Sense by Adalia Zandra

Summary: One by one they left him, increasingly cut off, alone, in the silence and the dark, until only touch remainedÖ touch, and pain.
Rating: Teen
Categories: Tenth Doctor
Characters: Jack Harkness, Jackie Tyler, Mickey Smith, Rose Tyler, The Doctor (10th), The TARDIS
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Hurt/Comfort
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2007.07.27
Updated: 2007.08.16


Chapter 1: Typical Things
Chapter 2: Uneasy Things
Chapter 3: Bad Things
Chapter 4: Worse Things
Chapter 5: Terrifying Things
Chapter 6: Angry Things
Chapter 7: Waiting Things
Chapter 8: Difficult Things
Chapter 9: Tiring Things
Chapter 10: Trusting Things
Chapter 11: Helpful Things
Chapter 12: Healing Things
Chapter 13: Scary Things
Chapter 14: Painful Things
Chapter 15: Recovering Things

Chapter 1: Typical Things

Author's Notes: Here's the start of that fifteen part fic I promised a while ago, now that I've got my Internet connection back finally!

Iím going to start off with the assumption that Iím working in an AU Doomsday Series 3 fix where Ten, Rose, and Jack are all traveling together in the TARDIS. So many wonderful stories have been written to bring about such an AU, Iíll leave the exact mechanics of it to your imagination. Basically, the three of them are in a comfortably close, well established friendship. The details of their sex life, if any, I will also leave up to your imagination, as it doesnít come up in this story. Since Iím already tossing out canon, Iím having Jackie and Mickey sill in this universe as well.

Disclaimer/Apology: I donít own these characters, Iím just borrowing them. For better or worse, I happen to be American. So please excuse my English.

Part One — Typical Things

It had started out like any other adventure. Inimical aliens, an unwitting and uncooperative local populace, lots of running and shouting and manic laughter-in-the-face-of-terrible-danger, and very little time to catch one’s breath.

It had even ended rather like any other adventure. Success by the seats of their collective trousers, or fetching miniskirt and leggings, in Rose’s case, and an amusing moment during the walk back to the TARDIS in which Jack and Rose had watched the Doctor absent-mindedly lick the sonic screwdriver only to get a mouthful of mud for his troubles. He stopped in his tracks, as if surprised that the muddy device would, in fact, taste of mud.

“Bleh,” the Doctor commented, with feeling, eyeing the sonic as if it had betrayed him.

“That’s what you get for licking things that have spent the last two days in a swamp, Doc,” Jack cheerfully pointed out. Stepping closer to the Doctor with a leer, he continued, “But if you’re willing to wait for me to take a shower, or maybe just join me to take a shower, we can…”

“You just stop right there, Jack Harkness!” Rose called, rescuing the startled Time Lord from the predatory advance of his other companion.

Where their first Doctor had often parried Jack’s flirtations with ease, and occasionally riposted with deadly accuracy, Jack had found that this new Doctor could be caught off guard and knocked off balance if one worked hard enough. Predictably, Jack had been delighted in this discovery and gleefully took every opportunity to hassle the Time Lord. The Doctor didn’t so much let him get away with is as he endured it with a long-suffering patience.

Rose, who admittedly found the resulting interactions amusing, often spoke up in the Doctor’s defense. Just to keep things even, she insisted, since the Doctor seemed to have lost his Jack-proof armor when he’d regenerated.

“Oh, you can join us, too, honey,” Jack replied, turning his attention to Rose with a wink.

“Wouldn’t you just love that, you perv,” Rose replied happily, watching as the Doctor regained his composure with a blink, then proceeded to run his tongue along the roof of his mouth in an attempt to dull the taste of the mud. Jack’s innuendo diffused and forgotten, the mud was once again his top priority. His expression of pure distaste was priceless.

“My point, exactly!” Jack stated with finality, noticing that Rose’s attention was elsewhere. Truthfully, they both thought the Doctor’s newfound ease of expression to be a nearly constant source of fascination.

“This may be the most unpleasant taste I’ve encountered in… a long time,” the Doctor complained thoughtfully.

“Well, like I said…” Jack started.

“Jack!” Rose cut him off, laughing reprovingly.

“Yes, ma’am, I’ll be good,” Jack acquiesced with a brilliant smile. Since they were apparently taking a rest on their trek back to the TARDIS, Jack settled himself on a nearby log and took out his blaster. He looked at it despairingly, for it was just as covered in mud as the sonic screwdriver. He sighed, “I’ll never get this clean.”

“Trust me, don’t try licking it,” the Doctor advised him, still looking at the sonic with a air of distrust.

Rose laughed again, then realized that her phone was probably in the same predicament. Not really wanting to know, she didn’t pull it out to check.

“I wasn’t really planning on it, Doc,” Jack replied with a grin.

The utter normalcy of their post-adventure conversation and return to the TARDIS was shattered as several humanoid aliens transmatted into existence around them. Jack cursed himself for being caught off guard, his blaster in full view but not pointed in a useful direction.

“Surrender quietly, and we won’t shoot you,” the leader of the newcomers said simply.

“Straightforward and to the point. I like that in a potential captor. Don’t you think, Jack?” the Doctor babbled amiably, hands in the air, the muddy sonic screwdriver still held in one of them.

“Oh, definitely,” Jack replied sourly, relinquishing his blaster reluctantly as one of the aliens beckoned for it.

Their captors efficiently relieved them of anything they considered to be a threatening device, leaving them sans blaster and screwdriver. They didn’t perform an overly thorough search, merely a quick pat down. They apparently didn’t think Rose’s phone was dangerous, because even though they found it, they left it in her pocket.

Despite the efforts of all three of them to find out who their assailants were though their usual methods of quick banter, they found themselves unceremoniously transmatted away.

They rematerialized in a corridor in what was obviously the brig on a spaceship, and were just as unceremoniously pushed into one of the bare cells that lined both walls.

“Isn’t anyone going to tell us, perhaps, why you’ve brought us here?” the Doctor asked, beginning to lose his patience.

“Yes,” the same one who’d spoken down in the swamp answered him, but refused to elaborate.

They were left there, with not even a token guard for them to pester, none the wiser about what was going on. Jack and the Doctor inspected their cell, the smooth metal walls and sturdy metal bars giving up no clues or avenues of escape.

“So, who are these folks?” Rose asked when the others had seemed to give up on their search.

“No idea,” Jack answered her, taking a seat on the floor and leaning against the back wall of the cell.

“Does their tech remind anyone else of the bunch we just dealt with on the planet?” the Doctor asked them.

“Now that you mention it,” Jack agreed, “those were the same weapons.”

“Same people, then?” Rose guessed.

“No, I don’t think so,” the Doctor shook his head, pacing their cell. “They won’t be bothering anyone for a while. We saw to that quite thoroughly.”

The three of them shared a triumphant grin, remembering their recent success. Their mood was only slightly dampened by their current predicament, since this was still their typical standard operating procedure. Captured by mysterious aliens, tossed in a cell with no obvious means of escape, and absolutely no worries. They were together, they were all unharmed, this was just another adventure.

“Are they related somehow, then?” Rose asked, continuing their casual discussion of their current captors.

“They must be,” the Doctor replied. “A little bit of research in the TARDIS will tell us.”

“Wonder what they want,” Jack said.

“I’m sure we’ll find out,” Rose sighed, trying unsuccessfully to wipe some of the mud off of her skirt. “I just wish they’d bothered us after we’d had a chance to clean up a bit.”

The Doctor snorted in agreement, again making a face at the taste of the mud he could still detect in his mouth.

Jack chuckled at his expression, saying, “I told you, Doc, you should pick what you lick with a little more care…”

Definitely a typical adventure, Rose sighed to herself as she wiped ineffectually at the mud again and settled in to watch Jack attempt to continue his game of Fluster-the-Doctor. Something would happen sooner or later, she was sure, and the TARDIS crew would deal with the situation with their usual style.

The possibility that they might be in serious trouble this time never occurred to any of them.


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Chapter 2: Uneasy Things

Author's Notes: HmmmÖ less pleased with the first part of this than Iíd like, but hereís the next bit anyway. I promised an OT3 angsty hurt/comfort whumpage story, and thatís what Iíll deliver. Itís just taking a few parts to get there. Let me know what you think.

Part Two — Uneasy Things

“How long…?” Rose started to ask.

“Five minutes and forty seven seconds longer than last time,” the Doctor replied, his voice muffled behind his hands as he scrubbed at his face in frustration.

“That puts us at, what, one hundred and eighty five minutes?” Jack said.

“One hundred and eighty six. Give or take a couple of seconds,” the Doctor corrected, dropping his hands and gently thumping his head back against the wall.

The three of them were seated side by side on the metal floor of their cell, leaning against the back wall. They had been there for just over three hours.

“This is boring,” Rose observed.

“Terribly,” the Doctor agreed with a sigh.

“Come travel in the TARDIS, see all of Time and Space, get locked up in various cells and spend hours doing absolutely nothing,” Jack said sarcastically.

“I’m going to go mad soon,” Rose said mildly.

The Doctor thumped his head against the wall again, just for something to do.

“That’s probably the point,” Jack sighed. “Why else would they stick us in here and then ignore us? They’re trying to send us mad.”

“What, you think?” Rose asked, partly sarcastic and partly honestly wondering.

“Well, it’s either that or…” he trailed off.

“Or what?” Rose asked.

“Nah, they’re probably just busy… doing… something,” Jack finished lamely.

“Or what, Jack?” Rose insisted.

“Or they want something from us and this is their idea of softening us up before they start asking us for it, whatever it is,” the Doctor replied, sounding vaguely amused at the idea.

“Well, it’s working,” Rose huffed. “I’m going out of my mind.”

“Oh, it’s not so bad,” the Doctor mused. “There are all sorts of interesting things to do in here. Really.”

“I wouldn’t call banging your head on the wall particularly interesting,” Jack pointed out skeptically.

“Have you tried it?” the Doctor asked him, eyes innocently wide.

“Well… no,” Jack admitted.

“Then how do you know?” the Doctor replied, smiling brilliantly.

Jack just shook his head. He supposed this was the Doctor’s revenge for all his attempts at flirting. He was starting to agree with Rose, this was going to send him mad.

“How long…?” Rose asked again.

The Doctor thumped his head against the wall a bit harder, and started composing a tirade in which he hoped to sufficiently explain the reasons why he was not, in fact, Rose’s personal stopwatch.

Before he could get going, a door somewhere out of their sight up the corridor banged open.

“Finally!” Rose cheered as the three of them stood and moved to the center of the cell.

One of the humanoid aliens appeared in their field of vision a moment later, flanked by guards. He stopped in front of the cell, looking at its occupants critically.

The Doctor didn’t give him a chance to talk.

“So! There you are, and here we are. Lovely day for it. Assuming it’s actually day, that is. Not that it’s really anything more than arbitrary on a ship like this one. Nice ship, by the way! The decor could use a little color, but very nice, otherwise… what?” he finally stopped as Jack thumped him on the arm to shut him up.

“Speaking of ships,” their captor started without preamble, “we have yours.”

“Do you really?” the Doctor breathed, affecting the same wide-eyed innocence as he had for Jack.

“We do. We witnessed everything you three did on the planet below. We know that you soundly defeated our enemies there. This intrigues us. We will have your power,” the alien intoned menacingly.

“Really?” the Doctor asked again in the same exaggerated tone of voice.

“Yes. We have not been able to enter your ship. We require entry. You will tell us how to gain it,” the alien ordered.

“Now why would I ever do that?” the Doctor wondered.

“It is simple. We will torture one of you until the other two tell us what we wish to know,” the alien explained.

“That’s not very neighborly of you,” the Doctor complained.

“Nevertheless, that is what will happen. Unless one of you wishes to divulge the required information now?”

Jack, Rose, and the Doctor shared a look between them. Obviously, their captors were not going to just search them again to find their keys. Or maybe their technology was sufficiently different that the idea of keys simply hadn’t occurred to them. Either way, their situation had finally shifted from mind-numbingly boring back to danger-filled and exciting.

With a grin, the Doctor said, “Well, when you put it that way! Of course I’ll show you how to get inside my TARDIS. Let’s all go visit the old girl now, shall we?”

“We are not fools,” the alien replied after a moment. “You will quickly find that it is not in your best interest to lie. Incidentally, thank you for volunteering.”

The Doctor seemed unconcerned as the guards ordered Rose and Jack to the back of the cell, brandishing their weaponry threateningly. Suddenly uneasy, Rose and Jack both began to wonder if the Doctor actually had a plan or if things were about to get ugly. Or possibly both. They were both ready to act, intently watching the Doctor for the signal to run or to fight.

But their captors were brutally efficient, and left no careless opportunity for escape as they opened the cell and swarmed inside. Four of the guards focused on Jack and Rose, keeping their weapons trained on the two of them. Two more guards descended upon the Doctor, each one gripping one of his arms tightly to hold him in place as their leader approached him.

“I can see that we’re going to have some trouble communicating,” the Doctor said, ignoring the manhandling. “I said I’ll let you inside my ship. Isn’t that what you want?”

“Of course,” the alien nodded, pulling a small tube out of his pocket. Jack’s eyes widened as he recognized it, but the Doctor showed no reaction and Rose had no idea what it was. “But we are not going to give you such an obvious chance to make contact with the ship on your own terms. We must ensure your cooperation through other means.”

“You’re being rather unreasonable, honestly. I don’t mind showing you the TARDIS. If you’re enemies with that lot we dealt with on the planet, we might even be friends! You know, the enemy of my enemy…? No?” the Doctor asked, now looking a bit uneasy, himself. “Can’t we just talk about this?”

“We will,” the alien promised, raising the tube towards the Doctor. “Or rather, your friends and I will. I’m afraid you won’t be joining the discussion.”


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Chapter 3: Bad Things

Author's Notes: And hereís part three. Starting to pick up a bit now. This story seems to have gotten off to a less than auspicious start, but if you stick with it I think youíll like the rest of it well enough.

Part Three — Bad Things

“No, really, let’s not be hasty…” the Doctor chattered nervously, wishing that he could risk a fight in the enclosed space of the cell, with six armed guards ready to shoot his companions. He really didn’t want to find out what was in the hypospray tube his captor was currently brandishing. So, of course, he asked, “What’s in that hypospray?”

“Oh, nothing much,” the alien replied, taking the opportunity to press the tube against the Doctor’s neck and hit the button to release its contents. There was a hissing sound, and the Doctor jerked away, but was held fast by his guards. “You will become quite familiar with its effects over the next few hours. We like to call it a chemical blindfold. You will find that it will block all sensory input to your mind except for the sense of touch, which may be somewhat heightened. A delightful side effect, I’ve always thought. I’ll see you again when the blindfold has taken effect. You won’t be seeing me.”

With that dire pronouncement and a sadistic smile, the alien retreated to the corridor. The guards released the Doctor, and then all six of them backed out of the cell. The door clanged shut, and then the aliens left the way they had come.

The occupants of the cell didn’t move until they heard the door out of their sight up the corridor also clang shut, signaling that they were again alone.

Jack and Rose rushed to the Doctor’s side, concerned.

“Doctor?” Jack asked.

“You alright?” Rose added.

The Doctor blinked at them, feeling more surprised than anything else. He couldn’t tell if the drug was affecting him yet. He shrugged, pulling away from them to return to his previous seat against the back wall of the cell.

They followed him, sitting down other either side of him.

“Doctor?” Jack repeated.

“It might not work on me, you know,” he told them then. “I’m even farther from these folks physiologically than they are from you humans. This chemical blindfold might not affect me at all.”

“That’d be nice, I suppose,” Rose replied.

“Quite,” the Doctor agreed.

“So… best case scenario, the drug doesn’t work on Time Lords. Worst case scenario…” Jack trailed off, giving the Doctor a look.

“Doesn’t really bear thinking about, does it,” the Doctor observed mildly.

It didn’t, but they couldn't help thinking about it anyway. What if the drug did affect him? What if it was permanent? Their captor hadn’t said.

“What do we do?” Rose questioned after a moment.

“We wait,” the Doctor sighed. “Unfortunately.”

So they waited. Rose and Jack watched the Doctor carefully, worrying about the drug. The Doctor fidgeted, feeling frustrated and a bit worried, himself.

It was nearly a half hour of idle conversation later when the Doctor suddenly lifted a mud covered sleeve up to his face and licked it.

“Bugger all,” he complained. “I never thought I’d say this, but I wish I could taste the mud!”

“Your sense of taste is gone?” Jack asked.

The Doctor nodded, and their hopes sank. Taste had seemed to be his strongest sense in this incarnation, it was hardly a good omen that it was the first to fade away.

Then he sniffed his sleeve, a slightly distressed look on his face, and their hopes sank even farther.

“Smell as well,” Rose surmised.

The Doctor nodded again, then thumped his head back against the wall once more.

“It’s okay. Might still not affect me the way they think it will. This might be all I lose. Or maybe it won’t affect my non-human senses, my telepathy and time sense,” the Doctor said, trying to reassure himself as much as Rose and Jack.

But even as he spoke, he noticed his sight beginning to grow marginally dimmer. He thumped his head against the wall even harder in frustration.

“No no no no no!” he hissed.

“What is it?” Rose asked, putting a hand on his arm. Jack mirrored her actions on his other side.

“My sight is fading,” he told them grimly.


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Chapter 4: Worse Things

Author's Notes: On to part four, as things get worse for the Doctor. A big thanks to everyone whoís reviewed so far!

Part Four — Worse Things

“This is not good. This is very, very not good,” the Doctor said, blinking fiercely, desperately trying to keep the bars of their cell in focus as they faded slowly away. “Really, quite not good at all.”

“Isn’t there anything we can do?” Rose asked, sounding concerned, unlike the Doctor, who seemed more put out than anything else.

“You’re always talking about your superior biology,” Jack brought up, trying to keep his own voice as mild as the Doctor’s and not quite succeeding. “Can you metabolize the drug quickly, or flush your system, or something?”

“Could do… maybe…” the Doctor admitted, still blinking. “But that might not help much. And even if it would work, it would require a healing trance. Essentially a coma. I’d be helpless, and our new friends would be very displeased with their foiled interrogation attempt. They’d take it out on you. I can’t let that happen. So… no, that’s a bad plan.”

Jack looked as if he was ready to start an argument on that point, but Rose cut him off.

“Okay, so what would be a good plan, Doctor? There’s got to be something!”

The Doctor went back to banging his head on the wall in response. His sight was so dim that he could no longer make out much more than vague shapes. It was disconcerting, to say the least, and he was finding it difficult to focus his thoughts on anything else.

“Okay, that? That is not helping,” Jack said, reaching a hand behind the Doctor’s head in between bangs and catching him on the next one.

“How do you know?” the Doctor complained, but stopped the repetitive motion. Jack left his hand there, his fingers threaded into the Doctor’s hair, and the Doctor let his head rest against it as he blinked up at the ceiling. He started muttering to himself, “Think think think. Focus. They want the TARDIS… the TARDIS! Of course! There is something we can do! Oh. But you aren’t going to like it.”

“What is it?” Rose insisted.

He turned to look at her, Jack’s fingers now resting between the wall and his ear, squinting to try to force her image to resolve.

“Telepathy. I can use my connection to the TARDIS to contact her and initiate some defense protocols. But I haven’t needed them in years… well, decades… well, centuries, actually… but they should still work. It’ll just take her some time to power them up internally,” he explained, staring at the fuzzy, dim image of Rose’s worried features.

“How much time?” Jack asked, very much not liking the idea of having to wait any longer in this place.

“Don’t know. Find out when I contact her,” he answered, sounding distracted.

“Doctor?” Jack queried, worried at his tone.

The only response was a slight hitch in the Doctor’s otherwise controlled breathing, and then Rose’s mournful, “He can’t see.”

The blurry and darkened smattering of pink and gold that he knew was Rose had finally faded entirely, leaving his vision completely darkened.

“I’d better do this while I still have my telepathic sense,” the Doctor said, his bleak tone confirming Rose’s pronouncement. He closed his now sightless eyes and reached out his telepathic sense towards his TARDIS.

Rose and Jack startled as they felt a strange telepathic brush. It was part TARDIS and part Doctor, as the two consciousnesses intertwined more closely than the Time Lord had attempted since the war. Their alternating mental voices were such a concentrated telepathic force that it bled over into his human companions, both of whom were receptive enough to make sense of the feeling.

Contact / defend / always / be wary.

“Two days,” the Doctor gasped, almost as unused to the close connection as Rose and Jack were to experiencing it vicariously. “She needs two days. You’ll have to hold out at least that long.”

Jack frowned. Two days was a long time when measured in visits from one’s sadistic captors.

“Then what?” Rose asked.

“Then you give in,” the Doctor explained. “Get everyone to the TARDIS, show them a key. Let one of them try it in the lock. The TARDIS will register the intruder and activate the defenses. You’ll need to shut your eyes and cover your ears, it’ll be like a great, big flash-bang. It should incapacitate everyone else in the room.”

“You’re right, I don’t like that plan,” Jack told him.

“I don’t see anything else we can do, do you?” the Doctor replied.

Before Jack could formulate a suitably snarky answer, the Doctor stiffened between them and they felt the interwoven TARDIS/Doctor telepathic brush again.

Steady / shock! / calm / adrift!

Jack’s hand behind his head, Rose’s hands on his arm, and the TARDIS’s firm mental support kept him grounded as his time sense abruptly shut off. There was no fading sensation this time, it was simply there one moment, as it had been for as long as he could remember, and then gone the next.

“T-time sense!” he stuttered, in no small amount of shock. “Cut off!”

He’d had his finger on the pulse of the Universe for nearly a millennium, and now he was adrift. As taste and telepathy were his strong senses in this incarnation, touch and time sense had been his strengths in the previous. Now, the part of his mind that was usually filled with an acute awareness of and connection to Time itself was suddenly empty, and this unsettled him much more than the mere loss of his sight.

Jack and Rose had no basis to understand what it felt like, having no analogous sense to compare to. They could only give him what support they could manage with touch and their voices, as his hearing seemed to be holding out longer than his other senses, and share worried glances over his head. He was trembling slightly between them now, but still steadfastly trying to hold back any stronger reaction to his predicament.

They could still feel the TARDIS/Doctor fusion at the edges of their minds, all of them clinging to a desperate last hope that perhaps his telepathy would be spared, and possibly his hearing. But then they felt the dual telepathic brush sharpen one last time before it was heartbreakingly cut short.

Contact failing / hold on! / boosting…

After losing taste, smell, sight, and time sense, this was the final straw that undid the Doctor’s control. While they hadn’t connected that closely in a long time, the TARDIS had been a constant and comforting presence in his mind for many years. For a while after the war she had been all that had kept him sane, and she was all that he had left of life before.

“No!” he cried out, unconsciously returning to the oddly comforting thumping of his head against the wall, despite Jack’s hand being still in the way. Jack simply intercepted the next skull-numbing bang again, instead guiding the Doctor so that he leant against Jack’s solid warmth rather than the wall.

“I’ve got you,” Jack told him, his gaze meeting Rose’s again, both anguished.

“No!” the Doctor cried again, panicked. “She’s gone!”

“Shh, it’s going to be okay. We’ve got you,” Rose tried to reassure him.

But he was inconsolable, the loss of the TARDIS’s mental touch too great an outrage for him to simply grin and bear.

“She’s gone! She’s gone! She’s gone!” he repeated, almost sobbing the words, over and over until he slipped into incoherency and what sounded like it might be the same phrase in a completely different language.

“The translator’s stopped,” Rose whispered, gripping the Doctor’s hands in her own. “Please, tell me you actually speak English.”

“I do,” Jack answered, much to Rose’s relief. This situation was horrifying enough without having to face it without being able to communicate with each other. “Doctor? Doc, English, please.”

Jack’s request seemed to reach the Doctor, the effort of forcing himself to think in English affording him a sense of stability that had been torn asunder when his link to the TARDIS had snapped.

“Da. Si. No! Yes,” he mumbled. “Yes, English. She’s gone, Jack!”

“We know, we know,” Jack soothed.

“We’re here,” Rose told him, holding his hands tightly. “We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere. Just remember that, no matter what else happens.”

The Doctor squeezed her hands in reply. There were tears running down her cheeks, and Jack’s, as they watched him try to piece his composure back together.

They continued talking to him, even though he would only vaguely respond, trying to keep him grounded in their voices as long as they could. They knew instantly, a few minutes later, when his hearing succumbed. He shuddered in Jack’s grip, and then seemed to withdraw into himself, slumping bonelessly between them and again breathing regularly and evenly.

They could tell that he was still conscious, as he still returned Rose’s squeezes of his hands, but he was otherwise unresponsive. He had turned himself inward in the face of his curtailed senses, an attempt to ground himself internally since he was cut off from the external save for the sense of touch.

So Rose and Jack used touch to communicate that they were still there, no matter what else was going to happen. It was all they could do.


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Chapter 5: Terrifying Things

Author's Notes: Hey! Todayís (3 August 2007) my birthday! Hereís yet more Doctor-whump to commemorate the occasion. :-)

Part Five — Terrifying Things

One by one they left him. The TARDIS hung on as long as she could, boosting their mental link, but it was a simple matter of chemical reactions and biology, and not even the TARDIS could fight it as his telepathic sense faded away. One by one they left him, increasingly cut off, alone, in the silence and the dark, until only touch remained… touch, and pain.

Their alien captor had been right. His sense of touch, which had always been acute, had been amplified by the drug. Sensations which had once been full of minute details of information now bordered on painful. Jack’s arms around him and Rose’s hands gripping his own were nearly agonizing. But it was nothing compared to the idea of losing that last connection to them, so he found it easy to endure.

There was nothing else to do. It was all but complete sensory deprivation, a hairsbreadth from total isolation within his own mind. He felt like screaming just to see if it would pierce the thick silence, but he had enough control left to know that it would be futile. He stayed silent.

He could feel it as Jack spoke, a rumbling sensation and the motion of the muscles he rested against. It was maddening, because there was no way to discern the words.

The frustration ate away at him, the inside of his own head not being a place he often liked to linger. He spent so much effort on effervescent motion and noise, always focusing outwards on the next adventure, the next puzzling malfunction of the TARDIS, the next speed bump in the road of temporal fluctuations that was his life. He was utterly unaccustomed to keeping himself company in the quiet of his own thoughts.

It was difficult to keep from slipping into his memories in search of some facsimile of sensory input, knowing that it would be too easy to lose himself in that quagmire of the past. He needed to stay grounded, aware of the present, as unpalatable as the present happened to be.

He was afraid he’d never find his way back to reality if he didn’t.

The loss of his human senses was frustrating, and the loss of his time sense was subtly unnerving as it left him floating in a frightening timelessness. But the loss of his telepathy… the loss of his connection to the TARDIS… was worst of all. Her comforting presence in the back of his mind was missing, and no matter how desperately he reached out for her there was no reply. Only the oppressive silence inside his mind.

And yet he couldn’t stop himself from trying to contact her, no matter how much it made his head ache, no more than he could stop himself from seeking the painful physical contact with his companions. Anything to keep himself grounded.

He fought to control the rising panic as the place in his mind were the TARDIS had always been remained silent and Time remained blocked off from him. He had no gauge with which to measure the passage of time. It could have been minutes since the TARDIS had been torn from his mind or it could have been years. It felt like forever.

Rose’s grip shifted on his hands again, causing his fingers to brush against her wrist for a moment. His enhanced sense of touch easily registered the warmth of her skin, of the blood running just underneath its surface, and suddenly he realized that he could feel her pulse. He fumbled for a moment, searching for the optimal grip on her wrists, and then he bent all his formidable mental power to the simple task of feeling her pulse beneath his fingers and convincing himself that this way he could again have a sense of how quickly time was passing.

It was a godsend. Suddenly, with a bit of mental arithmetic involving the average beats per minute of a human pulse, a calculation he could perform even in his sleep, he could now estimate the flow of Time. It was a pale shadow of his time sense, crude and inaccurate, affording him none of the control over Time he should have been able to wield, but it was glorious nonetheless. It was real, it was now, and it was something to think about other than the creeping horror of what the drug had done to him and what was likely to happen in the near future.

He lost himself in her pulse. The gentle flow of blood back and forth, regular and predictable, a sign that Rose was alive and a gauge by which to mark the consecutive moments of that life. Knowing that this was safe, that it was external and held none of the inherent dangers of losing himself in his own mind, he didn’t fight it as his entire world narrowed down to two things.

The reassuring warmth of Jack behind him, propping him up, and the magnificent miracle that was Rose’s pulse beneath his fingertips. This was all he needed to stay grounded, to stay sane. This was more than enough.

He sat content, if subdued, and let the running calculation of time stack up as he counted Rose’s heartbeats. He estimated that something between forty minutes and over an hour had passed when suddenly he felt Jack and Rose simultaneously stiffen their posture.

They had heard something, he guessed. Probably the door up the hallway opening.

Their captor was returning to check on them. The certain knowledge of what that meant was coming next caused him to shiver involuntarily.

He keenly felt the loss of her comforting presence and sanity-saving pulse as Rose’s hands were pulled away from his. Suddenly timeless again, feeling only the welcome and yet painful press of his weight against Jack’s, he found it impossible to ignore the strong panic that again made itself known.

A stretch of unidentifiable time passed as he felt Jack speaking with urgency, and logic told him it must only have been moments.

Then, there were suddenly multiple pairs of hands grabbing at him painfully and he was roughly dragged away from Jack’s grasp. He fought them, unleashing a capacity for sheer physical violence that he didn’t usually call upon. He could tell that he’d done some damage as the grabbing hands retaliated, and his enhanced sense of touch shuttled the fiery sensation of each blow directly into his mind. Left gasping from this new pain, he could do nothing more to defend himself. He felt helpless, and he hated it.

He couldn’t be sure, but they pulled him far enough back that he wondered if he was now outside the cell, or possibly in the cell across the corridor from their original one.

Either way, he’d been separated from Jack and Rose. Though touch remained, he now felt completely isolated. He was alone to face whatever his captor had planned for him.

He was terrified.


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Chapter 6: Angry Things

Author's Notes: AN: A very special thanks to everyone who left birthday wishes in their comments! Makes me feel loved. I do suppose it might be an odd way to celebrate oneís birthday, butÖ [Master] Ďsígood, isnít it? [/Master] Hereís part six, wherein the situation continues to degenerate into a bit of a sadistic mindfuck and Rose and Jack get very, very angry.

Part Six — Angry Things

Jack and Rose, each held back by a pair of guards, were both yelling at the top of their lungs.

“No! Stop it! Leave him alone!” Rose shouted as another pair of guards pulled the Doctor away from Jack.

Jack was a bit less coherent, leaning more towards creatively cursing the guards in multiple languages.

Suddenly, the Doctor shocked all of them by exploding into action, a look of deep concentration on his face as he somehow, despite being unable to see or hear, accurately placed several impressive moves Jack recognized as being from Venusian Aikido where they would be most effective.

Working with the element of surprise, he quite thoroughly expressed his displeasure with the guards, leaving both of them with bruises and aches where there they hadn’t had any a moment before.

But they didn’t stay surprised for very long, and it was painfully easy for them to overwhelm the Doctor. They extracted their revenge with two vicious punches to his midsection. He bent over, gasping in pain, and would have fallen if they hadn’t grabbed him again and resumed dragging him away from Jack and Rose.

“Stop hurting him!” Rose yelled, as they roughly pulled him out of the cell and into the cell directly across the narrow corridor. There they dumped him on the floor.

The alien who seemed to be the one in charge, and who had so enjoyed taunting them earlier, stood before them and said something in a commanding tone and a language neither of them understood.

Rose glared silently at him, but Jack knew that they were in serious trouble if they couldn’t communicate and that he had to try.

“We don’t speak that language,” he said, in a different language that he hoped he was correct in thinking was a galactic standard in this time period.

“What are you playing at?” the alien replied in the same tongue, much to Jack’s relief. “You understood and spoke my language before.”

“He’s a telepath, you fool. Your little drug broke our translation circuit!” Jack explained, pointing across the corridor at the Doctor.

The alien looked intrigued at this, glancing for a moment in the direction Jack had pointed, to where the Doctor had remained motionless where the guards had dropped him.

“A telepath, eh? And the chemical blindfold broke the connection? That’s fascinating,” the alien mused. “But no matter, it changes nothing. It is time for a small demonstration of our persuasion, to convince you that it would be in your best interests, and the best interests of your mouthy telepath, to cooperate. You, give me your coat.”

He had pointed at Jack, and the guards near him had immediately started helping him divest himself of the garment regardless of his wishes. The order confused Jack, and more so Rose who was struggling against the guard that held her, quietly furious with her inability to understand their conversation.

When the alien had Jack’s coat he looked at it with disdain for a moment, clearly not impressed with its muddy condition. But then he shrugged and pulled it on over his own clothes. He shifted it over his shoulders and smoothed it down, and it fit him passably well. Giving Jack a dark smile, he turned and left their cell to walk across to the Doctor’s.

“What’s going on?” Rose hissed at Jack.

“Luckily, he speaks a galactic trade talk that I happen to know. He said he’s going to give us a demonstration of his persuasion. I don’t know why he wanted my coat,” Jack answered.

But as they watched, the alien in Jack’s coat knelt behind the Doctor, pulling him up to lean against him with surprising gentleness. With a sinking feeling and a mounting anger they realized what their captor was planning.

The Doctor, startled at the unexpected gentle touch, frowned in confusion. He could feel Jack’s coat, the familiar scratchiness of its wool and the drying mud where he remembered it should be. But the body inside the coat didn’t feel quite right, and the hands felt wrong altogether. He had to trust his sense of touch, since that was all he had, and his sense of touch was telling him that this was an impostor.

But the touch remained gentle, and the hands even allowed him to search out the pulse at their wrists. He knew he should be wary, but the sense of the passage of time from counting pulse beats that had the ability to so calm him was an intoxicating lure. Slowly, as he let the pulse fill his consciousness, he began to relax.

He couldn’t hear Rose and Jack shouting desperately from so nearby, or see the sadistic smile on the face of the alien who was cradling him so gently.

But even so, he was not entirely surprised when the wrists he held loosely in his grip turned suddenly and the hands grasped his own wrists cruelly. The impostor in Jack’s coat finally showed his true colors, his sudden explosion into violent motion almost as shocking to those watching as the Doctor’s had been earlier.

The Doctor found himself pinned to the metal decking on his side, with his wrists held painfully behind his back. His head was pounding from being slammed into the ground. He hissed in pain, kicking himself mentally for letting himself trust that gentle touch even the littlest bit. He’d known it wasn’t Jack and still he’d foolishly let himself relax. He resolved to be stronger in the future, simultaneously trying not to think about what the future likely held.

It was harder to ignore the booted feet impacting on each exposed portion of his body. He curled up as much as he could to protect himself, and squeezed his otherwise useless eyes shut, wincing against the pain. He utterly refused to cry out, even though he wouldn’t hear it. He didn’t want to give them the satisfaction.

He had no idea how long the beating continued, his world narrowing down to the various pains that assaulted him. But eventually the hands restraining his wrists released him, and he curled the rest of the way into a protective ball. There was one last farewell kick, and then he felt nothing but the decking beneath him and the fiery echoes of the blows that had finally stopped.

He was almost thankful for the physical pain, since it distracted him from the terror of being trapped inside his own mind.

In the other cell, Jack and Rose had both shouted themselves hoarse and were now silently seething in the grips of their respective guards. Their captor, the alien monster in Jack’s coat, stepped back up to the door of their cell and smiled at them. He then shrugged off the coat and let it fall in a heap to the floor in the corridor.

“You can see that I am quite serious,” he told Jack in that trade lingo that Rose couldn’t understand. “We will leave you to your thoughts for a while, and then I will return and you will show me how to enter your ship. Or we will hurt your telepath again.”

Jack merely growled at him as he and his guards left again, closing the automatically locking cell doors and heading back out through the door further up the corridor.

When it had clanged shut and they were alone again, Jack and Rose both instinctively tried to get as close to the Doctor as they could. They were stopped by the bars of their cell door. They wound up sitting against those bars, holding each other, looking across the corridor at the Doctor, who sill lay curled up on the floor of the other cell. Both of them were shaking with anger and fear.

“Two days,” Rose moaned. “How are we going to last two days? How is the Doctor going to…”

Her voice cracked, and she hid her face against Jack’s shoulder.

“One moment at a time, honey, one moment at a time,” Jack told her, feeling enraged and impotent and scared.

And that’s how they lived, moment by moment, for two agonizing days, their anger growing as they continued to refuse their captor’s request and the sadistic alien continued to take his frustration out on the defenseless Doctor.

Sometimes, the guards would merely swarm into the cell and set upon him with swinging fists and feet. He would simply curl up in a tighter ball and endure the beating, refusing to react, letting the pain keep him from falling into the dark abyss of his shuttered mind.

He never spoke, never vocalized at all, suffering silently as the hours passed beyond his narrowed awareness and the pain came and went with no discernible pattern.

Sometimes, the alien in charge of their interrogation would pick up Jack’s coat again, pulling it on before gently pulling the Doctor’s battered form into his lap. The Doctor never again let himself relax in that grip, though he always sought out the pulse at the wrists of the arms that held him.

As Rose and Jack watched helplessly at the door of their own cell, the Doctor quickly learned that comfort from a man wearing that familiar coat meant pain would soon follow.

Some time in the beginning of what they counted as the second day, when the alien in the stolen coat cradled his prisoner gently for the fifth time, the Doctor reacted differently. This time, instead of blindly searching out his pulse, the Doctor shuddered involuntarily.

He was in so much all encompassing pain, and they had finally beaten into him an unconscious association between this cruelly kind embrace and the return of the hands and feet that would hurt him further.

The beatings he couldn’t see coming were bad enough, but waiting helplessly in a deceptively comforting embrace was somehow more terrifying.

The alien smiled as he felt his captive trembling in his arms, knowing that he had caused this reaction and that it was now time to move to the next step. He shifted from his false kindness quicker than usual, thus reinforcing the association.

The Doctor’s wrists were slammed particularly violently into the floor, and Rose and Jack could actually hear the bones snap as his right wrist gave out under the pressure.

He made his first sound in over a day, an involuntary wail of pain that tore at his companions’ hearts, as the shattered bones were ground together. The guards then dragged him back across the corridor and into their original cell as he desperately tried to keep his injured wrist tucked safely immobile against his stomach. Rose and Jack were threatened with the ever present weaponry of the guards, and told to stand at the back of the cell as the Doctor was returned to them.

Their captor then shrugged off Jack’s coat again, and tossed it towards its true owner.

“You will wear the coat. If we catch you without it, the girl will die,” he ordered, still smiling evilly.

Jack’s reply involved several death threats and a few physically impossible suggestions of what the alien should do with himself, but he obediently pulled the coat on.

“Will you show me how to enter your ship?” the alien asked, for the dozenth time.

Jack let all his anger and fear show on his face, playing the part of a prisoner who was near to breaking, knowing that the time for their escape was almost near.

“No,” he growled.

Their captor nodded, motioning to the guards, and walked away from the cell. They were left alone again, and then Jack told Rose why he had been given his coat back. Rose brought both hands up to her mouth in horror, covering a sob.

There was no way Jack could touch the Doctor while he was wearing his coat, and he couldn’t risk Rose’s life by taking it off. He was left to watch, growing ever more angry and frustrated, as Rose tried to gently let the Doctor know that he was not alone.

Rose sobbed again as the Doctor flinched away from her hand, not recognizing her and no longer willing to trust any touch.

He was lost in a world of searing agony, the grinding pain in his wrist not quite overshadowing the aches in the rest of his body.

Watching him cradle the injured wrist with his left hand, Rose was suddenly reminded of him, standing in his previous incarnation’s leather jacket moments after regenerating, cradling his wrist the same way and babbling something about a slight weakness as he rotated it.

Shaking herself back into the present, she moved her hand next to his, letting it come to rest so that they lightly touched. He reacted distrustfully again, tucking his broken wrist against himself and curling protectively around it.

Choking back more tears, Rose tried to keep her hand steady as she slowly moved it to reestablish the light contact with his uninjured hand.

The Doctor wanted to scream out his pain and confusion. Everything hurt, his wrist most of all, and touch was bad. Touch meant more pain. His mind kept screaming at him that the light touch against his hand was very, very bad.

But touch was all he knew, and his desperate desire to keep track of time left him no choice but to seek out the pulse he knew was so close. He tentatively moved his left hand to cover the surprisingly small and soft hand that had been placed next to him.

He thought it might be Rose. He wanted so badly for it to be Rose.

But he couldn’t quite make himself believe it.

Nevertheless, he moved his hand down to wrap lightly around the slender wrist. He sighed shakily as he felt the pulse beneath his fingers.

Jack watched this interaction from the back of the cell, trembling with impotent rage. He wanted dearly to have their captor in front of him now so he could kill the sadistic bastard with his bare hands.

Rose looked up at him, motioning him to come closer with her free hand. He complied, moving to sit beside her, carefully keeping from touching the Doctor. She had just barely calmed him, and he didn’t want to cause his friend more pain. Instead, he gently wrapped his arms around Rose, holding her for a moment as the Doctor held her wrist.

Then he pulled away, and she looked up to meet his gaze.

“Jack, I…” she couldn’t think of the words to communicate her own anger and fear and frustration.

Jack nodded, understanding completely.

She used her free hand to pull her phone out of her pocket and then hand it to him. They kept track of the countdown towards their escape with the small device, which their captors had never taken from them.

He opened it to check the time, grateful that the Doctor’s modifications to the twenty first century bit of electronics had given it an absurdly long battery life.

“At least ten more hours,” he sighed. “God, I hate this.”

“Me, too,” Rose agreed, taking the phone back and replacing it in her pocket.

They were both so angry, and so afraid for the Doctor. At least ten more hours before they could make their escape, ten more hours during which they could do nothing to protect him.

They sat there in the center of their cell and watched over their injured friend, helpless to do anything else as they waited for their jailer to return again.


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Chapter 7: Waiting Things

Author's Notes: Things come to a head as we reach about the halfway point for this story.

Part Seven — Waiting Things

They waited for a blessedly quiet four hours before they saw their captors again.

The lead interrogator stood just outside their cell door, taking in the positions they had declined to move from when they heard the aliens enter the corridor.

Rose leant against Jack, who sat behind her, both of them adjacent to the Doctor, who had remained curled up in the center of the cell. His fingers still rested lightly against Rose’s pulse.

“Show me how to enter your ship,” the alien ordered without preamble.

“No,” Jack growled.

“So be it,” the alien replied. He watched his three prisoners for a moment, before he again spoke to Jack. “Tell the girl to squeeze his broken wrist.”

“What!?” Jack shouted. “No! God, no!”

The alien leaned against the bars, staring down at Jack menacingly.

“I want her to hurt him.”

“No!” Jack repeated.

“You could always just let me into your ship,” the alien reminded him.

“No no no no!” Jack shouted.

“What is it, Jack?” Rose asked in English, frightened at his tone of voice. She tried to keep her arm still so as not to pass her fear on to the Doctor.

“That is your choice. If you do not choose, I will simply kill one of them and then ask you again. Shall I shoot the girl, or the telepath?” the alien gloated.

Jack shuddered, and nodded in defeat. He couldn’t give up the TARDIS yet, and he couldn’t risk calling the alien’s bluff.

“Rose, honey,” he whispered to her. “I’m so sorry. We can’t give in yet and we have to do what he says or he’ll kill one of us. Rose, he… he wants you to hurt the Doctor.”

Her eyes went wide with horrified shock. “I can’t!” she cried, still somehow managing to hold her arm still.

“You have to,” Jack replied urgently as the alien at the cell door took a gun off one of the guards and pointed it through the bars towards them. “Rose, you have to. Touch… touch his broken wrist.”

Rose gave a small hiccupping sob, and tentatively moved her free hand to cover the Doctor’s right wrist.

He reacted instantaneously, taking in a sharp breath and clamping his left hand down across her pulse. The look on his face spoke volumes. He’d let himself trust again, almost believed that the small, soft hands had been Rose’s. This, obviously, was his punishment for being so gullible. He knew better than to try to move his broken wrist, but he could and did tighten his left hand into a vice grip in an act of instinctive revenge.

Rose cried out, unconsciously tightening her hands in reaction as the Doctor nearly snapped the delicate bones in her own wrist.

Her other hand closed convulsively around his broken wrist and he screamed. It was a short but agonized howl of pain.

She instantly let go, as did he, and she pulled away, crawling over Jack to get as far away as she could. She came to a rest against the side wall of the cell, sobbing.

The Doctor quieted instantly, and curled tighter around his shattered wrist. It had developed angry bruises over the hours that had passed, and was beginning to swell.

“Are you happy now, you bastard?” Jack shouted at their jailer.

“Hmmm. Appeased for now, I suppose. I shall return later to ask you again,” he replied, before leading the contingent of guards away. His echoing laughter followed him down the corridor.

The door clanged shut, and they were alone once more.

Jack gently laid a hand on the Doctor’s shoulder, carefully keeping his coat away from him, but the Doctor cringed and curled up even tighter. Jack tried Rose’s earlier tactic of offering his pulse, but the drugged Time Lord was having none of it. They’d finally succeeded in training him to mistrust any and every touch.

Knowing that he could only cause the Doctor more pain by continuing, Jack slowly backed away and joined Rose. Her he could touch, her he could hold and comfort.

She held him in return, and they sat there as time dragged inexorably on. They cradled her phone between them, watching as the minutes and hours slowly passed.

Rose’s wrist began to swell slightly, and they spent a few minutes determining that it was only badly bruised and not actually broken. Then they returned to staring at the time display on the phone. It was easier than staring uselessly at the tight ball of misery the Doctor had curled himself into.

Rose contemplated calling someone.. her mum, or Mickey, or anyone… but she couldn’t think what she would say, and Jack reminded her that they did not want to give their captors an excuse to take the phone.

It was the longest they’d been left alone since the beginning. When the five hour mark passed, Rose asked if they’d waited long enough.

Jack weighed their options. The Doctor’s two days technically had another hour to go.

“If he doesn’t come back after another hour, I’ll start shouting. If he does… we should try to stall until the hour is up. I don’t want to cut it ten minutes short and botch everything,” Jack told her.

She nodded her agreement silently.

The last hour passed what felt like the slowest of them all despite an intellectual knowledge that time was still constant. When the last digit rolled over on the phone’s display, Rose clicked it shut with finality and slid it back into her pocket.

They shared a determined look, and Jack took a deep breath. Rose leaned over and kissed his cheek.

“For luck,” she whispered, and then she got up and moved closer to the Doctor. She didn’t try to touch him.

Jack stood, taking another deep breath and readying himself to play his role. It was time to get out of this hell hole.

“Hey!” he shouted in the trade lingo, banging his fists on the bars. “Hey, somebody! Please!”

Fairly quickly, as if he’d been expecting Jack to break after his last torment, the head interrogator appeared at the door into the corridor. He approached the cell slowly, the usual compliment of guards trailing behind him.

“Can I help you?” he asked mildly when he reached the bars.

“Please… I can’t… I’ll show you how to get into the ship. Just… please don’t hurt him any more!” Jack spoke brokenly.

“Ah, finally. I must admit, you’ve put up a good showing. But now you see the futility of it all, don’t you?” the alien said, almost kindly.

Inwardly sickened, Jack replied, “Yes, yes… please, I’ll show you…”

The alien considered him for a moment.

Please…” Jack whispered.

He nodded then, motioning for the guards to open the cell. They pulled Jack out and started to unceremoniously drag him down the corridor.

“Wait!” Jack shouted desperately. “How do I know you aren’t going to hurt or kill them as soon as I show you how to get in? Keep us together and stop hurting us or I’ll show you nothing!”

It was their captor’s turn to weigh his options. He’d invested many hours of effort into breaking this trio of prisoners, he wanted to see results sooner rather than later. He decided to take the risk.

Nodding in agreement, he ordered his guards to bring the others as well, with the stipulation that the girl would be the one to support and lead the telepath. It would keep them busy and discourage them from trying to run.

So Rose stood, accepting the Doctor’s weight against her as the guards pulled him up and draped his uninjured arm over her shoulders. She reached an arm around his waist to steady him, and thus they made their way, surrounded by guards, following Jack and the head interrogator.

They finally got to see what was on the other side of the door. It was a small room, with another door across from the one they entered through, and the most welcome sight in the universe sitting parked against the back wall.

The TARDIS, in all her glory, waiting for their return. A small table sat next to her, holding the sonic screwdriver and Jack’s blaster.

They filed into the room, Rose and the Doctor stopping where the guards directed and Jack heading directly for the TARDIS.

“I’m sorry, old girl,” he whispered to her, still playing the defeated prisoner.

“Show me,” the head interrogator demanded.

Slowly, reluctantly, Jack pulled at the string that held his TARDIS key conveniently around his neck but hidden beneath his shirt. He lifted it over his head, and then held the key in his hand.

“It’s a key. Just a simple, mechanical key,” he said.

“Then why were we unable to pick the lock?” their captor demanded to know.

“The technology is incredibly advanced. The lock is mechanical, but only an authorized key will trigger it. It won’t engage for any other key or lock pick, even a perfect copy,” Jack explained.

The alien held his hand out for the key, and Jack handed it over to him as if it was the hardest thing he’d ever done.

Then he stepped back, his shoulders slumped, the picture of defeat.

Secure in his mastery of the situation and reveling in his triumph, the head interrogator pushed the key into the lock on the TARDIS door and turned it with a satisfied twist.

Several things proceeded to occur simultaneously.

Rose pressed her head into the Doctor’s shoulder and used her free hand to cover her still exposed ear, squeezing her eyes shut.

The Doctor staggered as the motion triggered another wave of pain. He had no way to know what was going on, and could only hope that the relocation and the person who felt so familiar as she supported him meant that their plan was working. He could only trust that his companions had estimated the two days correctly, since he had long since lost the thread of time.

Jack also squeezed his eyes shut, turning away from the TARDIS and covering his ears.

Recognizing the intruder at her door, the TARDIS exploded.

Not literally, though it seemed like it to the others in the room. The light atop her rectangular form flared painfully bright, and an agonizingly loud siren wailed forth from some hidden speaker system. It was, as the Doctor had promised, the equivalent of a powerful flash-bang.

It overwhelmed the guards instantly, sending them crashing to the floor, writhing in pain as their senses were overloaded.

The head interrogator, his hand still on the key in the door, jerked as the TARDIS gleefully sent crippling electrical pulses down his arm. Then he, too, collapsed to the floor.

Slightly stunned, but ready for action, Rose immediately began helping the Doctor towards the TARDIS. Jack jumped over the crumpled form of their tormentor to snatch the sonic screwdriver and his blaster off of the table and stow them in his pockets. Then he went back to the TARDIS to retrieve his key and open the door.

Knowing that bringing his coat near to the Doctor would cause a time-wasting bad reaction, he instead spent the few moments it took them to cross the room on the very satisfying activity of gifting the barely conscious alien at his feet with a few bruises to remember them by.

Rose also spared him a kick as she passed him.

Then they were all in the familiar safety of the TARDIS console room, and Jack gratefully locked the door behind them.

Rose and the Doctor wound up stumbling to a seat on the ramp up from the doorway. The Doctor automatically returned to his protective, curled up position.

Jack went to the console, setting up the dematerialization sequence and instructing the TARDIS to float in a holding pattern in the vortex. The TARDIS was unusually gentle as she followed his commands.

They’d done it. They’d escaped.

And now, Jack thought as he looked back down at Rose and the Doctor, came the really hard part.


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Chapter 8: Difficult Things

Author's Notes: To borrow ponygirlís wonderful wording, ďComfort tiem nao!Ē But, as most of you guessed, itís not going to be quite that easyÖ

Part Eight — Difficult Things

He was on the TARDIS.

The familiar metal grating beneath his cheek could have been faked, but nothing else in the universe would make that comforting, distinctive hum. He could feel it all across his body, and it was wonderful.

The TARDIS. Home. Safety.

And yet, he’d been too badly hurt to simply trust the comforting sensations. He remained tense and wary. He was on the TARDIS, but there was no guarantee that it was because they had made a successful escape. Something could have gone wrong. Having learned his lesson, he refused to let himself hope.

It was safer not to hope.

So, when four hands began to pull him up to his feet, he cringed, assuming the worst.

But all they did was lead him up the ramp, only stopping when his front bumped into something. Then, one of them gently guided his uninjured hand down and forward… and he felt the controls beneath his fingers.

They touched him as little as possible, only enough to keep him standing, and let him explore the controls one-handed.

He ran his fingers lightly over the switches and knobs, stroking his beautiful ship. He felt her warming bits of the console beneath his hand, trying to reassure him.

He wanted to believe her. He wanted to feel safe again.

But as he brought his hand to rest against the edge of the console, trying to support some of his own weight, it brushed against scratchy wool.

Jack’s coat.

There was no conscious thought as the instinctive part of his mind took over. This reaction had been too well beaten into him. The next thing he knew, he was curled up beneath the console, the fingers of his uninjured hand digging into the grating, trembling in anticipation.

The coat meant pain.

Jack cursed loudly, jumping back and starting to frantically tear off the coat. In the minor success of getting the Doctor to the controls, he’d forgotten about the stupid coat. He tossed it carelessly into a corner, without even bothering to rescue the sonic or his blaster from its pockets, and then he returned to the console.

Rose sat in front of the panicked Doctor, wishing she knew how to reach him. The only way to communicate with him was touch, but their captors had thoroughly traumatized him with that sense. He’d been transformed into a cowering animal, unsure where the next kick was going to come from. It was heartbreaking.

Inspiration born of desperation suddenly struck Rose, and she gently touched her fingertip to the Doctor’s cheek and began to trace the letter R slowly and clearly on his skin.

He took in a shuddering breath, confused by this new touch. R for Rose, that was obvious… but could he dare to trust it? The tracing repeated itself. R for Rose. Was it her? Was it really her this time? Had they really safely escaped? Or was this another cruel trick? How could he trust anything?

Rose continued tracing the letter, with the lightest of touches and what she hoped were reassuringly slow and gentle motions.

R for Rose. It had to be her. It couldn’t be anyone else. Even if they’d learned her name, the aliens who’d captured them would not know the Old Earth English alphabet. They wouldn’t know to trace R for Rose.

It was that incontrovertible fact that finally convinced him, intellectually, that they had escaped and that it really was Rose touching his cheek. But it took a lot longer for the thought to make its way down to the instinctive level, where he remained tensed up, knowing that the next beating would begin any moment.

And Rose kept tracing that R for as long as it took.

Eventually, the Doctor’s natural sense of optimism, battered though it was, won out. They hadn’t quite been able to beat out of him his deep faith in Rose and Jack. Hesitantly, still not quite sure that he wouldn’t be rewarded with more pain, the Doctor reached his uninjured hand up to capture the hand at his cheek. He turned it over, slowly tracing the letter R in the palm. R for Rose.

He found his hand lifted up to touch another cheek, Rose’s cheek, and she was nodding in reply. He could feel the tears and the smile on her face.

It really was Rose!

She then passed his hand gently to another pair of hands. A man’s hands. They traced J for Jack in his palm, and he returned the gesture. J for Jack. Then he moved his hand to grip one of Jack’s wrists, searching out his pulse.

Jack let him do it, just happy that he was letting them touch him.

“Why does he do that?” Rose asked, pointing at where the Doctor gripped Jack’s wrist. “He keeps doing that.”

“He’s feeling the pulse. I think… it probably has something to do with his time sense being cut off,” Jack surmised, having had plenty of time in the cell to analyze the Doctor’s new habit.

Rose nodded, accepting that explanation.

“We need to get him to the TARDIS infirmary,” she said then.

Jack nodded in agreement, and they began the painful process of getting him up and moving again. He remained passive and compliant as long as he was allowed to keep his contact with one of their pulses. They had to go back to tracing their first initials on his skin to reassure him if that contact was lost.

They made it to the infirmary and got him situated on one of the diagnostic beds. Being familiar with the dermal regenerator, as most companions usually were by necessity, Rose immediately picked up the small handheld device and began to work its magic.

Only when every bruise was healed and the Doctor’s mangled wrist again looked unbroken and normal did Rose turn the medical instrument to her own bruised wrist. More than to heal her own physical pain, she refused to leave that bruise where the Doctor might eventually notice it and realize what had happened.

When she was finished, she put the dermal regenerator away. Jack had watched her silently, serving his purpose as pulse-lifeline for the Doctor through the mildly uncomfortable procedure.

Then, between the two of them, they worked out how to run the thankfully noninvasive and totally painless diagnostic scans.

The results were both encouraging and frightening.

The drug was no longer in the Doctor’s system, on the bright side of things. But there was no way to know how long his mind would take to reboot, or if all of his senses actually would come back online at all. In short, all they could do was wait and hope, as difficult as that was going to be.

They looked at each other, each trying to let the other draw some sort of strength. They were both exhausted, frightened, and numb.

“We need to sleep,” Rose pronounced then, getting a tired nod from Jack. Looking at their patient, they realized that the Doctor was already ahead of them. Thoroughly exhausted, himself, and finally feeling some measure of safety, as soon as he began to feel the blissful effects of the healing he had drifted off to sleep.

Rose got up and started pushing one of the other diagnostic beds towards Jack, letting him hop onto it and then pushing it flush against the Doctor’s. That way, Jack could rest while still allowing the Doctor the contact with his pulse that kept him grounded and calm.

Hopping onto the next bed on the Doctor’s other side, Rose sat with her knees pulled up under her chin.

“You rest, Jack, you look shattered,” she told him. “I’ll watch for a while, and I promise I’ll wake you when I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. That alright?”

Jack had to reluctantly agree. The stress he’d been feeling for the past two days had completely done him in. If Rose thought she could stay awake to keep watch for a while longer, he could only gratefully take her offer.

So Rose sat and watched as Jack drifted off to sleep next to the Doctor. She hugged her arms around her knees, trembling slightly, unable to forget the feel of the Doctor’s broken wrist beneath her hand.

They’d escaped, and healed their physical injuries, but she knew the difficult road to full healing had only just begun.


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Chapter 9: Tiring Things

Author's Notes: First we get into the Doctorís head a bit, and then we get some TARDIS/Doctor love!

Part Nine — Tiring Things

It took him a moment to realize that he was awake.

Trapped inside his own mind, save for his sense of touch, there was hardly anything to indicate a difference between consciousness and unconsciousness. But he slowly realized that he could feel one of the TARDIS infirmary’s diagnostic beds underneath him and a momentarily confusing but utterly blessed lack of pain.

For the first time in an uncountable eternity, nothing hurt. His injuries had all been healed, and his sense of touch had returned to normal while he slept. That, at least, was a good sign that his senses were recovering.

Now that it was gone he almost missed the pain, in a slightly crazy sort of way. It had given him something to latch onto, something to keep him from going out of his mind while he was trapped in his mind.

Without that distracting, constant pain, he was left to his own devices again. Rational thought returned, somewhat reluctantly. It was like waking up from a very long, very bad dream.

His memories of what he could only assume were the past two days were a bit hazy, and largely consisted of overlapping waves of the drug-enhanced pain that had been his entire world.

He remembered the frightening shut down of each of his other senses, and the disconcerting timelessness that he’d slipped into. He realized that he was still clutching onto someone’s wrist at their pulse in an attempt to fight back against that timelessness. It felt like Jack’s.

He remembered the sadistic impostor in Jack’s coat, and even now that he was no longer addled with pain, the thought of that scratchy wool evoked a deep seated fear in him. He was able to fight the impulse to react to the irrational anticipation of another beating and curl up protectively on the bed, but only by focusing himself on the pulse beneath his fingertips.

A hand touched his shoulder on the opposite side from where he knew Jack was, startling him.

The hand quickly traced an R through his shirt, and then rested on his shoulder again.

R for Rose. Of course. There wasn’t anybody else on the TARDIS for it to be. They’d escaped, he reminded himself, he no longer had to remain wary of their captors.

Rose had apparently been watching, and noticed that he’d woken. He smiled slightly, bringing his free hand up to grasp hers. Jack’s hand never moved underneath his, nor did he feel any other touch from the other man, and that led him to guess that Jack had fallen asleep beside him.

He felt Rose shift his hand so that his fingers were over her pulse, and understood why a moment later as Jack seemed to startle awake and pull away from him. He gripped Rose’s wrist, grateful that his companions had noticed his need for that contact, and waited in frustration for something else to happen.

He knew that he wasn’t totally helpless, that, if he wanted to, he was perfectly capable of feeling his way blindly around the TARDIS for any number of purposes.

But the fear and pain that had been his world for the past two days were still too close, too real. He was composed and rational now, but it was only skin deep. He didn’t know if he would be able to hold it together without the contact with Rose or Jack’s pulses that had become so essential to his existence.

Part of him, lurking in the back of his mind, still wasn’t convinced that he should trust that this was real, and was more than ready to step back into control the moment he slipped.

It was a constant battle to stay calm when his instincts were still clamoring to protect himself from any more pain. If only any of his other senses would come back online! It would be a long time before he would be able to easily trust touch again, but any other sense would help immeasurably.

Unbeknownst to him, Rose and Jack could see a lot this fight on his face. As they’d so delighted in noticing when Jack was flirting with him, this incarnation of the Doctor tended to be more outwardly expressive than the one they’d first met.

Yawning and wobbling slightly on her feet, Rose steadied herself against the side of the bed. The motion snapped both of them out of their fugue and Jack turned away from watching the Doctor to go fetch Rose a chair.

When she was settled, Jack said, “I’ll go get us something to eat, and then you should get some sleep.”

Rose tiredly nodded her agreement, and Jack headed off. Their captors had been more than willing to supply them with water and bathroom breaks in the small loo at the end of the corridor as necessary, but none of them had eaten since the day before they’d been captured.

Jack returned fairly quickly, bearing a tray of sandwiches and bottled water.

“Found these in the fridge,” he said, shrugging. The TARDIS was obviously doing everything she could to take care of them.

The Doctor dutifully sat up and ate what they handed him, deftly managing everything from turkey sandwich to water bottle one-handed. Rose was slightly more clumsy in her one-handed attempts to eat, but she resolutely kept her other hand steady beneath the Doctor’s fingers.

When they finished, Jack moved the tray out of the way and then hopped back onto the diagnostic bed touching the Doctor’s and somewhat tentatively placed his hand palm up next to the one the Doctor had let come to rest beside him.

Understanding the offer, the Doctor shifted his hand to cover Jack’s pulse again and was unsurprised when Rose subsequently moved her own hand underneath his.

He was surprised when she leaned down and gently kissed his cheek. He squeezed her hand in reply before she almost reluctantly pulled away.

“I could sleep for a week,” she told Jack as she stepped back. “But I guess a few hours will have to do. We should keep taking shifts until he’s better.”

They didn’t bother discussing the fact that they still didn’t know for sure that he would get better. There was no point in thinking pessimistically.

Jack nodded in reply, and that was the start of their new routine. They took turns being the pulse beneath the Doctor’s fingertips, and they took turns getting sleep.

The Doctor remained stable as long as they allowed him access to their pulses, though he did draw the line at the bathroom. But only just.

He knew that he was driving his companions mad, and that they were tiring of it both physically and emotionally, but only a letter traced in his palm and a pulse beneath his fingers could sustain his fragile trust.

Isolated as he was, it was all he had. He was stuck in a never ending loop of trust, doubt, panic, and reassurance. On top of it all, he was dreadfully bored.

By the time the second day after their escape had passed, all three of them were going quietly mad. Literally quiet in the Doctor’s case, since he still refused to communicate in any but the most basic of ways.

Speaking would just remind him that he couldn’t hear, and for once he didn’t know what to say, anyway. They had tried handing him a pad and pen, but he’d stubbornly ignored it. Similarly, Rose had tried tracing longer messages into his palm. He’d tolerated the touch, just to have her hands in his, but his general reluctance to respond spoke for itself.

Uncharacteristically, there wasn’t anything he wanted to talk about.

So they muddled through each passing moment with an ever increasing feeling of frustration and exhaustion.

Finally, some sixty hours after they’d escaped, both Rose and Jack fell into an exhausted sleep at the same time. Completely by coincidence, this coincided with the return of the first of the Doctor’s senses.

When the two of them woke, hours later, they found that the Doctor had disappeared. Worried, imagining the worst, and surprised that he had willingly separated himself from the comfort of their pulses for the first time, Jack and Rose set about frantically searching the TARDIS for their missing friend.

They found him in the console room, though they didn’t notice him at first.

He had actually crawled into the wiring underneath the console and curled up at the very base of the time rotor. There were tears on his face, but he seemed to be quiet and even content when they found him.

They didn’t try to convince him to come back out. Instead, they sat down on the floor where they could keep an eye on him, Jack’s arm around Rose’s shoulder as she snuggled against him.

“It’s so wrong, but I can’t think of a better word than cute to describe him right now,” Jack said, referring to the way the Doctor had practically nested in the wiring of the TARDIS.

Rose smiled and nodded in agreement.

“I was speaking in that trade lingo just then, by the way,” Jack added.

“And I understood it. That’s his telepathy back, then,” Rose grinned.

Suddenly, they both felt a telepathic brush against their minds. It was the same slightly odd, part TARDIS, part Doctor telepathy that they had felt back in the cell.

Affirmative / can feel her again / can touch him again / happy!

Finally, there was hope that the Doctor was going to recover.


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Chapter 10: Trusting Things

Author's Notes: Youíre all going to hate me for this. Hereís part ten, in which progress is made, and lostÖ lest you think that I was actually going to start being nice to my poor characters!

Part Ten — Trusting Things

The atmosphere on the TARDIS had lightened considerably since the Doctor’s telepathy had returned. No longer quite so isolated in his own mind, he had begun to find it easier to trust that the safety of their escape was real. This progress meant that Rose and Jack did not have to walk on eggshells around him, nor did he constantly need to seek out their presences and their pulses to remain in control.

He let the TARDIS bolster him, instead. Through their connection he could function almost as if all of his senses were working properly. He could monitor time through her, even if he couldn’t manipulate it as he should be able to. He could let her feed him an echo of the information that his sight and hearing would normally give him. All that was really lacking were his senses of smell and taste, leaving his oral fixation a bit weak. But that, he could live with.

He’d been so scared when she had been torn from his mind. When he found that she had finally returned, he had swarmed across their link and interwoven himself with her as closely as he could.

She had welcomed him warmly.

He had cried at first, in sheer joy and relief. Wanting to be as close to her as he could, he’d felt his way blindly into the console room, pulled the access panel off of the base of the console, and crawled inside. Curled up at the base of the time rotor, with its pulsing vibrations at his back and the console’s cabling snaking around him like an embrace, he felt completely and truly safe for the first time in a long while. Since long before their recent capture, if he was being completely honest with himself.

They had communicated their joint happiness telepathically when Jack and Rose joined him in the console room, and then they had continued to bask in each other’s mental presence.

The Doctor might have remained there, utterly blissed out, for a very long time.

The TARDIS wasn’t quite that patient.

Still sitting on the other side of the console’s access panels, Rose and Jack felt another dual consciousness telepathic brush. It made them chuckle.

Dirty / it’s mud / in the wiring! / oh alright.

And then the Doctor crawled back out from underneath the console, and, smiling sheepishly, felt his way out of the room in search of a shower.

He’d let Jack and Rose wash his suit for him soon after their return to the TARDIS, but he hadn’t wanted to be away from them long enough to take a proper shower. Consequently, his hair was still somewhat matted with dried mud. The TARDIS took exception to that mud getting into her cabling, and was not shy about nudging the Doctor mentally about it.

“They’re like an old married couple,” Jack laughed as the Doctor made his way out of the room.

Cheeky / we heard that / watch it / naughty!

Jack looked shocked for a moment, and Rose giggled. It was strange and wonderful to feel the TARDIS’s wry amusement so clearly, and so interwoven with the Doctor’s renewed cheerfulness.

The return of the Doctor’s telepathy had all of them in a good mood. It was easy to slip into something that almost resembled normalcy, and try to ignore the things that were still wrong.

Jack and Rose were finally able to sleep for more than a handful of hours at a time without feeling worried.

There were no more moments of panic and doubt, no more desperate grabs for a wrist and a pulse.

Despite still being deaf and blind, the Doctor found ways to stave off his boredom, often involving the TARDIS. He spent most of his time in the console room. Once, while Jack sat watching the Doctor fiddle blindly with something under the console, he had felt one of their telepathic brushes confuse him, and then amuse him.

Up and left / cheater / legal move! / not fair you always win.

They were playing mental board games, Jack understood after a moment. He smiled, grateful that the TARDIS could help keep the easily bored Time Lord occupied.

But, beneath the cheerful surface, all was not as perfect as they tried to pretend.

Jack found himself following the Doctor around, even though it wasn’t strictly necessary any longer. He just felt better when he could see for himself that the Doctor was well. When he was out of sight, Jack couldn’t help himself from seeing him as he had been, curled up miserably on the floor of that cell. He felt like he should have been able to do more to protect him.

Rose wasn’t really sleeping well. Guilt gnawed at her when she had time to think about it, and she could still feel the broken bones in the Doctor’s wrist move in her grip as she involuntarily squeezed. She felt like she had betrayed him by adding to his pain.

The Doctor remained largely uncommunicative except for the telepathic brushes that were always half TARDIS and often seemed unintentional. Instead of needing the reassurance of their touch, he began to outright avoid physical contact with both of his companions. He was throwing himself into his link with the TARDIS, trying to escape the memory of being trapped in his mind and overwhelmed with terror and pain.

Most disturbingly, three days had passed with no more of the Doctor’s senses returning. They had all hoped his senses would return as quickly as they had left him, but his mental reboot seemed to have stalled.

The evening of the third day since the Doctor had been able to reestablish contact with the TARDIS, he and Rose and Jack all sat together quietly in the kitchen, having just had tea. Rose and Jack watched as the Doctor fiddled absently with a banana, seemingly oblivious to their scrutiny.

He would usually obediently eat whatever they gave him, but the banana he seemed to prefer examining with his hands.

Suddenly, he dropped the fruit and slammed his fists into the table with no inconsiderable force. Both Jack and Rose nearly jumped out of their chairs. They felt the now familiar composite telepathic brush in their minds.

Frustration / hate this! / problem / stupid!

The communication was half sorrowful and half angry. In between the melded thoughts they could clearly feel the sorrow from the TARDIS and the anger from the Time Lord.

They each reached out to touch him, and he automatically went for their pulse points, something he hadn’t felt the need to do since his telepathy had returned.

“What problem?” Rose asked, knowing that the TARDIS would hear her even though the Doctor couldn’t.

Too close / hate this hate this hate this hate / won’t heal / don’t want to be alone again!

“Oh, no,” Jack breathed, understanding the TARDIS’s sorrow. “They aren’t supposed to be this closely connected, which is why we never heard them this way before.”

Understanding as well, Rose said, “Too close… she’s shielding him too much. He’s not going to heal unless they let go.”

Affirmative / isn’t fair! / need distance / need you! / so sorry / understand.

They knew when the TARDIS had withdrawn from his mind. His hands tightened into a desperate grip on each of their wrists and his breathing caught.

But those were the only outward signs. Tired of being afraid of his own mind, the Doctor forced himself to trust the TARDIS and let her retreat to her usual distance. Then he rationally reminded himself that his senses were in fact healing. It was just going to take some time, he just had to have faith.

Breathing shakily, sitting at the kitchen table between Rose and Jack, he started counting pulse beats again. The challenge of following their separate rhythms simultaneously helped to keep him focused, and their mere presence beside him was comforting as he was once again thrust into the dark and almost senseless world the chemical blindfold had created for him.

It was a long while before he was willing to let go of their wrists again.


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Chapter 11: Helpful Things

Author's Notes: And now for the unusually long part eleven, in which we have some more angst, some more characters, and then some more honest to goodness healing.

Part Eleven — Helpful Things

The setback was heartbreaking, but ultimately a good thing.

Once again mostly trapped in his mind, the Doctor was again heavily dependent upon Rose and Jack. It left him a bit frustrated and resentful, which made him a difficult patient at times. His companions knew better than to take it personally.

He returned to his habit of latching on to their pulses when they let him, and they made a point of letting him quite often. He hated feeling so needy, but the stability of counting pulse beats was more than worth the injury to his pride. He wasn’t consciously aware of it, but the fact that he could find some comfort in his unshakable trust in his two companions helped Rose and Jack to feel like they were doing something useful as they waited for his senses to return.

In his worst moments, when there was no pulse to focus on and he had run out of Gallifreyan nursery rhymes to recite to himself, leaving him nothing to keep himself from sliding into the dangerous territory of his memories, he would reach out to the TARDIS in his mind. She responded each time, reassuring him with a warm mental caress before gently but firmly pushing him away again. He knew that they needed to keep at a distance to give his mind a chance to heal, but that knowledge did not make the separation any easier.

The mood on the TARDIS became more strained as Jack and Rose once again had to be careful not to startle him unnecessarily. He was infinitely less jumpy than he had been before the return of his telepathy, but an unexpected touch still had the power to override his rational thought and toss him into a panic. He remained wary of his sense of touch, and his obvious discomfort left Rose and Jack cautiously afraid of touching him.

But for all of the difficulties, there was also an air of hope that had been lacking before. They knew that hiding so deeply within his link with TARDIS had set back his recovery, but they also knew that meant he had a recovery to be set back. He was healing.


Two more days passed with no sign of progress. Rose and Jack had meanwhile thrown themselves back into a routine of keeping watch over the Doctor, trying to let their focus on him whitewash over their feelings of guilt and worry.

Rose, particularly, was driving herself to distraction. She wanted to reach out to him, to help him, but every time she touched him only to see him flinch, all she felt was his broken wrist in her grip. The perceived betrayal mocked her. If she’d been able to talk to him about it, they might have been able to overcome it relatively quickly. But the Doctor remained for the most part uncommunicative and Rose’s irrational guilt was left to fester.

Eventually Jack, who was drowning in no small amount of his own guilty and helpless feelings, noticed that Rose wasn’t sleeping. Two days after that heartbreaking conversation in the kitchen, he watched as she slowly nodded off while they again sat around the kitchen table. When she jerked herself awake with a gasp after nearly sliding off of her chair, Jack decided that enough was enough.

“That’s it. You’re going to get some sleep if I have to sedate you,” he told her.

“But…” she protested weakly, glancing over at the Doctor. He sat next to her, quietly playing with the banana, sliding it back and forth between his hands across the tabletop.

“You have to sleep, Rose,” Jack said, a pleading note in his voice. “I’m here, and he’ll be alright.”

She looked like she wanted to argue for a moment, but then she sighed and admitted in a small voice, “A sedative sounds nice, actually.”

“Are you sure?” Jack asked, getting up from his own seat and moving to stand beside her.

“A sleeping pill, or something. Please,” she replied, finding herself suddenly wrapped up in Jack’s arms. “I’m so tired.”

He held her as she trembled, not quite crying. Looking over her head at the Doctor, Jack saw that the Time Lord had somehow noticed that something was wrong. Maybe the TARDIS had told him, or maybe he had just felt the vibrations through the floor as Jack’s chair moved before he walked around the table. Whatever had alerted him, he had stopped fiddling with the banana and had turned in Rose’s direction. He looked simultaneously concerned, confused, and frustrated. Jack could sympathize.

Hoping the Doctor would be alright on his own for a few minutes, Jack gently guided Rose up from her chair and then out into the hallway. He took her back to the TARDIS infirmary, where she gratefully stretched out on one of the diagnostic beds. Searching the nearby cabinets quickly, Jack returned to her side with a hypospray tube similar to the one that had held the chemical blindfold.

“This should help you sleep for a few hours,” Jack told her.

She nodded, closing her eyes as he administered the sedative.

“Thanks, Jack,” she whispered. “Sorry I’m such a mess.”

“It’s okay, honey,” he answered, gently brushing some of her hair out of her face. “You aren’t the only one.”

And then she was asleep. He tucked a blanket around her and couldn’t resist pressing a chaste kiss to her forehead before turning away and heading back to the kitchen.

When he got there, the only remaining occupant of the room was the banana, which was beginning to look a bit the worse for wear. Trying not to anthropomorphize the banana by sympathizing with it as well, Jack left the kitchen again and fought down a sense of worry as he wondered where the Doctor had gone.

“If I was a chemically blindfolded Time Lord, where would I be?” he muttered to the walls.

The obvious answer was the console room, and that was in fact where Jack found him. He was surprisingly nowhere near the actual console, instead sitting against one of the curved walls of the large room.

Jack approached him cautiously, wondering why he had settled himself in that particular spot. It wasn’t until he was close enough to see the tears on his cheeks in the shadows that Jack realized what else occupied that out of the way spot on the console room floor.

It was where he’d tossed his coat.

The Doctor sat with his legs stretched out in front of him, having pulled the coat partially onto his lap. It looked as if he’d been intent on searching its pockets but had been distracted and was now simply running his fingers over the wool. And crying.

“Oh, Doctor,” Jack moaned. “Why’d you have to go and find that stupid coat?”

He sat himself down inches from the quietly distraught Time Lord, and very, very slowly reached out to cover the Doctor’s hands with his own.

The Doctor clutched convulsively at the wool of the coat, whimpering unconsciously as he was assaulted by the vivid memories of fear and pain that it represented. He thumped his head back against the wall, just as he had in the cell, as if the action could knock the unwanted memories and feelings away.

Jack carefully unwound the Doctor’s fingers from the fabric, letting them wrap around one of his hands instead, and then he tossed the coat a few feet away with his other hand.

“Oh, Doctor,” he repeated mournfully, reaching his free hand up to wipe away the tear tracks on the Doctor’s cheeks, simultaneously stopping him from thumping his head again, only to have to trace J for Jack instead when the Doctor flinched at the touch.

He traced the letter several times, until the Doctor calmed again and his grip on Jack’s other hand loosened and shifted so that he could feel for the pulse at his wrist.

“I hate this,” Jack told him then, even though he knew the Doctor couldn’t hear him. “I hate what those bastards did to you. I hate that I had to let them hurt you. I’m so sorry.”

There was, of course, no reply.

“I hate that you’re still trapped behind that chemical blindfold,” he continued, unable to stop himself from unburdening his soul to his deaf friend now that he’d started. “I hate seeing you so afraid of everything, our pulses the only touch you can bear. I hate seeing Rose drive herself mad with a guilt I can’t convince her she doesn’t deserve.”

Jack was crying now. No longer tracing his J, he was instead simply stroking the Doctor’s cheek soothingly.

Jack wanted so badly to comfort his friend, but was too afraid to touch him more than he already was. The last thing he wanted to do was cause more pain by triggering another of the memories the Doctor already had to constantly fight in the silence of his mind.

All of the frustration and anguish was suddenly too much for him, he had to do something or he was just going to start screaming and he wasn’t sure if he would be able to stop.

So he leaned over and kissed the cheek he had been stroking.

When the Doctor merely tilted his head slightly, as if intrigued, Jack repeated the action.

“It’s me, I’m here, you’re safe now,” he whispered uselessly against the skin of the Doctor’s cheek, before tenderly placing another kiss.

The Doctor’s response was to slide one of his arms around Jack’s shoulders, pulling the other man gently against him. Jack sobbed, more deeply affected by the touch than the Doctor himself was.

The Doctor released his grip on Jack’s pulse so he could cradle him with both arms, rocking him slightly, making a very soft shushing noise.

The thought of being held in someone’s lap, especially so soon after encountering Jack’s coat, would have completely undone the Doctor’s shaky control. But he found that he could easily tolerate being the one doing the holding. So he held on to Jack tightly as he felt the other man trembling against him.

When Rose woke again hours later, she found them still sitting against the curved wall of the console room, Jack curled up asleep in the Doctor’s arms. The coat lay forlornly a few feet away on the Doctor’s other side, making it painfully obvious what had happened.

“Jack?” she called softly, almost not wanting to wake him when he and the Doctor looked so peaceful sitting there.

He came awake slowly, blinking up at her, not moving from the Doctor’s embrace.

“Jack, I think we need help,” she said softly.

“I think you’re right,” he had to agree. They were both falling apart at the seams, how could they keep it together to help the Doctor when they were miserably failing to help themselves?

Rose told him about the emergency programming that the Doctor had shown her, designed so that she could never be stranded not knowing how to pilot the TARDIS.

“I can take us back to my mum,” she said. “She’ll help us, and he trusts her, I think.”

“Okay,” Jack agreed, still sitting in the Doctor’s arms. He absentmindedly traced J for Jack across the back of one of the Doctor’s hands as Rose started setting the controls at the console.

The Doctor’s arms tightened around Jack when he felt the background hum of the TARDIS change, knowing that she was moving in the vortex. It was a logical assumption that Rose had activated the emergency program, and he was somewhat relieved that they would soon have an extra pair of hands or two to help out. He knew that both Rose and Jack were having as hard a time of things as he was as they all waited for his senses to return.

Jack remained in his arms until they felt the TARDIS land with her customary clunk, and then he reluctantly sat up. He offered his hand, which the Doctor gratefully grasped at the wrist.

Before Rose even had a chance to pull her phone out of her pocket, there was a determined bang at the TARDIS’s external door.

“That’ll be Mum,” she smiled slightly, going to open the door and greet her mother.

The console room seemed to come vibrantly alive with Jackie Tyler’s loud presence.

“What are they doing down there?” Jackie asked after she and Rose had exchanged the necessary hugs and words of greeting, pointing at where Jack and the Doctor still sat against the wall.

“You remember me and Mickey telling you about Captain Jack?” Rose asked, and when Jackie nodded, she finished off the introduction saying, “That’s Captain Jack. Jack, my mum.”

“Forgive me for not getting up. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Jack said.

“I’m sure,” Jackie replied, eyeing him speculatively for a moment before turning her gaze to the alien seated next to him.

“What’s wrong with him, then?” she asked, noting how he appeared to be awake, though his eyes were closed, and how he hadn’t reacted and seemed content to sit quietly and, for some reason, hold Captain Jack’s wrist as if he were checking his pulse.

“It’s a long story, Mum,” Rose said, wrapping her arms into a self hug.

Jackie’s attention snapped instantaneously back to her daughter.

“What’s wrong, Rose? What’s happened?” she asked, able to clearly read the distress in Rose’s voice and body language.

“We… well, we had a bit of a run in with some nasty aliens. Sort of what we always do. But then they drugged the Doctor with this chemical blindfold thing. It blocked off all of his senses except for touch,” she explained.

“What for?” Jackie asked, glancing back down at the still oddly motionless Doctor.

“They wanted us to show them how to get into the TARDIS, to use her power. But that’s not important,” Rose dismissed. “Thing is, it’s been days. He’s recovering, but really slowly. Only his telepathy is back so far.”

“His what?” Jackie blinked.

“Telepathy. Don’t worry, it’s not like he reads our thoughts,” Rose said. “He has a mental connection to the TARDIS, and I think he can sort of… visit inside your mind. But only if he touches your face this certain way. I’m not really sure, I never asked him.”

“Right. So he’s part Vulcan,” nodded Jackie, who had been watching Star Trek reruns for years even before her only child had run off with an alien. “Okay. So what can I do?”

“We need help, Mum,” Rose admitted. “We’ve… it’s been so hard. We’re all exhausted, and Jack and I don’t want to leave him alone.”

Jackie hugged her daughter again.

“Of course I’ll help. I’ll do whatever I can,” she said, looking fondly at the Doctor. She had hated him for a long time, for taking Rose away and putting her in danger. But when he had sent her home to be safe, and Jackie had seen how determined Rose had been to get back to him, she had learned to forgive him. She might grumble a bit before admitting it, but she had come to care for him a great deal since that Christmas when he’d changed bodies.

Rose pulled out of her embrace after a moment and led her to where Jack and the Doctor sat. She knelt in front of them, reaching out to take one of the Doctor’s hands in her own.

Jackie did not miss the Doctor’s momentarily wary reaction.

“We’ve been tracing our initials to let him know it’s us,” Rose explained, as she traced an R into the Doctor’s palm. He relaxed immediately.

“How’d you like M for Mum?” Rose asked her then, looking up at her.

“It’s fine, since I suppose J is already taken,” she replied, moving to kneel beside Rose, smiling as she met Jack’s eyes.

“It is, sorry,” Jack told her.

“It’s fine,” Jackie repeated. “Why don’t you introduce me, Rose.”

Rose traced her R again, and then traced an M. The Doctor had been expecting it, but he took her hand to trace an M in reply just to confirm.

Rose passed his hand to her mother’s, telling Jackie to trace an M in his palm. She did, and he repeated the trace in her hand again. Unknowingly imitating what Rose had done the first time she’d thought to use her initial, Jackie moved the Doctor’s hand up to her cheek so he could feel her nod.

Then, smiling gently, she brought his hand back down again and traced a T in his palm.

He looked confused for a moment, but then with an impish grin he traced a T in return and nodded.

“Right, then. Tea, coming right up! Is there a kitchen anywhere in this thing?” Jackie asked.

Delighted with the positive reaction her mother had elicited from the Doctor, Rose knew they had made the right decision in returning to Earth. She felt some of the weight of her worries lift from her shoulders.

“There sure is. This way,” she said, standing and leading the way out of the console room. Jackie followed her as Jack and Doctor picked themselves up off of the floor and followed as well.

Waiting in the kitchen for the tea to be ready, Jackie watched as the Doctor felt around on the table blindly, and then idly spun a banana between his hands when Jack passed it to him. She gave her daughter and Jack a questioning look, but they shrugged.

“It’s just the Doctor, being himself,” Jack tried to explain.

Jackie nodded, understanding completely.

Then, as they watched, the Doctor lifted the now overripe and battered fruit up to his nose and inhaled.

As his features lit up with pleasure, Rose and Jack both shouted, “He can smell it!”

This was confirmed a moment later when Jackie swapped the banana for a steaming cup of tea, and instead of drinking the Doctor just sat there blissfully taking in its scent.

They knew taste had not returned, because his oral fixation was still missing in action. But this was progress. Real, concrete progress. His senses were returning. It made the heart wrenching separation from the security of his close connection to the TARDIS finally seem worth it.

Jack, Rose, and Jackie enjoyed their tea and watched the Doctor enjoy the smell of his tea. It was a truly happy moment and Rose and Jack were absurdly grateful for it.

A knock on the TARDIS door a while later turned out to be Mickey, who Rose went to greet and give a quick explanation to. When they returned to the kitchen, they found themselves having trouble figuring out how to introduce him to the Doctor.

M was in use for Mum and R, which could stand for Rickey, was obviously already in use for Rose. It was a bit of a quandary.

As the others began to debate the merits of S for Smith, Mickey solved the problem himself. He awkwardly reached over and traced a letter in the palm of the hand the Doctor had left sitting on the table.

The Doctor flinched at the first touch, as he still often did, but then waited patiently to feel what letter was being traced. As soon as he realized what it was, a bright, manic smile transformed his face.

Rose and Jack watched in awe as he actually laughed out loud and grabbed at Mickey’s hand to gleefully retrace the letter in return.

I for Idiot… of course.

Sharing tired but overjoyed smiles, Rose and Jack felt a sense of profound relief. The Doctor was starting to heal, and they now had help in the form of Jackie and Mickey. Things were going to be alright.


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Chapter 12: Healing Things

Author's Notes: Heading into the home stretch now! Those of you who enjoy Motherly!Jackie as much as I do will love this part. You will also find that Jack got a taste of the kissing and decided he liked it, and wanted more! And, at the end, a little chuckle suggested by one of you, my faithful readers. :-)

Part Twelve — Healing Things

Mickey had left for work, since the TARDIS had appeared at 6:27am on the dot and he needed to be in by 7. After seeing him off, Jackie took one look at all three yawning members of the TARDIS crew and decreed that it was bedtime, and no she didn’t care that it was morning outside, and no she would not listen to any arguments.

Rose and Jack reluctantly left her in the infirmary, where the Doctor seemed willing enough to stretch out on one of the diagnostic beds for a nap. Between Jackie and the TARDIS’s infirmary monitoring systems, they both felt like they could finally leave the Doctor’s side without spending every moment away worrying about him.

Once they had gone off to bed, Jackie settled into a nearby chair with a magazine to keep watch as the Doctor nodded off. Several hours, four magazines, another cup of tea, and a confusing trip to the bathroom where she almost got lost later, Jackie noticed that the Doctor was no longer sleeping peacefully.

He’d curled up protectively around himself, huddling under the light blanket. She watched with horror as he flinched and whimpered unconsciously, as if someone was hitting him. Dropping her latest magazine, she hurried to his side.

“What didn’t Rose tell me? What happened to you?” she asked concernedly.

Knowing the only way to reach him was his sense of touch, she gently stroked his cheek and then started to trace her M. She could tell when the repeated action finally woke him from the nightmare, because he tentatively reached out for her hand and gripped her wrist at her pulse point.

It was a gesture she’d seen him use before, though she didn’t really understand it, and she hadn’t the heart to pull away even after he fell back asleep and she had stopped tracing the M on his cheek. Instead, she stretched out to reach the chair and pull it over, then settled in beside him so he could keep his grip on her wrist.

The TARDIS, satisfied, decided not to disturb Rose and Jack. The Doctor was again sleeping peacefully, and the others needed to rest as well. More importantly, the ancient time ship approved of Jackie’s concerned care for the Doctor.

He woke properly a couple of hours later, just as Jackie was dozing off from lack of anything more interesting to do. He startled her by sitting up and pulling her into his arms, hugging her gratefully.

He couldn’t seem to muster the sense of the absurd that would have been a more characteristic reaction to his 900 year old alien self being mothered by a middle aged human woman from twenty first century Earth. Instead, he found himself wrapping his arms around her, actually seeking the warmth of her touch.

She’d been able to pull him so easily from his nightmare simply because she had not been present for the events that precipitated it. He knew, with untouchable certainty, that Jackie Tyler’s presence could not be faked, could never be connected to those dark and terrifying days he'd spent in that cell, under the control of a sadistic alien and a chemical blindfold.

He hadn’t forgotten being slapped by somebody’s mother for the first time in his entire impressively long and well-traveled life, but the novel idea of easily trusting someone’s touch had him clinging to her almost desperately.

“It’s alright, sweetheart. I’m here,” she couldn’t help but say, despite knowing that he couldn’t hear her. She held him in return, one hand gently carding through the hair at the back of his head, until he released her with a shy smile.

Then he was up and using the walls to feel his way to the door. She followed him, figuring he probably shouldn’t be wandering on his own. He made his way unerringly to the kitchen, which somehow didn’t surprise Jackie in the least despite how lost she’d gotten in the winding corridors.

She took his hand to trace a T there, and he nodded before settling himself in his customary chair at the table. She busied herself with the kettle, and then the teacups, and then nearly dropped one of them when she heard him gasp and turned to see what he was doing.

The delighted, manic grin was back, and she watched in shock as he held his hand over the banana where it still sat on the table. He was somehow causing it to go from unripe green to ripe yellow to overripe black and back around again, a childlike look of wonder on his face.

She tore out of the kitchen, screaming for Rose.

Rose and Jack, who were just waking up, found her in the hallway with a teacup in one hand, incoherently babbling about magic and bananas. They dashed to the kitchen, where the Doctor was still happily aging, de-aging, and re-aging the banana over and over again.

“Time sense!” Rose and Jack chorused, mobbing the Doctor and breaking his concentration.

He didn’t mind, didn’t even flinch. He knew it was them and he knew they were as happy as he was. They enjoyed a good group hug for a few minutes, reveling in touching each other without any of the fear and pain that had been following them all around for days.

Things snowballed after that. Later that evening, the Doctor sat absentmindedly shifting the banana through its personal timeline once more. It took an excessive amount of energy and concentration to bend local time in that way, but it was too much fun to play with his newly returned time sense to worry about such practical concerns.

He suddenly stopped the banana when it was perfectly ripe, and then proceeded to tear the skin off and tentatively take a bite.

Jack, who had been sitting in the kitchen, silently keeping him company, saw his hopeful look and called out for Rose.

She and her mum came running just as the Doctor took another large bite, tearing the rest of the skin off, moving the banana around in his mouth with his tongue, obviously trying to taste it as fully as he could.

The three of them, and Mickey, who wandered in a moment later, watched in awe as the Doctor made a five minute production of eating the banana, licking every last bit of it off of his fingers, looking incredibly pleased with himself.

“Bananas are good,” he whispered softly when he was done.

Rose and Jack mobbed him again, ignoring his surprised squeak, shouting and laughing joyfully.

Jackie and Mickey shared a joyful hug of their own, watching the others celebrate.

The Doctor’s next whispered comment was lost amongst all the noise, but Jackie saw his lips move and called out, “Shush! He’s saying something!”

They quieted and Doctor repeated himself, still not speaking in much more than a whisper as he softly admitted, “I can hear you.”

“You can hear us?” Rose breathed.

“I can hear you,” he repeated.

“You can hear us!” Jack shouted.

He joyfully shouted back, “I can hear you!”

As they tangled themselves up in another group hug, all three of them were crying tears of relief, hope, and joy.

Then, almost anticlimactically, blinking back his own tears, the Doctor casually reached up and deftly wiped a tear off of Jack’s face. Jack blinked at him, and the Doctor blinked back.

Watching this, Rose squealed, “You can see, too! They’re all back!”

Rose and Jack suddenly felt the composite telepathic brush that had been missing since the TARDIS had pulled back out of the Doctor’s mind.

Whole / healed / relief / gratitude.

Then the TARDIS pulled back to her normal distance again, since the Doctor’s returned senses left too little room in his once again busy mind for them to safely maintain such a closely interwoven connection.

The TARDIS crew dissolved back into happy tears and laughter. Jack, in his inimitable way, alternated between trying to kiss Rose and the Doctor, who both delighted in making a game of ducking while still remaining tangled up together. He wound up kissing chins and noses and eyebrows, if not the lips he was aiming for. It didn’t seem to bother him too much.

Jackie and Mickey, unaware of the telepathy, nevertheless completely understood their emotional reaction.

A moment later, with a priceless look of disgust on his face, the Doctor commented, “I think I need to go brush my teeth.”


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Chapter 13: Scary Things

Author's Notes: Part Thirteen, another long one, in which reaction sets in and the Doctor scares his companions. As a point of interest, the alternate title for this part was Vengeful Things.

Part Thirteen — Scary Things

Fully restored, the Doctor at first seemed to quickly bounce back to his usual self.

He immediately began to make up for the days he’d spent mute by chattering on at a mile a minute, mostly babbling about inconsequential things, anything just to hear his own voice break the silence.

His oral fixation returned with a vengeance, once he’d had a chance to bother brushing his teeth for the first time in days. He managed to satisfy the craving to put something in his mouth, taste something, and indulge that most acute of his senses by essentially chain ‘smoking’ lollipops. He’d produced an impressive collection of various flavors and brands from the back of one of the cabinets in the TARDIS kitchen. He happily started tearing through them, often tossing one away when he was bored with it only to switch to another of a different flavor or shape or variety of sweet in the center.

Several steady hours of this sent him flying on an impressive sugar high, boosting the euphoria brought on by the return of his senses. On a normal day, Rose would have confiscated the bag of lollipops in an effort to protect the sugared up Time Lord from his own lack of common sense. On the day after his sense of taste had reawakened, she didn’t have the heart to stop his fun. The delight on his face at each different flavor was probably worth the inevitable crash he would experience later.

They were still parked on Earth, having promised to stay until Mickey and Jackie returned to see them off in the morning. The TARDIS crew were on a different schedule than the city they’d landed in, and they had all remained relatively wide awake and in a celebratory mood as the two Londoners they were visiting had retreated to their own homes for the night.

The Doctor, with the same fickle whimsy he applied to his lollipop preferences, had spent the hours of the outside world’s night literally bouncing from one sensory experience to the next. Even with the ever present lollipop waggling from between his lips, a never ending commentary somehow came out unhindered around the sweet as he shifted between various activities.

He went from playing recorded bagpipe music in the console room, to fixing the speakers when the TARDIS blew the circuit in protest, to displaying colorful artwork from around the universe on the console monitor, then back to playing music, though not bagpipes again. Much to the amusement of his companions, he also spent a significant amount of time sniffing things, including once, notably, Jack.

“Kinky,” Jack had choked out somewhat halfheartedly as the Doctor whirled away again, already rambling on at top speed about something completely different.

He never stayed still long enough for Jack or Rose to touch him, even if they had been able to gather the courage to try. They instead sat side by side on the jump seat in front of the console, their heads turning back and forth as if they were watching a ping pong match, when instead they were watching the Doctor ping pong around the room.

By the time they heard a knock on the outer door, they had to admit that things had rather gotten out of hand and they didn’t quite know what to do. It was deliriously wonderful to see the Doctor vibrant and active, and yet Jack and Rose could feel the queasy wrongness that lurked beneath the zany, sugar enhanced hyperactivity.

He was overcompensating, trying just a little bit too hard, and the constant influx of sugar was giving him the energy to keep at it long past when he should have simply fallen over from exhaustion.

Not waiting for an answer to her knock, Jackie Tyler opened the TARDIS door and stepped inside. Mickey followed closely behind her.

The Doctor slid to a halt in front of them as he completed yet another circuit of the console room, his current lollipop temporarily held aloft in one wildly gesturing hand as he cheerfully spouted, “Jackie! Mickey! Top ‘o the mornin’ to ye! Have you had breakfast yet? I’ve just been thinking about breakfast. Eggs and toast. Sausage, bacon, and ham! Pancakes and waffles… cold cereal and warm cereal and piping hot oatmeal, with cinnamon and brown sugar!”

“Sugar’s the last thing you need,” Jackie said with motherly authority, plucking the large, round, and brightly orange lollipop out of his hand and pointing it at the pile of discarded wrappers and half consumed sweets strewn around on the floor near the now much depleted bag. “Just how many of these have you had?”

“Um…” he said vaguely, blinking at her. She’d neatly derailed his ranting list of breakfast foods just as he’d got started, and it left him momentarily bemused.

She took a close look at him, noting his glazed expression and the way he jittered even as he stood still, and easily pieced together what he’d been doing since she’d left.

She looked over at the slightly shell shocked Rose and Jack, saying, “Are you two mental? After everything he’s just been through you let him spend all night drugging himself up with sugar?”

“Oi!” the Doctor protested, as his two companions shrugged helplessly.

“Hush,” Jackie shushed him imperiously, and his jaw snapped obediently shut with a click of his teeth.

Jackie sighed, shaking her head.

“Mum…” Rose trailed off, trying and failing to decide how to explain.

“Oh, I don’t want to hear it. Help me clean up this mess,” Jackie replied, moving to start gathering up the detritus from the Doctor’s mortal attack upon his own lollipop supply.

“Yes, Mum,” Rose said meekly as she went to help.

Jack followed her, marveling at how effortlessly Jackie had summed up and taken control of a situation in the face of which he and Rose had felt so powerless.

“Um, I’ve got to get to work,” Mickey pointed out as he automatically moved forward to follow Jackie’s orders as well.

“Go on, then, we’ll be fine,” Jackie told him.

He nodded, then turned to give Rose a farewell hug. She clung to him for a moment, letting him support her.

“Okay, Babe?” he asked when they pulled apart.

She gave him the best smile she could muster and nodded.

“Captain,” he said then, acknowledging Jack and sharing a handshake.

He stopped in front of the Doctor on his way towards the door, giving the still jittery Time Lord a grin.

“Nice seeing you again, Boss,” he said, offering his hand.

They also shared a handshake as the Doctor grinned back and replied, “And you, Mickey the Idiot.”

Then Mickey was gone, off to work, and Jackie wasted no time in taking charge again.

“Right. Let’s get this cleaned up. No, not you!” she said pointedly as even the Doctor jumped at her command. “You just… sit.”

Surprising even himself, the Doctor sat. He leaned back against the railing of the ramp and tapped his hands against his knees with an erratic rhythm as Jackie ordered Rose and Jack about, efficiently clearing away the multicolored collage of hundreds of sweets and wrappers he’d strewn across the floor during the night.

When they were done, Jackie moved back over to the Doctor, muttering, “Nine hundred years old, and never learned to use a dustbin.”

Rose and Jack chuckled tiredly.

“You going to be alright?” Jackie asked the Doctor skeptically. “You won’t have some odd alien reaction to all that sugar?”

He fidgeted as he stared up at her from his seat on the floor, his eyes wide.

“Sure I’ll be alright! I’m always alright. The sugar will wear off pretty quick, and I’ll be fine,” he said, sounding almost as if he believed it. Then, a bit defensively, he added, “I was just trying all the different flavors.”

“I know,” Jackie sighed, turning slightly to include the others in her next comment. “But honestly, I would expect a bit more sense out of at least one of you.”

Jack and Rose had the good grace to look apologetically sheepish. They’d both wanted to stop the Doctor’s sugar crazed rampage. But they’d spent over a week watching him suffer the sensory deprivation of the chemical blindfold, and they hadn’t quite been able to bring themselves to curb his newly regained enthusiasm, even though it was mildly frightening and somewhat destructive.

“I’m not sure I can trust you three to behave!” Jackie complained, knowing that they had intended to leave that morning and worried that whatever was still so obviously wrong would only get worse if they continued to act like oblivious children.

Listening to her, the Doctor found himself imagining a TARDIS with Jackie Tyler’s continuous presence, maternal and loud and domineering. It was a very scary thought.

He popped up off the floor, bouncing to his feet, but then, to his credit, standing completely still before her.

“No, really, I’ll be fine. Honestly. We’ll be fine. You don’t need to,” he paused, looked away, “mother us.”

“Well, someone’s got to, haven’t they?” she replied matter-of-factly, before relenting. “Alright, then. You’d best be off. But not before I get to hug you all goodbye.”

She started with Rose, searching her daughter’s eyes and asking her quietly, “Are you okay, Rose? I know you didn’t tell me everything that happened.”

Rose returned the hug, and her mother’s gaze, replying, “I will be okay, Mum. We all will.”

Jackie touched Rose’s cheek, brushing back her hair. “I miss you, sweetheart.”

“Miss you, too, Mum,” Rose replied. “But those two lumps need a woman to keep them in line.”

“That they do,” Jackie smiled.

“Thanks for helping, we were going crazy,” Rose admitted.

“Any time. But could you try to call, next time, so I don’t just hear this great wheezing blue box and think I might be going mad?” Jackie complained.

“I’ll try, Mum,” Rose laughed, hugging her again.

Jackie then went to hug Jack, who had moved to the other side of the room with the Doctor to give the two women some privacy.

“It was nice to meet you, Captain Jack,” she told him.

“And you, Mrs. Tyler,” he replied, smiling widely. “Thank you for everything.”

“Just do me a favor and make sure you all visit me some time just to visit, alright? I only ever get to see Rose when there’s some disaster,” Jackie told him. “And I wouldn’t mind seeing you again under better circumstances, either!”

“I’ll do my best, Ma’am,” he replied, taking her hand and kissing the back of it gallantly.

Jackie giggled, pleased. Then, after giving Captain Jack a wink, she moved on to the third and final person in the room.

He was standing by the door, waiting for her.

Rose and Jack retreated back to the jump seat, wondering how the Doctor would react to the hug Jackie was about to lay on him. Much to their surprise, the two figures by the door fell into each other’s arms like old friends with almost no hesitation on the Doctor’s part.

“Thank you, Jackie,” he whispered. “I don’t know…”

“Hush, it’s alright,” she whispered back, reaching up to touch his cheek the way she had her daughter’s a moment before. She quickly traced one little M on his skin, as if to remind him, You may be nine hundred years old, but a little mothering now and then wouldn’t hurt you.

He smiled, hugging her tightly again.

“Just promise me you’ll take care of yourself,” she requested, giving him one last look of maternal concern.

“Yes, Mum,” he chuckled.

“That’s my boy!” she replied with a smile, patting his shoulder as she moved past him and out the door. Then she was gone with a wave and a cheerful, “Ta ra!”

The Doctor closed the door behind her, and leaned forward to rest his head against the wood for a long moment.

“Doctor?” Rose called.

When he didn’t respond, she and Jack went up to him, sharing hesitant looks before reaching out to touch him.

He skittered away, out from between them and back up the ramp into the console room proper. Not sure what to make of his behavior and the various reactions they’d seen him have to touch, they simply watched him from the doorway as he resumed his manic rambling.

“Right, then! Back into the vortex for us, and off to bed for you two. No! No arguing. I’m fine, just a bit hyper, it’ll wear off. I promise I won’t have any more lollipops. But you two are exhausted! You’ve been taking care of me for days and I won’t see you suffer for it. So, off to bed. There you go.”

Reluctantly, they headed for the inner doorway into the deeper areas of the TARDIS.

“You’ll call us if you need us?” Jack said.

“Of course,” the Doctor replied.

“And no more sugar?” Rose added.

“Said that already, didn’t I?” the Doctor protested.

“You said no more lollipops,” Rose insisted.

“Alright, yes, no more sugar. Scouts’ honor. Now go to bed!” he shooed them, smiling earnestly.

They went. They walked hand in hand, in silence, towards the corridor that held both of their bedrooms.

When they reached their destination they stopped in between their two doors, each reluctant to let go of the other’s hand.

“Your place or mine?” Jack finally asked, smiling weakly.

“Yours,” Rose decided. “Your bed is bigger.”

They parted reluctantly, so Rose could head into her room to change into a comfortable pair of pajama bottoms and a t-shirt. In his own room, Jack quickly shucked his usual clothes and pulled on a pair of his own pajama bottoms. Rose joined him a moment later, and they fell onto his bed together, clutching each other desperately.

“I’ve been having nightmares,” Rose admitted.

“Me, too,” Jack agreed.

They’d been sleeping in shifts in their own rooms for over a week, until Jackie had arrived and taken over. When she had sent them to bed simultaneously, they had been too exhausted to really talk. They’d risked Jackie’s wrath by curling up together on Jack’s bed as they were now, unwilling to leave each other alone if they didn’t have to, but they’d both fallen immediately asleep.

“What are we going to do?” Rose asked helplessly as she hid her face in his shoulder.

“Same thing we did before. Take it one moment at a time,” Jack answered, gently running his hand through her hair.

“They way he’s been acting… it’s scary, Jack,” she said. “They hurt him so badly… and I miss holding his hand.”

“Oh, Rosie. I know. But it’s going to be okay,” he replied, trying to convince himself as much as her.

“It’s going to be okay,” Rose echoed him, as if repeating the words would assure their certainty.

They drifted off to sleep as they cuddled in each other’s arms.

Jack was woken a couple of hours later by a subtle change in the hum of the TARDIS engines. They hadn’t landed, he knew, but they’d moved out of the vortex and were floating somewhere in real-space. He gently shook Rose awake.

Quietly, in stocking feet, they made their way to the console room. After taking one look inside, the two of them nonchalantly joined the Doctor at the controls, where he stood as if frozen in place, hand hovering over a single switch.

“What’cha doing, Doctor?” Rose asked, unable to read the controls and realize what Jack had already worked out.

“If he throws that switch, a fireball wipes a certain medical scientific laboratory out of existence. Current inhabitants included,” Jack explained.

Finally, the Doctor spoke. His voice was deadly serious and frighteningly calm, considering what he was about to do, as he said, “And no one will be able to manufacture that cursed chemical blindfold again for a good long time.”

Both Rose and Jack knew that there was no way they would be able to convince the Doctor not to destroy the laboratory. Not after what he was put through under the control of their drugs. But maybe they could stop him from doing something he would regret later.

“Doctor,” Rose said, closing her hands around one of his arms. She could feel him trembling ever so slightly, and knew that he wanted to pull away from her touch. It was a reaction she could understand after he had been so utterly dependent upon touch against his will for so long.

“Yes, Rose?” he replied in a monotone, uninterested, staring intently at the console, determinedly keeping his place despite the crawling desire to pull away.

“Doctor, warn them,” she implored him.

There was a breathless moment. And then the Doctor’s surreal calm broke and he tore himself away from her to start pacing around the console. He was angry, so very frighteningly angry.

“Why!? All these miserable excuses for sentient beings do is think up more and wonderful ways to torture other sentient beings! What possible use could the universe have for them!? Why should they live!”

It took both of them to catch him as he paced around again, and bring him to a stop in front of them. Jack held him tightly, staring into his vengeful glare, refusing to back down.

“Doctor, warn them,” he echoed Rose.

The Doctor sagged in their grip.

“Why!?” he demanded an answer from them, but no longer to the question of sparing the inhabitants of the laboratory.

And, of course, there was no answer. So they just kept their grip on him, kept him from sliding bonelessly to the floor, until he found his own way back to sanity.

“I’ll warn them,” he conceded, his voice strained, and they let him return to the console.

He grabbed the oft-ignored keyboard and typed rapidly for a few minutes. Then he fiddled with more switches, and then he took the TARDIS back into the vortex.

“I won’t sit here and wait. We’re skipping forward,” he explained.

They were back in real-space a moment later, and the Doctor checked his instruments again as Rose and Jack watched him carefully.

“It’s empty. May I blow it to hell, now?” he looked to his companions, absolutely no sarcasm in his voice, but rather an honest and almost plaintive questioning tone.

“Yes, Doctor,” Rose gave him permission.

The Doctor hesitated the barest moment, and then threw the switch.

There was no immediate response that the TARDIS crew could discern, but the Doctor fiddled the controls again and, with a sigh, pronounced, “That’s that, then.”

He took them back into the vortex, resisting the temptation to ask them if he could skip forward to when the place was rebuilt and blow it up again. He knew it wouldn’t really help anything.

They reached out to him again, and he again found himself ducking away almost before he could think about it.

He met their eyes in turn, wanting to say something, but not knowing how to express it. They watched him with a heart wrenching mix of hurt and frustration and fear. Fear for him.

Swallowing thickly, he turned and fled the console room and the weight of their sympathetic but confused gazes.


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Chapter 14: Painful Things

Author's Notes: Almost to the end, now. Iím glad youíve all stuck with me this long, and I hope you all enjoy the remainder of the story.

Part Fourteen — Painful Things

In the end, he didn’t run very far. The TARDIS wouldn’t let him. No matter how many times he complained telepathically, turned and dashed out of the corridor, or outright kicked at the walls in frustration, she insisted upon leading him directly back to a certain door in a certain hallway.

It was one of her interior gardens, a place he hadn’t frequented in years and didn’t particularly feel in the mood for.

He eventually just gave in, as his sugar high descended naturally into a sugar crash, leaving him exhausted and with a pounding headache. Since his other choice was to simply collapse in the hallway, he slipped through the door to the garden, letting it slide quietly shut again behind him.

It was intended to be a peaceful, beautiful place. There was a simulated sky that gently cycled through the natural sky color of various worlds, the ambient lighting slowly cycling with it but always remaining relatively bright and pleasant. As far as the eye could see, plants from across space and time grew together merrily in a loosely tangled jungle. With only the TARDIS to manage its upkeep, the garden had tended towards a sort of complicated, chaotic organization, reminiscent of the time ship’s own physical and mental presence.

The very sight of the place was calming and reassuring. He wandered through it aimlessly, following at random the paths that snaked through the foliage. A light breeze seemed to follow him, rustling his hair as well as the various leaves and branches as he moved deeper into the room. He walked slowly, fully indulging his recently recovered senses in the sights and sounds and smells of the beautiful garden.

He came upon a somewhat isolated clearing of deep red grass, and understood why the TARDIS had directed him here. She had conjured a picnic blanket, spread out on the cushion of thick grass, with a modest tea for one set atop it.

Relax, the very air seemed to breathe. Rest.

Too tired to argue, he gratefully settled himself down on the blanket and resolved to put his troubles out of his mind and just enjoy the tea. The TARDIS had outdone herself, preparing the tea exactly as he loved it and providing a small stack of his favorite lemon biscuits.

He let the blatant comfort food and the serene surroundings calm him and ease his painful headache. When he’d finished the last sip of tea and the last bite of the last biscuit, he stretched out on his back across the blanket.

The TARDIS sang to him in the back of his mind and he was asleep within minutes.

Just as easily as she had guided him to the haven of the garden, the TARDIS gently insisted upon guiding Rose and Jack to the kitchen, the console room, and their own bedrooms as they searched for the Doctor. They reacted with the same frustration the Time Lord had, though with less kicking of the walls, and took much longer to give in and accept the TARDIS’s direction. They wandered the vexingly reordered corridors almost until the TARDIS was actually ready to let them find the garden.

Ultimately, they found themselves back in the console room where they had started.

“She must have a reason for doing this,” Rose sighed, sitting on the jump seat as Jack stood with his arms crossed, staring darkly at the console. “The TARDIS wouldn’t help him hide if she didn’t think it was for the best. And she knows him, probably much better than we ever will. She knows what he needs.”

“I wish I did,” Jack muttered.

“He let my Mum touch him. He hugged her. Why her and not us? Did we let him down that badly? Doesn’t he trust us?” Rose said, hurt evident in her voice as she tried to understand.

Jack shook his head, saying, “No, that’s not it. That can’t be it. He left your mother in London. We’re still here. He still trusts us.”

It was a reassuring thought, and it made a certain amount of sense. If anything was certain, it was that the Doctor would not suffer untrustworthy companions on his TARDIS.

“He still trusts us, just not our touch,” Rose outlined the important distinction. “But he trusted my Mum’s.”

“He did,” Jack agreed.

“She doesn’t know everything that happened to him,” Rose continued tossing out facts. “Only we were there. We saw it, participated in it.”

At the look on her face, Jack wanted to stop her and remind her once again that she had no reason to feel guilty. But she seemed to be nearing some sort of conclusion, and any nugget of understanding was welcome. So he nodded encouragingly, instead.

Rose was by no means trained in psychology, but she had a strong innate ability to empathize with and understand people’s emotions and motivations. Where Jack and the Doctor could run rings around her with science babble and flashy tech, Rose often beat them to the heart of the matter through forging connections with the people involved.

The Doctor, for all that he wasn’t human, was still people. And people, she understood.

Closing her eyes, hugging her arms around herself as she sat on the jump seat, Rose tried for the first time since they’d been captured to put herself consciously into the Doctor’s emotional situation. The painful trip into her memories and understanding of his experiences would be worth it if she could just get into his head a bit, and maybe figure out what she and Jack could do to help him.

He’d been cut off. Blind and deaf, unable to smell or taste anything, his connection to the TARDIS broken, his time sense gone. He’d been left only with touch, enhanced to the point where it must have been painful just to sit still, let alone endure the beatings they’d regularly assaulted him with. The only sensory input had been pain. Nothing else to focus his extraordinary and active mind upon.

No, not nothing else. He’d started feeling their pulses almost right away. An attempt to make up for the loss of his time sense, so Jack had theorized. Her pulse had calmed him right after he’d first lost his senses. Until the last hours before their escape, he’d unashamedly reached out for any pulse that was offered to him.

Their captor had taken advantage of that. Dressed in the stolen coat, the impostor had forced the Doctor to distrust any comforting touch. With the final outrage she had participated in, he had lost even his faith in pulses.

With that loss, he had been truly isolated. It had taken the wholly unique feel of the TARDIS controls and the hum of her engines, and Rose and Jack’s initials traced patiently on his skin to convince him they had escaped. Even then, he’d been easily startled, retreating into a sort of defensive panic until they could persuade him to feel one of their pulses again.

He had trusted their touch when he believed it was them, but only then. The unshakable certainty that any comforting touch might be the trick of an impostor had kept him wary.

Now, his senses had returned. The threat of an impostor was no longer so frightening. He no longer needed the feel of a pulse beneath his fingertips to counteract his lack of time sense.

All that was left was the memory.

And suddenly, Rose understood. She and Jack, their concerned touches and the feel of their pulses, were deeply intertwined with the memory of everything he had endured under the influence of the chemical blindfold.

“She wasn’t there,” Rose reiterated, opening her eyes again to see Jack watching her worriedly. “My Mum. She wasn’t there, so she’s not associated with what happened. That’s why he can let her touch him but not us.”

Jack was astounded. It was so simple, so obvious, so understandable. And yet he never would have realized.

“It’s not us he doesn’t trust, or even our touch,” Jack said.

Rose nodded, continuing, “It’s himself he doesn’t trust. His memories and his own mind.”

“So when the TARDIS lets us near him again, what do we do?” Jack asked her.

“I’m… I’m not sure,” she replied. “Maybe we can help him break down the association between our touch and those memories. Sort of touch therapy? If he lets us… I just don’t want to hurt him again.”

“You never did hurt him, Rose,” Jack took the opportunity to remind her.

“Didn’t I, though?” Rose protested. “His broken wrist… he stopped feeling for our pulses after that, until he was sure he was on the TARDIS again. That was my fault.”

Jack shook his head, speaking exasperatedly, “No, it wasn’t. But I’ve told you that before, and you never believe me. You need to hear it from him.”

“I’m not sure if he knows it was really me. I don’t want him to know,” Rose said, dropping her gaze to the floor.

“Trust me, Rose, it’s better all around if he does,” Jack said, sitting next to her finally and putting an arm around her shoulder. “Keeping it from him is hurting you, and he’ll eventually notice. And that really will hurt him. But if you tell him now, he won’t blame you and you’ll feel better.”

If it hadn’t been her own emotions, Rose would have agreed with him easily. But the guilt was hard to fight. She snuggled into his shoulder, avoiding giving him an answer.

He let it go, knowing that she was strong enough to make the right decision on her own.

“Should we try looking for him again?” he asked at length.

Rose sat up slowly, nodding. They both knew they’d have no luck if the TARDIS was still hiding him from them, but neither of them preferred inaction to even fruitless action.

Evidently, however, the TARDIS was ready for them. The door into the interior of the ship led to a hallway neither of them had seen before, with one door prominently placed.

“I suppose this is it?” Rose said.

“Let’s find out,” Jack answered, and together they opened the door and stepped into the garden.

It was a kaleidoscope of color and scent, full of both recognizable flowers and trees and plant life that neither of them were familiar with. Jack and Rose both spent a long moment simply gazing up at the impossibly changing sky, respectively wondering how the trick was managed and how someone had fit a sky into a room in the first place.

There was a dirt path leading directly away from the door. Bright enough to take the obvious hint, they followed it.

It led them on a short walk through the amazing and beautiful garden, opening out into a small clearing where a picnic blanket lay spread out on a cushion of thick, red grass.

The Doctor was sprawled on top of it, sound asleep. A small tray with a lone teacup and a few yellow crumbs sat in the grass behind him.

They approached him carefully, trying not to disturb him unnecessarily.

Suddenly, they felt the dual consciousness telepathic brush they had thought they’d seen the last of when the Doctor’s senses had returned. It was different to what they had become used to, with the TARDIS seeming to dominate it as the Doctor’s unusually soft portion of the interwoven thoughts originated from his sleeping mind.

Affection / distress / protective / exhaustion.

The Doctor stirred as the telepathy faded away again. He pulled himself in from his open and relaxed posture as he woke, finally sitting up and drawing his knees up to lean against as he blinked sleepily at the new arrivals.

Rose and Jack joined him on the ground, pointedly not reaching out to touch him. They simply sat down so they were all facing each other across the blanket, and waited for him to make the first move.

“Hello,” he said finally.

They nodded in reply, keeping quiet to let him speak if he wanted to. It was the first time since they’d been captured that all three of them were simultaneously awake and aware and calm enough for a real conversation.

He knew the time had come to talk about what they’d been through, but he still didn’t know quite how to express what he wanted to communicate. After a little while he dropped his forehead onto his knees and just admitted, in a small voice, “I’m scared.”

They ached to reach out and hold him, comfort him. But both Rose and Jack knew they had to give him space, no matter how painful it was. It was something the TARDIS had understood and they had finally come to realize.

“I know my senses have healed. I know we’re safely on the TARDIS. I know that there’s nobody else here,” he spoke into his knees. Then he raised his head to look at them, adding, “But I still can’t forget.”

He looked as much frustrated as he did frightened. He was used to being in complete control of his own mind. This uncontrollable and deeply rooted reaction was something he didn’t quite know how to deal with.

Jack knew without a doubt that Rose had figured out the Doctor’s horrible dilemma exactly. He couldn’t separate his companions from the memories of the traumatizing experience they’d shared with him, and that left him simultaneously wanting, or even needing, to seek out their touch, and yet utterly unable to. If only they could somehow symbolically destroy those memories… break down the association, as Rose had put it… maybe they would all be able to move past this.

Suddenly, Jack had a brainstorm of his own.

“I think I know something that might help,” he said, standing and helping Rose up to join him. “Can we go somewhere we can make a nice sized bonfire?”

The Doctor stood as well, happy enough for the distraction, looking thoughtful. “I suppose. Come on.”

He led the way back out of the garden, and through the restored corridors to the console room. It was the work of a moment to set the coordinates, and a few minutes of typically bumpy TARDIS travel later they materialized.

“We’re in an empty bit of northern Vermont, in the early autumn of 2008. Perfect for a bonfire,” he said, moving to the outer door and throwing it open.

The three of them ventured outside, taking in the strikingly beautiful wooded surroundings and the distant skyline full of gently sloping mountains. The air was clean and fresh, and pleasantly cool.

Jack immediately set about clearing an area for a fire pit and defining it with nearby stones.

The Doctor gathered likely looking pieces of wood while Rose collected dried leaves for kindling, neither of them knowing why Jack wanted a bonfire but trusting him and willing to follow wherever he would lead them.

The Doctor produced matches from one of his pockets and they quickly had a cheerful fire blazing. They had arrived in the late afternoon, and their fire helped to replace the quickly fading natural light as evening fell.

They stood in the light and warmth of the fire for a moment, several inches between where each of them stood and the next, none of them speaking.

Suddenly, Jack turned around and headed back inside the TARDIS, leaving Rose and the Doctor bemused. He reappeared a moment later, having fetched his coat from the dark corner of the console room where it had been left lying since their escape.

He fished the few belongings he’d had in it out of its pockets, stowing them in his trousers or, as in the case of his still muddy blaster, placing them on the floor just inside the TARDIS doors. Then he carried the coat over to the fire where the others still stood, watching him.

The Doctor took an involuntary step back, which Jack tactfully ignored. He produced the sonic screwdriver, the last item in the coat’s pockets, and nonchalantly handed it to Rose.

Rose wiped most of the mud off of the device on the leg of her jeans before handing it over to the Doctor. He took it almost reverently, holding it as if it were the most fragile and precious thing he’d ever seen.

“Thank you,” he breathed, happily tucking the sonic into an inside pocket in his suit jacket. Emboldened by this, he stepped back up to the fire and reached out to touch the coat.

Jack let him take enough of it into his hands so that they were sharing its weight equally between them. It was still covered in the mud of an alien swamp.

“I used to love this coat,” Jack mourned, rubbing its familiar scratchy wool between his fingers.

Shivering slightly, the Doctor replied, “So did I.”

Rose watched silently as Jack and the Doctor met each other’s gazes. They nodded solemnly, and then together they carefully fed the coat into the bonfire, consigning it and the memories it represented to the flames.


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Chapter 15: Recovering Things

Author's Notes: Well, here we are at the end. I want to thank everyone who took this journey with me, all of you who kept checking back for updates and reading along with this story. But I want especially to thank those of you who took the time to review, because it is your reviews that ultimately make the effort of writing truly enjoyable for me. If youíll indulge me, Iíd like to retroactively dedicate this story to those of you, you know who you are, who reviewed every chapter, always with something nice or emotional or wonderfully Britpicky to say. And especially to those of you who suggested things that wound up making this story that much better, like the burning of the coat, the kisses, and the Doctorís need to brush his teeth. This story grew through your reviews, and I canít thank you enough. I hope you enjoy the ending! :-)

Part Fifteen — Recovering Things

They stood near each other, but still separate, as they watched the coat burn. All three remained silent and motionless as the fire did its work and night fell around them, until the coat was no longer recognizable as an article of clothing. Finally it lay destroyed, its ashes mixed with those of the fire, the heat from its burning having warmed them in the rapidly cooling night air.

“Thank you,” the Doctor said then, almost too quietly for his companions to hear. “Thank you for this, for taking care of me. And for stopping me before.”

Rose shivered a bit at his words, remembering his dark anger as he’d nearly blown up the medical laboratory with its inhabitants still inside. In that moment he had been capable of such terrible vengeance, had fallen into such a frightening despair and lost his faith in nearly everything. She’d feared for him then, more than she ever had before.

Suddenly she felt a tentative touch against her hand, and she automatically responded by turning her palm outwards and grasping the hand that slid into hers. It was such a familiar, well practiced motion that she did it without thinking, only then to realize that she was, in fact, holding the Doctor’s hand.

He’d reached out to her. On his other side, he’d done the same with Jack.

They stood there for few long moments, holding hands in row before the fire. The Doctor shivered between Rose and Jack, locked in a conflict with his own mind. A small yet very insistent part of him railed against even the slight physical contact of merely holding hands.

A comforting touch means pain will follow. Touch is bad, it whispered traitorously.

But that part of him had been slowly losing its strength ever since the last of his senses had recovered. A normal level of sensory input and the constant care of his companions had slowly robbed that conditioning of its terrible power. His deeper sense of faith, mostly in Rose and Jack, was starting to win out again.

There was a thick tension in the air as the Doctor fought his internal battle and his companions stood wordlessly by. Unexpectedly, it was Rose who seemed to crack first.

“I’m sorry,” she nearly sobbed, unable to keep silent any longer.

“What? What for?” the Doctor questioned, startled, turning his face away from the fire to look at her, instead.

“Oh, Rose,” Jack sighed softly, almost to himself, happy that at least now she would be able to confront the guilt she’d been carrying around unnecessarily.

“It was me. Your wrist… when your wrist was broken and they brought you back into our cell, and I let you hold my pulse… but then… he came back, and wanted me to… it was me!” Rose’s explanation was incoherent at best, but the Doctor seemed to understand.

He had suspected it, both at the time and later, but he’d had no way to be sure and there hadn’t been time to ask in between his sugar high and his descent into vengeful anger. From her vague recounting of the event, he knew that it had been her but that their captor had ordered her to do what she’d done.

To her surprise, his only reaction was to lift her hand in his and inspect her wrist, worriedly looking for the bruise he now knew for sure that he had put there.

“It was healed with the dermal regenerator when we brought you to the infirmary those first few hours back on the TARDIS,” Jack said quietly, since Rose seemed momentarily unable to speak.

The Doctor nodded absently, lowering their joined hands again, squeezing hers slightly.

“I’m sorry I hurt you,” he told her.

She blinked at him, protesting, “But… but it wasn’t your fault!”

“Oh?” he replied mildly, pulling her slightly closer to himself. Focusing on her was making it easier to overcome the last of his own fears. “If I’m not to blame for hurting your wrist, how could you possibly be to blame for hurting mine?”

“I’m still sorry,” she said weakly, finding herself almost bumping shoulders with him as he pulled her closer.

“Then let’s forgive each other and be done with it,” the Doctor said sensibly. “Alright?”

“Alright,” Rose replied, unable to argue with his logic. She felt the weight of her guilt lift as he smiled at her, and knew that Jack had been right about telling him the truth. It had really been that simple.

The Doctor turned to Jack then, pulling him closer as well.

“And you, too, Jack,” he said.

“And me, what?” Jack asked, confused. He’d unburdened his own feelings of guilt while the Doctor was still safely deaf, but now he wondered if his friend hadn’t heard him somehow, regardless.

“The translator circuit must’ve been broken, and Rose only knows English. You wound up the one they spoke to, the one they focused on,” the Doctor explained, and Jack realized he should have known that Doctor would simply have worked it out. “I know you, Jack. You took that responsibility on and you feel like you should have somehow done a better job of protecting us. So… no. You’re not to be blamed for anything either. You did a brilliant job, got us all out alive. No one could have done better, Captain.”

Jack choked up, not realizing until that moment how badly he’d needed to hear those words from the Doctor.

“Thank you,” he breathed when he could speak again.

“Everybody feeling better now, then?” the Doctor asked them, his voice suspiciously bright and cheerful, his eyes wide and shining in the firelight.

“Yes,” Rose replied, as Jack simply nodded.

“Good,” the Doctor said. He paused, swallowing heavily, and then his voice was thick with emotion as he continued, “Because I could really use a hug right about now.”

It was all the invitation they needed. Agonizing days of keeping their distance were finally cleared from their memories as both Jack and Rose released the Doctor’s hands and threw their arms around him from either side. He held on to them just as desperately as his already shaky legs gave out beneath him, sending the three of them tumbling to the ground next to the still blazing bonfire.

They landed in a tangled heap, the Doctor in the middle with his companions sitting closely beside him, all three of them seeking as much contact as was physically possible.

Night had fallen and the circle their bonfire illuminated was only large enough that the fire itself was all any of them could see of their surroundings. The crackling of the flames was the loudest sound they could hear, its ashes and smoke the only smell and taste in the air. Its warmth, and their arms around each other, was all they could feel.

The Doctor found his sensory world was again narrowed, consisting of only the fire and his companions’ touches. But rather than the terrifying restriction of the chemical blindfold, it was a soothing and almost meditative focusing of his mind. He let the sensations fill his awareness, leaving no room for painful memories as he clung tightly to Rose and Jack.

It was… okay. It was touch, comforting touch, and it was okay.

It was good.

He couldn’t stop himself from shaking as that realization first occurred and then firmly settled itself, finally overwhelming the conditioning that he had succumbed to under the influence of the chemical blindfold.

His trembles moved Rose and Jack to speak again, reassuring words mumbled into his shoulder and his hair, respectively. He found himself joining in.

“Got you,” Rose said, squeezing her arms tighter around his waist.

“Here,” Jack added simply, his breath ghosting over the Doctor’s ear.

“It’s okay,” he replied, speaking to each of them and himself and the TARDIS and anyone else who might be willing to listen. “It’s okay.”

They stayed in each others arms as the fire slowly died down in front of them. Occasionally one of them would shiver with the memories of their shared ordeal, and the others would respond. They rocked slightly in their joint embrace, whispering comforting words and reassuring each other as needed, letting the simple magic of their close bond heal the damage they had all suffered to some extent.

After a long while, they simply sat quietly, sharing the peaceful moment.

The fire had nearly died out. The Doctor had dropped his head down onto Jack’s shoulder, his eyes closed. Rose rested against him, her arms still looped around his body. Jack leaned against him from his other side, supporting him, the opposed forces cradling him comfortably between them.

Their contented stillness was broken as the Doctor suddenly lifted his head up to look back at the TARDIS, still standing just behind them with her door open. She had reached out to him telepathically, calling to him. He reached out in return, still reveling in their newfound closeness. She called to him again.

Rose and Jack were aware of an unidentifiable telepathic feeling, having both been sensitized to the TARDIS’s communication through the Doctor, but they felt nothing more concrete than that.

“Better go see what she wants,” the Doctor said, disentangling himself from them reluctantly. “She doesn’t usually… well, request my presence in quite that way.”

He quickly stepped over to the TARDIS, disappearing inside.

Jack and Rose shared a curious look, remaining seated on the ground near the still barely burning remains of the fire. Almost immediately, they heard the Doctor’s distinctive laughter from inside the time ship.

He reappeared at the door a moment later, grinning widely, his accustomed bounce back in his step and this time not because he’d had way too much sugar. He was carrying a tray.

“Look what I found next to the console!” he crowed, bringing the tray over to Rose and Jack, kneeling on the ground between them and placing the tray in between them and the fire. “Isn’t she just the most wonderful, brilliant, amazing time ship in the entire Universe?”

They could feel the TARDIS’s telepathic touch clearly this time as she sent waves of affection and smug pride to all three of her passengers. Her pilot turned to look at her again, still smiling widely.

“Oh, thank you,” he told her out loud. “This is just perfect!”

The tray contained squares of chocolate, graham crackers, and a bag of marshmallows. There were three pointed sticks sitting on the side, ready to spear the marshmallows. It was everything they needed to make s’mores, and the smoldering remains of their bonfire was the ideal oven.

The unique treat being more popular in the United States in Rose’s time, the Doctor and Jack had the pleasure of introducing her to the proper procedure of slowly toasting a marshmallow and then using it to melt a chocolate square between a sandwich of graham crackers.

Rose and Jack’s laughter joined the Doctor’s as they quickly tore into the bag of marshmallows and set about toasting them over the hot coals of the bonfire that had burned away their fears and pain along with the symbolic coat.

It was exactly the impetus they needed to shift them from their quiet healing embrace into a boisterous and healthy return to their more habitual behavior. They were serenely happy as they toasted marshmallows and built s’mores, enjoying the warm confections and warmer camaraderie.

Jack liked his marshmallows well charred, and amused the others by frantically waving the flaming sweets around on the end of his stick to put them out. In revenge for their laughter, he sacrificed one of his marshmallows to the worthy cause of smearing sticky sugar across their faces. They retaliated with half melted chocolate, and it degenerated into a cheerful free-for-all.

Delighted with the ready made excuse, Jack took the opportunity to kiss some melted marshmallow off of Rose’s cheek. At the same moment, on her other side, the Doctor’s oral fixation got the better of him as he licked a smear of chocolate off of her other cheek. Rose squealed in surprised protest, and then gathered up the courage to follow Jack’s example and kiss the Doctor’s cheek, ostensibly to remove a gooey streak of marshmallow.

Jack clapped with approval, and then showed her up by using both sticky hands to grab at the Doctor’s lapels and pull him in for a real kiss. The Time Lord let out a startled squeak against his attacker’s mouth, then settled in and let himself enjoy Jack’s ministrations.

He’d been snogged thoroughly a couple of times in this body, and he was beginning to learn that he quite enjoyed it.

Rose gave a polite cough, then plucked impatiently at Jack’s sleeve.

Jack finally pulled away from the Doctor, who wobbled for a moment, pleasantly stunned.

“Yes, Rose?” Jack asked with a smug grin.

In reply, Rose tapped her foot spoke sternly, “Now, if you’re going to give out kisses, you should bring enough for the entire class!”

He dipped her dramatically, and kissed her soundly. By the time they stood again, the Doctor had recovered his composure once more and had found enough time to plan his next attack.

He was ready with melted chocolate on the fingertips of each hand. When his two human friends pulled apart, he reached over and traced a messy chocolate D on each of their cheeks.

Rose and Jack laughed at the sight of the Doctor’s chocolate initial on their faces.

“D for Doctor!” Rose smiled. She met Jack’s gaze, and they each solemnly reached up to trace their initial on the other’s unmarked cheek with whichever gooey sugar was still on their hands.

Then their eyes met again, and without needing to speak a word they agreed to turn on the Doctor and return the favor. He led them on a merry chase around the bonfire, and then let them catch him and drag him back down to the ground.

Rose nearly sat on him while Jack fetched more chocolate and melted it over the still hot coals. They carefully traced their initials on the Doctor’s cheeks in chocolate.

J for Jack and R for Rose.

With all three of them thus properly and possessively marked by the other two, they again degenerated back into giggles and random smearing of melted food across each other’s faces.

The Doctor couldn’t help but lean forward to assist Rose in licking some chocolate off of her lips, and they too shared a mind bending kiss. They pulled apart breathlessly, smiling at each other in the dim light from the nearly extinguished fire. Rose was absurdly glad once more for the openness and ease of expression of this incarnation of the Doctor.

Then Jack gave a wolf whistle in lewd appreciation of the show, and they found it necessary to team up on him and squish marshmallows into his forehead. Jack considered it ultimately worth it.

As they played and laughed and flirted, with the TARDIS watching over them, the most important part of their healing was completed at last. The fear was gone, the memory of the trauma pushed away by the new memories of friendship and love they were creating with melted chocolate and gooey marshmallows and graham cracker crumbs.

There would be nightmares, in the nights to come. Jack would continue to watch over them protectively, and Rose would always remember the feel of broken wrist bones beneath her hand. The Doctor would never again feel a pulse beat without having to fight back the memory of his mental isolation under the chemical blindfold.

But the fear was gone. The pain was dulled. Their faith and trust in each other was reaffirmed.

And, as Jack once more advanced on a mildly flustered Doctor with a sticky marshmallow and a predatory grin, with Rose laughing as she looked on, they all knew that their wild and crazy normality had finally reasserted itself.

The TARDIS crew had recovered. They were together, and they were strong.

It was comforting.

And it was good.


Click here to read the sequel to Sense written for Gillian Taylor as part of a timestamp meme.

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