Peace by LN29 [Reviews - 4] |
We've just about made it to the end of these three's recovery journey. I've got one more planned to wrap it all up, and then maybe a few more windows into the Year itself, I don't know. But here it, the latest installment of my series, which, as always, can stand alone too.
Something about the Doctor and a starry night appeals to me. It reminds me of stargazing with my Dad, though of course our lessons were limited to Earth science. I wasn't planning on having the Doctor talk quite so much about Gallifrey, but the Doc has his own stubborn ideas about where the conversation is going, and quite literally hijacked the discussion with his memories. So, thanks to him, we get some information about the Doctor's youth. Blame him for it!
I am aware that the Master was a big part of the Doctor's youth on Gallifrey. Best friend, fellow renegade, and all that. But I couldn't find a place to fit him in that didn't seem insensitive to everything Martha and Jack suffered at his hands. It's all too soon, and while they're about as good as they're going to get, they have to walk a line. Hence, no young Master stories.
One other thing I address is where Jack got his coat back. He had it on the Valiant when they were captured, then when they defeated the Master, he didn't have it, and I highly doubt the Master kept the coat around for a whole year. But when they drop him off at Torchwood, he's got the coat. HOW??? Also, Martha has her red jacket, the one she was wearing when she began her year long trek, but doesn't have when they reverse the Year, and yet somehow has it back in her final scene. So I've decided to take it upon myself to reveal how they managed to get these articles of clothing back.
A soft sound from behind him caused Jack to look up from the book he was reading.
Martha stood in the doorway, in her pajamas and dressing gown, smiling at him.
“Hey,” she greeted him.
“Hey,” he replied, rolling over from his sprawled position on the sofa so that he could see her better. He squinted up at her suspiciously. “What are you doing up?”
He sat up, filled with sudden concern.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” she hastened to reassure him. “Honest.”
He could see from her face that this was, mostly, true. She was as all right as she could be. They all were.
Three weeks had passed. Three weeks since the nightmare of a Year had come to a shocking and climactic end. Three weeks of nightmares, fears, tears, and anger…but also three weeks of slow but steady healing. Bit by bit, they were piecing their lives back together, and Jack felt infinitely blessed by the Doctor and Martha’s companionship during these past weeks.
Martha sat down in the chair across from him.
“So, Martha Jones, what are you doing up at such an absurdly late hour?”
“You’re one to talk,” she laughed. “Honestly, between the nocturnal habits of you and the Doctor, you make me feel downright lazy for sleeping.” Jack grinned at her. "So, when I woke up..."
“You figured you’d pay us a visit?”
“Didn’t see why not to.”
She looked around.
“Where’s the Doctor?”
“Probably working on the TARDIS,” Jack told her. “He was last I saw him. Wasn’t in a talkative mood, and was completely immersed in what he was doing, so I figured I’d make myself scarce.”
While neither he nor Martha liked to leave the Doctor alone for long, they had finally reached a point where they were comfortable letting him be on his own, for a bit.
Like all of them, the Doctor was recovering. Slowly but surely picking up the pieces, and fitting them together again. Perhaps not exactly as they once were, but moving towards stability.
The Doctor was talking, laughing again. Shadows still lurked behind his eyes, deep instinctive pain mingling with fresh wounds and memories. His moods still fluctuated from enthusiastic to morose to hostile and back again quicker than the eye could see. But he was more whole than Jack had seen him in a long time, and he knew this was the best he could hope for.
“Want to go find him?”
“Do you think he’d mind?”
“He might,” Jack admitted. “But when has that stopped us before?”
“True,” Martha nodded.
As they got to their feet, Martha glanced at the book he’d been reading, and Jack couldn’t suppress a grin as her mouth fell open.
“What?” he asked innocently. “It was right there on the shelf.”
Martha smacked his shoulder, and Jack reluctantly returned “1001 Ways to Spice Up Your Love Life” to its rightful place.
“It’s got some interesting ideas,” he added, thoroughly enjoying the half-amused, half-scandalized look on Martha’s face. “Seems a bit…” he searched for the right word, “extreme for your parents, though.”
“It was a joke present,” Martha said, laughing a little. “For their anniversary, a long time ago. Back before…you know,” she shrugged.
Before her family had fallen apart. But if the Year had accomplished one good thing, it had brought Martha’s parents back together, and Jack Harkness was extremely pleased about that. To say nothing of how happy Martha was.
“Anyway,” she added, “what were you doing, reading it?” Jack shrugged.
“It was there.”
Together, they exited the house, trying to keep quiet. With two essentially nocturnal guests in the house, the Joneses had grown accustomed to activity at odd hours of the night (and the occasional small fire, from the Doctor attempting to “fix” an appliance. A bored, landlocked Time Lord was a terror to behold. But surprisingly, Francine was remarkably patient with him, and the Doctor really had done quite well at keeping out of trouble, all things considered). But Jack still didn’t want to ever take advantage of their hospitality.
He was beyond grateful for everything that this family had done for him. Despite the fact that they had repeatedly assured him that it was the least they could do, he was humbled by their generosity. He wasn’t family, they had no obligation to treat him as such. But they had accepted him with open arms, opening their home to him and allowing him to share their lives. It had been a long time since Jack had felt part of a real, blood family.
The TARDIS stood, big and beautiful and blue as ever, in the backyard, but neither Jack nor Martha crossed to her. Neither of them had to. For in the grass, several yards away from the TARDIS, sat the Doctor.
Alone in the darkness, his coat spread out beneath him, he was seated on the ground. His long, thin legs were spread in front of him, and he was sitting back, leaning on his elbows, his face turned to the starry sky, which stretched above him like a diamond-studded canopy. They couldn’t see his expression, but his posture was more peaceful than they’d seen him in a long time.
He didn’t seem to notice their presence, and Martha caught Jack’s eye, clearly wondering the same thing he was. But he hesitated only a moment before crossing to where the Doctor sat, Martha following close behind.
The Doctor didn’t look at them as they went to his side, didn’t take his eyes off the starry expanse above. But he shifted slightly so that there was more room on the coat, and that was all the invitation they needed. They sat down, one on either side of him.
The air was cool and clear, and the night was silent save for the softest of winds in the trees. It was a perfect night, the kind that only occurred once in a while. The world seemed to have grown still, as though everything was taking a breath.
The darkness surrounded them, but for once it was not oppressive. Indeed, there was something comforting about it, the whole world transformed into something new and strange. And beautiful. There was no moon, and the stars were as bright as they ever would be, and Jack gazed up at them, leaning back on his hands.
Stars. Millions and millions of stars, glittering overhead. Beautiful and constant, yet never static. Distant points of light scattered across the canopy of the sky, beacons of hope to so many lost souls. He saw constellations, traced the now-familiar patterns of his adopted world, more of a home to him than any other world he’d inhabited.
Throughout the whole ordeal of the Year, throughout the long months of his imprisonment, Jack had suffered many torments. Far too many to name, and while it was growing easier to move beyond them, he still couldn’t dwell on them. But out of all that, alongside the physical pain, the anguish of knowing that others he loved were suffering, the lonliness and the madness, alongside all of those terrible things, the loss of the sky was one of the hardest to live with.
Ever since he’d first turned his eyes towards the skies, knowing there were other worlds out there, Jack had lived for those skies. They represented everything he dreamed of. And once he'd fallen in with the Doctor, those stars had taken on even more meaning.
But in that entire Year, he’d never once seen the sky. And that had pained him in a part of his weary heart that he hadn’t known existed. An ache, a loss of something he hadn’t known he had until it was gone.
And Jack felt that he could sit under this peaceful sky forever.
No one spoke for a long time, and no one had to. They sat in companionable silence, each enjoying the physical presence of the others, sharing a bond that didn’t require words.
Jack looked over at the others, an overwhelming feeling of love rising up in him as he took in the sight of his two friends.
Martha’s head was tilted back, her hair falling over her face as she gazed at the heavens, awe in her eyes and a smile on her face. At ease and peaceful.
And the Doctor, looking more in his element than Jack would have imagined. His eyes trained upwards, absorbing the details and seeing patterns invisible to all others. His eyes deep and fathomless, wise and incredibly alien, his face set in a kind of calm intensity as he sat under the stars.
“You see that star,” the Doctor lifted his hand suddenly, pointing upward. His voice was low, hushed in the silence of the night, yet they heard him perfectly. “That bright one, just there? Malkoria. Twenty thousand light years away. It will be the site of one of the strongest civil wars in the galaxy, but you’d never know to look at it.”
He shifted his hand.
“Parix. A world long forgotten by any living being, its history lost in legend. A few centuries from now, there will be no one left alive who remembers it."
“Org’atgh,” he indicated once more. “Just beginning its journey towards sentience, but in time, they will achieve so much."
“You know all their stories, don’t you?” Martha asked quietly, almost reverently.
“Pretty much,” the Doctor nodded.
Jack studied the stars for a minute.
“There,” he pointed. It wasn’t visible from Earth, of course, but now that he’d gotten his bearings, he knew the direction where it would be. “That’s where I was born. Or…will be born.” He laughed. “You can’t see it, but that’s where it would be. Far beyond where we can see.”
He hadn’t thought about his former home in a long time. It was the site of so many painful memories for him, memories he refused to tap into right now. But nevertheless, it was where he’d gotten his start, and he’d never forget that.
The Doctor smiled sadly at Jack, before turning his attention back to the sky.
"Shar," he pointed upwards. "I nearly lost my head there. Or, I will, a few millennia from now.” He laughed softly, and Jack couldn't suppress a smile.
He gestured again.
“Janath Kel. Nothing special, no inhabitants, but look at it shine. I was there at the beginning. I watched its birth.”
There was a moment’s pause.
“And just there,” he said, his voice suddenly taking on a new tone, causing Jack to immediately take notice. He saw the change on Martha’s face too. “Just there, beyond what you can see from Earth, but in that direction, is the constellation of Kasterborus. The Seven Systems, they called it.”
He let out an almost inaudible sigh.
“That’s where Gallifrey was.”
Neither of them dared to breathe. The Doctor almost never mentioned his planet, and never, ever without prompting. Jack was afraid to even move, for fear he’d break the spell.
“Twin suns,” the Doctor continued after a moment. “A binary star system, with Gallifrey orbiting. A burnt orange sky, blazing like a sunrise all the time. Crimson mountains, capped with dazzling snow, set against the backdrop of that sky. The jewel of Kasterborus, I guess you’d call it.”
He shook his head as though to clear it, and Martha took his hand.
“It sounds beautiful.”
“It was,” the Doctor agreed. “Most of the time.”
During the Year, Jack had learned far more about Gallifrey from the Master than he’d ever learned from the Doctor. He didn’t want to tell the Doctor that, to let him know that the Master had been more forthcoming than he had been. But even amongst the Master’s cruel, insult-laden taunts, Jack had detected truths, and learned more about the Doctor and the Master’s former home, and even a little about their youth.
“You ran away,” he said quietly.
The Doctor gazed at him evenly. Emotion flashed behind his eyes, but it was contained, and he was in control.
“Yes. All those rules and traditions and formalities. Couldn’t stand the place, and couldn’t wait to leave.” He gave a half smile, rueful. “Isn’t that always the way of things, when you’re young? Can't wait to leave home, only to realize, too late, what you've left behind.”
He lapsed into silence.
“It’s hard to imagine you as a rebellious teenager,” Martha confessed after a minute. Jack couldn't suppress a smile at some of the mental images this conjured up.
“Oh, I was far worse than that,” the Doctor said lightly, his gloom momentarily banished. “I was a shame to my family. A disgrace. Not just to them, but to everyone.”
He spoke with easy acceptance. The emotion that threatened to burst forth every time Gallifrey was mentioned was still there, brewing under the surface and lingering in his eyes, but the Doctor was keeping it at bay, keeping his tone light.
“Why?” Jack asked.
He highly doubted this conversation would ever happen again, and he figured he might as well take advantage of the Doctor’s reflective mood to learn a little more about his best friend.
“I wanted to see the universe,” the Doctor smiled. “Wanted to live in it, experience it, not just observe it. To meet people, to help people. Which was pretty much a violation of every code of our people.”
“Why?” Martha asked. “I mean, if they were so powerful, why didn’t want to help people?”
“With great power comes great responsibility,” the Doctor said, “and they took that a bit literally. They believed it was their responsibility to keep watch, as the silent observers of all of time and space. No interference, let things take their course.”
“And you didn’t?”
“Really, Martha Jones? Can you imagine me as a silent observer?” he demanded, raising an eyebrow.
Both Martha and Jack had to laugh at this.
“Nah. Wasn’t for me. Never could be. But they wouldn't let me go. Probably logical of them," he added, leaning back on his elbows again. "At least, from their type of logic. I was a rebel, a renegade, a troublemaker..."
"Was?" Jack couldn't resist asking.
The Doctor shot him a withering look.
"Not the sort of person you give a time machine to," he continued, consciously ignoring Jack's last comment. "Imagine the trouble I might cause! I might actually interfere with something." There was the faintest trace of bitterness in his voice. "No, no one would give me anything. And I needed to run, I always have. Ever since the Schism. So in the end, I stole a TARDIS and did just that. I ran.”
“You stole the TARDIS?” Martha gasped, looking as though she wasn’t sure to be shocked or delighted. Jack grinned, having already known this particular detail.
“Yup,” the Doctor said. “Don't look so shocked, Martha. She was going to be thrown away. Retired, they called it. To make way for newer models. She's a Type 40 TARDIS. An older model, in Gallifreyan terms. Even though she was still alive, they didn’t think they needed her anymore. And I did. So I took her.”
He smiled up at the blue box behind them.
“Or maybe she took me. Either way, I’ve never regretted it.”
He fell silent. Jack couldn't help but stare at him. In the space of a few minutes, the Doctor had just told Jack and Martha more about his past than he had in pretty much the whole time they’d known him. Jack couldn’t help but wonder why, and the Doctor noticed his scrutiny.
“I was just wondering why you’re telling us all this,” Jack said frankly. He saw no point in lying to the Doctor. “You’ve never been one for looking back.”
“No,” the Doctor said gravely. “It’s true.” He shrugged. “I just…I don’t know…”
His face clouded over, his eyes going dark as he began to shut himself away again, and Jack regretted his words immediately.
Martha, brilliant Martha Jones, put a gentle hand on the Doctor’s shoulder, halting his emotional retreat.
“You want someone else to know,” she said quietly. “Because there’s no one else who remembers. And someone’s got to remember. Because memory keeps them alive.”
The Doctor gave the slightest of nods, reaching up to cover Martha’s hand with his own.
“I’m the last,” he said. “The keeper of all those memories. All those stars, all those names. The planet, the history. Everything. No one else knows all that. There’s no one left to share that burden with. Not anymore.”
He looked from one to the other.
"But those memories need to be shared."
Then he seemed to shake off his morose mood.
“Besides, figured you two earned a little honesty.”
“Thank you,” Martha told him, and there was so much more in her words than just simple gratitude.
“Yes,” Jack agreed.
The Doctor merely smiled at both of them.
For the longest time, no one spoke. Jack caught hold of the Doctor’s free hand, and gripped it tight. The Doctor returned the gesture, and the three of them sat, enjoying the closeness and companionship of the others.
The peace of the moment.
And the stars continued to shine, unwavering in their faithful presence.
“She’s fixed,” the Doctor said abruptly.
Both Jack and Martha froze.
They spoke as one.
“She? As in…?”
“She,” the Doctor said, withdrawing his hands to gesture to the TARDIS. His face lit up in that wonderful smile of his.
“Really?” Martha gasped.
Jack felt a grin on his face.
“Yup,” the Doctor said. He was unable to conceal his own joy at his statement, and wasn't even really trying. “She’s whole again.”
Then he jumped to his feet.
“And that reminds me…” he said, heading for the TARDIS.
Martha and Jack got up too, joining him as he threw open the doors.
Martha grinned at Jack, who felt a rush of joy at the sight of the beautiful time ship, finally completely free of the Master’s terrible machinations. The console was back to its original haphazard appearance, the time rotor pulsing with bluish green light. No trace remained of the harsh red lights, instead, the light from the rotor illuminated the console. The whole room was warm, and filled with a familiar humming. Jack felt her brush his mind, full of joy and affection.
Whole/ yes/ joy/ safe/ finally/ healed/ love...
“Look at you!” Jack exclaimed, giving one of the coral columns an impulsive hug. “Look at you, you sexy, sexy girl!”
The TARDIS hummed cheerfully.
“Oi!” the Doctor crossed his arms. “Only I’m allowed to call her that!”
Jack grinned at him, and stroked the column.
“Don’t mind him, gorgeous. He’s just jealous.”
It sounded as though the TARDIS was laughing. Martha certainly was. And the Doctor was trying his hardest to glare at Jack, but he couldn't completely suppress a smile.
Piles and piles of cables, and chunks of mesh and wire and machinery were heaped in the corners, and the Doctor followed Jack and Martha’s gazes to them.
“Don’t want to just chuck it in the garbage,” he said with a shrug. “The technology there still has the potential to cause massive destruction if it falls into the wrong sort of hands.”
He glanced at Jack out of the corner of his eye.
“None taken,” Jack said. He was just pleased that the Doctor had at least accepted his being at Torchwood.
“So we’ll just dump it off in a supernova,” the Doctor told them. "Problem solved."
"She's ready for travel?"
For a long moment, no one moved. The TARDIS had been broken for so long, and while it had been horrible, it had also been what kept them here. What bound the three of them together. Now that the TARDIS was healed, the Doctor was free to go. And no one knew quite what to say or how to react. Not even the Doctor.
Martha broke the silence.
“You said you’d remembered something?” she prompted.
“Oh yeah!” the Doctor said, looking pleased with himself. “Unfortunately, most of the rooms got deleted, including yours, Martha.”
“I’d expected as much,” she sighed. “How about yours?”
“Mine’s fine, surprisingly,” the Doctor said. “So's the infirmary, and the library, thank goodness. Don't even want to think about what would happen if I had to replace all those books. But your old room is gone too, Jack. Along with the kitchen, most of the bathrooms, the swimming pool, and even the squash court. What did he have against the squash court?!”
There was a moment’s awkward pause at this mention of the Master. The Doctor’s eyes darkened, as though he hadn’t intended to say that. But he instantly shook himself.
“Anyway, she’ll be able to rebuild, and she’ll be good as new in no time. But I do have something for each of you.”
He disappeared down the hallway, leaving Martha and Jack standing in the console room.
“So,” Martha said quietly.
“Yeah,” Jack agreed.
Neither of them knew quite what to say.
“He hasn’t taken off yet,” Martha supplied. “He had all that time before we found him outside. He could have just left.”
It was true, and the thought hadn’t even occurred to Jack. The Doctor hated goodbyes. He could easily have slipped away before anyone noticed. But he hadn’t. He’d stayed. Which, to Jack, was the biggest miracle he’d witnessed since the reversal of the Year.
The Doctor reemerged into the console room, carrying something large and dark. It looked like some sort of garment. It looked like…
“My coat!” Jack was nearly speechless.
He reached out, and the Doctor handed it over to him, smiling. Jack couldn’t believe his eyes as he felt the familiar fabric, the familiar weight. He looked closely, and couldn’t believe it. Every stitch, every seam, everything about it was identical to the coat he’d lost so early in his days on the Valiant. If Jack hadn’t known better, he’d have said this was his coat.
“Ask her,” the Doctor pointed to the time rotor. “The wardrobe room survived, mostly, and when I walked in, that was the first thing I was greeted with. Guess she wanted you to have it back.”
“How could she recreate my coat?” Jack asked. He pulled it on. It was perfect.
“No clue,” the Doctor shrugged. “I find it’s better not to ask.”
Then he turned to Martha.
“It isn’t much,” he said, “but she left this for you.” He held out a dark red jacket, and Martha’s eyes lit up.
“Oh, wow!” she cried, taking it. Jack recognized it as the jacket she’d been wearing on the day the Master had taken control. No doubt it had been lost during the Year. “This is my favorite jacket.”
“I know,” the Doctor nodded. “And evidently, so does she.”
"Thank you, girl!" Martha exclaimed, patting the console. The TARDIS hummed, and Jack felt her response.
Jack/ fact/ Martha/ friends/ love/ gratitude...
"I'll take that as a 'you're welcome,'" Jack smiled.
They departed the TARDIS, standing once more in the dark, under the stars. Jack looked from one of them to the other.
Martha still looked worn and older than her years, but she was smiling again. She was happy. Her family was stable, her life was coming back together, and the burden of the Year was slowly slipping away. Oh, it had aged and hardened her, turning a girl into a woman, but the changes that remained appeared to be for the better, and Jack couldn’t help feeling so proud of who Martha had become.
Of the three of them, the Doctor was still the most broken, but in his heart, Jack knew that this was to be expected. Some hurts ran too deep, and some scars would never fade. The Doctor had been broken long before the Year, before Jack even knew him. His pain ran far deeper than just the torment of the Year, though that had served to shatter what few threads of control he had left. And that deep pain would never fully abate. Jack and Martha could help him pick up the pieces, but they could never fully mend him. They could never truly replace what had been lost.
However, he’d come a long way in the past weeks. No longer the shell of a man he’d been when they left the Valiant, he’d built himself back up into some semblance of order. A little bit sadder, a little bit more burdened, but back to stability. He was laughing, chattering, moving with that same energy he’d had before the Year.
And in that moment, Jack finally no longer feared for the Doctor.
And as for Jack…he was still haunted by memories. If he thought too much about it, he’d start to shake and sweat with fear. But the memories were growing easier to bear, and distance gave him a measure of peace. He no longer jumped at sudden movements, no longer feared to let his physical guard down. He was able to joke, and smile, and function again.
It had been three weeks. Three weeks since the reversal of the Year. More than three weeks since he’d seen his family at Torchwood. Three very necessary weeks, but in his heart, Jack knew that it was time. They needed him, and to be honest, he needed them. He needed to see Ianto again. To see Gwen, Tosh, and even Owen. He needed to go back to his family.
While the wounds were not fully healed, they’d made it far enough. The time had come.
One look at the Doctor told him that the Time Lord was thinking the same thing, though he said nothing.
Part of Jack didn’t want to lose this new family he’d gained. Part of him wanted to stay with Francine and Clive, and Martha, and, most of all, the Doctor. It was tempting to drag this out, hide himself away in the comfort of his friends, old and new. But they had their own lives, as he had his.
To demand that the Doctor remain in one place any longer would be cruel. He was like a wild animal; confine him for too long and he'd go mad. The Time Lord could take care of himself now, and Martha was strong enough to make it, with the help of her family. Her family needed her. And Jack’s Torchwood family needed him.
Jack knew that it was up to him. The Joneses had made it extremely clear that he was welcome in their home for as long as he wanted to be there. They accepted him like a son, and were willing to share their home with him for as long as it took. They weren't going to call a halt to this.
And the Doctor would stay. If Jack or Martha asked it of him, he would stay. The very fact that he hadn't run as soon as the TARDIS was repaired proved it. He might not like it, but as long as he thought they needed him, he would stay. He felt he owed them that much, Jack knew.
So it had to be Jack to set the ball in motion. The responsibility fell to him. Neither of the others would take action, so Jack had to. He still didn't know what he would possibly say to his team. How he could possibly explain. It was hard to imagine going back to his everyday life, but however hard it might be, it was time.
It was time to stop hiding.
It was time to stop running.
“I think…” Jack said slowly.
The Doctor’s kind gaze encouraged him.
“I think…it’s time to go home.”