Those same thin lips, those same blue eyes like smoke... they were staring at Jack with something akin to malice.
“This body is nice, though. I think I’ll keep it. So sorry.”
A grin flashed across the Time Lord’s face, and Jack felt the urge to throw up.
“Who the hell are you? You’re not Theta! Who are you?”
Someone screamed. Then the woman thing touched Jack’s shoulder, and he realized that he had.
The man in Theta’s skin just laughed and flung a hand wide, encompassing everything.
“Oh, do you miss him already, little human boy? And I see you’ve dipped your cup into the well of gold. How nice of the clingy little slut to accommodate you. Well. Enough of that.”
He bowed to Jack, then turned to face the UNIT soldiers.
“Hello, you hairy monkeys with guns, I am the Valeyard. Your precious Doctor’s shadow, if you will. I don’t intend to let him back out, so none of that annoying blind heroism you lot are so damn fond of, or I shall be forced to... oh... I don’t know. Surely your tiny troglodyte brains can deduce that much, at least. I mean really, it’s just so elementary, Watson.”
He strode toward Jack, who just stood there, watching him like a snake about to sink fangs into a rat.
“Hello, Watson. You always were an idiot, even in the books.”
Suddenly a movement from the left caught their attentions, and the Major stepped out from the shadows of that area’s corridor. Her slender lips, deep white now, moved to speak, and the words that followed were the sweetest utterance Jack had ever heard.
“Not so fast, you body-stealing opportunist. If you’d actually read the books, as I have, you’d have known that Holmes never actually said that to Watson. Plus, they were very good friends, a lovely sort of Bromance, really. Met Sir Arthur the author, after my sixth regeneration. Yup. Right after I met you, give or take a few years. Course, you didn’t know that, being the Boneyard. The Junkyard? The Scrapyard? Oh, oh I know! How about you bein’ a stand-in? I’ve always been fond of that one, for you. Does you too much justice, it does. In any case, en garde!”
The glasses were in her hand, and some sort of connection wire was plugged into them, stretching from a small port behind her lovely ears. Then her fingers crushed them easily, leaving little flecks of black on the floor. With that, the thin cord slid back safely into its slot at her neck, which was already closing. Suddenly, a voice streamed through the uplink into her internal cochlear mechanism. “You’re paying for damages. Call me if you need anything. I’ll be here.”
“Of course. I am a gentleman, after all,” the Doctor answered her quickly, sparing a laugh for those not using an artificial body with hyperlink capabilities.
“Oh! Ah, the Major was just telling me to avoid destroying her new body. I mean, I created it for her especially after she junked the last one this past week at my request, so... turnabout and what.”
He tossed her head, flinging the sharp front piecing of her jagged black-violet bob into place alongside her temples. She’d asked for blue eyes, like his, only in a pale sky hue rather than his own dark smoky shade.
A flash of muddy gold popped behind him, and suddenly the Valeyard’s voice was in his ear. His voice.
“I do hate to interrupt your conference call, but some of us have better things to do, like oh... spreading chaos, fostering fear and loathing among the masses, devising new Mcmindgames to put on my dollar menu... wait. Damn you! Get out of my head this instant, you inept fool!”
The Doctor smiled, curving the Major’s lips in so small a motion that even Misha couldn’t follow it.
He and the Valeyard both took a step, spewing words of music at each other in countless voices. Then they took another step toward each other, then another. And another. And another, until they were almost touching. The Doctor held out his hands to grasp The Valeyard’s head, and The Valeyard in turn, grasped the Major’s bright skin in the same two places, their fingers at each other’s temples.
“So. It’s Telepathy Battle, is it? Sounds like something off that American cooking channel... Top Chef, was it? You surprise me, Theta.”
The Doctor watched the Valeyard continue to taunt him through the Major’s eyes. He almost felt sorry for the barmy git, because while The Valeyard would eventually tire, he, Theta Sigma, would not. Not while he inhabited the Major’s body. Then the Major’s voice cut in again, interrupting his thought.
“Just make sure he doesn’t steal it out from under your nose, Doctor.” I don’t relish the thought of spending a millennia wearing one of those Baka tees.”
“Ohhh! Sorry Major! You meant those I’m with Stupid T-Shirts! Sorry!” he cried aloud, slapping a slender female hand to his face to hide a snigger as his borrowed mechanical eyes threw innocent needles at his stolen body’s unrepentant lodger.
“Oh, and my dear Lord of the Fries... I’ll have you know that I am a very accomplished gourmet. Course I do like my chips... ”
He thrust his eyes upward, turned a half step, then began tap one foot, as if listening to an internal musical score.
“You’d be surprised how many songs there are about chips... about, oh... well let’s see now... one, two, four thousand, five trillion, oh bollocks I lost count. Try again. Right! Here we go, ah... one, two, three... ”
The Valeyard’s arm moved, flinging bruised gold toward the crowd of soldiers that stood in a huge ring around them. Then, one by one, thermal displacers began to skirt toward the Major, until every rifle was leveled at her.
“Enough, Theta Sigma. Let us discard formality and begin this.”
“Are you telling me I’m not being serious?”
The Doctor sent those pale blue eyes knifing toward the soldiers and their guns, distaste playing a faint, unsubtle chord across the delicate line of his borrowed mouth.
“Au contraire, monsieur. Allons-y.”
Turning back to the Valeyard, he snapped his fingers. It was such a tiny sound, but when its echo traveled back to him, the displacers weren’t focused on him any longer. The rifles had dropped to the ground in pieces, the soldiers slumping to the floor as Theta Sigma swept the Major’s gaze calmly over them.
“Now that you’ve proved your worth as an au pair, can we get down to it?”
“Well why haven’t you? I’ll be here when you finally decide.”
The Doctor sank down gracefully onto the white floor, one hand holding up the Major’s chin, as her lips parted in a grin like a geisha’s soft giggle.
“Mighty Quinn! Now that was a song and a half... or was it a quarter?”
He blinked her sky blue eyes, batting her eyelashes at his usurper.
“Enough of your games! Your last two lives belong to me, Doctor!”
The Valeyard lashed out then, using Theta’s slender mouth to spew tendrils of muddy gold toward the Doctor. The Time Lord made no effort to dodge, instead he held the Major’s cyber body loosely in place, balancing on one slim knee and one delicate, muscular leg as the tendrils of sickly gold came closer. There were so many...
Jack watched in horror as spike after spike of dead gold thrust into the Major’s metal husk, pumping something out with every writhing undulation. They seemed as though they were... drawing the Doctor out of his hiding place.
Once every slender, sucking rootlet had retracted, the Major, herself again, herself alone, leaped to life, double somersaulting backward, away from the Valeyard and his disembodied captive.
Suddenly the Valeyard doubled over, grabbing his/Theta’s head, clawing as bright gold spilled into his mouth and nose and ears, filling him, pushing him out.
“Thanks for the memories, Valeyard, but really, you being a memory you should know better than to try and do that sort of thing,” the Doctor said softly, and the words were from his own lips, his own mind.
Jack heaved his relief out in a thick, heavy sigh.
Thinly smiling, the Doctor gazed up at the Valeyard, who was floating like an angry storm just in front of him, having been reduced to a muddy golden cloud in the aftermath of their battle. The memory was still in shock... which meant there was enough time for what he’d planned.
He breathed the name into the man’s thoughts, telling him what to do. So Jack did as he was told and skip-tossed the Indigo Device beneath the Valeyard Cloud. Then The Doctor entered Misha’s mind, and instructed her as to what he wanted, as well as how and why and when he wanted it. Lackies briefed and prepped, he turned his face upon the cloud again, to allow The Valeyard speech.
“What do you think you’re doing? I’ll never let you survive this! Then again... ”
The cloud formed a pallid, eyeless face and swam about to stare at the soldiers.
“Why don’t I make nice with them instead?”
With horrible speed The Valeyard flew toward the members of UNIT that were gathered in a loose ring around the intersection, aiming to make them obey, make them suffer, make them... no longer themselves.
But Misha was running, faster than any human, while The Doctor lined his sprinting form up with the Indigo Device on the floor. Then he leaped, catching it with one foot and sliding alongside Misha, who was changing form as she moved. In an impossible maneuver, he slid beneath the cloud and skidded to a stop in front of the soldiers like a professional snowboarder, even flipping the Device up with a foot and his unused momentum so he could catch it with a backhanded slice of the wrist. Then, with a naughty smirk worthy of Jack Harkness at his most...indecent, he pitched the thing into the air just as Misha reached him.
“Twin wakizashi, now!”
Instantly the polymorph dissolved and reconstituted, separating into two narrow Japanese style blades, the slight hilts tied by a long, winding cord of red silk. As they tumbled tip over hilt toward The Doctor’s waiting hands, Jack saw them well enough to notice just how closely they resembled the real thing, bound with zigzagged leather strips and iron pins, gleaming through the tarnish of good use as though tempered in ancient fires. Well, when he and the Time Lord got home, they were definitely going to stoke some flames...
The Doctor twisted up like a dancer to catch his prize and then his hands blurred in motion, crossing the twin swords together with a decisive clang just inside his own telepathic barriers, the triplicate resonance of his own field, the metal of the blades and The Valeyard’s consciousness created a hyperspatial ultrasonic wave, slamming the mad Time Lord backward into the Indigo Device. Only a single, derisive cackle was heard as the thing glowed once, twice, and then settled into complacent quiescence. Soon after, Misha returned to her former shape, spilling out of the Doctor’s hands onto the white floor, in a scene reminiscent of The Waterbearer.
“Glad that’s over, aren’t we, Theta?” Jack said, coming over and clapping a gentle hand around the Time Lord’s shoulders.
But the Doctor didn’t move, didn’t even breathe.
“I have to do something... difficult, now, Jack. Please leave me be, otherwise I could disrupt my entire timeline, and bring the Reapers down on our heads for it. As the only Time Lord left, I know I’ve not the strength to deal with them properly. Especially after... this. So please... just go away.”
There was still a hint of gold playing about his edges. Jack watched him make the effort to gather it, shape it to his will, focus it into a lens above their heads. The Time Lord snapped his fingers again, and the lens showed space, a planet, clouds. Mountains of silver and fields of red grass. Then, soundless and destitute before that vision, he tossed the Indigo Device casually through the gap.
“I said leave me alone, Jack,” he warned, sensing the shadow of Jack’s footsteps behind him.
“That’s Gallifrey, isn’t it, Theta Sigma? Good god, it’s beautiful. I’m so sorry.”
The Time Lord straightened, took a deep, hard breath, then turned away from the collapsing temporal lens.
“Don’t, Jack. Just don’t.”
His voice was cracked and barely a whisper, like wheat sheaves crushed in the field by storm thrown rocks. There was no life in him, nothing, just... that face. The face he was hiding. The face of defeat.
“I hated it there. And now I can’t go back. It’s Time Locked, like I told you before. The only reason... uhg. The only reason I was able to do what I just did was because I still had a bit of vortex energy left.”
With a double crack of his neck, he turned to gaze at the crowd again, puppy faced and full of happy lies once more.
“Who wants a lesson in Venusian Aikido? Or any Aikido, for that matter? Consider it a freebie coz I’m feeling generous.”
“What sort of generous?”
“Jack. Harkness. Not. Another. Word.”
Suddenly the Major was behind him, rubbing his shoulders as though his body hadn’t already flushed the lactic acid from the sinew.
“Uh, you can’t have those they’re mine?” Jack mock whined, but The Doctor just stayed him with a hand and shook his head.
“Relax, Jack,” Theta said, arching into the Major’s hands, “... she’s my erm... what is it, what is it... ah! My sparring partner. A dear friend? A comrade? Not available? Oh I give up. But whatever she is, it’s not what you’re thinking.”
Then Jack Harkness watched the two of them cross to the middle of the huge room. They were going to do it. Right there, in the middle of the intersection, with all of UNIT watching! He sat down on the floor, wishing he had some Ianto... and maybe some popcorn and a decent lager. This was going to be good.