Continuity

Nov. 16th, 2008 03:30 pm
charamei: (DW: Jack Salutes)
[personal profile] charamei
Title: Continuity
Rating: PG
Genre: Deathfic, drama
Characters: Thirteen, Jack
Wordcount: 1305
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who; I'm just playing in the BBC's sandbox for fun and practice.
Author's Note: Make them stop; I'm falling behind on my NaNo.

Summary: The Doctor cannot die. So when he does, somebody will have to take the reins.
/\/\/\

It is 2453 AD, and Jack has not seen the Doctor in nearly two centuries. After the last conversation they had, he has decided, this is a good thing.

The world has moved on. It changed, right on schedule, in the twenty-first century, and now aliens are almost as accepted as humans, sexual taboos are shifting... it is almost like home.

In some places, it is home, and though Torchwood Three has long since abandoned its function as secret-keeper, there is more need than ever for defence. He has a team, and tries not to associate them with other teams, past friends, but it becomes harder by the day.

They have never heard of Time Lords, or definite-article Doctors, or UNIT or Martha Jones or Rose Tyler or Donna Noble or Gwen Cooper, Ianto Jones, Tosh and Owen, except as names on the ever-growing list of bodies in storage. They like aliens, mostly, except when they're trying to invade, and then they tend to get angry. They get phone calls from ordinary citizens asking them to come and take care of Weevil problems. They do not, he knows in his heart, need him to tell them how to do their jobs, to identify alien technology. Torchwood can handle itself nowadays.

And yet still, he stays, because he has to, because he promised. And it is June the sixth, twenty-four thirty-five, when the TARDIS lands on the Earth for the first time in a very, very long time.

Well... it crashes on the Earth, scattering people everywhere, and when the Doctor falls out of it, he is arrested for creating a public nuisance, then taken to hospital when they realise he's injured, and Jack has to bail him out.

He is ginger, now, and short, and very disoriented. He sleeps for six hours straight as nurses fuss about him and Jack sits with him, partly to be there when he awakes and partly to be sure his doctors know that he is not human, and when he awakes his eyes do not seem so focussed, his hands shake, and he has to be helped to stand up.

Jack has seen regeneration sickness before, and knows that this is not it – not unless something has gone drastically wrong. He does not like to ask, and knows that he will probably not get an answer anyway, so he does the only thing he can do under the circumstances, and stays to stop the Doctor from escaping the hospital.

This is not too difficult, because the Doctor does not seem to want to. He wants to sleep, and he does, more than Jack has ever seen him sleep. When he is awake, he talks.

"Romana said something to me once," he says thoughtfully. Jack has no idea who or what Romana is or was, but decides that this is not important right now, and nods. If the Doctor wants to talk, then let him. "She told me I couldn't die. That was why she made me be the one who..." he trails off, mid-sentence, as he has been doing more and more regularly lately. His memory seems to be going, Jack thinks, and is shocked when the next words out of the Doctor's mouth are not an apology but the simple question, "What's the time?"

That is when he knows.

"You're dying."

"Yes, yes," the Doctor says, irritably. "But what's the time?"

Automatically, Jack takes off his watch and hands it over. He has been hoping, and trying to find a way to believe, that this is just some illness, not the thing they discussed, two centuries ago. Reversion to base genome. The final regeneration using up the last of its energy, the loss of the Imprimature. The Doctor is slowly but surely reverting to, well, whatever he was before. It is no wonder that he is constantly tired, irritable and a little disoriented.

He is offering Jack's watch back, having apparently finished with it. Jack, swallowing hard, refuses it with a hand gesture. The Doctor will probably need it more than he does.

"Humans," the Doctor says, his voice sudden and loud in the silence. "You can't tell me you've only just realised. I told you -"

Jack, unable to form a reply, shrugs, then forces out the question. "How long?"

"Reversion takes anywhere from a few weeks to twenty years. Death..." The Doctor frowns, and reaches into his bedside drawer for the small mirror that he's been keeping there, then examines his face. "I'd say this body's, oh, a hundred and fifty, maybe a hundred and seventy-five? Once my ageing stabilises, that's... well, average Gallifreyan life expectancy was four hundred." He frowns, poking at a bag under his eyes that wasn't there a few days ago. "On the other hand, there's no telling what my metabolism's going to do until reversion's complete. I might go wrinkly overnight."

And even if he doesn't, Jack thinks, there is no way that the Doctor is going to let a little thing like old age slow him down. He has fifty years, if that, before something catches him.

Better be sure that two-hundred year old conversation still applies, then.

"You still want me to take you to Karn?"

"That's right," the Doctor says, and puts the mirror away. "Body to Karn, mind to the Library. That's the planet in the fifty-first century, not Alexandria or Mississippi or Splog."

"Got it," Jack says, and they never mention it again.

The TARDIS spends the next fifteen years sitting quietly in a corner of the Hub, her pilot unable to fly her with any accuracy even by his standards. The Doctor, once his metabolism has indeed stabilised, is a little slower and a little more frail, but, as Jack suspected, still very much the Doctor. If he resents being confined to one place and one time, he does not show it too often. The team like him.

It happens, as Jack always knew it would, on a cold September day. The rain is coming down in sheets, visibility is poor, the streets are slippy and Weevils have never been too afraid of sonic screwdrivers anyway. Jennifer arrives, as backup, just a moment too late, and the Doctor is dead.

Jack, as promised, takes the biodata reading, ships the body to Karn, stays while priestesses perform last rites that are probably not quite right but were evidently close enough, then takes the TARDIS to the Library to despatch the Doctor into what apparently constitutes an afterlife for him. It is the least anyone can do, and he only wishes there were more than just him here to say goodbye. Most of the Doctor's companions are dead, now, or else too old to make the trip.

He gets lost on the way back, and the TARDIS lands on a planet he has never been to, in a galaxy he has only ever heard of, where an alien threat is menacing the indigenous population. Jack, barely aware of what he is doing, carried as much by grief as by a sense of duty, breezes in and mixes himself up in it, and before he knows what he is doing he is running for his life down a corridor with a screwdriver between his teeth, his gun lost in the jaws of the current ravening monster, with a twenty-year-old girl running after him.

He drags her into an adjoining room as it lumbers by, and as they pant for breath, she asks, "What's your name?"

He looks at her, and at the screwdriver, and thinks of the TARDIS, and he knows. He knows what he must say, because Romana, whoever she was, was right. The Doctor cannot die.

He says, "Call me Doctor."
/\/\/\

Date: 2008-11-16 04:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] charamei [journalfen.net]
[DWFic link, for my own review-whoring purposes (http://community.livejournal.com/dwfiction/1786105.html)]

Date: 2008-11-16 05:08 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Loved that, especially the reunification of the Doctor with River!

Date: 2008-11-16 05:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] charamei [journalfen.net]
Thank you.

I always found it interesting that he seems to have almost immediately associated the Library computer with the APC Net. It's a neat touch from the writers.

And, yeah, River is awesome. That also helps.

Date: 2008-11-17 04:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] copperbadge [journalfen.net]
Oh my god awesome.

I'm not as familiar with classic Who canon as I should be but I didn't really need to be, to get the gist of what went on with Romana.

This is absolutely great -- Jack's melancholy, the Doctor dying, the world moving on. Thank you!

Date: 2008-11-17 04:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] charamei [journalfen.net]
Thank you :)

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