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sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-17 12:45 pm

In Another Life, Ch 4 of 7; PG-13.

Thanks to: [ profile] mcgonagalls_cat and [ profile] spiderine for betas; any remaining rough edges are my fault for not listening to them.



A few weeks after the day the Doctor abandoned him for Star Wars, Ianto woke to the sound of his mobile ringing insistently on the bookcase where it was charging. He fumbled his way out of bed, ignoring Lisa's sleepy complaints, and looked blearily at the number. Rose.

"Yuh?" he managed, opening it.

"Ianto Jones?" said a male voice on the other end of the line.


"This is Pete, Rose's father."

Ianto blinked, suddenly wide awake. "Mr. Tyler, sir. Is Rose all right?"

"She's fine, but there's been an incident at the mansion. I need you to go to Torchwood. The Doctor's about out of his -- "

In the background he could hear a muffled "Give me that!" followed by a rustling noise. Then, of course, the Doctor's clear tones.

"Ianto, check the hangar first and then the labs. Lock everything behind you as you go."

"What's going on?" Ianto asked, attempting to one-handedly pull on his trousers. He looked down and realised it might work better if he took off his pyjamas first.

"Someone tried to get into Rose's room," the Doctor replied. "They had technology they should not have and if they realise what we've got at Torchwood -- "

"Right, right," Ianto said, rummaging madly for a belt. Lisa was sitting up in bed now, staring at him. "I'll call Mary Ellen, have her meet me there, she's the one with all the keys."

"Call Rose's phone when you're there. Erm," the Doctor said, then added hastily, "And the police, if -- if you think you need to."

"Expect a call in twenty," Ianto said, and hung up long enough to pull a jumper over his head before dialing Mary Ellen. She didn't pick up on the first try, and he managed to get his shoes on while he waited through a second and third try. On the fourth try, she answered swearing.

"Doctor's orders," he said apologetically. "Break in at the mansion, he wants us to check the labs. You've got the keys."

"You're joking."

"I'll meet you there," he said, and hung up.

"I hope you're getting overtime," Lisa complained, hauling him down by the arm for a kiss as he grabbed his keys off the nightstand. After a second's thought, he went to the closet and took down the lockbox with his sidearm in it; Torchwood had issued it to him years ago, back when it was a towering presence on Canary Wharf, and never asked for it back. Lisa had made him disassemble hers and throw it in the river. He cleaned his every week -- but never when she was in the flat.

"You remember how it is," he murmured, kissing her a second time. "We work to the job."

"Don't get killed," she ordered. He smiled and ran for the car.

He considered calling the police on the drive over; he hadn't fired a gun in a year or two, hadn't ever fired it off a training range, and if they were armed he didn't stand a chance of doing much more than intimidating them. On the other hand, the idea of strange policemen in the labs, where there were delicate and dangerous and classified materials on every worktable, appealed even less.

Mary Ellen hadn't yet arrived when he pulled the car up in front of the lobby doors and jumped out. There was a night security-guard in a little kiosk outside the hangar, but that was all; parking wasn't even secured, the idea being that anyone smart enough to understand what they were doing here and get in for a look at it was probably working for them anyway.

"Mr. Tyler sent me," he told the woman. "Seen anything suspicious?"

"God, I wish," she replied. "Dead boring. Did a round of the building fifteen minutes ago."

"What kind of keys do you have?"

"Just the hangar key and the lobby. Scientists don't like me having their lab keys," she snorted.

"Right. Okay." He rang through to Rose's mobile, but nobody answered; he left a message just as Mary Ellen's car appeared. She was wearing a pyjama shirt and a pair of business slacks. He glanced down at the jumper he was wearing and realised the v-neck of the collar probably showed off his own pyjamas underneath.

"Someone tried to break into the Tyler mansion," he said.

"I thought that's what you said," Mary Ellen replied, lips thinning in disapproval.

"So the Doctor thought we should make sure nobody's messed with the labs."

"More trouble than the rest of them rolled up together," she said, but she smiled a little as she spoke. "Come on th -- what are you doing?"

"I have a permit," Ianto said defensively, tucking the gun's holster back in his pocket and checking the clip.

"Put that thing away," she ordered. "You'll shoot something and blow us all up."

"Ye of little faith," he said, and gestured for her to open the door.


They found nothing in the hangar and no suspicious shadows in the labs, though Ianto did almost shoot a computer when his phone went off, startling him.

"Doctor?" he asked.

"Sorry to disappoint," said Rose's voice.

"Not at all. Are you all right?"

"Fine, now that everyone in the world has stopped hovering over me," she said, and Ianto decided the tone of voice was more for someone in her immediate area than for his own benefit. "I can't believe he got you out of bed in the middle of the night."

"All part of the service, miss," he said, and she laughed a little, which was nice to hear.

"Yeah, well, don't indulge his hang-ups -- yes, I'm talking about you," she said, her voice muffled by (presumably) a hand over the receiver.

"Can I ask what happened, now that it seems to have...stopped happening?"

"There was a break-in at the mansion. I think someone's out to get us," Rose replied.

"Same people who roughed up the Doctor?"

"No, this was a woman -- ginger, big scar on her forehead. Didn't even bother with a mask, she shouldn't be hard to spot."

"She got away, then?"

"Smoke bomb."

"High tech," Ianto observed.

"They're not that hard to make."

"Mm." Ianto tried to stifle a yawn. "Police?"

"This time? Yeah," she said, and there was a dark edge to her voice that he'd never encountered before. "Crawlin' all over the house." Another muffled conversation -- "Christ, what do you mean Mary Ellen's there too?"

"Is that the Doctor?" Mary Ellen asked, as if summoned. Ianto put a finger to his lips.

"He's gone completely insane," Rose said. "Nobody's hurt and now they've tipped their hand. You, send Mary Ellen home and go back to bed and don't come in until noon, no matter how many times he calls you."

"Oi!" in the background. "Pete agreed with me!"

"Men," Rose said, her tone oddly venomous. "Ianto?"

"Yes, ma'am," Ianto replied. "Bed it is."

Mary Ellen looked pleased, anyway.



Rose was a light sleeper, most of the time, but even if she hadn't been she knew that the redheaded woman who'd tried to break into the mansion wouldn't have got within ten feet of her. For one thing, she didn't really spend much time in her old ground-floor room anymore; she'd shifted most of her stuff into the large but dim bedroom they'd given the Doctor, two floors up. She viewed it as a sort of experiment, not that she would have told him that; it was all very well to be passionately in love while adventuring round the universe, but god knew if they'd be able to stand each other when she spent all day tinkering with physics and he alternated between moping and frantic bursts of creative energy.

They had got on well. Stupidly well. He wasn't easy, but nobody had ever promised her easy and at least most of the time he treated her with respect and let her solve her own problems. Except for right now, when he was being a complete moron along with everyone else in her entire circle of acquaintance.

"Listen, I told you, I'm fine," she said for the hundredth time. The Doctor just tightened his arm around her shoulders where they sat on the couch; her mum paced back and forth, agitatedly rocking Tony in her arms. "Oh for God's -- give him to me," she ordered, as Tony began to wail at his rough treatment. "Honestly."

The Doctor was quiet for the moment, had been except to make a few telephone calls (mad ones; sending Ianto out to the lab in the middle of the night, making Mary Ellen go with him!) and demand reassurance that she was fine. It was just all so stupid, because the woman had broken into her bedroom and got as far as the door before the alarms sounded and hadn't even been on the same floor as Rose. The Doctor knew she hadn't got near Rose, because the Doctor had been sleeping next to her when shouting below woke them both.

Her mum placed Tony in her arms and he quieted, shoving his chubby face into her shoulder. A few inches lower, the Doctor's fingers tapped out a gentle -- but compulsive -- staccato beat, never quite uniform. He shifted sideways slightly, reaching across with his other arm to ruffle Tony's hair.

"D'you know, we can't possibly let your mum educate him," he said, in a low voice meant to amuse her.

"Oi! She did all right with me," Rose retorted.

"As soon as he can talk, straight on basic maths and physics. You can't catch a human too young," he continued, as if he hadn't heard her. "Well. Maybe maths and literature. Got to be well-rounded."

"You sound like a dad," she said, and he looked at her, horrified.

"I've gone native," he said. "Worse, I've gone domestic. I'm making plans for the future upbringing of a human child. Not even my human child -- wait..."

He got that faintly unfocused look he always got when he was thinking especially hard.

"I can breed, can't I?" he asked, and the horror had been replaced with a distant, disconnected tone that meant he was well past ordinary emotion. His fingers on her arm stopped tapping. "And we've had a lot of sex."

"Keep it down," she said, nodding her head at her mum, who was still pacing, and her dad, who was talking with the police.

"But we have. A lot. I mean. Not that it's not nice..."

"Oh, ta, very much."

"You could be pregnant. Right now," he said.

"Yeah, but I'm not."

"But you could be!"

"But I'm not," she said. "Also, can we freak out over only one thing at a time please?"

"It's more efficient this way. Are you sure? How do you know you're not?"

She rolled her eyes. "We do have such a thing as birth control in this century."

"Oh," he said.

For a genius, he did have one or two very broad blind spots.

"Besides, you said you were a dad once. You'd probably be a good dad," she added, and he pressed his face into her hair.

"I don't know that I was," he said. "Not by human standards. You don't -- do you want -- ?"

"Oh my god no," she said. "Not right now anyway."

"Good. Thank you. Right." And he leaned back. "So. We should -- did you want to sleep? We could get out of the house."

"I don't think they'll be back tonight, do you?"

"Reckon not. Still. Traumatic and all."

"No, seriously, I wasn't even on the same floor." She stood up and passed Tony back to Jackie, kissing her cheek. "I'm going back to bed. You should too."

"I couldn't sleep a wink after all this," her mum said. "And the police are doing balls-all. What do we pay taxes for, I ask you!"

Rose caught the eye of the nearest policeman, who looked as though he would rather be anywhere else right now. She winked at him, and he touched the brim of his hat to her.

"Well, at least put Tony down or he'll be cranky tomorrow," she said, and grabbed the Doctor's hand. "G'night, mum."

She led the way up the stairs and back to his -- their -- room, shedding the housecoat she'd haphazardly thrown on over her pyjamas and smoothing out the blankets. As she straightened she felt the Doctor wrap an arm around her waist from behind, pulling her back against his body.

"I don't mean to be an embarrassment," he said. "But if I lost you -- "

"You'd go on. It's what you do," she said.

"I don't know. Then...I never let myself have this. Well. Some part of me wanted it was easier to resist. Now that I've had this, all of it, if I had to lose it, I don't think I could survive."

"Well, you won't lose it, so there's no point fretting."

"I can't help it," he said, and she realised he was shaking, holding onto her to keep from flying to pieces. And at the same time kissing her, desperately, at the nape of her neck and lower on her throat and across her shoulder. She turned in his arms, startling him. Sometimes he was still such a stray cat, all nerves and wariness and hunger.

"I'm here," she said. "It's all right."

It made a certain amount of sense; after all, everyone knew that after a fright or a funeral people turned to another f-word to remind them they were alive. So she kissed him and tucked her fingers in the hem of the t-shirt he'd thrown on over a pair of Mickey's old trousers after realising he couldn't run out naked to see what the commotion was. Now it was all in the way, and he made a desperate needy whimper as she pulled the shirt off.

"See?" she said, running her hands up the front of his torso from waist to shoulder. She'd had time to try and figure out what he liked, what this human body of his responded to; at first any touch seemed about equal, and she wondered how long he'd gone without anything more than a casual shoulder-brush or the occasional hug. Once he'd had his fill of touch, though, she'd begun noticing slight variations. As with everything, he was all broad gestures or small details, with very little in-between. He liked this, her palms sliding across his skin in wide strokes, but he also liked a single fingertip rubbing the base of his neck, a light kiss, the simple press and thrust of two bodies together. He wasn't adventurous, per se, but she was willing to give him time -- and more than willing to give him this.

He turned them both, pivoting gracefully enough, dropping back on the bed with her on top of him, making her laugh. He had such serious eyes sometimes that she laughed to get him to laugh, because he was -- at least now -- one of those people who couldn't help but laugh when others did. As if he found the whole human race funny and was just waiting for an excuse. Or, if he didn't laugh, at least he wasn't quite so grave.

She straddled his thighs and managed to get the flies on the trousers undone, rising up briefly to help him wriggle out of them. Rule number one in a situation such as this was that you couldn't give the Doctor time to think, because he'd just think himself up in knots. So she kissed him as soon as he was naked and grasped one of his wrists, lifting his hand to her hip. He liked this, too, and that was a surprise. As much as she loved him, she knew he was arrogant and thought he always knew best. It was startling that he would give up control of anything so easily, let alone something as important (to humans, anyway) as sex.

She was reflecting on this, and meditating on the tender skin just below his clavicle, when he grunted and held onto her arms tightly and rolled, startling her, pressing her into the blankets. He looked -- desperate, and painfully human. And something else, unidentifiable until he bent his head and gently latched his teeth on the side of her throat before whispering something incoherent against her skin.


His intensity was frightening, but nothing she'd not seen before, and then it wasn't him proving to himself that they were alive, it was him protecting people or defending himself or, further and further back to when he wore another face, screaming defiant rage to a universe that didn't care.

Yeah, she remembered this.

He caught her up in it before her thoughts could go any further, which was maybe just as well, and all she could hope was that somewhere in the tangled mess of gasps and bodies and fear and reassurance and demand and orgasm he'd find an anchor-point.

If she couldn't anchor him, then he'd just drift away, and he'd break her heart for a second time.

"I'm here. I'll always be here."


Captain Jack Harkness

I don't do third-person.

Even before I cut loose from the Agency I've never really done hanging-around either, especially with no profit in sight. But there was a hot skinny guy who needed a hand and who knew Rose Tyler, the Rose Tyler of Torchwood. He was all kinds of wrong for twenty-first-century Earth, too, and as much as I really hate the twenty-first century (the food alone is a turn-off) I liked a puzzle. Doctor Rubik. Name stuck.

I had nowhere to be and nothing particularly urgent to sell, and nobody was on my ass (nobody else likes that stupid century either) so I stalked him. Just a little bit. Harmlessly. The night of the break-in I was actually nowhere nearby, because there was also this girl I met in a bar. Hey, I'm only human.

The computer caught it on the police-band, though, and when I got back and kicked off my boots there was a full report waiting -- a break-in at the Tyler mansion, nothing stolen, thief run off by security alarms. The extra money for the AI autohacker was completely worth it.

It was weird to be worried about someone's well-being, but to be honest I kind of took a shine to Doctor Rubik and obviously a guy like him wasn't exactly a fighter. More of a runner. And there was still the chance that if I could play the white knight I'd get something out of it -- attention, lauds, cash, whatever.

So I thought I'd stop in and pay a visit, the following day, make sure Doctor Rubik was okay and take him some grapes if he wasn't. And I really really wanted to get into his -- labs.

It made sense to up their security after someone tried to bump off Rose Tyler, but that's what psychic paper is for. And the uniform. You wouldn't believe the places a contemporary military uniform can get me into.

"Hiya," I said to the woman working at the front desk of the main lab building. I waved the psychic paper at her. "Captain Jack Harkness. Security consultant. Can you point me to Rose Tyler?"

She lifted an eyebrow.

"I love a skeptic," I added, and gave her one of my really charming smiles. She picked up the telephone and dialed. You know what I miss? Rotary telephones. I should have one installed on the ship.

"Ianto," she said. Apparently they'd been briefed about Captain Jack. I knew I should have tipped him some retcon. "Captain Harkness is asking to speak to Ms. Tyler."

I tried leaning over the desk and listening in, but she actually put her finger on my forehead and pushed me back. Rrow.

"Yes, of course," she continued, and hung up the telephone. "Someone will be with you shortly."

"Someone named Ianto? Is he a doctor by any chance?"

She gave me a grin. "A doctor's assistant."

"Did his doctor say anything about me?"

"Yes," she said, and went back to her work.

"Like what you heard?" I asked.

"You can't have my phone number."


"No, Captain Harkness. Also, the Doctor told me specifically to tell you that Ianto Jones is engaged to someone and polyamory has yet to gain a foothold in this century."

I love it when they talk dirty. "So this Jones guy is hands-off, huh? And you're breaking my heart. I suppose the Doctor's monogamous?"

Her smile softened, the way peoples' do when they're happy their friends are happy. It's one of the prettiest sights in the universe. Which is about when it hit me like a ton of bricks, the reason Doctor Rubik would be hovering over Rose Tyler in newspaper snaps, but I only had about two seconds in which to be staggeringly envious of both of them before Ianto Jones showed up.

Yeah, so that's why the Doctor warned me off him.

I've seen a lot of things across the universe that people think are hot: nudity on half-a-dozen tropical planets (and one arctic one, but they have fur too), gauzy dresses on women and men, skintight neolatex, braces to keep your head held straight, tattoos, piercings where I personally am not certain piercings should go...but give me someone in a traditional twentieth-century suit, with those collars and buttons and neckties -- talk about your handy bondage gear -- and I can keep both of us amused for hours.

"New shopping list," he said to Mary Ellen, apparently too polite to acknowledge my immediate smolder. It's a shame, I'm good at smoldering.

"What now?" she sighed.

"Are you ready? Five solid glass rods, flat-ended, fifteen centimetres long by five millimetres in diameter. Access to a jeweler's metalworking studio, one pair of night-vision goggles for parts, two protective face shields, three blue LED lights, and a large tin of peanuts."

"Peanuts?" she asked.

"They're good protein," Ianto Jones said. He passed her the list and then turned to me. "Captain Harkness?"

"Call me Jack," I said, offering my hand.

"Jack," he said, and engaged or not he was completely into me. A man knows these things. I waited for another dose of his pretty accent -- what was that, Irish? -- and it got dumped on my head like a bucket of cold water. "You're going to have to empty your pockets and leave your coat here."

"For you? I'd go naked," I said, and shucked the coat. I think that's a pretty fair comeback, myself.

"I'd say you're lucky I'm not going to search you, but you'd probably disagree," he said, and I turned my pockets inside-out to show I wasn't carrying anything. And maybe pulled my trousers tight just a little. "And your wrist-strap, sir."

"Nuh-uh. Strap stays on," I replied.

"Then you stay here," he said.

"Look, I'm not going to rob you, I wanted to see how he was, that's all," I wheedled, trying for earnestness.

"Which is of course why you asked for Ms. Tyler," he said, but now we were flirting and it's usually only a few inches from flirting to me getting what I want.

"He didn't give me his name," I said.

"He hasn't got one."

I was torn. The strap never comes off; it's the first rule with the Agency, and it's a smart one. On the other hand, here was a good-looking man ready and willing to take me to the Doctor, and apparently I'd made enough of an impression on him for him to warn all these people about me.

"Strap comes off, but I keep it in my pocket," I said. He tilted his head slightly.

"Fair enough," he said, and I stripped it off. My skin felt naked without it, and there was a definite tan-line.

I followed him down a hallway, mostly open doors filled with lab equipment and people doing their funny little twenty-first century experiments, until I could hear Doctor Rubik's voice. He sounded annoyed.

"Himself is in a state," Ianto murmured, opening the door. "Doctor, your guest."

This lab was cleaner than the others, with a bookshelf on one side and a long worktable on the other. A lot of the standard equipment for a lab was missing, and in its place a row of small machines were sitting side-by-side on the table. There were two chairs and a smaller round table near the high, wide window. The Doctor was bent over a machine, talking to himself as he worked, mostly annoyed phrases -- "what are you good for?" "why did I build it this way?" "What was I thinking?" and, worryingly, "Now, are you going to catch fire again?"

"Doctor Rubik," I said, as Ianto cleared his throat. The man straightened, turning towards me.

"Captain Jack Harkness," the Doctor said, crossing his arms and looking like I was one more pain in his ass. "I should have known you wouldn't listen."

"I love a puzzle, Rubik," I replied.

He waved the name off with a hand. "Don't call me that."

"Why not?"

"It's not my name."

"You think Jack is mine?" I asked.

"Why'd you come, Jack?"

I looked down and then up at him through the Eyelashes. Yeah, that's right, they rate a capital letter.

"I wanted to see if you were okay," I said.

"What do you know about it?" Ianto asked behind me. I wondered if he carried a gun.

"Police scanner," I said. The Doctor watched me closely.

"I asked you to stay away for your own sake," he said.

"Which only made me want to know more," I said. "Smart."

He covered his face with one hand, then ran it through his hair, making it stand on end.

"Well, obviously, here I am," he said finally. "Ianto?"

The kid laid a hand on my arm, but I wasn't going to give up the advantage of having gotten past the receptionist of my dreams.

"I think you promised me a tour, Doctor," I said, and smiled sidelong at Ianto for good measure.

"Jack, you know perfectly well I didn't -- "

"Is that a flux regulator?" I interrupted, pointing at the flux regulator. "Where'd you find it?"

"I built it, you infuriating huma -- you -- Jack!" he called, but I was already crouching by the counter and legitimately falling in love with his energy transducer. Oh, baby. He'd hooked the transducer into a cel grid stabilised by the flux regulator, a setup I'd only seen in a museum before. I looked up at him and saw something dark in his eyes. Loss and loneliness and yearning.

God, it would have been too easy.

"If you wanted one, you only had to say," I said. "Don't tell me you have blaster envy, Doctor."

His smile was tight and hard. "How's the banana plantation?"

"Thriving," I said, before I thought about it, and then realised what his tone had implied. My blaster was one of the last the company made; shortly thereafter they shut down, which was weird because business was booming, and a banana plantation opened on the site. But all that was centuries into the future.

Ianto coughed quietly behind us.

"I'll get some tea, shall I?" he said, and disappeared out the door.

"How about you tell me," I said, slowly and carefully, because we weren't armed and he looked like he had anger on his side if it came to blows, "just who exactly you are, Doctor?"

"I'll tell you if I ever find it out," he replied.

I stood up and got into his personal space (I like boundaries. They're so much fun to cross). "I'm good at helping people find what they're looking for."

It was nice to stand in front of someone and be level eye-to-eye. I could feel his breath as he exhaled, warm on my lips.

"Sonic screwdriver," he said.

" that a metaphor of some kind?" I asked, confused.

"It's what I'm building."

Baffling, adorable puzzle. "Why?"

"Very useful things, screwdrivers," he told me, still not moving. Most people, when they want to kiss someone, don't fight it like that. He had more stillness in him than anyone I'd ever met -- either that or it just seemed like it, in comparison to the manic movement that could break out at any time.

"Yeah, but who looks at a screwdriver and says -- "

" -- this could be a little more sonic?" he asked, interrupting my thought and tilting his head slightly.

I swear to you in forty-seven years of life I've never been more turned on.

"I do," he finished, and with a sudden sharp movement jerked his head sideways to look over my shoulder.

"Jack Harkness," said a new, female voice. "Jesus, can't you keep it in your pants for two minutes at a time?"

The voice wasn't familiar, though the sentiment wasn't entirely unknown to me. I turned around.

Rose Tyler was standing in the doorway, hands on her hips, glaring at me. I looked back at good old Rubik, whose smile was currently bright enough to provide solar power for a small planet.

"Cap'n Jack Harkness," I said, turning again and coming forward to offer my hand. "Although everyone around here already seems to know that." I considered the fact that these were twenty-first century people with twenty-first century jealousy issues. "This isn't what it looks like."

She gave me a withering look. "I know that. D'you think I believe he'd jump you just because you smell good?"

I crossed my arms, grinning. "I smell good, huh?"

"Jack Harkness, Rose Tyler," the Doctor said, waving his hand in resignation. Rose was looking me up and down like she was comparing me to the stories (everyone's heard the stories). Her eyes lingered here and there -- hands, ears, hair, face. And they outlined the cut of my uniform, though she seemed to disapprove of it.

When you really looked at her, there was a hardness about her that you don't see in many women of the era, that you don't see in many women of any era, or many men. She looked like the ordinary blind humanity of her had been scorched off, leaving something stronger in its wake. She wasn't cruel or bitter or angry; she was just determined, with the strength of youth on her side, and no obstacle was going to stand in her way for long.

She was glorious.

Stupid monogamous civilisation. Caught between glowingly strong Rose Tyler and my mysterious dark Doctor, all I could think about was --

"You're drooling," the Doctor said in my ear. Behind her, in the hallway, Ianto hovered uncertainly.

"If you've come to sell us anything, we're not buying," she said.

"How about my soul?" I asked.

"I think we both know you signed that one away a long time ago."

"Got two kidneys left," I offered. She blinked at me. "For a tour of Torchwood."

The upshot was, after a lot of cajoling, I got my tour and to keep both kidneys.

The equipment was all interesting, like a working example of what you see in the museums. But I was more interested in watching the people, real people doing everyday tasks like making coffee and eating biscuits while at the same time taking little steps forward into the universe. They fascinated me, their obvious office romances and quirky friendships and petty rivalries.

And, of course, at the centre of it all was Rose -- a bright hard slip of a woman who wasn't even aware of the adulation of the scientists and engineers, who was effortlessly likeable. She'd have fit in where I come from without any trouble at all. Hell, I liked her too. And her Doctor obviously worshipped her, always watching like she was the only thing in his world that mattered. It was reasonably obvious they were in love -- not the idiotic necking-in-the-hallways-and-pretending love but real love, the kind that doesn't need to show itself off. He even shied away from her once or twice, hanging back, as if he didn't think he deserved a public display.

Real love messes you up. That's why I stick to sex.


It was a little bit like those films they make where everything's overcivilised and you sit down to have a drink with your enemy a few hours before one of you, I don't know, steals the other's top-secret government files or something. Bond film -- it was like a Bond film. Or something with Humphrey Bogart in it. I love Humphrey Bogart films. I've never met him; I think it would ruin the monochrome mystique.

Rose seemed to actually like me, but I got the feeling that the Doctor and Ianto were heeling and playing nice for her sake. She finished with the grand tour right around the time a pretty young woman appeared to spirit our eye-candy lab assistant away. Lisa Hallett-soon-to-be-Jones; she was worth the monogamy, I decided, even if she did have one fake arm she was trying to hide. You notice these things in my line of work.

"So," Rose said, as Ianto and his lovely Lisa disappeared into the car park. "How do we measure up to the fifty-first century, Jack?"

Which she couldn't possibly have known unless the Doctor told her, and how could he have known?

"He gets nervous about it," she said, probably because she saw the look on my face. "But I was always human, and I've walked across space and time to get what I want. So I tend not to keep secrets."

"Rose," the Doctor warned. She just gave him a sunny smile.

"It's good," I said, because I wasn't sure how else to put it.

"Like Galileo's observatory, I think you said."

I cast a look at the Doctor. He shrugged.

"Come to dinner," Rose said finally. She took my hand, which ordinarily would be permission for misbehaviour, but which in reality made me feel like I was three years old, being led along by my mother. "We'll buy you a meal and I'll tell you who we are, Jack."


"Wait, so I traveled around with you for months and never got to sleep with either of you?"



The Doctor had been quiet over dinner, but not sulky, and not by all appearances unhappy. He'd smiled at her several times as she recounted the adventures they'd had, one or two in vivid and, she thought, hilarious detail. He'd even smiled at Jack once or twice, and shaken his hand without rancor when they'd left him near the river and gone walking towards home.

Now she was brushing her hair and he was reading, the picture of domesticity; his remarks about going domestic had worried her, but he was still here, warm and human. He wasn't miserable just because he was human. At least, she hoped.

"Which gristly queen of crime is it tonight?" she asked, settling on her stomach on the bed and studying him, chin propped on her hands.

"Sayers still," he replied. "I told you I was reading slowly."

"What happened to Agatha Christie? I thought you liked her better."

"I thought so too," he answered, turning the page.


A year ago and more, when he was something else, he might have just looked at her and smiled or quipped or changed the subject, because that was his way -- secretive and unwilling to open to a human, even to her. Now he tipped his head back, thoughtfully.

"I like Lord Peter," he said. "He's as messed in the head as I am."

"Mmh," she said, because she never knew how to answer when he said things like that. He didn't really seem to need an answer at all, anyway. "So. Does the bad guy get what's coming to 'im?"

"I'm not sure," he answered.

"Not sure?"

"He shoots himself."

"Sounds pretty good to me."

"Does it?" he asked, eyes flicking up to study her. "Lord Peter talks him into it."


He flicked back a page and ran his finger down the paper, thoughtfully.

"What do you want me to do?" he said at last.

"Write a clear account of what actually happened," said Wimsey. "Make a clean job of it for these other people."

"And then?"

"Then do as you like. In your place I know what I should do."

Rose listened to him read, not conscious at first of what he was reading, only of his voice, low and calm, rising or falling with the inflection of the words.

"Now that the paper is in Lord Peter Wimsey's hands, you understand that he can only take the course of communicating with the police. But as that would cause a great deal of unpleasantness to yourself and to other people, you may wish to take another way out of the situation. You will perhaps prefer to make your own arrangements. If not -- "

He drew out from his jacket-pocket the thing which he had fetched.

"If not, I happen to have brought this with me from my private locker. I am placing it here, in the table-drawer, preparatory to taking it down into the country to-morrow. It is loaded."

The villain wasn't supposed to be heroic, but even Rose could see that he was going to shoot himself to protect a girl.

Their shadows moved, lengthened, shortened, doubled and crossed as they passed the seven lights in the seven bays of the library. The door shut after them.

"How about a drink, Colonel?" said Wimsey.

He closed the book and set it aside, looking up at the ceiling again. Rose rubbed her cheek against the crook of his leg where it was bent. After a while, he inhaled to speak.

"If Jack asked you to go with him, would you go?" he asked.

"No," she answered, without thinking.

"Why not? He could offer you what I offered you. Show you the stars. Take you through time. He could be what I was to you."

"No, he couldn't," she said, hearing the angry flat tone in her own voice and disliking it. "He isn't you."

"I'm hardly me these days," he answered, but he slid his body down until his head rested on the pillows, and she inched up until she was lying next to him, propped on one elbow now, watching emotions move across his face. Whatever else he wasn't, he was at least more easy to read now. He turned his head, meeting her gaze.

"I'll never be normal," he said. "But I'll never be ordinary enough for Earth, either."

"That makes two of us," she said drowsily. "Go to sleep. You're talking loads of bollocks."


The Doctor

He woke the next morning from a nightmare. Not a terror -- those sent him into sweats and shakes, but they were fewer and further between now. Just a nightmare, and how sad that he was relieved at this. Not even a nightmare from his past, the one where he watched himself slaughter the Daleks or the one where Davros was still slicing his flesh open -- one million two hundred and fifty-seven thousand one hundred and one, one million two hundred and fifty seven thousand one hundred and two -- but a dream about Gallifrey, seeing Rose standing in the red light of his home and screaming at her to run, knowing it wouldn't do any good as the firestorm engulfed the planet.

The cool English light streamed through the windows, grey and reassuring. He glanced at the clock. Five in the morning; too early to be up, but too late to go back to sleep.

He slid out of the bed, drawing a snort and a sigh from Rose, and went to the shower to wash. He couldn't technically see himself aging, not so soon anyway, but sometimes when he looked in the mirror he could feel that he was older, weeks older, growing towards age and death. Time Lords didn't think much about death, their final death, until well into their lives, and generally by then they'd grown either so philosophical or so worn into their ways that they didn't worry about it. He certainly never had.

He dressed quietly and turned the doorknob with special care, shutting the door behind him softly and padding barefoot through the hall. In a place like this, one could almost imagine one was in the TARDIS, with its never-ending corridors, but there was no steady thrum of life here. Just the soft noises of animals outside, the occasional brush of a tree branch against a window, and --

Soft snuffling, from the half-open nursery door. He stopped and peered inside.

Tony was sitting up in his crib, playing with a much-gnawed-upon plush toy, a dodecahedron adorned with bright animal faces. The child had good taste. When he saw the Doctor in the doorway he held both arms up plaintively. The Doctor rubbed his forehead.

"In for a penny," he sighed, wondering when this had become his life and how his other self, somewhere off in some other universe, would laugh to see him picking the boy up, balancing him on his hip. He'd laugh even harder at the idea that holding Tony Tyler, a silly human infant, made his heart tighten in his chest. For centuries he'd protected Earth because he liked it, out of a whim really, enjoying the feeling of being someone or something's guardian. It wasn't because of children or puppies or anything ridiculous like that.

But look at his reward. Tony, clinging to his arm, a little furnace of life in his hands.

Domestic...might work. It might.

He carried Tony into the hallway and down the stairs, making for the kitchen. It was empty and dark, but he flicked the lights on and hooked a leg around Tony's high-chair, pulling it up to the counter and settling the child in it. Tony burbled damply and slammed his hands on the tray in front of him.

"Demanding little spawn," the Doctor said affectionately, and reached into the cupboard for a bowl while his other hand found the Weetabix. Tony continued to beat out an irregular rhythm as the Doctor dumped two cakes into the bowl, added milk, and located a banana, slicing it into discs over the cereal. After some consideration, he sliced a few into his hand and set them on Tony's tray. The child at once began to mash them all over his face, gleefully. The Doctor sighed as he leaned on the counter and watched. It was a pretty decent experiment in osmosis, but he was reasonably certain human infants couldn't absorb banana through their skin.

"Just like my oldest," he said to Tony, who ignored him. "Couldn't resist making a mess. D'you know, I don't even think he got that from me? Not that I'm not inclined to make a mess, but it's always a useful mess."

He chewed thoughtfully on his cereal. "For instance, here I am, talking to someone whose higher motor control is still obviously dubious, Rose would call that me being a mess myself. Still, stimulating all those little human neurons, aren't I? If nothing else it's bound to make you a good listener. That's a skill, you know."

He expounded as he ate, Tony engrossed in the smashed banana slices, only occasionally looking up at him.

"I don't prefer being a good listener, but I can be if I want to be. I like conversation. Back and forth. You learn all kinds of interesting things about people that way. Now, on my home planet, casual conversation wasn't considered polite unless you'd been formally introduced, you couldn't just strike up a discussion with someone the next seat over at the cafe tables. Not that we had cafe tables, but the point is, you can guess how well I got on there. I liked talking. I like talking. The trouble I got into. But I thought, you know, here we are, masters of time and space, and what do we do? We run round being snobby about it and never going offworld. You might get offworld in your lifetime," he added, gesturing at Tony with the spoon. "Specially the way your Rose is going. If you get the chance you should be off like a shot. I would be. Well. Maybe. Anyway, when you get on a bit in years and all the kids are out of the house, you start to think, what am I going to do with the next few millennia?"

Tony blew a spit bubble.

"That's exactly right," the Doctor said, and blew a raspberry back at him. Tony giggled. "So I up and went, didn't I? Took my granddaughter along because she had the most spine of any of them, and we many things. It was brilliant. I never wanted to stop. Never did stop, never had anything worth stopping for. You can't spend your whole life fretting about your children and...their mother...well, she got on better without me," he said, a trifle sadly. "And then -- they were all gone. Because of me. So even if I'd had something to settle down for I had to keep running."

He paused, drifting. "Just running and running and running. Till I picked up your sister and dragged her along, which was never fair, but -- I think the glory seen is worth admission paid. And I lost Jack and I ran and then I lost Rose and I ran and I lost Martha and...him, and Donna, everyone. I lose everyone," he said. "And I still kept running until I ran straight back to her and fell down and ended up here. Wings clipped, half-blind."

He stirred the soggy remains of his cereal, thoughtfully.

"Still...she's here. Someday she'll forgive me for not being him, right?"

"Bah," Tony said. The Doctor smiled and unthinkingly put his hand on Tony's head, broad palm and long fingers spreading out, tracing over all the little trigger-points a Time Lord might use to make contact. His sons and daughter had loved it when he'd touched their minds, their sunny, confused little heads growing calm and affectionate as his thoughts brushed against theirs.

But of course he couldn't touch Tony's mind, not as a human, and Tony wasn't in the least telepathic. Still, the child beamed up at him and shook his head playfully, dislodging his fingers. His other self could have seen echoes of the man Tony would become, could have seen all the glittering threads of possible lives for the child, but that didn't matter. He could still see the years unfurling, all the untapped potential, the joy and talent and intellect waiting to be molded, waiting to grow.

"Aren't you the most beautiful thing in all creation," the Doctor said softly. He'd seen frozen oceans and triple-sunrises and a planet made of diamonds, animals of breathtaking grace, aliens in every hue imaginable -- but in that moment he knew he meant it completely.


The days after the second break-in and Jack's tour of the labs were quiet ones. It seemed as if life was knitting itself together from fragments, at least for him: he'd seen Jack happy and mortal, the pieces of the sonic screwdriver were coalescing, and there was an odd peace that settled over him and Rose, soothing a mind that would go a mile a minute if he let it. Jack had either left the planet or was keeping away; Ianto, well-settled in his role, worked quietly and efficiently. The Doctor finished The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club and Ianto, borrowing from Lisa's extensive collection, sidetracked him into Rex Stout with Fer de Lance and The League of Frightened Gentlemen.

They took a field-trip to the metalsmith's where the casing for the screwdriver was being made; the Doctor had looked forward to it, remembering other times when his body had soaked up heat-radiation and the tingly feeling of it dissipating. This time as he stood near the furnace where the ore was melting he found himself sweating, just as Ianto was on the other side, an unpleasant gritty sensation and a reminder of who he was now. What he was.

He backslid that night, sitting at the window of the bedroom he shared with Rose, feet propped on the low windowsill, staring out -- London was close enough that he couldn't see many stars, and he wondered if he could even put names to all of them anymore. He flicked through starmaps in his mind, three-dimensional modeling them, sometimes six-dimensioning the ones he was most familiar with, but his head started to ache and he ended up just...sitting.

There were things to be done, whole lists to compose, five or six steps left on the Screwdriver and a tricky calibration process after that. There was a list of books to read, and he'd been meaning to look up when Top Gear would be on because Mary Ellen said she thought he'd enjoy it. He wanted to find a shop in London that had been there in 1982 and he hoped still sold this one toy he thought Tony would like...

But instead he was sitting, staring out at the overcast sky, not paying attention to anyone or anything around him until Rose put a hand on his shoulder and leaned down to speak into his ear.

"I've packed," she said. He blinked and looked up at her.

"Packed what?" he asked.

"Everything," she replied. "Come on. If you try to have any fun in town this weekend you'll get lost on the Tube or do yourself some harm walking into traffic."

"I'm not a child," he said, stung.

"No." And she looked so sad that he wondered what was wrong. "You're not." She stroked his hair, gently. "I miss it."

Which didn't make any sense, but he glanced over his shoulder and saw two large luggage cases on the bed.

"How long have you been here?" he asked, alarmed.

"Two hours," Rose smiled at him. "You were out there somewhere."

"And you...packed?"

"We're going off for the week-end. I'd take you to France or Greece or somewhere, but you haven't got a passport still. You'll have to make do with Southend. Come on, shift."

She pushed him gently and he stood, turned around.

"There's a car waiting at the garden gate," she said. "We're sneaking off. I've told Mum and Dad. We can catch the next train no problem."

They were quiet in the car, but once they'd bought their tickets Rose chattered cheerfully, leading him through the station to the platform, talking about how brilliantly awful the seaside was and how she expected he'd like the arcades. If he listened he could hear himself in her -- all the times he'd extolled the virtues of this or that planet, glossing over their flaws, eager to show her something new and wonderful. He let himself drop down into it, smiling when she looked at him, until they had settled themselves on the train and were moving. Darkness pressed in through the windows, but the carriage was lit well enough, and he didn't falter until Rose curled up against him with her headphones over her ears, cycling through the songs on her little music-player. An announcement came over the loudspeakers. The conductor began his swaying, splay-footed walk down the aisle.

Suddenly he couldn't breathe. It was Midnight all over again; he'd been on countless Tube trains since -- since then, but this was different, this was outside London and a different kind of train, and Rose was here and if he couldn't protect her from it, from It, the Thing, he couldn't even protect himself from the Thing and the stupid, stupid humans had started to turn on each --

"Easy," Rose's voice cut through the thought as he gasped for breath, mind spinning, fear choking him, cold bile-tasting fear and he couldn't move. "Easy. I'm here."

He could feel her hand on his chest, could feel his chest heave. He was trying to get air, but his vision was greying out and the shuttle was creeping in, oh gods of a dozen worlds, he was going to be alone on the shuttle with the Thing. But Rose's hand was warm, and her voice yanked him back; she called him -- "Doctor. Doctor!" -- and he inhaled, a great lungful of air that turned into a coughing fit. But he could move again, and he could feel tears from the coughing running down his cheeks, wiped away by Rose's fingers.

"You're okay," she said. He clung to the arm she'd slung across his chest, breathing deeply. "S'all right."

Some distant voice asked if she needed help, and a water bottle was pressed to his lips. It took him a second to coordinate breathing and sipping and swallowing, but he got a mouthful down without coughing again.

"Better this time, yeah?" she asked, as he leaned back and shut his eyes, wiping the last of the tears away with his thumb. "Didn't fall down and hit your head. Martha'd start thinking I was beating you."

He barked a laugh, raked a hand through his hair.

"Sorry," he managed.

"Maybe leaving London wasn't -- "

"It wasn't that," because it seemed important that she know that, because he could only cope with so many things at once and her upset wasn't one of them. "I -- memories, that's all."

Rose rubbed a thumb across the back of his hand, offered him another sip of water. He swallowed.

"You'll be all right," she said uncertainly.

"I will," he agreed, breathing deeply. "The last time I went...holidaying it just...wasn't so good."

"You should have said."

"I didn't think of it," he answered truthfully.

"It's all right, then, neither of our faults," she smiled at him. "D'you -- I mean you don't have to, but if you want to tell me about it...?"

He opened his mouth for the automatic denial, the quip or misdirection that would mean he could keep it locked down safely, but he realised he did. He wanted her to know. Rose could keep it for him, Rose would know and understand and then maybe it wouldn't push against his ribs like it was trying to smother him.

And he could feel the train walls moving in with every second that he tried to fit it back into place.

"Yeah," he said, and pulled her head down to his shoulder, whispering in her ear.

He told the story without any particular flair, but he didn't flinch from any of it. And she didn't pull back or say anything, not even when he lied to the other people on the transport, not even when he talked about the fear -- for himself yes, but also for Donna, abandoned without him on a planet like that. Not even when other people died. He didn't realise he'd left Midnight behind and gone on to another story, about brave -- annoying, but brave -- Adric crashing a freighter into Earth, and then a funny one about him and Martha meeting Shakespeare, and a funnier one still about Susan trying to understand the intricacies of mid-twentieth-century British currency.

At some point he fell asleep still talking. He could hear his voice die down into a mumble, but he didn't dream, and when he woke it was to Rose shaking him and telling him they'd arrived.


That Saturday Rose bought him a pair of swim-trunks and made him wear them, then made fun of his freckly skin and the way his nose sunburned when he forgot to put sunscreen on it (another novelty). They walked on the beach, mostly avoiding the crowds of people and the children splashing around in the water; he did like the arcades and he was brilliant at the games, but after a while the noise was overwhelming and they retreated to a quiet restaurant for lunch, fresh fish and cold beer. In the afternoon he managed to find the next Sayers mystery in a bookshop -- the shops rarely seemed to sell what he wanted to read -- and he sat in a beach chair, well-coated in sunscreen this time, and read while Rose listened to her music. It was all very human.

"Can I read you something?" he asked, as the sun began to settle behind them and Rose took her earbuds out.

"Course," she replied. "More murder?"

"Naturally. Here."

"Such a Victorian attitude, too, for a man with advanced ideas. He for God only, she for God in him, and so on. Well, I'm glad you feel like that about it."

"Are you? It's not going to be exactly helpful in the present crisis."

"What I mean to say is, when all this is over, I want to marry you, if you can put up with me and all that."

Harriet Vane, who had been smiling at him, frowned, and an indefinable expression of distaste came into her eyes.

"Oh, are you another of them? That makes forty-seven."

"Forty-seven what?" asked Wimsey, much taken aback.

"Proposals. They come in by every post. I suppose there are a lot of imbeciles who want to marry anybody who’s at all notorious."

She looked at him, head tilted. "Are you asking me to marry you?"

He blinked. "Why, do you want me to?"

"Well, that's a line of questioning that could go on all night," she sighed. "Let's pretend those last two sentences didn't happen, and also that I'm bad with metaphor, all right?"

He shrugged. "I just wonder. You saved me. Twice now. And I mean that. But -- you'd tell me if you were with me, if you were keeping me, out of some kind of duty. Wouldn't you?"

She skritched her fingernails across his scalp affectionately, and then smacked him hard in the back of the head.

"You're such an arse sometimes," she said, and stood up. "Come on, let's get dinner. I feel like a steak."

"You look like a girl," he replied, because that was the kind of thing she expected. She took his hand and pulled him along, hitching up her ragged cutoffs and tugging the bikini top she was wearing to straighten it. He noticed a man watching her, down the beach, and glared at him.

"You know, in the old days aliens would have invaded by now and we'd be in some cage somewhere plotting revenge," she remarked, all pretty blonde hair and warm skin and sandy smell. It was an opportunity too good to miss, especially in light of the man still staring at his Rose; he beamed and lunged forward, grabbing her around the waist.

"We have," he cried, his momentum carrying them forward a few steps before he crashed down into the sand, on his back, still holding on. She shrieked and squirmed, batting at his hands, while he kissed her shoulder and tried to tangle up her kicking legs. She subsided into laughter, and he pressed his sunburned nose into her neck.

"Give up, human," he growled, which made her laugh harder.

"I surrender!" she gasped, falling limp against him. He inhaled. Yes -- sand, sweat, sunscreen. Earthy smells.

"I love you," he murmured, tightening his grip around her waist.

"I know," she replied. She turned her head. "Love you too."


"My god, how did I get sand there?"


Chapter Five

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