x x x

2519-10-31; 1600 - Torchwood

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"It's time." River said, returning to the room, leaving the doors open behind her, "Higher brain function's restored, and I'm thinking the major case of the sorries is a good sign." she added.

"Let's go see, then." the Doctor said, and River nodded.

"Going to enlighten me as to what River Tam, two Time Lords, and my own team are conspiring against me for?" Jack asked, watching the Doctor carefully, but directing his question to Koschei.

Koschei shrugged, "I only know you'll like it, I wasn't given explicit details."

x x x

The room that River led them into contained six holding cells, four of which were occupied by former Reavers. Every one of them was sitting near the back of their individual cells, cringing and hiding their faces. They were wearing plain white clothing and had bandages visible on their arms and faces where piercings and metal must have been removed. They all looked very unhappy with their current situation.

Eddie slowly stood as the two Torchwood team-members, Mal, Simon, River, Jack, and the two Time Lords, stopped in front of these cells. He looked more human without the pieces of metal sticking out of his face, and even if they would leave terrible scars it had to be a lot better than before. "Thank you." he said, his voice hoarse but no longer taking on a snarling tone when he spoke, "I didn't deserve it."

"It wasn't your fault." Jack said gently, "It was the Pax."

Eddie nodded slowly, "I worked on that project, but I was only a junior analyst."

"Still not your fault." Jack pointed out.

"You forgive me?" Eddie asked, frowning, "After the things I did to you?"

Jack folded his arms, smiling in a morbid sort of way, "I've had worse than you, Eddie."

"Mmm." that didn't seem to help matters, Eddie was probably thinking of the other Reaver he had associated with on that ship, which Jack did have to admit had done far worse than the one standing in front of him right now.

Jack laughed, "Worse than him, too."

"Thought you said Reavers were the worst monsters you'd seen?" the Doctor joked.

"No, Kaylee said that. I just said they were worse than Daleks." Jack looked right at the Doctor, his lip twitching slightly, "Between that one year that never happened, old Torchwood- who liked dissections for scientific purposes, but didn't seem to like anaesthetics so much- and being buried alive for... well, for a very long time. Ok, so Reavers are pretty damn vicious, but they've still got strong competition for the worst experience of my life."

"I imagine not everyone will be as forgiving as you." Eddie pointed out. Quite true, but how many other victims who had been through the torture Jack had at their hands would also have survived to be able to voice such forgiveness even if they did feel it?

"Yeah, I'm a saint. I don't think." Jack joked.

"Honestly, if the cure holds-" the Doctor started.

"And it will." River promised.

"-there's no reason why the four of you cannot rejoin society. It was never your fault." Jack thought that the Doctor really had some nerve to suggest these former-Reavers forgive themselves, when he couldn't do the same for things that had genuinely not been his fault. Just because he was telling the truth that they should try to readjust to normal life again, didn't make him any less of a hypocrite for not getting over his own guilt as well.

"And if you feel all guilty-like, there's plenty good ways to repent." Mal offered, "I know a place on Haven, needs rebuilding, defending and could use some honest-to-god redeemed souls to pass on the good word. Weren't Reavers who hit that, but good work is good work."

The other three former-Reavers had been listening to this exchange quietly, and one spoke now, with a noticible lisp... and judging by the scars around his mouth, it was probably a self-inflicted injury that caused that, too, "How could we possibly atone for what we have done?"

"Wise man said, it's not what you are that counts, rather the choices you make." River offered, grinning brightly at the Doctor for half a second, clearly indicating whose mind she found that quote in- paraphrased as it may be- before adding, "Choose to try. Be your best, is good enough."

Slowly, Eddie nodded, "I'm willing to try." he glanced at the other three- who nodded warily, clearly willing to allow him to speak for them, to take the lead here- before looking back to Mal, "Haven's a religious retreat, orbiting Deadwood, isn't it?" Mal nodded, "Can't think of a much better place. It's close to Reaver territory, your suggestion of defense isn't lost on me."

Mal's lip twitched slightly, but then he looked to the Doctor, "They're not gonna be unsupervised, are they?"

"I was gonna volunteer a TX to guard them." Derrin offered, "She's still not up to your specs, yet, Cap'n, but she'll serve the purpose."

"TX?" the Doctor asked, sceptically.

"Robot. Yes, I named her after the movie, no she's not allowed independent thought." Jack offered by way of an answer, "But she could certainly hold her own against a small pack of Reavers." he glanced at the four nervous former-Reavers, "It's not that we don't trust you, as you are now... just that I'm sceptical about the cure itself."

"We'll be keeping you here for observation for a good while before we release you." Derrin added, "Even then you're gonna be tagged. For your own good as much as the rest of the 'verse's."

"Don't begrudge you that." Eddie said, shrugging slightly, "If I were in your position, I wouldn't trust me, either."

"Ta ma duh, speak of the untrustworthy! Him again!" Derrin complained, pointing behind Jack.

But before Jack could turn to see the source of this problem, he found an arm across his chest, holding him in place, as a hand covered his eyes, "Hello, lover." Captain John Hart's voice said from behind him, almost whispering in his ear, "I've got a surprise for you."

"You're late." the Doctor pointed out, completely unconcerned by the source of the problem. Jack, on the other hand, was very uncomfortable with this, and tried to pull John's arm away. Unfortunately, the other man was strong enough to hold him in place.

"Twenty-seven minutes and fifteen seconds late." Koschei added unhelpfully.

"Details." John said dismissively.

"What are you three plotting?!" Jack demanded, still trying to pull away from John.

"Something you'll like." John promised. This was not entirely reassuring. Then he heard John call across the room, probably in Derrin's direction, "Do you know me?"

"Well yes. Duh." Derrin said sulkily.

"I'm not sure I should ask." this really was whispered in Jack's ear, "But I've been here before, right?"

"Right." Jack said, nodding slightly. Whatever John was up to, he had clearly jumped right to this point in time, and would go back to offend Derrin and the others at a later point in his own personal timeline. Still not necessarily a good thing, "Can you let me go now? I promise I won't look until you tell me to."

John laughed, but then glanced very briefly at the four occupied cages before loosening his grip on Jack, allowing him to step away.

True to his word, Jack kept his eyes on the floor, "Thanks." he muttered, "Now what are you doing here?" he demanded, obviously aiming the question at John in spite of not looking at him.

"You know how you felt under the influence of the Pax?" Koschei asked, watching Jack carefully, "Cold, empty. Nothing worth fighting for? They take a reason to fight, and it usually means pain. In two recorded cases, vengeance."

Jack glanced at Koschei now, to see a cold grin on his face. He had attacked the Operative out of revenge for Miranda, and by the expression he wore he was completely unrepentant for this. This made perfect sense. From what Koschei had told him of Miranda, even with his conscience and morals intact, Jack would have wanted to hurt that Operative as well.

But Koschei had said in two recorded cases. And recorded by who, anyway?

"I told you there was an element in your DNA, effecting a higher cognitive level, that disagreed with the cure." Koschei continued, watching Jack carefully for a reaction, "It disagreed with the Pax, as well. Let him think. If you'd had the violent reaction, you'd have been the same. Theta did the research and analysis for it, here. The modified cure we used to bring you back after we, ah, messed up and killed you six times with the one that worked on everyone else... it worked perfectly on him."

Still not breaking his promise not to look, Jack's eyes instinctively darted to the side, as if trying to see behind him out of the corner of his eye. Him. There was only one person he could think of that would fit with what Koschei was saying. When he turned his eyes back to Koschei, it was with hope, pleading that his assumption was accurate.

"You can look now." John said, and the grin he wore was clear in his voice, even before Jack turned around. Standing right behind John Hart was another very familiar man. He wasn't looking at Jack, staring at the floor instead... unsure, afraid? It was impossible to tell. "So... do you like your present?" John asked hopefully.

"Assuming for a minute you're not talking about yourself..." Jack said, his tone distant and vague, as he stepped past John, towards the other man, "Gray?"

"I don't know how you could do that." Gray muttered, "Stupid thing to do."

"What did he do?" Koschei asked, glancing at John for an answer.

"Sentimental fool forgave him. Gray buried him alive for two thousand years, and soon as Captain Conscience gets out first thing he says is 'I forgive you'." though that quote was said with a sneer, "Infinite bleeding heart... easy to do when you can't die from it."

"Shut up." Jack sniped over his shoulder at John, before focusing again on Gray, "How are you feeling now?"

"Is sorry a good enough word?" Gray asked quietly.

"I forgave you long ago, even without it." Jack said, smiling. He took one more step forward, and hugged his brother. And this time he didn't get stabbed for it, either.

x x x

Torchwood intimidated the Parliament into letting them deal with Reaver control, setting up a new base on Lilac to prepare for a war in which they would aim to save their enemy instead of killing it. Gray volunteered to help, and John muttered something about maybe showing up, too, if he was bored sometime.

The Serenity crew had helped with transport, and been well paid for it, with the promise of a regular supply run for the foreseeable future. River happily offered to join any fight that would- and she was certain that was a when, not an if- happen while Serenity was dirtside.

Now, after doing all he could to save this star system from their great threat, and assured that Jack would hold down the lines when he was gone, the Doctor was preparing to take Koschei home.

"Three hundred thousand, seven hundred and eleven years." River looked up at the Doctor, as she said this. Everyone else had already said their goodbyes, and she had waited until only she, Jack, and the Doctor were standing outside the TARDIS, before voicing this knowledge, "Oh, but you'll come back here before then. Only three centuries. New face. New name."

The Doctor gave her an odd look, confused by that last part. New face, he understood, new name? Why would he choose a new name? "What do you mean?"

"Spoilers." she grinned, and stood up on her tip-toes to kiss him on the cheek, "She'll meet you before then, though. I don't mind sharing my name."

x x x

Once the TARDIS left, taking both Time Lords away from this system, Jack turned to River. The two were alone now, and he just had to ask, "Anything I'm allowed to know?"

"Many things." she answered, spinning around, and dancing- all but floating- away towards the new Torchwood base. Jack followed her as she continued to speak, "Sihnon in the summer, watching the small rouge one. Seven stars, and snow in the light of gold." she spun once more, to smile enigmatically up at Jack, "We're here because we need to be. Future past. There's no aliens here because they're locked out. All locked. Time locked. She showed you how. Died first, but then she saved them, to show you. You'll show him."

Jack frowned, "No idea what you're getting at."

"He's a perfect circle. Serpent consumes its tail, last becomes first, destroyer, creator. Like his golden lady, makes himself."

"Still don't follow."

"History lessons. I couldn't tell him, he'd understand." she smiled, "You won't 'til it's time."

"Will I be a part of it?"

"Of course." River said, nodding, "But not named. Never known. A ghost, can't kill a ghost. Not recorded, not written. He would already understand if you were named."

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The End

Author's Note: I don't expect everyone to understand what River was saying... but if you've seen the same theories I have about the Doctor being the genetic reincarnation of one of the first three Time Lords, it might make more sense. Maybe... if you think side-ways enough and read all the other clues with it.

And thank you all, for your reviews and your alerts on this story... or even for just reading it at all. It's been fun, and I love you all!