Walk Out With Me to the Unknown Region by rutsky [Reviews - 61] Chapter or Story |
Well, it finally happened. I - or we - reached the end, once Lynda, Jack and the others who I came to love so much finally told me what happened. I want to thank those of you who read this, and cared enough to keep on reading over two years. This has been an amazing journey for me. There are two people especially who I want to thank, and to whom I dedicate the entire story. The first is my amazing and brilliant Best Beloved, who was the best editor anyone could hope for, and whose pride in me and my abilities helped when I was frustrated or uncertain. And the second is my dear friend and sister Queen Gwen, who shares my love of the Whoniverse, and is a great writer in her own right.
Without either of them, this would not have been good.
One last set of grateful thank yous: To the BBC, and to Russell T. Davies, for lending me that which belongs solely, and only, to them.
“What are you going to do?”
“I asked you first.”
Ruthie and Govinda swelled and receded through the amber in her glass. Lynda raised her eyes above the rim to insist, “I asked first.”
The four women, including a confused Elisabéta, had kicked the men out of the apartment. They were not, Govinda had informed her startled lover and an amused Jack, going to share the bourbon she’d retrieved from someplace. Hen night, she’d said. They were going to get pissed on their own, or fall asleep trying.
“ Vinda —” Davitch had started to plead, only to be swung about by Jack, who took the opportunity to grab the taller man around the waist and make it something of a dance step. “Davitch, old buddy, you do not want to brave hen night. And the ladies have earned it. As have we. Vinda’s not the only one with hidden stores. I do believe Hsieh has a little something waiting for us.”
“Where?” Davitch had actually blushed at Jack’s approach.
“Follow me, my friend.” Jack had turned and assayed a courtly bow in the women’s direction. “Ladies, if you’ll excuse us, we, too, are going to examine a bottle in depth. The Bhari are back on their own ship, and we no longer need to save anything for official toasts. I suggest we spend our last hours on this hulk celebrating.” He had stopped, and blinked, looking oddly like Hsieh had earlier. “Twelve hours, ladies and gentleman. That’s it.”
And now ....
Ruthie leaned back, pointing lazily with her glass at Govinda. “You first.”
The programmer poured herself another finger with weaving precision. “This is getting dangerously low. We have to find another one; that or actually get to sleep before we get hung over.”
“You’re dodging the question,” the little guard said severely, still waving her drink about. Not even getting more than a little tipsy could shake Ruthie Lem from her appointed mission, Lynda thought.
Govinda shrugged. “Well, Davitch and I talked a little. We’ll spend a little time on Hidden, but we want to get back to Earth. You know, help out back here. Hsieh’s thinking of doing the same thing, and it couldn’t hurt to tag along with him. He’s a good man. We don’t know what we can do, but ... we want to do something downstairs. After everything we did here —” She downed her drink, and breathed out the fumes appreciatively. “We’ve got a lot to make up for.”
Ruthie nodded. So did Lynda, but she stopped when she realized she’d forgotten why she was nodding. She looked at Govinda. “What is this stuff?”
“Told you. Bourbon. Alright, so I’ve given over. Now it’s your turn,” Govinda said to Ruthie.
“I’m going to travel, I think. Seeing those Bhari, now ... that was something, that was.” Her eyes shone with more than alcohol. “But I’ll need dosh before I start. So I figure I’ll see if I can find work on Hidden, get my bearings, put something aside.”
“You know there might be war out there,” Lynda felt compelled to say, before sucking back most of the amber liquid in her glass. “It might be a mess out there.”
Ruthie leaned forward and snatched at the bottle, grabbing it on the second try. “You’re right, you’re abos— absolutely right. But the way I look at it, I’ve got military training. Somebody might need that, so even if there’s war, I can be useful.”
Govinda and Ruthie both looked at her, surprised.
“No,” Lynda repeated, frowning in concentration. “I don’t want you going out and getting shot again.
“In fact,” she said, warming to the subject. “I’d rather have you around. Because I’m going to need you.”
Ruthie sat forward on the couch. It was a rather dicey operation, given her condition. Enunciating carefully, she said, “And what, pray tell, will you need me for, ma’am?”
That set Lynda back. What did she need the other woman for?
(Someday you’ll go travelling.)
“I want to travel, too. And I can’t take care of myself,” she said airily. “I’m going to need a body guard.”
“You’re having me on,” Ruthie said.
“I am most definitely not have — having you on,” Lynda retorted. The idea sounded better with every passing second. Company, and she could keep Ruthie safe. What better plan could she have? “Look at me — my only training’s in history. Which is bunk, you know.” She stopped. “The point ... the point is, I need protection. And company,” she added, delighted to have another reason. “Company.”
Elisabéta, who had declined alcohol, but sat happily in the corner watching the way it treated the others, spoke up. “I had thought you would accompany the Captain wherever he chose to go.”
That stopped the conversation.
“Huh,” Govinda said. “Hadn’t thought of him ... yeah, Lynda, you and him’re pretty tight — ”
“Nothing going on there,” Lynda said, waving a hand in negation, then catching herself as the hand wave threatened to tilt her floorward. “Nothing at all.”
It was true, she realized with very mild regret. His flirtation was a personality trait, his compliments were reflexive, his casual endearments were friendship, Jack Harkness style. He felt like family, she decided; the Captain felt like family.
“Well, no,” Govinda agreed. “But you’re, like ... ” She trailed off briefly, then brightened. “ ... like brother and sister! That’s what I meant by tight. I mean, you’ve got the telepathy thing, too. Could come in handy.”
“I suppose,” Lynda said, but she wasn’t thinking of telepathy. Family ... a brother. That sounded good, a brother.
“S’funny, to think of a brother,” she said slowly. “My parents never even thought of getting the plus-one permit, not that I know. D’you have any?”
“Any what?” Ruthie was definitely looking bleary.
“Brothers. Sisters. Shi-siblings,” Lynda said. “Whups. Didn’t mean to slur.” She wiped her mouth.
“Had a sister,” Ruthie said. “Never got along with her. I think she was in Norway ... Sweden ... one of those Greater Scotland provinces.”
“Aren’t you curious ?” Govinda asked. “I mean, don’t you wonder if she survived?”
“Nope,” the security woman said, brusque despite her alcohol sodden condition. “I can’t afford to wonder, you know? If I did, I think I’d just shut down. Don’t wanna do that.”
For a long moment, things threatened to turn maudlin.
“Well I guess I’m lucky,” Govinda said. “No one left on Earth, not for the past couple of years, since Papa died. Everyone I had was up here.”
Lynda raised her empty glass in Govinda’s direction. “And you found Davitch here, so there you go!”
“But you haven’t answered the question, Lynda.”
Elisabéta had to work on her social skills, Lynda decided. She’d probably need some help. “Why don’t you come with us, ‘Lizabeta?”
“Where to?” But the woman looked interested. She stood up and brought her chair toward the circle.
“I don’t know,” Lynda said. “But somewhere exciting, maybe?”
Elisabéta’s eyes were bright blue now, whatever the Controller’s original eyes had been. They were beautiful — why hadn’t I noticed how lovely Meg’s eyes were, Lynda thought before her thoughts skittered elsewhere — and they were directed somewhere past Lynda’s shoulder. She craned her head, looking vaguely for something; all she saw was the wall behind her. “What’re you looking at?”
“Nothing. Imagining things. But I should be looking at you.”
Elisabéta leaned forward, and the blue eyes were now focused solely, and unnervingly, on her. “The need to go further. Find more. Move.”
Govinda nodded, listening. “Going someplace else, is it?” Then she looked at her glass. “Shit. Empty.”
She lurched from her spot next to the livingroom table. “Not to worry. I’ve got a little something extra.” They all watched her stumble purposefully down the hall.
“I continue to be amazed at that woman,” Ruthie said, surprisingly lucid. “If she brings more of this swill back, I will kiss her. Swear I will.”
“Davitch will kill you,” Lynda said. “Or sulk.”
Ruthie giggled, her head falling back as she did.
“Yeah. They’re sweet together” she said. “You serious about me coming with you?”
Elisabéta cocked her head. “And me?”
Elisabéta nodded. “I will come with you. But you still haven’t said anything about the Captain.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake.” Lynda, annoyed at her persistence, stood up, windmilling her arms slightly to stay upright. “Elisabéta, I haven’t the slightest idea what Jack’s going to do. I don’t know what he wants to do, except get off the station.”
Elisabéta frowned slightly, once more looking over Lynda’s shoulder. “I know at least one thing. He wants to find the Doctor. He is as tied to the Doctor as he ever was, and — I had hoped he would want to accompany you, for a while at the very least.”
Lynda repositioned herself so that her knees were up against the livingroom table. That provided her enough support to keep her standing. “Why would you want him to stick by me?”
Elisabéta shook her head slightly. “Not forever; just awhile. I wanted to learn from him, about where he came from. I needed that time.”
“And the Doctor, you wanted him to tell you about the Doctor,” Lynda waggled a finger in Elisabéta’s general direction. “More fool you. D’you really ever think he’d say anything to any of us — anything substantial — about the Doctor? Or about Rose?” She burped. “Pardon me. Or about why his friends left him for dead here?”
The other woman pressed her lips tightly together. That was real sadness in her eyes, Lynda realized. “I — we — the Controller ... we had not realized there would be companions. We would not have wanted to hurt them, or him, by placing friends in danger, but it could not be helped.”
Lynda’s already precarious balance abruptly deserted her and she fell back into her chair. “I’d like to ask him some questions myself. The Doctor, I mean. He was ... something else. You know, he said he was hundreds of years old. The Daleks called him Time Lord. That can’t be human, can it?”
“You have absolutely no idea,” Elisabéta said, unaccountably smiling.
“That’s all very nice,” Ruthie piped up unexpectedly from where she sat. “But where’s Vinda? Where’s the booze?”
Lynda shook her head to clear it. “I’ll check,” she said, once more hauling herself to her feet. “Want to bet she made it to her room and she’s out for the count?” Ruthie looked disappointed, whether for lack of Govinda or the promised alcohol, Lynda wasn’t certain.
She made her way down the hall and peeked into the room Govinda and Davitch were sharing. Sure enough, the programmer was sprawled out, unladylike but quite comfortable it seemed, snoring softly. Lynda smiled at nothing in particular and headed out to the living room again. “I was right. She’s sleeping, and I don’t think we should wake her.”
Ruthie sighed. “That’s that, then. I’d hoped we could carry on ‘til we boarded ship, but without a new bottle ... I might as well sleep. I figure we’ll have lots more chances to talk on the way to Hidden.” With that, she rose, saluted Lynda and Elisabéta smartly. Then her face changed, turned softer. “Lynda? You were really, really serious about wanting me to come with you?”
“Absolutely. I need people with common sense like you around.”
Ruthie bobbed her head with pleasure. “Right. See you later, then.”
The last two at the party watched her go, then looked at each other.
“I think I shall sleep as well,” Elisabéta said. She stopped for a moment, then resumed. “I have never been away from Station before. I think I’m a bit frightened.”
“I guess, that’s not surprising, Lynda said, feeling nervous herself. “But I think we’re going to be too busy to be frightened out there. Now, you go on to bed. I’ll make sure everyone’s up well before boarding time.”
“You are going to wait up for the Captain.”
She didn’t answer.
“Good night, then.” Lynda’s strange newly-human charge walked out of sight.
Lynda waited until she knew everyone was in their room, then turned out most of the lights in the kitchen, the livingroom and the foyer before returning to the couch.
She closed her eyes, but didn’t sleep even though the alcohol had dulled her senses. Instead, she wondered if she should clean up the apartment; she wondered if she should be down with Rog, Hsieh and Cherrie, shepherding and coaxing the survivors into acceptance of non-human rescue; she wondered when Jack would tell her that he wasn’t coming along.
(“I guess now is as good a time as any.”)
(“Jack. I didn’t hear you come in.”)
(“I’m not there yet. You’re drunk, though, and very easy to ‘hear’ all the way down to the lift.”)
(“I suppose I should be embarrassed.”)
She heard the door click, and opened her eyes. Even the dim light seemed bright enough to halo around Jack’s form.
“Why, for the love of all that’s good and true, would you be embarrassed?” he asked.
“I’m not,” she said. “I am drunk. Come sit beside me, Jack.”
He obeyed, and put an arm around her as they both settled themselves comfortably on the couch. Lynda dropped her head onto his shoulder.
“So,” Jack began, leaning his head against the top of hers. “You figured it out. How?”
“To tell you the truth, I kept hoping I was wrong, but after our talk in the control room, I realized that you weren’t going to give up on finding your Rose, or the Doctor.”
He let out a painful huff of non-laughter. “Not my Rose, not as long as the Doctor’s around.”
“Well, you love them equally, don’t you?” she said, twisting her head awkwardly to look him in the face.
(“Yes.”) Even now, he couldn’t say it aloud to her.
She willed away the dark weight that threatened to drop into her stomach. She’d known he couldn’t say anything about the life he’d had with those two. However much she might want to know all the answers, to everything, she knew she wasn’t going to get them from Jack Harkness. She wondered if he’d ever get them.
“So why not come with us to Hidden? You could plan your search there, and maybe get your hands on a ship to do it.”
He chuckled into her hair. “Sweetheart, if it wasn’t for one thing, I might just do that. Believe it or not, I’m going to miss you people. You guys have been ... all of you ... you turned out to be the kind of team that men in my old line of work drooled about.
“You’re good people,” he said, his voice just the tiniest bit rough.
“And you, sweetheart, kept me honest and made me keep hoping for light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “You have no idea, not even with telepathy in your corner, how much I love you for that.”
“But you still don’t want to come to Hidden with us.” She hadn’t meant for that to come out as flat as it did.
“Actually, I do want to come. Very much. And that’s why I can’t come. I’d stay to help you folks out, and then maybe I’d get interested in making a little dough to take with me on the search, and the dough-making would be interesting enough that I’d stay a little longer, and then I’d stay while Davitch and Govinda got hitched, then a little longer to see if it was a boy or a girl, and then I’d stay to make sure you were doing alright — ”
“And you’d get farther and farther from the two of them, I get it.” She most definitely hadn’t meant that to sound like such a monumental whinge.
He pulled his arm from out behind her, and turned to look her straight in the face. “Are we alright?”
“We are,” she said, then gulped to keep incipient tears back in a suddenly swollen throat. She looked around the Big Brother apartment, knowing each of its corners no matter how the darkness veiled them, suddenly terror stricken at leaving a place that had started out a nightmare and ended up a home. “No, Jack, I’m not alright. I’m going to miss you so much!”
(She saw Rose dancing before her, the sun sparkling on some world’s water, a tall monument behind them. The Doctor walked ahead, his hand reaching back for hers, and her free hand reaching back for him. All’s right in the sight of heaven — )
The pure longing of the vision almost stopped her heart. How could you force him away from that, you big girl’s blouse, if he could possibly find it, she thought.
She cried into his shoulder, and he replaced his arm around her.
“I’m sorry, darlin’, I’m really, really sorry.” His voice was thick with tears, too.
“I wanted you to show me everything out there! And now I’m the one who’s going to be showing it to people. I’m just ... I’m not ... I haven’t the slightest idea what to do, and I’m going to miss you— ”
Her sobs quieted, and she sat up, wiping her nose with her sleeve. “We’ll always be friends, won’t we?”
“Always.” His tears only made his blue eyes sparkle more, even in the meager light.
“So. Are you going to see us off? Are you going to say goodbye to everyone?”
“No. Just you.”
“Will you tell them how much ... will you tell them I’m their friend for me?”
“That’s not fair, and you know it.”
“Yes, I most certainly do.”
She sighed, a final hiccuped sob dying away with her breath. “I’ll do it.”
Jack let out a breathless little laugh. “Alright, then Lynda Moss — hero and sharp-dressed girl — it’s time for you to see me off.”
“This is where I leave. See this?” He pointed to his communicator. Those new buttons were still blinking.
“It’s a transmat generator,” she hazarded.
“See, that’s why I love you,” he said. “You think. It’s not quite a transmat, but it’s going to take me where I — where I hope they’ll be. Think of it as a bargain-basement time machine, without the TARDIS’ amenities.”
“The TARDIS is a time machine?” He could still say things that surprised her.
“Yup. And I think I know where , and when, they might have gone. So I’m going, too.”
Unbidden, they both got up off the couch.
“You’re leaving us with all the paperwork,” she said, a pale grin chasing the sorrow, at least temporarily, from her eyes.
“Paperwork’s the foundation of empire, sweetheart, and I have a feeling that the Fourth Great and Bountiful Empire is about to achieve its finest flowering. You may be part of it. Now c’mere. One for the road?”
She moved into the circle of his arms and hugged him fiercely. “Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
He stepped back, punched those blinking buttons on his wristband, and all of a sudden, with a twist of light and space and the suck and hiss of air rushing to fill a Jack-sized hole, he was gone.
“Lynda? What’s going on out there?”
She heard Govinda’s muzzy voice.
(Somewhere the ghost of who she had been faded into meaningless transparency. Somewhere her parents, arms around each other, waved at her and smiled.)
“I’m fine. We’re all fine. Go to sleep.”
She was ready to go travelling.