Title: Hearth and Home
Spoilers: early TW s2, late DW s3; TW 2.12 Fragments
Disclaimer: Not mine, no matter how many DVDs and toys I buy! Everything here belongs to RTD and to Auntie Beeb, who already has my licence fee.
Notes: Thanks as always to Mimarie for the quick beta any remaining weirdnesses are all mine. Feedback of any variety is much appreciated but not compulsory I'll post anyway! I've suffered for my art, now it's your turn....
"Hey, Myfanwy! Myfanwy! Come see what I've got for you, girl!"
Jack reached into the plastic bag, grinning as a loud shriek answered him from somewhere overhead, the sound giving way to a stuttering cry that he had come to recognise as happy anticipation. Long wings sliced through the air, the great, streamlined form of the pterosaur arrowing down to whip past his position on the gantry, close enough for him to feel the wind of her passing, before soaring back up to circle the mirrored tower, chattering all the way.
"Feeling peckish?" he called, already knowing the answer to that. "Know what I've got for you, sweetheart?"
Myfanwy skimmed low over the Hub's floor, then cut sharply upwards, her dark eyes fixed on the bag. Jack beamed at her and tossed a silvery shape into the air, laughing as she eagerly snapped it up in her toothless jaws. The second salmon head a pound apiece from Ashton's at the Central Market and far better for Pteranodon innards than chocolate he pitched low, making her twist and dive to reach it before it hit the ground. The next was thrown high for the sheer pleasure of seeing her sweep up towards the high ceiling, a creature of improbable curves and angles and perfect balance, all power and precision and elegant purpose.
She was beautiful, impossible, effortlessly dramatic... and quite hopelessly trapped out of her time.
He could identify with that.
"Aren't we a pair?" Jack said with a fond smile as he sent a fourth fish head zipping across the Hub. They were alone in the small hours of the morning, the mortal and the mammalian having retreated to their beds for the night, leaving this small corner of the world to the temporally displaced. Myfanwy was far from the first peculiar pet to have called the Hub home, but she was one of the more entertaining smart enough to be trained but independent enough to not need constant attention or reassurance. There was no way short of recruiting a telepath onto the team to tell just what was going on in her elongated head, but she seemed content enough....
Grey wings flashed past, a loud squawk telling him that the pterosaur was ready for his next throw. Jack chuckled and reached back into the bag, deliberately rustling the wrinkled blue plastic as he grabbed the next slimy treat. "Here it comes!" he called, and managed a bounce off the water tower before she gulped the head down with a pleased creel. This was an occasional game that they played, a brief bit of bonding between species and a chance for Myfanwy to eat something not smothered in protein sauce which she seemed to like, admittedly, but variety was the spice and all that. The salmon heads were a neatly compact snack and mercifully easy to keep track of Suzie hadn't looked particularly convinced when he'd blamed Rift activity for the fish guts lodged in her keyboard that time
Thought of Suzie sobered him and Jack glanced across to the desk that had once been her workstation, his mind's eye conjuring up happier times Suzie laughing; Suzie eagerly testing out her new blowtorch; Suzie wearing a Santa hat, a smile, and remarkably little else....
Jack grinned at that memory and looked around, seeing the echoes of the century and more of history he had lived through in this place. So many years, so many friends, so many faces some known only briefly, some over the course of long decades so many moments that had made him who and what he was today. He had come to the Hub as a prisoner, his freedom offered at a price... but it had given him purpose, an identity, a place to belong, and what had started as a necessary evil had swiftly become as dear to him as any former refuge.
There, by the neatly tiled wall that bore the Institute's name, was where he had first met Gerald Carter, brought in from London to help with an incident at the very turn of the twentieth century. There, where the kitchen now stood, was where he had watched James Lees bloodied and battered from an interrupted Tz'leth spawning go down on one knee to propose to a delighted Katherine Manning. There, by the first of the great sluice pipes, was where George Luddock had died screaming in his arms, an alien parasite burning through his bloodstream. There was where he and Alex Hopkins had hammered out the trade agreement with the Yenkyenyani; there where Marjorie Blunt had fatally failed to notice the escaped Gho clawstinger on her chair; there where Annie Abrahams had worked out the activation mechanism on an alien musicbox. There was where he had first met Elouise Forrester, and there where he had sat and wept after her funeral, almost sixty years later.
There was where he had taught the terribly proper Harriet Derbyshire how to swear in Veshnin.
There was where Jimmy Davis had discovered, in glorious and quite hysterically messy detail, just what happened when you put an electrical charge through a Tavhu nesting chamber.
There was where a bored Edie Page had demonstrated to him just how much underwear she wasn't wearing.
There was where Jaya Choudrey's waters had broken, little Vivian coming into the world in the medical bay with the entire team gathered proudly and maybe a bit tearfully around.
There was where he had put a bullet through Gavin Whelan's skull after
A wingtip whipped past Jack's nose, hauling him back into the present as Myfanwy squawked protest at his daydreaming. He laughed softly, ruefully, and reached for the last of the salmon heads, tossing it to her then turning the empty bag upside down and shaking it to show that there was nothing left. The pterosaur cawed her disappointment, circling once around the water tower before vanishing into the shadows high above, a faint scrabbling of claws against concrete announcing her return to her makeshift lair.
"Typical!" Jack called after her, scrunching the flimsy bag into a small blue ball. "You only love me for my fish!"
He could only assume that the croaking bark that echoed back down was the Cretaceous equivalent of a raspberry.
Crossing the gantry to the small kitchen, Jack abandoned the bag amongst the coffee grounds in the dented pedal bin, and washed his hands free of slime and scales in the sink, using the nail brush to scrub away the smell. He sometimes wondered if Myfanwy could remember her own time, her own kind, or if this existence was all that she could recall, her world concentrated in the now. His own memories were filled with so many times and so very many places that he almost wondered if that might not be the better way....
But no. He was the sum of his past, good and bad and otherwise, forged in a crucible far stranger than any native of this time could imagine. The undersized and underfunded colony where he had been born, the whispered song of the waves mingling with the loving murmur of his mother's voice; the doomed and oddly intimate camaraderie of battle; the fierce kinship of the Agency, all passion and purpose and fluid identity; the chaotic majesty of a ship beyond human imagining and the hard-won trust of her tragic pilot
And all the years between of wandering through loss and love and the final, painful realisation that abandonment and betrayal were the only true constants in his life, time and again, even death herself turning her back on him.
Jack chuckled softly as he dried his hands on the chequered tea towel. He had come to this place as a prisoner... but in the end it had proved far more faithful than any of his more willingly-entered refuges. The people came and went, lived and died and vanished into history as victims of their duty, but after a century and more spent here in the Hub and elsewhere, the Institute's name a proud badge of identity, an anchor in the storm that was his life....
In these past few months with his long-held questions answered and his future entirely his own once more he could have returned to what he had once had, running free and fierce with his former partner or skipping through the universe within the bosom of that mad and magnificent timeship.
But how, after a lifetime of searching, could he ever have abandoned the only place that had kept faith in him over the years?
The only place that, in the end, he had ever really been able to call home?
Wings rustled quietly somewhere overhead and Jack smiled sadly as he made his way back to his office. He, at least, had had the choice of whether to stay or to go he still did and always would, one way or another. Myfanwy, though, had no such luxury, could only take what sanctuary they offered her in this grey and gilded cage beneath the city. Occasional salmon head snacks were all well and good but he wished that he could offer her even the smallest taste of
Jack stopped... and grinned. The Rift wasn't the only way for an ancient creature to reach the twenty-first century from the Cretaceous.
He wondered how hard it would be to source a live coelacanth as a treat....
~ fin ~