Another Time by hence_the_name
Summary: The Doctor works to save Jack after he's infected by an alien parasite.
Categories: Tenth Doctor, Torchwood
Characters: Gwen Cooper, Ianto Jones, Jack Harkness, Jack Harkness, Martha Jones, Martha Jones, Owen Harper, The Doctor (10th), Toshiko Sato
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Series, Slash
Series: Abide with Me
Another Time by hence_the_name
Chapter 1: Chapter 1Author's Notes: This story takes place post-S3 of DW and post-S1 of Torchwood.
Jack came awake choking on bile, his lungs spasming, trying to suck in air. His head pounded. He managed a gasp, tried to move and found that he couldn’t. A knot of pain bloomed in his stomach. He felt it like a haze of red across his eyes.
“Jack?” A hand squeezed his leg. “Hold on.”
Jack opened his eyes, trying to make himself be calm, to breathe. He was upside down, looking at a familiar pinstriped pant leg and red trainer carrying him along a dimly lit corridor. A wave of nausea rolled up in his throat. He fought it back, thinking, absurdly, that he didn't want to ruin the Doctor's shoes.
“‘One trip,’ he says.” Martha's voice, somewhere above him and to the right, thick with disgust. “I should have known better.” Her shoes clicked on the floor, driving spikes of pain into Jack's skull. He squeezed his eyes shut. Someone moaned. It took him a moment to realize it had been him.
“Jack?” A hand on his back. That was Ianto, his round vowels sounding anxious. “What happened?”
Memory was beginning to creep back: One trip, just the three of them, because the sky on some remote little planet would be lousy with meteors and the Doctor wanted to congratulate Martha on passing her exams. He remembered the way he’d leaned casually against the TARDIS, one foot kicked back and lips quirking in a way that made Jack want to kiss the smirk right off his face. Not that he felt much like kissing anyone right now.
Something was very, very wrong with him.
They passed through a door with a grinding of gears, and the light brightened. Jack became aware of other voices, more footsteps, but he was too busy keeping his stomach where it belonged to pick out individuals. He remembered a deep violet sky, and running, and corpses shambling after them with surprising speed. He remembered the sickly sweet smell of rotting flesh and a bruising grip on his shoulders, and after that, blackness.
The world lurched violently. His stomach went with it, and when he could see again he was staring at the remains of his last meal in a bin, laced through with threads of crimson. The pain in his stomach eased a little. He was lying on something soft. The couch in the lounge at the Hub.
The voices–his team, he registered vaguely–had quieted to a murmur. Someone tucked a pillow under his head. The Doctor's face swam into view. Jack smiled weakly at him. “Did I miss the meteor shower?” he asked.
The Doctor’s lips curved into an apologetic half-smile. “Sorry,” he said. He waggled his eyebrows. “Attacked by zombies.”
Jack's stomach seized and he curled around the pain, swearing. There was something inside him, moving. Something with teeth. “Last time I let you buy me a drink,” he gasped. Another wave of nausea overtook him, worse than before. When it receded, his mouth tasted coppery. The contents of the bin were deep red.
“You can pay next time,” the Doctor said cheerfully.
Jack tried and failed to laugh. “What is it?” he asked. “There's something–I can feel it–“ Pain flashed red before his eyes and he broke off, unable to keep himself from groaning. He could feel it moving under his skin, pressing deeper. His muscles heaved again, trying to expel it. Jack felt a cold sweat breaking out over his skin.
The Doctor smoothed Jack’s hair. “Don't worry about that, now,” he said gently. “I'll sort it out.”
A hysterical laugh bubbled up in Jack’s throat. “That bad?”
The Doctor leaned in close, his eyes dark and clear and serious. His hand rested on Jack’s head, and he stroked his temple with his thumb. “I'll sort it out,” he repeated. Jack knew that look, the look that said the Doctor would do everything in his considerable power to put things right. He closed his eyes and tried to let himself be reassured, because most of the time, he could.
The thing moved again, a gnawing pain that radiated out and made his limbs feel weak.
The Doctor smoothed his hair back over his forehead a second time. “I won't lose you,” he said, his voice low and fierce. That was the last thing Jack heard before the pain and nausea rolled up again, and didn't let him go.
“Would someone like to tell me why Jack's coughing up blood?” Gwen asked.
The Doctor straightened. Martha had tried to bar the rest of the Torchwood team at the foot of the stairs, but Gwen pushed her way past her, Tosh and Owen not far behind. Ianto rushed up the stairs to kneel at Jack's side. “What's wrong with him?” he demanded.
To all of their surprise, Martha turned a glare of her own on the Doctor. “‘Lovely little planet, back in time for supper.’” She bit off the words. “What could possibly go wrong?”
“Oi!” The Doctor's eyes went wide with indignation. “It was lovely! How was I supposed to know the entire population had been turned into zombies?”
Martha scowled. The Doctor, after another moment, had the grace to look abashed.
“Sorry,” Owen said. He arched an eyebrow. “Zombies?”
Martha crossed her arms. “Go on,” she prompted. “Tell them.”
They were all looking at him expectantly. The Doctor ran a hand through his hair. “Right,” he said. He pinched the bridge of his nose while he considered where to begin. “I'm the Doctor, this is Martha. We’re friends of Jack’s. We, er...ran into a bit of trouble.”
“Apparently,” Owen muttered. Then, doing a double take: “Wait a minute.” He looked the Doctor up and down. “The Doctor? As in, ‘the Doctor’ Doctor?”
The Doctor suppressed the urge to sigh. “That would be me,” he said. “The Doctor.” Tosh was staring at him with her mouth half-open. At least they weren’t applauding, he thought absently. Or trying to lock him up.
“Sorry?” Gwen was looking back and forth between them, her expression blank. “Am I missing something?”
Owen opened his mouth to respond, seeming torn between suspicion and excitement, but before he could the Doctor waved a hand. “Long story,” he said. “I’m sure you’ve got–files, or something. You can all have a good gossip after I leave, but right now I think we have more important things to worry about, hm?” He glanced significantly at Jack.
“So what’s got him, then?” Gwen asked.
“It's a parasite,” the Doctor replied, still looking at Jack. “Eats you from the inside.”
“Oh yes.” He scrubbed a hand over his face. “I've seen it before. It can decimate a whole planet. Don't worry,” he added as alarmed expressions spread over their faces. “It's not airborne. And he's not contagious. Not yet, anyway.” He fell silent. Jack moaned and clutched at his stomach. Ianto held the bin for him. He looked up at the Doctor, half-pleading, half-angry. “Can't you do anything for him?” he demanded.
For a moment the Doctor didn't answer. He just watched Jack, his expression shuttered.
He gave himself a shake. “Right,” he said. “We haven’t got much time; I’d say thirty-six hours at the outside. It's consuming his internal organs. In about twelve hours it'll start to lay its eggs. That takes some time, eight or ten hours. It'll lie dormant for a while after that, eighteen hours or so, until the eggs start to hatch. Usually at that point, it plugs itself into the spinal cord of the host body and uses it to find new hosts for its young. That’s when it gets dangerous.”
“Usually?” Gwen asked.
“Well.” The Doctor scratched his neck. “Ordinarily at that point–long before that point, actually–the host is dead.” He glanced at Martha. “Hence the–zombies,” he added, gesturing.
“But Jack can’t die,” Martha said.
“Right,” the Doctor agreed. He glanced at the others before he went on. None of them had registered any surprise. “It’s not very intelligent; it won't take control of a living body, even an exceptionally weak one.”
“So what does that mean for Jack?” Gwen asked.
“Hard to say. My best guess is that it'll kill him more slowly than it would a normal human. His body will heal itself, but I doubt even he can keep up with the amount of damage it’s doing.” He trailed off, scratching his head. “I don’t know how much time that buys us. We’d best work quickly. I don’t fancy the idea of an alien parasite running around in his body.” He looked around. “Martha, you're a doctor. Treat the symptoms. Keep him comfortable.”
“I'll help,” Owen said, coming forward. “I'm a doctor, too.”
He nodded his approval. “Good. And take a sample of his blood. There should be traces of the alien DNA in it. If you can isolate it, I should be able to triangulate its point of origin. That'll give us a better idea of what we're dealing with, and how to kill it.” He turned to Gwen. “Have you got a quarantine?”
“We can use the high security cell,” Tosh spoke up. “I can reconfigure the airflow so it's self-contained.”
The Doctor nodded again. “Hopefully it won't come to that, but best to be prepared.”
“I'll help with the genetic analysis once I'm finished,” she said, turning to go. Martha and Owen left with her.
The Doctor turned toward Ianto, who hunched protectively over Jack. “I’m staying with him,” he said.
“Sorry.” The Doctor slipped out of his coat and tossed it over a chair. “Ianto, is it? You're with me. I need to see the secure archives. Everything you've got. There might be something that can help us there.”
“I'll stay with him,” Gwen said quickly when Ianto looked like he was going to refuse. She looked at the Doctor a little defiantly, daring him to challenge her.
He only nodded. “Come on, then,” he said to Ianto, who reluctantly came away, leaving Gwen alone with Jack.
He rolled onto his side and retched again. Gwen grabbed the bin and held it for him.
“Doctor?” he asked.
“No,” Gwen said. He was trembling. “It’s me, Jack.”
He glanced around, looking as though he was going to try to get up and look for him. Gwen saw panic flash through his eyes. “He’s gone with Ianto to look through the archives,” she said quickly.
He relaxed a little. “Tell him–he better not nick anything–oh, fuck.” He pulled his knees to his chest and buried his face in the pillow, gasping with pain.
“Tell him yourself,” Gwen said, rubbing his back. He didn’t answer.
Time was hard to gauge in the twilit dimness of the Hub. Owen came back to collect a blood sample and gave Jack an injection he said would “take the edge off.” Jack slept fitfully after that. At some point in the night Ianto climbed the stairs and pulled another chair up to the couch. He just shrugged when Gwen looked at him expectantly.
“Still working,” he said, watching Jack. He rubbed his eyes. “He’s very...intense.”
“Do you trust him?” Gwen asked after a moment.
“Jack does,” Ianto said, as if that settled it. “I ordered some pizzas,” he added. “They’re in the conference room, if you want.”
“Did you get any?”
He nodded, not looking away from Jack. Gwen paused and squeezed his shoulder on her way out.
Tosh, Owen and Martha were still hard at work in the lab. Isolating the alien DNA was proving trickier than they expected–not helped, Owen said when he came to relieve her, by the fact that Jack’s DNA had more than a few irregularities itself.
Gwen didn’t know how many hours had passed since then. Jack slipped in and out of consciousness. In his lucid moments he swore and made a few feeble jokes; more often he cried out at dreams she couldn’t see, and she did her best to comfort him.
She was struggling to keep her eyes open when she heard footsteps on the stairs. The Doctor, finally emerged from the archives, dropped into the other chair.
“Find anything useful?” Gwen asked.
“Possibly.” He took off his glasses and tucked them into his pocket. In his rumpled suit, with his hair sticking up wildly, he looked a little bit the mad scientist; but his expression when he faced her was calm and alert. “I’ll have a better idea once we get a DNA sample,” he said.
“Are we any closer?”
“I think so, yeah.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Couple more hours.” He was watching Jack now, his face distant and unreadable. A moment went by. When she didn’t move, he glanced in her direction. “Go on, then,” he said. “Get some rest.”
Gwen hesitated. “Jack told me once that he was looking for a doctor who could tell him why he can’t die,” she said. “Was he talking about you?”
The Doctor gave her a long, considering look. “Yes,” he said simply.
“Who are you?”
He sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. “Doesn’t matter.”
Gwen raised an eyebrow. “Then you can tell me.”
He didn’t respond. A moment went by in silence. Jack stirred restlessly and cried out, his face screwed up with pain.
“He was asking for you,” Gwen said, suddenly angry that he could watch Jack like this and not show a flicker of emotion. “Crying out like he’d been abandoned.”
The Doctor’s expression didn’t change, but she saw his jaw clench. “Go get some rest, Gwen,” he said.
It was as if he had slammed a door. Gwen stood and made her way back through the Hub, thinking to go outside for some fresh air, but a rustle of movement made her stop and turn at the bottom of the steps.
The Doctor had moved from his chair to the edge of the couch. He slipped a hand behind Jack’s head and shifted, cradling him in his lap. The hardness was gone from his expression, and for long moments he sat looking down at Jack with something like tenderness. His hand came up, hovered in the air a moment, and then fell, smoothing Jack’s hair over his forehead.
He bent forward. His voice was so low that Gwen almost couldn’t make it out. “I’m here, Jack,” he said. “I didn’t leave. I’m here.”
Suddenly feeling like an intruder, Gwen turned away and hurried out of the Hub as quietly as she could.
They kept hurting him, and Jack couldn’t die.
He was back on the Game Station, curled on the cold metal floor with his intestines hot and slippery in his hands from where a Dalek laser beam had ripped him open, and he couldn’t die. Not even for a little while.
“Doctor!” he called out. His quavering voice echoed. The space station creaked as bits of it fell off into the blackness. He could hear the whirr of Dalek wheels moving along the corridors. And, distantly, a shout, a familiar voice with a northern accent.
Jack’s breath caught in his throat. The Doctor hadn’t left yet. He struggled to his feet, clutching at his wound. He could find him; he wouldn’t be left behind, not this time. His breath puffed in white clouds as he made his way up through the station, scraping along walls and railings for support. He came around the corner just in time to see the light atop the TARDIS spring to life with the grinding of the time rotor.
“No!” Jack staggered forward. “Doctor!”
The blue box began to fade. In its place, growing more substantial with each passing second, stood a Dalek.
Jack fell to his knees. “Doctor,” he whispered. There was a flash of light, and the Master’s laughter reverberated in his ears.
He was lying on the floor again, cold smooth hardwood under his cheek instead of the rough metal of the Game Station. His hands and feet were bound behind him.
The Master had poisoned him, a peculiar torture he had invented during the year that never was. He waited until Jack was sufficiently weakened, then had him brought to the observation deck of the Valiant and left him on the floor to writhe in pain while he went about his business.
“Doctor.” Jack’s voice was weak.
“He’s gone.” The Master’s shoes came into view, and then his face as he squatted down and tilted his head. “Hello, Jack,” he said.
Jack bit back a cry of pain and terror. This wasn’t happening. “Doctor!”
The Master ran a hand through Jack’s hair, looking down at him almost tenderly. “Hush.” Jack growled and tried to flinch away. The Master’s hand fisted in his hair and bent his head back painfully. He leaned in close. “He can’t hear you,” he said. He lowered his voice, and then giggled, his eyes wild. “I killed him.”
“No!” Jack jerked in his grasp, tears springing to his eyes.
“I can kill you,” the Master said, his voice gentle, seductive. He stroked Jack’s forehead with his other hand, fingers trailing down his cheek. “Isn’t that what he does for you, when night comes? He crawls out of his little tent and snaps your neck so you won’t feel the pain anymore. I hear you begging.” He sneered. He took hold of Jack’s chin and brought his face so close that Jack could feel the Master’s breath on his cheek. “Would you like that, Jack? I can make the pain stop. All you have to do is beg.”
“No.” Jack spat. He tried to jerk away again.
“I can end it,” the Master said. His grip tightened. “Just beg me, and the pain stops. Beg me like you beg the Doctor.”
The Doctor. Jack’s eyes stung. His vision blurred, and the Valiant melted away.
“Doctor,” he whispered, despairing, into the dark.
And then, miraculously, he was there, cradling Jack’s head in his lap, cool hands stroking his forehead. “I’m here, Jack,” he said. “It’s all right. You’re all right.”
The room resolved itself into someplace Jack knew but didn’t recognize. His hands and feet were free but the pain raging through him went on. Even breathing hurt. He looked up at the Doctor. It took all his concentration to focus on his face. “Kill me,” he said.
The Doctor paused, his hand hovering in midair, long fingers trembling. “I can’t, Jack,” he said. “Not this time. I’m sorry.”
A spasm of pain made Jack squeeze his eyes shut, limbs convulsing. He clutched at the Doctor. “Please,” he said, and he didn’t care that he was begging, didn’t care that the only other sound he could make was a whimper.
There was a pause, and Jack heard him let out a breath. “All right,” he said. “Hush, now.” His hands were back, gently repositioning Jack’s head, but instead of a firm grip at his jaw and a sharp jerk he only felt cool fingertips at his temples. The pain began to drain away, as if it was being siphoned off. Jack felt like he was floating. The Doctor looked down at him intently, his eyes large in his drawn face, and Jack slipped into an uneasy sleep.
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