Lios pulled, and her hearts shattered.
Timelines flared into life, glittering, and pulsing magnificently around him as she absorbed the enormity of the moment, and the two men before her remained blissfully unaware of her struggle.
Time seemed to slow to a halt as four powerful likelihoods shimmered before her. They carried the weight of a future with two very different outcomes. They eclipsed lesser probabilities, making her want to shade her eyes, or turn away from their brilliance, though it would have been pointless. She would have felt their gravity, sensed their every wave, nonetheless. Detail was nebulous. She was still too involved with this future to have the clarity of a detached observer, but it was clear her choices provided the fulcrum of success or failure… of life or death.
There was devastating loss any way these threads wove themselves into the fabric of the future, but she could think of only one way to manipulate them into an outcome she could bear.
And it would turn her into a monster.
She beheld her youngest brother’s tormented eyes. He carried the weight of their struggles in those oceans of raging blue. They begged her in their silent anguish to free him of it all. Implored her to shift their burden to another, more experienced, and wizened with the weight of so many centuries. Those eyes, the ancient green ones set in a deceptively young face, begged to let him take it – all of it. Allow him to relieve them of their pain. He would do this because he believed it his duty, his place in the grand scheme of life, the universe, and everything. He would do this because he loved their mother so deeply, he would deny himself everything if it brought her a few moments of unadulterated joy. He would do it because he was beginning to feel the same for them, herself included. No matter how she had tried to push him away, he cared deeply, perhaps even despite himself.
They were family. And you did for family. She knew this as surely as she knew she did not—could never deserve his devotion.
For the first time since her father died nearly a century before, and she accepted that her life would never be one of comfort, happiness, or ease, she gave over to the bitter flood of tears born of resentment at the unfairness of the universe. Her vision was soon rendered useless by the salty drops of desolation. Her breath ragged, and her respiratory bypass threatening to take over at any moment. She relied on her other senses to guide her down the corridors as she choked on her silent sobs.
Running at full speed through the dimly lit, organic labyrinth, the TARDIS seemed to be diverting the corridors to hinder her. She cursed silently, and pled with the ship all in the same thought. But the Old Girl only sent her waves of comfort laced with sorrow, and diverted her to a corridor where a fixed point stood waiting in the middle.
She tried to backpedal, and hide her tears, but Jack swept her quickly into his tight embrace. Had the TARDIS prodded him into seeking her out? It didn’t matter. She didn’t want him to see her looking like the weak fool she knew, deep down, she was.
Every muscle in her lanky frame was as taught as a spring stretched to its critical point as he held her. He didn’t relent.
He hummed and stroked, not demanding answers, not prodding or wheedling. He seemed only to wish to provide her with the strong arms of refuge. Already she could feel her body releasing the oxytocin and serotonin in response to the way he so tightly squeezed her. It counteracted the high levels of cortisol coursing through her, and she could feel the stealing calm soaking into her once-granite limbs. Jack was safe, and Jack was there for her. He wasn’t someone from whom she had to run, and he would do everything in his power to help. She could no longer stop herself from returning the embrace fully, and with shameful desperation. Maybe she was a weak fool. He wouldn’t judge.
“Shhh… What’s the matter? What happened?” he whispered after she had slumped bonelessly against him.
“It’s time, s’all.” She scrubbed at her face and pulled away, turning her back to him to get herself under control. “Time to go. You ready then?”
“Selene, sweetheart,” he pulled her back into his arms, though she refused to turn back around to face him, “what are you talking about?”
“The TARDIS is ready. My TARDIS. The Doctor an’ I fixed her, so it’s time to go. You’re still comin’, yeah? I mean, ‘s alright if you changed your mind. I’ll… Oh, Jack! Please, don’t have changed your mind!”
She wiggled herself back around, clutching him tighter as tears spilled, unbidden and unwelcome, down her cheeks once again.
“Please, I couldn’t take it right now! Please, please, come with me!”
“Shhhh.” He squeezed her tighter and kissed the top of her head tenderly. “I made you a promise, didn’t I?” he reassured softly.
She pulled away, but seized his hand, and pulled him after her.
She sent another silent plea to the timeship to help her, and let her get back to the console room. The TARDIS sadly complied, with a wave of her own grief mixed with reluctance, and moved it closer.
Jack paused at the time rotor and patted the old girl before asking, “Did you at least say goodbye? He may not be your favourite person, but he deserves at least that.”
She whirled around, her tear-stained face full of impatience and anxiety, and shot him a stubborn look before turning back to unlock the knot in the tree trunk.
Her guilt was clawing like a ravenous beast at her insides.
The daft old Time Lord really didn’t deserve this. She knew this would distress him terribly, especially since she’d found she couldn’t keep hating him on principle and stopped pushing him away.
But what could she do?
She rebuked herself for opening the tin of beans which should have been left alone. She was stupid to let him get any closer. She was stupid for letting herself get closer.
“Selene, what about my goodbye?” Jack insisted.
He hoped that his own need for a proper send-off might push her into better manners. Whatever had transpired between those two headstrong Time Idiots needed to be put to bed before they parted. Family was family, and neither the Doctor, nor Selene could afford to cut branches off in anger.
“You may want to run off in a fit, but he’s one of my oldest friends. I’m going to say goodbye. Wait for me.”
“No! Jack!” she cried, her panic bubbling up in full force. “Wait! No! You can’t, I’m sorry, you can’t,” she insisted vehemently. “We have to go, now. Please, don’t question it! I’ll explain everythin’, I swear, once we’re on the TARDIS. Please.“
Jack stared at her for a few tense moments, then crumbled at the desperation in her eyes. He really couldn’t deny her anything. He followed her in.
“Where are the guys?” Jack asked as his eyes swept the cluttered console room.
It resembled a junkyard, with parts strewn everywhere, odd lengths of abandoned wire, and bolts choking the walkways. Clearly, she took after her mother in this respect, and the Doctor’s current regeneration was not the neatnik he’d been when he’d had big ears, and Jack had first met him.
He gingerly stepped around what he could to move closer to her.
“What do you mean, ‘not coming?’ Of course, they are!” He tugged on her shoulder to make her turn and face him. “Those two would follow you into hell! You know that. Of course, they’re coming!”
She couldn’t meet his eyes.
“What the hell happened, Selene?”
“They’re not comin’, Jack. Leave it,” she choked.
“I said leave it!” she shouted, shoving at his shoulders, and he backed off temporarily.
She slammed the door, and ran to the console where she grabbed a small, silvery orb. Plopping herself down near an open grating, she twisted it between her palms. It opened, and she set to work threading the three wispy golden wires around what appeared to be a faintly glowing piece of coral.
“Selene,” Jack gingerly began again.
“Not now, Jack,” she dismissed, then looked up with an apology on her face. “Gimme a mo’ to get this sorted before sayin’ anythin’, please!”
They waited a tense moment before the Alpha knitted her inky brows, pulled the orb off, shook it, then reattached it.
Still, nothing happened.
She growled in frustration.
“Piece of buggerin’ goddamn space junk, honestly!” She ripped it off and hurled it behind her, where it hit the wall and promptly shattered into tiny pieces. “I had to snog a goddamn carrot for tha’! An’ his hands had a wander! Worthless bloody rubbish.”
“So, we’re not going?” he asked almost hopefully.
“Oh, no,” she grimaced. “We’re goin’ alright. Jus’ not gettin’ power the way I thought we’d do. I-I was hopin’ I wouldn’t have to try this—’cos I’ve never done it… only seen it done… but no choice, really.”
“Sure, there is, let me just get the Doc—”
She lifted the crystalline piece of coral to her lips, and felt the tingling energy building in every nerve centre. She concentrated on coalescing it.
“—Selene, hey, what are you doing?”
“Jus’ givin’ her a bit of a jump,” she replied without looking up from the faintly glowing bit of her ship.
She blew, and a thick cloud of glittering regeneration energy passed from her tingling lips to the coral, making it almost too bright to look at directly.
The little time rotor was instantly radiant with life, and Jack felt a faint presence, eerie in its familiarity, practically kiss his mind on the cheek.
Well… if minds had cheeks, that is.
The Alpha was still sitting, cross-legged and dazed, on the grey, debris littered floor with a glazed look in her eyes when he called her name.
She startled slightly, coming out of her torpid stupor, then slurred, “Might’ve over done it jussa bit. Pro’bly an entire regen’ration wi’ tha’ one.”
“What? Selene! What have you done?”
She smiled wanly, before promptly keeling over, and passing out. Her head just missed a scorched-looking electron uncertainty vector modulator, its sharp prongs glinting dangerously in the bright blue glow of the room.
He sprinted to her, and gathered her into his lap while he checked her vitals.
Both hearts were beating—albeit sluggishly—her breaths, though ragged, were even, but her skin temperature was closer to his own than was typical. She should have felt cool to the touch, not radiating warmth. A thin sheen of sweat had broken out on her brow, and she was shivering despite her many layers of clothing.
He lifted her eyelids, one by one, to check her pupils. Her eyes weren’t rolling back, but they were blown out. Only a sliver of amber rimmed pools of endless black. He couldn’t see that she was in immediate danger, but she wasn’t in good shape either. He laid her back down, and went to rummage through the mess of the console room for a pillow and a blanket.
The time rotor began its dematerialisation sequence so quietly, he never noticed they’d moved.
She was out cold for nearly half an hour.
When she finally came to, she didn’t look her best, but the deathly pallor had left her lips and cheeks, and her eyes had lost all their frightening glassiness. Her core temperature was slowly righting itself, and her hearts rate had resumed its quick, drum-like cadence.
Jack was content to let her sit on her own while he made her the tea she requested.
While he was away, she stood on wobbly legs, and waddled to the console where she rested her hands on its shining column.
The display to her right announced, in looping Circular Gallifreyan, that they were no longer in the Doctor’s console room, but Cardiff.
On the rift.
Well, no time like the present, she supposed.
“Mum?” She said as she stroked her very alive and well ship. “You did this, didn’t you?”
Jack was many things, and plenty of them quite brilliant, but she was positive a TARDIS pilot was not among them.
She waited for an answer, but none came.
“Mum, I hope you didn’t do anythin’ to—er—can you get hurt like this? Well, I hope it’s jus’ tha’ you’re tired, an’ tha’s why you’re not answerin’ me. I mean, you should be able to now, yeah? I was so sure… I hope I didn’t muck anythin’ up. I hope you’re alright… is wha’ I mean. I mean, I hope nothin’ went wrong. This can’t go all squiffy yet.”
She gave an enormous yawn, still full of the glistening regeneration energy she had so recklessly summoned.
“Blimey, I’m knackered. Feels like I jus’ fell out of a Yrgia tree an’ hit every branch on the way down. Could do with a kip, but ‘s not bloody likely to happen, is it? No wonder you always slept for so long after you fed this little girl. Tha’ was right shatterin’ for even my body, an’ you had a human vascular system an’ everythin’. Right, should stop talkin’, full stop, any time now. Will be the master of my own voice an’ thoughts again. Soon. Ish. Soon-ish. ‘S a funny word, innit? Soonish. Sooooooooooonishhhh. Blimey, still can’t stop. Wha’s wrong with me?”
Jack made his way down the stairs from the little galley, and handed her a steaming mug of the exotic tea she and her brothers had picked while still in the other universe. The thought was bittersweet, but even the smell made her mind feel less foggy.
Still, without the haze, the persistent aching from the void in her mind, normally occupied by her brothers and, quite recently, the Doctor, returned with a vengeance. She was certain she’d never gone this long alone in her mind in her entire life. It was a dismal realisation of how truly isolated she had chosen to make herself.
“What’s wrong?” He took the tea from her and set the mug down, then took her face in his hands, searching for something—anything he could fix. “What’s happening?”
“Jussa bit gobby, Jack.” She smiled as best she could to reassure him.
Sadness didn’t seem like a notable physical ailment with which to worry him.
“Not a major problem, jus’ means I need the tea ‘s all.”
She picked it back up, took a sip, and sighed. Her head was killing.
“I’ll make a mental note of that,” he shook his head as she pulled her own out of his hands. “Now, why are we running away without Torin and Lios? I had more than half a mind to run back for the Doctor while you were unconscious, you know. You scared the living hell out of me. What was that about an entire regeneration? Was that what that was? Regeneration energy? Did you just waste an entire regeneration? You do know you have a limited number of those, right?”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.”
She put her mug down and scrubbed her face with her clammy hands.
“Shut up a minute, alright?” Her befuddled mind made all his questions snowball into one big lump of overwhelming. “Too much all at once. Wha’ was the first bit? Why’re we runnin’ from ’em? ‘S complicated.”
“Selene,” he pushed, “you promised. It’s me. Just tell me.”
She huffed, and took another sip of tea to stall, before setting it down and allowing Jack to pull her close again.
“I made the choice I could live with, Jack.”
“I got that part. The rest is where I’m fuzzy.”
“If I stayed, it’d mean one of them would have to choose between lettin’ me die an’ dyin’ themselves – an’ they’d do it. I saw it, clear as anythin’. They would choose, an’ it wouldn’t be to let me go. I dunno which one exactly, but I couldn’t let ’em do tha’. Don’t you see? I couldn’t choose myself over them. Any of ’em. So… I left… They were already angry with me. They were ready. ‘S better. Easier later.”
“Do you really think anger makes letting go easier?”
She rubbed at her face with a fist.
“It was never gonna be a kissy-face, love-you-so, all-my-best-to-Gallifrey goodbye, you know.”
Jack kissed her head again, but kept his silence. She leaned away to rest her head on the bottom of the console rather than his shoulder.
He understood the choice she made, but he wasn’t ready to lie down and accept her casual resignation to death. He was determined to risk everything if he had to. It didn’t matter that she had the stupid Time Lord ability to see things. The Doctor did too, and he’d been wrong plenty of times.
She’d be wrong too, no matter what she thought.
He slipped his hand in his pocket and touched his insurance policy for reassurance.
“Couldn’t’ve gone an’ fetched ’em to help anyway though, sorry,” she murmured with her eyes shut and her head tilted toward the ceiling. “We’re already in Cardiff.”
“Oh?” he asked incredulously, and felt her forehead again.
“‘M fine! Leave it!” She swatted at his hand. “‘S not your Cardiff, though. ‘S 2021, so don’t go out an’ risk a paradox or anythin’.”
She sniffed, and forced back the tears that threatened. She hoped he’d pick a topic that wasn’t in any way related to anything relevant, so she could distract herself from the overwhelming emptiness in her mind and soul. She did not yet have the wherewithal to do it herself.
“What? When did you do that? While I was making tea?”
“I didn’t do it at all.” Opening her eyes, she turned her head to him and motioned at the time rotor. “I think it was Mum. She must’ve moved us here soon as I gave the ship a boost.”
Jack thought about the presence he’d felt earlier, and nodded. It was strange, but not the most outrageous thing he’d ever heard.
“So, we’re here and ready to go, but you’re beat. Look at you! I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this tired. When did you sleep last?”
He noticed for the first time that her red scarf was missing, and the swirling golden symbols were peeking out from under her collar. As silly as it was, it was almost like seeing her partially undressed, and though he’d seen more of her when she’d shown him her markings before, he had the mad feeling he was peeping. Not that he minded peeping in general when the opportunity and right person came along, but he was glad they were alone, and no one else could see what he saw.
“Oh, er… Dunno. Coupla days?” she hedged. “Gone much longer than tha’ before without a problem. I’m alright. Really. Jus’ gotta recover a bit, an’ I’ll be fine. Tea!”
She knew the last time she’d slept had been the day they’d met the Doctor, and it had been weeks, but she wasn’t going to try to sleep. It would be the first time she ever slept without her brothers, and the idea filled her with dread and grief. She doubted her headache would allow her to rest anyway.
“Tea’s good. All I’ll need, I promise.”
“Regeneration energy,” he prompted, changing the subject he knew he wouldn’t win.
In her not-so-humble opinion, this subject wasn’t much better. He wasn’t going to like this either. She’d just have to avoid extrapolating on the worst bits.
“So… er… it’s powerful stuff, the energy, obviously. I mean, it can change cells on a fundamental level, so it’d have to be, wouldn’t it? Enough to give the Little Girl some life, anyway… which she needed to get goin’ properly. I’d—er—nicked wha’ was supposed to be a vortex channeller from a bloke on Garazone Prime, should’a done the same thin’, only it turned out to either be a really excellent fake, or totally broken. I hadn’t thought it was—seemed fine when I nabbed it, but, well, it’s totally and completely broken now, innit?” she chuckled as she looked at the shattered silver pieces on the ground. “Glad I didn’t actually pay money for it.”
“So, you did what exactly?”
“I snogged him and nicked it out of his pockets. Wasn’t hard. He was a nasty bastard, Jack. Sweat shops, an—”
“No, I mean here. An hour ago.”
“Oh, right. Snoggin’ Garans wasn’t what you were askin’ about, was it?”
His face told her just how unamused he was by her feeble attempt to dodge the subject.
She huffed and scowled. “I fed some of my regeneration energy to the coral to get her goin’. Mum used to do somethin’ like it all the time, an’ the Doctor’s done it before too. Don’t worry, Jack,” she soothed, seeing his concern which bordered on anger.
“No, you mumbled that it was too much. A whole regeneration.”
“Yeah… Erm… Well, I’ve never done it before myself. I overshot a bit, ‘s all. Like a baby rattlesnake. Pushed out a little too much. Not a big deal.”
Again, he looked thoroughly unimpressed.
“Stop lookin’ at me like tha’! It doesn’t matter! I did wha’ I had to! An’ it’s not like I’m gonna need it later! It’s there for me to use now, for this, so I did! Don’t get all shirty with me for makin’ the decisions tha’ve gotta be made!”
She pulled out of his grip and parked herself on the ground near the opening in the grates.
He watched her as she reached in and gently lifted the coral piece she had literally breathed life into earlier. She stroked it reverently, before lovingly returning it to its proper place, and moving the grey, organic piece of floor back over the hole.
There was no arguing with her once she made a choice. If she believed it was right, it was. The end. Everyone else was wrong if they disagreed. It was infuriating, even while it was endearing. This woman would move mountains, if she had to tear them apart, stone by stone, with only her teeth.
She paused a moment, and closed her eyes while breathing in deeply, and pinching the bridge of her nose.
“What’s wrong, Selene?” He made a gargantuan effort to return some semblance of normality to his voice. “Please, just tell me.”
Her eyes snapped back open and she got to her feet, shaking off the moment of weakness. “Nothin’. Jus’ a headache. No big deal.”
He sighed and gave her a penetrating look. He was nearly ready to get up and walk away. He could ask her until he was blue in the face without getting any real answers. She was the Doctor’s daughter.
Sensing he was close to his wit’s end, she relented a bit. Jack was precious to her, and she wasn’t intending to push him away, it was just what came naturally.
“Really, it’s nothin’. I jus’ blocked everyone up here,” she rolled her eyes upward quickly to indicate her forehead. “It doesn’t feel very nice. I can tell you though, it’s no wonder the Doctor can be such a moody git if he’s spent centuries with his head like this.”
“Why don’t you just open back up. We’re gone now.”
She shook her head sadly. “They’d be here in two seconds if I did. ‘S better this way. I don’t mind… er… well, I can cope. I’m alright.”
“But it hurts. Enough for you to wear it on your face.”
“Yeah. Not the end of the world though, a headache, is it? I’m jus’ out of it. It’ll pass. I’ll be fine.”
He hesitated a moment, unsure if anything he had to offer would be welcome or helpful. “Would it… would it help if you let me in? I know it’s not the same, but it’s something, right?”
She had been studiously avoiding his gaze as she fiddled about with the controls and ran systems checks, but, at those words, she looked up and met his cool blue eyes with her brows reaching for her hairline.
She felt a rosy blush creep, unbidden, into her cheeks.
“Oh…” she swallowed. “Oh, Jack… ‘S not exactly how it works, but… No, Jack, it isn’t like you think, I mean…” she looked away from him and tugged at her coat sleeves before meeting his eyes again, “‘s not like when we practised forgettin’, or anythin’. Tha’ was all done with touch, an’ me bein’ incredibly careful.”
Her brows scrunched back down, and she shifted from foot to foot.
“It wouldn’t be somethin’ tha’… it wouldn’t go away. You couldn’t turn it off. We’d be connected, an’ I’d jus’ be… there…”
She broke their eye contact as her brows seemed unable to decide where they should rest on her face, and her mouth pulled down at one corner and up at the other. She yanked at her sleeves again, and felt for her missing muffler as if her hands had a mind of their own.
He stood and moved in a little closer.
She stiffened perceptibly, taking an involuntary step away, her mouth losing control of the torrential flood of awkward garrulousness, which seemed to be hereditary. “A-all the time, Jack. You’d have no privacy, ‘cos you’re not naturally telepathic, an’ don’t know how to—er… keep things separate or—er—sort of fenced off. I mean, I’m really good—er—I mean that I’m very in control, an’ I’d not pry, ‘cos it’s not nice, is it? I don’t spy on my brothers, or anythin’… or… I mean, I’m a lot of not nice things, but… jus’… not tha’… Only, it’s really… er…” her cheeks flamed once again, deepening the ruddy shade that crept all the way into her hairline, “…intimate… when you’re not—er—family… by blood, I mean, so I’m sure you don’t really understand wha’ you’re offerin’.”
He reached up, and let two warm fingers delicately push an errant lock of hair from her cheek. She shivered, her mouth running away with her as her hearts began racing with her thoughts once more.
“I mean, family bonds’re jus’ there, y’know? Always. From the earliest moments, yeah? It’s almost part of our TNA. We’re close from the moment we have consciousness. Get used to each other. Like—like imprintin’… or somethin’… It’s part of it. Do you understand? Openin’ up to the Doctor was like… jus’ lettin’ him slide into the empty spot my dad used to occupy, but Time Lords… We’re not your average telepathic species… there’s—er—I mean—erm… Our minds are… big—huge! Enormous!”
He was close enough that she could feel the heat radiating—actually taste the pheromones rolling from him in heaven-scented waves.
“You’d never—I can’t—an’ we’re… different, Jack, we’re different, an’ it can be dangerous—sooo dangerous for someone without proper barriers. You—you could burn, so… An’, with non-telepaths, we gotta touch—no other way to get inside, unless we—er… bond… Bond, Jack. Well, I mean… and you’d be sendin’ your thoughts to me all the time, an’ I’d…”
Oh, he was a temptation.
A bad-news, not-a good-idea, very-wrong, he’s-your-only-mate temptation. And she was in a very-bad-so-very-weak place.
He just couldn’t have understood what he’d offered her… could he? She’d have to spell it out.
“Well, we’d be… erm… well, a couple—er—permanently, Jack. We’ve a word for two people who decide to do this kinda thing. Luɹ’lunṱ orani… Luɹ’lunṱ, Jack, are like… well, married, sort of, I guess, but not in away tha’ you could… humans get divorced, Jack, but… my parents… I mean, after my dad died, my mum was… it was so hard for her, ’cos people only do it if they have Kui’la—which is rare. It’s so rare. You don’t jus’ form a bond, an’ later decide you don’t want it, or can’t do it… an’ I…I-I appreciate the offer, ‘s really, very sweet, but I-I can’t do tha’ to you, can I? Over a stupid headache? Can you imagine how tha’ might… cramp your style, yeah?”
She turned back to the console with a nervous chuckle, willing herself to calm, to forget the ludicrous ideas which had gripped her vivid imagination, and quickly began scrolling through the circular words which made little sense to him.
“I can think of plenty of worse things than a connection to you.”
She rolled her eyes, and tried to laugh it off, to ignore the gooseflesh creeping up the skin of her neck and arms, and the heat in her cheeks. She forced her leaden feet to move her further around the console, and busied her aching fingers.
He couldn’t be serious. He was always having a laugh this way, and she shouldn’t read into it. Jack was, quite simply, incorrigible, and she should be thankful he was trying to distract her from her misery, instead of imagining… things. Not exactly bonding things – she wasn’t sure she’d ever be ready for something like that, but thing things involving the doing of things that mates—best, well, her best mates generally did not do. With her. Never mind her best mates had all, to that point, been family. Best mates did not do thing things. People she left behind on random planets did thing things, but not mates. Ever. She was perverted for even imagining it. Sure, she had looked, who wouldn’t? She was attracted to Jack. Of course, she was, but attraction was not a reason to take advantage of him. Not when he had been so kind, so necessary, and wonderful.
She felt a wave of love for the immortal man and his commitment to her after so short a friendship, and pretended it was completely platonic as she smiled softly. Even if he was here to help her save a planet and end a war, he’d made it clear that his biggest reason for assisting was his friendship with her family. No wonder her mum loved him so much that she couldn’t bear the thought of a universe without him.
It struck her then how filled her life was with good men. It hurt, and made everything easier all at the same time. Whatever she could do for them, to keep them safe and whole, she would.
Wallowing was no good. She needed to get on with it if she was going to ever move again.
“So…. shall we—er… get a move on?” She cleared her throat and smiled. “No time like the present, yeah? Although, in a TARDIS, the present is whenever we want it to be, so maybe tha’s a stupid idiom…”
His blue eyes blazed for a moment with determination at her words, and he strode to her and pulled her into a fierce kiss that had her squirming, and tingling down to her toes. Her nerves were still sensitive from the regeneration energy, and the sensations swept her away as she wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him back every bit as good as she got. His tongue teased her bottom lip, seeking permission, and she couldn’t stifle the moan that arose in her throat as he deepened the kiss. She buried her sensitive fingers in his hair, absorbing the pleasure of the moment, from the taste of his mouth, to the way his blazing-hot chest felt pressed against her cool one, and the way each of her layers set her nerves on fire as they moved between the two of them.
She felt his mind brush her thick barriers, and it brought reality crashing back down around her.
She pulled away with the most casual smile she could muster… like she snogged the hell out of people every day. It was wildly unsuccessful, looking more like a drunken grin than the cool, easy smirk she had intended.
On jelly legs, she staggered around the other side of the console, prepping switches, and levers with shaking hands, keeping the rotor between them, and fighting the giddiness that wasn’t helping her control herself. She didn’t know if she was surprised he’d done it – Jack was, after all, Jack – but she did know she had every reason not to let it go any further. It was a very slippery slope, and one she had no intention, or right, to slide down at a time like this.
“I must be a Time Lord junky, and repellent all in one,” he joked softly. He was much better at the casual thing than she was. It made her flinch, and swallow at the hard lump in her throat. “Is it the fixed point? My wrongness?”
She stared at her hands and considered lying. It would be easy. She’d already hurt all the rest of the people she cared about. What was one more?
She met his gaze, and recoiled at the sadness she saw, despite the easy way he leaned against the console, and smooth nonchalance in his voice. Her earlier notion of purposely wounding him winked out of the realm of possibility in a split second. “Oh, God, Jack, no! No! It’s got nothin’ to do with you at all. You’re lovely!”
“Er— I—that sounded bad, an’ it wasn’t s’posed to… I’m not… I do mean it. Really… really… mean it…” she shivered a moment, then continued, “I jus’… I’m too mixed up right now for casual, yeah?”
“Who said anything about casual, Selene?”
“Jack…” she warned.
“Selene, there isn’t a man alive who wouldn’t take one look at you and want you, but the minute they got to know you, really know you, they’d never be the owner of their heart again. Your father is the same. People fall in love with him all over the universe, and he’s completely oblivious to it most of the time. You’re just a chip off the old block. I never stood a chance.”
“You couldn’t have picked a better time for this?”
“When is the right time, Selene? When I’ve jumped into the Timelock, and have to forget you? You’re asking if I’m ready to do just that, and I’m not. Not until I’ve at least had my say. One day, if by some miracle I remember this, I’d like to know I wasn’t a coward. Now, have I been chasing phantoms, and was that kiss just the heat of the moment, or was what I felt there as mutual as it seemed?”
“Jack, don’t push. It’s not fair to either of us.”
“When has fairness ever had anything to do with love?”
“Gah! Stop! Jus’ don’t, alright?” she shouted and backed herself almost against the wall as he took a few steps toward her. “You can’t say tha’ to me!”
“Are you going to give me a load of Time Lord bull?” He stopped himself in front of her, trapping her gaze within his own. “You don’t have feelings like that? Your species doesn’t love, doesn’t feel—”
“No!” She yanked her hands through her inky hair, and cursed violently in Gallifreyan. “No, I won’t… but you gotta understand, it won’t be enough!” She pushed at his shoulders feebly, then grasped at them with something akin to desperation. “I’m not gonna say I felt nothin’, ‘cos tha’d be a lie, but we have, wha’? Hours together, tops?” Her eyes searched his, a mad gleam of hopeful misery burning within. “Unless, ‘course, we completely say ‘sod it all,’ an’ abandon everythin’ I’ve worked my whole life toward.”
“You would never do that,” he admonished softly, his stern manner melting into a crushing sympathy that felt to her like an obscenity.
“No,” she deflated and slumped against the rough, grey wall, “I wouldn’t… but… but you could ask,” she smiled at him with ill-concealed vulnerability. “‘Course, you wouldn’t either now, would you? ‘S why I… You’re amazin’, Jack, you know tha’?”
He moved to her side, the wild look gone from her eyes, and took her hand in his.
“We’ve known each other two weeks, an’ you’re ready to… love me… even though I… I’m rude… an’ cranky, an’ bossy, an’ obsessive,” she whispered.
Though no longer ready to run, she remained closed off, pain and self-deprecation swimming at the surface of molten amber.
“You’ve spent hours watching’ me at my very worst, an’ yet, you have the ability to get past all tha’, an’ find somethin’ to see in me. To you, it comes easy. Love’s somthin’ to be given away for Captain Jack Harkness. Tha’s not bad or anythin’, ‘s jus’ I’m… I’m not like tha’.”
She dropped his hand, and clenched her fists.
“Not with love. Casual’s fine sometimes, but love…? ‘S… hard for me… an’ it never gets any easier. I… but if I let myself… like tha’, ‘cos Jack, I could. You don’t know how easy it’d be with you. You’ve been… everythin’… an’ I’m gonna be crushed when you don’t know me anymore. Who knows how long I’ll have to live knowin’ I’m not even a blip on the Harkness radar? Casual’d be easier’n losin’ you tha’ way. I know I’m selfish… I can’t help it. I try not to be, an’ I always circle back to tryin’ to avoid gettin’ hurt—”
Jack kissed her again, but the urgency had gone. His kiss felt more like a promise. She didn’t resist, but willed herself to stiffen in his arms.
“Stop it,” she commanded with pathetically little conviction.
Still, he let her go, and held his hands up in surrender. The loss of contact washed over her like a bucket of icy water, and his supplicant posture tore at her hearts.
They stood, just so, for a single minute that might have stretched into eternity, neither speaking the words which hung around them like a noose. The cracks in the momentary bubble of giddy hunger were widening, drenching the fires of possibility. Duty, and lunatic obsession the river which quenched it.
Selene, sensing some intangible thread in her own destiny – or perhaps, merely unable to let this irrational fantasy die the way she knew it eventually must, broke first.
“…Oh, bloody hell, Jack Harkness.”
She stalked over to the dematerialisation switch, and, after a moment’s hesitation, sent them into the vortex.
“One bleedin’ night,” she proclaimed, all stern warning. “’S all we get. I can’t hide us longer’n tha’. Are you sure you’re okay with doin’ this, then forgettin’?”
“No, I hate the idea, but I don’t have any choice, do I?”
“No,” she whispered.
Jack looked as thoroughly heartbroken as she felt, and she just couldn’t stand it, so she told him a half-truth.
“I can make it so the next time you see me, you get the memories back.”
His head snapped up, and his eyes searched hers.
“I can’t promise when it’ll be, but I can promise they may not be lost forever.”
“When this is over, Selene, I’m going to be waiting to see your face again. I expect it to happen. Don’t disappoint me.”
“Well, you’re not gonna remember, so you won’t be bothered.”
She cringed as soon as the words left her lips.
He closed his eyes, and let the sting pass.
“Tha’ was bad, even for me. Sorry.”
He laughed, despite her avoidance, and softly claimed her lips again.
In a few hours, he’d be strapping on his supercharged vortex manipulator and willingly launching himself, the fixed point, at the Timelock, another fixed point, and trying to rip it open with his existence.
In a few hours, she’d be sailing on a shock wave from the rift through the tear he would make, to spend an undetermined amount of time alone on a planet full of enemies, until she faced, what she was convinced would be, her end.
In a few hours, the manipulator would take him back to Cardiff after she’d made it through, but as soon as he was safe, he’d forget he ever met her.
The universe owed them one damn night.
A/N: Chapter 19.5: Stolen Hours is non-essential to the main plot. It’s fun if you like a little slice of lemon with your tea and Time Lords, but it will only give you back story without forward movement. Now, I love it, and I do encourage you to give it a go. I became very attached to this pairing while I wrote and it surprised the hell out of me. I didn’t think I would as I almost cut it initially. However, it has a very definite purpose, affecting so very much more than just themselves and their futures, but before I’m tempted to give spoilers for my favourite plot twists, I’m going to wrap it up and say, if you’re tempted and old enough, read it. If you’re under eighteen, object to or lemons just aren’t your thing, move on to chapter twenty; I promise you’re not going to get lost if you do.
Chapter 19.5: Stolen Hours (NSFW)