Starting Over by hence_the_name



Summary: The TARDIS lands in Cardiff with a mysteriously ill Doctor on board.
Rating: All Ages
Categories: Tenth Doctor, Torchwood
Characters: Donna Noble, Jack Harkness, Jack Harkness, Martha Jones, Martha Jones, The Doctor (10th)
Genres: Angst, Drama, Hurt/Comfort, Slash
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2009.01.06
Updated: 2009.06.30


Starting Over by hence_the_name
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Author's Notes: Spoilers for all of New Who and Torchwood. Takes place after Journey's End.

“Something’s wrong,” Jack said.

Martha peered toward the main part of the Hub, though she couldn’t see him from where she stood in the sunken, white-tiled well of the medical gallery. Gwen, Ianto, and Mickey were out doing cleanup after an alien spaceship crash the night before: salvaging what they could from the wreck, collecting statements, and retconning the witnesses, leaving Martha and Jack alone in the Hub. Martha had just finished performing an autopsy on the ship’s lone occupant, a soft, child-sized, vaguely humanoid creature that had died not long after they’d arrived on the scene. Jack was supposed to be sorting the paperwork with UNIT, but he had spent the better part of the morning hanging over the railing and watching her work when he wasn’t pacing around or tinkering with various bits of alien tech.

“When isn’t it?” she called back.

“I’m serious. Come here.”

Martha took one last, sad look at the creature on the slab and then pushed the drawer in. She peeled off her gloves. dropped them in the biohazard bin and washed her hands before she went up the stairs. Jack was standing in front of the bank of monitors arrayed above Tosh’s old desk, his arms folded across his chest. He didn’t look at her as she approached.

“What is it?”

He inclined his head toward the rightmost monitor. “Look.”

The monitor showed the Plass outside, teeming at the lunch hour with men and women in suits, swirling to and fro and eddying about in the sunshine, oblivious to the tall blue box standing just outside the shadow of the fountain.

“It’s been there for an hour,” Jack said.

“No one’s come in or out?”

“Nope.”

“He’s probably just refueling,” Martha said, trying to ignore the unease beginning to knot in her stomach. “You know how he is: universe to save, no time for pleasantries.”

Jack quirked an eyebrow, glancing sidelong at her. Martha sighed. “Something’s wrong,” she agreed. If the Doctor had wanted to avoid them, he wouldn’t have materialized the TARDIS within view of their CCTV cameras. “He couldn’t give us time for a good night’s sleep between emergencies, could he?” she asked, shrugging out of her lab coat.

Jack gave a wry laugh and turned toward the stairs to get his coat. “What would be the fun in that?”

Martha sighed. Her medkit was still on her desk where she had dropped it that morning. She double-checked her supplies while she waited for Jack. They rode the lift up to the Plass in silence.

***

Jack fitted his key into the TARDIS door and pushed it open carefully. “Doctor?” he called. The low hum of the time ship was the only answer. Martha’s step sounded hollow on the metal grating beside him. Jack peered across the platform toward the door that led deeper into the TARDIS and called out again. Nothing.

“This isn’t right,” Martha said, looking around. “Where is everyone?”

Jack shook his head. “I don’t know.” He raised his voice. “Donna? Rose?”

Martha burst into motion beside him. “Doctor!” She raced past him up the ramp and around the console. Jack trotted after her, relief vying with a fresh wave of fear when he came around the console and saw him. The Doctor lay facedown on the grating, perfectly still, one arm outstretched as if he had tried to catch himself when he fell. Martha dropped to her knees beside him and bent so she could see his face. “Doctor?” He didn’t respond.

Jack knelt and helped her roll him over onto his back, cradling the Doctor’s head in his lap. The diamond-shaped pattern of the grating was imprinted on his cheek. “Doctor?” Martha said again, leaning over him. She glanced up at Jack as she fitted her stethoscope in her ears, her eyes fearful. Jack could only shake his head in response, keeping silent while she listened first to one side of his chest, and then the other.

The release of tension in her shoulders told Jack what he needed to know before she spoke. “Both still beating,” she said, hanging the stethoscope around her neck. “Too fast, though.” She leaned back over the Doctor and said his name again, patting his cheeks lightly. His eyelids fluttered. “That’s it. Come on, wake up.”

He blinked at her. “Martha?”

Martha smiled. “That’s right. Look, Jack’s here, too, yeah?” She pointed. The Doctor looked, but he didn’t really focus. Glazed eyes slid over Jack’s face and then closed again.

“Doctor!” Martha leaned over him, cupping his face in her hands. His eyelids fluttered again. “Stay with us. What happened? Where is everyone?”

He swallowed hard. His breathing was growing labored. “I can’t–”

“Can’t what?”

He shook his head as much as he could in Martha’s grasp and closed his eyes again. “Come on,” she muttered, letting go of him and turning to dig in her medkit.

Jack bent down and stroked the Doctor’s forehead, trying to soothe him. His skin felt warm, Jack realized with alarm; warmer than a human’s. “We need to get him to the medbay,” he said, because moving was better than standing still. He shifted so he could scoop him up in his arms and got to his feet. The Doctor moaned.

“Jack!” Martha scrambled after him. “Be careful! He could be hurt, or–“

“We’d have to move him eventually,” Jack grunted as he carried him down the opposite ramp. The TARDIS had put the medical bay across the hall from the console room. Jack laid the Doctor on the examining table. “I don’t think he’s injured. He’s sick. Feel him, he’s hot.”

“I know,” she said, checking him quickly for injuries anyway. She took a thermometer from her bag and swiped the sensor across his forehead, holding it against his temple until it beeped. She frowned at the readout, then turned it so Jack could see.

He let out a low whistle. “Thirty-nine point eight,” he read aloud.

“That’s a high fever for a human,” Martha said. “His regular body temperature’s more like fifteen.”

“What do you think’s causing it?”

“I don’t know. It could be a virus, or a bacterial infection, or...” She returned the thermometer to her medkit and flipped a switch on the wall near the counter. Jack stepped back from the table as a piece of equipment on a hinged arm descended from the ceiling and came to a stop just below eye level. Martha reached up, pulled it closer to her and paused, frowning at the controls. She hesitated a moment, then pushed a series of buttons. The machine hummed to life and she grinned, glancing up to catch Jack’s raised eyebrows. “Scanner,” she said. “I made the Doctor show me around the medical bay.”

Jack smiled back. “I wouldn’t expect anything different,” he said.

She pushed a few more buttons and repositioned the scanner over the Doctor. “It should identify any microorganisms that might be making him sick. Not that we’ll necessarily know how to treat it,” she continued, muttering to herself now, “but it’ll be a start, at least.”

Jack took another step back, watching her work and feeling a bit useless, with nowhere else to carry the Doctor and nothing to shoot at. He had spent his share of time in the TARDIS medical bay and knew his way around it pretty well, though mostly it was from being on the receiving end of its equipment. He had even slept a few nights here and there in the bed at the far end of the room, waking once wrapped so tightly in stiff gray fabric that he had been unable to move until the Doctor did something on a control panel attached to it and the fabric softened around him and fell away.

“Portable stasis chamber,” the Doctor had told him cheerfully as he removed Jack’s IV and disconnected him from the various monitors surrounding the bed, ignoring Jack’s grumbling.

Jack flushed at the memory. He had gotten himself pushed into a glacial lake after picking a fight in a moment of foolish bravado, ruining what should have been a pleasure trip on the ice moon of Laja-Ra. By the time they’d fished him out, he was nearly frozen and had spent 36 hours unconscious in the medical bay.

He shook his head, clearing away the memory. He had been a different man back then. They both had. “Anything?” he asked.

Martha shook her head, frowning, her eyes still on the display. “Nothing.” She looked up at him. “It can’t find anything wrong with him. His temperature’s off the charts, and his heart rate is way too fast, but...” She trailed off, shaking her head. “Nothing,” she repeated. She turned the scanner off and pushed it away. On the table, the Doctor stirred.

Martha thought for a moment, then turned back to her medkit and took out a sealed phlebotomy kit and a pair of surgical gloves. “Take off his jacket and roll up his sleeve, will you?” she asked, half-turning toward Jack as she pulled the gloves on.

He nodded, glad to have something to do. Draping the Doctor’s arm around his shoulders, Jack sat him up and peeled his jacket from his shoulders. The Doctor’s eyelids fluttered when Jack lowered him back down. He moved his head restlessly on the pillow.

Jack bent over him. “Doctor?”

He didn’t respond, but he whimpered softly when Martha pierced the vein in the crook of his elbow. “It’s all right,” she soothed, squeezing his hand. They watched his blood flow red down the tube into the vial in silence. Martha untied the tourniquet from his arm and withdrew the needle, pressing a gauze pad against his arm. He moaned again, blinking and then closing his eyes.

“...burning,” he whispered.

“Doctor?” Jack took Martha’s place at his side, holding the gauze in place with one hand and cupping the Doctor’s cheek with his other. He stroked his temple with his thumb. “What is? What’s burning you?”

Martha set the vial on the counter and took off her gloves before she turned back them, exchanging a worried look with Jack. She grasped the Doctor’s hand. He moved his head on the pillow, looking back and forth between them. His breathing sounded thick and painful. “The regenerative energy. I can’t...” He trailed off into a moan, squeezing his eyes shut. “My head.”

“Okay, okay.” Martha squeezed his hand. “Just tell us what you need. How can we help?”

He didn’t answer. Martha made a frustrated noise and straightened. Then she strode around to the end of the table and started tugging his trainers off. “We should get him into an ice bath,” she said. “Try to get his fever down. Maybe we can get him conscious long enough to tell us something useful. I can analyze his blood sample in the lab while you’re doing that.”

“Wait a minute,” Jack said. “I have an idea. Rose said something about tea.”

Martha paused, still holding one of the Doctor’s trainers in her hand. “She said something about getting together for tea and you’re worrying about that now?”

“No! She said he got sick after his last regeneration, and that was what cured him.”

“Tea,” Martha repeated, sounding unconvinced. She looked down at the Doctor. “You think that’s what this is? Regeneration sickness?”

“Have you got a better idea?” Jack asked. “He said he’s hot because of regenerative energy.”

Martha shook her head. “He’s also running a fever more than twice his normal body temperature. He’s delirious, Jack.”

Jack deflated. He looked back down at the Doctor and reluctantly nodded. She had a point. “Still. It couldn’t hurt, could it?” he asked, looking back at her.

She pursed her lips, letting his shoe fall to the floor. “I don’t suppose it could,” she replied. She gave a nod. “You do that. I’m going to analyze his blood sample. I’ll be in the lab if you need me.” She got the vial from the counter and was halfway out the door when she paused. “Jack.” He turned. “If there isn’t an immediate result, get him into an ice bath, yeah? He can’t run that hot for that much longer.”

Jack smiled, but it was half-hearted. “Yes, ma’am,” he said.

Martha smiled briefly back before she disappeared into the corridor.

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