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FIC: A Different Threefold Man (11/12)

Title: A Different Three-Fold Man
Rating: T

Author: tkel_paris
Summary: Not even Caan could see every possibility. The Hand was far more aware than anyone gave it credit for, and it transformed itself into something different. Now Donna Noble and the Doctor have their work cut out for them.
Dedication: tardis-mole. This was provoked by “Another Fine Mess.” You'll have to read it all the way through to have any clue why. And yes, I beta read that story, so in a tiny way I'm tooting my own horn in addition to TM's. ;D And thank you, my friend, for the chapter titles! :D
Disclaimer: Rose Tyler wouldn't have been anywhere near Series 4, and therefore this probably couldn't have happened, had I anything to do with owning these characters. I've lost all respect for the character, I freely admit it. Which means I've lost some respect for her creator. Shame, since he also created characters that I adore.
Author's Note: A new entry for the Alternate Handy Fanfiction Challenge. Nope, we haven't mined this one to death. Not at all! :D And there are still other possibilities! :D

And now I've finally finished the story. Still need to denature this chapter for FFN. Ideas are appreciated.

Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 / Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9 / Chapter 10

A Different Threefold Man

Chapter Eleven - Pushed Out
Finished October 30, 2013

Her parents didn't seem to hear her, nor did her gran or Martha. The latter two kept conferring over the scanner. Gran was commenting on something, and Martha confirming whatever it was.

Meanwhile, her parents weren't even talking. Her father had an arm wrapped around her mother's shoulders, and was gently nuzzling her head as he stroked the side of her face. They were absolutely silent, and her mother's breathing seemed easier.

Until Donna suddenly winced and moaned. “Too much, Spaceman,” she cautioned softly.

The Doctor turned his head slightly to the side, grimacing at the apparent oversight. “Better?”

Yeah,” she breathed.

Jenny turned to Ben, asking her earlier questions with her eyes.

He smiled, silently chuckling. “This is called a water birth,” he whispered. “Since the babies experience being in water in the womb, where they currently are, it makes the transition to the rest of the world a bit easier for them and for the mother. There's so much knowledge about Gallifreyan pregnancy that's been lost to us that we're having to guess here – more than any of us are really comfortable with. We only have human knowledge to work with, which has had Dad and Martha a bit on edge. Gran's a nurse, so she's helping Martha with checking the babies throughout the birth.”

Bella came up beside her. “Dad has probably the hardest job: holding Mum's hand physically and mentally, and even taking some of the pain from her so she can just let her body do what it's supposed to. We don't know what kinds of pressures delivering Gallifreyan babies will exert on her physically or psychically, so Dad's listening to Mum's body in ways that Martha can't detect – an early warning system, if you will. Although there's a lot we don't know about how their minds work compared with Mum and Dad's, respectively. They had thought it was only twins until Martha detected a third baby.”

Martha put down the scanner and washed her hands. Sylvia prepared some blankets and equipment – items that Jenny had never seen before.

That bag is something left from the former processes of Gallifreyan emergence,” Ben continued. “For the last billion years, Gallifreyan babies weren't born. They sort of hatched as toddlers from machines called looms. A bit like the progenation machine you came from, only the Loomlings were much smaller and less mature. It knit DNA from two sources together into a new person. There was a whole set of rituals attached to it – some are just bonkers, but one is rather critical.”

Dad has a stone in there,” Bella added, motioning to the bag. “It's one of the last things left of the House of Lungbarrow – our Gallifreyan House. That's the English transliteration of the family name, as close as Mum's language can come to the meaning and spelling.”

Lungbarrow?” Jenny repeated dubiously.

Bella grinned. “Yeah, you can imagine how firmly Mum vetoed its use. Dad used to always go by “John Smith”, which was apparently close to the meaning of “Lungbarrow.” But Mum didn't like that either, so he was happy to take her name here on Earth. Anyway, the stone is psychic and gives the name of an emerging child. It's most important for a boy, as males initiate the bonds of marriage and their name is the bond. When the baby emerges, the stone will give Dad the name and he'll whisper it into the baby's ear. Then the psychic force will make him forget it, a protection for us all. Only the baby will know it, and can only tell it to his future spouse.”

Jenny tensed. “Do you two have such names?”

They both nodded.

So... what are they?” she asked, looking at Ben.

I can't tell you,” Ben replied. “I'm not marrying you, am I?” He grinned, aiming to take the sting off it.

Jenny's eyes were as wide as her mouth. Was she supposed to have one, too? Why didn't she?

Now,” Ben continued, “with the human part to their blood, it's not clear whether this will change. Maybe the girls will also get a name that can forge a bond. We don't know, but we'll find out today.”

Their mum's breathing suddenly changed, and she whimpered. Their dad's touch changed as his face flinched, as if he was feeling exactly what she was.

Martha knelt at the other end of the bath, touching her knees. “Donna,” she whispered, giving some signal with that word.

Jenny watched as her mum, still crying, parted her legs. She wondered how Martha could possibly see well enough through the water – it might be clear, but what about the distortion effect? And what was she looking for?

Martha looked up at Sylvia. “I need that scanner,” she whispered. “The first one's coming now.” When Sylvia brought the scanner over, holding it out for her, Martha turned back to catch Donna's eyes. “Just do what your body tells you. Everything's going well.”

Donna smiled as another contraction hit, taking away her ability to speak.

Martha looked up at Jenny and the twins. “I need you three to be quiet now. The next words the baby needs to hear will come from your dad's lips.” She dipped her hands into the water, prepared for the next moments.

The twins nodded, in the know. Jenny frowned, but nodded anyway. She didn't like having to wait for answers, but what choice did she have? She didn't want to interrupt anything important, and this sounded more important than anything she'd seen yet.

She watched as her mum loudly cried several times, wordlessly encouraged by her father. Her gran touched the hand gripping the bathtub, drawing her mum's gaze as she mouthed something like looked like, 'You can do it, you're my daughter'. It seemed to encourage her to work through the next round of pain, straining against it.

Something seemed to be emerging from between her mother's legs. Shocked, Jenny stepped closer for a better look. It looked like some hair attached to a circular object. With silent guidance from Martha and her still silent dad, her mum let go of the tub and grabbed her gran's hand, panting loudly, easing the object out.

Jenny was stunned to realise she could see a face as the round object turned to the side. She watched Martha finger around the edge of the unseen neck for something, she didn't know what. Then suddenly it seemed to shoot out of her mum in little spurts, with each long cry, and into Martha's hands which where now supporting the form – a baby. An entire little body was attached to the face, and Jenny laid eyes on the first baby she'd ever seen.

An odd humming buzzed from the bag. Her dad, a huge smile on his face, thrust a hand into the bag to pull a grey stone out. He glanced at the stone and nodded to Martha, who then allowed him to lift the silent creature enough to bring its head up out of the water. He then leaned in to whisper into the child's left ear.

Suddenly the baby jerked, then cried. It was a higher-pitched noise than anything Jenny had ever heard a person make. The Doctor lifted the newborn and laid him on Donna's chest, above her still domed belly. “Here you go, little man, here's your Mummy.” He handed the boy to Donna, who promptly cradled him against her.

Donna chuckled as she shared a kiss with her husband. “He doesn't like his secret name?”

The Doctor's grin widened. “It's just the shock of the full mental bond forming.”

Already baffled, Jenny's wide eyes somehow grew as she watched her mother offer the baby a nipple, which was latched onto with alacrity.

Donna sighed. “I was right, Time Tots are born hungry.”

And he's ginger!” the Doctor quietly exclaimed, delighted.

Ben flinched, the fact denting his own smile just a bit.

Bella pat his shoulder before gripping it in support. “Neither of us got to be little,” she reminded him. He sighed, nodding over their shared lack of that experience.

Jenny stared at the baby and its actions. “What is he doing?”

Sylvia chuckled. “It's called nursing. Mothers make nourishment for babies, and right now her milk has special nutrients that his body needs so he can take his food from her rather than the umbilical cord.”

Only then did the fact that the baby remained attached to their mother still through a long stretch of rope that reached inside Donna connect in Jenny's mind. “Doesn't that need to come out?”

Not yet,” Martha answered, checking the scanner again. “I want to make sure all of the babies are out before the afterbirths are delivered. Just in case anyone is an identical twin. Premature ejection of the placenta could mean harm to one or both of them. And your mum could experience maternal haemorrhaging.”

Jenny paled. She could easily believe that something so tiny could be delicate, and need special care. “He's... small and... how can he take care of himself?”

He can't,” Donna whispered gently, lifting her eyes to meet Jenny's for the first time since she had stepped into the room. “He needs us to care for him in every way. He'll let me and your dad know when he's hungry, when he needs a nappy change, when he's too cold or warm, or when he just wants to be held.”

But... he isn't talking. How can you know without him speaking?”

Gallifreyans are telepathically linked,” her father commented, putting down the stone to kiss her mother again. “And mothers instinctively understand their babies, if they just stop to listen and learn. Your mum's a natural. And we'll teach you how to speak Baby.”

Jenny blinked. “Baby is a language?”

Martha giggled, sharing an amused look with Sylvia. The former had nephews and nieces, and the latter worked a lot with babies. They both understood Baby fairly well, although some forms still required pausing to translate.

The Doctor nodded. “Oh, yes. For mothers it's instinctive to know it. Aunts seem to do pretty well whether they have children or not,” he added, nodding at Martha. “I had to learn, and it was a bit embarrassing.”

The twins chuckled, remembering that experience. Their father paused to shoot them an annoyed glare, which made no dent in their expressions.

Before anyone else could comment, Donna moaned uncomfortably. “Next one's coming,” she breathed.

Cord has drained,” Martha said, clamping the cord at once,, with a clamp marked 1 in pen, close to the boy's belly and then several centimeters away, with another clamp marked 1, and holding a pair of scissors by the sharp end. “Doctor?”

The Doctor took them with slightly shaking hands, and waited for Martha to pick up what looked like a portable laser to Jenny. He carefully cut the cord between the clamps, and Martha ran the laser over the open parts.

Donna let the boy continue to nurse as she braced herself to push again.

Ben caught Jenny's questioning gaze again. “Skin-to-skin contact is critical,” he whispered. “The babies are physically very premature since there's three of them in such a small space. Not enough room to grow all the way. So skin-to-skin contact stimulates them to catch up outside the womb. And when it's twins, babies are best left on the mum's chest. It helps them regulate on their own temperature and heartbeat as the central valve closes.”

Jenny looked down at her own attire. “Is that why...?”

Yep. We're going to help,” Ben smiled, giving his open shirt sides a bit of a flap. “Once the third baby starts coming out. Mum's arms will be a bit full otherwise.”

Helping in such a way was another foreign concept to Jenny. But she was silenced as the pains began again, and her mother strained against them. This time, it seemed a shorter wait until another baby was squeezed out of Donna and into the tub. The stone hummed again, but this time the Doctor looked stunned that it did. Still he grabbed it as Martha supported the child – a girl, Jenny realised from looking into the water – so he could look and raise her from the water and whisper again. The girl cried, as loud and cross as her brother.

Donna beamed. “Gender equality,” she pronounced as the baby was handed to her, cradled to the other side and helped to latch on. “All thanks to that bit of human.”

Jenny thought that being half of Donna Noble made a person more than a bit human. She just wasn't sure how to say it. She watched as there was more fussing over the baby, and checking on Donna.

Then Martha frowned as Donna's next round of cries started. “Oh, dear. This one's coming out feet first. Thank god for Gallifreyans being hyper-flexible. His back is going to need it.”

Donna moaned. “Of course one of them would do that! They're half Spaceman!”

Jenny noticed that her father chose to not comment on that. Instead, he had Bella come forward to take the boy, who had detached his mouth a minute or so before, and bundle him in a towel while keeping skin-to-skin contact. Ben knelt behind his dad to keep near and yet stay out of the way, ready in case he had to take the girl at a moment's notice. It left Jenny standing behind them, alone in the doorway and feeling adrift.

Not that she had much time to reflect on that. The third baby took longer than the other two, and Martha made quiet comments that made no sense to her. The Doctor had a few questions, even as he seemed to be taking on more of Donna's pain.

Jenny wondered why feet first would be a problem. Wouldn't it be easier for a smaller end to come out first, and then make room for the bigger one? Yet another question that she couldn't ask because they were told to keep quiet!

It seemed an age before the third baby – a boy identical to the first – popped out. He wiggled slightly in the water, which made the adults heave sighs of relief. The naming ritual happened again, and then he was attached to the same breast his brother had been.

The girl stopped nursing and rested against her mother, seemingly asleep.

Silence reigned until the boy decided he was done feeding. Donna sank against the back of the tub. “The afterbirths should be easy, right?”

Sylvia's chuckle hardly altered her huge smile as the Doctor and Martha repeated the cord process on the younger boy. “Unless any of the placentas are huge.”

Doctor,” Martha said, grinning from ear to ear. “We can move Donna to the bed now. Ben, take your other brother.”

Good,” Donna muttered as she surrendered the younger boy into his big brother's towel-laden arms. “I feel like a prune. And something feels off, like more should be out of me.”

Jenny didn't understand why her dad chuckled over the prune comment. And she wondered what he was telling her mum without speaking, since she swatted him on the arm and playfully snapped, “Daft Martian!”

I thought we're called Gallifreyans or Time Lords,” Jenny commented.

The Doctor's chuckle turned into a laugh as he picked Donna up. With three cords still coming out of her, she couldn't walk to the bedroom. Ben helped place towels carefully over the bodies of the babies in his mum's arms as Sylvia rushed out and into the bedroom. “Old joke between me and your mum. From when we met. She has a whole book worth of nicknames for me. Some I love and some she uses to needle me.” He carried her out, with the twins following closely.

Jenny trailed behind. “Needle? How can she do that without a sewing object? Doesn't that hurt?”

They all laughed. Martha patted Jenny on the shoulder, having already moved to the bedroom. “Oh, we have so much to teach you about life and language. It's a saying. You'll learn all about teasing at your mum's knee, I'm sure. And yes, that's another saying. Your siblings will certainly teach you a lot, being as cheeky as your parents.”

That left many more questions unanswered, but Jenny didn't know where to begin with them. She instead watched as her father gently used the towel to dry her mother. There were tears in their eyes as they looked at each other and kissed. They seemed in awe of what they had done together, and he was hardly looking at what he was doing. Jenny frowned. “Shouldn't you be covering her with a blanket?”

Not yet,” the Doctor said. “She hasn't finished with giving birth. I can't do that until the afterbirths are out, or I could introduce infection through the umbilical cords.”

Her eyes widened, imagining numerous infectious agents that could be fatal to mother and children.

Meanwhile, her gran stuck her head over the banister to call downstairs. “Two boys and a girl, Dad!”

Wilf chortled loudly. “You hear that, Mickey?! Let's break out some ale!”

Oi! Don't you dare get too merry!” But the snapping tone couldn't erase the grin from Sylvia's face. “Six grandchildren,” she breathed.

Martha knelt near the bed. She had two boxes ready, each with a number on the lid, that looked like they were meant for cold storage. She saw Jenny's puzzled look and explained. “These are for the placentas. They have extremely useful cells inside them, and they might come in handy for helping your siblings if they ever get sick. It's standard practice in Britain to preserve the placentas, but more recently they are being stored for possible stem cell harvesting for medical treatment.”

Planning ahead; Jenny could understand that, being a soldier. It had to be extremely useful, and she could see some practical medical applications: growing new organs, providing a replacement blood supply, or skin and nerve grafts.

Within moments, Donna was squirming again. “Something feels wrong. And my baby girl's not moving as much as her brothers are. She moved more in the womb.”

Martha frowned, holding her hands at ready. “Let it happen, Donna. The hardest part is over.”

Jenny watched in bewildered fascination as a huge blob of an organ came out of her mum. The colours were such that she'd never seen before, and she couldn't believe her eyes. Martha and the Doctor quickly repeated what had happened with the boys as finally the umbilical cord attached to the baby girl drained of blood.

Donna was whimpering, crying in the Doctor’s arms, still holding the distressed infant girl to her chest. But try as Martha might, the placenta was not dislodging from Donna’s womb. Martha clamped the cord with clamps marked 2 and the Doctor cut it, but still there was no sign of the placenta.

While they waited, Martha turned her attention to the other placenta, checked it carefully, and placed it into one of the boxes, clamps and all.

With all that, Jenny expected the other one to come out as quickly. So she frowned when several minutes passed and nothing happened. “Why is my sister's placenta still inside?”

The Doctor looked at his youngest daughter and paled. “Oh, no! She's growing weaker. Martha?!”

Martha frowned. “Sylvia, I need the scanner!” As the grandmother hurried it into position, Martha tried to inject some calm into the situation. “Sometimes things take a while. There's a drug I can give, but I'll scan Donna first. Should be just a little delay...” Her voice trailed off as the scanner beeped in a way it hadn't before.

As little as Jenny knew, she was positive that the sudden paleness in Martha's dark skin was not a good sign.

The Doctor's freckles stood out more as his face turned whiter. “What?”

Martha turned her slack expression on him. “It's not coming out because the girl has a twin still in there.”

What?!” cried Donna. “How could we have missed that?!”

That's impossible. I would've sensed something,” argued the Doctor.

Martha grabbed more towels. “Life signs are very weak. She might not be strong enough to even psychically cry out for help,” she suggested. “With all the moving around these Time Tots did, I'm not surprised that I had trouble getting the details we wanted. They were hiding this one, and she's smaller than the rest.”

Oh my god,” Sylvia breathed.

Sylvia, keep the scanner on her," Martha instructed, calm and focused. "We need to find the feotus."

Sylvia gently palpated the abdomen with one hand and kept her eyes on the scanner in her other hand. "Top, transverse," she replied, paling further.

"Oh god," Martha mumbled. "This what I wanted to avoid. I'll have to externally push her toward me, and use a hand to guide her toward the cervix. Once I've done that, Doctor, you'll need to kneel behind Donna and prop her upright.”

Jenny stiffened. “What, you're going to put your hand inside her?!”

It's the only way,” Martha declared, not brooking an argument. “I need quiet to concentrate. Donna, I won't mind if you need to scream.”

The twins, still holding a baby each, paled and clutched the boys a little closer.

Sylvia, seeing Jenny's numbness and how neither twin could take him as they were distracted with keeping the other two calm, and noting the paleness on her new granddaughter's face had to ask, “Shouldn't someone take the girl?”

No!” the Doctor insisted. “Donna's heartbeat might be the only thing keeping her going. She needs her mum.”

Donna adjusted her arms so she could keep the baby securely against her and yet the Doctor could hold both her hands. They also took the opportunity to move her to rest against the other breast, to open the one with the most time since being fed from for the new baby – on the hope that she would be able to nurse. “Might need to take on a bit more this time, Spaceman,” Donna gasped.

He grimaced, plainly bracing himself. “Ready?”

She nodded. “Do it, Martha.”

Jenny stared transfixed as Martha seemed to slowly slide her gloved hand inside Donna's body, drawing pained cries from Donna and grunts from the Doctor, and then manipulated the still domed belly from the stomach downward. The twins looked away, unable to watch. Jenny couldn't blame her mother for the flood of cries, but she was confused by the words her father uttered that she didn't understand.

If she had looked at Ben and Bella's faces, showing a bit of emotion other than worry and horror, she would've known he was cursing. Gallifreyan had some unusually apt phrases that lost a lot in translation.

Finally, Martha slid her hand out, and the Doctor helped prop Donna up as quickly as he dared. This time the birth took even longer, and the girl in Donna's arms seemed to tire as things progressed. Jenny wondered what the implications of that were, but they couldn't be good.

Martha glanced from Donna to the scanner still being held by Sylvia. “It's coming, but it's not looking good,” she announced, her voice dropping to a whisper.

It was the moment of truth, Jenny sensed. She didn't feel herself breathing as she watched her mother struggle to release the youngest baby into the world.

Finally her mother's cries suggested the head was crowning. No one spoke. Even Donna forced her cries to remain wordless as she strained to get the surprise child out. Another hard push, and the baby seemed to fall into Martha's hands.

They all looked. She was motionless for a long moment. The Doctor was too stunned to even touch the baby, and the stone was silent.

But then she waved her hand slightly – as if aiming for her parents.

To affirm her life, the stone suddenly hummed again, making everyone jump. Bella, still clutching her brother, rushed to the bathroom to retrieve it for her father. It seemed to take everything the Doctor had not to cry as he looked at the stone. Martha held the baby close to him so he could whisper her name. The cry came, but it sounded more like a tiny animal's wails than the cries the other babies had made.

Donna, despite one arm already full of baby, almost seized her youngest from Martha, sobbing in relief. Her husband helped her put the girl to the breast her sister had taken and coaxed the little one to latch on. Which she did, slowly taking in the needed nourishment. As she did, her sister seemed to rally, wiggling more like she did inside their mother.

She's a fighter,” the Doctor breathed unsteadily, sinking into tears himself. “She'll make it.”

Martha sagged. “I can't cut her cord yet. We need to wait a little for her blood to drain, for the placenta to come out.”

While the Doctor's decidedly shaking hands went through the same motions of cutting the cord for the older girl and forming another paternal bond, he shared an even more tender kiss with his wife. Four babies. Silently they discussed the implications and problems and sorted them without a single outward word being spoken. Donna was exhausted, and speaking in their minds saved what little strength she had left.

As if to prove the Doctor's words, the tiniest baby strengthened slowly, but enough to drain her blood and suckle a bit more firmly at the breast. Finally Martha could cut the cord. Donna's body soon expelled the placenta into Martha's hands and it was placed in the second box with both cords.

Jenny felt a huge weight settle over her. Bella and Ben had spoken of telepathically talking with each other, of their parents talking with the babies. Why couldn't she hear anything? Why was there nothing but silence in her head?

She moved slowly into the hall, mind reeling from everything she had seen and heard. But it was what she couldn't feel that weighed heavily on her being. She had just got her parents back, only to find them more interested in four beings so much smaller than her, who needed them for everything. Was there even a tiny space for her? Would they still want her?

No one noticed her leave the room.

Chapter Twelve: Bonding Time


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 3rd, 2013 11:16 pm (UTC)
Poor Jenny! It must have been so hard for her to witness such a family moment and not truly feel a part of it. *hugs her*

I honestly don't think you need to 'de-nature' this for FFN, especially after the explicit stuff I've seen posted on there lately. As long as you put a warning that it covers a birth in detail that should be sufficient, surely.
Nov. 4th, 2013 10:48 pm (UTC)
And what a birth, eh? *twisted smile*

Well, you never know. But I'll do that. Thanks.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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