montypython203 Disclaimer: You might be the future owner of Doctor Who! Do you have more dreams than you can count about it? Do you try, anyway, diligently writing every one of them down, attempting to document their full scope and breathtaking wonder? Do you work Doctor Who into every conversation you have? Do you own a forty-foot long scarf? Have you ever been referred to as 'Doctor' by a close friend or family member? Do you have the theme tune on your MP3, cell phone, and/or computer's player? Have you ever asked yourself, in an ordinary situation, 'What would the Doctor do?'. Did you make your decision based on this? When you learn the air date of the next Doctor Who episode, do you run around screaming and waving your arms like the kid in Home Alone? Can you name all the Doctors actors, but have trouble remembering the middle name of a sibling or close friend? Do you stroke your personal computer? Have you ever, even once, found yourself in a mental dilemma when trying to decide whether you'd prefer Eccelston, Tennant, or Borrowman on your desert island (or Piper, Myles, Tate, or Aygema)? If more than two of these things are true, you may be the future owner of Doctor Who. Or sectioned. But not yet.
As I am a professional writer and have work to do to get paid, I have decided to deal with these thudding plot bunnies in the traditional manner - I will inflict them on others. Please see my Profile for the Challenges of the Month. June Challenges will be available as of June 3rd, but feel free to tackle May's if you'd rather. The new set will run through the end of June. Please let me know when you respond to a Challenge so I can read and review.
A/Ns: The above disclaimer appears per the assistance of montypython203, who was brilliant some time back (and of course remains brilliant).
The concepts in this chapter would not be possible without the genius of Terrance Dicks, who gave us the only good novel, which is "The Eight Doctors", and many wonderful episodes besides. Miss you MUCH, sir. Also, shout outs to the late William Hartnell, Billie Piper, Chris Eccelston, Carole Anne Ford, Russell T. Davies (though I will chase you with a pitchfork if you do not FIX that), Steven Moffett (You can hire me. I'll write the regulars, you can write the OCs; it isn't a bad arrangement.), David Tennant, and, of course, John Barrowman. Also shout outs to all of you, with much gratitude for your attention to a mad woman's rambles.
Yes, that does mean this is the end. I cannot at this time promise a sequel. However, there is one in the works. The plot, unfortunately, is even harder to weave, this time - rather like trying to do Chinese silk on a bead loom. I'll do everything in my power, but the future of this line of possibility depends largely on the outcome of "Journey's End." Final reviews will be replied to, also, so don't forget to let me know what you thought, even if you hovered in the background expecting me to turn out to be an idiot.
If you want to know how it goes in the meantime, and haven't checked them out, the paired stories "How He Loved Her" and "When You're Older" are both simultaneously ancestors and descendants of this work.
And now, on with the end...
Repercussions: A Window to Tomorrow
The old man owed him a favor, but it was almost a month before Jack saw him again. One glance at the old Time Lord told Jack that far more than a month had passed outside of the causal nexus. "You've changed," Jack said quietly.
The old man smiled, his eyes kind now, and so gentle. "And yet you still recognize me." He took Jack's hand in his, somehow more an embrace in that gesture than a simple handshake. "Yes, I've changed. Or I've been changed, really."
Jack found, to his surprise, that he both liked and trusted the old man, now, neither of which he had done before. He offered him a seat and a brandy, both of which the old man accepted, still with that quiet smile on his now serene face. "What happened?"
"Time and peace and a promise kept," the man replied. He had soft blue eyes, now, instead of hard dark ones. "Several people made promises during this nexus, and it is time I kept this one."
"So you can fix me?" Jack asked, knowing that he must sound completely desperate to the man sitting across his desk from him.
The old man shook his head. "I have learned so much, dear boy. So very much. Most things have been greatly to my cost and to my shame, but what I have learned of you... you are a special case, child, and like all special cases, you must be handled with very great care."
"I'm tired," Jack pleaded. "It's too much. Human beings are not meant to live... like this." He couldn't say "forever" - surely it wouldn't really be forever, would it?
"You are exactly correct, there," the old man told him, his smile fading and his face unaccountably wise. "The only beings who are suited to and survive immortality are those who are inherently designed for it. Any others that this role may fall to go mad within the first lifetime. Inevitably, they seek out and find a way to destroy themselves. But you're not like them, are you? Is that what you wish?"
"I..." Jack paused. It wasn't suicide he was asking for, had never been. He was just tired, so very tired, of getting up and walking away from every tragic death and senseless murder circumstance could devise for him. "I just want to know that it will end, that I won't have to go on and on, watching every thing and every one I love die."
The old man hung his head. "I am sorry," he said. "I can not guarantee you that. It will end, some day, I promise you, but after that... it is a curse, and you will have to bear it." Jack's guest looked up at him and his eyes were deep and strange. "Everything has its time, even this."
Jack nodded, feeling some how both hopeful and defeated. "Can you teach me how to live with it, then?"
"You already know," the old man said with another of his small and wistful smiles. "You are and always will be rare, to still feel and still search, even when eternity itself won't give you up."
"It's nice to know I'm so loved," Jack said sarcastically.
"Oh, you are. In ways you cannot begin to imagine, not yet. I cannot change that and would not even if I could. But I can teach you a technique... you can rest, for any period of time, let ages pass over you, your mind well away from your body while your body remains in stasis."
"I assume you'd need equipment for that," Jack said dubiously.
The old man handed him a small data chip for his wrist computer. "Everything you need is there. Your mind can handle the technique and your body... your body has it by virtue of your inheritance."
Jack accepted it willingly. Something like that might come in handy some day. He studied the chip, wondering if this was truly a fair exchange for all that had been done here, ages ago by his guest's reckoning, in the past month by Jack's. In the end, he decided it would have to be. He wasn't in this for payment any way.
"Has everything calmed down in the area?" the old man asked after Jack looked up at last.
"It's a causal nexus, and apparently we're approaching the end of it." Jack shrugged. "I haven't seen an out of place time traveler in at least two days." Jack shivered, now, as he thought about what the past month had been like. "I never want to see this kind of thing again."
"You will, though." The old man smiled again and his expression, while canny, seemed quite harmless this time. "After all, I've seen at least three manifestations of you particularly in this time frame."
Jack rolled his eyes. "Great. I should've looked myself up. Could have had a threesome with me."
The old man snorted with amusement and shook his head. "As I believe I've told you before, you will never amount to anything in this galaxy while you retain this propensity for vulgar facetiousness."
Jack laughed out loud, even though the old man had never told him anything of the kind. He was certain he would have remembered that. "You never did explain this thing to me. Now that I'm not in the middle of it, can you?"
"To an extent. The version of yourself involved in closing the paradox had to be a version of you from prior to the event that made you the way you are now. If you had approached the anomaly..."
"Which I didn't, since you asked so nicely," Jack interrupted, wondering if he was teasing or complaining about the thunderous, rude orders this man's much younger self had delivered with regards to that.
The old man shook his head, sheepishly. "I've been a fool before, you know, but rarely more so than during the time I spent here. But you would have been harmed irreparably in your current state by contact with the anomaly. It made you sick when you first saw it, shortly after it formed, did it not?"
"I felt like it was looking back at me," Jack confessed, a feeling of revulsion washing over him just remembering the disgusting thing.
"That is an apt description. Later, much later, I expect, you will be able to approach it as long as you contain your emotions. Here, it would have ripped you apart to involve yourself. Only the younger you, the one untouched by the breath of immortality, could approach it. The girl's circumstance was different. She had to have no trace of time travel radiation in her system."
"I've run temporal traces on her before - she's absolutely steeped in Time, even now, has been since as far back as I've seen her." Jack wasn't about to confess that the first time he'd seen Rose Tyler, she'd been alive less than twenty-four hours.
"Those are possibilities. Not actualities. She..." The old man sighed, heavily. "Rose Tyler is unique. Later, perhaps, you will understand how all this came about. It is best to just say that she, too, is part of the paradox, and leave it at that."
Jack wanted to argue, but how could he, with a Time Lord, about time? After a few moments, he stilled. "What happened to your student?"
"He grew up," the old man said, his eyes growing distant and somewhat misty. "His brother took him into his home and he found a family for himself. He had children and he loved them all more than his own life. Only one reached adulthood before his House was massacred, and she was the one he did not know. He lost his friends, he lost his place in our society. He lost his grandchild. So many times, he almost lost his way."
The Time Lord looked so very hurt for that blue-eyed boy's fate. Jack began to wonder if the boy had died, as well, but that didn't seem to be the case. Instead those haunted eyes pierced him with their fire, considering Jack with such a deep, eerie expression that Jack felt something like terror try to climb his spine. "Someday, he may lose himself."
Then the man's shoulders went back and his head took on a proud tilt reminiscent of his best expressions from the last time Jack saw him. "He never lost faith, though, and he regained the ability to love with inconceivable abundance. He became so much more than anyone could have ever expected. He will have a long road ahead of him, but he will endure it because that is what he was born to do. I have every confidence in him."
"Did he ever remember her?" Jack wondered.
"In his way," the old man replied, "I don't think he ever forgot her. I don't think he ever really will. He remembers nothing, and yet everything is there, deeper inside his mind than even he can ever go. But a love like that... there is nothing that can keep it lost forever, and I have come to realize that she is a special creature, infinitely worthy of such a thing."
Jack knew that. Everyone loved her, literally every one. He wondered though and, for the first time, he dared to consider a possibility that had never occurred to him before. "You never told me his name," Jack mentioned.
"At the time, he was called Theta Sigma." The name sounded so familiar to Jack, but he couldn't place it before the old man moved on and nearly wiped it from his mind. "Tomorrow, he will be called General."
Jack breathed in a harsh breath as he realized what exactly that meant. "The Time War. It's starting." He paused and thought about it, concentrated, looking around the Torchwood Hub and thinking carefully about the life he had built here. "Take me with you," he requested. "I can help you in ways no one else possibly can."
The old man considered him carefully and then he shook his head. "I wish I could. You would be an incalculable asset. However, it is not possible, for reasons that will become clear to you later. I do thank you for your offer. It is a very brave thing."
"There's nothing brave about it," Jack said. "I'm a coward at heart, I'm sure. No, it's just that Dalek guns don't work on me any more than anything else does."
The old man abruptly changed the subject. "Tell me, how is the amnesia drug working out?"
Jack smiled at this, genuinely pleased. "I prefer it greatly, thank you. A man is the sum of his memories, you know, and I never wanted to go around wiping them out. It happened to me once, and that was more than enough. We call your stuff ret-con and it works just like you said. We can replace the memories they shouldn't have with memories they're better off with. To keep them happy. To keep them safe."
"I'm pleased to hear it," the old man said, and stood. Jack stood as well, and gave him a careful salute.
The old man returned the salute. Then, he stopped and looked down carefully at Jack's desk. "You will find, young man, that the time you need will always be in the last place you look. And sometimes, that's right under your nose."
Jack didn't even try to make sense of that. "You be careful," he instructed.
"I'm irrelevant," the old man replied. "You be strong, my boy. You've quite a past to live up to, and a future and potential as well. I dare not tell you all that you can become, but I will say this. The closure of the paradox required the girl and the boy and the future and you. When the time comes again, and it will, do not forget that you exist because the universe itself insists you must, in defiance of its own laws. Walk through it, this time, and I think all you have ever hoped for will be waiting here for you when you step clear of it."
Jack didn't know what to make of any of that, but he nodded all the same and filed it into the enormous vaults of his immortal memory, never to be forgotten. "Good luck, sir," he said softly.
"Thank you," said the man, politely. "And to us all."
He stepped away from Jack's office and was gone. The nexus was over at last, the distortions that allowed impossible time zones to co-exist had finally dissipated. Jack breathed a sigh of relief and took his recording of their conversation to the vault. He sealed it in using his "rhea silva" password. He enjoyed the irony of that usage - a legendary mother of children raised by a wolf who was burnt at the stake for bearing them. Since his life was changed by the results of the bad wolf references and then again by Torchwood, it seemed singularly appropriate.
He sat down at his desk and looked up the words "Theta Sigma". Greek letters, they rendered themselves to a variety of meanings, but Jack couldn't help the horror that struck him as he realized one of the common usages of Theta. It meant "Thanatos", and Thanatos was Death.
Jack had been feeling guilty for not revealing the outcome of the War to the old man. Now, he found himself shaken by an alternative possibility. It seemed so unlikely, but maybe, just maybe, the Time Lords had always known they were doomed.
Some time later, completely by chance, Jack happened to find an unusual document in the Cardiff public record, a marriage certificate for Rose Marion Tyler and Theta Sigma. He looked up the two witnesses, an older couple from a country estate a couple hours north of London. Their names were familiar, Jack thought, but he wasn't sure exactly how. Still, they had to forget this, and he would have to handle it.
He snuck into their garden and watched them for a few moments when, to his horror, he saw the TARDIS materialize herself about six yards away from where the old couple was having tea. They blinked at it in nothing that resembled the shock Jack had expected. In fact, until the TARDIS doors flew open and released an enormous cloud of billowing black smoke, Jack was beginning to wonder if they had even noticed her at all.
A body followed the smoke, the battered, near dead form of a man Jack had never seen before. He tumbled from the door way and hit the grass with force enough to shatter his nose, not that it would have done any more damage than anything else that had apparently already happened to him. The large man was on his feet at once, moving with an accustomed ease that belied his apparent age. Jack started to move toward them - time lines, such as they were, be damned - when there was a sudden, all encompassing bright light.
"Here we go again," the man muttered to his wife.
Jack's jaw swung freely in the breeze. Then, the man reached the body and turned it over. The face was clean now and scarless, unmistakable even at this distance. Jack found himself looking at the familiar features, cropped hair, and large ears of the Doctor as Jack had known him.
It was beginning.
The man and his wife seemed to think nothing of it, so Jack decided that anything they knew they were welcome to know. He snuck back out of the garden before the urge to help became too much.
He kept one official copy of the document in the vault in case it became important again later. Then, he used his Torchwood authority to have the file sealed. Rose Tyler would go about her normal life and some day, when the time felt right, Jack could ask them about it.
A few years later, he found Rose's name on the list from Canary Wharf. The whole month suddenly became too painful to recall, and he sealed it away from his active memory, using the same technique that locked away his distant past.
Someday, he would learn to hate her almost as much as he loved her, and someday after that, he would see her again, beloved and beautiful and forgiven. Until that time, Rose Tyler became a sacred mystery, hidden in the depths of Jack's ageless green eyes, and in the star flecked sorrow of the Doctor's ancient soul.