[Session – Voice recording – Captain Jack Harkness]
(There is silence at first, only the sound of Harkness' breathing telling a listener that it isn't empty tape.)
“He sits there unmoving at times, watching me, watching my wrongness. He doesn't have to say it. I know it. I can see it in his eyes.”
(In this pause as one supposes Harkness is collecting his thoughts, the clink of a heavy cup, perhaps a coffee mug, is heard along with a soft slurp of something being drank.)
“When he opens his mouth to speak, you find yourself wishing he hadn't. Everything that comes out is double-edge. It's like holding a bare razor blade in your hand that's alive and twisting. You know you're going to get cut. It's just a question of how deep and how painful it will be. But like an addiction, I can't walk away from him and not come back. Someone has to see to him.”
(There's a note of resignation to Harkness' words and an odd thread of selfishness, a child who can't give up a lead painted toy, even sneaking it back out of the trash when a wiser parent tried to throw it away and shouting 'It's mine! You can't have it!'.)
“He says things that are too true, and there's no way to stop him or make him take it back. It's as if part of him is missing. I don't know how to describe it. Words have never been my strong point. Ianto would probably know better how to explain it. All I can say is that looking at him hurts the mind but listing to the words he says hurts the soul...the heart. He takes all the little secrets and painful things and drags them out into the light of day. If it's ugly, he makes it twenty times worse. I've been having nightmares, and when you're talking about all my years and what I've done, that's saying a whole fucking lot.”
(The silence spins out again, broken by a sigh and the clunk of that heavy mug.)
“He makes you hurt just by saying a few words when all you want him to have is a bit of kindness. There's something about him that keeps you thinking that if you try over and over, then it will get better. It's not fair! It shouldn't be like this!”
(A loud bang is heard as Jack slams his fist down on his desk. It's quiet for so long that one has to start to wonder if he's left the tape on accidentally until he speaks finally.)
“I can change it. I know I can.”
(A terribly heavy and tired sigh comes again before the recording ends.)
It was past one am when Martha Jones' phone rang.
“Hello?” she asked, muzzy with sleep. It had been a long night.
“Jack? Jack, is that you?”
Martha smiled, coming as awake as one could after thirty-six hours of being on their feet. Jack, dear Captain Jack. But this was a midnight call, and something couldn't be right for him to be calling this late since he didn't sound as if he'd been drinking. She cut to the chase. It saved time. “What's wrong, Jack?”
The call from what she supposed was Cardiff had a crackly quality to it. She supposed it was the Rift interfering. If Jack said something, she missed it. “Jack?”
“I need you to come, Martha. Here. Can you?” he asked her through the static.
Martha felt the first cold fingers of fear. That had been the perfect opportunity for one of Jack's witty sexual remarks, and he ignored it. “To Cardiff? To Torchwood?”
“Yes. Can you?”
Nothing should have made Jack sound dead like that, and Martha couldn't have said 'no' anymore than she could have made night into day... or a blue TARDIS to appear and make everything better. “I'll be on the next flight.”
“Thank you,” Jack said and rang off without another word.
When she had arrived, all the right things were said, but Martha had the distinct impression that Jack was playacting instead of really there with her. The other members of Torchwood were gone, leaving the two of them alone. She followed as he led her down one of the twisting turns of corridors, stopping in front of a well fortified door. A number code went entered, Jack letting the system scan his hand print as well as a retinal scan done with a voice print before the door slid silently aside.
“She's back here,” Jack told her as they worked their way past rows upon rows of artifacts the Rift had dumped. As they passed one display of weapons and clothing at the front, she could have sworn...
“Jack, that said 'Gallifreyan'.”
“Yes, it did.”
“But there was a gun and-”
Jack Harkness didn't meet Martha's eyes. She knew he was immortal, never giving in to time or sickness, but Jack's eyes were sunken in dark hollows and she could swear he had lost at least a stone or two of weight. His greatcoat hung on him instead of filling out.
“Here,” he said, breaking her out of her reverie. Jack pulled the heavy canvas over the seven or so foot tall object beneath.
“TARDIS,” she whispered.
It looked like the Doctor's TARDIS, but it was wrong, so very wrong. Instead of a comforting blue, the police box was a slick and shiny red. A chill rattled her spine as she stood in its presence, 'her' presence she told herself, and felt fear. It was like standing in front of a revving sports car that wanted to run her down. The windows were dark in the room's dim light, but Martha could swear the TARDIS was watching her. Malevolence seeped off it.
“She's a TARDIS, yes,” Jack whispered.
The door of it opened with a low creaking, a haunted house sound if there ever was one. Crimson and gold light spilled out towards them. Before she thought about it, Martha had taken a step towards it. Jack's hand closing roughly about her arm stopped her.
“You're hurting me.”
Jack's eyes remained locked on the TARDIS although his grip did loosen a degree. “Don't go in. Her floor likes to drop down after you're off the ramp, sending you down into the engines where you'll be ground up and spit out as dust.”
She didn't ask how he knew that. She didn't have to.
“She's not like the Doctor's, is she?” Jack asked her, his grin more like a skeleton's rictus than the laughing and teasing Captain Jack she knew. What had happened to him?
“No,” Martha said, voice steady thanks to years of experience. Daleks were worse, she told herself. “Who brought it here?”
“That's what you need to see,” Jack said simply before leading her out and away from the TARDIS. Her door closed as they turned away, the light dimming, but Martha could feel it... her... watching them still.
When she stepped off the elevator that took them deep beneath the Hub, she saw the sign.
All NSAIDs including aspirin
Nickel - metal
Fire Ant Venom
Weapons including knives, guns, tasers, et al
All are banned beyond this point by order of Captain Jack Harkness
“No questions,” Jack said. “Not yet. Put everything in the bin that is on the banned list. Mobile phones, watches, guns. Everything.”
Jack's throwing knives and Webley were the first to clatter into the heavy metal bin. His mobile joined them along with his Bluetooth earpiece. Martha's wristwatch, mobile and everything else she had one her went in as well.
“Wallet too,” Jack said, staring at the heavy metal door before them instead of her. His eyes had the look of a remote island fanatic about to see their volcano god. Fear and adoration became an ugly mix. “Credit cards or anything with a magnetic strip.”
Dropping in her entire wallet, Martha didn't ask anymore questions. What haunted Jack had to be close. She had never seen him like this, too driven by ghosts she didn't understand but had the good superstitious sense to fear.
Soon enough, she found out why, what black cat had crossed Jack's path.
“Doctor,” she whispered, watching the man beyond the force-field. Guns were set in the ceiling, active and tracking the man beyond them despite the energy field between them.
“No, he's not the Doctor,” Jack explained, watching the man who looked like the Doctor watching them with that eerie stillness. “His name is Theta, or that's what he calls himself. He's ...”
Jack trailed off there. It was the 'Doctor' that lifted his right hand and wiggled the fingertips to her.
“He's the metacrisis,” Martha said, stepping closer to the force-field She could feel it tingling against her skin. Experience told her that touching it would give her a nasty shock of electricity.
“That I am,” the metacrisis... the Human Doctor... Theta replied. When he smiled, he had the Doctor's smile although she could see something dark lurking behind it just as the red TARDIS had that dark feel behind its crimson and gold light. “Hello, Martha. My name is Theta Sigma.”
“But, you're...” she began. She never had found out what had happened to the hand-becoming-person. She hadn't thought to ask. Had anyone?
“Not the Doctor is that's what you're thinking,” Theta said, drawing as close to the force-field as he dared to. He was dressed in a purple pair of hospital-like scrubs, the Torchwood logo on the breast of them. “Jack thought I was at first.”
Martha didn't miss how Theta grinned darkly at Jack (and oh how that was so out of place on the Doctor's face) or how Jack minutely flinched and didn't look at Theta.
“As I said, my name is Theta,” the Doctor-creature said. “Jack brings me so few visitors.”
Jack was silent as he stood against the wall, not looking up to meet Theta's gaze that pinned on him and then back to Martha.
It was in that moment that Martha realized that whoever or whatever this Doctor-clone was, he was utterly and completely insane. It was in his eyes, in the curve of his ugly grin and in the way he moved. Nothing about him was 'right' or 'normal'.
“He's afraid that someone else might make a mistake. Then I would be free, and the neonatal unit at Cardiff General would burn in his honour,” Theta said, favouring Jack with another savage grin before his mad eyes flicked back to Martha. “And he's right. It would. After all, what are a few more screams along with the first twelve, right, Jack?”
Jack flinched as if struck unexpectedly and nudged Martha towards the door that lead out and back to the elevator. She left numbly, the Doctor-clone's voice calling from behind her.
“He never did tell you that he loved you, did he, Martha?” Theta asked. “You were too real, too 'there'.”
Neither of them said anything on the way back up to the Hub's main level. His words lingered in her mind. Oh, she loved her man, but the Doctor... the Doctor. Who could compare to that? Had that been why the Doctor-
“Don't think on it,” Jack said shortly, rubbing his fingers against his closed eyes. “If you do, you'll go mad. He says things like that. Just don't ask and don't think on it if you can.”
Martha's eyes met his own as Jack lowered his hand, all she thought in them.
“But you can't, can you?” Jack asked with a humourless smile.
“It's his power. Theta's power. He drags up all the things in us. Don't give in.”
Jack's attempt at a reassuring smile was empty as he opened the elevator door to let them back into the Hub. The prison cell beneath was ten stories down.
“Why did you bring me here?” Martha asked, trying to tell herself that it wasn't the Doctor they had seen below, that Jack wasn't keeping the Doctor in a prison cell far beneath them and buried alive where he couldn't run away.
“I need you to call the Doctor. And bring him here. Only you can.”
Martha took a good long look at Jack's eyes. She opened her cellphone then, the super version, and dialed a number. When a voice answered, she didn't hesitate. In Jack's blue eyes so usually full of determination and goodness she had seen too many shadows. “Doctor? It's Martha. Can you come to Cardiff?”
[Session – Audio/Video recording – Captain Jack Harkness]
“It was three months, four days, and ten hours ago when I found him. Not that I'm counting or anything.”
(Jack smiles at the camera, but there's a tiredness to it and that 'haunted' look about his eyes that Martha had noticed. In the unforgiving and unflattering light of the camera's glare, it's clear he has lost some weight. An amber drink of some sort with ice cubes in it sits before him. Jack takes a generous swig of it that only the kindest could call a 'sip' before he starts speaking again.)
“There had been a storm that night, pretty wild even by Cardiff standards. I had sent the others home, or in Owen's case to the nearest pub, and I was staying behind to monitor the Rift. Can't pose dramatically atop the nearest tall building with lightning jumping all over the skies. Ruins the effect to be a smoking corpse.”
(The smile is a little more genuine this time as Jack mentally steps back in time to that night. The half-empty bottle of rum at his elbow probably hasn't hurt any either.)
“The Rift flared hard and bright, enough that I was expecting an army of some brain-sucking aliens to come charging through. Instead, there was a policebox sitting there. In the afterimage of the lightning and the Rift's fading light, it seemed like it was glowing.”
(Another drink seemed to help the rest of the story now hurt as much as he picked up the thread of the story.)
“He was coming out as I got there. I thought he was the Doctor. Who wouldn't with how he looks?
“He let me hug him. That should have been the first sign. If I had been less blind, I would have felt that there was only one heart beating under mine. I didn't care then. The Doctor was there again, and he was happy to see me. Theta kissed my cheek, something the Doctor had never done in this regeneration and his whispered a word in my ear: my real name. Do you know how long it's been since someone called me that? He spoke it as if it were magic, a prayer. I almost came on the spot.”
(There's no embarrassment in that statement. When has Jack Harkness ever shown shame? His eyes are glassy with alcohol and remembrance, the smile growing softer, kinder.)
“He took my arm and let me lead him into the Hub. I showed him everything like a little kid trying to impress a new friend. He nodded and smiled, keeping his hand in mind. I don't remember what I said, but I do remember him letting me hold his hand. His skin was cool in mine, fingers curled around my own. I even took him into the Dangerous Weapons locker where his TARDIS sits now. He laughed at most of the things in there, telling me that I had some sort of bomb sitting next to the only thing that could set it off. I moved it and made a note for Ianto. He asked me afterward if he could stay at Torchwood for awhile, take a rest. He didn't tell me anything more that, and it was my stupidity for not asking more questions. The Doctor saves the universe daily. Who needed a vacation more than he did, and he sought me out for it, wanted to see what I had built in his name?”
(The good cheer is suddenly gone from Jack's face as he tips the bottle over to dump straight liquor into his tumbler instead of bothering with a mixer. The kindness and softness is gone from Jack's face, replaced with coldness and a hurt that masquerades as anger.)
“He had killed ten people before we suspected him, another five before I put him in that cell.”
(Jack laughs, humourless and painful.)
“It was my cell before it became his. I wondered why he stared so hard where the wall that had been put over that elevator was when we passed it. I put it off to the Doctor being... well, the Doctor. Knowing everything and all. We had to update the cell and elevator, but that's another story. Now he's buried a full ten stories below us, locked up tight. Torchwood's dirty little secret.”
(Another drink, and he drains the glass. It's refilled just as neatly as before.)
“He told me his third night here, after he had recovered from the drugs we hit him with, that I had to be glad to see him locked up. That he couldn't run away now as the Doctor always did.”
(There's a sour set to Jack's mouth as he picked up the tumbler. His eyes have that stricken look to them as Jack meets the camera's unflinching gaze, a sickness in them that's not unlike a man in the grips of his worst addiction.)
“He was right. I stayed up all night just watching him sleep and went down first thing in the morning to make sure he was still there. I still do most nights. Some night.”
(Jack leans forward to shut off the camera.)
Martha, Jack and the Doctor stood in the Dangerous Weapons locker in front of the red TARDIS. Her door (Martha's mind kept insisting that 'it' was a 'she' now, and Hell hath no fury-) didn't open this time and her inner lights stayed dark, but she could feel that sentient regard still. If the Jack and Doctor felt it, neither of them showed it. She rubbed her hands on her upper arms to drive away some of the chill as she let Jack explain.
“The metacrisis,” Jack said. “It's his.”
The Doctor shook his head, walking slowly around the TARDIS. Martha wanted to call him back, spent the few seconds the Doctor disappeared behind it with her heart in her throat. “That's impossible, Captain. He's not even in this reality. You're mistaken.”
“You sound as if you're trying to convince yourself more than me,” Jack said quietly, any hurt in his eyes carefully covered up. Not that he thought the Doctor would care or look for it. “There's more.”
Martha trailed behind them as Jack led them to the display that she had barely gotten a look at when she passed through two hours earlier. In the blue-white glare of Jack's torch, the word 'GALLIFREYAN shone on the nameplate. Hanging behind it was a black leather long coat, the sides of it drawn back to show a loop mount for a gun of some sort. At the side of the coat was the ugliest sawed-off shotgun she had ever seen. It would have been a handy weapon, easily concealed beneath that coat, but it had the same reek of wrongness to it that the slick red TARDIS in the back did.
“He calls it a 'Disruptor',” Jack said, his eyes locked on the gun. “When it fires, it sounds like a little toy cap gun going off. What it does is reduce a living thing to a puddle of goo and ash. Owen said that it accelerates the aging rate of half the cells of a carbon organism and reduces to a primordial state the rest. The metacrisis said he based it off the Master's-”
“Tissue Compression Eliminator,” the Doctor said sharply, cutting Jack off. “It disintegrated some of them. It's a Gallifreyan concept.”
Martha wanted to touch the Doctor's arm reassuringly as he pressed a hand to his forehead, but she stayed just as still as Jack did.
Jack's beam turned on the knives at the side. To Martha's eyes, they looked like perfectly ordinary switchblades folded back into their handles.
“Sonic switchblades,” Jack explained. “They cut through anything and everything, even diamonds. The blade vibrates or something according to Theta, making them invincible.”
“Theta?” the Doctor asked, looking to Jack. Really looking. Used to judging the Doctor's moods and ways, she was relieved to see the Doctor finally taking in fully how bad Jack looked. That didn't stop that thin twitch of discomfort when the Doctor touched Jack's arm.
He never did tell you that he loved you, did he, Martha? You were too real, too 'there' echoed through her mind.
“What?” the Doctor asked, turning sharply on Martha as if she had uttered those words aloud.
Jack glanced at Martha first. There was a knowing in his eyes that left her dropping her eyes to the ground in a shame she knew she shouldn't feel. Jack knew. He broke the silence. “Theta. The metacrisis calls himself 'Theta Sigma'. He told me once that he used to call himself 'John Smith', but he felt he needed to change it when he stopped trying to be a human.”
The Doctor pressed his fingers to his temples, thumbs between his brows as if trying to ease a migraine. He dropped them back to his sides and studied the four golden spheres hanging near the bottom of the display case. Each was the size of a small egg.
“I never found out what those are. He didn't tell me or show me how they worked. They were in his pockets when we captured him.”
The Doctor directed the torch's beam down to study them. Gallifreyan writing and symbols were etched into each one, a story told of the future. “They're bombs,” he said shortly. “I need to see him.”
“This way,” Jack said.
Martha followed behind them, feeling that this was A Very Bad Idea if there ever was one, but she was no more able to stop it than she had been anything else with the Doctor, including her love of him.
They stared at each other through the slight smear of the forcefield. Above them, the guns clicked quietly as they tracked Theta's position.
“You call yourself 'Theta Sigma',” the Doctor said. Too many questions were in his mind with far too few answers.
“It has a better sound to it than 'John Smith',” Theta answered, smiling in that razor-sharp way as he did. He had drawn close enough to the forcefield that his skin tingled from it.
“It was my name.”
“Couldn't very well call myself – whoops, that's a secret, isn't it?” Theta gave a short laugh as he pressed a fingertip to his lips.
The Doctor sighed as he watched what was himself on the other side. He was as close as Theta was, the forcefield making every inch of him sit on the edge of pain from its output. To touch it would probably give him a nasty jolt. It was too much like what the Daleks had used. “Wouldn't it serve you better to find your own name?”
“I am you and you and me and us are we,” Theta sing-songed cheerfully.
The Doctor frowned, eyes narrowing slightly. There was a hidden pain there that he couldn't pinpoint. What had the metacrisis been doing in his time away? What had made everything go so wrong? “No, I'm am me, and you are you. We're not the same person.”
The half-breed lifted a fingertip as if calling for silence as his smile turned bitter. “But I was expected to be you, wasn't I? When you left me there, you weren't expecting or wanting me to be my own person. You wanted me to be -you- since you couldn't be with Rose. What do you think started happening when I did things that weren't what you would have, when I had thoughts that weren't yours, Doctor? What do you think happened when the boy made of wood became a real boy?”
The Doctor's hearts contracted. Here was the core of the thing he had been afraid to ask, wasn't sure he wanted to know. “Where is Rose?”
Silence was let to spin out between them, Theta's expression going from cutting to closed off. When he did answer, there was neither kindness or cruelty to his words. “She died. About three or four months after you left.”
Jack had been silent at the Doctor's side, letting him deal with this, but he broke in at that. “It's only been about a few weeks since... since you went wherever you went.”
To Jack and Martha's horror, the Doctor and Theta waved their right hands in the exact same way and time, brushing the matter of time off.
“Timey,” Theta began.
“Wimey,” the Doctor finished.
Letting his grief show in front of this creature would be a horrible mistake. The Doctor knew that much. He could see the cruelty lingering in the curve of his mouth and the look of his eyes. It reminded him so strongly of the Master, wanting to hurt the universe for some reason only known to the Master. To give the least hint of how his hearts were broken over the news of Rose would have been blood dumped in water to a shark. Later... later he could grieve for someone he had loved more than he had known until he was told she was beyond even his reach. “How?” he asked, keeping his voice steady.
Theta lifted his shoulder in a careless shrug, as if the matter didn't mean anything to him although the Doctor saw a hint of something there. Or told himself he did. There had to be something in there worth saving. There always was.
“She was murdered,” Theta said.
“By you?” Jack asked bluntly.
Dear Jack, the Doctor thought and blessed him for asking the question he couldn't.
“I was convicted of it,” Theta replied coldly, hiding behind that mask that gave nothing away.
No one said anything. Martha and Jack had heard of or seen Rose with the Doctor, and the enormity of a piece of the Doctor killing her hurt in a way that couldn't be readily defined.
“That and twenty Torchwood agents along with the eleven UNIT ones they found out about,” Theta added on as an afterthought. “It was enough to land me in Torchwood custody for five years.”
“Everything that pours out of your mouth is poison,” Jack said, weariness weighing in his words.
“Is it?” Theta asked. “Then let me tell you, Jack, that in a few months, two of your four will be dead. In a year or two, a third will be. In the end, you'll be left with just one, and I'll tell you as well that the 'one' isn't Ianto.”
For what may have been the first time, Jack's hand closed hard around the Doctor's forearm. Flesh and muscle was pinched cruelly between his fingers. “Is he telling the truth? When? How? Who?”
The Doctor shook his head, not meeting Jack's eyes. “You know better than to ask me that. He's not from our reality, Captain. What happened in that world isn't necessarily what will in ours.”
“But he's not telling you that it probably will,” Theta said nastily.
Glare was met with glare between the two who were part of one.
“Let me go, Jack, and I'll tell you,” Theta said, never taking his eyes off the Doctor. Both were so cold, so alien... so Gallifreyan.
“He won't,” the Doctor said.
“So sure of your champion, are you?”
“My Captain has never let me fall before.”
“You're in your eleventh regeneration in that world.”
Jack ended it as he pulled the Doctor away, bodily shoving Martha towards the door that would lead them out and to the elevator. Tomorrow, his hand print was sure to be left on the Doctor's forearm.
Theta's voice called after that, “Gray is still alive too, Jack. They didn't kill him.”
It was the Doctor that pulled them on and to the elevator.
They all sat around a table later, each with their drink of choice. The Doctor stayed silent, waving off all questions as he stared into the depths of his tea.
“Is he telling the truth?” Jack asked, tossing back another pure liquor drink.
“For his timeline, I think so.”
“I don't know.”
The Doctor looked older than Martha had seen him.
No one said anything as time moved on. When Martha asked for a room, Jack left the Doctor alone to show her. When he didn't return, the Doctor assumed he had gone to bed himself. It only took a twist of his sonic screwdriver to access Torchwood's systems. He spent the hours from then until Tosh's arrival watching the live video of Theta sleeping. He thought on equations and both sides balancing. He thought of Donna Noble and what half of her had done when mixed with Gallifreyan genes. He thought of how quickly she had gone mad and how long it had taken this... Theta.
[Session – Voice Recording – Ianto Jones]
He's down there again, with that thing in the basement that looks like the Doctor. I've always known that he loved the Doctor, went running when he heard that sound.
(This hiss of the coffee maker is heard in the background followed by the almost lost sound of a liquid pouring into a mug.)
When I saw the Doctor, I was afraid he wasn't coming back. Hell, I knew he wasn't coming back. Then he did, and I didn't know what to think at first. He and Jack were close, and Jack was spending less and less time at my flat. I knew where he was. They weren't... fucking, but they were spending time together.
(That crude word flows badly off Ianto's tongue, driven by anger. There's a pause as he takes a sip and resumes his story.)
We weren't sure who or what was killing those people. There was no set modus operandi to what was going on. Ages, social levels, gender... nothing. Even the methods were different. The last of the first ten had a cut on them that Toshiko matched to the test cut Theta had made on a piece of metal for us to see how powerful his sonic switchblades were. Bragging. That's his weakness. He wants us to know how he did things. Another five passed before we could prove it to Jack. Even though he's in a cell now, it doesn't bring back those fifteen people, does it?
(An edge of bitterness creeps in with those final words. One could guess that Ianto had been pushing Jack at those times that it was 'the Doctor', not some alien or random killer.)
Locking him away hasn't helped. Oh, there's some calmness to Jack now that he doesn't seem afraid that tomorrow 'the Doctor' will be gone. Jack knows exactly where Theta is now, every hour of the day. He has all those cameras set up in the ceiling to watch him. It's becoming an obsession.
(The last word is spat out but it isn't the tone of jealousy of envy. There's real anger backing it.)
I'm watching him drive Jack mad, and I won't let it happen. I'll feed Theta, see to his needs, but I won't let him drag Jack down into whatever madness it is that he puts off. I've had to ban Owen and Tosh from down there after Theta spoke to them and they started acting strangely. Toshiko burst into tears an hour after taking Theta's lunch down to him. Owen still won't talk about what Theta said to him even if I do know it from the video. All Theta does is poison everyone around him, taking them down to his level. I can't keep Jack out, but I can them.
(Another clunk of his mug is heard as he takes a sip and sets it back down on Jack's desk a little harder than is necessary.)
Now that the Doctor and Martha have arrived, I hope they can drag Jack back out. I can live with him never kissing me again, never being in my bed. What I can't live with is Captain Jack Harkness dying down in that cell and a stranger taking his place.
(A click ends the session as Ianto shuts off the recorder.)
“How did you get those scars?”
Theta slid the scrub shirt on, caring little that Martha Jones had come into his cell while he was half-naked. More often than not, he would abandon clothing at night, sleeping atop the rough sheets nude. Honestly now, would it kill someone to use a little fabric softner on those sheets once in awhile? They felt about as comfortable as paper. Dragging the bottom of his shirt down, he glanced over at shoulder at her. Oh dear Martha. How she had loved the Doctor, and how he had known it. The Doctor always knew.
The scars across his back formed a crude multi-pointed star shape, ugly and twisted ropes of flesh by this time. Time hadn't pale out the skin as it usually did to scars, leaving them an angry red as if just recently healed. “Ianto Jones shot me in the back,” he said with a shrug, looking Martha over carefully.
She straightened her spine under his open study, and Theta could see her trying to cover any weak spots. How he loved a woman's vanity. Men's too, but women were more satisfying in their own ways and much more difficult to break. A man would run away, retreat from a mental battle unless he was assured to win, at least the ones Theta had encountered. Women would stand and try to challenge him on his best battlefield, making the victory so much sweeter.
“Ianto?” she asked, eyes dropping from him as she thought and then rising up to his once more.
Theta had to appreciate the quick mind she had. Little wonder the Doctor had trusted her so.
“Ianto,” he said with a nod, taking a seat in the bolted to the floor single chair he had in his chest. A hand was waved towards the one outside the barrier of the forcefield, inviting her to stay for awhile. The grin that wanted to rise at how quickly she accepted was restrained. “The Ianto Jones of that other world, not this one, but I don't doubt that this one would if it was necessary.”
Theta felt it never hurt to toss Jack a bone in the form of a compliment in his taste in lovers.
A few seconds were spent staring at the ceiling as if trying to find the right words when he was really wanting to draw the moment out. One should never pull the bait line before the fish had the hook half-way down their gullet. Finally he lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “I had cut Jack's eye out and hand off in an escape attempt. I was almost to my TARDIS when he shot me in the back. Not the most noble thing in the world. Have to admire that in a human.”
Martha frowned at him. “You say that all the time. 'Human'. It sounds like you hate the word, but you're one of us at least partially.”
She really did have a pretty voice, Theta decided as he watched her. All he needed was a small chink in her armour for him to shove the blade through. Liking one aspect didn't mean he had any intention of changing his plans. “I believe my first reaction upon learning that I was half-human was 'Ewww' or something like that. I think of myself as Gallifreyan. I may have a few physiological aspects of the human race, but my mind... my thoughts... are those of a Gallifreyan.”
She said nothing, and he could feel the tiny jerks on the line as the fish mouthed the bait. It was in her eyes, the set of her mouth.
“This is torture for someone like me,” he said quietly as he pressed a hand to his forehead and rubbed gently. “I see Time move, I see it passing me by as I sit here. The limited and timeless were never meant to be put together.”
She nodded, concern showing in her eyes against her will. Theta knew a doctor when he saw one.
“The Doctor said … later, after we went upstairs, that you were the only meta-crisis,” she said slowly.
Theta was willing to bet that the Doctor had said such a thing to Jack and dear Martha overheard it. It suited his needs either way. “There have been others, although not human for the most part. Time Lords and Time Ladies seem to be accident attractors.”
“What happened to them?”
“Most were killed shortly after being made, a mercy of sorts. The Doctor could tell you that a meta-crisis cannot exist versus shouldn't. Those that were left alive went mad in short order. Some killed themselves, others were killed by the people of whatever planet they were on. I would dearly like to know how long Donna Noble lasted before the Doctor had to deal with her.”
Martha shook her head. “I don't know. I know we can't contact her or let her hear anything about him. I saw her once. She looked right at me and didn't recognize me.”
“He probably wiped her memory then, removed all of it from her conscious memory,” Theta said, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees and pressing his fingertips into his temples. “It's what I would have done. The human mind... it can't comprehend the vastness of a Time Lord's experience and being. It's like that one faerie tale of yours where the woman tries to stuff her foot into a too small slipper, even going so far as to mutilate her own foot to try and it still doesn't fit.”
“Cinderella,” Martha put in, watching him closely.
The bobber that had been trembling on the water's surface dunked under.
“Are you all right?”
Theta lowered his hands, pain on his face as he tried to smile to cover it. “Headache. I'm prone to migraines. Wouldn't happen to have any aspirin on you, would you? The good Doctor Harper will ignore me if I ask him for anything or try to poison me to see what will happen. He's far too interested in those sorts of things. Probably have a spontaneous orgasm when I die and he gets to do the autopsy.”
She was quick to draw her little pack off her shoulder, the thing that had caught Theta's attention when she first walked into his cell. New people always ignored the signs outside or didn't think of things outside their weapons. Add in that she was a doctor, trained to heal the sick, and it had almost been too easy. He could see the mixture of discomfort and titillation at the visage of the Doctor referring to something as crass and rude as an orgasm. Game. Set. Match.
“I have some, yes.”
Dear Martha was so quick to help and yet forget.
“Can I have about four or six?” Theta asked, injecting just the right amount of shyness into his voice as if he were unused to being shown kindness or someone to care about his well-being. An orphan in a Dickensean novel couldn't have done better.
“It won't hurt you?”
“I'm not fully human. Most of your medications don't work as well on me. Just toss them over to me? I have a sink for water, and the forcefield don't stop anything that isn't metal or living.”
The six white pills flew through the air.
The pitch and volume of Martha Jones' voice shouting for them brought both of them on the run.
“What?” Jack asked, grabbing her by the forearms harder than he meant to. Her face told the story that something was horribly wrong, and she had been down with Theta last he heard...
The Doctor was gentler but no less concerned. He had been toying with how to break the news to Jack that he was taking Theta with him. He had lost the Master to Lucy's bullet. This might be his last chance to not be alone and try to make up for the monster that had been made from his hand. All those thoughts ground to a halt at Martha's panic. “He... what? What did he say?”
Even with Jack holding onto her (too tightly, part of her mind added although it was ignored) she pulled both of them into the elevator and slapped a hand over the only button in it. “He said he had a headache.”
The Doctor swallowed, throat feeling clogged and then he -knew-. He knew without any doubt what had happened.
“And?” Jack demanded, letting go of Martha and standing before the door so he could bolt out as soon as they opened.
“And I gave him some aspirin.”
The Doctor closed his eyes briefly.
“What? You did what?”
Martha shrank back some from Jack, the first time she had ever done such. Dear Jack, Captain Jack had sounded furious with her. It had been an accident, a horrible accident. “I... I...”
The Doctor slid an arm around Martha, drawing her back from Jack. He was reminded too strongly of how haggard Jack had looked the night before. “She doesn't remember, Jack.”
Jack's hands buried themselves in his hair as the elevator descended. “He's allergic to them, Martha! It's on the fucking sign! Didn't you real the goddamn thing or listen to me yesterday?”
“Jack,” the Doctor said warningly. He was hurt, heart-broken at what he knew he was going to find down there, but it had been an honest mistake on Martha's part.
“Fuck!” Jack shouted, the single word clanging off the walls of the metal walls of the elevator as the doors opened. He stormed out, disarming systems as he went until he reached Theta's inner cell. There... there he could only lean against the doorway with something that was an ugly mix of grief and relief on his face. The Doctor stopped at Jack's side, sighing quietly even as he tried to comfort Martha. It had been an accident.
Theta Sigma was dead, glassy brown eyes half-way open. Scarlet streams of blood were sluggishly crawling down from his mouth and nose, everything inside him ruptured from the poison that aspirin was to Gallifreyans. The Doctor was sure that if they took a closer look at blood droplets would be trying to seep out of even his pores. At his sides, Theta's hands were twisted into clutching twists, throat marred by reddish fingernail marks as if he had tried to stop it after realizing what he had done to himself.
“I'll call Owen to-” Jack began, mind casting about for something to do to make this all right.
“No,” the Doctor said as Jack dropped the forcefield. His fingers were kind as he tried to close Theta's eyes. It was too much like the Master's meaningless death, too soon to face this grief and loneliness again. Part of him screaming silently at the unfairness. Plans had been made in his head all day of the things and places he could show Theta, take him to that they both had good memories of. They could speak Gallifreyan to each other for hours, reviving that dead language. The universe would have been theirs. Surely Theta would have taken him up on the offer that the Master hadn't. The TARDIS wouldn't seem so empty with the two of them piloting it. They could understand each other, and the Doctor could fix those mental cracks in Theta's psyche... they could... they could...
Now that hope, those plans, laid dead and cooling at the Doctor's feet with empty eyes that kept opening after the Doctor tried to close them. Words weren't coming easily as the Doctor took this moment to be still, resting a hand on Theta's chest. There was no beat of that single and lonely heart beneath his palm. “Jack, can you-”
“I'll- we have cold storage here,” Jack said with all the bereft hurt the Doctor refused to show.
Later, the Doctor reasoned that he could take Theta's body after Jack had time to grieve and give the meta-crisis the proper funeral pyre that was Gallifreyan tradition. From the stars they had come and to the stars they returned.
It was just past one am when the quiet scratching sound came from one of the drawers in the Torchwood morgue. Everyone else was snug in their beds as the story went. Jack was with Ianto down in his room, two sharing a bed meant for one. Jack had needed Ianto tonight. The Doctor was roaming the halls of his TARDIS, a never-ending route when he needed it to be. He stopped mid-step and frowned, not understanding this small current of Time changing. Martha slept thanks to a pill, needing to be away from the hurt looks of the Doctor and Jack's anger she could sense boiling just under the surface.
The Doctor's eyes moved to the side as Time's flow broke apart even further, a wrongness disrupting everything. With a thought, he was running a few short steps to the control room of his TARDIS.
The drawer slid open, Theta Sigma twisting the toe tag metal fastener between his fingers. Torchwood was so cheap, and it served him this time. Besides Suzie, who thought to use a good lock on the dead?
The Doctor called for Jack on his Universal mobile as he threw open the TARDIS door, seeing the points of wrongness all the closer. Ianto didn't appreciate it as he found himself pulled out of a dead sleep and ending up on the floor as Jack shot up the ladder clothed only in a pair of boxers that weren't even Jack's. As if Jack would wear silk. Ianto was left to draw on the cheap nylon ones.
Jack and the Doctor both caught sight of the still bloodstained Theta Sigma in front of the Dangerous Weapons locker as the door slid aside. The half-breed grinned at the pair of them, clotted blood on his teeth making his smile a skeleton's rictus.
Then a gun's sharp report broke the silence of nighttime in Torchwood. Theta's head snapped back, surprise on his face as he saw his killer just before part of his brain exited out the back of his skull and splattered on the wall behind him. A Webley came into view, the barrel still smoking. The hand that held it and the arm that followed were clad in a RAF issue greatcoat. The rest of the man stepped out into the hallway, peering down at the once-again dead Theta Sigma. While the back of his skull was a ruptured mess of bone, blood and brain, the hole in the centre of his forehead was neat in comparison. The new Jack studied Theta's death-frozen face before looking up to the other Jack and the Doctor. “Sneaky little bastard, isn't he?” New Jack said too cheerfully.
“Pete's World Jack,” the Doctor said, getting his grips quickly with two Jacks, two glaring points of flat out wrongness in front of him.