http://magic-7-words.livejournal.com/ ([identity profile] magic-7-words.livejournal.com) wrote in [community profile] wintercompanion2013-11-30 08:31 pm

magic_7_words: Written in Stone (Jack/Eleven implied) [G]

Title: Written in Stone
Author: magic_7_words
Challenge: 2013 Doctor/Jack Fest
Prompt Used: "rewriting time"
Rating: G
Pairing: Jack/Eleven implied
Spoilers/warnings: "Last of the Time Lords" and "Children of Earth"
Summary: There's fixing broken timelines, and then there's fixing timelines.
Author's Note: Phew, in under the wire. I'm afraid this made a lot more sense thematically BEFORE "Day of the Doctor" aired... oh, well. Too late now. (Heh heh.)


Time can be rewritten, he's grown fond of saying. He blames River for the phrase, River with her recklessly untrained temporal senses. Yes, flux time can be rewritten. And yes, a second or third-degree paradox will practically rewrite itself. But the memory-lines, the time locks, the fixed points, the facts--these can be rewritten like a spark rewrote the Hindenburg. It's why the Doctor hates them. Why he runs.

*

The TARDIS shell has sonic dampeners; knocking on her door should have all the impact of knocking on a granite cliff face. Nevertheless, even in her damaged state, she musters up the echo of a wooden-door knock.

The Doctor clears his throat. The Fact interprets this as permission to enter.

"Last shuttle's about to head planetside," Jack says in a low voice.

The Doctor jerks his arm in a circle, encompassing the disassembled-by-gunfire remains of the TARDIS console. "I have to clean this up."

"You'll never get it all fixed in one night," says Jack. His eyes dart to and fro, taking in the mess but not focusing on it. He bites his lip. "Come down to the surface. You can get a decent night's sleep. A square meal. With a table and everything."

"Why're you here instead of Martha?" the Doctor asks. Rude, but hopefully effective. Jack needs to get out of the TARDIS. She's upset as it is.

"Martha left with her family an hour ago. But I have her permission to cuff you and drag you to the shuttle before I let you spend the night up here alone. I'd rather not resort to that, so what's it gonna be?"

The Doctor rears in sudden anger, bile rising in his throat because how dare they, how dare anyone threaten him after what he's just been through and anyway, does Jack think he could possibly win that fight? But then he sees the stern, tight-lipped look on Jack's face, the mask this human wears when he's hiding pain, and the anger subsides like a sullen beast called to heel. Jack would do it, do whatever he felt was necessary, and it would hurt him far more than it hurt the Doctor. Jack, who's already suffered more than he'll ever deserve.

So he follows Jack to the shuttle. He lets Jack rest a hand on his elbow during the ride to Earth's surface and the walk to the UNIT encampment. And when UNIT presses him for details on the paradox reversal, he feeds them the same 'eye of the storm' malarkey he gave the other survivors, as if it's not the fault of one specific person on board that they weren't all blown back to Election Day together.

Malarkey, he reflects much later, is an excellent word, and one he utterly failed to appreciate at the time he was spouting it.

*

He explains it to Clara, one day. They've just come off a nasty encounter with a rogue Velyshaan and the Ood army he'd enslaved telepathically, and Clara has questions. She always does.

"Are humans telepathic, like the Ood?"

"No," says the Doctor, focused on flying the TARDIS. "You're remarkably thick-headed. You can learn to send and receive simple psychic pulses, but that takes years of training, and it's nothing like what the Ood have."

"Okay, but what about human children?"

"They're a bit more receptive, but I still wouldn't call them telepathic." He glances at Clara, suddenly uncomfortable with the specificity of the question. "Why do you ask?"

Clara leans on her elbows. "It's the way the Ood all spoke in unison, when they were being controlled. Because there was a day, a few years ago, when the children came over all funny. All over the world, freezing in place and chanting, 'we are coming.' It was spooky as anything. Nothing bad happened in the end, but I wondered, do you think it could have been a Velyshaan speaking through them?"

"No, that was different alien altogether," says the Doctor, making a desperate attempt at breeziness and casting about for a distraction.

Clara's too quick for him. "Oh, you know what happened! Were you there?" she asks brightly. "Did you save Angie and Artie's lives before I'd even met you?"

He tells her it was someone else and shuts off the gravity stabilizers, just to change the subject. Clara seems satisfied with the answer, or maybe she senses his reluctance to discuss it. But the Doctor finds he can't let the matter drop. It worries him, gnaws unpleasantly at his insides.

"It happened to Jack," he blurts out two hours later, apropos of nothing. Clara asks, "What happened to who?" and he has to explain from the beginning. How it happened to Jack and Jack's family and Jack's world, and there was nothing the Doctor could do because whenever something happens to Jack, that thing has always happened and always will.

*

There's a string of fixed points, like beads on a necklace, coiled around a city in Wales and growing longer all the time. There's Pompeii, nice if you want a vacation, but the Doctor thinks Pompeii might not be Jack's fault and he plans to avoid ever learning the truth of it. The Doctor doesn't know what he's going to do when Jack lives to be four-thousand and gets hold of a functional Vortex manipulator. He can't contain the damage forever.

*

He never meant to crash the centennial reception on Bowie Base Two. He'd have given the place a hundred-mile thousand-year berth, just on principle, only the TARDIS chose to throw a phase breaker at exactly the moment the navigation shorted out, and then the HADS kicked on during emergency landing—in short, she cheated.

Forty minutes later—he's never quite sure how these things happen—the Doctor's wearing a hard hat on a holocam in front of all humanity. The keynote speaker is laid up backstage recovering from an acute case of Martian dustpox, but the ceremony must go on and the speech is conveniently displayed on a teleprompter, and this incarnation of the Doctor never could resist a limelight.

The message is predictably uplifting and littered with references to Bowie Base One—the tragedy, the lessons learned, the never-forgetting and deaths not in vain. Humans, he reflects inwardly, have an unparalleled knack for assigning meaning to meaningless events. Only humans could draw such inspiration from a failed mission that their subsequent actions turn its captain's death into a fixed point. Ironic, in a sense, that the Doctor could have prevented that tragedy if only they weren't so determined to give it retroactive meaning. Then again, humans aren't like Time Lords; any past moment might as well be fixed for all they can do to alter it. This is how they cope, he supposes.

He's intoned "not in vain" for the umpteenth time when it strikes him like a plasma bolt—no—this is how they live. Everything human the Doctor admires and strives to emulate, their courage and inquisitiveness and indomitable spirit, springs from a bone-deep collective understanding that there are no do-overs. No consequence-free actions. They're risk-takers and knowledge-seekers because they have to be, with only one chance to get each moment right; their courage is honed against the whetstone of an unknowable future; spirit and compassion are their only defenses against the howling madness of what-ifs and could-have-beens. Seize the day, they urge each other, not because life is too short but because once a day has been lived, they can't ever go back and live it differently. They can't change the past, and that's right.

The Doctor improvises an end to the speech and disappears before the applause has faded.

*

A metaphorical wake in the ocean of time and space leads him to a colony ship in the Kepler system. It's begun the braking process, mere days away from planetfall, and the future settlers' anticipation is palpable.

"Tell me, have you ever been to Tandoria?"

Jack, leaning on the observation deck railing, breaks out the same easy smile he'll offer anyone who pays him a bit of attention. "Can't say I have, considering this is the first passenger vessel to make the trip. I wasn't on the terraforming crew, if that's what you meant. Why, do I look like I spend five days a week in a controlled-environment suit? Those recirculating helmets dry your skin out like crazy." He rubs his cheeks.

"Actually, I meant time travel," says the Doctor. The penny's in the air...

Jack's expression changes, mixing hope and astonishment. "Doctor?"

The Doctor taps his nose and smiles back, though his hearts race like dueling snare drums. It's exhilarating and terrifying, standing his ground in the face of this concrete finality. His mind churns, seeking escape routes and exit plans, but he tamps it down. He doesn't want to escape. He wants to step into Jack's world and experience it, share it, make Jack smile like he used to in the old days and know that he's the cause. And for himself he thinks he'd like a memory, something written in stone, banked away against the shifting winds of Time. Wars may be fought and unfought; humans live, die, and have their memories forgotten; sometimes the tea gets cold in the kettle and sometimes it's still scalding-hot when you spill it in the lap of your favorite trousers. But right now Jack is offering him an arm and a tour of the ship, later there will be music and refreshments and dancing, and for a while—an hour, a night, longer if Jack will have him—he'll cast off the frenetic restlessness born of a lifetime without rest or certainty. Somewhere between two hands clasping in friendship and a hesitant kiss on the soil of a new world, he'll stop wondering what-if and glimpse a measure of peace.

This has always happened, and it always will.
trobadora: (Ten/Jack retro)

[personal profile] trobadora 2013-12-01 01:44 am (UTC)(link)
Oh wow, this is so gorgeous! ♥
ext_3937: (JackTen)

[identity profile] rabecka.livejournal.com 2013-12-01 03:39 am (UTC)(link)
But the memory-lines, the time locks, the fixed points, the facts--these can be rewritten like a spark rewrote the Hindenburg. It's why the Doctor hates them. Why he runs.
Great line, and one of the best explanations I've seen of why the Doctor runs from Jack, and also, why he keeps disabling Jack's VM, though he seems fine with River running around with one. (OK, yeah, something that always bugged me...)

Loved how you then turned that around. Awesome epiphany.
ext_29986: (Default)

[identity profile] fannishliss.livejournal.com 2013-12-01 04:13 am (UTC)(link)
Impeccable!


I really love the way you interpret Jack as the fact. Great idea the way he solidifies possibilities around him.

It works well the way you made the doctor realize he needs that. :)
ext_348818: Jack Harkness. (just jack)

[identity profile] canaana.livejournal.com 2013-12-01 04:14 am (UTC)(link)
I love how you've made us understand just how alien the Doctor's POV is in the same moment he understands--& even desires--a linear, human experience. Beautifully done.

[identity profile] leah steele (from livejournal.com) 2013-12-01 06:35 am (UTC)(link)
You made the doctor less of a hypocrite and remade him back into the alien we all know and sometimes love, because 'The TL' has always talked a great deal about responsibility and accepting the consequences of what you do - but not for what he's done to Jack he is ready and willing to forgive and trust almost anyone but blames Jack for what Rose did to him. He disables Jack's VM yet lets River keep and use hers. But the worse thing he ever did to Jack is he bound him to one time and place and not a place of his own choosing either. The Timelord forced a fate on The Immortal that would have driven him insane- Best of all you explained why he was/is so cruel someone he once loved as a friend and you made it plausible. Fantastic job!!!

[identity profile] joking.livejournal.com 2013-12-01 02:02 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow, you've made so much more of canon make sense, and your language takes such beautiful turns too:

Wars may be fought and unfought; humans live, die, and have their memories forgotten; sometimes the tea gets cold in the kettle and sometimes it's still scalding-hot when you spill it in the lap of your favorite trousers.

their courage is honed against the whetstone of an unknowable future; spirit and compassion are their only defenses against the howling madness of what-ifs and could-have-beens.

Also your Clara voice sounded just like her.

[identity profile] eve11.livejournal.com 2013-12-02 12:33 am (UTC)(link)
Here from who_daily and oh I really love this. Rich imagery gives it a sense of place, iI love the doctor running from the fact of jack, and the visual of the string of beads curled around places and times. And the end was so hopeful, and wonderful. Kudos!
navaan: (DW JackTenAtWork)

[personal profile] navaan 2013-12-04 05:12 pm (UTC)(link)
This is really, really powerful and a very interesting look at Jack's factness! So many wonderful lines! *sigh*

[identity profile] skalja.livejournal.com 2013-12-05 11:24 pm (UTC)(link)
This was a delight to read, and will I think be a part of my personal headcanon re: how the Doctor understands Jack's factness (and human linearity in general). It just makes so much sense!

In terms of making it fit thematically with DotD: Clara seems to have become a settling influence on the Doctor after the events of NotD -- he's as frenetic as ever, but a bit more grounded, if that makes any sense? It's still not clear how much time has elapsed for either character between Name of and Day of (argh, dangling plot threads!), but Clara's spent enough time back home to complete a teaching degree and get a job. While the Doctor could just skip forwards between outings, he could also have taken his newly de-broodified, ripe-for-introspection self over to Bowie Base Two and then spent a few decades/centuries/millennia with Jack. (Yeah, Eleven says he's only a few hundred years older than Ten, but there's no way Ten's only nine hundred and change, so enh.)

[identity profile] sahiya.livejournal.com 2013-12-14 07:04 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, this was gorgeous. I agree with [livejournal.com profile] canaana - I loved how you showed Jack's Factness from the Doctor's POV. No easy feat, that. Well done.

[identity profile] scifiangel.livejournal.com 2013-12-23 03:59 pm (UTC)(link)
Wonderful. Thank you for sharing it with us.

[identity profile] leah steele (from livejournal.com) 2014-02-11 01:20 am (UTC)(link)
Magnificent!!!

[identity profile] redpearl-cao.livejournal.com 2017-01-12 08:42 pm (UTC)(link)
I love this interpretation of Jack's factness from the Doctor's pov, and the reason that the Doctor keeps breaking Jack's Vortex Manipulator.
The ending is beautiful.