Nothing and Nowhere. by usagiko
Chapter 1: Part 1, Chapter 1: "Been Traveling So Light"
Chapter 2: Part 1, Chapter 2: Numb is the New High
Chapter 3: Part 1, Chapter 3: When We're Floating By
Chapter 4: Part 1, Chapter 4: Skirts Under the Table
Chapter 5: Part 1, Chapter 5: Interlude
Chapter 6: Part 1, Chapter 6: It's Late Where You Live
Chapter 7: Part 1 FINAL: Chapter 7: Crowd Surf Off to Sea
Chapter 8: Part 2, Chapter 1: Winter Sleep
Chapter 9: Part 2, Chapter 2: Chevalier, Show Me the Way
Chapter 10: Part 2, Chapter 3: The Greater Good
Author's Notes: Big ups to Ilmari for giving me input early on. Note that Title and chapter titles come from Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton's âNothing and Nowhereâ. Just a little something that's been floating around in my brain. First fic for both the Firefly and Who fandoms.
Warnings: AU...kind of. Takes place after the Season 2 finale of Doctor Who, Season 1 finale of Torchwood, and the BDM/Serenity Movie. Trying to give equal time for each side of the crossover. Earth-That-Was = Alternate Earth from S2 of Who. Just to make that clear.
Pairings: Rose/Doctor (Ninth, Tenth), Rose/Doctor (Ninth)/Jack, Mal/River, Simon/Kaylee, Doctor/Jack (Ninth, Tenth), Jack/Ianto (one-sided), Rose/Jack, Rose/River (platonic)
Also, all reviews are welcome. I hope that I've contributed something worthwhile to all of this.
She hummed a song that no one knew now, a song from Earth-That-Was, as she walked. New Dunsmuir reminded her of Hong Kong and London all smashed together — two places now lost forever to her. She pulled the cloak around her a little tighter — the suns in this 'Verse were stronger than what she was used to, so she wore a cloak and hood to protect her fair skin. Hefted her pack on her back, worked her neck to hear the fluid crack between them.
It was summer here, and she'd just gotten in from Paquin, having taken the sights of the carnivals and circuses there. The weather here was far more pleasant, closer to the ocean. She wandered for her living. She would never have to worry about money — the long, slow death of Torchwood had ensured her all of the funds she'd ever need. After all, she had all the time in the world, as it were. In the 'Verse.
She and Jack held hands, looking up at the ceiling of her quarters. Hearing the Doctor rummage around near the controls down the hall and curse in something the TARDIS wouldn't translate as he dropped something on his foot.
“What do you think it's like to live 900 years? To be immortal?” She asked quietly, wondering if he was still awake.
Jack turned to her and smiled, squeezed her hand, then looked back up at the ceiling. “Based on the Doctor, I would say that it would be tiring.” He got more serious. “That it hurts, it would hurt to lose everything you ever knew and loved and have to live with that in you for centuries or eons afterward.” He'd lost only two years of his life, but who knows what had happened then? He sighed, rubbing his forehead.
Rose nodded, overwhelmed with grief for him and the Doctor at that moment, gripped Jack's hand a little tighter. He just grinned, loud and bright at her and she felt a small smile forming back at him.
“You, Rose Tyler, hopefully won't suffer that fate. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.”
Little mica stars embedded in the ceiling shining down, refracting back from the fairy light of the TARDIS' functioning core and this was home.
She felt the years weigh heavily on her shoulders all of a sudden — as much as her pack — and she felt the need for a drink. Haunted by two pairs of blue eyes, one pair of brown, and the shout of “FANTASTIC!” from the distant past. Ringing in her ears. Shut her eyes, got control of herself. How many times had this happened before?
She found a bar on the nearest corner from the Port, and went in. Ordered something that tasted like Hyper-Vodka (but there wasn't anything like that here in this 'Verse), sat down at an empty table and nursed it. She hadn't had any actual good alcohol in awhile (sorry, but Mudder's Milk wouldn't cut it for her), so it was refreshing.
She had many names (some of which weren't even hers, and wouldn't the Doctor laugh if he heard them calling her what they did?), she was legendary. She took off her cloak, stuffed it in her pack. She heard there this place also functioned as an inn. Maybe she'd stay here for a spell, get some fresh food, fruits. Let her mind drift, listening to a conversation a few tables down, nodding off. And in her sleep, felt her spine stiffen when she heard them.
Still in the bar, still life like. Almost like she was in the TARDIS again with its intensity of dreams.
Huai Lang. Blaidd Drwg.
A voice behind her, soft child-woman's voice.
“You dream too loud.” She said and Rose looked up into River's face. “But we need your help, Blaidd Drwg.”
Rose's arms grew goosepimpled at hearing the Welsh pronunciation of those two words, goddamn words, but she nodded. One thing the Doctor and Jack had taught her — if people ask for help, help them. And this haunted girl standing before her, strong but still not quite right, definitely needed her help. River gave her her hand, and Rose took it, standing up, shouldering her pack and let herself be led along.
It's not like she had anything to lose, anyway.
She opened her eyes and looked at the clock. Only an hour had passed on by.
The words swirled in her ears upon waking. “Awaken from your sleep and help us, Rose Red. Rose White and the Bear wait for you. The Doctor and Jack wouldn't want this grief from you. Arise.”
River's eyes flew open.
“Wei lai bao feng yu.” She gasped as she sat up. This was the fifth day in a row she'd woken up from those dreams, the dreams of a girl traveling, then suddenly being sealed off, trapped, hating, crying, hurting. Hurting. Rose White, Rose Red — who got the bear in the end?
Her head in her hands, trying to control her breathing, sweat streaming down her back, the screams in her ears, the crying endless crying that she heard from the girl in her dream. She was so lost in these memories that weren't hers, and started to wonder if she were going crazy again.
Warm large hand on her shoulder that was freckled from sun exposure.
“Lil' Albatross.” He said kindly, checking to see if she was okay. It had become wordless between them now that she'd taken to sleeping on the bridge with her soft futon and blankets because of Simon and Kaylee not making up their minds on whose bunk to use at night — whenever she had bad or strange dreams, he'd usually be there, getting ready for his own shift or leaving from it. Or maybe he never left at all. She looked up at him, blinked twice. Once seeing that she was okay, he patted her shoulder awkwardly, roughly. “Get to work.” He said with a lopsided smile.
“Yes, Cap'n.” Her voice was faint in this hot summer day. They'd flown in to the beaches of Beaumonde the night before from a job on Whitefall, and things had actually been somewhat pleasant with Patience this time around. Somewhat pleasant meaning Mal didn't get shot, the job got done, and no one got killed or unduly cheated. But as they'd been doing jobs back to back to keep their finances in check, the Serenity crew was frankly exhausted. Mal made the executive decision to grant two days of shore leave here on Beaumonde that could possibly be extended, provided no one fuck up or get into trouble.
River clambered awkwardly, still wearing yesterday's light dress, into the pilot's chair, still half awake and not as graceful as usual. She'd been sleeping deeply and that was rare for her. With the warm summer weather it made her dizzy, a fuzziness at the edge of her senses. She ran all of her usual checks, made sure Serenity was happy in her spot shaded by some trees, and could see the ocean, the End of the World, stretched out in front of them. She could feel Mal's eyes on her, studying her. They'd grown somewhat closer in the past year since that fateful day Wash died, and buried on Haven. River had grown exponentially more lucid, less crazy, less prone to outbursts — much to the relief of the crew. It seemed that purging that awful secret of Miranda and the Pax that the Academy had embedded into her brain had been the real problem, had broken her in the first place. She'd never been whole again, that was for sure, but she could function like a girl now, function properly, though still a bit awkward in her body as if she'd never been in one before.
Long nights spent piloting with Mal or Zoe, but mostly Mal, since he'd been worried about how she could do the job. She didn't require much sleep — only about 2-3 hours at the most and those usually were pretty good quality hours. That's one good thing that had come out of the horrible tortures of the Academy, at least. They'd spent their time in silence, very occasionally talking, and it grew routine, comfortable. But the more comfortable they'd gotten, the more they watched each other like curious cats. Circling. River had made it a point not to poke into his mind (though it would be so easy), but she was curious. Up until the last few days, her dreams had been his dreams, she dreamed the bad dreams of the crew and gave them good ones, but his were the ones she couldn't sort out, and how she was in them, and how she glowed. How she was a girl, not just a functioning prototype, but a real girl he held in his arms and watched her fight and her reality rippling around her like a halo.
And then these dreams now of a different girl, and she'd shut the door from her mind to his, and there was Rose Tyler and the Doctor and Jack Harkness. Waking up, wanting to vomit from a grief that wasn't even her own.
She found it harder and harder to look at him. Not out of anger, but out of skittishness. Because she wanted to be a real girl. Badly. All she wanted was to be seen as such, and now that he was, he buried it in his subconscious and dreams, leaving her to sift through the mess it made in her brainpan. All trembling, awkward, fumbling. Her captain. She stretched, feeling her muscles pull and ache pleasantly, then settled back in her chair, bare childish monkeyish feet on the dash, closing her eyes and breathing in, finally starting to feel her cells wake up with the sun soaking into her skin.
“What's the story?” He asked, swinging around in his chair, studying her. She turned to him. “She's fine, happy”, she said, patting the dash. “She needs to rest now and again. We found a good spot for her. Cool, dry. She likes the Earth as much as she loves the Black.”
She could hear the distant whooping of Kaylee at the sight of the beach outside, Simon's gentle laugh and Jayne's grumbling about her cheerfulness so early in the morning, though it was well after noon. Zoe was quiet — probably still asleep. River could feel her dreams pressing against her temples. She was dreaming of Wash again. Always Wash. Or Serenity Valley. Hera. War.
In the end, that's what it came down to: Love and War.
Mal had his own wry little smile, standing up, looking out at the waves. “That so?” He patted the dash as well.
“She feels whole, wants to burst from joy.” At that point she hadn't made clear who she was talking about — herself or Serenity — when feeling him watching her again. She spoke again hastily, “To have her crew in her happy. Makes her want to laugh. Joy.”
“It's been awhile. Long hard year.” He put his hands in his pockets, going on tiptoe and back on his heels for a bit, trying to get the blood moving. “For all of us.” He murmured. “Time we had ourselves a little break.”
Around the kitchen table with fake coffee they talked of their timetable for the next few days. Kaylee was to find gas for Serenity; Mal handed her coins and she dutifully nodded. Simon was to find medical supplies if possible (too much friendly fire on Jiangyin) — if anything went awry or he encountered Alliance, he was to run. He also nodded, took Kaylee's hand, and those two left. Inara mentioned in passing that she had some clients and that she would be back the next day, draining her tea hastily to go get ready.
He, River, Jayne, and Zoe remained. Seeing the look on his face, Zoe sat back, arms crossed against her chest. “I knew there was another reason we stopped here, sir.” She said dryly.
“We have contacts.” He said, sitting back himself, taking another sip of coffee. He grimaced at the taste — they'd definitely have to get some fresh, or some real next time around in the marketplace.
“Aw, Mal”, Jayne looked pissed. “I thought we was here to relax.”
“Oh, we are. But we work before we play.”
Jayne mumbled something about how hard they'd been working lately into his coffee, returned to polishing his guns. “So why is she here?” He asked crankily, gesturing to River, who was poking her teabag in the empty cup with a sharp nail.
Zoe sighed, long suffering. “You know she's proven herself on jobs, Jayne. Girl can fight better than any of us.”
At the same time, Mal said, “'Sides, she's been saying very interesting things in her sleep lately.” Mal peered at her curiously.
River looked at him, chewing on her lip. “Not polite to hear people's sleep talk.” She said, holding his stare for a beat too long. Then realized what he was saying.
“What she says when she sleeps...when she wakes up..” Her eyes widened, remembering, “Wei lai bao feng yu.”
Zoe stiffened. “The Coming Storm?”
Jayne scratched his head with his unloaded pistol. “Why does that sound familiar?” He asked aloud, “Coming Storm...”
Mal smiled, slightly grimly. “We're on a hunt for the Bad Wolf.”
Zoe looked at him. After a beat. “Sir, I think you have a problem with your brain missing.”
Mal got up, took his cup to the coffee maker to get more. “And why would that be?”
“Everyone knows that Huai Lang isn't...I mean, she's just a legend, isn't she?”
“Why would we want her anyway?” Jayne asked, still confused. “Why are we trusting her dreams anyway?” Though he and River had made an uneasy peace, he still distrusted her sometimes. Make that a lot of the time, especially when it came to their jobs.
“Because they have come true more times than you can count on your fingers and toes whenever we have jobs.” Mal and Zoe said, their voices clashing against each other. “Saved us quite a few times over.”
River just stared at the table.
“You've been dreaming about the Huai Lang, Lil' One.” He said, not a question but a statement. She nodded. “What did you see?”
“Christ, this again.” Jayne grumbled and Mal told him to shut it.
River closed her eyes, her words came out with her breath in a rush. “She cannot die. She has been all over the 'Verse. She isn't from this 'Verse but another. She is the last survivor of the Earth-That-Was. She is empty inside. She looked into the heart of a living machine and saw everything. The Bad Wolf is still just a girl. She never grew up. Lost everything. Scatters her name across the stars, like breadcrumbs. Lost in the woods, can't go home. Her name will lead her home, she believes, one day. No home left, burned to the ground with Rose White inside. Rose Red wanting to meet the Bear again. Rose Red, Rose White, not complete without each other.” After a pause, now not making herself quite clear on who she was talking about. “She wakes up, wants to vomit she's so sad. 500 years of loneliness, no more home. Not anywhere anymore. Nothing and nowhere.”
Used to following her tangled thread of descriptives, it still took them a moment to unravel it into coherence — though it was way better than it had been before. “And you've dreamed all of this?” Zoe asked gently, but firmly after she'd finished.
She nodded. “She was with someone named the Doctor. But not anymore. The 'Verse closed up and swallowed him whole so that she could live and the Earth-That-Was died anyway. That's why she's dead inside.”
“Who the hell is this gorram Bad Wolf anyway?” Jayne growled, slamming his pistol on the table. “If she's just a legend, why are we wasting time chasing her down?”
“You will take a civil tongue at this table.” Mal said mildly but with a glare. “The Bad Wolf...it sounds like the legends all line up, then.” Now more to himself, musingly, as he paced around the table and back. “We heard about her in the war, that she was helping our side of things. That she used to work for something called Torchwood, and even they couldn't help what happened to Earth-That-Was. That she knows things that even most Alliance historians don't, even about the Doctor.”
“So she failed at everything. Who cares? Why do we need her?”
Zoe watched her Captain, then caught on to his train of thought. “We need more information.” She said, having it dawn on her. “The Alliance's weak points, its actual history, what really happened to Earth-That-Was, the Academy . It's all connected.”
“But that's the past. How does that earn me money?”
“The past never stopped happening”, River said softly, wringing out her tea bag around her spoon. “Still going on. Time keeps flowing on but not for her. Heart frozen beats on.”
Mal nodded. “As long as she's intact in the brainpan, that's fine. I think the Bad Wolf can help. Maybe about this Academy thing, maybe about everything in this 'Verse. She can help us keep flying.”
“And if she ain't?”
“Then we take our sweet time here and relax. Either way, we don't have much to lose here.”
“Talk about puttin' all your eggs in one basket.”
Zoe nodded at the Captain. “Know your enemy”, she smiled, “Like the first day of trainin' all over again. But where do we find her?”
Mal looked at River.
“She's here on Beaumonde. New Dunsmuir.” After a beat, stirring around the teabag in the empty cup as the others stared agog (they never did get used to that Readin' of hers) while she shrugged. “She dreams too loud.”
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Author's Notes: Thanks for your reviews from the opening chapter. A bit shorter than the last one, I hope you enjoy this one just as much.
Warnings for this chapter: Rose/Doctor/Jack implied, Rose/Jack implied, Jack/Doctor implied, Jack/Ianto implied. Also, language.
“Gone? What the fuck do you mean she's gone?”
Jack twisted in his unneeded sleep and dreams — the first time he'd fallen asleep in a very, very long time.
“I lost her. When...” The Doctor's voice almost broke, and he cast a glance at his new companion, and instead led Jack into a side room that the TARDIS had just conveniently provided for them. He sat down on a stool in the room, took off his thick black glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Doctor.” Jack folded his arms tightly against his chest. The Doctor looked up at him, studying him.
“The fight at Canary Wharf. She resisted me sending her back to Parallel Earth and helped me draw all of the Cybermen and Daleks into the Void. But then she fell..and Pete Tyler from that other Earth appeared with his little yellow transport button, snatched her the moment she was about to touch the Void and took her back to Parallel Earth. So she's still there, safe and sound. But she can't come back here. No more cracks in the Universe to let her through. I closed them all. I had to.”
“You can't ask me to do that Jack, not even for Rose. That would mean tearing the entire Universe apart in the process.” The Doctor's voice was flat, resigned, as if he'd debated this with himself many times before. Many times. He looked up to see Jack glaring at him with a hate he'd never seen before in his eyes.
“It's Rose. You said once you'd do anything for her.” His voice came out in a quiet growl, and shoved him up against the wall. “You said you loved her.” And me. But that last part was unspoken, though it hung in the air between them almost palpably.
“I do!” He shouted back now, his calm coming to pieces. “You don't think I remember how it used to be, all three of us? How it was like spring again? Like I could actually feel something in me? You think I don't know that?” He hissed, his eyes tearing up.
“You certainly have forgotten her quick with that new companion of yours.” Jack said so softly, almost inaudibly, his eyes so angry.
The Doctor flinched. “She was in trouble, and I couldn't not take her in.”
Jack was silent and now just stared at him, having backed off.
“You just don't want to be alone.”
“No. No I don't.” He hissed back, slamming the wall next to him. “And neither do you. Obviously, with that Ianto fellow...”
“Is the Doctor jealous?” Jack parried instead, purring softly with a smile. The Doctor flashed on that smile in his mind, remembering when it was full of promises and delight and luscious exhaustion. Not this different, angry version. “You made me love you, the two of you. It wasn't just sex. It was love. And you know that.”
“You've changed, Jack.” He said wearily, sitting back down. “At least you've figured out the difference though, between sex and love.”
“You people left me for dead.”
“We didn't know”, he said softly, eyes watery. “I had no idea what Rose did after she took the heart of the TARDIS into herself. Had I known, I would have stopped her. But I was failing in that other body, my regeneration didn't even go right. I can't forgive myself for that. I can't forgive myself for letting Rose help me that day, but it was her choice. And it was your choice.”
Jack sat down himself, his head in his hands. For all of his new emotional armor, shellacked with bitterness and hate and how much he needed them, strengthened by his immortality and Rose's gift to him (or was it the TARDIS?), the love from his Torchwood team. Gwen's innocence, Tosh's shy heart, Owen's anger, Ianto's confusion. All of them, in him. And Rose. Always Rose. For all of this new armor, it certainly wasn't doing him any good with the person he most wanted to fight with and blame.
The two words he'd most wanted to hear since the Doctor came back.
He woke up with a jolt, and saw that he had only been asleep for half an hour. Realizing his cheeks were wet, he wiped them away.
“I can't even hate you.” He whispered to himself aloud, lying back and staring at the little mica stars in the ceiling. “After all of this, I can't even hate you for all that you've done.”
He looked at the hand floating in its tube, and even then it seemed to be waving goodbye.
“So why don't I get to go again?” Jayne asked angrily, waving an empty Vera around in the air above his head. “Is Miss Crazy here replacin' me?”
River just looked at him, trying not to laugh. He was acting like a child about all of this. Instead she trained her gaze on her own gun as she locked and loaded, and put it in her holster inside of her boot.
“I don't have time for this, Zoe's already with Badger at the drop spot”, Mal waved him off, then looked at River, “You ready, Lil' Albatross?”
She nodded. She was at his side, his deadly little albatross hanging around his neck, and it made her happy to think she was of some use to him, to Serenity.
Kaylee was coming in from the beach outside, wringing out her hair on the sand as they were leaving. “Bye now!” She said enthusiastically, with a wave, “Have fun! Don't let the Big Bad Wolf get you!” She giggled at her own joke.
Mal just shook his head while River gave her a tiny smile. When they got to the pub and hotel that Rose was staying at, Zoe was already there with Badger, sipping weak cocktails for the sake of the argument as not to arouse suspicion.
“Sir.” Zoe nodded to him and River. Badger turned round, gave them both a big smile. Ever since that real estate deal they made last year things had been far more smooth with Badger and his lot, though they were still adequately wary of each other.
“Malcolm!” He said grandly, clapping him on the shoulder. He looked surprised when he saw River. “What? No Jayne?” He laughed, “I bet he's bitter on account of River here taking his place.”
Mal allowed a tight smile. “Ain't no one gettin' replaced here, Badger. We just didn't want to spook Huai Lang off, 's all.” He patted River's shoulder, “Girls have a use for that.”
“Instead of big men with big guns.” Zoe added, taking a sip of her drink.
As the two talked, Zoe leaned into River. “Anything?”
She looked at her and then back out the crowd. She knew in times like this she was allowed to use her Reading abilities (when other times it was rude, though she didn't quite understand that distinction she didn't argue). It had saved their lives quite a few times over. She scanned over the noise. “Badger isn't lying about this”, she said back quietly, but loud enough to be heard by Zoe only. “She is here.”
River was quiet again as she shut her eyes, feeling around. She came up against a big blank wall. She opened her eyes wide. “Something is here. Big blank white wall.”
Zoe nodded. “That would match up with reports. She has a psychic wall up. Torchwood was given psychic defense training, so it would seem.”
River nodded. “It feels like nothing else here.” She motioned with her hands, trying to describe what she was feeling. “Not similar. Different, old. Yes, old. Very old.”
Zoe turned to Mal. That was the signal.
“So, Badger, where might our fine guest be?”
“Up in her room. Shall we go see her?”
Rose sat on her bed. She'd known Badger for a very long time, since he was a boy on Dyton. She'd spent time there, so homesick for London on Earth-That-Was, tried to help the people there. So she trusted him — even though he was a thief and a cheat, she knew his heart, and she knew he wouldn't betray her.
A soft knock at her door, jerked her out of her thoughts. She reached for her gun, just in case, but heard Badger from the other side. “Come in.” She said, withdrawing her hand but still wary.
And eyes wide when she saw the girl from her dreams enter the room along with another man and woman. This girl who had asked for her help. Rose White and the Bear. The girl gave her a small smile at the recognition.
“We meet again, Rose Red.” River said softly as Badger excited the room, mollified by a bag of coins for his trouble.
And Rose Tyler mirrored River's smile back to her. “Likewise, Lil' Albatross.”
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Author's Notes: Thanks for your reviews so far!
In this chapter: Torchwood fallout and River comprehends but doesn't understand the TARDIS key.
Note that there are spoilers/refrences for the novel with Jack/Nine/Rose, "The Stealers of Dreams" and "The Feast of the Drowned" with Rose/Ten.
It wasn't any time for talking about one's feelings in any respect. They were all being worked to the bone to keep things under control.
But even so, he looked tired. Could an immortal who can't sleep and can't die look tired? If so, Jack was it. Faintly blue under the eyes, he still worked with an unceasing fury that alarmed everyone. Tosh joked weakly that it was because of Owen's coup of opening the Rift that now Jack was reasserting himself as the Alpha Male of Torchwood, but everyone had been silent. It rang true, but something else was wrong.
As wrong as that hand he kept in that damned jar in his office/room.
But Gwen couldn't really stand it anymore. She could feel the tension creeping up under her skin, and even at home with Rhys it was like a physical strain on her shoulders. Something was wrong, very wrong, and had been ever since Jack came back. But Jack was still unapproachable, and she couldn't find an angle in. Not yet. So she long-sufferingly sighed, did work as she was told. There would be an opening for her to figure things out, to make things right — and it would reveal itself when it was ready. For all the times he had helped her, she felt useless now. She couldn't even hold his hand.
Until then, she'd just have to be a good soldier and suck it up.
They hung over the railing.
“That's the Bad Wolf?” Jayne grumbled, but with interest, as Rose walked with Zoe, River, and Mal up the ramp into Serenity. “She don't look so big. Or bad.”
“I dunno”, Kaylee said, her chin in her palm, “She seems kinda cute. Littler than I thought she'd be.”
“I wouldn't be so sure of that, Kaylee”, Inara said gently as she passed by, finally back from her obligations of the day. “I've heard she's done some amazing things with that little body of hers.”
“She a whore?” This possibility perked Jayne's interest.
Inara rolled her eyes. “No. I meant that even though she's little, she's fought some great battles.”
Jayne frowned, suddenly losing interest.
“Always about the whores with you, ain't it?” Kaylee chided cheerfully, and Inara just shook her head in disgust but watched the scene down there unfold along with them.
“Hey!” Mal shouted up to them, “Get down here and introduce yourselves. We got ourselves a new passenger.”
Rose looked up at them with interest.
“We usually don't have to do that.” Jayne grumbled as they walked down the stairs.
“Oh, you're just cranky 'cause she ain't a whore.” Kaylee smiled, but in a softer tone.
“Stop it, you two.” Inara shot them a warning glance.
Once they were down there in the cargo bay, Mal looked around. “Where's our good doctor?”
River noticed how Rose stiffened just a little at the mention of that word. Not that anyone else could tell, except maybe Inara, who could read body language like books.
“Said somethin' about cleanin' his instruments”, Kaylee supplied, “he found some good stuff in town. Real cheap too. He'd come down but he's usin' that autoclave again.” She'd been aching to poke around in it, but Simon hadn't let her. She still pouted about it, months later.
Mal nodded, satisfied, then introduced everyone but fumbled at her name.
The Bad Wolf just smiled, casting her eyes down, faint look of grief there on her face. She hadn't revealed her real name to more than a handful of people in the last few hundred years. But it was time. “Rose. My name is Rose Tyler.”
To celebrate the new passenger (and their mini vacation), they decided to camp out on the beach, moving Serenity a little closer from her hiding spot in case they needed to make a quick get away. They'd still be sleeping in their quarters, but dinner was to be outside. Even Inara stuck around to help, as she was absolutely delighted to see that Rose had made the party stop on the way back to the market where they'd stocked up on fresh foods, enough for months in the Black, all on her dime.
At first Mal had declined her offer, but she'd had this sad look on her face, saying money was never an issue for her, rather, it was all she had left. So she gave generously, though Mal still had misgivings taking her money (he was a criminal, but he also had standards), let her have a place on the ship and let her help out with things along with their deal previously struck courtesy of Badger.
So while everyone started preparing and storing their purchases from town, Rose settled in her room, previously Book's quarters. After River blandly telling her what had happened to him, Rose had just nodded. River had loved him too, he had been apart of this family on the good ship Serenity, after all. Even with his scary hair. Even though it had been over a year since that had happened, Rose could still see the fragility of River's shoulders, her sadness when she spoke of him, and of Wash. Rose herself was no Reader, though she'd had basic psychic defense training at Torchwood — but she could tell grief when she saw it, even in a person as tightly shut as Zoe.
River hung around as Rose unpacked her few things. The most important things she had with her were the vestiges taken from Earth-That-Was, and Alternate Earth. The rest was clothing, her documents, a few transmats just in case. Pictures of Jackie, Pete, Mickey, her baby brother, Jake, various members of Torchwood on Earth-That-Was. Other, stranger pictures — some that moved like proper snaps, some that didn't all in a sturdy, strangely designed metal box. She looked at these things from her spot in the chair opposite of Rose as she put her things into the closet, into the small armoir next to it, but didn't move to ask or touch anything. Rose didn't mind River there and let her body language say as much.
Sunlight poured in from the window that ordinarily would be showing the Black had they been in space, and River caught a glint of silver that dipped out from Rose's shirt as she was going back and forth and placing her clothes in the armoir. Silver on a chain yet gold at the same time. Colors she couldn't name, that no one had ever seen before.
The TARDIS key.
It made her head hurt suddenly. The key was ALIVE, and very very VERY old. Incalculably so. It was whispering softly, faintly, in a language River didn't know. Singing. Crying. She saw flashes, quick brief blinks of memories from it, as if it had its own consciousness (and it did).
A civilization long dead, a man that was its sole survivor.
Jack and Rose running for their lives after that brush with the Stealers of Dreams and Fiction, lies and truth, thick through the jungle, each clasping their own keys in their linked hands.
The Doctor and Rose laughing about Queen Victoria's banishment of Sir Knight of TARDIS and werewolves.
Metal monsters being sucked into a huge black void.
Rose watching Pete die in the other London.
Creatures of water taking ghosts and human form, sirens dragging down their loved ones for the Feast.
Abbadon, the Beast.
i am the past present future i am time i am nothingness i am everything oh god what am i quiet me too much screaming i remember everything I SEE ALL
She closed her eyes and covered her ears with a soft whimper. Didn't Rose hear it? Wasn't it driving her mad? The sadness, the pure, endless, crystalline grief that this object, this thing that shouldn't have been conscious at all as a thing, was singing about? Was it soaking up Rose's grief too? Was it Reading everyone like River could?
litany and holy books of planets places people erased forgotten exterminated the alliance the daleks the cybermen torchwood jack doctor justicia london shadow serenity valley gallifrey mum dad mickey jake keisha entire worlds dead miranda pax jay oh god oh god oh god please make me a stone
She felt the light from outside fade from the room, suddenly, violently, almost making her ill with it, and she opened her eyes, wondering if it were an attack (and she hadn't really had any of those for over a year, since Miranda). But Rose stood there, but she was all Wrong.
Rose's eyes were solid gold, and a solar nimbus seemed to emanate from her body. Time slowed down and River could hear her heartbeat loud within the air, and then a smaller one (her own? the Key's?). Hair flowing gently in the air. She shone with powdered gold skin . Midas' daughter, perfect and gilded like He was. And the key on that fine chain also glowed, almost as brightly as her eyes.
i am the void i give birth to all oh god doctor jack anyone please don't leave me alone in this world no more death please let me out it's cold in here and dark
Like she'd become a sun, shining supernova. She was Light itself. Absence of color, absence of life. Empty and full and everything.
That feeling of Forever, rolling deliciously and deliriously into River, making her want to vomit in horror, delight, shame, sadness.
“Down the Rabbit Hole, Rose Red.” River murmured dizzily, feeling a little more than afraid. "Halo in the Dark, Keys that Talk, you're in Alice Time now."
Rose's tears were silvery-gold tinted, too. The key shimmered on her breast
“Oh God, make me a stone”, she whispered aloud, still crying soundlessly, and reached out to cup River's cheek in her glowing hand.
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Author's Notes: Rose shook her head. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." She directed her speech at River, then looked at Mal. She shook a little, getting up. "But now I think you need to know everything."
"WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO TO HER?" Mal bellowed, and River winced as she floated in the Black, why did her Captain have to be so incredibly noisy? It was nice here. Quiet. The thoughts didn't reach her so easily here.
Rose looked up at him, then back into the small puddle of blood she'd just coughed up. Simon stared, wide-eyed, and Jayne kept a tenuous grip on Vera. They'd come running at the sound of River's shrieks. She coughed again, splat, more blood. Her throat burned with bile.
"She'll be fine", she said between heaves, Simon's eyes fastened on the blood coming from her. Mal's gun pointed between her eyes. "She Read too much. It overwhelmed her. Give her a spell, she'll be fine."
Kaylee held onto River, murmuring softly, rocking her. River wanted to tell her to leave her be, she was fine, just tired in the brainpan.
Mal's gun didn't waver. "Care to tell me why my pilot is lyin' there on the floor, then, not movin'? Reading? Just what in the lao tse are you, Huai Lang?" He spat the words rapid fire, shaken to the core.
She coughed again, and looked up into his eyes, wiped the blood from her mouth. The TARDIS key slipped out of her shirt again, shining its odd shine, and Mal squinted in its glare. Her bloody hand held it out to him.
"She just saw over 500 years of thoughts. I don't know why but she was affected by the Key. It brought everything out." Her eyes glowed gold for a second and Mal hoped it was a trick of the light against the Key. "She got shorted out, yeah? Like an engine coil."
"She's a witch." Jayne muttered, training Vera on her. "A gorram witch."
"She's a human being." Mal growled, pressing the barrel of his gun into the soft skin between her eyes. Rose didn't blink.
"The Academy didn't think so", Rose said, thick grief in her voice. "It's my fault she's that way. It's my fault, all of this." She shut her eyes and spouted up more blood, body shuddering with effort. Mal's cheekbones tensed up angrily, pushing his gun more into that soft flesh, cutting her.
Simon pushed his way between Mal and Rose. "Even if she hurt River, she's gonna die too. She's lost a lot of blood." He said, trying to look stern but terrified out of his wits. Rose gently pushed him away.
"Not, actually. Not going to die. Can't." She took a deep breath in and blinked as if she were in a great deal of pain. Her eyes opened again and kept a solid wild gold glow, pulsing as the blood on the floor started to evaporate. Simon just stared, wide-eyed, as the cut on her forehead from Mal's gun and the bruise beneath it started to heal too. Within moments, it was as if nothing had happened. River was pulled out of her peaceful Black and she looked up, her eyes gold too.
"Jesus Christ." Jayne whispered, hands shaking, Kaylee letting out a sharp shriek as River sat up, hand to her head as if she were dizzy. But she wasn't looking at any of them, only Rose.
"Rose Red, so much loss", she whispered, both sets of eyes pulsing with the gold of the Vortex within Rose, fading from River easily. "Rose Red lost her bear and her Rose White in one shot. Lost it to the metal men and the things with blue eyes. To the Alliance, to everyone."
Mal held his temples wearily. "Okay, now would NOT be a good time for this..." He was starting at River but she stood up shakily, almost collapsing again. She looked at him, the last pulse of gold going in that instant.
"Mei-mei, don't..."Kaylee and Simon both said, but River ignored them.
"She's not dangerous. She's just sad. Like everyone. Lost so much." River's expression was curious but sad. "She saw the birth of the Reavers. She's why the Academy was made. She is Information." Mal looked at Rose sideways, still training his gun on her. Gritting his teeth in not-quite-disbelief.
Rose shook her head. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." She directed her speech at River, then looked at Mal. She shook a little, getting up. "But now I think you need to know everything." The TARDIS key glinted knowingly as Mal nodded, not quite letting up.
The blood was entirely gone, not even marks left on Serenity's floor. Rose sat on the bed, gestured that everyone else should too. Mal just stood uneasily there with his gun at his side, everyone else leaking in just as curiously, as wearily.
"Everything you see now, the Reavers, the Alliance. All of it was put in motion about 450 years ago. Something had fallen to Earth-That-Was when I was in Torchwood, something that wasn't human. My birthday had passed, and everyone knew something was wrong with me - I stopped aging after I turned 20..."
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Author's Notes: An interlude. Rose is confined to her room while River recalls the end of Earth-That-Was - and the source of Reavers.
Mal was looking down at River, worry not so disguised as it usually would be. He ran his thumb over her small knuckles; she looked almost translucent as she slept fitfully, her expression peaceful.
Rose looked out her window passively, Jayne sitting there with Vera uneasily in his lap, watching that the gorram witch (he'd sinceforth titled her in his mind) to make sure she didn't do any further damage. But so far she'd been quiet, just looking out the window, and spoiling his fun.
"Can we at least get a better picture of what the hell happened in there?" Mal asked, trying but failing to be patient with all of this. What had he gotten himself into with the Bad Wolf?
Simon went back behind the scope with gloves gently pinching the shimmering substance there in the dish. "From best I can tell, Rose was telling the truth. River just kind of took too much at once. This stuff I got off of her doesn't seem to be energy draining or anything - it's the opposite. It seems to be some kind of left-over radiation..."
Mal jerked his head up. "Open-core? Contained?" He sounded calm but a tremor ran through his voice. The last thing they needed was a Reaver mole.
Simon shook his head, then moved his naked hand to the keyboard, zoomed in closer. "No, it doesn't seem to be anything like we've encountered before; Alliance, freelance, or Reaver. Nothing normally used at least. I'm running it through everything we have right now. It may take hours to page through all the data we have. Days. I'm not really sure."
Mal shifted impatiently. River stirred in her sleep, rolling on her side, murmuring something inaudible in Chinese. Bit his tongue for once.
"Anyway, it seems like a radiation you can only get through living a long time, or going to multiple galaxies in a really short amount of time. It's like..." he searched for the words, motioning with his free hand, "all of the atmo of planets you've traveled to sticking to you. Or something."
"Isn't that how everything is these days?" Mal asked, not really understanding.
"When I mean a really short amount of time", Simon looked up at him significantly, "I don't mean hours or days. I mean seconds, or shorter. And not just one way, either. Round-trip, multiple times. In milliseconds."
Mal stared. "What the hell could...?"
Simon went back to the scope. "I don't know. But I think now we can believe the legends and stories now." He looked back up at Mal. "What are you going to do about Rose?"
Mal looked down at River. "When she wakes up, then we'll deal with Rose." His rough thumbs running again against River's knuckles.
Simon hid his smile behind the scope.
River, usually almost always awake (the Academy had reprogrammed her brain into needing maybe four hours of sleep at most a night now, and she'd had several times that in the last few days), now stared up at the ceiling of her quarters. Mal dozing in a chair when she opened her eyes head full of cotton and dim memories that weren't hers and she sat up feeling heavy like lead, at her noise his cerulean eyes snapping open
"Hey, bao bei",
his voice delightfully cracking, rough from shallow sleep and his hand holding hers feeling her heart swell too much too happy the way he looked at her
Sat up. Shook out her head.
"Hi." She said faintly, and then daintily coughing up various fluids into the bedpan at her elbow. Scrambled for a towel, wiped her mouth, then fell back on the pillow and shifted her eyes to look at him.
Mal cleared his throat awkwardly, and looked away.
"So you're okay then?" He asked, fumbling for words. He had gotten used to her looking at him for long periods of time without talking - why was this moment any different?
She just blinked, turned her eyes to the ceiling. "Okay. Just saw too much."
Her eyes watered involentarily thinking about what she'd seen. The man called the Doctor and his various forms. The metal men, the things with blue eyes. The thing that fell to Earth-That-Was, carrying something horrible. Watching Nuclear Fallout snowing from above. She had been in Rose's body for those brief moments for those memories. She looked away in shame. Not wanting him to see her still defective-like. She was too broken. And she usually didn't indulge in self-pity, but at the moment, she was feeling too overwhelmed not to care.
Her voice tremulous. "Do you know why they made the Core?" She asked, trying to hide the tremor. Mal sighed. Slightly back on stable ground here,
letting things hang in the air
"What they found there", she said, "What we found on Miranda. What we saw. What Rose saw." She looked back at him. "Why did they have to completely reformat, redo, reterraform and then make new Core planets?"
Mal trying to track onto her train of thought. Been successful before, trying to again. He let things hang again, a long pause
her fingers still glittered with the gold powder
(radiation dust? time travel? science fiction.) his brain figured, (ain't nothin' in the 'verse that can actually validate that)
"So quiet. It was so quiet." She started to cry, "All of those people were dead and not saying a thing and their silence, oh god, the silence..." She sat up, crying,
and there was Rose, staring up into the nuclear winter through the thick window of this alternate Torchwood-2 - Nevada, holding onto Mickey's hand, seeing bodies piling up, the utter silence around them deafening so quiet, from space all there was on earth that wasn't blown up was the US and China
Calling for the Doctor, oh god, why did things have to turn out like this?
and heaved again into the bedpan. Mal put a hand on her back, thinking how frail those shoulders looked but how much that was a lie.
"The Reavers." He muttered aloud, thinking. He looked at River's shuddering spine. "You're saying that's what you saw. That's what created the Core. Whatever Rose saw. Whatever happened to Earth-That-Was. They tried to cover it up like they did with Miranda. Or flip it, that's what happened in the first place."
He felt himself getting angry. How many times would they keep repeating their mistakes? And all of this, these secrets, wound into the brain of a human girl.
"We need to talk to Rose", was all she kept saying over and over again, "have to make the silence stop. Make them come alive again", she shuddered, her sinuses throbbing, voice thick, then looked up at him desperately, "Mal, please, make them stop, make them talk again!"
And how he'd just put his hand on her trembling shoulders and nodded once, gone off. And how he'd looked at her - not like before, like something defective, but something precious - how he'd looked at the graves of Wash and Book.
She raised her arm into the light of the medbay, looking at her shimmering palm.
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Author's Notes: An agreement is formed and possibilities opened. The Doctor thought he'd closed all of the cracks between both universes after that day at Canary Wharf - but did he really?
"I guess you could say I was born on Earth-That-Wasn't - I wasn't born in this 'verse", she began, looking at them. "I was born in London in 1987. I led a normal life up until I met the Doctor. He helped to save me from..." She paused, trying to find the words that wouldn't make her seem totally outlandish, but failed. "Well, it was a bad situation. So I started to travel. He had a time machine, of sorts."
Jayne snorted into his coffee and Mal shot a look at him.
"The TARDIS. Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. We traveled from the beginning of humankind to when the sun literally exploded and it was the end of the 'verse." She smiled, her eyes millions of miles away. "The year five billion..."
She was quiet like that for a spell, then started again.
"Anyway, that's how we met Jack Harkness, and lost him again in a fight with the Daleks." "The things with the blue eyes", River murmured, eyes slightly glazed. Rose nodded.
"That was when the Doctor changed. He said it was a way for him to cheat death; that the Time Lords never really died but transformed into the different-looking people. I wasted so much time in disbelief with it. And Mickey was pretty shocked too - I broke up with Mickey for the Doctor. I'm not sure if he really ever forgave me for that, but still. After that, the Doctor told me that Jack was still alive, just in a different time. Jack was a fugitive Time Agent, so he was used to traveling back and forth." Her lips trembled briefly, then looked resolved, "And that's how things were, the Doctor and I. We saved each other in various situations hundreds of times over until the day when we accidentally crossed over into this 'Verse."
She looked each of them in the eye. "Believe me when I say that it was quite impossible for that to happen. Usually there had to be a crack in between. And from what I heard, that was rare. Not supposed to happen. So I crossed over into this 'Verse. It was the year 2007. We ended up getting mixed up in an ugly business - the Cybermen and the Daleks fighting. The metal men, the things with the blue eyes", she nodded toward River. "Before crossing over, I never existed here. Mickey did, my mother did, my father did - though in the 'Verse I was born in, he died when I was a baby. All of you probably exist in that 'Verse too. It was bizarre to say the least."
Zoe watched, looking for signs that she might be lying, and found none. None bodily, at least. She untensed a little. Even if it were really unbelievable.
"Torchwood had started all of this - discovering these things as an organization started by Queen Victoria to guard Earth-That-Wasn't from alien life and then trying to mess with them for the 'greater good'...and to think I actually joined them afterward." She snorted and shook her head sadly. "But in order to save Earth-That-Wasn't from Torchwood's huge mistake, the Doctor had to open this...black hole of sorts, in order to trap everything bad in there. I stayed behind to help, and lost my grip on the machine in Torchwood-1 that was opening the hole between that 'Verse and this one. Until my father appeared, tearing another hole in both 'Verses with his own travel, saved me, and closed the hole again. And so I was stuck here."
Her eyes looked dead when she spoke next. "It was at Bad Wolf Bay, December 2007, when I saw the Doctor for the last time. He wasn't really there, you see - it was a hologram. I think the TARDIS helped generate it between the original ship and my key. He said he had to close all of the holes left behind in both 'Verses or bad things would happen again. And that I could never go home again." Her eyes watered. "We were starting to rebuild here in this 'Verse. And that if I crossed over again it would destroy everything. So I stayed here and joined Torchwood, hoping I'd see the Doctor again."
She was quiet for a long pause, which Jayne used to get more coffee. Inara studied her. "You loved him, didn't you?" She asked, almost inaudiably. Rose looked up at her and laughed, but it was mirthless.
"I do still." She wiped her eyes and laughed again. "No matter how many times I think about what happened, I get all teary." Jayne raised an eyebrow, stirring his mug as he sat back down.
"And then things were quiet for about fifty years. Years had passed and I hadn't aged at all. I remember the Doctor had said that because of the TARDIS, because I had looked into its heart, that the radation stayed in me. I figured I was still young because of it, and through multiple accidents, figured out that I couldn't die. I climbed pretty high in Torchwood, and that was due to experience from all of the traveling I did. And then finally, in 2058, something fell to this Earth-That-Was. We didn't know it was the end at that point."
"A meteor, right?" Simon interrupted, and she nodded. Everyone knew how Earth-That-Was had ended besides the overpopulation problem.
"It actually fell in Africa. Things there were always awful; human life was born there, but also the most virulent diseases. It was a meteor, no doubt, but what the Alliance chose to write down was only half of the story. There was bacteria on it. The guy who was studying it, the med guy, was relatively new - he hadn't even been in Torchwood for five years yet. But since there was no one else for the job, you could say it was his fault that all of this happened. He mishandled the samples where they were being kept in Torchwood-5, in India. What today you call Reavers were born out of it."
She let that information sink in.
"There were wars after that. Horrible ones, first getting the diseased population back under control, and then between countries on whose fault it was. And then how it could be harnessed for the greater good." She sighed, a crease sharp between her eyes. "Finally, it was nuclear war, not just the meteor, that ended Earth-That-Was. That's what they don't tell you. At that point I'd been working with Torchwood-2 in Nevada on loan. The US and China were the only countries that survived the attacks. And the Alliance was born."
She paused again, taking a sip of water. "Or maybe the Alliance was around before then, I'm not really sure. Someone there got ahold of the samples from the meteor, because they'd gone missing from the archives in the fray. Terraforming had already begun on the moon, now called Sihnon, around the time I'd first gotten stuck here. We were transported there while the bodies piled up. During the transport process, Mickey died. Too much stress, and he was pretty old. Eventually, the need for Torchwood decreased because Earth-That-Was was going through reformatting. After fifty more years, I was the only one left from the original team, and the only one who knew about the samples enough to advise the Alliance. I refused. They sent assassins. I wouldn't die. They captured me, took my DNA, but it revealed nothing on why I was still alive. They never thought to look into the radiation aspect of things", she smiled slyly at Simon. "They still had the samples, but no data. I'd locked mine away years before the actual wars started, so they couldn't get anything out of me. And so the Academy was built - to harness the 'potential' out of those Reaver bacterial samples. I was put on the most wanted list. They sent lots of operatives, but all to fail. I hid out in various places and saw the birth of all of these moons. Miranda happened a few times - you guys have just seen the most major instance of it."
It was deadly silent.
"So you're telling me", Mal started, after he'd taken it all in, "That all of this started, with River, and all of these Moons - because of one little rock that fell to Earth-That-Was?"
Jayne surprised them with insight. "Not just because of that rock. It was 'cause of the guys in charge." He shook his head. "I woulda just flung that thing back into the Black in the first place..."
"And these cracks in between 'Verses", Simon continued, peering curiously at her.
"It's hard to explain them. There's no way to really measure where they are or where they go. They only way I know is with the TARDIS key. If it's Earth-That-Wasn't, it feels...well, I can't really describe it. But I know."
"And you want to go home." River said softly, not looking at her.
"It would be hard not to want to", Zoe said, speaking for the first time. "But how does this involve us?"
"You want information on how to bring down the Alliance. I can give that to you. I have all of the records I locked away - I went back for them after Sihnon and Earth were reopened. Luckily they survived the terraforming. In return, I ask that River help me. She can find the cracks. That's another thing the Alliance were trying to do with the Academy - it's why she's so dangerous to them. She can find those cracks easily. And I'm hoping with the key that there's some way we can slip back through the rift and back onto Earth-That-Wasn't."
Another long silence.
"Either way, I have nothing more to lose. Money is no issue, so I'll keep supplying with what you need."
"Even if you do go home, it sounds like you have nowhere to go." Mal said, arching an eyebrow.
"I'm willing to take that risk. I don't belong here. Not after what happened so long ago. It never should have happened."
I just can't keep running anymore, she thought, I'm so tired. Maybe if I can get back and find the Doctor again, maybe he can finally help me die. Or maybe I can find Jack, if he's still alive.
She'd been so lost in her own thoughts that she didn't notice that they'd all left the room to talk. She waited patiently, until they all came back in.
"So what is it that you want her to do?" River asked, standing over her and looking down.
The Doctor looked up. He and Martha were eating in some establishment on the other equivalent of Sihnon - totally different from that of what Rose saw. He'd heard her voice in his head, but it was clearer, somehow, than it had ever been.
"Rose." He whispered, going totally still.
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Author's Notes: One photograph, three different readings: Martha, the Firefly Crew, and Gwen all see one moment in time captured in moving space.
Warning: This chapter has a little more risque material, so be warned; Jack/Doctor/Rose.
She'd noticed that ever since leaving Sihnon that he'd been especially cranky; and she hadn't missed him whispering Rose's name that one moment. It set off something in her - something angry, the part of her that always made her feel second best in everything. Why can't he forget about her? Why do I have to be a replacement?
So she sat in her room, face down on the bed (the TARDIS really was a magnificent machine, making a room for her just like that), thinking about it all. When she asked what was wrong, he was quiet or just replied that it was nothing.
But she knew better than that. Even if they'd only known each other a short time, she knew better.
The TARDIS itself was more turbulent than usual - as if in answer to whatever he was feeling and not talking about. They were pitched back and forth but he didn't seem to notice. His eyes were black with stuffed down emotion, a wound that refused to heal. She'd fallen asleep, dark dreams that she hadn't even disconnected from waking life, and woke up to his voice. It was close, but still a whisper - maybe the TARDIS making things more amplified on purpose? She peeked through the door, and saw the Doctor, his hand on the door that had never opened to her once. His thumb sweeping across the old wood, eyes wet.
"Rose", he said softly, almost unheard but the TARDIS wasn't letting him get away with it this time, he could be heard, he was being heard - "If Jack's still alive, because you looked into Her heart, then maybe..." His eyes studying the door so intently that Martha's insides twisted, "then maybe you're still alive too. Over there." She shut her eyes.
"Maybe Jack was right...the Rift did deliver Owen Diane, and took her away. Maybe...maybe it'll be okay."
She saw him staring at a moving photo now, as he leaned with his palm against the door, and felt everything jump inside of her as she heard their happy voices coming from inside of the frame.
OCTOBER 2008, CARDIFF, WALES
The day had gone badly - almost as bad as it can get at Torchwood without one of the team members dying or the Rift being opened. A weevil mission had gone totally awry, with Owen down and healing in the med area and several non-Torchwood casualities that Tosh was busily covering up.
So Jack sat on the bench that bordered the Hub Wall and Cardiff. It was raining, fitting for his mood. He'd just stormed out. It was no one's fault, really, that things had gone to shit - it was miscommunication, miscoordination, and underestimating the weevils (or maybe they were evolving - that was a very disquieting thought) that fucked things up today.
When Gwen finally couldn't take the dark mood of the Hub anymore, she went up to see him. She saw him sitting there, head cocked downward, studying something in his hands. She inched forward a bit, not wanting to startle him. It was quiet, very quiet - well after two am on a weeknight, all the drunks stumbling home.
She looked over his shoulder and heard a girl's laugh coming from the area of his hands. She wondered if she were losing it, but then smiled to herself, this was Torchwood, after all.
What she saw him studying was a picture, like a polaroid - but it was moving, like a movie.
Jack's face was so sad. Gwen bit her lip.
"Come on, Rose, smile!"
Jack's voice coming from out of the frame, and things seemed to focus on a girl, lying out on a beach blanket on her belly, legs out in sunlight on sand that was pink. The sky was dusky green, emerald shade. The frame jostled suddenly and the girl looked behind her shoulder, which now revealed that her top was untied but still modest, as she held it to her chest. She looked amused and disgusted.
"Jack, you're a pervert." She laughed, shaking her head and going back to whatever she had been reading, and the frame jostled again, and into view came a blue police box and an older man walking out of it. He handed the girl called Rose a bottle of something cold and she murmured her thanks. He sat with her underneath the umbrella. The man grinned simply and toasted him with one hand, while tossing him a similar bottle. The frame dropped abruptly, and a golf clap from Rose as Jack righted the camera again, fumbling to open up the bottle and hold onto the camera at the same time.
"So this is what the great Time Agency had for its elite?" The older man snorted into his bottle, taking a long drink, then looking at the bottle, "Palkian beer, best in the universe!"
The camera was placed on top of something as Jack himself came into view, beach casual, plopping himself down to the other two. "I'll pretend I didn't hear that. Doctor, Rose", he said, and they met with bottles.
"You're right, this is good." Rose smiled, like a bolt of pure light, and the Doctor beamed.
"Of course I'm right. I'm the Doctor." He said, and Jack mimicked him perfectly. They glared at each other and Rose just snickered quietly, tipping the bottle to her lips. She kicked her feet lazily in the air as she continued to read and drink, the Doctor resting against the umbrella pole. "Still, I forgot how hot it got here this time of year." He murmured, his azure eyes focused on Rose's browned shoulders.
Jack trying to read what she was reading and instead getting a good look at what was underneath the loosened bikini top. "You do know you're contributing to the delinquence of a minor?" He said, sidling to the other side of the pole and resting against it himself.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "Please. You're no less any guilty, Captain." He growled the last part softly, and even to those viewing the photograph, they could feel the tension there. Not unpleasant, either.
"Oi, enough from you two." Rose murmured, turning the page.
"You're burning." The Doctor nudged his bottle in the direction of her legs. "Palkian sunlight isn't good for human skin."
She snapped her magazine shut and tossed it toward the TARDIS. "Fix it, then", she said lazily, putting her head down on the blanket, looking sleepy-warm, eyes slitted as she handed the Doctor a bottle with foreign writing on it.
"Work, work, work", Jack said jovially, patting Rose on the top of her head. The Doctor just moved her legs out of the sun and put the bottle aside. She shot him a dirty look.
"Now how am I going to explain this half-tan to Mum when I get back?" She groused, pressing her cheek to the blanket.
"So high maintenance", the Doctor grinned, patting her pinkened legs, and she just pouted. "You'll be an unburnt crisp, that should be enough for her. Or it'll be my arse on the line."
"Didn't she slap you once?" Jack asked, eyebrow raised as he sipped from the bottle.
"Why does everyone have to keep bringing that up?" He grumbled, rubbing his cheek from Jackie's phantom slap. At the same time,
"I can't believe that a great and terrible Time Lord would be scared of retribution from someone's mother." Jack snickered. The Doctor glared at him and Rose put her hands between the two before they got to bickering again. She got up out of her pleasantly hazy stupor and kissed them both soundly before they settled down. the Doctor's hand looked big against her back, pale against the light bronzing.
"Hey, why'd you kiss him first?" Jack whined, lightly slapping her legs.
"Because you started it." Both the Doctor and Rose said at the same time, then looked at each other and laughed. Rose went back to Jack, pushing herself into his arms, leaning in for a kiss, the Doctor looking on, amused and his cheeks lightly flushed.
As the frame started to darken,
"But that means you kissed him twice!"
"And you lot call ME high maintenance."
Jack gesturing toward the screen. "I think the battery is dying..." until his voice was muffled, and the Doctor's voice a little gruffer, deeper, laughing, "You talk too much, Captain."
ONE YEAR LATER; ALTERNATE 'VERSE, ENROUTE TO HAVEN FROM THREE HILLS
"...Did I see what I think I just saw?" Jayne asked, eyes wide, he and the rest of the crew sans Rose gathered around the table going through the data she'd given them. The picture was in a frame of plexiglas, and had withstood remarkably through the ages.
"Who woulda thought the Bad Wolf would be so feisty?" Kaylee said cheerfully, reaching for the moving snap.
Simon looking over her shoulder. "But are we sure these two guys are the same Doctor? I mean they look different..."
"Remember, she said that's how he could change his shape. Still..."Zoe squinted at the snap.
"Whoa. Good snap." Mal said, his cheeks a little flushed, while River lay on the floor, hands in the air holding up a report, reading it. She looked at him sideways and smiled.
And at that exact moment, Rose woke up from sleeping, holding her head in her hands. She heard their screams already, and River also bolted upright. She looked at Mal right as the alarms started going off. She felt something go through her, like rice paper tearing in two, and saw Rose's sleepy face in the doorway. The TARDIS key hung outside of her shirt, glowing rhytmically.
"Reavers." Mal muttered, shooting up out of his seat. Zoe watched the interaction between River and Rose, and had a sinking feeling. A sick one.
"This is it, isn't it?" River said softly as people scrambled to battle stations, and Zoe heard as she passed. "This is your tear in the 'Verse."
Rose's sad smile was enough confirmation.
Gwen looked up as she saw Jack laughing at her now softly, laughing at the shocked look on her face, but his eyes not entirely laughing along with the rest of him.
"Gwen, you look shocked." He said, sobering quickly. He placed a thumb on the final frame of the snap, which read "TAKEN JULY 3, 4063, 13:12HRS, KAON PROVINCE, PALKIA" in bold lettering.
She looked back up at him, recovering herself and forcing herself not to look away. "That's the one who saved your life. And the one that took you away at the end of that whole business with Abbadon." She said as she watched him put the small plexiglas-covered frame away in his coat with the care of someone handling an ancient cache of treasure. His hands in his pockets as he looked up at the sky, the clouds parting as the rain had stopped, his features lit up by moonlight.
"That's them." He said very softly, his eyes totally serious now, looking into the past blindly. Looking like a lost boy, Gwen wanted to do nothing more but hold him and shield him from those memories that kept resurfacing in their daily lives. She too raised her eyes to the moon. But that would be foolish, to take those memories from Jack. It would be the end of Torchwood itself.
Back to index
Author's Notes: Part 2 begins.
The Rift parts. All Winters must end.
The TARDIS key swung from her clenched fist, the only thing on a cloudy night shining brightly in the sky. Closing her eyes she let herself fall backwards, trust exercise, her body making a perfect arc and circle and tumbling through the air, and she landed on her heels, cat-agile supple quick.
She opened her eyes again, and stared straight up into the face of a very surprised Jack Harkness, the voices of the Serenity crew echoing hollowly in her ears.
Jack had been on call, as per usual, not able to sleep, with a massive headache. Gwen and Tosh were also on call - Ianto and Owen had gone home from their shifts bruised and cranky after another fun-filled day of keeping this side of the Rift safe for all of humankind. However, now at 3AM, Gwen was totally crashed out on the Rec Room couch, taking her break. Tosh kept going, sipping her coffee. Jack was soothed by the sound of her typing, the ache in his forehead abating a bit. He'd almost forgotten she was there.
"Aren't you tired yet, Night Owl?" He asked wryly, pouring himself some of her coffee - not as good as Ianto's, but it would do. He could feel the caffeine soaking almost instantly into his sore sinuses, up where the throb was. It was welcome.
Tosh didn't look up, but smiled slyly. "Night owl. That's a unique expression only found in English, you know."
"Dare I ask what it is in Japanese?" He raised an eyebrow.
"Yakousei. Nocturnal creature. Or koumori, bat."
Jack shrugged. "Sounds pretty similar, I guess." He looked over her shoulder and whistled softly. "Finally, some action on the Rift radar."
She brought up the part of the radar that was going off. "It hasn't been this active since Diane and the others came through awhile back..." She got quiet. She knew Owen wasn't there, so she shouldn't be having to hold back about all of that - but now as it was a force of habit, she just did it automatically. She shook her head and kept going.
"Something coming through?"
"Looks like. Something big."
Jack was trying to work out how big that something may be, but was coming up with a blank. He pointed to a part of the edge of radar where it was going off, and Tosh wordlessly brought it up in a close-up. Whatever it was, it was very large, metal, and bird-shaped. A ship? Probably. It was out on the airfield, much like how Diane had landed awhile back.
It was then he noticed that the shell that Rose had given him that day on Palkia's beaches was starting to rattle. And nothing else, just the shell - its creamy pink insides starting to glow a violent gold, much like the inside of the TARDIS.
Jack smiled to himself. That could only mean one thing. "Come on. Get Gwen. We're going."
Tosh quickly downloaded the information to her palmtop and pocketed it, getting her coat. "Should I call Ianto and Owen?" She asked, but Jack was already gone, the tails of his greatcoat fluttering behind him.
On his desk, she saw that the shell continued to glow and shake.
Mal found himself standing outside of Serenity along with the rest of his crew. He couldn't remember how they got there or where they were. All he saw was Rose tumbling down from above them, and impossibly, landing on her feet like a cat. And all he heard was Jayne drawing Vera next to him, and River drawing her pistol from her boot, walking straight ahead of him. He shook his head.
"You see somethin', Little One?" He asked loudly, hoping to draw whatever she saw out of the darkness and into his line of sight. And it did - the TARDIS key was glowing rhythmically from Rose's fist as she looked up and Jack, Tosh, and Gwen emerged from the shadows, all armed and pointing at the Serenity crew.
"An ambush. How classy you folk are." Simon drawled, drawing his own gun.
"Somehow I don't think that three against six is very fair", Jack called out with a brilliant smile. Rose got to her feet. It was then that Mal noticed that he recognized this man from the moving snap Rose had been carrying with her. Flashed on her saying his name. "Jack Harkness, I presume." He said, getting a little closer, standing next to Rose and River.
"Captain Jack Harkness", he replied with that same infuriating smile.
Gwen was slightly puzzled - by now they'd already be moving on these people (if they were people) - but instead they were just standing there, guns pointed at each other, and Jack looking like his birthday had come early.
River looked sideways at Mal and then Rose, who seemed transfixed. She glowed faintly, the glow starting to die second by second, and she knew then that they weren't anywhere near Haven anymore. Mal looked at both of them and then at Rose. "Huai Lang, is this your port of call?" He asked her, quietly but loud enough to be heard by Jack, Tosh, and Gwen. She walked past him and seemed to snap out of her stupor, breaking into a run. Right towards Jack. Gwen let out a shot and it went right into Rose, forcing her to her knees at Jack's feet. Sucking in a sharp breath, that bloody HURT.
"Jack?" Rose asked softly, looking up into that broad, handsome face she knew so well. "Is that really you?" At the same time,
The rest of Serenity's crew that hadn't drawn drew.
Tosh wheeled around and got her gun up against the base of Rose's skull.
Gwen looked a little shocked with herself and her new Torchwood-bred reflexes, watching the blood run out of Rose's shoulder.
Tosh glanced down at the torn fabric, and down at the exposed flesh that was now pushing out the bullet of its own volition. Saw the tattoo that Jack had been looking at in a picture by himself a few days ago in that strange language, along with characters she readily recognized herself - the Chinese characters for "bad" and "wolf".
Jack kept his pistol drawn but smiled. He had to test her to make sure, but it seemed like the rapidly healing wound and the glowing TARDIS key was answer enough. "Rose Tyler." He said softly. Her eyes clouded with tears and nodded, in too much pain to speak as her body pushed out the bullet, letting it fall to the asphalt with a clatter. He let his gun lower, then closed his eyes and spoke something into her ear. She murmured a response too low to be heard, and seemed to look satisfied.
"What the hell is going on here?" Mal snapped, clicking off the safety, ready to shoot. Until he saw River's face.
"What're we waitin' for? Shoot!" Jayne snarled, but Inara stepped out, dress swirling around her feet. Putting her hands on River's shoulders. "Guns down, guys." He said to Tosh and Gwen, who confusedly complied. Tosh went and checked the shuddering girl's shoulders, and found them whole and untorn. She raised her eyes to Jack's face, and then to Gwen's.
"Oh god, Jack", Gwen said softly, "She's like you."
He didn't respond.
She was mumbling, and her voice came out through River's throat, as she took slow, careful, graceful steps toward them - her bare feet cringing against the icy asphalt. As if in a dream.
"River!" Simon warned.
River kept going, her hair raised by a sudden sharp breeze coming right off of Cardiff Bay. Her eyes flashed gold like Rose's, but only for a brief moment. Her hand came down on top of Rose's head, still and then stroking gently.
"Winter sleep is over now, Rose Red", she murmured, "You can wake up now. Rose White is here. He missed you so much. They need you, so wake up..."
Hearing that soft, unearthly tone chilled Tosh to the bone moreso than any other thing they'd encountered so far. "I don't believe it." She said softly, holstering her gun, checking the tattoo more through the ripped fabric. "It's the Bad Wolf. The Bad fucking Wolf."
Gwen flashed on the photograph as well. "Like the Nuke Facility? Jack?" She looked to Jack for guidance, feeling small and lost. But he didn't answer, holding Rose closely, his eyes also full and streaming, holding this girl like she was the most precious thing in the world. He didn't look up.
"Take everyone in." He said softly, then raised his eyes to Serenity's crew. "You've returned someone very dear to me. I thank you. But I'll have to ask you to come with us. If you could."
Gwen felt like all of the heat had been taken out of her body. This wasn't like Jack at all.
Mal looked at River, who had returned to his side. She just nodded. "They're not law?" she shook her head.
"Hell with all of this, I want some answers!" Jayne grumbled, keeping Vera cocked and aimed. Mal looked to Zoe, who shrugged, and then to everyone else. River looked clearer, healthier than she'd ever looked to him. He had to trust that. He had so far, and things had gone well, considering, ever since Miranda. So he took a risk, an executive decision.
"Jayne." He said softly, then holstered his own gun. "Looks like we have no choice."
"They're outnumbered anyway", Zoe said, setting her mouth in a flat line. "They'll know what's coming if they cross us."
"It's okay, Zoe." River said, her voice surprising Zoe, who looked at her. "They're not going to hurt us. They're curious. They want to make sure we're not alien. Or bad. Jack is here. Rose White missed Rose Red. We're not in danger." As they walked toward Tosh, Gwen, Jack, and Rose, Kaylee murmured, "I hope she's right."
Back to index
Author's Notes: Rose is home again. Jack wrestles with recent memories of the Doctor and Martha, as well as the Master. The Firefly crew has culture shock. How will the Torchwood crew manage to take care of everyone and their jobs at the same time?
Warning: Jack/Doctor in this chapter with some uh, questionable content. Be advised.
Notes: Many thanks to Gem (many hugs, Jacks, and mudkips to you!) for helping me out with structuring of this chapter. Lyrics and title from Aya's "Over Night". Spoilers for the end of Season 3.
After losing Martha like he lost Rose, but somehow this loss still doesn't compare to the loss of Rose, the endless guilt and agony of that hole inside of him. Martha chose to go of her own free will, heroically, and Rose got stuck.
These chains on his wrists are there for good reason. He can feel them indenting themselves into his wrists, fragile veins underneath starting to chafe.
Those glacier eyes boring into him with no mercy and something mixed with love and hate, a desperateness to be loved, to be redeemed, to be loved like he was. After all, it wasn't his fault that Rose brought him back and rendered him immortal, and at the same time making him intrinsically abhorrent to his own physiology.
He closed his eyes.
"I told you, I was sorry. I tried to save all of you, I tried to save Rose. It's not my fault. And it's not Rose's. We wanted to save you..."
"And you did such a good job..." That voice purring roughly into his ear, big hands, fingers trailing over his open eyelids, nose, mouth while he was still bound, hands up over his head, to one of the TARDIS' gridplate walls. "Now I can never die. And all you say is that I'm abhorrent to you."
And this torture is fitting, moreso than what the Master dealt him. Memories, physical muscle memory of the time with Rose and all three of them twisting on beds, in closets, and Rose's sharp incisors gleaming in the dark, head thrown back in almost frightening glee, sinking into the base of his neck, and Jack's, claiming them both.
He trembled. The almighty Last of the Time Lords trembled. Only Rose had been able to do that before, and then when together with Jack, all three of them. Since he'd grown cold inside. Now he was alive again, burning, burning, twisting in his bonds as Jack did nothing more than press half-formed kisses to his cheekbones, shells of his ears, jaw, stroking him like something so precious. "You say sorry", Jack said wryly in that more gravelly voice he got during their coupling, "And you know what the really sick thing is? I loved you. And I still do, even though you put me through hell." Murmuring, hypnotic with those lips moving, then viciously kissing him, all teeth and biting, bleeding. Lapping up the blood and laughing.
This is a punishment he deserves, he thinks, as Jack steps back with blood smeared on his bottom lip (briefly flashing to Rose after her own savage claiming of him and Jack, that streak down the center of her lip where it indents just a little, a little down her chin, and her eyes so big and wide, all pupil and lioness, licking the corner of her mouth and tasting her kill), starting to flick off one of his bracers with one hand while the other was under the Doctor's jaw, making sure he watched as he shrugged off the other bracer. Trickle of blood falling down his neck, down that clean white shirt he always wore underneath the suspenders, passing right over where his heart was.
Where his heart was. Where his heart should be.
The little girl voice. A heart is a home, a home that you've lost.
That strange girl named River's voice intruding into the memory, a blurry ghost-like image of her standing in the corner of his eye, perception filter-like watching.
Being watched. This part was new.
As Jack made quick work of their clothes, forcing him harder back against the chainlink of the wall, biting him, suckling him, praising him, cursing him all in one breath murmur, the Doctor's eyes open but starting to tremble again, almost swooning (he forgot how good Jack was at this but another was missing from this equation).
"Say it." He growled fiercely, biting his flank, raking his teeth over the ribcage. "Say you're mine. Say you're mine, and Rose's. Ours, our own. Our only."
All he could do was twist.
As if his soul was being forced open, cracked open, just like the Cardiff Rift, his eyes opened. Flushed cheeks and moist lips, this was painful but needed. A correct punishment. The Doctor didn't recognize the soft, pleading voice that came out of his own throat at that moment.
Jack woke up. The room that was his bedroom/office slowly came back into view, the ceiling with its little mica stars. He was soaked through with sweat. He wiped his brow, slowly sat up and the room whirled for a second, readjusting itself.
He saw a lump that was breathing rhythmically on the couch of his sofa and then remembered, oh, Rose is back.
He wobbled over to her, his head still full of cotton, saw that familiar tangled blonde head with only her nose up uncovered, eyes shooting back and forth in much-needed REM sleep. He smiled to himself, reached out, and stroked her downy cheek. Her eyes fluttered again and opened, creased in a smile.
"Hey you." She said, voice creaky, muffled by the blanket wrapped around her.
"Hey you." He replied, still stroking her cheek.
A loud bang and crash, shrieking interrupted them. Jack quickly pulled on his pants and bracers, Rose jumped up with him, still fully dressed, running downstairs.
River was a sobbing heap on the floor, rocking herself back and forth, covering her ears from a noise none of them could hear.
"Jesus Christ, Owen, what did you do?" Gwen said, alarmed, rushing over to the girl on the floor, but Mal stopped her, (somewhat jealously) let Simon crouch over his little sister. Just when they thought she was almost better and this shit happens, he thought, looking at her with an unabashed look of concern on his face.
"I barely touched her, I'll have you know." He shouted above the din, mildly insulted, retrieving various medical instruments that had been knocked to the floor. "All of a sudden she just kinda..."
"Went bibbledy? Yeah, we have that problem a lot", Mal said brusquely. Simon shot him an unamused look.
"Oh, this is a fine way to wake up on a Monday morning", everyone turned up to see Jack, still looking rough from sleep, but with Rose rushing ahead of him, however, looking very much alert.
"Jack?" Tosh's voice caught him as he was putting on his greatcoat. "Looks like this isn't isolated. Right before River, that weevil we caught a few days ago started up." She let moved away from her monitors to let him look - his face shortly turning into that of horror.
"Looks like our hunches were right - that weevil isn't quite the perfect picture of health..." He muttered under his breath as he tapped the screen, seeing different angles of the cell. "He's nuts, to put it mildly. Thank whatever's up there we now have two medical doctors on standby", he looked at a somewhat pissed off Tosh (she'd been trained too, before she went into her other fields), "Sorry, Tosh, three. Owen!" He flicked up the collar of his coat, adjusted his cufflinks.
Simon scrambled around for sedatives, but he didn't recognize any. "Sedatives?" He asked hotly, and Owen tossed him a desposable syringe. As the weevil downstairs got worse, so did River's shrieking.
"I got it, there's a link between her episode right now and the weevil, right?" Owen had been listening in (amazing how bad situations got your hearing in shape for hearing details being shouted all over each other).
"You gotta put 'em down", Jack said, now at his side, unlocking a small box Ianto had just dug out from the infirmary, tossing him a small vial and old syringe. "As much as I hate to do it, that weevil's literally trying to eat itself. It's gone off the deep end."
As Simon pushed the needle into River's fighting flesh and she started to calm, her eyes going all pupil and her breathing slowing, "And it's driving River mad. Again." He muttered to himself. Owen didn't hesitate, disappearing into the depths of the hub, getting on protective gloves with a waiting Ianto, both of them wrestling for a bit until the weevil was down for the count.
And then it was quiet. River's sobbing had tapered off, and now she was just eerily blank. Simon and Mal helped her sit back up on the medical table, Rose tending to the small fleshwounds she'd caused herself. Jack watched Rose's face, and found the same expression he'd seen so many times, shown previously only for himself and the Doctor. She had a connection with this girl.
Gwen went to help with disposal of the body. Tosh just sat back in her chair, wiping her moist temples. "Christ, not even eleven AM on a Monday and we already have a boiled egg", she muttered, pinching the bridge of her nose and taking off her glasses.
"Now that is how a crew should run", Mal said with a grin, to Zoe, who had just come in to witness the end of the melee. She gave him a dirty look.
"When it rains..." Jack said, watching Rose tend to River, and after she nodded, said to Tosh, "call everyone back up once they're done to the boardroom. Looks like our unfinished story from yesterday came to rear its ugly head. Mal, if you would be so kind, bring everyone from your crew too." It was a polite demand, Jack's eyes iceberg blue into a similar glacial set across the room. Mal nodded, Zoe went to go get the sleeping members of Serenity awake if they weren't already. As everyone shuffled around, Jack looked at Rose.
She'd been scratching her shoulder blade, and noticed she hadn't even changed her torn shirt. Wordlessly, he escorted her back to his office so she could change it, repectfully looking away as she pulled off the ruined shirt (though there was no need for that). He let his eyes wander once to the blazing tattoo that was on that shoulder blade.
"That's new." He said softly before turning his eyes back to the wall, tossing her a new shirt from her bag. He let his eyes wander again as he noted no bra, her shoulders slinking into the new shirt, looser, almost of a Chinese design. That's one thing he'd noticed - everyone who had come with her had some kind of Asian - specifically Chinese, as Tosh had told him, somewhat miffed - influence all over what they had with them.
"It was after we left you, but before he told me you were alive. I wanted to remember. I didn't want to forget, ever. So we went to 30th century Tokyo, to the world's last Geisha's teahouse. Turns out she was also a great artist. We helped her out of some trouble", she said, as she tied the shirt shut under her breasts, "and she designed and facilitated the tattoo in thanks."
"Gallifreyan, I assume", he said, finally walking over now that she was changed, the top of the tattoo visible with the low back of the shirt. He gently touched the raised flesh, all fire and ice, brilliant colors that definitely weren't even available in this century. Or imaginable, for that matter. Through the fabric he followed the end of the Gallifreyan words, and then to the Japanese one. Tracing the design - a large, ghost-like Japanese sumi-e Wolf design, the wolf's face simultaneously zen and threatening at the same time. He felt her shudder under his thumb, her cheeks flushing gently, lip wet.
"Aku na Ookami", Tosh had called that phrase accompanying the foreign block letters, "The Bad, Evil Wolf".
They stood there like that for a few minutes, Jack just stroking the tattoo through the thin fabric of her shirt, raising the gooseflesh on Rose's back. Almost making her pant - it had been so very, very long since she'd allow any kind of simple human contact. After Mickey died, she hadn't let anyone touch her at all, even in passing. And now, almost too much. Her eyes closed.
"Everyone's ready and waiting", Tosh called from outside.
"Got it. We're on our way." He called back, not raising his eyes and fingers from Rose's back until he finished speaking.
Somehow having got herself back under control, hearing her speak, Jack watched Rose finish explaining what that other 'Verse was like, about River and her abilities, having brought the hard copies of her own documents to show with Tosh's help.
Gwen saw that he was soaking up the information, but not actively - she knew what it looked like when he was on mental screensaver. He kept rubbing his bottom lip against a finger, blinking occasionally to make it look like he was paying attention when his brain was really just jotting it all down - he'd be able to answer if called to attention, and that was the most annoying part. Gwen envied that ability of his, but chalked it up to him living for so long - a way to survive while monitoring other elements. But what elements was he monitoring here?
"River, though you can't tell right now as she's kind of...out of commission", Simon said, taking over, "my little sister makes me look like an idiot child. Anything she does - science, math, languages, theoretical physics - makes me look like an idiot, and it comes to her as naturally as breathing does to us. That's why the Alliance wanted her..."
Jack tuned out a bit more.
"And Torchwood at that point, and even before, was always the reverse of what it is here - it was always responsible and under the thumb of law. I was the last one, anyway. I couldn't do anything. It was my fault. All of this." Rose said softly, angrily.
"So you want to change things on the other side?" Tosh asked, very impressed with the copious records she'd kept over the years. She shuffled through printouts and screens.
"That's part of the deal, yeah." Mal said, nodding, now looking to Rose, ignoring Jayne as he dug at his ear with a pinky.
She still feels the same, smells the same, Jack thought, still worrying the finger that had stroked Rose's back against his lip, And she's been through so much, and how she reacted like she hasn't been touched, she hasn't let anything touch her. Like the Doctor used to be. She had to, to survive.
"And to do that, I have to help. And now that I'm here, my request of the Serenity crew is complete, I now officially ask you on their behalf to help me get them back armed with the ability to change." Rose said, standing up straight. The tattoo rippled with the muscle under the skin.
Rose. Our Rose. His hands still vibrating with the feel of her back. Delicious. He snapped to attention.
"We'll do what we can." He said, "On the honor of Torchwood-3", he said officially, for the sake of the archives since this would be definitely added, "We'll do what we can to help."
Back to index
Author's Notes: Red sea, red moon.
Two captains speak of the future and the past, and Serenity's crew tries to blend into 21st century society.
He sat, that same beach from so long ago, yet not so long ago. Palkia was a ruined planet now, the shards of Kaon province all around him - yet that beach they'd been to before was the same as ever - just a lack of a population. Not for long, for it'd be repopulated again in the next few hundred years. The oceans teemed with life. It seemed all the colors were the same, but then he blinked and then they weren't. The sky, streaked with orange, was otherwise dark with stars. The ocean blood-red. The sand, bone-white. Ruined crucified figures and destroyed buildings behind him.
It was quiet.
He had been here now for two days. He'd actually slept, in Rose's bed, the previous night. Dark dreams, burning, and a single girl, not Rose, nor Martha, nor Donna, nor anyone else - this one, a fragile-looking thing, huge eyes and long hair, night-dark. A girl in a synthetic womb, nude. Her eyes opening to look straight at him.
"Red sea. Red moon. Rose white, rose red. Missing their bear."
And then Rose, always Rose, turning back to look at him, the tattoo on her back still raw and bleeding from that alcohol soaked night she'd gotten it, him feeding her jager shots to numb the pain, tasting her laughing mouth and the festival lanterns outside lighting the way red down an infamous path in Kabukicho. "Go back to them." "I can't. It's all been lost." And then he'd woken up. And gone outside, and seen the different scenery on a familiar landscape.
Red sea. Red moon. Palkia, in the fallow period between birth and death. And the girl in his dream who he'd never seen before, and Rose. Images of those cursed zeppelins floating in the sky - he guessed this girl in his dream must be from parallel Earth.
He raised his face up to the sky, took a sip from his flask of hyper vodka. He rarely drank these days, but he needed it. Heard that Martha was on some Torchwood contingent not affiliated with Jack - not yet, at least. At least she was still alive, as was Jack.
Rose, his hearts cringed in an echo that was now involentary.
In his other hand, he held a pendant that Rose had given him shortly before that battle at Canary Wharf. He stared up at the stained moon, unaware that the pendant in his hand, its charm a ruby rose with thorns of onyx and leaves of emerald curving around it, purchased on one of their haunts on Midgard. Elven-made silver and mithril circled it, much like that cloak he'd gotten her. He hadn't noticed when it started to glow warmly in his hand, golden huon pouring from between his fingers.
"You have to go back, Doctor Bear", the girl had said. "They need you. Now more than ever."
Instead he closed his eyes, letting the cold light of the moon bathe his face.
"Awake." "How can I?" He muttered to himself tiredly, setting the flask down beside him in the sand. "What does it matter anymore?"
"She needs you."
He banged his head annoyedly against the TARDIS door.
"Now, Doctor. Now, Bear. AWAKE!"
His eyes opened and were filled with the moon.
"Awake! Rose! Wake up!" River was poking at her as she was curled on Jack's couch. Rose stirred, rolled over and almost fell off the damn sofa. She looked up, annoyed, through her hair.
Jack was at the door, carrying two mugs of coffee. He arched an eyebrow as he walked past River. "How did you get in here, little one?" He asked, putting the steaming mug near Rose's grasp, sitting in his own chair, feet up on the desk. Little one. What her Captain called her. She looked up at the room, instantly analyzed its structure, and told him the easy path she took. He grinned, saluted her with his mug, "Your brother was right. You're definitely a rocket surgeon. Cheers." He chuckled, sipped his coffee.
Rose sat up, muzzy, aching from the sofa. "Too bloody loud for something so early." She mumbled, took her coffee, let its warmth soak into her hands, to her arms, steam into her aching sinuses. River chuckled and then caught sight of a tousled and annoyed-looking Mal linger at Jack's doorway, made way to hide behind Jack and his chair.
"River..." Mal's voice was a warning, and he blinked. Rose saw what the problem was - River had drawn on his face while he slept. She started to laugh. River poked her head up behind Jack - and it was like a bizarre creature, two headed and blinking, that faced Mal.
"She didn't do it", River answered, muffled.
"I have to say, Captain, it looks like your Reader is also a gifted artist", Jack said, trying not to laugh but failing. He looked at River, right at his side, still hiding. "So this is why you got here. You wanted immunity?"
Rose chuckled softly, setting down her mug. "River, why'd you do that?"
"Had to. Good oppertunity. Made a bet with..." And her hands flew up to her lips. Mal arched an eyebrow, and uninvited, stepped inside of Jack's office. Jack wordlessly directed him to the small basin and mirror so he could wash the marker off of his face.
"Mutiny", he said, lathering the washcloth violently, "that's what this is", a grumble and motion in River's direction. As he was occupied with swearing and washing his cheeks, River came out from behind Jack. "Plain and simple."
"Sorry, Cap'n." She said contritely, with a dazzling smile. She laughed.
"At least someone's having fun with this." He mumbled under splashing water. "I'm guessing the rest of the crew made it worth your while?" She didn't betray her confidences. "When I find out who came up with this, I'll be shooting someone and not very politely at that!" He said and she yelped, flying out of the room - all colt legs and hair - looking the happiest Rose had seen her since she'd boarded Serenity.
"My face..."He moaned, scrubbing harder. Jack chuckled into his mug.
"That's so gay." Rose chuckled softly, shaking her head.
"Hey, hey", Mal pointed, "I ain't sly. I just care about my looks." He turned back to the mirror and saw a spot he missed, cursed. "And I am so very, very pretty." He rubbed at the spot with soap and cloth. "At least she's happy", he said softly, to himself, wondering if the other two heard (and they did).
"Not arguing with that." Jack laughed softly and Mal glared at him. He took a different tactic. "It looks like your crew is adjusting, Captain." Jack said politely, spinning around in his chair and grabbing a small towel, giving it to him. Mal accepted it, nodding in thanks. "That's no small feat. Jumping universes would get people all out of sorts for weeks, months. Years. Yet your crew seems to be back to its normal self, from what I observe here. You should be proud."
Mal gently patted his face, checked again to make sure all of the marker was off. He leaned against the basin after awkwardly folding the towel and setting it aside. "This ain't the worst we been through." He nodded, tugging one of his braces up over his shoulder. He'd only been half-dressed when he chased River out. She'd peering curiously (lovingly? he wondered, his chest fluttered) over him, caught red-handed drawing on his face. "You folk ain't Reavers, nor Alliance, and you been treatin' us good. I thank you for that, one Captain to another."
Mal's hands kneaded the towel. Rose took that as a silent sign that he wanted to talk with Jack alone. She got up, took her coffee and quickly pecked Jack's temple before leaving. Jack smiled to himself, then turned back to Mal.
"From what you tell us, it sounds like where your from isn't a cake walk." He got up, getting another cup of coffee for Mal, handing it to him. Mal sipped, this was real coffee! Nodded his approval. "Well, nowhere is, to be fair. But it sounds your universe is far harsher than ours is in the same year. The 2600's..." He cocked his head, sitting back down, putting his feet up, "I don't remember those years too well - too much drinking - but it was the time of the second great Human Empire, if I remember my history correctly. It shouldn't be so horrible."
Mal, unused to surprises now, merely blinked. Jack explained.
"How I know that...well, I think Rose does too...let's just say we've traveled. Between you and me." Rose had closed the door behind them. "Captain to Captain, there are things that our crews don't know about us, right? Mine didn't find out I was immortal up until last year. And that was pretty...embarrassing." He winced. "I want you to know, whatever you tell me in confidence, I won't say a thing unless you authorize me to. That includes the Torchwood Records." This had been merely unsaid before, and now it was explicit and tacit. "I've arranged an outing for appropriate clothing, food. You guys can stay here in the opened rooms, if you don't mind being underground. But until you get used to it, I suggest you do."
"So that's why you took our guns", Mal chuckled a little uncomfortably. "Where we're from, that's a downright sin."
"So I can imagine." Jack grinned, "before I joined here it was the same for me. I understand, or I think I'd like to. But here you won't need them - not, unless, you encounter any of our alien charges. It's relatively safe here in this century. The police are pretty competent when it comes to human crimes." He paused, thanking Gwen for showing him that - before he'd just thought them all the same. Idiots. "It'll take some getting used to until we figure out how to get you back there safely, but you will get used to it."
"I'm not sure I ever will", he said, feeling like he could let down his guard here safely for the moment - though if anyone asked, it never happened. "Even when I was a kid. They said that seven hundred years back - well, two hundred back from this era - that it was the same. The Wild West. People staking out new prospects with their herds and guns and hoping for the best. It's been the same. And now here, we're not even allowed to carry guns...well," he shrugged half to himself, "not that that ever stopped me and my crew before, but here I have the feeling we'd stick out a little more sorely if we carried. And for the good you done us, I'd rather not risk that."
"Oh, Captain Mal - are you coming on to me?" Jack flirted with a grin, draining the rest of his mug, "I have to tell you, I'm a taken man."
Mal just chuckled, sipping his own cup. "But yes, it is strange here. No one speaks in Chinese. Not like we did back there. We don't have to be looking over our backs every two seconds for the Alliance, worrying if they're going to send another Operative or ten after River and the Doc. But so fanciful people are here! Fine clothes and learning and everything." He chuckled again, this time, sadly, feeling out of his element.
"For now, you'll also be put on an allowance."
Mal jerked up at that. "Oh no. I can't accept that", he said shaking his head, "though I'd love to. It ain't right..."
"Of course it is." Jack got up, moved Mal over so he could rinse out his mug. "You've brought back someone very precious to me, and you're also in a strange new place with not much knowledge of it. What else can you do?"
"Aren't there jobs...or..something we could help with?"
Jack looked at him fondly, blue eyes dancing. "Someone's mother raised him right, that's for sure." He said softly with a dazzling grin, clapping Mal on the shoulder, "Owen could take a lesson from you." He dried his cup, put it upside down on the small table next to the sink. "We'll figure out something to keep you kids occupied with. I don't think I'd like Jayne getting in trouble with the law here. Last thing we'd need, really." He chuckled to himself. "I take it you and your crew are proficient in firearms and other fields? Perhaps for now after a crash course we can use your help on jobs when we need it. Owen and Simon can talk, as can Kaylee and Tosh since they have their own fields..."
"And River?" Mal asked, almost a bit too quickly, almost betraying himself.
Jack set the towel he'd been using aside. "I take it she isn't too keen on medical exams or tests", he said gently, "from what you've told me, she's been to hell and back and I don't want her to suffer anymore. However, if she'd be willing to help or go on record to further our own knowledge - all of her own free will, mind you", he said, trying to assure him, "That would be enough. With that Weevil yesterday she surprised us. We'll keep her safe for you, with you. Of course."
Mal shrugged, tried to pass it all off nonchalantly, but he was secretly relieved. "It's enough for me. It's her brother you need to talk to."
"Brother versus lover? I'd thought I'd get the consent of both." Jack passed him breezily with a small smile, and left Mal standing there, eyes wide and wanting to curse everything in sight.
Jack's laughter could be heard out the open door down the steps into the Hub, echoing brightly.
"Strawberries!" Kaylee breathed, almost wanting to fall down on her knees and at the same time hug the bright kiosk filled with the berries there in the supermarket. She'd never seen them so large, so ripe. They looked gorgeous. And so cheap! So plentiful!
"You act as if you've never seen them before", Ianto said with a small, wry smile.
"Not so many. Not so big! Not where we're from." She said, a little more quietly after a glare from Jayne who wanted to keep things incognito. With their wardrobes altered, they didn't stand out so much anymore. It hadn't taken much - Mal and Inara had undergone the most transformation but they all missed their guns. It was hard to believe there wasn't as much fighting here in this time than there was back home.
"She's right, things really are cheaper here, if your conversion is correct", Simon nodded, appraising a large watermelon. Rose had tried to put together a monetary conversion between universes - and she thought she did pretty well, considering how badly she'd always done in math.
"Where're the girly mags?" Jayne grunted, "I didn't come here for no fruit."
Inara rolled her eyes. "I'm guessing they're over there, where all of that nice bright red censoring packaging is", she said, pointing and turning her face away. Even in a plain summer dress, she still looked (and acted) every bit her station. "Things are more discreet here, I see?"
"I can't really say", Ianto bowed bit humbly, "but I guess so." Jayne made a beeline to the porn and pesudoporn magazines in the meantime. Inara just made a disgusted noise deep in her throat.
River walked with Mal close by, a new dress hugging her lithe frame in a muted silvery gray, setting off her skin. She looked down at new boots and knee-high stockings - they itched, she wanted them off, feel the floor that looked so smooth under her toes. He felt naked without his gun, and although he knew Ianto was carrying (along with Gwen, but she'd ducked back to the Hub after clothing shopping), it didn't comfort him. Mal's appraisal of him wasn't kind - a teaboy, he thought, wondering if the guy could even hit targets on a range.
River felt the whispers in her head all in English - still getting used to it, she frowned faintly. This neon light also coming from above them was harsher on the eyes. The market was so clean; medically so, like the few indoor ones on Osiris. She could almost smell the hormones in the cow meat, the pesticides on the inorganically sprayed fruit. The strawberries that Kaylee had spotted were thankfully organic, and her questing fingers felt chocolate, the real kind, made to be melted for dipping. She considered it, letting her fingers feel the plastic it was encased in, for a beat too long.
Mal noticed. "Somethin' botherin' you, li'l one?" He asked.
She shook her head, placing the chocolate in the small shopping basket Zoe carried. "It's not..I don't..." She looked for the words. "It's not right here. Everything in plastic, screaming. Not natural."
He nodded. He wasn't used to the hospital cleanliness of the supermarket either. He actually missed the fresh open-air markets like New Les Halles or New Haymarket, even if they'd been noisy and dirty; everything had been freshest, not always sprayed with all of the stuff here.
"At least it's not protein in fifty different colors of the rainbow", Zoe sighed, half-smiling as she found fresh-baked bread and put that in the basket. River made a face when she thought of that and Mal chuckled softly.
"No, I think we've had enough of that for a lifetime", he said, hooking his thumbs in the beltloops of his jeans and rocking back on his heels, whistling appriciatively when he saw the coffee station.
River felt seperate from the scene as she watched them all, as she watched Mal's back slouch as it normally did in its new clothes. They didn't look entirely right on him. She wanted to feel the skin underneath. Her lower lip trembled briefly, a dream she couldn't discuss in polite company coming back to her from the night before - her nails running red rivulets into his back, marking him, him chuckling lowly in her ear. The blood from her thighs marking the bed sheet.
He put the bag of coffee into the basket, Zoe complained jovially about how heavy the basket was getting, but he didn't hear her. He and River, staring at each other like the world had stopped, her mind leaking into his and back again, and felt goosebumps raise on his neck.
River's cheeks were faintly colored as she stared down into the basket (now set into a regular shopping cart by a weight-labored Zoe), her hands child-small on the brim as she held onto it. The world stopped for both of them, her heart loudly in his ears, for a slip-second covered her hand in his, only to jerk away the next.
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