There should be more days like this, there really should. How long had it been since everything had gone so gloriously, happily right in the end? It was enough to give him hope for the universe again, remember that once upon a time he believed that all things could be fixed and have a happy ending. Days like this had been why he'd stolen the TARDIS and gone adventuring in the first place, and the joy was fizzing like champagne throughout him, making him slightly giddy from elation. Making him a bit stupid, that. He hadn't meant to tell Rose about the bicycle, for example, not ever; it just slipped out.
But for a moment, her mood dampened. "What did Jack mean when he said, 'Goodbye'?" Rose asked.
The Doctor deflated. He didn't think he'd be able to get rid of that bomb before it exploded and I don't think he will either. But if I tell you that, you'll be horrified and ask me to save him. He's a con man who thinks with his guns and I don't like the way he sniffs around you. I don't trust him. I don't want another Adam in my TARDIS. He started all this mess, letting all those nanogenes loose. If it hadn't been for him, there wouldn't have been any gas mask zombies. There would just have been...
Been a young, terrified mother mourning her little boy and you hanging from a barrage balloon in the Blitz.
Out loud, all he said was, "He thinks that bomb will get him, but we're going to get him first. Like I said, for once everybody lives!" The manic joy bubbled up again as he jumped for the controls; following the Chula ship's energy signature would be child's play.
He'd barely set the coordinates before Rose pounced on him. "Play music!" she told the TARDIS, slapping the console lightly and it, slightly to the Doctor's surprise, obeyed. It was always hard to tell what the TARDIS was thinking or what it understood, but this time the old girl seemed to figure out that they were picking up a passenger and opened the doors on her own while the Doctor was trying to untangle his feet for a victory dance with Rose.
Jack had planned on going out with dignity, if not sobriety; the Doctor could see that he was calmly drinking something from a martini glass as he stared morosely out his cockpit. He turned when he heard the music behind him, then came rushing in at Rose's invitation. The Doctor tried to welcome him while dealing with an armful of overexcited Rose.
Go ahead and say it. Everyone always says it when they walk in here.
"Much bigger on the inside…" Jack mumbled.
"You'd better be," the Doctor warned, still having a bad feeling about having Jack anywhere near his ship. If someone sat down and thought up all of Adam's worst character traits and magnified them, they'd end up with someone like this "Captain." But he had little time for introspection as he stumbled over his feet and Rose went over to flirt with the new guy.
This was ridiculous! He knew how to dance, and despite Rose's insinuations, he knew how to "dance" too. Now why was this all wrong?
Ah! Of course! It wasn't lack of experience, thank you very much, it was this music. Too slow. Too sentimental. He never did sentimental, not in any of his incarnations. A couple of taps, the music turned upbeat, and the Doctor sashayed up, just in time to sweep Rose away from that slick pretty boy. Her weak protest disappeared in laughter as he swept her around the console room, twisting, reversing, and finally dipping her deeply across his thigh.
He glanced quickly at Jack. He was looking around, trying to figure out where he stood between the unfamiliar ship, the girl flirting with him, and the man who'd been yelling at him for causing a disaster barely fifteen minutes before. But, had to give him credit, Jack was doing a good job of acting casually.
He noticed the Doctor watching him. "Is it my dance yet? Can I have something slow?"
"Yeah, sure." The Doctor let go of Rose, adjusted the music to a waltz…
…and shouted "Oi, oi, oi!" in protest as he found himself moving backwards, Jack's hands warm in his and on the small of his back. Rose was goggling at them, somewhere between horrified and ready to fall over laughing; Jack smiled his too-charming smile from far too close to the Doctor's face.
"You're not really going to dance with each other?" Rose gasped.
"Only if I lead." The Doctor bared his teeth back at Jack and shifted his grip; Jack let himself be led in slow circles around the console. Have to admit, he's light on his feet and takes direction. That still doesn't mean I trust him.
"Don’t I get dipped too?" Jack pouted. Rose squeaked. The Doctor spun him in a quick half-turn first, sweeping Jack into the same dip as he had Rose — only this time, Jack's head grazed close enough to the console to flip the RAF hat over his face. Rose squeaked again. Jack burst out laughing… but as he shook the hat off, for a moment their eyes met and Jack nodded slightly. Threat understood.
Good. The Doctor pulled him back upright and let go.
"I'm cutting in," Rose announced directly behind his left ear; when the Doctor reached for her, she ducked, giggling, under his arm and went to Jack. Jack glanced quickly at the Doctor — was he asking permission? — before leading her in grand sweeps around the room.
The Doctor watched them thoughtfully. Look at that, he's managing to swing by every exit and control panel. She thinks they're just dancing, but he's checking out the place. Smart. Subtle. Rose was practically soaring with joy. Well, she's in jam, isn't she, with two men to flirt with? Nah, not even two men, she's made that clear, hasn't she - doesn't think you can dance, or "dance," doesn't even think you're a bloke.
He'd had multiple companions before in his journeys, and it usually wasn't that long before they were sneaking all over the TARDIS like characters in a French farce (sometimes in the oddest combinations, too) pretending they weren't carrying on all sorts of affairs under his nose.
He had never joined in, although there had been human companions, usually female, who had made a play for him now and then. He'd pretended he didn't understand. For someone who had been so widely traveled, his sexual preferences were pretty simple: species, own; gender, opposite. Most of the time, someone willing could be found one way or the other, although it had admittedly been easiest when he was traveling with Romana. Well, the second Romana. The first one wouldn't have had him if he'd come free with a lifetime supply of TARDIS maintenance and the Presidency of Gallifrey. Which he sort of had at the time.
Although humans and Gallifreyans had evolved biologically similar enough to make the act generally the same, humans didn't excite him the way his own people did. Even when he'd been exiled indefinitely to Earth, he hadn't coupled with any of the natives. Their body temperature was too high, their minds too limited. His people were telepaths; there was nothing like feeling someone else's thoughts inside your mind while you both felt you inside her…
No point in dwelling on that, is there? There are no more Gallifreyan women. Thanks to the Time War, there never were any. Never will be. It's just you and if you don't learn to "dance" with other partners it's going to be several long, celibate centuries.
On the other hand, human romance and Time Lord romance were at total odds. Humans were prone to say things like "love only me forever" (which was against his nature) or "don't ever change" (which was, quite literally, 12 kinds of impossible for him). Time Lords might live almost forever, but they didn't love that way. When people changed not just their looks but their preferences and their personalities with regularity, even marriages only held for "as long as you both are in this incarnation."
Rose's dance with Jack ended with a dip too, although not as deep as the Doctor had done. Jack was watching him out of the corner of his eye again, taking his marching orders not from Rose's flirtations, but the Doctor's expression. Good. She's only nineteen and from a pretty backwards time, you fifty-first century lecher!
The Doctor had half expected Rose to spend the rest of the night in Jack's arms, one way or the other, but the moment the music stopped, she bounded back towards him, lifting her hands. "Another fast one?" she suggested.
"Excellent idea!" Jack was right on her heels. "Soon get you warmed up. I noticed your hands were cold."
"S'my natural temperature," the Doctor told him. "My everything's like that." Okay, that was not the best way of phrasing it!
"He's got two hearts, too," Rose chipped in.
Jack was looking him over speculatively. "Huh. May I?"
The Doctor spread his arms wide and waited. When he'd done this for Rose she'd crept up on him, obviously half wondering if he was winding her up. She'd put her hands on his hips and her ear to his ribs, shifting from side to side on his chest, listening with equal amounts of fascination and fear. (For some odd reason, of all his companions, Rose was the most upset whenever she was shown how alien he was.) She'd stared up at him with wide eyes, her mouth open, still pressed to his chest, and he'd smiled reassuringly down. There'd been a frozen moment, then she squeezed him hard around the waist and he'd put his arms around her, and they were friends again, hugging and laughing.
Jack marched up as if he were surveying new territory and lifted his hands, placing them on the Doctor's chest. Surprise flashed in his eyes as he felt the beats beneath his palms, then he shifted his hands slightly and checked again. His movements were so cautious and deliberate that it wasn't until thumbs brushed lightly over nipples that the Doctor twigged to what was really going on. Cheeky devil! He's feeling me up in slow motion!
The Doctor stepped back, glaring. Rose cleared her throat. "If you're quite through, I think this is my dance?"
For a timeless while the TARDIS rocked to Big Band and swing, Rose (and sometimes Jack) twirling between partners in mid dance. Rose was laughing at the idea of the two men dancing now, and the Doctor — who was certainly not jealous, don't be ridiculous — relaxed as she divided her attentions equally, possibly paying him slightly more attention than the interloper. After a while she got bored of being passed back and forth and played music from her own time, allowing them to mosh more or less together all at once, and sometime after that Jack was teaching her dances from his youth.
Eventually, the two humans were gasping and staggering and not just with laughter, finally having exhausted themselves. Rose collapsed with her back against the wall; Jack went to the hatrack and redonned his coat and cap.
"Now what?" he asked the Doctor.
"He can have-" Rose cut off as the Doctor flashed her a warning look. He didn't want to hear Adam's name ever again. He didn't want to sully this glorious night with that idiot's memory. He didn't want Jack to start asking questions about that right now.
She blinked, not sure what she'd done wrong, and tried again. "Shall I show him to the spare room?"
"I get to stay?"
"Yeah, you get to stay," the Doctor told him. "For now, at least." He jerked his head towards the door leading deeper into the TARDIS. "She can show you the way."
Jack looked faintly disappointed. "You're not coming?"
"Nah, got work to do." For one thing, he had to ask the TARDIS to recreate the room before they got there. He'd been so furious at Adam that he'd told the ship to delete it and allocate the space somewhere else, even though Adam had only spent one night there. If he recalled correctly, the word "sewage" had been somewhere in the order.
Rose tugged Jack's hand. "C'mon, he barely sleeps anyway. I'll show you. It's right down the hall from my space."
They were barely out of the console room when the Doctor triggered the internal monitors. Jack had behaved himself when he knew he was under scrutiny, but what would he do if he thought the Doctor wasn't looking? He kept the sound down, out of some vague respect for Rose and the fits she'd had at the TARDIS reading her mind, but not even her privacy would convince him to leave her alone with Jack.
Promised your mum I'd keep you safe, didn't I? Well, I don't think you're very safe around him.
They were standing in the door of Jack's room, and sure enough, even though the sound was off, it was obvious he was trying to coax her inside. He had one of her hands in his, rubbing his thumb across the back of her fingers, smiling down at her. She had her head to one side, smiling back with her nose wrinkled and her tongue between her teeth, one shoe digging toe-first into the floor, the picture of indecision.
Finally, she shook her head.
Jack let go of her hand instantly and stood back. Instead of being elated, the Doctor was wary — was Jack going to be one of those gits who gets all nasty when he was turned down? He'd be off at the nearest planet if he got shirty with Rose, and if it was one of the ones that had a price on his head, all the better.
Jack blew her a kiss and a wink and shut the door.
Mollified, the Doctor shut the monitor down and headed for his own quarters.
But he told the TARDIS to alert him if Jack left his room during the night.
Rose was still snoring as the Doctor made his way down for toast and tea the next morning; he could hear her from several paces away even through the door. Rose was many things, none of which included "morning person."
Jack was up and about inside his room. The Doctor gave in to curiosity and put an ear to the door, hearing rhythmic breathing and... oh, he was exercising. Sounded like jumping jacks. For a moment there he'd thought... well, considering how Jack came on to everybody, it was hard not to come to baser conclusions.
The Doctor knocked gently. Jack opened it with an uncertain smile, but the Doctor put a finger to his lips before he could say anything, jerking his head in the direction of the snoring. Jack laughed silently, then mouthed "Where's the galley?"
"C'mon" the Doctor mouthed back, and led him to it.
"That's a food processor!" Jack exclaimed when he saw it sitting in the corner.
"Got it in one, clever lad," the Doctor replied without too much sarcasm.
"No, I mean a Terran one, from my century. I was expecting... something alien."
"Humans are aliens." The Doctor smirked at him. "Still, you lot know how to make a decent plate of grub. Had that put in last time I dropped by your time for some maintenance. What were you expecting?"
"I dunno. Something sonic, like that screwdriver of yours. So what else is sonic around here? Sonic bookends? Sonic toasting forks?"
"Don't make fun of my screwdriver!"
"Doctor," Jack said sincerely, "I would never make fun of a man's screwdriver."
There didn't seem to be anything he could reply to that that wouldn't dig the conversation deeper, so the Doctor changed the subject. "We need fuel and repairs, I'm gonna want you to help me with maintenance. Think you're up to it?"
Jack saluted. "I'm yours to command." For a brief moment he considered adding something smutty - the Doctor could read it in his face - but he behaved himself.
Good. You do have some self control.
It turned out that Jack also had a fairly solid knowledge of temporal mechanics. Although the Doctor wouldn’t let him tinker with the console itself, not wanting him too close to the heart of the TARDIS, he was very useful in checking the linkages, sensor webs, and temporal feeds. He even had a few decent ideas for improving things.
They were halfway through rewiring the space baffler when Rose finally wandered in. The Doctor left Jack and started twiddling in a meaningful but ultimately unnecessary way with wires under one of the console panels, settling back to his favorite hobby: people watching.
“Come to help?” Jack asked.
Rose shrugged. “I’m afraid all I understand about fixing this thing is ‘hand me that spanner — no, the other one.’”
Jack grinned and Rose smiled back — but she also turned to the Doctor. “What do you want me to do?”
“Just keep us company, that’s all. Oh, and hand me that spanner — no, the other one, stupid!”
Jack chuckled into the wiring, Rose made a face as she handed it over, and the Doctor waited. I’ve insulted you, and now you’re going to start flirting with Jack just to show me up. Get him talking about himself. See if you can get something to slip.
“So, you’ve been to Pompeii? I haven’t been there.” She pouted at the Doctor. “Yet. Is it nice?”
Jack told her about Pompeii, and Rome, and all the other places he’d been that he thought might impress her, while the Doctor listened and drew conclusions. Jack had been allowed to travel in time for quite a while after he’d quit the agency. This was a point in his favor, because if he'd done something really terrible to the timeline, the Time Agents wouldn't have deleted a few memories. They would have deleted him and made sure of the job. If they let him roam through history repeatedly selling them space junk that somehow never got delivered, it was because his agency either thought he couldn't do any major harm, or they thought he might be useful to them later.
Just as the Celestial Intervention Agency had once thought of you, Doctor.
He was also noticing that Jack focused on sensual detail. Not just who he’d seduced, but what he’d seen, heard, smelled, touched, and tasted, described so vividly that the Doctor’s mouth practically watered. Sometimes the stories had been about how Jack had gotten into trouble — always with a breathtaking escape, naturally - but if the joke was on Jack, he still told the tale with gusto.
All Adam had been able to talk about was how clever he was, how smart he was, me, me, me, I, I, I. Anytime anyone else got mentioned, it was only to show up how wonderful Adam was, or to complain how they’d done him wrong. The Doctor had rather wondered if Rose’s insistence on being given hints about where they were going weren’t so that she could show off to Adam so much as to make herself feel less stupid and uneducated around him. Jack preferred to expound on friends and adventures and joy and pleasure, drawing them in so everyone could share in the experience.
Rose was captivated. Of course, she would be. Admit it. He’s more of her dream man than you are. She even said it outright — “like you only with drinkin’ and dancin’.” But before the Doctor could work up a good jealous sulk, she was off and telling stories too — and like Jack, telling more with how she said it than what she said. Rose didn’t talk about their quiet times, the interludes on beautiful planets or return journeys home to Earth. She bragged about all the danger they’d been in, the thrilling escapes they’d had, and always with “the Doctor this” or “the Doctor that” and “the Doctor figured it out and saved us.”
She was flirting with Jack like mad while she spoke, but every word showed how much she thought of herself and the Doctor as an unbreakable team.
Suddenly, the Doctor felt a great deal better about having another man on the ship.
But not entirely. Jack might be more charming than Adam, more mechanically adept than Adam, more obedient than Adam, and more temporally trustworthy than Adam. But that really wasn’t the problem was it? None of those were the reason why the Doctor was going to hate Adam for the rest of his very long life.
Adam had committed one truly unforgivable sin.
Until he knew that Jack would not do the same, he simply couldn’t trust him.
The Doctor set the trap after tea time with the innocent suggestion that Rose take Jack on a tour of the TARDIS, and watched the monitors with amusement as the ship foiled Jack’s every attempt to systematically catalog the rooms.
“It does this all the time,” Rose complained as they backed out of the linen closet for the third time. “He says it’s telepathic and can rearrange itself whenever it wants. I think it has a juvenile sense of humor.”
“If it’s telepathic, maybe it knows how much I want to get you between the sheets,” Jack suggested.
Rose giggled. “Let’s go that way,” she pointed down the corridor to a bright red door.
“What’s down there?”
“Dunno, never been. Not even sure it was there yesterday.”
Jack hung back. “Is it safe?”
“Safe as houses! The Doctor wouldn’t let anything happen to us.”
Jack didn’t quite have her unshakeable faith, but he followed her anyway, while the Doctor smiled mirthlessly to himself. That door hadn’t been there yesterday, nor had the maze of levels and stairways and rooms behind it. And tomorrow they wouldn’t exist any more. But today… today, they had a job to do.
As he hoped, they promptly got lost, although points to Jack for thinking of leaving a trail. They ended up drawing little arrows with Rose’s lip gloss, for all the good it did them. Every time they tried to turn back, the Doctor added another hall of doors, shifted another set of rooms, until they were four levels deep and starting to get nervous.
That’s when he sprang the trap. Whipping up an alarm — not the real one, not the cloister bell, but a whooping noise that would sound like an alarm to human ears - the Doctor keyed on the internal address system. “Rose! Jack! You’ve got to get back now! The bomb damaged some of the temporal circuits, the rooms are coming unstuck in time! You’ve got to get back to the center, where I can keep things stable! Now, RUN!”
They ran. Jack was doing a surprisingly good job of retracing their route, the Doctor had to give him credit for that. There was more to that man than met the eye… but then, the Doctor had been puzzling over that one ever since he’d heard the Time Agents had wiped his memory without hurting or even firing him. Jack thought it might have been a discipline problem, but if it was, why no other punishment? The safest way of keeping top-secret information secret is to make sure that nobody even remembers handling it. No loose lips that way, no accidental leaks. Jack, my lad, I think you were probably at the highest levels once. Would have probably gotten your memories back for free when they were declassified.
They were on level three now, running for all they were worth. Although he’d never do anything as daft as actually delete rooms they were near, the Doctor did erase the occasional door to add to the realism of the thing.
“Turn to the left, take that stairway, that’ll cut a level off,” the Doctor urged.
“But we didn’t…” Jack started to protest. Rose didn’t waste her breath arguing; she just charged blindly up the stairs and Jack followed.
Level one now, nothing left for them to see but a straight corridor, fifty yards long with the exit at the end… and the blast shield that the Doctor was ever so slowly starting to lower over it. They both put on a spurt of speed.
Jack was ahead by a good six paces and growing. He was going to make it, barely. Rose, flailing a bit as she ran, was going to be just a hair too slow… The Doctor found himself gripping the console so hard that his knuckles were white, even though he knew there wasn’t any real danger.
Damn you! Damn you, you’re going to be just like Adam. You’re going to-- What?
Without breaking stride Jack spun on his heel, caught Rose as she sprinted by, yanked her off her feet and threw her through the closing gap so hard that she bounced with a yelp off the opposite corridor wall. He tried to dive after her but he’d lost too much time. He pulled his arms back before the barrier cut them off and it slammed shut between them.
“DOCTOR!” Rose wailed. “Doctor can you hear me?”
“Yes,” he replied, thinking quickly. He didn’t actually have a plan for this contingency. He couldn’t just open the door and say “Congratulations, you pass the test, report to the galley for a biscuit,” now could he?
“Doctor, he’s on the other side of the door. Help him!”
“It’s going to be okay, Rose. I promise. Jack, can you hear me?”
“Yeah.” Jack stared down the featureless hallway, only a little pale. “Don’t suppose you could beam me a drink or something, could you? I hate facing certain death cold sober.”
“Doctor, open the door!”
“He can’t, Rose.” Jack was getting paler, but his voice was still calmly controlled. “Doctor, I order you not to do anything that will destabilize the rest of the TARDIS.”
“Very noble,” the Doctor snapped sarcastically, although he thought it was. “Now stop giving me orders on my own ship. Move up against the door, I’m going to put a new barrier up.”
“So you can let him through?” Rose hoped.
“So I can put him in a buffer zone.”
“Rose, why are you still out there?” Jack snapped. “Go to the console room.”
“I’m not leaving you!”
“Oh, you soppy humans,” the Doctor muttered, materializing a new blast door between Jack and the area they’d just been in, leaving him just barely enough room to stand. Once it was in place and he was sure the TARDIS was registering exactly where Jack and Rose were, he told it to start deleting all of the unnecessary space.
Whole levels disappeared. Large rooms, twisted out of their proper place in the internal formation, snapped back. The engines whined as they handled the shock of large amounts of matter reconverting to energy while in mid-flight. It was a rocky ride. Jack braced himself as best he could in the tiny space. The Doctor clung to the console. Rose was left to fend for herself in a long hallway with little to hold onto, careening from wall to wall until she finally fell, shrieking, into the linen closet.
“Delete the blast shield. Take me there directly,” the Doctor ordered the TARDIS. A new door opened in the console room and he ducked through it, coming out directly opposite the closet just as Rose burst out of it and Jack fell over as the shielding disappeared, leaving him standing in a featureless alcove.
“Is everyone all right?” the Doctor called.
“Ye… no.” Jack frowned. “Rose, you’re bleeding.”
“No, I’m fine, I’m…” She touched her lip and looked at her fingers. “Oh.”
“You don’t feel it yet because of the adrenaline.” The Doctor looked her over, trying not to feel too guilty. “Doesn’t look too bad, but let’s check you out.” He strode back to the door he’d come through, shouted “Sickbay!” and walked in.
“This wasn’t were it was this morning.” Jack said warily, guiding Rose in.
“Sickbay’s always the first door you walk through when you’re hurt,” the Doctor explained. “No matter where you start from. Come on then, up on the table, let’s have a look.”
“I’m all right!” Rose pushed free of Jack and glared at them. “I’ve just got a scrape or two, I don’t need an audience while I clean up. Out!”
So out they went, Rose emphatically slamming the door in their faces.
“So tell me,” Jack asked conversationally when they were back in the hallway. “Do I pass the test?”
There was nothing about flirtation and teasing now, Jack was all soldier. “That was a test, I’m sure of it. You’ve been watching and testing me ever since I came in the door. Do I pass?” He took a step closer, becoming angry. “You thought I’d leave her behind in danger, didn’t you? What kind of a person do you think I am?”
“I had to know if you would because her last boyfriend did,” the Doctor said baldly.
Jack rocked back. “No!”
“Yes. Just about a week ago our time, we picked up this twenty-first century bloke, a tosser named Adam. Worked for an idiot named Van Statton, someone who liked to collect alien artifacts, and if he got ahold of any living extraterrestrial, he tortured it for information.”
“On Earth you’d be…”
“Yeah. Fun guy, that Van Statton. Anyway, Adam the idiot decides he’s going to show Rose his boss’s pride and joy, which just happened to be the last survivor of the most vicious race of killers this universe has ever seen. They’re right there when it breaks loose, starts doing what it does best, which is killing, killing, and more killing. I tried to block it in before it got loose, started rampaging everywhere.”
“And he outruns her. Leaves her on the other side of a bulkhead with a Dalek, looks me dead in the eye and says there’s nothing he could have done, not his fault.”
“This is where you tell me that you threw him out the airlock, isn’t it?”
Jack’s eyes were hard and cold. “What a damned shame.”
“She forgave him. I didn’t.”
Jack looked at the sickbay door. “You shouldn’t. You made the right call.” He held out his hand. “Do I get to stay now? Friends?”
“Yeah. You get to stay.”
And they shook on it.
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