Title: The Armageddon Game
Authors: Gillian Taylor
Characters: Rose Tyler, Tenth Doctor, Jack Harkness
Summary: It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver. - Niccolo Machiavelli
Spoilers: Post-Doomsday, Life After, Torchwood 1x13: "End of Days"
Disclaimer: Don't own them. I just like playing with them...a lot.
Archive: Sure, just let me know.
A/N: Thanks, as always, to my lovely betas NNWest, WMR, and Ponygirl72. This is a sequel to Life After.
The Armageddon Game
by Gillian Taylor
Chapter 1: Revelations
He doesn't remember his name.
The first time that he realises this, in the quiet (aching) aftermath of meeting the real Jack Harkness, he's not sure if he's mourning the loss of that identity or Captain Harkness more. Then again, what sort of label can he have? He's as much Captain Jack Harkness as the Doctor is the Doctor.
It's a label, yes. But it isn't who he is. What he is.
What he is is an enigma. A mystery. Even to himself. A man who can face the Devil and live, though this time he thought (hoped) that life was done with him. That he could finally die.
He's not certain what he's meant to be now. Always a con man. Taking names that don't belong to him, pretending to be what he's not, showing his team (the only thing, he knows, that's truly his) only what they need to know.
He isn't lying when he tells Gwen what it'd take to convince him to open the Rift. The right kind of Doctor. The right kind of life. He thinks that maybe, just maybe, the Time Lord can fix this. Fix him. Tell him who he is now that he's forgotten everything else.
He's losing himself. Losing what he became when he was sheltered (loved) by the Doctor and Rose. Then again, wasn't that as much of a con as the rest of his life?
He doesn't remember his name. He's Jack Harkness, now and forever. A name, a label, that's a tribute to a man he isn't and could never be. A man whose identity he stole for a con and wishes now was his own. He wishes sometimes, in that space between his breaths, that the Doctor will come for him. Will realise somehow, someway, that he's still alive. Perhaps, now that Rose is with him again and that she knows about him, they'll come.
It's been a month since he last saw them. Watched them disappear into the Vortex without him. That was his penance for loving (abusing) Rose. It was her time, her reunion. He could wait.
He's just never been fond of that particular skill. Waiting, when he wants them. Waiting, when he needs them. Want. Need. Same thing, really. He wants the Doctor. He needs him. He was willing to put that aside for Rose, but now… Maybe Rose hasn't forgiven him for what he did – why should she? – and so hasn't told the Doctor of his existence. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
He shakes his head, leaving Gwen behind in his office as he walks towards the door. He can find some solace in these people, his team, his friends. That can be enough for him, can't it? Of course it can. He's survived this long (longer) without the Doctor.
What's another few years, decades, or centuries?
It's a whisper of sound, a soft beeping or, perhaps, the ticking of a clock. But something tells him it's so much more. He almost runs towards the hand, the only remnant that he has of the Time Lord, and stares in astonishment as it glows.
It's a lie, his heart tells him, but he doesn't want to listen. He knows what it means. The temporal alarm – it's him. The glowing hand – it's him.
It lies, he tries to reason with himself, but it doesn't work. It's him. Oh, god, it's him. The rhythmic pulse of reality being torn asunder has no other name. No possible other name.
He sees reality fold around itself as a blue box shimmers into existence and his heart leaps into his throat. He reaches out, almost but not quite touching the material that surrounds the only place that he's ever truly belonged, an incredulous smile on his face.
Then the image disappears, replaced by the smiling visage of Bilis Manger. The man's hand clasps his wrist in a steely grip and he feels weakness sweep through his body, sapping his strength.
"So nice to see you again, Captain. You look well," Bilis says with what can only be called an oily smile. "I'm so sorry that won't last."
Another wave of weakness pulses through him, almost in time to his mental imaginings of the sound of a TARDIS materialisation.
It was a lie, he thinks and despairs as blackness claims his consciousness.
She can't seem to stop smiling. Even though they are being chased by creatures that look like something out of a horror movie, she doesn't care. Her hand is tucked securely within his, they're running for their lives across uneven ground and it seems as if they've run out of options. This, she knows, is where they shine.
"Right, not working," the Doctor mumbles from her side, tugging her behind a rather large boulder.
She draws in air slowly through slightly parted lips, preventing herself from panting in her exhaustion. Her mind is whirling, considering options. Brigadier Bambera had told them that there was some sort of alien infestation outside Cardiff. She just wasn't expecting the sharp teeth.
Speaking of teeth, she winces as she rubs her shoulder. That wince turns into a full grimace when she realises that her makeshift bandage has come loose some time during their run. Blood tinges her fingertips red and she quickly rubs the stain away on her jeans before the Doctor can see it.
Think, she orders herself. Assets would be good. This area is slightly rocky, more quarry-like than anything. They can keep running, using the rocks to distract and avoid the aliens, but that's only a temporary solution. From what she's seen, and Bambera's report, these aliens don't give up once they've caught the scent of blood.
Which means she's the bait.
She can hear them approaching, the wheezing of their breath echoes oddly against the rocky terrain. There's got to be something they can do. Especially since it's her own bloody fault that she lost her gun when one of the aliens decided she was best suited as a chew-toy.
So shooting them is out. Not that her gun did her any good against them in the first place. No, wait. Terrain. Rocks. Could they cause some sort of…
"Avalanche," she says, giving voice to her thoughts.
The Doctor gives her a strange look, one that swiftly changes to one of excitement. "Oh, that'd do brilliantly. Well, maybe. I could lure…"
She shakes her head, placing her hand on his arm to curb his words. "They'd still come after me. I'm wounded, after all." She offers him a shaky smile. "It'll have to be me. Suppose there's a handy cliff or something nearby?"
He frowns, clearly unhappy with her solution. "Should be at least a ledge of some sort. Maybe a hill. A respectable cliff might be asking for a bit much, especially around here. I could..."
She smiles slightly. "Only way, yeah? 'Sides, you're not getting rid of me that easily." There seems to be some sort of gentle rise off to their left. She suspects, or rather hopes, that that slope will become a hill. Preferably a rocky hill.
The sounds are getting louder. They can't stay here. Not with the creatures so close. "Wish me luck," she says and presses her lips against his in a swift kiss, leaving him blinking at her in shock.
Before he can say anything else, she runs, slipping slightly when her foot hits a loose stone. She doesn't bother to turn to look behind her; she knows that the aliens are following her. She can hear them as they scramble over rock and bramble to chase her across the terrain.
The ground is starting to slope upwards, a gentle rise that, from what she can see, turns steeper the farther in. It's gratifyingly rocky, which means precarious footing but prime avalanche material. She thinks she can hear the Doctor shouting something, but she can't spare enough attention to try and make it out. She's got to climb and she can't fall.
She makes a mistake some twenty feet up the hill when she glances through the space between her arm and her body. The aliens are almost within touching distance. Grimly, she forces herself to move faster.
Her shoulder throbs in time with her movements, with the beat of her heart. She has to go quickly. She has to reach the top, start an avalanche and escape. She has to.
She's leaving blood behind, staining the rocks beneath her torn hands as she struggles up the slope. If she stops, even for a second, they'll be on her. The higher she goes, the greater the avalanche, she rationalises. She can't pause, can't rest, can't give up. Her brow creases as she scans the rocks above her. She's almost to the top…
And her foot slips, sending stones tumbling down the hill behind her, a miniature version of what she wants to cause. She's about to continue when she feels it touch her foot, her ankle. A hard, clawed hand, gaining purchase, slicing skin on its way. She won't scream. She can't scream.
The only thought that consumes her mind is not for her safety, or even for the Doctor. No, her only thought is that this isn't supposed to be how this story ends.
But it does.
It's a whisper, so soft that he can barely hear it though he wants to answer that voice. There's a hint of a Northern accent there, then Estuary, then Scottish and dozens of other accents. All hints, all aspects, all facets of a voice that he's longed for since Satellite Five.
He wants to answer, but it's so hard. So, so hard in this place between life and death. It's not sleep. He doesn't sleep anymore. He just thinks and passes the time in limbo and that's what this is.
Jack…come to me.
I can't, he wants to answer. He can't join that voice. Can't join the… Doctor? Yes. The Doctor. Not when he's… He's what?
His mind's fragmented. Memories jumbled and torn. Life and death hold no power over him so he lives in that space between.
Not exactly. The voice changes again and he remembers. Oh, god he remembers that Bilis tricked him. He thought it was the Doctor and it was Bilis and…
Such a fascinating mindscape, Captain. I do believe that I will enjoy this.
Fear, desperate and gasping, claws through him as he tries to withdraw. He tries to wrap his mind in a protective cocoon, but he can't. Bilis is too strong, he's too drained and he can't fight this.
No, he protests against this treatment, against the voice, against the darkness that threatens to consume him again. Part of him fears that, if he gives in, he'll never wake again. In some ways that's a blessing, in others it frightens him.
He's not supposed to die just yet. A devil couldn't defeat him. Yet he thinks that Bilis is something else entirely. Not a devil, he thinks. If possible, Bilis might be even more dangerous. No. He won't give in. Not now, not ever.
He's got scores to settle, places to go, people to see.
The fight might be futile, but it's all he has left.
The Doctor shouts a wordless cry of denial as he watches the Relnatix warrior touch Rose. Something cold encases his hearts as he pulls out his sonic screwdriver. If Rose dies, Relnatix and all its peoples will suffer.
Starting with the ones here.
Holding the device loosely between his fingers, he thumbs the controls and prepares himself. Rose's idea is a good one. An avalanche could stop them. Not much else would, but an avalanche complete with broken bones and bodies would do nicely. Rose didn't wait for him to say anything about his sonic screwdriver, about him causing the avalanche rather than her.
No, she went off and did it herself. Got herself into trouble and (he's not ready to lose her again, not so soon) he's not sure if he can save her in time. But he has to.
He holds the sonic screwdriver aloft, aiming it at the area just below Rose's position. If he can loosen those rocks, perhaps the Relnatix warrior will release her as it attempts to maintain its footing. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
Maybe he'll learn how to fly under his own power.
Grimly, he presses the button to activate the device, sending powerful waves of sonic energy (he thanks the day that he went to Donna's wedding reception, the sound equipment gave him so many ideas) towards the hill.
It starts with a low rumble. Rocks begin to teeter, shake, roll. Small stones, large ones, nothing escapes the sonic blast. He can only hope that Rose holds on.
The rock slide causes a large cloud of dust to rise over the landscape, obscuring his vision and hiding the one sight that he so desperately wants to see from him. The roar of sound is deafening, overwhelming even the pounding of his hearts.
He wants to rush forward, try to find her, but he knows it's foolish. He has to wait until the storm is over, even though waiting has never been one of his strongest suits.
As the dust settles, he begins to breathe again – when had he stopped? – when he sees Rose still clinging to her precarious position against the face of the hill. However, she's not alone. The Relnatix warrior is still holding onto her leg. And it's gaining purchase.
He doesn't care about precarious footing, he doesn't even think; instead he runs. Towards her, towards Rose, towards the Relnatix in vain hope that he can stop it in time. He's barely at the base of the hill when he hears it.
It echoes ominously across the landscape, bouncing off fallen rocks and ground in sharp retort. He stumbles to a stop in reaction, his gaze drawn upwards. He sees the Relnatix jerk as its clawed hand relaxes in what must be death as it tumbles down the incline. There're shouts now, cries of 'hold on' and 'we're coming' from somewhere nearby, but he doesn't care. His attention's on Rose.
"Rose!" he says as he starts to climb to her. He can tell that she's shaking, shaking so hard that she can barely hold onto the rocks without losing her purchase. The avalanche was far too thorough, he thinks, as he scales the hill. There are few hand-holds and even fewer places where he can gain enough leverage to haul himself upward.
"'M okay," she says softly as soon as he's within hearing distance. He gets the impression that it's not the first time she's said it in the last few minutes. "The alien-"
"Relnatix," he corrects her as he slips a supporting arm around her torso.
"- didn't hurt me. Just tore my jeans, that's all."
He frowns, noticing blood coating her leg. She's either lying or the adrenaline's keeping her from feeling the pain. "We've got company," he tells her, hearing the sounds of at least three pairs of feet hurrying towards them.
A look of panic flashes in her eyes as she looks over his shoulder. "Doctor, they're Torchwood. We've got to go."
Anger pools in the pit of his stomach. Torchwood. It'd have to be them. He might owe them Rose's life, but he also owes them for their first separation. "We can-"
She shakes her head sharply, wincing a little at the effort. "No. Please, Doctor. We've got to go. I'll tell you later, yeah? They jus' can't see us. Not properly. Please…"
He doesn't like it but he nods. "Think you can get down the hill?"
Rose glances downward before meeting his eyes. "My shoulder's pretty torn up. I don't think I could crawl down that."
"Right. Up it is." They'll have to leg it once they reach the top, of course, but that's fairly par for the course. He's grateful that it's not too far. Rose's face is rather pale and he doesn't like that one bit. The sooner he can get her back to the TARDIS, the better.
He shakes his head and helps her upwards. At least, he reasons, their friends from Torchwood will have to climb to reach them. That should give them enough of a lead to leave the area before they are caught.
Torchwood. Bloody hell, it'd have to be them. She grits her teeth as the movement jars her injuries, but she knows that she can't pause. Not if it means that Torchwood will get their hands on them.
surprised, really, when she doesn't hear Jack's voice shouting for
them to stop.
All she can hear is Toshiko's cry of 'wait' and someone else's shout of 'hold it'. That, at least, is a blessing, if a little confusing. Jack wouldn't let them go. Then again, Jack would probably find the TARDIS and stop them that way.
God, she hasn't mentioned Jack, though she's thought of him, to the Doctor. Each time she's tried, the words wouldn't come. Now she doesn't have a choice. She has to tell him.
It'll be enough of a shock to see Jack again. For him, she knows he'll be stunned, perhaps even speechless (which is a startling thought). For her, guilt still crawls through her at the thought of what she did. With him, to him. That she thought she could use Jack as a means to an end...
She blinks back tears, telling herself that they're from the sharp wind rather than from her thoughts. Once they reach the top, she lurches into a run, hand-in-hand with the Doctor. His coat slaps against her legs, but she doesn't care. It's another chase, but this is one they must win.
If Jack's waiting for them, what'll he do? For that matter, what'll she do?
She shakes off the thought, focusing her attention on running across the uneven ground. Each impact of her feet against the earth sends new bursts of pain through her body – both from her leg and her shoulder. She knows that she's bleeding, perhaps badly, from her wounds.
It doesn't matter, though. They've got to run. She won't be a hindrance here. They've got to make it back to the TARDIS.
Jack wants the Doctor to extract some sort of revenge. That much she got from her last encounter with the man. Before, of course, other considerations –
Kisses, licks, nibbles, hands brushing against her body, things that she wanted once from him — though she wants the Doctor more — and she curses herself for her weakness. She can't stop him. Doesn't want to stop him.
He slides her suit jacket off her shoulders, peppering her newly revealed skin with more kisses and licks.
- had interrupted them.
Biting her lower lip, she forces herself to move faster. She can hear Toshiko behind them, crying out for them to wait. Jack's still not there. She still can't hear his voice. Perhaps she doesn't have to fret about encountering him again.
The TARDIS looms before them and somehow she manages another burst of speed. She tells herself that she isn't worried that Jack hasn't found them yet. Nor is she worried that Torchwood will reach them before the Doctor can open the door.
"It's the TARDIS!" Toshiko exclaims.
She wonders how this Tosh knows what the TARDIS is, let alone what it looks like. It doesn't matter in the greater scheme of things, she knows, but the thought's there. That's when she recalls Yvonne Hartman's uncanny recognition of the ship as well. There is an answer.
It's called Torchwood.
"Oi! Hold it right there!" someone else, a male voice, shouts.
The Doctor fumbles in his pocket for the key and she readies herself to fight. She won't let them take him. And she won't, most especially, let them hurt him. Before she can do more than loosen her stance, the Doctor is ushering her inside, slamming the door behind them.
"See? Running for our lives? Simple." He clicks his fingers as he grins at her, that grin faltering as he sees her expression. "Rose, let's get you to the medical-"
"No," she says, shaking her head, feeling as if she has to say this now. It's been festering inside her for too long. Her injuries can wait. "That can wait. There's something I've got to say. I waited for too long an', well, it's got to be said."
There's confusion in his eyes as well as a growing fear. She knows what that is. No matter how many times she tells him he's stuck with her, he still clings to that bit of doubt that tells him she won't. "What is it?"
"It's… God, this is hard." She turns away from him for a moment, bracing herself against the comforting strength of the TARDIS's wall. She hurts too much to cushion this particular shock. She has to tell him. "Doctor, it's Jack. He's alive."
She hears him draw in a startled breath and the brush of fabric as he moves close enough to touch her uninjured shoulder. "That's impossible."
"So am I," she says as she turns to face him, meeting his gaze with her own. "'S impossible for me to be here, but I am. Why not Jack?"
"He's dead," the Doctor replies, shaking his head in denial. "He can't just, oh, pop up again like a daffodil in spring."
She wrinkles her nose at him and he shrugs somewhat sheepishly. "Well, bad metaphor. Thing is, that's impossible. He can't do that. No-one can."
"You can," she replies. "Oh, I know, Time Lord and all that. Thing is, what if he wasn't dead? What if we just left him on Satellite Five?"
He blanches. "You can't survive a Dalek, Rose. I heard him die."
"I saw him. A little over a month ago in Cardiff. He..." Her voice trails off as she protectively wraps her arms around herself, wincing as the pain almost blinds her. This has to be said, she knows. He has to know. She can't let her injuries stop this discussion, even though she doesn't know how he's going to react, what he's going to do. React with anger, yes. But what else?
"And you didn't tell me?" There it is. That's the anger she was expecting, though the betrayal is something else. There's something in his eyes that would be frightening for anyone other than herself, but she boldly faces it.
"No," she says, feeling somewhat light-headed. "I just couldn't. I had to sort things out before I could say anything. I'm sorry, I jus' couldn't say…"
"You had to sort things out." There's an unfamiliar sneer in his voice as he drops his hand from her shoulder, leaving her feeling bereft as the pain roars through her. "Don't you know what this could mean? Jack Harkness was supposed to die on Satellite Five. Time doesn't lie about that sort of thing, Rose. A living, breathing Jack Harkness wandering about Cardiff? That's bad. Very, very bad. Terribly bad. And your keeping this from me could destroy everything!"
She sways, not really hearing his words, though she knows they're important. Her heartbeat throbs in her head as the pain reaches a new crescendo. The adrenaline is beginning to wear off, she thinks. "Doctor…"
He stops mid-rant, his eyes widening in shock as he reaches for her, holding out his hands. She feels him touch her shoulders, sees him mouth her name, as her vision begins to tunnel.
The last thing she sees before unconsciousness claims her is his face. And the last thing she hears is him calling her name.
To be continued...