Changing Me

DOCTOR WHO.

Rating may be at a precautionary high, but better safe than sorry.

"Doesn't it get lonely?" He paused for a moment, fingers ghosting over the controls. "From time to time," he replied evenly, his tone barely changing. My frown cleared as I joined him near the controls, leaning backwards against the cool metal console. He glanced over, blue eyes unreadable. "It always seems so much better through someone else's eyes." Eventual Doctor/OC.

Story is complete, and part of a never-ending series.

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16. Don't Give Up

Sixteen: Don’t Give Up

Jack lead me through the Torchwood facility- a sort of mini-tour- and introduced me to his team. The place wasn’t as big as I was expecting from the grand entryway; apparently, Jack had only been in charge for a couple of years, and thus hadn’t had the time nor funding to make Torchwood Three a really big facility. Nonetheless, what I did see of it was wildly impressive and the archives, meticulously maintained by Ianto, were full of files on different species. Just looking at the rows upon rows of files on all the identified alien species to have visited Earth made me a little bit dizzy.

“Wow,” I murmured, absently drifting towards the ‘S’ section to look for the Skith, and once I’d found them, off to the ‘T’ section to look for Time Lord. Jack let me take the file down with Ianto buzzing behind me about not messing it up because it took forever to amass this amount of information, and I sat cross-legged in the aisle to read. From what I’d seen of the Doctor and of Jack’s reaction to him, I expected there to be pages upon pages of information.

Instead, there was just a single, cramped sheet of A4 paper that named the war I remembered the Doctor mentioning. The Last Great Time War had been fought between the Daleks and the Time Lords, primarily, and the prize was all of creation. It was funny, because there was no defined reason for the war ending, only that one day the war and every species fighting in it had disappeared from time and space, locked away forever behind the most powerful temporal force in history. The file didn’t say who activated the Time Lock, or why, but it did mention that the only survivor was a Time Lord who travelled in a blue police box.

The Doctor.

Questions whirled in my mind and I flipped the page over, hoping for more information, but there was nothing but for a list of footnotes directing me to the Daleks, and the Doctor, who both had individual files and would hold more information. Jack and Ianto had backed off while I read, but looked up when I scrambled for my feet and dashed off towards the ‘D’ section. I had to see a Dalek. I had to know what had been so important, so dramatically necessary that two of the greatest species ever had to die for it. I wanted to know how the Doctor- and my mother- had survived when nobody else did.

“Kia,” Jack’s hand settled over the Doctor’s file just as I reached up to take it down. It was thick and looked incredibly heavy- it was at least twice the size of the Bible, and crammed full of paper and sticky notes and photographs. I glared at Jack and huffed under my breath, grabbing instead the Dalek file from right beside the Doctor’s. Something about seeing those two archived so close to one another made me vaguely ill.

“I can look at this one, right?” I asked Jack, a little bitter, as I sat down anyway and flipped through the pages. The Daleks, I decided, didn’t look terribly scary. Like pepperpots with a plunger and a whisk. The sheer detail that the creator of this file had gone into with them made me re-evaluate though; they could kill with a single shot, had no concept of discrimination nor mercy, and were driven by a singular purpose; to kill anything that wasn’t a Dalek. I could hardly imagine anybody standing up against an army such as the Daleks, and respected the Time Lords more for doing so. “All of creation and they stood in your way,” I whispered to a photograph of the Dalek Emperor, his single eye seeming to cut right through my soul. There was a little voice recorder taped inside the file and, out of pure curiosity, I pressed it.

The noise that was emitted sent terror shooting through my entire body. Jack looked up at the sound of it and I froze, horrified. “EXTERMINATE!” a metallic voice ground, a voice so cold and full of so much rage I couldn’t help but start to shake at the sound of it. “EXTERMINATE THE TIME LORDS!”

The watch jumped against my chest, a feeling of panic rising so fast that it was all I could do not to throw the file away. I slammed it closed and slid backwards on the floor, arms instantly going around my knees as I trembled and tried to bring my panic under control. I vaguely heard Ianto say something about coffee and watched through bleary eyes as he darted out the door, leaving me alone with Jack Harkness, who sat beside me with a sympathetic look.

“He said there was a war,” I mumbled to my knees, not brave or steady enough to look up. “He said that everybody died. I just… I guess it didn’t quite click until just now, seeing it written like that. There was a war and he lost everything, then I just…”

“Kia,” Jack interrupted me gently, his hand squeezing my shoulder comfortingly. “You weren’t to blame. How could you have possibly known the magnitude of the Time War?” I shrugged, feeling just a little better. But still so guilty. So terribly, incredibly guilty. The Doctor and I were both grieving, me for a parent and him for a planet, but did that give me the right to deny him the one thing I so desperately wanted from him? What amount of suffering on my part could give me the ability to deny him hope? I should have stayed on the TARDIS, I should have refused to leave until he explained everything and let me explain too, I shouldn’t have let my anger rule my head…

“Will he ever come back?” I asked miserably, tearfully wiping my eyes and sniffling. Jack handed me a handkerchief with my name stitched on and I laughed through my tears, leaning against my new friend as though I’d done it a thousand times. The silent reassurance that one day, I’d meet Jack again and give him the handkerchief made me feel a million times better. “Thanks, Jack.”

“No problem,” he whispered back, and together we sat in a comfortable silence, me with my thoughts and Jack quietly giving me comfort, hope and reassurance. Ianto never came back with the coffee and it twigged that he’d left to give us the space we needed- Jack to comfort an old friend who didn’t even know him yet. My stomach twisted with guilt for that too; imagine how he must have felt, watching me like this when he knew what- who- I’d become.

Hours, minutes, whatever, later and my dark mood had subsided into fierce determination to make sure I’d make my second chance- whenever it came- count and last. Slowly, I stood and Jack followed suit, raising an eyebrow when I took a step towards the scattered Dalek file, stopped, and deliberately turned around to walk the long way around to the exits. Why those things had the effect on me they did, I had no idea. Maybe it was the watch, the memory of a Time Lady, warning me away from the danger like she’d warned me when she was in danger. The photographs and sound recordings of the Daleks gave me the creeps… I was just grateful that I’d never have to meet one in person.

“So,” I rasped, suddenly craving coffee- or a nice cup of calm-me-down tea- more than ever before. Cybermen? No problem. Skith? Piece of cake. Recorded memory of a Dalek? Not so easy. “How about that coffee?” I asked, clearing my throat as Jack nodded and held out his arm.

“You know,” he started, a grin rising as I threaded my arm through his, walking just a step closer than before. It was as though I’d known him all my life, though it had been hours. I vaguely remembered not feeling quite so comfortable with the Doctor, or the Mysterious Girl, though the two of them hadn’t given me much reason to trust either of them. I went with the Doctor on the word of the Mysterious Girl, whom I’d followed out of curiosity more than anything else. Jack I’d followed because of Louie, and because he knew the Doctor… which brought me back around to the idea that everything I’d gone through, everything I was still going through and would be going through, was the fault of the Mysterious Girl.

If I ever met her, I’d hug her in eternal gratitude then throttle her lifeless. The idea of violence put a little spring in my step and Ianto met Jack and I at the door to the archives, two steaming cups of coffee in his hands.

“Ah, the best coffee-boy in the country,” Jack announced, gladly taking his coffee and giving a blushing Ianto a kiss on the cheek before hurrying off in pursuit of a dark-haired brunette briefly introduced as Gwen. I was a little more subdued in my thanks as Ianto and I stood in the open doorway, watching Jack bustle around the room like he owned it. Well… he kind of did.

“You take white with none, right?” Ianto asked, eyebrow raised as I sipped the tea and instantly, the tannin spread throughout my body to relax me. One sip and the problems of the world could wait, I thought. How terribly British of me.

My eyebrows rose into my hairline as Ianto, whom I’d known for a few hours at the most, recited the way I liked my tea. “Is that on file?” I asked dryly, nodding my head back to the archives. I’d briefly spotted my name in the ‘K’ section but hadn’t bothered trying to read it. Jack had freaked when I went for the Doctor’s file, I hated to think what he’d do if I went for mine. I’d seen enough time-travel movies to know that messing with one’s past or future was bad, so I left it.

Ianto’s cheeks enflamed even further and he scuffed his shoe lightly. “No, I just… this isn’t your first visit,” he mumbled, almost inaudibly. I nodded, absorbing the information like water in a desert. Every little hint I had that I had a time-travelling future made my spirits start to rise; the more I knew I had a future, the better my present seemed.

“Am I with the Doctor?” I asked, curious more than anything. If anybody seemed likely to give me clues, it was Ianto or Louie- but she’d disappeared and I didn’t want to get lost looking for her. So Ianto would have to do.

He shuffled nervously, shrugging. “Sometimes,” he replied, somewhat cryptically. I wanted so much to ask what that meant but Jack intervened before I could, fixing Ianto with a hard stare until he mumbled a ‘seeya’ to me and darted off into the archives, figurative tail between his legs.

“Did you have to scare him?” I asked of my Torchwood tour-guide, who shrugged and nodded for me to follow him. I did so, feeling a little bit tired of being pulled one way then another, but figured I’d better get used to it until I could stand on my own two feet in this world of time-travellers and aliens. I was a baby in this brand new world, barely teething.

“We got a Code Nine hit on the TARDIS last night, and we’ve been following it ever since. I thought you should see where he’s been,” Jack explained, showing me a computer screen that showed the front of my flat. The time-stamp was around half-twelve last night, and the TARDIS materialised under the streetlamp. I watched myself step out, the doors slam shut- I winced, still hearing the finality of the click as they locked against my return- and the police box disappear. The past me waited in the snow for a moment or two- I was waiting to see if he was really gone, if I’d really done it- before storming off inside and slamming the door.

“Is this what you wanted to show me?” I asked a little sharply, not needing the reminder. Jack just kept watching the screen with a little longing stare.

“No,” he replied, snapping out of his trance to speed through the tape, bringing it an hour forward. Jack superimposed a map over the top, showing me that the Doctor had materialised about three streets away from my flat, and had left the TARDIS in the morning, around the same time I’d left the flat. “He’s watching you,” Jack whispered, sounding just a little bit surprised. “He’s making sure you’re okay. I had no idea it went this far back…”

“What?” I asked sharply, bringing Jack around. He gave me a sad little sideways smile and chucked me under the chin. He reminded me of the Doctor then, the young man with the ancient eyes, as if he’d lived a thousand times over and had very little to show for it apart from memories and missing friends.

“When I meet you, Kia, I’ll have no idea who you are. It’ll be a younger me you meet. But I remember that the first thing I noticed about the Doctor wasn’t how old he was, or that he was an alien, or that he was smart. It was that he protected you relentlessly. Time and time again he proved that despite the danger, despite how bitterly the two of you might be fighting, despite how loudly you protested… your safety was his top priority. I had no idea it went so far back for you two…” I was silent, with absolutely no idea what to say. Jack gave me an indulgent grin and shrugged as he stood up straight. “It almost makes me regret all that flirting.”

“Almost?” I echoed dryly, unable to help the grin in return. He really was ridiculously handsome and suddenly, all my doubts and fears were gone. The Doctor’s return was now firmly a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’, and my heart didn’t weigh so heavily in my chest.

Taking my hand almost instinctively, Jack lead me to the doors as I waved back at Ianto and Louie, both of whom I’d see in the future. That was a certainty, and boy, did it feel good. “It’ll be a while, for you,” Jack revealed in the elevator, shrugging sheepishly when my face fell. “There’s a good few years with the Doctor in it for you.”

Just like that, I was happy again. I was starting to think I’d need to invest in an emotional stabiliser other than tea, since the effects of that were short-lasting and frankly not strong enough. “Jesus, this whole thing is a headache,” I complained, releasing Jack’s hand to rub my temples. He laughed loudly, only serving to make me more petulant, and lead me to the Blaidd Drwg Bakery, five streets from my flat and where I had worked a few years back. The building was half destroyed by the Cybermen, still covered in warning tape and charred walls. I shuddered a little and wanted to make a smart-arse remark to Jack, but he just shrugged apologetically and looked so sad I felt my breath catch.

“Think you can navigate your way home from here?” he asked, holding my hands so tightly I feared he’d never let me go. I nodded, still breathless, with a little lump in my throat. Jack looked like he’d never see me again and the thought scared me as it played havoc with the wobbly smile trying to stay on his face. “Just remember, don’t give up on him. When everything seems like it’s lost, the Doctor won’t let you down.” And he pulled me close to kiss my forehead before he backed away quickly, waving and turning away so fast I almost missed the heartbroken expression.

“Jack!” I called, stopping him before he could get too far. Slowly, I turned him back around and hugged him round the middle, the top of my head barely making his shoulder. He squeezed back and I felt his chest heave; I wondered what else he knew of my future, or of his own, that could possibly make him so terribly sad. “Thanks, for everything. I can’t wait to meet you… and please, flirt all you like,” I grinned, delighting in the fact that he grinned back at me and seemed a little lighter on his feet as he hurried away. At the last possible moment, he spun back around and waved a finger in my direction.

“Ask me to dance!” he called, and then he was gone. I waved a farewell and wandered for home, whistling a happy tune as I went. My future was still shadowy, but I knew the direction it would take. The Doctor’s path and mine were entwined and there was nothing he could do about it; nothing would make me give it up.

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