Fandom: Doctor Who
Rating: PG-13 to R
Word count: 3860
Notes: A very long time ago I posted No Sleepers Must Sleep, and mentioned that it was the first of two connected stories about Lucy Saxon. This is the second, dedicated to enevarim, who convinced me to dust off a long-abandoned draft and finish it :)
It'll make a lot more sense if you've read Sleepers. The title comes from the same poem: Whitman's Beat! Beat! Drums.
Somewhat to my surprise, an awful lot of Lewis Carroll found its way in here; some of the references are rather oblique, but if your childhoods were half as Alice-influenced as mine was, you'll probably have fun spotting them.
like a ruthless force
Ever obedient, Lucy calls him Master now, feeling neither resignation nor fear. A housewife whose house is the whole planet, she calmly weaves her life around her husband's foibles. On one level she recognises the deadly gravity of the situation, but most of her is giddy with the novelty of it all. It's so novel as to be almost unreal, a bizarre dream from which the human race is struggling to awaken, but in whose web Lucy is quite willing to stay enmeshed. Chess and dark absurdity: her life is a Carrollian game, these days, and so she feels -- theatrical. Costumed. Masked. Or perhaps unmasked, as Harold Saxon was: his true self revealed.
The Master has killed thousands of human beings but when Lucy looks at him she just sees Harry, her Harry, dressed up in madness; a hat he put on and then liked too much to ever remove. She wonders if that's what happened, once upon a time. She wonders what forces acted upon him before he knew how to be cruel. Lucy's a generally fair-minded person and she takes it for granted that every monster is created from something larger and more twisted than itself.
Not that there isn't an element of choice involved; certainly there is. The Jones family give her looks that make her wriggle within her skin, searing looks of baffled hatred, because they see in her a person who has made the one unforgivable choice. They place her against the image of their absent daughter and sister and draw heavy, damning, angry comparisons.
They have every right. Lucy lives with her choices. But she still finds it difficult to meet their eyes, to give them orders, as much as Harry would like her to. Their eyes call her whore and they wear their own ridiculous costumes with a cold impatience, waiting for something, waiting for the dreamer of the world to wake up so that their enemies will go back to being stories.
These are early days. They have hope.
Lucy has -- well, everything she wants, as soon as she wants it. Though she's not sure how she feels about Francine and Tish and Clive and their gaudy, obvious enslavement. Harry doesn't think anything of the colour of their skin; of course not, it'd be like Lucy trying to consider the difference between green and blue parrots. But Lucy is an educated upper-class white woman who possesses the theory of a social conscience, if not the conscience itself, and she is on occasion made uncomfortable by how absurdly colonial the whole thing must look.
"How could you," Tish spits -- Tish, the only one who insults her aloud. Not very often, and nothing concrete, but Lucy understands her furious, reflexive guilt: Tish was the proud assistant to Prime Minister Harold Saxon, and in Lucy, Tish sees what she might have become if she'd been given the chance.
But she wasn't. Lucy is unique; Lucy was chosen. Lucy Saxon, consort to the alien dictator, with her scarlet dresses and her dancing shoes.
Lucy is content.
Having already accepted a universe full of endless conflicts and alien races, Lucy can accept the existence of Jack Harkness with far less trouble, it seems, than Harry can. There is something in the man that he finds personally insulting, something that makes his muscles tense and his face twist into disgust.
"You're a special brand of freak, Captain Jack Harkness," he muses. "I wonder what makes you tick. I wonder if I could find it, if I took you apart...slowly."
"What're you mad at me for, really?" Jack grins widely with his two split lips, reckless and unbroken. "Is it for throwing a few spanners into your megalomanic plans? For rubbing your Time Lord senses the wrong way? Or is it the fact that he'll give me the time of day, and --"
Harry kicks out hard and then one of Jack's knees is facing the wrong way; his face buckles into a wild grimace of pain, wordless grunts heaving out from between his teeth.
"Oh, he'll give me everything," Harry says, just a hint of breathlesssness in his voice. "But not before you do, Jack-the-lad."
Harry kills him, over and over. Lucy declines to watch after the third time, finding it distateful. But then she thinks about her father's tired protestations, the glacial triumph of the rising alcohol level in her mother's glass -- she thinks about the act of turning a blind eye and allowing the transparency to stand.
Either you speak up or you embrace the change. Anything in between is weak, and Harry shook weakness out of her a long time ago.
So she waits until Harry bores of this particular game, and until she is alone, and then she goes to pay Jack Harkness a visit.
There is a gun in her hand. The immortal man chuckles when he catches sight of it.
"I'm not the one you should be afraid of," he says.
"I'm not afraid," Lucy tells him.
"No?" He looks at her more closely, pulling himself upright. There's blood all over his body but not a single visible wound; he moves stiffly, but not painfully. "But you did pick the wrong side."
Amazing that he should speak with such confidence, in such a state. Admirable. Lucy feels very girlish, suddenly -- not because there's a smirk at the edge of his handsome mouth that not even death can wipe away, but because she is acutely aware of his experience. Who knows how many lifetimes of war he's seen?
"Should I become a traitor twice over, then?" she asks. She probably looks defeated, cowed. She's tired from holding herself tense in the eyes of her accusers, too tired to justify herself further.
"There's no integrity in sticking with that kind of choice." He laughs again: low, full of contempt. "It doesn't make you noble. It just makes you a whore," he says, and it's such a relief to finally hear it out loud, even from someone who can't seem to pronounce the vitriol correctly; that requires religion, Lucy thinks, or at least hypocrisy. Jack's bloodied bluntness is, nevertheless, refreshing.
Lucy's line here is, And you should know, but she is starting to like Jack Harkness. So she just nods and says, "Perhaps," and then shoots him. He dies neatly, without fuss, and Lucy's wrist flares into an ache with the awkward recoil of the weapon; she's never shot a gun before. Maybe it'll be easier the next time.
There's a gap before the life comes back into his flesh. A vacuum, inviting.
"You smash the glass or you drink the whole bottle," Lucy says, explaining herself to the silence. "Nothing in between."
Their empire is ushered in with music and with music it continues, much to Lucy's pleasure. In the theatre of her existence the soundtrack is these pounding diegetic beats that set the Valiant afire, these racing scales, these heedless songs. Basslines shuddering through the framework and into everyone's ears, a visceral and confusing alarm to drag them into wakefulness each morning; Lucy's heels falling into effortless rhythm as she walks from one place to another. Music, loud and insistent, penetrating the corners of their life.
Here come the drums.
Some nights Lucy is surprised by her own blood, because it is so seldom quiet enough for her to hear it. Some nights she lies very still and is surprised that she still possesses only a single heartbeat, that Harry's syncopation has not reset her entirely.
"Why don't I sell you my soul?" she murmurs, against his mouth.
Harry laughs and strokes a hand down her spine, the warm metal of his ring digging into her skin.
"Lucy, Lucy, Lucy. You did that months ago."
She tries not to look at the Doctor if there's a chance he'll be looking back at her. Harry's told her some of their shared story, just dribs and drabs, edge pieces of what she suspects is a breathtakingly large jigsaw puzzle. It's almost impossible to reconcile this strange, passive old creature with the wilder, fiercer Time Lord who first tried to pull Harry down; that man looked as though he had two hearts. And yet.
Harry's plans and vicious webs were spun with a target in mind; that was a surprise. She's never been stupid enough to think of herself as anything more than incidental -- a prop, but a kindred spirit. Harry appreciates her, acknowledges her, even loves her. But he dances for the Doctor, and the Doctor refuses him the satisfaction of learning the steps. Harry heaps humiliation after humiliation on his head, feeds him the screams of Jack Harkness and a steady stream of suggestive smiles that obviously strike home, because the Doctor doesn't rise to any of it but he does turn away and hide his eyes; those eyes like improbable galaxies that scare Lucy so. They are the youngest and most ancient thing about him and Lucy, who had thought herself made fearless, avoids them.
Captain Jack Harkness talks about the Doctor, too, when she'll let him. What is it that he possesses, this being who refuses to adopt even the smallest of masking names? What is the quality that inspires and destroys everyone around him?
Jack watches her where she is seated on the rough floor, the edge of her skirt lying in a sluggish pool of his blood. No matter. It won't show.
"I don't have to explain what I feel to you," he says. "As if you care, anyway."
This is them, her and Jack: they refuse to explain themselves. He talks to her because it's in his nature to talk, and he has so little company; she talks to him for almost the same reasons, and slowly they reach through his disdain and her defensiveness, towards an understanding. They are not friends. Lucy thinks he would probably kill her, if he could.
"But you love him."
Jack coughs, laughs, nods yes.
"I wonder," Lucy says with precision, "if love is the right word for -- them."
Jack doesn't answer, but she didn't really expect him to.
"Darling," she says, draping her arm over her husband's shoulder, "I'd like some new dresses. All I ever wear is red."
"I like you in red," Harry says. He kisses her, a long questing kiss with teeth, and then pushes her away.
Lucy smiles. "I know, but I want --"
She feels the searing pain across her mouth, then hears the dull noise, then sees -- an afterimage only, a silhouette against the light -- the blow fall. It’s all backwards. She can't breathe, she's so surprised.
Her chin tickles and when she touches it her fingers come away streaked with blood.
"Lucy," Harry says, sounding no more than vaguely irritated. "I said, I like you in red."
After that the violence escalates, epecially during sex. She won't lie, sometimes it's fun, but it used to be a little more like a two-way thing and now it seems more and more like nothing -- not her body, not the Valiant, not the whole galaxy -- can contain his gleeful energy.
When the first bruises appear on her skin the despising looks gain an edge of pity, which she hates, but doesn't do anything about. If she asked, she's sure Harry would give her any one of them -- perhaps wrapped up with a pretty bow -- to punish as she pleases. Sometimes she imagines this, she pictures herself slapping that contempt from Tish's eyes...but there is a line. Someone has drawn a line. She will wear her fine dresses and play her part and stick with her husband, for better or for worse, but she will not cross that line.
The Doctor's eyes linger on her too, and for once she moves closer and sits beside him, because there's something else entirely in his expression. He doesn't ask her why; she has the odd feeling he understands the whys and wherefores of her situation, and that his own line is drawn in a very different place to hers but it lies on the exact same continuum.
He asks, "Aren't you scared for your life?"
Everyone keeps asking her that.
"No. Not at all."
"Really? He'll get worse, Lucy. The more power he has the more it will escalate --"
"He's not going to kill me."
"Well, he's going to kill everyone else," the Doctor says. His voice is flooded with sadness, and exhaustion, and that indefinable something-else. "He doesn't know how to stop. He never has."
"Then I'll be the last of my race," she says, and forces herself to meet his eyes. "I'd have thought you'd consider that punishment enough."
Lucy paints her nails a crimson red and watches the evening stars burn judgement through the sky and gasps as her husband fucks her on the glass table, her latest dress torn and his expression savage, exultant. It's the perpetual teatime of their perpetual childhood, gorged on blood and cakes and triumph; always indulgent but always, always teatime. They live by drumbeat, never the strokes of a clock. Harry is unstable, greedy -- mercurial, supplies Lucy's education, with a quiver of humour -- and in her moments of clarity Lucy feels herself drowning in a dark and dangerous tedium. Though she has very little to fill her days, she's finding her reserves exhausted. When she married Harry she thought she'd be able to keep up, that he would haul her upwards and along -- by force, if need be -- but she's just another piece on his board, always has been, and he seems to assume that having made her a queen he's given her enough power to play on her own; it's not his problem if she doesn't know how to use it.
But she's losing her grip and he's still accelerating, feverish and wild, not quite dissatisfied but...bored somehow. They're alike in that respect, as in so many others.
The Doctor notices. He also makes the mistake of seeing it as an opening, a crack in which to dig his desperate healing fingertips.
"It's always process stories, with you, Master. You don't enjoy this. You enjoy the planning, the elaborate games --"
Harry throws back his head and laughs. "Do I look sad to you, Doctor? Shall I talk about how hollow and meaningless it all is?" A sudden flash in his clever, glittering eyes. "It isn't. It's wonderful."
He moves even faster, after that; dances harder, sings louder. As though to prove that, having achieved the violent pace set for him by the drums, he can learn to outstrip them.
Mastery, or escape?
Lucy thinks: it's true. He doesn't know how to stop.
He says, "Look at my frightened little world, Doctor. It's everything I've ever wanted."
She wants --
She wants --
Sometimes she forgets what she wants.
Archangel. She has to admit, it's impressive, the vast insane daring of the scheme. Like Harry's original plan for the network, it works because of its sheer scale, stretching just beyond the limits of the opponent's imagination; where the Doctor's compassion is his blind spot, Harry's inability to admit to his weaknesses is his.
Martha Jones, Lucy thinks. Well then.
In the mentality of war it makes perfect sense -- if you have the ability to inspire violent devotion then you may as well use it -- but in the end, Lucy is realising, the Doctor will win because he knows his tools. Harry saw a planet of beings to enslave, but the Doctor has lived with them for longer and he knows how to truly use them, knows what they will respond to when oppressed: human beings want someone who is also a story. Human beings want to be saved by a symbol they can believe in. It turns out that Lucy isn't the only one who knows a thing or two about religion.
Harry doesn't understand, to begin with. The Joneses do; this is what they were waiting for. This is the deck of cards, collapsing.
Lucy is surprised at how little she cares. She wants to close her eyes and sleep. Nobody looks to her or considers her a threat; all eyes are for the Doctor and the Master, dancing at last, the tedium broken. Harry's mania is trying to burn them alive but all the Doctor wants them to do is live, live, live.
"Go on. Do it."
It's someone else entirely standing there, now that the hat of madness has been knocked aside by anger. Someone close to Harold Saxon at his most brilliant, his most private, and yet more painfully real than even Saxon ever was. The Doctor sees this man too; Lucy watches his face flood with sad hope as he outlines his plans for -- what? Rehabilitation? Redemption?
Perhaps the Doctor considers himself a more moral being than his oldest enemy, but there's more than one way to treat someone like a dog. When Lucy looks at her husband she recognises in his expression his profound horror at the idea of being kept, tamed, contained -- she knows that horror, because she grew up with it.
There is a gun in her hand.
And suddenly she thinks she might have her religious metaphors completely wrong; she might have to dissociate her roles. Because Lucy the Valiant may have been Lewis's Magdalene whore, but Judas betrayed not an entire race but one person: sent him to his death because that was what was expected of him. Because it had to happen for the story to make sense.
Lucy lifts her hand slowly, slowly, and curls her finger around the trigger.
It's terribly suitable, all things considered: the year that never was. Just a dream, a bad dream, the world wiping its eyes to find a clear morning devoid of Harold Saxon.
She's so tired.
The Doctor remembers her when he's done remembering everyone else, and she sees the moment in which he hesitates before approaching her. He won't blame her aloud. But her actions have hurt him, maybe fatally, and they both know it.
"Lucy Cole," he says, like an offering.
"My name," she says without looking at him, "is Lucy Saxon."
He sighs. "You --"
"Let me keep that much." Mind not the weeper or prayer. She's not going to cry. She needs to keep her hand curled into itself so that she doesn't feel the weight of the gun. She's not going to cry.
"We could tell people what happened," he says. "Well, twist the story a bit. Pull it back a year. You could be the hero who killed the Master." But when she finally looks at him his thin mouth says exactly what he thinks of that kind of hero, and the redness of his eyes tells her again that she wasn’t the only one who loved Harry. Just, a small voice inside her says, the only one whose love wasn't selfish.
She says, "Suicide. We...that should be the story. He was mad. It was suicide."
"Was it indeed?" the Doctor says softly, and she stands there and lets his impossible eyes probe her. Part of her wants to tell him yes, yes, he would rather have died than let you change him, but part of her is just sick of people hurting, and she knows that he is only containing his pain by denying it to himself. Which is a technique that Lucy recognises.
So she stays silent, and eventually he sighs and touches her on the arm.
"You can start a new life," he says. "Nobody will know that you weren't just as fooled as the rest of the country."
"Except me," she says.
He nods: implacable, understanding, devoid of pity. "Except you."
Time Lords burn as easily as humans, it turns out. The Doctor takes ages with the construction, the ritual of it -- trying, Lucy suspects, to erase the fact that Harry lost the war but won the only battle he really cared about. Won by dying.
Lucy stands wrapped in the darkness, watching the flames, remembering one of the things she truly loved about Harry: the fact that he included her in something. Since she met him she's never been alone -- but now she is. Perfectly and completely. If she isn't a hero then she's a fool, and if she's no longer a queen then she can only be considered a pawn; an object; someone who was duped and used, someone devoid of agency. Her bruises will be assumed and invisible.
All things considered, Lucy thinks, she'll be punished enough. A suitably human kind of punishment: she knows Time Lords well enough by now to know that the Doctor kills his enemies or saves them but never would have chosen to give her this slow dissolution of loneliness because it's the glasshouse he dwells in himself -- larger on the inside -- too large for him to see it with any clarity.
She thinks, I should cry now. It takes her almost a minute to start but once she has it's difficult to stop. She presses her hands flat against her face and sobs, without sound, feeling like the only person in the world, though when she's finished she feels calm. It strikes her that when it comes to the desecration of pristine things, invisible bruises are better than none at all. Like her husband, she will never again allow herself to be contained or considered incorruptible; there is more than one kind of integrity in this universe.
He seemed so attached to the ring that she intends to take it as a keepsake. As soon as her fingertips touch it, though, she thinks: really? Why I am I doing this?
She brushes off the ashes with her painted nails and can't recall telling her body to do so.
Gradually, like an awakening, the idea makes itself known. Archangel. The ability to influence human minds, through drumbeat. Sleeping against his hearts for months and months, dwelling within his everyday rhythms: perhaps she was reset after all, in small and vital ways, Harry creating his own monster just as he was created, once upon a time. Her heart jerks with the enormity, the realisation -- of course it's not over, of course. She's not alone. Though she has no idea, none at all, of what this next act will require of her when the only costume she's been given is a piece of jewellery. It's a symbol: among other things, it's a silver piece. Payment for one betrayal and perhaps any number of kisses.
She can hear his laughter, distantly.
Lucy slides the ring onto her finger and can feel nothing but her own pulse against the metal, in a quiet steady rhythm entirely unlike the sound of drums.
She's a pawn. She's a traitor. She is one bright red drop on a white tablecloth; one dab of paint on a tyrant's rose.
She dances tainted back to her untainted life, and she waits.