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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