The communications controller shatters as it hurls towards the floor. The Doctor, hands braced against the controls of this wretched machine, bows his head so low he is almost touching it. His shoulders shake with the effort of just keeping himself standing. Rose. They’ve got Rose. She wasn’t destroyed by the disintegrator beam — but she may as well have been. He wouldn’t wish her fate on anyone. They’ve got her and they may well be killing her, right now, and he’s just standing here. No way out.
A hungry silence consumes them all as they look upon the Doctor. The programmers exchange looks, unsure of what to do. They don’t know of Daleks. They don’t even know what’s going on. Jack has an idea, but only the Doctor knows how to fix it.
The friend watches with a growing coil of pain in his stomach. The Doctor is a broken man. He has never seen him cry before, and having to stand back and watch now is like watching the universe fall to pieces, tear by tear. The silence is strung together by the terrifying sound of gentle sobs that makes the hairs on the back of Jack’s neck tingle.
But then the Doctor stands and turns, and he is surprised to see a triumphant grin on his face. He is not crying, but laughing. Jack, catching the expression, chuckles a little without knowing why. Then he is infected too, and both of the men collapse into helpless giggles. The Doctor strides over, shaking his head with the absurdity of it all. The American slings a loose but comforting arm around his shoulder, and the Doctor laughs harder. The sound rises up and fills the entire room, every corner of atmosphere it can reach. The rest of the workers look on, unnerved.
“Oh, it’s stupid,” the Doctor breathes at last, reaching to his eye to wipe away a stray tear.
Jack grins at him, bumps his shoulder a little and drops his arm. “What’s stupid?”
“This.” The Doctor makes a wide gesture with his arm, sweeping it around to convey the room. “All this. It’s just daft. And those things, they can’t win. They just can’t win! Fantastic!”
The Doctor is already striding over to Archive Six. One of the programmers, the one who tried to stop Jack before, looks as though she is about to protest — but then Jack glares at her, his smile completely faded, and she backs off. There is no more argument as they make their way back to the TARDIS, back to where they belong, without another word.
The Doctor doesn’t care. He is beyond caring, seeing only darkness in front of him and darkness behind and — trapped in the very middle of it — Rose. Golden Rose, lighting the way. His hearts ache that little bit more when he thinks of how far away she is from him. But not for long.
The smile he gives lights up the entire room when he sees the TARDIS standing proudly before him. He approaches cautiously, as though she will lash out at him if he’s not careful. With an almost tentative hand, he strokes the wall of the blue police box gently, smiling up at her.
With a fond voice, he asks, “What have they done to you?”
Jack, who is fumbling with the key in the lock, stops a moment and looks over his shoulder. The two men share an understanding gaze.
“We’ll get her back,” Jack tries to reassure his friend, key still pressed firmly into the lock.
The Doctor smiles lazily. “I know.”
“I swear, Doctor, if they hurt her — ”
“Doesn’t matter,” he cuts across. Jack looks startled. The Doctor is still smiling, but it is dangerous and fierce: the smile of a madman.
“What d’you mean it ‘doesn’t matter’?” the American echoes in disbelief.
He gets a shrug in return.
“Just that. It doesn’t matter what they do to her.”
Jack stares. “How can you say that? After everything we’ve been through? Everything she means to us?” His voice rises a couple of decibels, anger evident. The Doctor rolls his eyes and elbows the man out of the way, completing the turn of the key and pushing the door open with his shoulder.
“It doesn’t matter what they do — ” he explains, striding over to the console with the air of a man who has murder in his mind “ — because they’ve already lost. They’ve already done the one thing that could kill them, the worst possible thing they could do. They can hurt her and it won’t matter. They can kill her, and it won’t matter. They can tear the stars out from the sky and it just won’t matter.”
He turns and faces the dumbstruck American, his grin sparkling. Jack still stands in the doorway, mouth open in appalled disbelief.
It’s the look on the Doctor’s face that makes him ask his question. “Why?”
And suddenly the grin fades. Suddenly there is thick, swirling darkness behind those lazuli eyes and who he is — who the Doctor really is — is suddenly standing before him. And he’s terrified.
“Because,” the man answers is a voice that would make the sky tremble, “I am the Oncoming Storm. The Bringer of Darkness. The Destroyer of Worlds. And nobody takes my Rose Tyler. I have the power to change the universe. I can make them burn until there’s nothing left to scream. I can make them wish they’d never dared to take her from me. And I’ll do it — they’ve taken her from me once. They’re not going to do it again.” He suddenly changes again, the grin returned, his demeanour relaxed. He almost laughs as he continues, “So, if you’re ready, mind getting out of that doorway? There’s a bit of a draught. Help me hook up the extrapolater and we can be on our way.”
Jack walks forward, feeling in somewhat of a daze. The door clicks shut as he approaches the Doctor with confusion written in the frown on his brow.
“Hook up the extrapolater? You still have that piece of junk?”
“Not junk,” the Doctor counters merrily, bending down and producing it from under the console. He chucks it to the startled American. “Rig it up, it’ll make a nice little forcefield. So come on, we’ve got a date.”
“And we’re going... where, exactly?” Jack asks uncertainly, staring at the piece of metal in his hand.
The Doctor sighs like he has explained this countless times before. “You. Me. Rose. Now.”
“But... she’s in the middle of a Dalek fleet.”
“Well observed. Would you rather help or stand there pointing out the obvious?”
Jack feels a sudden energy bloom from inside him, feels excited like he never has before. He grins like the devious con man he once used to be and winks rakishly, crouching down and producing wires that he can hook up to the extrapolater.
The Doctor cranks down a lever, using his whole body strength behind it. He grins into the golden light, knowing that there’s not a thing those damn Space Dustbins can do to stop him. Not any more. There isn’t even any question.
The two men work frantically as the TARDIS begins to shake and rattle with the journey from the Game Station. The Doctor stares up the central column and something like pleading flickers across his face.
“Hold on, Rose,” he murmurs quietly while the TARDIS gives another almighty lurch. “I’m coming.”
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