Ravelstock IV -- Station Grunder Nought -- LoSal's Open Mart -- 21st Century -- Tuesday
They were out of toothpaste. Well, that wasn't entirely true; they were out of toothpaste that didn't make Rose want to vomit when she used it. She didn't care how white the pus secretions from Bublov Beast tendrils might make her teeth, that was something that was not going in her mouth. Ever. This, Rose informed the Doctor whilst they stood in the console room making the day's plans, was a completely intolerable situation. When he grumbled and groaned and tried to ignore her demands, she asked him, very reasonably, how he thought her mother would react to the news that he was incapable of supplying something as simple as toothpaste?
The ensuing, rather heated, rather loud discussion, drew a bemused and half-awake Jack Harkness to the console room. Watching the bickering pair over his coffee, he perched on the lone chair and yawned. As the argument reached its crescendo -- he unfavorably comparing her mother to a lower primate species; she suggesting he place his sonic screwdriver in an orifice not meant to house such a device -- Jack finally put his foot down. Literally. He stomped, once, loudly, on the metal grating of the floor, letting the sharp clang break through their voices.
As silence fell, Jack took the opportunity to quickly, and sensibly, suggest a shopping trip to solve the little problem, and then go about their merry way. The Doctor groaned again. He'd rather had his hearts set on taking in the sights at a fantastic little pulsar he knew. Sourly, and perhaps unfairly, he accused Jack of just wanting to find a new battery for his sonic blaster. With a guileless smile, Jack agreed, patting the Doctor on the back for his cleverness, and then, moving over to the control console, started to set coordinates to the most useful marketplace he could come up with off the top of his head. With a howl of outrage, the Doctor drove Jack away from the controls before he got too far. The Time Lord set about checking switches and dials, whilst muttering something about apes and spanners under his breath.
Between Rose's threat to mope and Jack's burgeoning pout, it was obvious that the day was heading for being a total loss if the Doctor refused to allow the resupply stop. His sour mood growing ever more so, the Doctor checked the coordinates Jack had begun to set, and let out a long-suffering sigh. Ravelstock IV, LoSal's Open Mart, an intergalactic rubbish sale. Reluctantly he confirmed their destination and started the TARDIS on its way. Grousing companions could ruin even a perfectly good dash through danger or unique celestial event -- humans, always too busy with their moping, never knew what they were missing.
The TARDIS jerked and bumped to a rougher than usual landing, and the Doctor liked to think that was a sign she was on his side. What time ship wouldn't want to sail around a pulsar? Instead she was forced to bring her travelers to a rusty old space-station in a particularly boring part of the universe, at a particularly boring point in time. No, neither Time Lord, nor time ship, were going to be particularly happy about this stop. Giving the entirely too smug pair of humans a baleful glare, the Doctor moved back from the console and waved a hand at the door behind him.
When they stepped out of the TARDIS onto Station Grunder Nought's vast dockyards, the Doctor made a last ditch attempt to salvage some part of the morning as he engaged in one of his favorite hobbies -- watching Rose's reaction to a new, unfamiliar environment. Unfortunately, her only reaction was to wrinkle her nose at the stench of burnt machine oil and body odor, and to absently ask him directions. He gave them with a sigh. Was she becoming jaded, he wondered. Looking around the place himself, he decided that wasn't jaded, it was a sensible response. The place looked as impressive as a scrap yard, and most of the people around were of a human-ish stock called Sebacean. Fairly dull, lot, too. All in all, the place could be Liverpool for all it wasn't terribly exotic.
The trio wandered off to the market, each rather uncharacteristically quiet. Rose was preoccupied with finding a large enough supply of toothpaste to last a few years, sparing her from ever being in danger of having to rely on tooth-whitening pus, and maybe she could find some nice shower gel. Jack was still slightly bitter about the Doctor's favoring of bananas over an entirely useful weapons factory, and the fact that his favorite blaster was now a very pricey paperweight, but the prospect of gadget hunting at the market had him in better spirits.
The Doctor, meanwhile, was trying to occupy his mind with something interesting and useful. Laying out the TARDIS's navigational systems in his head, he was certain he could improve accuracy with a few, relatively minor, if insanely complicated, upgrades. He was also pondering a vague report he'd heard some years ago, one that had suddenly recalled itself to him, about the ore miners on Maik Three, and he then tried to decide whether or not their obsession with satsumas came from outside interferences or just a lucky stroke, and if it was the former, did he need to take care of it. And when one bloke in an unfortunate cap wandered by, the Time Lord was reminded of the vast city-states of Ray, and their stranglehold on the giant mushroom hat market. It had been at least a hundred years since he was there last. No, wait, a hundred fifty. A hundred seventy? No, a hundred fifty -- Sarah Jane had almost broken his neck when she tripped on his scarf. That would have been an ignoble regeneration. Though, in the long history of his dangerous and sometimes disastrous flirtations with fashion, he actually thought the scarf was quite sharp. Bit of flair, there. He almost missed it, but didn't think it would go with the leather jacket, and, besides, Rose would likely laugh herself ill. There'd once been a time when a Time Lord's companions had proper respect for him. If he set up a secondary power relay from the external astrometric ...
The Doctor trailed along behind his companions as they shopped, not paying much attention to the market around them. It was boring. Very, very boring. The time period was as vastly uninteresting as he remembered it. In a few years it would be much more fun and madly dangerous. Now, however, the biggest threat he faced was death by boredom. He explained as much to Rose as she considered a shoe stall, and she promised him that if he put up with the shopping trip, he could give a container of the Bublov Beast pus to her mother, call it whatever he liked, and she wouldn't say a word. It was a profound commentary on just how bored he was, that he was only mildly cheered by that thought.
Rose eventually found her toothpaste, and a pouffy bath sponge the Doctor didn't have the heart to tell her the origin of, and she pointedly did not ask about. She made her purchases and Jack led them over to the tech market, where the pair of humans poked interestedly at the various wares -- Rose with an endless stream of questions on her lips, and Jack with a kid in the candy shop gleam in his eyes. The Doctor harumphed silently behind them -- he could have found them a much more impressive market if they wanted gadgets. For God's sake, he had an entire wing in the TARDIS that was nothing but gadgets. Gadgets that would put this bunch of junk to shame.
After more than an hour of the shopping, still agonizingly bored and weighed down by his companions' packages, the Doctor was near to calling an end to the whole outing. They had what they needed, and the pulsar was waiting, no need to drag things out. He was nearly certain he'd solved one of the TARDIS's navigation problems, and was itching to get back to it. He'd also decided the satsumas were a happy accident, but probably worth keeping an eye on, and that anybody who could corner a niche market on giant mushroom hats deserved their success. Maybe a black scarf would go with the jacket. He looked across the market towards the clothing area, wondering if he could spot such an accessory, when an oddly familiar figure caught his eye. The stop could be salvaged yet, he thought with a grin, finally cheered.
"Jack," the Doctor hissed and nudged the other man. "D'you know who that is?"
Rose looked up from the combination Varmitten plague scanner/sonic grenade diffuser she was admiring and peered around his shoulder. "Who?"
"You wouldn't know him," the Doctor put her off, and nudged Jack again.
Jack shoved at the Doctor's prodding elbow and turned away from the vendor he was haggling with. "What?"
"Over there. You see him? In the black leather?"
"There's only one man in black leather for me," Jack said airily, trying to return to his bartering.
"I'm touched, but you'll regret it if you miss this," the Doctor told him in a light, sing-song voice. Grabbing Jack's shoulder he pulled him back around and pointed with one long finger.
"Alright, who's the mystery man?" Jack sighed, relenting. "Black leather ... Doctor, you do realize were surrounded by people in black leather, right?"
"Sebaceans," the Doctor said with the universal 'what're ya gonna do?' shrug. "Red and black waistcoat, by the weapons shop."
"Okay, I see him. Not bad. Nice ass. What else am I looking at?"
"You don't recognize him?"
Jack shrugged and squinted. "Wait," he said slowly after a moment. "That's not ... is that?" He turned to the Doctor, his blue eyes wide with excitement. "No way."
"Who?" Rose put in, mildly annoyed at being left out of something potentially fantastic.
"Did you know he'd be here?" Jack prompted the Doctor breathlessly.
"Not a clue," the Doctor told him with a broad grin. "This was your stop, remember?"
"Who?" Rose demanded, poking Jack in the side with a sharp nail.
He swatted her hand away, but pulled her close to him, lowering his head and pointing at the man in the red waistcoat. "That? Is only one of my freaking childhood heroes, Rose. Commander John Crichton." He sighed happily. "And, damn, he's a looker."
Rose nodded thoughtfully. "Nice trousers."
"They are, aren't they?"
"You ever thought of wearing leather trousers?" She looked up at Jack, thoughtful expression still on her face.
"I've worn them before. I look pretty good in 'em, too, if I do say so myself. But, well, they're a little confining, if you know what I mean. Commander Crichton, though, wow."
"Wow, indeed," Rose murmured, returning to the ogling along with Jack.
"Oi!" the Doctor barked. His amusement at seeing the other human was now tempered by the sudden lack of attention he was getting. They'd been ignoring him all day, already. Was he just a pack animal to them, then? Just a means of carting their rubbish from one end of space and time to the other? The sour mood, so briefly lifted, was returning full force.
"What?" Rose glanced up all innocence. "He's gorgeous."
"You and the pretty ones," the Doctor sniffed disdainfully.
She waved her hand at him and went back to staring at Crichton. "You're just jealous."
"You two can stop that any time. I'm gonna go over and say something to him," Jack said brightly, bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet.
"Watch yourself around him, Jack," the Doctor warned. "History books don't always include the pertinent details, as they don't consider that you're apt to actually meet the historical personage in person." He looked down at his watch and tapped its face. "'Round about this time in his history he's a bit unstable."
"The history books covered that," Jack told him impatiently, taking a step away from the Doctor and Rose.
"Alright, try more than a bit. Try completely starkers. And he's got a gun. Best not sneak up on him, eh? Don't fancy dragging pieces of you back to the TARDIS."
"Me, either," Rose agreed with a disgusted frown.
"Oh, and Jack?" Jack sighed and turned around to face the Doctor. "He thinks he's the only human out here, and in his time he is. Well, except you two, but he doesn't know that. So, he's going to think you're Sebacean, and you know how they make him."
"Right now? Yeah."
"S'at why he's famous? He's the first out here?" Rose asked, moving a bit to one side so she could see around Jack again.
"Sort of. He also stops a nasty war in a couple years time and later discovers ..." he trailed off when he saw that Rose was paying more attention to the leather trousers than what he was saying. "Oh, never mind. Jack, don't mention any of that."
Jack set his jaw stubbornly and gave the Doctor a frosty glare. "I was a Time Agent for a while, Doctor. I know what I'm doing."
The Doctor snorted inelegantly and earned an elbow in the ribs from Rose. Jack's eyes narrowed and he turned on his heel, stalking off across the crowded market.
"You know, you've no reason to be jealous," Rose told the Doctor lightly.
"Good job I wasn't, then, isn't it?"
She rolled her eyes and tucked her arm through his. "You are, it's no use arguing with me about it. So, do I get to meet this Commander bloke, too?"
"If you like. But he really isn't at his best just now. If I'd known he was such a hero of Jack's, I might have tried to find him a few years from now. He's a bit better off then."
Rose hummed quietly. "Who was it said something about it being a bad idea to meet our heroes?"
She snorted and nudged him. "Other than you. Read it in a book once. Doesn't matter, the idea still holds. You don't think Jack's gonna be disappointed, do you?" Her mouth pulled down into a concerned frown, and she glanced up at him apprehensively.
"Hard to say. Crichton's mad as a hatter," the Doctor pronounced with an entirely too bright grin.
"So then, Jack should be used to it, what with traveling around with you, yeah?"
"Oi! You know, there's only so much abuse my ego can take in a day."
"We haven't even approached your maximum." Tapping her lips with a finger, Rose watched Jack carefully approach the other man. "You know, the name is sort of familiar."
"American astronaut. Lost in your era. You'd have been eleven or twelve when he went off."
"Huh. Maybe I do sort of remember. Wasn't really an interest of mine at the time. Some experiment gone wrong, right? They thought it'd killed him?"
"That's right," the Doctor confirmed absently, his shoulders tensing as Jack finally reached Crichton.
"And he ended up out here?"
"Strange," she muttered half to herself.
"Stranger than traveling the universe in a blue box?"
"Nothing's stranger than that."
"I didn't say it was bad strange, did I? You're so sensitive."
"You're bad for my self-esteem," he mumbled.
"Oh, please," she laughed and hugged his arm. "In five minutes, if you remember I said that, I'll be shocked."
"I might do," he argued back. She grinned up at him, and he cemented his affronted grimace in place.
"You know," she said slowly, a suspiciously amused twitch to her lips. "There's only one man in black leather for me, too." The suspiciously amused twitch turned into a triumphant smirk at his suddenly bewildered expression.
"You're winding me up," he accused with a low growl, his perplexity fading into petulance.
The smirk never wavered, but she tugged at his arm, and started across the market after Jack. "C'mon, I want to meet this bloke."
If there was one thing Captain Jack Harkness wasn't, it was shy. No, he had charm to spare, and moves smoother than Pluto's ice plains. The problem was, he'd never stood five feet away from a man he considered a personal hero, and he found himself suddenly frozen. No words, no actions, not a single thought came to mind, let alone something clever or charming.
Jack didn't have very many heroes, but something about the life of Commander John Crichton always meant something to him. Maybe it was the regular Joe, lost in space, just trying to survive aspect. Maybe it was that the universe could kick him time and again and somehow he kept getting back up. Maybe it was just that he ended up with a smokin' alien babe. But, whatever it was, somewhere, deep, deep, deep down inside, where the little voices live, there was one little voice that measured every action against John Crichton. That particular little voice had, over the years, been nearly smothered, as Jack followed a darker path.
And now here he was, five feet away from everything he'd failed to live up to. The sudden, inexplicable shyness, faded into weary cynicism, and his immobility melted.
"Commander John Crichton?" he asked, cocking his head as if he'd just come across the man and wasn't sure of his identity. That may have been a mistake. The Commander tensed immediately and his hand dropped to the pistol at his thigh.
"Don't know him," the other man said lightly, though Jack heard the strain in his voice. He squared up to face Jack, feet apart, braced for battle, as his eyes scanned the market, looking for more trouble.
"Relax, I'm not after anything."
The Commander's cool blue eyes stopped their scan of the market and dropped back onto Jack, pinning him in place. "Good."
"Okay, so you're not the chatty type." Jack shifted uneasily under the Commander's gaze, his earlier hesitance rushing back, nearly swamping him again. "I just ... just wanted to say hi. You're, uh, something of a hero of mine," he told Crichton with a sheepish grin, rolling his eyes at himself.
It was the Commander's turn to freeze. He stared at Jack for several long heartbeats, the words seeming to break over him slowly, and the hard look faded into one of absolute confusion. "I'm ... what?"
Crichton's shoulders dropped from their tense, defensive posture, and one hand came up to scrub through his wild hair in an almost insecure gesture. "I don't know what you're talking about, man," he muttered.
"Commander John Crichton. Right?"
"Who are you?" The Commander demanded. The baffled man's eyes scanned Jack, obviously struggling to put together the ill-fitting pieces of a bizarre puzzle that was just dropped at his feet.
Jack flushed, mortified at his lack of manners, and stuck out his hand. "Oh, sorry. Captain Jack Harkness, and it is an honor to meet you, sir." He tried for the charming smile and thought he just might have hit it right, when the Commander blinked at him and slowly took his hand.
"Are you a Peacekeeper?"
"Nope. Just passing through." Jack held onto the other man's hand for a second longer than he probably should have, but the whole moment was surreal and he couldn't quite get himself to let go.
"Okay. Well, great to meet you, Captain Harkness--"
"Call me Jack."
"Right. Jack. Anyway," he tugged his hand from Jack's grip, and crossed his arms over his chest. "I think it's time for you ..." he trailed off as his eyes caught sight of something over Jack's shoulder. Jack started to turn, thinking maybe it was the Doctor and Rose, but he didn't get far before Crichton grabbed him by the front of his shirt, and he felt the cold metal of the other man's pistol under his chin.
"Did you play me?" the Commander demanded in a harsh whisper.
"Did I what?" Jack pushed at Crichton, trying to break his hold, but the other man's grip only tightened, and the pistol pressed harder, forcing Jack's head up.
Releasing Jack's shirt, the Commander spun him around, one arm slipping over his shoulder and across his throat, the pistol shifting to press just below his ear. As a child Jack had imagined meeting Crichton -- oddly enough, this particular scenario had never once occurred to him.
"Peacekeepers," Crichton hissed in Jack's ear. Jack's eyes picked out the knot of black-helmeted figures pushing carelessly and somewhat brutally through the crowd. "Did you bring them?"
"No," Jack croaked, holding up his hands, trying to calm the agitated man with the rather firm choke-hold on him. "Not a Peacekeeper."
"Right. You just happened to be here. Just happened to recognize me. A frelling hero? Damn, man." He laughed coldly, and tugged Jack back, pulling them behind a broad beam set into the bulkhead that made up the exterior of the weapons shop.
"D'Argo? D'Argo, can you hear me? Aeryn? Pilot? Come on, somebody. Aeryn?" Crichton was muttering viciously behind him. Jack could feel his hot, humid breath on one side of his neck, and the achingly cold metal of the pistol pressed against the other. He knew which he preferred.
"They're probably jamming," Jack said quietly, trying to keep his voice as even as possible. His eyes slipped back across the market to keep watch on the Peacekeepers, to measure their approach, and to try and figure out how much time they did or didn't have. They were on the far side of the market, the Peacekeepers were spreading out, but searching stall to stall, they might have two minutes. Maybe.
"You'd know," he growled.
"I'm not a Peacekeeper, I swear."
"How do you know who I am, then?"
"Would you believe that it's a really long story?"
Crichton snorted derisively and pulled him back along the wall, away from the approaching troops, and towards a fabric stall. Jack stumbled backwards, trying not to choke and trying not to jostle Crichton so much he'd blow his head off. This just wasn't turning out as he'd expected.
"Hello, can I ask what you're doing with my companion?"
Jack held his breath as he felt the Commander go rigid behind him, the man's arm tightening almost painfully across his throat. Sliding his eyes over to the Doctor, Jack felt his stomach sink as Crichton's gun lowered, and he feared it was only another second before it was pointed at the Time Lord. It was amazing how much u-boat captains and Peacekeepers looked alike.
"Who the frell are you?"
"I'm the Doctor and this is Rose Tyler."
Jack craned his head around as far as he could without cutting off his air supply against the Commander's arm, and his sinking stomach plunged even further when he saw Rose standing on the Doctor's far side, her eyebrows raised, her lips pursed, and her arms crossed. This was all going to go so very sideways, and it would be his fault. Ah, hell.
"So, what you doing with my companion?" the Doctor asked again. His tone was light, and he wore a broad smile, but behind the smile, behind the tone, there was a cold weight, the force of ages. The Commander hesitated.
"Who are you people?"
"Told you. I'm the Doctor, this is Rose, and you've met Jack."
"We'd appreciate it if you let Jack go," Rose spoke up, angrily biting out each word as she glared at the Commander.
Crichton's grip loosened and the gun fell away from Jack's neck. "You're not Peacekeepers?"
"Not everybody's an enemy," the Doctor told him quietly, but the cold power behind him hadn't dissipated.
"You should try it from my side," Crichton shot back. He let go of Jack completely, pushing him away and turning his head to watch the still approaching Peacekeepers.
"Oh, I have," the Doctor assured him, stepping up close, the grin twisting into a fierce glare. "I don't like people manhandling my companions."
It was a look any sane man would have quailed from; Crichton, however, was slipping away from sanity bit by bit, day by day -- he never flinched. "And I don't like that half the galaxy wants to suck my brains out my ears. I don't like that every time I turn around the universe has aimed one more kick at my teeth. And I really don't like that you're in my way."
Jack had felt oddly calm when Crichton held the gun to his neck -- he'd been well aware that the Commander wasn't quite all there at this point in his history, and Jack knew he really should have known better. However, as he watched the Commander and the Doctor square off, as he felt the enormous power building between the two men, he felt the long claw of bitter fear slide down his spine. Crichton didn't know all that he was yet, what he could do, and while the Doctor wouldn't do anything to destroy history if he could avoid it, a bad move by Crichton towards Rose would change the universe, maybe even tear it to pieces, in ways only the Time Lord could begin to fathom.
"Guys, look," Jack said desperately, stepping hesitantly up to the angry pair. "There are Peacekeepers coming, and I don't think any of us want to be around for that. I'm fine, we're all fine, let's do that whole bygones thing, what do you say?" The men stayed locked in their power struggle, either not hearing Jack, or ignoring him. "Doctor? Come on, give me a sign here."
The Doctor's eyes flashed quicksilver, and he rocked back on his heels, the grin reappearing. "Don't think any of us had date with a press-gang penciled into our calendars today, did we? No good lallygagging 'round here." He looked down at Rose. "Got your toothpaste?"
Looking mildly bemused, but far more used to the Doctor's mercurial moods than Jack, she smiled and nodded. "Yep."
"Got your running shoes on?"
His smile grew even broader, baring his teeth, and he looked back up at Jack and the Commander. "Gentlemen, I suggest we leg it."
The suggestion barely made it past his lips before a shout from the Peacekeepers, the definite sound of Crichton's name in the call, warned them that their time was up. The Doctor grabbed Rose's hand and they were off, darting through the market, before Jack could fully react, and even after they were gone, he hesitated. If Crichton couldn't reach his people, if he was stuck on the station, there was a good chance the Peacekeepers would get him, and, though his history might be a bit rusty in some areas, Jack was pretty sure Crichton wasn't captured here. Not bothering to think about it further, he grabbed the Commander by the waistcoat and pulled him with him through the panicking throngs.
The Doctor and Rose were a hell of a lot faster than they looked, and Jack lost sight of them before he got more than a few stalls. Crichton shrugged him off after a few more paces, but rather than breaking away, he seemed willing to follow Jack's lead for the time being.
Their mad dash through the wide market nearly ended in disaster when they came upon a pair of Peacekeepers standing in the middle of one of the main thoroughfares. Without slowing, Jack dropped his shoulder and launched himself at one of the men, bowling him over. Struggling to his knees, he wrested away the rifle and raised the stock to strike, when the second Peacekeeper found he had the same idea and slammed the butt of his rifle into Jack's cheekbone.
Things were a little hazy after that, Jack was vaguely aware of the sound of gunfire, the acrid tang of chakan oil in the air, warm blood filling his mouth, and then a pair of rough hands pulling him up by his shirt. Unsteady on his feet, the hands shoved him through the crowds ahead of them. Every time he stumbled to his knees, the coarse duracrete flooring tearing painfully at his legs, those hands would pull him back up and shove him on.
Jack felt the change as they finally broke free of the crowds, leaving the market behind, but the shock of the blow was wearing off and in its place was skull-shattering pain. Each step was agony, and it wasn't long before he hit the ground again, merciful blackness swallowing him as he fell.
"Come on, you stubborn son of a bitch," Crichton muttered, tugging at the half-conscious dark-haired man. With a low moan, Harkness's eyes rolled up in his head and he dropped bonelessly to the ground.
"Great, just want I wanted. You know, I didn't ask for this, buddy," Crichton growled as he pulled the man into a fireman's carry. Staggering on through the station, towards the treblin-side dockyards, Crichton wondered what he'd done today to piss off the universe. "Minding my own frelling business, doin' just fine. Thanks for screwing up my day."
A few long minutes on, the Doctor appeared around a turn in the low, wide corridor. He slid to a stop at the sight of Crichton and the unconscious man. "What happened to him?"
"You always leave your companions behind?" Crichton panted, not bothering to keep the irritation out of his voice. He'd tried to hail his own crewmates several more times, but the comms stayed stubbornly silent. He could only hope Chiana made it back to the transport pod, and just his luck that they'd docked on the other side of the frelling station.
"No, I bloody well don't," the Doctor snapped, pulling a small, pen-like device from his pocket. "Put him down, 'less you've taken a fancy to him."
Grunting with ill-humor, Crichton let the unconscious man slide gently to the ground. He straightened his back with a groan and shook his head as the Doctor ran the device over Harkness's injury.
"Pulse rifle to the face."
"The bone's cracked," the Doctor pronounced tightly. "Help me get him back to my ship."
Something about the abruptness in the Doctor's tone rubbed Crichton the wrong way. Crossing his arms, his lips twisted up into a sardonic smile. "Is that an order?"
The Doctor raised his clear, sharp eyes to Crichton's and regarded him expressionlessly for a heartbeat. "I don't need to issue orders."
John reigned in his temper, and stared down at the unconscious and bleeding Captain. If he could just push his paranoia aside long enough, he could admit to himself that it probably wasn't Harkness's fault that the Peacekeeper's had picked that moment to show up. Sure, he could blame him for sending him to the wrong side of the station, he could blame him for the stupid, needless hero stunt that landed him concussed and fractured, but even after holding a pistol to his head, the guy'd still tried to help him.
Crichton knew he was a long way from home, a long way from sanity, but he hoped to hell that in some little part in what was left of his mind, he was still the kind of guy who wouldn't abandon somebody who could use his help.
"Ah, hell," he sighed. "How do I get myself into this kind of crap?"
"Bad luck, mate."
Lacking the time and means to secure and transport Harkness properly, the two men each grabbed an arm, pulling him up, dragging him down the long corridor.
Interminable minutes later, Crichton expecting the shouts of Peacekeepers behind him with each stop, they reached the dockyard. Bare seconds after that they came upon a blue box, the blonde girl from before, Rose Something, standing worriedly in front of it.
"He'll be fine," the Doctor assured her. "You've your key?"
"Yeah, it's open." She turned and shoved the door to the box open then stood aside to let the Doctor in.
Crichton hesitated outside and wondered if he wasn't the one who took the blow to the head. He could swear the blue box had a sign above the doors declaring it a police box. Not to mention the sign on the door offering the use of the police phone. Both of which appeared to be in English.
Blinking, struggling to understand, he watched the Doctor disappear inside the entirely too tiny box, and then stared at Rose staring back at him.
"You coming in or what?" She asked brusquely.
"This is your ship?"
"Yeah." She rolled her eyes and turned away, slipping through the door. Crichton got the distinct impression she didn't like him much. Which, honestly, wasn't all that surprising given that he'd held her friend at gunpoint. This really wasn't turning into a highlight reel day for him.
Stepping forward carefully, he stuck his head in the door of the box and his eyebrows shot up. He leaned back, hands braced on the door frame and considered the object before him. This was new. Leaning around the side of the box, he confirmed to himself that it was, indeed, just a box. The only thing behind it were barrels of oil and a mound of twisted scrap metal. He moved back to the front of the box and stared at it for another moment, before finally taking a deep breath and stepping in, carefully shutting the door behind him.
"Yeah, it's bigger on the inside than the outside," Rose grumbled at him as he strode warily up a low ramp. She was standing beside a large, vaguely mushroom-shaped piece of equipment that took up the center of the room and gave off a strange green glow.
"Probably a micro-universe, or some sort of spatial pocket, wrinkle, something," Crichton told her absently as he approached the machinery he'd decided was probably the control center of the ship. Approaching closer, ignoring Rose shifting almost protectively around the device, he frowned up the wild tendrils of wires and thick cables that hung down from the arched ceiling and the clear, glass tube that rose from the center of the machine. Glancing down he poked at what looked a hell of a lot like half an astrolabe with a bell attached.
He jumped at the Doctor's voice and turned away to see the man leaning against one of the curving struts that seemed to grow out of the floor.
"Micro-universe. Well, close enough. You're not as stupid as you look." The Doctor pushed off the strut and stalked over, brushing him away from the controls. Crichton circled around to the opposite side, running his hands over the random, chaotic, and fairly eccentric collection of devices and screens that made up the top of the controller.
"Tell me this isn't a bicycle pump," Crichton muttered when his holster became snagged.
"Oi, I don't come on your ship and criticize, do I?"
With a flat look at the Doctor, John managed to free himself. "So, you're saying it is a bicycle pump?"
Rose made a sound that might have been a laugh, but when Crichton looked over at her, whatever amusement might have been there was gone, replaced by a truly arctic glare. She turned away from him and stepped up closer to the other man.
"He'll be fine. Up and about in a few minutes." He put his hand on her shoulder and looked back over at Crichton. "So, what d'you suppose we should do with this one, then?"
"Don't know," she mumbled, softly enough that Crichton almost couldn't hear her.
"He's pretty enough." The Doctor's voice sounded teasing, as if making an old joke.
A joke Rose didn't fall for. She shrugged and looked down. "Suppose. He held a gun on Jack, though."
"I am standing right here," Crichton pointed out, annoyed.
"Hello," the Doctor said brightly, then turned back to his conversation with the girl. "Told Jack he shouldn't sneak up on him, though, didn't I?"
"Yeah, but, still ..."
Crichton tapped on the panel in front of him and cleared his throat loudly. "Can I ask a question, here?"
"Nothing's stopping you," the Doctor informed him.
John held up a yellow sticky note with the words Doctor -- get tea scrawled across it in suspiciously loopy handwriting. "Is this English?"
"Second question: What the hell is going on?"
The Doctor crossed his arms and leaned a hip against the control center. "In the broader, philosophical sense?"
Crichton shot a withering glare at the other man. "Who are you people?"
"Told you. Twice actually."
"You're from Earth?"
The Doctor's face brightened in true amusement and he began to laugh. "God, no. Well, not me. This one is." He nudged Rose.
"London," she confirmed, her voice still cool and clipped, giving Crichton the full-force of her displeasure.
"How ..." Crichton closed his eyes and licked his lips. "How, exactly, is that possible?"
Rose scoffed loudly and dropped into the room's only chair. "Right, so, you've no problem with micro-whatsit, but a sticky note in English is too much to believe?"
"Do you have any idea how many times I've had my head messed with?" Crichton exploded, leaning across the controls towards her, making her jump slightly and push further back in the chair. "Go ahead and tell me that this isn't just another mind-frell."
"This isn't just another mind-frell," the Doctor said, his own face hardening, lips disappearing in a grim frown.
"Screw you, buddy." Crichton pushed away from the controls, and stormed across the chamber towards the front door.
"Wouldn't do that if I were you," the Doctor called out behind him.
Crichton ignored him and pulled open the door, only to slam it shut an instant later when the line of Peacekeepers standing outside opened fire. Taking a deep breath, he ran his hands over the wood, absently impressed at its ability to keep out the pulse fire. Frustration tightened in his chest; he was trapped in a ship with people he didn't understand, away from his shipmates who were probably in some danger, if they hadn't been captured already.
With an angry roar, Crichton slammed his fist into the door, once, twice, and he was pulling back for a third blow, when an iron hand gripped his arm and yanked him back forcefully.
"Don't beat on my ship, Commander," the Doctor told him, each word bound in ice.
Crichton pulled his arm from the Doctor's grasp and pointed back at the door. "My friends are out there," he shouted, his face reddening alarmingly. "My ship is out there. I can't frelling contact them. I can't frelling warn them. And I'm stuck in this God damned box with a fruitcake, a tart, and an idiot with a hero complex."
The Doctor turned and loped up the ramp to the control center, flipping switches and turning dials before Crichton could finish his rant.
After a moment, the Doctor turned back to the visibly shaking Commander. "Try your comms now," he told John sharply.
Crichton narrowed his eyes, he had no reason to trust this guy, but his worry overrode his suspicion and he lowered his head to his comm. "Aeryn? Aeryn? Come on."
"Crichton, where the frell are you?"
Crichton let out a long, trembling sigh, and scrubbed his hands over his face, when Aeryn's voice crackled over the comms. "Everybody okay there?"
"For the moment. There's a strike force docked at the station."
"I know. I met a couple. Have they seen you? Did Chiana make it back?"
"Moya's on the far side of the planet, she picked up a Peacekeeper transmission from the station before the strike team arrived. And yes, Chiana made it back. Where the frell are you?"
The Doctor waved a hand in his direction, trying for his attention. Crichton jerked his chin at the man. "Tell them to starburst away."
Crichton blinked stupidly at him. "What?"
"I'll get you back to your ship. The longer they stay, the more likely they are to be captured. You know that. Tell them to starburst."
Tell his friends to get away, leave him behind. It was the sensible thing to do; if nothing else they'd be safe. Of course, his own safety would be dependent on a man whose intentions he didn't know, who had a ship he didn't entirely understand, with a girl who came from the planet he'd lost two cycles ago, and all of which brought him nothing but a world of questions and uncertainty.
It was a no-brainer, and he hated himself for even pausing to think about it.
"Aeryn. You guys get out of here."
"We will not."
"Aeryn, for God's sake, just ... just don't argue with me. I'll get back to you. Starburst now."
"Frell you, Crichton."
"Aeryn," he growled and rubbed at his face again, suddenly beyond exhausted. "I will get back to you."
Aeryn was silent for a long moment, a long moment during which a cold wash of fear froze Crichton's heart in his chest. Please, just go. Please, just go. Aeryn, honey, please, just go.
"If you're not on Moya, or we don't hear from you in twelve arns, we are coming back," she finally responded, voice tense.
Crichton looked up at the Doctor, who simply shrugged nonchalantly and offered a thin smile. "Fine. Crichton out."
Sighing, feeling oddly defeated, Crichton let his shoulders slump. Stepping back until he hit the wall, he slid slowly to the floor.
"Oh, one thing, Commander. While you're on my ship." Crichton raised his head to look at the Doctor, who stood with his hands in his pockets, as he leaned nonchalantly against the controls, his lips pulled up into a wide grin that did nothing to soften the storm threatening in his eyes. "Pull your gun on one of my friends again, and history can hang itself for all I care."
Jack's head was feeling a little delicate when he walked back into the console room. Not hurting, exactly, just ... delicate. Like a good, stiff breeze would blow it apart like so much dandelion fluff. Other than that, though, for taking a rifle butt in the face, cracking his skull, he was feeling pretty good. The potential for the whole day to end up cosmically whacked had been high, but things were looking up.
Stepping into the room, feeling almost cheerful, he was a little surprised to find it empty. Slowing his steps, he walked over to the control console, wondering where everybody disappeared to. It wasn't until he was actually in the center of the room that he saw Commander Crichton sitting on the floor next to the outside door. His knees up, elbow propped on one knee, chin resting in his hand, staring down at the floor grating. His other hand was absently playing with the release on his holster, pushing it open, then sliding the pistol back with a click, again and again and again.
Jack watched him for a long moment, mesmerized by the movement of his hand. This was all very strange, and after traveling with the Doctor for a bit, that was really saying something.
Jack cleared his throat, put on his best smile, and crossed the room towards Crichton. "The Doctor says I owe you some thanks for the save back there."
Crichton's eyes rose to Jack's, but didn't make any other move. He also stayed obstinately silent.
"So, thanks," Jack concluded, studying Crichton closely.
The man wasn't particularly friendly. That didn't entirely jibe with the image he'd always had of him. The scrappy human, out of his depth, whistling through ass-kickings -- those given and those received. Jack knew enough, had been around time enough, to know that this was just an adjustment he'd have to make to his own perceptions. If he'd never known Crichton's history, and just met him on the street and heard the tale, he'd get it. He knew what it was to be dealt a crap hand, what that did to a person. But a lifetime of hero-worship was hard to overcome.
"Where'd they go, by the way?" Jack tipped his head back towards the room at large.
Crichton sighed and dropped his hand down across his knees, and brought the holster fondling hand up to rub at his eyes. "The Doctor said he needed some parts for something. He and the girl took off down the hallway there. No idea. They've been gone about ten minutes, I guess."
"Ah," Jack said wisely, cautiously stepping forward a bit more, leaning against one of the curving struts. "I'm sorry about that back there in the market, Commander. I just ... wanted to say hi. Probably not the best timing I've ever had." Jack laughed and shook his head. "And really, thanks for the save. You didn't have to do it."
Crichton allowed a crooked smile to touch his lips. "Well, you did kinda ruin my day. But, no harm done. Well, except to your face. How is that?"
Jack reached up and touched his still tender cheekbone. "Pretty good, actually. The Doc's got some good drugs."
"So he really is a doctor?"
"Well ... he's The Doctor. Trying to pin him down on specifics is a little iffy."
Crichton nodded and lapsed back into moody silence. Jack sighed and stared down at his boots. There had to be some way to salvage this encounter from awkward conversation, and the subsequent lapses into painful silence.
"So, uh, this must be pretty strange, huh?"
Crichton raised an eyebrow and let his eyes wander pointedly around the room. "A police telephone box in the middle of the Uncharted Territories? Why would that be strange?"
With a wry smile, Jack pushed himself off the strut and crossed to sit down at the base of the ramp in front of the Commander.
"You're from Earth, too?" Crichton asked as Jack settled himself.
"Not your time," Jack answered carefully.
Crichton stared at him for a long moment, then let his eyes slip back to the command console. "Okay. And you say I'm a--a hero of yours?"
"That's right," he confirmed brightly. "Read all the books about you when I was a kid. Even had all the comics. Oh, and this awesome poster of you and the Farscape module."
Crichton closed his eyes and laughed an almost pitying laugh. "Ah, man, you could do so much better than me."
"No, I don't think so. Look at it. You're the first guy out here. You pave the way for things you can't even begin to imagine. It's amazing."
Crichton opened one eye and peered at Jack, doubt and wariness warring in that one orb. "Uh-huh."
"Besides," Jack said slowly and with as much innocence as an old cad like him could manage, "your sister Olivia? Hot. I had one of those family album books, and that page saw a lot of use."
Crichton opened the other eye and frowned darkly at him, lips twisting in disgust. "You are not drooling after my sister, are you?"
"Why not? You don't think she'd like me?" Running a hand through his hair, Jack grinned charmingly.
"I don't think you're ever going to find out," Crichton grumped, though he looked less tense and Jack gave himself a mental pat on the back.
"And your dad--"
"Don't even go there, pal."
"What's not to like?"
"I'm not a hero," Crichton said softly, hand dropping back down to toy with his holster.
"Maybe you aren't," Jack agreed with a shrug. "Maybe you're just a guy who does the best he can to not end up dead. The guy who'll make the tough choices when nobody else can or will. Honestly, though? I've learned to appreciate that over the years. I, uh, haven't managed to do it myself, much. Until recently, I guess. Jury's still out on me."
"Well you've certainly got the stupid hero complex thing. What the hell, Captain? Jumping a Peacekeeper? God, you're lucky the other one didn't just shoot you. They're not exactly known for their restraint." Crichton chided him with a frosty look and a shake of his head.
Jack shrugged again. "Yeah, well, like I said, jury's still out. I kind of liked being a coward. It certainly paid better. But I guess I didn't like myself much."
"I know the feeling."
"Somehow I don't think you're a coward."
Crichton snorted softly and let his head fall back onto the wall. "I guess you'd know."
Jack stared at him quietly for a long minute, weighing the facts he knew, what this man would be, against what he saw now. "Yeah, I guess I would," he replied eventually.
With startling abruptness, Crichton stood and brushed past Jack, back up to the command console. "You're time travelers?"
Jack scrambled to his feet, taken a little off guard. "That's right," he said carefully, half-afraid of where Crichton would go with this.
The Commander picked up a ball off the console and tossed it back and forth between his hands. "I don't want to know."
Bemused, Jack walked slowly over to him. "What?"
"I wouldn't tell you even if you wanted to know. I'm pretty sure the Doctor never took the hippocratic oath, so my neck would be very seriously on the line if I did say something. He's unhappy enough that I even wanted to talk to you."
"And the girl?"
"Rose? What about her?" Jack asked, tensing up defensively at the Commander's cold tone.
"What does she do?"
"Keeps the Doctor sane, I think," Jack told him with a laugh. "Or, sort of sane. She's not from the future. Your future, that is."
"Okay." Crichton wasn't looking at him, and the small ball in his hands made a soft tap-tap each time he tossed it back and forth, then stopped it, spun it between his fingers, and tossed again. A nervous rhythm that wasn't making Jack feel particularly at ease.
One step forward, two steps back with Commander John Crichton, it seemed. He almost reminded Jack of the Doctor -- the glowering, the sudden mood change, the wary watchfulness, the hint of madness. Though, the Doctor was a good bit more personable and cheerful (sometimes), and while only a fool would mistake the Time Lord as anything less than dangerous, Crichton fairly screamed sudden violence.
Drumming his fingers against the railing, Jack watched the far door, hoping Rose or the Doctor would show back up soon.
"How'd you all end up together?" Crichton asked after a moment.
"Oh, uh, the Doctor and Rose met in London; something about attacking shop window dummies." Crichton raised an eyebrow and dropped down to sit in the chair, propping his feet up on the edge of the console. "And I met them in London during the Blitz, where I very nearly wiped out humanity. Not a shining moment for me."
The Commander laughed and tossed the ball up into the air, catching it neatly as it came back down to him. "I guess that turned out okay, seeing as we're sitting here."
"Guess so," Jack agreed, hoping for a change in subject. Instead it sent them back into another of those uncomfortable silences. Jack watching the ball fly back and forth between the other man's hands, and the Commander staring absently at the lights and dials on the console.
"Oi!" The outraged howl announced the return of the Doctor. The man was never subtle, was he? But Jack could have kissed him for the save from the awkward pause. "Feet off the console," the Time Lord growled, stomping across the floor, his footsteps ringing off the deck plating. Swatting at the Commander's legs, he pushed past the man, glaring as he did so.
Rose trailed behind him carrying a large box, rolling her eyes as she strode up the ramp. "He dropped a hammer on his foot," she muttered to Jack as she walked by. "Expect insults."
"So, Doc, what--" Crichton started, putting his feet back up on the edge of the console.
"Doctor. Don't go picking up Jack's lousy habits," the Doctor snapped, staring at Crichton's boots, his lips thinning as he pressed them together in irritation. "Feet off."
Crichton quirked a small smile at that and swung his feet back down. "Just wondering when you're going to get me back to my ship."
"When I bloody well get to it," the Time Lord growled. "'Less you fancy ending up a hundred thousand years off, you'll hold off nattering at me while I do this."
"What, exactly, is this?" Crichton asked, not sounding at all put-off by the Doctor's manner. In fact, he looked incredibly amused.
Jack closed his eyes and took a deep breath; God help him if he was stuck with these two for any length of time. Rose looked like she felt much the same, though, Jack suspected most of her irritation was directed at Crichton. Certainly the glare she'd given him as she walked by, was enough to freeze the marrow of a lesser man.
The Doctor grunted dismissively and turned to his work, prying up a panel on the console. "We took a hard landing, buggered the nav some. Saw it when I was getting a fix on your ship for the comms."
"You can get me back to my ship, right?"
"I already told you I would. Deaf, are you? Or just slow? Human, though, that figures. One day I'll figure out how you lot lasted long enough to learn to walk upright."
Rose raised her hands and looked up at the ceiling. "Ah, the insults. What did I say? Right on time. Doctor, you need new material."
"I need the laser spanner."
Rose dug through the box and handed him the requested device. "And new material."
"I don't need new. Perfected over nine hundred years, that is."
"Well that was a spectacular waste of time, then, wasn't it?"
He shot her a dark look, but didn't otherwise reply.
Sighing sadly, though her eyes were lit with amusement, Rose toyed with a small bit of wire. "All that time, you could have been practicing your ... dancing."
She laughed when the Doctor fumbled with his spanner. Giving her a mock glare, the corners of his lips twitching, he plucked the wire from her fingers and slapped the bit of grating back down. "If I'd known you were evil when we met, I'd've thought twice about asking you."
"Right, fine." He straightened, flipped the spanner off the edge of his fingers, letting it clatter noisily to the top of the console, and turned back around, arms crossed, considering the Commander. "What do you want to know?"
Not even blinking at the Doctor's swift change of attention, Crichton sat back and pulled up a leg, draping it nonchalantly over the arm of the chair. Jack admired the move. And he admired the way the Commander's trousers hugged his thigh as he moved. Blinking he glanced away and caught Rose watching the Commander's trousers as well. Well, she might not like the man, but who could help but love the trousers?
"Just that you can get me back to my ship. Only thing I care about."
"That so?" The Doctor pinned him with an intense, searching gaze. "Yes, Commander, I can and will get you back to your ship. I will do it within the allotted twelve hours relative time, so you needn't worry about your crewmates. Then we will cheerfully leave you to whatever it is you're doing here. But, you can do me a favor; while you're on my ship, you can stop thinking we're after something from you, because, half the galaxy might be after your brain, but I've got more than enough gray matter, and I certainly don't need yours."
Rose laughed softly, picking up the bit of wire again, twisting it through her fingers, while pointedly not looking at Crichton. Crichton, for his part, looked like he was going a little prickly again. Jack rubbed at his forehead and really wished he had at least one of these people on his side.
"Doctor, why don't I show Commander Crichton around while you fix the nav." He waved vaguely at the console.
The Doctor shrugged and spun back around. "Fine. Off you go, then."
The next two hours passed relatively sanely for Jack and his guest. Once out of the presence of the Doctor and the surprisingly annoyed Rose, Crichton relaxed a little bit. He seemed to drift off from time to time, once or twice stopping dead in the middle of a corridor, muttering darkly to himself, but he'd shake out of it after a moment or two, and carry on as if nothing had happened. Jack watched it all with a curious eye, but held himself back from questioning, opting instead to show the Commander some of the TARDIS's more interesting sights.
Jack was overjoyed when he led Crichton into one of the gadget rooms, and the Commander's eyes lit up. They spent a good hour in there, bonding over scanners and disrupters and analyzers. As they talked and Crichton toyed happily with the various items, Jack continued to adjust his ideas of the man. He was relieved to find that though the image of him changed, the fundamental things that had always drawn Jack to him stayed much the same. He was that lost guy just trying to make his way. He was the guy who shouldered a heavy burden, who cracked a time or two under the strain of it, but who somehow managed to muddle on in spite of it. Jack sort of liked this new, adult version of the Commander.
In the time they spent together, as Jack watched the Commander's flashes of humor, flashes of darkness, flashes of intellect, flashes of weary sorrow, his measure of the man improved greatly. And, he found, his measure of himself seemed to climb a bit. The Commander was just a guy, screwed over by the universe, and on he stumbled. It wasn't the being screwed part that made a man, it was the stumbling on. Crichton did it, the Doctor did it, and Jack supposed, after a fashion, he was managing it, too.
With the benefit of history, Jack knew where Crichton would go, what he would face, and he longed to give the worn man some assurance that it would all be worth it, that it would turn out alright, that though his path looked impossible now, he'd make it through. It was agonizing to stand by and see the darkness shadow the man's eyes, but if Crichton was going to be the man that set a young Jack Harkness on his path so many years from now, Jack would have to abide.
They were finally summoned to the console room, and the journey to the Commander's ship was swift and smooth. Crichton stood staring at the door for a long moment, almost as if he didn't quite believe they could be where they were meant to be.
"I promise we're on your ship, Commander," the Doctor told him, after Crichton made no move towards the door. "See, here, one of your mates is about to fire on my ship. I'd appreciate if he didn't do that," he muttered as he bent over a monitor.
"Right," Crichton replied slowly. "Well, uh, thanks for the lift."
The Doctor nodded and leaned back against the console. "Best be on your way, you've lots to do yet, miles to go."
"And promises to keep?" Crichton asked with a wry twist to his lips.
The Doctor smiled back. "Been a pleasure."
The Commander laughed. "Ah, now you're lying."
"Am not," the Doctor frowned. "I like you little humans. You want to reach out to every star, you want to know it all, and though you don't always like what you find, it never stops you."
"And what if some of us just don't have a choice?"
"You always have a choice."
The Commander stared at him for a heartbeat, then shifted his eyes over to Rose. He nodded in her direction and gave her a weary, defeated sort of smile. "Sorry, 'bout the whole market thing. We didn't exactly get off to a friendly start, did we?"
Rose returned the smile a little hesitantly. "Suppose I shouldn't hold it against you, bad situation and all. First time I met this one," she nudged the Doctor in the ribs, "he blew up my job and pulled my boyfriend's head off. As far as first impressions go, that was a bit on the low side."
The Doctor's face fell, and he looked slightly like a kicked puppy. "Came with me in the end, though, didn't you? Must not've been that bad," he grumbled.
Rose laughed and tucked an arm through his. "I'll stop abusing your ego, shall I?"
Crichton cleared his throat and gave Jack an amused smirk. "Okay, well, it's been interesting. Thanks again. I'll ... uh, see you around, maybe."
"I'll walk you out," Jack told him, falling into step behind him as the Commander headed for the door. "Just tell 'em not to shoot."
"You're plenty safe, they're more likely to shoot me than you."
Crichton chuckled. "Just watch your back around the little green slug." He pulled open the door and stepped out slowly, hands up, cautioning the people on the outside. "Just me."
"Crichton, where the frell have you been?" the tall one, tentacles on his head, red-outfit, big sword-type thing, barked loudly. Jack scanned his memory -- Luxan. D'Argo. Crichton's best friend. Grinning, Jack took in the rest crew with all the joy of a kid visiting the set of his favorite holomovie.
"Where do you think I've been, D? Stuck on that frelling station, and then stuck in that box. I've had a long day, so if you could quit your bitchin' that'd be great," Crichton told him, a sarcastic bite to each word.
"Who is this?" D'Argo ignored Crichton's mood and shook his tentacles at Jack.
"Captain Jack Harkness," Crichton introduced. "He helped me out in the market. Look, I'm fine guys, the box won't 'cause any trouble, and the guy inside would appreciate it if you didn't chip the paint."
D'Argo lowered his gun and looked at the tiny gray girl on his left. Chiana, Jack's brain helpfully supplied. She smiled at Jack, licking her upper lip thoughtfully. Jack smiled back. D'Argo growled and turned on his heel, stomping out of the room loudly. Chiana snickered and followed him at a run.
The only other person in the room was a human-looking woman, black hair back in a severe braid. Aeryn Sun, Jack identified. She was more striking in person than the pictures ever managed to convey. She was also a little scary, and she was looking Jack over with a cold, considering eye, as if she was cataloguing all the places she could stick a knife, or put a bullet, the places that would cause pain vs. the places that would outright kill him. She stared him down for a moment, then turned her attention back to Crichton. They just looked at each other for a moment.
"I'm fine, Aeryn," Crichton said softly.
"Good," she replied simply, looking all the world like she had more she wanted to say, but didn't know how. After another moment she straightened her shoulders. "We should go. I don't know how the Peacekeepers found us on Ravelstock, but--"
"We should put another jump between us," Crichton finished, sounding suddenly exhausted. "Let me just say goodbye."
"Right," she agreed and left the room quickly.
Jack chewed on his lower lip. He couldn't say a damn thing. So much pain, so much they had to overcome.
"It'll be worth it, Commander," he blurted suddenly.
Crichton looked up, surprised. "What?"
"All of it. Just ... just don't let go."
"Told you not to tell me anything," he growled.
"I haven't," Jack argued. "Do me a favor, huh?"
"I owe you a favor?"
Jack smirked. "Well, I did stop a Peacekeeper with my face for you."
Crichton rolled his eyes, but waved Jack on. "I'm listening."
"Quite a few years from now, there's going to be a little boy who dreams about the stars, about everything that's out here. He's going to dream about it because of you. You don't need to be a hero, just don't let go."
The shadows returned to Crichton's eyes, the lines on his face deepened, and his shoulders bowed. "That boy can do a hell of a lot better."
"I'm telling you, Commander, there's no one better."
"If you say so," he said wearily, the fight gone out of him.
"I know so," Jack pronounced with a grin. "It was an honor to meet you, sir."
"John, you gotta call me John."
"Maybe next time."
"Right." Crichton smiled and held out his hand.
Jack took it, holding it firmly, letting the abstract hero of his childhood become a living, flesh and blood man in his mind. "Buy ya a drink."
With a skeptical smirk, he shook Jack's hand then stepped back away from the TARDIS. "I'll hold you to it."
"It's a date." One last charming grin, and Jack stepped back into the time ship. Closing the door behind him, he laughed at himself, and shook his head.
"Quite a day," he said. Looking up, he cocked his head at the Doctor and Rose, seeking their opinion.
"Ask me, it was sort of boring, really," the Doctor sniffed.
"I agree," Rose said with a teasing smile. "Nobody even shot at us. All and all a disappointment."
"Two out of five," the Doctor said. "Some running and a historical figure."
"Points off for the lack of explosions or alien guts," Rose argued back. "One and a half."
The Doctor looked thoughtful for a moment and then nodded. "Works for me. So, Jack, that little pulsar I was telling you about earlier. What do you say?"
"Can I drive?" Jack asked hopefully, striding up the ramp.
"Fine, fine. Show us the universe, Doctor."