This was all my fault. I knew it and it tore my hearts to shreds thinking about it.
I held Sere’s hand tightly, and she held mine twice as hard.
I stroked her forehead, smoothing her hair back from her face.
Already, beads of sweat were starting to form from the agonizing pain.
At least that meant she was warm.
Her eyes were screwed shut, her breathing hard and ragged.
They opened suddenly, bright blue against her pale complexion, “Matthew?”
“I’m here,” I murmured, squeezing her hand.
A faint smile played at the corners of her lips, “I’m sorry,”
I leaned into her, nuzzling her cheek, “No…no, it’s not your fault. If it’s anyone’s fault, then it’s mine,”
She shook her head, “It’s nobody’s fault, silly…”
Her words turned into a harsh scream.
I pulled away in shock. I didn’t know what to do.
River was at her side in a moment, stroking her forehead as I had done seconds before.
The screams tapered away into quiet whimpers.
“Shhhh….” Her mother’s touch soothed her; Sere’s panicked breathing evened out at last, her body shaking from the effort.
“Matthew, I’m scared,” She looked to me. I kissed her cheek, “I’ll be right here every step of the way,”
I had a sudden thought, “Doesn’t the TARDIS have a sickbay?” I asked River.
She shook her head, “We can’t move her. Not now – it’s too late,”
Her words were cut off as Sere screamed once more. But it was different this time. She braced one hand on the ground, the other holding mine so tightly I swore she would break it. She had spread her legs open, knees rising up.
Sere took a deep gasping breath, her grip loosening, “I can’t do this!”
I pulled her hand close to me, “Yes you can. I believe in you,”
She studied me for a moment, eyes searching my own. She could tell. She knew I was different now.
“I opened the watch,” I explained miserably, my head hung limp against my chest.
She took her hand out of my grasp, tilting my head up with her slender fingers, “You are still the man I fell in love with,”
Tears gathered at the corners of my eyes. I wiped them away furiously.
Sere took a final deep breath.
I held her hand tightly, River taking the other.
I felt as though my eardrums would burst as she let loose one last bloodcurdling scream of pain.
Her scream was soon replaced by the wails of a newborn that squirmed at her feet, coated in blood.
Sere began to laugh hysterically, her head falling back against the glass floor.
I moved over to the baby, picking it up. It was a boy. I took the blanket River offered me, wiping the red off of his face and body, cleaning him.
I wrapped him in a new blanket, soft and white. He promptly fell asleep, his tiny chest rising and falling.
Sere held out her arms as I handed him to her.
She held him close, her eyes shining with love for the tiny baby. Our tiny baby.
I leaned down, kissing his forehead.
“What are we going to name him?” I whispered, afraid to wake him.
She smiled with all her heart. It occurred to me that the last time she had really smiled was the night we made love.
“I was thinking, maybe…Gabriel?”
I wrapped my arms around her from behind, holding her against me, “That’s beautiful. Our little angel,”
She laughed, “Yeah,”
River stood, folding her arms indignantly, “So what, I don’t get to hold my grandbaby?”
Sere and I exchanged glances before falling into a fit of laughter.
Gabriel awoke with a start, wailing.
“Oh I’m sorry!” I gasped, running my hand over the tiny black wisps of his hair.
He paused for a moment in his cries, looking up at me with what I swore was curiosity.
“I’m your Dad,”
He began crying again.
“Well, he doesn’t like me much, does he?” I told Sere, standing.
She sat on the floor below me, legs crossed Indian style. “He will. In time,”
Offering him to me, I took him into my arms, swaying back and forth on the spot. He closed his tiny dark blue eyes, falling asleep again.
Sere rose unsteadily, leaning against the TARDIS console for support.
The glass floor was still slick with blood, towels and blankets lying in messy heaps around us.
River looked at me expectantly, holding out her hands for Gabriel. I gave him to her.
“Oh what a beautiful boy!” She cooed softly.
Sere frowned, staggering towards me. I wrapped my arms around her waist, holding her up.
“Where’s Dad?” She asked me.
I looked towards the TARDIS doors, “I’m afraid your father is on his own this time,”