Disclaimer: I own nothing. Jack Harkness belongs to the BBC, as does the Doctor and everyone from Torchwood. Daine, Numair, Alanna and the Tortallans belong to Tamora Pierce.
IMPOSSIBLY LONG A/N: So. This might be the odd crossover to end all odd crossovers. But never fear! If you don't know one of the two fandoms, that's okay! I tried to make this fic friendly to people who only know one, since the crossover's so obscure. So give it a try before you turn away!
First order of business: If you are a Torchwood fan, this will have SPOILERS for ALL of Children of Earth. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Also, the Tamora Pierce universe is about as different as you can get from the Torchwood one. You should be able to understand it – Jack has to learn, after all – but it leans more towards fantasy than sci-fi. Just so you know. You may have to be a little patient, because Jack's not going to get an explanation until the second chapter. The Tortall universe is rather medieval, with knights and sorcerers and things like that. Basically, accept things like magic and talking animals and move on. But, I mean, we're Torchwood and Doctor Who fans, right? Accepting things and moving on is what we do best.
Tamora Pierce fans: You shouldn't need to know Torchwood to read this; I've tried to explain everything in the narrative. Everything takes place in Tortall and every other character should be familiar (to start with, but by the time the others come in, you'll know who they are), but the story's about Jack. You could treat him as a modern-person-comes-to-Tortall, although he's a bit more than that. Just be patient with him – I think you'll like him, even if he has made some truly awful decisions.
This story is complete at 27 chapters, and part two, The Spaces Between, (25 chapters and a prologue) is up and finished as well. There are even a few short stories that take place after all this, too, but don't go to those until you finish Spaces, otherwise you'll be beyond confused... not to mention spoiled!
And now, without further ado, I give you…
GUARDIAN OF THE GATES
"I can't imagine a time when this isn't everything. Pain so constant, like my stomach's full of rats.
Feels like this is all I am now. There isn't an inch of me that doesn't hurt."
Ianto Jones, "Greeks Bearing Gifts"
IT HAD BEEN a little over a year. This, of course, was irrelevant. The perpetually young immortal man out in space had long since stopped keeping track. It was surprisingly easy.
He moved on with his life. His past burned angry scars beneath his skin but he moved on, never stopping and more importantly, never looking back.
He was called Jack Harkness, he was Colla Ruff, he was Daniel Walker—he was anyone and everyone he could think of, unremarkable or untraceable or both. He worked his business and he moved on. Always moving, because if he stayed—well. He never stayed.
Sometimes he was a hitchhiker, sometimes he was planetside long enough to travel on foot or by some kind of moving machine. If he was lucky, he found someone with a ship, and he could flirt his way on board. He wasn't picky; they could be beautiful or not, male, female, or neither. It was the ugly, overlooked ones that liked the company better, anyway. His wrist strap was still partially burned out, thanks to the Doctor, but he'd fiddled with it and he'd gotten the teleport working for short distance. He didn't have the parts to fix the Vortex manipulator properly, but that was alright, if anything was alright, which it wasn't.
He did not often see beauty in his travels, although if the horror got too thick he would leave; a stolen escape pod would do, or if he was unlucky enough to be planetside, a quick getaway into the woods would work just as well. The man who had been Jack Harkness for over a century had a high tolerance for horror, though, especially after—
—After everything. He tried not to think about it. Mostly, he succeeded. When he didn't, he tended to get himself killed. It didn't matter. He always came back.
Most of the time, he didn't care. Most of the time he just lived, reluctantly and without his heart. It simply was not worth it any more.
It was a clear day, a bright day, and Numair Salmalin thought cheerfully to himself that life did not get much better than this. He wriggled his bare toes happily on the warm stone of his balcony, and strode closer to the edge to meet the beautiful, beautiful woman waiting for him. The summer breeze whispered in the treetops, and Veralidaine Sarassri smiled at him coyly as he approached, her curls lifting in the wind. He grinned delightedly back at her, heart squeezing with young love and gods how he loved her. Numair reached out a hand to tug playfully on a loose brown lock, hoping for a laugh or a swat and another smile, but her eyes - the color of coastal waters, he'd actually spent many hours thinking about this; they were blue-gray - suddenly went glassy and Numair frowned in concern. When she swayed, he lunged to catch her.
Perfection never lasted, he reflected ruefully.
She staggered into the arm he threw out, gasping unevenly. He managed to curl another arm around her waist. "Sweet?" he demanded anxiously, "Are you alright?"
Honestly, it was always something. Daine was Tortall's one and only wildmage, and she was like a trouble magnet, he thought with something that would have been amusement if he hadn't been worried. Numair had followed her up to the balcony - she'd been trying to coax him to fly with her. Her magic was with animals, and as such she could transform. Numair, a black robe mage, could change himself into a black hawk and Daine had recently realized that this meant they could fly together. Numair put up a token resistance as transforming cost him more energy than it did her, but he always relented in the end. Frankly, it was too much fun to refuse. They were supposed to have fun. This was supposed to be a vacation. Numair sighed and tightened his arm around her, looking down in concern.
The young woman's smoky brown hair was scrunched up against his chest and her cheek pressed just below his collarbone. She was breathing heavily, wheezing as though the clear afternoon air were filled with smog. "Something's wrong," Daine managed to gasp.
Of course it was.
"Well, clearly," he replied, half joking as he swung her up to carry her out of the sunlight and back to their room. Flying was certainly not going to happen, not with Daine in this condition, whatever this condition was. He swallowed a faint feeling of alarm. Pirate's Swoop, and access to a healer, was miles away. "Can you breathe, magelet?"
Daine nodded and leaned her head into his shoulder, not so much for the support as for the closeness. "Yes, I'm fine," she assured him. "There was just—it was so sudden." She sounded confused rather than in pain, which was a relief. It was not like her to swoon; Daine was no helpless damsel. Numair tucked her closer and carried her through a shadowy archway and into a hall that led to their room.
"I can walk, Numair," she protested wryly.
"We're almost there anyway. Indulge me," he muttered.
She gave a long suffering sigh, but she sounded amused. Good, Numair thought. If she's amused she's not in pain. He was probably overreacting, but he always overreacted when Daine was involved, so nothing was out of the ordinary. He carried her without further protest to their bedroom.
It was was large and haphazardly furnished, roughly circular in shape with thick curtains over the windows to prevent draft. It had been Numair's before Daine had moved in with him, and he wasn't much of a decorator. He did, however, like quality, and though the armchairs in front of the fireplace did not match, they were both comfortable, and the bed was luxurious. As it was a tower, the walls were stone, but the floor was covered in several soft rugs. Numair strode purposefully across them as he made his way to their bed.
He set her down very carefully on the down comforter and then crouched in front of her, one hand on his knee and the other on hers. Daine crossed her legs and sat up straight, scowling at him. She sank a little among the bedclothes. "I'm not made of glass, you know." She swiped at a curl that had fallen into her eyes while Numair had carried her. It fell back in front of her face.
"Yes," he replied, tucking the hair away and brushing the shell of her ear affectionately with his thumb, "but sometimes I like to treat you as though you are. Just to make sure." He smiled at her sheepishly.
"Don't I know it." She replied, mock-annoyed, but the answering smile ruined the effect. Numair took her hand.
"What did you feel?" he asked, rising to sit beside her on the bed. Daine feeling anything at all was generally not a good sign. The last time he remembered her having such a reaction was not long ago. The thing had been a Chaos vent in the divine realms, and it had hypnotized her and made her feel ill.
Daine's smile faded. She rubbed her thumb across the back of his hand thoughtfully. "It felt like an Immortal," she said slowly, "but it was all wrong. More wrong than they usually are." She frowned a little, clearly not liking her own explanation.
Numair gave a mocking sigh. He tucked an arm dramatically around her shoulders and pulled her into his side. "I suppose this means we're going to go looking for it," he teased. Daine grinned up at him, resting her chin on his chest.
"Have I told you I love you, lately?"
Numair smiled and bent to kiss her nose. "Yes, but it's nice to hear. Love you too, sweets." He squeezed her close for a moment and then rose, resigned. "Do you know where it was coming from?"
She shook her head, standing as well. Numair gave her a hard, appraising look, making sure that she wasn't going to wobble. She rolled her eyes at him, but smiled.
"I'm fine, honestly. C'mon, let's see what we can find." Daine took his hand and tugged playfully.
"And here I thought we were supposed to be on vacation," Numair lamented.
Daine laughed. "There's never a vacation," she teased and tugged again. He followed with a rueful smile.
At the end of the Immortals War and a few months after the cleanup, King Jonathan had told both of them to leave the city capital and take a break. When they refused, he had ordered them to do it. They had both been in the heart of the war, and he had said that they'd done enough. Protesting the whole way, Daine and Numair had left Corus and gone to Numair's tower. The vacation was admittedly welcome, although after a few days they had both started to grow restless.
Numair followed Daine through the bedroom and out, around to the stairwell. His tower was made up on one central column, with large circular rooms stacked one on top of the other. Outside of each room was a steep stairwell that wound around the whole tower, circling it three times top to bottom. This left space for windows in a few of the rooms, although they were rather small to prevent draft in the winter.
Daine trotted down the stairs and Numair followed dutifully. She stopped off in the mud room, where her bow was sitting on a bench, freshly oiled and polished. He smiled at her indulgently, waiting by the door. Daine was a fantastic archer, and her longbow, a gift from her father, was her pride and joy.
Numair opened the door and held it for her, blinking in the sunlight of the bright summer day. Daine slung the bow over her shoulder and they walked across the grassy lawn, kept trimmed by a few careful spells and a kindly caretaker, and toward a small barn, where they kept their horses.
The barn was shadowy, and as Numair strode to tack his patient, painted gelding, Daine spoke quietly to her pony, a steel gray mare named Cloud. Numair heard the mare snort in response.
"Daine?" Numair asked from across the way, carefully putting a saddle on a long-suffering Spots. Numair's horse-sense was beyond off; he was a brilliant scientist and a better mage, but when it came to horses he was rather clueless.
"Cloud says that it felt like a wolf," Daine explained. "She said the Bad Wolf's cub, who is not a cub." She scratched Cloud's neck idly. Numair put the saddle on his gelding's back and then realized that he'd forgotten the girth. He gave Spots a stern look and said, "No shaking off the saddle." His horse actually rolled his eyes, and Numair walked out of Spots' stall to get the girth.
"Does that mean anything to you?" he asked Daine over his shoulder.
Daine shrugged. "No more than to you."
Numair heard a clunk and sighed. Girth in hand, he walked back to find that Spots' saddle had indeed slipped from the horse's back. Chuckling, Daine exited Cloud's stall to help him re-saddle his horse. Cloud walked out of her open stall, wearing only a bridle as Daine preferred bareback.
"It's certainly odd," Numair murmured quietly, handing Daine the girth. She took it and buckled it around Spots. She led the black and white paint out of his stall before giving Numair a leg up. Numair flopped and flailed before righting himself on the horse. He looked down at Daine who giggled and mounted Cloud gracefully. Numair rolled his eyes fondly.
Daine led him out of the stable and into the bright light of the afternoon, turning east.
The man in the long gray coat appeared in a flash of bluish light from nowhere. He staggered and shook his head, clearing it. Frankly, he needed a drink.
That was one hellova jump, he thought sourly to himself, rolling up his sleeve to make sure his wrist strap was still in fine condition. He flipped open the leather and regarded the little computer. It bleeped cheerfully at him, and he prodded at a few buttons before looking up and glaring at the sky. That had been a sticky situation if he'd ever been in one.
Merchants. Organ harvesters, to be more precise. The immortal knew to get off that ship as fast as he could, or it would get very ugly for him very quickly. He did not like the prospect of those bastards killing him, taking his organs, watching him re-grow the organs and then killing him again.
Fixing it had been out of the question. They'd been working for someone who was working for someone else, far up into some ridiculous hierarchy. Once he might have made the effort to change it but he knew better now. He wasn't a hero. Didn't have the stomach for it, not anymore. So he ran.
This had been the nearest planet and the farthest jump for his poor wrist strap since it had burnt out, long ago. He was lucky the teleport was still working, if not the Vortex manipulator. So he couldn't travel in time. Big whoop. Space would do, and wasn't it all the same, anyway? It wasn't like he didn't have time to spare.
He looked down and then glanced around. At least the atmosphere was hospitable, not that it mattered. It looked like he was in a forest but he didn't recognize any of the trees.
He did not think about the beauty of it. He hardly noticed the light in the leaves, the green-gold glow of an old, prospering wood, and he head the birds, but their song did not register. The man only thought that he was in a forest, and a forest meant that there were small fuzzy animals about - or large, vicious ones. He didn't fancy being eaten.
"Brilliant," he muttered and headed west.
He noticed when the birds stopped chirping, and he frowned at the silence. There were no little animals, the man realized- nothing small scurried up the trees and into hide-holes at his presence. That was unfortunate because he was getting rather hungry. He'd survived worse, the man thought grimly, and then something sticky and burning hit his back hard and he cried out in shock.