Eleventh in the dystopian!verse series. From the Doctor's POV.
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
They all die, he knows. But oh, he does so want to go out in a blaze.
When: Post-Ground Zero
She takes his breath away, with her broken-sad smiles and quiet presence. He remembers that she never used to speak so little and used to laugh more, and he cannot help but feel guilty at the comparisons he draws between her and herself, even if they are the same person. She is warm next to him, here and real and solid-tangible. Some days, he wakes up wondering if this is all a dream; if this is another one of his subconscious manifestations of her presence, like the ghost of her he often dreamt up after she had left.
But her words are a blow to his gut, and her clammy skin and shallow breaths against him convince him that she is here, that this is no dream, that this is oh-so-painful reality. There are so many pieces of the puzzle that he doesn’t have, pieces that will allow him to understand, but they are kept from him like jealous lovers.
It is not her fault, he understands well, but it doesn’t stop him from wanting to shake and rail at her and how could she forget him? The anger and bitterness that he feels is dulled and blunted with time, but it is still there, and it throbs like a beating, bleeding heart.
When they killed me.
This is another puzzle piece, but he doesn’t know where it fits in the grand scheme. Jack, he thinks, and the resentment that bubbles in his mind is fresh and cutting. This is envy and jealousy and green-eyed monsters, he knows, but it is heartbreaking that she remembers Jack and not him. He would like to think he meant more to her than Jack ever did. Years of bottled cynicism and tampered fury at her strain to break free, and it surprises him. He thought he had put those ghosts to rest a long time ago, when he had (never) accepted that she wouldn’t return.
He had given her everything and it hadn’t been enough, and he wants so badly to take it all back, but he can’t because it’s still her, and she is the one he has always lo –
(He will not go there, not today.)
He doesn’t know what to say. What words are adequate enough, when someone has just told you that they died? The clues he has gathered had pointed to some terrible, unspeakable horror, but this is the demon that feeds on all others. The going is slow, and there are too many things he doesn’t know. Miss Scarlet in the Billiard Room with the Candlestick? It is not a game, but he sometimes feels that is all life really is.
The kiss he presses to the top of her head is fleeting, more to reassure himself that she is real than anything else.
“Shh,” he tells her, and keeps her close to his side. “It’s alright. We’ll be alright. It’s over now,” he says, but is it really? The past is possessive and consuming, and it doesn’t easily let its travellers go. They, who play with life and deal with the devil, can never leave it all behind.
She shudders beside him, against him, and her breathing is ragged. He closes his eyes, and wishes their life were simple. He dismisses the thought easily; no, no, this is what made them what they are, this is what made them fit together like two broken halves of a mirror.
“What else do you remember?” He asks, and the hope that rises within him is insidious and creeping.
She tenses against him. “Nothing,” she says, and it crushes but does not kill the hope that flutters-dies in his chest, like pinned butterflies, or birds-in-a-cage. He nods, and knows she can feel the movement.
“I didn’t – All I saw was flashes. Fragments of my memory, I think. And pain.” She swallows, and it is audible in the darkness and silence. “There was so much pain. I don’t know why.” She burrows more firmly into him, and he holds her tighter. “All I know is that I had to do it, because if I didn’t – if I – something bad would happen, and it broke my heart to think of that.”
She inhales, and the shift in the air around them ghosts across his arms and bare chest. “And death. I remember Jack, and death.”
He calls Jack later, when she has slipped back into fitful and restless sleep. Their conversation is not an easy one, and they both bristle and sneer and scorn the other. Rose is the only thing that has forced them to keep in contact.
“You bastard. Tell me, Harkness, where were you the day Rose died?” There is a sharp intake of breath on the end of the line.
“What – what does she remember?”
“That you were there when they murdered her. Harkness, I swear to God, if you had anything to do with this fucked-up situation, I will kill you.”
There is a hollow laugh. “Oh, I don’t doubt that. Harriet Jones was your work, right? They still haven’t found all of her, you know.”
“I gave her a chance, and she didn’t take it.”
“Yes, yes, how could anyone forget? The Doctor, killer-with-a-conscience extraordinaire. No second chances.” Jack’s voice is faintly mocking.
He smiles, hard and brittle and flinty, though he knows Jack cannot see him. “That’s what I said, before she died.”
There is silence now, for long, long moments, like weighty measures or blood-on-the-scales, before Jack sighs. “Let me see Rose. I need to speak to her.”
He wants to say no so badly, to keep Rose all to himself for just a little bit more, but he knows she needs this. They all do. He has never been good at sharing, but then again he was never very good at lov – caring, either. But he will learn, just for her.
“We’re at the hostel off New Bridge Road, behind the department store near Clemenceau Road. Be here in an hour.”
He hangs up, and buries his face in his hands.
There is a knock on the door, exactly fifty-nine minutes and twenty-two seconds later. He finishes cleaning his Glock, and slides it comfortably into the holster at his waist. He answers the door.
Jack is older now, a great deal wearier and more tired, and the lines on his face are so much more pronounced. “Doctor,” he greets, and does not receive a reply.
He walks over to the bed, pressing a kiss to Rose’s forehead as he gently nudges her awake. Jack is silhouetted at the doorway, like his personal saviour or demon come to wreck havoc in his world. She stirs drowsily, and he slides an arm around her shoulders as she sits up. Her hair is messy, so he raises a hand and tucks several hanging strands behind her ear.
The message is clear: she is mine.
Her gaze is bleary and tired, but it focuses quickly once she notices the figure at the door. Her hand that rests in his tightens, and her knuckles turn white.
“You’re Jack,” she says, and it shatters his heart into pieces that she never recognised him like this, with certainty and surety and confidence in her voice. He tries to bite down the bitterness that rises in his throat, but the truth is glaring and obvious.
“Rose, God, I can’t believe –” Jack is nervous, jumpy and unsure. He paces the room, liked a caged predator or trapped soul. “I’m sorry. I’m so, so, so sorry.”
She pauses. “I don’t know what you’re sorry for,” she whispers, and looks down at her hand, entwined with the Doctor’s. He strokes a thumb over hers. “But I know that you can tell me. So please,” she says, and her voice is urgent and imploring. “Please help me.”
Jack freezes, and the Doctor wonders what it is that can keep Jack tied up and bound and caught, like prey in a spider’s web.
“I can’t.” He rakes a frustrated hand through his hair. “Don’t you think I would’ve come for you by now, if I could? It isn’t – It would kill you.” He turns to the window, but it is not the skyscrapers and apartment buildings of Singapore that he sees. “Again.”
Rose is shaking her head, like a frightened child kept in a nightmare, disbelieving and bewildered. The Doctor gathers her close to him, and she buries her face against his chest.
“I should – I should go.” The Doctor nods. Jack makes to leave, but stops just as he is exiting. “Doctor, a word?”
He disengages himself from Rose, and pads out into the hallway. He is loath to leave her, but there are things that need to be said.
“What is it?”
Jack does not meet his eyes. “There are two words that you should never say in front of Rose. I don’t know how this works, not exactly, but it might kill her. It’s a failsafe they implanted when – when the shit hit the fan. Two words. Little Red.”
Your face is a little red –
Everything is clearer and not. He wants to hit something, to vent his fury and frustration and anger and bitterness, but he chokes it all back down like he always has. Jack leans against the wall outside the room, and slides to sit on the floor, knees bent and arms at his sides.
Jack’s voice is quiet when he speaks. “Don’t you ever get tired of this?”
He does not hesitate to reply. “Only everyday.”
Jack chuckles, but it is not mirthful; it is jagged and hoarse and fractured dreams, like serrated knives and rusty blades.
“What’s one thing you remember of her, back from – from before?” Jack’s question is personal, but they know each other too well and are perfect strangers enough to talk like this, and so he will answer, even if they do not like one another.
“She keeps walking away,” he murmurs, and where the thought came from puzzles him.
The words hang in the expanse of the hallway, like headlines and billboards and blank sheets of paper.
“That’s funny,” comes Jack’s reply. “I remember her always chasing after you.”
“Wrong direction,” he sighs at length, and wonders just who he is trying to convince.
When he returns to her, he finds her sitting on the bed, staring out the window. It is something he notices she does a great deal, and he wishes she would tell him what spectres and phantoms she sees.
He wants to ask her so many things, but he knows she will not have the answers. He stands next to where she sits, and she reaches out for him. He steps into her embrace, and she buries her face into the planes of his stomach. His fingers are light on her hair, running through the thin silken strands so much like spun gold, and he thinks of Rapunzel in a tower or Rumpelstiltskin. It is funny, he thinks, how their names all begin with the same letter.
He is surprised when her hands turn forceful on his front, and he is tugged down next to her on the bed. Her lips crash onto his, branding and searing and god he’s missed it so much, and she slips her hands under his shirt. He knows this is wrong, that this is no solution, but he is like a drowning man, and this is his lifeline. He flips them over, and tugs his shirt off.
“We shouldn’t –” He has to try, even if he knows he will fail. She silences him with her mouth, and he doesn’t mind losing, not to her. She is soft and willing and pliant and warm beneath his roaming hands, moaning and gasping as he removes the layers that separate them and trails exploring fingers over the geography of her body. Some part of him still cannot believe that this is real, and tells him that this is a fantasy, a figment of his imagination that he had satisfied himself with many times before, only to find his soiled hands after he is spent, panting and yearning for her touch.
Her questing hands slip into his boxers and close around him, and the spark of pleasure and intensity that sears him convinces him that this is reality. He tugs his boxers off, and her hand is light and smooth and pumping on him and he groans as he parts her thighs with his hands to find her wet and dripping and all for him. He slides a finger into her, and the squeak she makes is just as he remembered, breathy and gasping and oh-so-arousing.
Her hand is still on his member, insistent and hot, and he nudges it away with reluctance. He wants to draw this out, to savour this moment with every fibre of his being. He moves his slicked fingers in, out, in, out, of her, setting a punishing pace that pushes her off the edge of the precipice into an orgasm that has her jerking and trembling. He slides his fingers out of her and licks the traces of her off them, and her hooded eyes follow his actions.
He takes his time, spreading her out before him and brushing his wandering hands over the peaks and dips of her, relearning and rememorising the landscape of her figure. He wants this night to last forever, and damns himself for being only a man. He would have given her eternities and lifetimes of pleasure, if he could. If she would let him. He dispels the thought from his mind as her tiny moans and sighs become louder and more insistent, and when he finally, finally slides into her waiting warmth, it is like coming home.
He moves slowly within her, languorous and ghosting, soaking in her heat and slickness, and grits his teeth and throws his head back when she clenches and tightens around him like a hot fist. Her nails score his back and arms as she pleads him for faster and more, and he gives it to her, thrusting and pumping with more force and speed, because he has never been able to deny her anything. His mouth feasts on the tender flesh of her breasts, and his hands caress the nape of her neck, or the expanse of her stomach, or the long scar that splits her torso.
When she comes apart in his arms, it is white heat and black holes and fireworks and everything he has missed for three years, and he follows after her down the path of pleasure-pain and oblivion with a shout. His last thought before his climax overtakes him is that he hopes he has buried himself deep enough into her, so deep that she will never be able to get him out.
Later, they lie cooled in the aftermath of their spent passion, and the humid wind flutters the curtains at the windows. He lies on his back, trying to count the cracks on the ceiling, and she is draped over him on her front. Her fingers trace constellations and maps and patterns over his torso, looping and curling again and again.
There is a symbol she keeps redrawing, on the patch of skin right above his belly button. It takes him a while to notice it, and his breath catches painfully when he does.
She trails a curving figure eight, over and over, an infinity symbol that she invisibly tattoos onto his skin and heart.