“Jack. How did it go?” the Welshman said again, bouncing Adric on his shoulder.
The man in question simply shook his head and turned back to nurse his vodka.
“Hah! Heeyaytitlyshuhtruuper! Chugdidolldowlykeesomushwotter. Heeey mavodkushwoorrm... arweeshposhtalike woormvodka? IthotIliketitwishlemon... butthasissee. Mnottasissee, amIYanto?”
The blue eyes drifted up, reddened. But sad as it looked, Jack wasn’t even really drunk yet, he was just putting on a show for the twins. Silently, Ianto thanked the Major for whatever she did to get Jamie to stay in bed, because it was already time for Adric’s bath. They’d had to be separated after the incident outside due to their penchant for plotting, which had grown to magnanimous proportion while the adults were otherwise involved with their parents’ one sided pretend quibble. The two little rascals had managed to escape their pen on a jolly lark and subsequently taken apart the toaster... the television... the coffee machine... suffice it that there was wiring everywhere. At least they still listened to Uncle. Apparently, they’d never once listened to Jack, the way Jack told it. Maybe he’d realized they were more aware, after all.
Soon, bath time was over and done with, and both The Doctor’s little bugaloos were safe in their beds, well and truly asleep by the Major’s estimation. Bloody accurate, too, because the woman never seemed to find occasion to guess.
“Most parents generally try to act sober in front of their children. What do you think he would have said to their being anywhere near that bottle, in his state?”
Ever the voice of reason, she was. Then again, much as the Time Lord and the Time Agent, Kusanagi had been around long enough to know when life required subtlety.
And Jack was slumped in a cherry wood kitchen chair that looked far too ginger for his comfort, sipping water from a well cleansed vodka bottle.
“Theta... he’s still not recovered completely... he can’t be after what I... what I just did to him. If he had been healthy, he wouldn’t have broken down at all! I should have... I just... Damn it, Ianto! I wish I could have told him. He deserves to know! The one thing that would make him happy, and I can’t tell him yet! I can’t tell him! Damn it! Damn it, damn it, damn it!”
“He’s going to come back, Jack. He has to.”
Again the Major was speaking to him, being cryptic in the way of a classic Japanese cyberpunk goddess, such as she was. A brilliant hacker, too.
“We have more in common than you know, he and I. Deus Ex Machina, as they say. This camaraderie, it suits us. But I need to return to my own time, take what I’ve learned and swallow it. So, as I said, he’ll show up again. The threads of fate must be preserved.”
“Yeah. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. What I had to say to him, it pushed his buttons. He actually cried, right there in front of me. The little boy in me wanted so badly to run to him, but of course, that was the one thing I couldn’t do. Just like he couldn’t do anything for Rose. Or Donna. Or for anyone, you’d think, the way he just kept blubbering like an hysterical child. Oh god, Ianto... I never want to see that again. I can’t do that to him again. I don’t have it in me.”
“I know that. I’m here, Jack. I’m here. Just kiss me.”
The Welshman always did know what to say. Jack took him in his arms and squeezed, then swooped in to steal a tender kiss, pulling away just as the going got. Ianto tasted like saltwater taffy, good and fresh and soul lifting. A snog with him was as sunny as daylight. But The Doctor... he tasted of rain, of the time before twilight when everything slept and there was no sound. He tasted of beautiful risk, of safety, of the dangers inherent in unguarded proclivity. Those thin alien lips... the kisses they could craft, ripe and rich in the fullness of secret knowledge that only madness tempered with altruism could bring. The Doctor was his absinthe, but he was not The Doctor’s. No. The Lonely God danced only with Death, despite lifetimes of avoidance, of pleading. Of pain. There was no way to place it, elsewise. No way to parse the tide of unhappy information their lives had become. Both of them had passed through her veil to the other side of madness so many times, but still... after all of this, the fear of death still moved them to action. At least, Jack thought to himself, he could take solace in their shared fate. A shadow intruded on his diatribe suddenly, and he recognized the quiet footfalls as surely as he recognized the sound of his own voice.
“How long have you been here, Doctor?”
The alien came into the light then and just stood there, staring. There was such a smile on his face, such a warm, relaxing curl of the lips. It was almost a crime against God, wanting him to speak. Willing it. Jack had to grin at that, though... because somehow, they had both gotten release today. They were overdue for another disaster, always waiting, rotting in solitude as they watched from their wooden towers.
“Hrm. Dance only with Death, do I? Yes, I suppose that’s true, much as I try to forget. She, like the moon, is a harsh mistress, for in her face the truth of beauty is reflected, and forgotten is the lie. You and I... we have been lost in the dark for so very long. But, despite that, you... ”
The Time Agent stared back, savoring the puzzle even as he worked it out.
“What are you saying? Are you telling me I’m missing something, or that I haven’t missed anything at all? That’s it, isn’t it? Enigma inside a conundrum inside a riddle. I guess that means you’ve seen me die, only you can’t tell me. And I’ve got something I can’t tell you, at least not yet. Christ, Theta. That last slow dance had better give us both what we’ve needed, or I swear, by every god I’ve never met, if I can’t move Heaven I’ll raise Hell. We’ve saved too many lives for sacrifice to be a fool’s work.”
He splashed his face with the flats of his hands, as if expecting the numbing sting of ice water.
“Quod sum eris,” Theta Sigma said sadly, extending an arm and clutching the man’s head to his breast as sunlight gathered around them from the new dawn sun, lighting every surface with the glint of gold.
Then the vision was ended, and there was wet pavement beneath them. Jack’s head was in the Doctor’s lap. The Time Lord was stroking the man’s hair as though gentling a child, while those tumbling falls of ginger trickled down and hung, tickling the Captain’s cheek as they pooled across human skin. It was as though his secret failings were being buried in a desert of smooth red sand. He slept. And there would be no questing for this grail. Not for a long time yet.
With a sigh, the Time Lord uncrossed his legs and carefully slid himself out from beneath his friend’s upper body. He’d left the man a short time to go and get dressed, and the clothes he had on now were all solid whites and blacks, very crisp, very office. They reminded him distinctly of Turlough. And to think the trousers were his last pair, the very last pair of good slacks with trans-dimensional pockets...
“Might as well complete the ensemble, eh, self?” he muttered, fishing in his left for a pair of scissors.
Then he reached up, grabbed his hair, and...
“Don’t, Theta!” Jack murmured, sitting up and rubbing his eyes, “... that was -some- glamour you laid on me, you, you Robin Goodfellow, you. How long did you think you were going to let me sleep? Till the cows came home?”
“Erm, yes. And possibly the chickens.” The scissors lowered a finger’s length. Course, as for whose finger, that was up for debate.
“Oh, come on, Doctor! Glare no. 456 again? That’s so unoriginal. Just accept it. You’re delicious this way, and very, very Beck. You know, oddball American songwriter, long hair, shirt and tie, lanky as a stick.”
“...we know each other. Are you saying I’m pretty? Come to think of it, River Song said that too. Well, I suppose I could keep it around a while longer... but just think of all the low hanging branches and moose traps and commercial jet turbines I’d get caught in... not pretty.”
“...Doctor, you can’t fly. Did I mention you also look like that gorgeous stepchild Lyude from that console game Baten Kaitos?”
“What? You frighten me. And technically I can fly, but I’d have to regenerate into a Krillitane or a Beslan. Or a Weeping Angel or something. Wait, no, not a Weeping Angel, they’re assassins, nasty things. They have this obscene tendency to disguise themselves as Victorian seraphic statuary. Don’t ask.”
“Hah. I won’t. I’m Captain Cheesecake, remember? There’s my reputation to uphold.” Jack reached up to touch the Time Lord’s hair. “Besides... you’ve got your Cestrum latifolium, and I’ve got my Bard of Dayspring.”
Theta Sigma simply smiled, enjoying the reference for what it was.
Then the two men released each other and stood.
“Let’s not make this a battle of the bands, eh? I’ll cry.”
“And I’ll bring the chips and the senseless debauchery.”
“Can’t you just bring the chips?”
“What? After all that, you can’t tell me you’re not interested.”
“I don’t do Domestic, Jack.”
“I know. I just thought, well... one last toss in the hay, for my sake?”
“We never had a first one.”
“You could remedy that. Just one night! One night, with you, in the TARDIS, that’s all I want. Please.”
“Aren’t you in the least bit worried you’ll get me in Trouble? This body may be virgin, but I did have children once, Jack. And... grandchildren, too. Still, the Looms are overrated. Too much necessity, not enough sympathy.”
“Erm... they’re DNA mixers, Jack, used to create new life out of the old. The Looms were made to ensure the survival of our race, not long after we became Time Lords. The Pythia, who had maintained harsh rule over Gallifrey’s people for countless centuries, foresaw her own downfall in that moment, and so, because of that... woman, every birth on Gallifrey henceforth was stillborn. The curse was lifted once, for one of my companions and her lover. But... any hope of that is gone, now.”
“Oh my God, Doctor, I... ”
Shush yourself. It’s quite all right. How could you have known? I don’t exactly play well with others, even in the best of circumstances. I’ve been alone too long, and that is how it must remain. But I don’t see why a little comforting between friends wouldn’t liven things up a bit. What say we take a nice little stroll in the TARDIS and... ”
“Are you sure you’re ready? I don’t want it if you don’t.”
“Don’t be silly. This is probably the only action I’ll ever get, this side of the Medusa Cascade.”
“Uh-huh. You don’t say. Well, as to your question, I figure you know what you’re doing when it comes to high-functioning machinery.”
“I’m not dignifying that.”
“Didn’t expect you to. Can we go inside the TARDIS now? I can’t give you a big send-off if we stand out here in the cold much longer.”
“Oh, yes, I nearly forgot. My normal body temperature is 60 degrees. Does that mean I can’t expect any fireworks?”
“Don’t push your luck, Doctor. I might just make your dreams come true.”
“Huh. It’s not that you wouldn’t try, Jack. I know you would. However... I doubt it. Though, to be honest, the notion of my carrying a viable pregnancy to term does make me blush a bit. I am a sensitive science geek who loves children, after all.”
“Uh, you know, Doctor, in some countries admitting that wouldn’t exactly be... never mind. Suit yourself. For Science, then!” Jack kissed the alien on the lips, shutting him up, and they fell together through the TARDIS’ double access onto the console room floor.
Three minutes later...
“Oh. My. Giddy. Aunt.”
Three hours later...
“My my my my my. Are you sure that thing didn’t come with a handbook?”
“Theta! Shut up and kiss me!”
“You mean like this?”
“You kiss like a T’laxan Mouth Breeder!”
“I take it you approve then? Shall I steal another?”
“Gulp. I think I need a Doctor.”
“Oh, ho! I think so, too. Tired yet?”
Three days later...
“Jack! Jack get in here!”
“What is it, Doctor? Is something wrong? What’s going on? Why are you running scans on yourself?”
But the alien just patted his stomach and smiled. “Just wanted to confirm my suspicions.”
“Suspicions? Theta? If you’re saying what I think you’re saying... ”
“I am. The chance of it happening was nigh an improbability, but... I am.”
Jack curled his lips into a soft smile, enjoying the triumph that had suddenly bathed the Time Lord’s entire manner. “Theta... ”
But the sound of rapping caught Jack’s attention, making him stop in mid-sentence and turn in the direction of the front of the flat. There was someone at the door.
He looked over at the alien, who shrugged it off.
“I know him. In fact, I knew who it was before you heard his knock, which is rather distinctive, by the way. A few years ago in New York, he was quite the hero agent at the local FBI office. Righted quite a few wrongs in his day, that one. But then, great minds think alike.”
Theta ruffled his own hair in sleepy delight, then rubbed at his body as though he’d never touched himself before. He felt a spectacular sort of awe at his condition, and that awe clinging to him like droplets of water after a bath. A baby, no. babies... three new lives all their own were growing inside him. It was gonna be fantastic!
“Say, Jack? Why don’t you let our visitor in? I called him last night. Go on! He won’t bite. Might kick though. Or shoot. He is fond of shooting things. Almost as much as you. Go on, invite the man in! He’s a proper gentleman, he is! A throwback to Earth’s first golden era. A man out of step, much like the two of us. You’ll like him, Jack.”
One little wink. And that one little wink was all it ever took to get Jack to do whatever the Time Lord asked. And Jack knew it. So he went to the door, and let the man in.
“Aloysius! Splendid day, isn’t it?”
The Doctor grinned as the man, a tall, straight-backed albino in a crisp black Italian suit, followed Jack silently into the den.
“Yes, Doctor Bloom. A rather pleasant day indeed!” Aloysius nodded at Jack, his eyes bright and wide and fixed on the Time Lord.
“And I simply must offer my congratulation. You have that certain glow about you.”
The Doctor moved to rise, but the albino strode to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. Smiling faintly, Theta patted the hand, then took the man’s fingers in his and grasped them with more warmth than Jack had ever seen from him.
“Burning it was the right thing to do, you know. Still, with that rather spectacular memory of yours... ”
The alien stiffened in his chair, as though considering an option he wasn’t prepared to voice, and the smile in his eyes died abruptly.
“I’m glad you came, Aloysius. And you can drop the Bloom, unless you prefer it. I don’t really mind. But, in any case thank you for coming. I would never have rung you if it were manageable otherwise, but well... as you can see...” His deep brown eyes fell to his skinny stomach, and he sighed.
“I can’t do much of anything now, in my state. You were the only man I knew besides Jack and myself brilliant enough to... handle things. Jack is going, of course. I will provide technical support from the TARDIS, should you require it. But I can’t go with. It would be far too dangerous for my unborn, what with the possibility of dying and regenerating and such.”
“I agree. Tell me what I need to know.”
“All right. Allons-y, then. The signal is coming from this planet, and I’ve gotten a lock on it, but I shouldn’t go near it, if you take my meaning. Not until I’m a bit farther along. I need at least that much time to prepare myself before I... touch it. Because if it’s what I think it is... ” The Doctor looked away from their eyes, away from the world, turning inward to the sea of memories and sensations that filled his every waking moment. “...my luck has just run out.”