ext_4029 ([identity profile] wojelah.livejournal.com) wrote in [community profile] wintercompanion2014-04-22 10:57 pm

GIFT FOR ARNICA: We Have Heard The Chimes At Midnight (Jack/Ten (passing); Jack/Eleven) [R]

Title: We Have Heard The Chimes At Midnight
Author: [livejournal.com profile] wojelah
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] arnica
Rating: R (for language and themes)
Pairing(s): Jack/Ten (passing); Jack/Eleven
Spoilers/warnings: PLEASE READ LIKE WHOA. Here be noncon, though not between Jack and the Doctor. It’s not graphic, but it’s a key theme. Please practice self-care and skip if you need to.
Summary: It had been a rumor among the Agency's cadets. A bubble of time, carved out of the heart of a diamond dwarf star, accessible only to people with the right tickets. An infinite number of unusual, sometimes forbidden, always expensive delights, there for the looking/smelling/tasting/taking, depending on your budget, schedule, and personal inclinations. Cantralian. Part smuggler's den, part menagerie, part freak show, part paradise. The officers denied it. The Agency denied it. The Doctor hadn't answered when he'd asked, just looked away.
Author’s Notes: This is not where I expected this would end up when I started with “pirates,” "marooned," “kept as a zoo creature,” “black humor,” and “making the best of a bad situation.” Thank you to my best handholder, [redacted].

**

Dehydration was a really terrible way to go.

There was a period - an epoch? an era? - of his life when he'd kept a running list. An honest-to-god list, folded up in the pocket of an increasingly battered coat made of the wool of 20th century Earthen sheep. He'd pull it out. Add to it. Reorder. Scratch out, erase, change his mind, and rewrite. His deaths. All of them, in order, worst to easiest. Dehydration wasn't at the top. But it had been in the top five for centuries. It wasn't long after it slipped to sixth place that he'd stopped keeping track.

Those had not been good times.

This, Jack considered, feeling the sand under his palms as his body reconstituted itself under the Granathan sun, drawing water from who-knew-where, was not a particularly good time either. At all. After all, usually when someone got marooned on a desert planet, he had the hope that some mermaid would rescue him, tugging him off to the briny deep.

Drowning hadn't even been in the top twenty.

Feeling his lips crack, feeling his body start to parch, feeling the whole cycle starting over again, Jack had to admit, he should have chosen to walk the plank. Freezing in the interstellar spaces was, at least, much quicker.

***

When he opened his eyes the next time, he was underwater. Maybe. Everything was blurry and cool and shading blue-green, and his lungs felt full and heavy at the same time. Also, there was a mermaid.

You've got to be kidding me, was what he thought.

"Hello," was what he said, because even if his vision wasn't clear enough to make out flukes, it was clear enough to make out long purple hair, waving gently in the same current he could feel drifting over his own face. Purple hair and a really spectacular set of pectoral accessories. Breasts or no breasts, they were amazing. And he wasn't dead. Again. Yet.

The mermaid rolled her eyes, touched him gently on the forehead, and smiled as his eyes closed of their own accord.

***

The next time he woke up, he was actually wearing a pirate shirt.

"You know," he said to the ceiling, "there is such a thing as taking it too far." The words sounded dull. Deadened. Not muffled exactly, but the echoes were wrong. Jack stood, and amended his initial impressions.

Not a pirate shirt. Just a plain woven garment and trews, but generously cut. The lack of ruffles did, at least, make him feel less like he should be cavorting alongside Captain Kidd.

The clothing did not, however, explain why he was in an essentially egg-shaped container, complete with sloping floor, sides, and ceiling, just high enough for him to stand in, dimly lit, and padded thickly all around. Although the padding explained the echoes.

"Please lie down and resume your rest. Decontamination is not yet complete."

The voice was pleasant. Soothing, in a peculiar, ear-clogging way. It made him want to sit back down, but then, you don't resurrect for millennia without a little bit of stubborn built in. "Decontamination?" he smiled, showing his teeth. "I promise I had all my shots."

"Please lie down," said the voice, and this time it beat on him like hammers, forcing him to his knees. He didn't lie down, though. Not until the orange mist rising from the floor reached the level of his mouth and nose. Then he didn't really have much choice. Turned out he was grateful for the padding.

***

The next time Jack woke up, he decided he'd have the good sense not to open his eyes. Not until he could figure out what was going on. And what the peculiar racket surrounding him was.

"You're awake," said the voice from the egg, and his eyes opened before he could so much as squint. "It does no good to pretend."

In his defense, the light around him was very bright, compared to the egg. Compared to the water, too. Compared to pretty much everything, even the desert.

"Guess so," he answered, and when he lifted his hand to run it through his hair, he felt the weight of the resistor bands. "Oh goodie," he added. "I've been rescued by a dominatrix mermaid."

The light in front of him dimmed. It wasn't the mermaid. "Guess again," said the looming, backlit hulk. "Welcome to Cantralian."

***

It had been a rumor among the Agency's cadets. A bubble of time, carved out of the heart of a diamond dwarf star, accessible only to people with the right tickets. An infinite number of unusual, sometimes forbidden, always expensive delights, there for the looking/smelling/tasting/taking, depending on your budget, schedule, and personal inclinations. Cantralian. Part smuggler's den, part menagerie, part freak show, part paradise.

The officers denied it. The Agency denied it.

The Doctor hadn't answered when he'd asked, just looked away. It had been the second of Jack's Doctors - the second face he'd met - and he'd been the best and worst of them all at bluffing. He'd fiddled with his tie and stuck his hands in his coat pockets, and then something had flashed mauve and Jack had forgotten to press the question in favor of not dying/saving the universe/keeping this Doctor in one piece/all of the above.

But every rumor has its roots in the truth. And there had been something dark in that Doctor's eyes.

***

The truth was, he had been saved by a mermaid, or the next-closest thing, an Icthyblian. At least, that was part of the truth.

The other parts of the truth, in no particular order, went like this:

Cantralian existed. He was in it. He was... unusual. He'd been found by energy trackers on Granatha, who'd seen unusual artron flares. The Icthyblian was a sort of... veterinarian. She'd had him dumped in her tank of biogoo. He'd died twice after Granatha without ever regaining consciousness. He hadn't died in the biogoo. So they'd basically dipped him for fleas, where fleas, in this metaphor, stood for communicable diseases of any kind. And now he was in Cantralian. Part of the zoo. Or menagerie. Or stable.

And he had a choice. The first part of it wasn't entirely unfamiliar. Fuck, or die.

The second part was kind of novel, though.

Fuck, or die, and die, and die again. Because someone, somewhere, would pay for that kind of entertainment. And he was in Cantralian. The place where that kind of person always ends up, in the end.

Jack considered his life. Considered his choices. Considered the list he'd shredded so long ago.

He'd had a long time to learn patience, and a long time to learn not to seek death. The choice really wasn't so hard.

***

It was hard to keep track of time in Cantralian. The lights, he thought once, chasing down a hint of a melody he remembered from so very long ago, were much brighter there. When he wasn't in use, he was in a slightly larger version of the egg - a cut-rate studio apartment. It had a food replicator and a sonic shower and an elimination closet. And maddeningly dim lights, although it was never dark, not even when he slept. But it was gentler than when he was taken out. Then, the lights were always on, so bright he could only squint at wavery black shapes, only feel the hands/appendages/tentacles/extrusions/all of the above. They were never cruel. They were always gentle. There was always pleasure. On both sides. It didn't make him feel less used.

It was only dark when he died. And that did happen, sometimes. Because this was Cantralian, and if someone would pay enough, his own choices took second place.

***

Jack had been a concubine before. He'd been someone's petted, cosseted captive. He'd always stayed for exactly as long as he'd wanted to be caught, and then he'd left.

This time, he couldn't find a way out. He had nothing but softness and light, bright or dim, but eternally light. For once in his many, many years, he had no sense of time. He'd never thought he'd miss it. He was wrong.

***

And then it all shattered.

His egg went dark, pitch black, and for a moment he had to stop and check his own pulse.

He was still alive.

And then there was the sound of rotors wheezing, and the light was back, but it was flashing and blue, and the door opened to let him tumble inside even before he touched it.

He heard explosions outside and managed to shove himself aside, ending up with his back against a strut, wedged between a railing and an umbrella stand, just in time for a gangly body in tweed and skinny trousers to hurl itself through the doors. The Doctor glanced at him and then flew to the console, banging and flipping and twisting until the rotors caught again and they were gone.

***

Jack found he had nothing to say. After millennia, it shouldn't have been surprising.

More surprising than that was the Doctor, who looked at him, and watched him, and said nothing at all.

They existed in a kind of stillness, never silence, not with the thrum of the TARDIS in his bones, at the edges of his mind. He wasn't alone. Knowing that helped.

Not much did.

He settled in his old room. Sometimes he slept. Sometimes he didn't. Sometimes he found that the only clothes he could bring himself to wear were the plain white shirt and brown trousers he'd worn before. Sometimes he balled them up and threw them down the recycler shaft in the kitchen and wore color, screamingly bright. Sometimes he woke up and found the TARDIS had surrounded him in texture and sound and fragrance. And sometimes he walked into a room that held only her thrum and the dull, brown, comfortable furnishings of the rooms he knew as a child.

Sometimes he opened a door onto a hillside under a sparkling night sky and walked in and stayed until he couldn't sit any longer.

Sometimes the Doctor was there. Sometimes he wasn't.

***

He still didn't know how long it had been.

He didn't know if he wanted to.

He still didn't know what to say.

Until one day, he did.

***

"Did you know?"

They were on the hillside, watching the stars wheel. Jack's voice felt harsh, knives in his throat. The Doctor didn't move.

"Did I know what?"

"Did you know I was there before you arrived?"

"Does it matter?"

Jack looked at the constellations. Knew they were from a planet he could never see.

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Because it would mean you came for me."

"I always know where you are, if I look. Comes of being a fixed point, Captain."

"Don't call me that."


***

The next time he spoke, he was in the console room and didn't realize he had done it. "Hello, gorgeous," he murmured, his hand curled around a strut. He felt the tenor of her hum shift, curling around him. He tried not to think of waving purple hair and willed himself to keep still. The TARDIS wound around him like a persistent kitten. Cat, he thought, and was perversely comforted by the thought of claws.

***

They were back on the same hill.

It wasn't dark and it wasn't light, and it was the closest thing to right he could find that day.

He'd actually come in alone, and slept, after sleepless nights/days/all of the above, and woken to find the Doctor sprawled a careful distance away. He hadn't been sure the Doctor had known he was awake. And then that young/old/all of the above voice had said, "I can't always come for you." It was harshly said, but not, Jack thought, at him.

"I know," he answered, and thought about just when he'd started keeping that long ago list. "I didn't, once. It took me a long time to understand why."

"I won't always come for you."

"Is that a challenge?" Jack said without thinking, and then he laughed, and it caught in his throat, at his heart, and he didn't know if he was laughing or crying, but the Doctor didn't move. Eventually he calmed. Eventually, he slept again.

Eventually he woke, and the Doctor was still there, and the TARDIS, underneath it all.

"Will you always look?"

The stars didn't move. Jack didn't breathe.

"Oh, Jack." A hand touched his. "I always look."

It wasn't enough now. It might be enough, eventually.

"It'll do," Jack said, and they watched together.

[identity profile] a-phoenixdragon.livejournal.com 2014-04-23 03:15 am (UTC)(link)
Ohh, honey...

Ohh, honey this was sad, terrible, haunting and yet beautiful. It always seems that way with Jack and the Doctor. Both so alien and so human and...

Thank you for this.

*HUGS*

[identity profile] leah steele (from livejournal.com) 2014-04-23 05:58 am (UTC)(link)
Beautiful, sad yet haunting it echoes within the mist of what could have been between them but was broken instead all they actually have left is hope.

[identity profile] arnica.livejournal.com 2014-04-24 10:31 am (UTC)(link)
Best Birthday present this year!!! I really liked this. Thank you.
navaan: (pocket watch)

[personal profile] navaan 2014-04-27 05:46 pm (UTC)(link)
This was perfectly lovely! I love the underlying sadness, but the understanding beneath it all.

[identity profile] leah steele (from livejournal.com) 2014-07-06 09:11 am (UTC)(link)
How very sad, yet hopeful at the same time it also perfectly expresses their relationship. I loved it!

[identity profile] redpearl-cao.livejournal.com 2017-01-12 12:08 am (UTC)(link)
This is so tender and sad at the same time...