Jack sighed and rested a hand on the man’s pale forehead. It had been nearly a week since the incident with the polymorph, and still The Doctor showed no signs of waking. His skin was still feverish to the touch, and he hadn’t stopped moaning since Jack had settled him in their overlarge bed five days before. Their children had never cried for him, not once, not even when Aunty Martha and Aunty Sarah Jane had given them their first bath. It was as if they knew their mother was lying prostrate in their parents’ room, propped against soft pillows and their father’s silent pleas. They probably did. They were The Doctor’s children, after all. Two boys they were, half Time Lord half human, born that same five days ago to a mother who wasn’t really a mother at all, but a man, an alien time traveler called The Doctor, the lonely, errant son of ruined Gallifrey. But not the man Jack loved. The man Jack loved was drifting, locked in darkness behind two shut lids like blinds that held the days at bay.
He said it as if expecting an answer. Dialogue was good for catatonics, Martha had told him. She would drop in from time to time, whenever she could tear herself away from her duties at Torchwood. But Martha wasn’t here now. Couldn’t be. She had a life beyond The Doctor.
“I thought you might like something relaxing,” Jack murmured, slapping on a grin he didn’t feel for the prostrate figure in the bed. He picked up the cd cover, glanced idly at the list of songs printed on slick, glossy paper.
“let’s see...oh wait. You liked the Beatles, didn’t you? Well Doctor, it’s not them singing it, but I know for a fact that they wrote it. If you were awake, I imagine you’d hum along with, ah! Here you go, the Baez years. Nice and sad and thought provoking... hell, come to think of it, I seem to recall you bearing an uncanny resemblance to Dylan, then... ”
Soon, strains of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ sung in a strong folk soprano lilted harshly from the built-in speakers on the turntable, and Jack felt a bitter twinge of satisfaction as the figure on the bed shivered once, then sank deeper into the strange, not quite restful fugue. Jack Harkness prayed for restful for every time he lay down beside the Time Lord at night, hoping against all sense and expectation that they’d wake up together. But no. For a whole week, it had been nothing but wizened stares from their two precious boys, sad, sisterly smiles from Martha and Sarah Jane, the occasional surprise visit from Mickey Smith, who’d brought by Jackie Tyler’s tea recipe on his way to clock in at the Torchwood Hub on Tuesday. He was working for Jack too now, having found fresh purpose under Torchwood’s new management. Purpose. Jack could feel the lack run off him in waves, all due to the rapturous bicentennial enigma that was lying in the double bed in their room. Because of The Doctor, he couldn’t go back to work. He couldn’t think of working now, he’d be too distracted. What if the Time Lord woke up needing medical attention while Captain Cheesecake was off trying to save his little corner of Cardiff? What if the twins flash fried themselves trying to take apart the toaster? He tossed a glance over at the comatose alien, who of course, hadn’t roused since he’d last looked. What if someone broke in and...
‘Ha. Nice going, Jack,” he said aloud, rubbing a thumb against the bridge of his nose as he slumped into a black leather chair, “... you’ve only been a father -this time- for five days and you’ve already become a neurotic mess. Weellll...let’s see, five days down, nine hundred and ninety nine quadrillion, nine hundred and ninety nine billion, nine hundred and ninety nine million, nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine days to go. Yeah. Good one, Jack.”
His fingers closed on the pillow behind him. It was a small throw pillow, a soft, pleasing round of vibrant red. He curled his hand over the edge, each digit creeping across the fabric as his palm slowly encroached on its narrow, overstuffed width. Then he squeezed, feeling each little tension strand of tendon in his wrist clench together as he made a fist. For a small fraction of time, the cherry red object, the tight, narrow, three dimensional circle he held became his world. Jack stared at it, taking it in, fixing on its contours like a shrike about to pin its prey on the tip of a fencepost. Or the long, sharp thorn of a solitary rose. He’d never been able to enjoy bird watching after the pterodactyl...and he knew he wouldn’t be able to play shrike to The Doctor’s starling. The pillow faded in importance then, and so he flung it across the room, hitting a side table and knocking an antique secretary lamp onto the floor.
A soft sobbing issued from the twins room, and it took Jack two whole minutes to realize they were crying. He slumped out of the black leather monster and sauntered off to their ‘childproof’ crib, where they hung like shaved gibbons, dangling from the bars, their heads turning in unison as he entered their abode.
“I’m guessing you two are hungry, right? Bout time you little time terrors wanted food. This is the first time since you were born that you’ve showed any interest in eating. I was beginning to think I was stuck in a bad remake of ‘Children of the Damned’. Come here.”
He hefted one, then the other and carried them to where their ‘mother’ lay sleeping. What light, fragile things they were, so small, so delicate. So unnervingly wise. They never sullied themselves, never needed diapers. They never needed sleep, except for an hour a day, which they took at their leisure... hardly ever made a noise, until they needed food. But they hadn’t till now. What could it mean?
A soft moan dragged him back to himself, and he ran to the bedroom with the boys in his arms, being careful not to injure them on any furniture as he flew toward the sound. Theta. Had he... when he reached the bed, the only obvious change was the smooth fingered hand brushing the floor. Nothing else, nothing... wait. He came close, concentrating on every little lack of movement, every barely drawn breath, every shallow rise of The Doctor’s chest. Then he saw it.
Across the alien’s slim chest, a dark stain was spreading, like the night sky over Boeshane. Oh no. No no no no No! How could he be injured? Had they missed a grub? He laid the twins on the bed beside The Doctor and reached for the hem of the overlarge pinstripe white shirt he’d dressed him in that morning. With one hand over, one hand beneath, he tackled the first button on the semi stiff shirt front, numb fingered and bleary eyed as he fumbled closer to the last four, which were hiding the source of the dampness. The damn stupid buttons wouldn’t come undone! Jack bit his lower lip to keep from screaming out a string of curse words, then looked over at the boys. They were gazing down at the Time Lord, nuzzling into his shoulder like newborn animals. He was going to lose him. Again. They all were. Suddenly his head lolled against his will and he sank onto The Doctor’s chest, sobbing silently, his upper body catching against a hard left nipple.
Hard? Why would Theta’s nipples be hard, if he was dying? Unless he wasn’t. Stupid. Brain dead. Time Agent. Just rip the shirt off! Rip it off!
Grinning like a bedlamite, Jack tore open the shirt to examine the wet splotch of skin, popping the last four buttons into the four corners of the bedroom. The color of the stuff practically screamed -not blood-! Oh no. The fluid was a pale yellowish cream color, lukewarm and somewhat translucent. He stuck a finger in it, touched the digit to his lips and rolled it over his tongue.
“Ohh. Erm, let’s see... it’s... slightly sweet. Definitely not blood. A bit buttery... judging from that thick, full taste, it’s definitely nutrient rich... is that colostrum? It is! Hey!”
He smacked himself with the palm of his hand, then looked at the two infants, who had found the Doctor’s modest teats and thus were otherwise engaged.
“Milk, boys, milk! Oh. You already found Daddy’s erm... breasts... Damn I was meaning to ask about those... Oh well, enjoy your first breakfast on the outside, boys. Ah.” He patted each one on the head and lay down beside his lover, hoping to steal a few quiet moments before the next disaster.
“If your father doesn’t wake up soon... ” Jack murmured as relief fed exhaustion washed away all thoughts of getting up for the day, “... I may just take up smoking. Nicotine free herbals, of course. I wouldn’t want to end up back on his naughty list...it might cast serious doubts on your getting a baby sister or two for Christmas.”
Jack allowed himself a small chuckle at his own expense, then settled in beside the Time Lord for a nap. But as he dozed, a vague shape in tatters moved across the lot behind his flat, heading for the lonely police box. One knock. Two knocks. An exasperated third echoed hollowly against the faded blue of the double wooden doors, till at last a key jangled loose from an alcove at the top after a few more here and there taps. Slim white fingers reached to retrieve the shiny thing from the wet ground, fitting it in the lock with ease. The doors opened. Then they closed again behind the newcomer, and a familiar, quiet whirring bubbled through the crisp air.