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Fic: Heritage, Chapter Ten

Title: Heritage, Chapter Ten
Author: NP-Complete
Rating: R for adult-ish content
Characters: OCs; historical Rose/Ten
Spoilers: Doomsday
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not even close. No money being made.

Summary: Half Time Lord, all human. In the future, one extraordinary man lives an almost entirely unremarkable life. Almost.

Author's Note: Thanks to everybody who commented on my previous chapters. Thanks especially to kalleah for most excellent betaing and to starxd_sparrow for the new story summary.

Chapter 11 coming soon.

Previous Chapters

“It’s all true,” he told her, quite seriously. “I know it sounds ridiculous. I know that,” he said. “But it’s important that you believe in it – that you at least be willing to believe in it.”



“The stars are out,” said John, one night, as they walked to his flat from the tube station.

She looked up. “So they are.” There were only a few visible, this being the middle of the city, but there they were.

“If we were in the country, we’d see a lot more,” said John, continuing to look up. “When I was a kid, we’d go out into the fields and stargaze. Mum and I learned the constellations together. She said they were different in her home universe.”

There it was again, that odd tale of John’s origins. “Were they a lot different?” she asked.

“I don’t really know,” he said. “They had a North Star there, like we do, and a couple of stars have the same names, but the constellations all had different names. I don’t know if that means they had different stars, or just that the constellations were named differently.”

Different constellations meant a different history, presumably, and perhaps different mythologies. Perhaps the history of religion was different in that universe. “Were there a lot of differences between this universe and hers?”

“A fair number,” he said. “Different countries. Different world history. The continents looked the same, she said. Canada was a lot smaller in her old universe. Russia was larger. They never had a Lithuanian Empire in her old universe. But, she used to say, she wished she’d gone to university in the old universe so she could have told me what had made the difference. It used to bother her: something would come up, or I’d learn about something in school, and she’d be certain the old universe had been different, but not know quite how. If the Germans didn’t colonize Thailand in the old universe, who did? Gran wouldn’t know, either.”

She could see how that could be frustrating. “What about you? Did you ever get confused? What was real, and what was something your mother remembered?”

“‘Ask Granddad,’” he said. “They all decided that, after I wrote down some story Mum had told me about America and got bad marks. ‘Ask Granddad.’ And then Granddad bought me children’s history books. He said he didn’t know much history, either, so we read them together.” There was a smile in his voice, and this was clearly a happy memory.

“You must miss him,” she said. All his memories of Pete always seemed to be happy ones.

“I do,” he said, and she squeezed his hand in sympathy.

“Now, my father,” he continued, “my father knew all about history. Time machine, remember?

She remembered. “Tell me more about him,” she said, willing to go along with a slight change in subject.

“Ah,” he said. “Nine hundred years old, I mentioned that, didn’t I?” She nodded. “Time and space traveler. He traveled in a blue box,” John said. Those last words were enunciated very precisely.

At first she wasn’t sure she’d heard that right. “Blue box,” she repeated.

“Blue box,” said John, clearly relishing the chance to be enigmatic. “Public police call box. They used to have them on street corners in the 1950s. Blue wooden box with a phone in the door. Used for emergency telephone calls. It wasn’t really a phone box,” he said, although she’d already figured that out. “It was his ship, the TARDIS. It just looked like a police call box.”

There was a pause. “What for?” she asked.

“It had a ‘chameleon circuit,’” he said. “It was supposed to look like anything, really. But it was broken, so – public police call box.”

He seemed to take pleasure in the absurdity of it, as if there were some satisfaction in telling truths that nobody would believe. “Didn’t it stand out?” she said. “They had to go places where there weren’t … public police call boxes.”

He shrugged. “According to Mum, it wasn’t a problem,” he said. “I suppose there were usually more important things going on than the appearance or disappearance of a mysterious blue wooden box. And,” he said, in the tone of one anticipating a question, “it was bigger on the inside than on the outside.”

She actually wasn’t surprised to hear that: it sounded entirely appropriate for a magical blue box. The entire story had the flavor of a tale told to children, a fable that no one was actually intended to believe.

“And your grandparents,” she said, “they … were witnesses to all of this?”

“And my Uncle Mickey,” he said. “He’s not really my uncle, he’s – never mind. But there were others. The Torchwood crowd. There’s a fair bit of eyewitness evidence,” he said. “People here – they met him. They saw him in action.” He stopped, forcing her to stop, and looked deeply in her eyes.

“It’s all true,” he told her, quite seriously. “I know it sounds ridiculous. I know that,” he said. “But it’s important that you – that you believe in it, that you at least be willing to believe in it.” He reached for her hand, held it tightly. “You don’t have to take it all literally,” he said. “You don’t have to have the same faith in it that you do in, say, the daily newscast. But you have to at least be willing to believe, to allow a possibility that it might be true.” He squeezed her hand. “If you – if you – w-want to be with me. It’s a fundamental thing about me, this story. You don’t have to believe it, but you have to be willing to believe.”

“I can do that,” she promised, holding tightly to his hand. “I can be willing. I am willing. I believe in you,” she said, finally finding a formulation that fitted. “I believe in you. And if you believe, I’m willing to believe.”

He dropped her hand, wrapped his arms around her, and held her close. “Penny,” he said into her hair. “Penny.”

“John,” she murmured. “I want to know you, John,” she said, finding it easier to speak to the side of his neck than to his face. “I want to know everything about you.”

“I’ll show you,” he promised. “I’ll show you. I’m so glad I met you, Penny,”

It was heartfelt: she couldn’t help but tremble. “I’m so glad I met you, too.”

~oOo~


Later, they were lying together in the semi-darkness, her head on his shoulder, when he said, in the tone of one to whom a profound thought has just occurred, “I feel . . . smug.”

“Mm?” she said, rubbing her cheek against him. “Do you?”

“I made a beautiful woman come, not twenty minutes ago,” said John, and kissed the top of her head. “How can I not feel smug?”

She smiled, leaning in to press her lips against his skin. The question had been rhetorical, but she said, “Feel as smug as you like.”

John seemed in the mood to talk. “You said you wanted to know all about me,” he continued. “Is that really true?”

“Of course,” she said, and lifted her head to look in his eyes.

“Well, then,” he said. “I – I wondered if you might like to go out with me on Thursday night.”

It seemed strange of him to ask in that way, after they had been going out for some time. This must be something different. “I’d like to,” she said.

“You don’t even know what we’d be doing,” he pointed out.

“What would we be doing?” she asked.

“There’s someone I’ve been meaning to hear speak,” he said. “I thought we might go hear him.”

That didn’t sound terrible. “What will he be speaking on?”

“Violin-making.” John turned his head to look at her. “He’ll be talking about the quest to develop a violin as fine as a “golden period” Stradivarius. People tried for centuries. It’s part history, part scientific study.”

She’d heard of Stradivarius, the brilliant – and apparently inimitable -- violinmaker of 17th century Italy. “Did they ever succeed?” she wondered.

“Some people think so,” he said. His tone of voice left her wondering whether he disagreed.

“That sounds interesting,” she said, although she wondered why he had picked this, of all things. “Thursday, you said?”

“Thursday,” he confirmed.

If they left from work, they would need to stagger their departure times, and join up at some later point. “We could meet somewhere,” she suggested. “We could have something to eat and then take the tube to … where?”

“St. Benedict Art Centre, Chapel Grove,” he said. “Little place.”

It sounded like it. “Let’s do it,” she said. He smiled.

~oOo~


She was the one who left work earlier on Thursday, and spent time waiting for John in the bar of a bistro they both liked, nursing a small drink and making secret plans. Remember what John had said about never visiting the Louvre, she had conceived an ambitious idea. Perhaps they could both take a long weekend – maybe different numbers of days, so nobody noticed them both out at the same time – and go to Paris.

She hadn’t been to France since her schooldays, and had never been to Paris, but her brother’s girlfriend had studied there, not too many years before. Perhaps Soraya could recommend places to eat, or even to stay, that would be in the proper price range. She planned to find a hotel and some recommendations for restaurants, and present John with a range of dates to choose from.

It wouldn’t be a luxurious holiday, but she thought she could afford a decent hotel, at least for a few days. She thought John would enjoy getting away from everything, visiting a city that was new to him. Since he had a much better knowledge of London and its environs than she had, he tended to suggest most of their outings, and always picked up the tab. He liked to arrange new experiences for her: she thought he would be surprised and pleased on discovering she had arranged one for him.

~oOo~


St. Benedict Art Centre was a church and associated buildings that had been taken out of ecclesial use some time in the previous century and made into a gallery, classrooms, and coffee bar. The coffee bar was dark but was serving disposable cups of boiling hot coffee and plates of shortbread biscuits with their corners knocked off. These did not look like good omens for the evening.

The gallery was lit, and she and John wandered through there in the ten or so minutes before the lecture was to start, inspecting artworks in silence. The night lighting was harsh and stripped the paintings of what charm they might have. The sculptures looked arbitrary, obtrusive, ideas not fully worked into form. The photographs were impossible to see clearly. It was with relief that she followed John into the meeting room to take their seats.

John had acquaintances, here: as they eased their way through rows of seats he was reaching out and shaking hands, exchanging greetings. People looked pleased to see him. They sat next to a grey-haired woman in late middle age who greeted him enthusiastically, turning slightly in her seat, tapping him on the arm with a program for the show in the gallery and whispering something excited that wasn’t quite audible from her place on John’s other side. John grinned slightly, and nodded, head next to this unknown woman’s, and she heard him chuckle.

“Penny,” he said, as they both turned to her, but at that moment somebody tapped on the microphone and drew their attention to the front. A woman in late middle age said a few words of introduction, and then the speaker came up behind the podium.

The speaker was a middle-aged man, hair waving slightly around the edges while disappearing from on top, and he wore thick spectacles. He had the slight stoop of one who lived in constant expectation of loud noises in the vicinity and feared their being directed at him. His voice was faint at first, and he had to be reminded to tilt the microphone to pick up his voice.

But he spoke with knowledge and passion of violin-making, of history; of Stradivarius and Amati and Guarneri; of spruce, maple, borax, potassium silicate, and the water in the Venice Lagoon. He described what was known of Stradivarius, what was known of his teacher and his contemporaries, and the first theories as to his secrets. He spoke of instruments, of their unique histories, of what had been determined by scientific examination of as many of those as would be vouchsafed for non-destructive tests. And he spoke of the quest to develop a violin as fine as those of Stradivarius and his contemporaries, and the fruits of those labors.

She was a musician of sorts, and had played a little 1/8-size violin in a group class in school, but her instrument had always been the piano. Still, she found it fascinating to listen to. There was a sense of loss in the story, as he described the passing of the golden age of violinmaking, and a sense of a quest, to rediscover those lost secrets with all the tools now at their command. As he spoke, she felt John’s hand creep over to her side and twine with hers. She squeezed it.

Afterwards they walked back towards the tube station, and she wondered, again, why he had picked this particular activity for their evening. As they reached the tube station, she decided to ask.

“Why Stradivarius?”

“Why what about Stradivarius?”

“Why did you want me to hear about Stradivarius?”

He had his card out, swiped twice for two fares. “There was nothing in particular about Stradivarius. Stradivarius just happened to be the topic.”

She brooded on that. “Then … was it him in particular you wanted me to hear?”

“Well … I think he’s a good speaker, but – no. I wanted you to come to a lecture. On something very dull.”

“It wasn’t dull,” she said, automatically, and then, “Wait a minute. You wanted me to be bored?”

“I wanted to test your boredom threshold,” he admitted.

She considered several replies, as they boarded the train, but settled on, “Why?”

“Because I’m dull,” he said, very firmly. “If you’re going to spend time with me, you’ll have to accept that. I care about things nobody else cares about.”

“You’re not dull,” she told him. It was true. “Why do you say that you are?”

They found seats, sat down. “Because – this is how I live,” he said. “No parties, no celebrities, no bright lights and photographers and names in the gossip magazines. Just hard work and a quiet life. And—maybe you want that too, I don’t know. But you need to understand. Pete Tyler, Rose Tyler – I’m just John. I’m just an ordinary man.”

He was anything but an ordinary man, but she understood what he meant. She leaned against him, moved her hand down his arm.

“You’re a very nice man,” she said, twining her fingers with his. “You’re a man I like a great deal.”

He looked a bit brighter at this, so she said, “You’re a man I want to spent time with. Even if we go to long and obscure lectures.”

He was beginning to smile. “And you don’t mind occasionally being bored?” he said, looking hopeful.

“I’m not bored yet,” she promised.

Next Chapter



Comments

( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
earlgreytea68
Sep. 29th, 2007 09:41 pm (UTC)
Yay for another lovely chapter of this! I'm so pleased every time I see you've added another. I really enjoyed John asserting that he's dull. Don't we all fear that our lives are, essentially, terribly boring? Although the firmness with which he asserts that he's dull makes me wonder if--and how often--people have told him that he's dull. And I loved this little detail: "finding it easier to speak to the side of his neck than to his face."
np_complete
Sep. 29th, 2007 10:19 pm (UTC)
John wants it clear that if you want a glamourous life hobnobbing with celebrities -- or want to use his semi-fame for your own purposes -- you'd best look elsewhere. And if you think that sounds dull, well, he can live with that.

Thanks for reading, and for commenting.
dettiot
Sep. 29th, 2007 09:46 pm (UTC)
[grin] I love the idea of John dragging Penny to a boring lecture, because he's convinced he's dull and he wants to prepare her. It's so in character for him, and really shows the insecurity he feels. And I loved seeing Penny's reaction to John's history; it was so simple and not all dramatic and over-the-top.

Another fantastic chapter!
np_complete
Sep. 29th, 2007 09:58 pm (UTC)
John wants Penny to understand that being his girlfriend means accepting his improbable origins, sharing some mighty obscure interests, and leading a quiet life outside of the spotlight his famous name puts on him. Makes you wonder about his past relationships, doesn't it?
kalleah
Sep. 29th, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
Makes you wonder about his past relationships, doesn't it?

It absolutely does. As I said when I initially read this chapter -- he's obviously had at least one truly harrowing experience and been fairly badly burned. Couple that with his obvious isolation at work, and his buried fear that he's the reason his father left (even if he doesn't quite acknowledge that) and he's quite complex.

I continue to love this.
np_complete
Oct. 2nd, 2007 01:30 am (UTC)
As I said when I initially read this chapter -- he's obviously had at least one truly harrowing experience and been fairly badly burned. Couple that with his obvious isolation at work, and his buried fear that he's the reason his father left (even if he doesn't quite acknowledge that) and he's quite complex.

Indeed. And then, after all that, he's given an unexpected, unlooked-for chance at a new relationship. No wonder he's bringing all these things up. A disappointment, at this point -- well, it wouldn't be good for him.
kalleah
Oct. 2nd, 2007 01:44 am (UTC)
A disappointment, at this point -- well, it wouldn't be good for him.

That's like how I think of the Doctor in Doomsday. When he first put the yellow button on Rose and sent her off to the other universe, he had given up on the idea of keeping her with him. When she came back, he allowed himself to hope. When she then was lost, it wounded him all the deeper.

I suspect like father, like son in this case.
whochick
Sep. 30th, 2007 01:49 am (UTC)
Lovely touch. I was desperately trying to preempt you, wondering where you were going with the violin angle ... wondering if there was Eight or Jack or goodness knows who giving/at the lecture.

Instead you simplified the whole concept into something much more satisfactory. You have an instinct for this story that really impresses.

Can't wait for 11.
np_complete
Sep. 30th, 2007 02:25 am (UTC)
Thanks! It does sound like something Eight, in particular, would take an interest in, doesn't it?
I was trying to come up with a topic that would have a scientific/historic/human interest narrative, like that book about the quest to find a way to reliably measure longitude that was a best-seller a few years ago. Stradivarius occurred to me, and I think that with a few more discoveries somebody could conceivably get quite a good book out of it.
whochick
Sep. 30th, 2007 09:15 pm (UTC)
No doubt! As a violinist myself, I almost want to go to that lecture ... lol.
starxd_sparrow
Sep. 30th, 2007 04:15 am (UTC)
I don't how I could have missed that last chapter, but the 'splendid' remarks? Gorgeous!

And this chapter? His zeal for his mother's past, his grandfather, and his father are lovely... but his love for Penny tops all. I just adored him for his little experiment. How considerate... a bit misguided, perhaps, but truly, what a sweet thing to do. I really expected the lecturer to be someone, perhaps someone from John's present-past-future... but no. Just a normal man, talking about normal things. That makes it all the more remarkable. It's like the Doctor says in "Father's Day" - "An ordinary man. That's the most important thing in creation!"

Brilliant installment, dear!
np_complete
Oct. 1st, 2007 01:35 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!

It didn't occur to me that people would expect the lecturer to be someone significant. Perhaps I shouldn't have had John specify that there was someone he wanted to hear speak. That's potentially misleading.

Glad you liked the "splendid" remarks. They're having a splendid time of it, getting to know each other and (on John's part) showing her parts of London and the environs.

Thanks for commenting, and for reading!
catsfiction
Sep. 30th, 2007 03:51 pm (UTC)
I was so delighted to see another chapter of this. One of the many things I love about it is the subtlety of the echoes with the familiar narrative of the Doctor and Rose. For example, his justification for his little experiment was such a gentle reminder of the Doctor trying and failing to be John Smith. It naturally raises the question, can John Tyler ever escape his past or will something reset the clock and leave him to fight that battle again?

Oh, and I adored the very subtle discussion of his father, and the difference between actually believing and being prepared to believe. The beautiful, direct exchange between the two of them, ending in the familiar lines, "I'm so glad I met you," and her reply.

Followed by him feeling smug - his dad certainly lived in that moment.
np_complete
Oct. 1st, 2007 02:08 am (UTC)
I didn't realize it until after I'd written the chapter, but John, at this point, knows what he can't live with in a romantic partner, and he's making it clear what the rules are. She has to be open to the idea of the Doctor ... check. She has to participate in, if not be enthusiastic about, his esoteric interests ... check. She has to distinguish between the man he is and the public figure he can't help being, Rose Tyler's Son (or Pete Tyler's Grandson). Most of all, she has to want that real man, want to live a quiet, unglamourous life with him.

Right now he has a pretty, kind-hearted new girlfriend who seems to like him, the real man, for himself. As he says, how can he not feel smug?
honorh
Sep. 30th, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC)
You're drawing such a wonderful picture of these two people, and especially of John through Penny's eyes. I'd like to see Penny meet Rose at some point; I'd like to see Rose through her eyes, especially knowing John's issues.
np_complete
Oct. 1st, 2007 02:15 am (UTC)
Thanks! I appreciate it!

We should start meeting series characters in Chapter 12.
irishaithne
Sep. 30th, 2007 11:45 pm (UTC)
Sigh!
Another lovely chapter. Poor John, feeling he had to test Penny's boredom threshold! I’m just John. I’m just an ordinary man But a cute one!
np_complete
Oct. 1st, 2007 02:14 am (UTC)
Thanks so much!
spastasmagoria
Oct. 1st, 2007 07:27 am (UTC)
*smiles* testing her boredom threshold. Oh the poor boy. glad for more of this :)
np_complete
Oct. 2nd, 2007 01:32 am (UTC)
Thanks!
lapacifidora
Oct. 2nd, 2007 04:42 am (UTC)
love it. *Love* it. It's so odd: I know that John and Penny are your own unique, original characters, and yet in my mind's eye, I see a little of the early Rose in Penny and some of Nine's personality (in Ten's body) in John and they're so refreshing. Much of the time OCs get a little dull, because the authors don't quite know what they're doing or where the story is going, but you? Masterful. Really. Excellent chapter and I am waiting (im)patiently for the next.
np_complete
Oct. 4th, 2007 01:07 am (UTC)
I see a little of the early Rose in Penny and some of Nine's personality (in Ten's body) in John

That's really interesting. I hadn't thought of John taking after Nine, but it's been mentioned before. I'll have to think about that.

I'm really curious about your seeing early Rose in Penny, because, although we hear Penny's internal monologue more than we hear her speak, I don't see them as being much alike. I'd be very interested to hear more about this.

Thank you for the lovely compliments, and thanks for continuing to read!
lapacifidora
Oct. 5th, 2007 04:18 am (UTC)
Well, I mean, we know that Ten can be silent, broody mess, but really, John has Nine's quirky, subtle humor and his very quiet way of flirting. And you've made it abundantly clear that John is a physical copy of Ten in most ways. If we agree with the logic that Nine and Ten are really the same person, then it only makes sense that John would have elements of Nine's personality. At least, it does to me.
As for seeing early Rose in Penny, I meant in the sense that they are both stubborn - such as when Rose kicked some Auton butt rather than skipping out and Penny's refusal to let John's terminal shyness shut her out. Also, both Rose and Penny have that quiet way of showing their affection: Rose taking the Doctor's hand and Penny showing sincere interest in John(i.e. she's not just interested in him because of his name, money, dashing good looks; rather, she genuinely likes him and is sincere when she asks him questions or laughs at his jokes). Plus, as easy as it may be to fall in love with the Doctor (Sarah Jane Smith, anyone?), obviously it takes a particular kind of person to be willing to commit. Rose was going to stay with the Doctor forever and I get the feeling that, though she might be nervous and freaked out if posed with the same decision, your Penny would choose John. No questions asked.
Well, now that I've blathered on to excess, I'll go now. Hope I made my earlier comments a little clearer. =)
np_complete
Oct. 7th, 2007 09:15 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, that does clarify things. It does make sense for John to resemble Nine in some ways, and they do both have quiet senses of humor.

You're right, too, that Penny can be stubborn, and persistent. She kept trying to encourage John when he was being less than encouraging back. And, though she's much more introverted than Rose, she's warm and kindhearted, like Rose is.

Thanks for commenting further! I appreciate it.
seashell14
Oct. 20th, 2007 11:12 am (UTC)
Interesting.
What I saw in the Stradivarius lecture was an effort to recapture something magical and ephemeral about an “ordinary” object that was present in the past and is now seemingly lost. Something which most people don’t see as possible to regain—but which a few with the right vision are trying to use the knowledge presently available to regain.

I equated that to John’s subconscious desire to discover the “time lord” within himself. And to share that interest in potential discovery of everything with Penny. Much like Nine showed Rose the destruction of the earth because consciously or subconsciously he wanted her to understand what losing his planet and people felt like.

Just as the loss of his planet was a large part of who Nine was when he first met Rose, I could see where being ordinary…but yet having a facet of himself that is largely undiscovered and not ordinary and the discovery of the extraordinary in the ordinary is a large part of who John is.

I know, I’m over thinking. But that’s because I’m enjoying the story and really want to understand John, just as I want to understand The Doctor. (You know—just between us—I might even be as attracted to John as I am to The Doctor. *g*)

This lovely relationship is the discovery of the extraordinary in the quietly ordinary.
np_complete
Oct. 20th, 2007 02:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Interesting.
What I saw in the Stradivarius lecture was an effort to recapture something magical and ephemeral about an “ordinary” object that was present in the past and is now seemingly lost.

Hmm. Very interesting. And of course there's something else, large in his consciousness, that could be described as magical and ephemeral and is lost to the past -- his mother's brief idyll with his father.

the discovery of the extraordinary in the ordinary is a large part of who John is.

Yes, I think you're on to something, here. His method is to linger and take a closer look, see what he can learn, what the object of his study can show him if given a little time and space. He grows alien flowers in the back corners of his office. He raised the blinds when he made love to Penny for the first time, wanting to see her. The extraordinary in the ordinary, indeed.

Thank you so much for such a thoughtful review; I very much appreciate it. Chapter 11 has come out since I posted this chapter, in which we see John and Penny at a few more lectures. Again, thank you for reading, and for commenting.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 20th, 2007 11:32 am (UTC)
I love this story so much, and I was very pleased to see it had been updated!

They are so cute, and romantic in such a simple, normal, and touching manner that it makes me smile just thinking about it.
np_complete
Oct. 20th, 2007 02:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! Don't miss Chapter 11, which has just come out.
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )