|Erin Ptah (ptahrrific) wrote,|
@ 2009-03-12 07:03 pm UTC
|Entry tags:||story: george's world|
Warnings: Suggestion of Stephen's sordid past.
Series: The Colbert Report, Doctor Who
Spoilers: New Who S3, TW S1
Young Stephen tries to teach George life lessons. The Doctor breaks out the technobabble. Adult Stephen takes a headlong dive into his past. Jack is pretty much useless.
Table of contents here.
George's World - Part 4
Stephen turned a corner, and came face to face with himself.
At first, he couldn't figure out why this struck him as unusual. The image in the mirror was one he had seen thousands of times. It took him a couple of heartbeats to recognize that it wasn't how he looked now.
Dark grey Brooks Brothers suit with snappy pinstripes. Silk shirt, fastened with silver cufflinks. Designer tie, the color carefully chosen so that it wouldn't bleed into the shirt on television. Perfectly coiffed hair. Expression like a thundercloud.
It was the way he would have reflected, six or seven years earlier.
"Maybe you should have just slapped him," said the Stephen in the mirror.
"What?" stammered Stephen. "Who?"
"Your son, of course! Teach him some proper respect for authority! No child of mine would ever go running off on me like that."
Stephen bowed his head. "Of course they would," he said quietly, now awash with guilt on top of everything else. "None of yours have tried it yet — they're still too terrified to try — but they will. Just as soon as they get old enough that they don't have to come back."
And maybe sooner, if a couple of charming strangers show up in a ship that travels in time and dimensions....
He didn't shake off the thought; just noted it, and set it aside. He would deal with it later. George first.
Leaving his angry younger self behind, Stephen pressed on down the corridor.
George knew he wasn't supposed to talk to strangers, but they had introduced themselves (the person whose voice he was following was named Stephen), so he figured it was all right. Besides, this dark and quiet hall of mirrors was stranger than any person could be.
Or so he thought, until he turned a corner and came face to face with a guy hanging out of the wall.
"It's okay!" said the person sitting next to him. George recognized Stephen's voice. "It's just Jack. He'll get better soon."
George wasn't so sure about this. "He looks kinda dead."
"He is," agreed Stephen. "But he doesn't stay dead."
"Is he a superhero?"
"Exactly! He's a superhero. Besides, he's working very hard for a dead guy."
"What's he doing?"
"Marking our place. I've got a friend who's going to find the back half of Jack, and figure out how to connect it to the front half, and get us out of here. Just stick with me, and you'll be fine."
"That's okay," said George. "My dad's gonna come get me soon."
Stephen leaned forward to look at him more sternly. "Okay, George, listen up, because you're never too young to figure this out. You've got to learn to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps."
"What's a bootstrap?"
Stephen got kind of a funny look on his face. "Doesn't matter!" he said quickly. "The point is, you can't count on your parents to come rescue you whenever things get bad. You need to learn to take care of yourself."
"But you're letting your friend come and rescue you," pointed out George.
"That's different. It's the Doctor."
He said this like George should know what it meant, so George decided not to ask more questions. He probably wouldn't get any answer except "You'll understand when you're older" anyway.
Instead, he read the words on Stephen's T-shirt. He knew all of them except the big one in the middle. "What's Gan-why-me-dee?"
"Ganymede," corrected Stephen, pronouncing it "Gan-ih-meed." "It's a moon of Jupiter."
George gasped. "You've been to a moon?"
Stephen shrugged. "Well, I don't like to brag, but...yeah, sometimes, when I'm tired of visiting exotic planets and toppling corrupt alien regimes, I like to swing by a moon for a nice relaxing vacation."
"Do you know Tek Jansen?" blurted George. (Nate said Tek Jansen wasn't a real person, but Nate also said there was no Santa, so George figured his brother was just messing with him.)
"Who's Tek Jansen?"
"Tek Jansen," George said firmly, "is the greatest action hero in the universe, except my daddy and my other daddy and Aunt Cholly and maybe Anderson Cooper."
The next time it happened, Stephen almost missed it. If there hadn't been a noise, or what he thought was a noise, behind him, he would have walked right by.
But there was a noise (he thought), and he looked over his shoulder, only to see a much younger face peering over a leather-clad shoulder back at him. The mustache did little to hide the fact that he was barely out of his teens.
Stephen turned slowly around.
"You don't have to be here, you know," said his reflection, turning with him.
"Of course I do," said Stephen. "I have to find George."
"Kids!" said the figure in the mirror dismissively. "Always getting into trouble. Why did you let yourself get tied down, anyway? Think of all the...fun...you're missing out on."
He licked his lips as he said it; Stephen clapped a hand over his own mouth. "I have fun!" he protested through his fingers.
"You sure don't look like it."
"Well, not now." Stephen let his hand fall by his side, clenching it into a fist. "You wouldn't understand. You're still caught up in cheap thrills and fast highs. There are better things out there — you just have to work to get them."
His reflection gave him a disapproving look. Stephen matched it, then turned on his heel and started off again without looking back.
"You can't have two dads," protested Stephen. He didn't know when the TARDIS had landed, but he was pretty sure some things were impossible in eny era. Unless there had been some really freaky medical advances.
"Can so!" retorted George. "Other Daddy is my godfather. So there!"
"Well, why didn't you just say—"
"Oi there! Stephen! Can you hear me?"
Stephen sat up straight. "Doctor! See, George, what did I tell you?"
"And you've got George with you?" Stephen could practically hear the Doctor grinning. "Fantastic. He's got a very worried father out here waiting for him."
"Daddy!" exclaimed George, turning in circles as he tried to see where the voice was coming from. Then he paused to point triumphantly at Stephen. "What did I tell you?"
"Well, hurry up and get us out, then!" said Stephen irritably.
"I will. I certainly will. Can't do it from here, though. You've been caught up in a bit of space that's sort of gone off its temporal hinges. If we try to force something through here, we might snap it loose altogether. Sound waves are the most the TARDIS can manage."
"Then where do we go so we can come through?" asked George.
There was that aural grin again. "You're a sharp one, aren't you, George? Straight to the important questions with you. Now, listen closely, George, because you're going to need to remember this if Stephen forgets...."
As he approached a bend in the path, the hairs on the back of Stephen's neck prickled. He knew, without being able to say how, what he would see when he turned the corner.
He held his breath anyway.
"You lost him," said the child of seven from inside the pane of glass.
"I know." Stephen pulled off his glasses to dab quickly at his eyes.
"Probably for the best," sniffed the boy, wiping his own eyes, which were already red and puffy. "You were never good enough to be a father anyway."
"That's not true." Stephen shook his head. "You still think you have to be perfect. It isn't possible, and you'll only tear yourself apart trying. You're going to make mistakes, and get things wrong, and screw up — God, are you ever going to screw up! But you're still good enough. You hear me? You don't have to be perfect to be good enough."
His reflection looked hollowly up at him. "Losing your son isn't 'imperfect'. It's unforgivable."
"I know," said Stephen, feeling some strength return to his voice. "That's why I'm going to find him."