Vows

The instructions he had left her were clear–Novice Hame was to look in on the Face of Boe’s corpse once a day, every day, for a month.  Once thirty days had passed–and only then–was she permitted to dispose of the body by funeral pyre.

Hame thought these instructions odd when the Face of Boe had given them those long years earlier.  Would he not decay and rot within a month?  But she accepted them, believing that the Face of Boe had his reasons.

Since the opening of the motorway and the return of humans to the surface of New Earth she had her own busy schedule to attend to, she had had little time to do anything more than lay out vague plans for the funeral of the being that had saved the City.  The Senate chamber was a tomb, as it had been for so many years, and it made her uncomfortable to spend any more time there than necessary, to look in on the Face’s corpse once a day and then move on with her other business.

As the days passed she grew accustomed to seeing her former mentor still and unmoving.  The first days she could only look upon him from the doorway, tears welling in her eyes, but after a week she ventured in closer, the tears less frequent, until by the eleventh day she could walk up to the corpse and, in one rash moment, even touch it.  Though it shouldn’t have, it surprised her how cold and unmoving–and lifeless–the Face of Boe’s corpse was.  By the sixteenth day she found she could sit in the Senate chamber with the Face and feel comfortable with it.

On the eighteenth day, she retreated to the Senate chamber.  She had spent the morning dealing with various issues relating to squatter’s rights in New New York, and she had grown tired and weary of listening to squabbling sides in who deserved what.  The Senate chamber, and the Face of Boe’s corpse, seemed to be a welcome respite from the arguing, someplace where things were dead, quiet, and still.

She sat there for hours.  In the stillness of the Senate chamber she was alone with her thoughts.  Sometimes she would look at the Face of Boe.  Mostly she closed her eyes in comtemplation.  Contemplation of the devotions of her Order.  Contemplation of the strength she needed to rebuild New Earth and New New York.  Quiet prayers for the soul of the Face of Boe, assuming the Face of Boe had a soul.

As she whispered another prayer for the Face’s soul, she heard something.  She opened her eyes, raised her head.

The Face of Boe seemed to have shifted.  Had it moved?

She dismissed the thought instantly.  The Face was dead.  Gas builds up in corpses, corpses expel gas.  Her medical training told her this.  The Face of Boe was decaying.  She nodded, closed her eyes, and resumed her silent prayer.

After a moment, she heard another sound.  If the first sound she had heard was the sound of expelling gas, this sounded more like a grunt.  She opened her eyes and looked at the Face of Boe.

It had shifted.

She stood, crossed the Senate floor, and knelt at the Face of Boe’s side.  She laid one of her paws on the Face, then withdrew it quickly.  The Face of Boe was warm.

She turned her head, and looked at its mouth.

The Face of Boe was alive.

How could this be?

“Master?” she said, her voice barely audible.

No… vice… Hame….”

She ran her paws across its face.  “I am here, Master.”  She thought quickly.  “I will need to get help.  We will need to rebuild your chamber.”

The Face of Boe breathed deeply.  “No… Un… nec… ess… ary…

“We need to conserve your strength, Master.”

Again, the Face breathed loudly.  “The… watch… bring… me… the… watch…

“The watch?” Hame repeated.  It was an ancient heirloom passed down from caretaker to caretaker.  In all of her long years with the Face of Boe it was the first time she had ever heard the Face mention it.

Bring… it… to… me…

She reached inside her habit and withdrew a watch on a heavy necklace from around her neck.  “I have the watch, Master.”

She looked into the Face of Boe’s eyes.  She thought they looked almost happy.

The Face took another deep breath, then it closed its eyes.  “Open… the… watch…

Why would the Face of Boe want her to open the watch?  She knew better than to question the Face of Boe, and she pressed the release and opened the watch’s face.

To Hame’s surprise a bright light emanated from the watch, and then the light enveloped the Face of Boe.  She fell backward as the light grew blinding, and she squeezed her eyes tight.

She heard a cough.  A human cough.

When she opened her eyes she saw, where the Face of Boe had been, a human male.  A naked human male.  He lay on his back, his head twisted to the left, his arms awkwardly arranged.

The man coughed again.

She knelt down beside him and took one of his hands in hers.  It was quite warm.

His eyes fluttered open.  They wandered randomly for a moment, then fixed on her face.  “Novice Hame,” he said, his voice barely more than a whisper.

“Master…?”

The man reached out and touched her face, stroked the fur on her cheek.  Then he smiled.  “Has anyone told you, Novice, how incredibly attractive you are?”

Despite herself, despite her devotion to her Order, Novice Hame felt herself blushing beneath her fur.  She smiled shyly, then had to look away.“Who are you?” she asked.

“You knew me as the Face of Boe,” he said.  “But you can call me Jack Harkness now.”  He sat up.

“How did you do this?  The transformation?” Hame asked, the confusion obvious in her voice.

Jack took a deep breath, as if the first in a very long time.  “Chameleon Arch technology,” he said, then quickly added, “You wouldn’t have heard of it.  I recovered it from a dying TARDIS, then used it to hide and put myself in a position where I could influence certain events.  Those events have been influenced.  Now–” he paused.  “Now, I can live a normal life again.”

“Are you… human?”

Jack stood.  “I was.  Then I became immortal billions of years ago.”  He looked around.  “Wow,” he said breathlessly.  “I haven’t stood in billions of years.”

Hame looked at Jack.  “You’re human,” she said, her voice little more than a whisper.

Jack laughed.  “And looking good,” he said.

Hame looked away from Jack’s nude form.  She could feel her cheeks growing warm.

“Tell me, Novice Hame,” said Jack, a mischevious glint in his now-human eyes, “why do they call you a ‘novice’?”

It was said as far away as New New Jersey that the howling of a mating cat could be heard that night.  And when a spaceship took off into deep space, it was also said that Novice Hame was a novice no longer.