A/N: The sequel to "A Long History". This story has many parts, every one related to every other one, even if they may seem disjointed at first glance. Bring your thinking caps and don't forget to let me know if you have questions. For those just tuning in: I do not support the "Lungbarrow" hypothesis. My thanks and heart-felt adoration to Olfactory_Ventriloquism for beta-reading.
My 50th story on this site, published New Year's Day, 2009, five years after I started here.
Disclaimer: I own Doctor Who in an Alternate Universe. This ISN'T an Alternate Universe.
Relics of Eternity
Chapter 1: Myth and Missing
The Watch was a myth, purported to be kept in the Central Headquarters of the Time Agency. Within the Watch, so rumor said, was a beating heart, the soul of Time itself. The Watch was reputed to be powerful, a thing of temporal grace and beauty, and it kept the Agency capable of functioning. According to legend, the Watch, not the Time Agents, could see everything that was, is, and ever could be.
Central Command encouraged belief in the Watch as a mythology. However, to all official communication, it was only that, a myth, not something that had ever existed or ever would. Young recruits to the Agency learned of it from veterans and so the legend persisted.
As the Agency spread across space (and consequently across time), they began to be quite selective in their recruitment. Every recruit had to have some sort of personal strength that would benefit the Agency. The 'Foreign Legion' of by-gone eras was no longer the way of the modern selection process. The young, homeless boy from the Boeshane Peninsula was no exception. He was maybe twelve years old when he first caught the Agency's attention, when he survived an attack by the most vicious creatures imaginable, an attack that decimated the colony and left the living wishing for death.
His father had been among the victims of the brutal assault, his brother among the missing. His mother had, apparently, lost her mind, for she made absolutely no move to stop her oldest child when he walked, alone, along the invasion route, checking every body, searching for his lost brother. He never stopped walking, except to run. When the Time Agents decided to stop watching him and bring him in, he was half-dead from dehydration, half-cooked from constant exposure, and half-mad from desperation.
He should have been easy to round up. He was an astoundingly hearty child to have survived such extremes for five solid days, but he was still just a child. So when he vanished right under their watchful eyes as they approached him, they knew they had chosen wisely. They also knew they had their work cut out for them.
It took them more than three years, with no more than occasional sightings, to finally round the child up. He was waiting for them, they had to suppose, in the city, keeping company with an extremely alien visitor to the Peninsula, the famously ancient Face of Boe.
The Face was willing to turn him over to them, if and only if the boy was willing to go. They brought a reader in to try to change the child's mind, if necessary, but they had to assume that the Face was protecting him, because the reader could find no safe entrance into the child's mind.
He was willing, he said, to go with them. He had to find his brother, and being stuck on the Peninsula was going to do him no good in such a search. They agreed to let him attempt the task in free time between his missions, neglecting to mention that he'd be lucky to ever discover a free moment for the rest of his probably very short life.
Once he had been properly lauded and feted for joining up, the beautiful child whose charming face would make future recruitment here impossibly easy, they took him to Headquarters and started the customary procedures. They drugged him first to within an inch of his life, and found him, surprisingly, one hundred percent full-blood human. Full-blood humans were so rare by the fifty-first century that they could make a fortune selling their biologicals on the black market.
They took his clothing and his meager possessions and sent them to the labs to double check. The only thing omitted in this procedure was the fob watch they found hanging from a chain around the child's neck. It, and the key hanging with it, were sent directly to High Command and they disappeared into the bureaucratic and temporal ether almost immediately.
They sourced and traced his time line and found it masked and shrouded. Still, the Agency stamp went on it with ease, so they let the anomaly pass without comment. They still couldn't find a telepath strong enough to read the boy's mind. There were all kinds of space stories told about people whose minds were closed to outsiders, everything from dark futures of people who were dead inside, to strange myths about ancient races who marked their mates in a way that closed the marked person's mind forever.
They ignored all of this in favor of blaming the Face of Boe, who was reputed to be powerfully telepathic.
Because the Time Agency dealt in the prerogatives of a race that was ancient and only existed now in rumor and hearsay, they had a few customs that were inexplicable but always followed to the letter. One of those things was the hardest to complete, and the more shielded the mind of the recruit, the more difficult the procedure became.
Legend had it that the Time Lords hid their names, or maybe it was only the one Time Lord who appeared to still exist, at least periodically. Either way, the Time Agency liked the idea of the custom, so every Agent was re-christened prior to training. All memory of the boy's given name was wiped from his mind. They called him, thereafter, the Face of Boe, after his benefactor and his home world, until such time as he could complete his training and be assigned a short, common moniker to base his future nom de guerre upon. He was, after all, an uncommonly beautiful child, and his face would be perfect for recruitment drives on many worlds.
The Face was extremely clever, as they learned almost immediately. He was supremely physically fit. He was quick with weapons and astonishing with people. He could, with his face and his words, charm anyone at all into doing nearly anything he wished them to do.
He was, in short, a born leader and destined to live a very fast, very chaotic life and die a quick, glorious, and heroically tragic death.
His greatest asset to the Agency wasn't discovered until his very first field training mission, but when it was found, every field agent in the place fought for the opportunity to partner with the boy. Even mysterious members of the High Command came down to meet him, just to see this skill in action.
The human child from the backwater Boeshane Peninsula was time-sensitive.
They promoted him to proper Agent status the next day and, because he was so good at everything he set his hand to, they called him Jack.
Jack was called back to Central to receive his promotion to Captain, and he was extremely grateful. No one had ever told him before that you remembered the stuff you did when stuck in a time loop. In the debriefing, in fact, the scientists insisted that neither he nor Captain John should have remembered a damn thing, and put their six years of remembered torment (and some really great sex) down to Jack's abnormal time sensitivity.
John hadn't been amused by the fact that Jack didn't really want to see him again. He'd just spent six solid years with the man, for gods' sake, and Jack thought they both deserved a break. The recall to Central happened just in time, because John was a sociopath and he usually got what he wanted. John didn't have a conscience to prevent him, in any way, from doing whatever he had to do to get it. The Time Agency considered it an asset, and sent John on missions no one else would have dreamed of taking.
Jack had a conscience, and it was considered his only weakness, because it was strong. He wouldn't kill unless he had no choice, and he very often refused to use weapons when there was some other way to do what he needed to get done. He absolutely refused to disturb the time lines as he perceived them and, since he was so much more temporally cognizant than any of his colleagues, he occasionally found himself having to stop what was thought to be a routine mission because it was a fixed event instead.
They tolerated him, though, because he was liked by many people and because his time sense made him almost invaluable when no one knew exactly what had to be done to effect the event properly. And now, they were promoting him to full Captain, meaning he was capable of working independently and even training others. He expected he might end up doing a lot of training, because he had ways of making gadgetry to answer the questions his time sense couldn't do, and that was a talent that benefitted the entire Agency.
Walking through the halls of Central Headquarters, Jack slowly became aware of something very strange. There was singing and whispering, a voice like he'd never heard before, and yet it sounded so familiar. It was an important voice, he thought, full of concern and pride and longing and hope. It reminded him, in a way, of his father's voice, although he rarely allowed himself to think on that.
The singing sounded like... it reminded him of his mother, which was odd, because she'd never sung a note in her life, not even to Grey... Jack shoved the memories out of the way, back to where they were supposed to be buried.
Instead, unable to help himself, he followed the sounds of the voices and the song. Disregarding all instructions, he made his way deep into the labyrinthine corridors of Central, hardly noting the paths he followed.
Now, the voice was definitely calling him, not by his given name (which he couldn't actually remember, but liked to think he would recognize), but 'Jack'. Occasionally, there were other words, deeper and stranger words... 'Doctor', 'Time Lord', 'Rose', 'TARDIS', 'forever'... The words began to clang and ache inside his head, began to feel like he was not being summoned by some unidentifiable mystery, but being called home.
'Home', the voice agreed, and then there were pictures, not of the vividly yellow half-desert on the Boeshane peninsula, but of other places, other times, other worlds. A room of coral and off-blue light with a door that led into stark white corridors and another that led to eternity, a disused railway station, something that looked for all the world like a London Council flat from the twenty-first century on Earth. A view of a beach and a weeping, golden girl abruptly conquered all the views, and Jack had just a split second to look on her, suddenly missing her terribly, when he'd never seen her before in his life. His heart was thundering and aching in his chest, before all of it was swept away. In it's place a view blossomed, a mountainous world with orange skies, silver trees sweeping up from crimson plains to turn to fire under doubled suns.
Jack had only ever seen such a place before in his dreams. His feet carried him onward now, with desperate, aching intensity. A door swept open and he was suddenly in a room that was full of the song. No, the Song.
'Jack,' the voice called him. 'Come home, Jack, come back to where you belong.'
There were only two things in the entire room. One was a small, ordinary looking Yale key, but it was glowing brightly with golden, orange light. The other was... a Myth.
Lying, silent now, on the plinth before him, was a small, silver pocket watch. He stared at it, amazed and delighted and unsure what to do.
The voices whispered to him, a dozen voices that sounded so familiar he knew them as well as his own. 'Doctor,' they all called, loudly, and once, and then they all fell back to whispers. And then one spoke above all the others, a voice so beloved it brought tears to his eyes, an accent so human, he couldn't begin to understand. 'Take the Watch, Jack, and we'll go home.'
Jack stared at it, torn by indecision and then, unable to help himself, his hand stretched out to touch it.
He woke, abruptly, wondering if he would be late to his meeting, and realized that two years had passed.