Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: Jack Harkness,, the TARDIS, the Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler
Summary: Jack thought She didn't like him. He just wasn't paying attention to the map.
Author's Notes: Written, with great affection, for yamx, for the 2013 fandom_stocking. I know she shares my love the TARDIS, and of Jack Harkness. I hope she likes this story from the early days of Jack's stay within Her.
Edited by: the wonderful dr_whuh, aka buckaroobob .
Disclaimer: As much as I wish it were otherwise, no Whoniverse characters are mine. They are the sole properties of the BBC and their respective creators. I intend no copyright infringement, and take no coin. I do, however, love them all, and thank the BBC for letting me play in its sandbox.
Jack growled, the sound worthy of a particularly irritable doberman.
He knew he’d been down this hall at least twice in the last 10 minutes. He also knew that he had not doubled back on himself or taken a wrong turn. He had followed the Doctor’s directions (“Down the first hall, turn left and mind the overhang; second door to your right, then up that set of stairs, left again down the upper hall, turn the little corner and bob’s your uncle.”) to the letter, just as he’d successfully done two or three times before.
This time, however, his room was nowhere to be found.
He knew what his hosts had told him about the ship’s shifting interior geography. He hadn’t believed it until now.
He had also caught what they’d hinted about the ship’s sentience. He’d rolled his eyes at that, too, but not anymore.
As a one-time Time Agent, Jack Harkness was trained to discern the slightest emotional nuances around him. Of course, that was a little difficult when the nuance was, in truth, all around him. Still, he was certain of his current situation assessment.
The TARDIS didn’t like him. Or at least, it didn’t trust him.
As he thought that, he ruthlessly tamped down on his disappointment. You don’t get to sulk because a damn spaceship doesn’t like you, he admonished himself. Smart ship like this, knows who it’s dealing with.
He noticed a door to his right, opened it and looked inside. Not his room. A library of sorts — a nice one, by the look of it; old-fashioned shelves around three walls, with two or three comfortable leather-bound chairs in a rough circle, one or two end-tables providing space for a drink and the extra book he’d take off the shelf to read when he finished the first one … Jack shook his head, amused despite himself at the absurd thought. He fought the urge to linger, to pick up the books. Real books … but no, he needed to find his room.
Two more turns of the corridor he was absolutely certain should lead to his quarters — had it always curved like this, or was it his imagination — and he ran into a small alcove, complete with a comfortable banquette. He ignored the temptation to just sit and look around himself. He’d done some reconnoitering since coming aboard, of course, but that wasn’t really sightseeing; more a way of determining the nearest exits and safest areas in case of, well, of whatever might happen aboard this place. Or in it. Or on it; he really wasn’t certain which preposition to use.
Jack spotted a set of stairs, just past an aquamarine archway growing in the corridor wall to his left. He ducked through, then stopped momentarily. Should he go up or down? He found himself waiting for something, some nudge from somewhere, to send him in the right direction.
He blinked. That was an odd thought. This place encouraged them, no doubt about it, but he didn’t need nudging from anyone. He decided to go up.
The flight of stairs went nowhere.
He refrained from swearing with difficulty, and growled again while turning on his heel to head back down the stairs.
Once back on what he was reasonably sure was the level he’d left, he employed some breathing exercises to stop seething with impotent frustration. He’d noticed the lights had started flickering in the roundels-cum-sconces as he got more agitated. He might not admit to anyone that he thought the ship was responding to his emotional tenor, but it couldn’t hurt to calm down.
So he whistled. Whistling made him feel a little better; it always had, ever since he was a boy. He whistled softly, just in case the ship was melody-phobic, but he thought it would be all right. For as short a time as he’d spent in this place, and as irrational as his hunch was, he was fairly certain that music of any sort in these halls was OK.
He chose a tune he’d heard on a mission years ago, something catchy and old fashioned, and concentrated on getting the grace notes right. The hallway curved as he paced its length, and his steps slowed and gradually adjusted to match the rhythm of the melody. The melody itself started to twist like the corridor, shifting into a minor key, soft and sweet. He took a left, then a right without really noticing.
Wait, there was the door to his room!
Jack sprinted towards the door, only to watch in disbelief as it receded from him. Surely that couldn’t be happening. No, it must just be farther away than he had originally thought. Perspective was a bitch in this place … he slowed down, looked again, and the door seemed to be a little closer; he sped up, and it retreated from him. He stopped and shook his head in disgust.
The ship had to be playing with him, he thought dourly. It couldn’t be the Doctor; the alien didn’t seem sadistic. The Doctor wouldn’t toy with him this way. He’d simply pitch Jack out the door into the Vortex. It’s what I’d have done in the old days. Then again, the Doctor was definitely not Time Agent material.
He frowned as he thought about the man who claimed to be a Time Lord. Legends come in handy for people with questionable pasts, he thought, then pulled a face at his own cynicism as he decided to retrace his steps yet again. He remembered a set of double doors, painted in stripes like a circus tent, back three — no, four — turns. Perhaps if he checked behind them, he’d find something that could help him find his way; if not to his room, then at least back to the console room.
It didn’t take him long to retrace his steps. It also didn’t take him long to admit that doing so was useless.
He stared at the plurality of hallways he had just stumbled upon, branching out like gold and green starfish arms from a sort of foyer he knew for absolute fact hadn’t been there when he’d turned the corner just a few yards back down the cor—
— which wasn’t there anymore when he looked back over his shoulder. There was only a modest doorway overhung with a beaded curtain.
“Oh, for the love of all that’s holy …”
He wasn’t nearly as thrown as he probably should be by the abrupt transmutation. There was a scientific explanation for it; sufficiently advanced technology always looked like magic. Hell, that’s what time travel was, wasn’t it? Still, he knew experienced time travellers who’d be freaking out just about now.
Jack turned back to the starfish foyer and eyed it carefully. The layout was intriguing, he had to admit. Which route would he take?
The lights in all the corridors seemed to shimmer, as if daring him to brave one passage and leave the others unexplored. Face it Harkness, you’ve wanted this chance, he thought to himself.
The idea of exploring the TARDIS had tantalized him since his arrival; he simply hadn’t acted on the impulse, because he was far from certain that the Doctor would let him go much farther than the control room, the kitchen or his room. In fact, he hadn’t yet decided whether he was a guest, or a tolerated freeloader.
He wasn’t sure how long the emotional high of being rescued from certain death had lasted before he’d started wondering about his status around here. Hours? Days? Longer than he’d expected it to last, he knew. Certainly it didn’t hurt that he’d been rescued after doing the right thing for a change, and by a collection of improbabilities — beautiful girl from the 20th century traveling with a leather-jacketed Time Lo— a strange alien who claimed to be a legend and must surely be crazy, and Jack didn’t know whether believing him or disbelieving him was the more foolish option. And the third improbable party; the ship Herself.
Wait, what? Jack blinked. Why on earth had he called the ship Her?
Well, it’s a ship, he reasoned. Of course you’d call it ‘she’ —
No. That wasn’t it. Around him, the lights pulsed and he felt the thrum of Her in the floor beneath his feet.
Her. Not like a ship, like a ....
Her. Her, a beautiful blue Her, and a Doctor. And a lovely Rose, too.
“Oh, for — Captain, you need a good stiff drink,” he said softly to no one at all. He couldn’t keep a smile from his face, though.
He started toward the center corridor. It was broad and straight and very like a regular ship’s hallway, nice and solid and knowable. But he hesitated. What of the right and left paths? Or rather, the two right and three left paths?
So many paths, and only god in all her infinite varieties knows where they go, he thought. Not even the Doctor knows, probably.
For a split second, he thought he heard Her laugh. He felt something shift inside him, like melting ice. He’d been wrong.
She liked him.
He didn’t even think to question himself; he laughed with Her.
“I’m right, aren’t I, darlin’?”
No answer, but he didn’t mind. He turned about himself slowly and then, as he’d done in front of the stairs, waited for a nudge to tell him where to go. This time, though, he was patient.
There. He felt the push. It could have been nothing, could have been his own instinct; he detected nothing that he’d been trained to think of as psi interference. Nevertheless, it was a push, and he accepted it. He turned away from the central corridor, and chose the narrowest passage, the one that looked most like undersea coral. He couldn’t see where it was going, but the soft lights and muted colors brightened around him as he walked
Before long, he came to yet another set of stairs. His boot heels tapped softly on the steps, the sound swallowed in the ship’s own soft pulsation. Once down the stairs, he stopped dead in his tracks.
Jack forgot about trying to find his room. He barely dared move. He didn’t know whether turning his head, even blinking, might deposit him back in some featureless corridor, and right now he knew with absolute certainty that this was where he wanted to be.
The view was spectacular, especially given its shipbound context. The stairwell ended on a balcony. Jack walked forward and looked out on a beautiful formal garden. He turned his face to what should have been the ceiling, and saw what seemed to be the bluest sky he’d ever seen. One storey farther down, the greensward gave way to riotous multi-hued blooms, growing out and over narrow paths that led to a pond with a fountain tinkling in its center. The heady floral aroma dizzied him almost as much as the completely illogical joy he felt in accepting its reality. He looked for seams, for pixels blinking out of synch, for anything to show that it was simply some sort of hologram. He saw nothing but sky, and laughed again in pure delight.
“You gonna stand there with your mouth open, or d’you think you might join us?”
Jack’s surprised squeak lacked dignity, but he didn’t care. He moved to the balustrade and looked down. Rose and the Doctor were sitting on the lawn, the Doctor sprawled at his full gangly length and Rose sitting with her feet tucked up underneath her.
“Wondered when you’d get here.” She grinned up at him, her smile wide and glorious.
“You — what?” He knew he sounded like an idiot. He didn’t care. She was waiting for me. They’re both waiting for me.
“Well, I told himself that I wanted to come to the garden room, and —”
“ — and I said we’d better grab the guest if we were going to go anywhere — “
“ — and we couldn’t find you — “
“ — and I said the TARDIS would sort you — “
“ — and She did. Isn’t she brilliant?”
They finish each other’s sentences, he thought distractedly. I like that. “So how do I get down there?”
“There’s a staircase to your left. You gonna use it?” The Doctor was actually smiling.