(Kilkenny, Earth, 2009)
Lately Harry Saxon finds himself saying a lot of things he never thought he'd have to say at any point in his life. Sometimes the things he finds himself saying are fairly normal: "I found your sonic screwdriver. It was behind the settee," for example, or "Torchwood just called and your friend Jack really doesn't seem to like me very much."
But then again, sometimes Harry Saxon finds himself saying things like "...Excuse me. You seem to have a severed hand. In your-- police box. That's bigger on the inside than the outside. Are you sure you're quite sane?"
That last is more or less the summation of Harry's life at the moment.
And the worst bit is that the man who calls himself the Doctor is completely unfazed by all of this. "Ah, thanks, Harry," he'll say, or "Jack will warm up to you eventually," or, in this last case, "Yeah, that's my hand. Don't worry about it."
Harry damn well worries about it.
Because ever since he woke up in a strange bronze room a week ago, everything about Harry's life has been worrying. He remembers running for Prime Minister for a lark, and he remembers not being at all surprised at losing, and he remembers being a bit let down anyway and getting completely sloshed, but none of that accounts for a persistent, week-long hallucination. Neither does he think he has the necessary imagination for such a vivid hallucination; when he awoke to find a strange man wearing a suit and a worried expression sitting next to him, the man told him without preamble that he wasn't who he thought he was and promptly took Harry to see the Orion Nebula to prove it. Harry's almost entirely certain he wouldn't be able to imagine something like that.
So now he's the houseguest of this man, the Doctor, who is apparently a two-hearted alien and travels in time and space. This much Harry's willing to get his head around; he was briefly involved with politics, after all, and he knows about Torchwood and UNIT, even if he never had any personal involvement. The problem is, the Doctor seems firmly convinced that Harry is exactly the same sort of alien he is, and has only some very dubious-sounding scientific babble to back up this claim.
All the same, there's alarmingly little to disprove him. Harry, being a methodical man by nature, has been going back through his own memories and finding alarming gaps. He only vaguely remembers his parents, and though he certainly remembers being at boarding school, the lessons he can dredge up are about elementary particle physics, not elementary grammar. More importantly, he knows quite well he was (is? he doesn't know) married to a woman named Lucy, but there are days' worth of gaps in his recollection of her, and for some indefinable reason he doesn't at all care to go looking for her and beg her to assure him that the Doctor's just a madman and he's perfectly all right. Sometimes he catches sight of his reflection in the mirror and it takes him a moment to recognize the face looking back at him.
And so Harry finds himself staying, mad as it is. Finds himself waking up in a little cottage on the outskirts of Kilkenny, the smell of the Doctor's attempts at cooking wafting under his door and prompting him to throw on his dressing gown in alarm. Finds himself hurrying into the kitchen and snapping, "No no no, Doctor, don't massacre the eggs!" and taking the skillet from the Doctor's unresisting hands.
When breakfast has been rescued, they sit down together and the Doctor looks at Harry seriously over the top of his tea. "How did you sleep?"
"Fine," Harry says, and downs his own tea in two scalding gulps. He's not really a morning person.
"Any dreams?" the Doctor asks. The Doctor asks this quite often. Apparently he has a theory that Harry's dreams could give them insight into who or what has... made Harry human, although Harry feels distinctly uncomfortable with the whole concept. And he has had a few peculiar dreams: he's dreamed of dueling with a sword, which he's certainly never done in his life, and he's dreamed of Lucy wearing a red dress that looks absolutely fantastic on her but is hardly her style, and on one horrible occasion he's dreamed of being a sort of living corpse, but he rather suspects that these aren't the sorts of dreams the Doctor is interested in.
"No," he says, digging into his eggs and tapping nervously on the table with his free hand. "Sorry."
The Doctor glances at his hand; he stops tapping.
"That rhythm," the Doctor says gently. "Do you hear it in your head?"
"Er. Yes." Harry shrugs uncomfortably. "It's just there, that's all. Nothing important."
"But it is," the Doctor says. "It's incredibly important. If I could have a look--"
"Inside my head?" Harry asks, and gives a bark of laughter. "No thank you, Doctor." And he winces a little. "Sorry, I'm not trying to be rude, I just-- It's quite strange enough you're an alien without you having to act like it."
A spasm of pain flickers across the Doctor's face, and Harry files it away. He's not quite sure why he's trying to keep track of the things he can say to hurt the Doctor; maybe it's his own helpless rebellion against the strangeness in which he finds himself caught. Or maybe-- and this is the more likely hypothesis-- he wants to understand what sort of relationship the Doctor has with this other man who is what Harry apparently used to be and will be again. He has a few guesses already.
The Doctor recovers quickly enough, though, and shrugs. "If it ever gets bad," is all he says, "let me know."
"Of course," Harry says, and gets on with breakfast.
"Any luck?" Jack asks.
"Nothing," Martha says in exasperation. "But that's not surprising, is it? He tells me we could be looking for anything at all, and it's not as though I have special Time Lord-sensing abilities!"
"You must have something, though," Jack says. "I mean, he didn't even bother asking Torchwood. And we're the ones who are supposed to be getting alien tech. You've got to be at your hospital every day."
"I think the Doctor sometimes forgets I'm not the same sort of doctor," Martha says dryly. "It's all right, I've got evenings and that. Tom thinks I'm just working overtime."
A pause. Then Jack says, a bit delicately, "Did you point out to the Doctor that maybe we're better off this way? I mean. Yana was a nice guy. Maybe Harry's a nice guy too. And since it doesn't look like he's trying to take over the world, maybe we should just-- let him be."
"No," Martha says, staring out her window at the quiet street. "The Doctor would be gutted, Jack. He doesn't want to be alone."
"He's not," Jack says in exasperation. "He's got us--"
"Jack," Martha says, "he burned his own planet."
Startled silence on the line.
"He must have had a reason," Martha says, "but it's not the sort of thing you bring up in normal conversation, is it? I think maybe he's guilty. You can tell him to leave the Master human, but I'm going to find that fob watch or whatever it is."
"Martha," Jack says awkwardly, "look, I love the guy too, but I think maybe you're going a bit too far."
"No," Martha says, frowning a little, "the thing is, it's more than that. The Doctor thinks-- and I think too-- that whoever made the Master human is mixed up in all the stuff with Ms. Ingram and that. It's a bit suspicious we'd just pieced together enough to ask the Master about it and suddenly he doesn't remember any of it."
"So how do you know the Master's not behind all of it?" Jack asks darkly.
"I don't know," Martha says. "Maybe he is. But we can't know that until we've got him back, can we."
Jack sighs. "Well, we'll keep looking. But I'm only doing this cos I trust you, got that?"
"Not the Doctor?" Martha asks.
"Nope," Jack says. "You, Martha Jones."
The line goes dead.
"Huh." Martha stares at the phone for a moment, sees the time reading on its display, swears, and runs off to the café down the street where she'd promised to meet Leo for lunch. He's on his break between shifts and is already waiting with a couple of sandwiches when she arrives.
"Martha," he says, grinning at her as she sits down. "What's up?"
"Oh, lots," she says. "Doctor-related stuff." He waggles his eyebrows at her and she makes a rude gesture, at which Leo only grins wider. "Hey, you haven't got any watches in recently, have you?"
Leo shrugs. "A few? Stopwatches, mostly."
"Fob watches at all?"
"Nah, Martha, I'm not in antique retail," Leo says, rolling his eyes. "Why, is the Doctor popping off to the nineteenth century and doesn't have the right accessories yet?"
"He's in Ireland," Martha says with dignity. Leo has a decent grasp on the idea of the Doctor, anyway, but also a tendency to vacillate between teasing and confused whenever anyone brings him up. In Leo's eyes, Martha is still his slightly-geeky problem-solving medical older sister, and the rest of the family's sudden switch in attitude to absolute trust and respect baffles him. Martha does absolutely nothing to abate Leo's slightly bemused teasing; it might have bothered her once, but the utter normalcy of the whole thing is heartening. "And I need to find something for him that might or might not be a fob watch."
"Sounds like I'm well out of it, then," Leo says firmly. "But if you want to come by and look, we've just got a whole load of junk in. Donated by someone called, er. Engle? Ingle?"
Martha sets her sandwich back on its plate very carefully. "Ingram?"
Leo beams at her. "That's the one."
Harry is washing the dishes.
The Doctor is watching him with a singularly peculiar expression, as though he's almost entirely convinced he's dreaming and even so is unsure whether it would be more appropriate to laugh or cry.
"You could always stop staring and help me," Harry says eventually.
"Nah, you look like you're doing okay," the Doctor says, and after a moment's consideration perches on the countertop and swings his feet. Harry hasn't yet been able to figure out why the Doctor always wears any of a number of ridiculously tight pinstripe suits. (The only reason he's thought up so far is they look good on him, but it strikes him as a bit silly that the Doctor's one concession to something approaching practicality is his shoes.) The Doctor's police box has offered up any number of similar suits-- thankfully slightly less form-fitting-- in Harry's size, although there's a suspicious amount of black. When Harry asks the Doctor if he might just go into town and get a horrible touristy t-shirt or two, the Doctor says they don't have any money, and looks incredibly cagey when Harry demands how they're paying for this cottage then. The end result, in any case, is that while the Doctor swings his feet and watches, Harry does the dishes in a dress shirt with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows, feeling slightly ridiculous.
"So tell me about your planet, then," he says. "...Our planet."
"I don't need to, though," the Doctor says. "Once we find your Time Lord stuff you'll remember it all anyway."
Harry sets a pan on the draining board with a clatter and glares at the Doctor. "I only have your word that I'm a week-old human. I only have your word we should be hiding in a cottage in Ireland instead of out actively looking for whatever it is that will make me some sort of alien again and get you off my back. Humour me."
"Well, our planet, it's--" The Doctor flounders a little. "It's called Gallifrey. We-- we grew up in the Citadel of the Time Lords--"
"Tell me about them, then," Harry interrupts. He's not quite sure why, but the strange quiet pain on the Doctor's face is making him uncomfortable, not least because he has a peculiar, instinctual feeling that any pain should be his doing, directly, and that horrifies him. "Or me," he adds abruptly. "What sort of man am I? What's my name? Are all Time Lords the Something?"
"No," the Doctor says, grasping at this. "No, but we can choose titles, and I'm--"
"The Doctor," Harry says, smiling lopsidedly and attacking the cutlery. "Do you make people better?"
"Sometimes," the Doctor says.
"So I've got a title too?" Harry prompts.
"Yes," the Doctor says, and doesn't elaborate.
Harry points a sudsy fork at him. "Stop acting like you have the attention span of a goldfish on speed. My name."
"You called yourself the Master," the Doctor says mildly.
Harry snorts. "Hello, I'm a Time Lord called the Master! Bit stuck up, am I?"
To his astonishment, the Doctor grins a little. "The name you had at the Academy was worse."
"Oh, did I change it after graduating?" Harry says, brightening. "Was it my degree, then? Hah, I'm a master and you're only a doctor."
"Do the dishes," the Doctor says calmly.
"So Time Lords," Harry says, going back to scrubbing. "Two hearts. Retro time machines. Ability to accidentally turn human. Flash suits. What else?"
The Doctor considers this, obviously trying to think up something both interesting and safe. "Ability to regenerate," he says finally. "If a Time Lord's body becomes old or receives a fatal injury, we can regenerate every cell in our bodies. New face, new personality, everything."
Harry's considers this, not entirely sure it makes any more sense than the rest of what he's been told so far. Then again, the retro time machine seems to work, so maybe it follows that the rest does too. "So what did you look like before?" he asks.
"Oh." The Doctor scrunches his face up for a moment. "Not too much hair. Big ears. Leather jacket."
The mental image this brings up makes Harry snort a little. He covers it by rinsing out a glass.
"And before that," the Doctor says, "sort of long hair. Curled a bit. Someone once told me I looked a bit like Thomas Jefferson. Only not ginger."
Harry just stares at him.
"And before that-- oh, that was one of the older ones. I only did that a few times. Looked distinguished, though. Maybe it was to make up for the time before that. I really liked colourful clothes that time. And the time before that, I was blond. Quite young-looking, too. That was a good one. And the time before that--"
"Hold on," Harry interrupts, "can you do this forever? Are you immortal?"
"Well." The Doctor makes a little hand gesture that indicates bending the rules a bit. "Technically you're only allowed twelve regenerations. Thirteen bodies. But sometimes allowances are made."
"So which one are you on?" Harry asks, draining the water from the sink and searching absently for a dishtowel.
"The tenth," the Doctor says, as though this doesn't particularly concern him.
"...And me?" Harry asks.
"Your second," the Doctor says promptly. "Well. This go-round. I think if you add them all up it must be at least your seventeenth."
Harry does a quick calculation in his head, knows very well that thirteen plus two does not equal seventeen, and has a sudden horrible flash of memory to that dream of being a sort of living corpse. He swallows hard and suddenly this all feels a lot more real and more serious. For a moment he thinks he might be sick.
The Doctor hands him a dishtowel with such quiet understanding in his face that Harry wants to hit him.
He spends the evening watching Teletubbies, because the sheer silly mindlessness of it all is comforting. He sleeps soundly that night, and awakens to discover that, whatever the Doctor's culinary faults, he cannot actually butcher toast.
"Dream anything?" the Doctor asks, like clockwork.
Harry thinks about this for a moment, and decides that today is a good day to answer truthfully. "Yes," he says, and looks up. "I dreamt you were handcuffed to a wall and then I kissed you. I don't know about you, Freud, but I think maybe it means something."
He feels a little sick again when he sees the absolute stillness that comes over the Doctor's face.
"Oh God," Harry says, "you're in love with this Master bloke."
"Harry, when I ask you about your dreams, I mean the ones that might give some indication about how you ended up human," the Doctor snaps.
"And repressing it," Harry says, leaning his chair back on two legs. "God, you must be absolutely gutted to see me like this."
"Harry--" the Doctor says.
"I think I might fancy you too," Harry says, his chair legs coming back to the floor with a thump. "Thought I should mention. If it's all funny and unrequited. With you and him."
"Harry," the Doctor says again, tightly, "you won't want to have had this conversation once you're back to being the Master. Trust me on this."
"I'll sign us up for marriage counseling or something, then," Harry says, nearly meaning it, and goes back to his eggs.
"Found anything?" Leo asks.
"Good question," Martha sighs. "Thing is, I'm not sure what I'm looking for. I mean, the Doctor says it could be anything." Leo holds up a rubber duck for her perusal. "Anything that can be opened," Martha adds.
"Doesn't narrow it down that much, does it," Leo says. "Look, Martha, why are you looking for something if you don't even know what it is? And why are you looking instead of the Doctor?"
Because now that the Master's human, the Doctor's acting like he thinks the Master might die at any moment. But Martha doesn't try to explain this; she definitely hasn't told the rest of her family she's helping the Doctor recover the Master. She just shrugs. "He's got other stuff he needs to do," she says. "And once I find this thing, we'll start getting answers."
"Um. Cosmetics case?"
"Maybe," Martha says, and looks it over. It seems perfectly ordinary.
And then she sees, in a corner, the same sort of funny astronomical etchings that were on the Doctor's and Yana's fob watches. Her heart picks up. "Leo!"
"Just a moment, Martha, I'm helping a customer!" he returns, and goes back to speaking with a pretty girl who is apparently trying to sell him something. Martha sighs and comes over.
The girl is holding a music box and explaining, "I don't even really know why I have it. I don't think it works, but it looks nice, doesn't it? Think I could get something for it?"
Martha suddenly notices that the girl looks vaguely familiar. "Excuse me, what's your name?" she asks.
The girl looks over at Martha in surprise. "Lidia Tran," she says. "And you're Martha Jones."
Heart suddenly pounding too hard, Martha sets the cosmetics case on the counter and says, quite calmly, "Can I see that music box of yours, then?" Lidia slides it across the counter, and there the funny astronomical designs are, etched on the cover. Martha swallows very hard. "Have you-- ever tried opening this, Lidia?" she asks.
"I don't know," Lidia says, frowning a little.
Leo's glancing between them in a baffled sort of way.
"Do me a favor, yeah?" Martha says, quite calmly. "Try-- try opening it."
So Lidia does.
It's the first time Martha's actually seen it-- golden light floating out and suffusing itself into Lidia's face-- but what's happening is unmistakable.
This has just become very complicated.
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