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Ghost Story

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My name is Eiron, for all the good it's done me, and the time of my birth can't be expressed in integer coordinates. Probably better to say I was born in Time, close to the skin of the Vortex, under a fiery sky I was too small to truly remember. I know what I am and where I'm from, but the knowledge is imprecise and piecemeal, embroidered out of scraps and rehearsed so often that it becomes little more than legend in itself, words and names, sound and fury. Much like myself.

Easiest to say that I was born last, closest to the end, because even dreams have endings; I am the last child of Gallifrey, and ignorance and exile are my birthright.

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They stood in the nursery door, and through the window they could see the tachyon bombs splashing off the Citadel's glass dome. The baby was a small dark shape in that lurid light, all soft curves and silent breathing. "We can't," she said. "We can't put him through that."

"It won't be for long."

"There are reasons it's a restricted technology--"

"You've seen the reports as well as I have," he said hotly, not noticing that the baby's eyes were open. "It can't go on like this. Whole centuries brought to slaughter, the Nightmare Child run amok, abominations unleashed on abominations..."

"They say the Doctor is finally coming home, though," she said querulously, wrapping her arms around herself. "Perhaps he'll do something."

He looked into the shadows to watch their son, who was already clever enough to listen without stirring, even if he did not yet understand. "That's what I'm afraid of."

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My name is Jack, but of course nobody believes it. The 'Harkness' part is fake and always has been, yeah, but I promise, the name I was born with really was Jack. Or Jakk. Or possibly Jaeq. Look, it's not my fault you people haven't fixed the alphabet yet.

I was born in 5072, when you could still say things like "Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire" with a straight face. I was born in a backwater region of a backwater planet, and once upon a time, I was happy.

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Franklin cursed himself when he saw the tiny footprints in the sand. You look away for one moment—! Heart in his throat, he raced over the hill and down the uncertain rocks beyond, looking for any sign of the toddler who'd been on the blanket a moment go, right there, he'd just been right there. Wasn't that what the grieving parents always said? Just a moment, just for one moment you turn your back--

He found a shoe, and a torn part of a shirt—barely walking and already a nudist, his son—but the broomstick bushes were still and bare of leaves. Then he came to the top of the cliff and stopped, his heart just stopped. In the glare where the sun hit the water he could just make out a shape, pale and terrifyingly small, almost lost among the jagged, jumbled rocks. His heart stopped, and for a moment he saw himself climbing down those rocks, lifting up a small body, and carrying it home in his arms. Or maybe just throwing himself in after it.

"Da?"

Franklin jumped, and relief was so strong that it knocked him to his knees. There was his Jack, stripped of even his diaper, coming uncertainly along the sheer rocks. He looked at Franklin with the kind of deep confusion that only a baby could have, when the world was large and frightening and most things don't have names. "C'mere, soldier," Franklin sighed, throwing wide his arms, and Jack ran to him without hesitation, clinging to his neck. He was a little bit sunburnt, there was a scratch on his leg and a couple of red marks—bug bites, maybe?--on his head, just visible under all the downy black hair. But Jack was alive and well, and Franklin gathered him close, thanking God that nothing worse had happened, while Jack babbled happily in his ear.

Below them, on the rocks, the tide tugged at a small white shape and carried it out to sea.

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And my name is Ianto Jones, born 1983 in Cardiff to parents who desperately wanted to be more than they were but didn't know how to go about it. Died 2009, because some things are worth dying for.

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It was later, days later, and Franklin wasn't letting Jack out of his sight this time. He trailed a short stride behind while Jack explored the beach, one part of his mind always aware of the nearby cliffs while another part listened to Jack's baby babble and tried to stop him putting things into his mouth.

When Jack trended towards the rocks, Franklin scooped him up quickly. "Not this time, soldier," he says. "You don't get to scare me half to death twice." Jack made a distressed sound and reached out towards the beach, though, and Franklin was a horrible father who would never survive his son's teens. "You want to check out something over there? Fine, but we'll check it out together. This is a recon operation, you know, best to work in teams."

He retraced his previous steps, while Jack looked around with big blue eyes. It was almost like he was searching for something, and Franklin held out faint hope he'd find the rest of the Jack's clothes as he explored the direction the baby had wandered. The rocks started to level out here, just a little, making a nice little niche—so maybe Jack had been safe all along—but there was no sign of any missing trousers. In fact, the only thing that caught his eye was a glitter of metal; and as Jack squealed, Franklin bent down to investigate.

An old-fashioned metal casing, like a pocket watch out of some tall tale, complete with a short chain, was nestled in the sand under the dry arms of a broomstick bush. Franklin tried to open it, but it seemed to be jammed, and after a moment he gave up rather than risk breaking it. "Look at this, Jackie," he said, holding it up to the baby. "Wonder where this came from?"

Jack grabbed at the chain and tried to put it in his mouth. When Franklin took it away, he started to cry, and fussed all the way home to supper. Franklin put the watch away, intending to show it off as a treasure later, or maybe ask if anybody in town had ever seen its like; but something or another distracted him, and he never did.

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The Three-Fold Man?

Please.

The Doctor's got nothing on me.