Characters: Nine, Rose, Jack, Slitheen (various)
Chapter Four: Coddled
Author's Notes: With the blithe assurance of those who truly love science, but are completely illiterate in it, I have ventured to use it to provide us a happy ending for Blon; thank heavens that the Whoniverse is remarkably, and elastically, forgiving of scentific tomfoolery.
As always, the BBC owns it, I play with it, and take no coin for it. Thanks to my Best Beloved, once more, for making the product a little better.
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"Why should it surprise you? You said we'd solve the problem, and there's only one way t'do that, short of murderin' a child, which I already knew was out of the question. I knew you'd be heading for a lab. Just consider my help a little something extra to do the job faster."
"You'll forgive my surprise, Doctor; there's nothing in the CV you provided us that indicates any genetics training."
The Doctor had his 'Are you so stupid I have to spell it out for you?' look on, and Rose thought EF Havreem's rather strained response was impressive, given that provocation. After all, she thought, it probably wasn't as if this rather expansive laboratory — complete with a team of Raxcite scientists and technicians (all of whom were now staring unashamedly through their clean room door at EF Havreem's retinue of aliens) — didn't have almost everything needed to adjust the infant Blon's DNA back to some non-murderous Raxacofallapatorian norm. It was also fairly obvious that this was a species which had, whether willingly or not, made genetics one of its scientific strengths and was a little tetchy about being shown up.
"Tell you what," the Time Lord said, "Have Dr. Elspan-Day Titheen check my figures against what her scans show. There's where your difficulty's been all along, you'll see."
EF Havreem pushed the clean room intercom button. "Have you been listening?"
ED Titheen nodded, and her bemused delight was obvious even through several inches of vacuum-sealed glass. "The Doctor is absolutely correct, sir, although I confess I can't understand why we didn't see it ourselves. If we'd been any closer to that pair of genes, they would have bitten us."
"Don't short yourselves," the Doctor said indulgently. "Slitheen DNA's a proper mess, and unstable to boot. I just happened to be workin' on a subject with a bit more stability. You've got a lot of work ahead of you, if you're planning on takin' my research and applying it to Slitheen in general."
"Understood, Doctor. Actually, I'm thinking of cross referencing what you've given us with some of the Slavereen records discovered years ago. That clan was always a bit less extreme in size and mutation, so they might provide us the stability we're—"
"The baby? What about the baby?" Rose asked, unable to bear her curiosity and worry a moment longer. "Is she going to be all right?"
ED Titheen heard the question, despite the hubbub simmering around her as the team worried at the Doctor's information. She smiled at Rose through the glass. "Officially, I should say it's too early to tell, since there are at least six more months of incubation in her future.
"But I think it's safe to say this little girl will grow up close to normal; perhaps a little tall, and rather more assertive than the rest of us, but sane, and happy."
Rose couldn't know how glorious her own relieved smile was. "That's brilliant! Thanks so much!"
Jack grinned, too. "Fantastic news." He turned and hugged her. "You can relax now, Rosie."
"Don't call me Rosie, you," she said, tongue between her teeth.
Jack's grin just got wider as he clapped the Doctor on the back. He wasn't chastised for the familiarity, which told Rose a lot about how relieved the Doctor was.
Which personage took his hands out of his jacket pockets and turned to EF Havreem. "And now, it's time for me and my friends to be on our way, wouldn't you say?"
"I do indeed, Doctor. Rose, Captain Harkness, if you'll follow me back to the staff car, we'll head back to headquarters to do the final sign-off." For the first time since they left the restaurant, their host seemed completely happy. That didn't alter when Rose took advantage of the seating arrangement in their car to lean over and ask quietly, "Mr. Havreem, when you capture adult Slitheen, what happens to them?"
"Hmmm? Oh. Oh, that's a sad situation. I'm afraid they're destined either for a lifetime in solitary confinement, or death by lethal injection, depending on which of our justice systems deals with them."
"No ... torture of any kind?" she pressed, thinking of what Blon had told them about the judgment awaiting captured family members.
"Goodness no!" EF Havreem looked truly shocked. "We don't stoop to the kind of cruelty they practice on others. Even states or nations with the death penalty do it quickly and mercifully, although I can't say I approve even of that." He looked more closely at her, eyes very slightly narrowed. "I'm told Slitheen inculcate fear of capture in their children with some horrific stories. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, no reason," she said hastily, not wanting him to press her on that. "I just assumed that them being criminals, and going out to other worlds, too, being that way, would be punished severely."
"I think just being in a cell is a great punishment to them," EF Havreem said. It was clear he would say no more about it, but Rose felt her last little worry evaporate.
When Jack signed the last of the papers ("You handle it Captain, you've got the mind for bureaucratic nonsense, don't you?" was the Doctor's uncharitable direction), the three of them bid goodbye to Avrim Dul-Arm Entrepaar-Fel Havreem, who used the occasion to make one more attempt at polishing his English skills.
"Good blessings to you, Physician, and Captain Jack, and Rose Tyler," he said carefully. "I am become more than grateful, and am friendship-bound to you for our world. Many thanks for your extreme awesome medicine discovery ... but more for your mercies."
The Doctor smiled, Jack grinned, and — a little to her own surprise — Rose flung her arms around EF Havreem's neck. "Thank you," she whispered. "Thank you for telling us your story, and for dinner, and for the grotto."
"You are welcome, tiny Rose," EF Havreem whispered back. "Someday, maybe, you will return and tell me truth about the egg, yes?"
Rose stepped back and controlled her dismay with difficulty. EF Havreem smiled at her. "No worries now, Rose. Don't worry. Secret, for now." She nodded, not daring to say any more.
On their way back to the TARDIS, Jack pulled her away momentarily. "What did he say to you, sweetheart?"
"My secret, Jack. At least for now," she said, squeezing his hand by way of apology for her refusal to say anything.
"If it's anything that could calm him down," he said, with a significant look over her shoulder. "Something's gnawing at him."
"Just like you were gnawin' on your thumb back there."
"I just hate to see him like that, you know?"
Jack's worry mirrored her own; she felt a rush of affection for him. "I do too. We'll talk, an' I promise, we'll get him-"
"Come on, you two. Save your conversation for the TARDIS," the Doctor's voice floated back.
Don't worry, Rose thought, Jack and I are planning a conversation.