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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

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.