Three-hundred fifty-two Days into the Year of the Toclafane
The dragon was awakened from dark dreams by a familiar voice calling his name.
He opened his eyes, stretching his neck to ease some of the kinks out of it. The hold of the cargo ship wasn’t an ideal place to sleep, but at least he’d been able to transform back into dragon-form in order to do it. That luxury had been one he’d not enjoyed as much as he would have liked, in the year since he’d been traveling; it had been too difficult to find places where he could hide, and that had meant he’d been restricted to human form. The dragon had always been uncomfortable sleeping in his ephemeral form, but there’d been no way he could have gotten away with anything else, in some of the places he’d found himself.
Glancing down, he gave his traveling companion a dragon-smile. “What is it?”
Martha Jones didn’t smile, but he could tell she was excited about something. “We’re just passing Beardsley Island, and the captain thinks we should reach Criccrieth a bit after nightfall.”
The crossing from Ireland had been quiet, and it had allowed the dragon to get some much-needed rest. The Toclafane had only harassed the freighter once; but when they’d realized the ship was carrying supplies for the Master’s shipworks outside of Liverpool, they’d let them continue on in relative peace. Of course, they hadn’t known of the two unauthorized passengers tucked away in the hold…
The dragon didn’t want to, but he triggered his change into human form. Ianto gave another stretch, then sighed. “There should be someone waiting for us when we put ashore,” he said. They’d gotten word through judicious use of Jack’s wrist strap as to their destination. The vessel they were on wouldn’t risk straying from their course for long, and the dinghy that would be taking them to the beach would have to leave just right after offloading to avoid patrols.
It would be good to set foot on Welsh soil once more.
“It’s almost over,” Martha said, grinning slightly.
A small shiver of excitement went up Ianto’s spine. It had been nearly a year since Harold Saxon – the Master – had taken over the Earth. Nearly a year of being exiles from their own countries, walking the world in order to put the Doctor’s plan into action.
Nearly a year of his mate being held by a sadistic maniac.
Ianto had tried to find Jack; he really had. He’d gone to London at the beginning of it all, in order to stop Saxon from whatever it had been that he’d been planning. He hadn’t even made it on board the Valiant; instead, he’d been held up by UNIT bureaucracy, and he’d been in the middle of a fierce argument with an idiot UNIT captain when the world had ended.
He’d stumbled across Martha Jones completely by accident; he’d been trying to track Jack’s Vortex Manipulator by using his PDA, and had found it being worn by the Doctor’s companion. He’d gotten the entire story from her – after they’d both made it to cover – and it had been Ianto’s intention to go and get Jack immediately.
Only the Vortex Manipulator’s teleport function had been locked.
That one fact had led Ianto to be on the freighter that was currently making its way along the Welsh coast, ostensibly heading toward Liverpool and a rendezvous with one of Saxon’s ship-building facilities, carrying raw materials for the construction going on there. There’d been no way for Ianto to have gotten onboard the Valiant to rescue Jack – and the Doctor, if he’d been so inclined – since the Master would have known him just from Torchwood alone. It was the first time in he couldn’t remember how long that he’d wished he could change his human form as a way of disguise.
He’d hated the idea of leaving Jack in the hands of a mass-murdering maniac, especially after Martha had claimed that the Master had known about Jack’s immortality, but he’d really had no choice. And, while he didn’t think much of the Doctor’s plan, it was the only one they had.
The only good thing to have come out of this was his meeting Martha. She was like a breath of fresh air; strong and determined, and yet there were things she was still innocent about, even after nearly a year on the run. She’d been a bit surprised that her traveling companion had been a dragon, but she’d coped at once, accepting him for who he was. He’d Named her within a week, and he was glad to have her as a friend.
Ianto offered her his arm; grinning, Martha accepted, and together they headed up to the main deck of the freighter. They weren’t the only thing being smuggled into Great Britain; there were also medical supplies in a hidden hold deep within the ancient-looking vessel. The ship’s captain – a short, bulky older American named Jack Dalton – had been working for the Resistance since the beginning, using his freighter to bring in contraband as it made the circuit between New York – now called New Saxon – Cork, and Liverpool. They, themselves, had been on the ship from America, although they’d put in at Cork and had traveled Ireland while waiting for the ship’s return trip, getting their message out to whoever was willing to listen.
The dragon had found himself liking the jocular ephemeral, and Captain Dalton had regaled them with stories of his adventures. He’d become involved with the Resistance just after his best friend had – “Mac had always been the hero type,” he was fond of saying – and he’d quickly rallied a well-working smuggling network. And, although he often claimed he felt more at home in the air than on the sea, Captain Dalton ran a tight ship, and his people respected him.
The sea wind whipped their hair as they set foot onto the open deck of the freighter. Together Ianto and Martha made their way toward the wheelhouse, dodging the various crewmembers as they worked on the deck.
The sun was lowering toward the horizon, and the first of the evening stars were just appearing. Ianto took a deep breath, knowing the danger would be coming as the sun set, when the Toclafane were really on the lookout for suspicious behavior. He wondered where the Valiant was; Ianto rubbed the leather strap that had been on his wrist ever since his first meeting with Martha, and once again hoped that Jack would be all right for a few days more.
The pilot house was warm as they entered. Captain Dalton turned from where he was perusing his instruments, giving them a bright smile that was barely hidden by the brushiest mustache Ianto had ever seen. “Welcome, fellow travelers,” he greeted them, going back to his work. “Welsh coast, just ahead.”
Ianto and Martha joined him, and the dragon looked out over the water toward the blurry silhouette of his home. He could feel the calling of it, the thrumming in his veins as his birth country came into view. “Home once more,” he murmured, not bothering to keep the longing from his voice.
“The men are loading up the dinghy now,” the Captain reported. “We got the signal from Cherry Blossom, and she says there’ll be a truck waiting for you at the meeting place.”
Cherry Blossom…it was what the Resistance had taken to calling Toshiko, from her command post at Ddraig Llyn. Ianto couldn’t wait to see his friend again, after so long…nor his home valley, where he and Martha would rest for a couple of days before starting out on the final leg of their journey.
“Thank you, Captain,” Ianto said sincerely. “We appreciate the lift.”
Dalton waved off his thanks. “Just doing my bit. The sooner we kick Saxon’s ass, the sooner this planet gets back to normal…and the sooner I get my friend back.”
The Captain had explained that his friend Mac had gone on a mission to destroy a foundry outside Los Angeles and had never made it out. That had led him to tell more stories, and while Martha had been a bit skeptical of the Dalton’s friend’s abilities, Ianto had found it completely plausible that a person could indeed jury rig a cab to drive itself only using a ball point pen, a paperclip, and a set of shoelaces.
“The Doctor’s plan will work,” Martha said reassuringly.
“I’ve seen a lot of strange things in my time,” Dalton said, “so when you tell me that having faith in one person, at precisely the right moment…well, let’s just say I’m willing to try anything.”
Ianto had his doubts, but he’d seen the power of faith, and knew it could take an impossible circumstance and make it come out all right in the end.
Besides, anything would be worth it if he got his mate back, safe and sound.
The Vortex Manipulator beeped, and Ianto flipped it open, pressing the one button he knew would work. He grinned. “Go ahead.”
“Welcome home,” Toshiko’s voice came tinnily from the tiny speaker.
“It’s good to be home,” Ianto answered. “Our captain says everything is ready for us?”
“You’ll be met on the beach, at the coordinates we agreed on,” she agreed. “I can’t wait to see you.”
“Me too.” He may have spoken to Toshiko many times over the previous year, but he hadn’t seen her since the night she’d left for Ddraig Llyn, when she’d been called home by the Great Dragons, and their conversations were always short and mostly to the point. He just wanted to sit down and talk to his friend, if only to ask her how she’d managed to hack into Jack’s personal files and get the wrist strap’s frequency.
The door opened, and one of the crewmen stuck his head in. “The dinghy is loaded, Captain,” he reported, before leaving.
“Hey, Gorgeous,” Dalton called out, loud enough to be picked up by the Manipulator’s speaker, “We’re about ready to go.”
Toshiko was obviously smiling from the tone in her voice. “Thank you, Captain. As much as I’ve enjoyed our conversations, may I say that I hope never to hear from you again?”
Dalton laughed; a deep, rich laugh that almost reminded Ianto of his missing mate. “No offence taken,” he answered. “I feel the same. It’s been a pleasure working with you.”
“Likewise. And Ianto, we’ll be seeing you shortly.” There was a small click, as the connection was broken.
The dragon flipped the wrist strap closed, not bothered by the abrupt sign-off. The last thing they needed was for Saxon to somehow trace even that tiny signal. “Thank you, Captain Dalton,” he said, holding his hand out to the man. “I do hope you get your friend back.”
Dalton took the offered hand. “If this works, then I will. I just wish I’d be able to remember it afterward. It would be a great story to tell Mac when this is all over.” Then he seemed to consider. “Or maybe not.”
Ianto couldn’t help but agree.
The beach came up on them suddenly out of the darkness, and the dinghy scraped the sandy bottom of the sea when it was close enough.
Ianto jumped from the boat quickly, taking one of the ropes with him, not caring that his boots and trouser legs were getting soaked with salt water. The only light was coming from the stars overhead; the lantern that had been used to signal the boat had been dimmed, and the dark of the moon was upon them, but Ianto had no problem seeing the shore and the two shapes waiting for himself and Martha to come up onto the beach.
He helped haul the dinghy up farther onto the beach, the hull making a loud noise as it scraped across the sand. Ianto kept alert for any Toclafane patrols; they couldn’t risk getting caught now, not when they were so close to their goal. One of the crewmen who’d accompanied them started unloading the boxes of medical supplies they’d brought with them, and one of the two waiting Resistance members joined in unloading the boat quickly.
“Well, Dragon Boy,” a familiar London drawl greeted him, “seems you’ve been up to all sorts of trouble without me to watch your back.”
Ianto’s heart threatened to burst, but he wasn’t about to tell Owen Harper that he was overjoyed to see him. Owen had been in the sewer tunnel leading to the Hub when the Rift storm that had devastated Cardiff had happened, and had managed to ride out the worst by making his way through the sewers and out somewhere near Grangetown. Luckily the storm hadn’t ravaged that area, and Owen had dodged Toclafane patrols, eventually meeting up with the new-born Resistance.
They hadn’t heard anything from Gwen, though, and Ianto despaired that she hadn’t survived the destruction of Cardiff.
“Good thing Tosh didn’t tell me it was you meeting us,” Ianto drawled, lugging a rather large crate up the beach, “else I would have stayed on the freighter.”
“Yeah, glad to see you too.” There was an undertone of affection in Owen’s voice, and it made Ianto smile to hear it.
There was a sound of tires crunching on stone, and a battered Land Rover pulled up, a tall, gangly, scruffy-looking man jumping from the drivers’ seat almost before it had stopped moving. He began helping, taking a box from Martha and shoving it into the back of the vehicle. Even in the darkness Ianto could see the sheer hero-worship in the man’s face. “Who’s your friend?” he asked Owen, slinging his box into the Land Rover’s boot.
“Tom?” Owen leaned against the side of the vehicle. “Fellow doctor, actually, and a pretty decent bloke. We’ve been working together for about six months now. Used to be in paediatrics, but alien invasion trumps taking care of babies.”
Owen had a point.
They got the Land Rover loaded, and the dinghy headed out, after Martha and Ianto bid farewell to the sailors. They piled into the car, the two travelers in the back; Ianto knew that, as doctors, Owen and Tom had permits to be out, but he and Martha were fugitives from Saxon’s so-called justice, and any Toclafane that caught sight of them would attack on sight.
Tom fully introduced himself as Owen drove them up the beach, and the dragon couldn’t help but notice that his eyes seemed to look more at Martha than him. Ianto barely hid a smirk, although he was also sad that, after things changed back, unless Tom Milligan was somewhere shielded, he wouldn’t remember Martha at all.
“Have you found Professor Docherty?” Martha asked, leaning between the two front seats in order to address both Tom and Owen.
Owen nodded. “She works in a repair shed, Nuclear Plant Seven. It won’t be a problem to get you and Dragon Boy in there.”
Martha snickered. “Ianto’s told me about you, Owen Harper.”
“Nothing good, I hope.”
“Trust me Owen,” Ianto snarked, “it was only the worst sort of gossip imaginable.”
“That’s good,” the medic snorted. “I have my reputation to maintain.”
Martha’s snicker turned into a full-on giggle.
“The famous Martha Jones, walking the Earth in order to save it,” Tom joined in, “known to all as the Nightingale, and she giggles like a ten-year-old girl who just saw her parents snogging. I think my dreams have just been shattered.”
“Oi!” Martha cried, smacking Tom on the arm. “Enough of that, mister!”
Ianto joined in on the laughter. “Tom, you’re going to fit right in with this crew,” he said. “I’m not sure that’s such a good thing, to be honest.”
“Too right,” Owen said. “Sorry, mate.”
Ianto leaned back in his seat, basking in the easy camaraderie that flowed through the cabin of the Land Rover. After a year of traveling, things were finally looking up, although the worst was really about to begin.
But first, Ddraig Llyn.
Three Hundred fifty-three Days into the Year of the Toclafane
A soft knock on the closed door awoke Toshiko from the light doze she had fallen into.
She sat up in bed, just as the door opened and Kathy’s head appeared around the jamb. “They’re here,” she murmured, giving Toshiko a small, warm smile.
Toshiko nodded, returning the smile, throwing off the duvet that she’d pulled up over her bare legs. Climbing out of bed, she reached for her jeans, which she’d thrown haphazardly at the foot of the bed when Kathy had insisted she get some rest. Toshiko had fought it, but Kathy was a queen of the puppy-eyes, and she’d been completely unable to resist.
Pulling on the rumpled jeans, Toshiko left her bedroom, passing close enough to Kathy to touch…which she proceeded to do so. They’d gotten so very close over the last year, and Toshiko had to smirk at the notion that Jack wouldn’t have to be jealous of Ianto taking the detective to lunch anymore…once they’d saved him and everything was back to normal, of course.
Together, they headed downstairs. It was still late…or very early morning, depending on how Toshiko wanted to look at it, but the inn was bustling as news of the travelers’ arrival circulated. The smell of coffee wafted up the stairs, and Toshiko inhaled deeply; Rhiannon’s coffee was good, but she was hoping that Ianto would have time to make them some before he and Martha headed off to complete the last part of the Doctor’s plan.
Toshiko herself wasn’t too sure of that plan. She’d had time to look at the Archangel Network, to poke around the various parts she could get to, and while she understood the overall achievement the actual technology was way above her. She hated admitting defeat, but she knew her own limits. The Network was tech from so far into the future that Toshiko doubted anyone could truly figure it out.
Perhaps not even the Doctor, although she would wait and see. The deadline wasn’t that far off now, and if it didn’t work then there were alternate plans in place.
The inn’s door was open, and Toshiko went through it, knowing that Kathy was right behind her. In the darkness of the starless and moonless sky, everything outside the lights of Ddraig Llyn was in shadow. Within the circle of lamplight outside the inn a battered black Range Rover had parked, and the doors had been flung open to release the passengers within.
Toshiko had eyes for only one.
Ianto hadn’t changed at all. He still looked the same, except for the shadows that floated in his ancient eyes; they were darker, and filled with more knowledge of pain that anyone should ever have. The black outfit he wore accentuated his Welsh paleness, making those eyes seem much bluer than they really were. He smiled as he saw her, his arms opening to greet her.
Her bare feet not feeling the cut of the drive’s gravel, she moved toward her best friend and wrapped her arms around him.
Ianto hugged her back just as hard, a quiet laugh echoing in her ear. “I’m so very glad to see you,” he whispered.
Toshiko didn’t say anything, and it was with a great deal of reluctance that she let him go, and gave Kathy her turn. Her eyes prickled with glad tears as she watched them embrace, so very happy that Ianto had survived everything that had been thrown at him during the last year.
It had been hard on them all, but Toshiko couldn’t imagine having to walk the world and seeing everything he had. It was bad enough being in Ddraig Llyn and getting the various news feeds, but to witness it firsthand…she wanted nothing more than to wrap her friend up in another hug and never let him go.
But she wouldn’t have a choice in that.
Ianto broke away from Kathy just enough to keep one arm around her, and with the other he dragged Toshiko back in. The dragon’s internal heat warmed her in a way physical intimacy couldn’t, and she leaned into his body as if it were her anchor and shield.
“It’s good to have you home,” Rhiannon answered, joining them. “It’s been a hard, long year.”
“It has.” His voice rumbled through his chest, and into Toshiko like a rock fall. “We have much to discuss, but first I want to introduce you all to Martha Jones.”
Ianto handled the introductions, beginning with the Dragon-Friends. When he got to Alice, he paused, and Rhiannon took over. “This is Alice, and she’s the Friend of Air.”
Of course, Toshiko had mentioned that there was a fourth Dragon-Friend, but hadn’t talked about her much, if at all. Even though she’d managed to crack the encryptions on Jack’s wrist strap – once she’d figured out that Martha had taken it in her escape from the Valiant – there’d always been the chance that the Master could have been listening, and so hadn’t revealed anything about their fourth member.
Ianto was looking at her closely, and Toshiko wondered if he’d known about Jack having a daughter before. He couldn’t help but notice the resemblance between father and daughter, and she hoped that they could find somewhere peaceful where they could talk.
“It’s good to finally meet you, Alice,” Ianto said, nodding in her direction. For Alice’s part, she looked surprised and pleased, but at the same time as if she wanted to burst into all sorts of questions. Over the year Alice’s opinions on certain matters had changed dramatically, although she did still carry some of the more deeply-ingrained beliefs that had been instilled by her mother.
“Let’s get this inside,” Rhiannon said. “I have coffee ready.”
“Oh God,” Martha moaned, “I haven’t had a decent coffee in nearly a year.”
“Rhiannon’s coffee is good,” Toshiko said, as a group they made their way across the gravel drive, “but wait until you’ve tried Ianto’s.”
She could feel the dragon huff playfully against her side. “I’ve just got back from walking the Earth and all you can think of is my coffee?”
“Sounds like she’s got her priorities straight to me,” Owen’s voice floated in over their shoulders. “You know that’s the only reason we keep you around, Dragon Boy.”
Ianto snorted. “And the only reason we keep you around, Owen, is because we don’t want to traumatize any poor souls who you might otherwise scar with what you consider your sense of humour.”
Toshiko couldn’t help but laugh. It was almost like things hadn’t changed, that the world hadn’t ended and that everything was fine.
She could only fool herself for a short while, though.
The front room of the inn was crowded with people, all wanting to hear about what was going on outside the valley. It wasn’t pretty; Ianto and Martha hadn’t taken any pleasure in telling them all of Saxon’s rampages: of the destruction of Japan; the radiation-soaked Russian tundra where the worst weapons imaginable were being tested; the murder of the Pope and every known religious leader on Earth, their blood saturating the stone of St. Peter’s Square; and the list went on and on, nothing seeming to be beyond the insane Time Lord in his continued conquest of the planet. Ianto’s voice broke when he spoke of the rockets…millions of rockets, all aimed at the stars, and Toshiko took his hand in hers, trying to comfort him.
They knew about the rockets, and about the Master’s plan to launch them and create what he called the new Time Lord Empire. He’d had the Earth practically raped for the materials he’d needed to build them, using what was left of humanity as his personal slave force. Toshiko knew for a fact that, early on, the Shadow Proclamation had put warning beacons in orbit, telling any and all races in the galaxy to stay away.
But, of course they wouldn’t help. They weren’t allowed to, by the very laws they’d sworn to uphold.
Eventually, conversation turned to the plan they had to get to Saxon. Toshiko once again felt misgivings about the Doctor, but she didn’t dare say them in front of Martha; she knew that the woman had traveled with the Time Lord, and fully believed that the plan would work. She also wanted to get Ianto alone, just long enough to explain the back-up plan she and her fellow Dragon-Friends had come up with, but waited her chance.
“We have it on good authority that the Master does have Professor Docherty’s son,” Kathy was saying, bringing Toshiko back into the conversation. “Anything you say to her is extremely likely to get back to him.”
Martha nodded. “I hate using her like this, but it’s our only real chance to get aboard the Valiant without the Master knowing we actually want to be captured.”
“Are there enough people who know the story and plan to make this really work?” Alice asked the one question Toshiko hadn’t wanted to, and she found herself glad that she had. Trust Alice to be the one to be so blunt.
Martha nodded. “Once the Doctor is completely attuned to the Archangel Network, then we’ll have the critical mass to beam back at him.”
That was just it. Did they really have that so-called critical mass? How many people really took Martha’s story to heart? And how many of them that had, were still alive?
Toshiko could feel eyes on her, and she turned to look directly into Ianto’s. There was a question there, and she knew she’d be talking to him in privacy sooner than she’d thought. He must have picked up on her unease; but then, he knew her pretty well, and had to have noticed her uncertainty. He nodded slightly, just enough for her to see, and then rejoined the conversation.
“This needs to end soon,” Estelle said, from her place in one of the lobby’s comfortable chairs. She was stroking Moses softly, the cat’s inscrutable eyes blinking as they regarded Martha and Ianto. She’d learned a lot about her own abilities in the year of their exile, and now was quite confident in her personal magic.
That had been hard for Toshiko to accept. Certainly, she believed in dragons and Dragon-Friends and the small powers they possessed, but there was something about the very notion of true magic in the world that had her flinching. But she’d seen her friend do things that should have been impossible, and she’d been instrumental in helping in the growth of their gardens under the sunless cloudy shield that hid Ddraig Llyn by providing rain and energy for their plants to grow.
“The Earth is groaning under the weight of the Master’s destruction,” Estelle went on, sounding very ominous.“It’s in its final death knells, and if we don’t do something everything will die.”
“She’s right,” Toshiko found herself saying. “I can feel it through my connection with the Earth Dragon.” It was as if the very pain of the planet was oozing from the ground under her feet, and she could feel it in her very bones.
“We all can,” Rhiannon added. “Every element carries the agonies of the Earth to us.”
“It won’t be long now,” Martha said with certainty. “The Doctor will defeat the Master.”
Toshiko wished she could have that sort of faith. But she’d been a witness to Saxon’s depravity in the transmissions he’d send from the Valiant; seen what the Time Lord was capable of. That sort of insanity was a force of nature on its own, and it would take another such force to stop it.
But then, she did remember the very few stories that Jack had told about his Doctor, about how he could stop an alien invasion with just a single word. He’d deposed Harriet Jones with just seven…and yet, if he hadn’t done that the world wouldn’t be dying around them. There wouldn’t have needed to be a special election, and Saxon would not have been voted into office.
She wondered if the Doctor even considered that it was his actions that’d brought this about.
And this made her think about Jack. Toshiko wondered if Ianto knew just what his mate was going through up there, at the Master’s hands. She shivered, and hoped he didn’t.
But they had a plan, the Dragon-Friends. If the Doctor failed…
“We have a couple of days here,” Ianto said. “I want to make certain everything is in place before Martha and I leave. And I want to talk to the Great Dragons.”
Toshiko found herself nodding in time with the other Dragon-Friends. “They want to speak to you, too,” Alice said. “I think they’ve been looking forward to it, actually.”
Ianto favored her with a smile. “As have I. And, I’d also like to speak to my friends. It’s been far too long, and while I’m in serious danger of sounding sappy, I’ve missed you all.” He made sure to include Alice in his glance, and she nodded.
This would mean they would be able to explain what they had in place. Toshiko knew that Ianto would want to know that, before setting foot on the Valiant. Every contingency needed to be taken into consideration, and they couldn’t simply rely on a Time Lord who’d been content to be a prisoner for the last year.
Because, if one thing Toshiko was certain of, was that the Doctor could have escaped whenever he wanted to. He was waiting, and she didn’t know why.
She didn’t know why he was letting the Earth die, when he could have done something about it before things had gotten so bad.
Three Hundred Fifty-Three Days into the Year of the Toclafane
For the first time since the world had gone to hell, Ianto felt he could relax for a short while.
He was surrounded by friends and family, safe within the hidden valley. He could feel the magic that kept Ddraig Llyn from Saxon’s scanners, and it prickled against his skin almost pleasantly. It was a balm to his soul, and only two things would have made it perfect: Jack being there, and the Earth returned to its pre-paradox state.
It would be soon, he hoped.
He and Martha talked about what was going on outside the valley, and he could see how much it was affecting them all. Yes, Toshiko had eyes and ears on the outside world, but it wasn’t quite the same as hearing someone speak of it, who had actually been there. It was disturbing, and Ianto hated that a single alien backed by the horrific Toclafane hadn’t been stopped before all this happened.
The dragon looked at everyone gathered together to hear their story. He recognized nearly everyone: from the old-timers who were relying on others to translate things into Welsh for them; to the newcomers, who’d come in to the valley before everything had descended into the hell it had. John Ellis was there, the time-displaced Rift victim, looking as if he belonged among the locals. Estelle looked content, and comfortable with the power that she now held, her familiar in her lap. Owen, who was the only Torchwood survivor of the Rift storms that had destroyed Cardiff, looking tired and yet ready to do what was needed.
There were new arrivals as well, ones who had arrived at the village after the coming of the Toclafane. Tom Milligan was one of them, and Ianto hoped that he might get to know the young doctor better, if they all survived to see the Doctor’s plan put into effect…and if they all remembered once things were put right. If they ever were.
And then there were the Dragon-Friends.
Ianto couldn’t believe how good it was to see Toshiko and Kathy again. They were his truest friends, and if he was any judge he would have said that they’d gotten closer over the course of the last year. He hoped it was true. They were special to him, Toshiko more his sister than anything, and Kathy a trusted member of his extended family.
Rhiannon had been his friend for much longer, and she was the last descendent of the family who’d taken him in when his family had been murdered. She was a sister to him as well, and she’d been the perfect person to turn over the inn to when Ianto had left with Jack eight years ago. She was his anchor amid the eddies and shoals of Dragon-lore, and he relied on her to be the spokesperson of the valley.
And then there was Alice.
Ianto was going to have to have a talk with Jack about keeping his family secret.
The dragon had known about Alice and her son, Steven, although he hadn’t for very long, else he would have Named them during the problems with the Fae. He’d found out by complete accident, while going through payroll records for an audit requested by the Crown during Jack’s absence. Jack hadn’t done as good a job as he must have thought in hiding them, and it hadn’t taken much research to find out just where that particular portion of his mate’s Torchwood pay had been going to every month. A little more digging had revealed just who Alice Carter was, and what had happened when her mother had left Torchwood, but absolute confirmation had come with the pictures Toshiko had found in Bilis Manger’s office back in 1941, which he’d located in Jack’s desk. It had saddened him, but he could understand why Jack hadn’t talked about it if what he’d read was true.
But now, Alice was a Dragon-Friend, the Friend of Air. He wanted to speak to her, to find out exactly how that had come about, and to get to know her better. He hoped he would have time.
Eventually, Rhiannon shooed the villagers out, insisting that the gathering allow Ianto and Martha to get some rest. The dragon was grateful; he was tired, but at the same time he wanted some time alone with his family. On his way out, John Ellis patted his shoulder reassuringly, and Ianto nodded, grateful for his support. The man had come a long way from the depressed refugee who’d wanted to take his own life instead of making a new way in the world. Sending him and Alan here had been the best thing he could have done, even if John had only had a few scant months to spend with his son before his passing. But John looked – if not happy – then at least content.
Once Rhiannon had turfed everyone out, she returned to the now-smaller group. “Martha,” she said, “I know you must be tired. Why don’t I show you to a room?” She grinned. “Perhaps one with a shower?”
“You’ve said the magic word,” Martha answered, returning the grin. “I would murder for a shower.” She grabbed her pack from where she’d dropped it next to her chair.
“No need for that,” Rhiannon laughed. “C’mon, let’s go.” She ushered Martha out, but not before casting a glance back toward what was left of the gathering.
Ianto knew exactly what she was doing.
He looked at those remaining. Toshiko sat next to him, her hand loosely clasped in his. Kathy perched on the arm of the sofa, one arm around Toshiko’s shoulders. Estelle was still in her chair, but Moses had left, most likely going in search of something to eat. Alice sat cross-legged on the floor, her eyes on him expectantly. And Owen leaned against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest.
His closest friends and family. Ianto’s heart warmed in their presence. The only one missing was Jack…and he couldn’t think of what his mate was going through, up on the Valiant, at the hands of the Master. Whatever else happened, the Time Lord would pay for injuring his mate.
“All right,” he said, “as glad as I am to see you all, I get the distinct impression that you’re all up to something.”
From the reactions of the five around him, he’d hit the nail on the head.
“Estelle was right,” Alice answered for them. “The Earth is dying. We can all feel it, and it gets worse every day. If what we think is true, then we barely have two months before everything ends.”
Ianto shivered. He’d known things were bad, but this…”Are you certain?”
“As sure as we can be,” Toshiko said.
“C’mon,” Owen said. “You’ve been out there, Ianto. You’ve seen it. It’s all gone to hell, because of that bastard on the Valiant and his floating torturers.”
The dragon had to agree. Walking the world meant he’d seen a lot, and he’d witnessed much that had him agreeing with the assessment. Earth was dying, and they didn’t have much time.
“Ianto,” Toshiko went on, “we can’t rely on the Doctor’s plan succeeding. I can honestly say that none of us here completely believe in this so-called plan. I’ve seen the inside of the Archangel Network, and I really think the Doctor’s bitten off more than he can deliver.”
“We all agree,” Kathy said. “If what Tosh’s told us all about him is true, the Doctor is directly responsible for what’s happening now.”
Ianto also had to agree with that. He’d had time to think about things on their travels, and he’d heard Martha’s stories about the Time Lord that jibed with what he’d already known from Jack, and he had come to the conclusion that the Doctor simply didn’t take into consideration the consequences of his own actions. Certainly, he meant well, but that simply didn’t translate into actually doing the right thing.
Torchwood had had to clean up enough of his messes and, in fact, one of the reasons it had been created was to do just that. If the Doctor hadn’t interfered…well, it had all turned out all right in the end, but maybe Queen Victoria had had the correct idea. Someone had to rein the Doctor in, and it looked as if Torchwood was it.
And now, the biggest mess ever had been dumped into their laps, and if this so-called plan didn’t work, then the entire planet would suffer the consequences of what the Doctor had wrought.
“I’m assuming then that you have a back-up plan.” He rolled his eyes at the looks of surprise he received. “Please, I know at least Tosh and Owen would want to have something in the works in case things go pear-shaped.”
Toshiko chuckled. “Okay, you do know us that well. And you’d be right…we do have a plan, that’s ready to go if the Doctor fails.”
Ianto sat back, regarding his five friends closely. He turned as Rhiannon came back from showing Martha to her room, and took a seat in a chair opposite. “She’s settled for the night,” the innkeeper reported. “She won’t overhear anything.”
“Martha believes too heavily in the Doctor to even accept that he could fail,” Ianto said. “I’ve seen her devotion first-hand, and while it’s commendable, it’s also a bit blind.” As much as he loved her as a friend, the dragon knew he was on target with his observations. He didn’t add that he knew Martha had an infatuation with the Time Lord.
“That’s what we all thought, too,” Kathy replied. “It’s okay to believe in someone, but you have to take into consideration that they can screw up. And I think as far as everyone here is concerned, the Doctor screwed this up big-time.”
“From what I’ve heard from Martha,” the dragon said, “the Doctor actually had a chance to put a halt to this before it began, but felt he needed to save Saxon instead of stopping him…even though he had first-hand knowledge of just how ruthless and insane the Master could be.” Ianto could understand about the Doctor being the last of his race, and needing to help the only other one there was left. But he’d learned his lesson with Lisa all too well, and there were times when that just wasn’t possible.
“And does he still feel that way?” Alice asked.
Ianto shrugged. “I don’t know, but I suspect that’s the case.”
“So basically you’re saying,” Owen bit out, “is that the Doctor is most likely to choose that bastard over the fate of the entire planet.”
“The Doctor has done a lot of good for Earth,” Toshiko said, although it sounded almost as if she was condemning the Time Lord instead of praising him.
“And the road to hell…” Owen didn’t finish that sentence…but then, he didn’t need to.
“All right,” Ianto said, trying to bring them all back to the subject at hand. “You do have some sort of plan in place in case things fail?”
“We do,” Toshiko answered. She looked at the others, and they each gave her a small nod of encouragement. She squeezed Ianto’s hand, taking a deep breath. “The moment we hear that the Doctor has failed, then the four of us,” she indicated her fellow Dragon-Friends, “will go up to the Valiant to hold the Master responsible for his crimes against Earth. The Great Dragons will go with us.”
Ianto felt slightly ill. “That will leave the valley open to Saxon’s scanners.”
“We know,” Toshiko answered, “but it won’t matter anyway, since the world will end if the plan doesn’t succeed. It’ll be our only chance, if the Master is distracted by the Doctor…”
“And what about the paradox machine?” Ianto asked. “That will need to be destroyed.”
“That would be my goal,” Estelle answered, smiling. “I may be an old woman, but I do have hidden talents.” She raised her hand, and silver lightning flickered around her fingertips.
Once again, his mind turned to Jack on board the Valiant, knowing that he had to be going through torture and worse. While he didn’t actually know what was going on up there, he could make guesses, especially since Martha had confirmed that the Master had known about Jack’s immortality.
“If it comes to this,” he said slowly, “then you know Martha and I…” he faded out, not needing to really say much more.
Toshiko squeezed his hand again, and the others looked grave. Ianto cleared his throat. “Saxon doesn’t know that I’m a real dragon,” he went on. “If the plan fails, then I’ll reveal myself and do the best I can to take Saxon down. We cannot allow this to continue. With any luck, since he doesn’t know about my true identity he won’t be prepared for me, and I’ll have the chance to strike a real blow. I’m going to trust you all to do what needs to be done, and not worry about me.”
Owen was shaking his head. “If you think we’re just gonna stand around while the Master kills you – “
“You might not have a choice,” Ianto said. “No one life is more important than the fate of this world. You’ll need to be my back-up, in case it all goes to hell.” He swallowed. “If anything happens to me, tell Jack – “
“Oh, quit trying out for the part of martyr in this show,” Owen snarked. “Nothing’s gonna happen to you, Dragon Boy. So stop being a bigger drama queen than Harkness.”
Ianto couldn’t help but laugh. “Fine, I’ll try to stay away from the histrionics, if just to save your delicate sensibilities.”
‘Thank god for that!”
“Ianto,” Toshiko said, “why don’t you get some rest? I’m sure you’re dying to change into dragon-form after so long. We can get caught up more tomorrow.”
He had to admit, that was a very good idea. Ianto had only been able to change his shape at irregular intervals, and it didn’t matter how much he slept as a human it still bothered him. He was literally aching to take to the skies again, to feel the wind against his wings…
“I think I’ll do that,” he said, standing and grinning widely. He pulled Toshiko to her feet, hugging her tightly. “It’s so very good to see you again,” he whispered into her hair.
“Oi, Jones,” Kathy exclaimed playfully, “keep your hands off my girlfriend, if you don’t mind.”
Ianto responded by grabbing her hand and pulling her into the hug. “I’m very happy for you both,” he said quietly. He only hoped they remembered this when whatever happened was over.
He released them, then proceeded to embrace Rhiannon and Estelle, and finally Alice. “I’m very glad to finally meet you,” he said, holding her out at arms’ length. “We should talk, you and I. I really want to get to know you and Steven both. Welcome to my family, Alice, and I Name you Dragon-Friend.”
He could feel the power of it, at his proclamation. The Naming bound Alice to him, and he vowed to keep her safe, as he had vowed of all his family. She looked a little surprised, but pleased, and Ianto knew, no matter the differences she may have had with her father – and there had to be some, if what he’d read about her mother had been correct – that she would always be a part of him until she passed from the realm of the living, as were everyone in that room.
“You’re not gonna hug me, are you?” Owen said, holding his hands up as if to keep Ianto away.
“No, I don’t want to ruin your manly-man reputation,” Ianto joked, letting go of Alice. “I’m going to sleep in my old cave. If you need me, Rhiannon knows where it is.”
“I took the liberty of setting things up for you,” Rhiannon said. “It’s not much, just a few pillows and quilts, and I had firewood hauled up to stock the fire pit…”
“It will be fine,” he assured her. “Anything’s better than cold ground.”
They accompanied him outside, and Ianto triggered the transformation. He roared his joy to the cloud-ridden sky, and even before his wings were fully formed he was launching himself into the air, feeling the wind bite into the leathery membrane and helping him thrust upward, leaving the ground behind for the sheer exhilaration of flight.
Tomorrow would be another day, but for now the dragon was free.
And soon, so would be his mate. That was a vow he fully meant to keep.
Three Hundred and Fifty-Three Days into the Year of the Toclafane
Alice Carter had had a lot of her preconceived notions overturned during the past year, all of them having to do with her father.
Her mother had been very adamant about what she considered Jack Harkness to be, and she’d passed every one of those ideas onto her daughter, who’d taken them to heart as only a child could. That her father was selfish, and a slut, and narcissistic, and untrustworthy, and only cared for what was important to him…but it was her firm lessons in just how dangerous a man Jack was that really hit the hardest. What made the situation worse was that he seemed to be just what her mother had claimed: he’d miss important things in her life, using the excuse of ‘work’ for every time he’d broken a promise. Jack Harkness was unreliable, and her mother made certain that Alice had understood that.
By the time Alice had turned ten, she and her mother had moved and had changed their names, all in order to escape her father’s ‘business’. Of course, Alice hadn’t known that her very own mother had been a part of her father’s world; that had come later, when Lucia had talked about Torchwood and how Alice had to avoid it at all costs. Jack had begun to stay away at that point, and Alice hadn’t learned until later that it hadn’t been his decision, that her mother had ordered him to leave them alone, and Jack had done it.
Alice wished that he hadn’t, but she could understand now why he had.
But there’d been no explaining that to the bitter young girl who felt as if her own father had abandoned her. She began to feel as if there was something wrong with her that kept Jack away, even though her mother assured her that it was just his way, and not to take it seriously. But Alice hadn’t believed her, and her own self-esteem had taken a hit over what she considered his disregard of her.
Then, when she was fifteen, she met the Air Dragon.
The Dragon had come during a bad time in Alice’s life, when she was at her lowest. She could still remember that day so well: she’d been in her back garden, alone at home while her mother had been off to work. That was usually the way of it, when Alice had become old enough to look after herself, and while she knew her mother felt the need to work – although, after her mother’s death she’d discovered the account her father had set up for them to live on, and it had been untouched – it was lonely for her. Alice didn’t make friends easily, and the empty house was something she dreaded to come home to after school.
The Air Dragon changed all that.
The lonely girl didn’t want to lose her friend.
Of course, as she got older the Dragon appeared less and less, until the day Alice finally moved away to go to University. The day before she left had been the last time she’d seen her friend, and Alice had wept as the Dragon had hugged her in a warm twist of air. But she’d promised she’d see Alice once more, and a part of her hadn’t believed it. After all, she’d been left by her own father; why would the Dragon come back?
But she had, the night Joe had left.
It wasn’t much longer after that that her father came back into her life. Alice had had so many years of anger toward him, and at first she’d rebuffed his efforts, not wanting to confuse Steven with having a grandfather who looked so young. Eventually though she’d let him back in a little, demanding that he be her son’s ‘uncle’ instead of grandfather, and Jack had agreed.
The Air Dragon had tried to get her talk to her father, and really that was the only reason Alice had agreed to let Jack visit. She still harbored the feelings of abandonment, and never gave him an easy time of it when he did come by. As far as she was concerned everything her mother had claimed about him was true.
Looking back on it, Alice could see that Jack had done everything that Alice had asked, without complaint. It should have told her something, but it hadn’t. But then, she’d been so blind…from her mother’s rhetoric and from her own prejudices.
It had taken the world ending to open her eyes.
Estelle Cole had had ample reason to hate Jack, and yet she didn’t. Alice hadn’t understood until Estelle had really explained it to her, and even then it had taken a lot of thinking on Alice’s part to truly accept what the older woman was telling her: that her father’s immortality was more curse than blessing, that he would always be leaving those he loved because he didn’t change, didn’t grow any older. Staying would bring attention to it, and Estelle had pointed out to her that Jack would still be around when everyone in Ddraig Llyn was dead and dust, and that he would have to exist with knowing everyone he’d ever loved would either leave him in death…or like Alice’s mother had, in fear. The thing was, it didn’t keep him from loving, and when he did love it was fully and with his whole heart, although he’d always tried to stay aloof and not get involved. It was just against Jack’s nature to stay out of the way of emotional entanglements, even though he knew in the end that it would only cause him more pain.
Toshiko and Owen worked for Torchwood, the bogeyman of her mother’s existence, and yet it wasn’t the house of horrors she’d been told about. Yes, there were times when they did terrible things but it was in the name of saving innocents rather than because they just could. Toshiko had hastened to say that Torchwood hadn’t always been that way, that not too long ago it had been as bad as her mother had claimed, but that because of Jack’s influence it had become a better place, one more likely to try to understand instead of kill out of hand.
Kathy had confirmed that, even though Alice knew she wasn’t as big a fan of her father as the others were. There was still a healthy dose of respect for what Jack had accomplished even if the former detective inspector didn’t like him all that much. She was quite honest in her opinion of Jack’s treatment of the local constabulary – there was a reason she called Jack ‘Himself’ – but she also said she could understand it, having seen what Torchwood had to deal with. Better a rude bastard than a dead copper, had been her opinion, and Alice had come away from the conversation wondering just how much of her father’s bad behavior had been an act all along. And if it was just a way to protect others…and himself.
Rhiannon was the one who explained Jack’s connection to Ianto Jones, the Last Dragon. It was the most difficult to take in; a tale of prophecy and destiny and how, one day, they would have a true Mating that would, ages from now, bring back the dragons to the universe. Rhiannon told her that she hadn’t even shared that last bit with either man yet, because it would be too hard for them to believe…not that Alice herself believed it, either. It was too wild, too improbable, and that was even before she considered that they were both men. She wanted to believe in happy endings, but it was just far too difficult.
There was really only one more person she really needed to speak to, and that person had been gone the entire year.
Which was why Alice found herself at the lake shore, watching as a magnificent green dragon flew overhead.
It was day, which in Ddraig Llyn meant that the clouds overhead had gotten lighter. She knew, once she left the valley, that she’d look like she’d been living in a cellar for the past year, due to the lack of true sunlight. Most of the villagers were up and moving, and Alice knew the eyes of several were on her, but she didn’t care. Her attention was on the dragon above her. When she’d realized that her father was bound to the dragon, at first she’d wanted to warn him, that her father was unreliable and untrustworthy and not worth the effort. But, once again, it had been Estelle to point out to her that both needed each other, that to be immortal was to be lonely, and these two were unique in the universe. Only they would know what it was like to live forever. Together, they would never be alone again.
Alice decided that her father did, indeed, deserve happiness…especially after seeing what was being done to him onboard the Valiant, in those few broadcasts the Master made to lord it over his ‘subjects’. That, more than any words Estelle and the others had said, had convinced her that her father suffered under a curse of the worst possible kind.
Her mother had been wrong in that.
It was just one thing in a long line of wrong.
The dragon must have caught sight of her; he began circling lower, closer to her and the bank. With a rush of wind he settled onto the ground, his enormous head swiveling to regard her. “Good morning, Alice,” he greeted her cheerfully, his blue cat-like eyes glowing.
“Good morning,” she returned, walking closer. She raised her hand, in order to touch the emerald scales, but changed her mind before she could, not wanting to assume.
The dragon huffed a laugh. “Please, don’t hold back. You’ll find I’m a very tactile sort of dragon.”
She laughed with him, resting her hand on his warm shoulder. The scales were smooth as silk, yet felt as hard as steel. Alice wondered what those glittering scales would look like under proper sunlight. There were so many things she wanted to ask, but she didn’t know where to start.
He took it out of her hands; curling up on the cool bank, the dragon looked at her closely. “You do have the look of your father about you.”
For some reason Alice found herself blushing slightly. “Did Dad tell you about me?”
Those large eyes rolled. “No, he didn’t, and I’m going to have words about it when I see him again.” The tone was somewhat joking, but there was a sadness in his gaze, and Alice knew he was thinking about Jack being a prisoner. “Although I can certainly understand why he didn’t. Jack has so few things in his life that are his, and I believe he was being selfish of you and Steven. I do know he would have told me if given the chance.”
Alice didn’t say anything. The dragon’s calm confidence in her father was, once again, different from anything she’d gotten from the others. He was so certain that Jack would have spoken up about her and Steven…”It’s bad, you know,” she said. “What Dad’s going through.”
“I know, although I don’t have first-hand knowledge. Martha told me that the Master knew Jack couldn’t die.” He sighed. “I would have gone to save him if I could, and it hurts me to know he’s being…used, as he is.”
He rested his head on his front claws. “Just before he left with the Doctor, I’d sung the Song of Commitment for him. That song holds much power, and is a vow between those intending to mate. That implicit vow is to protect your loved one, and to avenge them if they are injured or killed. I will do that, Alice. You have my word. The Master will pay for Jack’s suffering.”
Alice shivered at his matter-of-fact tone, and yet at the same time she felt a sharp fierceness within her at the dragon’s promise. Her father didn’t deserve what was happening to him, and she only wished she could be there when the dragon laid hands on the Master.
Somehow, she didn’t think their back-up plan would be needed. Alice doubted the Master would survive the dragon’s wrath.
“Rhiannon was telling me that you and my Dad are destined to be together,” she commented, taking a seat on the grass and leaning against the dragon’s warm side.
“It would appear so,” he answered, his voice a deep rumble against her back. “When I was just turned four hundred, I had a vision of my future mate. Although, I do admit I didn’t realize that the dragon I was seeing was some sort of allegory for a human I’d meet over 1,500 years later. Of course, if I’d seen Jack in that vision I doubt I would have been quite so sanguine about it.”
“I’m surprised Rhiannon hasn’t said anything.”
“She has; I just wanted to hear it from the one person who was there at the time.”
“Ah.” The dragon was silent for a few moments, then began to speak quietly. “I would say that things began to turn against dragon-kind when Uther Pendragon banned magic from Camelot – “
“Wait,” Alice exclaimed. “Are you saying King Arthur and all that was real?”
“Indeed. The legends have been tainted throughout the millennia, but yes…Camelot was real. I even went there once, with my father. One of our kind was being held prisoner, and my father thought to release him…but in the end, we didn’t.”
“Because he had Uther convinced that he was the last, and while Uther believed that the rest of us were safe. Merlin did eventually release him from his captivity – “
“Merlin was real too?” Alice was surprised that so many of the tales she’d read as a child were turning out to be true…or at least, had a grain of truth about them.
The dragon chuckled. “Oh yes. I quite liked him. He was so different from how all the old stories picture him. Oh, he was very powerful...but he was quite one of the biggest klutzes I have ever met. He and Arthur made quite a lovely couple – “
“Now just a second!” Alice laughed. “I think you’re making some of this up!”
“I am not!” The dragon sounded completely innocent. “Things were a lot more accepting back then! Now, are you going to let me continue, or will you keep interrupting?”
Alice stifled her chuckles. “Please, go ahead.”
The dragon did. “Things were better for a while after Arthur repealed the ban on magic, but after he’d died Albion descended into chaos. And the coming of Christianity didn’t help matters. It became a coming-of-age ritual for a young man to go out and slay a dragon, and once it was discovered how to kill one of us, word spread quickly. We were seen as creatures of evil, simply because we were magical. Druids and magic-users of all types were condemned. It only took another 250 years before the dragons were all but extinct.”
The dragon’s voice took on a deep, horrible sadness, and Alice couldn’t help but cry for all the dragons who’d been killed just because they weren’t understood as being a part of the natural world. It brought to mind Rhiannon’s prophecy that the dragon and her Dad would, far in the future, become the parents of a new race of dragons. A part of her wanted to give her new friend that peace, but she stopped herself. It still seemed improbable, but she hoped that it would come true.
“Why my dad?” she blurted.
The dragon chuckled lightly. “I’ve asked myself that question! There’s just something about Jack that calls to me…perhaps it’s the knowledge that he’s like me, alone in the world. There are none like either of us, and that will not change. Or maybe it’s his humanity…although he would say he’d lost that somewhere along the way; that’s a lie, though. Jack’s one of the most human people I know. He’s also very dragon-like in ways that I cannot explain. He knows, Alice. He knows what it’s like to be the only one of his kind.”
“But he isn’t,” she replied. “He has me and Steven.”
“He does, but it’s not the same. You won’t continue to live after everyone you love has passed. You won’t see the rise and fall of cities, countries, even worlds. He will. He is unique among all other creatures. Even I’m not exactly like him, because there are still ways to kill me, and I would not be able to come back like he does.”
Alice’s heart ached at the pain in the dragon’s voice. “He never really explained to me how he became immortal.”
“That was why he left with the Doctor…to find out how it happened. You see, your father traveled with the Doctor for a while, and somewhere along the line he was made immortal. The problem was, the Doctor left him to fend for himself…although Jack thinks the Time Lord didn’t know that he was even alive, or that he’d been changed.”
Alice felt angry on Jack’s behalf. To have been left, when he hadn’t known what had caused him to be immortal…how much of a shock had it been, when her father had realized he couldn’t die? “I really do hope it was a mistake, leaving Dad behind,” she growled.
“As do I, Alice. I cannot bear to think that Jack had been abandoned on purpose.”
No one would ever truly understand Jack Harkness…except for this wonderful creature sitting on the shore of a hidden lake.
Alice knew she’d have disagreements with her Dad. It was inevitable; they were both too stubborn for their own good, and they’d keep butting heads on even the smallest things.
But, sitting there, leaning against a creature out of legend, she finally could see Jack for what he was, and how much she and her father had in common.
A sudden, fierce protectiveness rose up within her. “I get dibs on the Doctor if I find out he really left Dad alone on purpose.”
The dragon laughed. “You can certainly have him, daughter. I wouldn’t dream of standing in your way.”
Daughter. Yes, Alice liked being called that very much indeed.
Three Hundred Fifty-Nine Days into the Year of the Toclafane
In the first month Jack was a prisoner on board the Valiant, he tried to escape five times.
The first, second, and fifth times, he didn’t get very far, being grabbed by guards as he left the tiny cell the Master had thrown him into at first. The third time, he actually made it to one of the upper levels before being killed in a literal hail of bullets, and the fourth he managed to get to the engine room and do some minor damage to the airship’s buoyancy controls, making it impossible for the Valiant to change altitude until they were fixed.
Needless to say, the Master wasn’t at all happy with that, and showed Jack exactly what he thought about the situation.
It was in the second month that Jack came to the conclusion that the Doctor didn’t seem to be working on any sort of plan to put things back to normal. That notion didn’t hurt as much as it would have just a short time ago, since he now had it on fairly good authority that the Doctor wouldn’t give a fig about Jack’s personal well-being. He’d made that pretty clear trillions of years in the future, after volunteering him – while he was actually dead – to go into a room full of radiation. Of course, Jack knew himself well enough to admit he’d have gone if he’d been asked; it was the idea that he hadn’t been that made him so angry. And then that was when his supposed ‘friend’ had confided that Jack’s very presence made him ill…well, the Doctor always did have lousy timing. He could have come out with that before pretty much trapping him with the stet radiation.
It didn’t help that Jack was pretty much convinced that, in a choice between the Earth and the Master, that the Doctor would choose his fellow Time Lord. Just from certain comments he’d made before they’d been captured Jack was quite certain the Doctor wasn’t necessarily out to stop the Master from whatever plan the bastard was hatching, although the world he’d supposedly adopted as his own was in danger of being destroyed.
And so, Jack thought if the Doctor wasn’t going to do anything to save them, then he’d just have to do it himself.
On his second escape attempt in that second month, he made it within thirty feet of the TARDIS before the Toclafane stopped him…rather fatally.
The Master was more than happy to show Jack just how he felt about that.
It was also in the second month that Jack finally found out what had happened to Cardiff.
It was by accident; something Clive Jones said, when he’d come in to clean up the blood and bodily fluids from Jack’s latest death, an off-hand comment about the ‘bastard not being in a good mood anymore, like he was after Cardiff’. Jack had asked him what that meant, and Clive told him.
Jack had howled out his grief until one of the guards came in to shoot him, to shut him up.
After that, the escape attempts stopped.
Jack withdrew into his thoughts, remembering his team…and his mate. The Rift storm that the paradox had created would have killed them, and he doubted even a dragon would have survived. In the very last message he’d had from Ianto, he said he would be initiating a lockdown in the Hub, and Jack’s imagination threw up images of them all being trapped in the Hub as the Rift storm blew through, tearing them all to pieces, unable to escape. The Hub would have been at the epicentre of the storm, and they wouldn’t have stood a chance.
He’d lost his mate. Jack mourned that loss as if his very soul had been torn out…and perhaps it had been. He didn’t even have his ring anymore, the one Ianto had given him, to give him some sort of comfort; the Master had confiscated it early on, and Jack had never seen it again.
He also wondered about Alice and Steven. Had they escaped the Rift storm? Or had they also been killed, along with his team? What about Estelle? Had Jack lost everyone he loved?
It seemed so.
The Master grew bored with Jack’s lack of response to his ‘attentions’, and left him alone, hanging by chains in a remote area of the Valiant’s superstructure.
It was in the third month that Jack began to realize the Master wasn’t killing him anymore. He noticed Tish Jones’ face when she’d come in to feed him, and the bruise that blossomed across her cheek and swelled her eye shut; it seemed the Master was taking his ire out on others, now that Jack wasn’t cooperating. Jack felt guilty about that, as well as leaving his team, and while he couldn’t save the people he considered family the least he could do was go back to being the Master’s personal punching bag.
His next escape attempt got him as far as the top deck. Jack actually tasted fresh air before being caught.
And was killed by being thrown over the side of the airship, although he was actually dead before he hit the ground. Coming back from that death though had taken days.
The Master thoroughly enjoyed Jack’s agonies from that resurrection.
Jack waited until the fourth month to try to escape again, and then he found himself on the control deck, and in front of the Doctor, the aged Time Lord unresponsive in his wheelchair.
Jack cursed him as they dragged him away.
The Master chortled at that, and Jack heard him taunting the Doctor as the four guards practically carried him away.
There was no death after that attempt. Jack figured the Master was too happy with the result of it.
He tried two other times in that month, not getting far at all. The guards were onto him, and it really was a practice in futility to try, but it gave Jack something to do, and it gave the guards a work-out.
In the fifth month, Jack received the first ray of hope he’d had since that terrible day when the Doctor’s so-called plan had gone wrong and the world had ended.
It came from Tish, who’d brought him his daily bowl of cold mashed swede – he was going to have nightmares about eating that stuff – who told Jack that Martha was still alive.
And that she was traveling in the company of a man only known as Dragon.
To Jack, that meant one thing…Ianto was still alive.
It was the only option he was willing to accept.
And, if Ianto was still alive, what about the rest of his team?
After that, the Joneses brought him every scrap of information they could about Martha and Ianto. When Francine mentioned a Resistance leader calling themselves Cherry Blossom, Jack immediately decided that it had to be Toshiko. He wondered where she was, and how she escaped from Cardiff. Maybe the Earth Dragon had saved her? It made sense.
He wondered if Kathy had survived as well, since she was also a Dragon-Friend. He hoped so.
His faith and hope were restored every time one of the Jones family would tell him another story. When Japan was destroyed, it was Clive who said that Martha – whom the Resistance was calling Nightingale – and her escort had escaped. When the Master had sent the Toclafane on a purge of North America, it was Francine who reported the Time Lord’s anger that he’d missed Martha and Dragon by mere days.
Jack had learned first-hand how furious the Master was over that, as well. Not that he cared; he taunted the Master even as he was being killed in one of the most gruesome ways imaginable.
It was in the sixth month that Jack finally discovered that the Doctor, indeed, had some sort of plan, although he didn’t believe for a second that he would actually have sent Martha around the world for some sort of gun in five parts, that could somehow kill Time Lords. Jack wondered just what the trip was for, and why the Doctor was waiting. All sorts of scenarios ran though Jack’s head, but if Ianto was helping…then maybe it would work out in the end.
But being the personal torture toy for an insane Time Lord was starting to take its toll.
The seventh month was when Jack noticed it was taking longer and longer for him to come back from his various deaths. He hadn’t even considered anything like that happening, but then dying over and over again was something Jack had never really done before. Yes, Emily Holroyd and Alice Guppy had enjoyed themselves at his expense, but even they hadn’t killed him repeatedly. He’d been too useful to them, and they hadn’t wanted to risk him being incapacitated.
The degradation continued into the eighth month, becoming obvious enough that even the Master eventually began to notice. It came to a head after one fairly routine death, when Jack should have been back in minutes…and it took nearly an hour. The look he got from the Master had been accusing, as if Jack were doing it on purpose.
Like he had any control over his immortality. Yeah, right.
The Master left him alone after that, despite Jack’s attempts to regain his attention. The Time Lord was getting more and more frustrated in trying to capture Martha and Ianto – although he had no idea that Dragon was former Torchwood operative Ianto Jones, and a real dragon to boot let alone Jack’s mate – and he was more likely to take that out on others. Jack certainly didn’t like to die, but it was preferable than seeing anyone else hurt. He tried to escalate his escape attempts, but nothing seemed to get the Master focused back on him, although the guards appeared to appreciate the challenge.
By the ninth month, things were coming to a head. The Master was becoming more and more unbalanced, and it was apparent in his behavior toward the slaves he had on board, the Joneses in particular. Jack did his best to help by acting as distraction, and it seemed to work for a while, but it was as if the Master had lost complete interest in him by that point. When a girl accidentally dumped a bucket of soapy water over the Master’s shoes, he had her summarily disemboweled on the control deck, in front of everyone. Even Jack had been ‘invited’ to the ‘party’, and it was all he could do not to throw up at the scene.
The Doctor sat, unmoved.
Jack really hated him for that.
It seemed that the Master got bored taking his bad mood out on the help as the tenth month since he’d taken over rolled around, because he was back to killing Jack fairly frequently. It seemed the period away from dying helped his recovery time, because Jack was almost at his old resurrection rate when the Master’s boredom brought him back to the bowels of the ship.
The problem was, his imagination had grown far more depraved, and Jack suffered for it.
It was only the thought of his dragon, his mate, out there and alive that kept Jack from the total darkness of despair that threatened to overcome him.
Things slowly went back into what construed as ‘normal’ on the Valiant, once the Master got things out of his system by taking them out on Jack. The closer it got to the launching of the missiles that were being built, the more the Time Lord got more and more excited. While Jack didn’t know much was going on out in the world – the Joneses being his only source of information – he did know what those missiles were for. The Master had boasted about the ‘new Time Lord Empire’ enough during their sessions.
He couldn’t succeed.
And so, the latest escape attempt.
This time though, it was being instigated by the Joneses, although Tish swore the Doctor was involved.
Like Jack trusted anything the Doctor did anymore. Still, he would go along with it, for the Joneses’ sake.
It, of course, didn’t get very far.
But this time Jack didn’t suffer the consequences.
Three Hundred and Fifty-Nine Days into the Year of the Toclafane
The last several days had been the most peaceful Toshiko had felt in that whole damned year. Not even being with Kathy had been able to match it, and that was saying something.
It was as if everything was finally right, having Ianto there in the valley with them. She, Owen, and their dragon teammate were able to connect in a way that they’d never had, before there was blood and fire and the world ending all around them. The same could have been said for the four Dragon-Friends and Ianto; they were like sisters to his much-older big brother…well, accept for Alice, whom he’d taken to calling ‘daughter’. Alice didn’t mind, and the day she slipped up and called him ‘Dad’ the silence had been deafening, until the dragon had gathered her close with one of his wings and had practically cradled her between his front paws, his eyes shining with joy.
Steven had taken to calling him ‘Granddad’ after that, which Toshiko thought was just the cutest thing she’d ever heard. It was all she could do not to ‘aw…’ over it.
And yet, despite the peace over the valley, there was the certain knowledge that the world around them was dying. Toshiko could feel it every time her bare feet touched the ground, emanating up through her very bones and into her heart. She knew the rest of the Dragon-Friends felt the same way, with their own small abilities. Estelle could as well, with her connection to the magic of the planet, and although they knew the end was close none of them chose to speak about it.
There was nothing they could truly say.
All too soon, the time came when Ianto and Martha Jones had to leave. That morning dawned much as every morning did in Ddraig Llyn…with a simple lightening of the clouds overhead. The only difference was the presence of a fog over Pedair Dreigiau, roiling like storm clouds readying to form a cyclone.
Toshiko wasn’t surprised that the Great Dragons were coming to see the pair off.
Before she could summon anyone, the other three Dragon-Friends had joined her outside, each staring up at the restless mountain. Ianto followed, as did Estelle and Martha. “What’s going on?” the Doctor’s Companion asked.
“The Great Dragons are coming,” Ianto answered, awe in his voice.
As if called by his voice, the four Dragons appeared in a swirl of color, their insubstantial bodies floating above the gravel car park in front of the inn. They didn’t have the strength to form corporeally; they were mere shadows of themselves, their power diminished from their protection of the valley and its inhabitants.
“Greetings, our only son,” the voice of the Earth Dragon echoed around them. His body was all darkness and light, twisting and fluttering on a breeze that did not exist. “And greetings to you, Martha Jones. Welcome to our valley.”
“Hello,” Martha answered, sounding just a bit shy.
“It is near the end,” the Earth Dragon went on. “In six days’ time, the world will either be saved…or will set on the path to ultimate destruction.”
“We cannot see what is to happen,” the Air Dragon said. “The future is muddied beyond reading. Before this year began, we were certain of what would happen. But the paradox the Evil One has set into place has made future-time confusing.”
“We have come to give you our blessing,” the Earth Dragon continued. “Our future rests with you.”
“It’ll turn out all right,” Martha said. “The Doctor’s plan will succeed.”
“Your confidence in the Time Lord is admirable,” the Fire Dragon said, “but be aware of this, Martha Jones…those here do not share that confidence. If the Doctor’s plan were destined to succeed, then we would be able to see past the disruption of time.”
Toshiko glanced at Martha; she looked bothered by what the Dragon had said, but she wasn’t speaking up about it. She didn’t know if Martha herself was seeing the flaws in the Doctor’s plan, or if she just knew when to be quiet about it. Either way, Toshiko was impressed by her silence.
“We do not owe loyalty to the Time Lord,” the Water Dragon replied. “The people here are loyal to us…and to our only living son, and his mate. They follow you because it is the only way at the moment, but if the Doctor does not fix things we will take measures to make certain the Master cannot murder our world.”
“That’s more than fair,” Martha answered. “I understand. But the Doctor’s plan will work.”
“You have our blessing in this endeavor,” the Earth Dragon reiterated. “However, remember there is confidence…and there is blind faith. Choose which one you serve with care.”
And together, the four Dragons began to sing.
Toshiko could feel the power in the song; feel it wash over her, as the ancient language of dragons and magic descended over them all like the softest of caresses. She closed her eyes and reveled in it, not unaware of how much her outlook toward magic had changed in just the time since she’d become a Dragon-Friend. It was amazing, for someone who’d had her own absolute and blind faith in technology to have been so caught up in the mysticism surrounding her now.
The song crescendo’d over the valley, and the Great Dragons slowly faded away, leaving them alone. Toshiko felt bereft of the Earth Dragon’s presence, but there was still a very tenuous connection between herself and the Dragon who had selected her. That would stay with her, even if the world did die.
The silence following the song was disturbed by a strident beeping from within the inn. Toshiko recognized it as a warning from her computer set-up, signaling an incoming transmission. She frowned, heading back inside, knowing the others followed her.
She slid into her seat at her desk, the trio of monitors flashing awake at her command. The two side screens were still running the programs she’d set for them when she’d awakened this morning; mostly weather reports and Toclafane sightings, the better to help Ianto and Martha on their journey.
But the middle screen had gone full static, and Toshiko practically growled at the notification she was receiving. “The Master is broadcasting.” It had been a couple of months since he’d last sent anything out, and that one had been after some sort of escape attempt. She still had nightmares about what Jack had been put through…
The static seemed to fade, revealing a grainy image of the Master, grinning gleefully into whatever recording device he was using. Then he tried to look magnanimous, but failed horribly. “My people,” he began, sounding for all the world like an excited schoolboy, “greetings to you all, as we get ready for our glorious war against the Universe.” His face went serious. “I know there are all sorts of whispers down there. Stories of a child and her protector, walking the Earth…giving you all hope.” He stepped back from the camera, and it panned backward, revealing the figure of an ancient-looking man who appeared barely able to stand.
It was the Doctor.
Toshiko had seen him many times over the last year, usually in the background as the Master expounded on some plan or celebrated another act of devastation against an already devastated Earth. He seemed completely helpless, which was yet another one of the reasons she doubted his plan would work, although she’d learned a long time ago never to judge by appearances. From what she’d witnessed he didn’t seem to be doing much of anything.
There was a gasp behind her, and Toshiko knew it was Martha. She’d have seen the Doctor so aged before her own escape from the Valiant so his appearance couldn’t be all that bothering to her. Still, it must have been difficult seeing him like that, and she felt a bit of sympathy for the young woman.
The Master went to stand beside the Doctor. “But I ask you…how much hope has this man got? Say hello, Gandalf.” The Doctor didn’t say anything, and the Master didn’t seem fazed by the lack of response. “Except,” he said, as if sharing a great secret, “he’s not really that old. He’s an alien with a much longer lifespan than you stunted, little apes. But what if it showed?” He danced around the Doctor, coming up to his opposite side. “What if I suspended your ability to regenerate?” That last bit was practically whispered in the Doctor’s ear. “All 900 years of your life…what if they could see them? Where would their hope be then?”
The Master stepped away, and then aimed his laser device at the Doctor…who didn’t even flinch away from it. As if he was perfectly willing to accept whatever the Master did to him.
Toshiko didn’t know whether to be impressed, or sickened.
The device began to hum…and the Doctor began to writhe in agony, his movements looking sped up on the transmission. “Older and older and older…” the Master cackled as the Doctor fell to the floor, still shaking and jerking under the assault. “Down you go, Doctor! Down…down…down you go!”
The Doctor’s body began to shrink, his clothes swallowing up his diminishing form. The Master continued to taunt him as the Doctor became weaker and weaker, until nothing was left but a pile of filthy and stained clothing.
The Master leaned over, his mouth right next to the neck opening of what had been the Doctor’s suit. “Doctor,” he called, sounding as if he were summoning a favorite pet.
The clothes moved.
A misshapen head poked out from the pile on the floor, and a wizened body tried to fight its way from the enveloping folds. Sad dark eyes looked up at the camera.
The Doctor had been reduced to nothing but a gnomish caricature of his former self.
The Master looked right into the lens, his own eyes snapping with hellish delight. “Received and understood, Ms Jones?” he said, practically purring.
The monitor faded back into static.
The silence was palpable.
It was broken by Owen cursing. “That’s bloody torn it,” he snapped. “There’s no way his plan’s gonna succeed now.”
“He’s still alive,” Martha answered.
“You call that living?” the medic demanded. “It was bad enough when he’d been aged, but this…”
“Enough,” Ianto got in between them. “The plan goes ahead, Owen.”
“Are you sure about that?” Alice asked, taking Ianto’s arm.
“I need to go to the Valiant,” the dragon answered, resting his hand over hers. “I have to get to Jack.”
She nodded, satisfied with that answer.
“The plan will still work,” Martha said. “The Doctor might be hurt physically, but his mind is just fine.”
“Can you be certain of that?” Owen asked.
“The Master was right about one thing,” the young woman said, “the Doctor is a 900 year-old alien. His mind is different from ours, which is why he can mentally get into the Archangel Network, even if it does take him this long. You have to trust him!”
“The only people I trust,” Kathy put in, “are the people in this room, and Harkness up there on the Valiant. I don’t know this Doctor from anyone, and he had a chance to clean this up before it even got started. As far as I’m concerned, he gets one chance to put this right…and one chance only.”
“I agree with Kathy,” Rhiannon said.
“As do I,” Toshiko added.
“Look,” Martha spun to look at the people around her. “I’ve seen the Doctor do a lot of amazing things. Yes, he’s not perfect…but he can pull this off. You don’t know him like I do. It’s easy to have faith in someone you know…but it’s harder when it’s someone you don’t. The Doctor wants to save everyone, and this is the best chance to do it.”
“And what about my dad?” Alice asked hotly. “Does he want to save him too?”
“Of course he does,” Martha answered. “Jack’s as much a victim as anyone else is.”
“No, he’s more.” Alice got right up in Martha’s face. “He’s the one the Master tortures and kills for fun, just because he can’t die. The Master calls him a freak…and worse. He’s suffered and died so many times…and we’ve all had to sit and watch and do nothing, all because your Doctor has to wait to put this plan into effect. Does he even care that my own father is being put through that? Because, in the times that we’ve had to see what the Master does to him, it looks as if the Doctor just sits there. He doesn’t do anything! He doesn’t argue with the Master, doesn’t try to talk him out of hurting my dad. When this is all over, and the paradox is broken, is the Doctor going to help Dad get over what happened to him?”
Ianto put his arm around her, giving her his support. Toshiko saw her lean into the touch, and it made her glad that they’d accepted their familial relationship so easily. “Alice,” he said, before Martha could rebut her comments, “I’m going to save Jack. I promise you that. But taking it out on Martha isn’t the way to go about it.”
“I know, Dad,” she answered. “But it’s just been horrible, having to sit here and do nothing…”
Toshiko knew just how much it meant to Ianto for Alice to have accepted him the way she had, and the soft smile he gave her was just another proof of that. “The plan will go forward,” the dragon answered. “In six days, Martha and I will be up on the Valiant. No matter what happens, we’re going to put an end to the paradox and stop the Master. With any luck, the magic that keeps the valley safe will also preserve your memories. And, if it doesn’t, I’ll come and look for you. Oh, not after giving your father what-for about hiding yours and Steven’s existence.”
Alice laughed. “I really want to see that.”
“Ianto,” Toshiko broke into the family moment, “we’ll be ready in case things go badly. Don’t worry, you have back-up.”
“Good.” He removed his arm from around Alice, flipping over his wrist and unbuckling the Vortex Manipulator. He wrapped it around her much smaller wrist. “Your father would want you to take care of this for him.”
“Won’t you need it?” she asked, stroking the leather.
“No,” Ianto answered. “And I don’t want the Master to get his hands on it. It may not work right now, but I have absolutely no faith in it not being broken permanently. The Master will know about it, and he could use it to escape.”
“He could also find us using it,” Toshiko pointed out.
“That too,” Ianto agreed. “Besides, we won’t need the communication function once we leave here. We know where we’re going.”
He glanced over Alice’s head toward Martha, who was standing there with her arms crossed. Toshiko wondered what she was thinking, at having the alien she so obviously idolized knocked down a few pegs by people she didn’t really know. It had to bother her, realizing she would have to rely on those selfsame people to get her to where she’d need to be.
And yet, Toshiko couldn’t help but admire her in a way. Martha had traveled the world with only Ianto for company, dodging Toclafane and collaborators and anything else that might have given her away to the Master. She’d shown tremendous courage in the face of the planet’s disintegration, and with her family also being prisoners on board the Valiant. She certainly had the courage of her convictions, even if those convictions were about an untrustworthy Time Lord.
They would just have to wait and see if Martha was right.
Toshiko only hoped the world didn’t have to die if she was wrong.
Three Hundred and Sixty-Four Days into the Year of the Toclafane
It hadn’t been difficult to find Professor Docherty at all.
Nuclear Plant Seven was on the outskirts of London…or what used to be London, before the Toclafane wreaked their particular brand of havoc on it. Ianto looked at the battered set of buildings from his perch atop a small rise leading into the complex. The place was now being used to power the shipworks that had taken over most of area; the rockets themselves were about a mile away, and even in the gathering dusk Ianto thought he could make out their silver nosecones against the blood red sky.
Martha stood beside him, hitching the straps of her pack up farther onto her shoulders. The two of them had traveled from Ddraig Llyn, through what was left of Wales and into the heart of what was considered the Master’s key territory. It had been nerve wracking; but at the same time Ianto had felt a sense of getting closer to the end, and knew that it was just he and Martha who stood against the Master’s plans.
It was daunting. But it had to be done.
They’d talked during their trek through the wreck of Great Britain. Martha had been disturbed by her time in Ddraig Llyn; she’d been certain that the people of the valley had understood the plan and had believed that it would work. It hadn’t diminished her own confidence, however, and she’d tried to convince Ianto that they wouldn’t need whatever back-up plan that the others had come up with.
Ianto had, in turn, explained to her why his friends didn’t have her confidence, going back to the Doctor’s deposing of Harriet Jones, and how if he’d simply left well enough alone none of this would be happening. She understood, or at least she said she did, but it didn’t change her mind. She still insisted that the Doctor’s plan would succeed, and that everyone had to have faith.
He let it lie. As much as he cared for Martha, there were just some things they were never going to agree upon, and the Doctor was one of them.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
Martha looked at him fiercely. “You know it.”
The dragon nodded, and together they set out toward the power plant.
They knew Professor Alison Docherty was firmly in the Master’s pocket, although not by her own choice. Her son was supposed to be captive in one of the camps, and it was only the hope that the Master would let him free that made her do what she did. It was the reason the Resistance had chosen her as their way onto the Valiant. Ianto felt bad for her; she had no way of knowing that her son was dead, and it was only the lie that he was still alive that kept her informing to the Master. She was just one more innocent bystander in a year full of them.
There was a chain link fence in the way; Ianto looked around, and then quickly transformed long enough to tear the fence apart. When he was back in human form Martha rolled her eyes at him and called him a show-off.
They made their way across the compound, toward the building that they’d been told was where Professor Docherty made her ‘home’. It was a corrugated structure resembling a warehouse, and it was in sad shape due to lack of upkeep. Ianto pulled open the metal door, and then ushered Martha inside; she curtseyed then entered before him, and Ianto made certain the door was shut and bolted before joining her.
The place was full of all sorts of junk; from what they knew, Professor Docherty had been a physicist in another life, but had been conscripted to work in the plant as an engineer. It looked as if she still kept her hand in, judging from the cobbled together equipment that lined the rickety tables they passed.
The professor herself was in her late fifties, although looked older. She didn’t catch sight of them at first; she was banging her hand down onto a battered television and muttering things about “missing Countdown” and something about “Deses” that Ianto just didn’t understand. “Professor Docherty?” Ianto called, trying to get her attention.
“Busy,” she snapped, not turning around.
“You’ve been expecting us –“
“Don’t care. I’m busy!”
Ianto rolled his eyes, wondering if Docherty was this eccentric before the Master. “Too busy for Dragon and Nightingale?”
The professor stopped abusing the television, turning to look at them. “So, you’re the infamous pair,” she noted, looking at them closely. “Yeah, the Resistance did tell me you were coming by. They seem to think you two know how to bring down a Toclafane.”
“They aren’t really called Toclafane,” Martha said. “That’s the name the Master made up.”
Docherty put her hands on her hips. “Then what are they?”
“That’s why we’re here.” Martha dug around in her pack, pulling out a computer disc in a cracked case. “No one’s been able to look into one of those spheres. They just can’t seem to be damaged…except once…a lightning strike in South America brought one down just by chance. I have all the data on this.”
Ianto, of course, didn’t add that dragon-fire seemed to liquefy the Toclafane’s armour as well; that wouldn’t work well with their plans, and there was no way they wanted Ianto’s true nature to get back to that maniac on the Valiant.
Docherty took the disc gingerly, as if she was afraid it would bite her. She then made her way over to another long table, where an ancient-looking computer sat. The professor removed the disc from its case and slid it into the tower. “Oh, whoever thought we’d actually miss Bill Gates…” she muttered as the disc booted. “Is this the reason you two walked the world? For a computer disc?”
“No,” Ianto answered. “We just happened to stumble onto it.” That was the truth; the lightning strike in South Africa had come just two days before they’d arrived in Johannesburg. It had been all they could do to smuggle a copy out before the Master’s troops had descended; he hadn’t wanted it to get out that there was a way to destroy his Toclafane. Unfortunately neither Ianto nor Martha had gotten a look at the shattered sphere, so they still had no idea what was inside. And it made a good enough cover story to come and visit the good professor.
Data began to fill the computer screen, Docherty’s eyes moving quickly as she absorbed the information. “There!” she pointed at the screen. “A current of 58.5 kilo-amperes transferred charge of 510 megajoules precisely.”
Ianto could follow what she was saying, in part; but then he’d been an eager student of Toshiko Sato’s, and he’d seen the original data before, when Toshiko had checked the disc herself. “Can you recreate it?” he asked.
The professor shrugged. “I think so…” She watched the screen for a moment longer. “Easily, yes.”
“All right,” Martha said, grinning. “We’re gonna get ourselves a sphere.”
In the end, it was ridiculously easy to take one of the Toclafane down.
With Ianto acting as bait, they lured one in between two buildings, where the professor had set up her equipment, and with a judicious use of electricity they incapacitated one of the spheres.
The dragon had to admit that he really wanted to know what was inside. The Toclafane had become one of many of his personal bogeymen over the last year, and it was a fear that he wanted to know more of, the better to understand it. He’d never had to go against one – except that once, in North America, and his flame had managed to destroy the Toclafane before it could report back that there was a real dragon in their midst. He had no idea if one could, in fact, kill him. It wasn’t something he wanted to test.
The thing was, it wasn’t really necessary to prove that they could damage a Toclafane. It was simply a means to an end: getting close to Professor Docherty by giving them an actual reason to approach her. After taking out a single Toclafane, it would appear that they trusted her, and then they would share with her the supposed plan. She could then report back that they’d been seen and what they were up to.
Easy peasy, as Toshiko would say.
He and Martha managed to wrestle the inert sphere into the professor’s warehouse; Docherty cleared a section of work bench off to make room. It made Ianto shudder, looking like some miniature Death Star without power going to it. He only hoped they would be able to crack it before it came back online.
Docherty bumped them both out of the way, going to work on the sealed sphere. “There’s a seam here,” she muttered, using what looked like a chisel on it. “Yes, there’s a magnetic clamp…” She put down the chisel. “If I can just trip it…”
And suddenly, the sphere opened like some sort of metallic flower.
Ianto leaned forward to get a better look, Martha at his shoulder. What was inside would fuel a few more nightmares.
It was a shrunken, wizened human head.
The dragon felt ill. Had the Master done this? Had he somehow corrupted a race of humans and created this abomination?
Suddenly, lights began flickering on inside the sphere. Oversized pale eyes snapped open, and all three of them jumped back in pure shock.
“It’s alive,” the professor gasped.
“Martha,” the head practically crooned. “Sweet Martha Jones…”
Ianto couldn’t help but shiver at the sheer wrongness in that voice.
“Lovely, kind Martha Jones,” the Toclafane went on. “You helped us to fly…”
“What is it talking about?” the dragon demanded, looking at his traveling companion.
Martha looked as confused and disgusted as Ianto felt. “What do you mean?”
“You led us to salvation,” the sphere answered. “The skies are made of diamonds.”
Martha obviously knew what that meant.
Her hand clasped Ianto’s arm so tightly it would have caused bruises on anyone with lesser skin. “No,” she denied weakly. “It can’t be…”
“Martha,” Ianto asked sharply, trying to break her out of her shock. “What is it?”
She was shaking her head. “You can’t be him…”
“We share memories,” the Toclafane giggled. “You sent him to Utopia…”
“Oh God,” Martha was almost hyperventilating, the horror in her dark eyes like a shroud.
Ianto knew; of course he knew the moment the head used the word ‘Utopia’. Martha had told him that story on their travels, of how the TARDIS had gone trillions of years into the future and had seen the remnants of the human race. How she, Jack, and the Doctor had helped those last survivors launch a rocket toward somewhere they only knew as Utopia.
How the kindly professor whom they’d helped had been the Master in human guise.
“What are they?” Professor Docherty was asking, her face pale.
Ianto shivered as Martha answered, “They’re us…the human race from the future.”
It made so much sense, why the Master had wanted to create the paradox in the first place. Martha had also told him that the Doctor had damaged the TARDIS just enough that the time ship could only travel between two different times: the far future and Ianto’s present.
Martha confirmed that with her next words. “The Master stole the Doctor’s time machine, but the coordinates were fused. It could only travel from 100 trillion years in the future…to when the last place the TARDIS had left, which was over a year ago.”
He wanted desperately to sit down. This was worse than anything his own imagination had come up with. Had the Master done this to those far-flung humans? Or had they done it to themselves and the Master had taken advantage of the situation?
“We saw the future humans, and tried to help,” Martha went on. “The Utopia Project was their last hope…”
“It was a lie,” the Toclafane sounded petulant. “No safety…no diamonds. Just the cold and the dark. So we made ourselves pretty.”
“You did this to yourselves.” Martha sounded as ill and Ianto felt.
“The Master came, and he had a time machine, and he brought us all home.” There was such sick joy in that child-like voice.
“But you can’t exist here!” Docherty exclaimed. “This is impossible! You can’t come to the past and murder your ancestors! That would cause a paradox!”
“But the Master has the paradox machine,” Martha said. “It’s why he needed to create it: to ensure the paradox.”
If Ianto hadn’t been determined to end the paradox before, he was now. What they’d discovered from the downed Toclafane made him want to immediately go up to the Valiant and wring the Master’s neck with his bare claws. It was only the idea that they’d be up on the carrier tomorrow that was keeping him from rushing up there.
The Toclafane was cackling, and the sound put Ianto’s nerves on edge. He wanted nothing more for it to shut up, and without thinking he drew his gun and shot into the housing, putting a bullet right between the thing’s eyes.
Afterward, when the shock had worn off, Docherty had come right out and asked about the rumours about the so-called gun that would kill a Time Lord. Martha had explained, and had shown the professor the weapon that Toshiko had gadgeted together. It was their cover, and it was a good one; although anyone with a lick of sense would know that the Doctor would never have sent Martha for a gun and then asked her to use it. That was why Ianto was around, because he was more than capable of wielding a gun…just ask the dead Toclafane he’d just shot.
Docherty seemed to buy it, which was good. Martha had become quite the actress in the last year, and she totally sold it, explaining enough about Time Lord physiology to make the idea of a last resort weapon seem reasonable. After all, Docherty would be reporting to the Master after they were gone, and he had to believe her.
Ianto felt sorry for the professor, but once they broke the paradox none of this will have occurred and her son would be back.
Afterward, they left the nuclear plant, heading toward the slave quarters at Bexley, making certain Docherty also had their destination. Ianto was shaken by what they’d discovered about the Toclafane, and just how insane the Master’s plan truly was. Bringing the future to conquer the past…it was twisted and obscene, and Ianto knew they had to fix it. It was no wonder the Great Dragons and the Fae had been unable to see any deeper into the future.
Tomorrow would be the day things would go back to the way they should be.
Ianto might not have all that much faith in the Doctor, but he did have faith in that.
The Year of the Toclafane Ends
When the guards came to release Jack from his chains in the bowels of the Valiant, he’d been certain the Master had something nasty planned for him. After all, he knew what the date was, and he’d been expecting something horrible to happen by way of ‘celebration’ at the upcoming destruction of the known Universe.
When he found himself being led up to the command deck, Jack admitted to himself that he was somewhat confused, especially when it looked like only himself, the Doctor – in a gilded cage hanging from the ceiling – and the Jones family were present. He glanced at them, and each of the Joneses gave him the indication that they had no clue what was going on.
The Doctor simply looked old and sad.
After a few minutes Lucy Saxon came in. Jack actually felt sorry for her; she looked wan and pale, although she had a smile on her face. He had to wonder if she’d had to put up with as much pain from the Master as Jack himself had.
And so, they waited.
Jack knew what they were waiting for. Soon things would end in fire and death, and the Master would want witnesses. He looked over at the Doctor in his cage, and cursed him for not having done more.
Yet, at the same time, seeing the once-energetic Time Lord reduced to that…Jack felt pity for him. He couldn’t help it. In that way it didn’t matter that the Doctor hadn’t seemingly done anything in the last year, leaving Jack and the Joneses to fend for themselves. Yes, there had been that last escape attempt, but what had that gained them? The Doctor diminished so completely that it had rung what very little hope Jack had had left in the Time Lord.
All he had left was Ianto, and hopefully Jack’s team. As long as they were out there somewhere…even if the Universe burned, the ones he cared about most were most likely down on the ground, doing what needed to be done.
The double doors at the rear of the room were flung open, and the Master entered, practically bouncing toward the front of the deck, tapping his fingers on the table as he made his way around to the control area. He looked unbelievably smug, and Jack knew that couldn’t bode well for any of them.
The Master moved up to the upper level, and then turned to look at his captive audience. The smirk on his face made Jack feel ill. “I thought you might all want to say hello to an old friend.”
Jack turned, and all hope completely failed him.
Four guards escorted Martha onto the deck…accompanied by Jack’s mate.
Jack wanted to move toward Ianto, but the soldiers around him kept him back. Ianto’s eyes flickered toward him, and then went straight back to the Master , and Jack wished more than anything that the dragon was anywhere but there, because him being captured meant…well, he didn’t want to even consider what that meant. Did the Master know that Ianto was the last of the dragons? Or was he still unaware of Ianto’s true nature?
The guards brought Martha and Ianto to a halt in front of the steps leading up to the control deck. The Master grinned down at them, as if he were their true lord. “The Nightingale and the Dragon…at last.” He hopped down two steps, his hand held out. “The teleport device,” he ordered, and it sounded almost playful. “In case you thought I’d forgotten.”
Ianto shrugged. “It’s gone,” he answered, his head held high. “It was lost somewhere in North America. Besides, it didn’t work anymore anyway.”
Jack’s Vortex Manipulator…gone. His heart sank lower, knowing there was now no way for either Ianto or Martha to escape the Valiant.
The Master’s grin turned into a frown. “You expect me to believe that?”
It was Martha’s turn to shrug. “Your men searched us,” she pointed out. “If we’d still had it, they’d have found it.”
The Master didn’t look happy, but he said, “It’s not important.” Then he threw his arms wide. “Down below, the fleet is ready to launch. Two hundred thousand ships set to burn their way across the cosmos.” He glared at the pair. “Kneel.”
Ianto and Martha glanced at each other, and then both did as the Master ordered. Jack was a bit puzzled; none of them looked particularly bothered by the fact that they were at the mercy of a genocidal maniac. Did they have some sort of plan? If so, they’d need to set in motion soon…the countdown to launch was inexorably approaching, and Jack could feel the anxiousness creeping through him like thousands of ants scuttling across his nerve endings.
The Master turned his face toward the ceiling, where Jack knew microphones would pick up his every word. “Are we ready?” he called out.
“The fleet awaits your signal,” a man’s voice answered.
The manic grin returned to the Time Lord’s face. “Three minutes to align the black hole converters. Counting down!” He made a grand gesture, and a rather large digital clock on the wall began to click the seconds away. “Never could resist a ticking clock,” he laughed, throwing his arms out once more. “My children…are you ready?”
“We will fly and blaze and slice,” the horrible child-like voices of millions of Toclafane echoed over the speaker, causing Jack to shiver. He didn’t know what they were, but they frightened him in ways he simply couldn’t describe.
“When the clock strikes zero,” the Master intoned, “to mark this day of victory, both Martha Jones and her protector will die.” He looked down at the kneeling pair. “Any last words?”
Jack wanted so much for Ianto to say something…anything. To perhaps spit in the Master’s face, showing the maniac the ‘respect’ he deserved. He also wanted his mate to turn and see him standing there, and Jack wanted nothing more than to spend the end of the world with the dragon he loved more than anything in his arms.
Ianto said nothing. His posture – even though he was kneeling – didn’t look at all concerned.
He had to have a plan…
“No?” the Master snorted. He turned toward the aged Doctor. “Such a disappointment, really. Not that long ago, Doctor, you had companions who could absorb the very time vortex! But this one and her friend…absolutely useless.” He looked back at Martha and Ianto…and the puzzled expression on his face was an absolute delight to see.
Both of the Master’s ‘prisoners’ were laughing.
A cloud of anger crossed the Time Lord’s face. “What’s so funny?” he demanded, stepping completely down onto the deck, giving up the high ground in his fury.
“A gun?” Martha asked.
“A gun in four parts?” Ianto added, snorting.
Jack had heard about the so-called gun; he hadn’t believed for a minute that the Doctor would have sent Martha anywhere after a weapon, but apparently the Master had.
“Yes,” the Master growled. “I destroyed it when I captured you!”
“A gun,” Martha went on, “scattered in four pieces all around the world? Come on! Did you really believe that?”
The Master was getting angrier and angrier. He reached into his jacket for his laser screwdriver, and Jack tensed, hoping he could make the leap across the deck and block the coming shot with his own body. He wasn’t about to let either Martha or Ianto get hurt if he could avoid it.
Although, he couldn’t help be wonder just what they were doing on the Valiant. The Master had obviously thought the weapon was real, and had chased them for it. It had apparently been a red herring. But why?
There had to be something Jack was missing, which made sense since he’d been a prisoner for so long. The Jones family looked as much in the dark as he did.
It then hit Jack all at once.
The Doctor had had a plan all along.
Something he’d told Martha, and it was obvious that Ianto knew as well. Jack hadn’t been let in on it and while it did hurt to have been left out it made more sense to keep him in the dark, not knowing what the Master might try to torture out of him.
Jack felt hope again.
“It doesn’t matter,” the Master brushed off the Doctor’s comment. “I have her right where I want her.”
“But we knew,” Martha went on. “We knew about Professor Docherty, and that she’d betray us. The Resistance knew about her son.”
“We used her,” Ianto confirmed. “We knew going to her would get us here. We even told her about the gun.”
“To get here,” Martha added. “At just the right time.”
He could see the trepidation on Francine and Clive’s faces, but they were also so obviously very proud of their daughter. Tish was openly smiling.
“But you’re still going to die,” the Master snarled, brandishing his screwdriver.
“Aren’t you even going to ask?” Ianto piped up.
“Yeah,” Martha answered. “Don’t you want to know why we walked the Earth?”
The uncertainty in the Master’s face would have been comical if Jack had been in the mood to laugh. “Tell me,” he ordered.
“I told a story,” Martha said. “No weapons…just words. I did what the Doctor asked me to do: I went to every continent, me and Ianto, and I told everyone we met a story.”
Jack frowned. That was the plan? Some sort of story? He knew he must have been looking as confused as everyone else…except for the Doctor, whose wizened hands were gripping the bars of his cage.
“I told them all about the Doctor,” she went on. “And I told everyone we met to spread the word about him. And I gave them an instruction. I told them that if everyone thinks of a single word, at a particular time –“
“What?” the Master scoffed. “You told them to pray?”
“Not hardly,” Ianto snorted.
“I didn’t tell them to pray,” Martha denied. “I told them to think of this one word, at the same time…with the power of the Archangel Network to boost the signal.”
Jack couldn’t believe it; he had to grin at the simplicity of the plan. Using the telepathic field of the Archangel Network, Martha had essentially usurped the Master’s hypnotic control of the planet.
It really was brilliant, he had to admit.
Everything Martha was saying was tumbling together in the Master’s mind; Jack could see him come to the conclusion a bit slower, but then he’d been so very confident of his technology he couldn’t have even considered someone would have used it against him.
“That word…is Doctor.”
The clock struck zero.
Jack was a bit telepathic; he’d been trained by the Time Agency and knew what a very powerful telepathic signal felt like. It rolled over them all like a vast wave, and the energy of that telepathic signal seemed to swirl around a single figure.
The cage around the Doctor came apart under the onslaught, and a golden glow began to twist and writhe around the ancient Time Lord. The Doctor’s body grew, slowly returning to its normal size and appearance.
The Master screamed, “No!” and aimed his laser screwdriver at the regenerating Time Lord.
The beam bounced off the energy surrounding him.
“I’ve had a year to attune myself to the psychic network and to integrate with its matrices,” the Doctor said, his voice echoing with power. “This is the power of human thought; you cannot stop them from thinking.”
It was all Jack could do not to close his eyes and surrender himself to the telepathic storm that surrounded the Doctor. The Joneses hadn’t been able to; they were chanting the Doctor’s name, as were the guards who were supposed to be watching him. Even Lucy had been caught up in the signal.
The Master was screaming at the Doctor to stop, ranting even as he was backing away from the glowing Time Lord. Both Martha and Ianto were on their feet, and Jack could tell that his mate was also fighting the effect of the Archangel Network. The Master fired once more, yelling obscenities.
When he realized that the screwdriver wasn’t going to work, the Master aimed it at Martha. “I’ll kill them both if you don’t stop!”
Jack’s heart jumped in terror, but even as he was taking his first step forward the screwdriver flew across the room. “I’m sorry,” the Doctor was saying as he glided toward the now cowering Master. “I’m so very sorry.”
With those words, Jack’s anger at having spent a year in captivity, of being tortured and killed and taunted roared back to life. Why was the Doctor apologizing to the bloody Master? It was the Master who’d done all this; it was the Master who’d nearly destroyed the whole fucking Universe with his missiles and his hate.
The Doctor was whispering more platitudes as he reached out to gather the Master in his arms. The maniac folded into himself, and as the glow around the Doctor faded Jack heard three words he’d never expected to hear.
“I forgive you.”
Jack wanted to scream and rail against those words. How dare the Doctor forgive that bastard? He didn’t have the right! It hadn’t been the Doctor’s planet that the Master had destroyed in his insanity; it had been Jack’s, and the Doctor didn’t have the effing right to forgive that monster anything!
The Master then screamed for the Toclafane, and Jack was running before he even knew what was happening. This was the opportunity they needed, to destroy the paradox machine once and for all. For all that he wanted to wrap his arms around his mate and hold him, Jack had a duty to the planet Earth, and it was time to fulfill it.
Jack raced through the corridors of the Valiant, needing to get to the TARDIS and stop the paradox. People were behind him, and he didn’t even look back. If they meant to stop him, he would go down fighting…and it looked as if that wasn’t their intention at all. They must have all broken through the control the Archangel Network had had, and were now acting to save things instead of destroy.
Three Toclafane guarded the TARDIS.
Jack knew what he had to do.
He’d made it this far once before, during one of his many escape attempts. He’d been unarmed then; now, he had a machine gun he’d taken from one of his guards on the way out of the control deck. He racked the slide and began firing as he made his way toward the TARDIS; although the bullets had little effect, it kept the Toclafane from doing too much damage to him. Still, he’d been bloodied more than once, and it was with a loud whoop that he entered the TARDIS for the first time in a year.
He could feel her around him; the time machine was so very sick, the awful red light of the paradox bathing everything in its lurid glow.
Jack used the last of his bullets to destroy the paradox machine…after a silent apology to the TARDIS if he hurt her.
The floor lurched, and Jack was thrown sideways as a loud boom sounded through the TARDIS. He fetched up against the bottom of the console, and held on as best he could, riding out the storm that had to have been raging outside the machine.
He let out another whoop as things stopped pitching.
Standing, Jack rested his hand on the TARDIS’s console, feeling her familiar presence once more. “Welcome back, lady,” he whispered.
Her thanks were obvious in his mind, as were her apologies for everything he had gone through. Jack remembered back on Malcassairo, when things had first started, and the TARDIS had convinced him that he’d needed to be there. Now he knew why.
Jack forgave her.
He just wasn’t sure he would be able to forgive the Doctor quite so easily.
With that thought, he turned and left the TARDIS. Although he loved her dearly, he hoped it would be for the last time; he didn’t want to travel anymore.
Jack left the TARDIS and ran back toward the control deck, needing to find his mate. All he wanted to do was hold onto Ianto and never let him go.
What he saw when he arrived was not what he’d expected, although he should have.
The Year of the Toclafane Ends (continued)
“I forgive you.”
Ianto growled at the words. He’d expected something like this; that the Doctor would put his own needs over the fate of an entire world. That he would accept the Master, and everything that he’d done in that terrible year, and think that he would have the right to simply forgive that bastard for his actions against the races of the Earth, and that it would be just fine.
He glanced at Martha; she didn’t seem happy about it either, judging from the way she was worrying her lower lip with her teeth. The dragon couldn’t blame her; the pair of them had seen hells the Doctor couldn’t dream of, all caused by the monster that the Time Lord rocked in his arms like a child.
And then, the Master called for the Toclafane. The child-like voices cried out as they answered the call, and Ianto could see from the large front window that the orbs were flying straight for the Valiant.
Without turning, Ianto knew that Jack had left the deck, just from the fading out of his presence in the dragon’s awareness. When he’d felt the power that kept Jack immortal scratch at his mind once more as he’d been escorted onto the control deck, Ianto had wanted to rejoice; it had been far too long since he’d felt that close to his mate, and it had been all he could do just to glance at Jack for the very short time he’d had, before his attention had gone back to the Master.
But what he’d seen of his mate…Jack had obviously lost weight, and he’d been filthy, covered in dirt and old blood and yet still looking defiant. It had made him both angry and proud, and he’d sworn he’d take his mate home and look after him once things were done.
He could guess where Jack was going: to the heart of the paradox, to destroy the machine that kept the Toclafane in the past. He would trust his mate to do what was needed, while Ianto took care of his own business with the Doctor and the Master.
He stepped forward. “Stand away from him, Doctor,” he ordered, sickened by the display before him. The Master had apparently completely collapsed under the strain of the Doctor’s renewal; and Ianto was angry that this supposed plan seemed to have been simply to help the Doctor regain his strength. All that time, walking the planet, and it had only led to this.
The Doctor looked up from his position kneeling beside the cowering Master. “I’ll take care of him now,” the Time Lord said. “He’s my responsibility.”
“No, he isn’t,” Ianto answered. “He stopped being that the moment he set the Toclafane against the Earth. Now he must face justice for what he’s done.”
The Doctor glowered at him. “And you think you’re the one to carry out that justice?”
Ianto narrowed his eyes. “No, not me,” he countered. “But I claim the right to become the avenger of my mate, and what he has done to me and mine.”
His statement seemed to startle the Doctor, and he took a harder look at Ianto. It was evident the moment that he realized the ‘man’ standing over him wasn’t a man at all. “You’re not human,” he all but accused.
A smirk slid over Ianto’s face. “Let’s just say that my Resistance alias was more than just a codename.” He let his eyes take on their draconic appearance, and he was gratified at the Doctor’s shock as he put things together.
“But there aren’t any of you left!” he exclaimed.
“I am the last,” Ianto admitted. “And I have claimed the right of vengeance against the Time Lord calling himself the Master, for the crime of injuring my mate and for harming and killing my Named dragon-friends. If you know anything about my culture you will know how serious my claim is.”
Before the Doctor could respond, Ianto felt something twist in the air around him; it was as if he were sensing an extremely powerful Rift spike approach. He knew exactly what it was, even before the Doctor shouted, “Everyone down! The paradox is reversing!”
Ianto could feel the sheer wrongness of the paradox as he was tossed to the deck, and he grabbed ahold of Martha to keep her from being thrown about. She clung to him as Ianto tried to keep them from being injured, the power of the vortex screaming around them, time feeling like pins and needles along his every nerve ending. Ianto clenched his jaw to keep from crying out in pain, and blackness nibbled at the edges of his vision. He tenaciously held on to consciousness though, knowing if he gave into the darkness he would lose whatever advantage he had.
His pride in his mate grew, knowing it had been Jack to reverse the paradox.
Just as quickly as it had begun, the time storm was over, and the Valiant ceased its shuddering. Ianto gingerly picked himself up, helping Martha to her feet. One look outside showed a clear blue sky, and no sign of the Toclafane.
Time had rewound, and things were back to how they were before the coming of the Toclafane.
The world was alive once more.
“The paradox is broken,” the Doctor proclaimed, getting to his own feet. “We’ve reverted back one year, to two past eight in the morning, just after the American President was assassinated. None of it ever happened.”
“But I remember it,” Francine Jones spoke up. Ianto turned to look at her; she would have been a handsome woman if not for the worn look about her.
“We were at the eye of the storm,” the Doctor explained. “We’re the only ones who will remember what happened.”
A flurry of movement caught Ianto’s attention, and he spun, reaching out and grabbing the Master as he tried to dart past him. “I don’t think so,” he snapped. He spun, slamming the fleeing Time Lord against the large conference table.
He let himself take on his dragon form, keeping his grasp on the Master.
The dragon towered over the Time Lord, pinning him to the table with one large hand, his claws digging into its surface and forming an unbreakable cage. The Master’s face was twisted in rage, but his eyes showed only fear.
“I claim the right of vengeance,” the dragon roared, his anger soaring high. Everything that his mate had endured…that his friends had endured, called for it. “As the Great Dragons are my witness, I demand it!”
“And you shall have it,” the voice of the Earth Dragon echoed throughout the control deck.
They were there, the four Great Dragons and their Named Friends, each Dragon coiled like thick smoke around the forms of their chosen. Toshiko and Kathy both smiled at him; Alice looked fierce, as if she wished she was the one holding the monster down onto the table – and she most likely was thinking that very thing; and Rhiannon was stern, her arms crossed over her chest as she surveyed the scene before her.
Just beyond the Dragons and their Friends, the dragon saw Jack practically careen back into the room, stopping and staring at the sight. He could tell the moment he recognized Alice among the Dragon-Friends by the incredulous expression that crossed his too-pale face.
“Greetings, Doctor,” the Earth Dragon said. “We are the Dragons of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth, and we have existed on this world for longer than recorded history. We remember the dinosaurs and the great explosion that destroyed them; we welcomed the race humans have called the Silurians, but are known by an older, more honourable name; we befriended the ape-creatures who would, one day, become the dominant species on this planet. We raised the dragon-kind out of barbarism and into the light, and watched as humanity slowly killed all but this last one. We made the Pacts that balance the Earth and keep it from complete chaos. We also remember this last year, and felt the Earth dying around us as you waited for the moment to strike. Your inaction has lost you any right to the Master that you might have had, if you had reacted immediately to stop what was going to happen. He now belongs to our son, and to the Earth. It is they who will pass judgment upon him.”
“He’s a Time Lord,” the Doctor argued, “my own kind. If anyone has the right to pass judgment, then it’s me.”
“And what would you do with him?” the Air Dragon demanded.
“The only safe place to keep him is in my TARDIS,” he answered, lifting his chin in defiance. “He and I are the only Time Lords left in existence. I should be the one to hold him.”
“You would keep him prisoner on your ship?” the dragon scoffed, his claws gouging deeper into the tabletop. The Master lay quiet under his hand, but he didn’t think that would last long.
“And if he should escape?”
“He won’t,” the Doctor answered assuredly.
“You cannot guarantee that,” the dragon responded. “He will eventually escape, and more innocents will suffer. Are you willing to risk more deaths just so you would no longer be the last?”
The Doctor’s expression turned pleading. “You’re the last of your own race. Certainly you can understand the loneliness of being the only one left.”
“I can,” the dragon answered. “But what you do not understand is that I have had to make that choice: to save one of my kind, or to protect innocents.” He swallowed hard, memories of Lisa’s madness resurfacing. He pushed them back down, needing to focus on the here and now. “I chose to be alone instead of the destruction that would have been unleashed if I had chosen to save her. Can you do the same?”
“There’s always another choice!” the Doctor argued.
“Then tell me what that choice is?” the dragon challenged. “The Master…or innocent lives. Tell me, Doctor…give me that third option.”
“Let me deal with him,” the Time Lord urged. “I’ll make certain he never harms anyone else.”
“That’s not an option. Or have you not been listening? The Master cannot be trusted into your keeping. If he should escape and regain control of your TARDIS, then untold damage could result. You simply cannot guarantee it in any way that we would believe you.”
“There is still the matter of the vengeance for your mate,” the Air Dragon reminded him.
“I haven’t forgotten,” the dragon assured her.
“But if you’re the last,” the Doctor said, confused, “then how can you have a mate?”
The dragon looked over at Jack. “My mate is Captain Jack Harkness,” he answered proudly. “I have sung the Song of Commitment to him.”
“Jack?” the Doctor scoffed. “He can’t be your mate.”
“And why is that?” the dragon inquired, anger overtaking him once more. At the corner of his eye he saw Jack stiffen in outrage.
“For one thing, he’s not even a dragon!”
“Jack Harkness has been the destined mate of our son for over fifteen hundred years,” the Water Dragon answered.
“Have you not looked into his future?” the Fire Dragon asked. “Have you not seen what he is destined to become?”
“He’s wrong,” the Doctor refuted. “It wasn’t any sort of mystical destiny that made him into a fixed point…it was a teenaged human with a head full of time vortex and not enough control. He should never have been made immortal.”
“You will not speak about my mate in that manner,” the dragon snarled. “I have dreamt of him ever since I was a young dragon. He is mine and I am his. You know not what you’re talking about.” He’d seen Jack go pale at the Doctor’s words, and he wished he could wipe away the Doctor’s disdain.
He looked down at the Master; the monster was grinning up at him, as if he’d been given a great present. “You’re mated to the freak?” he chortled. “Oh, this is priceless!”
“Be quiet!” The dragon leaned just a bit of his weight against the trapped Time Lord, and the Master choked a little. “You will not speak.”
“The fate of the one known as the Master is no longer in your hands,” the Earth Dragon said, bringing the conversation back on track. “It is in the hands of our son, and of the humans he injured.”
“Time has been turned back,” the Doctor answered. “No one remembers that year.”
All eyes turned to Francine Jones.
She looked at the Doctor defiantly. “My family and I remember it all,” she went on. “We’re the witnesses you’re looking for.”
“Francine,” the Doctor said, his eyes widening. “What are you doing?”
Clive stepped up next to her, almost at the same time as Tish did. “We remember it all, Doctor,” he echoed her.
“We remember all the deaths,” Tish added. “We remember what Jack sacrificed for us.” She turned to smile at Jack, who promptly walked over and put his arm around her in support. “What did you do, Doctor? What did you do to help anyone?”
“Mum…Dad,” Martha said, moving toward her family. “Tish…what are you saying? The Doctor had his plan all along, and it worked.”
“You saw it, Martha,” Francine said. “You spent a year seeing what the Master was doing.”
“The Master treated us like dirt,” Tish added. “He tortured and killed Jack, over and over again.”
“You weren’t up here,” Francine went on. “You don’t know what we went through, while the Doctor sat and did his whatever it was, and he didn’t raise a hand to help us. The Master was given free rein to hurt and humiliate us. And the Doctor does what? Chooses that bastard over the ones he held captive? Over the world that suffered under his rule?”
“You’re all better than this!” the Doctor exclaimed, his eyes wide in surprise.
The dragon realized then that the Time Lord wasn’t used to having people question his motives like this. He might have gotten some joy over that fact if the situation wasn’t so awful.
And then, Alice stepped forward, the Air Dragon accompanying her. “Jack Harkness is my father,” she announced. “I saw over the Master’s broadcasts what he did to him, and it was sheer evil. Nothing will ever make me forgive him for what he did to my dad.”
The look of pride on Jack’s face shone like a beacon. He released Tish, and in three strides was pulling Alice into a fierce hug, tears running down his face. “I love you, so very much,” he murmured just loud enough for the entire group to hear.
“I love you too, Dad.” She hugged him just as fiercely.
The dragon’s heart wanted to expand out of his chest with the joy of his family being back together after so long. He hadn’t been certain that any of the Dragon-Friends would remember the year, and he was so very glad they did, if just for this reunion.
It was Toshiko’s turn. “I work with Jack at Torchwood,” she said. “He saved me from a horrible place, and he’s like a brother to me. I witnessed the Rift storm that destroyed Cardiff from my computer and through CCTV, and it was caused by the activation of the paradox machine. And the Master laughed about it, in one of his broadcasts. He laughed as people died. How can you expect me to forgive that?”
“Sounds like Torchwood to me,” the Doctor snorted.
“Yeah, well you don’t know anything then,” Kathy argued. “I might not get along with Harkness all that well, but I know the good that Torchwood does. I’m just an ordinary copper who got caught up in all this mess, but it was the ordinary people who suffered the most under the Master’s rule. How many died in his work camps? How many did the Toclafane murder just because the Master ordered them to? How can you excuse that?”
The dragon nodded. He’d seen what Kathy was speaking of, and while he hadn’t been near Cardiff he’d heard about the Rift storm from both Owen and Toshiko.
“The Earth was dying under the Master’s rule,” Rhiannon was next. “We could feel it, fading a little each day. If time hadn’t turned back, this planet would have been dead within months. And what about the rest of the universe? What about trillions upon trillions who would have been killed by the rockets? How can you condone destruction like that on such a scale? Do you even care about the innocent? Because it certainly doesn’t seem that way to me.”
“It seems as if the victims have spoken,” the Earth Dragon said. “What have you to say about these charges, Doctor?”
“How can you all remember?” the Doctor asked, avoiding the subject. “Time turned back; you should all have forgotten!”
“There are more who know what happened than what you might think,” the Fire Dragon answered, laughing.
“Our power shielded those who came to our valley,” the Water Dragon added. “There are many witnesses to what had been wrought.”
“You should have let them forget,” the Doctor charged.
“No,” the dragon said, angry that the Time Lord was being so cavalier about the people in Ddraig Llyn. “You have no right to make that sort of decision.”
“Our son is correct,” the Earth Dragon declared. “He has demanded the right to avenge his mate. That right will be upheld.”
“Jack,” the Doctor pleaded. “I’m begging you to let me handle the Master. Don’t let this happen.”
Jack stared at the Doctor, so many emotions in his expression that the dragon couldn’t describe them all. “Doctor,” he said, “I waited so long for you, only to find out that you abandoned me and can’t stand the sight of me. Ianto is the only person who has accepted me for who I am; he’s loved me despite everything and wants to commit his eternity to me. No one has ever wanted to protect me…to avenge what was done to me…and I can’t help but love him all the more for it. It may not be in your nature to exact revenge on a monster who’s hurt someone you love, but it is in my mate’s. And, after suffering for an entire year under the Master’s so-called mercies, I can’t help but want that revenge. I know that disappoints you, but then you haven’t made how you feel about me a secret.” He turned his gaze toward the dragon, his eyes smiling. “I love you. I swear to honor you, to protect you, to avenge any wrongs done to you, and to love you for eternity.”
Jack’s words echoed the vows that were given in any dragon mating. His gaze softened as he said, “I love you. I swear to honor you, to protect you, to avenge any wrongs done to you, and to love you for eternity.”
“So it shall be,” the four Dragon intoned, echoed by their Friends.
The dragon could feel the magic in the binding, and could see that Jack did as well. This was a mating in everything but the flight, and if that never happened he could be completely content.
“Well, that’s just so sweet,” the Master drawled, his voice a little breathless from the weight of the dragon’s hand pinning him to the table. “Do we get the honeymoon now, or are you going to kill me and get it over with first?”
The euphoria of the mating broke suddenly at the nasty tone. The dragon looked down, baring his teeth. “Are you so quick to die?”
“Seems like I don’t have much of a choice,” the Master answered, wriggling as much as he could…which wasn’t a lot.
“Don’t you see?” the Doctor tried one last time. “He wants to die. You’d be giving him what he wants.”
The dragon glanced up, seeing the Doctor’s appalled face staring at up at him. “Then perhaps I should do exactly that.”
It only took a simple flex of a single claw, and a year of hell was finally over.
6 June 2008
The Doctor left with the Master’s body as soon as he could get away.
Jack had managed to search it first, finding a small controller that he couldn’t figure out what it was for, and he destroyed it quickly, before it could fall into less scrupulous hands. There were quite a few guards still on the Valiant, and Jack didn’t trust them not to still be loyal to the Master despite the disruption of the Archangel Network and of the Time Lord’s demise.
There was also Lucy Saxon, but she’d shattered at her husband’s death. She would only be a danger to herself anymore, and Jack made sure that she would be taken care of. He felt sorry for her, having been under the Master’s thumb almost as much as he and the Joneses had been, and he didn’t want her mistreated simply because the Master had damaged her.
There had also been a ring; Jack thought he recognized the design on it, and it took him a few minutes for him to recall the Master’s mentioning Professor Lazarus, but then Jack remembered those particular events from the UNIT reports he’d been forwarded. He promptly confiscated it, not wanting it to disappear only to come back to haunt them some day. It would find a new home in Torchwood’s Secure Archives.
He would have preferred to take control of the Master’s body as well, to incinerate it, but Ianto had actually convinced him to let the Doctor perform whatever death ceremonies the Time Lords did. Jack could see the point of it, to give his former friend some sort of closure, and so agreed. He knew the Doctor was mourning, and Jack knew what that was like intimately.
The TARDIS was gone almost before he could authorize the UNIT troops Colonel Mace had sent up to help with the clean-up to release the corpse to the Doctor. The Colonel hadn’t been happy; apparently he knew the myriad stories of how the Master had appeared truly dead only to appear later on with another nefarious scheme in the works. But in the hours since the Master’s death there had been no sign of regeneration, and Jack felt confident that the Time Lord really was dead for the final time.
After the Doctor was gone, Jack knew it would be a very long time before he saw either him or TARDIS again, and if he did it wouldn’t be by the Time Lord’s choice.
A part of him was disappointed about it. He couldn’t lie; he’d waited for so long, and he’d really believed that the two of them would still be the friends they’d been back before the Gamestation. But there was too much water under that bridge, even before the Doctor had destroyed it with his callousness.
Jack really just wanted to curl up with his mate and his daughter – who was a Dragon-Friend, which he really wanted to hear how that had happened! – and let the world handle itself while he attempted to re-center himself. Everything that he’d been through was weighing him down, and he needed time to heal a bit before going back to Torchwood. Being with his mate and his daughter and grandson would go a long way to bringing him that peace.
Knowing that Alice wore his Vortex Manipulator was simply icing on a fantastic cake; it might not work anymore, but Jack would still have felt lost without it. Plus she was actually proud to wear it, so when she offered it back he’d told her to keep it for the time being. It was safe in her capable hands.
Alice, though, had gone back to Ddraig Llyn with the Great Dragons and the other Dragon-Friends, saying that the Air Dragon needed her help to teleport back. She’d promised to wait for him there, and Jack knew she would. His heart had swelled when she’d hugged Ianto before she’d left, and it was obvious that she’d accepted the dragon’s role in her dad’s life.
Seeing her there had been a miracle, but moreso when she’d spoken up for him. Their relationship had been so fractured…Jack had held out little hope that they would ever be any sort of family. But that had changed when she’d faced down a Time Lord to defend him. He knew they were both too stubborn to ever have their lives together be smooth sailing, but Jack was willing to try.
But he and Ianto had a duty to help in the clean-up. It was another thing in which he would never be like the Doctor; Jack would always try to stay and at least attempt to work to fix things, even if he felt like he was walking on a knife’s edge, balancing between duty and falling apart. At least Ianto was there with him; Jack didn’t think he’d be able to handle it if he was alone. There were far too many bad memories on board the Valiant and it was only the need to do the right thing that had kept him there.
The Doctor had also left Martha behind, although it had been at her request. Jack could tell that the implicit trust she’d once had in the Doctor was cracked, during the confrontation after the paradox had broken. She’d been very silent, but Jack could see the look in her eyes as she realized that the Doctor was going to choose the Master even over her own family. She’d come to Jack, not long after the TARDIS had left, and told him that she’d informed the Doctor that she’d meant to stay to help with the aftermath since he wasn’t willing to. Jack knew that had to have been yet another slap in the Doctor’s face.
Besides, Martha added, her family would need her to help them handle what had happened.
It wasn’t even a couple of hours after she’d come to him to let him know she had stayed behind when he’d been approached by Colonel Mace himself, and had inquired about Martha and if she would be willing to come to work with UNIT. He’d been impressed with her after the story of the Year that Never Was – which was what the official UNIT reports were going to call it – had come out. Jack had encouraged him to ask her, even though he’d planned on asking her to come to work for Torchwood. Working for UNIT meant that Martha could stay in London, and be close to her family. Plus they could all take advantage of UNIT’s psychological services, and Jack knew that the all the Joneses would need that sort of support and it wasn’t something Torchwood had the resources to give, at least not at that time.
The Joneses had also literally adopted Ianto almost from the moment everything was over. Jack could tell the dragon was a bit embarrassed by the attention, but in the end it was obvious that he was charmed by the entire family. Each of them had told Ianto that they were grateful he’d been able to do what they considered the right thing concerning the Master, and Francine had made both of them promise to come to dinner the next time they had the chance to be in London.
During the one quick search he’d been able to do, Jack had managed to find his confiscated greatcoat hung up neatly in a closet that was in a cabin that had obviously been taken by one of the Master’s higher-ranked guards. Jack had no idea why whoever it was had wanted to keep it, and he never found out who it was, but he was grateful, and would arrange to have it cleaned as soon as he could. He didn’t like the idea of anyone but him – and possibly Ianto – wearing it.
But he hadn’t been able to find the ring Ianto had given him.
It wasn’t in the Master’s rooms, or on the Master’s person when Jack had searched his body. When he admitted it to Ianto, the dragon had simply said, “It’s all right.”
“But it was your father’s –“
“Jack,” the dragon said, “it’s just a ring. You are more important. I would have rather have it lost, than you.”
The words comforted him, but he still felt guilty for losing it, and he could tell that Ianto was sad about it being gone.
He couldn’t rest; that wasn’t going to happen while they were on the Valiant, no matter how tired he was. He kept busy the entire day, and Jack knew he must have looked like hell when Colonel Mace told him to, “Get the fuck off this ship and pull yourself together, Harkness. You’ve been through enough. Oh, and take that Second of yours with you.”
UNIT had already shuttled the Joneses back to London hours earlier, or else Jack would have argued. As it was, Mace had a point; both he and Ianto had been through a lot, and deserved the time off. At least he’d been able to shower and borrow some fatigues from one of the UNIT troopers, so he no longer looked like a refugee from a slasher flick.
Besides, the Valiant was a UNIT vessel. Torchwood had done all it could with the clean-up, and could leave the rest to the true owners.
Jack sincerely hoped he’d never have to set foot on board her ever again.
He found his mate in the flight prep area, with Jack’s greatcoat slung over his arm. Ianto raised an eyebrow as he spun a finger to indicate that Jack should turn around. Sure hands pulled the heavy wool up Jack’s arms and over his shoulders, settling it where it belonged. A caress through Jack’s too-long hair made him shiver slightly, and then Ianto was in front of him. “I take it Mace talked to you?”
Jack snorted. “More like ordered us off his ship. Not that I’m going to argue with him.”
“We’ve done all we can,” Ianto agreed. “I know you hate leaving things half-done…”
“So do you,” Jack pointed out.
The dragon smirked tiredly. “But you’re right. I’m not going to argue with him. Let’s go home. Alice, Steven, and Estelle are expecting us at Ddraig Llyn.”
They’d gotten a call from Toshiko not long after the Dragon-Friends had left, letting them both know that she, Kathy, and Owen were going to head back to Cardiff right away. Gwen had already been on the phone, looking for Owen; she’d known that Ianto had planned to go to London to try to stop the First Contact, and the dragon was really the last person Gwen would have called anyway. Toshiko had said that they didn’t want to leave Gwen on her own too long, because they had no idea how the Rift would react now that the paradox has been reversed. It was also lucky that Owen had managed to somehow hold onto his mobile long enough to be able to leave it in Toshiko’s safe keeping while he helped out with the Resistance.
Owen hadn’t thought that way, though, judging from the rather loud cursing that had been going on in the background.
They’d told Toshiko not to let Gwen know what had happened; both Jack and Ianto had decided that she, at least, should not be burdened by the weight of terrible memories that the rest of the team would have. It seemed the kindest thing to do.
“I can’t wait to get home,” Jack said, stepping closer and wrapping his arms around his dragon. “I just want to curl up and sleep next to you.”
Ianto embraced him in return. “I’ve missed you so much,” he whispered.
Jack didn’t say anything; but then, he didn’t have to.
After a few moments of simply standing there and luxuriating in his mate’s presence, Jack let go but only stepped back enough to gaze into Ianto’s eyes. “Let’s get out of here.”
Ianto nodded, smiling softly.
Together they made their way out onto the flight deck, the winds whipping the tails of Jack’s coat about his legs. For a split second fear slammed into him, remembering the last time he’d stood on the deck, and Ianto’s hand on his arm brought him back. “It’s okay,” he answered loudly over the wind, seeing the dragon’s look of concern. “It’s just the one time I was up on the flight deck, the Master threw me overboard.”
Ianto’s lips curled up into a snarl even as he was pulling Jack back into his arms. “I shouldn’t have given him such a quick death,” he growled softly, and Jack shivered slightly at the sensation of Ianto’s breath against his ear.
“No,” Jack replied. “You’re not a heartless killer, Ianto. You did what had to be done, but you could never have been like him.”
He felt Ianto nod, and then the dragon pulled away. “Will you fly with me?”
Jack’s heart was already soaring. “I can’t think of anything I’d rather do…” he then leered, “well, that’s not exactly true…”
Blue eyes rolled. “We’ll see about that later. Right now…let’s go home.”
With those words, Ianto stepped back, and the familiar golden glow surrounded his human form. It stretched and changed, and in seconds the magnificent dragon stood in his place, his emerald scales gleaming in the sunlight.
Jack made his way over, and the dragon leaned down a little, offering his leg for him to use to clamber up onto his back. Jack did, settling just in front of the mighty wings, his legs hooked around the wing joints and his arms looped around the long neck. The dragon’s warmth seeped through him, and Jack felt at peace for the first time in a year…that had, of course, never existed.
Great wings unfurled, catching the winds that blew across the Valiant’s flight deck, and the last dragon lifted into the air. Jack leaned forward, resting his cheek against his mate’s neck, as together they flew home.
Unknown Time, Somewhere Within the Time Vortex
The TARDIS was unhappy, and the Doctor didn’t care.
He’d burned the Master’s body on a pyre that he’d built on the shore, just outside a small English village that the Doctor didn’t know…and didn’t care that he didn’t. The loss of his once-friend – turned enemy – had hit him harder than he’d thought. And it didn’t help that he found himself abandoned by Martha, even though she had a good reason for leaving. She’d even given him her phone, so she could call him if needed, but the Doctor had some thinking to do before he allowed himself to return to Earth.
He considered the lot of them to be ungrateful and cruel.
The Doctor stalked around the console, shoving his hands deep into his trouser pockets. His knuckle hit something solid; he pulled it out, exposing the ring he’d found in one of the Master’s pockets.
It was of rich, red Welch gold, with an oddly-shaped blue sapphire set within it. A man’s ring, heavy and masculine, the ages of its existence throbbing against the palm of his hand as he held it. It was full of magic…and of love, so full of each it made his hearts ache. The engraving on the inside was in a language that had long been dead, and the translation made the ache even worse.
He recognized it as the ring that Jack had worn back in London…the one that he’d claimed to have come from the man he’d said he loved. The Doctor hadn’t been quite so distracted as either Jack or Martha had thought and had heard the entire story.
Of course, Jack had left out the part where this so-called love of his life was the last dragon in the Universe.
The Doctor snorted a laugh. The last dragon. When the man who’d traveled with Martha had changed shape like that, it had been a shock, although the Doctor had recognized him as not being human. He’d long thought that the dragons were gone; he’d known of them, having met at least one in his travels to the far past, and he’d mourned their passing when it had come to his attention that such great and magical creatures were gone.
Now, he was wishing he’d never met this one.
He was well aware of dragon culture. They were, at heart, honourable creatures, and the Doctor had known the minute this one had claimed revenge on the Master that there really hadn’t been much he could do, unless he could talk him out of it. What he hadn’t counted on was that this one’s so-called mate had been Jack Harkness; and that his being the last would not have played into the Doctor’s favor. Still, he’d had confidence that the others in the room would have backed him in his quest for mercy.
Oh, he’d been so wrong.
Even now, he could hear the words that had condemned the Master to his final death. The Doctor had to admit, there were some points that he couldn’t argue against, but he’d foolishly believed that the Joneses and Jack would have followed his lead.
He hadn’t counted on the Great Dragons and their companions showing up.
The Doctor had always considered the Great Dragons to be myth, a legend that the rest of dragon society worshipped much as many other cultures had their own gods and goddesses. Never had he thought they were real, and that they’d show up and champion the planet like they had.
Their Dragon-Friends had also been a surprise. The Doctor hadn’t expected that the Dragons would have been so deeply involved in Torchwood’s dealings; surely they knew what Torchwood represented? And they condoned this so-called mating with the last of their race and Jack Harkness, of all people?
The facets of the stone cut into his palm, and the Doctor loosened his grip on the ring. He was angry, yes, but he knew if he dug deeper into his feelings he would see that there was also a tinge of jealousy in there, as well. An inner voice that sounded suspiciously like his Eighth regeneration had a tendency to call him a coward whenever a companion got too close; only Rose had managed to get under his skin, the only companion that had since the Time War had changed him, had broken him. Eight had been the one to bring destruction down on Gallifrey, but he’d also been the one to embrace his companions completely, even taking one as a lover.
Spiky dark hair, slender fingers strumming a guitar, a battered leather jacket that his Ninth regeneration had chosen to wear in honor of the companion who’d stolen his hearts...and who he’d had to leave behind when he’d been recalled to Gallifrey to fight…
The Doctor viciously thrust those thoughts down, back into the box that had held them for so long. No, he couldn’t afford to let anyone get close, knowing that he would outlive them.
Jack apparently didn’t have that problem.
He must have let others into his heart, if he had a daughter to show for that relationship. And he’d chosen to mate with a dragon, of all creatures. And a team…he had a team, a family to call his own. The Doctor had none of that anymore, and it left him feeling bereft.
Jack had taken a chance on having his heart broken, knowing that he would outlive his family and his lovers. If the Doctor was honest with himself – and he wasn’t sure he wanted to be – then Jack truly was bigger on the inside, willing to love people who would, one day, leave him behind.
The Doctor didn’t know if that made Jack a fool…or the most ‘human’ human he’d ever met.
Angrily, he shoved the ring back into his trouser pocket. No, Jack wasn’t human…he was wrong, a fact, a fixed point in time…and, if the Great Dragons were to be believed, it was what he’d always been meant to be.
He snorted. No, he didn’t believe that for a moment. Of course, there was an easy way to find out, but the Doctor scoffed at it. He didn’t have to look at Jack’s personal timeline to see anything. He already knew everything he needed to.
Jogging around the console, the Doctor flipped switches and turned dials, wanting to get as far away from Earth as possible.
The TARDIS was unhappy….but then, so was her pilot.