Passing the Torch

by kalirush [Reviews - 0]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure, Character Study, General

The TARDIS came to a juddering stop, and Deryn struggled to her feet, laughing.

“Right on time,” the Doctor said, grinning like a lunatic as he strolled past her. He opened the door, and held out a hand. “Deryn Parnass,” he said, grandly, his hands sweeping broadly around his body. “I present to you Karnul of the Second New Hortensian Empire.” He grinned again, suddenly. “Home of the best street food in two galaxies,” he informed her. “Come on!”

Deryn came on. They stepped out onto a busy road, buildings rising like mountains from either side. The Doctor darted around like a terrier, pointing at this and that. “This is the capital city, River Mekhet,” he told her. “The TARDIS dropped us downtown. But, come along- the beach is this way, and that’s where the street market is!”

And then they were off. The street market was amazing; stall after stall of wares that looked good and tasted better. Deryn made a point of enjoying it. The market was busy, but it was peaceful- and she and the Doctor never got peaceful. Until something started blowing up or disappearing or otherwise going pear-shaped, she intended to live in the moment.

After they’d eaten to the point of bursting, the Doctor ordered them drinks- some purplish fruit with the end hacked off and a straw in it- and headed toward some chairs on the beach. The Doctor was grinning again, turning his face to the sun and closing his eyes. Deryn remembered yesterday, when he’d been trapped in encroaching ice, screaming and unable to escape- She shook her head, and took another sip of her purple fruit drink. They both needed this, she thought. They needed the sun and the beach and the moment of peace.

On the other hand, the Doctor was terrible at moments of peace. He tapped on the table between them to get her attention. “No,” she said, with humor, her fingers snapping crisply together in front of her. “We just got here, and we’ve been walking for hours. If I’m going to be wandering around some more, I want to at least finish my drink.”

The Doctor huffed. “I only wanted to point out the scenery,” he protested. He pointed. “See that?” He was grinning again, all irritation gone from his face.

Deryn looked out, and, in the distance, saw a white tower on an island, gleaming in the noon sun.

The Doctor tapped the table again. “Want to find out what that is?” he asked.

Deryn was pretty much done with her drink anyway.

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The Doctor finished up his conversation with the boatman. “It’s called ‘The Museum of the Glorious Pale’,” he told her, his fingers flying in a blur next to his face. “This gentleman has a ferry. I love a good ferry! Want to go?”

Deryn rolled her eyes, good-natured. “You’re a time traveller,” she pointed out, her eyebrows raised sarcastically. “Why do you want to go to a museum?”

The Doctor grinned and leaned back on his heels. “They’re hilarious,” he said, stabbing the air for emphasis. “C’mon- I could use a good laugh.”

Deryn laughed, waving a hand. “Whatever you want, Time Lord,” she said.

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The museum was impressive as hell. It was all broad, gleaming hallways and artfully arranged displays. People strolled through it reverently, admiring the treasures of times gone past- except for the Doctor, of course. He ran hither and yon, talking constantly and laughing like a lunatic. He was a little too animated, Deryn thought. Laughing a little too much. But he’d be fine. Right?

They’d just gotten to a display which the museum claimed was a sarcophagus and the Doctor insisted was actually just a home refrigeration unit when he suddenly froze. “No....” he said, frowning. “It can’t be.”

Deryn perked up. “What? Is something wrong?”

The Doctor took off down the hallway, moving with purpose. Deryn had to work to keep up. “Either Karnul has temporal engineering technology that they can’t possibly have,” the Doctor said, twisting so that she could see his hands, “Or-” He stopped short, looking at a pair of double doors. There was a sign to the side of the doors, proclaiming that a Doctor James Finch was giving a lecture on, apparently, “Sorcery and ritual in ancient Terran digital corpora”.

The Doctor stood for a moment, and then pushed the doors open.

The doors led into a medium-sized lecture hall about half-filled with people. The man at the lectern stopped mid-sentence as they walked in, his attention snapping to the two of them. Deryn saw his eyes go wide, and a smile spread over his face. Then he continued his lecture, flipping deliberately to the next slide.

The Doctor sat down in a seat in the lecturer’s sight line. He crossed his arms, staring intently at the other man. Deryn tapped his shoulder. “Who is he?” she asked, her hands low and close to her body so as not to disturb anyone.

“An old friend,” he told her, his eyes not wavering from the lecturer.

The Doctor’s old friend approached them after the lecture was over. He was handsome; human, or looked it for what that was worth. Blue eyes and brown hair and a nice physique. He was grinning as he came up, but there was something wary in his body language.

“Twitter, Captain?” the Doctor said, as he walked up. “Really?”

The other man grinned wider, as though he were getting away with something. “Why not Twitter?” he asked. “It’s part of the historical record. And hey, we’re doing Corrican Sign?” he added, his hands flying expressively. Deryn was shocked to see him actually signing. They were so far from home, she wouldn’t have thought anyone knew the language. It was a relief to see his actual hands moving, though, instead of the ghost hands that the TARDIS put in front of everyone as a translation. “Is that for your benefit?” he asked, looking at her.

She shrugged. “I’m a Corrican, yes,” she told him. “Deryn Parnass,” she added.

“Captain Jack Harkness. And I’m pleased to meet you, ma’am.” He took her hand and kissed it, his eyes saying anytime you’re up for it, so am I, and adding we might be able to find a spare room now, as a matter of fact.

The Doctor smacked the captain on the shoulder. “Stop it,” he said, impatiently.

Harkness grinned and winked at her. “What brings you here?” he asked the Doctor, continuing to sign.

“I could ask the same question,” the Doctor said, frowning. “Why are you pretending to be an archaeologist?”

“I am an archaeologist,” Harkness countered, smugly.

“Isn’t it cheating when you were there for the historical events you’re unearthing?” The Doctor said, scowling.

Harkness turned to Deryn. “Is he here to make fun of the exhibits? He does that. He thinks it’s cute.”

Deryn smiled at him. “How do you know him?” she asked.

That was when the wall exploded.

Harkness was already in motion, pushing her and the Doctor to the ground, shielding them with his body. As the blast cleared, he shook, his teeth gritted and blood running down his neck. “Damn,” he said out loud, the ghost hands translating. Then he switched back to signing. “I really liked that jacket.” He stood, shaking himself, and held out a hand to her.

“I knew something was going to explode,” she snapped, one handed as she stood.

The Doctor was already on his feet. “Why are you actually here, Jack?” he said, pulling out the sonic screwdriver. “Don’t try to tell me it’s a coincidence that you’re here at the same time there’s an explosion that’s soaked with pyronic energy.”

“Okay,” Harkness said, grinning. “I won’t.” He ran into the hallway, stripping his shredded jacket. Deryn wasn’t sure why his back wasn’t equally shredded, especially because he was covered with blood, but she wasn’t going to question it. He turned so they could see his hands. “I was tracking Slitheen arms dealers,” he told them. “They’ve been arming the xenocide on Falkara. Apparently, pyronics disrupt Falkaran biology like nothing else. They probably know you’re here, now- hence the welcome explosions.”

He led them into one of the back rooms, and they stopped for a moment. “Slitheen?” the Doctor said. “Aren’t we a little bit out of time period for Slitheen?”

Harkness nodded. “As best I can figure, they ganked some Time Agents and took their Vortex Manipulators. They must have ended up in the Second New Hortensian pretty much by accident and decided they liked it here. I got wind of them when I was on a dig in Kerain and tracked them back here. According to the guy I interrogated this morning, they’re moving arms through the museum shipping manifests.” He grinned, crookedly. “I know this isn’t your usual thing; the fate of the universe isn’t at stake.”

The Doctor shrugged in that way that meant he was feeling things he wasn’t saying. “I’m here,” he said. “And I don’t like genocide. What do you know about their plan?”

Harkness cocked his head. “I’m not sure, now. They were going to move the weapons through one of the transfer docks. Now, I don’t know what they’ll do. They’re not fond of you, Doctor.”

The Doctor grinned. “Me? What about you! You’re not exactly blameless when it comes to Slitheen.”

Harkness snorted. “Yeah, but I didn’t blow up a bunch of their junior scions. They remember that sort of thing, you know.”

“To be fair,” he pointed out, “I didn’t blow them up. Mickey blew them up.”

“That’s our Mickey Mouse!” Harkness said, affection written all over his face. Deryn had no idea what they were talking about- their shared history, no doubt. This was weird. Had Harkness traveled with the Doctor, like her? She’d known there’d been others. There were little reminders of their presence around the TARDIS, if you knew what to look for. Still, the Doctor treated Harkness less like a traveling companion, and more like- like an equal.

The Doctor turned to Deryn. “We’re going to need vinegar,” he told her. “There’s probably some in the cleaning supplies; have a look. Jack, show me where we’re going.”

She nodded and moved. She’d learned to do what the Doctor told her when he got that kind of urgency in his hands.

Slitheen were big and green, with claws and unnerving black eyes. Jack led her and the Doctor through back rooms toward the transfer docks, carefully staying out of the way of the Slitheen.

Harkness stopped suddenly. He tapped at his wrist strap, and a holographic image of a bunch of Slitheen standing around a large stack of crates appeared. “It looks like they’re going ahead with the deal,” he said. He looked up at the Doctor. “What’s the plan?”

The Doctor nodded, like he was considering. “I have a plan,” he said. “It’s my favorite plan.”

Harkness pulled a face. “Really? That’s what we’re doing?” he complained, his eyebrows lifted. Then he turned to Deryn. “There’s a power relay down the hallway.” He pulled up a map, and she peered at it, paying careful attention. “We need you to pull that in about...” he looked over at the Doctor. “Two minutes?” he asked.

“Two and a half, to be safe,” the Doctor corrected.

“Two and a half minutes,” Harkness reiterated. “Can you do that?”

Deryn wished that she knew what the plan was. Watching the two of them together was like watching people dance without being able to feel the beat. She nodded. “Two and a half minutes,” she said. “I’ll set my chronometer.”

“Be careful, Doc,” she saw Harkness say, out of the corner of her eye. The Doctor just grinned.

Deryn made her way carefully to the relay point, the spray bottle of vinegar held carefully in her hand. It took her about a minute to get there, and she watched the seconds tick by while holding herself flat against the wall and trying not to breathe. At two and a half minutes precisely, she pulled the relay and ran.

When she got back to the dock, everything was in dark and chaos. Slitheen were babbling and waving their claws about. Deryn crouched down near the door, and could just see the Doctor throw the sonic screwdriver to Harkness, who flipped open an access panel and hit the trigger, the light glowing in the dark room. Deryn could see Harkness’s grin by the glow of the screwdriver.

A minute after that, the authorities showed up.

Later, she and the Doctor sat on the steps of the museum. “What was the plan?” she asked. “The one you and Harkness were talking about.”

“Call me Jack, please,” the subject of their conversation said, handing them each a cup of tea from the museum commissary. “What you haven’t run into his favorite plan yet?” Deryn shot him a look. Jack just looked unrepentant. “Walk in and get captured,” he said. “The Doctor never met a bad guy he didn’t think he could talk to death. In this case, it was walk in and get captured to distract them while I got at the dock access panels to keep everyone’s ships from getting away while the authorities showed up because you’d signalled them by screwing with the power relays.”

“It’s not like they were going to do anything to me,” the Doctor said. “They hate me too much to kill me outright.”

“That assumption’s going to get you killed someday,” Jack said.

The Doctor made a face. “Lots of things have gotten me killed,” he said. He stood, brushing off his trousers and finishing the last of his tea. “I’m going to see about the ferry. Jack- you’re welcome to come with us, you know.”

“I know,” Jack said, his eyes softening.

The Doctor nodded and walked off, whistling.

Jack looked over at Deryn. “I’m not going to come along,” he told her. “He makes a point of asking. Sometimes I say ‘yes’, but not today.” He cocked his head. “How long have you been traveling with him?”

Deryn shrugged. “Hard to say,” she told him. “A few months? My parents got... got killed. I didn’t have anything left for me on Corrica Colony. He asked me to come along.”

Jack nodded. A slow smile spread across his face. “It’s the best thing in the world, isn’t it?” He asked her.

She nodded. “It’s amazing.” She paused. “I think he’d like it if you came,” she said, diplomatically. “I think he’s lonely. And he’s my best friend, but- not like the two of you are friends.” That was true, she realized. She’d watched them together for all of an hour, but there was something about the way they moved together; the way they oriented towards each other when they were in the same space.

Jack nodded again, looking a little sad. “That’s just him,” he said. “He needs people, you know. He needs people to explain things to. He needs people to think he’s wonderful and tell him when he’s being a jerk and stop him from being a monster.” He smiled. “I can’t do that for him anymore. I’ve known him for too long, and...” He leaned back on his elbows looking up at the sky. “I think I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be human, a little. He needs someone who remembers.”

“Maybe,” she said. “But I think he needs someone like you, too. Maybe not always, but for a little while.” She stood up. “It was a pleasure to meet you,” she said, and held out a hand to shake.

Jack shook it, his face serious. Then he pulled her into his arms and laid a kiss on her knuckles. “It was my pleasure,” he told her. “Take care of him, okay?”

“Stop it,” the Doctor said over Jack’s shoulder, thwacking Jack’s head irritably.

“You never let me have any fun,” Jack complained, releasing Deryn. He put a hand on the Doctor’s shoulder. “Doc-” he said. “It was good to see you.”

The Doctor nodded. “Take care of yourself, Captain,” he said, his face gruff. He turned, and held out a hand to Deryn. “Ferry’s in five minutes he said. If we hurry, we can have dinner in the market, and then back to the TARDIS.”

“Good idea,” Deryn said, taking his hand. When she turned back to look at Jack, he was smiling.