Edited: 15 December, 2014
A/N: So, this story happened for two reasons. Well, three if you include 'I was in a writing mood', but that's obvious, right? Anyway, first reason was that I wanted to write an OC-centric story that wasn't crap. I don't know if I succeeded. I hope I did. The second reason was to challenge myself to write in second-person present-tense. Which was... yeah, more difficult than expected.
Why, why is there no way of differentiating between second-person singular and plural? Gah! It confused me so much, and I kept having to go back and edit out instances of 'they' and 'them' and put in 'you', and replace 'their' with 'your'. I also had some problems with the present tense, specifically: was/is, were/are, and had/has. I'm still not sure I spotted all the errors.
Results? I'm pleased with the story, but I don't think I'd try something like this again. Grammar-wise, even when I thought I had the hang of it, I'd catch mistakes when I went back over things again. I think I'll stick to the old reliable third-person in past-tense in future. It's so much more comfortable to write in. As for the OC, I'm not sure how well I fleshed her out as a character. Still, hopefully people get some enjoyment out of reading this.
~ An Unconventional Fairytale ~
You are born…
The first thing you remember is a small, dark place. It is warm and you are floating peacefully. There is a constant tha-thump sound that repeats over and over, and oftentimes you hear a crooning, muffled voice. Existence, at this point, feels akin to the comfort of being cocooned in a comfy warm blanket on a cold winter's day. Though at the time, you have no concept of blankets, or of winter.
Your next memory is of panic and confusion that seems to last forever. Then you are being thrust from the safe place and there is light and air and nothing makes sense. You scream, long and loud, and only quieten when you are handed to a woman.
She is blonde and delicate and very pretty, you will reflect much later, once you are old enough to understand the concept of beauty. Yes, even sweaty and exhausted she is pretty. She smiles down at you with such love.
"Abigail," she whispers adoringly. "My little Abby."
The voice is familiar, if clearer than ever before. It makes you feel safe again.
The comfort does not last. Your final memory of the woman is with tears falling down her cheeks and sobs rising from her throat as you are taken away.
You will never see her again.
…and find you don't quite fit in.
Your name is Abigail Jenkins, you are five year old, and you are resigned that you will never fit in anywhere.
This may seem a premature, over-dramatic declaration, but it has been a long time in coming. Five years in fact. Five years of extensive tests by doctors who talk about and around you, and never quite to you; of shocked looks from strangers when you can speak or do other things so soon, too soon; of whispers and sideways looks and people being uncomfortable around you because you are just not quite right.
And now you are five and finally going to school. You are so excited at first. You haven't really been around other children your own age much, have had a very sheltered upbringing, and so you hope to make some friends. But now you see that people have actually been discrete around you before, unbelievable though it seems, when compared to your classmates. Children don't bother to hide their stares, or their fear and uncertainty. They don't just whisper behind your back, but tell you to your face that you are lacking.
"Freak," declares one of the girls in your class. And since that girl is pretty and confident and has all the latest little-girl fashions, all the other children follow her lead, until one might think 'freak' is your name rather than Abigail.
Even family is complicated…
Your parents are Joshua and Annette Jenkins. They're not your real parents though, you know, even if they try to hide it from you. But they don't know that you remember the pretty blonde lady who must have been your birth mother. Still, you call the Jenkinses 'mummy' and 'daddy' and you love them and they you. You're sure they love you, and yet... They try to be supportive. They do try. But you can tell that behind the smiles they are disconcerted by you the same as everyone else.
You wonder if anyone will ever look at you and not think 'freak'.
..because you're more different than you realised.
You are six when you learn what you are. Or part of it at least. It is surprising, in retrospect, that no one has slipped around you before.
You are visiting grandpa (not your real grandpa, but daddy's father) and he finds you in his office, on his computer, looking at his latest programming work. You think he will be grateful, even proud, when you point out the coding error that has been stumping him for days. It isn't hard to notice. You are good with numbers and patterns, and you can see how it doesn't match up with the rest.
When grandpa stops yelling at you, daddy pulls you aside to explain about how your grandfather works a field dominated by a 'younger generation', and about 'professional pride' and some other things that do little to cheer you up.
Later that night when they think you are upstairs asleep, but have actually crept down to the kitchen for a snack, you overhear a conversation.
"Don't know why you even took her in," grandpa grumbles to mummy and daddy in the living room, not knowing you are listening. "She's a strange one, unnatural, and too full of herself."
"U.N.I.T needed—" mummy says, but is interrupted.
"—someone 'in the know' to keep an eye on her, I remember." You see, peeking around the doorway, the way grandpa takes a deep swig of his whiskey. His face is very red. "And it's an outrage that you agreed."
Daddy sounds angry when he asks, "An outrage? What do you mean by that?"
"After aliens went and killed Ross you turn around and take one in? You're practically consorting with the enemy! You're disgracing my grandson's memory!"
There is much yelling after that, and come morning mummy and daddy say they have decided to go home early. You will never see your grandfather again, and will pick up hints that daddy's relationship with him is tense. But you don't think about that now. No, there is only one thought screaming in your head at present:
You know they exist of course, even if you've never seen one. They aren't really a secret these days, even if the government hasn't 'officially' admitted it. But grandpa called you one. An alien. And that? That is completely unexpected.
Sometimes it's too much…
When you are eight you go mad.
It starts as whispers at first. Whispers of things, of knowledge, that you don't quite understand. But it gets worse quickly, building as if to a crescendo of screaming. Facts and data and sensory input that you are not prepared to handle.
You come back to yourself weeks later. You are in a room and it smells cold and artificial. You are familiar enough with medical facilities, what with your now bi-yearly examinations, to recognise the scent. It does not make you feel at all safe or comfortable, especially when you realise you are strapped to a bed.
You start to cry, terribly afraid.
It is perhaps an hour later, though it seems like days, before a nurse enters. Abruptly, madness is teasing at edges of your consciousness again, but it halts the moment she closes the door behind her. There are whispers now, hints of it, but you are still yourself.
When the nurse tries to spoon feed you the bowl of mushy baby food she brought, you object. She is shocked when you speak to her and hurries to an intercom on the wall. You hear her say words like "coherent" and "complete turnaround".
…and recovery is slow…
You are nine by the time you are released from the facility. You would feel angry and betrayed by your parents, who condoned such a thing, were not those months of confinement so absolutely necessary to your continued sanity.
…but you are determined…
At first the doctors ask a lot of questions and neatly avoid answering any of yours. Eventually, frustrated with the lack of progress and cringing at how their presences hurt your head, you yell at them.
"I know I'm an alien, alright? So stop lying to me and help me."
Your parents are horrified to learn you overheard grandpa's cruel words that time. They say it's not how they wanted you to find out. You don't care. All that matters is that the doctors, no longer held back by your supposed ignorance, start saying things that make sense.
"You know the five human senses?" Doctor Yates asks you early on.
He is perhaps the nicest doctor you've ever had. He treats you more like a person than you're used to from those of his profession. You suspect it is because he is an old friend of your parents. They used to work together for U.N.I.T. back during their army days.
"Sight, sound, taste, touch and smell." Then, because you stopped trying to pretend to be dumb in second grade, when you finally admitted to yourself that it didn't work, that people still sensed something 'other' about you, you add, "But the five senses are a common misconception. There's really more than that. We have senses for temperature, pain, balance, time—"
The doctor interrupts you there. "Yes, chronoception: a perception of the passage of time. But this sense is actually quite limited for humans, when compared to your species. From what we can tell, you have a capacity to sense time quite beyond anything we can manage. You also probably have some psychic abilities and others we are unsure of."
"Oh, I see." And you do. You're brilliant after all, and can put two and two together. The sudden onset of whispers that became screaming must mean, "They've all gone and woken up or something, these senses. But I wasn't prepared for it."
"And they quite overwhelmed you. Yes. At first we didn't know what was going on. You would scream or mutter or thrash about, and your brain scans were all over the place. We thought you'd suffered some sort of psychotic break. That perhaps your kind needs something, some mental element, to survive that you were not receiving. But then, when it was thought you would need long-term hospitalisation, you were transferred to this facility on your parents' request. They wanted you under my care. The moment you were brought into one of the rooms you settled at once."
You look around the room, trying to work that out. It seems normal enough but there must be more to it.
"Is it... shielded somehow?" you venture, because nothing else makes sense.
"Yes, this facility is state of the art. It has technologies that make even the best public hospitals look mundane, because we are affiliated with U.N.I.T and often cater to more foreign patients. There are psi-nullification fields around each and every room, because it helps when we have psychic patients who need mental quiet to recover."
"Which is why it's not as 'calm' in my head when someone else is in here? And especially if there are a lot of people, or the door's open?"
"Precisely. And yet, despite my presence, you are not as overwhelmed as you were when you came to us. This provides us with a way to help you. The plan is to slowly reaccustom you to the world outside."
…and with luck, help finds you.
And so you spent the next long months working to build up your tolerance to the madness of your senses. You think that eventually you could have become used to it. But it never would have been comfortable, always would have hurt, and always that threat of madness would have haunted the edges of your awareness.
But then, three-quarters of the way through your confinement, when you have made progress enough to spend occasional time in the psi-shielded recreational lounge with the other patients, a new resident is brought in that changes everything.
He is tall and so slender you worry he could break (already one of his arms is in a cast). His skin is semi-transparent and reveals the workings of his organs below, and his eyes are a solid white that seem to look into your soul. The nurses stare at him with fascination or discomfort or both. It is a reaction that you are intimately familiar with, so you make it a point to treat him like a person. Just a person. As you wished others would treat you.
He seems to appreciate your attitude and sometimes you sit together in silence, watching television or reading books. One day he tells you his name. It sounds something like a deep purr and the crashing of waves. He says, through the universal translator he carries, that it means 'expression of unbridled joy'. It is unpronounceable by the human tongue, but apparently not by whatever tongue you possess, and you think with time and practice you could manage to speak it properly. In the meantime though, you venture to call him Isaac, because that means 'laughter'. He is pleased with the compromise.
You move on after that, from sitting in silence to telling each other your stories. Isaac explains he is a merchant, and that his ship malfunctioned and Earth was the nearest safe place to land, but he crashed coming down over the Channel. U.N.I.T picked him up and brought him to the hospital for treatment of his injuries. In return for his letting them study his craft and telling them all he knows about the science behind it, they have promised to see it repaired so he may return home. It is just a matter of waiting now, but his is a long-lived people, so he can be patient.
You return the favour, telling some of your own story. When you explain the psychic overload and how you are in seclusion till you can learn to bear it, Isaac looks at you very closely. You gasp as suddenly there is a sensation in your head. If knocking on a door had an emotion attached to it, this would be it. Isaac smiles at your having noticed.
"Yes, I see," the translator pipes up as Isaac speaks. "You should not simply have to suffer this. My people, our psychic abilities truly awaken when we reach adulthood, and a chosen Guide assists us in adapting. If you would allow me the honour of being your Guide, I think I can help you."
Doctor Yates insists on being included in your sessions with Isaac, on having everything explained and hooking you and Isaac up to all sorts of devices so as to take readings. You allow it without comment. You're used to medical tests, and besides, you are too desperate for an end to your suffering to even consider wasting time arguing.
It is a very strange experience, letting someone into your mind. Intrusive even. But you do it, reminding yourself why it's necessary, and let Isaac 'show' you how to build shields.
When Isaac's ship is repaired and he is able to leave, he lets you hug him goodbye, even though he finds the gesture quite strange. In return he sends to your mind a mental sigh of affection, which you gladly let past your shields. You take it to be his species' equivalent of a mental hug. It is quite nice really.
You cry unashamedly when he is gone. You will never forget all he has done for you. He may well have saved your sanity.
You have so many questions…
You are only fifteen, and yet you are attending university. You have been for some time.
You feel more out-of-place than ever before.
Everyone from your age mates, on up to the young adults at university, are consumed by hormones and seem to think constantly of sex. You don't quite get the fascination. You research and learn about asexuality, but that's not quite right, because you're not opposed to sex entirely. You think one day, with the right person, you might like it. But you aren't obsessed with it like everyone else, because if no right person turned up, you think you'd be content to go forever without.
You wonder if this is a personal trait, or a trait of your species, but your parents have no answers. In fact, they are tight-lipped on everything to do with your heritage.
You've been asking a lot of questions recently, and are becoming frustrated by the lack of answers. Mother and father only say that it is classified, though they hint that after you get your degree and are a bit older, you might well be recruited by U.N.I.T. and then, with proper clearance, could finally get some answers. You are sceptical though, unsure if you want anything to do with the organisation that tore you from your birth mother's arms, spent years studying you like a science experiment, and now refuses to tell you things about who you are that, really, you have a right to know.
It is in this state of mind that you first meet Jack Harkness.
…but finding answers…
You are studying for an exam in the living room when a man barges through the front door of your home, pointing a gun, and demanding to know where 'the Master' is. You stare, frozen, unable to breathe for a moment, because there is something very different about this man. Something that makes your alien senses scream as they haven't since you lost your mind.
Father soon runs into the room and stands in front of you, shielding you with his body and looking very protective indeed. Then your mother is there too, and aiming her own gun of all things, and looking like she knows what she is doing. There is a lot of yelling and arguing and accusations.
"Don't lie to me," the man growls. "I saw the file name: 'Project Saxon'."
"Are you serious?" Mother gives the invader her most contemptible look. It's really quite impressive, but the man doesn't back down. "It's hardly an uncommon name. If it even refers to a name. How did you jump to the conclusion that—"
"Don't try to con me. I saw enough of the medical reports before the firewalls kicked me back. Got a glimpse of an x-ray. Don't tell me there's someone else called Saxon with a respiratory bypass. Though I admit, the single heart confuses me."
Your heart (single heart, and why should that confuse him?) lodges itself in your throat. You recall back during your year of hospitalisation, wondering aloud to Doctor Yates about your surprising ability speak Isaac's language. He'd explained how your vocal chords are different, and how you have a 'respiratory bypass system', and some other biological quirks. And Saxon, that is familiar too. You've spied 'Project Saxon' written on some of the reports doctors filled in about you over the years.
Ruthlessly you bolt your mental shields tight and supress your psychic senses till you are able to breath, to function again. Shakily, you stand. You rest a hand on your father's back and he tenses, tells you to sit back down, without moving from his position. You ignore him though because there is a man pointing a gun at your family, and you are the reason, and you'll not have them hurt on your account.
"I don't know who this 'master' is, or what he's master of," you say, and are proud that your voice is even and strong. "But I—"
"Abigail, stop!" mother orders fiercely, but you ignore her.
"—I am Project Saxon."
The man stares at you hard. You wonder what he sees that's so interesting. You're small and delicate like your birth mother, but your features are not quite so pretty, and your hair and eyes are dark. There must be something to see there though, because the man gapes suddenly, gun wavering. Finally he lowers it and seems to slump.
You've never quite understood the phrase 'the fight went out of him' when you read it in novels. Now you do, because you've just witnessed it with your own eyes. The man had clearly come as if prepared for war, afraid but resolute, only to find there is no enemy to fight. Now he seems a bit lost.
Since you're no longer so concerned for your parents' safety, you realise the opportunity that lays before you. This man has read your U.N.I.T. file. Moreover, he seems to know things, things about you, things your parents and doctors refuse to tell you.
"What does it mean?" you ask. "'Saxon'?"
Your parents go tense, in a different way to before. They stare warily between you and the man. Your just know they're about to try and change the subject. To try to keep secrets from you again. You could be furious, as you often have been lately when they deny you personal knowledge. But they've both just risked their lives for you, and it reminds you of how much you love each other, what good parents they've been, even if they have never really understood you. All the same, you aren't going to back down. You're tired of the secrets. It's time for some answers.
"You don't know?" the man says, surprised. "You don't know who you are?"
"Dad," you interrupt, and don an expression which says you will not be dissuaded. "Either you let him talk, or I follow him and get my answers without you present."
They look at each other and seem to communicate only with expressions. Eventually they sigh with defeat and take one another's hand. They offer the stranger a seat and he is finally introduced to her.
"Abby, this is Captain Jack Harkness," father says. "Captain, our daughter Abigail."
And then Jack tells you who you are.
...may hurt more than the wondering.
Your father was of a race called Time Lords, who are aptly named, for they have the knowledge to travel through time itself. He called himself the Master, but was best known as Harold Saxon, the short-lived British prime minister. He was a psychopath, a mass-murder. He almost destroyed the world.
Your mother was called Lucy and she was an ordinary human from an upper-class family. The Master took her as his wife for political reasons, and perhaps for his sadistic amusement, because he sent her mad for the fun of it. She tried to kill him at the end of it all, though she was stopped.
They are both dead now.
You aren't sure whose story horrifies you more. You know which it hurts the most to hear of though, and that's your mother.
You don't like knowing that the pretty woman you remember, faintly but ever-so-fondly, suffered so much. It is also hard to hear that she did nothing to stop the Master. That she stood by and let the world burn. Those aren't the actions of the woman you imagined her to be, but perhaps you've idealised her over the years. You never really knew her, after all. All the same, it hurts deeply to know she is no longer alive, and when you are alone you shed tears for your loss.
You get a job…
You have degrees in a few of the sciences: physics, astrophysics, computing. And mathematics too, of course. You also have one in linguistics, which always confuses people till they realise how very talented you are with languages. It started out as a hobby more than anything, which you've pursued and cultivated since you met Isaac when you were small.
All this you have accomplished by the tender age of twenty years old.
As your parents had predicted, U.N.I.T. approaches you. You are wary of them. It's not that you think them the bad guys. Not all of them. After all, your parents, Doctor Yates, and your rarely-spoken-of brother Ross were all U.N.I.T. at one point or another (and Grandfather too, but that's not really a recommendation). Nonetheless, the concerns and resentments you harboured during your teens are still relevant.
No one is pleased when, in the end, you turn down the position. Especially since you instead accept the unexpected offer made by Jack to join Torchwood. Some U.N.I.T bigwig general by the name of Hawthorne actually tries to have you kidnapped, a week into your new job. He claims he is well within his right, that you 'belong' to them. As if you were property, or a pet they'd laid claim to.
The whole incident reassures you that you made the right choice with Jack and Torchwood, and even wins over your parents as well. Jack is a powerful person, in a secret behind-the-scenes sort of way. He takes care of the General Hawthorne with ruthless efficiency, and makes it clear in certain circles that you are strictly off-limits.
"Can't have them messing with my people," he said to you.
You're so grateful you hug Jack in thanks. He seems surprised at the gesture. More than should be expected.
"What?" you ask, as he stares at you speculatively.
"Nothing, just... Don't I make you uncomfortable?" At your questioning look he adds, "I'm supposedly a bit, wrong, to those with a time-sense."
You don't like the bitter way he says 'wrong'. It tastes of old hurt, not forgotten so much as resigned to. It reminds you of your childhood and being called 'freak'.
"You are pretty noticeable to my time-sense," you admit. "It's like, the whole universe is moving and I never really notice it until I'm around you, because you're the only thing standing still."
You pause then, and flush. Because that all sounded sort of—something.
"Yeah. Like I said: wrong."
"Not wrong," you snap, which seems to surprise him. But then, you're normally a very even-tempered sort and he's probably picked up on that. "You're not wrong Jack. Just different. I'm pretty different myself. Do you know how rare it is for people who know what I am to treat me like a person same as any other? And you do. Hell, you even protected me same as any other of your employees. You're a good man," you declare, "and I'm not going to, to look down on you just because of some inconvenient temporal vertigo."
He stares at you for a long moment. Jack is hard to read at the best of times. He's the sort who seems to wear his heart on his sleeve. But then you get to know him better and realise that, no, that's a mask, a decoy, and his real feelings are kept safely hidden. So, it's hard to tell, but you get the impression for a moment that he is touched by your defence and acceptance of him. It's something about his eyes maybe. A softness, an unguardedness. Whatever it is it's gone as quickly as it came, and Jack gives you an amused smile that is as much fake as it is real.
"'Temporal vertigo'? Is that even a thing?"
You shrug. "I don't know. That's sort of what it felt like at first."
He laughs and the moment passes. But that's alright, because you get the distinct impression that you and Jack might be friends now, at least a little. It's a novel concept for you.
…and even make a friend.
You were right. You and Jack have become friends.
Which makes it hurt all the more when you learn he's been keeping some important secrets from you.
It turns out friends can disappoint you…
It is the strangest thing. You remember, all those years ago, letting Isaac into your mind so he could help you. This is alike and yet nothing alike. With Isaac it was terrifying and intrusive and left you feeling very vulnerable. This, though, leaves you with a feeling of kinship, of belonging, of being not-alone.
"Impossible," the stranger gasps. "What? How?"
"Jack?" you ask, eyes bright and voice shaky. "Who is this?"
Standing off to the side, Jack shifts uncomfortably. He seems very conflicted at the man's presence.
"Doctor, this is Abigail Jenkins. Abby, this is the Doctor. He's... a Time Lord."
"What?" Finally you look away, turning hurt eyes on Jack. "You knew another Time Lord and you didn't tell me?"
"Not another," the Doctor says in a low voice. "The last. Or so I thought. But here you are."
The last? Your eyes go wide in horror. You stare harder at Jack and realise that, yes, he knew that too but didn't tell you. You take an unthinking step back when he tries to approach you, and he flinches, just a little, looking miserable. You can't deal with him though. Not now. You have so few friends that, if there's any hope you could forgive him in time, then you need to leave now before you say something you will regret.
You turn back to the Doctor.
"So, um, coffee? Or something? There's a nice little café a few blocks over."
"Yes, yes, of course." The Doctor beams at you, hands in pockets and rocking on his toes. But you get the distinct feeling he's more uncertain than he'll show. "Though, I much prefer tea to coffee."
"That have tea as well," you promise.
…but they have their reasons.
You don't have to say anything when you step into his office. Jack seems already to know.
"You're going with him."
"Yeah. For a little while at least. I have questions. He has answers." You cross your arms and try not to look as awkward as you feel. "Do I need to fill in a leave form or anything? Because he says he can have me back here just after I left. Which blows my mind a little."
"Leave form? Which would imply... you're coming back?"
"Of course I am! I mean, if I'm welcome back." You are suddenly uncertain. "This isn't you firing me, is it?"
"No, god no, I just—" Jack sighs, rubs his face and then stands, rounding the desk to approach you. He takes you by the shoulders and favours you with a smile. One of the rare, real ones, even if it is a little sad. "You're always welcome back here. You're a dear friend and nothing will change that. I'm sorry I didn't tell you about him, and about your people."
"Why didn't you?" you ask evenly, willing to let him explain. "You know how curious I am, about what I am and where I come from."
"Well, half the reason is that I was worried how he'd take it. I heard from an old companion of his, Martha Jones, how he reacted last time a new Time Lady appeared on him. Apparently the Doctor wasn't exactly welcoming, and that was to his own daughter." He sighed. "You were what, fourteen when I met you?"
"Fifteen then. Still just a kid. I thought about telling you about the Doctor back then. But then I imagined you wanting to meet him and him being an ass and hurting you. The whole 'Master thing' might even have made it worse. I'm not sure. I still don't quite know how to explain the relationship between those two except complicated. Really damn complicated. Anyway, the longer I kept quiet the harder it was to break the silence." He lets go of your shoulders and leans back against his desk, inspecting you. "Did he take it badly?"
"No. Well, he was shocked. Especially when he learned who my father was. But, um, he doesn't seem to hold that against me."
"Good. I thought you looked okay but I had to check."
"Jack? You said that was only half the reason."
"Selfishness," he says after a pause, in answer to your unspoken question. There is a wry, self-deprecating tilt to his mouth. "Selfishness was the other half. See, the Doctor and I don't get on well these days. There was this thing, a few years back. Well, twenty years or so back. And I know it's not fair to expect him to always turn up to save the day. But he so often makes a habit of it and I resented that he didn't come that time, when we really needed him. When I really needed him. I could have gotten over that, I think, except I lost some people who were very important to me. And I wanted to change it."
"I thought you said—"
"That you can't change the past, even with time travel," Jack finishes, nodding. "It's true, to a degree. Some events are fixed, and to change them would be catastrophic to all of space-time. Others are more flexible."
"And this one was? Flexible?"
Jack grimaces. "That's where we disagreed. It wasn't a fixed event precisely, but it was still a lot more, ah, rigid than the Doctor was willing to risk messing with. I told him if he didn't help me I'd find a way myself. He didn't like that, so he went behind my back and fucking time locked the whole century leading up to the event. No one can travel back then anymore."
"Oh." You've never heard Jack sound quite so wrecked. You know you shouldn't but you ask anyway. "Who did you lose?"
"My grandson, my lover. And I may as well have lost my daughter too."
You swallow at the sound of pain in his voice. You're not surprised Jack has been a father, even a grandfather. You two had a talk, after you witnessed him get up after having his throat slashed open one time. He explained just what it is about him that makes your senses go strange, how he's a fixed point and has lived a very long life. Certainly long enough to have had kids, even grandkids. Plus, he mentioned once how he married, when he first arrived back in the 1800s and thought himself mortal and stranded.
"Take care of yourself," Jack orders when you leave. "Come back in one piece."
"I will. And I'll see you soon, I guess. For you at least."
"Yeah, we'll see."
You travel, see sights, have adventures.
For many months you zip about the universe. You travel forward and backwards and sideways in time. You visit alien worlds and alien peoples. You get into trouble, a lot, but always seem to get out of it. You save people and worlds and on one memorable occasion a whole galaxy.
Sure, you sometimes can't save everyone. And sometimes there are hard decisions to make. But it's no worse than what you've grown used to in working for Torchwood.
Overall, life is pretty spectacular.
Then someone from the Doctor's past catches up to him.
You meet someone special…
You and the Doctor have found yourselves in something of a tight situation, in the dungeons of a futuristic palace, waiting to be brought forth and executed for defying some would-be-despot. You are trying and failing to work free from the cuffs binding you when, out of nowhere, a head pops down from the ceiling. She is all youthful energy, and blonde ponytail, and a wide smile. She is also a presence in your mind, so bright and effervescent that you wonder how you missed it.
"Jenny?" the Doctor says flabbergasted.
"Hello dad," she greets cheerfully, dropping from the air duct with a neat backflip. "Bit of a pickle you seem to have got into here."
"Jenny!" he says again, this time delighted.
The moment Jenny has you both released from your surprisingly old-school shackles, with a hairpin and a bit of fiddling, the Doctor and his daughter embrace fiercely, both beaming.
"How are you here? I thought you died." His voice cracks on the word.
"Oh, I did. But apparently I got better! Come on now, I've got an excellent escape route."
You follow her back into the air ducts, where there is much crawling and climbing, and freezing in silence whenever people pass beneath. Then there is a rope and rappelling over the palace walls, down a cliff face and into a cave which, actually, isn't a mere cave so much as the secret headquarters of the resistance Jenny has managed to stir up.
You are quickly drawn in and manage to help them hack the palace and lock it down. Since all the upper hierarchy had gathered there for your and the Doctor's executions, you have effectively turned it into their very ritzy prison. The resistance quickly broadcasts the news to the world at large and everyone rejoices. It is a very satisfying conclusion to the latest adventure.
As you push back from the computer, Jenny is there, eyes wide and impressed.
"They've been trying to hack the government security network for weeks. How did you do it?"
"Oh, well." You shrug modestly. "I've had a way with computers since I was small. It's actually my job too, when I'm not travelling with the Doctor. I'm the computer systems specialist for this team back home."
"You're amazing!" she declares.
'No, you were the amazing one,' you want to say. Because she was. Jenny had been like James Bond back there, leading your dramatic escape from the palace. Well, if James Bond was female, and an intergalactic spy, and from the future. Before you can speak she turns that beaming smile on you for the first time, and the words catch in your throat. There is a strange fluttering sensation in your stomach and you gasp when she leans up and kisses you.
"What was that for?" you ask, sure you are blushing.
"You know, I'm not sure." She smiles at you, surprised at her own actions yet unabashed. "It seemed the thing to do?"
And all you can do is watch, enthralled, as Jenny laughs then and twirls off to join the natives who are dancing in celebration. You are still standing there, staring, when the Doctor returns from whatever he's been doing, and quickly try to look less obviously smitten.
Though you hide it better, you're just as pleased as the Doctor is when Jenny choses to follow you both back to the TARDIS.
It happens after another adventure, in which the TARDIS translation circuits fail and you somehow manage to translate well enough on the fly to prevent an interplanetary war. Jenny also helps in saving the day by way of some really very impressive acrobatics, with which she takes out an assassin who is not pleased with the coming peace. Apparently it will interfere with his business prospects.
You tumble together into the TARDIS and tell the Doctor you are going to get changed, as the period outfits you'd donned before the adventure are really quite uncomfortable. And you honestly think that's what you are going to do. Get changed. But Jenny apparently has something else in mind.
She hasn't kissed you again since that first time, but she is more than making up for it now. Suddenly you are lying together on the floor of the immense wardrobe room, in a makeshift bed of piled clothes, and she is pressing her lips to yours and breathing about how brilliant and clever and amazing you were today. You manage this time to tell her in return that she was even more amazing, truly.
Lips become tongues, which become hands wandering, and clothes disappearing from bodies to join the bed beneath you. Your fingers trace her body with awe, and you think maybe you finally get it, the whole obsession with sex thing. You could spend hours just touching her and never grow bored. You are distracted from your fascination by her fingers sliding between, below, and inside. You are quick to return the favour and soon you are gasping against one another's lips, ever more desperately, until you cry out together.
The Doctor, naturally, chooses this exact moment to enter the room.
"Glbhuh?!" is his garbled exclamation.
The Doctor hurriedly flees the room, in embarrassment. And you hurriedly try to cover up, in embarrassment. Jenny giggles, with great amusement and an annoying lack of embarrassment.
"Oh god," you groan. "I'm dead. I've died of mortification."
You try to suffocate yourself in a fur coat but Jenny drags you free.
"Don't be silly. There's nothing to be embarrassed about."
"Maybe you're experienced enough with all this to be comfortable being walked in on, but I'm a bit more inclined to be humiliated right now, thank you very much."
"Experienced?" Jenny is surprised. "Oh no, I've never done anything like that before."
"You haven't? But you're so—" You wave a hand about. "Confident?"
"Well, it was awfully nice, wasn't it? Far too nice to be embarrassed about, now or next time."
"Next time?" you ask with hope. "There'll be a next time?"
Jenny winks. "I should hope so."
Apparently awkward moments…
The Doctor, when he can meet your gazes without flushing so red he risks blowing up his brain, has an expression somewhere between excruciating embarrassment and painful remembrance.
"Ironic in a déjà vu sort of way," he murmurs, more to himself than you two. "Well, hopefully not too déjà vu. Don't think Abigail could carry off a goatee anyway."
You remember Jack having said the Master and Doctor's relationship was complicated. You hadn't thought he meant that sort of complicated. And if your suspicions are correct, you wonder how they went from that to mortal enemies. You try not to think too hard about it.
…can be worth suffering through.
Next time Jenny's kisses turn greedy, you refuse to do anything till there's a private room handy. One with a door that can be locked, so as to avoid future humiliation. Jenny laughs and calls you shy, but goes along with your demands all the same.
There are hard goodbyes…
The look on the Doctor's face, when you say it's time for you to go back to Earth, makes you want to snatch the words right back. Especially when Jenny pipes up that she thinks she'll tag along too, because she'd like to see the world you grew up on. The Doctor looks very sad, and very lonely. And worse? Like he expected it all along. You waver, but stand firm in your decision. It has been months, maybe even years, and you miss your parents and Jack and Earth. You need to go home.
"It won't be forever," you promise, meaning it.
The Doctor clearly doesn't believe you. "Right, sure," he says, nodding and not meeting your gaze.
"Well of course not!" Jenny exclaims at the same time, looking thoroughly shocked. "What a silly idea, dad. You're not getting rid of me now I've found you again!"
You are glad to see that Jenny's reaction, open and honest and without guile, as she always is (well, unless she's trying to seduce prison guards out of keys), convinces the Doctor where you couldn't.
Still, it is heartbreaking to see him cling to Jenny in a desperate hug before you leave the TARDIS.
"I'll look out for her," you promise quietly.
The Doctor nods. "And yourself as well."
"I will. And we will see you again."
…and joyous reunions.
Jack sweeps you into an embrace so tight it makes you grateful for your respiratory bypass.
"Jack! Good to see you too, but could you maybe ease up a bit?" you choke out and he relaxes his grip. "You'd think it's you that hadn't seen me for ages rather than the other way around. It was only an hour."
"An hour?" Jack finally pulls back with a strange laugh. "God, his driving hasn't improved any I see. Abigail, it's not been one hour, it's been one year."
For a moment you just stand, gaping. It's Jenny who breaks the silence, as she recovers from the 'temporal vertigo' you had warned her to brace for.
"Oh dear. That's not good then is it?"
"My parents are going to kill me," you say faintly.
"And who is this beautiful young woman?" Jack asks with a charming grin.
"Beautiful? Do you think so?" Jenny beams back and offers a hand. "I'm Jenny."
Jack freezes halfway to raising her hand for a kiss. "Jenny? Not the Jenny Martha told me about?"
"You know Martha? Martha Jones? Do you know Donna as well? She named me you know. It's a very nice name, I think."
"Yeah," you say when Jack sends a look your way. "She's that Jenny. The Doctor's daughter."
You are amused as Jack nervously turns the hand-kiss into a firm and proper handshake. Apparently the potential wrath of a protective father-Doctor is enough cause even Jack, who flirts like he breathes, to think twice. You wonder whether Jack will be impressed with your own daring when he hears that you and Jenny are together.
You put down roots…
Jack offers Jenny a position at Torchwood. Apparently in your absence one of the field agents decided to retire to start a family. Jenny gladly accepts and you are relieved. After so many months spent always together, you hadn't been looking forward to work separating you both. You even get an apartment together and let Jenny have fun decorating.
…and people are happy for you.
Apparently a locked door is not enough of a precaution.
Jack finds out about your relationship within a week. You find out that he has found out when he calls you both into his office and explains, with a barely-hidden smirk, that there is in fact a security camera in the armoury.
Your mind quickly flickers back to yesterday evening, after a Weevil hunt, when Jenny had locked you both in said armoury and proceeded to... Well, needless to say you quickly red as a tomato and bury your face in your hands. Jenny just laughs and runs a soothing hand over your back, promising to add a 'check for cameras' precaution to the now-standard 'lock the door' one next time.
"Why didn't you mention anything?" Jack asks later when you're alone.
Jenny is off chatting to another of the agents. He is a big, gruff, burly man. They have an odd friendship, based on the fact that he's been amusingly in awe of Jenny since seeing her in action in the field.
"I wasn't sure if it was allowed," you say. "Since we work together and all that."
Jack just gives you an 'are you serious?' look, and you realise that, okay, that was a stupid concern. Jack's hardly the sort to forbid inter-office romance. In fact, more than once he has tried convincing you all that an official Torchwood orgy would be great for team morale and interpersonal bonding. He always seems adorably disappointed when everyone refuses.
"I see your point," you say. "So, yeah, Jenny and I are together."
"You don't say?" he asks sarcastically. Then there is that smirk again. "The recording was hot you know."
Jack just smirks wider.
Time passes, and things are good…
It's been a few years since you started working for Torchwood, linear-chronologically speaking. Longer than that if you add in the breaks you take every now and again, with Jenny, to fly off with the Doctor (though you always make him double-check the date whenever he drops you off).
One time Jack asks to speak to the Doctor alone. They disappear for a whole day into the TARDIS, and when they emerge the Doctor has a black eye and Jack's collar has a blood stain (you suspect a split lip that quickly healed). You don't know what they spoke about, because they won't say, but you notice a distinct lessening of tension between the pair thereafter. Jack even sometimes joins you both on your TARDIS jaunts. You are relieved that things are better there, because you know their broken friendship was a wound that didn't heal for Jack.
…then one day out of the blue…
One day, when you and Jack are the only ones in The Hub, Jenny brings back the latest rift offering. It is an alien plant, sort of ugly, and no one thinks much of it at first. But then, all of a sudden, it explodes, sending spores out everywhere. From there follows a whole lot of lust, and for a long time the three of you can do little more than seek to sate it.
"But this doesn't happen in real life," you say plaintively the morning after.
Somehow you all managed to stumble down to Jack's room last night. His bed is surprisingly small and uncomfortable for such a hedonist. Jenny though, curled up between you, is soft and warm.
"Actually," Jack says, "it happens more often than you might think."
"No, but really. Am I caught in some cheesy sci-fi? I mean, sex pollen?"
At your wailing Jenny blinks awake. She takes in the situation then promptly, and without shame, suggests continuing where you all left off last night. You gape.
"What? It was good, wasn't it? I like Jack, you like Jack, Jack like us. Why not?" She rests a hand on your cheek for a moment and adds seriously, "But only if it's together. And only if you don't mind."
Jack just raises an eyebrow. You can tell that he won't be hurt, whatever you decide. You bite your lip, torn with indecision. Jack takes that moment to stretch and your eyes are drawn to the play of muscle contracting and relaxing. You narrow your eyes, under no illusion that it hadn't been a calculated move. It brings to mind last night, the memories of which are drugged and hazy, more feelings and sensations than anything. What little you recall had indeed been very good. You have to admit you wouldn't mind refreshing your memory.
Nervously, you nod, and are rewarded with matching, blinding grins.
From there follows a whole lot of lust, and for a long time the three of you can do little more than seek to sate it.
Except this time, when all is said and done, you actually have clear (if filthy) memories to reminisce on later.
…you find they can be even better.
You're not sure, and probably never will be, when the thing with Jack turns from casual to something more. You just know that one day you look up and realise that he spends almost every evening with you both, and all his stories are of conquests from past times rather than present, and he looks at you both the way you and Jenny look at each other and she at him. And, probably, the same way you look back at him too.
Jenny seems to have noticed as well. One evening, while Jack is finishing up some work back at The Hub, you find her folding Jack's clothes that have somehow slowly migrated to your flat. She puts them away into their own drawer, and those that need hanging are hung in their own newly-cleared corner of the closet. Jenny even buys a third toothbrush holder for the bathroom.
Next time you are out you spot an antique coat rack in a second-hand shop and buy it on impulse. Jack pauses in the doorway the first time he sees. He slowly hangs up his greatcoat, rather than throwing it over the nearest available surface like usual. When he looks at you questioningly you just smile. Jack returns the gesture, ruefully. Sort of a 'yeah, I guess we are this after all' look.
And that is that.
Jack is moved in properly by the end of the month, and you like the way his things mix in with yours and Jenny's.
Marriage seems the next step…
You don't think much of it at first. You know, of course, of the latest string of social reforms. The new Prime Minister is very liberal and determined to change things for the better. Aside from approving of the anti-discrimination laws, which are being extended to non-human beings (the government had finally, 'officially' revealed the existence of aliens a few years back, not that most people hadn't already guessed, and the public had by now settled down and accepted it as just another aspect of life) you don't think it will much affect you. But then one evening on the sofa, as the three of you aren't really watching television so much as cuddling and kissing while it plays in the background, Jenny squeals happily.
"Look, look! Can we? Can we please?"
You finally pay some attention and see it is a news program, and they are talking about the adjustments to the marriage laws. Among other things, it seemed that there are no longer any bars against polygamy or inter-special marriages. You quickly realise what Jenny is asking and are stunned speechless. A glance Jack's way shows a similar reaction, combined with his usual phobia of labels (it had taken him months to stop twitching back when Jenny started calling him their 'boyfriend').
"You want... to get married?" Jack asks.
"Yes! Doesn't it sound lovely? We've together been how long now? Almost twenty years. So it's not like this is a short-term thing."
"Exactly! We've been doing just fine for ages, all without some bit of paper that doesn't really mean much in the universal scheme of things. Right?"
Then Jenny turns The Pout upon him. You hide a grin, knowing he has lost the argument before it could really get started. Jenny's pouting look is probably the most effective in all of spacetime, you think. The reason behind this is a combination of Jenny's utter adorableness, and the simple fact The Pout is almost never brought to bear. Jenny is usually too happy to offer anything less than good cheer, so when she does, the effect is multiplied exponentially.
…and celebrating is fun.
You are lying in bed, kissing Jack lazily. Jenny is skipping around the hotel room.
"Jenny Harkness. Jenny Harkness."
Jack pauses in kissing to sigh, pretending to be irritated, but you know he's anything but.
Jenny has being saying her name over and over for hours now, and the novelty doesn't seem even close to wearing off. You and Jack are both pleased at your new wife's obvious happiness. When she'd first come to stay on Earth with you she'd been keenly aware of the differences and ways she didn't fit in. The self-consciousness hadn't suited her at all. You'd expressed concerns to Jack who had a talk with Jenny, and she revealed that she was worried you would take her not fitting into your world as a sign she didn't fit with you. You were quick to reassure her there was nothing wrong with being different, that you had never really fit in either. It was a relief when Jenny soon returned to her usual blithe self.
Still, though she's stopped trying to fit in, it is clear that finally having a 'proper full name, an earth name', as she calls it, makes Jenny very happy.
"That's right." Jack says. "Jenny Harkness. Mrs Jenny Harkness, who is, tragically, fully clothed right now. Is this not our honeymoon? I'm sure I was promised sexual favours in exchange for making vows."
Actually, the sexual favours were in exchange for not running away when the Doctor visited for tea that time, when Jenny told him about the upcoming nuptials. You're pretty sure Jack's still repressing the Doctor's rather terrifying 'you better not hurt them' speech (and you are quite touched at the implication that his protective instincts extend to you as well), so you're kind enough not to bring it up. Jenny seems of a like mind as she just laughs merrily and begins stripping off, throwing her clothing this way and that.
"Of course, Mr Jack Harkness," she chirps. "I will be with you and Mrs Abigail Harkness in just a moment."
You bite your lip not to laugh. A pair of red knickers lands on the lampshade, turning the room a soft pink. And then all thoughts of laughter fade because Jenny is there, bringing all three of you together as you should be, and there is lots of naked skin and, thus, much more interesting things to be focussing on.
There are surprises…
Jenny is practically glowing with delight.
Jack is pale and looks ready to vomit.
You're not sure how to react yourself. It's not something you've ever thought about, though considering how long you and Jenny have been involved with Jack, you really ought to have. No known contraception is one hundred percent effective, after all.
…which are sometimes painful…
Jack is gone for three days before you decide to track him down. Jenny is sad, and that is not okay.
With the internet at your fingers it doesn't take long, and you're soon hacking public security cameras to trace his location. When you get the results your anger fizzles like it had never been, replaced by deep sadness and sympathy. You explain some things to Jenny, some history, so she will understand. She is wide-eyed and solemn, and just nods when you promise to be back with your husband by nightfall.
An hour later you're parking outside a little cemetery. This is where Jack has been spending most of his time the last few days, in between getting mindlessly drunk at the local pub. Which, given Jack's alcohol tolerance, is a feat in itself.
You don't say anything, just sit beside him and gather him in your arms. You press your lips to his forehead and try not to cry as he sobs against you, silently but so violently that he might well break apart.
"I don't think I could survive it, if it happened again." Then he laughs, and it is an ugly sound, completely devoid of humour. "Except I would, wouldn't I? I wouldn't have a choice." He shakes with another sob. "I don't know if I can do this."
"Way I see it, you already have," you say kindly but firmly. "Can't be changed or undone. You need to look to the future now, not dwell on the past. We need you, Jenny and me. And the little one will need their daddy. We'll do everything we can to protect them, I promise."
"But what if it's not enough? What if I fail again?"
"Some things will always be beyond our control. The only way you can really, truly fail is by not trying. By not being around to try."
He huffs and gives you a fond look. "Yeah, I take your point." He rubs his hands over his face. "I'm a mess."
"Worse than Jenny."
"God, is she okay?" he asks, looking worried. "Is something wrong?"
"Yes something's wrong," you reply exasperated. "She misses her husband, like I do."
Jack sags, relived and guilty. "I'm so sorry."
"I know you are. Now come home with me, and we'll all figure it out together."
"Okay," he says quietly. Then, more strongly, "Okay."
You wait as Jack kisses his fingertips, presses them reverently to the headstone, over the inscription reading 'Stephen Carter'. Then he entwines your hands and together you head home where your third waits with open arms and a forgiving heart.
…and yet, utterly fantastic.
The Doctor takes hovering to whole new levels over the following months. Even dear, sweet, patient Jenny looks ready to kill him if he turns up spouting anymore pregnancy advice he's gleaned from some source or other. Of course, that could be the effect of the hormones. A pregnant Jenny, it turns out, is a thing of volatile and quicksilver emotions. She is sweetness and light one minute, and incandescently furious the next. And she has the most horrific cravings. Neither you nor Jack will ever look at tuna and chocolate sauce the same way again.
In the end though, the reward for the stress and drama is well worth it.
"Perfectly healthy," the Doctor confirms, carrying your daughter over. He holds the little bundle like it is the most precious thing in existence, and lays it in Jenny's arms. "Have you decided on a name yet?"
"Donna—" says Jenny softly.
"—Lucy—" you add, because even after all you've learnt, you still remember her best as the first person to ever love you.
"Harkness," Jack finishes, shakily but with pride.
"Donna Lucy Harkness, hey?" The Doctor clears his throat and looks away, pretending his voice didn't break on the first part, and that his eyes aren't shiny with tears. "Donna," he says again, gruffly. "A good choice."
Family has a way of growing…
Apparently it's your turn to fall pregnant next. For you the process involves less mood swings and food cravings, and more in the way of a raging libido and an aching back. Fortunately you have two very thoughtful spouses. Jack in particular finds your increased sex drive delightful, and you are pleased enough with his performance in easing those needs not to hate him for being so damned smug. Unfortunately said 'easing of needs', most enthusiastically, only makes the back pain worse. This is where Jenny comes in. She decides to enrol in a massage course and you reap all the benefits. The woman has the most talented hands in the cosmos, you swear.
Joshua Stephen Harkness is born just as healthy as his older sister.
Then Jenny bears Martha Estelle, followed by Ianto Jace. And then it is your turn again and you have a little Franklin Isaac.
You are beginning to suspect something fishy is going on. You call up the Doctor to get some answers because, while you adore all your children, you have no plans to spend the rest of your life in some odd pregnancy trade-off with your wife.
"I—well, I'm not sure," the Doctor stutters, clearly uncomfortable with the topic of conversation. Understandable, considering his daughter and sex are involved.
"Look," you sigh into the phone, "none of them were planned. Don't get me wrong. They were all happy surprises. But still. We've been together, like, two decades. Protection never failed before."
"Right. Okay." The Doctor took a deep bracing breath, resigning himself to the fact that yes, he would have to talk about this. "Well, I mean, what sort of, ah, precautions do you take?"
"Jack used condoms at first of course, till we all admitted we were exclusive. Then we all got tested, confirmed we were clean, and did away with them. I was never sure how human things like the pill or implant would affect my physiology, so I avoided them. Jenny too. But Jack has a permanent contraceptive device implanted, and they're supposed to be pretty damned foolproof, he says."
"Right, Jack's from the fifty-first century. I know of the device and it is rather foolproof, except..."
"Well, they're lifetime guarantee, but I don't imagine the makers really considered Jack's sort of lifespan when making it. Maybe the device has stopped working?"
Later, after you've had time to explain the situation to your spouses, Jack takes a medical scanner to himself so as to inspect the implanted device. It reveals that fact that it clearly stopped working long ago, probably even before you met him. Humans have by this stage invented an oral contraceptive for men, so he promptly starts taking it and no unplanned pregnancies follow. Well, not yet. The pill for men is only ninety-seven percent effective, which is good but not perfect. You may have to start using condoms again, though none of you really want to.
There is still the unexplainable fact that yours and Jenny's pregnancies didn't happen sooner, despite the always-faulty device. You find yourself calling up the Doctor for another awkward phone call.
"Since before I met him. Apparently he got blown up." You cringe at the thought. "The device was shattered and there are even fragments missing."
"And yet no conception until—oh."
"Oh? Want to expand on that Doctor?"
"Well, um, I always thought it was a folktale. Well, not a folktale so much as, you know, the sort of story teenagers whisper and giggle about. I didn't think—but wow, maybe it's true. It's been so long since my people bothered to reproduce the normal way."
"The looms? I remember you mentioning them. And that our people didn't even really pair bond anymore, right?"
"No, we didn't. So over time we lost a lot of knowledge on the subject of traditional reproduction. I was something of an anomaly in that my parents did pair bond, and then had me the old fashioned way. Do you know some speculated I was half-human just because I have a belly button?"
"I didn't. But you're getting off topic. Your theory?"
"Well, it was said that back in the olden days, when we ah, danced as it were, children were never born outside of established and stable relationships. And not in times of strife, or drought or famine either. If there was some biological imperative behind it, it would actually make sense. A Time Lady's body might simply remain infertile until conditions were ideal. There might even be a similar process on the male side."
"Right." You sit back and consider this. "So you think maybe the wedding, since it all happened after that, was some sort of subconscious signal for mine and Jenny's bodies that, 'hey, this is a pretty good deal, why don't you start popping out babies'?"
"Weeeeellll. Yes. I'll do some research. You know we Gallifreyans tend to have more conscious control over biological processes than humans do. There might be a solution for you in that."
"Good. Great. Get back to me as soon as you can."
…and even once it settles…
So, apparently, you are capable of contraception via thought.
Sometimes, being an alien is so weird.
…it is the most important thing.
Your life is pretty idyllic for the next few years, but nothing lasts forever.
Jack and Jenny are busy with a rift surge over in Splott, so it is down to you to go pick up the children from school. You hadn't expected to arrive to the sight of such drama. Martha is screaming as Joshua holds her tight, looking furious. Ianto and Franklin, clinging to their legs, are the first to notice you.
"Mama!" they yell, barrelling towards you.
You scoop them up, one on either hip, without slowing your pace, and soon are by Martha and Joshua's side.
"What happened?" you ask, then look around. "Where's Donna?"
The way Martha wails and Joshua glares hatefully at his teacher makes your heart drop.
"She let them take her!" Joshua accuses, pointing at the woman.
You quickly dig out your mobile and pass it to Joshua. The clever boy doesn't need a further hint and quickly starts dialling his mum and pa.
"Mrs Rowe? What the hell happened? Where is my daughter?"
"They just have some questions for her about—"
"Nothing! No one has any right to question my children without mine or their other parents' permission. Don't try and pretend this is okay!"
"It was all perfectly legal," she insists, but you can see she looks cagey. "They had official documentation and everything."
You go cold and glare at her. "What official documentation? Who took her?" When she hesitates you draw your service pistol. It's set to stun (you'd never point a deadly weapon around children without another choice), but she doesn't know that and pales. "Who?"
"They're Earth's official inter-planetary affairs police force. They have a right to—"
"U.N.I.T," you growl and stun her without further thought, ignoring the screams from the gathered crowd.
"They'll be here any second," Joshua says when she finishes, handing back the mobile. "Pa said it was really lucky, because the rift popped out a—"
"Teleport pad," Jack finishes, as he and Jenny appear standing on an ugly looking circle of metal and plastic.
"It's a bit of a mess," Jenny babbles, trying to hide her worry and fear. "Technically it's supposed to be a pad-to-pad transport, so it took some clever fiddling. Trip fried it out though, looks like."
"Probably," Jack agrees. He takes in the situation, nudges Mrs Rowe's body with a foot and asks in a dangerous tone, "This the one who let Donna be taken?"
"Agent Jenny Harkness, Torchwood." Jenny is flashing her badge to the watching crowd, who you have been ignoring in favour of more important things. They are suitably impressed. While U.N.I.T. is the international police for alien affairs, Torchwood is the equivalent of MI6 in such circles. "If you have any relevant information, please step forward. Everyone else, go about your business and take your children home," she says firmly and the crowd slowly disperses.
"Yes," you reply to Jack. "She's the one responsible."
"Right. Jenny, get the duct tape and open the boot for me. We'll chuck her in there for the trip."
"Come on." You hustle the children to the car. "Get in, quick."
Martha is still crying, if more quietly. You spare her a tight hug before buckling her in, and do the same for the other three, even Joshua, because you know he is the most vulnerable of all of them behind the big-boy mask. He's like his pa that way.
"Have you called the Doctor?" Jack asks as you zoom down the streets.
"No, just you two."
"I'll do it," Jenny says, pulling her own mobile free. She dials and is quickly answered. "Dad?" she says shakily. "U.N.I.T. have taken Donna. Yes. The Hub in about two minutes. See you there."
The Doctor is, for once, not late. The TARDIS sets down in The Hub shortly after they enter, in the alcove that Jenny had requested built just for it. The Doctor swoops out, face dark and full of thunder. He is the embodiment of his nickname in that moment: The Oncoming Storm. It is a comfort to know all that power is behind you three, focussed on getting your daughter back safe.
"What do you know?"
"Some people from U.N.I.T. turned up to take her into custody," Jenny says. Jack has just headed down to the cells with Rowe tossed over his shoulder. The kids are down in Jack's old bedroom, which has these days been redesigned as a safe room. "Mrs Rowe, Joshua's teacher, claimed they had legal documents authorising it."
"Legal documents? She's ten! They can hardly justify arresting a child, even an alien one. There are laws."
"I'm trying to hack U.N.I.T., see if I can get some answers that way," you say from where you are typing frantically. "In the meantime, I have a background search program compiling for—oh, you're kidding me!"
"What?" The Doctor sweeps over to her, Jenny at his side clinging to his hand.
"Mrs Eva Pauline Rowe, née Hawthorne. Her grandfather was—"
"General Hawthorne," Jack says coldly as he enters the room. There is a speck of blood on his knuckles, but you say nothing. "Last heard of him years ago, after Abigail first joined Torchwood."
"What happened?" the Doctor asks, looking between you.
"Tried kidnapping me. Jack put an end to it."
"And ruined General Hawthorne in the process," Jack says. "Which I don't regret. The man had been a problem for a while. Had a very old-Torchwood attitude towards non-humans: proprietary and not very concerned for their welfare. According to our guest, the fallout affected the whole family's standing in the organisation and they've had to work hard to get it back. They've been nursing a grudge over it for years."
"That does not justify—"
"Of course not."
"I have some old contacts in U.N.I.T.," the Doctor says thoughtfully. "Jenny can I borrow your phone?"
By the look on the Doctor's face, as he retreats to make his calls, someone will be getting the sharp side of his temper, something to be feared. But you can't bring yourself to pity them. You have more important things to be worrying about.
You are busy hacking away, the information on General Hawthorne and his purpose helping direct your efforts. Jack pulls out a chair beside you and sets to helping. Jenny hovers in the background for a while, not really able to contribute in this. She's brilliant in the field, the best of you, and has taken a shine to engineering with Jack's help. But computers have never been her forte beyond the general usage. In the end she excuses herself to check on the children.
In the end it takes thirty-two hours, but you manage to get Donna back. She clings to Jack as you leave the building a smoking wreck behind you, much like the reputation of the whole Hawthorne family. Three of them, including Rowe, are under arrest. Another two are being held under suspicion while further investigation is undertaken.
Apparently the Hawthornes thought the Harkness family owed them for all the years they'd struggled, and they were going to use Donna to get back what they'd lost. Their plan was to use her as a magic eight-ball, to guide them towards financial and vocational success.
You remember Donna's favourite game of standing by the road after school, predicting the colour of the cars before they appeared, and feel guilty for not having realised the danger and stopped it. It's just, you hadn't wanted Donna to feel she had to hide or hold herself back, or that her differences were strange and to be despaired of, as you used to feel. She had been so shaken by the emergence of her psychic ability, despite beeing prepared for it as you'd never been. You were all so pleased to see her find some joy in her new abilities that it never occurred to any of you to discourage her.
Of course, Rowe (doubtless the source of her family's information) didn't realise Donna's rather keen sense for future events extended only to the very near future. A few minutes at most, but usually mere seconds. She couldn't have been used for what they intended.
But this is all unimportant, you reflect as you reach The Hub, listening to the shouts of joy as the children are reunited. What matters is that Donna is back home and safe. You curl into Jack's side, reaching a hand behind to grasp Jenny's (the Doctor holds his daughter's other hand), and remind yourself of that again. The family is all together and safe.
But for how long?
There are still surprises to be found…
You stare in awe at the sight that meets your eyes. Jenny, you can see, has her own eyes closed, an expression of peace and joy on her face. You indulge in the same for a moment, listening to the song of welcome in the back of your mind.
"Where did she come from?" you ask, hushed.
"Found her long, long ago," Jack says, caressing the coral structure that sprawls across most of an entire sub-basement level. "She was tiny back them. Barely the size of my fist."
"Why did you never introduce us?" Jenny asks, no accusation, just curiosity.
She too reaches out to touch and her face lights up, tempting you to do the same. You understand the reaction as, when you do, the song swells, louder and stronger and even more beautiful. And behind it you can sense a vast, if alien, intelligence. It is strangely ancient and young at the same time, but you suppose that makes sense. By TARDIS standards she is young. Yet as a TARDIS she also sees so much, past and future, that it probably lends worldliness and wisdom that would otherwise be lacking.
"She always gave me the impression of 'not yet', when I considered it," Jack explains. "The first time I wanted to tell anyone about her was after I was first reunited with the Doctor. But she told me to wait, that it wasn't time. Then after you first joined Torchwood Abby, when we grew closer as friends, I considered it again. And again she said to wait. The same happened after Jenny joined us. And after us three got our acts together. And then after we were married. And then after each of the kids were born. Always, 'not yet'." Jack's voice is tinted with fond exasperation, and he grins. "But this morning when I came to visit, she was singing in excitement and all I could feel was 'now!' I came and got you both right away."
"She's beautiful," Jenny says. She strokes a coral-like limb gently. "We're so glad to meet you."
The TARDIS gives some mental equivalent of shy pleasure, and you can tell she is just as pleased to meet you both too. Then there is a prodding at your mind. It is gentle, but curious, entreating.
"What is it?" you ask, and feel your memories carefully sifted through, till one is brought forth. "Oh! You want my help with that?"
"Jack, I think I know why she waited for now. Partly at least. You remember what I spent most of my last trip with the Doctor doing?"
"Mastering block-transfer computations, right?" Even years later, Jack still sounds singularly impressed. It is, she must admit, a significant achievement. One must have a very good head for mathematics, far beyond human capabilities, to manage it. "Wait, are you saying she wants you to make her bigger on the inside?"
"But why now?" Jenny asks, with rare solemnity. "That last trip with the Doctor was before Donna was born. So why now?" The question seems directed more at the TARDIS than them. Jenny pauses, as if hearing a reply, then nods with the air of someone who received an expected answer. She strokes the TARDIS again. "Thank you," she whispers gratefully.
"She says it's not safe for the children on Earth much longer." That sobers them both. But Jenny smiles. "She knows of somewhere though, where we can start over. Somewhere safe. A new world. It will mean leaving this one, our home, behind, but—"
"But to make sure the kids are safe," Jack finishes, "we'd do anything."
You nod in agreement. You all really would. Your revenge on the Hawthornes had not been pretty.
…and new friends to be made.
You spend hours at a time with the TARDIS, working on making her dimensionally transcendental. It is a complicated thing, shaping reality with only mathematics and the power of your mind. You suggest that the work would go much faster with the Doctor's help, but the TARDIS insists 'not yet' and you respect her decision.
Fortunately your spouses don't resent that most of your free time is being used up. In fact, they dedicate a lot of their own spare moments to the TARDIS too. She directs Jack and Jenny on how to install the tech she will need to travel through the vortex and keep her passengers safe. Jenny also spends a lot of one-on-one time just chatting with the TARDIS. Apparently at some point she tells the ship the stories of how she got her names, because said ship then decides she needs one too, because 'TARDIS' is more a title than anything.
Her name, the TARDIS declares, must be exotic yet properly meaningful, and so you are called in for your language skills and asked for suggestions. You get interest, but ultimately a negative response, to Astra (star), Saira (traveller) and Liron (my song, for the musicality of her thoughts). Namid (star dancer) gets by far the closest to a yes, but the TARDIS says it just doesn't feel quite right. In the end, it is Jack who finds the answer.
"Skywalker," he suggests offhandedly one day.
He is clearly joking of course, but the TARDIS seems fascinated. You must admit the name is fitting for a spaceship, but still... Skywalker? In the end the TARDIS demands a Star Wars movie marathon, which she watches through yours, Jenny's and Jack's eyes.
Which is how you all come to have a TARDIS called Leia. Leia Harkness.
Sometimes you have to pull up your roots…
It is a year or so later, around the time Leia's reconstruction nears completion. You're working at your station in The Hub one day, tinkering with the rift predictor program, when Jack comes up behind you and rests a hand on your shoulder. You look up to see his face is grim.
"I've been hearing some disturbing rumours," he says. "I need you to look some things up."
"And by 'look up' you mean...?"
"Hack the hell out of some highly encrypted government systems."
"Right." You crack your knuckles and poise them over the keyboard. "What am I looking for?"
You gather together with Jenny once the children are all abed, to discuss what you've discovered.
"No!" Jenny says, eyes wide. "How could they? Why would they?"
"The party line says 'for the safety of the public'," you say.
Jack snorts. "But really, it's just xenophobia rearing its ugly head. According to what Abby dug up it'll start small, compulsory registering, things like that, then slowly escalate."
"The end goal is a 'human pure' Earth," you say with disgust.
"This must be what Leia meant then," Jenny suggests. "When she said the children were no longer safe on Earth. I thought she meant the Hawthorne family, but they're dealt with really. I didn't think it would be this."
Jack gathers her close in comfort, and Jenny nestles into him. You curl up behind her and share a pained look with Jack over her shoulder. Jenny is so clearly disappointed in humanity. For someone born a soldier, created for the purpose of fighting and killing and dying, she is strangely the most idealistic among you. This idealism makes her all the more miserable when the universe lets her down.
"I'm almost finished with the block-transfer equations," you say into the silence. "Should be done by month's end."
"And the retrofitting will be done by just a few weeks after that," Jack says. "It'd be sooner, but there are some systems that can only be finalised once Leia's dimensions are stable."
"Which means we can be gone long before the government gets started on its alien witch-hunt."
Jenny pulls back from your embrace, frowning. "But what about the others?"
"The other aliens. The ones who've made Earth home. We can't just leave them defenceless and unprepared!"
"We can warn then," Jack says slowly. "But—I'm sorry. I have to be selfish when it comes to my family. I've put the world first before and it cost me—"
"It's okay," you say soothingly. "We know. We understand why you can't do that again."
"Of course," Jenny agrees. "I wouldn't ask to risk the kids anyway. But I was thinking, is there any reason why we can't take them with us?"
"The kids?" Jack looks confused, because obviously the kids are coming with.
"No, the other non-humans," you say in a tone of dawning understanding. "You want to bring them with us. Let them make their home on the new world as well."
"Or give them a lift elsewhere if they prefer," Jenny says. "There's room, right? I remember you grumbling at Leia about how she doesn't need that much space. That she's a ship, not a city. Actually, do you think...?"
"God, she did, didn't she?" you say with exasperation. "She knew the stupid laws that were coming, we've guessed that. But all along she was preparing for being an evacuation vessel too."
"Well, that decides it then doesn't it?" Jack says. He's frowning in that way that says he's thinking very hard. "Logistics is going to be a nightmare. It was one thing when it was just our little family to support, but we'll have a hell of a lot more mouths to feed and bodies to shelter than expected."
"Leia can house everyone for as long as we need her to."
"And for the rest, what if everyone chips in?" Jenny says.
Jack looks speculative. "Price of passage? That could work. We'll have to have coordinate. Make sure we cover everything. No good if everyone brings food and no one considers medical supplies."
As Jack gets up to grab a laptop, mumbling to himself and making notes and plans, you lean back, confident he has the situation well in hand. Jenny is beaming at him, at you both, obviously pleased with the direction of the evening. It would have broken her heart, you know, to have to leave all the other non-humans behind and defenceless.
…and plant them somewhere new.
The first time you visit your new home, it is because Jack says a planetary survey is needed. He says it is vital to make sure the planet is safe. Everything needs to be checked: atmosphere, gravity, temperatures and seasons, seismic activity, flora and fauna, and a million other things. You're all confident Leia wouldn't lead you astray, but apparently it's just How Things Are Done in the time Jack comes from. A time in which planetary colonisation is common enough to have standard protocols.
Your first view of the planet is from space. It is a stunning sight, mostly green and blue like Earth, though a little larger and with more land than ocean. There are also areas here and there, of what Jack says are desert, that look like seas of dark purple, and you wonder what makes the sand that colour. The planet has two moons, one about the size of Earth's, the other much larger. And when you land and look about, the sky and light is a touch more vivid that you are used to, making everything look like a photo from a travel magazine.
In the end you are grateful for Jack's precautions, because the survey identifies a region of a southern continent which is prone to unpredictable volcanic eruptions, and so should be avoided. Also, there is a predator not unlike a bear, except twice as large and with sharper teeth, but it keeps strictly in the highest mountain regions of the frozen far north. And then there is a commonly found wild berry, a shiny red thing that surely would have attracted one or other of the kids to try it, which is quite poisonous. Not deadly, but enough to cause severe pain and misery.
Aside from a few such detractions, none of which are worse than what is found on Earth, the planet is truly rather perfect. Jack even says it is in a good strategic location. It's close enough to spacelanes to make use of trade, yet far enough out of the way not to be bothered, and the unpopulated system means they'd be able to see an invasion force well before it reached them.
"It needs a name," Jenny says.
"If you suggest Alderaan or something, and Leia decides it's catchy..." You trail off with a warning look.
"Of course not. Alderaan got blown up. That's not exactly auspicious." Then Jack grins. "I was thinking Corellia."
You roll your eyes and Jenny laughs. Then you pause, considering, and an idea comes to you.
"What's it mean?" Jenny asks.
"It's from an old Gallifreyan dialect. It means 'sanctuary, asylum, shelter', that sort of thing."
"Ah-see-lah?" Jack sounds out. He looks around, and nods slowly. "Yeah, okay. That could work."
Jenny agrees. "It's perfect," she declares.
And so Asyla it becomes.
A new future awaits...
The best way to pick everyone up, Jack decides, is to have set collection points in various locations. And, since it is simply impractical to have to wait for everyone to walk single-file through the front doors, he would materialise Leia around everyone, transporting them straight inside one of her receiving bays.
It is quite a tricky feat to attempt. You help with the calculations and Jenny with the manoeuvring, but for the most part it's down to Jack. He really is a brilliant pilot, the best among you. Sometimes you wonder if there is anything he's not good at. Then you remember how Jenny banned him from the kitchen early on in your acquaintance, after an unfortunate incident of food poisoning. She slowly took over the kitchen duties herself thereafter. It's very much her domain these days, and she's an excellent cook.
It is Jenny who goes to greet every new group as they arrive. She does so bearing immense amounts of food and drink (you don't know how she managed to prepare it all on her own) as well as good cheer and warm welcome. Nerves are calmed under her sunny smile, and with Jack directing and you taking records, it doesn't take as long as it might have to get everyone assigned to quarters. Leia even helps, by dividing her passenger areas into floors which you are calling districts. Each district has a community meeting area, more of an indoor park and recreation centre really, with the remainder of the space sectioned into family or individual quarters.
"So, what's the final count?" Jack asks as you all lay abed the evening before you are due to make your final departure.
"Around three thousand," you say and Jack whistles. "Just a touch under once we've dropped off those who want to be taken elsewhere."
"It's like a whole town inside a TARDIS," Jenny says, quite taken by the thought. "I've been thinking about arranging district-wide sporting, arts and academic competitions. And then maybe the districts could have play-offs against one another. It's a good way to get everyone involved and build friendships. Which will be important because—well, how long do you think it'll be before we're all properly settled on Asyla?"
"Probably take months, if not years," Jack said. "Taking into account homes and utilities like water and sewage systems and electricity, then public buildings such as a hospital and school and everything else—"
"Right. Years. That's why I think friendships will be important. It'll help ease frictions that'll build up from so long in close quarters. And I have some other ideas for that too, like..."
You just smile and nod as Jenny expands on her grand plans to make one-big-happy-family of three thousand mostly-strangers from dozens of different cultures. Well, if anyone can do it, you suppose, Jenny can. She's quite talented in pulling off daring miracles.
…and it is bright.
"Edan! What are you—hmph!"
The boy, Edan, hushes the slightly taller girl, who shares the same white eyes as him. He looks around to make sure they've not drawn anyone's attention—not that there is anyone else about—before yanking her down beside him where he crouches behind a bush.
"Where'd you come from?"
"Hmm, mph," she mutters indecipherably until he pulls his hand back. "I saw you sneaking out and followed you."
"What? Mahali! Why?"
"You're my baby brother. I'm just looking out for you," she says unconvincingly.
"Sticking your nose in more like," Edan mutters.
"So, what are you doing here?"
'Here' is the expansive Public Gardens. Specifically, the walled-off courtyard in the centre, which all children are taught is out-of-bounds. Not that it stops many of them. Over the decades, perhaps even centuries, it has become something of a rite of passage, young ones daring one another to sneak in.
The histories tell that the aged stone pedestal, in the centre of the overgrown courtyard, is built on the very spot where the great starship Leia first landed. She had been piloted by the Royal Triad (Queens Jenny and Abigail, and King Jack) who rescued the first settlers from danger and oppression, and brought them to the then-new world of Asyla. The Triad ruled for one hundred years of peace and prosperity, before they disappeared in the starship Leia never to be seen again. Though, legend has it that now and again they would return to Asyla, in the guise of common people, a habit they keep up even to this day.
"Well?" Mahali asks again, impatient.
"Shh," Edan says. "I heard a rumour, so I'm waiting."
"That the starship Leia would return soon."
Edan has to clamp a hand once more over his sister's mouth as she breaks into peals of laughter. Eventually she bats his hands away.
"Leia?" Mahali asks, quietly in deference to his glare, but with clear amusement. "Are you expecting the Triad themselves too?" As Edan shifts self-consciously her eyes widen. "You are. You're so gullible. I can't believe you're still falling for that old story. The Trio may have been long-lived, but even if they had returned secretly after leaving, there's no way they would still be alive to do it now. It's been two millennia since Asyla was settled."
"It could be true," Edan insists stoutly. "I think it's true."
"Edan, think about it. If the Trio really pops back for visits, why has no one ever spotted Leia on her pedestal?"
"This is even sadder than when you used to believe crazy Grandaunt Yuala's claims that we're descendants of the Trio themselves," Mahali sighs, with an exasperated flick of her hair. "Where did you even hear this rumour anyway?" Edan mumbles something. "What was that?"
"Grandaunt Yuala," he admits reluctantly.
"You're such a doofus," Mahali declares, scrambling to her feet. "I can't believe you wasted my time, dragging me off for something so boring and pointless."
"Dragged you? You followed me."
Mahali seems to take no notice of Edan's annoyance. He glares as she flits away, using vines to climb nimbly over the courtyard wall and disappear from sight. Big sisters, Edan decides, are such a pain.
He settles himself back to waiting, but Mahali's words have caused doubts to niggle at him. What if she's right? What if it is stipid? That point about no one ever spotting the starship Leia is a good one. All the legends say she sets down in the same place she'd first done, whenever she returns, and kids sneak in often enough that someone ought to have seen it. Edan sighs. Maybe he should head home.
He gets to his feet, feeling downhearted and resentful towards his sister for disillusioning him, when suddenly a sound catches his attention. It starts out quiet, but soon becomes loud, a blaring whooshing, grinding sound that is unlike anything he's ever heard before. Eyes going wide, Edan sees that a breeze has somehow stirred in the enclosed courtyard, throwing up fallen leaves. His eyes go wider still as he spots a shape fading into view atop the pedestal: a twisting spire of shimmering golden-pink coral. It is just like the stories of the starship Leia!
Edan stands, frozen, as a section of the spire opens like a door and out step three people, a trio of people, whose faces he recognises from his history lessons.
"Smell that lovely air," the man is saying.
"So much less pollution than Earth," the darker-haired woman agrees.
The third, a blonde woman, beams brightly and says, "It's good to be back home."
Edan must make some sort of noise then, probably something embarrassing and gargle-y, because three heads turn in his direction at once.
"Well hello there," the man says. "What have we here?"
"You—" Edan stutters. "And they— You're—"
"It's alright," the blonde woman says, smiling warmly. "You're probably a bit shocked, but no need to panic. Though, I'm surprised you're around to panic." She turns to her fellows. "Did we forget to turn on the perception filter?"
"No," the man says. "I think he was just inside the field of effect when we arrived. Probably he'll be able to see through it now. No one else'll notice Leia though, same as usual."
"Leia?" Edan chokes out. "So you're really… them?"
"Jack Harkness," the man introduces, offering a hand which Edan shakes on auto-pilot. "And my lovely wives, Jenny and Abigail."
"Good to meet you," Jenny, the happy blonde, says.
"You look familiar," says the other, Abigail, staring at him closely. Then, seemingly finding what she is looking for, her eyes go wide with realisation. "Oh! Are you from Donna's line then?" The other two perk up, looking at him equally closely. "There's a definite resemblance there."
"Oh yeah," Jack says. "I can see Donna in him. And he's even got something of–"
Edan cringes as Jack mangles a name in the language of Edan's ancestors. Somehow he makes what ought to resemble a deep purring and the crashing of waves sound recognisable, and yet more akin to a very wet clearing of the throat.
"Jack? Never again," Abigail says, looking pained. "Leave the multi-tonal languages to those of us with the respiratory bypasses or, you know, other biological adaptations. Just call him Isaac."
Jack pouts. "Fine then. He looks a bit like Donna and Isaac."
"He was a good man," Jenny says with a wistful smile. "He really helped us making contacts with other merchants and getting trade between Asyla and other planets up and running in the early days. Course, helped that he had a soft spot for Abigail. He was her Guide, you know."
"And then he went and developed an even softer spot for Donna," Jack mutters.
"God Jack, it's been how many centuries and you're still not over that?" Abigail asks, amused. "You didn't make nearly so much fuss when the others paired off."
"She was seventeen! He was ninety-four!"
"I was fifteen when we met, and you were well past your century mark."
"That was different."
"Look at the time!" Jenny suddenly says, staring up at the late afternoon sun. "We're running late."
"Right, let's get going then." Jack looks at Edan, who is still gaping. "Don't suppose you know the way to a woman called Yuala's house?"
"Yuala? Yuala Dali?" At their confirmation Edan nods his head dumbly. "She's my grandaunt."
"Definitely Donna's line then," Jenny cheers.
"How do you know Grandaunt Yuala?"
"She travelled with us a few years back," Abigail says. "Plus, she's family."
"Our great, great, many-greats granddaughter," Jenny says. "Which makes you our, great, great, many-greats, plus another two greats, grandson."
"But you can call me Aunt Abigail, and them Aunt Jenny and Uncle Jack. Less of a mouthful. And less likely to raise eyebrows."
Edan nods. This is all beginning to feel very surreal. The starship Leia has returned with the Royal Triad, and they are apparently family like Grandaunt Yuala always claimed, and they say to call them aunts and uncle. Edan is pretty convinced he's fallen asleep and is dreaming.
There is a loud creaking and he looks over to see the door to the courtyard, the one that is always locked, swing open. Jack—Uncle Jack, apparently—is standing by it, tucking away a key.
"Disguises up ladies," Jack says. "Don't want to start a riot."
Edan watches as the three of them reach for various pieces of jewellery—a ring on Jack's thumb, a bracelet on Jenny's wrist, and a pendant around Abigail's neck—and do something with them. All of a sudden their appearances shimmer and Edan squints. Jack is still handsome and blue-eyed, Jenny still blonde and cheerful, and Abigail still dark-haired and eyed. And yet, they look nothing like the famous Triad. Disguise indeed.
Jenny skips towards him then, looping an arm through his.
"Come on. You said you'd show us the way to Yuala's place. She'll be so happy to have someone to talk to about us, now you're in the know too."
Edan lets himself be led off in a daze, passing out of the courtyard which closes behind them, through the Public Gardens and then into the great and beautiful Capital City in the company of the Triad.
Yes, definitely dreaming, he decides. Still, as dreams go, this one is pretty amazing. He isn't sure he wants to wake up. He wonders, passingly, what they'd meant by Yuala travelling with them. Edan has always wanted to travel himself, one day…
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