Decanted Memories by amberite [Reviews - 5] |
Prompts & Inspirations:
I had too many things due this month, so I cheated and rolled them all together. All prompts are spoilers, so they're listed at the end.
One was from Euryale000 as a request; one was from , as part of the Wendymr & Dark_aegis Rose Tyler Ficathon; and one was from the October DWLiterotica challenge.
Part of the reason I rolled them all together is because any one of the three setups would be difficult to work with individually, but when I started thinking on how they could work together, the plot elements started to slide into place and harmonize with each other.
So the story is way longer and better than it would be if I'd written these separately. I haven't yet written the sex (which is oddly what I thought I was signing on for!) but I might put it up later as a cutscene.
I was also inspired by the most recent Vlad Taltos novel, Dzur, by Steven Brust. Each chapter began by describing a course of a multi-course meal in a fine restaurant, and I decided to borrow that concept and go with "Alcohols Jack has known." Because Jack's such a damn foodie, especially for fine booze.
Oh, and I'm almost sure this will be AU after Torchwood tells us some more stories. But hey. Not all the versions are the same, or have to be, or even should be...
Tremil is made from really good whiskey and the radiation coming off a dying star. It's suspended in a special bottle, in a force field. They find a good supernova and let it hang in there like a fishing net, pulling it out once the radiation's performed chemical changes on the liquor.
Jack knows it's gimmicky, but he can't help but like it anyway. He's soft, to things like that. He's soft to too many things. It's going to be his downfall someday.
He doesn't remember because he wasn't there.
Some nights all is right with the world and he goes about his business (funny business) and he drinks and carouses, smiles and kisses, reads the classics and watches Vesuvius (the Great Quake, Katrina, the solar flares) and cheats people out of things they don't need (money, intelligence, stories, caresses) and makes them feel every bit as good about it as he does.
Other nights he has business with an unknown customer, and drinks to reach the bottom of the glass, and goes on past it to the bottom of the bottle, and every so often he catches a fleeting something just on the other side, but it always moves away when he turns to look at it.
He thinks he might have caught it once or twice, but doesn't remember. These things drive tough bargains, he thinks, when you catch them. They trick you into letting them go again. They make the consequences worse of keeping them. Tricky like that, he thinks. Fucking memory fairies.
He's been reading an old book of Irish fairy tales over and over again. The stories where you get stolen away and brought back years later with a nasty hangover and everyone around you is different. Reading them is almost like drinking. It brings him, again and again, to the closed window at the bottom of the bottle.
Has it ever been open?
What has come out?
He doesn’t remember because he wasn’t there. Some other person was; some person he can’t put a name or face on. He gets uncomfortable about it. How do you explain it to yourself? If the memories came out, they might come out with an expectation that he would believe in them. That he would, again, be them.
Later, he’s Captain Jack Harkness and he loves this smart, caring Rose Tyler girl out of history and a beautiful, quirky, brittle alien called the Doctor and they all live together in their spatially transcendental blue box. Like the beautiful pea-green boat in that poem. He desperately wants to stay this way.
It’s been only months and they’re learning it sharp and fast, the secret of life. How to stay happy, how to dance round each other in circles and hang on to every note of the music. Oh, yes, there’s been a lot of dancing. A lot of carefulness; learning where to press and where to step back and when and how to let conversations drift into the physical. Quick fucks pressed against the wall on alien planets, so glad to be alive; long slow explorations in strange hotels and even more in the TARDIS, because it’s safe there.
Because the TARDIS is always in-between time: as it’s out of the timestream proper, they never seem to get pulled into an adventure there at shall-we-say an awkward moment. Can’t say as much for alien resort towns.
Someone’s hand reaches over and tickles him. Jack yelps, and turns his head to look at Rose. “Quit that.”
“Wasn’t me!” Rose protests.
Jack glares accusingly at the Doctor. "You?"
The Doctor smiles that lovely demented smile. "Nobody ever suspects me," he says, singsong.
"That's not true," Jack says wryly "I just don't ever suspect you."
The Doctor's smile is suddenly sad. Jack can't name the reason.
Lyx is a sweet liqueur, pomegranate-flavored and containing nanogenes. They're set to activate on contact with saliva, and operate only on the drinker. It is very mild, and will undo your hangovers while you are drinking it.
This is encouraging for career alcoholics, but Jack thinks it’s probably a bad idea anyway. There are still going to be consequences, and Jack doesn’t like things that sneak up on you without announcing themselves.
Part of being with the Doctor is being with danger. Risk is the unspoken fourth partner, and all three of them deal with it differently.
They’re in a strange round room in a hotel on Tenochitlan; the planet Tenochitlan, settled by Aztec reconstructionists. They hadn't meant to get here, but having arrived, they mutually decided it a fun idea to stay. The bed is round, too, shaped like a giant powder puff and just as plush. Rose is lying spooned around the Doctor, the Doctor lying spooned around Jack.
Rose doesn't think this planet is safe, but she never thinks that anymore; it's never true. So she's learned by moments to make it easier for herself. Stay on guard, but don't worry about why you're doing it. No moment is wrong for a joke, unless you need to convey some essential piece of information in that moment, in which case, do so, then make the joke.
It's weird, but it's not as weird as it might be. A lot of it is about getting used to things.
She had that conversation with Jack, a few months ago, when they were just starting to get to know each other -- lying on some cushions in a bar, Human Empire circa 4800 she can't remember what planet but it was one with brightly colored drinks and weird flanging syncopations in the music.
"You know you could die at any moment, in an operation like this one," Jack was pointing out to her solemnly.
"How long've you known that?"
"Since -- really before I even travelled with the Doctor. Right after I met him. I remember telling Mickey -- except it wasn't Mickey, it was this awful plastic version of Mickey, shows what was wrong with our relationship that I didn't know the difference -- and since then it's surprised me a few times, but I'm startin' to get used to it. Like walking outside every day to find an elephant on your lawn. The first day, you go, what? and after that it just gets less surprising." She bit her lip, sipped her drink. "What the hell is chingolia anyway?"
"We have about fifty citrus fruits that Earth never grew. That's one of them." Jack laughed and looked at her. "You're just too much, Rose."
"You've answered my earlier question."
"But I still think it's weird!" His earlier question had been about relationships, and twenty-first century morals, and how Rose was holding up to having their dynamic change. "I still don't know if I like it. I'm pretty sure I want to like it," Rose repeated, "but that's just it, I can't make any promises because I don't know, it's not like anything I'm used to --"
"And neither was danger, when you came on board with the Doctor before I met you. My infinitely adaptable shopgirl friend. That's a much larger lifestyle adjustment when you think of it. Trust me on this. I've seen the stress projections. Getting used to having two boyfriends and watching them snog, when you're not from a culture that does that:" Jack made the finger and thumb gesture for an itty bitty bit. "Getting used to the idea of your own death:" He opened the measure wide.
Rose is on her guard as usual when the porter knocks at their door, and she gets up from the bed and opens it with her muscles tensed, ready to leap in any direction. So when the porter cries something to the effect of, “For the people of the gods! Tell your Convocation what we think of you!" and pulls a knife, she's prepared to twist her body out of the way and thank her lucky stars for all the gymnastics and self-defence classes.
Funny how she never thought it was useful, for years and years and years. Funny how reflexes come back to her.
But the range is too close, the attacker too well-prepared, and the stab catches her in the right shoulder with a flash of pain. It's not deep enough to cause serious damage (she has learned, intimately, what serious damage feels like) but deep enough to throb and bleed when she keeps moving, rolls to the floor and shouts the obvious warning, tries to pick herself up again.
It seems the hotel is the center of a diplomatic crisis and the “porter” thinks they are governmental representatives and wishes to keep them out of the planet’s business permanently. The Doctor appears out of what seems like nowhere (he was just there) and whispers to her about this, his hands moving rapidly, wrapping her upper arm in a strip of sheet he's torn off the bedclothes faster than she can imagine anyone tearing up sheets.
"Glad I figured out that fabric-cutting setting," he explains, then grins all devilish-like and pockets the sonic screwdriver. Yeah, there are some good uses for that setting all right, Rose thinks. Once they get out of this, she's gonna get him to show her some of the other uses. "Rose, you all right?"
"Yeah, think so," she says, and stares at her shoulder, trying to figure out the rate of bleeding. It's gone through one layer of sheet, but that's not much. She doesn't think it'll kill her.
"Can you run?"
"Why are they always mistaking us for galactic governments? It's been years since that happened, but it used to be a problem for me all the time," the Doctor murmurs, as he wraps the strip around for the final time and ties it off. Then he peeks out into the corridor, and a look of faint horror appears on his face.
After seeing that Rose is in good hands, Jack rushes into the curving corridor, going after the attacker. A woman standing against the wall leaps up, as if on cue, and runs down the hall and flings a door open. "You see?" she’s yelling. "This is what the alliance brings for us! Fighting and ill luck!"
He gets his hands on the man not more than a few feet away from the room. He stays out of the way of the knife, and dodges his way into a hold on the guy, then twists his wrists behind his back. Whatever's going on, there's no reason to use guns; he doesn’t know the local laws, and really doesn’t want to set off an intergalactic incident.
He’s holding the man there when the Doctor looks up from Rose’s shoulder and says, "Oi! I just remembered when we are."
"And?" Jack says.
"We’re not needed here. Conk the guy over the head, or stun ‘im. Then run."
"Oh, one of those placetimes." Jack elects for the stun, weapons regulations or none. There isn’t anybody in sight right now and it’s safer in the long run for the victim. A narrow, nearly harmless bolt of light zaps from his gun and puts the guy out.
But there’s somebody in hearing. Some irate guards emerge from a doorway and start charging them down the corridor. The Doctor helps Rose to her feet by the left arm, and all three leap into motion.
They scramble through some passageways and out a window, not very far from the TARDIS. A couple of guards are shooting at them from doorways, and barely missing. Jack doesn’t know if they’re firing to stun.
Both he and the Doctor hang back until Rose is in the door. A loud explosion immerses the hotel, sudden and frightening, rolling out a huge cloud of fire towards them; Rose scrambles inside the ship; then they all leap in at once.
Jack lands on top of the Doctor and the Doctor slides at the console headfirst with a thud. "Guess I picked the wrong moment to ravish you, Doctor?" he says wryly, and they both roll to their feet. The Doctor starts the dematerialization sequence. Rose hangs on tight.
The TARDIS judders and screams and fades out of Time.
Absinthe is a classic alcohol, and humans go through regular periods of infatuation with it, delighted with the slight effects of the extra psychoactive herbs. The actual ritual is a matter of much debate: do you pour it over the spoon and set it on fire, or just pour it over the spoon? How much sugar do you put in? It tastes like green hell unless you put in a lot, so that’s what Jack does. He doesn’t care what anybody thinks is correct.
Oscar Wilde once said of absinthe: "After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world."
Rose's shoulder throbs, though the adrenaline takes the edge off. She secures herself a seat against the wall as the Doctor turns cranks and presses buttons. She can hear him whispering to the ship, his face frighteningly intent. The way he whispered to her, in the moment after the knife struck her arm
The sounds of takeoff turn into sputters, and the internal gravity field spins for a moment, causing Jack to stumble and Rose to slide across the floor. "--The hell is happening?" she shouts.
"It's the TARDIS, the explosion knocked something out and I'm trying to figure out what--" The Doctor's flipping switches randomly, jumping around with tightly controlled frantic energy. She hears a catch in his voice and knows it's bad.
Rose stands up, clutching to the wall. She makes her way to one of the doors leading off from the console room, intending to search out the infirmary herself. The Doctor's got another patient right now, she thinks wryly. One who's a damn sight more important than Rose Tyler.
"No, no, NO!" the Doctor shouts, face twisted into a look of raw desperation. He strokes the console with his hand, as if trying to soothe an injured animal. "Oh, no. This is bad. This is bad."
"How bad?" Jack asks, while Rose is saying, "What'd you find out?" They look at each other anxiously, each made anxious by the threat to their lifeline.
"The blast injured her physical containment field," the Doctor says grimly, "and we can't rematerialize without falling apart. Since we're in the Vortex, she's rerouting systems to keep us alive. That means her telepathic field won't be under control for the duration. She hasn't the energy to keep a handle on it. Oh, dear girl," and now he's bent over the console again, speaking aloud into the ship's controls, and Rose has rarely seen his eyes so hopeless, so lost. Once when he met the Dalek in Van Statten's underground bunker-- "Stay with me, I'll be here--"
"What should I do?"
The Doctor's face starts to take on a cast of grave concentration. "Don't wander off," he bites out between his teeth. "Her inner structures are part of her telepathic field -- they remap to us -- and right now they're incredibly unstable. The slightest stray thought out of the backs of your heads could pop into being."
"Like the Stay-Puft man."
"Like the what?" The Doctor looks entirely confused.
"You haven't seen that movie?" Rose looks to Jack. "You? Not you either! Wow, future philistines. When this is all over, I am sitting you both down and we are watching Ghostbusters. Hey, we can go back to 1984 and see it in the theater, first-run. Back when it cost less'n two quid to go see a picture." She's rambling, not stopping to think about it. They're both barely holding it together, she can see that in their faces, and humor's the only surefire tool she has.
"Stay close to the center and keep your attention on holding the form of any room you're in. 'Specially goes for you, Jack -- you're a bit more psychic than Rose, so you're a bit more in danger. Me, I am the danger. I've got the strongest psychic ability, I'm connected to the TARDIS, and -- the stuff in the back of my head gets out, we're all fucked." The expression on the Doctor's face is tightly controlled, and Rose sees the dead look in his eyes, the one she's gotten to know over time as meaning those moments where he knows that opening up about it could drive him mad.
The nightmares are there, they're quite real, and they live in him and in the TARDIS both. Rose's mouth goes dry. Against the ghosts in the Doctor's mind, his mental control is the only line of defense, and he's not quite sane at the best of times. She recognizes, suddenly, how serious this is, and she has nothing to say over the difficult thrum of the engines and the sudden, stretching tension in the room.
"First-aid kit?" she whispers.
The Doctor lightly taps a hatch in the console, not looking at it or at Rose. A drop of perspiration rolls down his forehead.
She twists the latch open and takes the kit out with her left hand, opens the box and carefully unties the bandage from her shoulder. The clotting factor's gotten fabric stuck to the wound, and she winces as she pulls it off, having to go slow to keep the deep cut from opening again.
Some of the tools in here could heal the injury right up, but if she closed the cut at the wrong angle, she might have bad scarring, and working left-handed she doesn't want to risk it, so she picks a patch bandage that should function for skin and increase her natural healing speed. It's going to hurt and tingle and itch for a while under that, but it won't be a danger to her.
"Steady," the Doctor mutters, to her or the ship or himself, she isn't sure.
Rose swabs off the dried and drying blood and places the bandage on over the newly cleaned skin, then lets out her breath over the pain.
She looks up then towards Jack, wanting to exchange words of reassurance.
Jack is gone.
Oh yes, this is the place. (Oh no.)
The place at the bottom of the bottle. The place at the end of everything, at the edge of his mind, at the back of the mirror. Through the looking glass, down the wormhole, out the other side.
And Jack knows (or the other one, the one he used to be, knows) that if he just walks far enough, he can get there, he can find it and come out sober enough to remember this time. Corridors spiral off into blackness.
The TARDIS isn't sane, he thinks. It's making the outside like the inside. Like the inside of him. Making the inside come outside. Spiraling out the spiral into the backwards part of his brain. Forcing it back out into clarity.
It might be his only chance. So down the black corridors he goes, into the back of nothing, and tries very hard to think of nothing at all, the kind of nothing that slips edgelong into something, to trip along the edge of that blackness, that blind spot, that place in his mind he can't see when he's sober but knows is there, is there, is just on the other side.
Oh yes. Oh, no. Oh, yes.
"Jack's gone off somewhere," Rose whispers, trying not to break into the Doctor's consciousness if he's not able to be aware of her safely. "I'm going to go find him."
Silence. A tiny, almost imperceptible nod. The Doctor has both hands on the console and his eyes squeezed tremulously shut, and is doing... something. She can tell; she doesn't know how she can tell; he isn't moving. He's communing with the TARDIS, Rose knows, working with the ship's consciousness or his own, or both. Maybe, at this level, there's no difference.
Rose nods back, knowing he can't see her. She pickpockets him of the sonic screwdriver -- whatever he's doing, it's not mechanical -- and takes off through the door nearest the point where Jack last stood.
The Silver Ice is a cocktail served at certain secret black-tie events in the fifty-first century. It's composed of equal parts Zilphonian bourbon and bitters. The bourbon's aged in the heart of a still-green eacanthus tree; reactions produced by the alcohol and the tree's enzymes make the resultant liquor explosive, and therefore restricted, and therefore popular at Time Agency parties. Pour in the bitters and you get a loud sizzle as volatile compounds neutralize; mix it wrong, or knock the bottle over, and your party might just be a deathtrap.
It's a reminder, Jack thought once while he was a Time Agent, of what we're dealing with here. He wasn't wrong.
The corridors are corridors, and then Rose feels like she's walking in space. Her heart thumps with panic, but she remembers it's all in her head, or Jack's head, or the TARDIS's head: and if she thinks oxygen, then there's oxygen. Twenty percent oxygen, eighty percent nitrogen, about? Yeah, something like that. Air. Think airy thoughts. Air currents and weather patterns. Winds blowing leaves around.
There are leaves as soon as she thinks it, and it's Mr. Bharat's lawn down the street, and she knows she's taken a wrong turn. No. Not the Powell estates, Rose; go wherever Jack is thinking! You won't find him at home, she thinks.
You won't find him anywhere safe. She's not sure what's telling her that. Intuition. The Doctor's told her that's the human psychic capacity made a little easier to understand by brains that aren't used to practicing it.
But she starts to think of unsafe places, and then catches herself as images begin swirling and forming out of air, blanks them out to nothing. No! They'd only be her unsafe places this way, and if she starts going down any of her own corridors, she won't find Jack's; and if she starts looking for unsafe places, she'll only get stranded and lost and in trouble.
Deep space again, deep space with air, let images form as they may. This is a tricky way to navigate -- the telepathic field wants direction, and the only way not to give it direction is to purposely relinquish control. If her guesses are right, the place where Jack is should draw her if she just lets it.
Rose feels numb and frightened. She walks forward on nothing, moving toward something she can't see.
Streaks of scarlet and white move through the black air, a light coming from nowhere, and her world whirls and tumbles and she steps through into Jack's.
"No," Jack's saying. "No." The wave of Time Agents in front of him has gone, all been killed under the onslaught of the aliens' guns. Their armor hasn't protected them. He can tell he's not supposed to be here, they aren't supposed to be here; they're interfering one level higher in the flow of relative timestreams than they're equipped to do, but they stumbled into this thing and now they can't leave.
That's Aeria Livingstone in front of him, she's down, and he almost loved her for a while -- they certainly had a lot of good times together -- and the parties are over now, for good, no pulse in her neck and her bones crack against each other when he lifts the shell of her up to use her body as a shield. Because that's all he can do. There's nothing else to do against these things. Energy weapons bounce off and bullets disappear. There's not even a line to hold.
The metal-suited creatures keep changing, mid-battle -- a rippling disturbance comes over them, the effect field of an altered past, which Jack knows is dangerous -- and they get worse. The first ones weren't so bad; they were grey and inclined to talk before shooting and couldn't climb upward.
Now they're all gold and white and they shoot first and have a weird levering tool. He doesn't want to see them get worse again. He doesn't want to be holding Aeria's body in front of him like it's some kind of fleshy protection. When he volunteered for the special squad, he knew they might send him somewhere he couldn't get out of, but this is somewhere he's not even supposed to be and he has the feeling they're being watched, that these creatures are going back to change their own pasts in the middle of right now and it can only get worse from here. This pawn wants off the chessboard, wants off.
He drags himself and his dead friend up a ladder into the next level of the complex and finds a door, pries it open with his fingertips and hides in the small -- office? -- behind.
Yes, now he knows where this place is. Why didn't he remember it a minute ago? It's the Time Lab on Deylon III -- where the Agency develops experimental work, things they don't want to unleash on more than a single deserted planet before testing.
He can't think of why he's here, or how they got into this situation. What could be clouding his mind? He doesn't know. He's almost on it, but it escapes him.
Jack can hear their wheels moving under him, over him. He speaks into his wristcom again, holding it close to his mouth so the words don't travel too far. "Get me out of here." But there wasn't any response the first or second or third time, and Jack wasn't supposed to expect one. He feels like he's gotten into a foxhole just to discover that God is dead.
Rose emerges into the corridor of Jack's mind, the half-dark complex solidifying around her. It's opaque, but it wavers like a mirage when she takes her eyes off any one part of it; nonetheless she can make out the dim lights and the scorch marks on the wall and the Dalek tracking down the hall at the far end.
Oh, hell. Some Stay-Puft man. She looks around frantically. Where's Jack? She catches the flicker of motion, a de-powered sliding door being operated manually, and knows Jack is behind there. Rose hugs the wall.
Wherever this is, whatever this is, Rose has to keep it from reaching the Doctor. She remembers all too well how he reacted when faced with his terrible enemy -- even a pathetic version, dying and vulnerable and losing the thread of its ancient hatred. She doesn't think he could navigate his way out of this mental territory; worse, it might set his own memories and terrors loose on them all.
Rose slips toward the gap in the door, biting her lip against the ache from her shoulder as she makes it through the narrow opening.
There's a body in here and there's Jack and he looks up at her with wild unrecognizing eyes. "Who are you?" he says, and then cries out and clutches at his forehead as if it aches horribly. "You're Rose Tyler. How did I know that?"
"You're reliving the past, Jack," she says gently. "Least I think that's what's going on. And you probably did it on purpose, too, you big galoot." Compassion turns to anger, because she's scared; scared they won't be able to get out of this, scared the monsters in Jack's mind made real will destroy him and her and the Doctor all. The present is such a fragile skin, the surface tension of it making reality waver a little here, and she feels like she could fall through it and be caught up with him somehow if she wasn't careful. "I'm Rose Tyler, you're Captain Jack Harkness, we're traveling with the Doctor in his ship and the telepathic field is fucked."
"Telepathic field?" Jack's still not in the present; she can almost see the sets of memories clashing in his head. His eyes roll a little and he stands up, still holding the dead woman's hand, and takes a staggering step. "Oh -- why I'm here. Yes. Here to learn --" His expression is pained, and dangerously disconnected, and he looks down at the corpse and his face turns to stark horror.
"Oh no. Oh my God. Did I do that?" Jack's voice breaks and he sounds for a moment utterly vulnerable, like a child.
"No, I don't think so." Rose has no idea but she won't risk making things worse. "There's a Dalek in the corridor and we have to get out of here --"
Jack clutches his head with both hands and makes a sharp sound of pain.
"You don't need to remember, Jack." It hurts her to say this. "You need to survive. Come back."
But he's straightening up now and stepping past the corpse on the floor, giving it one last pained look. Rose hears the hum of the Dalek's motion coming closer, closer.
There's a cast to his face that she doesn't recognize, a tone in his voice that sounds almost like another person. "I have to know," he says. "If all of this has been for -- the experiment, have to prove the experiment --" His eyes open wide, very wide, and there's suddenly an understanding in his eyes: she can see that he recognizes her, and also recognizes the place and time. Then he strides out into the hall.
"No! There's a Dalek out there, it'll kill you," Rose says, but she can't stop him; he brushes her aside, still looking straight forward. She hears a Dalek beam firing, and stares, knowing it's too late --
The Dalek is in the air then, as if the wind blew it off its base, and its gun is pointed at the ceiling. The beam fires harmlessly into the pipes and power cords -- well, not quite harmlessly; she can see the ceiling electrified as if by lightning, and the lights flicker, and sparks come off the metal. But it doesn't kill anybody.
Jack is staring at the Dalek, concentrating, his face absolutely blank of expression. The Dalek rotates a half-turn so it's facing the other direction, and then Jack shudders all over, still staring hard at it, and the Dalek implodes, side panels folding in and sparks flying as metal hits metal hits the tiny bit of mutated flesh that's the real Dalek in all the armor.
There's a crumple and shriek like an auto accident and then it's gone.
"We have to get out of here, Jack," she says. "Out of here. Like away. Like back to yourself. Remember? Rose Tyler, twenty-first century Earth girl. We have something and this has to go away for you to get back to it."
But he's barreling off into doors along the corridor and she hears the smashing of metal and glass, sees objects flying out of rooms and into walls, a whirlwind of devices and materials.
"No!" he shouts. "No more!"
"Jack, it's me, it's me, Rose!"
Rose walks up to him, ducking a bright metal machine with cords and wires snapping and crackling as it flies out across the hall under some invisible propulsion. She keeps her hands in the air. "You know me. You know me. The Doctor needs us to come back. The Doctor. You know the Doctor." Rose is gabbling now, trying to hit on something that will snap him out of it again. "The Dalek is gone. They're gone. You're in the TARDIS and this is all a dream, a nightmare you've brought to life. Take my hand."
"Rose?" he says, in a very small voice. He cries out and clutches at his head. Some glassware crashes to the floor. Little bits of glass fly up and sting her skin.
"Yes. Jack Harkness. I love you. He loves you too. Come with me, I'll take you out of here."
"Rose?" And then he grabs her hand, and something bright and nuclear fades from his eyes. "Rose. Oh, god. Which way is out?"
"Think of the TARDIS," she says. "Think with me. Bedroom. You remember my bedroom, I bet."
"Pink and black sheets --"
"Funky triangular mirror --"
"Bedside table with a drawer full of vibrators --"
Some of which he's bought for her. Rose feels a very twenty-first century blush come to her cheeks and she laughs, with embarrassment or relief. "No Daleks whatsoever."
"None at all."
"Click your heels three times," Rose says, and she hopes he gets this reference, if he's going to catch one.
"There's no place like home," Jack says, and his face lights up, and she can see he's really back, it's really the Jack she knows again. Grinning stupidly, she grabs him with both arms, her shoulder complaining like crazy, and says it with him. He finds her lips, seeking, adoring. That little push, and she feels the shift, feels the wind changing, and knows there's her own bed behind them before she opens her eyes.
Baranx is a spirit distilled from the fruit of the aranx vine. The fruit is chock full of nasty nerve toxins and will kill a human fresh off the vine; it takes a special yeast to ferment it into alcohol. If done correctly, the compounds all transform, and the liquor produces a subtle, rarefied state of insobriety that’s not possible from anything else. There are two distilleries licensed to produce the stuff, and knockoffs are to be avoided.
Jack will only ever drink it with very good friends.
They test the waters for a little while by producing tiny pink elephants that dance around the walls. When the TARDIS stops complying, reality must be back to normal. Jack clutches at Rose, and she clutches at him, and they giggle a little and are both pale and don't know what to talk about so words come randomly out of their mouths for a while.
When it gets harder to make elephants, Rose asks him, timidly, "What d'you remember?"
Jack shuts his eyes and finds the familiar barrier again. He groans and sees that his hands are trembling, with anger or exhaustion; he isn't certain. "It's all a blur," he confesses. His head throbs. But he does remember being on the other side of the barrier this time, the way dreams filter back in, hours later, jumbled and confused, or the way childhood objects seem larger and brighter than they really are later.
He was a different person then; whether as the result of experiences or experiments or the simple wash of time, he's become a different person now than he was. He'd like to stay, he thinks. Stay Captain Jack Harkness, stay on this beautiful blue time-ship with his owl and his pussycat and be --
Something other than whatever he was, good or evil, strange or normal: it's a stranger to him now.
But Rose is still waiting, watching him intently, so he says, "I remember -- a thing. Dalek, you called it -- there were tons of 'em. They killed my friends. I think it there was some plan around them, but I don't know. We were in this place -- I don't remember what it's called now, but I'd volunteered, special branch work -- and I remember --" He comes up short, doubting himself, doubting the images that tumble through his mind.
"Do you remember moving things with your mind?" Rose asks him, quietly.
He nods. The idea brings him up short. He's not sure if he likes it, because he doesn't know what the context is.
Without explaining to each other, they both concentrate and try to make pink elephants. A slight shimmer appears in the air, but no more. The telepathic field's coming back under control. The Doctor has it back in order, and Jack should be able to go back out and help the Doctor with the purely mechanical side of the repairs now. They can get back out of limbo and into a new world, a new story. Jack sits on the bed and breathes a sigh.
Rose watches him silently, then pulls a coin out of her pocket. "Catch," she says, and tosses it into the air. He knows she means without using your hands. He tries to reach out with whatever remnant of reflex he can summon --
But whatever it is, it either belongs to the malleable world of the TARDIS's telepathic field, or it belongs to the other him, the other world behind the barrier.
The coin clatters to the ground, and he doesn't even seem to affect it at all.
The dream is fading, the memory receding, and he thinks that after he sleeps again it will fade even more; the back of his head will swallow the direct sense of everything it coughed up. That thought strikes him with a combination of dread and relief.
There are many things Rose Tyler must get used to. Her two boyfriends snogging -- that's one of her favorites. Places where reality splits, where death and Daleks come rushing out of the safest walls you know: that's one of her least. She won't sleep well tonight.
One of the things Rose is not used to is the idea that it could be very important, sometimes, not to tell your closest friend about something. But it's urgently clear to her right now.
"Jack?" she says. "Don't tell the Doctor about the Daleks, okay? You can tell him the rest. But -- not about the Daleks."
She can see the light of recognition in Jack's eyes. Both of them are careful to make space around the Doctor's trauma, though neither of them know everything that's involved, and Jack knows less than she does. He's just added another piece to his part of the puzzle.
"Okay," Jack says. "I won't." He stands up. He's still shaking a little. "Let's go. Let's check on him."
They walk back to the console room through a corridor they both know.
In the light ahead, the Doctor is standing over his ship's controls, smiling at last, his eyes wide open.
Prompts fully divulged:
Story request from Euryale000:
Someplace between "The Doctor Dances" and "Boomtown" the Doctor, Jack, and Rose have made a narrow escape in the Tardis, but now they're stuck in it, they can't get it to materialize, they start freaking out. Fragments of memory are coming back to Jack and he doesn't like what they imply.
Rose Tyler Ficathon prompt from kaethel:
1. Nine/Jack/Rose relationship (doesn't have to include a sex scene, but I won't mind if it does ;))
2. near-death situation
(This is what I meant about the prompts being easier to write together: You try fitting Daleks in between "Dalek" and the season finale without going very, very AU. Wait, somebody's having flashbacks? Okay, now I have something to work with...)
And yes, it's supposed to raise more questions than it answers.