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Fic: Heritage, Chapter Eleven

Title: Heritage, Chapter Eleven
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.

Previous chapters




Over the next month, John took her to other lectures, on a wide variety of subjects. They listened to theories on early Indo-European verb forms and to an entire evening course, over a series of weeks, on the history of astronomy. He seemed determined to challenge her capacity to stay interested in his interests. But she’d done an entire graduate course in psychogenomics – lectures held no threat to her.

Some of the lectures were on subjects she knew he cared about, and others seemed chosen for the sake of giving a speaker an audience to listen to him. At a lecture in a neglected church hall, a hopelessly disheveled man with a public school accent argued with heartfelt eloquence that the Roman Catholic Church was the true heir to the logical tradition of Aristotle and Plato, and she whispered to John, “Do you agree with any of this?”

“Maybe. Maybe not,” he whispered back, as the speaker continued. “But it’s a treat to hear him argue, isn’t it?”

When the lecture was over, she went with John to shake the speaker’s hand and express her appreciation. There were others standing there – some of them vaguely familiar-looking, or perhaps it was their physical types that were familiar – and they greeted John with pleasure.

He drew her forward. “This is Penny,” he said, to them all. They all looked impressed.

“Penny,” he said, turning to her as an afterthought, “This is …” and the others spoke as they extended their hands to shake: “Jason” —“Theresa”. One woman said, “It’s so nice to meet you, dear. We were a bit worried about—what’s your name, dear? —John. He’s such a dear boy.”

She shook their hands, and expressed appreciation and pleasure, as John exchanged words with acquaintances. She wondered who they were – the two middle-aged women, stout as hens; the thin, eager, middle-aged man in the grey jumper, who conveyed enthusiasm by vigorously nodding and smiling but didn’t vocalize any words; or the tall, queenly elderly woman in a floral dress, holding the arm of a stooped elderly man, whose motion with his cane looked almost like a dance.

“Who are they?” she asked John, afterwards, wondering how long he had known them, this strange assortment of enthusiasts. But he replied, with a squeeze of her hand, “I have no idea,” as if that were the best part.

She mused on this, as they traveled back on tube trains towards his flat and a promised light supper. The people he seemed happiest to see were people who seemed not to know his name. Was it that burdensome to be John Tyler, that he was happiest as a face in the crowd?

She looked at John, imagining him as a stranger would see him – a handsome man, a little weary-looking at times, intense in his expressions, a slight sadness in his mien – less so lately than previously. He looked intelligent, earnest, focused, determined -- serious, but thoughtful.

She felt warm thoughts welling, as they always did when she contemplated him. When she had first met him she had received an impression that he was, in some way, fragile. She had since learned that he was strong in his own way, that he drew on what he had received from both sides of his family to make his way through a life largely thrust on him, but the sense she had, of his being vulnerable, remained with her.

Her feelings were part appetite, part care, and so very tender.

His fellow attendees asked nothing from him and promised him nothing. Their cordiality was offered for no reason other than civility’s own sake. Perhaps this was humanity at its best, displaying that sweetness to the stranger that comes from pure goodwill.

She was still getting to know him, learning more about John as he was when no one was watching. She thought sometimes of his parentage, of that remarkable story of his conception and ancestry, and wondered if he clung to the story of being half alien as an explanation for his own isolation. After all, the other explanation – that there was something wrong with him, something that he could not do, or could not stop doing – was so much more lonely.

“John,” she said, squeezing his hand, “I—” and then stopped.

He squeezed back. “Me, too,” he said.

~oOo~


She had not forgotten about the Vitex Awards, and the need to dress as glamourously as modesty and frugality would allow. She had found a dress that she loved in one of the larger shops, at a neat two and a half times the amount she had allowed for the purpose. Italian in origin, it was exquisitely made, draping where draping was to the purpose, framing the figure with elegant lines, setting off the wearer’s neck and bosom without sacrificing dignity or reserve. It could be worn to any formal occasion and always look quietly, stylishly modern. The colour was one of her favorites. It came in her size.

She could just about afford it, if she abandoned the idea of saving for a while, lived frugally for a month or two – or three -- and sacrificed a few of her accustomed indulgences.

It couldn’t really be justified. She wanted it desperately.

If she was going to buy it, she should do so soon, before someone else bought the last one in her size. She mused over this dilemma at various times and, on being asked for her thoughts during a silent moment at John’s one Saturday morning, told him about it.

“Let’s go see it,” he said immediately.

You want to go shopping?” she said, finding this hard to believe.

“Well, you want it, don’t you?” he said. “Let’s go see it.”

So off they went. She could only conclude that early morning sex must have great mellowing powers if the human male was left willing to shop.

The dress was still there, still in her size. She lifted it up by its hanger, showed it to John. He admired the material. “It’s thick,” he said, feeling it between thumb and forefinger. “No, not thick. It just feels thick. Lush. Like thick cream.”

“Yes, exactly,” she said.

“Try it on,” he urged. “I want to see it.”

There was no taboo against seeing dresses before the date, was there? She spoke to the sales clerk, was ushered into a dressing-room.

It fit, just as she had been sure it would. It draped perfectly. It made the most of her bosom (and would do even more with the right undergarments.) The deep color made her skin glow. It made her look sophisticated, elegant, someone who faced daunting social occasions with grace and poise. She preened, laughed, twirled, watching the skirt swish, feeling the soft smooth richness of the fabric against her skin.

She twirled in front of John, outside the dressing-room, listening to his applause.

“It’s perfect. It’s beautiful,” he said. “You look beautiful.”

“This is the dress, then?” she said to him, happily.

“This is the dress,” he agreed, leaned in, hestitated, kissed her cheek, and then walked over to the sales counter, pulling his wallet out of his pocket.

“John!” she called out, hurrying after him in her stocking feet. “Where are you going?”

He stopped, looked blank. “I’m paying for it,” he said.

Her heart jumped, at the idea of such a beautiful gift, and then sank again. She couldn’t let him spend his money on her like this. Had he thought that was what she wanted? “Oh, no, John,” she said. “You don’t have to.”

“But I want to,” he said, motioning towards the sales counter.

“No, John,” she said, wondering how to explain this. “I . . . no. You don’t need to buy it for me.” He stared at her, so she amplified. “I don’t want you to buy it for me.”

Now he looked puzzled. “Then why did you take me to see it?”

“Because . . .” she said. Why had she? “Because I wanted you to talk me into buying it for myself.”

John blinked at her. “But not buy it for you,” he said, for clarity.

“No.”

He stared at her, as if she were a new phenomenon, and she wondered why this idea was strange to him.

“I know what you make,” he said, still staring. “You can’t afford to buy this.”

Was he criticizing what she spent her money on? “I’ve got a bit of savings,” she said, flushing, but continuing. She didn’t mention that a large chunk of her savings were put aside to take him on a weekend trip. “And if I live frugally for a while – take my lunch in more, don’t go to the pub – I can pull it off. Just about.”

John took that in, concentrating to understand. “But I want to buy it for you,” he persisted. “I don’t mind.”

She was sure of herself when she said, “I don’t want you spending all your money on me.”

That provoked a little surprised laugh. “Let me assure you—” he said, and then stopped. Something seemed to occur to him, and his processing of it was visible on his face.

“Are you sure?” he finally said, scrutinizing her face.

“I’m sure,” she said, knowing she was letting herself in for three months of relative penury, but knowing she wanted the dress, and that holding to her point was important.

He blinked at her. “Very well, then,” he said, stepping back. “I give in.” He was still staring at her, and she couldn’t help staring back, wondering what it was that he saw.

She changed back into her clothes in the dressing-room, and took the dress up to the counter, where she made the single largest transaction she ever had on her card, and like that, the dress was hers.

She kept looking at John, who was preoccupied, throughout this. “John?” she asked.

“Hmm?” he said, coming to awareness, and then “Oh, you’re done. Shall I carry it, then?”

“If you like,” she said, and let him pick up the bag, watching it as he lifted it in the air. So this is what it’s like to shop at the best places, she thought. The dress hung on a padded hanger, inside a garment bag decorated with the colors and logo of the shop. The bottom of the bag was tied shut with a grosgrain ribbon.

I’ve spent so much money. She shut buyers’ remorse firmly out of her mind as she tucked her handbag under her arm and turned to walk beside John.

“Where do you want to go now?” she asked him, as they stepped out onto the pavement.

He had been distracted again, but he looked down at her, and said, “Home, unless you’ve some other idea.”

“Not really,” she said. She didn’t want to spend any more money, or be the occasion of more money being spent.

They sat on the tube train, holding hands, and he remained silent. She wondered if he were angry at her, and asked.

“Angry?” he said. “No.” He leaned forward and kissed her near her mouth, softly. “No.”

When they had returned to his flat, he helped her out of her coat, and hung it up for her, before hanging up his own. Then he led her over to the sofa, and sat down.

“Penny,” he said, taking one of her hands in his. He looked at her face, opened his mouth, closed it again, and then smiled to himself, eyes cast down.

“What is it?” she asked.

“Just thinking of something,” he said, and squeezed her hand. “Penny,” he said again, raising his eyes to hers. “…are you free next Saturday?”

“Yes,” she said, wondering.

“There’s someone I want you to meet.” He was watching her face, waiting for her reaction.

“All right,” she said.

“It’s my grandmother,” he said, still watching her closely.

She blinked. This was serious, then. “All right,” she repeated.

“I’ll pick you up, take you out there,” he said, continuing. “We’ll have lunch. And then I’ll take you out for dinner.”

It’d only be a couple of hours with his grandmother, then. She was relieved – meeting people’s relations can be excruciating – and then felt guilty. “Should we take your grandmother out to dinner with us?” she wondered.

“Oh,” he said, and shook his head to dislodge the idea. “No. No. It’s – a good thought, a nice idea. But not this time.” He squeezed her hand. “This dinner is for us.”

“All right,” she said, and smiled. He smiled back, and then both sat back a little, smiling at each other.

~oOo~


That night, they made love, and as they moved she listened to him with all her senses, soaked up the language of his touch, his tenderness, his reverence and care. She savored each stroke, each kiss, and knew that he was doing the same. Feelings too deep to be spoken of swirled in his eyes as they met hers, and she felt the stirrings in her of something like the same, emotions rooted so deeply that there were no words solemn enough to give them voice. When her release came it was with a sensation of being pushed beyond herself and then disintegrating, expanding at light-speed into a cloud of trembling shards. She heard her own breathless cry, surrendering.

Afterwards she lay there, as her skin tingled, marveling how everything about him, every plane of his face or turn of his body, the angularity of his hips or the arch of his brows, seemed perfect, exquisite beyond words. As he moved up her body, his eyes met hers, shining, dark, lush, and mysterious, and he seemed a beautiful, fey stranger, exquisitely carved from flesh and bone.

She held on to him, as he moved in her, her hands stroking softly, her thoughts suffused with wonder. Let him feel this, too, let it always be like this. This man, this moment, forever.

“I love you,” she whispered.

She thought it too soft for him to hear, but he gathered her to him, moving deeply within her, and whispered, “Say it again.”

“I…” she began, but was suddenly frightened, and, in the impulse of a moment, held on to him, gasping, and pretended she hadn’t heard.

Next Chapter

Comments

( 45 comments — Leave a comment )
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dettiot
Oct. 18th, 2007 12:59 am (UTC)
I've had a not-good day, and seeing a new chapter of this? Immediately made my day better. But even better was just how gorgeous this chapter was. I felt so proud of Penny, for standing her guns and not letting John buy the dress. That shows a strength of character that I think John really really needs. And, oooo, taking her to meet Jackie!!! I can't wait to see what happens in the next chapter.

Thanks!
kalleah
Oct. 18th, 2007 01:36 am (UTC)
I second the excitement about Jackie. I can't wait to see her.
(no subject) - np_complete - Oct. 20th, 2007 03:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - np_complete - Oct. 20th, 2007 03:32 am (UTC) - Expand
queenrikki_hp
Oct. 18th, 2007 01:04 am (UTC)
I love how rich your characters are. I can always feel just how alone John can be and I just want to hug him. He's really a credit to you. I'm always pleased to see a new chapter.
np_complete
Oct. 20th, 2007 03:34 am (UTC)
Thanks very much! I appreciate it!
drho
Oct. 18th, 2007 01:25 am (UTC)
This is fantastic. I can't wait until Penny meets Jackie.
np_complete
Oct. 20th, 2007 03:37 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying it!
paiger1218
Oct. 18th, 2007 02:17 am (UTC)
This so made my day. Brilliant.
np_complete
Oct. 20th, 2007 03:38 am (UTC)
Thank you!

I think your icon and my icon came from the same photo session. :)
ncdsbookworm
Oct. 18th, 2007 03:10 am (UTC)
Hi-- I just found this story a few nights ago and I just want to say I think it's COMPLETELY BRILLIANT. Seeing a new chapter seriously made my night. Thanks so much for posting, it's all awesome. Can't wait for more!!!!!
np_complete
Oct. 20th, 2007 03:40 am (UTC)
Well, thank you very much!

I try to post at least every two weeks, but for the past two months it's been longer due to changed responsibilities at work. Nonetheless, I will definitely be finishing it. It just may take a while.
nyaaaaaauuuuuuu
Oct. 18th, 2007 03:10 am (UTC)
oh, i love the way you ended it - all sort of tenuous and bittersweet.

i can't wait to see Jackie! :)
np_complete
Oct. 20th, 2007 03:41 am (UTC)
oh, i love the way you ended it - all sort of tenuous and bittersweet.

Yes, moments like that can be scary -- saying the words, and knowing they were heard.

Thanks for reading, and for commenting!
lapacifidora
Oct. 18th, 2007 03:44 am (UTC)
oh. my. I think the PTB at BBC need to be told about you in all your awesomeness. This story is so beautiful and the interaction is so real. The scene at the very end was gut-wrenching, because Penny's fear and behavior is so normal. But I particularly loved the scene on the couch, when John asks Penny to meet his grandmother (btw - Jackie!! Yay!)because these characters are so fully fleshed out that I could totally see them having this conversation. Another amazing chapter and I'm awaiting the next installment.
P.S. You might want to put an advisory on this fic: "Do not read while listening to Corinne Bailey Rae or Sarah McLachlan - swooning may ensue." =)
np_complete
Oct. 20th, 2007 03:50 am (UTC)
<Fans swooning reader>

It's time Penny met Jackie. I'm having fun writing Jackie. :)

Thanks so much for reading, and for commenting!
jvgymnast
Oct. 18th, 2007 04:05 am (UTC)
I love that you can say so much that isn't written through the behavior of your characters. I thought it was a beautiful way to show John's insecurity (I assume maybe he'd encountered someone after his money before) about Penny liking him and her not realizing she'd put his fear to rest. And Jackie still to come! I'm looking forward to what you write next.
np_complete
Oct. 20th, 2007 04:00 am (UTC)
Thanks so much!

I thought it was a beautiful way to show John's insecurity (I assume maybe he'd encountered someone after his money before) about Penny liking him and her not realizing she'd put his fear to rest.

Yes: Penny didn't realize the implications of the incident, but John definitely did, and he's processing them.

Thanks so much for reading, and for commenting!
spastasmagoria
Oct. 18th, 2007 07:41 am (UTC)
LOL that meeting can't go well. Jackie being jackie and all ;)
np_complete
Oct. 20th, 2007 04:01 am (UTC)
LOL that meeting can't go well. Jackie being jackie and all

Oh, she loathed his previous girlfriend. Couldn't stand her.

Thanks for reading, and for commenting!
earlgreytea68
Oct. 19th, 2007 12:22 am (UTC)
Oh, how sweet. The dress, the "I love you," Jackie... Can't wait!
np_complete
Oct. 20th, 2007 04:02 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!
irishaithne
Oct. 19th, 2007 04:49 am (UTC)
Ohh... :) So good.

Love the scene in the dress shop. Penny's so adorable when she admits she wanted him to talk her into it (and thank goodness John finally listened to her!)

Can't wait to see Jackie...
np_complete
Oct. 20th, 2007 03:37 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for reading, and for commenting.
whochick
Oct. 19th, 2007 06:49 am (UTC)
Once again I am completely taken with how beautifully you write. I was overjoyed to see the next chapter of this go up and it was worth all my pre-emptive enthusiasm.

I cannot express how much I love Penny's determination to acquire that dress on her own terms - for some reason it struck a real chord with me. The fact that John backed down makes me like him all the more.

As always, I'm eagerly awaiting your next chapter ... maybe a teeny bit more than usual, since I get to see how you write Jackie!
np_complete
Oct. 20th, 2007 03:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I really appreciate your reading it, and commenting.

I'm not sure Penny could explain why it was important that John not pay for the dress. It had to do with the feeling that so many people want to draw on John or make some use of him, whereas she wants to do the opposite.

Thanks again for reading, and commenting!
nostariel
Oct. 19th, 2007 08:27 am (UTC)
I've been reading this on Teaspoon and meaning to comment here (for some reason I hate commenting over there), and now I've finally remembered and I realize that I have no words. But I'm going to try anyway, because that's the least I can do for someone who writes a story this lovely.

I suppose I love the quiet beauty of it, and the almost painful intimacy we have with Penny's thoughts and emotions. It's a good pain, though. A kind of...pleasant ache that's very rare in fiction. There's also a restorative quality, if that's the right word, that reminds me of kalleah at her best. Because even though the story is dealing with deep feelings and the awkward frailties involved in a new romance, I never get the sense that you'll go for the easy out, and I'm never afraid you're going to rip our hearts out at the end just because you can or because you think tears = good drama. It's comforting, but not predictable. It's nice. I like it very much. Thank you for writing it and sharing it with us. :)
np_complete
Oct. 20th, 2007 03:53 pm (UTC)
Wow. Thank you so much for such a kind and thoughtful review. It means a lot to me.

I'm a great admirer of kalleah (who is my beta), and find her work comforting in just the way you describe. It's very rich, and true, and human in the best senses -- or perhaps I mean humane. So the comparison is immensely flattering, and I very much appreciate it.

Thanks so much for reading, and for commenting!
reetinkerbell
Oct. 20th, 2007 02:17 am (UTC)
I just found this story and oh am I glad I did. It is so lovely. So charming and so beautiful. I cannot wait for more.
np_complete
Oct. 20th, 2007 03:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I tend to be slow to bring chapters out -- every two weeks is the best I can do, and I've been much slower than that the last few months -- but I will definitely be finishing it. So hang in there!

Thanks again for reading, and for commenting!
catsfiction
Oct. 20th, 2007 07:39 pm (UTC)
I wanted to save reading this until I could take it slowly and savour each lovely phrase. You choose your words with great care and pack so much insight into them. I particuarly loved this:

She looked at John, imagining him as a stranger would see him – a handsome man, a little weary-looking at times, intense in his expressions, a slight sadness in his mien – less so lately than previously. He looked intelligent, earnest, focused, determined -- serious, but thoughtful.

"She felt warm thoughts welling, as they always did when she contemplated him. When she had first met him she had received an impression that he was, in some way, fragile. She had since learned that he was strong in his own way, that he drew on what he had received from both sides of his family to make his way through a life largely thrust on him, but the sense she had, of his being vulnerable, remained with her.

Her feelings were part appetite, part care, and so very tender."

That is such precise, accomplished writing. It seems you've nailed the problem - his life, his identity, has been 'thrust on him' - possibly that is the problem of any unplanned child born in difficult circumstances. To know your father is totally unaware of your very existence will feel like abandonment, even though, logically, it shouldn't.

They are settling in for the long haul now; in some ways he's testing her, maybe showing her the most awkward things about himself first. That tricky stage between new love and the establishment of a habit of life together is beautifully conveyed - so much happens, but with great subtlety, and Penny's love for John shines through every line.
np_complete
Oct. 22nd, 2007 02:55 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for such a thoughtful and flattering review. I appreciate it very much.

It seems you've nailed the problem - his life, his identity, has been 'thrust on him' - possibly that is the problem of any unplanned child born in difficult circumstances. To know your father is totally unaware of your very existence will feel like abandonment, even though, logically, it shouldn't.

Yes; that is John's dilemma. His family, his employer, the society he finds himself in all have ideas on who he should be, what he should be, how he can be used. Only anonymously or in the privacy of his flat can he be merely himself -- "just John", as he put it last chapter.

Being Pete Tyler's grandson is one kind of burden and produces one set of expectations, but the series of events that his father set off just by encountering his mother has done the most to define his life. His mother's life and by extension his own have been lived in line with his mother's ideas of his father's expectations. But his father's not there to see, guide, approve, disapprove, bless him, or set him free.

They are settling in for the long haul now; in some ways he's testing her, maybe showing her the most awkward things about himself first.

Yes, I think so. The incident with the dress wasn't meant by him as any kind of test -- he was perfectly sincere about wanting to give it to her as a gift, and genuinely surprised that she wouldn't take it -- but it told him a lot. He's processing it.

Thank you so much for such a thoughtful review. I appreciate it and your continued readership very much.
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