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Pennine tucked the blanket around her son’s form, smiling as he twitched sleepily, his big blue eyes focused on her. A tiny hand grasped her finger, and she pressed a gentle kiss on his tummy.
A man standing in the rain, surrounded by fire, expression hard amid terrible screams.
She swallowed and straightened up, reaching for the lights. Pennine flicked the main one off and the nursery lights on. The baby’s eyes followed the holographic planets, circling above his head, and after a minute they started to close.
His mother began to sing quietly.
“My child, I sing this as you sleep:
The secret you must always keep,
Your name, the reflection of your soul
Once known will always do you ill.”
And how much more for him, the young one lying before her, with a name to strike fear into any Time Lord or Lady’s hearts.
“I’m the Doctor. Basically, run.”
“No-one’s called John Smith!”
“Interesting. There is no name. Why would a man hide his identity in such despair?”
“I name you Destroyer of Worlds!”
He was running, running, from his people, his planet, the blood on his hands, and the name that foretold it all.
A tear escaped Pennine’s eye and dripped silently down her cheek.
“When a Time Lord’s name is revealed,
Time itself will become unsealed.
The twin suns will burn no more,
Gallifrey will fall into war.”
War had never come to Gallifrey; the Time Lords had never got involved in ‘squabbles’ between species or planets. But still the prophecy rang true in Pennine’s mind.
Dying, so many dying. Screams and light and mechanical cries of “Ex-ter-min-ate!”
“That’s what Gallifrey became in the final days, that’s what you’re bringing back. Hell!”
The images burned inside Pennine’s mind, as they had done every night. Her hearts constricted in pain; ghost agony reverberating back from her son’s future.
“Worlds will crumble into dust,
Your home will burn, and it must.
For the price the lone survivor pays
Is our time locked up for all days.”
It haunted her dreams, what came next.
Burning, everything coming to dust. All the places she knew, all the people in her life. Including herself.
All but him.
She knew without seeing that it was from his hand. Bringer of Destruction. There was no room for misunderstanding in his name.
Lonely, so so lonely.
The baby Time Lord was now soundly asleep, blissfully oblivious to his foretold future. Pennine sang the last verse anyway.
“The healer can’t renew the ember;
War will call him to remember.
Friends, enemies, enemies, friends,
After which the Time War ends.”
Every night, she sang the nursery rhyme, even though she knew it would never mean anything to him—not until it was too late. But maybe, one day, he would realise that his destiny had been inevitable.
Pennine kissed him again, this time on the forehead. “Goodnight, baby.” For the first time, she felt an impulse to add something extra. “Mama forgives you.”