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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