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sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-17 12:55 pm

In Another Life, Ch 6 of 7; PG-13.

Thanks to: [livejournal.com profile] mcgonagalls_cat and [livejournal.com profile] spiderine for betas; any remaining rough edges are my fault.

***

Captain Jack

We went for ten hours, circling London, starting at King's College and working our way outwards. In a ship, searching space, I'd have set the AI to a spherical route from a fixed point and let it run, but we only had two dimensions to work with on-planet and no AI in the world can sort London traffic. People have tried. Green Tomato, the first navigational AI developed on Earth (don't ask about the name), was tested in New York and Los Angeles before they brought her to London and she crashed into a storefront in a record nine minutes. When my partner John showed me London for the first time I felt like a slack-jawed kid from the outer-systems -- which I sort of was. But hell, we didn't even have paved roads on Boe. What did we need them for?

By the time Rose got into her third near-miss, accidentally drifting through a red light, we were both tired and I made her pull over.

"Listen, if we crash and die we're not going to be very useful," I said. "You need rest."

"You can get another driver," she said.

"I need to sleep too, kiddo."

"We can't just stop!" she said, gesturing at the little red light that was still blinking on and off. "They're gonna kill him! How do we know he's even still in London?"

"We clear London first," I insisted. "And then we'll worry about the rest of the country. And we can't clear London until you've had some sleep and something more to eat than a bag of crisps from a street vendor."

"But we can't -- "

"Rose, you're not thinking rationally, and it's not like I blame you, but I didn't get hired to be abused or to lose my head over your Doctor. Just relax for two seconds and let me think, all right?"

She tapped her hands on the wheel impatiently. I did think, deep and hard. Bilocation isn't any laughing matter and if you're going to do it you have to do it right. Human evolution took a big leap in the forty-eighth century and while I'm not, you know, a mythical Time Lord with the power to sense the flow of causality, I get by okay. That's why the Agency took me on.

"Okay," I told her. "I'm going to bilocate us, so we can keep going, but we can't go now. You're going to drive us to the nearest hotel and get us somewhere to stay. We'll get a solid night's sleep and I'll bring us back here to this time, in the morning. But you can't talk to anyone, you can't touch anyth -- "

"I know how bilocation works," she snapped. "Why can't we go back to last night, sleep, and then pick up?"

"Because it's better if the contemporary set is inactive. Hotel. Now," I ordered. Rose looked at me like I was betraying her somehow, but I wasn't hired to be nice, either.

Dealing with the twenty-first-century Earther is tricky. Everything was changing and a lot of people had a hard time catching up. The archaic marriage laws, the ultraprocessed food, the first rush onto the unregulated internet, the breakdown of social mores, it scared people. I let Rose lead, let her find a place for us to sleep and put two rooms on a real live credit card, unlike the dummies I use when I travel in that era. But I followed her to her room.

"How do you expect me to sleep?" she asked plaintively, clutching the little chip with the blinking light. "Jack, what if the light goes out tonight?"

"Then we failed tomorrow," I said, shrugging. "If the light goes out tonight we go back anyway and keep looking. Some things you can't control."

"Even you?" she asked.

"Particularly me." I tipped up her chin. "You have to sleep so tomorrow we'll be fresh. If you don't sleep, the odds of the light going out are just going to go up."

"But I -- "

I put a finger on her lips and reached into my pocket for the pillbox.

When I left the Agency I took a lot with me, not the least of which were the confidential recipes for any number of useful drugs that the Agency controls and dispenses. Amnesia pills, stimulants, painkillers, and a whole arsenal of interrogation tools. I figured, you never know, I might have learned all that during the two years of my life they stole, so in a theoretical sense it was balancing the books. I'm not a bad chemist.

I flicked off the lock and twirled the round brass lid until the open hole was over the section done in yellow lacquer -- Kyoto district of Hakkh, 23rd century, quality workmanship -- and tipped two pills out onto my palm.

"Let me make you a martini," I said, and she looked at the pills fearfully. Another crippling result of the twenty-first century's blind biological rummaging -- pharmophobia. "They're just sedatives. Trust me, Rose."

She looked from the pills to my face.

"That's the bugger," she said. "I do."

***

Rose is pretty when she sleeps. She made me stay with her until the sedatives kicked in, which when washed down with a dry martini improvised from the hotel's minifridge wasn't long. I sat in the chair by the bed for a little while and looked out the window.

Life-saving was a new one on me; I mean, I've swept men and women off their feet with a well-placed tractor beam or a quick flash of the blaster before, but not like this. I hadn't just happened over Rose this time; she'd called me and I'd come running. And here I was, intending to violate intertemporal law and bilocate myself and a contemporary. A contemporary I wasn't even sleeping with.

She and the Doctor told me amazing things, that day we sat and ate and talked. Another me in another dimension had actually risked his (my) life on behalf of humanity, and he (I) had shacked up with the Doctor and Rose and done all kinds of heroic things that didn't sound at all like me (him). And being landbound to one place and time? Immortality sounded all right, eternal youth even better, but being stuck on Earth seemed overkill.

The Doctor was out there somewhere, waiting for us.

As I watched, the car Rose had parked across the street lit up, the interior lights showing Rose's blonde head in the driver's seat. I watched myself climb into the car with her, and wished him silent luck. He wisely didn't turn to look up at our hotel window.

There was something compelling about Rose and her Doctor. They were intense for each other, that was obvious, and it was confusing the hell out of both of them. Well, he was an alien and she was an heiress. These things happen.

Rose had fallen asleep with the chip still clutched in one hand, so once I was sure she was out I took it from her and put it on the nightstand where she'd see it when she woke up. Then I went to my own well-deserved rest.

The next morning, the red light was still blinking, which was an encouraging sign. I brought her food in the room and made sure neither of us saw the newspapers -- you never know what's going to mess you up. Jumping time-and-space at once is a tricky proposition, doubly so when you've got a passenger, so we hustled out the kitchen entrance of the hotel, trying not to be seen by too many people, and found a quiet side-alley we could use. She looked at me expectantly.

"Did I ever jump you?" I asked, grinning at the double-entendre.

"Not with the strap," she replied, but apparently her entendre was unintentional.

"Okay. Keep your eyes closed," I said. "I'm going to hold on tight but eyes-open with this kind of thing can cause vertigo. Here."

I stood her directly in front of me and stepped close; she buried her head in my chest (oh for a less monogamous era!) and put both her arms around my waist. I got my arm around her shoulders and turned my wrist so that I could trigger the jump, then held on. There was the familiar lurch-and-beep; it technically doesn't drain any energy, especially on such a short trip, but we couldn't do this again. It was dangerous as it was.

So now we had about ten hours to find the Doctor, or we really would have to stop for a while.

"Let's go," I said, and carefully didn't look up at the hotel as we hurried to the car.

Once we were on our way she called Engaged Ianto of the Lickable Business Suit and gave him a very abbreviated update on matters. I could just about hear his voice through the phone, telling her that the police were still searching and he'd been temporarily detained before his fiance came down to the station and gave the police an alibi. Rose was outraged, but Ianto told her not to bother; it wasn't as if he was vital to the search.

"You are now," she said, pulling a sharp turn to start a new spiral around London. "We'll be passing the lab soon. Can you meet us there? If we find him we're going to need all the help we can get." She was already forgetting that we'd bilocated, that Ianto hadn't had the same amount of sleep that we had. Still, Ianto could have said no. Or...well, could he?

I couldn't say no to Rose, after all.

And anyway, neither of us did. Ianto just said "Yes ma'am" and half an hour later he was climbing into the back-seat of the car with a reassuring look for Rose and a nod and a "Captain" for me. He also had a gun, which I approved of.

That was a long night, made longer by the knowledge that we were breaking the law. Not that I've never done that before, but usually I have more prep time. Any minute in those hours we were bilocated could have resulted in an arrest by the Agency -- how anyone would ever have found out I couldn't say, but it made me uneasy and we traveled mostly in silence. By the time we were doing wide loops around London there weren't many cars on the road, and the more distant unlit streets were hard to navigate.

I didn't know what to tell her. Where there's life there's hope, so they say, but nobody says hope's a hundred percent a good thing. Knowing he was alive wasn't much more than mockery, if we couldn't find him. And we couldn't bilocate again, not for at least a day.

***

Strange how attached to a person you can get in a short amount of time, and not realise it until they're gone.

***

The Doctor

Davros didn't kill him. He didn't even take any further notice of him. They slung him back in his little cell, still laughing in-between heaving sobs of air that would have hurt his ribs, if he were capable of feeling pain anymore.

He lay there on the ground for a long time, or what felt like it anyway. He didn't think, he didn't move, and after a few minutes the laughter tapered off. There was nothing he could do; he was at the end of his tether. He was well used to the idea of the universe's vast unfairness, but this seemed like too much for one human man to stand. Why should he have to carry the Doctor's memories and fight his fights and be as strong as him when he had none of his advantages or tools and a paltry forty or fifty years of life -- if he was lucky? Wasn't responsibility like this supposed to come only when power was given? And he had nothing. He hardly had his wits. Now he had to finish what a better man had started and he wasn't enough. He wasn't even enough for Rose.

After a while he became aware of the smell of cooking grease and meat; there was a white sack sitting nearby, and when he opened it he found a fast-food meal, stone-cold, in the bottom. He ignored it.

He might have slept -- he wasn't sure. The next thing he knew was the understanding that if nothing could be done they might as well get this dance over with. He pushed himself to his feet and kicked the door.

"FINE!" he shouted, hating the mad tinge to his own voice. "TAKE ME BACK TO DAVROS!"

They didn't make him kneel this time; he stood loose-shouldered, flexing his fingers to bring the life back into them after they'd removed his cuffs, and waited for Davros to unveil himself again.

"Feeling better?" Davros asked, a sly grin on what remained of his face. The cybernetic eye in the middle of his forehead blinked spastically.

"You must be keeping me alive for a reason," the Doctor replied tiredly.

"No more room for the romance of discovery in your soul, I see," Davros answered. "Come, Doctor. Here we are, two crippled men, finally ending this cycle of death and rebirth once and for all. You're a human," he added, in mock-surprise. "And I, as you can see, have lost one or two things along the way."

"What do you want, Davros?" he asked, though he couldn't summon any anger to pour into the question.

"Survival. Domination. Extermination," Davros answered. "You ought to understand that well enough. Human."

He turned his head as far as he could, to what the Doctor had taken for a heap of junk in one corner. It turned out to be...a heap of junk, actually, but one with an obvious purpose. Steel panels, computer motherboards, fiberoptic cables, rolls of wire.

"Your little thieves have been busy," he said quietly.

"I learn from my mistakes. I understand now how useful your soldiers were," Davros answered. "So willing to do one's dirty work for one."

The Doctor glanced at the three, huddled on the other side of the room.

"I followed you through the last little rip you tore in the walls between dimensions," Davros continued. "And I found that where I had gone willingly, others had been taken without their consent."

"That's not my fault," the Doctor murmured.

"My three loyal followers -- I'm sure you're familiar with the human myth of the four horsemen," Davros continued.

"The end of the world."

"Yes." Davros craned his neck slightly. "Are you afraid, Doctor? Are you humiliated? Are you angry?"

The Doctor looked back at him, silent.

"But as talented as my three little horsemen are, this sort of project requires...a different kind of skill," Davros continued, apparently uncaring that his prisoner wouldn't answer. "And I would do it myself, but..."

His stumpy wrists flopped haplessly. The Doctor glanced at the pile of metal and circuitry again.

"A Dalek, then," he said. "Davros of Skaro, the final Dalek. Or could you build more, once I build this one for you?"

"I will show you how to build it," Davros said. "A Dalek built by the Doctor's hands. Appropriate, don't you think?"

Yes, of course it was. Why not? He'd been stripped of everything else. But some little stubborn spark inside him moved his lips before he could agree, and he said, "No."

One of the trio of humans -- the blond man -- came forward, holding out a slim silver device. He recognised it, faintly. It was a torture device, one of the most efficient ever, and it didn't belong on this planet in this time...in any universe.

"You didn't come through from this time," he said. "This must be very strange for you."

"We just want to go home," said the blond man.

"You can't," the Doctor said.

"When you fix the machine -- "

"It's not a machine to fix. It has to be built," the Doctor interrupted. "And it's not for you. It's for him."

"Doctor," Davros said warningly. "I thought lying was above you."

"A Dalek isn't a machine," the Doctor continued dully, unwilling to play this game with Davros anymore. "It's a...being. Encased in metal. That's all he wants -- a little metal car. And you'll never get home. The worlds have sealed themselves off."

"Don't listen to him," Davros snarled. The humans looked uncertain.

"Fine; don't," the Doctor agreed. "But the answer is still no."

"Come, Doctor, surely we can reach an agreement," Davros wheedled with the superior tone of someone who knows he has the upper hand.

"No."

"You try my patience, Doctor."

"No."

But Davros would win, because he just couldn't be fucked to care that much, and so when Davros said, "Your woman is not outside of our grasp," the Doctor glanced at the other humans in the room. The blond man still held the little machine.

"We can use this on you," Davros said, "or on her. She can't be so hard to capture. Or you can save yourself the pain, deny me the pleasure of witnessing it, and build me the Dalek."

The Doctor looked at the machinery.

He couldn't save the world. He couldn't even save himself. It wasn't his place to try anymore; let Jack do it, if he could, or Rose, or his other self.

This wasn't really his dimension anyway.

He knelt next to the heap of machinery. Behind him, Davros cooed.

***

It was not, as Davros had said, the skills of a Time Lord that the Dalek shell needed. It wasn't even the mind of a Time Lord. Purely put, it was his body: the little epithelials that rubbed off whenever he touched one of the pieces, the blood that flowed over them when he cut his hands, the parts of him that were loaded with artron radiation.

The other humans, no doubt at the direction of Davros, had done a lot of the legwork, but there was only so much they could do. With each piece the Doctor touched, the dull metal glowed lightly, and he didn't need a spanner or a screwdriver to slot the panels into place or wire up the electronics. It simply came together.

He worked slowly, Davros watching, the other humans occasionally holding a part for him or threatening him with the little device if he made sudden movements. As he worked, he made empty threats, mostly to keep himself from bursting out again into hysterical laughter.

"You'll have to kill me," he said casually, to the brown-haired man. "That'll be a relief, really. After this. I shouldn't want to live once the Dalek is built."

"I don't see a problem with that," the redheaded woman replied.

"And anyway, if you don't kill me hell will seem like a slap in the face, in comparison," he continued.

"You're in no position to threaten anyone, Doctor."

"Try me," he said, then hissed as a spark flew, burning the inside of his wrist where it was shoved between two panels. "I could spread you across the galaxy atom by atom, once. Bury you in the heart of a sun."

"Once," the brown-haired man sneered.

"Is it true you tore a hole in reality just to find a girl?" the redhead asked. "Hope she was worth it."

"She was worth destroying worlds," the Doctor replied. "If I could I would feed you and that monster to the Nightmare Child all over again. If you harmed her I'd open the Medusa Cascade and burn this galaxy to cinders. I'd damn you, if I could."

"But you can't," the blond put in.

"No. I can't. But that's all right; when Davros razes the Earth, you'll suffer with everyone else."

"So will your Rose."

"Her death will be quicker than yours. I'll make certain of that."

The base of the Dalek was completed, and the domed head; he fitted the firing mechanism onto the front, watched it glow and fade briefly. He had built this; he had destroyed his people to destroy the Daleks, and he was going to die having rebuilt the father of them all.

"Disconnect me," Davros said, when the Doctor stepped back and considered his hellish handiwork. The three humans looked as if they'd like to draw straws for who had to touch him, but in the end all three went to him, the men supporting his arms and the woman his horrible neck. Lymph and blood oozed between their fingers and Davros groaned and twitched in pain.

"When he activates the machine, we'll go home," the blond said.

"Keep telling yourself that," the Doctor replied. They held Davros up over the Dalek armor as if he were some kind of saint being taken into heaven --

There was a crash, and a bang so loud it made his ears ring, and the Doctor found to his disinterested surprise that the front of his shirt was suddenly painted in a spray of arterial blood.

***

Ianto

When Captain Jack Harkness's wrist-strap beeped, Rose swerved the car involuntarily. Ianto jerked so hard against his seatbelt he almost winded himself, cracking his elbow on the door.

"We got action," Captain Harkness said.

They were in the very outskirts of London and, not twenty minutes before, Captain Harkness had suggested that perhaps it was time to start following the highways out of town entirely and see where that led them. The little red light was still flashing, but that was cold comfort; with every dark second, Ianto wanted to hold his breath until the light came back on.

"Where?" Rose demanded, bringing the car to a sudden halt and knocking Ianto around again. He gasped for breath.

The early-morning streets, still too dark to even be pre-dawn, were empty, thank Christ. Captain Harkness pressed a few buttons and a hologram appeared, fascinating in its own right, a rotating topographical map of the area. One small section was lit up with a yellow haze.

"Left," Captain Harkness said. Ianto looked left. There was a house there. "At the intersection, Rose," he continued, as if he'd read Ianto's mind.

Rose gunned the car up to the intersection and the wrist-strap beeped again. Ianto cautiously eased himself forward to look over the passenger-side seat at the hologram. Captain Harkness turned his head.

"Like what you see?" he asked.

"Time and a place," Rose snapped, hauling them left. "Jack!"

"Forward about half a mile," Captain Harkness said. They were fast leaving settlement behind, heading down a wide and badly-paved road. "No, almost a mile -- over the bridge," he added, pointing. Rose complied, their teeth rattling as they crunched across the bridge, and then they were well away -- no houses here, just fields and a dark looming hunkered shape in the distance.

"There," Captain Harkness pointed at the shadow. "It's gotta be there."

Ianto noticed that the Captain's breath was coming short and fast, as if he were enjoying himself more than he should. He wondered idly what other hunts the Captain had been on.

Rose cut the headlamps and the engine and coasted to a stop on the road, avoiding the drive at the last minute when she saw that it was gravel-lined. Ianto crept out of the backseat on the heels of Captain Harkness, leaning forward to view the changing hologram emerging from his wrist. Now it was a sketchy three-dimensional rendering of the building, and the yellow glow was tighter but still hazy around the edges.

"I think there's more than one," Captain Harkness said quietly. "So. Here's the plan. I'm going in guns blazing."

"That's your plan?" Rose asked.

"I wasn't done yet," Captain Harkness retorted. "In the chaos, you and Ianto get in, get the Doctor, get out. Ianto can cover you. Assuming you've ever fired that thing," he added, pointing at the gun in Ianto's hand. Ianto bridled a little, but the Captain had a point.

"Enough to keep them safe," he said.

"See that it is," Captain Harkness said seriously. "This is a smash and grab. There's a lot that can go wrong. Much as it pains me to say it, if you can get out without me, leave me behind. I've got the strap," he added, which made no sense to Ianto, but then so little did these days. "Everybody understand the plan?"

"Smash and grab? Yeah, got it, thanks," Rose said. "Come on, let's go!"

Captain Harkness led the way through the scrubby brush at the edge of the gravel drive, bringing them eventually to a rear window. He peered in.

"Zeppelin factory," he said. "I can see spare parts. Heave me up, Jones."

"Heavy lifting a specialty," Ianto replied, which was pre-emptive revenge for Captain Harkness groping him as he got a leg up and tumbled through the open window. Rose followed, and then the Captain leaned out and hauled Ianto up.

"Two rooms down," Captain Harkness whispered, putting his head into the corridor. "This is too easy. People shouldn't be allowed to be this stupid."

"Who's going to go breaking into an old zeppelin factory way out here?" Rose replied. Captain Harkness hushed her and crept along the wall. He pressed his ear to the door, then leaned back and gave them a silent countdown. Three fingers up; two; one; a lightly formed fist, and then the Captain stepped back and planted a boot square against the door, just below the handle. It shattered inwards, wooden doorjamb splintering and flying, and the Captain raised his gun and fired.

There was a...a thing, being held up by three people, a deformed monster or maybe a sacrificial offering, still moving and twitching, and Ianto wanted to think it was some kind of goat but he could see the trapezius muscles, the deltoids and pectorals -- actually see them, as if the thing's skin had been flayed off. No goat looked like that. Even as he took it in the thing overbalanced; one of the people holding it up had fallen, blood gouting from a shot in the throat. Ianto raised his gun over Rose's crouched form and fired two rounds into the rafters, adding to the chaos. Captain Harkness was charging forward, barreling into the other two people holding the...the thing, and it fell with a terrible squelching noise.

Standing off to the left, next to some kind of machine, the Doctor was spattered with blood, but he didn't seem to even notice. His dark eyes were wide and empty.

"Oh," he said calmly. "The cavalry's arrived."

Rose dashed forward but the only other woman in the room was getting to her feet, savagely kicking Captain Harkness aside and lunging for the Doctor. Ianto tried to aim and fire but Rose was in the way. Captain Harkness was rolling on the floor with a blond man, blood from a third -- twitching, dead, bleeding -- man was soaking them both, and the thing they'd dropped...

There was a scuttering noise, and a wet trail of gleaming fluid. Oh god, the thing was alive --

The Doctor didn't even move as the woman lunged at him, and it was pure speed that put Rose in her path; the blond man had thrown Captain Harkness aside and left him clenching his arms around his ribcage, groaning. The Doctor just stood there, and Ianto realised he was just standing there too; he sailed into the battle, elbowing the woman away from Rose. He got a crack on his chin for his trouble, and then the blond man grabbed his arm and twisted. Bones snapped and the gun dropped from suddenly nerveless fingers. Fire raced up his arm and he jerked backwards, the crown of his head colliding with his captor's face. This time the breaking bones weren't his.

He turned, skidding in blood, and rammed his good shoulder into the woman's ribcage, knocking her away from Rose. As if to return the favour, Rose's fist swung wide and caught the blond man in the throat. He went down, gurgling. The woman took off running, and Rose entered pursuit. Captain Harkness was pushing himself upright.

The Doctor hadn't moved.

"Get him out of here!" Rose called over her shoulder, disappearing into the gloom, but a wave of nausea was washing over him, a combination of the metallic smell of blood in the air, the two twitching bodies and the white-hot pain in his arm. He took a step forward and then staggered and fell next to Captain Harkness, who was coughing and moaning.

"Get out," he told the Doctor. Those deep endless eyes turned on him.

"No," the Doctor said.

"We'll be all right. We came to save you," Ianto gasped. "Get out!"

"No," the Doctor said again.

Ianto saw his eyes track downwards, where the gun lay on the floor. Captain Harkness pushed himself up on one elbow.

"What are you going to do?" he wheezed.

The Doctor picked up the gun and turned to him.

"Finish what I started."

***

The Doctor

Rose and the woman had gone off in one direction, but he was beyond caring about that; besides, Rose could take care of herself. She hadn't needed him, not since he'd abandoned her once, not since the second time when they'd both been abandoned. What she needed, if she needed anyone, was the Doctor. And he wasn't that, was he? Not anymore.

He should have let her name him, he thought mirthlessly, as he bent to study the mixture of blood and bodily fluids that smeared its way across the floor. Davros, dragging himself along, in a different direction entirely. In some distant place he heard Jack and Ianto shouting for him to get out, but he couldn't get out yet. One way or another he'd finish this. He could do that, at least.

The gun was a reassuring weight in his hand. He'd never held a gun with the intent of firing it, not even in the darkest days of the war; he'd picked them up occasionally, to get them out of the way or pass them to someone else, but then wasn't that the story of his life. He might as well, just this once, do his own dirty work. It was better that way.

He took off, following the zig-zag trail of slimy blood. Davros could move with deceptive quickness even now, and he picked up the pace, running through a doorway and into one of the wide open spaces he'd seen earlier. He could hear it now, a slithering noise, overlaid with laboured panting, and he followed that instead. Somewhere, behind him, someone shrieked in rage.

Good Rose.

His footsteps echoed softly on the cement as he went, the rubber soles dull thuds in the silence. It wasn't all that long before Davros was in sight, pulling himself along, spine wriggling as he moved forward with surprising speed.

The cock of the safety being removed from the gun was loud and echoing.

"Stop or I shoot," he said, and Davros flipped around.

Aiming wasn't even difficult. He knew that when he pulled the trigger he could put a bullet in that visible beating heart. Maybe one in his swollen head, too, for good measure. And one for each blind eye.

Another shriek, and a crash; voices in the distance.

"You'll shoot anyway," Davros growled, still moving, slowly shoving himself backwards with the stumps of his wrists.

"Probably," he agreed.

"And why not?" Davros asked, sneering. "After all, you can't destroy worlds anymore. But then you don't need to, do you, Doctor?"

"I'm not the Doctor," he said flatly.

"Oh, but you are. You always will be. It's just that now -- once you pull that trigger," Davros gasped and stopped moving, apparently having caught himself on something, "you'll be...how shall I put this? Real?"

"I told you to stop moving."

"That's a new look for you," Davros nodded at the gun. Blood leaked out of a gap between muscles. "Finally claiming your birthright. Go ahead, Doctor, shoot me. Shoot me and change the world. Easier, isn't it?"

"Shut up!" he roared.

"Shoot me!" Davros bellowed back.

He tightened his grip on the gun. It begged to be fired; one little metal projectile could end this forever and maybe he could go back to Rose and things would be okay, life would be okay. And anyway a gun was just applied physics, and what was so wrong with that?

This would end, and he could be with Rose --

A blur of colour and movement, and there was Rose as if his thoughts could conjure her. There were scratchmarks on her neck and shoulders and a bruise on her cheekbone. Oh, Rose.

"We going to play this scene again?" she asked, standing between him and Davros. The monster in the corner hissed.

"Get out of the way," he said.

"We are," she sighed.

"Rose, it can be over," he insisted. "Just get out of the way."

"Doctor, pl -- "

"I'm not him!" he shouted. "I'm a human, don't you get it? There isn't any other way! Now get out of my way and let me finish this!"

Rose went still, but not out of fear; she wasn't afraid of him, and she wasn't afraid of the gun.

"You remember how you said everyone's got a choice?" she said softly. "Well, now you get one, Doctor."

"Don't call me that!"

She began to move, sidelong, stepping out of the firing line and towards him at the same time. "You make your choice. It's already over -- look at him, he's dying. He's helpless. You want me out of the way? Fine, here I am. So you can put the gun down and be the man you were supposed to be, or you can shoot him. And you'll never see me again."

He heaved a deep breath. "Rose, you can't -- "

"Yes, I can."

The gun was shaking; he steadied his hand, resumed his aim on the panting, bleeding creature who was watching the little drama unfold with gleaming eyes.

"How noble," Davros grunted. "Sacrifice your heart to save the world. How about it? Go on -- shoot me. Pull the trigger!" he shouted.

The barrel of the gun was shaking so hard he could barely keep his aim, but he'd always had very good aim. All it would take was the twitch of a muscle...

There was a sound like a firecracker going off, and light surrounded Davros like a halo. His scream of agony was cut short as translucent blue flame enveloped him.

The body slumped back. The thick tail of flesh encasing his spine thrashed and then was still. There was nothing but a ragged stump where Davros's head had been.

He followed Rose's gaze to the left and up. On a walkway, twenty feet off the ground, Captain Jack Harkness was leaning heavily against a rail, one arm around his ribcage, the other loosely holding the sonic blaster. It was still glowing from the discharge.

There was a gun in his own hand as well, still cool and unfired. He dropped it in horror.

"Jesus H. Christ, as the kids say," Jack blurted, chest heaving. "What the hell was that thing?"

"The snake in the garden," he heard himself answer.

Then he turned and staggered for the door, almost making it before he threw up -- bile and water, the only things left in his stomach, dry-heaving once he'd emptied completely. He could feel Rose's arms around his, and he realised she was sobbing; he turned away from the pool of bile and pulled her against him, both of them tumbling down, huddled against the wall. She tucked her face into his shoulder and he held on tightly, cradling her against his body as she wept.

***

Reality began to seep in, after a while; he was cold and damp, blood on his shirt, Rose's tears on the collar, grease and oil on his hands and knees. His palms and fingers ached, pocked with cuts and burn-marks, and his wrists were chafed raw from the handcuffs. He was shaking, hungry and spent. His arms and legs were cramped.

Jack leaned over him, a grim look replacing his usual sunny smile.

"Whatever it is, it's pretty thoroughly dead," he said. "So're the guys in the other room. Ianto's in kind of a bad way too but I think he'll get over it. The redhead..."

"Fell," Rose whispered. "Off the catwalk."

"Fell?" Jack lifted an eyebrow.

"Yes," Rose said, her voice thick with anger. "She fell. I tried to stop her."

"Okay, kiddo, don't put this on me; I'm just the hired help. Just tell me what to do with the bodies."

She turned her head back against the Doctor's shoulder. Jack shrugged.

"Okay with you if I vaporise 'em?" he asked.

"You're certain they're dead?" the Doctor said.

"Pretty damn sure, yeah. You know who they were?"

"Accidents," the Doctor answered. "They slipped through from another world. Maybe he brought them, I don't know. They thought they were going home. They could have asked..."

"Yeah, well, they didn't." Jack straightened. "What about the thing? The machine, I mean?"

"That," the Doctor murmured, "You can vaporise."

Jack tucked his blaster in his belt. "All right then. Just to be clear, I'm going to go destroy the machine, and then dispose of three bodies and a...thing, and then I'm going to help Ianto and come back for you guys."

The Doctor nodded. "Thank you, Jack."

Jack's look softened slightly. "Don't know why I even got mixed up with you people," he mumbled to himself as he walked off. "Monsters and machines, crazy blondes, mad scientists, hot Welshmen, I'm not getting laid at all, my life used to be a lot simpler..."

Rose was breathing easier now, relaxing and slowly pulling away. She dragged her wrist across her nose, wiping it clumsily. He stood and offered her a hand up, sliding his other arm around her waist. Slowly he led her away from the stinking remains of Davros and the room with the two dead men in it, getting them out into the fresh night air as quickly as he could. There were three blue flashes in quick succession, illuminating the dirty windows, and then a fourth after a delay; finally, a fifth, and then a yelp of pain. Jack appeared, his uniform shirt gone, the remains of it tied in a makeshift splint around Ianto's right arm. He eased the younger man into the back seat of the car and handed Rose in after, then looked queryingly at the Doctor.

"I'll drive," the Doctor said. Jack shrugged and got into the passenger's seat.

It was the last thing he said for days.

***

Captain Jack

I've never stuck around for clean-up before.

This time I didn't really have a choice. We all needed medicine of one kind or another. I guess I could have gone back and gotten all Nanited up pretty quickly, but the idea of time-jumping with four bruised ribs held no appeal at all.

We stopped just long enough to pile up the Doctor's bloody shirt and Ianto's gun so I could vaporise them, then kept on going until we found a hospital and pulled into A&E. They strapped my ribs and gave me primitive painkillers for a sprained muscle in my back, while across the way Gorgeous Ianto was getting a cast put on -- two greenstick fractures in the arm and three broken fingers. Rose just had scratches and bruises, but they checked her out pretty thoroughly anyway. I told the nurses we'd been in a bar fight; I could have retconned them but they seemed to swallow it okay.

The Doctor was just...silent. They worried about head trauma, but he seemed to be tracking okay -- he just wouldn't talk.

We were all finished long before he was. Ianto brought us colas from a vending machine and then went off to call his fiance and Rose's parents. By now we were safely out of the bilocation, at least.

"So," I said, just meaning to make conversation while we waited for Ianto to get back and the Doctor to get cut free. "Found your Doctor."

"Yeah," she said, twisting her fingers together. "Thank you, Jack."

"Do you know what that thing was?"

She nodded. "His name was Davros. He came from a planet called Skaro, in the other universe. Remember the Daleks I told you about? He created them."

"That thing I shot was a person?"

She nodded again. "The machine he had the Doctor working on...it looked like a Dalek. He could have taken over the world with just one."

"Creepy."

"He makes monsters. That's what he does. Well, did. If he couldn't make his own monsters, he'd turn other people into monsters."

"The Doctor."

"Yeah."

"But it's over now," I said, not at all certain that it was.

"I hope so," she agreed. She fidgeted again. "Listen, my family's got money. I haven't forgot I said you could name your price."

I felt twitchy. There I was, a bona-fide hero for the first time in my life -- I don't count war, everyone's a hero in war -- and I knew how heroes were supposed to act. Anyway, asking a rich woman for money is boring and sort of...cheap. Emotionally speaking.

"I guess I can't have Ianto," I said, and actually got a little laugh out of her.

"No, he isn't mine to give out," she answered.

"Then there's really only one thing I want."

She glanced at me. "What's that?"

I tapped my lips. She laughed again, which was almost reward enough, and leaned sideways and kissed me. I might have slipped her a little tongue but come on, I'd just saved the day. I should at least get some of the girl.

"I forgot how that feels," she said, when she was finished with me. "Sure you don't want anything else?"

"Nah," I said. "Besides, you've opened whole new avenues of adventure. I was getting tired of the con game. Do you think I'd make a decent space hero?"

She patted my arm. "Just try not to get killed."

"Yes, ma'am."

Right then Pete Tyler, who must have been driving like hell was on his heels to get there so fast, burst into the lobby.

"Rose?" he shouted.

"My cue to leave," I said, because when parents start appearing generally it's better if I'm not around.

"For good?" she asked, grabbing my sleeve as I stood.

"I'll check in on you sometime. Kiss your man for me," I replied, and made a hasty but sexily dignified exit.

***

"Make me a dry martini, two olives. I saved the world tonight."

***

Chapter Seven

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