was good; she was entirely too serious, though he could see how being in charge of the most important paradox in the history of her dimension with nobody for help except for a dizzy bloke of a father might do that. Especially one who wouldn’t change the savior of all humanity’s nappies.
Romana’s daughter, in her impossible human body, holding the key to everything. His daughter, playing a good game and refusing to tell him directly he was a dad until he’d agreed to take the baby with him and protect her.
“Well, then,” he said, trying not to bounce with how delighted he was about his grave, impossible daughter. “I owe you decades of allowance and advice about boys. Ah, bugger that — I’m sure you don’t need those. But I am proud of you, Laura. You’re amazing. I wish…I wish Rose could have met you.”
“Another friend,” he said. “She told me I didn’t know anything about children, and I told her, I was a dad. Now I wish I could tell her I met my daughter. She’d laugh, though.”
“Because I’m your daughter and not your mother?” Laura asked, and that was his tickle of amusement at the absurd.
“Because I’m a dad and I have to change nappies. And now I’m helping my daughter save the world. She’d like that. Even more than Martha over yonder,” he said, tilting his head toward her.
“I’m glad, then,” she said, lifting the baby, sticking her into his arms, and then putting her own hand into his free one, “That we’ve met. This once.”
“Only once?” he asked, feeling a lump in his throat. “But I don’t know anything about you. Do you have a chap? What do you like to eat? What are you going to do once you save the universe?”
Of course, he would make it harder. Come to that, Laura wasn’t entirely certain he was her father. Her mother had implied it, but her mother liked implying rather than saying.
Still. There was something sweet and absurd about this kid being her father. And she had decided she liked him. A lot.
“We’ll have to leave quietly,” Laura said. “Just your friend and us. I’ll give you what I can for Isis’s care — her name’s Hera, but we decided to call her Isis, never mind why — but after that, she’s all yours.”
His handsome, if slightly-too-Baltar face twisted unpleasantly as he attempted to do Laura’s glare. As it had been Romana’s and it had taken Laura twenty-five years of practice, he didn’t manage it.
“You haven’t answered any of my questions.”
“I don’t know, is why,” Laura said with a heavy shrug. “There’s not really a ‘chap,’ and there hasn’t been food worth eating in two years. I used to like red wine and pasta in lemon and thin cream sauce, with scallops. With basil and fresh-slivered garlic. Even though everyone thought I should have white with it.”
At last, he heard what she wasn’t saying. There wasn’t really an after, when it came to saving the universe.
He didn’t like it. In fact, when Laura made to pull away and gather Martha — she would have to tell Maya something, later. Possibly the truth, though that seemed unlikely — he held her in place.
“You listen to me,” he said. “I want you to make me a promise, Laura Roslin. Promise your old dad something.”
Definitely, she should have never told him. He would get tired of announcing himself her old dad until the day he died, looking the same age he currently did, no matter how wrinkled she got.
“One thing,” she said, tired.
“When I deliver the package, you come with me,” he said. “I know a place in Milan, in the nineteenth century — so about six hundred years ago — that’ll serve you exactly that. You come with me, Laura.”
Gods, she wanted to come with him now. Did the silly bastard not know how much she wanted to come with him and see space and time the way Time Lords were supposed to?
“What’s Milan?” Laura asked, going for the easy out.
“It’s a city. It’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant,” he said. “I’ll tell you about it while we walk, and you’ll promise me we’ll go. We can drink buckets of wine. Eat ’til we’re stuffed, and you can tell me all about the chap who may or may not be your chap, and your mother, and why you decided to save the world all on your own.”
He meant it. Damn him straight to wherever unintentionally cruel Time Lords went, because he meant it. He wanted them to live and eat pasta in this Milan place, and that gave her something to live for.
Laura didn’t want something to live for. It made it harder to die for other people, having something really worth it.
“Okay,” she said finally, wondering if he could feel her wobble. “I promise.”
“Good,” he said, squeezing her hand. “You might die, you know. If that’s what has to happen. But then you can come back. I mean, well, you’ve done it once, you know. So have I, come to that.”
He smiled at her, and it was charming. A little bit mad, but charming. And Laura felt herself matching his smile.
Her father. Who’d believe that?
Well, who’d believe any of it, really?
“I promise,” Laura repeated. She meant it, this time.
“I know,” he said, kissing her on the cheek. “Come on, you. We have to save the world before dinner.”