category: Jack/Hand, Jack/Ten, various
rating: F for Fingers.
notes: For the one, the only, the champion, sexy President lizlet, who promised to make me fingerless gloves in exchange. Happy Pilotfish Day!
spoilers: Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion and The Runaway Bride. Torchwood: sort of general through Cyberwoman.
disclaimer: Thanks to Rusty for the gay, Barrowman for the Cap'n Jack, and Tennant for the manly, hairy hand.
acknowledgements: Thanks to sophia_helix for offering to watch the Torchwood pilot again so she could beta this. Turned out I'm just freewheelin' it, but, M., guess who gets to beta my next Jack/Ten/Hand threesome? First two guesses don't count. *g*
I really can't stay (Baby, it's cold outside)
I’ve got to go 'way (Baby, it's cold outside)
The evening has been (I’ve been hopin' that you'd drop in)
So very nice (I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice)
~ Christmas Song, Traditional
The hand celebrates its first birthday alone. It was born on Christmas, in the United Kingdom which it now calls home, and in Cardiff on Christmas Eve it has a little party for itself, in its jar, in the dark. It remembers the Doctor and it dances its fingers when no one is watching.
The Doctor spent Christmas alone too, in his Tardis, which the hand only remembers as a series of vague sort of infantile snapshots. The Doctor's new hand still resonates with the same frequency as his severed one does, but over the year distance and time have made the vibrations fainter, and there have been long months when the hand couldn't sense its replacement brother at all. This Christmas, the Doctor must be close by, because the old hand feels it when the new one clenches into a fist, and the hand feels it when the Doctor punches his Tardis console, and when he grips the throttle, and when he throws himself around the cabin with the manic energy the hand remembers. The Doctor, like a drunken parent, fills the hand with fear, and the hand is happy, if happy is an emotion it is capable of possessing, when the Doctor flies out of range and the hand is alone in the quiet again.
The next day is Christmas, and no one comes in to the Hub until well nigh into the afternoon. Ianto flicks on the lights at half three and starts a pot of coffee even though no one else is around.
"I see you've been busy," Ianto says to the hand, after checking the previous night's activity log on the monitors. "Quite a bit of circulation going on this morning, eh? Good think I stopped by to feed ya."
The hand, which in its current form lacks a mouth or vocal cords, doesn't say anything. "More exciting than my Christmas," Ianto goes on. "I was asleep before midnight. Apparently we missed a proper adventure, you and I. Giant spiders landed in London, or so the reports say."
The hand still doesn't say anything. The vents start bubbling, which means Ianto's turned on the CO2 scrubbers, and so the hand wiggles its fingers and plays in the bubbles. The tiny hairs on the back of the hand shimmy in the fluid goo.
Ianto sprinkles the hand's meal of amino acids and vitamins into the jar, gets his coffee and goes back to his work and doesn't say much, and eventually he leaves the Hub and the hand is alone in the dark again.
The day after that is Boxing Day, and a work day, and the day the Doctor comes back.
"Tosh, I need that sample sequenced," Jack orders, as Ianto turns on the lights and unlocks the doors and the whole Hub purrs to life. Toshiko comes and sits at her computer, and Gwen and Owen make their way down to the medical bay for their morning snog, and Jack locks himself in his office and sets the hand's jar on his desk.
"I don't know what to say to you right now," Jack says after a long moment, nodding a couple times, sort of wistfully. He picks up the phone and starts talking to someone about asphalt samples and silk cabling, and the hand flexes in its goo and sucks up the last dredges of protein floating on the surface. Jack hangs up.
Outside beyond the glass, Owen is putting on his coat and stuffing the pockets with medical implements to take back to his lab, and from the far scaffolding, Gwen has her chin in her hand and she's watching. Jack makes two fists and leans back in his chair and fixes his eyes on the hand.
"You were here, not a hundred fifty miles away and I waited for you!"
Now the hand can feel the Doctor again, and it wants to tell Jack that the Doctor is still here, close by, but it is afraid, and so it just bobs in its suspension and lets Jack continue.
"I waited," Jack says again. "Heard on the scanner about a mysterious blue box scaring traffic on the M4 and I went straight to the rift and I waited, because you said you'd come back for me."
The hand bobs. Somewhere it can feel the Doctor's new hand dancing across the Tardis controls, and its fingers twitch. It feels the Doctor's blood pulsing through it, feels the motion of the Tardis suspended somewhere in the air, fifty, maybe a hundred miles away, no more. Like he came back for something, and the hand lets itself think maybe the Doctor came back to reclaim it, and is scared again.
And it's as if Jack knows, or can sense it, because he reaches out and flips open the safety latches that hold the jar shut and sets the lid on his desk. The hand swims to the surface and feels the cool air of the Hub on its fingertips. Jack reaches in, twines his fingers through the hand's, and pulls the hand out of its goo.
The hand, warming against Jack's palm, waits for orders that it knows won't come.
There is exactly one reason the hand wants to see the Doctor again, and even that reason scares it. The hand, having been severed during the regeneration process, is still made up of undifferentiated stem cells, and it keeps its hand form because so far no brain has told it otherwise. The hand can take any form it wants, and it knows it, but Jack doesn't, yet, and so the hand will remain a hand.
Jack presses his other palm to the back of the hand, and holds it there, a fifteen-fingered embrace. The hand feels warm and safe. "I'm going to figure you out," says Jack, stroking a finger down the back of the hand, leaving a trail of tiny raised hairs and gooseflesh.
There's a knock on the door, and the hand feels Jack tense, caught and embarrassed, the way he gets when people ask about the jar, or the rift, or the Doctor. He rests all three hands on his knees, tucked under the desk, and says, "Come in."
It's Gwen, the one who looked the hand up on the Hub's computer and tried eight different password combinations before the system locked her out. "Jack?"
Her eyes light on the empty jar and the thin spittle of goo that runs from the lip of the jar to its lid, sitting face-up on the desk, and as quickly she looks away and meets Jack's eye. "Sorry to interrupt," she says, hurriedly. "Owen's found some evidence that suggests the spider that attacked London may have evolved on this planet."
"Giant alligators in the sewers, cockroaches that can eat Miami, that sort of thing?" Jack asks. "Interesting theory but I doubt it. That creature was alien, and ancient, older than we are, older than the earth itself."
Gwen furrows her brow and leans on the door jamb. "Yeah?" she asks, all wide Welsh vowels. "Can you be certain, given that there's nothing about these creatures on record?"
The hand feels Jack's palms closing around it, squeezing, frustrated. "I'm sure," Jack says. "Trust me." Gwen does, and the hand does, and the hand even knows the name Rachnos, an old, ancient name that makes the Doctor himself tremble. "Rachnos," the hand thinks, trying to be helpful. "The Rachnos."
"Okay then," says Gwen. "I'll leave you to it." She turns to go, but she's been around the Hub long enough that her early attempts at decorum have passed, and so she stops before she leaves and turns around again. "Jack?"
She nods toward the jar. "That hand, what's it for?"
Jack waits a long moment before sliding his arms out from under the desk and holding his three dripping hands up to show Gwen. His strong fingers are twined through the hands, fingertips pressing into the backs of knuckles and the hot-blood pulse of three stacked palms. "It's kind of like a souvenir," says Jack, finally. "Reminds me of someone I used to know, a long time ago."
Gwen nods like she understands. "Someone you lost?" she presses, gently.
"In a sense," says Jack, and the hand feels the Tardis engines start again, and as the Doctor wraps his hand around the Tardis throttle, the hand vibrates in Jack's, and Jack squeezes to stop the trembling. He holds a finger to his mouth and kisses the tip.
"Well," Gwen concludes. "I hope you find him."
"So do I," says Jack, and now Gwen leaves.
Jack peels one of his hands away, and he puts the tip of the hand's index finger to his lips again, and kisses it, and closes his eyes. "You didn't come," he says. "I'm right here," the hand thinks.
The Tardis purrs, and the Doctor remembers, and the hand remembers, and the Doctor hangs for a moment over the Powell Estate in London and his palms sweat, and then he's gone. Jack puts the hand, carefully, back in the jar and screws the lid on tight.
"I won't wait for you next time," Jack says, getting up. It isn't true, and Jack knows it, but it doesn't matter, because everybody waits for the Doctor, even though in most cases the Doctor never comes. "Owen! Let's see what you've got!"
And then Jack is gone, and the hand is alone again, trapped in a form it despises, brought about by an angry god who will return some day to claim what is his, and who will take the hand from Jack forever. If Jack would let the hand speak, the hand would say, "I want to stay with you." But if Jack ever figures out he has the power to let the hand speak, the hand knows it'll be all wheres and wherefores, because Jack wants to say the same thing to the Doctor himself.
"Love's a bitch," thinks the hand, and that night after everyone else is gone, Ianto comes in to Jack's office and takes the jar and wipes it down, sprinkles in some food and returns the jar to its position on its shelf.
"Ours is a weird existance," says Ianto, before switching off the lights and leaving and locking the door behind him. It's a long time, and a new year, before anyone speaks to the hand again, and so it sits, mostly forgotten, and it waits for Christmas, and for the Doctor, and for the day Jack realizes what he has.
x-posted to torch_wood and doctorslashjack