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sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-17 12:56 pm

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

Thanks to: [ profile] spiderine and [ profile] mcgonagalls_cat for betas. Any remaining rough edges are my fault.


The Doctor

He couldn't explain why he'd stopped talking.

He couldn't even think about why he was doing it, except that he was exhausted and words seemed to be too much. He needed time to think things over, even if all that happened was that the thoughts chased each other around in his head until he couldn't sleep, until he felt he would go mad.

He ate at meals, he slept next to Rose at night when he could quiet his mind enough to sleep, he went in to the labs to help Ianto sweep up the broken glass. In the afternoon, two days after Davros died, he let Rose pull him close, kiss him and take him to bed. But it was all distant, and he thought he rather frightened her with his silence in the middle of lovemaking. It was nice -- it was a great comfort -- but he just...couldn't say the words. He was out of words.

Jackie had no shortage of words for him or for Rose, scolding for hours on end about him having the gall to get kidnapped and her going off half-cocked after him. Pete could always talk a blue streak if he thought it would put people at ease, but he talked about nothing so much and for so long that the Doctor often found himself fleeing as soon as he could. Rose tried to be normal, talking to him as if he'd answer and bringing him books and food, and he felt like a self-absorbed ass after realising that these last few months hadn't been easy on her, either, as she tried to fix him and recover from losing the Doctor she really wanted at the same time. But the guilt tied up his tongue as well.

Three days after the fight he was sitting in the garden, a new book tucked in one hand -- Dorothy Sayers still, though it was hard to concentrate on the words -- when Ianto appeared. He wasn't dressed for work: he wore jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, one sleeve clumsily stretched over his cast, and high-topped trainers like the kind the Doctor himself wore. He looked about sixteen years old. The Doctor had forgotten how young Ianto was.

"Good afternoon," Ianto said. He was carrying two beer bottles in his good hand, and a bottle-opener was tucked in the single finger and thumb that were mobile under the ridge of the fibreglass cast. He settled crosslegged on the grass in front of the Doctor's chair and placed the bottles on the ground.

"Lisa says between us we've two good hands now," he continued. "Ordinarily we'd just about be able to get a jar open together, except -- " he made a gesture with his cast, " -- she's got her bionic arm. I make her do all the heavy lifting these days."

The Doctor watched him, perplexed, and set his book to one side. Ianto pushed one of the beer bottles into his hand and made him hold it still while he pried the cap off.

"Brought you this," he said, tipping his head at the bottle. The Doctor looked down at it uncertainly.

"No taste for it?" Ianto asked. The Doctor shrugged. "Well, it seems a little inappropriate. Then again, in some Earth cultures, pouring libations of alcohol to the dead is the done thing."

He ignored the Doctor's sharp look and clamped the other bottle in the crook of his arm to open it. He took a sip before he looked up at the Doctor from under his brows. "Yeah, I figured out you weren't from Earth. A brilliant scientist and engineer appears out of nowhere one day with no history, with no name -- if you were born on this planet you'd have been a child prodigy. You'd have won the Nobel Prize for something by the time you were twenty-five. But there's no record of you or anyone like you. I'm not just a pretty face; I do research, too."

The Doctor smiled.

"But I guess you're still human, or anyway similar." He took another contemplative sip. The Doctor sipped too; it seemed the companionable thing to do.

"Mary Ellen was buried today," Ianto said finally. "Maybe it is disrespectful, but I've stood here before. A few years ago everyone I knew was suddenly dead, and my girlfriend was in a coma in hospital. It's this or hysterics."

The Doctor cocked an eyebrow. Ianto shrugged.

"Sure. It's a lecture, but you've got plenty of practice listening, lately, haven't you?" he asked. "When they all die, you wonder why it wasn't you; pure stupid luck, or maybe someone else's bad luck. They shot Mary Ellen. They would have shot me if I'd gone to the lab that morning instead of waiting for you. Just...because they could, I guess."

The Doctor swallowed. He didn't want to hear this.

"I know you. I know how much mercy is in you. Rose wouldn't stand for anyone less than you," Ianto continued. "You can think you should have saved them. We can both believe it's our fault. We lived; they died. But it's on them," Ianto continued. "These people, whoever they were, for whatever reason they were there, it's blood on their hands. Not mine. Certainly not yours. They made their choices."

The Doctor set the bottle down and rubbed at his face with his hands. Ianto watched him carefully.

"Does it help?" the Doctor rasped finally, voice rusty from three days of silence.

"Not really. But it can't hurt." Ianto sipped again; he could hear him swallow. "Whether or not it's helpful isn't the point. It's on them. You go on believing it until it's the truth."

"Truth doesn't work that way."

"Who says? Besides, you're being an arsehole, and at least this got you talking."

The Doctor gaped at him.

"I owed Rose Tyler half my life a long time before I owed you the time of day," Ianto said gravely. "You're ripping her up when you could be making her happy. I reckon you're doing it because you don't know what else to do with her. S'all right for a bit; Lisa did it to me once or twice. The point is she only wants to help and you've given her bugger-all in return."

"What would you have done if this didn't work?" the Doctor asked, waving at the young man sitting in the grass, the beer bottles, the island of odd calm in the whole mess he'd made of his life.

"Socked you one," Ianto replied serenely. "She's worth making happy -- "

"I know that!"

"Then do something about it. You can be miserable with her or miserable without her. Least with her you have a chance of being un-miserable one day."

Ianto reached into his pocket and offered up a small brown-paper-wrapped package bearing the return-address of the industrial glassmakers' factory that they'd used when they were buying rods for the screwdriver. The Doctor opened it. Nestled inside were three flawless glass rods.

"Tomorrow?" Ianto asked. The Doctor nodded. "Right, then. I'm off home; I'll give Lisa your love."

The Doctor sat and studied the rods for a while. Then he stood up and walked to the big glass door that let out from the breakfast room into the garden.

"ROSE?" he called. Down the hall, movement; Rose's blonde hair, shifting as she raised her head. He started towards her.

"Doctor?" she called back hesitantly, straightening. She had Tony propped against her chest with one arm.

"Hiya," he said, and kissed her. Tony laughed. "Put down the sprog and come out with me tonight. Dinner. If you're very lucky I'll be persuaded to dance."

"All right," she said, still a little uncertain. "You okay then?"

"Better than I was," he answered. "I have a plan. A secret plan."

Her smile warmed slowly, but it was genuine. "Sounds mysterious and intriguing."

"It might even be enigmatic."

"Take me out, then," she said.

He did have a plan, he realised; an idea was forming in his head, half-mad but sweeping everything else to one side. Miserable with Rose was better than miserable without her, and if he could make her happy then that would be all right. He kept taking wrong turns, but sooner or later he had to be able to make this good again. He'd have his screwdriver soon, and he knew something that could help him give Rose what she wanted -- a taste of the other Doctor, if nothing more.


"Well, look who decided to stop sulking," Ianto said the next morning, standing in the lab with his arms crossed. Or, well, as crossed as they could get with the bulky cast.

"I...deserve that, a bit," the Doctor admitted.

"Yes, you do. So -- " Ianto gestured at the machines, humming softly to themselves, and the various bits and pieces strewn around the worktable. "Today?"

"Today," the Doctor confirmed, pulling the box of glass rods out of his pocket.

The last batch -- well, the batch before the broken ones -- hadn't been sufficiently high-quality to withstand the demands of the screwdriver, and there had been some explosions. Minor explosions, negligible in the grand scheme of things, but explosions nonetheless. They were well-prepared with goggles and gardening gloves this time.

There was the housing, the circuitry, the ball-regulator (the Doctor loved to say that because Ianto always looked like he was trying very hard not to snigger), the clamps, the resonator, the energy cell, and the glass directional rod. Not to mention the rotational dial and the wireless adaptor. All packed into one small, useful package -- if it didn't explode.

He could feel Ianto holding his breath as they lifted the resonator out of the grid and placed it next to the directional rod inside the housing. He fitted the clamps in, heard the click as the energy cell connected with the touchplates, and ran his thumb briefly across the dial without moving it.

"Right," he said, placing the screwdriver carefully in a thick-walled metal box. He propped a real -- what, analog? non-sonic? -- screwdriver against the dial. "Ready?"

"Ready," Ianto said, inching behind him.

"Fire in the hole," the Doctor muttered, and twisted the analog screwdriver, which in turn adjusted the setting on the sonic screwdriver.

Blue light reflected up the box's sides. There was a soft whine, eeeeeee, and a distinct lack of explosiveness.

"Is that it?" Ianto asked, peering at it. The Doctor reached in and picked up the screwdriver. It was cool to the touch.

He flicked the dial. With human ears he couldn't hear the change in tone but he thought he could sense it through the tool itself.

"That's it," he said, looking down at it. Ianto was looking distinctly unimpressed. "That, Mr. Jones, is a sonic screwdriver."

"What's it do? Apart from the obvious," Ianto replied. "Although it's not...very obvious. I mean it hasn't got a phillips-head poking out or anything."

"What doesn't it do?" the Doctor replied. He took his mobile out of his pocket and aimed the screwdriver at it, flicking the dial around until it felt right. He adjusted the pressure on it slightly. The phone sputtered, beeped, and then lit up brightly. "See that? Five seconds. It took me a week to do that to Rose's mobile this last time."

"What, exactly, did you do?"

"Five bars, anywhere, anywhen, anyhow," the Doctor replied, dialling a number he knew off by heart. It rang two or three times before there was a click and an answer.

"Doc'ed Number. Very clever," said Jack Harkness. "Puns are the lowest form of humour, you know."

"Only people who are bad at them say that."

"Don't tell me you need rescuing again."

"Are you in the rescue business now, Captain Jack?"

When he heard the name, Ianto rolled his eyes so hard his head tilted sideways.

"I do a little heroing now and again," Jack replied. "How's Gorgeous Ianto?"

The Doctor glanced at him. "Still gorgeous."

"And my favourite Doctor?"

"I need a favour," the Doctor said.



Life had, for once, seemed to settle down after the Doctor's recovery. Rose didn't have the faintest hope that it would last, but then that was what had always been wonderful about life with the Doctor. Every day was a new experience, every person met was some new surprise to be uncovered.

She didn't think he even realised he did it, honestly, but it was there all the same. Whether he was trawling through the labs, lending a hand to the other scientists, or wandering around London making conversation with beggars and bicycle couriers, whatever he was doing was a voyage of discovery, fueled by an unending curiosity. She had never wondered what made the Doctor seek out humanity, honestly; even before she could put it into words she knew that it was their boundless inquisitiveness, like calling to like. A friend or a remembered experience brought out a beaming smile and a nostalgic look; new experiences, new people, new toys drove him to investigate until he not only understood everything but had wrung every possible thing out of it.

But still there was a hesitancy licking around the edges of him, a slowness to reach for what he wanted, especially when what he wanted was her. It made her insane, some days. Other days, his smile and the way he touched her of a morning, hand on her bare shoulder, face pressed to the nape of her neck -- that made it all worth it. And yeah, okay, it was a little weird that he slept with the sonic screwdriver on the bedside table, but she'd once dated a bloke who slept with his dead dog's favourite chew toy (ew) so she'd seen worse.

At any rate, she wasn't entirely shocked when he came bolting into the big lab one afternoon, flushed and disarrayed, clutching a folder in one hand.

"Come on," he said. "Got something to show you. Not here," he added, and dragged her away. The others working on the biplane's engine watched her go with amusement; not living with him nor knowing what he was, they could afford to be indulgent of his moods.

"Where are we going?" she laughed, as he pulled her past the new receptionist (Laura or something, she hadn't learned her name yet) and through the front doors, across the car park.

"Somewhere private," he replied, still dashing along. He came up short on the far side of a small copse of trees -- the new Torchwood prided itself on being Green. He turned to face her and held up the folder.

"I asked a favour of Jack," he said. She eyed the folder.

"It's not pornography, is it?"

"Wha -- no! Well. Sort of. For the discerning space mechanic," he mused, then shook himself back into the present. "He's found this. For us. It's ours if we want it. Look."

He opened the folder and thrust it at her. A few glossy digital printouts slid down the side and nearly fell; she caught them, studying them with her head tilted.

"Is it a new flat?" she asked, confused. He took them from her and shuffled them around so that a different sheet was on top. "Oh," she added.

It was a spaceship. Sleek and shiny as sports car -- though if the figure standing nearby was a human, it was much, much bigger. As huge as it was, it looked like it would handle well -- not that you needed that kind of aerodynamics in space, really, but she could appreciate the artistry.

The other photographs were of the insides, she realised, flipping through them. Living quarters, kitchen, what must be a command console.

The Doctor had sent Jack to kick the tyres on a spaceship.

It was just so...

Infurating, actually. Because she didn't really want a spaceship, not anymore, and she definitely didn't want a surrogate for the TARDIS. She liked her life, exploring physics for herself, learning about her little planet. She wanted her work to be one of the reasons that, when people did finally get out to the stars, they'd understand themselves as well as they understood the rest of the galaxy.

"Do you like it?" the Doctor asked, pathetically eager.

"It's brilliant," she said, because objectively it was. "But really -- a spaceship?"

"Yeah! Anywhere you want to go, I'll take you there. Well. The ship will. With me as pilot, yeah? And I can teach you, it's not hard. All we have to do is say the word. We won't even owe anything, I offered barter for it."

"What did you barter?" she asked, sidetracked momentarily.

"That's between me and Jack."

"Oh my god, you didn't sleep with him, did you?"

"Rose! Not the point!" he insisted. "It's a spaceship. Say the word and it's ours. Say two words and we'll be off. Well. Unless you want to go somewhere that's more than two words long. They could be long words, on the other hand -- "

"Do you want the spaceship?" she countered, because by god this had to stop sometime.

"I want you to have it."

"And where would we go first?"

"Dunno," he said, eyes alight. "You want to see Raxacoricofallapatorius? I mean really see it, you know they aren't all bad and there's a lot less farting on their homeworld. Besides, roll it around on your tongue. Big long word..." he dangled it tantalisingly.

"Do you want to?" she asked.

"Sure, if you like."

"Not if I like. Do you want to?"

"Rose..." he looked annoyed. "What's it matter? I call Jack, he delivers the ship, and we're off. Simple as that. Where d'you want to go?"

She crossed her arms, tucking the folder of printouts under one armpit.

"You pick," she said.

He flailed his arms. "That again?"

"I want you to pick," she said.

"But I picked dinner last time we went -- "

"Doctor." Her voice was steel. "You pick."

"You know," he said, obviously trying to distract her, "The Upik are an Eskimo tribe -- "

"Don't try that on me," she replied. "Do you want to go back out?" she asked. "Space, time, the whole thing?"

"Course I do. I mean, maybe. With less...death-defying...death-defiance than formerly, but..." he said, faltering. "Don't you?"

"I was never in it for the time travel," she said. "Okay, maybe a bit at first. But I stuck around 'cause of you. If you're happy on Earth, that's all right then, isn't it? And Tony needs someone like you, y'know. Besides, we don't have forever anymore -- I never did, but you did, and that sort of...felt like I did, on account of it."

"But it can be like it was," he said, breath coming short. "Can't it? Just a little bit?"

"Not exactly like it was, no," she said. "And I don't think you really want a ship so you can go adventuring again."

"I want to make you happy."

"But you haven't asked what makes me happy," she said.

"You think I don't know?" he demanded. He looked angry, something she'd never wanted to cause -- she'd never wanted him to be angry with her, but she couldn't help it. And in a way it was good -- it showed he could get angry.

"I know you haven't asked."

"I can see it, Rose, I'm not blind. Not yet," he added venomously, "though wait fifty years and maybe I will be."

"Jesus, are you afraid of getting old or something?" she asked. "Welcome to the human race!"

"It's not about getting old, it's about you thinking I can't tell what you want. I know what you want."

"Oh do you now!"

"Yes, I do! And I want to make you happy, I want to be him for you, but I can't!"

"You're so stupid sometimes!" she shouted.

"Stupid!" he shouted back. "I was saving myself with my wits alone before you were born. I know the last digit of Pi! The things I could tell you -- "

"I don't care. That's not smart, that's just -- that's just educated! You don't know anything about humans!"

"NO, I DON'T!" he yelled. "And if you want me to go just tell me so -- "

"No you bloodywell won't," she snarled, grabbing his arm as he turned away. "I crossed universes for you, I almost died for you. With you. I would have died, I'd have been happy to die so long as it was with you -- "

"Not with me!" he retorted, and the bitterness in his voice made her want to weep not just for what he'd lost but for the sheer idiocy of it. "With him!"

"I didn't go for him!" she insisted. "It was you! You!"

He stared at her, mouth open.

"Everything I did I did to find you. You're not him, you're better than him because you're not perfect and you're human and you love me. You're so human," she said, voice sinking. "But you won't see that, you stupid -- you stupid human!"

"Rose, I don't know what else to do." He clenched his fists. "I'm trying the best I can!"

"But you're not listening to me," she replied. He dropped over, slumping on his knees. She could almost hear what he was thinking; a Time Lord would never kneel to a human this way, but he wasn't a Time Lord anymore. He scrubbed at his face in frustration, ran his fingers up through his hair and then let them drop to his thighs, bowing his head. After a second, she reached out and stroked his hair, hesitantly.

"Do you want to go out there?" she asked softly.

"Anywhere you want to go," he pleaded. "I'm offering you the stars, Rose."

"And I'm offering you life," she replied. "Here, with me. Why won't you take it?"

He looked up at her. "But don't you want -- "

"I have what I want," she said sharply.

She watched the tension and anger drain from his body, his shoulders slouching, his jaw relaxing. He looked as if he had lost something vital that made his being cohere; like if he breathed too deeply he'd fall apart.

"You don't want the stars," he said. "Not with me. You don't want the stars with me. Or without me. You just want me."

"Finally," she sighed. She cupped the back of his head, pulling him forward, holding him secure against her body. He pressed his face into her stomach, clutched blindly at her wrists.

"Name me," he said. She tensed.

"Doctor, you don't -- "

"Please, Rose. Give me a name. I want a name," he pressed his face against the soft fabric of her shirt. Bizarrely, she flashed back to the shirt Jackie had bought months ago in the little town in Norway near Bad Wolf Bay. I <3 Dikes. She wanted to laugh.

"Names have power, I want you to give me my name," he insisted. "It's the last thing I'll ask you to choose, I swear."

She rubbed her hand against his hair, first against the grain so that it stood up and then down around his crown, settling it in short half-curls.

"Peter," she said softly, after a while. He sucked in a sharp breath. "What do you think of Peter?"

"Like your father?" he asked.

She laughed a little. "Like Peter Wimsey. That arrogant clever bloke in your books."

"Peter," he repeated into her shirt. "What about a last name?"

"You pick," she said, and held her breath. He trembled.

"Hawthorn," he answered. "Good sturdy plants, hawthorns," and he laughed a little. "English. Very...English."

"Plant?" she asked. "Implies...putting down roots."

"Does it?" He leaned back a little. "Fancy that."

"But do you like it?" she asked, and then her tone changed daringly. "Peter?"

"Yes, yes -- " he scrambled up and kissed her like he was trying to prove something, or maybe trying to push all that tense anxiety into her. "Peter -- Peter Hawthorn. I'm -- my name is Peter Hawthorn."

She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, laughing.

"Are you sure?" she asked. "It's ordinary. Isn't it -- think -- think about it. You'll just be -- Peter, with a bank card and a driver's licence -- "

" -- and a lab ID," he replied. "But I'm human, Rose. Is that enough?"

"I love you," she said, trying to answer him without knowing quite how.

"I'm not extraordinary," he mumbled. "I wanted to give you more than this."

"You used to think everyone was extraordinary," she answered. "Or are you the special exception?"

He shuddered against her. "It doesn't matter? I'll never be -- "

"It doesn't matter."

"I can have -- life. This life. Here on Earth," he asked, childlike, clinging to her. "I can have it with you. Till we die. As a human. You're amazing, humans."

"We," she said. "We're amazing, humans."

"And I can have a passport? So I can go anywhere?"

"Anywhere you want."

"I want to see everything," he breathed. "The whole world. Barcelona first."

"All right," she laughed. "Barcelona first."

"And -- a library card? How do I get a library card?"

She giggled against his shoulder. "I'll help you get one."

He was silent for a long time, but his breathing had slowed.

"Peter," she murmured. "I love you, Peter Hawthorn."

"I love you, Rose Tyler," he answered.

"Doctor! Are you down here?"

The broke apart as Ianto appeared on the footpath. He stopped, startled. Rose tried not to laugh.

"We heard shouting," he said slowly. "You all right then?"

Rose grabbed the Doct -- grabbed Peter's hand and pulled him forward. "Ianto, I need you to meet someone. This..." she said, grinning at Peter, "Is Dr. Peter Hawthorn."

Peter held out his hand. Ianto, perplexed, stared at it for a second before he shook it.

"I was wondering if you had an actual name," he said.

"It's Peter," Peter beamed.

"Like the saint?" Ianto asked.

"Like the detective. Come on then, work to do," Peter said. "Rose, coming?"

"Coming," she said, and followed the pair of men back towards the lab. "Lots of people to introduce you to, Dr. Hawthorn."


"Oh, bugger me. No way am I going to be Rose Hawthorn."


Peter Hawthorn

He had a dream, that night, not a terror or even a nightmare, though a few weeks earlier he might have classed it as such. He was standing on Gallifrey, long-lost now, up the side of the mountain where he'd played as a child.

His own children were running and playing, but there were other children as well -- which didn't make sense, because some of them were his children and some of them were his grandchildren, even though none of them looked more than half-grown. Except the woman who was minding them, a pretty blonde girl -- Jenny, quick and smart and quite dead Jenny, but then all of the children playing on the mountainside were dead now. And yet there they were, engaged in some complicated form of tag, backlit by the setting sun. His childrens' mother was there too, looking unusually relaxed.

"It's time to go," Jenny said, rounding up children who had been grown and dead before she was even a gleam in a cloning chamber's whatever-passed-for-an-eye. She led the way up to where he was standing, put her hands on his shoulders and smiled at him. "Bye, Dad."

"Goodbye, Jenny," he said quietly.

"G'bye, dad," said his eldest and youngest in unison. His daughter hugged his leg. "Bye, father."


"Bye grandfather," chorused half a dozen others, some pulling him down so they could wrap small arms around his neck in loose kiddie hugs. "Bye, great-granddad," a ginger-haired little boy said.

"Goodbye, loves," he murmured.

Jenny was already shuffling them away; out of the crowd one last girl pushed forward, dark-haired, dark-eyed.

"Susan," he said fondly.

"Bye, grandfather," she said, and he bent down so that she could place a kiss on his forehead. When he looked up she was running after the others.

He straightened and glanced at the woman nearby, who was unaccountably smiling.

"Goodbye, sweetheart," she said, and pressed his hand between hers, an old Gallifreyan love-custom.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"We're not," she smiled and kissed his fingertips. "You are."

"But -- "

"You were always meant to go. And now there's somewhere for you to stay," she added. "Go on, sweetheart. It's okay. Just remember that I loved you. I did love you."

He nodded and let her release his hand, watched as she walked away down the hillside. There was another presence at his side, suddenly, but he didn't turn.

"G'bye," said the Master's voice, soft and even. "Sorry know."

"It's fine," he replied. "I know."

"Look after yourself."

"Right. You too."

And then the Master was swinging away down the path as well. The last glorious rays of Gallifrey's sun shone in Peter's eyes just long enough to prevent him from seeing where they'd gone.


"He doesn't like responsibility, you know," said the Duchess, "and the War and one thing and another was bad for people that way. I don't mean he went out of his mind or anything, and he was always perfectly sweet about it, only he was so dreadfully afraid to go to sleep...and he couldn't give an order, not even to the servants, which made it really very miserable for him, poor lamb! I suppose if you've been giving orders for nearly four years to people to go and get blown to pieces it gives you a, what does one call it nowadays? An inhibition or an exhibition, or something, of nerves. If anybody can be said to have pulled Peter round again it was Bunter."

Harriet asked to be told about Bunter.

"Well," said the Duchess, "he was a footman at Sir John Sanderton's before the War and he was in Peter's unit. They were in some jam or other together, and took a fancy to one Peter promised Bunter that, if they both got out of the War alive, Bunter should come to him. In January 1919, I think it was, Bunter turned up here, saying he'd wangled himself out..."

"Bunter never said that, Duchess!"

"No, dear, that's my vulgar way of putting it. He said he had succeeded in obtaining his demobilisation, and had come immediately to take up the situation Peter had promised him. Well, my dear, it happened to be one of Peter's very worst days, when he couldn't do anything but just sit and shiver. I liked the look of the man, so I said, 'Well, you can try, but I don't suppose he'll be able to make up his mind one way or the other.' I took Bunter in, and it was quite dark, because I suppose Peter hadn't the strength of mind to switch the lights he had to ask who it was. Bunter said, 'Sergeant Bunter, my lord, come to enter your lordship's service as arranged.' He turned on the lights and drew the curtains and took charge from that moment. He found that flat and took Peter up to Town and did everything. I remember, it really was rather touching, I'd come up to Town one morning early and looked in at the flat. Bunter was just taking in Peter's breakfast...he used to get up very late in those days, sleeping so badly...and Bunter came out with a plate and said, 'Oh, your Grace! His lordship has told me to take away these damned eggs and bring him a sausage.' He was so much overcome that he put down the hot plate on the sitting-room table and took all the polish off."


The next morning he woke early, the room coming into dim focus as he groped towards consciousness. Rose was sleeping with one arm flung over his chest and it took a moment to extract himself; he was awake and halfway to the door, hitching a pair of trousers around his hips for decency's sake, before he remembered he had a name.

He turned and glanced back, but Rose could use the sleep and besides he liked the quiet in the mornings. Peter Hawthorn was the sort of man who rose early, he decided.

Hah! Rose early!

He found the kitchen already lit, Jackie on the telephone to someone, trying to talk and feed a fussy Tony at the same time. When she saw him, she gave him a pre-emptively grateful look and handed him the spoon she'd been using. He looked at it, set it down, and went to get a banana from the fruit bowl.

"Morning," he said to Tony, slicing off the top of the banana and carefully slotting a disc of fruit into Tony's mouth, like feeding a coin sideways into a machine. Tony whapped his open palms on the tray of the high-chair and chewed happily. "Guess what your sister did yesterday."

Tony blinked at him.

"My name," he said, slowly and carefully, "is Peter. Peeeeeteeeeer."

"Bah," Tony said.

Peter sighed. "Close enough for jazz. Anyway. Good solid name, I think. Petros, 'the rock'. Saint Peter, he's a big man in Christianity. Peter Wimsey, bright spark, only fictional character with a portrait on the wall at Balliol. Peter the Tinker, after your time -- after mine, too -- famous mythical space-rambler. Peter Jackson, brilliant films, much better than Star Wars. Peter the Great of Russia, got to respect a bloke called The Great. Peter Parker, moral example for us all. Peter Anderson invented Earth's first hyperwarp drive. Met him, terrible table manners. Oh! Blue Peter! I love that show. It's been around almost as long as I have. You and I," he leaned over and whispered to Tony, "are going to watch a lot of Blue Peter when you're a bit older. Well. Whenever we're near a telly. Which I don't reckon we will be much. I'm going to make Rose show me the world. You can come along if you like. We'll record Blue Peter or something. Anyway, Peter. Good name," he said, straightening.

Tony looked less than enthusiastic.

"Point is," Peter pressed on, "that's what you have to call me from now on, because that's my name. Dr. Peter Hawthorn."

"Finally picked one, have you?" Jackie asked, sweeping around the centre island of the kitchen. "No, sorry, was talking to Rose's boy. What? He didn't. NO. No!" she added, as whoever was on the other end of the line shared some juicy piece of gossip.

"Don't worry," Peter whispered. "She gets better. Well. Easier. Or, anyway, you get used to it. But you've got Rose and me, too, so that's all right."

Tony opened his mouth. Peter offered him another banana-disc.

"Got you on nanny duty again?" Rose asked, appearing tousel-headed in the doorway, still in her pyjamas. "Morning," she added, kissing him on the cheek.

"Tony and I were just establishing friendly diplomatic relations."

"Mmh. He's brilliant, and you owe me a pound. Want breakfast yourself, or are you planning on splitting the banana? Toast? Eggs?"

"Whatever you're -- " he stopped himself. She hesitated too. "Actually, I'd like some Weetabix."

"You're so weird," she said, but she fetched down the box and reached for a bowl. He slid an arm around her waist as she stretched up. "Oi, handsy, baby in the room."

"He'll have to get used to it," he said in her ear, then took the box out of her hands and got the bowl for himself. "Go amuse yourself, Tony likes me best."

"Hmph, see if I save any bacon for you," she retorted.

"It'll go straight to your hips," Jackie called, then returned to the phone. "No, not you, the whole family's up now, it's like a circus. Men wandering round with no shirts, unwashed children covered in fruit -- I know. I know! No, go on with what you were saying."

"Is it true what they say about human women, that they turn into their mothers?" Peter asked speculatively.

"Yeah, that sounds like solid intelligence," Rose sniffed.

"Bah," Tony demanded, and Peter returned to servitude.

"'s Saturday," Rose said, as she dumped some bacon in a pan. It sizzled and hissed. "Got any plans?"

"I thought we might go in to town," he suggested. "I have errands to run."

"All right," Rose agreed. "Anywhere in particular?"

Peter smiled at her. "There's a book I need."



This meeting in time is a show
Bringing together so much we don't know
You're a queen from a land unseen
Behind your amazing mind

In another life
We will be married
Or maybe we were...

-- Pete Morton, In Another Life

Story Notes

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