To a Place we Belong
Disclaimer: See chapter one.
A/N: Oh wow. the reviews and recs and general response made me all happy and giggly and made me write even though I've been so up to my eyeballs in RL that I've only had about four hours of sleep a night since the last time I posted. So thank you so very very much everyone.
Also, thanks to me finally sitting down for a little bit and properly outlining what I have planned for the series I now have a, though still slightly rough, good timeline of the events up to Journey's End. From there on after I'm still not sure because I haven't seen enough of 11 yet but I do know what I have planned for River Song's origins now. So whoot.
And as always a special thanks to Kerrykhat and AwesomeGeek over at PL for their never ending greatness.
Now, on we go.
She could feel the breeze coming off the harbor making her hair dance wildly around her, like it had a life of its own. The feel of it was just one of the many things she was aware of, almost hyper aware if truth be told, as her feet carried her across the Plass the long way, a winding path that took longer than the straight one would have. But that time, she needed it. To make her choice, to soak up more of the life around her, to make sure she had all her masks firmly in place.
Seconds, minutes drifted by as she got closer and closer to the source of the tingle under her skin, and by the time she had a proper line of sight on them she had already managed to slip behind her masks. She watched the impossible to miss figure of Jack running off into the distance, his steps clearly leading him in the direction of the Tourist Entrance of the Hub.
A muscle in her jaw twitched at the sight. Jack was back, the Captain was backbackback. Too late, far far too late. Six months too late really. Though she doubted he knew it yet. Idly, she wondered how long it had been for him. After all she'd spent months with the Doctor and Martha and only had it be a few hours for Dawn and given the fact that Jack probably didn't age because he couldn't die....
Laughter filled the air, full of life and hope and happy-happy-happy. Her gaze shifted away from where Jack was quickly disappearing and focused on the two people leaning on the railing overlooking the Plass. They looked so very alive, vibrant in the bright early afternoon sun and the sight of it made her lips twitch even with all the pain and death and anger and ashes rolling around in the back of her head. She could hear it in their laughter, hope with all the pain buried deep underneath. Hide behind bright smiles and vibrancy and manic energy because if you thought about all the pain then you just gave up and crawled into a corner and waited for the end to come and devour you.
She understood it. Oh yes she did. And that was what made her slow her pace and prop herself up against the railing about fifteen feet from them facing away from the expanse of the Plass and it's water tower that reminded her that so very soon Jack would walk into an empty Hub that had changed a lot since he'd left. Not that it mattered, she'd deal with Jack and ass chewing he was going to get later.
At the moment though she had other things on her mind, like the fact that it could have been weeks or even months for them since time had rolled back on itself. So she chose the safe route and felt her masks slip into place with almost no effort. A sad testament about herself if she thought about it too much. “You know the last time I heard you two laughing like that I ended up spending two days with purple skin.” she made her voice sound bored with just a hint of amused pulling at the edges as it carried on the wind.
And suddenly she had two sets of eyes on her. Wide, surprised eyes. Eyes that had a more things behind them than there were worlds still to see, at least in the Doctor's case. She idly wondered if he was even aware of what she'd spent her lost year doing, she doubted it. Which was probably for the best. He carried enough weight without knowing things that didn't matter. She met the Doctor's gaze and raised an eyebrow. “Well? Do I get a hug? It's been years for me.” it had been for her. Years, such long long years.
And he smiled that smile of his that was just so blinding when it was real and in less time than it took her to take a breath she had her arms wrapped around the neck of the last Time Lord as he lifted her up into a bear hug with a laugh and spun the both of them around. “You look brilliant.” there was a deeper meaning there, she could feel it. But did she want to think about why he would think that? Not at all. So she stayed hidden behind her mask and laughed a bit. “Don't I always?”
“You didn't after that night in Tau Ceti.” she shot Martha a look as the Doctor set her back on her feet and then turned her attention back to him with an almost complete mock glare because she had liked the shoes she'd been wearing that night. “Which was not my fault.” she shifted her gaze back to Martha.
“Oi! I wasn't the one who started a pub brawl with an eight foot tall lizard!”
She tilted her head, giving Martha the point. “No, he was.” she jerked a thumb over in the Doctor's direction. “I just finished it.”
As one, she and Martha looked over at the Doctor, who had shoved his hands into his pockets in an attempt to pull his-I'm a Time Lord and therefore beyond being mocked or made to feel like a mook-pose.
A brown eyebrow went up at them. Yeah like that would work. It never had when it was the two of them versus him. “I do recall that I was defending your honor at the time.”
The only response that got him was a snort, out of both of them. Coupled with twin eye rolls. Like she needed him to defend her honor, she'd beaten down a hell god so a lizard was nothing.
What are you doing in Cardiff?” her mind began to work, pieces falling into place as memories surfaced. During that year they hadn't been the Council or Torchwood or UNIT or the Initiative or any one of a hundred other groups that had had their remnants join in the fight for survival, they'd just been the survivors. Questions about past or connections or old grudges or politics or religions had been tossed aside and forgotten in favor of just making it through another day.
Which meant Martha didn't know and the Doctor didn't either. They didn't have a clue that Jack was her father, that she was now a member of Torchwood, or that in the years that had passed for her since she'd last seen them she'd moved so much further along into pushing the limits of what a human was capable of while still being human. They just didn't know. And she couldn't tell them without letting them both know that she remembered and she couldn't bring herself to take those smiles away from them.
So she hid behind her mask, because she was just so good at it. “Enjoying a peaceful, very normal, day.
Martha gave a wry smile. “Normal, I remember that. Sort of.”
The Doctor scratched the side of his head as his brows went down a bit with that confudled look he sometimes got. “Weren't you going to do that?” he stopped scratching and gave her an almost assessing look that was hidden behind bright eyes. “Normal, that is. Not the enjoying the day part. You should enjoy every day. Well, except for the days that you don't.”
She just smiled at his babbling, she'd missed it despite or maybe because it drove her up the wall on occasion. “Funny thing.” she shrugged. “I went to sign up at the normal department and it turns out they were all full.”
He grinned at her, and it was so bright it made the afternoon sun seem dull and sallow. It made her feel lighter, like all the year that had vanished in an instant wasn't just rolling around in the back of her head waiting on her to let her guard down for an instant and swallow her. “Tragedy.”
She returned the smile. “I know.” and it was a real smile because when the Doctor was there she could just let go. She could just escape. She could put away some of the masks she wore all the time around her family and friends and team and just be a bit more of herself. Because the Doctor knew, had seen who and what she really was inside and out and he didn't care. He'd seen her darkness and light and above all else he'd stood in her desert and seen the universe burn and bloom above them.
“Come with us.” three little words. Just three. And she met his gaze and saw it there. She saw in him what she saw in herself. She needed him.
He needed her.
She was the Desert and he was the Storm. And sometimes even the desert needed it to rain just like the rain had to fall.
Because that was who and what they were and that was what they needed.
Her head tilted to the side, and she couldn't help her expression. “Just like last time?” and he understood, she knew he did. Sometimes the two of them didn't need words. And then his smile became something with a life all its own and he reached out and grabbed her hand and Martha's too. “Oh yes!”
And now her laughter was as bright and happy as theirs had been when she'd first seen them standing there like life served up to her on a silver platter.
“Where are you going?” Martha had to raise her voice a bit to be heard over the sound of the Tardis engines. Which really wasn't necessary but she was betting that Martha had forgotten that she could hear the Doctor's hearts beating even with bombs going off around them. Which had been something they'd done and she had no plans on repeating, she liked all her body parts still together thank you very much.
“To make sure he hasn't made the old girl angry enough again that I end up with my bedroom full of sauerkraut again because she overshot his bedroom.”
“I said I was sorry about that.” she ignored the Doctor's protest and waved a hand as she began to head for her old room. Though she didn't miss hearing him grumble. “Don't know why she made such a fuss, it was good sauerkraut.”
“You know she could still force feed you pears.” was the last thing she heard Martha say before she was too far down the corridor to hear without putting any effort into it. She shook her head and kept going. Down the hall, four doors and then turn right and then down another three doors and her room was on the left. She opened the dark wooden door and found the room brightly lit and just like she'd left it. She smiled and went inside as she felt a very faint pulse that meant the Tardis was as happy to have her back as she was to see the old girl.
“Thank you beautiful. It's perfect.” she let her gaze roam over the room. On the wall opposite the door stood her bed, a massive queen sized thing that was beautiful like a piece of timeless art. Each corner was made up of a dozen thin rods that spread out into a circle the higher they went with another thin rod wound around them like some reverse spire. The rods then bent, criss crossing over one another to form a canopy from which thin curtains hung from. The whole room was done the same way. In earth tones that were the colors of the desert. Bright, rich reddish browns and oranges and golds and rust and it was her place. There were pictures of herself, the Doctor and Martha tucked into the mirror of her vanity, odds and ends she'd picked up during their travels sitting on shelves and tables. Clothes that she'd just tossed over the back of a chair because she'd been too tired to do anything else were exactly like they'd been when she'd last left the room. Her blades still mounted on one wall.
All of it, just like she'd left it. She smiled and just stood there, soaking up the feel of it. Call her crazy but she felt more at home in the Tardis than she did anywhere else. She was dimly aware of the Tardis landing somewhere but didn't pay too much attention as she crossed the room and headed for her closet. Buffy Summers, member of Torchwood and sometimes leader of an army of slayers was going on vacation, going back to the roots of what had changed her just as much as becoming the slayer had. It was time for a change of pace, and a change of clothes. Not only a symbolic change but a mental one.
She looked though the clothes and picked out a pair of 'jeans' that she'd picked up on a shopping trip in the fifty third century. They looked like normal jeans you'd find in any shop on earth in the twenty first century but they were made of much sturdier stuff. She'd already seen them endure things that would have killed the jeans she was currently wearing. After that she picked out a goldish crème Henley that had just appeared in the wardrobe amongst a ton of other things that had seemed put there just for her and snagged her old leather jacket from the hook on the back of the closet door. The same leather jacket that she'd won in a pool game and that had endured lizard slime and about a million other things.
Once out of the closet she headed for her bathroom, she hadn't started out with her own bathroom when she'd first decided to come with the Doctor and Martha the first time but three days in to the trip and she'd woken up with her bedroom completely redecorated from its fairly bland look to what it was now, complete with a much larger closet and a bathroom that had made her squeel like a teenager.
Her smile didn't falter as she went through the door. She was most definitely home and all around her she could hear the Tardis hum its contentment.
There were a bunch of kids playing down the street, kicking around a soccer ball. They were loud, they were hyper, they were young and they were innocent and so very perfect and alive. And she needed that again. She really did. They'd landed at Martha's mother's house and she'd gone in to meet her friend's family when Martha had clearly wanted her to.
Only Martha's family, they were broken. Broken by a year of the world being shattered and wrong and even though she'd done her best to smile and be polite and pretend she'd needed out. She'd left, left Martha inside and the Doctor firmly planted to his spot by the Tardis watching everything going on inside the house and she'd gone out the side door and ended up on sidewalk watching a bunch of kids play. Because she needed air, she needed alive, she needed to not have that sort of reminder with things still so fresh in her memory.
She shoved her hands into her jacket pockets, they were bigger-the pockets not her hands. She'd noticed it when she'd pulled all of her various stuff from the jacket she'd been wearing when she'd left the Hub and moved it over to the well worn one she'd loved and left behind for so long. The pockets of it, they were bigger, deeper. Like the Doctor's pockets. Which was a bit odd considering they hadn't been that way the last time she'd worn the leather jacket but she wasn't going to complain. The Tardis had a personality all it's own and if the ship had decided to meddle with her wardrobe once again she wouldn't question it. She didn't want to end up with horrible smelling German food in her bed again.
She heard the unmistakable sound of the Tardis door shutting and knew that the Doctor had gone back inside again, alone. Martha was still inside with her broken family and though she didn't want to think about it or admit it even she knew what was going to happen. Because she knew Martha, she knew that kind of pain and she knew what it was like to break, really break for the first time. So when she finally heard the door to the house close and Martha's familiar gait cross the distance and enter the Tardis she finally started heading back.
She didn't go in though, she couldn't. And instead she found herself doing what the Doctor had done only moments before, she watched the broken family inside. That's what they were and anyone could see it, even the blind. It hung on all of them like some too big and heavy coat, weighing them down. They were brittle and cracked and too full and hollow all at the same time. Maybe they would heal, maybe they wouldn't and maybe, just maybe they'd take the third road. They would never heal but they would do what she'd learned to do-carry on and hide behind a mask. And hopefully, if they did fall down that hole they'd only have to hide behind one mask, cover up only one instance of being shattered like so much fragile glass.
She had more masks than she could count, more personae and cracks and bad memories than there were grains of sand in her desert. But that was alright because if any of it, even the smallest bit, were taken away then she wouldn't be herself any longer. And as broken and damaged as she was she still remembered and she still fought and she could still laugh and smile and love.
Love, there was a thought. Love, love, love. Her lips twitched as she shoved her hands into her now 'bigger on the inside' pockets for the thin stack of post it notes and sharpie she'd taken to carting around with her for work and to make sure Ianto couldn't keep her from exacting marker assisted revenge in her ongoing prank wars with Owen. It took a second to find them both and she actually smiled as she pulled her hands out and started writing. So much, so very much had happened in that nightmare of a year but not all of it had been horrible or soul crushing. Sam and Riley were going to be parents, Jordy was going to end up being one hell of a leader, Ianto was so much stronger than everyone seemed to realize, humanity was capable of not only coming to terms with non human life but willing to unite and, though she was sure they both thought she was oblivious, Xander and Martha had found just what they needed in one another.
Minutes ticked by, the slight breeze playing with her hair and then she heard the door of the Tardis open and turned to look at Martha. The dark skinned woman had a look that couldn't be mistaken so she raised an eyebrow and smiled. “So, you're staying here then.” it wasn't a question, she already knew.
“I can't-I can't just leave them.”
She rocked back on her heels a bit. “I know.” she held out the lone post it and Martha took it, the question in her eyes. She smirked. “Xander's phone number. Tell him I said that if he doesn't take you out for dinner I'm gonna sic Dawnie on him.”
She saw Martha's expression change, the realization grow in her friend's eyes. “You remember.” it was almost a breathless exclamation, full of shock and awe and horror and so very much more.
She gave a slight nod. “I do.” she knew what giving Martha the phone number meant, what it would give away, but the cost was worth it. It was worth it for Martha to find happiness and to know that someone else, someone who she could talk to if she needed to, remembered.
And then suddenly she had a Martha shaped hug all around her. And it was the hug of a friend, a fellow survivor, of comfort and support. She squeezed Martha's taller form tight for a moment, as always careful of her strength. “I'm fine.”
Martha pulled back, looked her in the eyes. “I am, really.” she smiled, a full bright smile. “You know me, I'm like a ball, I bounce right back.”
Martha smiled, laughed a little. “Yes you do.” her expression turned serious again, geeze they were both picking up the Doctor's case of mood whiplash. “Take care of each other.”
She gave a nod.
***Also be warned, this story is going to be long, probably longer than Life Past Death but not nearly as long as the next story in the series is going to be. I've got about a dozen different adventures planned for Buffy and the Doctor to go on.
And as always reviews are loved and appreciated because this is the first time in the series I'm going to be writing the Doctor in for long sections of dialogue and such. Also any ideas/questions/pairings/plot bunnies/well, anything are welcomed.
Now, I must go work on the last bit of the next Learning to Live chapter before I have readers hunt me down.