Right. So here's the first seven of the aforementioned eleven pages-- I'm working my way steadily through chapter two, which I'm hoping to have ready next week. Despite myself, I'm fascinated by the last three episodes of Doctor Who, Series Three. The whole Utopia/Master arc, not to mention how conveniently Torchwood got "sidetracked to the Himalayas". This takes place during the Year That Never Was and, as such, is pretty dark. Nothin' I could do about that. But it *is* hardcore Jack/Ianto, with a hopeful ending and a (planned) happy sequel.
Enough of my yammering-- if I talk any more, I'm going to lose my nerve and not post.
As always, I can't thank you enough for bothering to read. If I could bother you just a bit more to comment, I'd be greatly in your debt. ^___^
"'Tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely."
-Hamlet, Act I, Scene II
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
Despite the ache and jump of exhaustion in her bones, Letitia Jones always did her level best to avoid sleep. In her family's cell on board the Valiant, she would simply sit on her bunk, staring at the shapes the shadows made, listening the sigh of the steam valves near by. The ship's engines were enormous and tireless; their churning and fire pervaded every level, save the polished corridors of Saxon's domain. The whir, the rumbling, sounded like waves on sick, toxic beach. If she did sleep, Tish knew the sound would slither under her dreams, becoming the clatter of bones in a charnel house.
Or the metallic cackling of spheres.
However much those dreams infected and burned, Tish might have slept in spite of them. Even seeing Japan-- burning, burning with massive blue-hot flames-- in the deep, reflective well of sleep would have been worth it, just to give her body the rest it craved. It was waking up she couldn't stand, coming to consciousness after two hundred twenty four days of imprisonment and *still* having that blind, beautiful moment in which she did not remember how much things had changed. It was agony to face that moment and have it all ripped away, to hear that whir-hiss-whir of engines and know that everything was gone. Charred and paved over with factories, smoke rising to blot out the sun. Sleep could not be avoided entirely-- how she envied Jack sometimes!-- but she discovered that the punchy, disconnected effects of deprivation were a bit like a drug. Once, in some late night telephone conversation, Martha had told her that sleep was one of the few things human beings could not go with out. Ever the medical student, she'd rattled off all the statistics about food and water and vitamins, which had long since slipped from Tish's conscious mind. But she remembered that lilt when Martha talked about the connection between sleep and sanity, the mysteries of rapid eye movement.
They'd joked, then, saying university was one big sleep deprivation experiment.
After forty eight hours of wakefulness, she found that odd bits of color became more pronounced. The light, creamy brown of the Master's coffee, the faded blue stripes in the poor Doctor's rumbled suit. Sometimes, she saw little furry shadows skittering along the walls, or floating green spots, emerald like a pendant she'd once lusted after. She'd watch them waft lazily when the Master ordered her to give him a massage, wondering how they managed never to collide with one another. When he stuck her thumb into Mum's special chocolate cake and licked the icing off it (don't look at Mum, he's trying to get to her, oh his mouth is cold and wet and wrong, oh no) she tried to count them, or played connect the dots. That was good, because he soon tired of that humiliation, moved on to molesting that Tanya girl in front of his wife.
The torture, the abasement, was almost always subtle. The Master didn't like to get bloody with the Jones family-- he was playing a long game with them, breaking them slowly while he waited for Martha to come.
He saved the blood for Jack.
Tish shifted, rattling her handcuffs slightly as she moved to take pressure off her knee. Mum and Dad were asleep, slumped together on the cell's other bunk, and Mum's mouth was twisting sourly in her sleep. There was no way of telling time down here, unlike the clock-festooned chambers of the Master's upper realm. Here, the awful countdown had no meaning, and time seemed wear away into nothing. The only real display was in Jack's cell, along with the Master's savage tally of exactly how many times he'd killed Captain Harkness. Tish bit her lip, the screams she'd heard earlier in the evening echoing back in her mind. In the beginning, the Master had killed Jack almost every day, each time a different way, as if he was running down some sort of warped laundry list. Drowning and burning, hanging, lynching, blood-loss, asphyxiation, poisons that acted fast and ones that moved so achingly slow-- he'd inflicted them all on her sister's friend, almost bouncing with that sadistic grin on his face. It was like a child's idea of a smile, that lunatic show of teeth, too extreme and hiding something that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. No matter how many times she'd seen the Captain lurch, gasping, back to life, Tish could never quite believe it. There was something otherworldly about Jack Harkness, aside from his admittedly astonishing good looks. She wondered if coming back (resurrecting! such a bizarre, mystical word) was like waking, if Jack ever experienced those few, blurry moments of hope before awareness set in.
What did he see, when his heart stopped and that last death-rattle moved in his chest? It had to be better than a world where time tore in a malevolent rift across the sky, but Tish was afraid to ask.
She most have dozed for a few minutes despite her efforts, because Tish's next awareness of being hauled to her feet by one of the former UNIT guards. She rubbed her wrist absently when he undid the handcuffs, smoothing the skirt of her ridiculous maid's uniform in spite of herself. Mum and Dad were already up-- she watched with a dull sort of surprise as her father briefly stroked her mother's cheek, leaving a small smudge of grease. The former Mrs. Jones watched the guards haul him down the long hallway towards the main engines, and when she did turn her gaze to Tish the iron cast of defiance was a little stronger in her eyes. Cautiously, Tish flashed a very brief smile, teetering on her high heels as the guard shoved her out the door. A tray was placed her in hands, and Tish gained her own momentum from there, if only to keep the foreign hands from lingering on her skin. She wasn't really awake, she kept blinking as she moved, but nothing would come into focus. No matter; her subconscious knew the way, and guided her body amidst the ship's maze. Probably best not to think of it, anyway.
Entering the control room, she glanced briefly at the tray she held. Coffee, sugar, and cream, along with various breakfast offerings. She set the tray down on the conference table and absently began fixing the Master's coffee-- one cream, one sugar, stirred clockwise five times. Unable to see him, she could never the less sensed his presence in the room, listening hard for any sound or movement. Nothing. She set two places at the head of the table. There were scrambled eggs for the thing that called himself Saxon, a muffin and hash for vacant little Lucy, and she wondered not for the first time if the Master really needed to eat. Sometimes, she daydreamed of poisoning him, watching him choke as bile and blood run down his chin, but she wouldn't know where to begin. Martha would know; Martha took toxicology and thought it great fun.
'Bring me a present from your travels, Sissy,' Tish thought vaguely towards the Earth below. She hadn't called Martha 'Sissy' since she'd been in nursery school. 'Bring me a souvenir. Some Anthrax maybe, even some Draino. A big ol' value jug of Clorox Bleach.'
"There's that pretty smile." The Master's hand was on her chin before Tish fully registered his words. Shrinking back automatically, she looked past him at the ancient, laboring form of Martha's Doctor. He closed his eyes briefly as he crawled out of his cage, and she flinched at the obvious effort it took.
Then fingers were being snapped in her face.
"Excuse me!" The Master shouted, waiting for her to look at him. "So rude," he huffed, giving Tish a hearty push as he whirled back to the Doctor. She managed to fall away from the table, landing heavily on her elbow. It was better than having to reset breakfast. "As I was saying," the Master continued, bending down to cup the Doctor's wrinkled chin. "Tish managed a smile for me! Why can't you? Everyone's so gloomy around here. You'd think it was the end of the world, or something!" He laughed at his own joke, wildly, while Tish picked herself off the floor. "I really need some cheering up-- I just hate gloomy people. Lucy!"
"Yes, dear." Monotone reply. Tish glanced up to see Lucy Saxon standing in the doorway, as if summoned by the Master's very words. Swaying slightly, she came as bid to his side, form embraced by the kind of formal gown Tish had once longed to own. The dipping back and satin sweet-heart necklines had once seemed so elegant; now they struck her as perverse. Today's gown was a vivid pink, dripping crystal beads where it clung to Lucy's breasts.
"Smile," the Master ordered Lucy, who grinned grotesquely. "Marvelous!" praised Saxon, as if she were a particularly clever dog. He clapped his hands, rubbing them together as he made for the sideboard. "Let's do something different today!" He rummaged about with enthusiasm, emerging with one of the military MREs that were often used to feed Jack. He threw it on the table, upsetting the coffee Tish had so carefully prepared. Ripping open the package, he pried open the tin of beans and began dumping a fine, pale silver powder over it.
"Arsenic poisoning," the Master narrated, almost as if he could read Tish's mind. "This'll be fun! Takes a while to build up in the human body, you know-- can be slow and agonizing if you do it right. Of course, that freak isn't completely human, but if I give him too much this time we can always give it another go! 'Sides, I imagine it'll take a great deal more to kill him, perhaps even triple the normal human limit." He stabbed a spoon into the meal, which looked as if it had been topped by a handful of stale sugar. The powdered kind you used on waffles. For a dizzying moment, a snapshot rose in Tish's mind: Christmas morning, eating waffles and strawberries in her pajamas, and Leo reaching over to smear some sugar on her nose.
Her stomach lurched.
"Take this along then," the Master ordered, nodding between the MRE and Tish's now-empty tray. "Jack's a growing boy, and he does need to eat." Tish gathered the items on autopilot, forcing herself to move towards the door slowly. The Master called, "Oh, Tish!"
"Yes, Master?" She stopped, amazed that the words still felt like maggots on her tongue.
"Be a dear and tell your mother to bring me more coffee. You spilled this all over! Off you go then. Bless."
"Mornin', Tish!" Jack drawled as soon as he caught sight of her. A UNIT guard entered the cell behind Tish, locking the door and moving to check Jack's chains without actually acknowledging either prisoner.
"Good morning, Jack," she replied, glancing at the chalk board on the wall. The Master had written 'DEAD FREAK' there, along with a lousy stick figure and his ever-increasing tally. There had been seventy-two neat white slashes the morning prior-- now Tish saw there were seventy-four. Without meaning to, she looked in askance at Jack, who winked and flashed her that vaudeville grin.
"Electroshock," he said, by way of explanation. He bounced a little on his heels, rocking back and forth as much as the chains would allow. "That was kind of nasty. Feel all charged up, though-- kind of like that pink bunny."
As always, his bizarre humor drew her out, "What, on the adverts?"
"Yup!" His blue eyes twinkled-- a schoolboy's wickedness. "I keep going, and going, and going..."
"Oh, stop," she admonished, blushing while he leered. She set the tray down, lifting the tainted MRE. "What was the other one?"
"Oh," Jack rolled his shoulders. "They shot me again-- I was just complimenting this cute soldier's ass. I thought the twenty-first century was supposed to be more open-minded."
"They shot you for harassment?" Tish inquired, frowning as a brief but potent shadow flickered across the Captain's face. And then, without waiting for a reply, "You shouldn't wind them up." He was doing it on purpose, she knew-- he took some strange joy in goading them, and every time they shot him he acted as if he'd won.
"Shame of it was," Jack continued gamely, as if he hadn't heard her, "I've seen asses that were worth getting shot over, and that was not one of them." He waited a beat before focusing on the tin of food. "Is that arsenic?"
"Yes," Tish said, despite the warning look from the guard. It hardly mattered-- Jack had to eat, and she had to feed him. The Master'd had roped him up from the ceiling ever since Jack-- shuddering and freshly back from the dead-- had surged up and tried to choke his torturer.
"That's original," the Captain's tone was heavy on the sarcasm. He opened his mouth, nodding in encouragement as Tish lifted the spoon. When her hand began to shake, he whispered, "It's not a big deal, sweetie."
"I'm feeding you poison," she murmured, feeling ill.
"And I don't really die. Besides, I need more minerals in my diet." She laughed, quick and unexpected, and as she did he leaned forward and took the spoon into his mouth. Swallowing, he licked his lips. "See, it's just a little dry."
Sometimes, while Tish ironed the Master's shirts, or scrubbed one of the Valiant's already-gleaming decks she made up stories about where and when Jack Harkness came from. He'd been so bold, so worried and yet self-assured, that Tish couldn't help but be drawn to him a little, even before she realized he wasn't able to die. He was friends with Martha and her Doctor, that was clear, but there wasn't much else she could ask him without being afraid she'd somehow lead Saxon to her sister. Who knew what little detail could be important, when it was obvious the Master knew so much about all of them?
'You just look as lovely as possible,' he'd instructed her at Downing Street and, despite the fact she'd voted for him, trusted him, that smile had caused her flesh to crawl. Traps-- seemingly endless traps, set for her entire family. Not the glaringly obvious ones you saw in movies or spy thrillers, but a subtle weave that worked into their lives, the same way Harold Saxon had worked himself, like some undetected thorn, into Britain's heart. An alien who looked like any other man on the street, this man who supposedly went to university, played rugby, wrote a book, and brought ruin to the world.
The Doctor, the poor brave Doctor was an alien as well-- or so Tisha assumed. In the beginning, he'd baited the Master endlessly with seemingly innocent words or anecdotes, more than once prompting bizarre, rage-filled monologues from the Master. For all Saxon's seemingly manic calm, Tish knew now that there was a virulent temper underneath. In a Doctor-inspired fury, he could rant for hours, bringing up grievances that sounded centuries old. He was rough with the Doctor, always, his grip punishing as he demanded why a pathetic race of mammals was so much more important than one of his own. The entire ship would hold its breath, waiting for gunfire, for the sound of Lucy screaming, for other metallic clattering they dared not name. Finally, the Master had drawn the Doctor aside-- taken him into the chambers normally reserved for Lucy and various other unfortunate women.
'He's going to kill him now,' Tish remembered thinking, waiting for the door to slide shut. That white panel would hide all manner of horrors, and she had looked to her Mum for some small comfort. There had been tears in the other woman's eyes. And the door had not closed-- instead, in full view of the staff and prisoners and military personnel, the Master had embraced the Doctor with an awful tenderness, and whispered something in his ear. There was no way Tish could hear it-- no way anyone could-- and there were nights she feared a time would come for the Master breathe words to her as well, ones with hidden power, like those which had silenced the Doctor himself.
It had been Lucy who voiced the question on all their minds. Speaking tremulously into the milky silence, her eyes riveted on the Doctor's slumped form, she'd dared the wrath of the Master and his onyx spheres, asking; "What have you done to him."
Some one was going to die that day, Tish had sure of it-- mostly since rare was the day that someone did not. It seemed, however, that the Master's rage had gone. He laughed, and his spheres laughed with him, an awful cascade of death bells.
"My dear Lucy," he'd said, drawing her into the same embrace in which he still held the Doctor. "I do believe I broke his hearts."
Now, as she knelt on the floor of the main deck, scrubbing until the glare of the metal hurt her eyes, she thought she would give anything to be spared what it was the Doctor knew. It was not the first time she had thought such a thing. Two hundred twenty-four days had taught her a lot about death, and the old cliché about fates worse than. Somewhere along the line, she had stopped thinking of terms of 'if' she should die, and started anticipating 'when'.
'Before he can use me to threaten Martha,' she murmured inwardly. She crawled forward a bit, pulling the bucket of disinfectant behind her. The artificial smell of oranges did nothing to mask the true odor of chemicals, and she flinched just a little as she dipped the scrub brush again. Cuts she'd previously been unaware of stung, raw and open. 'And make it quick,' Tish thought without humor. That, at least, she might have a bit of control over. If he made up his mind to kill her, she'd do her best to get a rise out of him. Intentionally or no, the Doctor had shown her how, had ripped at the Master's calculating cruelty with certain words and phrases. Make him angry enough and he'd snap, end it quick and then regret the loss of entertainment. How strange for a bullet to the head to seem like a luxury! A little bit of metal lodged in her brain, and the house lights would go down. Sorry folks, show's over.
The dead didn't feel pain, and they couldn't be made to betray just to stop the agony. Still and safe, all corpses were, and she could not keep herself from envying them their peace.
Tish had seen the Master draw death out like a lone, horrid vibration of a violin. Like some nightmarish artist, he worked with precision to tear the human body without breaking it completely, mutilating until the ruins matched some image in his mind. Deep in the bowels of the Valiant, there was another chamber, not unlike the one he so often used to 'visit' with Lucy. This one, too, needed to be cleaned-- and Tish bit her lips, filled with the sense memory of oranges and blood-- it's floors caked with blood and tissue and sometimes little bits of blood. She'd knelt amongst the human debris several times before, though Mum tried hard to make sure she drew the duty instead. It was usually empty when she did scrub it down ('a suite between occupants,' the Master would say, with that disturbing cocktail-party laugh), but not always. There had been that resistance leader muttering in broken Russian as she turned her bloody eye sockets up towards something only she could see; a few former dictators, broken, and shameless, begging for limbs that were scattered on the far side of the room.
And Harper-- one of Jack's friends, frowning down at her from the torture bench. He'd been talkative but incoherent in his death-throes, seemingly oblivious to his gaping stomach wound. As Tish had scrubbed and gagged, he'd called out for a girl called Diane, begging her and cursing her in turn. Slowly, his shouts had become whispered; he'd thrashed despite his failing body, his accent becoming thicker and more broken.
'Where's Diane?' he'd asked, and Tish remembered just sitting there, unable to move, because she knew that sound moving underneath his breathing. She'd watched Jack die enough times to know that rattle and-- hands and uniform covered in what was in all probability a mix of cleaner and a strange man's blood-- she had come to Harper's side. There were always guards right outside the door, in every corridor, and she'd kept looking over her shoulder, drawn despite her very real fear.
'Diane is coming,' she'd whispered, reaching out and then snatching back her hand. She'd told herself she was afraid of hurting him, but really she'd been afraid of leaving evidence, of being caught giving comfort. 'She's a bit late, is all.' Harper had nodded, shallow but eager, and Tish had breathlessly added, 'These things happen when you travel. But she'll be here soon.'
'S'good,' he'd replied, the rattle getting louder as he exhaled. 'I was a right arse, I need to tell her--'
'I'm sure she--' Understands, Tish had intended to finish, but then there'd been one last miserable cough, and the man called Harper was dead. She had wanted to close his sightless eyes or smooth his hair, but instead she'd sunk to her knees and reached mindlessly to continue scrubbing the floor.
"Oranges are death," Tish said suddenly, shocked out her revere when she heard the echo of her own voice. Stiffening with unbridled fear, she looked wildly around the main deck, her relief like a physical lump in her throat when she saw she was almost completely alone. There was only the Doctor, silent but watchful, still pushed into the corner the Master had left him in earlier. Exhaling slowly, Tish licked her dry lips and met that dark gaze, not knowing what she was asking for but knowing she wanted *something* from the bent old man. He looked back at her steadily, eyes so much older than the aged body. Surprised by the sudden anger twisting across her chest, Tish whispered, "You have two hearts and my brother is dead and the *whole world stinks of oranges*!" No answer, and she stood, jerking the almost-empty bucket up with her.
"The child Martha walks the Earth," the Doctor said, soft but audible. It was something Tish had heard whispered amongst the mechanics brought up to service the Valiant, a rumour that trembled with unspoken awe. No matter how many times it reached her ears, Tish could never quite connect that vague, sainted image with her sister; she loved Martha as the girl who'd taught her to roller-skate and teased her about her first boyfriend, not as a kevlar-clad Joan of Arc. "Martha walks through the fires of Japan, across the shipyards that stretch from the Black Sea to the Bering Straight." The Doctor continued steadily, and his words kindled just a flutter of pain in her chest. "She walks through orchards full of orange blossoms and remains untouched."
"I can't hope!" Tish hissed, desperate for him to stop, afraid he wouldn't go on. "It hurts."
"She's my sister, not a super-hero!" she said, aware she was beginning to raise her voice but unable to stop. "And you--"
Footsteps, in the hallway, and she turned away quickly, hurrying a safe distance away before slowing as if she'd just been making her way out. Nothing amiss, nothing out of order. She was almost to the door when Lucy entered, smearing the clean floor with the grease on her precarious shoes.
'I just mopped that, you vacuous bitch,' Tish thought, quickly stepping out of the way. Lucy breezed by, almost dancing, as several UNIT guards trailed behind her. Tish, looking studiously down at the floor, saw two unfamiliar sets of feet-- a man and a woman, both in severely battered and patched snow boots.
"Harry!" Lucy caroled, doing a little twirl. "Har-ry, dar-ling. I found a sur-prise!"
The Master entered from the side corridor, already cross. "Are you permitted to address me like that? How many times do I--" he broke off, and Tish dared not look up, focusing only on thinking herself small and unimportant. His sudden laughter made her shake.
"How fan-tastic! Wonderful! Fabulous, even!" In one of his hairpin mood swings, the Master's voice oozed sudden sadistic glee and, in spite of herself, Tish looked up. There were indeed two prisoners-- male and female, as she had surmised-- dressed in layers of rags and caked with foreign soil. They stood staring at the Master, eyes unable to completely hide their fear even as they tilted their chins up in defiance. The woman was slim underneath her wrappings, Asian in appearance, with a messy scarf tied around her head. Shoulder to shoulder with his smaller companion, the man took the slightest step forward, as if to shield. Tish took in his dark hair and hard blue eyes, glancing from the gash running down his cheek to his tightly balled fists. His left hand was very obviously missing a finger.
"I knew I needed something to break up the routine, and here it is!" the Master gestured vaguely. "Isn't it wonderful how everything goes my way? Mine is a charmed life."
"I'm sure." Tish knew surprise, and then a stab of fear, as the male prisoner snorted noisily, making a show of rolling his eyes. The Master calmly, almost casually, kicked him in the knee, sending him to the ground. The man gave nothing but a small grunt of pain, making no move to stand, not reacting when the Master placed a foot on the small of his back.
"Oh, this *is* going to be fun!" Saxon sing-songed. "Ianto Jones," he said to the prone man, before nodding to the girl, "Toshiko Sato, welcome aboard the Valiant. I think your stay shall be... very entertaining."
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