Apologies for the wait - I was applying to colleges. This chapter is quite a long one, at 5,000 words (compared to my average of 3,000) so I hope that makes up for it a bit. It would not be what it is without Patrick Timberson, who gave me the replica copy of John Smith's Journal of Impossible Things, and Elena Cicada, my fabulous editor and beta and official 'kicker-of-writerly-insecurities.' Thank you both; and thank you, dear readers, for putting up with me and my chronic untimely-ness.
Thought I'd go ahead and caution for sensitive material: this chapter presents and explores some of the mentalities behind racial prejudice, using both the scenes that occur in the episode, and some analysis of the social constructs that allow for it.
September 10th, 1913
Two, don't worry about the TARDIS, I'll put her on emergency power so they can't detect her, just let her hide away.
Sunlight filtered through slots in the rafters of the barn, and Martha appraised it in the dim light as Ianto locked the TARDIS behind them.
"Looks like this will be your new home for a while," he murmured, setting his palm to the blue paneling.
Martha chuckled softly. "You fuss over her almost as much as he does." Ianto looked around, and she shrugged, rolling her shoulders at the fit of the starched dress and thick grey travelling coat. "What? I think it's sweet."
September 11th, 1913
"It's not cold enough in the season yet to lay the fires in the morning, so you'll be helping me clean and dust the rooms in the East Wing," Jenny explained. "After that, we'll bring the breakfast trays 'round to the teachers. Our breakfast is at quarter past eight in the servants' hall. Inspection for the East Wing and the female quarters are done by Mrs. Carraway at a quarter to nine, and morning prayers are at nine."
"Prayers?" Martha asked, flustered, as she hurried after the senior housemaid.
"Yes, prayers, don't be daft, what did you expect?"
"Right, of course, it's just… Mr. Smith's family wasn't really in the habit." Jenny's face held a hint of disapproval, and Martha shrugged apologetically. "I may need a bit of help in catching up. So, um, breakfast, inspection, prayers – this may sound silly, but what about people like Mr. Philips, and Matron? Are they teachers?"
Mollified, and taking the deflection in stride, Jenny explained, "They're not considered teachers, no, but we bring them trays and tidy their rooms, just the same."
"Okay. So what happens next?"
"Half past nine, the boys will be in class, that's when we'll start tidying the dormitories. We'll change and launder the sheets every Thursday…"
September 13th, 1913
Four... no, wait a minute, three. No getting involved in big historical events.
"Ah, now then, you two." Baines halted. "You're not paid to have fun, are you? Put a little backbone into it."
Jenny looked up from scrubbing. "Yes, sir, sorry, sir."
"You there, what's your name again?" Hutchinson said loftily.
"Martha, Sir. Martha Jones."
"Tell me then, Jones. With hands like those, how can you tell when something's clean?"
Martha watched as the boys moved off, Baines' guffaws echoing down the hall. "That's very funny, Sir."
"Careful now, don't answer back," Jenny warned.
"I'd answer back with my bucket over his head!"
"Oh, I wish! Just think though - in a few years time, boys like that will be running the country."
"Nineteen thirteen," Martha murmured. "They might not."
From the desk of John Smith:
September 14th, 1913
The box. It's my home, I know it well, but it is huge, bigger on the inside than the outside. It's my magic box. Nothing can harm me here. Unless I get lost inside it. And there is something to do the law, with the Police, although when I am inside it I do not think of myself as representing the authorities. I feel almost as a fugitive.
I have this magic, almost pen-like implement that opens anything and lights up with a bright white light when I use it.
September 15th, 1913
There were men of metal, and they marched in rows, going to war. Their eyes were black and there were no expressions on their faces. If they had once felt like men, and could decide whether or not they were going to be slaughtered, that was over now. The machine had recruited them and changed them.
September 16th, 1913
I have been different; it is not like remembering one's youth, it is like dreaming yourself as a prince or a clown. Not oneself playing those parts, but actually being that other person. I have inhabited the clothes of scholars and jesters, and… I may have played cricket for England! This is one of the most important dreams, not a trivial one, I am sure of it.
September 17th, 1913
In my dreams I am a father and a grandfather – a great sadness at this thought, as though they had not just died, all my progeny, but had departed in a way that was somehow more final than death. I am the last, for some reason. I am terribly afraid that my watch is broken. I can't remember what they look like, I just see shadows in the dark.
Ianto Jones' diary: Travels Through Time and Space
Linear Progression: Day 243
September 18th, 1913 – Herefordshire, England
It's a curious sort of job, being the librarian. I'm not a teacher, nor am I one of the servants; just sort of stuck in between. It's familiar work, at least. And it's pleasant, even, to have a consistent routine again – a respite from the dashing about, the unpredictability, the near-death experiences. I have my own quarters off to the back, and I take meals there alone instead of downstairs with the servants. That's practically my only chance to see Martha, when she comes by with food, or to tidy up. She's adapted well, and seems to be making the best of things. I say 'seems.' Seems, if one doesn't know better. Doesn't know what it looks like when someone's pretending that everything's alright.
That said, l occasionally have a naggling suspicion that every single person in this place goes about pretending everything's alright, and are so busy trying to keep it up that nobody notices how everybody else is doing the same thing. Except for John, perhaps. He seems happy - well, content, I suppose. I think that's been the biggest difference between him and the Doctor; he's not half as intense, and I guess it has to do with the acceptance of what his life is, and the lack of inclination to question it -
"Jones, have you got a moment?"
Ianto slid his diary under a shelf. "Several, I think, sir, it's been very quiet today."
"Good, good, I was wondering if you might help me with a bit of a project."
"Certainly. What did you have in mind?"
"It's… well, um –" John scratched the back of his neck, and Ianto winced at the pang of familiarity. "It's a bit… fanciful, you see, but I have these most extraordinary dreams. And, well, I've written them down on paper and was hoping to keep them all in a – a collection. I thought… you've been repairing some of the older books, so you might be able to help me put something together."
Ianto smiled fondly. "I'd be happy to, sir."
September 20th, 1913
"Ah, good afternoon, Matron!"
"Afternoon, Mr. Smith." Matron Redfern smiled warmly, puttering about the rows of cots in the hospital wing. "I hope there hasn't been much trouble with the boys while I've been gone?"
"Oh, a scrape here, and a sniffle there. Nothing more, thank heavens, although I'm sure we're all glad you weren't away any longer." He stared absently at the way the light caught her hair. There had been a woman in his dream last night, her hair a shade or two redder – she was a doctor, a medical doctor, who operated on the heart. It was a preposterous notion, though the dream took place nearly a hundred years into the future, at the turn of a new millennium –
"And were you here about anything in particular, Mr. Smith, or is this purely a social occasion?"
In the midst of his reverie, he missed the tease in her voice. "Sorry, sorry. I didn't mean to be in your way."
"No, no, I don't object in the slightest," she assured him. "Though, since you're here, perhaps you could get that basin off the shelf? It's a bit past my reach."
"Oh, of course. So, everything go alright at the Pratchett's? Mother and child both doing well, I hope?"
"Very well, I think. Dr. Sheppard will return from town this evening to see them, but I'm happy to report that Mrs. Pratchett has birthed a very healthy baby girl. They'll have the christening this Sunday, and they mean to name her Grace."
John fumbled with the tin basin as it nearly slipped through his hands. "Grace?" Grace, don't you see? I have thirteen lives – always seeing patterns in things that aren't there – can make it come true today -
He frowned. Puccini! We've met before – Low tech? Grace, this is a type 40 TARDIS – these shoes! They fit perfectly! "Hmm? Oh, nothing, it's just a lovely name." He handed her the basin, met her eyes, and smiled again. After a long moment he realized he was staring, and collected himself. "So, ah, how's the Pratchett farm getting on?"
Matron looked a little bemused, but carried on smoothly. "Oh, thriving. Their orchards are going through harvest, and they've been supplying the school with fruit for the season…"
October 6th, 1913
Eleven: look after each other.
Twelve, and try to put up with being looked after, honestly, if there's one thing the two of you are rubbish at, it's letting someone else look after you.
"You should be in bed," Ianto murmured, setting the lantern on the wooden floor in the Biography section. Martha stiffened at the sound of his voice. She was sitting against the shelves, huddled up in a drape of black cloth with her arms wrapped around her knees, and he watched her shoulders tremble with the effort to stifle the sound of her crying. After a long moment, she swiped her face hastily against her apron before looking up at Ianto, in his pinstriped pajamas and thick wool dressing gown.
"So should you," she muttered, swallowing back a sniff and clearing her throat. "Thought you were gone."
"I needed more ink. I was writing." Ianto faltered, gesturing in a vaguely desk-like direction. Ink now relegated a few notches down on the priority list, he crouched in front of her. "Want to tell me what's wrong?"
She shook her head. "'S nothing. I'm just… being silly."
He shrugged. "Tell me anyway?"
She took a deep breath and nodded at the stack of folded grey wool by her feet. "I was s'posed to have the mending done for Mrs. Carraway by first thing tomorrow. Gave it to Jenny to see if it passed muster, she took one look and said I'd have to do it all over again."
"Ah." He sat next to her up against the bookshelf. "And you've been up since 6:00 this morning, scrubbing floors and doing laundry and changing bedsheets and dusting and –"
"Emptying chamber pots," Martha grimaced. "And when the food's going round downstairs they always make sure I eat last, so that it's cold and there's just bits left. I don't even know why, is it just out of spite? And I haven't had a proper bath in a month and I'm lucky if I get to wash my hands and the only other person doesn't treat me like dirt besides you and Mr. Smith is Jenny, and she keeps going on about how lucky we are to work in a place like this, how grateful we should be, but I don't know if I can stand two more months of this!" Her words tumbled out and ended in a ragged shudder, and she tucked her head back into the folds of her skirts, facing away. Ianto carefully laid a hand between her shoulders. She shivered, but let him rub her back through the fresh wave of tears.
"Sorry about this," she whispered once the choked-off sobs were spent. "I think I just needed to –"
"Don't you dare apologize," Ianto said hoarsely. "I only wish you came and found me sooner." He frowned. "I wish you would have come and found me in the first place, instead of hiding."
"Wasn't planning on any of it, I think it all just sort of hit me." She sat back against the shelves and rolled out some of the sore muscles from the day's work. She nudged him gently, letting her head fall onto his shoulder. "Not like you can talk, Mister."
"True," he conceded. "But there's a difference between needing to be alone to cope, and thinking you have no other option but to cope alone."
"I know, but when they're giving me looks for slipping up and using your first name, I'm not going to take my chances by coming around here too often. And you're too tall." He mumbled an apology when her head fell off his shoulder and she squirmed uncomfortably against the bookshelf. "Look, we knew it was going to be like this, just... you have to let me keep my head down and do what needs to be done, alright?"
"I didn't know," Ianto whispered. "That it would be like this. I mean, I thought I did, intellectually - but that's not the same, is it?"
"No, d'you think?" Martha gave a frustrated snort and untied the lace cap on her head, bunching it up and chucking it at the pile of clothing. "Sometimes, I'll say something daft. I forget, and slip up, or I just don't even know what to do, and they'll look at me like they know, like everything I do is just proof that I don't belong here. And it's different for you."
She glanced at his face, crossed by shadows in the lamp light. "And I think you know that," she went on. "Something about the time, you just sort of... fit. Never mind that you're going to have an easier time keeping a low profile if they don't question your right to be here in the first place."
"I'm so-" She elbowed him gently in the stomach.
"And right now, that's a good thing," she said firmly. "'Cause I've got enough on my plate worrying about Mr. Smith and aliens and trying to stay on my toes, at least I don't have to worry about you, too."
"You shouldn't have to worry about me."
"Nor you me, and here we are, with rule eleven unnecessary and rule twelve broken like a - a... oh, sod it, it's late, I'm not making up metaphors."
"Whatever!" She giggled a little hysterically. "Oh, god, I'm almost hoping the Family does show up soon, I'd rather deal with them than this lot of arrogant little snotrags."
Ianto chuckled. "Won't be so full of themselves when you save their arses from space aliens, huh?"
"Wouldn't believe it if they saw it. After all, a woman of my colour could never be capable of such a thing." Her voice slipped into a haughty pastiche of the professors' clipped accents. "That would be impossible."
"Mm, just like aliens." He huffed. "Why, though? Why bother denying something if it were to happen right in front of them?"
"S 'about power, innit? Having control and losing it. Like the Judoon in the hospital, people would rather rationalize it into something they can understand. 'Cause a bigger universe is too much."
Ianto's left eyebrow fluctuated witheringly. "And apparently an intelligent, capable woman is an equally difficult concept to rationalize?"
"And equally as terrifying," Martha affirmed. "People say that kind of thinking will tear apart everything society holds dear, and they're right! Because it forces society to change, and removes the authority that they thought was their birthright. Because once their 'inferiors' have a taste of what they're capable of, how could they go back? How could they spend their life being a dutiful wife or caretaker or servant, when they know they can be so much more?"
"That's where they get the whole 'know your place' thing, then?" Ianto frowned. "What, so they think that if everyone else is allowed to act like human beings -"
"Then they're going to lose their comfy little existence where people will bow and scrape and cater to their whims. And there's more to it; all those lords and masters, they're scared that they'll be given a taste of their own medicine. It probably doesn't even occur to them that most people just want their own life, they don't actually want to turn the tables and make everyone else scrub the floors. But those masters can't comprehend that, they think, 'who wouldn't?' Because that's what they've done and would do again. And they insist that scrubbing floors is all anyone else is good for, and they pass it down. Until people grow up never knowing any different, they just take it for granted that it's how it works."
"Is that how they do it, then? They tell people that they're less than human until everyone believes it?"
"Pretty much. And if they grow up in a society that says nothing but, they'll hear it from their own friends, from people they trust, 'cause no one actually knows better. Like, even when Mr. Smith is being kind, it's still… he's so condescending, he's just humoring me because he takes it for granted that he's superior. 'Cause he's always been allowed to be superior. It's not snide remarks, but it still rankles."
Ianto's head fell back with a sudden revelation. "Ow." He frowned and rubbed it where it hit the bookshelf with a dull thud. "You know, when the Doctor's in one of his Time Lord moods, he acts exactly like that. At least he's equal opportunity about it. Does it to the entire human race, because he's convinced he's far more brilliant than every last one of us."
Martha giggled again. "Right, when we do accomplish something, he acts like we're toddlers who have mastered the alphabet. It's clever, it's precocious, but we still don't know how to read."
"It could be John's memories – the new ones, the John Smith ones, but maybe it comes naturally because of his real memories? If the Time Lords were as unbelievably powerful as he described, so much cleverer than all the other species in the galaxy –"
"Pompous. The lot of them. You reckon?" she mumbled, leaning over and snuggling in against his chest.
"Yeah." He wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin on the top of her head. "And the Doctor means well, I think he really wants us to make the most of our potential. But I think he'll always believe in his own superiority, just a bit more than he believes in us."
"Mm. We'll show him," she whispered.
A soft laugh rumbled deep in his throat. "Hey, don't get too comfy. You need to go to bed."
"Don't worry about the mending."
"I… look, I'll be fine, really, and Jenny's right, it could be so much worse, I can –"
"Martha." He stood, took both of her hands in his and pulled her to her feet. "You need rest. Nuh-uh. Mending. Leave. Come by first thing tomorrow morning." He looked at her mock-sternly. "Good night."
She huffed and swayed against him into another hug, and he kissed her on the temple. "Night, Yan-to."
The next morning, beside the empty lantern, the stack of grey uniforms sat on the chair by Ianto's desk, hemmed and mended with neat, nearly invisible stitches.
October 9th, 1913
Eighteen, references to anachronistic movies, songs, politics, events, or otherwise non-earth species, customs, technology, what have you, should remain exclusively between yourselves.
"You haven't left me anything to do here," Martha chided. Ianto's room and the library, both kept quite tidy, were distinctly spotless. "Mrs. Carraway's going to get suspicious if I go back down and say the library's done."
"So you'll have a bit of time to spare, then?" Ianto said innocently. "And no one to raise an eyebrow about you being up here?"
"Now that you mention it, it looks like I do. Why? What's going on in that devious brain of yours?"
He sighed and pulled out some strips of cloth and a needle. "Well, I'm not at all keen to add to your workload, but - "
Martha nodded. "I get it. Teach a man to fish, and all that. I can't ask you to cover for me every time there's a bit of stitching to be done."
"I would do it, but I don't want you punished for shirking. I'm hoping this will make things a bit smoother in the long run."
She dragged the other chair around to sit beside him, and grinned ruefully. "Damn it, man, I'm a doctor, not a seamstress."
"Is that one of the perks of going to med school?" Ianto teased. "All the Star Trek references?"
"Oh, yeah. Everyone gets one in at some point or another, even the ones who've never seen any of it."
Ianto chuckled and threaded the needle. "Now, you're probably familiar with a running stitch, since I am given to understand it is useful for open wounds. In this context, it's usually for basic seams, as clothes are not prone to dying of blood loss. Now, to start off, you'll want to know a blind stitch, it's useful for the kind of hemming that they're asking for."
He spent a few minutes demonstrating, and watched carefully as she practiced. After a few minutes, he grabbed her hand mid-stitch.
"What's the matter? Was I getting it wrong?"
"Your hands are shaking."
"Oh. S'fine, probably just low blood sugar."
"It's not fine." Ianto's eyes flashed and his hand clenched around the fabric. "They did it again, didn't they? Stopped you from getting enough food?"
She shrug-nodded. "Yeah, but I'll work something out. Shouldn't be too hard. I still remember when Leo was at that age where he ate everything in- what are you doing?"
Ianto set the sampler down and pulled out another cloth from his desk drawer, unwrapping the two slices of bread it concealed. "Kept these from breakfast, thought you might be needing something to keep your strength up. Looks like I thought right."
"Thank you," she mumbled sheepishly around a mouthful.
He watched her thoughtfully. "You know that thing you said about how people don't actually want to make their lords and masters scrub the floors?"
"Are you sure we can't make the Doctor do the washing up for a month?"
October 10th, 1913
"Take this watch, 'cause my life depends on it. This watch is -"
John opened his eyes, solitary heartbeat pattering away. He winced and sat up. As he got his bearings, he registered someone knocking on the door.
"Come in." He yawned as Martha entered with a tray of tea and toast.
She stopped abruptly and averted her gaze. "Pardon me, Mr. Smith, you're not dressed yet, I can come back later."
"No, 's alright, it's alright, put it down." He shrugged on his heavy dressing gown and sat back against the desk, blinking away the cobwebs of sleep. "I was… um –" He stared, trying to match up the image of Martha in her proper housemaid's uniform with that of the woman in the scandalous jacket and trousers. "Sorry, sorry." Martha moved away to pull back the drapes, letting the morning sunlight into the room. "Sometimes I have the most extraordinary dreams."
"What about, sir?" Martha asked, bustling about the study.
"I dream I'm this… adventurer," John mused. "This daredevil, a madman! The Doctor, I'm called. And last night, I dreamt we were at a concert -"
"You were there. You and Jones, as my… companions."
"Quite an unlikely crew for adventures and concerts, sir, if you don't mind my saying."
"It was quite an unlikely concert." His eyes sparkled whimsically. "Such outlandish people, and the strangest music! I was a man from another world, though, and didn't find it strange at all. And it's not the first time you've shown up, I've had many dreams as the Doctor."
Martha smiled indulgently. "Another world, though? I'm afraid there's no such thing, sir, not like ours."
"Ah, well. It was an impossible dream, then, for mine wasn't the only other world. There were creatures following us – I barely saw them, but somehow I knew we couldn't let them see us."
"Like... like green smoke, almost. And yet they could smell us, and so I had to hide from them." He frowned as a thought struck him and he crossed to the mantle. "This thing - the watch, it was…" He stared at it and set it down. "Oh, it's funny how dreams slip away. But I do remember one thing," he realized with clarity. "It all took place in the future." Martha raised her eyebrows in encouragement. "In the year of our Lord, 2007."
"Well, I can prove that wrong for you, sir," she said gently. "Here's this morning's paper. It's Monday, October 10th, 1913, and you're completely human, sir. As human as they come."
"Mm, that's me. Completely human." John Smith smiled.
October 11th, 1913
And five! Very important, five! Don't let me eat pears! I hate pears! John Smith is a character I made up, but he won't know that. He'll think I am him, and he might do something stupid like eat a pear. In three months, I don't want to wake up from being human and taste that.
"So you think these dreams are all connected, somehow?" Ianto asked, poring over a new set of inked paper sheets on John's desk.
"Yes, at least… I do while I'm dreaming them. Has that ever happened to you, where you know something in a dream, as if you've known it all your life - but when you wake up you wonder how you could ever think it possible?"
"Ah, yes. That's dreams for you, though I've never heard it to happen over so many different nights." Among the new slew of blotted drawings, he recognized Novice Hame, and what he suspected was the werewolf that had spawned the founding of Torchwood. "Will these go in any particular order?"
John scratched his chin. "I'm fairly sure these ones did – the cat-nurse, the wolf, the metal dog… although it has shown up before, but for all of these I had the same face – this face." He pointed to his own. "Oh, and the one with the broken clock and the smiling monster in the mask, that came after the dream with the dog." Ianto shuffled them accordingly. "These others, though, you can just put them after. That one's about the other world, the one where the Doctor comes from."
The skies are burnt orange and the leaves on the trees are silver. I know an old man who lives on the hillside there. And the city has towers! And I dress in my robes, and my collar; I can never get it right. I am so ill suited for it and yet they tell me I'm in charge!
"This one was a little earlier than these others, when I - he had that face with the ears."
I am travelling with a Captain in the military, only he is not what he seems, and so I leave him behind after a battle, so alone and so far away from home. There was a smudged picture, little more than smoothed hair and the collar of a coat. His face is unclear, but he had a certain uniform, a long coat. He is someone who comes from a long way away.
Engrossed in deciphering the nigh-illegible scrawl, Ianto looked up as there was a crunching noise. His eyes widened in alarm when he saw John serenely chewing a mouthful of pear.
"Where did you get that?" he asked, affecting polite interest.
"Mm –" John swallowed before speaking. "I get a bit peckish between meals, so I asked Martha to bring something up. The fruit bowl was a marvelous idea of hers. These are from the Pratchett farm, would you like one?"
"No, I'm quite alright, thank you." Ianto ducked his head to look at the drawings again so that he could force his smirk into submission.