sam_storyteller: (Default)
sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-17 12:30 pm

In Another Life; Ch 1 of 7, PG-13.

Title: In Another Life
Summary: An all-too-human Doctor begins to build a life with Rose Tyler, but old ghosts -- both real and imagined -- still haunt him. And there's only so much human life you can live without a name...
Rating: PG-13.
Warnings: Some discussion of PTSD; extreme gore in later chapters.
Notes: Completed fic, should be posted fairly rapidly over the course of the week -- I'm just getting the later parts beta'd. Primarily Doctor Who, but also incorporating some Torchwood without any extensive knowledge of Torchwood required. Who spoilers through Journey's End; no significant Torchwood spoilers.
Thanks to: [livejournal.com profile] mcgonagalls_cat and [livejournal.com profile] spiderine for betas. Any remaining rough edges are my fault for not listening to them. :D

Originally Posted 8.19.08

Now available at AO3.

***

There's eternity in your eyes
The flesh and the bones they are only disguises across
A world to be lost
And beneath our opinions and beliefs
In another life...


***

The Doctor

What hurt the most, in retrospect, was that Rose still turned to the TARDIS in the end.

Oh, she kissed him, and that was nice, was lovely really, properly kissing Rose when neither of them were possessed or dying. His newly human body had some very firm things to say regarding the possibilities behind that kiss. But, as they walked away down the curve of beach on DÃ¥rlig ulv Stranden, Rose still turned back. Just once.

There it is, he thought to himself. There's the apex and crux of the matter. I'm not her Doctor, even if I am; he's her Doctor.

And he hated himself just a little.

Well, more than a little.

Well, a lot, actually.

He was a genocide -- twice -- did it count as three times if two of those times were the same race? Besides, as recent events had proved, he was quite capable of making others into soldiers and then sneering at them for being so. Jack -- poor Jack, so young and so desperate for his approval. He'd ruined Jack, he'd damned him and then rejected him. Martha was ready to brutalise the Earth because of the Doctor's actions. And he knew what would happen to Donna -- oh, how he knew.

Reaching back across the years they were hardly the only ones, either.

But he couldn't reconcile being himself with being the cast-off that his other self seemed to think he was. Or perhaps his other self didn't think that, not entirely anyway, since he knew he would never leave Rose in the hands of someone who would hurt her.

His head hurt. His human head.

"We'll have to walk down to town or get a lift or something," Jackie was saying, as they padded across the stretch of smooth glassy sand. "We can call your dad from there, luv."

"I don't mind the walk," Rose said, threading her fingers through his. Her hand was warm, and she hadn't shied from touching him; he could almost believe --

But she'd turned back.

"What's the name of that town?" Jackie asked. "The horrible little one."

"It's not horrible, Mum," Rose replied. "I think it's Sokndal."

Here he was on Earth, human, with what, forty years left? Fifty if he looked after himself.

"Doubt we'll be able to get a car. Was there a bus?" Jackie asked.

"Yes, Mum," Rose said resignedly, slowing so that Jackie began to pull ahead of them. "We can get the bus to Kristiansand, there's a zeppelinport there."

No screwdriver, no TARDIS. The lack of his TARDIS hurt, like a scab ripped off too soon, but it would heal over and scar up. He had Rose. That was what mattered.

"Can I kiss you again?" he asked nervously, when he was confident Jackie was far enough ahead to be out of earshot.

"You don't need to ask," Rose said, and tilted her face up to his. This kiss was even better. And -- yep, human body, all systems go. His single heart thudded in his chest.

"Oi, you two," Jackie called.

"Coming," Rose answered, and she smiled at him and broke into a run, pulling him after her.

They called Rose's father from Sokndal, reversed-charges, and he wired them enough to get rooms for the night in the small inn and tickets home the following morning. Money -- he'd have to get used to earning it, having it, spending it, at least until he could build himself a screwdriver. Which, he'd have to re-invent about five other tools to do that, but he should manage pretty nicely in a couple of months. A year at the outside.

"You're drifting," Rose said over dinner, catching his eye. "You all right?"

"It's new," he said. "Being human. Your lives aren't half complicated."

"You're tired," Rose decided. "Mum, the Doctor's tired. So'm I."

"Well, don't tell me," Jackie answered. "Get on and have a nap if you feel like it. Nothing much else to do in this place."

Rose sighed, gave him a knowing smile, and pushed her chair back. He followed her out of the restaurant, waving goodnight to Jackie, and across the street to their rooms.

Three rooms. Jackie had insisted.

But Rose unlocked her room and pulled him inside by his arm, leaned her whole body up against his and kissed him.

Stories wheeled through his mind about the power of kisses, all the old human myths and a handful of alien ones, not to mention alien laws; three kisses were a binding contract on some worlds.

Consider me bound, he thought, sliding an arm around her waist. She giggled and put hers around his neck, letting him take some of her weight.

"I've been waiting to do this," she said, sliding a hand under his untucked shirt. "Been looking for you for so long..."

"This -- " he gasped as sensation flooded him. "Oh -- wow -- "

"Missed you," she whispered against his throat. He knew theoretically what was happening; chemicals flooding the brain, glands sending signals, pheromones being flung around, muscles tensing. None of it explained why he was having trouble thinking beyond the next three seconds, beyond the skate of his fingers up her back, the urge to press her down onto the very convenient bed and -- well, and do something, human biology wasn't a mystery by any stretch but it wasn't precisely something he'd recently had much first-hand experience with.

Rose's hand slid down over his belt buckle and her other hand cupped his jaw as she brushed her fingers across his --

"WHOA," he said, jerking back, away from her. "Whoa, oh. Erm. Rose. Sorry -- "

"Are you all right?" she asked, though she didn't come any closer. "I didn't -- maybe you don't want -- "

"No, no no no, nono, I do want, ah." He rubbed the back of his head. "Sorry."

"Because if you don't it's okay, just because one of you...the old you -- maybe even he didn't..."

"No! Rose!" he said, then inhaled, trying to clear his mind. It was remarkably difficult. It wasn't that he'd never noticed her breasts before or anything, but they'd never been quite so...focus-able before. He inhaled again.

"It's a new body," he said quietly, not quite meeting her eyes. "A human body. It's not what I'm used to. Which is fine! It's fine," he reassured her, when she opened her mouth. "Very, very...fine. But it's a bit, sort of..."

Rose's eyes widened and her hands flew to her face.

"Oh, oh my god," she said, and he could tell she was trying very hard not to laugh. "You're a virgin!"

"I am not," he protested. "I'll have you know I -- "

No good could come of completing that sentence, so he didn't; he snapped his jaw shut, heard his teeth click.

"I just need," he said slowly, after a moment's consideration, "some time to catalogue my reactions."

Rose lifted an eyebrow.

"How much time?" she asked.

He stepped forward again and took both of her hands in his, lifting one to his face, the other to his shoulder. She smelled amazing -- not good, per se, but really really...human.

"Slow," he said. "Yes, yes to everything, yes to you, Rose, but...slow."

She smiled and pulled him close. "Slow, I can do."

"D'you remember when we danced?" he asked, releasing her wrists, resting his hands on her hips. She leaned against his chest.

"Yeah. I remember everything," she murmured, pressing her face into his shirt. He swayed with her, a different kind of dance, missing music, and also just a little missing Jack. Jack, who had been a sort of witness to what he'd had with Rose.

Now there were no witnesses. Just the two of them. Dancing.

After a minute or so she inhaled, and he was worried she'd say something awful, but then she laughed.

"I don't want to fuss, but you reek," she said affectionately.

He sniffed the air. "Is that me? I thought it was just the way things smelled to humans."

"Some of it's probably me," she said, and stepped back. "We should wash. You'll feel better after."

"Wash...together?" he asked, half-hopeful, half-terrified.

"The showers are pretty small," she replied, digging in her pocket and passing him a key, kissing him again in the process. "Go. Wash. I'll see you when we're both less foul."

He looked down at the key, then up at her. "I do mean yes, Rose."

"I know you do. But you're here now. You're staying. Aren't you?"

She looked really as though she didn't know whether he would. And hell, he wasn't sure if he could live for forty or fifty years on one planet, but he wouldn't leave her. Not his Rose. Not ever again. Not even if she thought he was second-best, not even if the sight of her turning away towards the TARDIS was burned in his memory.

"Course I am," he said cheerfully. "Right. Washing. Then..."

"Dancing," she supplied.

"Yeah. Ah, okay." And he found himself in the hallway, unlocking the door to his own room, listening for the sound of water running from the room next to his.

The water felt surprisingly good on his skin, human skin, pale and covered in freckles. He did a mole-check; yep, still had the mole. That was nice. He'd have missed the mole if it was gone. If he had to choose a body to be stuck in for the rest of his life, this was a pretty good one, better than most he'd had. Never going to be ginger now, though.

The thoughts flitted through his mind as he stood under the cool water, letting it slick down his hair and run off his joints -- shoulder, elbow, knuckle, knee. It ran into his eyes and stung a little, tasted slightly bitter in his mouth. He could just about separate out the chemical components of it in his head if he tried, but a human tongue had its limitations.

Rose's tongue, pink and damp, curled over her lip in concentration. Rose's hands...

He resolutely shut off that line of thinking, because alone in a shower it wasn't going to get him anywhere good.

He toweled off his hair, which did feel brilliant -- clearly there were many benefits to a human body. He studied himself in the mirror for a minute before tying the towel around his waist. He should see if the suit and shirt could be salvaged; he hadn't any other clothes, after all.

When he walked out into the bedroom proper, Rose was sitting on his bed. In a towel. And very little else. Nothing else, in fact.

"Was beginning to worry you'd drowned," she said. "How'd you like it?"

"Brilliant," he answered, eyes drifting down to the swell of her breasts beneath the towel. Really, if he wasn't careful this was going to become a fixation.

"Doctor," she said. "Up here."

He felt a blush -- a blush! a real human blush! -- as he dragged his eyes up her throat, over her mouth, met her gaze. She was still smiling.

He kissed her as an apology, then kissed her to show that it wasn't all he was thinking about, and then kissed her because she had her hand on the back of his neck and wouldn't let him go, and then kissed her as she was lying back and pulling him down (sweet relief -- bending over her had started to give his brand-new back a cramp) and kissed her to say thank-you for her hand flat and warm on his stomach and kissed her to taste the last kiss and kissed her because it was fun and kissed her because it was good and then decided for a change to kiss her just below her jaw. Down her throat. Right between her clavicles and just above the soft pale towel. She had already hooked her thumbs in his towel and shoved it off to the floor, sometime when he was busy memorising the taste of her skin.

"Doctor," she breathed, and her hand slid down his hip, nails scratching the small of his back lightly. "I thought -- "

"Bored with slow," he said, and she laughed, which meant he had to kiss her again. This was fun, they were both laughing, Rose ruffling his wet hair and arching her back to help him slide her towel off. She hooked one leg around his hip, letting him explore her body with fingertips and lips and tongue. Cataloguing her reactions was really much more fun than cataloguing his. Soft breathy sighs when he nuzzled her shoulder, moans when he kissed her breasts, a short keening gasp when he ran his hand experimentally down her belly. And her hips, lovely hips, beautiful hips, pressing against his until he realised that some of the moans were coming from his own mouth.

She shoved him and he tensed for a brief moment, because she was shoving his shoulder, pushing him off, but then she gripped his hip and pulled with her other hand and he was underneath her, looking up at Rose. His Rose, who he would have torn worlds apart to get to. He had killed a sun once just so he could say goodbye to her.

Goodbye, and something else -- he'd only said it once, and he'd said it to her just that afternoon on the beach, and it didn't come any easier to him now, but as she arched and moaned and oh god, wonderful human bodies, he pulled her down and whispered in her ear, over and over.

I love you, I love you, I love you, as if that would anchor her to him, as if it would make her believe he was her Doctor, as much as he believed she was his Rose.

***

"So," Rose said, after he'd sufficiently caught his breath to be able to focus on things like 'hearing' and 'speech'. "Slow, huh?"

He pressed his nose to the crown of her head and inhaled. "Was that too fast?"

"No," she said, fingers tracing imaginary circles on his shoulder. "I'm glad."

"Good."

"I thought maybe you were scared."

"Me, scared?" he scoffed.

"I can see through you, remember?" she asked, propping herself up on her elbows -- elbows on his chest. His body for her; body and soul.

Except that she'd turned around.

"Should we pick you out a name?" she asked, looking down at him. "Do you want a name? If you're staying?"

Did he?

"Names have power," he said. "You name something, that gives you power over it. Remind me to tell you about the Carrionites. Names...names can be good. But I've sort of already got one."

"Yeah, but like...you're human now. Can get complicated, not having a name."

"D'you want me to?"

She shook her head. "Doesn't matter to me. You're my Doctor," she added, running a fingertip along his eyebrows. It tickled.

"I'll think about it," he said. "I dunno, I can't see myself with a name. Not a name-name. There's always John, I suppose. I don't feel very much like a John Smith, though. Not for the rest of my life, anyway. What other sorts of names, d'you think?"

"What about Michael?" she suggested.

"Oh, no, I don't feel at all like a Michael. Or a Robert. Can't abide the name Robert."

Rose laughed. "Fine, not Robert then. Should I keep going?"

"Later," he said, closing his eyes. "Later, maybe."

"Later," she echoed sleepily, and it would have been blissful, brilliant to fall asleep like this with Rose, except then there was a thudding on the door.

"ROSE?" Jackie yelled. "ROSE, I THOUGHT YOU WERE IN THE OTHER ROOM. AND WHERE'S THE DOCTOR GONE?"

"Blimey, it's Mum," Rose said, starting up off him (ow, palm in his solar plexus, ow) and tumbling off the bed, hiding behind it. She made a desperate motion at him and he realised what she wanted.

"SORRY, JACKIE," he called, climbing out of the bed and fumbling for his -- towel! hurrah! -- and answering the door with it half-wrapped around him. "Sorry, I, ah...Rose...is not here."

Jackie peered past him into the room. "Well, where's she gone, then?"

"Where's she gone, where's she gone -- down the shops? Maybe?"

"Don't be daft, there aren't any shops still open. Which reminds me," she said, shoving a plastic bag into his chest, ow again. "Got you some clothes. Looks like you're in need of 'em," she added, looking him up and down. Jackie was, if nothing else, a reassuring constant. "Don't blame me for the shirts, it was all the gift shop had. D'you reckon she went to the pub for a pint? Did she have a good nap?"

He beamed. "Yes. I think she probably had a great nap."

There was a squeak from behind the bed, which he tried to cover with a coughing fit.

"Well. If you see her, let her know I have some clothes for her as well," Jackie said. "Breakfast tomorrow at eight, we have a bus to catch."

"Yes, yes, right," he said, and was closing the door when she stopped him.

"Oh, and Rose?" she called past him.

There was a resigned sigh, and Rose put her head up over the edge of the bed.

"Yes, Mum?" she asked, in a very small voice.

"Try not to wear him out?"

Blushing was really something he was going to have to get used to, he suspected. Jackie pressed another bag into his hands, presumably the clothing she'd bought for Rose, and winked at him as she walked away.

His bag had a pair of khaki trousers in, as well as a t-shirt with a giant viking helmet printed on it. Rose laughed herself sick until she opened hers. She held up the shirt reading "I <3 DIKES" and stared in horror.

"Swap you," she offered.

"I do like dikes," he said, pulling it on. "I mean, does anyone have a particular dislike for them? They're very useful. Why wouldn't you like a dike? Let alone know enough people who didn't like them that you'd have to proclaim your fondness?"

Rose started laughing again, and he had to kiss her to stop it, and then of course the shirts had to come off again.

***

"Dyke means what?"

***

Rose Tyler

Rose woke to the sound of thick, troubled breathing; for a second in the dark she didn't know where she was, but she reached out and there was the Doctor, real and solid -- some form of him, anyway. Part of him. The Doctor, human and here with her.

"Doctor," she whispered, realising the sound was coming from him. He was asleep, gasping, not crying but drawing in huge labored breaths, as if he were running. "Doctor, wake up."

He flailed awake with a shout -- earning them a thump on the wall they shared with her mum's room. Rose promised herself a holiday somewhere when they got home where she wouldn't have a bloody chaperone. But then the Doctor was gasping, looking around him wildly, and she pulled him close.

"It's okay," she said, holding his face inches from hers. "It's all right, I'm here."

"He's coming," the Doctor said in a whisper. "He's going to kill me -- "

"Shh, no. Nobody's coming, you're safe."

He drew in another ragged breath and seemed to pull himself together. "Safe?"

"Safe. Look, see?" she said, making sure he focused on her face. "Safe."

He collapsed against her shoulder and she remembered what the Doctor, the other Doctor, had told her -- that this was him as she'd first known him, born in war and blood. But he was human -- and he dreamed.

Night terrors.

"He was coming to get me," he said, sounding broken. She didn't know who he meant; maybe Davros, maybe a Dalek, maybe some monster he'd encountered long after they parted. Or before they met.

"It's all right. It's another world, a new world," she soothed, trying not to panic. Even her Doctor -- but he was her Doctor -- but there was another...even the Doctor she'd first known had never been this vulnerable. Not in front of her.

"Promise," he demanded, his hands clutching hard enough to hurt.

"Promise," she said. "I promise."

After that his breathing slowed, his frantic heart (only one heart) evening out to a steady beat. She was almost certain he'd fallen asleep again when he spoke.

"Don't go," he said.

"I'm not."

"Talk to me?"

She smiled and kissed his hair. "What about?"

"Anything. Tell me about this world," he said softly. "Parallel world. There are parallel people in it. People I might know."

Rose stared at the ceiling, thought about it. "I dunno, it's hard to remember -- sometimes I get them mixed up a bit. Mickey's -- gone, of course. Mum told you about my little brother Tony. You'll love him, he's brilliant."

"He can't possibly be brilliant," the Doctor said. "He's what, not even a year old? He can't even talk yet."

She smacked the back of his head lightly. "Oi, that's my brother you're insulting."

"Well, he can't."

"He doesn't need to. You watch, even you aren't immune to his charms. Bet you anything. Bet you a pound."

"Haven't got a pound," he muttered.

"And there's Dad, you liked him, he's -- turned out brilliant. Sort of sneaky, but brilliant. He reminds me of Jack sometimes."

The Doctor stiffened.

"But there's no Jack," she continued, curious. He sucked in a breath. "Guess you never ran into him. Or he might be around, hopping through time."

"Jack was going to kill me," he said. "In my dream."

"Jack would never do that," Rose replied, sharper than she meant.

"I did -- I did horrible things to him," the Doctor whispered. "He can't die...not ever...and it's my fault because the Master killed him so many times, and I told Jack he was wrong, Rose, I said he was wrong."

Rose kissed his hair again. "And I suppose the way he smiled whenever you looked at him, that was just an act to lull you into complacency, huh?"

"Jack was going to kill me for every time he's died and I tried to tell him he could only kill me once -- "

"Shh. Sh. There's no Jack here."

He was silent for another long stretch, but he slowly relaxed again.

"If there were, we'd be getting way less sleep," she added, and he burst into quiet, hysterical laughter.

***

She felt as though if she left the Doctor alone for a minute, he might disappear; where he would go, she couldn't think, but wasn't that like...that thing with the cat in the lead box or something, where until you looked at it you didn't know if it was really there. And there was always the possibility -- this was the Doctor after all -- that he would simply wander off.

Still, he was quiet over breakfast, quiet in the bus and quiet in the zeppelinport while they waited for their flight. Rose, secure that Mum was watching him, slipped away for a few minutes and called Dad.

"Your mum says you've brought the Doctor back with you," he said.

"Not quite," she replied, hating herself for saying it. "It's complicated, but he's...close to. He's close-to and human, Dad. I dunno what to do."

"Well, feeding and dressing him seems to have worked so far."

"Yeah..." Rose bit her lip. "He's really...he's so sad. And he told me he needed me, but I dunno how to fix him. I thought maybe..."

"What?" her father asked. She could hear in his tone that he wanted to help, wanted to please her; even after all this time, he still seemed to be trying to make up for dying in her world, for never having been a father in this one before. If Dad could take her into his home and his life, surely...

"Can you set him up a lab at Torchwood?" she asked instinctively. "Somewhere for him to tinker? I think he'd like that."

"Nothing easier."

"And he needs somewhere to stay. A bedroom. Um." She bit her lip. "A bedroom for, you know. Us."

"There's that one on the garden -- "

"No," she said, thinking about the night terrors. "Somewhere high up and safe. Not too many windows."

"What's happened to him, Rose?" her father asked.

"I'll explain when we get there," she answered, because she didn't know how to tell him, or even what to tell him.

"Are you happy?"

"Yes," she said. Maybe it was a lie. "I am."

The Doctor brightened when he saw her returning, stood and moved towards her like a puppy, like the world's biggest puppy who'd just been kicked around a little.

"Just calling Dad," she said, waving the phone briefly before tucking it in her pocket. "Ready to go home?"

His face closed up, walled off. After a brief second of consideration on how to repair this, she punched him in the shoulder. He looked offended, but a smile broke through after a second.

"Sure," he said genially. "Lead the way. Allons-y!"

***

"No...why would I have a passport?"

***

The Doctor

So many bits of paper, human beings needed. A certificate to show that you were born, a card to tell you where you went to school, a card to tell you that you could drive a car, paper slips of money to tell you (and everyone else) that you had power, a card to say you could borrow the library's books, a photo in a pouch to tell you where you worked, a passport to tell you where you came from or were going.

Well, he hadn't been born, hadn't gone to school on earth, didn't have a car (or a name), was entirely powerless, had almost been eaten in a library once, had no job, and didn't come from anywhere. Actually, technically, he came from a hand in a jar. Fortunately, Jackie and Rose had money, and Jackie surprisingly knew exactly how to offer a bribe.

"So," he said, gazing out the window of the zeppelin as it floated past Hamburg, on its way overland to the channel crossing -- apparently a straight shot over open water was reserved for express flights. "Torchwood, eh?"

Rose rested her chin on his shoulder, nodding a little. "Been there about a year now. I brought Dad with me -- he's not much on aliens -- "

" -- isn't he going to be pleased to see me," the Doctor murmured.

"He'll be all right. You're family now. Like Mum and me."

He smiled.

"Anyway, he's a dead cert with accounting and he gets the tech, so they made him a VP or something. He controls where the money goes, so if he doesn't like the way something's going..." she made a gentle chopping motion. "No funding. Torchwood hasn't designed or repaired a weapon since we came onboard."

"That's good," he said earnestly. "That's very good."

"I think so. This Torchwood was never after you anyway; dunno where you ended up in this universe, but it wasn't Earth. It's just meant to investigate...you know, strange stuff, and protect humanity. We even moved out of the tower at Canary Wharf. After Dad and Mickey stopped Torchwood's ghost shifts, it lost some of its funding. It's mostly just a research station now."

"Researching what?"

"This and that. Biotechnology, physics, alien tech. This year, before the stars started to go out, we'd actually recovered a Knarf scout ship and helped 'em get it back in the air."

"Knarf? Really?" he asked, turning to her. "Love the Knarf. They talk entirely through nose-whistling."

"So we found out," Rose said dryly. "But one of our guys is a bit of a linguist on the side and he bought a nose flute and we got on all right, in the end."

"Brilliant, you are," the Doctor said. "Look at you. Making a case for Torchwood for me, aren't you?"

"A little bit. I just think...you'll like this Torchwood. I want you to give it a chance."

"For you," he said, and kissed her.

"Enough snogging, tea's on!" Jackie called from across the aisle, indicating a young man pushing a trolley along. In a feat of ego only to be achieved by the human race, the trolley dangled from a miniature zeppelin. The Doctor cocked an eyebrow at it.

"Biscuit, sir?" the man asked nervously.

***

The journey was uneventful, but floating along overland on a zeppelin took a lot longer than going direct, or even than an airplane would on the same route; by the time they touched down he was exhausted and a bit dizzy from so long in the gently swaying passenger carriage.

Fortunately they were met by a car outside the zeppelinport and it wasn't long before they were pulling up the gravel drive to the Tyler mansion. Rose's father met them at the door and herded them inside, never ceasing talking, but asking no questions and really not saying anything at all.

The Doctor was grateful, and then a little ashamed of his gratitude, that all he had to do was listen with half an ear and follow when he was led to a bedroom. He dropped onto the bed with a groan, hardly noticing that Rose was in the room, and fell asleep with his shoes still on.

He woke briefly when he felt hands on his body, but he smelled Rose -- soap and some cheap perfume she fancied -- and only moved to twist his head to the side, settling his shoulders. He felt her slide the shoes off his feet and then undo his trousers -- "Lift up a minute" -- and he did, and then something was warm on top of him and against his side.

Unconsciously, somewhere, he'd realised what he'd done had scared Rose, waking in the night. That evening, though the Daleks and Jack and Martha and the Master all raged in his head, he managed not to move or moan or shout in his sleep. Davros cut into him with those bladed fingertips he had, one cut for every Dalek dead, and with his other hand one gouge against his skin for every Time Lord. There was no pain, but he counted as he cut until the Doctor was sure he'd run mad.

One hundred and five. One hundred and six. One hundred and seven.

The second time he woke he was shaking, but he hadn't made a sound; Rose, curled against his shoulder, was still asleep. He lay and pulled in deep, slow breaths until the shaking subsided.

He dozed only, in the early hours, dropping off to the sound of Rose breathing, always half-waking just as dreams threatened, even dreams that looked sort of nice, really. The third time he woke completely was from a dream where he was standing on the beach in Norway with Rose, or rather he was in the TARDIS and she was standing on the beach, but there was a thin lens, almost a sheen of oil in the air, and he stepped through it to end his days with her.

And then he woke up and it was true, like the way genies in old stories twisted wishes to turn them into curses.

Also, he had an erection.

Traitorous human body. Unreliable, unpredictable, unreasoning; there was no earthly inspiration for --

"Morning," Rose mumbled, blinking sleep from her eyes as she pushed up on one elbow. He shifted under the blanket, turning to study her. "Sleep well?"

"Like the dead," he said cheerfully.

"Can I kiss you?" she asked.

"You don't have to ask," he answered. She smiled and leaned over him, kissed him gently, slid her hand down his chest and laughed when he twisted, half-bucking into her touch, half wanting to turn away.

"Don't," she whispered. "It's all right."

"I don't -- " he tried to think of a way he could say it; the feeling of loss, loss of his world, loss of his race, loss of control. It was worth it, but...

So instead he said, "Let me," and pushed her down and kissed her, holding onto her hands, losing himself, oh, losing himself for a brief minute -- something he hadn't known was possible in any incarnation -- thinking of nothing but here and now with Rose.

No wonder Jack, damaged and unhappy Jack, had spent most of his mortal life seeking this. One or two moments of oblivion, given up to someone worthy of love, someone who thought you were.

***

They gave him a lab.

By their standards it was state of the art, and he had to admit that you wouldn't think someone who had formerly made fizzy drinks for a living would be able to put something like this together. On the other hand, this was Torchwood -- something that had made Rose anxious for him, but the low isolated building was so far removed from his memories of the other London's Torchwood ("It's law offices now," Pete explained) that if it weren't for the big "T" on the lobby wall he'd never have known. Rose's hand was evident in much of the design, which only made sense -- his clever Rose, building a machine to find him through the solid walls of reality, of course she'd dominate the place.

The lab itself wasn't that impressive in comparison to what he was used to, just a large room with a lot of flat space, two computers, a rack of primitive human tools that were little better than interestingly shaped sticks. But the point wasn't what was in it, at least not to him. He was certain, though he no longer had the advantage of background telepathy to know, that they thought he was in awe of the lab. Rose's father hesitantly showed him the tools, the top-level computers, the desk at the front of the lab complex, staffed by a very nice woman named Mary Ellen, and seemed pleased when he studied everything intensely.

He ran a hand over one of the smooth, empty counter-tops. No, as workshops went it wasn't something to put a former Time Lord in awe. The awe was -- as always -- for humanity; they could be brutal and horrible and cruel, but there were such people in the world who would give him the best of theirs, for no real reason. Well, he supposed Pete was doing it out of love for his child, and Rose herself out of love for him, but when you came down to it they didn't have to. Rose must know there was no need to buy him.

He felt her arm around his waist, her cheek pressed against his shoulder.

"If I go away for a few hours, you promise not to disappear?" she asked softly. "Promise to stay here?"

He almost asked Where would I go? but some human instinct stopped him. A year ago he would have, even six months ago. No thought to what it meant to her, even with Rose.

"Nowhere I'd rather be," he said instead. "I'll stay here."

"Good." She kissed his cheek from behind. "I have work in the hangar; you can find me there if you need me. I'll bring you lunch, how's that?"

"Yes..." he twisted to smile at her. Her father coughed.

"If there's anything you need that you can't find here, just ask Mary Ellen. Pick up the phone and hit five, it'll dial directly to her desk," he said, gesturing at the pristine white telephone mounted on the wall.

"She's got my mobile number," Rose added.

"I'm fine," he said. "I'll just...tinker a bit."

And then he was alone in the huge white workspace with the funny-shaped sticks.

Someone had left a packing carton near the door and he annexed it first-thing, filling it slowly with tools he was certain he would never need, composing a mental list of things he ought to ask for. Some of the tools were so archaic he wasn't even certain what they were for at first, though a few minutes' thought sorted most of them. He kept the shiny spanner set, though he wasn't sure when he'd use it; the very first time he'd ever come to Earth and encountered a spanner he'd thought it was some kind of good-luck charm. Couldn't hurt.

After an hour of shifting things around he had several piles of tools spread out on the benches and one box full-to-overflowing with useless things. He crossed his arms over his chest and studied them critically.

And then he simply...stopped.

His work hadn't really accomplished anything other than rearranging piles. It would take too long and too much energy to build anything. He couldn't trust his human hands not to muck things up, at least not yet. And the walls and the telephone were all still so white, and the metal on everything was shiny and silver, and the computer and cords and countertops were matte black, the computers humming softly. He didn't know what he was doing here.

He sank down onto the (white) chair provided, hands clasping the armrests lightly, and stopped thinking entirely. It was surprisingly easy. He simply sat down and stopped. Because what was the point? Why build himself a sonic screwdriver anyway? He was supposed to be landbound, the other him had practically told him he was imprisoned here, throwing Rose to him like an afterthought. Too dangerous; born in blood and revenge; no different from the man Rose had first known, even after the years he'd spent becoming better, becoming more. He didn't deserve the stars. He might destroy them.

When Rose returned she banged the door open cheerfully, which gave him enough time to start up and look like he'd been doing something very important with a ratchet and a metal flange.

"You've made progress," she said, gesturing at the piles of tools everywhere. "They say genius is messy. Sandwich?"

That afternoon she took him on a tour of the building complex. Rose worked in a huge high-ceilinged hangar off the lab building; roughly half was walled off with big sheets of plastic, and the remaining half was split again. In this part, near the door, technology in various states of progress and repair grew and changed under the hands of technicians and scientists; some of it seemed pure human ingenuity, but other portions were obviously scavenged alien tech. Beyond, doctors moved about and conferred in small groups, washed their hands at a stainless steel sink or gave soft orders to nurses in blue scrubs.

He peered beyond the plastic curtain into the other half of the hangar and found, incongruously, a half-built biplane. Rose joined him at the slit in the curtains.

"Nobody ever thought of airplanes," she said, and he turned an incredulous look on her. "S'true. Zeppelins for the rich, trains and ships for the rest."

"Kind of...small for a passenger plane."

"Well, it's a prototype, innit? It's not like I could tell them how to build a plane. It's no end frustrating, actually, everyone hates the fact that nobody knows why it flies. We'll get there, though," she added confidently.

He could tell she wanted him to be impressed, and in a way he was; they were making leaps and bounds, and they weren't cheating. They were doing it naturally, with their own brains, striving against the universe to harness it. There were physicists experimenting with time and space, engineers exploring technology, doctors grappling with the human condition...all well and good. Even if it was...Torchwood.

But, in all, his opinion was a distant, disaffected analysis more than anything. He had to put on a face to prove to her that he had faith in her, that he did think they were doing great things.

Then he heard a laugh and a cheer from where the doctors were working and Rose took his hand, threading her fingers through his and announcing, "It's Lisa. Come see."

***

Ianto Jones

Lisa loved visiting the labs, and he knew that because she was always happier after a visit, but some days it was all Ianto could do to force her out of bed and into the car. The thing was that she loved it once she was there, but all she seemed to remember later was the pain, of which there was no insignificant amount. It didn't make for easy work, and it caused a lot of fights and flung crockery, but he'd just learned to buy the cheap stuff and, after all, variety was the spice of life. Every week they had a different pattern of plates. You had to take your joy where you could find it.

Officially he didn't work for Torchwood anymore, but when Lisa was in with the doctors or the technicians he mostly mooched around, poking at things, listening to people talk. Nobody ever stopped him from going anywhere; the few that remembered him from the tower at Canary Wharf even answered his questions. He was a researcher, after all, and his mental notes were tidy enough that he was beginning to understand the grand arc and scheme of what was happening at Torchwood now that it had been pared down to a collection of geeky geniuses. Wandering had proved educational.

Today, though, he was by Lisa's side. The interface installed in her body was complete and all that was really left was to plug in the prosthetic and, in the words of one of the techs, see if the wetware recognised the hardware.

"This shouldn't hurt," Dr. Harper said, carrying the prosthetic carefully, like a baby. It looked -- not real, it was all plastic and metal, but they'd dyed the plastic to match her skin tone and the metal was a dull burnished copper colour, hardly catching the light. Lisa watched it with huge dark eyes, this folded arm in Dr. Harper's hands.

"Right, gorgeous, let's see about this hand job, shall we?" Dr. Harper continued, and Lisa managed a grin for the weak joke. She reached up with her right hand and pulled the shirt back across her left shoulder, where the copper of the interface implant gleamed. When she moved it twitched slightly; the joint rolled smoothly around in the socket, though there wasn't anything for it to move yet.

"Just hold still."

Lisa bit her lip and her hand clenched painfully around Ianto's as Dr. Harper eased the joint of the arm into the socket. He shifted it, aligning all the plugs and chips, and then pressed gently.

"Brace her," he said, and Ianto leaned against her right shoulder and put a reassuring hand on her arm. "And..."

There was a soft click and a whirr, and Lisa looked down in shock.

The fingers of the prosthetic hand flexed into a fist.

"That's it?" she said, still staring.

"That's it," Dr. Harper grinned.

"It's my hand," she whispered. "Ianto, look -- I can feel it! It's my hand!"

She stood up and stretched her arm out straight, her breathing shallow and quick.

"Don't push it!" Dr. Harper snapped. "You don't know -- "

"It's my hand!"

"Lisa, you're going to do yourself -- " and Dr. Harper's mouth snapped shut as she turned and giggled and threw the backhand-V sign at him.

Ianto burst out laughing and the techs working nearby looked up and Lisa waved at all of them, which was when the cheering started.

"Oh my god, it works!" she shouted, and Ianto pulled her close and felt the prosthetic wrap around his neck. Over her shoulder he could see people running from all directions, coming to see what the fuss was about. Even Rose Tyler was there, pushing through the crowd with a dark-haired man behind her.

"Lisa!" Ms. Tyler called. Lisa let go of him and turned.

"Rose, look!" she said, and spread her arms. Ms. Tyler hugged her too, then stepped back and pulled the cybernetic hand close to study it.

"Long lifeline," she said, grinning. "How does it feel?"

"I can feel -- I can feel you touching it. It's amazing," Lisa said, and Ianto bit his lip because he hadn't cried yet and starting now would be stupid.

"Well," the man behind Ms. Tyler observed. "That's a hand and a half. Can't have too many hands, in my opinion."

The blonde woman elbowed him gently, grinning, and then made a startled face. "Oh! Lisa, this is the Doctor. Doctor, this is Lisa Hallett. Lisa's playing guinea pig for us, she's been helping us test a new -- "

"Neural-interface bionic-cybernetic prototype prosthetic, I see," he said. Ms. Tyler glanced at him; Ianto stepped forward and wrapped a protective arm around Lisa's waist.

"And this is Ianto, her bodyguard," Dr. Harper added.

"He means boyfriend," Lisa said, smiling up at him. "Very, very forbearing boyfriend."

The Doctor's gaze fell on him, a look of faint recognition passing over his face. Ms. Tyler smiled at the man and nodded, then turned back to Ianto.

"Dr. Harper needs to do some tests," she said. "And I've got to herd this one back to his lab. Come with us, Ianto?"

"Yes, Ms. Tyler," he replied. He gave Lisa a parting hug, glanced in her face to be certain she was okay with him leaving, and shot Dr. Harper his usual warning look. Harper had a bad habit of flirting with his patients.

"I've been meaning to talk to you," Ms. Tyler said, as they walked down the long corridor that ran from the central research facility to the office and labs complex. "There just hasn't been time."

"I imagine the stars going out generally takes precedence," he said, smiling.

"Somewhat, but there's no point in saving the Earth if you ignore everyone on it, eh?" she replied. "You can call me Rose, by the way," she added kindly. She led them out through the front foyer and into the grassy parkland across the road, down a footpath he took Lisa walking on after their appointments sometimes. "I'd like you to tell us a bit about Lisa's accident. As a favour."

"Strange favour," he said.

"The Doctor would like to know."

He glanced over her head at the man, who was staring at her, and shrugged.

"Not much to tell. When the Cybermen attacked -- "

"You've been with Torchwood for some time," the Doctor interrupted.

"Yes, sir. I was, anyway. Junior researcher."

"Doctor," she said warningly. He shot her an odd, apologetic look.

That's you told, Ianto thought.

"Go on," she prompted.

"You know Torchwood wasn't affected. We -- they -- didn't use the Cybus network. Too much classified information on the channels. So they mobilised. They..." He took a deep breath. "They said I was essential staff, that I had to stay behind to man the tower with some others. They sent Lisa out with the rest. To fight. She was lucky," he said, trying to summon a smile. Some days it was hard. "During the fight they only clipped her. Left arm. The nerves were dead, the cells were dying and there were too many injured..."

"So they amputated," the Doctor said softly.

"There wasn't any choice at the time. Dr. Harper said they would have had to even if it hadn't been an emergency. After that...when the Ghost Shift started -- "

" -- it was here, too," Rose said to the Doctor, which was strange. "Parallel Torchwood."

"Right," the Doctor nodded.

"I lost my taste for Torchwood. I got out. Anyway, Lisa needed me."

"Good idea," the Doctor put in.

"As it turns out."

He glanced at Rose, who was making the same sympathetic face he usually got; he half-hated it, but her sympathy was the reason Lisa was here, getting a new arm. A new arm. God.

"But you," he said to her. "After Mr. Tyler put a stop to the ghost shift, you came and found us. You said we could give her a new arm. And Dr. Harper said -- and today," he finished, feeling utterly incoherent. She rubbed his arm. The Doctor didn't look sympathetic, which was a surprise. He looked devastated -- as if their grief was his, too.

"Where do you work now?" she asked.

"Temping, mainly. Can't hold down a regular job with -- not that I mind," he added hurriedly. "But you must know how often she's here, and she couldn't drive herself."

The Doctor wasn't looking at her; he didn't even seem to be looking at Ianto, but rather past him, or maybe through him to some other place and time.

"Jack swore by him," he said -- and then he did look at Ianto, dead in the eye, and not only did he see Ianto but he saw all of him. Which was even more terrifying.

"Ianto," Rose said carefully, "How would you like to come back to Torchwood?"

Chapter Two

Post a comment in response:

From:
Anonymous
OpenID
Identity URL: 
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

If you are unable to use this captcha for any reason, please contact us by email at support@dreamwidth.org


 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of people who comment anonymously.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.