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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