"This is the last time I take you out drinking, Jack Harkness!"
The words were slurred into a landscape devoid of anything of interest, most notably anything even remotely resembling a wooden, blue telephone box. Somehow--and Jack had only the very haziest memories of anything within the past twenty-four hours--they had lost the TARDIS.
With a brave attempt at his usual insouciant grin, he said, hand on the other's elbow for balance, "Admit it, you have more fun with me around. I liven things up."
"Yes," the Doctor replied, levering that hand free with the result that Jack found himself sprawling into what felt like the side of a tent. "And livening things up around here tends to lead to losing one's head."
"Where is here?"
To which the Doctor made no answer while licking his finger and holding it up in the air. "I was aiming for 1370s but it tastes like we may have drifted."
A squelching sound and an altogether too distinctive odour had Jack screwing up his features in distaste. "A stable? You brought me to a stable?! I thought you knew how to steer this thing."
"Backseat drivers put me off."
"I wasn't doing any such thing. You had too much to drink."
"You not come with me--I should be the one refusing to come with you. You promised me Chaucer."
"I said, shut up, you idiotically dressed excuse for a man," the Doctor hissed, his hand now gripping Jack's elbow in a manner that did the job of several pints of black coffee.
"Why, what is it?"
"I may have fractionally miscalculated and brought us to a military camp."
The sound on the subliminal edge of hearing resolved itself into the clash of approaching weaponry. Doubtless appropriately pointy weapons. Even in the aftermath of inebriation, Jack was not stupid enough to think of pulling his gun in present company. "No shit, Sherlock. Where do we go?"
"In here." The even more ungainly than usual Timelord pulled him bodily through the cloth wall of what he'd earlier suspected to be a tent.
In the longest period of silence they had so far managed, they waited for the noise of the soldier's progress through the camp to die away before the Doctor pulled out the screwdriver he still carried. The light it cast was pale but sufficient to look around the frankly rather bare interior.
Walls reflecting the light back in purplish glory, it contained only one thing of interest and neither wild horses nor Gwen Cooper would ever get him to admit to jumping when he saw the suit of armour.
"What the hell is that, Doctor?"
"Somebody's Sunday suit?" that man suggested, moving closer to it. "Now, if I can just take a look inside, I can...Oh, you beauty!"
"Yes, I know I am," Jack whispered, "but would you keep your mind on the--"
"Not you, this." He stepped aside, revealing the raised visor. Gleaming in the light from the screwdriver, Jack recognised...
"A repair droid? Wouldn't you say that's impossible?"
"Oh, I don't think so. Remind me to tell you about Versailles sometime."
That was when the suit of armour snapped to attention, metal-encased hands clamping down on Jack's arm. "Intruders! We've got intruders!"
Jack swore roundly, turning a desperate face towards his companion. "Hey, how do you shut these things up?"
"Oh, hello, you," the Doctor said, patting the clockwork automaton on the head absently. "I know this isn't Versailles--this armour hasn't really met guns yet, although cannons are a definite possibility--but do you think you could tell me when this is? Oh, and in case we have to start running away and I forget to mention it, you are beautiful!"
"Doctor, is this really the time? I mean, I'm all for automata-erotica but there's a time and a place, right?"
The sound of tramping feet came to a halt outside the tent. "Show yourselves! In the name of Queen Margaret and His Highness the Prince."
"Question answered, Doctor?" Jack forced out, his hand no longer feeling as though it were attached to his body.
"Margaret and the Prince plus the armour puts this some time in the...oh, only ninety or so years after Chaucer."
"Great, I'm glad we've got that sorted out. Now, how are we going to get out of here?"
"Got that flask?"
With his non-clamped arm, Jack dug in the voluminous pocket of his greatcoat and produced the flask he'd acquired somewhere near Ypres roughly a century earlier, pausing only to wonder why he always did as the Doctor said. "Is the plan to get them drunk?"
"Not quite." Calmly flipping the flask open, the Doctor poured the entire contents--a not inexpensive whisky Jack had had the devil of a time finding--into the droid's workings. The mechanism wound down and its hands slackened enough for Jack to pull his arm free.
"OK, that's one. What about the others?"
"What about them?"
"They're right outside."
The Doctor grinned, eyes lighting up in an altogether too familiar fashion. "I know. It'll be procedure for important visitors--that's us, by the way--to be taken to the Queen." After a beat, he added, "And the Prince, of course, but it's Margaret who's the real power. I love a strong woman, don't you?"
"Not when they're upset with me," Jack muttered, for once completely heartfelt.
They were dragged to a tent about three times the size of the one they had left behind. There was no sign of a queen, or any women for that matter, but three men grouped round a table covered in papers.
"My lords. We found them in one of the tents. Yorkist spies, no doubt." For what little it was worth, the captain of the guard appeared to be human.
"I thought they'd had all the news they wanted. I'm afraid Clifford and Somerset have left the heads in York. But you'll see them soon enough." The best-dressed of the three men snapped his fingers. "Have them sent on. That stripling Edward will simply have to go without."
"After Wakefield.[i] That makes it...1461 if I'm right, and I'm almost always right, my lord. But I don't think you'll be sending my companion and me anywhere. You see, this is wrong." He paused, apparently thinking while he fidgeted with the screwdriver, tossing it from one hand to the other. "Well, not the heads. That part's perfectly accurate, but I'd remember clockwork men. Will wouldn't have been able to resist those."
One of the two remaining men snickered. "He's scraping the bottom of the barrel already. Mad spies. What will they think of next?" His accent, Jack noted idly, was Welsh.
"Violins. Always a favourite. And Beethoven. Not that you'll hear that...Shame, really. I'd hum a bit but he was ahead of his time even then. I can't stand it falling on deaf ears."
The well-dressed man was drumming impatiently on the table. "My lord of Pembroke, surely we have better things to do than listen to this nonsense."
"With all respect, Wiltshire," Pembroke held up one hand, "if they know about the soldiers..."
"They can tell their story to the rats. Take them away."
With the thoughtfulness that always presaged danger in the Doctor, he said, "Or not. Those soldiers...they're not meant to be here, my lord. Tell you what, I'm a fair man, so I'll give you one chance. Get rid of them."
Wiltshire stared. "Are you serious? Who do you think you are?"
"Me? I'm the Doctor. And I promise you, I will stop this if you don't."
"A leech? He's a leech?" Pembroke didn't bother to hide his own laughter. "That's one I've never heard before."
"Doctor comma the. Look it up. I'm what armies fear."
"And damn sexy when he does this bit," Jack added. "Believe me, I've seen the remains of people who go up against him. There was this factory a long way from here--they grow bananas there now."
"They're both mad. For goodness' sake, Pembroke, we have important matters to discuss. Send them on to Her Highness, and you can have your fun later." Wiltshire shot the Doctor a glare. "Warwick has the King in custody.[ii] We can't afford to stand about laughing at Edward's pathetic efforts."
"York it is, then," the Doctor said with worrying cheerfulness. "Just remember I offered you mercy. Jack, at the risk of repeating myself, allons-y." On those words, Jack felt the sickening lurch of a teleportation coming on.
"What on earth--stop them!" That was the guard's voice, followed by something slicing through the air between them. It might even have been a poleaxe.
The first thing Jack realised when he opened his eyes was that he still couldn't see. At least this time he was lying on something soft. Small consolation when he was unable to move and could feel the edge of a knife against his throat. The arm without the blade appeared to have nice muscles, he noticed in an attempt to find an upside.
"I never expected to say this," came a voice out of the blackness above him, "but who are you and what are you doing in my bed?"
From what little you could tell from a voice, this one sounded like it belonged to a young man. The word virile was also occurring to certain parts of Jack's anatomy. "I think we were aiming for York but we may have overshot. Captain Jack Harkness, by the way. Where am I?"
"Wigmore, as it happens." He was almost certainly trying not to laugh. "Although it would depend on which York you were aiming for."
"There's more than one? Wait, Wigmore near Wales Wigmore? I went there with...well, that doesn't matter. Nice castle. Comfortable rooms. I knew this bed felt familiar."
"We obviously missed one another, then." After a moment's pause, the other man remarked, "You're either the best or the worst assassin I've ever met. I have yet to decide which."
"Assassin?" Jack echoed bemusedly. "I don't sound remotely like one, and I should know. I dated one for at least three weeks."
The knife shifted, though not enough to make sudden movements a good idea. Dying was one thing but the resultant coming back would be hard to explain. "Why else would you be here?"
"Here, Wigmore, or here in your bed?" Jack purred, wriggling into a slightly more comfortable position beneath the man pinning him to the bed. Certain aspects of the situation were not unhopeful.
"Both, as it happens. For that matter, how did you--"
"Your Grace!" There was a muffled shout, followed by a banging sound somewhere in the darkness. "We've caught an intruder!"
"Bring him in, Will," his captor called back. "I seem to have caught another one."
Dim, red-tinged light filtered through the thick curtains, and Jack vaguely realised he was free to move. Though not for long, as someone dragged him out into a well-furnished, torchlit room. The Doctor was standing nearby, guards on either side. "I can't take you anywhere, can I, Jack?"
"I don't know what you mean," Jack lied, with only the merest hint of a smile.
"You have a tendency to fall into other people's beds."
"That explains a lot," came the now rather familiar voice from behind Jack, though the grip on his arms prevented him from turning to look. "Will, what exactly is going on?"
"My companion's propensities aside," the Doctor said, sounding far more relaxed than might have been anticipated from a man in irons, "that's a very good question. One to which, Your Grace, I believe I have an answer. We come with news from the camp of Margaret of Anjou."
"A strange way to deliver news," said the so-identified Will, a broad-shouldered man Jack guessed to be in his early thirties. Not bad-looking either, for that matter. "And an even stranger pair of messengers. Ned?"
"What news is this?" All amusement had dropped from the words, and the young man--Ned--suddenly sounded much older. "What has the bitch done now?"
"Meddled, I think you could say. Even that she's meddlesome," the Doctor mused, going off into one of his flights of fancy. "That's not used nearly often enough, you know. A meddlesome character. I'll have to remember to include it."
"Meddlesome is one word," Ned acknowledged with a short laugh. "We could also say vengeful. Or a bloodthirsty, murderous whore." From the corner of his eye, Jack caught sight of a tall figure in a blue velvet robe now blocking the Doctor from view. "I'm sure we could say a great many things. But that isn't the point. What has she done this time?"
"She's brought an army you can't face. At least, you can face them, but you can't kill them so it would all be a little pointless. But you have me."
"And you are...?"
"The Doctor," he said as Jack rolled his eyes.
"You don't look like a doctor. You're certainly not dressed like one."
"Out of curiosity," Jack interjected, "how does a doctor dress?"
With a glance over his shoulder that revealed a devilishly attractive grin, Ned said, "Badly. Mostly black. Covered in dust from too many tomes of canon law."
"Doctor of theology, in other words, Jack," the annoyingly arrogant Timelord explained. "Now, don't get me wrong, I love a good theological argument as much as the next man, but clockwork automata aren't open to them."
"Clockwork what?" Ned and Will chorused. Ned was the first to recover, motioning for the guards to leave before closing the door. Turning back to the Doctor, he raked mussed blond hair out of his eyes before speaking again. "Clocks don't talk. Let alone hold theological arguments. What on earth are you talking about?"
"You have clocks," the Doctor said, grinning like a hyperactive five-year-old. "I thought I'd have to explain clockwork but you already have clocks. Humans are amazing, really."
"Of course we have clocks," Ned replied in confusion. "We've had them for years. Not in Wigmore, I'm afraid, but..." He stopped short. "Wait. How do clocks relate to the...Margaret?"
"Clockwork robots. Men. From another time."
Jack added, "Helping her for reasons as yet undetermined. You have spies in her camp?"
"Of course I..." Ned looked back and forth between Jack and the Doctor, as if trying to ascertain whether or not they were real. "Actually, I don't think I will ask. Not yet. I knew she was gathering men and has been since..." he bit his lip, "for about a month now. And she'll make her way to London sooner or later. I had planned to do the same, but we heard rumours of another army massing over the border and thought we ought to look into that first."
It was working. The spell the Doctor cast over mere mortals--and those not so mortal--was fully in effect once more and apparently that meant a lack of flirting from this rather delicious-looking young man. Jack sighed and tried not to pout.
"There may well be another army but, unless she has two sets of automata, that's not the one you should be worried about."
"There's only one problem." Belying the almost lazy words, the dagger flashed in Ned's hand, up against the Doctor's throat. Jack wondered idly if he slept with it under his pillow and promptly squashed the other thoughts that brought up. "Why should I believe you? She's tried that before, you know. It worked once. It won't again."
"Because I am the cleverest man in the room and I have this message for you," the Doctor told him, flashing the psychic paper on which he had a tendency to rely.
Whatever Ned saw, it was enough that he took several steps back, one hand at his mouth. His face had turned very white. "Why did none of the other messengers say that? They told me he was lured out of the castle, that they fell on him in the field. There was nothing about strange men or clocks or anything of the sort."
"No, there wasn't." For the first time since the Doctor had mentioned clocks, Will spoke up. "Ned, listen to me. Warwick can handle himself. He always does. Besides, she's miles from London. We can deal with the Welshmen in plenty of time. There can't be that many of them in this godforsaken place."
"I'll think about it." Ned sighed. "Take them, Will. No need for irons, I don't think. We'll discuss this further in the morning."
"Come on, then." Will nudged Jack forward none too gently before unshackling the Doctor.
"Your Grace," the Doctor said, ignoring Will as only he knew how, "think about this. How do you tell any man from another in full armour with his visor down?"
"You can't. I know. But I really can't think about this right now."
"Doctor," Jack said in lowered tones, "leave him alone. One night isn't going to make any difference; you can see the poor man's exhausted."
Will shot him a grateful smile before glancing back at Ned. "Get some sleep. You'll need it."
"Apparently so." Ned even managed to return the smile as Will pushed the other two men out and closed the door.
He did not speak until he had guided them down the narrow corridor to a second room, more sparingly furnished. "For God's sake, what do you think you're doing? What was that letter?"
"Trying to keep this country the way it was meant to be," the Doctor said without answering the second question. "If you have a problem with that, now would be an excellent time to say."
"Uh, slightly off-topic, I know," Jack broke in before it could turn ugly, "but who are these people?"
"William Hastings," the other man said, holding out one hand. "And you're...Jack?"
"Harkness," Jack supplied. "Captain. Who's your friend?"
Hastings frowned. "You turn up here in the middle of the night and you don't know? Is this some kind of joke? I wouldn't put it past Ned, mind you, but I had no idea he was that good a liar."
"Ned. And he said something about York. Is that like Wars of the Roses York?"
"Jack..." the Doctor said warningly, before Hastings broke in again.
"Roses? I don't know anything about roses."
"Forget I mentioned it, then." He frowned in thought a moment before finally deciding on, "So is he Edward York, Edward of York, something like that?"
Hastings was now staring at him as though he'd turned green. "He's the Duke of York. Rightful king of England. Admittedly a recent development, but all the same..."
"Don't mind my friend," the Doctor put in smoothly, "he's from Cardiff."
"Oh. Oh." He nodded. "I'm sorry."
"There's no need to be like that about it," Jack sulked.
"I meant no offence. But I can see why you might not know certain things. It is a bit...far away. But, to get back to the point," he looked at the Doctor again, "clockwork men?"
The Doctor nodded vigorously, grin spreading all over his face again. "Exactamundo. Clockwork men--men of clocks. And they're encamped wherever Margaret of Anjou and her son currently are. We're a little hazy on the geography, I'm afraid."
"They were in Yorkshire." His voice was tight. "We know they've been moving south, albeit slowly, biding their time before trying to retrieve Mad Harry from the Tower."
"Mad Harry," the Doctor mused. "A little devout, yes, but I wouldn't call him mad. He'd have made an excellent abbot."
"Far better for England, had he been an abbot. He'd never have married that harridan."
"Kings and princes do seem to have a habit of making bad choices," Jack agreed, thinking of the furore over Camilla Parker-Bowles.
"But you think she's got these...clockwork men. What exactly do they do?" Even as he asked the question, he crossed the room to where a decanter and several glasses sat on a table. "Wine? Let it not be said we're inhospitable."
Jack winced, fingering his head. "You don't have any water--?"
"You wouldn't want to drink the water here," the Doctor advised. "Live a little, Jack. When in Rome etcetera..."
"Get drunk?" Jack suggested. "I thought we already tried that."
Hastings grinned. "You drink enough and you don't notice anymore. The number of times that happened in Calais..."
"What happens in Calais stays in Calais," the Doctor said, pouring for himself and Jack. Jack, meanwhile, merely groaned and glared at the insufferable man.
"I hope so. Particularly the random acts of piracy, even if that was more Warwick than Ned."[iii] He shook his head. "His father wouldn't have approved, that much is certain."
"Fathers never do," Jack said, an odd note in his voice. That was something he tried not to think about. There was no point in treading useless paths long overgrown.
"What did you show him, Doctor? Something about Wakefield, obviously. Nothing else would have provoked him that way." Hastings leant against the table. "For someone so clever, you ought to know better than to pry into that."
"And that's precisely why I had to. There's more at stake than his feelings, however much he's grieving for his father. If I don't find a way to stop this army, everyone he cares about will die and England will suffer."
"England already suffers," Hastings said softly. "Give him time to think it over. You have to admit it's difficult to believe."
"You should always try to believe at least six impossible things before breakfast," the Doctor told him with what was a passably straight face.
Hastings looked doubtful, but nodded slowly. "I'll try to remember that." Draining the glass, he made his way toward the door. "Sleep well."
A servant in what Jack supposed was whatever passed for livery in the fifteenth century came to fetch them to breakfast what felt like not very many hours later. Rubbing his back and groaning, Jack muttered something about the Doctor's not being a comfortable bedmate. "All arms and legs, like a damn human spider. I preferred your last incarnation."
"If only because I kissed you."
"If memory serves, and mine is pretty good when it comes to that sort of thing, I kissed you."
"Probably. Just no kissing the boy, understand?"
"Doctor, you wound me!" Jack protested, hand to heart.
"No, I know you, Jack Harkness. Don't think I didn't notice the looks you were giving him. And you haven't promised..." But at that point they had to abandon the whispered conversation. The boy was heading towards them, spattered with mud from the waist down and carrying something in a bag.
"This is like no clockwork I've ever seen," he said without preamble, pulling a shiny object out of the bag and tossing it to the Doctor. "I took off its head and it didn't stop moving. What in hell is going on?"
"Oh, not hell," the Doctor told him, catching what turned out to be the battered head of a clockwork robot and pulling out his screwdriver. "Completely different planet. Gone now, too. No, this is the working of another time. Did you have to damage the mechanism?"
"The alternative was allowing it to kill me. Yes." Turning to Jack, he smiled. "Good morning, by the way."
"Good morn--" was as far as Jack got before the Doctor snapped, "Jack!"
"I was saying good morning," the excessively good-looking captain said. "You're usually all for courtesy."
"In its place and that wasn't--Ahh!" The shielding around the clockwork came apart under the sonic screwdriver's beam and he pulled out a device Jack couldn't recognise. "If I can trace the signal, we should be able to get a fix on where it's coming from."
"What is that?" Forgetting Jack far too quickly for his liking, Ned stared at the screwdriver in hopeless fascination. "What did you just do?"
"Do you understand what I mean by technology, Your Grace?" the Doctor asked, looking up from the dismantled head only reluctantly. "So much beauty and such a mundane tool when you think about it. Tools should always be aesthetically pleasing."
"Even when those tools are meant to kill?" With a handwave, Ned answered his own question. "No, I suppose, especially then. I've seen enough parade armour. Unfortunately it never looks nearly as nice once it's been through a few skirmishes."
"These weren't designed for killing. Someone's made them act that way and I intend to find out who," he said, and Jack had to suppress a shiver at the look on his face.
"This one was in the woods close to Mortimer's Cross," said Ned, too fixated on the screwdriver to notice the Doctor's expression. "There was some panic earlier this morning, rumours in the village about demons slaughtering livestock. We knew Pembroke's army was nearby, so it seemed worth looking. He might be your man."
"Oh, is that Pembroke's army?"
Ned narrowed his eyes. "Is what Pembroke's army? The Welsh one."
"There was a Welsh guy there," Jack remembered. "Actually, I think he was Pembroke."
"And where was this, exactly?" Ned enquired, deceptively quiet.
"That's where it gets a little fuzzy," the Doctor said. "We had been drinking for quite some time before we found them."
He was unimpressed. "I thought you said you'd come from Margaret. And please don't expect me to believe you mistook Pembroke for her. She isn't that unfortunate-looking."
"We were arrested in her name," Jack explained. "We made the obvious assumption, and made an ass out of ourselves in the process it seems. So much for Mr I'm the Cleverest Guy in the Room."
"I never said I'd been here before," the Doctor immediately protested. "I may have discussed it a little with Holinshed."
"That does explain a little," Ned said, eyeing them both carefully. "We were wondering how you travelled so quickly from Yorkshire, but if you were just coming over the border, that makes far more sense."
"So it does," the Doctor agreed. "And perhaps now it's time for us to have another talk with Pembroke." Jack's fleeting reluctance must have shown on his face because the Doctor glowered at him before adding to Ned, "Where are we likely to find him?"
"Not too far from here, past the woods. It's where we last saw them. Our scouts didn't mention clockwork men, but the army did seem rather larger than we'd expected." Ned paused. "We're leaving here today, and I fully intend to engage them tomorrow morning. If you really think you can stop this, Doctor, you've got till then."
Jack eyed the youthful Duke with a new respect; he was plainly a leader, whether by virtue of nature or situation. "Allons-y then, Doctor. We don't have long."
"That's my line."
"I thought I'd save time. You can bring your toy with you, if you like."
"Don't push it, you. You still lost my TARDIS. Incidentally, Your Grace," bounding back to Ned, "nobody's mentioned seeing a blue box, have they?"
"What sort of blue box?" Ned's blue eyes were unreadable.
"A wooden one," he elaborated. "With Police in big white letters on the side."
"Roughly the size of the hearth?" Ned gestured vaguely in that direction. "Yes. It was in the forest. It was where I found that fellow, as it happens."
"Could you show us where?" Jack enquired a little too eagerly, utilising his best puppy-dog eyes. Then, to the Doctor, "See, I didn't lose it, just temporarily mislaid."
"We'll need to be careful, but I don't see why not." Turning on his heel, Ned strode out of the hall, pausing only to murmur instructions to Hastings. The air was bracingly cold as they made their way into the courtyard.
"Jack, do you actually know how to ride?" the Doctor asked him, sotto voce as they headed towards the small group of horses.
"It's been a while," Jack allowed, "but you never forget, right? Just like riding a bicycle."
"Remind me never to let you near a bicycle," was the Doctor's only comment after Jack's third failed attempt to mount the horse.
In the meantime, Ned's impatience was manifest even in the posture of his horse. "This won't do. Come on." Leaning precariously out of the saddle, he held out one hand. "We haven't got all day."
After seeing the speed with which Jack pulled himself up behind the lovely young man, the Doctor shot him a look but forbore to comment. What he wasn't expecting was the speed with which they charged out of the courtyard and down the muddy path.
It was even worse when they entered the woods. He found himself clinging to Ned for dear life, face pressed to his back, without even being able to enjoy the moment.
"Oh, it's not that bad," the Duke teased, the words barely audible against the wind.
Eyes tearing up in the wind of their passage, Jack forbore to reply for several minutes, being far too occupied with keeping his head. "You do realise you can't be King without a head, don't you? The English are far too stuffy to let a zombie on the throne."
"My head isn't going anywhere," Ned retorted, laughing. Finally, after some length of time Jack didn't dare calculate, they slowed, and eventually came to a stop in a clearing. A noticeably empty clearing. "Oh, dear. That's not good."
The Doctor had already dismounted and was crouched down on the leaf-strewn floor of the clearing, screwdriver in one hand and indeterminate piece of clockwork in the other. Jack, who could have sworn every organ in his body was bruised by the pace the Duke had set, quickly slid down and grabbed the reins of the Doctor's horse. "I know you said Rose didn't let you keep one, but that was on a spaceship. Here you might need it."
"Would they have taken it? Your...blue box?" Ned asked, his eyes trained on the screwdriver.
Without giving any sign of having heard, the Doctor leapt to his feet with one of his characteristic wild cries of enthusiasm. "Of course! They'd have to have picked up the micron signature, repeater station the size they must have to relay all these signals. They couldn't possibly have a ship that size anywhere near the planet. It'd be seen in no time and spook the locals." Then, addressing Ned, "You haven't seen any comets lately, have you, Your Grace? Heard any signs and portents?"
"Not recently, no. There was one a few years ago that everyone was convinced heralded the Apocalypse. Instead my father decided to claim the throne." He shrugged. "I'm not the best person to ask."
"Of course, of course, Halley's. Ohh, and that would have been 1456! When did Margaret start beating your forces?"
Ned looked at him for several seconds, expressionless, before saying very softly, "Sixth day of Christmas this past year."
Had his hands not been full of horse, Jack could have hit the Doctor not only for asking in such a fashion, but also for being so utterly oblivious to Ned's feelings. "Twenty-fifth, twenty-sixth...the thirtieth, then. But that doesn't fit...unless...Didn't she get lost in Wales some time recently?"
That prompted a brief smile. "Yes. My uncle Salisbury chased her from Northampton and we lost her once she'd crossed the Severn.[iv] There were rumours, of course, but nobody thought anything of it. Why, do you think something...happened?"
It was at moments like these, when he was at his most brilliant, that Jack understood why his heart could never be completely disentangled from the Doctor. "Yes, yes, yes," he was saying, gesticulating wildly with both hands. "Because what do we have just past the Severn, Jack?"
"The Rift?" Jack hazarded, feeling like a dull child struggling to keep up with a genius. Which, all things considered, he was.
"Molto bene." The Italian rolled off his tongue like chocolate. "The Rift which sucks things in from all over time and space and dumps them in Wales."
"Geez, way to sell my city. Galactic landfill."
"No offence, but this time...oh yes, this time! This time, it sucked in a whole spaceship of robots programmed to carry out orders. And if somebody very clever were to find them and think to give them new orders, then maybe, just maybe, you'd have an army that can't be stopped. But that somebody would have to be very, very clever."
"Margaret's clever," Ned said slowly, staring at the Doctor as though he were a different species. Which, technically speaking, he was. "I don't know if she's that clever. I don't know if anybody's that clever. Maybe Warwick. It does sound like the kind of thing he might think up, given the opportunity. But...do you really think they can't be stopped?"
"Not by you." He did sound insufferably smug.
"What do you need?" There was barely a pause, though the tension in Ned's frame was visible even from where Jack was standing.
"At the moment, directions to the enemy camp and a scout if you can spare one to locate my box. Also a metal spoon, if you can find one."
Ned nodded very slowly. "I can send someone back for you. But you can't wander off."
"Very well. I'll keep an eye on Jack."
"He's not the one that concerns me," the Duke replied with what might have been an eyeroll. "If you'll excuse me, I have an army to lead. Tomorrow morning, Doctor. I hope whatever you've planned will work." Without waiting for a response, he wheeled the horse round, and took off at the same breakneck speed at which they had arrived, though in a different direction.
"He obviously hasn't been paying attention," the Doctor remarked dryly to Jack and the horse, which was now attempting to nose open his pockets. "You're the biggest concern I have right now."
"Really. With your lost TARDIS, the ship we can't locate and the fate of England hanging in the balance, I'm your biggest concern?" Jack demanded sarcastically. "Yeah, I can see how the guy holding your horse would be vitally important."
"Now you're selling yourself short," the Doctor said without a ghost of a smile. "We may need that horse."
"Whatever. Why don't you just get the lecture over?"
"Will you listen if I do?"
"We both know you'll say it anyway, and I am stuck here. With your horse."
"Thomas?" Jack demanded incredulously. "What kind of a name is Thomas for a horse?"
"A very good one. He makes me think of Thomas More."
"But it looks nothing like Paul Scofield."
"Neither did Thomas More.[v] Good conversationalist, shame about the principles. But that's not what I wanted to talk about, Jack."
Jack sighed. "Yeah, I know. That's why it's called changing the subject."
"To get back to the subject in question," the Doctor said, sending a quelling glance in his direction, "you were supposed to promise to leave that poor boy alone."
"He's not a boy," Jack protested automatically. "And besides, have you seen him? Greek gods have nothing on that."[vi]
"Jack, can you for once just stop listening to your libido and concentrate?" He stopped, as if listening to his own words. "Or at least leave him alone--you'll only confuse him."
"He doesn't seem that confused to me."
"You don't know him as King. Caxton had a problem with Picapyes stealing the type blocks from his press. Jane Shore helped out." He smiled, teeth gleaming whitely in the semi-darkness of the forest and Jack had to suppress certain urges. Now was definitely not the time. Also, this was supposed to be a telling-off; he tried to push his face into a suitably contrite expression. "She was very frank about her sex life."
"Jane Shore who?"
"His mistress, at that time. Caused something of a problem between him and Hastings.[vii] Anyway, she made it very clear that Edward was not confused about that sort of thing. So don't get tempted."
Pouting, Jack mumbled, "I'm with Oscar on that one. He always said he could resist anything but."
"You and Wilde?" the Doctor said, with a roll of his eyes. "That explains so much. I'll just have to hope you don't find any more time travel devices."
"I'd be responsible." He smiled himself, the one that showed all his teeth to perfection. "Responsible is my middle name these days."
"Possibly. Your first name's still Not."
It was not too much longer before the now-familiar sound of hoofbeats echoed through the forest, and a man who looked to be a few years older than Ned dismounted. "I was told help you find Pembroke's army. Although I don't know why they made me bring this." He held up a small silver spoon.
Whipping it out of his hand, the Doctor said, "I'll take that," and immediately became engrossed in bending it into shape over the part he'd taken from the clockwork head.
Jack cleared his throat loudly, saying, "We only have until tomorrow. We should get moving now, don't you think, Doctor?"
"Oh, yes, of course," the Doctor agreed, still busy with whatever he was making. "Blu tack, blu tack, I know I had some somewhere. Useful stuff, that."
Quietly despairing, Jack pulled the Doctor up behind him on the horse now known as Thomas. "At least I don't have to worry about the strength of your thighs."
The scout was eyeing both of them with great suspicion, but wheeled his horse round and started out of the clearing. "It's about two miles further in this direction. I'll take you as far as I can, but they'll have their own guards on the perimeter. We'll need to be careful."
"You don't happen to know where they put a big blue wooden box, I suppose?" Jack enquired, seeing as the Doctor was far too caught up in whatever it was he was doing to ask.
"Afraid not. We haven't actually gone into the camp. Too dangerous. Besides, that's not my job."
In the end, they left Thomas with the scout and, despite Jack's reluctance, didn't even make a token effort at sneaking into the camp. The Doctor just pulled aside the first guard he saw and demanded to be taken to their leaders.
Jack privately vowed to get him back for that later. "If I'm not allowed to play to my stereotype, neither's he."
The camp itself was heaving with the controlled panic of an army on the verge of battle. It seemed they knew Edward must be somewhere close. The tent to which they were taken looked far more impressive in daylight, all sumptuous colours and coats of arms, none of which Jack knew though it seemed the Doctor did, since he nodded in satisfaction.
The three men they had met the night before looked up with near-identical expressions of shock. "Irons! Now!" barked the one Jack remember as the commander---Wiltshire, was that his name? "Sorcerers, the both of them."
Just as Jack was trying to think of a way to disarm whichever guard brought the called-for manacles, the Doctor smiled and crossed to the table of maps. "Oh, you don't want to do that. We're not sorcerers at all, merely practiced in the arts of escaping."
"Block the doors," was the commander's response to that, as he drew a sword that had to be three feet long. This he held to the Doctor's chest. "What do you think you're doing?"
"My lord, stop for a moment." That was the third man, the one Jack only vaguely recalled from the night before as not being Pembroke. "What have you got there?" he asked, gesturing to the contraption in the Doctor's hand.
"Just a little invention of my own. You see, somewhere above us is a ship, but it can't be too close or it would have been spotted as an extra moon or similar and you can't keep that sort of thing hidden. People do talk so about phenomenons, or should that be phenomena. Strange word, don't you think?"
The man had paled slightly. "You really are mad, whoever you are. Doctor whatever-your-name-is. What exactly do you mean to do here?"
The Doctor stared into space in characteristic fashion, saying, "Just the Doctor. And I mean to find the signal going to your receiver there," pointing at what Jack had taken to be a brooch on the man's chest.
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about the clockwork men you're using. Do you even know what it is you have there or have you just turned it into a weapon like everything else?" he demanded, looking at the sword against his chest contemptuously.
"Father, there's no need to answer him," Pembroke put in with a sneer. "He's lost his mind, the poor man. York would never believe anything he said. For all his faults, he's very much a man of this world."
"They serve the rightful king of England," the commander said, his eyes not leaving the Doctor. "And they will continue to do so."
"That's where you're wrong," the Doctor told him, raising his eyes to take in all three men. "I gave you your chance, and you haven't taken it. I can't allow you to use them and, believe me, I will stop you."
"Oh, for God's sake, take them away." Rather to Jack's surprise, the Doctor didn't struggle when the guards dragged him out of the tent, and Jack followed suit, however doubtfully. Although he suspected the guards were paying them back for the previous night when, upon arriving in an empty tent, he discovered that armoured gloves were in fact strong enough to break one's jaw.
On waking to discover that the sun had gone down and that his head really hurt, Jack asked the Doctor what the hell they were meant to do next. "They're not very bright, Jack. I still have my screwdriver."
"What good is that going to do?"
"For a start," he said, unchaining his feet, "it means we don't have to stay chained up. Unless, of course, you'd rather."
"Just unchain me," Jack said through gritted teeth. "And no comments about my sex life."
"You're the one who keeps bringing it up."
But the Doctor did do as Jack had asked with the result that his chains soon lay on the grass at their feet with the others. "Now what?"
"Now we go on a little trip."
The second teleportation in less than twenty-four hours left Jack unpleasantly nauseous, though he suspected the diet of nothing but alcohol wasn't helping either. The surroundings were, at least, more familiar than they had been over the past day. It was a fairly standard relay ship, if completely empty.
The Doctor soon found the communications room and spent what seemed to be a highly enjoyable five minutes figuring out how to begin extrapolating the position of the ship to which the robots belonged. He also, to Jack's unvoiced relief, located the TARDIS by bouncing a signal or something. He worked at such a speed it wasn't clear entirely what he was doing.
Jack quietly took himself off to the bridge to familiarise himself with the controls. They were, of course, from the time in which he'd been born so it wasn't difficult. What was more worrying was when he found the clock calendar.
Hitting what he hoped was the right control, he yelled, "Doctor?"
"Yes, what is it?" the slightly muffled voice came back. From the sound, Jack thought he was holding something in his mouth. "I'm a little busy here."
"Well, get busier. I just looked at the time and it must be nearly dawn."
"You had a knock on the head. Missing time is a common side-effect. And there was all that alcohol-- it's no wonder we slept deeply. Have you found the ship yet?"
There was a banging, then a rattle and the sizzle of sparks. "Sending it through now."
The course, when it appeared on Jack's screen, was child's play to follow. It seemed the ship was using the moon to conceal its position. Hoping this one had enough fuel in the tank, he gunned the engines, wondering briefly whether anyone on the ground had heard.
The ship was called the Veronica Franco, something which made the Doctor crack a grin and start speaking Italian for no reason Jack could fathom.[viii] It was also empty, and Jack felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck.
The Doctor began checking the workings and asking whether Jack thought he could smell roasting meat. Which, Jack was sorry to say, he could not. It had been a long time since he'd eaten anything and his stomach was letting him hear about it in no uncertain terms. When he mentioned this, however, the Doctor just gave him a look and told him to help him find the signal.
When they did--hidden in a filing cabinet with a sign on it saying Beware of the Leopard at which they both burst into slightly hysterical laughter--it was plain after at least twenty minutes' looking that there was no way the Doctor was going to be able to dismantle it in less than twelve hours.
Jack, by this time, was looking at his watch every few seconds, wondering all the time whether the battle had started and whether Ned still had all his body parts intact. Finally, he could bear it no longer and said, "We just blow this thing up. That would destroy the signal, right?"
The Doctor stared at him, a look that made Jack drop his eyes. "Just what I'd expect from Torchwood."
"It's not as if there's anybody on it, Doctor. I wasn't suggesting we kill anyone."
"Yet," the Doctor remarked darkly.
"All right, do you have a better plan? 'Cause while we're arguing the moral shadings, they're about to go into battle with a bunch of robots down there and they are going to get slaughtered."
"I still don't like the way you think, but you have a point," he conceded. "If the boy dies, it would throw off the succession. King George isn't supposed to turn up for centuries."[ix]
Jack gave him a look worthy of one of his own and muttered, "Or you could care about the actual people involved."
There wasn't a single detonator on the ship, so Jack had to improvise with a device he hadn't intended to remove from the Torchwood base. It earned him yet another dirty look, but even the Doctor had to admit its convenience.
As a mechanical device, the bomb Jack had mostly devised was, to the Doctor's vocal surprise, almost as much of a thing of beauty as the clockwork soldiers themselves. In Jack's view, this was primarily because it was made from the spare parts lying around the ship.
"You are enjoying this far too much, Jack Harkness."
Jack looked up at that, noticing the gleam in the other man's eyes. "You don't fool me, Doctor."
He just smiled, saying, "We don't have much time. If you're ready..."
As the qualified pilot of the two, albeit he didn't quite know how many years out of date, Jack was the one to take the wheel. The Doctor was staring out of the window back the way they had come, apparently waiting for the explosion. "How much time did you give that fuse, Jack?"
"Five minutes. Should be plenty of...oh, that's not good."
"What did you do?"
"I didn't do anything. It's just...well, let's just say they could have refuelled this thing."
"I can't take you anywhere."
"Hey, it's not my fault. I'm not the one who's not clever enough to disable a little signal," Jack needled.
The Doctor bridled, saying, "I could have disabled it. Just not in the amount of time we had."
"Fine, you're the superbrain," Jack said and then lost his balance as the world rocked. Surely that hadn't been five minutes. "Can we just leave? Before I have to die again."
With a look that promised another lecture later, the Doctor grabbed their wrists together and Jack felt his stomach part company with the rest of his body.
They were standing in the middle of a very unhelpful field. Unhelpful in the sense that it gave them no clues as to where they were. "Have you lost us again?"
"Not at all," the Doctor panted. "Just have to get my bearings." Not that Jack could see any landmark by which he proposed to do such a thing. "That way. I'm sure of it."
"How are you--" The rest of the sentence was lost in the sudden sound of an angered bull. "OK, now I see!"
"Don't talk," the Doctor yelled. "Just run!"
As they dashed across the decidedly frosty field, Jack couldn't keep from grinning, teeth aching in the knifelike wind. "Did I tell you how much I love this part?"
"End of the universe. When we were running from the Futurekind." Jack tripped on a rut and nearly fell, but the Doctor's hand on his elbow steadied him. "I love the running, too. Makes you really feel alive."
They had just crested a small hill when they caught sight of movement in the woods some five hundred yards ahead of them. Belatedly, Jack noticed the light glinting off whatever they were wearing on their heads. And that the soldiers--at least he supposed they were soldiers--were running straight at them.
"Doctor," he yelled at the top of straining lungs, "I think we might be going the wrong way."
"Not a bit of it. They'll be coming from the battle. We need to find it so we can get the TARDIS back."
"OK, but do you think we can veer away from the men with pointy weapons?"
"Where's the fun in that?" he cried, pounding off towards the nearest one. "Excuse me, could you tell me where I can find the Battle of Mortimer's Cross?"
"Have you lost your senses?" the soldier snapped, without breaking stride. "It's the end of the world! There were three suns! Three!"
"I always said it wasn't a parhelion."[x]
But the soldier wasn't listening, having flown past Jack. As others pelted by, he could hear snatches yelled back and forth. "Rode them down like ninepins...why did they just stand there?"
"Because they had no orders," the Doctor said, virtually bouncing he looked so happy. "Three suns, Jack. We destroyed the signal. Edward's winning--he must be."
"Does that mean all's right with the universe?"
"This one, certainly."
That was when the horsemen began to spill out of the woods, unrecognisable in bloodied armour, their horses as far a cry from mild-mannered Thomas as could be found, practically snarling at the fleeing foot soldiers. It occurred to Jack that standing in the middle of their path might be inadvisable, and he had to drag the Doctor bodily out of the way.
For the next several minutes of hard running through pathless woods, neither spoke. Finally, they broke through the bushes to see a scene out of some Kenneth Branagh movie he'd seen once on late night television. And the Doctor gave a wordless cry of anger. "They've surrendered!"
Nobody seemed to hear him, as the horsemen continued to mow down those on foot. Jack thought he recognised one of the men who ran past him into the woods as the well-dressed commander from the camp, but he couldn't be certain. That was when one of the horsemen came to a rearing halt just in front of them, raising his visor to reveal a grinning Will Hastings. "Doctor! Captain! You did it!"
"Yes, yes, yes," the Doctor said, waving his hand dismissively. "Now what do you think you're doing? Those men have surrendered."
"They're running. That's different." Hastings glanced over his shoulder. "Wiltshire and Pembroke fled the field. We need to find them. But, dear God, did you see what happened? Three suns, plain as day, just over there!"
"I don't mean these men--I mean those ones," he said, indicating the ones currently kneeling in front of men wielding swords. Rather big, ugly swords, now Jack came to look.
"Knights. No quarter for men of rank."
"That's not how these things are done, Will Hastings. You are better than this and so is Edward of York."
"You'll have to take it up with him." The knight gestured vaguely toward a figure dismounting from a white horse. "But I'm not sure he'll listen."
"Doctor!" Ned moved quicker than a man in full armour really ought to, lifting the Doctor bodily off the ground and swinging round in a strange approximation of a victory dance. "I don't know how you did it, but I owe--we all owe you our lives. Every man here." Setting him down, Ned schooled his exertion-flushed face into something slightly more sober. "Anything you want is yours. You have the eternal gratitude of the House of York."
The Doctor had not smiled, though Jack found it hard not to. "The lives of your prisoners, then. This isn't the way to behave, Edward of York."
"I beg your pardon?" Ned blinked, staring at the Doctor in bewilderment. "I said anything. I meant it."
"Then let them live. They're high-ranking; they'll fetch a high ransom."
"Until recently. I'm afraid it was their side who changed the rules."
Sincerity ringing clear, the Doctor spoke quietly. "And I am so sorry for that, Edward, but they surrendered. You shouldn't lower yourself to their level."
"They surrendered," he echoed bitterly. "So did my brother, and they slit his throat."
"I know and I'm sorry, Edward. Believe me, if I could change that for you, I would. But nobody can change that past and I'm afraid I can't let you do this." He reached out with terrifying gentleness to clasp Ned's shoulder. "You're better than that."
Ned's eyes, when they met the Doctor's, were cold and shuttered. "I gave you my word. If prisoners' lives are what you want, you'll have them." Catching the eye of one of the guards, he made what Jack assumed was a cease-and-desist gesture.
"Ned!" It was Hastings, running toward them. "They've found Owen Tudor."
The Doctor instantly forgotten, Ned demanded, "What of Wiltshire? Pembroke?"
"Gone. They must have fled with the first wave. Cowards, the lot of them. But at least we've got one."
"Yes." Ned smiled grimly. "That we do."
"Doctor," Jack murmured, "do you think he's the third man? The one with the brooch thing?"
"I think we'd certainly better see," the Doctor nodded, all smiles now the order to spare the prisoners had been given.
The man the guards dragged forward was muttering under his breath in Latin. Ned stood over him, arms crossed forbiddingly. "You've been abandoned, you know."
Tudor looked up, and Jack noticed the beads twisted between his fingers. He was far older than he had looked the previous night. When he caught sight of the Doctor, he paled. "What--who are you?"
"You can call me the Doctor. I'm the man who stopped you." Indicating the brooch gleaming on the rucked-up material at Tudor's throat, he added, "What did you think you were doing?"
"Commanding an army," the old man said softly. "I thought it a blessing. But the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." He glanced warily toward the mass of silent figures in armour, some still standing at attention further down the field, before looking back at Ned. "I would remember that if I were you, Your Grace. Or you'll end up like your father--"
Whatever else he might have said was swallowed up in the blow Ned dealt him with one armoured fist. Jack suspected he might have done worse if Hastings hadn't held him back. "He's provoking you. Don't listen."
Glancing gratefully at Hastings, the Doctor said, more grimly than Jack at first expected, "While I don't generally condone violence--there being so many better ways of resolving differences--you really shouldn't have said that."
"I'll say what I please to that insolent pup!" spat Tudor, the words slurred through blood. "I'm not afraid to die. You'll get yours soon enough. Her Highness will see to that."
"I'd like to see her try," Ned retorted, straining against Hastings' grip. "Although I hadn't realised you'd added another French whore to your collection.[xi] Get him out of here. He'll be with his precious Queen soon enough."
Jack winced as the Doctor stepped between the two men, adding his deceptive strength to that of Hastings. Annoying the man in full armour--a man near twice his size--was not a clever move in the captain's view. "York, you made me a promise."
"And I kept it," the Duke replied through gritted teeth. "You asked for those prisoners and I gave them to you. This one is mine. And, besides," he added, sounding slightly calmer as Hastings released him, "you did imply that he was commanding those...things."
"Your Grace, we've already had this conversation." His voice had gone low and cold, making Jack shiver. "If you break your word, you will anger me."
Seeing the look in his eyes and remembering the stolen year so recently obliterated, Jack had to speak up. "Really don't, Ned. You wouldn't like him when he's angry."
As if only just remembering Jack was there, Ned turned, his eyes accusing. "I've heard the same said of myself. But, if you insist." Turning back to Tudor's guards, he snapped, "Take him to Hereford. You're a lucky man, Tudor, to inspire such eloquent partisans. I doubt you deserve it, but I suppose you can keep your head for the time being."
"Your Grace," was all the Doctor said, in warning tones.
"Very well." Ned's face might have been carved of stone. "I won't kill him now. Isn't that enough? What more do you want from me? Shall I retreat, leave my father and brother to rot on the gates of York, and let the bitch of Anjou bleed this country dry? Is that what you would have me do?"
"No." The Doctor too sounded less than patient. "I would have you lead without becoming a monster. Would you want the world to see you as no better than Margaret? Because, I assure you, if you lose your humanity in this way, that's what they'll think."
Ned flinched visibly before storming away. Shooting an aggrieved look at the Doctor, Hastings followed, and Jack found himself speaking without considering what to say. "Doctor, you've made your point. Now cut him some slack. He's just a boy who lost his brother and his dad."
"That's the problem," the Doctor replied quietly, following the two men in armour with his eyes. "The pain of that kind of loss makes us cruel, but it passes in the end." Then, shaking himself, "Anyway, we've sorted out this little patch of trouble. What do you say I take you home to your family?"
Memories threatened, but Jack pushed them down beneath the surface of his mind. "I don't have one."
Though he tried to turn away, the Doctor's hand on his cheek made Jack look back at him. "What else do you call your team in Cardiff?"
"I guess..." But he couldn't finish the denial. "Why are you always right?"
"Comes with age," the Timelord said kindly. "One day you'll understand."
"You know something I don't, don't you?"
"Lots of things actually."
Jack made a face at him which, while childish, did relieve his feelings. "I meant about me. And you're not going to tell me, are you?"
The Doctor just smiled enigmatically. "Spoilers."
That was when Ned's voice rose above the general murmur as he made his way back to where they stood, his bad mood apparently gone. "Doctor, I believe you were looking for a blue wooden box?" He had barely finished the question when the Doctor charged off toward the nearby cart containing the TARDIS and quite literally threw his arms around it. "If I'd known this would happen, I'd have given them some privacy," the Duke remarked, brows raised. "I suppose I'll simply have to keep that in mind for the future."
The future, Jack suddenly appreciated, Ned didn't know would not contain the Doctor and himself. "They're close," he said absentmindedly, weighing up the pros and cons of the idea that had just hit him with all the subtlety of a ton of bricks. It wasn't as if the Doctor was likely to notice, he considered, given the jokes he and Rose had shared about leaving him and the TARDIS to get a room together. All the same, he wasn't sure what the penalties were likely to be.
"You know he wouldn't say those things to you if he didn't think you were a good person."
"He's older than he looks, isn't he?" Ned asked quietly. "Far, far older. At least that's how he sounds." After a moment, he added, "But, yes, you're right. I don't like it, but I understand."
It was at that point that the Doctor yelled at Jack, motioning to him from the TARDIS door. "Jack, we have to go."
"Go?" Ned echoed. "Where exactly does he plan to go?"
"Somewhere else," Jack said, frowning as he and Ned moved in the Doctor's direction. "He doesn't stay anywhere long."
"I could see that. He doesn't...fit, does he?"
With a sigh and a longing glance in the direction of his Doctor, Jack said, "No. A man of all times and none."
"Medicus quondam, medicus futurus," Ned said under his breath. "Although I would have pegged him as Merlin first."
Jack smiled to himself, thinking that the Doctor could actually have been the famous wizard. "Yeah, I guess."
"Doctor, were you actually going to say goodbye? Even Merlin left Arthur with a prophecy or two before disappearing for years at a time."
"Prophecies aren't my cup of tea," the Doctor demurred. "If you know your future, you'll start changing it. Besides, reading the end ruins you for the rest of the book."
"Oh, very well," he conceded, holding out his hand. "Thank you, Doctor. I really do mean it. All other things aside."
The Doctor smiled, taking his hand and shaking it firmly. "You're a good man, Edward of York. Your father would be proud of you."
"I hope so. He would have made a great King, I know it." As if shaking off the words, he added, "Will you come back?"
"Never say never," the Doctor advised, before grinning. "Although, if you want prophecy...April is not a good fishing month."[xii]
"That was cryptic even by Merlin's standards."
"He's right," Jack agreed. "He asked for a prophecy, not a shipping forecast."
Ned, after pulling several interesting faces, dissolved into laughter. "I suppose I deserve it. I believe Merlin tended to hand out prophecies whenever he pleased, rather than on request. Godspeed, Doctor."
"And to you, too." The Doctor raised his hand in a salute, stepping back into the interior of the TARDIS. "Say goodbye, Jack."
Jack, suddenly deciding that the pros significantly outweighed the cons, darted forward to bestow upon Ned a kiss that was amazing even by his exceptionally high standards.[xiii] Then, without waiting to see what would happen next, he muttered, "Goodbye," and dived past the Doctor with a hasty "Let's go, then."
"I really can't take you anywhere," the Doctor sighed as the door closed, cutting off all sight of the bemused Duke.
After an uncomfortably silent journey, aside from the usual bangs and groans of the TARDIS' progress, the doors opened onto the Cardiff of Jack's present. Though with unsettlingly clean streets.
The first thing he noticed on stepping out was that there was a clockman. Heading straight for him, machinery whirring audibly.
TO BE CONTINUED
[i] Wakefield: The Battle of Wakefield (30 December 1460) was a turning point during the Wars of the Roses, where the Lancastrian army defeated and killed Richard, Duke of York, the leader of the Yorkist faction, along with many of his supporters, including his second son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland. His eldest son, Edward, became head of the faction as a result.
[ii] Warwick has the King in custody: Referring to the Earl of Warwick, one of the Yorkist commanders, who was holding King Henry VI in London after the Yorkists captured him at the Battle of Northampton on 10 July 1460.
[iii] Random acts of piracy: Warwick was rather guilty of randomly pillaging French and Burgundian ships while he was Captain of Calais during the late 1450s.
[iv] Lost her once she'd crossed the Severn: The Queen's whereabouts between the battles of Northampton and Wakefield are recorded in detail in only one source, the London chronicle of William Gregory. He relates that she was set upon by robbers on her way to the castle of Hardlagh, in Wales, and that she spent the intervening there, plotting, before heading north to Scotland. The authors might have embroidered a little.
[v] Thomas More: The authors see no reason why the Doctor can't have met Thomas More.
[vi] Greek gods have nothing on that: Although it's difficult to tell from extant portraits (most of which were either painted after his death or very late in life), a number of contemporary accounts at least mention that Edward IV was exceptionally good-looking. Usually in the context of his sex life, which was impressive by most standards. Philippe de Commynes, notorious for not liking the English at all, goes so far as to refer to him multiple times as the handsomest prince in Christendom. The authors suspect he might have fancied him.
[vii] Jane Shore: Famous for sleeping first with Hastings, then with Edward IV, and then with Hastings again, before Richard III had to spoil all her fun by cutting off Hastings' head. Thomas More called her Edward's 'merriest' harlot, which is actually a compliment. Also, if you believe Thomas Heywood, everyone and their mother wanted to sleep with Jane Shore.
[viii] Veronica Franco: The authors see no reason why ships carrying clockmen shouldn't all be named after famous mistresses (i.e. Madame de Pompadour).
[ix] King George: Edward had two remaining brothers, George and Richard.
[x] Parhelion: Actually, it was. Although the authors will also accept any explanations involving alien robots.
[xi] Another French whore: Owen Tudor was notorious for having had an affair with (and eventually marrying) Katharine, the widow of Henry V and mother of Henry VI. His grandson became Henry VII, and, if you're reading any chronicle between 1530 and 1600, they won't let you forget it.
[xii] April is not a good fishing month: It is more or less agreed that Edward IV died from pneumonia, supposedly contracted while fishing in April.
[xiii] A kiss that was amazing even by his exceptionally high standards: The authors would like to state for the record that they are not the first people to slash Edward IV. See Gregory's Chronicle for Edward's ambiguous--and angsty--relationship with Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, in 1462-3. Also, More claims Queen Elizabeth hated Lord Hastings because 'shee thoughte hym secretelye familyer with the kynge in wanton coumpanye'. Judge you all the rest.