Characters: Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler, Jack Harkness
Summary: A supposedly harmless planet holds unexpected dangers, and disturbing revelations about the Doctor's past.
Disclaimer: The sandbox belongs to the BBC. I'm just playing here, in the corner, making little sand-TARDISes. Not making any money, not asserting any claims.
A/N:This was supposed to be the last chapter. And it is. Sort of. My Muse insisted on an epilogue. The first draft of the epilogue is finished. I'm about to go on vacation, and will polish and post it when I return in a week's time. I can never sufficiently thank my beta goddesses, Canaana and Wendymr (speed-Britpicker extraordinaire) for their help.
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12Chapter 13 Chapter 14
Jack stares at the Doctor. Kurden? What the hell is that about? He can’t possibly think--
“Doctor, you can’t possibly think that Kurden knew that the juice was drugged,” Dathiha protests.
“Poisoned,” the Doctor corrects. “And it doesn’t matter what I think. Doesn’t matter what the boy knew. By your law, he’s an accomplice, and old enough to take responsibility for his actions.”
“Before we pass judgment,” Dathiha says, “I wish to know more of what happened. There is no doubt that Kurden served the juice to the visitors. We do not know where he obtained it and why he brought it up to the caprock.”
“We know that -- well, half of it,” Rose says. “Kurden told us he got it from Merron.”
“Lies!” Priyan’s outrage isn’t much of a surprise, considering that Merron is his son. “Dathiha, you can’t possibly believe--”
“I do not believe or disbelieve,” the Senior Elder replies, “but I must ask.”
A guard is sent to fetch Merron. The young sculptor stands stiffly in front of the Elders. He doesn’t look at his father, but he darts uneasy glances at Jack.
Afraid I’m going to tell your dad about your illicit carving? Kid, I’ve got more important things on my mind than making trouble for you.
When Dathiha asks about the juice, Merron visibly relaxes. “Yes, Elder. I was on my way to the learning centre when Elder Sojore spoke to me. She said that she was concerned about dehydration and heat exhaustion among the workers on the caprock, especially the visitors, who were not used to the climate of Haven. She said that the spiced thorn-fruit juice was a good restorative, and could I please carry it up. I said yes, of course. I started to do it, but I didn’t-- I had to, umm, speak to. . . someone, so when I saw Kurden, I asked him to take up the juice. He being Master Estridon’s apprentice, I knew he’d be going up top.”
“And did you relate Elder Sojore’s message to him?”
“Yes -- well, mostly. I told him, ‘It’s good for thirst, so make sure the Out-- the visitors get some.’”
Dathiha asks a few more questions which only confirm what they already know. “Thank you, Merron,” she says gravely. “You may go. Do not discuss these matters with anyone until we give you leave to do so.” As soon as Merron hears the words of dismissal he hurries out of the chamber with one last anxious look at Jack.
“Right, then,” the Doctor says briskly. “You know what happened. Do you also need to ask Kurden if he did what a score of witnesses saw him do, or can we get on with this business of the indemnity service?”
Sojore chooses that moment to go supernova. “Do you see?” she shrieks. “If he cannot murder our children he will steal them!” She looks as though she might try to lunge at the Doctor. Jack steps forward, ready to take action, and more than half-hoping that action will be needed.
The chamber is loud with voices: angry, confused, worried. Guards appear and take up positions around the room. Three of them escort the former Elder to a seat in the rear of the chamber. Three more hover near the offworlders.
The Doctor stops dead in his tracks and turns to face them. “Jack. Need your help.”
Jack focuses his attention on the Doctor, ready for an order, an explanation, anything, but the Doctor only stands there. Motionless. Silent. It takes Jack a moment to understand that the Time Lord is waiting. It takes a moment more to understand what the Doctor is waiting for. He’s giving me a choice. Trusting me. It’s not as dramatic as the moment -- Was that only two days ago? -- when the Doctor begged his forgiveness, but it’s much more satisfying.
He nods at the Time Lord, and it’s like a circuit has clicked shut. “Okay. Tell me what to do.”
The Doctor leans forward and gathers both humans into the circle of his arms. “Right. This is what I need you to say--”
When the Council reconvenes, Elder Dathiha looks calmer -- or perhaps just resigned. “Doctor. Do I understand correctly? You wish Kurden sa Trevisa i Everel to become your apprentice for a period of eleven--”
“Course not,” the Doctor says. “Don’t be daft.”
“Not the Doctor’s apprentice.” Jack takes a step forward. “‘Time Lord’ isn’t exactly a trade that can be taught. Kurden would be my apprentice.”
“And what would you teach him?” Priyan demands.
“Astrogation, quantum hyper-calculus. . . the usual. By the time I finish with him, he’ll be a damn fine pilot.”
“Pilot? Of what ship?” Dathiha asks. “Surely not the Time Lord vessel.”
The Doctor lets out a derisive snort.
Jack shakes his head. “No, just a normal spaceship.”
More murmuring as the Elders absorb this bit of news. Estridon’s clear voice rises above the commotion. “Doctor, will all of you be settling amongst us, or just Captain Harkness?”
“What’s that?” the Doctor asks.
He doesn’t sound surprised, Jack notes.
“As you know,” Estridon says calmly, “young Kurden is already my apprentice. Even if the Council grants you indemnity service, our law says you may not interfere with pre-existing bonds. We will have to share his service. And in the case of conflicting interests, the older bond takes precedence. Whatever Captain Harkness chooses to teach Kurden, it must be done here, on Haven.”
“Bugger,” the Doctor says mildly. “That would be inconvenient.” The Time Lord turns and looks at his partners. “Jack? Rose? You fancy spending the next eleven years here?”
“Not really,” Jack says honestly. He catches Estridon’s eye and gives the Senior Engineer an apologetic look. “I wouldn’t want to spend that many years on any planet.”
Rose adds her agreement. “Mum would go spare if I stayed away for so long.”
Sojore half-rises from her seat in the rear of the chamber. “Our place of hiding will be your prison, Time Lord,” she says. “Your prison,” she repeats, and laughs.
“Maybe so,” the Doctor replies, “unless. . . Jack, would you be willing to subassign the apprenticeship to another instructor?”
Jack recognises his cue. “Of course, Doctor. If there was a trustworthy person with all the necessary skills.” He looks at Estridon.
The Senior Engineer returns Jack’s gaze calmly. “There is a slight impediment to your plans. Skills and knowledge are insufficient to teach piloting. A ship is also required.”
The Doctor didn’t have a chance to prep him for this part, but Jack’s always been good at improvising. “We’ll buy one,” he says with an arrogant lift of his chin that he copied from a certain Time Lord. It’s probably the truth. The Doctor may not care much about money, but the TARDIS contains enough treasure to sate the greediest dragon. Jack once saw Rose innocently wearing a hair ornament topped with a flame opal that could have purchased several planets. “We’ll buy a ship,” he repeats.
“No need to go shopping,” the Doctor says. “The Estrafil owes me a favour. I took care of some pirates for his grandfather.”
Jack’s eyebrows would be in low orbit by now if they weren’t attached to his face. The Estrafil is the current head of the Estrafil shipbuilding Family. ‘Took care of some pirates’ probably translates into ‘saved the Estrafil shipyards from devastation and most of the Family from death or slavery’. A major favour like that, unpaid for three generations, would be worth far more than one small ship.
There’s sputtering and griping, of course, but the Doctor has the Elders neatly trapped with their own law. Sooner than he would have thought possible, the Elders have a stack of documents for Jack to sign. There are some for his partners, too, full of defeasances and quitclaims. ‘Rose Marion Tyler’ is written carefully beneath a line of angular characters that Jack can’t read. He figures it must be Gallifreyan, since that’s the only language the TARDIS doesn’t translate, but it looks nothing like the circle-glyphs from the Doctor’s yellow sticky notes. He wonders if it says ‘The Doctor” or something else. A nasty insult? An old Gallifreyan proverb? A fuel conversion formula? The one thing he’s sure it’s not is the Doctor’s original name. Then again, he muses as he writes ‘Capt. Jack Harkness’ for the tenth time, he can’t cast any stones.
He’s halfway through the stack when Kurden and his parents are escorted into the council chamber. The poor kid looks nervous. His parents look terrified. After Dathiha explains the agreement, Kurden’s eyes shine with joy. His parents are calmer, but not exactly delighted.
Jack sets the stylus down and pushes back the small table in front of him. “Hey, kid.”
“Jack!” Kurden fairly vibrates with excitement. “It’s true? I’m going to be a pilot?”
“You’re going to learn how to be a pilot,” Jack says. “Whether you actually get to sit in the big chair depends on a lot of things -- mostly, how hard you study.”
“I will study hard,” Kurden promises. “But-- Jack? Will I see you again? And Rose and the Doctor,” he adds quickly.
Jack smiles, but shakes his head. “We won’t be back,” he says, “but you’ve got a good teacher. You’ll be fine.” He glances at the Doctor, who nods.
“Jack, stop jabbering and get the rest of those agreements signed,” the Time Lord says. “As for you--” He jabs a finger in Kurden’s direction. “What are you hanging about for? Nothing happening here ‘cept a lot of boring paperwork. You’ll want to tell your mates your news, I s’pose.” The Doctor's grin belies his gruff tone.
Kurden responds with a huge grin of his own. “Thank you, Doctor.” He sobers for a moment, and behind the boy’s face Jack can almost see the man he will become. “We will remember you -- always.”
As soon as they have the go-ahead, Kurden’s parents chivvy him out of the Council chamber. Rose notices that they’re still clasping hands, though their grip loosened when Estridon explained that Kurden would remain on Haven, except during training flights. They love him, and they want him to have his dream, but they don’t want to lose him.
“We’d best be off,” the Doctor says. “Come along, Rose, Jack. Next stop, Estrafil Shipyards. We’ve got to organize a ship for your apprentice.”
“Doctor, I’ve been thinking about that,” Jack says casually. “We’re giving the Estrafil a chance to pay back a life debt.”
“He belongs to a very proud species. It might not go over very well if we only asked for something small, like a zeta-class.”
Rose listens but doesn’t interrupt. She remembers when three yobs tried to rob Mr. Patel, the newsagent. They threatened to beat up his daughter Sahira if he didn’t empty the till for them. It would’ve ended badly if Joe Tolley -- a rugby player and fifteen stone of solid muscle --hadn’t come in just then. If Mr. Patel had offered Joe a reward, and Joe only asked for two packets of crisps, it would’ve been like saying that Sahira’s life was worth less than a quid.
“You’ve got a point,” the Doctor concedes. “What were you thinking of?”
Jack shrugs. “Upsilon-class?”
The Doctor grins. “Good choice.”
“You cannot simply announce that you will change the terms of the contract once you have signed it,” Elder Dathiha protests.
“The contract says that we will provide Kurden with a suitable ship to learn his craft,” Jack replies, and Rose knows he’s up to something when she sees his smile. “It doesn’t specify class or model.”
The Doctor looks at Estridon. “Elder? Is an upsilon-class StarRover acceptable to you?”
The Senior Engineer stares at them for a moment before replying. “But I would need--”
“Is it acceptable to you?” the Doctor asks again, and now Rose is sure that something important is going on.
“Entirely acceptable,” Estridon says.
“What is a StarRover?” Elder Priyan asks the question, but the Doctor aims his answer at Sojore.
“A StarRover is a long-range transport and trading vessel,” he says, and there’s something in his voice that’s sharp and cold and a bit brittle.
Rose remembers visiting a planet where the natives hadn’t yet discovered metalworking. They had razor-edged daggers chipped from blue flint the exact colour of the Doctor’s eyes.
Jack smiles. “Great ship, easy to handle. It only requires a crew of fifteen.”
Rose frowns. It takes a minute before the penny drops. She remembers something she learned when she talked to Kurden and the other young Haveners: of the A’atrans who survived the Journey, only five were crew-members of the Arrow of Hope.
Sojore looks like she’s been punched in the stomach. “No!”
“Estridon, why are you agreeing to this?” Dathiha demands. “What are you thinking, in Havru’s name?”
“I am thinking that our sister spoke more truth than she knew.” Estridon gestures at Sojore. “A place of safety becomes a prison when choice is taken away.”
“You would send our children out there?” Dathiha asks.
“I would give them the freedom to come and go as they choose.”
“Traitor!” Sojore hurls the word at Estridon like a stone. “How can you serve the cause of these Outsiders?”
“I serve only our people and their future,” Estridon says calmly.
“There is no future for us out there!” Sojore rages. “Or here. . . or anywhere. He and his kind destroyed our world, and now we have no future. Nothing remains for us but death.”
For a moment, Rose can almost feel sorry for Sojore, who has lost her world and her beloved prince, but then an anguished voice echoes in her memory: They're all gone. I'm the only survivor. “You can build a future if you want one,” she snaps, “or you you can sit there and blubber about the past. I know what I’d do if it was me.” She turns her back on Sojore and the Council of Elders. “Doctor, can we go now? I’m getting tired of this place.”
“Yeah, we can go,” the Doctor replies. “We’ll pay a visit to the Estrafil, choose a ship. There’ll be no need to return -- the Estafil will see that the ship is delivered. We’re finished here.” He gives Estridon a quick, friendly nod. He does not look at Sojore.
Rose studies the former Elder. She’s motionless now, and her face is like stone. Only her eyes betray her pain and turmoil. Once again, Rose feels a twinge of compassion. She forces herself to remember the Doctor’s look of horror, his hands red with the blood of his lover. She recalls Jack curled on the ground, trembling uncontrollably. “Yeah, we’re done here.” She turns and walks briskly towards the TARDIS. Jack and the Doctor fall in on either side of her.
None of them look back.
He’s never felt so glad to be walking into the TARDIS. Judging from their body language, Rose and Jack feel the same way. It’s not surprising, considering what they’ve been through -- what he put them through. They’re content enough for the moment, relieved to be in the safe, familiar confines of the TARDIS. That won’t last. Soon enough, they’ll be thinking about the past two days.
He knows they’ll forgive him for the fear and pain they’ve suffered. He doesn’t deserve absolution, but his humans are generous almost to the point of foolishness. They’ll forgive the hurt he caused them. Jack has already forgiven him for his thoughtless, cruel arrogance of the other day.
The hurt he caused others. . . that’s a different matter. Even before they landed on Haven, Jack and Rose knew far too much about the ugliness of the Time War. Now they know the horrors he inflicted on planets like Lyonnesse. Even someone as battle-scarred as Jack would be shocked; even someone as compassionate as Rose would turn away in disgust.
“Doctor?” Rose is looking at him.
He manages to smile. It’s not hard to smile at Rose.
“Can we get out of here? Not any planet, just into the Vortex?”
“Sounds good.” He turns to the console. Jack’s already moving to his spot, and Rose is reaching out for the helmic regulator. Within ten point three seconds the TARDIS has dematerialised.
Jack announces, “I think it’s time for bed.”
“I haven’t got much energy,” Rose warns him.
“At the risk of ruining my reputation as a non-stop lover, I was mostly thinking of cuddling,” he confesses.
“That sounds good.”
The Doctor says casually, “You two go on ahead. I jus’ want to check some of the navigational settings.” He pats the console. “We had a bit of a wild ride earlier.”
Jack shakes his head. “We’ll wait for you.”
“There’s no--” he begins.
Before he can even begin his excuse, they enfold him. Rose wraps her arms around him and lays her head against his chest. Jack slips behind him and holds both of his lovers in a tight embrace.
“We need you,” Jack whispers. “Need you to hold us and touch us.”
“And we need to take care of you,” Rose adds. “Need to know you’re all right -- really, truly all right.”
Rassilon! How can two humans, a mere fraction of his age, make him feel young and vulnerable? He surrenders, letting them lead him to their shared bedroom. The lighting is muted, the cotton sheets cleanly-scented with lavender and pine. The TARDIS hums softly in the background.
Jack and Rose get undressed. Sometimes they make it a friendly race; sometimes a provocative strip show. Today, it’s just calm efficiency. Jack folds his clothing with military neatness. Rose tosses hers on a chair. The two humans flop onto the wide bed, moving to their usual positions -- Jack on the far side, Rose in the middle -- leaving the near side for him, as he’s the one who sleeps the least.
They turn on their sides, facing him. Jack’s right arm is loosely draped over Rose’s thigh. She leans back, resting against his chest, and lets out a soft sigh. “This is good.”
“Yeah,” Jack agrees. “Doctor? You joining us?”
He doesn’t deserve them; doesn’t deserve the quiet pleasure to be found in their arms. He should turn around and walk out, leaving them to comfort each other. Only thing is, they want him. They think they need him, and he can’t resist that any more than he can resist the gravitational pull of a black hole. He strips off all of his clothing except for the briefs. Once on the bed, he rolls onto his right side. His hand reaches out, as if of its own accord, stroking the curve of Jack’s jaw, the sweet hollow of Rose’s throat. He’s lost; he’s well and truly lost. Passed the event horizon long ago with these two.
They reach for him, in turn. Hands caress him, hold him, pull him closer. After a few minutes Rose lets out a good-natured curse at the awkwardness of their position and clambers over him, so he’s sandwiched between the two humans. Their scents surround him: sweat, stale breath, perfume, pheromones and shampoo. It’s a jumble of odours, a kind of olfactory cacophony, and it ought to drive him bonkers, but he finds it oddly comforting.
He remembers when Rose first came on board the TARDIS. For almost a week straight she wandered into the kitchen in the middle of the ship’s night when she ought to be sleeping. He was starting to wonder if she regretted her decision to come with him. Several times he nearly asked her if she wanted to go home, but bit back the question for fear she’d say yes.
On the sixth night she set down her mug of tea with such force that it would have sloshed all over the table if it wasn’t mostly empty. “It’s too quiet,” she told him. “My room -- I can’t sleep ‘cos it’s too quiet.”
The penny dropped. Rose was a Londoner, used to the noises of a busy city drifting through her window. “Think I can do something about that,” he said, and installed a simple sound generator on her nightstand that produced a mishmash of traffic, voices, and music. He thought it was hideous, but to Rose it was a lullaby because it sounded like home.
And now he is lying between two humans, their odours of their alien bodies mingling with other scents. He ought to be repelled or at least disinterested, but the truth is -- they smell like home. Don’t deserve that, never again, home is gone in rubble and flame and it’s all his fault. . .
He must have let out a sound, because Rose murmurs “Hush,” and grasps him tightly with trembling arms, and Jack peppers his face with desperate kisses, and without words they make him understand that he is home for them, too. Jack’s cock twitches slightly, and he can smell the moisture between Rose’s thighs, but they need safety more than they need sex, and within minutes they fall asleep. And because he is home and they are safe, and miraculously don’t hate him as they ought to, he also falls asleep, tangled in their arms and legs, trapped by the gravitational force of their love.
To be concluded in the Epilogue