Disclaimer: I'm not one of the genii and lucky people who own bits and pieces of Doctor Who or Torchwood. Also, I don't own Harry Potter and the associated paraphernalia.
Summary: The Doctor loves surprises. Harry Potter is the only wizard with the Vortex in his blood. Someone gets implicated in intelligent design.
Warnings: AU, omnisexuality (including but not limited to slash and implied het), mild sexual situations, innuendo (read Captain Jack Harkness being himself), sort-of not-really cross-dressing, minor character deaths, some unavoidable OOC-ness
A/N: This story has been written post season 5, and as such is non compliant with season 6. Nope. It's slash. And crossover. And bloody complicated. I almost exploded my sister's head by trying to explain the meeting chronologically-out-of-sync thing.
Also, it's completed. There are four parts. They will be appearing in roughly weekly intervals. There is a distinct possibility of a spin-off/sequel, but my enthusiasm for it largely depends on the response to this story. I realise it's very abstruse, but I hope you'll like it.
xTaking Advantage: The Doctor's Beginning
2,225 Earthtime, Thoros Beta
The first thing he noticed when consciousness trickled back in was a sense of imbalance, but it was pretty quickly driven out by the more acute sensation of a roaring headache.
Harry opened his eyes and found that he was lying on the floor of a shaking and swaying TARDIS. This kind of thing was hardly unprecedented with the temperamental lady, who time to time simply demanded some attention, although Harry didn't recall ever being transported straight from his home without any warning.
He was becoming too accustomed to the Vortex – he hardly even felt it when he was relocating.
"Hello, beautiful," he said, and sat up.
The TARDIS had been considerate enough to not take him out of bed – Car'Antares' warm climate seduced pretty much everyone into sleeping in the nude – but from the sofa, where he had been watching some pre-3D motion pictures. In consequence, he was dressed in his cut off pants which, when he stood straight, came down just past the crease between his arse and thigh… therefore it was to be expected that the first person he met was Captain Jack Harkness.
The Captain gave Harry an once-over and whistled. "Doctor, you've outdone yourself this time."
The Doctor – tall, big-eared, big-nosed and with a heart-stopping grin stretching his cheeks – peeked out from behind a pillar. His eyes found Harry, the grin disappeared, and he said mostly to himself: "Not good."
"What's not good about him?" Jack protested, shamelessly ogling Harry's naked chest as if there was something especially interesting to see. Suspended as Harry was in his post-war, seventeen-year-old appearance, scrawny from months of near-starvation, bones poking out here and there through pale, scarred skin, with stress-lines etched into his face, he really wasn't much to look at.
"His being here," the Doctor pointed out the obvious. He came out and squatted next to Harry, invading deep into Harry's personal space. "Are you friendly? Unfriendly? Or just confused? Because I am confused right now and you declaring yourself friendly or unfriendly could help me make up my mind – even if it probably wouldn't help with the confusion-"
Harry shut him up by clamping his lips over the Doctor's. He held on for a few seconds and then let go, nodding. "Now I can hear myself think."
"That was too friendly," the Doctor complained. He stood and edged away, predictably bringing out his sonic screwdriver to scan Harry – who was, frankly, used to this.
"Hey, lovely!" Jack sauntered over and offered Harry a hand. "Don't I get a treatment like that?"
Harry climbed to his feet without accepting the help that would have undoubtedly involved wandering hands and blatant flirting. "He," he whispered mock-confidentially, pointing at the Doctor, "put a ring on my finger. He deserves the treatment."
While Jack was collecting his jaw from the floor, Harry looked around. The TARDIS was a little different from what he was used to, but still very much herself. And the Doctor was there, playing with the controls-
Wait a minute. There was a Doctor sonicking Harry. There was a Doctor flying the TARDIS. That added up to two Doctors.
"Okay. This is certainly unprecedented," he said, head swivelling from side to side as if he were watching a tennis match. "I know you don't have a twin, and I know that the only double of you has only one heart, so… How come you're twice, Doctor?"
"Have we met?" the closer Doctor asked, which was, really, just a way of informing Harry that no, they hadn't met yet in the Doctor's timeline, and if they had then Harry had Obliviated this information for world-saving purposes. They did that. A lot, too. As if the two independent time-travellers thing wasn't confusing enough in and of itself.
"Is that a euphemism?" Jack inquired, characteristically unconscious of time and place.
"Not now, Captain," Harry attempted to shush him.
"Have we met?" Jack asked, waggling his eyebrows.
"Not the way you'd like," Harry replied with a sigh, and then turned to the Doctor – the nearest one – to give him a more relevant answer. "Yes and no. That's the trouble and the fun with time-travel. You never know what kind of dirt I might have on you… and vice versa. Right now, it seems, I've got the advantage."
"You do," both Doctors agreed. The second one stabilised the flight and came over to join in the conversation. "Introductions?"
Harry didn't really mind. As far as he knew, he had been introduced to Captain Jack Harkness at a different time and in a different place, but he had no memory of the Doctor meeting him for the first time, and maybe that was now. For the Doctor, obviously. For Harry that had been… well, ages ago. That kind of 'ages' where the correct decade wasn't actually important anymore. Maybe not even the correct century. Certainly, it was pre-space-flight Earth.
"I'm Harry," Harry said. Not that he was polite like that, but it seemed to be prudent to share that information, if for nothing else than to give the Doctor something to call Harry in his head. Harry had tried to legilimise the man once and – the less said about the occurrence the better. "And don't worry, Doctor – you're going to get one up on me soon enough. What's the date, by the way?"
With mind too busy going over the information imparted, the Doctor's mouth replied: "Twenty-two twenty-five, October the thirty-first, where we're going next."
Harry took that to mean that they were, indeed, about to visit early post-contact Earth. Or possibly the Delta-Theta base, but he knew how little the Doctor liked enclosed spaces. Not much room to run in those. It was, with ninety-seven percent certainty, the Earth. Harry tried to remember that time. It was… before the WWIV. After the United Europe blowup, though. There was a Prewett Minister in Britain, he was almost sure, but by that time the proactive group of wizards he had been a member of had become self-sufficient and he had taken off on a journey around the planet and ended up on some UNIT base – wait, no, that was twenty fifty-nine…
"Of course," he replied with a Doctor-like smile empty of meaning. "You've taken Jack travelling again? No. He's from… twenty oh-five? Or twenty oh-six?"
The Captain smiled too much to be from twenty ten or later. From what Harry had observed, Jack Harkness lived in cycles – cycles of depression and mania and tranquility, and once in a while he allowed himself to fall in love and shake things up, but generally his moods were fairly predictable. He had been maniacal about Torchwood, and then depressive when it had fallen apart the first time. Twenty ten.
The Captain himself gave a soft scoff at Harry's estimation of his dates, and with a flirty grin said: "You're a few millennia off-base, lovely." He moved closer, deep into Harry's personal space. "Who are you, by the by?"
"Nobody," Harry replied, and pointed two fingers and Jack's temple. "Obliviate. Stupefy."
Jack sank to the floor like a bag of flour. Or potatoes. Or whatever it was the people of Earth put into bags around twenty-two twenty-five. Maybe artificial corn?
"He does correlate to twenty oh-five," the Doctor replied, crouching next to Jack's prone body. He examined it with the sonic screwdriver, muttering: "Or not. Rose correlates to twenty oh-five. Jack just doesn't correlate. Time Agent. Retired, of course. The active ones are a pain-"
Harry often suspected that the sonic was somehow ultra- or infra-spatially connected to some monster-computer kind of device, but that device would have to be stored in a dimensional capsule that defied the usual laws of physics and meta-physics, which basically meant a deal with the Devil and… frankly, Harry didn't want to know.
"That's what I meant," Harry said instead of embarking on a verbal journey to places marked 'here be monsters,' and checked on the second Doctor, who was faux-diligently attending to the central panel.
The date and the presence of Jack Harkness – and oh sweet Merlin! This was the alive Jack Harkness from before the undeadification – meant that there should be another companion, if Harry remembered correctly. And wasn't he just displaying the magnitude of his genius today? The Doctor had just mentioned her, after all.
"But shouldn't Rose be around?" Harry inquired. "And can I borrow something to wear? I love the TARDIS, but she's a bit chilly on the inside."
"This is impossible." The crouching Doctor gave him a look so utterly lost that Harry wanted to cry.
The Doctor from the central panel glanced over and jabbed his thumb in the direction of a mouth of a corridor. "First right, then right, another right, and down. It's the holding cell, but, who knows? You might look good in an orange overall."
"Did something happen to Rose?" Harry asked. It shouldn't have. The first really headache-worthy thing since the Reapers that had happened to Rose was becoming the Bad Wolf. That would have meant no Captain Jack Harkness within TARDIS. The TARDIS didn't like the post-Bad-Wolf Captain Harkness.
"What did you do to Jack?" the crouching Doctor inquired, only half-satisfied with the knowledge that Jack's vital statistics were all within normal and he merely seemed to have lost consciousness. The other half was agitated by the defying-normal thing that Harry did routinely.
"He won't remember me when he wakes up," Harry said. "Which should be within two hours. Do you want me to get out of your hair? Because if the TARDIS for whatever reason thought that I should be here, she's liable to just pull me back as soon as I get out."
Both Doctors, steamrolled by the use of TARDIS-logic, caved. The central panel-attending one even offered Harry some milk to drink, if he felt like getting it from the kitchen.
Harry wasn't in the mood for milk, but he wouldn't say no to some quaintberry juice and, knowing the Doctor, there was sure to be some hiding in the back of the fridge, so he just went to pour himself a glass. That, predictably, resulted in both the Doctors scrambling after him to make sure that he wasn't going to be pulling wires from walls or short-circuiting anything 'to see what would happen,' or generally just sabotaging some part of the timespaceship that the Doctor wouldn't be able to repair without a textbook, a tutorial, and someone competent looking over his shoulder.
"Whoa," the Doctor expressed loquaciously when he found Harry in the kitchen – exactly where Harry said he was going.
"You know your way around," the other Doctor remarked.
"You're stating the obvious," Harry pointed out. "In a man of your age and intellect it's rather unattractive."
The Doctors were nearing the end of their parallel thinking processes, and as such absorbed the light flirting with barely a raised brow between them. Harry poured himself the juice, drank it, hand-washed his glass and put it back into the cupboard where he had found it. The TARDIS décor was all early twentieth century Earth, which was just pure nostalgia from the Doctor.
Having come to a conclusion, one of the Doctors told Harry: "Rose is sleeping off her encounter with the Amberian ambassador on Tal Orgoth."
Refraining from drawing a JRR Tolkien simile, Harry quirked an eyebrow. "I thought she didn't meet that creep."
"She didn't," the other Doctor replied, and they both relaxed. "I slipped her some-" he said a word that Harry would hesitate reproducing phonetically, but the object which it described had obviously put Rose Tyler to sleep over the time period it took the Doctor to 'strongly persuade' the slick Amberian bastard that he really didn't want to start a war over whose Emperor had the bigger nose or whatever the current political issue had been. Love and Peace for everyone, Doctor-style.
Not much obvious cause for depression. Still, Harry had agreed to marry that guy, and after the clusterfuck of an apocalyptic disaster that had been Harry's first marriage, nothing short of true love could have been reason enough. Ergo, Harry could read the signs. The man might have looked different (Harry especially bemoaned the hair and the eyes, but there was something to be said for an actual chin and the shoulders he thought he could spy under the jacket…), but that didn't mean the self had changed all that much over a couple of decades at most of his personal time.
"What happened?" Harry asked, trailing a finger along the seam of the sleeve of the nearest Doctor's jacket.
They both shook their heads and gave a unison response of: "Nothing important."
"You did this to yourself on purpose," Harry retorted, vaguely encompassing the duo of identical Time Lords. "Doctor, I get that solitude eats away at you. That sometimes the silence is so loud you want to scream to drown it out. Sometimes you do scream."
"I talk to myself too much-" the further one whispered, while the closer one looked straight into Harry's eyes and added: "I was in a mood for a good argument."
Then they merged together, somehow, and Harry thought his eyes might cross and his brain was doing strange prestidigitations. It was somewhat like feeling that he had had a hallucination that he had never actually had but remembered having, like a déjà vu, or presque vu, or jamais vu. He had never been very good with French, and only average at illusions and mind-games, so his brain wasn't ready to accept the fact that there had never been two Doctors at once when there obviously have been two just a few seconds ago. It was – yes, it was – like visiting a parallel universe, except not like that at all.
It was all a true lie.
He could live with that. Or he thought he could, at least.
Harry sighed and leant back against the hardly ever used (except for that one relatively short period of time when there had been some kinks and fantasies shared and… well… it was bit too soon to think in that direction) kitchen counter. "So you cloned yourself?"
"No. I halved myself," the Doctor said, like it was the most obvious thing in the universe and Harry was being particularly stupid by not cottoning on. Then he – perhaps having noticed Harry's expression that promised things illegal in most galaxies and not invariably pleasurable – reconsidered. Expanding on his previous explanation, he added: "Temporally."
"By which you mean you went back in time to encounter yourself…?" Harry inquired, tilting his head to the side and rubbing his arms. Goose bumps. "No, that would create a paradox. You'd risk implosion."
"Time Lord," the Doctor said, in a tone that suggested that he was pointing out the obvious.
"Bullshit," Harry replied in exactly the same tone.
"Fine, fine," the Time Lord grumbled, like it was hurting him to have to own up. "I created a minor trouser-effect in a contained space."
That would allow him to live two possible personal futures for a short length of time.
Harry's mind backtracked to the kitchen counter and then, faced with the prospect of two identical Doctors whose relative position in the space-time wasn't threatening the coherence of the continuum, set out down the predictable path. He shook himself. "That's got me thinking distinctly Jack-Harkness-like thoughts. Don't do that, Doctor. Honestly, don't. Empathising with the Captain weirds me out."
The Doctor shrugged. Folded his arms in front of his chest. Leant against the table opposite Harry.
There was tension of massive proportions. Thick. Creamy – wait a sec, could tension be creamy? Never mind. There was a meeting of eyes. Either history repeated itself or the Doctor had inquisitively slipped into Harry's mind while Harry had been thinking about kitchen counters and double the usual dose of the Doctor, because fuck if that red string between them wasn't becoming visible any moment now…
"I apologise," Harry said faux-contritely. "I shouldn't have kissed you. Not without your consent."
The Doctor swallowed. "I'll survive a kiss. I kiss strangers all the time – just ask Rose. Time-travel is like a trip to Paris-"
Harry let his eyes widen, adopting an air of exaggerated innocence. "That doesn't mean you welcome it."
The Doctor shrugged, catching onto the game. Suddenly, he appeared to be perfectly nonchalant. "It was quite spontaneous. I thought you were just glad to see me."
"I was," Harry admitted. "I am." Then, he decided enough of the tension was dispelled that he could afford introducing some relevant truths. "I'm from a time when I take this kind of affection from you for granted."
"Affection?" the Doctor repeated, as if tasting the word. It was quite ambiguous – thank the British for English, because Harry never would have gotten away with that kind of lack of specificity in Antaresian or, Merlin forbid, Gallifreyan.
It wasn't like Harry couldn't describe a lot of what he felt, both at the moment and long-term. He knew (had the scars to show for it) that the Doctor didn't like talking about love. He even denied other affectations too closely related to romantic love – like lust and self-adjustment and will to compromise and fear of solitude. The Doctor was all about brokenheartedness and skittish like a lamb when it came to the topic. Hence 'affection.'
On the other hand, Harry wasn't aiming to make his statement open to interpretation. He didn't think it could have been, what with the 'put a ring on my finger' he had tossed out there earlier.
"Doctor…" he said softly, "I checked out your tonsils with my tongue. And I know perfectly well that you don't have any money."
The man shook his head and bit the inside of his cheek. "This story you are not telling me… it's not very Shakespearean, is it?"
Harry was startled into a chuckle. "No, not very. Why?"
"Good." The Doctor nodded resolutely. "Nothing against Shakespeare, I'm sure he's a perfectly delightful fellow, but he should cheer up."
"His son died," Harry suggested as a possible explanation to Shakespeare's recurrent woefulness, even if it wasn't really relevant to solving the present situation. Harry still wasn't any closer to discovering why TARDIS demanded him onboard than he had been upon finding himself here.
"He's hardly the only one," the Doctor replied.
Harry flinched. In his mind, he very briefly saw the repeatedly stabbed body of one of his children – that was such a fucking long time ago for him – before he utilised what Occlumency he was capable of to put it back under the lid with all the other plentiful tragedies that tried to haunt him.
"That was insensitive, wasn't it?" the Doctor remarked with a smirk that was fairly incongruent to the look in his eyes and his posture. "I'm an insensitive person these days."
"Luckily," Harry replied with a bit of testiness that was just his reflexive reaction to cruel taunts, whether those were meant or not, "I know a more compassionate incarnation of yours. Not that you are ever demonstratively compassionate, just sort of kick-the-baddies'-asses compassionate. And now you've got me talking like you. Not you you, but the other you." To think that made sense in his head.
To think that the Doctor could actually follow that.
The Doctor merely let his arms down and shrugged. "Yet again you have me at a temporal disadvantage."
"Only a subjective one." Indeed, the disadvantage only pertained to their mutual personal experience. In anything else, the Doctor was still centuries ahead. Nevertheless, Harry was determined to milk what little advantage he did have. "And you love speaking with someone who understands even the gist of what you're saying, don't you?"
"Are you a Time Lord, Harry?" the Doctor asked. He even looked like it was a serious question.
"Not hardly." Harry finally chanced abandoning the counter and coming within a step of the Doctor. Since there was no immediate fight-or-flight reaction, he dared catch the Doctor's hand and press its palm flatly to his – bare, as he realised a bit too late (not that he actually minded) – chest. "One heart. Born and raised on Earth, parents both fully human far as I know. I'm just… longaeval."
"I see the attraction of that," the Time Lord mused. "Most of the friends I pick up are so sadly perishable. And they insist on flinging themselves into endangerment whenever possible."
Harry had a theory about that. "It's a case of you staring too long into the Abyss and the Abyss staring back at you… except it's not the Abyss but something more like… life. They get too much life thrown their way and it forces them to start living. What else would it be? They get into fights and it awakens their fighting instincts – otherwise they would die."
At this point someone probably should have reminded the Doctor that his hand was still on Harry's solar plexus, and that Harry's heart was beating somewhat faster than should be expected of it in such otherwise tranquil surroundings. Also, that Harry could smell the Doctor from this distance, and he was used to that being an unspoken invitation, so his Pavlovian reaction was arousal. It could be understood that Harry didn't point out the Doctor's proximity for fear that the Doctor would remove himself. Captain Jack Harkness was still Stunned somewhere on the floor. Rose Tyler was still sleeping off her non-encounter with the ambassador. The only other entity present was the TARDIS, and she appeared to be, if anything, amused.
Harry held the Doctor's wrist in one hand, and put the other on a leather-clad shoulder. It felt as good as it had looked.
"There are," the Doctor spoke, aware of what was happening and contemplating whether or not he should let it go on, "two types of experience. Will to fight and cynicism."
"You pick up the lucky ones – the important ones. The ones you know would have to live for the continuity of the continuity. Or do they make themselves that important by becoming your companions?" Harry, who prided himself on understanding the Doctor better than anyone else did, didn't push for any more 'affection.' Instead, he freed the wrist he had previously imprisoned and scampered through the door he suspected would bring him closer to the closet. The TARDIS truly was chilly. From the dim, winding corridor he called: "Which came first, Doctor, the phoenix or the egg?"
Spontaneous crash-landings, mutiny of his sentient vessel, universal hiccups, invasions, genocides, knots in timelines and seemingly random dislocations of things and beings were the fabric of a rogue Time Lord's ordinary day.
It was far from the first time a stranger appeared on the TARDIS. There had been attackers and refugees both in the past, but Doctor couldn't seem to recall any instance when the accidental stowaway had claimed an established relationship between them and as good as proved it by being not only able to follow his train of thought, but also to argue with him most satisfyingly and to generally just fit.
It irked the Doctor. A lot. It irked him more than it excited him to have a chance to poke and prod at something new and novel and unprecedented that wasn't threatening to kill him or his companions.
"That's a non-specific question," he protested. What better way to find out about his mysterious alleged acquaintance (human, male, physical age at around eighteen, time-sensitive, mildly psychic, shoe-size seven and half, necessary prescription glasses in Earthian style but made of crystal only found in the Zorden system, barefoot and dressed in the highest fashion of the eleventh century's Ninth Empire, with twenty-eight teeth and with scars untouched by modern medical technology) than feed their argument? "There had been eggs all over the universe before an Earthian culture conceived of an immortal bird," he said, mentally listing all the better ways. Like, scan him again. Or take him to New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New York and hand him over to a nurse. Or – and he was a little angry with himself for being so tempted – just use plain old mind-invasion.
Harry chuckled. "And yet you managed to answer it without even trying to. People imagined a bird first. The egg was an inducted necessity for the purpose of the legend."
He was lying. The Doctor was sure that Harry was lying, but he couldn't see how that was possible when all he said was a known fact. Also, Harry managed to spread the headache he had had since he had woken up to the Doctor, too, and that just made him cranky, aside from being irked.
Why did the TARDIS like the stranger?
"Why a phoenix?" the Doctor asked. He was familiar with the saying, but he had not yet heard this alternative. "Why not a chicken? Wasn't it supposed to be 'what came first? The chicken or the egg?'"
"Why not a sparrow?" Harry returned, pausing for a moment, as the TARDIS unlocked the closet door for him.
If that was supposed to mean something to the Doctor, it missed its mark. The translator didn't translate the word 'sparrow' from any of the multiple languages that used it, and the Doctor couldn't recall ever having noticed a sparrow past the usual, very human 'look, there's a little bird!' way and the somewhat Time Lord-specific 'that passer domesticus is flying at forty-one point two seven three four miles per hour at the angle of fifty-four point-'
"The phoenix is immortal," Harry mused, while the Doctor deliberated over the trajectories of an Earth-specific bird's flight. "Or, rather, it reincarnates in possession of its memories. That's more like it." He smiled over his shoulder, cementing the idea as a metaphor for the Doctor's life, and then dove waist-deep in between the hanging dresses.
Humans were just so interesting, in how they used metaphors and hyperboles and generally spoke as nonspecifically and inaccurately as possible. How did they manage, when their tiny, low-capacity brains had to do a huge amount of deduction just to translate casual speech, without even taking into account wordplays, lying, implications, evasions and politics? The Doctor was tempted to ask 'why a sparrow?' but then it seemed to him like he would be repeating himself, and anyway, he had received enough hints to understand that 'sparrow' was, for some as of yet indiscernible reason, a metaphor for his guest. Besides, voicing that would have made him feel stupid. He didn't generally mind looking stupid, but he hated it when he felt that way.
Harry resurfaced, pouting a little as he obviously had not found what he was looking for among the dresses. "Someone as powerful as you can afford to be kind and magnanimous," he said, turning around to search through the unsorted mess of clothing Rose had not yet tidied up. "But humans are really fragile, Doctor. Tiny, weak, short-lived, easily damaged. To just survive, they have to make up for power and skill by upping the aggressiveness."
The Doctor couldn't disagree, but he also didn't see the point of Harry's statement. He cared for humans – cared more for them then he should have, perhaps, but who was going to tell him what he should and shouldn't do? Besides, even if some misguided personage of authority tried, it wasn't likely that he would listen, not to speak about complying. Also, he had heard similar spiels often enough from the humans who travelled with him. Jack, for example, liked to believe his own fragility (not in those words, as he was too vainglorious to admit to such an unmanly quality) was a reason why he should be using firearms. As opposed to Rose, who gladly made do with whatever was at hand.
As opposed to Harry, who did not seem the least bit disconcerted by appearing on board of the TARDIS practically naked. However, seeing as he had dispatched Jack with the barest effort, he apparently also belonged to the category of beings powerful enough that they could afford magnanimity.
"Somehow," the Doctor said, "I am under the impression that it should be Jack saying this."
Harry discovered a pair of jeans that he seemed to like, and moved to pull off his shorts. The Doctor wasn't sure if he should turn around, but eventually he decided that it didn't really matter. Or, it shouldn't have. There was a concept squirming inside his mind, on the edge of consciousness, that tried to remind him that he had thought harmless flirting would remain harmless, but it hadn't, and he had ended up at the mercy of Harry's understanding.
That had not been nice. On the other hand, he had lucked out. Harry seemed to be nice. Or, as nice as someone powerful enough and old enough to know that displaying magnanimity to others couldn't be anything but patronising, could be.
The Doctor's hearts skipped their respective beats. He had since become used to taking things as they came and making the best of them while having as much fun as he could and enjoying the exhilaration of the humans in his wake, but this was, maybe, someone who could see through him. He tried to stifle the new-born hope, but he was too much of an eternal optimist to murder a baby. Someone who understood? There hadn't been anyone since…
Harry fastened the buttons and glanced around, saying: "Except that he wouldn't."
The little part of Doctor's mind focused on the conversation put the response into correlation with the previous statement.
"He's worse than you about explanations and excuses," Harry added.
Their eyes briefly met, before Harry once again returned to dressing himself.
"Explanations make life boring, and excuses are bad for you. Awful on digestion," the Doctor offered, with his 'guess if I'm speaking gibberish to confound you or if this is actually something true but beyond the scope of your ken?' expression.
"I know," Harry replied infuriatingly easily. He gave himself a critical look in the mirror, and Shrunk the jeans to fit snuggly. The Doctor had met occurrences he had written off as magic before. He was certain he would meet some again. None of them, however, had been performed with such ease, on such a minor scale, with such a mundane result. It seemed like a criminal waste of power.
Then again, Harry appeared to have done that magic without thinking, perfunctorily, like it was the minutest of everyday actions. That suggested that he had had lots and lots of practice. Also, he obviously had lots and lots of power. The Doctor hesitated to consider the fallout-spectrum someone like Harry must have (admittedly, he had little to talk about there, seeing as he had deserved the moniker 'Oncoming Storm' from the most feared race in the known and documented universe).
"Magic," he said pensively.
Harry glanced at him, expression of curiosity changing into understanding and determination in a flash. Then he picked a green shirt from a hanger and pulled it on. "You think?"
"Definitely not," the Doctor replied, shaking his head. It just didn't work.
Harry pulled off the shirt and carelessly threw it onto the pile, while the Doctor contemplated the ramifications of magic and tried to imagine how in time-space he became entangled with a real-life wizard. And what it meant. And didn't mean. He pinched himself, too, because it would have made his life incomparably simpler (and, as this was himself thinking it, that meant something) if it had been just a very wacky dream brought on by his short but tumultuous acquaintance with the ambassador of Amberia.
He hissed. The pinch kind of hurt, and he remained stubbornly awake, staring at the back – now that he thought it, he raised his eyes to actually stare at the back – of a man who actually used magic. Actual magic. It was like sek on t hra matin. Like love. It was more improbable than a Time Lord surviving his thirteenth death.
'Such is the nature of miracles,' the TARDIS reminded him. 'Someone has to painstakingly orchestrate them.'
"You're lucky he can never stay mad at you, my Lady," Harry said with a breathy chuckle, and turned to the Doctor, wearing Rose's Union Jack t-shirt. It was looser on him than it had been on Rose. "I think I like this one. Very patriotic."
"You are British?" the Doctor asked doubtfully. Yes, Harry did speak English, and had said that he was originally from Earth, but he had no discernible accent. Plus, of all the ages, all the planets with human and part-human and post-human inhabitants, even of all the nations and nationalities of Earth… why British? What was it about Britain that made it into such a metagravitational centre?
"Born and raised," Harry replied. "I have Antaresian citizenship. Anyway, the TARDIS is partial to the British, although so far no one has figured out why."
The TARDIS reminded the Doctor that they both lived by the principle 'it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission' and sometimes also 'don't apologise – deny.'
Harry's smile grew lopsided. "That's why we never spend too much time together," he said. "I tried it once – just wanted to make it easier on myself. I thought it must be – I knew other people who lived by these principles and they were perpetually happier."
'And you are twice cursed with a long life to accumulate mistakes and a conscience to suffer for them,' the Doctor didn't say.
"How do you do it?" Harry asked. "How, Doctor?"
The Doctor shrugged. "I run faster than my demons can follow."
Harry stood by the central column and silently catalogued the changes that would happen to the space around him in the years to come, while the Doctor went to babysit Jack and Rose, who had both woken and demanded explanations and apologies for their perceived hurts. Rose especially sounded angry – her voice carried through the TARDIS as she complained about not being a little child and being able to behave herself around foreign dignitaries, and didn't relent until she was informed that the Amberian had attempted to purchase a blonde woman from one of the hosts for the price of a herd of domesticated turtle-like creatures.
Harry was submerged in a casual exchange of impressions with the TARDIS when the Doctor came back, hands in the pockets of his jacket and muttering.
"Isn't this an incarnation-specific thing?" Harry asked the TARDIS. He could recall having seen the Doctor with both his hands in his pockets, but that had been a different personality.
'It's a pose,' the ship replied.
"I don't see it," Harry stated, and poked the Doctor's side.
He had plenty of time to remove himself into a safe distance before the Doctor fished his hand out of the pocket and swatted at him.
"I still don't believe you," the Doctor warned Harry. "But you make it difficult. Must you be difficult? Think of how much easier it would be for both of us if we returned to our solitary but very exciting, trouble-rife lives-"
"The TARDIS brought me here," Harry said unrepentantly, doing his best to not laugh at the Doctor's pout. "What did you do with the children?"
"They put on a film and are sharing a bowl of extremely unhealthy substance incomprehensibly labelled as food," the Doctor grumbled. "There was picture animation and songs."
Harry could hear the distant sounds of what was probably some Disney. He had mixed feelings about those films and didn't like to think about them at all. He used to watch them with his children when they were little – Al liked Hercules while Lily was partial to Aladdin – because he had never seen them before. The Dursleys had probably been too scared of the 'magic' in them.
He blinked and hid those memories away before he made a complete idiot of himself by starting to cry.
"What do you do – for living?" the Doctor asked out of nowhere.
Harry narrowed his eyes.
"Will you be missed if you don't return soon enough?"
"I have no doubt," Harry said sweetly, "that the beautiful Lady can return me right back to where and when she took me from."
"Then you have time for tea and biscuits-"
"And conversation," Harry filled in, perfectly aware that the point of this extempore was to give the Doctor a chance to figure out as much about him as he needed to know for some of his soon-to-take-place encounter. It was a bit like making provisions for a trip, except that in this case they were gathering not material, but information.
They sat down in the library, the Doctor on a low settee, Harry on a pillow, back resting against a bookshelf with books in strange languages. Harry could have read them with the help of the TARDIS, but he wasn't the least bit interested. He had never been and never would be a bookworm. Still, he found libraries soothing since his early childhood, when they were the one safe haven where he could hide from Dudley's bullying.
Funny, how an encounter with the Doctor made him think about his childhood and youth so much.
"Can magic be explained?" the Doctor asked, lacing his fingers behind his head and leaning back. His eyes, under lowered lids, were observing Harry's every movement – there was a little too much intensity in the gaze for it to be purely professional interest.
Harry felt giddy at the thought.
"It can be described," he offered. "To a point. I can try, if you want, or alternatively I can let you observe and come to your own conclusions, but I recommend the first option despite its inherent disadvantages, because I just don't plan to be around long enough for the second to be effective."
"Okay," the Doctor said uncharacteristically laconically, and gestured with his hand for Harry to continue.
"Ply me with more quaintberry juice?" Harry teased. Since they had just traipsed across the ship to the possibly most distant room, it was pure provocation on his part. He cast a few spells, and the carton with the juice and a glass appeared on a tray on the floor next to him. It had been a very, very long time since he had had a house elf, so he was quite accomplished at these little domestic enchantments.
The Doctor was watching him closely, not quite enraptured, but definitely enjoying the short vacation from boring old normalcy. "You appear to be easily satisfied."
"I'm not a snob," Harry professed, "but I only settled for you, so that shows my particular and distinguished taste."
Then he felt the TARDIS urging him, so he started his explanation about magic.
The Doctor was not a desirable audience. He was too good at reading people, so he saw all inconsistencies. He was too clever to misguide, and even if he had known nothing about magic past that it existed before Harry started speaking, he was entirely too good at spotting its advantages and disadvantages and inherent problems part-way through Harry's speech.
When Harry mentioned thestrals and tried to explain why he had not seen them at the end of his fourth year, only in the beginning of his fifth, and touched on his depression during the summer, they had a short but vicious mental clash.
Harry knew that the Doctor ran through his life with his 'sweet' face turned to the world and his gloves on, and he only ever took those off when he was facing a threat that he feared – an enemy he wasn't sure he could defeat. It was flattering. Also painful.
He shielded from the Doctor's intrusion with Occlumency, but nature, age and experience gave the Doctor the upper hand and he, after a short struggle, got in. the first impression he encountered, and obviously hadn't expected, was love, love for him as the one who travelled along the other curve of the double helix.
Similar to how Voldemort had reacted once upon a time, the Doctor recoiled.
He recoiled before he could have discovered the uglier, less probable, minutiae of his relationship with Harry.
"You claim Antaresian citizenship," the Doctor spoke quietly, giving Harry an apologetic grimace – as if apology could make up for an attempt on mental violation.
Harry was now fully aware just how scared the Doctor was of him. Only terror and desperation could have made the last Time Lord attempt something that he considered depraved.
"Antaresian xenophobia only abates in about three hundred thousand years from now. They stop killing aliens earlier than that, but they're no better than early post-contact Earth about creating and maintaining interplanetary relations-"
"I don't die and I don't age," Harry explained. He let the Doctor believe that it was only because of the TARDIS that he had bridged the distance of time. "My power keeps growing. Every decade there is a marked increase in the range and variety of things I find myself capable of accomplishing with nothing but knowledge and will." Like time-travel and galaxies-spanning Apparition.
"That's not good," the Doctor stated, shaking his head. He slid off the settee, snatched Harry's glass, took a deep draught of the juice and started pacing from one end of the bookshelf to the other.
"I rather thought that would be your stance," Harry replied. "The TARDIS doesn't mind me, so whatever I am is apparently a naturally occurring phenomenon. Still, I don't see the end and it scares me."
"You don't seem to mind the journey overmuch, though," the Doctor pointed out, taking another sip.
Harry nodded. "You will have used to say that in your case it was the journey that mattered, in mine it was the end."
"You don't seem to be in a hurry to get there," the Doctor half-asked.
"I just told you," Harry said, folding his legs. The jeans were a bit tight, but that was his fault for Shrinking them so much. "It scares me. Besides, whatever you want to believe, I enjoy spending time around you, and I believe you will come to enjoy the time you spend around me."
"You sound very ben-gesserity to me. All that philosophical twaddle to hide the inevitability from yourself may lend you credence in front of an idealistic species like humans, but there's no science in it. No quantifiable magnitude and direction. All natural forces have their scientifically determinable limits-"
"A mutual acquaintance suggested that I'm a missile aimed at the focus of the causality spiral. If that helps," Harry said, with detectable sarcasm.
"It raises the hair on my forearms," the Doctor said, returning both the glibness and the sarcasm.
"Oh," Harry with difficulties suppressed a snort, "I know it makes both your hearts go pitter-patter."
"You sound like a married couple," Jack Harkness' voice broke their nauseatingly domestic moment.
The Doctor and Harry both spun to face the arch. Rose and the Captain were standing under it, both still cheerful from the happy ending for some animated fictional characters they had watched, and both suspicious of Harry's presence and obvious familiarity with the Doctor and his modus vivendi.
"No, we don't," the Doctor emphatically protested. "Whatever we are, we are not yet, only will be, and it wouldn't make any sense if we appeared to be something we are not until we are. That. Or are that more than one-sidedly. Because I'm not. And if I am when he's from than I only will be and cannot be held accountable-"
"Married?" Rose exclaimed. She scowled and gave the Doctor a look that would have made lesser men quake in their trainers. "You never told me you were married."
"Was once. Am not. I just said I'm not," the Doctor was quick to correct the assumption. Under the weight of the doubtful gaze Harkness transferred from Harry to him, he amended: "Not yet. Apparently. Time-travel. Causality. Time and relative dimensions in space." He grinned with the intensity of a white dwarf.
Rose's jaw sank a little as she tried to think through the barrage of disjointed thoughts. Her confusion changed to determination as she decided that he was either having her on, or fuzzing the issue on purpose.
"Don't get angry, Rose," Harry said before he thought it through. He could have at least introduced himself, or said 'hi' before he had tried to tell her how she should feel.
"Married," Rose repeated, staring at the Doctor, with her mouth still hanging a little open. "To a boy."
Harry tried to do some quick math in his head. Not one of his stronger sides, but he estimated that around twenty oh-five, most civilised muggles were accepting of homosexuality, and even of civil unions. Therefore he addressed the other complaint: "I'm older than I look."
"Well…" Rose startled, as if she finally realised that Harry was sentient, too, and could speak for himself quite competently, "obviously you are." She paused for a moment, unaware of the nonverbal communication that happened between the Doctor and the Captain, in which the Doctor reassured Harkness that yes, Harry was alright, and there was no need to jump at him with the raygun Jack was hiding behind Rose's back. Then she tilted her head and asked: "How much older?"
"A few hundred years," Harry replied with a noncommittal smile. "And don't let the marriage thing get to you. It's just an Earthian ritual – no validity in the universal law. Just a gesture."
"I will have a very strange concept of recreation," the Doctor remarked self-depreciatingly.
Harry was aware enough of the changes his personality would undergo to let it bother him. "It's a good thing I met a different incarnation of yours first. You're kind of unfriendly." He met the Doctor's eyes. "Like someone's hurt you and you're too afraid it's going to happen again."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," the Doctor said, even managed to make it sound believable, but he broke the eye-contact.
"Alright," Harry agreed easily. He didn't want to be a bastard to his future lover, and he especially didn't want to do anything intrusive in front of an audience. "I don't believe you, but you don't believe me that it doesn't matter – and that's alright. You don't really know me yet. It's going to get better. I promise. I know I shouldn't, because you especially don't believe anything that's promised to you, but I do."
"You just talked at me for a minute and I don't think you've actually said anything," the Doctor said, still looking elsewhere – at the empty glass in his hand, at the carton next to Harry's knee, at the table, at the arm the Captain hadn't quite put around Rose.
Harry scowled. Now it made sense. The cantankerous git had asked for it. He clicked his fingers, pointed at the Doctor, and suddenly there was a macaque sitting on the Doctor's shoulder. It immediately reached for the nearest big ear.
"There," Harry said. "You've got an ape to talk down to, so that we humans can catch a break." He stood, and pushed past Harkness out of the library.
"How did you-" Rose gaped, open-mouthed. "Doctor, how did he do that?"
"I don't know," the Doctor said. That sounded better to him than 'magic.' Rose wasn't ready for magic. He wasn't sure if he was ready for magic, but he had seen enough that magic slotted easily between the existence of TARDIS and the trouser-effect in his mind, if only when he overlooked it being used to make clothes fit better.
Jack was staring at Harry's behind, but Rose gaped at the monkey on the Doctor's shoulder – and was that supposed to be some kind of metaphorical statement again? The Doctor didn't do metaphors.
He didn't do monkeys, either. The little monster attempted to appropriate his ear, and his loud: "Ouch! Don't do that!" didn't seem to discourage it in the least.
Rose turned and set out after Harry. "Wait!"
"What is he?" Jack asked, looking, for a change, at Rose's behind. "Or should it be 'who is he?'"
The Doctor deliberated. He could see himself, hear his thoughts, ideas, opinions, his figures of speech in Harry's stories and explanations. He quite clearly detected traces of a common past between them, of experiences they had shared, and-
Well, it was bordering on impossible to deny the blizzard of emotion he had uncovered behind Harry's mental shields. He didn't even know the man's full name.
"Those are two different questions," he said to Jack, and moved to follow after Rose.
Jack fell into step next to him and accepted with dignity when the Doctor dodged the hand he tried to put around his shoulders. "He mind-wiped me, didn't he," Jack asked with a tight smile. "I know the feeling. Plus, there was this nagging impression of you saying 'I do' I had in my mind. Usually, I don't jump to conclusions about people's personal status-"
"Usually, you assume everyone is available," the Doctor pointed out.
Jack huffed. "Only the good-looking ones."
The macaque chose that moment to try and detach the Doctor's ear again, and the two engaged in a struggle, which Jack offered to resolve with his handy raygun and thus prompted the Doctor to protect the poor, oppressed member of the less intelligent species from the aggressive human. The ape shrieked and hurtled out of sight, and the Doctor was left glaring after it in betrayal.
"Right," he muttered. "Just climb down from the tree and invent the wheel, and you'll make a passable human. Primates."
"You care for us, really," Jack said with a winning smile and rested his palm on the Doctor's shoulder. "You care for us enough to watch Disney with us – I bet Rose that you would. They never teach you about Earthian twentieth century cinematography in history classes. You will enjoy Lion King, Doctor. It's your kind of story. The Circle of Life."
It took the Doctor a moment to realise he was being flirted with, and then he ignored it with ease that was growing every day he spent in the vicinity of Jack Harkness. He had had companions in the past that were almost as hands-on – not quite so unwilling to take no for an answer, but also not quite as desperately infatuated. Nevertheless, he was fairly sure that one of these days he would forget to wait for Jack to return to the TARDIS before he would take off. The ventilation worked fulltime just to disperse the cloud of pheromones, and it took energy to power the fans.
Would that humans could control their instincts.
Oh, no. He had to amend that. Would that humans could control their mating instincts. The other instincts were fine with him. The species would be entirely boring without those impulses.
"You go and find the ape before it pillages the fridge," he ordered Jack, whose flirtatious smile became lopsided with self-deprecation. "I'll make sure that Harry won't start telling Rose any embarrassing stories about me."
However unwillingly, Jack went. The Doctor waited for him to move out of earshot before he allowed himself a gusty exhale and a few seconds to keep his eyes closed and feel how the planet beneath – above, from another point of view – his feet was hurtling through space, dragged forward in time by the insuperable forces of momentum and inevitability, and how tiny and yet essential he was in that unimaginably complex wheelwork of universal causality. That was the paradox of every individual, and the reason why Harry was so far out of the realm of reasonability that his life's intersection with the Doctor's had to be orchestrated by outside powers.
Science knew that two paradoxes in close proximity were explosive.
Myth claimed there was an exception to the Law.
He should have laughed at himself – he, the last Time Lord, would be the answer to an all-but-forgotten prophecy? Unlikely.
"…meet seem so average," Rose's voice reached his ears.
The Doctor walked toward it, searching his memory for Harry's face. If their lives truly were so entwined, they would have already met.
"…it's the whole universe. And then I don't want to go home, and I feel awful about it. It's my home. And mostly I just can't stop comparing it to the other places I've seen. It's so boring. Sometimes I just feel a little cheated."
"It's too bloody difficult to be extraordinary when your circumstances are ordinary," Harry replied to Rose. "You never get to show off that special spark in you. You're doomed in your own mediocrity."
"Only lazy people and cowards choose mediocrity over the chance to shine," Jack replied, approaching the chatting pair from the opposite direction. The ape was bound and gagged; obviously Jack had taken the statement about all primates being generally the same too literally, and considered the animal a prisoner. Well, Jack had never really been a poster-boy for humanity, whatever else he might have been a poster-boy for. At least the macaque was being quiet.
Harry did not comment on the treatment his 'gift' had received, but he did cross his arms and affect a fair impression of righteous indignation. "And introverts," he sternly argued, "agoraphobics, impaired people, people with obligations and those who just feel more comfortable fading into background. They might have extraordinariness thrust upon them, but they would not choose it." He seemed to be speaking from personal experience, too.
No matter how hard the Doctor was looking, he couldn't see any mark of the supposed mediocrity left in the man – spectacles, bare feet, blue denims and Union Flag t-shirt notwithstanding.
He stepped within sight of the three humans and went straight past them, to the central column of the TARDIS. One of the blue lights winked at him. She had refuelled and was ready for take-off, he supposed – or maybe she wanted to rib him about his constant effort to dodge all Jack's attempts at seduction. Or – no, surely not. He was fairly certain that she was just teasing.
No way he was taking her seriously.
Just… no. No.
"It's all too easy for old, experienced, devious men to lure innocent young boys and girls into their webs," Harry added glumly. Off-handedly, he spelled the bindings off of the ape, which promptly attacked Jack's hair in a funny but inefficient attempt on revenge.
The Doctor raised his head, facing the central column of the TARDIS. He had had too much deep thinking for one day, but the accusation wouldn't have stung if there had not been a speck of truth to it. "I only offer them the opportunity to travel with me," he said. "I have never forced anyone-"
"Not explicitly, no," Harry agreed. The Doctor could feel the poisonously green gaze between his shoulder blades. "But you do sometimes pull people into your world just by being around them. I'm not judging you, or saying it's not necessary. It's just a fact."
The Doctor pretended to busy himself with the controls, while Jack concentrated on pretending that he wasn't listening and re-binding the macaque, and Rose watched the verbal spar between the two men too old for their own good.
"I am not omniscient, and sometimes their involvement is inevitable," he oversimplified.
"How inelegant!" Harry scoffed. "First you demand that they have free will and then take all its worth away by claiming personal responsibility? Or, worse, fate?" He leant against the railing and surreptitiously loosened the ape's bindings again.
That action left the Doctor with a nagging suspicion that Harry didn't like Captain Jack Harkness in the least and that he limited his antagonism to such a petty scale only because he was being, as he had suggested, magnanimous. The TARDIS as good as pulsed with amusement.
"What is it, even – fate?" Harry demanded. "The fixed events in history? Is that it?"
The Doctor chuckled. There was little mirth in the sound, but the hope he had tried to smother was growing strong and steadfast and more probable. He pushed a few buttons, more out of the hyperactivity that could not be choke-held than out of any real purpose. "I think I can see why I'll like you," he admitted.
The words didn't taste like defeat. Also, he could hear Harry's smile when the man said: "Yeah, you love to argue with me."
"Jack's right," Rose stated, trying really hard not to sound despondent.
"I am?" Jack asked, surprised. "I mean, of course I am. My vocation used to be lying to strangers. I can-"
"Aren't you full of yourself," Rose remarked, swatting Jack's shoulder.
Jack victoriously affixed a temporary collar and leash to the neck of his prisoner. "I will be. Hopefully. As soon as the Doctor teaches me how to double-"
Harry stepped up to the Doctor's side, keeping a polite foot-wide space between them, even though it was obvious that he didn't like the distance. The Doctor for the life of him couldn't imagine how he could have learnt to get on with someone so nice.
"I always thought he had lost his social filter later on, maybe along with his sanity," Harry grumbled.
The Doctor flinched and hoped that the amount of knowledge contained in that seemingly innocuous statement wouldn't lead to civilisation-abolishing consequences. He had not wanted to know. At least not before it was necessary.
"Go," he implored his stowaway. "Go – go back to the future or whenever you belong. I don't want you here."
Harry gave him a dewy-eyed look. "You'd rather halve yourself? Or shout at empty walls? That's the fastest road to losing objectivity." His hands stroked down the console in an approximation of a caress.
"You don't belong here," the Doctor maintained, half-watching the easy familiarity that Harry had with the TARDIS, half-listening to the argument between Rose and Jack.
"Is that your obstinacy or your Time Lord mojo telling you this?" Harry inquired. "And mind your nose; you never know when it could start growing."
Seeing as how Harry was magically inclined, the Doctor believed that there was a viable chance he might gain a grotesque nose in addition to his already attention-grabbing ears, so he decided to not lie for the moment.
Then he felt a warm hand slipping into his. He wanted to move away, to rip apart the first mutually consensual physical contact between him and Harry, but he could not. He knew the feeling. This was a fixed point in history – a metagravitational centre – the first intersection of the helixes on his side.
Harry squeezed his fingers and let go.
"It's incredible," Rose mused. "In the whole huge time and space – that you two even meet each other…"
"That's not discovered yet," Harry explained, turning around to smile at Rose. "Eventual gravitation."
"That won't be discovered for three hundred thousand years!" the Doctor protested. Harry really should have been more careful about how much future knowledge he was bringing into the past. It were careless travelers like him who caused most of the minor catastrophes.
"Seems pretty straightforward to me." Harry shrugged, and expanded for Rose: "It's a sinque of arguments: relevant events, relevant coordinates, relevant entities, relevant tensions and relevant fallout-spectrum. They all attract one another around the fixed points in history – those are basically metagravitational centres. That's why you can't change them. Whatever you do, it's like flinging peas at a black hole."
"You two do fit together," Rose said, smiling sadly. She hopped off the railing and mimed going to the next room.
"Oh, like that was impressive," the Doctor grumbled. "They teach that in the pre-school care where he's from."
"I can't wait for you to pull your head out of your arse." Harry laughed, shaking his head. "You'll have a lot of fun doing things this you would think were silly. Like competing in a scrabble tournament in Hoixian, and tickling the laughing rocks at the F'thorrin gulf-"
"And getting married," the Doctor chimed in dryly.
"That, too," Harry confirmed. "You dwell on it a bit too much, considering how little it actually matters."
Jack, as surreptitiously as possible with a macaque on a leash, followed after Rose.
"I'm not any better at fulfilling promises than I am at believing them," the Doctor said.
Harry laughed again. "I knew you were a liar the moment you introduced yourself to me, Doctor. And I'd been hurt, and in a very bad place, and you just smashed through the walls I was building around myself and made me open my eyes and look and find something that was worth the trouble."
"You did, then?"
Harry extended his hand to stroke the shorn top of the Doctor's head, and let his palm rest on the back of his neck. "Ask Rose. Or the Captain. Or Donna. Or Jo. Or Sarah-Jane. Or Jamie. Or Victoria. Or Donatello. Almost everyone who ever travelled with you and a crowd of people whose life you saved would tell you the same." He grinned, and took a step backwards before the Doctor moved to shake him off.
"That wasn't a yes," the Doctor objected.
What it was, was a shameless self-promoting show of how much Harry knew, or pretended to know, about the Doctor's history of traipsing over the universe with human companions and saving civilisations. Also, like a troll hiding under the bridge, he just had to throw that unknown name in there. What if the Doctor would meet another Donna tomorrow and mistake her for the Donna? Harry was just a walking complication. And a disobedient one, at that.
"It was something you can believe," Harry said. "You wouldn't have accepted something as ambiguous and insubstantial as 'yes.'" That was a lie. Harry was a lying liar. Worse, he was a foreshadowing lying liar.
"Do you ever travel with me?" the Doctor inquired, hoping for a resounding 'no' in response. Harry wasn't what he looked for in a travelling companion. They would get stuck arguing over some universal truth, or the seven basic axioms, or even whether the Laws could be broken without crossing the event horizon, and forget that there was an emergency happening around them. It would be like a smart-people version of getting lost in one another eyes, only they'd be getting lost in each other's mind and that would lead to delays in the saving-worlds process that the Doctor just couldn't afford, seeing as he usually arrived in the nick of time as it was.
"Not consistently," Harry assured him. "I've never been your companion… except in the biblical sense. I mostly travel on my own."
So far so good. This was why Holmes had Watson and Poirot tolerated Hastings. If Holmes and Poirot ever had to share breathing space, body-parts would fly. That just didn't work. It inevitably resulted in individuals like Beyond Birthday – what a stupid name, too – or Dr Jekyll.
Harry petted the TARDIS again and said: "Meet me on Car'Antares the day after the Kakumei. We'll make a date of it. You tell my younger self when you see me."
"You are very certain that I will want to meet you," the Doctor protested, feeling inordinately defensive.
Harry wasn't taken in by the balderdash. "You will," he said with a shrug. "If only to assuage your curiosity. Oh, and I think I've figured out what else I've got to do before I can go home."
"What?" the Doctor yelped before his mind wrapped itself around the rapid switch of topic, and he scowled at the deeper shadow where he could hear faint scratching against the grille covering the air-vent shaft. "Oi, you three! No apes in the ventilation system!"
"Told you," Jack said to the macaque, which turned its behind on him (it was better to stop thinking for a moment there, because the analogies were offering themselves) and begged either pity or a banana from Rose.
Harry surveyed them with patronising tolerance. "There's a party to which you're invited. All three of you – and Mickey, too, if he feels like it. Isle of Skye, Loch Coruisk, twenty-one seventy-" He nodded to the Doctor. "-you know the exact date. It's a 'we survived the Cybermen invasion' party. See you, Little Red Riding Hood. Watch out for the big Bad Wolf." He set out toward the door, obviously intending to walk out of the TARDIS , never mind that he belonged into the three hundred and fiftieth millennium and a completely different galaxy; he paused a couple of steps before he reached the door and turned. "Oh, and Jack? Obliviate."
Rose, even with her hands full of a frightened animal, managed to guide the dizzy Jack to sit down. However, the Doctor wasted precious seconds checking up on them, and only saw the door falling shut when he turned back to read Harry the riot act for repeatedly attacking his companions.
That wasn't nice at all.
He went over, opened the door, and checked the immediate surroundings. There was bright pink ocean as far as eye could see – the TARDIS was perched on a miniscule island – about ten-foot-by-ten-foot in the middle of several similarly-sized islands. Harry was nowhere to be seen, and the TARDIS obstinately claimed that the only life within several miles' distance were some fish.
"That…" he mused, closing the door behind himself, "was strange. In fact, it was way past strange, and deep into the territory of odd. Perhaps even bordering on weird."
"Doctor?" Rose asked. "What are we going to do with the ape?"
The childish part of the Doctor wanted to reply 'Call it Koschei,' while the responsible part insisted on finding a circus where it could live in comfort and entertain other primates with its aggravating tendencies. Then again, they had just received an invitation to a little brouhaha less than two centuries off from where they currently were.
He grinned. "We return it to sender, of course."