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sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-17 12:40 pm

In Another Life, Ch 3 of 7; PG-13.

Thanks to: [ profile] spiderine and [ profile] mcgonagalls_cat for betas.
Credits: Quotes in this fic come from "Whose Body" and "The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club" by Dorothy Sayers.


The Doctor

The first time she saw him with the bandage on his head Jackie made a noise somewhere between a shriek of indignation and a gasp of shock. Secretly he thought it made him look a bit rakish, but he'd forgotten -- if he ever really knew -- that people often felt you owed it to them to tell them when you were hurt. Or maybe it was a Jackie thing. He supposed it'd require further testing at some point.

He'd forgotten to tell Rose about going running with Ianto, too, and came back from his first run to find her furiously waiting for him on the doorstep. The other him -- with another body, two hearts and a telepathic brain -- would have known immediately that she was terrified he'd done a bunk or fallen in a well or something equally improbable, but it didn't sink in until she clenched her fists in his coat lapels and shook him like a rag doll before burying her face in his chest.

This whole caring-about-the-emotions-of-others thing was complicated. He'd cared before, of course, but in a sort of absentminded way, the same way you'd care if your cat was annoyed with you. Now he...was...the cat. Or something.

"Honestly," he said for the fourth or fifth time, during breakfast. "I don't want to run off. Why would I? I like it here."

"I could put a house-arrest bracelet on him," Pete said to Rose, who was sulkily glaring daggers at him over her cereal.

"What?" the Doctor demanded.

"He's joking," Jackie said. "Much easier just to tie you to the radiator."

"Chain would be harder to escape," Pete said.

"I went running!"

"Without your mobile and you didn't leave a note," Rose pointed out.

"We could glue the mobile to his face," Pete mused.

"Stop trying to attach things to me!" the Doctor blurted. Everyone fell silent for a moment.

"Uh," Rose said. "You know they're making fun of me and not you, right?"


"Too soon for sarcasm, maybe," Pete said. "We're on your side, Doctor. Well, I am. Jackie's still got her eye on you."

He would have caught on much sooner as -- as himself, he knew it. He would have been able to be clever about this when he knew what they were feeling, but then he supposed this was how others had felt when he had the upper hand. Humility, it appeared, was the lesson of the week. Perhaps not undeserved.

He smiled at Pete, because it seemed like the thing to do, and Rose was smiling as well -- a bit more indulgent than affectionate, perhaps, but he'd take what he could get -- and Jackie went back to feeding Tony strained carrots. Tony wasn't cooperating particularly well, but then who ate carrots for breakfast? Really.

Mornings on Gallifrey had been time for private contemplation. Romana used to joke that Time Lords weren't a morning race. There were days as a child where he'd be up before dawn to see the sun rise but wouldn't see another soul until the mid-afternoon meal. You could ramble through the streets of any Gallifreyan city and be utterly alone at a time like that. If anyone else was awake, they were reading or meditating on life or doing the small errands and chores that couldn't be done in the normal course of a day.

But the mid-afternoon meal, you did come together for that. He'd never been one to cherish home life, far too busy exploring and learning, making (as he saw now) a run-up for his break from Gallifrey and his wild leap into the universe. Still, he had two sons and a daughter, all three of them unbearably beautiful in his eyes, their mother no less so. Perhaps that meal was the only time in the day they'd see each other, but he didn't think he was such a bad dad. It wasn't like their mother saw them much more often. She had half a world to oversee, after all, and had to keep the utterly mad father of her children from making a spectacle of himself in public besides.

The red Gallifreyan light slanted in through the high windows, catching the pale wood of the meal-table and turning his eldest's hair a deep shining bronze-brown. His youngest, not yet on solids, was fiddling with a gyroscope his mother had given him, chubby infant hands flailing with glee as it spun and clattered on the table. He glanced across to his daughter, middle-child, flagrantly ginger-haired through some errant gene on her mother's side. Her mother, smoothing down the eldest's fuzzy cowlick, caught his eye and winked at him.

The food wasn't particularly fancy, plain South Gallifreyan fare, and he could see his eldest formulating a complaint not just about the food but about his mother's ministrations and his father's possibly-forgotten promise to take him up the mountains for the next lunar convergence. His youngest wailed as the gyroscope skittered across the table, right into his daughter's plate, spattering food everywhere.

She stared at the gyroscope for a moment, shocked, and then his eldest burst out laughing and his daughter followed, and his youngest looked gleeful. He laughed too, reaching over to wipe a smear of sauce off his daughter's forehead, remembering one of the wild Northern oracles who had said his youngest would give him a prize beyond measure (as it turned out, his granddaughter Susan, the only one who had her grandfather's dark eyes and restless nature, the only one who had been bold enough to follow him off Gallifrey forever).

Then their mother turned to him and smiled and said, "Doctor?"

He frowned.


The bright red light faded to the cold grey of an English morning, and when he turned his head it was Rose leaning towards him, Jackie and Tony beyond her, Pete across the table.

"Mh?" he asked, reeling from the momentary displacement.

"What's funny?" she asked, and she was smiling. He realised he'd been laughing out loud, not in the confines of his own mind.

"Nothing," he said, and changed the topic to Ianto's complete inability to keep up in a theoretical aliens-are-chasing-us-with-guns situation.


"This particular responsibility you were speaking of still rests upon you?"

"Yes, it does."

"You have not yet completed the course of action on which you have decided?"

"Not yet."

"You feel bound to carry it through?"

"Oh, yes -- I can't back out of it now."

"No. You are expecting further strain?"

"A certain amount."


"Reading again?" Rose asked, shrugging out of her jumper and running both hands through her hair, ruffling it loose. He looked up from his book and smiled.

"A bit, yeah," he replied, watching her undress. It wasn't particularly -- anything, really. Rose wasn't modest, and she wasn't trying to inspire a reaction. It was just changing for bed. A bed with him in it. Reasonably happy thought.

"No more of Ianto's reports?" She smiled back at him and pulled on the ridiculous viking-helmet shirt, too big for her, crawling across the blankets to curl up with her head on his arm. "He hasn't been writing as many, right?"

"Found him a better job," the Doctor said, turning the page.

"Running coach."

"He'll learn to keep up sooner or later."

"So," she said, and lifted the book out of his hands. "Murder mysteries instead."

"Well, they keep the mind active," he answered, resting his chin on top of her head as she browsed through the page disinterestedly.

"Bet you always know who did it," she replied.

"Yeah, well, great big brain, I can't help it. With Christie anyway."

"This isn't Christie, this is Sayers." She tilted her head up slightly, so that he was obliged to look down at her. He grinned, a real grin; it was good like this, and the shadows faded away when Rose was close.

"You don't read Sayers to solve the mystery, it's hardly the point. Christie's like...clockwork, you just have to know where to stick the lever to solve the puzzle. Sayers isn't -- well, not most of the time. You read because you like Lord Peter, and you want to know what he thinks of it all."

"Who's he, the hero?"

"Mmh. Arrogant, well-read, clever, high-strung. Still, he generally gets his man in the end, and it usually costs him more than it costs them. Depends on your definition of hero, I suppose."

She was quiet for a while, not reading but thinking; he wished he knew what about.

"Well, that's what I'd call a hero," she said finally, and gave him back the book. "Finish your chapter and then come pay attention to me."

"I know how it ends," he pointed out. He set it flat and open on the side-table, text-down, to mark his place.


Lord Peter obediently rolled up his sleeve. Sir Julian Freke selected a portion of his forearm and anointed it with iodine.

"What's that you're goin' to stick into me, drugs?"

The surgeon laughed.

"Not exactly," he said. He pinched up a portion of flesh between his finger and thumb. "You've had this kind of thing before, I expect."

"Oh, yes," said Lord Peter. He watched the cool fingers, fascinated, and the steady approach of the needle. "Yes -- I've had it before -- and, d'you know -- I don't care frightfully about it."

He had brought up his right hand, and it closed over the surgeon's wrist like a vise.


"How's the head?" Martha asked, when they went down to the hospital to have his stitches removed.

"Still attached," he replied, smiling. Martha made him happy in a very simple way -- she was perhaps the first person who had. He loved Rose desperately and was fond of Ianto and the Tylers and found Mary Ellen and his fellow lab-rats charming, but Martha was just simply pleasing. He would never see her again, probably, and that was satisfying too. She would go on and be happy.

The pain was supposed to be worth it, for all the wonderful things one could see living a rambling life in the TARDIS, but this was why he'd slaughtered the Daleks, after all: so that ordinary people could be ordinary.

"Mmh. You'll have a sexy scar if you don't look after it," she said, laying the last of the snipped-away stitches in the tray next to him. "Vitamin E oil, keep it out of the sun, and preserve that boyish complexion of yours."

"Maybe I want a sexy scar."

"Well, you wouldn't be the first," she said, and glanced sidelong at the waiting room nearby, where Rose was reading Vogue. "No more panic attacks?"

He shrugged. "Got my new clothes."

"So I see. And that doesn't answer my question."

"No. No more panic attacks." Nightmares, flashbacks, and one rather frightening loss-of-temper at Ianto when he'd accidentally destabilised the Flux Regulator -- a broken coffee-mug and an hour of subtextual apology -- but no panic attacks.

Martha tilted her head. "Psychiatry's still on offer, you know."

"I'm fine. I will be fine."

"You have to pick one or the other of those statements." She set her scissors down and crossed her arms. "But, you're as healed as you're going to be on the outside."

"Ta. I appreciate it -- I really do," he said.

"Can I ask...since you appreciate my work so much," she said with a smile, "what about your kids?"

"My ki -- my kids," he repeated, groping for a second until he realised what she was talking about. "I...well. You know how it is. They're far off."

"You should still try to see them, if it would make you happy."

I do see them. In my dreams, and sometimes at the bloody breakfast-table. Blood children and adopted companions both.

"It's complicated. A-ny-way, am I healed? Go thou and faint no more?"

"On with you then. Tell that girl of yours to look after you, okay? Doctor's orders."

"Right." He hopped off the bed and took her offered hand, shaking it firmly. "Thank you, Doctor Martha Jones."



Mary Ellen and Ianto together made a reasonably good team of spies.

It wasn't that Rose wanted the Doctor watched at all times, it was just that she knew if they spent all their time together they'd annoy each other. And yet she still wanted to be sure he was all right, that he wasn't sitting in a chair doing nothing, brooding on what a terrible and tragic figure he was. She had plenty of patience for his misery, but very little for his self-indulgence. She suspected this was the only reason her -- the only reason the other -- Doctor had allowed her to stick around long enough for him to get to know her. After that, she credited her natural charisma for her continued tenure on the TARDIS.

"He threw a coffee mug," she said, as Ianto sat in the little canteen and calmly ate a sandwich.

"Not at me," he pointed out. "At the wall."

"Yeah, but still. He threw a coffee mug." She hesitated, then went ahead and asked, because really when your boyfriend was nine hundred years old and you were living in a different universe than the one you were born in, social convention was overrated. "Did it explode?"

"Fairly brilliantly. I was impressed. He's got excellent form."

"Why'd he do it?"

He gave her a dry look. "Are you certain you want to know?"

"Well, it wasn't 'cause he got a papercut," she said, sipping her tea.

"I'm only saying, sometimes it's better to assume it was something worth throwing things over. I end up meeting a lot of people who throw things," he added, his face thoughtful.


"Yeah. I don't know what we're building, but I broke it," he said ruefully.

"He threw a coffee mug because you broke his toy?"

"Well, for all I know it could have ripped a hole in time and space."

"It's a flux regulator, it's not ripping a hole in anything. It's a fancy high-tech roll of duct tape."

"You know a lot about his work," he said, picking a slice of tomato out of his sandwich. "You must have worked together before."

"Yeah, well, once. I mean. Once, for a while," she said.

"How'd you meet?"

"In a department store," she said, smiling. "What about you, how's your Lisa?"

She watched a slow, shy grin spread across his face. "She's brilliant. She's herself again."

Rose nodded, ignoring the stab of jealousy in her guts. He was probably exaggerating -- Lisa might have a new arm but she'd still lost her real one and the horrors of what they'd been through together didn't fade so easily. Still, she wanted to be able to say that, she wanted the Doctor to be happy again. Really she wanted to know that he even could.

"Your Doctor," he said quietly, almost speaking into his coffee as he lifted it to his lips. "He'll get there."


Martha had warned the Doctor to stay out of the sun until he healed, but he wasn't someone who could stay in one place for too long. He rarely spent an entire day in the labs, and if he did he often disappeared somewhere at lunchtime or went wandering after dinner. Sometimes Rose abducted him from his work -- usually over his protests that he was at a very delicate part of the important-whatsit-building process -- and they went downtown to disappear into the crowds, or off to the greenbelt outside the city.

"D'you know," he said, as they roamed along a backstreet in London, passing shops and walk-ups to ground-storey flats, "one of the strangest things is getting used to talking in future tense. I mean," he added, squinting up at someone watering their plants on a balcony, "I can't just say there are fifteen New New Yorks but only three New Londons anymore, because there aren't, here and now. There will be, but they're not somewhere I can go."

"You could build a spaceship if you really put your brain to it," Rose said, watching him. He still rarely missed a thing, even as a human; his eyes took in the whole street at once but also all the small details, and he often looked up. Most people she knew never looked up.

"I suppose, but I'd worry. I knew what I was doing, before. Now it's a bit like being blinded. That whole sense -- of the rightness of time, the propriety of the universe -- " he twitched his fingers at his head, shrugging. "S'gone."

"Do you miss it?" she asked.

"Well. No. I mean -- you put a blind man in a dark room and there's nothing to see anyway, right? But building a timeship seems like asking for trouble."

"Humans must be able to, though, somehow," she persisted. "The Time Agency sent people all over time, didn't they? Jack never told me much about it, but that's the impression I got."

"I'm not sure we should use Jack as a reliable base measure," he observed, but he smiled a little as he said it. "It's...maybe. One day. If I remember -- "

He broke off sharply and cocked his head as if listening for something, or possibly catching a scent.

"Doctor?" she asked. "What is it?"

He pivoted, staring at the high brick edifice that flanked them -- an elderly wall, muffling the noise of children at play in a park beyond it. Someone was kicking a football against the other side, and distant youthful shrieking spoke of some team sport or other.

He hooked his hands on the top of the wall and propped his toes against the mortar-gaps, hoisting himself up, legs flailing ridiculously once he'd gotten purchase on the top. Rose looked at him, sighed, and pushed open the wrought-iron gate a few feet away.

A small girl was standing on the other side of the wall, football under one arm, staring up at the Doctor where he was leaning, chest propped on top of the wall.

"Hallo," the Doctor said. "Nice football."

"Are you really tall?" she asked.

"Well -- yes, actually," the Doctor said, glancing at Rose for confirmation. He eased himself fully over the wall, landing on his feet and wincing. "Oouh, these shoes don't cushion much."

"If you'd use doors like ordinary people..."

"I like a wall," the Doctor answered with a grin. The girl dropped her ball and began kicking it again. The Doctor shrugged and took off walking across the yard, heedless of the chaos around him.

"Fancy a swingset?" she asked, catching up and dodging a handful of children playing some brutal form of tag while their parents looked on indulgently or chatted with each other. He stopped and rocked on his feet, beaming.

"Look there," he said, nodding ahead of him. A pothole-ridden grassy field stretched out beyond them, reasonably flat, marked out with a cricket pitch.

"Yeah?" she said.

He beamed. "I love cricket. One of the few games in the universe you have to take meal breaks for. I used to play, once."

"You never did," Rose laughed.

"I did! Mind you, this was -- well, just about a hundred years ago now. Longer for me, though," he added, lips thinning into a tight line. She watched him watch the children playing, waited for him to speak again. When he did, however...

"Oi!" he shouted, and both makeshift teams stopped play to look at him. "That's no good, you'll never get past a good batsman with a bowl like that."

"Says you," the boy bowling for the field team retorted.

"Well, they haven't got a good batsman up, have they?" the Doctor said, with a sweeping gesture at the other team. There were several cries of outrage. "Oh, go on," he answered scornfully, stepping onto the pitch. "If you've got someone put him up and I'll show you how the thing's done."

"Doctor!" Rose said, but he was already taking his place next to the bowler, leaning over to show him how to grip the ball and the proper angle at which to throw. She watched, half-amused and half-worried, as he stepped back and bowled. The batsman missed it completely, and one of the bails went flying.

"Not fair," the batsman -- actually a girl, probably about ten -- protested. "You're a grown-up! And!" she added, growing in indignance, "Now you've taught him all kinds of grown-up tricks!"

The bowler looked smug.

"All right, all right," the Doctor said, crossing to her. He picked up the bail and offered it to her to replace. "Here. When he bowls like that, you go high and fast like this, right? Watch me."

The boy, confident in his newfound knowledge, bowled like David at Goliath.

Rose watched as the Doctor instructed each child in turn on stance and stroke, breaking away every once in a while to step into the field and show them there how the thing was done. He could have been a teacher or some hired coach, and she wasn't at all surprised that the children listened. By the time someone finally noticed a stranger was vastly improving the gameplay of ten-year-old cricketers, he'd been absorbed into the game as perpetual floating slip and Rose had settled on the edge of the field with a handful of young spectators and a communal bag of crisps.

"Scuse me," a man called, passing Rose and wading into the middle of the game, stopping all play. "You there. In the coat. Yes, you."

The Doctor straightened up and smiled. "Hallo! If you'd like to join in they could use an umpire. Communal decree is rubbish for referee'ing sport."

"I'd like to know your name," the man said pompously. "And you can step right away from my boy."

The Doctor looked down at one of the infield players, frowning. "Why? If I step any further away there's not much point in me playing the position at all."

"You're not a regular around here."

"Very irregular," the Doctor agreed.

"One'a these kids yours?"

"No..." the Doctor glanced around. "Nope, just met them. They've been pretty polite though, you've got nothing to be ashamed of."

"So why're you playing cricket with a bunch of kids? What kind of bloke are you?"

The Doctor blinked. Rose decided to intervene.

"He used to coach," she said, rising and taking the Doctor's arm, tugging gently. "He's mad for the game. Plays anywhere he can."

"Oh, the game, is it?" the man asked. "Go on, now, and I don't want to see you back around here again."

"Daaaad," his son whined.

"And I'll have no lip from you, God knows where these people come from..."

The man's voice trailed off as Rose pulled the Doctor across the playground, dodging children and the occasional glower from a parent.

"What was he on about?" the Doctor demanded. "I was only showing them how it's done properly."

"He thinks you had an unhealthy interest in his kid," she muttered, shoving him through the gate.

"He thinks I what?"

"Well, most people don't join in a game like that unless they're a parent or something," she replied, giving him a shove as he turned to crane his head through the gate for one last look at the paranoid father. "You can't be too careful."

"Yes, you can," he protested. "That batsman's going to get humiliated completely in a real game if she doesn't fix her stance. Do we have a cricket team?"

"We the country, or We the Tylers?" she asked, amused at his sudden gearshift. "Torchwood hasn't got a cricket team. Sort of defeats the whole secret-laboratory theme."

"Well, you know. Who do we cheer on?"

"England, I suppose."

"Rah," he said sardonically. She smiled and walked on.

That night she sat up while he slept, watching for nightmares. A handful of times he tensed up and his fingers twitched, or he moaned softly, but he never woke.

When they left Norway he would hardly talk, sometimes. He was healing, but she knew better than to think an afternoon at cricket would fix the weight he carried, the destruction of two races and his exile to life as a human.

But at least if she wasn't actually fixing him, she was keeping him from going any further off the deep end.


"I don't suppose you remember who wins the next Ashes, do you?"


The Doctor

Slowly, the weeks passed.

He wasn't really used to timekeeping, at least not this sort of timekeeping. Oh, yes, you had to pay attention to the hours in a day so that you would know when it was dinner-time or night-time or too early to offer someone a drink. And of course he was exceptionally good at temporal calculation, always had been, even in school. Knowing when you were and how far away temporally from any other given "when" was important. Especially calculating between platforms; sometimes you had to go from Galactic Standard to Gallifreyan Universal to Human Variable in the blink of an eye. Humans were insane when it came to temporal measurement -- 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, god knew how many weeks in a month, twelve months in a year, and a year itself based on the movement of a planet around a star? What?

Still, he wasn't bad at that kind of timekeeping either.

What he wasn't used to was marking the passages of days and weeks in linear time, knowing that it had been X number of days since he'd arrived and he could look forward to Y number of weeks until Rose's birthday and N number of months until Christmas. D number of years until he died. D-day. Hah. He could measure in terms of his own mental health, too -- he could feel time passing in the way he had more good days than bad now, how quickly he could suppress the flares of anger when they threatened, how many times a night he would wake shaking or gasping from some unremembered dream.

Sometimes, though not as often anymore, he could count the passage of time by the nightmare Davros, still slicing cuts into his skin in his dreams. Five hundred and twenty-nine thousand, seven hundred sixty nine. Five hundred and twenty-nine thousand, seven hundred seventy...

But the dreams didn't come as often anymore, and he could look towards a day they wouldn't come at all. The day after his first night without a single nightmare, at least that he could remember, the Doctor saw Rose off at the door and went walking.

He still hadn't bothered re-learning to drive. He liked walking, and in an emergency he was certain he could still manage a car. He'd done it before, and he'd flown a six-man ship single-handedly for longer than he cared to think about, after all. So he walked; down the mansion's drive and along the road into town, Dorothy Sayers and a sandwich in a bag over his shoulder. The screwdriver -- or rather, the material with which to build a screwdriver -- was coming along nicely, and Ianto had it well in hand for the day. There wasn't much more they could do for now except monitor power fluctuations and adjust the stabiliser grid accordingly.

The calendar in his head didn't fail him, and even if he had to put some thought into counting the days he could arrive pretty quickly at a number as he walked. Five weeks and three days since they put down at DÃ¥rlig ulv Stranden. Three weeks and six days since he'd started work on the screwdriver. Two weeks and four days since they'd gone to get the stitches out of his head.

Five weeks and three days with Rose, sleeping next to her at night, being kissed goodbye on the cheek every morning as she ran off to play with the universe, eating dinner with her and her parents and baby brother nearly every evening.

Sometimes he walked all day, re-learning a London that he'd watched change over the course of centuries, studying the high-rises and the gothic crenellations on buildings that were a little like old friends by now. He met all sorts of interesting people, tourists and office-workers, street buskers, cabdrivers. He stood around in alleys with cooks catching smoke breaks from five-star kitchens and walked beats with London's Finest.

Today, however, he was bound for a cafe on the river, where he could sit and pretend to read. It was unusually sunny out, and London was humming with activity -- plenty of people would be outside for lunch, and he could watch and catalogue them all. If he was tied to this one planet and this one time then he was going to explore in a different sort of way, and he had lots of catching-up to do. Humans were still no end of interesting, even if he was one of them now.

"Excuse me, sir," someone said, grabbing his arm as he turned a corner down the quiet alley that led to the cafe. "Do you have the time?"

He looked up into a friendly face framed by brown hair, regular features, a small gingery goatee. Ordinary and very human.

"Less than I used to," he said ruefully, reaching for his pocketwatch with the hand the man wasn't holding. It was a gift from Pete, after the first three or four times he'd missed dinner. He popped it open and studied it. "Coming on half-ten."

A second hand grabbed his other arm; another man, this one with pale hair and narrower features.

"Thanks," the brown-haired man said, and there was a nasty glint in his eye.

"Blimey, am I being mugged?" he asked, beaming. "This is new. You can have the couple of quid in my back pocket, but I'd like to keep the sandwich if that's all right -- "

"We'd like you to come with us," the pale-haired man said. He held up a pair of handcuffs. "Do I have to use these?"

He suddenly had a very bad feeling about this.

He tried to jerk his arm out of the brown-haired man's grip and, when that didn't work, jabbed his elbow backwards. The man dodged out of the way and his elbow connected with brick, sending sparks of pain up his arm.

"Guess so," said the blond man, opening the handcuffs, and he gave the Doctor a sober, dangerous look...

...right before he slammed into the wall, groaning.

"I don't think he wants to go with you," said an oddly familiar voice. The Doctor half-turned and found himself looking along the barrel of a sonic blaster, aimed just past his head at the man still clinging to his arm. "I believe the twenty-first century slang for this is fuck off."

The brown-haired man released his arm and Captain Jack Harkness grabbed it, pulling the Doctor behind him. The blond man staggered upright and both bolted off down the alley, disappearing quickly.

"Let 'em go," Jack said, edging them both out into a wider street and holstering the blaster. "Are you okay? Looked like you dinged that arm pretty well."

He was still holding onto him, but he shifted his grip, deftly sliding the coat off the Doctor's shoulder and lifting the arm to study it. His hands were warm through the shirt -- Jack's hands were always warm.

It had to be Jack. The blaster was out of its proper time and the voice was too familiar to be anyone else. But as the Doctor watched Jack bow his head to be sure there were no broken bones, he noticed streaks of silver at his temple, grey hairs in the brown. When Jack lifted his face there were laugh-lines around his eyes -- and around his mouth, as he smiled.

Jack was mortal. Jack was aging.

"No harm done," he said, face very close to the Doctor's. "They rough you up anywhere else?"

"Jack," he breathed, head spinning. Oh good lord, Harkness was getting to him, too. Of course he was; after all, he was only human now.

"Have we met?" Jack asked, not moving.

"Far off from here," the Doctor said. Jack frowned slightly, eyes turning cold, and stepped back.

"Time Agency?" he asked roughly. He tapped a few commands into his wrist strap and blue light briefly flickered around the Doctor -- a scan. "Residual artron radiation...fully Agency transducer..." his brow crinkled. "Cellular decay rates indicate an age of approximately six weeks." He looked up and raised an eyebrow. "Well. Aren't you just a puzzle waiting to be solved. I'm Captain Jack Harkness, but then apparently you knew that," he said, offering his hand.

The Doctor felt he should be doing something, but all he could manage was gaping and staring. The Jack who'd haunted his nightmares was a smooth-faced man with pain in his eyes, not this mischievously-grinning middle-aged charmer. Genetic tinkering and good medical care meant a fifty-first century human could expect to live to perhaps two hundred; Jack could be anywhere between forty and a hundred and ten, from the look of it. He wasn't wearing the uniform the Doctor had become used to, either, though he was still in uniform: contemporary RAF, with a Group Captain's rank badges and braid.

"We should get out of here. They might want to try their luck again," Jack said, and took his arm, leading him along the street. "My ship's not far. Come on, Rubik's Cube."

It was a different make from the tiny two-man recon-class vessel he'd had the first time they met, and it wasn't docked over Big Ben. It was submerged below the Tower Bridge, just off St. Katharine's Pier, only a forcebridge gangplank and the entry hatch above water. Jack led the way down into it, tossing his holster and blaster on a table near the stairs. The Doctor hesitated halfway down.

"I'm not going from the frying pan to the fire, am I?" he asked, ready to bolt if Jack hesitated. Instead, the man laughed.

"Your virtue and person are safe, Rubik," he assured him. "Leave the hatch open if you want."

The Doctor frowned and took it as a personal challenge, pulling the door shut after him and descending to the entry room.

"Let's see, too early for cocktails, too late for coffee," Jack said, rubbing his hands and wandering off through a doorway. "Can I get you some juice?"

"I'm fine thanks," the Doctor replied, peering into one of the other rooms. The cockpit, bristling with plasma blasters to judge from the console. "Nice place."

"It suits me," Jack answered, emerging with a tumbler of orange juice and sipping it. "Make yourself at home. You need to call anyone?"

"Not just yet," he said, still exploring. This was luxury-class at least, much nicer than the old model. There were six doorways leading off the central entry room: kitchen, cockpit, engine room, some kind of meeting room filled to brimming with books and trinkets, observation platform, and bedroom -- dark, hung with draperies, smelling faintly of sandalwood.

"Give you the grand tour, if you want," Jack said in his ear, a sudden warm presence against his back. The Doctor trod on his foot, seemingly by accident; Jack took the hint and backed away. "So -- you're not with the Agency, but you're definitely not contemporary, and you're carrying enough artron radiation to indicate recent time travel. And you're human, but I'm not getting any tech off you more advanced than a contemporary mobile. If you're stranded I can give you a lift, but I don't come cheap."

"That's not what I hear," the Doctor murmured, and Jack laughed. "What are you doing in the twenty-first century?"

"I ask myself that constantly," Jack said, taking another sip of orange juice. "I work salvage, sometimes recovery."

"Con-jobs," the Doctor replied. Jack frowned. "Don't worry, I'm not going to tell on you to the Shadow Proclamation," he added, stepping into the observation room. The murky water of the Thames surrounded him on three sides.

"O...kay. Anyway, I got a report of some activity in the area, thought I'd see what I could scrounge. Apparently it's you."


"Well, the readings aren't exact, but I was following them when I found you and something pinged strong." Jack shrugged. "So what's your story, Rubik?"

"I'm the Doctor," he answered.

"Sorry, Doctor Rubik. Should I have heard of you?"

The Doctor sighed. "No, I don't suppose there's any reason you should have."

Jack studied him, then held up a finger and disappeared into the other room for a moment. When he returned, he was carrying a glossy magazine -- last week's Heat.

"Knew I'd seen you somewhere," he said, holding it out half-folded. There was a picture of Rose carrying Tony, captioned Heirs Apparent. He was nothing more than a face over her shoulder.

"Hard-working debutante Rose Tyler, heir to the Tyler fortune and rising Torchwood star, takes a break from science and industry to babysit brother Tony," Jack read. "She's in all the tech blogs right now. Blogs -- so quaintly twenty-first century. I'm guessing you're a pal of hers."

"Something like that," the Doctor said. He rested a hand against the wall of the ship. It was warm, and it occurred to him that there was no actual reason he'd have to build a ship, if he could buy one. "You could go anywhere in a ship like this."

"Yeah, and if you have Tyler backing, so could you. Where do you wanna go?"

God, how many times had he made that offer, casually plucking up a human out of their time and place and showing them the universe. But he'd been out in the great wide darkness of space, and he knew better than -- well, than most of the men and women who'd trusted him throughout the centuries.

"Nowhere," he said with a smile. "I'd better leave."

"But -- listen," Jack insisted, all but dancing around him as he made his way to the stairs. "You've got access to the Torchwood labs, right? So you could get me a tour. It'd be like touring Galileo's observatory. And anyway, you're only six weeks old, what's up with that? Don't leave me hanging here."

"I'm sorry, Jack, I really am," he said, climbing the stairs and pushing the hatch open. He hesitated at the top. "Can I ask...are you happy? Alone in this big ship?"

Jack frowned, perplexed. "Sure."

"But you haven't got anyone else."

"That could change," Jack said with a leer.


A shrug. "I've got a girl in every port. Or a guy. Or a something. A something in every port," he said, grinning.

"That's good, I suppose," the Doctor said. "It seems good. But it's better for you if you stay away from me. It always was."

Jack stood at the bottom of the stairs, looking confused and a little lost as the Doctor shoved the door open and hoisted himself out.

"Be seeing you, Doctor Rubik," he called, right before the door closed.

"Not if I can help it," the Doctor said under his breath, as he leapt easily from ship to shore and went to find a cab. Suddenly, walking had lost its appeal.


"We can't leave it to Captain Fentiman, he's in no fit state to be worried, poor fellow. You'll have to have a look at him, doctor, when you've finished here. An attack of the old trouble -- nerves, you know."

"All right. Ah! is the room ready, Culyer? Then we'll move him. Will somebody take his shoulders -- no, not you, Culyer" (for the Secretary had only one sound arm), "Lord Peter, yes, thank you -- lift carefully."

Wimsey put his long, strong hands under the stiff arms; the doctor gathered up the legs; they moved away.


"Hi-ya," Rose said, emerging from underneath a large, black-cowled machine and dusting off her jeans. "Which murder today?"

"Bellona Club," the Doctor answered, tucking the flap of the dust jacket over the page he was reading and closing it.

"Should have told me you were here."

"I didn't want to bother you -- looked like you were doing something fiddly," he said, jerking his chin at the machine.

"Oh, well, yeah," she replied, looking a trifle shy. "Dense-matter wireless."

"Radio waves without satellites?" he said. "Straight through the Earth? That hasn't been done, you know."

"Maybe it will be soon, then," she answered, tossing her hair back. He felt a small swell of pride; he'd taught her some of what she knew about machines, but obviously she was a quick learner on her own as well. "It's gone lunchtime -- come along," she said, stripping off the gloves she was wearing and heading for the little eating-corner in the hangar. "I thought you were rambling today."

"I was," he replied. "I rambled right into Captain Jack Harkness."

She stopped and turned around. "Our Capta -- oh. Not ours?"

"Depends on your definition of the word, I reckon," he said. "This universe's. Not the other."

"Oh," she said again, sitting down. "So he didn't know you."


"How'd he look?"

"Older," he said. "But he's got a nicer ship -- he's moving up in the world."

"He showed you his ship?"

"Well," he said. "Yeah."

"What on earth happened?"

"He showed me his ship, came on to me, asked for a tour of the labs, and then I left."

"Yes but why were you in his ship to start with?"

"He saved me from a mugging."

Rose dropped her head to her arms.

"Start at the beginning, 'stead of the end," she said, her voice slightly muffled. "And bring me a sandwich."

He opened the fridge and hunted around in it for a second until he located her sandwich, unwrapping it and taking half for himself before placing the other half in her hand. She looked up, caught him chewing on his half, and shook her head, smiling.

Turkey and bacon! How was a man supposed to resist?

"I didn't do anything," he said, as a preface. "I was walking and some bloke stopped me and wanted me to come along with him. They were just going to put me in handcuffs -- "

"They?" she asked.

"Oh, a second one showed up. I got a bad feeling, but Jack ran them off. He thought we shouldn't hang about, I thought the same, so he took me to his ship. Seems like he was looking for me. Same old scavenger Jack," he added. "He thought I was salvage for a minute."

Rose gave him a dry look that very clearly said she didn't entirely differ with Jack on that count.

"So he made a pass, then when I stepped on his foot he went and found that magazine snap of you with Tony. He said he wanted to see the labs, but I told him he should stay away from us."

Rose tilted her head and finished swallowing before she spoke again. "You did?"

"Well," he said uncomfortably, suddenly aware that there was no actual rational reason to keep Jack at arm's length. He was an ordinary man -- they were both ordinary men now -- and it wasn't like Rose was going to immortalify Jack Harkness twice. It still gave him a twitchy, anxious feeling to think of the other Jack, though, and this Jack had seemed...

Happy. Lonely, but happy. Pleased with his place in the universe. Why upset that balance?

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes a lot," he said. "Mark Twain said that. Now there was a man who could talk. He'd rival Oscar Wilde for always having to be centre of attention."

"You think we can't be any good for him."

"I think Jack Harkness has been looking out for himself for a good many years. He doesn't need us, Rose. Maybe he never did. He always said he was a better coward."

Rose's look made him certain he'd just said the wrong thing, something the other him wouldn't say. Sometimes she looked that way -- not often, but enough that he knew he was still being measured against a Time Lord and found wanting. And it wasn't fair, because he was only human, but then again it wasn't fair that Rose had been made his keeper when he wasn't the one she wanted.

But most of the time it didn't seem to matter, and the rest of the time he could distract her pretty quickly. He was going to hold onto Rose as long as he could.

"Did you call the police about the mugging?" she asked.

"They didn't get anything off me."

"They were going to handcuff you, Doctor, that's kind of serious," she insisted.

"We never called the police before."

"Before was...different, that's all. What if they're after you, like Jack was? I need to call Mum," she said, digging out her mobile. He sat and contemplated the police and ate the bacon out of his sandwich as she asked Jackie to make sure the security on the mansion was extra-tight.

Most of what had happened to him had fallen outside of the purview of law enforcement on a thousand different worlds. Even when he'd been stranded on Earth, decades ago, he'd worked with UNIT and not the police. Why would he? He could look after himself. If he couldn't protect himself or the people around him, the police sure weren't going to be any use.

But he was mortal now, and could die.

Rose must have mistaken his expression for dismay; she closed the phone and put her hands around his, fingertips rubbing his wrists just below the base of the thumb.

"We don't have to make a report," she said. "You're right, they were probably just punks."

"Probably," he said, smiling. "I should check on Ianto."

They found Ianto sitting in a chair by the window in the Doctor's lab, a small alarm clock on the sill, totally engrossed in one of the books from the slowly-growing collection on the lab shelf: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. When he saw them he started upright and tugged on his sleeves nervously.

"Doctor," he said. "I thought you were -- "

"Ooer, that one's my favourite," the Doctor said, plucking it out of his hands. "Have you read it before?"

"Er," Ianto said, glancing at Rose.

"He doesn't want to admit it," she grinned.

"Have you got to the bit where they hug like brothers?"

Ianto snorted. "Sure, like brothers."

The Doctor laughed and handed it back to him, leaning over the readout on the stabiliser grid.

"It looks good," Ianto offered.

"It does," the Doctor said, patting the machine affectionately.

"You know," Rose remarked, "You could have asked Jack to bring you a screwdriver if you really wanted one."

"Who's Jack?" Ianto asked.

"Friend of mine," the Doctor murmured. "He'd have charged for it, though. And it's sort of nice, building one of my own."

"Like a Jedi," Rose said, ruffling his hair. He glanced at her; so much affection still sometimes made him uncomfortable, especially in front of impartial witnesses like Ianto or Mary Ellen.

"A Judoon?" he asked, perplexed. "They don't build their own blasters."

"No, a Jedi," she repeated.

"Building your own lightsabre," Ianto put in.

"What are you two on about?" the Doctor asked, baffled.

"Have you never seen Star Wars?" Ianto said.

"The films?" Rose supplied helpfully.

"There's films of stars having wars?" the Doctor asked. "They're not even sentient. Well, most of them aren't. And the ones that are definitely have better things to do than war. Was it some kind of reality show?"

Ianto gave Rose a despairing look.

"Right then, I know what we're doing this afternoon," she said, and led him away from the lab.

"Buy book four if we haven't got it!" he called over his shoulder to Ianto, who saluted with the third book and went back to his reading.


"This is the most ridiculously unbelievable science fiction film ever."

Chapter Four

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