Rating: PG / Teen (to be safe, but on the mild side)
Word count this chapter: 1910
Spoilers/warnings: Post-"Journey's End," if that's still a spoiler, otherwise none.
Disclaimer: None of it's mine but the alt!ness.
Summary: Part four of my 2008 OT3 Ficathon entry (prompt under the cut in the A/N for minute possibility of JE spoilers). Crossposted to my personal journal.
A/N - Yay, finished! Hope y'all have as much fun reading as I did writing. :D
Rose ran a fingertip across the surface of the blown-glass ornament, lost in thought. It was one of a set, purchased, of all people, by Jackie. The palm-sized spheres were transparent colors – red, blue, green, and purple – swirled with opaque white. The resemblance to planets seen from space was obvious, and, Rose was certain, not coincidental. Difficult as it was for Jackie sometimes, Rose’s mother was trying very hard to be supportive of her daughter’s intermittent wandering.
“Rose?” the Doctor’s voice was gentle, as was his hand on her arm. “Are you all right?”
She blinked and found her eyes had been watering. She sniffed and answered as cheerfully as possible, “Yeah, fine, just thinking.”
The Doctor cocked his head, the gesture combining with his liquid-brown eyes to give him the look of an inquisitive puppy – a nine-hundred-year-old puppy. “About?”
“Jed,” she said, truthfully, brushing her hair back from her face and hanging the ornament in a bare spot on the large Christmas tree the family was currently decorating together. “I keep wondering if he got away all right.”
Once they’d fled safely into the Vortex, they’d returned to the same spot on the unnamed planet’s surface, ten hours later. The Doctor hadn’t dared rematerialize any closer to their departure time than that. All they found was a razed and burnt farming operation, entirely deserted, and a chaotic mess of ships’ drive signatures, temporal and otherwise; no signs of Jed’s escape or capture, and no hope of tracing any one ship’s movements.
“I’m sure he did,” the Doctor said, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her against his side. They’d had this conversation several times over the past few linear months. “He’s a version of Jack, after all, and Jack’s a slippery customer. Slippery as they come.”
Rose snorted quietly and slipped her arm around his waist in return. “You know he’d take what you just said in the rudest possible way.”
“Of course. That’s why I said it.”
Rose looked up at the Doctor’s lopsided grin and smiled back, but her expression faltered, going serious again. “I almost wish we’d taken him up on his offer,” she said, not for the first time.
“Me, too,” he said, simply and softly.
They leaned into each other for a moment, but then Tony was tugging at Rose’s trouser leg, asking her to help him hang one of the (relatively non-breakable) ornaments allotted to him, Pete dragged the Doctor off for a solemn, manly consultation about fairy lights, Jackie flitted back and forth filling her digital camera with photos, and the moment was gone and temporarily forgotten.
Later, approaching bedtime, the tree was finally finished – Tony (and the Doctor) having been mostly persuaded to hang the tinsel rather than throwing it – when Davis, the night security chief, slipped apologetically into the room.
“Sorry,” he said, after clearing his throat. “There’s a man at the front gate with a Level Four Torchwood security pass, but he’s nobody the guard recognizes. He says his name is Jedediah Holbrook, and he works with the Doctor and Rose . . .”
He broke off as simultaneous shrieks of ”What?!” and ”Who?!” burst out from opposite ends of the room.
“Er, should I tell them to pass him through, or lock him up?” Davis asked, uncertainly, before being nearly bowled over by Rose and the Doctor bolting for the house’s security station.
A glance at the grainy CCTV image of the man in question was enough – there could be no doubt it was Jed. He was effortlessly chatting up the gate guard and appeared relatively relaxed.
“Pass him through,” the Doctor said, slipping off his reading glasses and folding them into his pocket. “Rose and I will meet him at the door. If he’s alone, there’s no problem. If he’s being used as a front . . . well, keep your people ready.”
“Yes, Doctor,” Davis responded, having been in service long enough to know that “Sir” was a form of address best avoided. Orders were given, security personnel were hastily rearranged, and Pete and Jackie took Tony upstairs to bed.
On the way to the front door, Rose’s hand slipped into the Doctor’s. “Do you really think the Agency could be using him to get to us?”
“I hope not, but if he was captured . . .”
“Yeah,” Rose sighed in agreement, her heartbeat speeding up.
They didn’t have long to wait; there was a knock at the door almost at the same time they arrived in the entryway.
The Doctor took a deep breath, turned the handle, and opened the door.
There stood Jed, wrapped in a long coat of the style Jack had always favored, with a bottle of wine in one hand and an impressive bouquet of flowers cradled in the crook of his arm. He flashed his trademark, dazzling grin as he caught sight of Rose and the Doctor.
“I’m supposed to turn this over for a toxicology check,” he said holding up the bottle by way of illustration. “With any luck, we still might get to enjoy it later. I hope.”
The Doctor blew out his breath. “What are you doing here?”
“And how did you find us?” Rose added.
“Last question first, and can I come in . . .? Thanks, it’s cold out there.” He slipped through the door and the Doctor automatically closed it against on the chill night air. “Anyway, I admit it wasn’t easy, but I tracked you down by your temporal signature. Never seen anything like it and it was really faint, but I got a great reading of it, seeing as how you shifted nearly on top of me.”
“Ah,” the Doctor said in a tone of enlightenment, tapping the back of his front teeth with his tongue. “You’ve got temporal shift capability in your ship, too. You just didn’t have the field powered up yet.”
“Hell, yeah, don’t leave the Agency without being able to shift, otherwise they’ll find you in nothing flat,” Jed said. “As for what I’m doing here, well, we were kinda interrupted in the middle of some negotiations last time and I thought it was worth taking up again.”
He’d been shooting curious glances around the entryway as he spoke, taking in the marble floor, the height of the ceiling, the paintings and sculptures and the overall air of money-to-spare. He paused and nodded approvingly. “Guess I can see why you weren’t really interested in the profit side of things – this is a nice setup you’ve got here. A little on the barbaric side, but nice . . . Say, is that a real Picasso?”
Rose, composure largely regained, reacted to Jed’s keen and speculative interest in one of her family’s most prized (and expensive) possessions by reaching for the flowers he carried. “Here, let me take those.” Jed obliged, the temporary distraction working.
“So you got away cleanly, then?” the Doctor asked, tilting his chin up slightly as he examined Jed with great concentration.
Jed’s gaze sharpened, and he met the Doctor’s eyes fearlessly. “Yeah, I did – the Agency didn’t brainwash me into a stalking horse, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
The Doctor considered him a moment longer, eyes dark and deep and alien, before slowly nodding. “I believe you,” he said, “But when someone shows up on my doorstep with no warning, flashing psychic paper – that is what you used, isn’t it? – to get past Security, can you blame me for being careful?”
“Guess not,” Jed admitted, manner easing. Then he caught sight of something past Rose and went still. Rose and the Doctor both turned to look, to find little Tony, peeking around the corner.
“Tony!” Rose said in exasperation. “I thought Mum took you upstairs and told you to stay there.”
Caught, Tony stepped out of hiding. He was in his pyjamas, and doing his best to look innocent. “I jus' wanted to see your friend,” he said, all but batting his eyelashes.
Rose sighed. It was probably a terrible idea to reward her brother for disobeying, but she didn’t have the heart to frog-march him back upstairs at the moment, either. “All right, then,” she said, holding out her free hand. “Come and meet him.”
Tony shuffled forward and took her hand, keeping his eyes on Jed the whole time with a child’s open curiosity. Rose turned to find Jed looking back and forth between herself and the Doctor with an unnerved expression.
“Jed, this is my brother, Tony,” she said, and Jed didn’t quite look relieved, but his features did relax slightly. “Tony, this is Mr. Holbrook.”
Tony, wearing his I Am Being Very Grown Up look, held out a solemn little hand. Jed earned several points in Rose’s book by shaking it without the slightest irony.
When they were done, Rose told Tony, “There, you’ve met him now. Anything else?”
Tony, going into silent mode, shook his head.
“Then why don’t you go back upstairs and go to bed?” Wonder of wonders, the logic actually worked, and Tony turned to obey. “Tell Mum to slap Security for letting you sneak down here, if you see her,” she added, which earned her a giggle before Tony went scampering back up the stairs.
“I swear your brother has a brilliant career as a covert agent waiting for him,” the Doctor murmured.
“Mm,” Rose replied in absent-minded agreement, watching their guest. Jed was back to having a very odd expression on his face.
He caught Rose looking at him, and shifted uncomfortably. “I . . . didn’t realize. This is your home.”
“Yeah, it is,” Rose said, letting her tone clearly convey the additional, What else would it be?
“I could leave . . . “ Jed began, making little, embarrassed gestures in the direction of the door. Rose was fascinated; she’d never seen either version of this man embarrassed before.
“Oh, no,” the Doctor said, lightly. “You came all this way, we might as well talk . . . though that does beg the question: where’s your ship, exactly?”
“Safely hidden – invisible,” Jed replied, sounding huffy at the implication. “It won’t be freaking the locals. Er.” The last was delivered with a guilty glance in Rose’s direction.
“We appreciate the courtesy,” she told him, in her driest tone. “Though, really, I’m wondering what you were planning on negotiating with us for. Last I heard, you were talkin’ about a business partnership, but flowers and wine? That doesn’t exactly scream business meeting to me.”
“True. Not even in the fifty-first century,” the Doctor agreed, showing the first faint twinkle of amusement. He raised his eyebrows invitingly at Jed.
“Well,” Jed said with a casual one-shouldered shrug, most of his composure regained, “I thought we could start with business, and see where things went from there.”
“Did you?” the Doctor said, his amusement clear and on the surface now. He glanced at Rose, meeting her eyes, and they both began to smile, reading each other’s reactions. “Then I guess I’d better go see about getting this wine cleared for consumption.”
“C’mon,” Rose told Jed. “While he’s doing that, I’ll show you through and find some water for these flowers. Mum and Dad will probably want to meet you, too. And then . . .”
“Then we’ll negotiate terms,” the Doctor said, exiting with a wink and a grin.