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This fic, a prequel to "As Its to Time", was written as a birthday gift for Vallora. First time posting on FFnet. The request was for a Gallifreyan Bonding Ceremony.

Part of the "Tomorrow is Yesterday" 'Verse. Please don't ask me why it insists on being bold, I have no idea and no control over FFnet anymore.

Being to Timelessness

Part 2

The Candidates wear robes of pure white, with scarlet and orange trim on one, while the Witness-Officiant wears a robe of ivory, trimmed in gold.

Rose complains that the stark white washes out her complexion. The Doctor says she's beautiful and they stare at each other for a long, intense moment that is almost painful to witness. Then, he laughs and claims that at least she doesn't have freckles that are suddenly visible from orbit and Rose laughs with him.

Jack tugs at the collar on his robe and swears quietly under his breath.

The Doctor explains that Rose's robe is only white because she doesn't have College colors to adorn the sleeves and piping. She asks why Prydonians got scarlet and orange and the Doctor jokes that they were the most thoroughly boring lot. She smiles at him tenderly, and he's obviously lost in her eyes. He admits then that the oldest College chose the primary colors of their world for their own.

Jack wants to know why he's suddenly entitled to Gold Usher and the Doctor gapes at him until Jack blames the TARDIS and the Doctor stops panicking so they can move on.

The Appointed are awaiting admittance when the Officiant joins them at the library door, where two ask traditional questions and, at the Officiant's affirmative response, break the seal.

These people were carefully chosen. Since there are no Time Lords and no relatives, they are close friends of the couple, people who can be trusted. They have travelled with the Doctor in the past, or they have spent time with the couple in the present. They are people who Rose, at least, will admit that they love.

Jack understands, because he loves them, too.

The Doctor will never say that the Brigadier, the man selected to represent his family, is a brother to him. He will never admit that he loves Mickey Smith, chosen to represent Rose's family, if for no other reason than that Mickey was brave enough and stupid enough to give her up. Two chairs are left empty, and the others are filled with precious people who, even now, have never heard from the Doctor's lips why they are there, nor how he adores them.

Jack gets that, too, because he's learned the fear of speaking and the power of keeping truth in silence, and he opens the door for them to move on.

The ceremony begins.

Jack sings.

The doors reveal the Candidates, summoned by the Song, and they step into the room, not touching, side-by-side as equals should be, as their voices raise to join the Song.

The ancient song was nowhere near as hard to learn as it should have been. Even back when the Doctor was big-eared and angry-eyed, Rose could be heard humming snatches of it at all hours of the day and night. It has power, this tune, and fundamental compulsion, a blessing and a promise in its lyric lines.

Jack insisted, when asked, that if Rose could learn it when she technically couldn't even hear it, he certainly could.

It has no words that human ears can comprehend, but it doesn't need to be understood to be known. Meaning can be felt, in the flow and ebb of the music, even as the words trip by rote from lips that have never learned the language that goes with them. There are only two people in all of time and space who will understand that there are words there at all. All the same, the Song moves everyone now, and though they don't know it, for the rest of their lives.

As the music rises and falls, a fourth voice joins the harmony before they move on, and Jack thinks that a song called "Hope" should sound like this.

The Song closes when the Candidates take their seats and the Witness-Officiant places their hands together, showing them the beginning of their Bond.

The Doctor looks quite alarmed about all of this when Jack takes their hands, though neither he nor Rose is to say a word from this point until the ceremony concludes. There is a wariness in his eyes, as if he expects to be pounced on and bathed in sloppy affection, even as Jack places their hands together. Their fingers interlace, which isn't in the program, but they've been doing it that way from the very beginning, so it's nothing special, even though it's everything as well.

Jack wonders if he ought to just jump in and smooch them both, just to give the Doctor something to be terrified about.

Their eyes close and their bond opens, and this ceremony is way past redundant for them, anyway. When the telepathic communion begins, the age and depth of it becomes apparent almost immediately.

Jack's breath catches as he senses the edges of the link with his fragile telepathy, and his hands are shaking at the scope of it as the ceremony continues.

Each of the Appointed are invited to speak the words of history and future, of binding and commitment.

The Doctor has explained that, given this kind of license to speak, your average Time Lord would gladly indulge in a filibuster to do William Henry Harrison proud. Public speaking, he's said, is something they were taught at approximately the same age Rose was learning her ABCs.

Jack's always claimed he was born knowing them, because it's always fun to see Rose's face get that red right before she screams at you.

On the plus side, no one is actually required to speak. While unlikely at the source, it is perfectly acceptable for all of the English speakers who find themselves in the middle of this unlikely alien affair to keep their silence.

No one says a word, because no words are needed for something written out in stars.

The Brethren rise and take the cords, the elder to take the Past, the younger the Present, and they bind the couple as tradition dictates.

Mickey does his work first because the Time Lords have always had a very strange perception of time - the phrase "no time like the present" is almost absurdly applicable to them. The Doctor has lived it all his life and can't explain it, but Rose says it almost feels like every single moment breathes.

Jack still doesn't get exactly what she means by that, which is odd, because he's had a time sense all his life and has always perceived it more as if...then.

The Brigadier does his binding next, again because of that odd sense of time. The Doctor's explanation is again too complex, as if the type of past he's referring to isn't the type of past that beings who exist in only three dimensions understand. Rose's explanation is that the past is the Isle of Wight. She looks so sad and strange when she says it, especially when she follows up that the blue cord has two meanings.

Jack just remembers the blue suit as he watches the silent couple, who never react at all to their hands being tied together from wrist to elbow before they come to the next step.

The Honorium is sung for all those present and all those absent.

Though Jack appears to stand by himself, he does not sing alone.

The gold and silver band tumbles from its ethereal perch.

The Doctor is not expecting this part of the ceremony to occur. It is only a legend, he says, that the future band can ever be touched. He doesn't even know the circumstances that might cause it to manifest in real space, believes it is impossible for any force in the Universe to cause the thing to come into being.

Jack's noticed that the sheer volume of things that come true once the Doctor says they're impossible is larger than whole galaxies, and has wondered aloud if he does it on purpose.

Rose knows that the Doctor definition of impossible may be a bit skewed, as she has proven it herself from time to time. She is a Time Lord when she was born human, is here when the walls of the Universe once closed between them forever. She is the Doctor's consort, wife, and help meet, when even she once believed it was impossible to ever touch him. She is expecting this.

Jack accepts the band from phantom fingers and uses it to bind the couple one more time before the ceremony comes to its conclusion.

The bond is tested in three ways.

Everyone stands. Mickey takes Rose's arm and his face is the perfect picture of self-deprecating amusement. The Brigadier takes the Doctor's, and he is grinning as if he's been given the gift of a lifetime. They give a good, strong tug, but the bindings hold as they are supposed to do. They each release their respective holds, and Mickey gives Rose an affectionate shove as he does so, sending her into the Doctor's embrace, shaking his head at himself as if he's only just realized he'd been doing this for years.

Jack steps forward and places a hand at each of their temples to verify that the bond is in place.

In his mind, the Doctor is laughing, startled and confused, but full of merry and child-like delight. He has seen a legend come true, again, and become part of a new legend, all at once, and he finds it so much better than anything he's ever seen before. The power of the Doctor's mind draws Jack in and then Rose is there as well, and it feels like she's hugging them both, her laugh like fairy bells a warmth and a welcome as Jack finds himself unable to resist hugging them back.

Jack wonders that the inability to speak hasn't made the Doctor explode before the final test, the final step, begins.

The Bound speak.

Their lips move in perfect tandem, the words exact and in stereo. Rhythm and cadence are precise and Rose's. The words are the Doctor's. They begin in English, because they wish to be understood, speaking individual thank-yous to each participant. They give encouragement and invitations, advice, and congratulations for events known and unknown to everyone.

Jack doesn't bother to wonder why the words spoken to him include "Don't even think about it."

They continue in their own language, and the Song called "Joy" rings out through the room and through the stars. It sounds like what it is, a celebration. It includes joys quiet and small, and joys so great that they can never be compassed. Their eyes are bright and shining, eyes of lovers who have beheld both sorrow and beauty and come away together and stronger.

Jack thinks what he has always done - that real, true love looks just like them.

The Book of Days is closed and the Assembled depart.

As Jack removes the bouquet and closes the book on the plinth, he truly believes for the first time that someday he'll feel love like this.