Hello everyone, and welcome to Tales of Tortall! This will be a series of loosely connected one-shots, some in order, some not. Some of them are just drabbles, half-formed ideas—little things that happened in Tortall before, during or after Spaces and Guardian. Some have plots, some don't. The order is mostly arbitrary and not chronological at all. We start at the end, of course, although you will get a few beginning stories after – just so you know why the phoenix is important, what the Academy is, and all that. After that, though, this is going to be bouncing around quite a lot!
Updates are going to be extremely erratic, as this isn't a cohesive story and chapters only happen when I get a new idea. Don't worry, though – in the beginning there are a lot pre-written, so the first few will be regular. Enjoy!
OVERARCHING DISCLAIMER: I own the Cadets and the Academy, and Red and Anwen, and the Guardian of the Gates, and some books and some DVDs and a whole lot of plot bunnies. What I don't own is Tortall, the characters that live there, or Torchwood, or anyone who used to work there. Anyone from the Whoniverse belongs to the BBC, and Tortall and everyone who lives there belongs to Tamora Pierce. I don't even own the logo I found on Google and use as reference for the rising phoenix. I have no idea how to build an aircraft, and my physics is absolute crap; all info about airplanes comes from Google, and all physics comes from Wikipedia. More will be added ad hoc to the disclaimer as I add chapters: other small disclaimers about random things that I forgot will appear at the beginning of a chapter which is not covered here.
And now, I give you...
Tales of Tortall
"Being here, I've seen things I never dreamt I'd see, loved people I never would have known
if I'd stayed where I was. And I wouldn't change that for the world."
-Jack Harkness, To the Last Man
Where We Start From
-I'm coming with you.—
Jack took a deep, pained breath. "Kitten—" he began.
-No, I don't care.—The dragon reared up onto her hind legs and leaned down to stare Jack in the eye. –I'm coming with you.—
Five hundred years came and went so fast, Jack thought mournfully. He was standing beside the ship he'd built with Ianto, the ship that he hated, because it was the ship that would take him away from Tortall forever, by Shakith's decree. He could not stay any longer. Jack cupped the dragon's face in one hand. "Kit. You have family here, you can't just leave them."
-I can and I will. I won't leave you alone!— The dragon's mind voice was passionate, and now her claws came to rest on Jack's shoulders. –Ianto has Rikash. He'll never be alone. But Jack, you're always alone. I'm coming with you.—
Jack felt as though his heart was breaking. He looked over Kit's shoulder helplessly to Ianto, who stood beside Rikash, and then behind Ianto, to the King of Tortall, descendant from Jonathan the Fourth, his queen, his nobles, each a friend or a descendant of a friend. He looked at the ranks and ranks of the Air Force behind them, standing to attention to watch their Captain leave at long last. Jack looked back at Kit. "It's too dangerous. You have to stay here—you're afraid of aliens."
-You're an alien,- came the stubborn response. –I want to see the universe.—
"No. No, that's final, Kit," Jack told her, pushing the claws off his shoulders so Kit thumped to the ground. "You have to stay. Who knows what would happen if you left? Ianto and Rikash would crumble to dust; you may lose your life. Immortals and magic don't exist out there. You really can't come!"
-I won't lose my life.—Kitten told him calmly. –Just my magic. I can live with that.—
"And then what?" Jack demanded furiously. "So some—some slaver can catch us, so some damn thrill seeker can cage you so you sit in a zoo somewhere? I don't think so, Kit. It's not a nice place out there. You're staying."
-I'm coming,— she said stubbornly. –You can't stop me.—
"I can and I will!" Jack cried, but the dragon just looked at him out of her jewel colored eyes. He couldn't cry, Jack told himself. No. Now was not the time. He'd been crying on and off for the past week now, and it was completely ridiculous.
Tortall was more home than any place had ever been, the most stable place Jack had ever lived in. He had a family here—stable, reliable and best of all they kept on living. Jack was free to love without fear, because Kit and Ianto and Rikash would never die, even if the others would. Even as the generations turned and turned in Tortall, those three stood by him, and somehow that made it all worth it.
But, it seemed, Jack would leave, one day. There was never enough time.
"You'll die, Kit," Jack whispered. "If you come, you'll die. I can't keep you safe out there, and if you died, I wouldn't be able to live with myself. Please. Stay behind, take care of Ianto. I can't see you die, not when I know you'll live forever, otherwise."
-And who will take care of you?— the dragon replied, and Jack knelt to hug her.
"I'll remember you," he whispered, and he felt the dragon tremble. "And that memory will sustain me. But you have to live, otherwise—otherwise it's just not worth it anymore. I love you, okay? I can't lose you." He hugged her tighter.
-But I promised you'd never be alone again,- she sniffled. –We all promised.—
"And you honored it," Jack said, closing his eyes and resting his cheek against the warm scales. "You hear? You honored it, Skysong, granddaughter of Diamondflame. I'll always know that, somewhere, my family is alive, for the rest of time. I'll never be alone again."
The dragon keened quietly beside him. –I love you,- she sobbed.
"I love you too," Jack whispered again, and released her. He stood, looked at his ship, and then looked back at Kit and then Ianto and Rikash.
The Stormwing was biting his lip, sidling anxiously from foot to foot, not meeting Jack's eye. He had been a good brother, Jack thought miserably. Rikash had stood by them through hell and back. Through countless wars, through death and fire and even a few times through prison, Rikash had always supported them. He'd rescued them, been rescued by them, and if the medallion of the rising phoenix that the Stormwing wore around his neck was any indication, he'd loved them.
There were almost too many memories to count, and Jack had already said his goodbyes to Rikash. The Stormwing had been close to tears, and that was not something that happened often, if ever.
Jack slid his eyes to Ianto.
His—lover, husband, mate, the labels were inconsequential—was standing strong, as always. Kit was the last of the goodbyes; Jack had said his speeches and hugged his friends, shared a scorching kiss with Ianto in front of the crowd, shed a few tears. It was time to go, but he could not take his eyes off of Ianto. Those blue eyes were heartbroken but dry. Like Jack, Ianto had already cried. They'd both had five hundred years to prepare, after all.
But five hundred years wasn't enough, Jack wanted to shout. It was never enough. He'd warned Ianto once, but even he hadn't meant it at the time. It seemed like forever, but really it wasn't. Besides, he'd thought Ianto could have come with him. There had been that fiasco with Numair, so, so long ago, and both Ianto and Rikash had been alright.
But that had only been because Rikash was still in Tortall, Shakith had said, his blind old eyes watching Jack dispassionately as he'd announced the deadline. Ianto Jones was dead, and he could only be alive if he remained in Tortall. He could spend moments outside, if Rikash remained on the planet, but he could not spend long. Should he leave and follow Jack, his headaches would build until he would develop a disease of the brain, and slowly die before Jack's eyes.
That was not something that was acceptable. Ianto offered him a heartbroken smile, and Jack wanted to cry again. He touched Kitten's head and strode up to Ianto again, unwilling to leave.
"I'll change," he whispered, reaching to put a hand over Ianto's heart, just to feel it again. "I don't think I can do this."
"You can," Ianto told him softly and kissed his cheek. "Be strong, Jack. You can."
Jack shook his head. Ianto kissed him again, long and sweet. "You can," he repeated, and there were tears in his eyes. "Go, Jack. I love you."
"I love you too," Jack choked. He froze, unable to back away.
"Go," Rikash whispered, although his voice was heavy with misery. "Go, lover boy, before I vomit." The attempt at sarcasm fell flat.
"I love you too, you idiot," Jack told him affectionately.
"Yeah," Rikash rasped. "It's—it's been a good five hundred years."
"Take care of Ianto," Jack said, and it was almost a plea.
"I will. That's—that's a promise, Jack," Rikash replied thickly. Jack huffed a little, suppressing a sob and kissed Ianto one last time.
"Go," Ianto told him and Jack turned to walk to his ship.
The swell of applause roared behind him from the gathered crowd, rising and falling like a wave as the door slid shut and Jack turned on the system. The shuttle ran off of Uranium, and it should last him at least the next hundred years—plenty of time to find a new ship, or improve on this one. Eyes misting from tears, he flipped a switch and the ship began to rise. The applause fell silent, and the ship scudded through the clouds and finally out of the atmosphere, leaving Tortall forever.
"I'm leaving now," Jack announced thickly to the general air. He swiped at his eyes again.
GOOD, said the voices of every god in the whole damn pantheon without so much as a goodbye. Jack wanted to sob, but he gritted his teeth and changed the gears on his shuttle, preparing to go to full warp.
"Make sure the Guardian's out of the way. I don't even get a goodbye?" Jack snapped.
I'll miss you, at least, handsome, crowed a voice that was unmistakably the Graveyard Hag.
"Good luck, Jack!" Daine's voice whispered hurriedly after a sound like scuffle. "I'm not supposed to speak to you, but—good luck, good luck, we love you and goodbye!"
Veralidaine! hissed the clear, scolding voice of her father. Jack spared a tearful smile for his Godborn friend, dead almost four hundred fifty years now.
"Thank you for everything, Daine. And send my love to everyone in the Realms of the Dead, especially Tosh and Owen."
"Will do!" came the fading voice, as though she were being cheerfully dragged away.
"All systems go," Jack whispered to himself and pulled the throttle.
"By the way," Daine's voice added with a laugh as he pulled the lever. "Take care of my dragon."
The ship leaped forward as Jack repeated in shock, "Take care of your—SKYSONG!"
The light of the universe flared around them as the shuttle exited the Gates and then moved to hyperdrive. The stars appeared to bend as they sped out of the pocket universe, and a blue, reptilian face peered out from under the console and grinned at Jack.
-I said,- Kitten told his stunned expression, -That I was coming with you.—
And, together, they left Tortall forever.