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trobadora ([personal profile] trobadora) wrote in [community profile] wintercompanion2016-07-27 10:25 pm

trobadora: The Lethe Gate (Ten/Jack) [PG] - SUMMER HOLIDAYS PROMPT #14

Title: The Lethe Gate
Author: [ profile] trobadora
Prompt: #14 - 47 returns, Lethe, memory, cards
Pairing: Tenth Doctor/Jack Harkness
Rating: PG
Spoilers/Warnings: none
Summary: "It's called the Lethe Gate. When people are lost, it brings them here, stripped of the memories that burden them. We help them find their way again." - Outsider POV.
A/N: This one's a little weird. I'm not entirely sure where this came from, truth be told ...


Pri'c'tt is on her 7th Return when he appears. The sun is warm and large and bright again in the sky, no longer the dim and distant star of winter, and she is stirring her wings in the meadow, the breeze tickling her membranes. And suddenly, with an explosion of blue light, there he is: a wingless man wearing a heavy blue coat and an empty face, falling out of the Lethe Gate, the way people do, five or six times every Turn.

He says nothing to her, uninterested in the brightness of summer, the smell of the blooming blue grass, the girl chatting to him as she leads him to the village. He follows readily enough.

Her father tries to help, of course - it's the duty of the village, as they've always had it. He casts the cards for the stranger, to find the path he is meant to follow. The stranger only looks away.

Pri'c'tt sits with him for a little while, poking her fingers at the blue coat as she talks to him, but the man doesn't seem to listen. Sometimes she wonders if he understands. He looks at her, but she doesn't think he really sees her, either. There's such a sadness in his eyes, it's hard to believe this is only an echo, that there is no memory in him. He does not follow the path of the cards.

Some take their time, of course. The villagers know that. Pri'c'tt knows that, though she's still a child.

And true enough, one day, he's simply gone. The adults nod. It was to be expected, sooner or later. He was always one of those who'd seek oblivion.

But Pri'c'tt always wonders what happened. If it's truly oblivion he found, or if the path of the cards has called him after all.


Pri'c'tt is on her 37th Return when she sees him again. She is long an adult, a Guardian, and on the meadow to watch the Gate, so none who fall through it will wander lost.

This time, when the blue light dies, she sees a familiar face. It's him, looking not a day older, though who knows how age might show with his kind. And this time, there's another with him, another wingless male.

Both are wearing long coats. Blue and brown.

And one more thing is different. Their faces don't remain empty for long. The man in the blue coat stretches his body, then gives his companion a very thorough once-over. A smile breaks free from his face. It's stunning, even with his alien features, and Pri'c'tt nearly gasps.

The other man grimaces and pinches his own cheeks, pulls at his head-hair as if trying to draw it in front of his eyes. (It's much too short for that.)

"It's brown," says the man in the blue coat, sounding amused. His eyes - blue as well - sparkle.

"Not ginger?" The other man - brown coat, brown eyes; she'll call him Brown for now - sounds disappointed.

Blue is openly laughing now. "Don't worry, you're cute anyway. Sorry, don't carry a mirror these days or I'd prove it to you." Then all his movement and animation just stops for a second as he realises he's just referred to something he can't remember.

"Stop it," Brown snaps. A moment later, they're both doing the same kind of double-take again. They end up grinning at each other.

"All right," says Blue, agreeably, and turns toward her. The intensity of his gaze is overwhelming, particularly since her memory is still burdened with the blank, unseeing look he'd had. "Hello," Blue says brightly. "I can't seem to remember just now what name I should be using, or I'd introduce myself. Good to meet you! And who are you?"

"Oh, stop it," Brown grumbles, talking over Pri'c'tt as she offers her name. "Typical, we're on some strange planet with no memory, and you're busy flirting. Did it occur to you that there might be something we should be doing, huh?"

"I can think of any number of things we should be doing," says Blue, wiggling his eyebrows outrageously. "Anyway, I was just saying hello."

"Yes. Yes, you were," says Brown with a grimace. Then he turns to her. "Hello, by the way! I'm -" He interrupts himself, looks between her and Blue, confusion plain on his expressive face. "You're not there the way he is." He turns to Blue. "You feel ..." He leans forward a little, staring.

Blue takes a step closer. "Yeah? Feeling something, are you?" His smile is warm, and entirely focused on Brown.

"Real," Brown finally settles on. "You feel more real than anything. All of this," he gestures around him, "it's fleeting, but you're not. You're a fact." A wide grin erupts on his face. "Brilliant!"

"Is it," Blue breathes, and closes the last of the distance between them. "You say the sweetest things." Then he's leaning forward, his lips brushing against Brown's, and their arms go around each other, holding on.

Pri'c'tt feels like she's witnessing something many times practiced. They know each other, though they don't. She's never seen this before. But then, people fall through the Lethe Gate on their own, nine times out of ten.

They remain that way for a long moment. Then Brown jerks away. "Ahem! Well. Right. Yeah. That was -" When Blue laughs at him, Brown scowls, then continues, "Sorry - where were we?" He tilts his head, then turns back towards Pri'c'tt. "Yes, I was saying - sorry, I don't quite know who I am. Which is strange, let me tell you. And not right, definitely not right at all. I don't suppose you'd know anything about that?"

Pri'c'tt can't help it; she giggles at him. Not the dignified behaviour expected from a Guardian. "There," she says, pulling herself together, pointing behind the two men. As one, they turn, see nothing, and look back toward her. She flutters her wings, amused. "Look," she says, and tosses a handful of grains into the air. They swirl for a moment in the disruption; then the Lethe Gate opens.

"Well, if that isn't an actual stable worm-space connector," says Blue, reverently, fiddling with something at his wrist. "And one we survived without shielding, too. Wonder how they did that."

"Couldn't have put it better myself," Brown agrees, holding up a device that makes a strange whining noise. They both keep peering carefully between the Gate and their devices before it closes again.

"It's called the Lethe Gate," Pri'c'tt supplies. "When people are lost, it brings them here, stripped of the memories that burden them. We help them find their way again."

"You're sure we lost our way? I don't feel lost; do you?" says Brown, rubbing the back of his neck as he turns toward Blue, lips pursed.

"Nope," agrees Blue, incongruously cheerful. "Can't say I do."

They're confusing. "It's how it's meant to be," she says carefully. But she remembers Blue's face, from so many Returns ago, weighed with sadness, the loss of memory no easing of his burden. She has never quite known how to reconcile that.

"Well, that clears things up." Blue's voice is all sarcasm, but he's still smiling. He jerks his head toward the Gate, then looks at his companion. "You think that's a natural phenomenon?"

"What, the wormhole or the amnesia?" Brown grimaces again, shoves his device back into a pocket, and bounces on the balls of his feet. "Could be yes, could be no, wouldn't bet on either."

"I can cast the cards for you," Pri'c'tt offers, hesitantly. It's her duty, she knows. But she's not at all sure it's what they need, these two confusing strangers. Still, the cards will point them on their path, won't they?

Though Brown is right. They may not remember, but they don't look lost at all. They look, bizarrely, like they're having fun.

They look at each other. "Don't think so," says Brown, and, "Thanks, not today," says Blue, and they nod at each other. Blue taps at the device on his wrist again, then shrugs.

She realises almost too late what they're going to do. "Don't!" she cries, her wings beating hectically. "That way lies oblivion!"

Blue and Brown look at each other, matching frowns on their brows. Brown's lips pull back from his teeth. "You think?"

"I think you're thinking what I'm thinking," says Blue. He's smirking again. Then he turns slightly to look at Pri'c'tt . "Sorry, sweetheart, but we're not buying."

And they're turning toward the Gate. They step forward, holding hands, and the Lethe Gate erupts once more, swallowing them.

Pri'c'tt stares after them for a long time. She doesn't mention their visit when she returns to the village at the end of her shift.


Pri'c'tt is on her 47th Return when she makes up her mind.

She's seen many fall from the Gate over the course of many Turns, has seen the cards cast for them all. Some follow the cards right away; some take their time. Many simply turn around, and she's no longer sure they found oblivion.

She's asked, and argued, but the others won't listen. They're sure going back into the Lethe Gate will only bring oblivion. As she was, once.

But the men in the coats didn't. And one of them was here twice.

Finally, Pri'c'tt grows tired of arguing. Her people might be right. But what if they aren't? What, then, lies beyond the Gate no one has entered, even in the memories of the eldest, and the memories they collected from those who came before them? Did Blue and Brown find their memories again, or did the Gate take the memory of Pri'c'tt and her world from them as well?

Only one way to be sure, Pri'c'tt thinks, and it sounds like Blue's cheerful voice in her head, daring her, cheering her on.

The next time she goes on duty to guard the Lethe Gate, she brings a satchel with her, carefully packed.

And she jumps.


[identity profile] 2016-07-27 09:58 pm (UTC)(link)
Can I just read everything you write, forever and ever? Because this is absolutely marvelous.
ext_3554: dream wolf (Default)

[identity profile] 2016-07-27 10:41 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, interesting! I've always thought that the Time Lords were particularly strong quantum observers, defining their own set of permanent points in time-space probabilities through out their lifetimes. I wonder if Jack is the same, now, and that why he is more 'real'?

[identity profile] 2016-07-28 01:47 am (UTC)(link)
Loved it!
Once again the Doctor (and Jack) convince someone to make the jump.

[identity profile] 2016-07-28 03:54 pm (UTC)(link)
This is a great use of 'Lethe' - it brings oblivion, or not? Such a great ending that you don't give a simple answer. Very nice!

The Lethe Gate

[identity profile] leah steele (from 2016-07-29 02:24 am (UTC)(link)
Love, love, love Pri'c'tt! I could read just about her, but the addition of the doctor and the immortal Jack made it nearly perfect all that's missing is Pri'c'tt's story.

[identity profile] 2016-07-30 11:01 am (UTC)(link)
Hi! I'm here from who-daily, checking everything with "Ten" in the description.

I'm impressed how well outsider's POV worked here. We learn enough about the Gate (I love the idea about the amnesia!) and the whole culture that's evolved around it to imagine it, but it's still mysterious and open for interpretation. The people's beliefs and myths versus Jack's and the Doctor's scientific approach, all done without making a reader feel that such and such sentence is an information about that world.

I like the fact that we don't exactly know when and why Jack got there in the first place and then how and when Jack and the Doctor came there. It doesn't really matter and adds to the mystery.

Pri'c'tt sounds like a perfect companion, even if for only one adventure. She observes and thinks,and wants to explore the unknown. It's perfect how a brief encounter with the Doctor and Jack leads her to the decision to jump. I love that theme, the Doctor touching people and changing their lives.

I really enjoyed it, and I think from now the Gate is always going to exist somewhere in my imagined Whoniverse. It's a big universe after all.

[identity profile] 2016-08-01 08:17 am (UTC)(link)
First of all, I want to generally say that I've been fangirling your fanfic for months now, reading and rereading many of your lovely Jack/Ten stories. You write so beautifully, and have wonderful insights into the characters, and have this skill of saying a lot with fairly few words, and also leave some things not explicitly said so that there's something left for the reader's mind to do. I'm quite in awe, and am happy that you're writing a pairing I adore. I was really excited to see something new from you with this pairing. I'm fairly new to the fandom and haven't yet watched beyond the Tenth Doctor (I'm good at coming late to parties, yes), so doesn't make much sense to read about newer Doctors yet.

As for this story, wonderful! The outsider POV works really well, and I like Pri'c'tt and how she is changed by meeting those two. I love it being a bit "weird" as you say. The universe is a vast place and I like seeing a glimpse of a very different world and culture to what we know, yet seeing that within its own rules it would make just as much sense as ours, if we were born to it. I love that many things are left unexplained, like how and when Jack and the Doctor got there, why they got there together, and what is really going on and what will happen.

This was so lovely:

He interrupts himself, looks between her and Blue, confusion plain on his expressive face. "You're not there the way he is." He turns to Blue. "You feel ..." He leans forward a little, staring.

Blue takes a step closer. "Yeah? Feeling something, are you?" His smile is warm, and entirely focused on Brown.

"Real," Brown finally settles on. "You feel more real than anything. All of this," he gestures around him, "it's fleeting, but you're not. You're a fact." A wide grin erupts on his face. "Brilliant!"

"Is it," Blue breathes, and closes the last of the distance between them. "You say the sweetest things." Then he's leaning forward, his lips brushing against Brown's, and their arms go around each other, holding on.

Besides being sweet, I love it how it plays with what we already know: how differently this conversation went in the canon we know. I like the idea that when they lose their memories, but still know on a some level who the other is and what they mean to each other, it goes so differently. If Jack and the Doctor didn't remember Jack being left behind, if the Doctor didn't remember that Facts aren't supposed to exist, it wouldn't need to be as painful as it was. Memories can be a burden, sometimes.

And I love that the two of them are having so much fun when faced with something most other people would see quite differently. It's just so them. And then it infects on her, too. :-D

Maybe I'll stop before the comment is as long as your fic. But thank you for this!

[identity profile] 2016-08-07 08:13 am (UTC)(link)
I'm glad the comment pleased you! I figured that with as much as I've enjoyed your stories, the least I can do is write a comment to tell you so. Probably I'll be posting comments to some of the older stories by and by as I reread them.

I'm glad you're not running out of ideas, as I love to read your takes on the two of them. There's so much to do with them - so many possibilities of how their shared history could affect them, what things like Jack's factness could mean, and so much space and time for them to meet and do things in. I don't wonder they're inspiring - I'm being terribly, terribly tempted to write some fic of my own, and I haven't written fanfic in years (I do write, but I've focused on original stuff for some years).

And no, it didn't end up being too cryptic with Pri'c'tt's POV - I like it on occasion that there's stuff left for the reader to figure out, gaps to fill in with the possibilities the imagination offers. It's tricky, balancing that out so it doesn't end up being too obscure, so there's enough to hold on to while you start filling the gaps, but you succeeded well in that. And yes, I also love the way the Doctor and his companions are often changing the lives of the people around them, making them see new possibilities and finding ways to take the leap. It's perhaps the heart of what drew me into the show in the first place, so it's nice to read fics with that spirit.