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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