Sentiment Before Sense Episode 1 by Sarah Jane Smith



Summary: Because sometimes heroes are hopelessly brave and can’t bear to see anyone suffer but there are consequences to making a bargain with the devil, no matter who will suffer if you don’t.
Rating: Teen
Categories: Sarah Jane Adventures, Thirteenth Doctor
Characters: Graham O'Brien, Other Character(s), Ryan Sinclair, The Doctor (13th), The Doctor (Ruth), The Master (Dhawan), Yasmin Khan
Genres: Action/Adventure, Series
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2022.01.07
Updated: 2022.05.09


Index

Chapter 1: Prologue
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
Chapter 6: Chapter 5
Chapter 7: Chapter 6
Chapter 8: Chapter 7
Chapter 9: Chapter 8
Chapter 10: Chapter 9
Chapter 11: Chapter 10
Chapter 12: Chapter 11
Chapter 13: Chapter 12
Chapter 14: Chapter 13


Chapter 1: Prologue

Author's Notes: Broadly speaking, a happy ending, but there are dark parts too and not everything is an easy fix. I like Ruth!Doctor, however this is a very different interpretation from Chris as the majority of this was written pre The Flux series. Ruth!Doctor is also referred to throughout this at "the Other" or "the other Doctor" as that seemed more natural for how the Doctor would refer to her.
This is set post series 12, but before Revolution of the Daleks and The Flux. Although I have made some references where they fitted, I didn’t change my plot to accommodate new information, and this is not compatible with anything after the series 12 finale.


Summary: Jack answers a distress signal.

Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, Doctor Who and associated properties belong to their original creators. I have also made gratuitous use of The Trickster from the Sarah Jane Adventures.


Jack was still hammering at the controls and muttering a series of Ianto’s favourite curses under his breath as he brought the spaceship in for landing. Crashing might have been a better word, but, until there were witnesses, Jack was going with landing. Besides, he liked swearing in Welsh. It was satisfying.

With a final groan and a shudder that would have been concerning if they had still been airborne, the craft ground to a halt. Jack checked the displays as he straightened his coat, checked his blaster was holstered. Air breathable, gravity earth normal, TARDIS still broadcasting general distress; check, check and check.

He opened the door and stepped carefully out. He took a second to evaluate the terrain, but didn’t bother hiding in the shadows. His ship was large and unmissable. Equally unmissable was the hole he’d left in the roof of the aircraft hanger with his cra- errr. Landing. Emergency landing? He’d decide if this warranted the designation emergency landing later, he decided. Depended how much trouble the Doctor had gotten herself into, he supposed.

Jack couldn’t repress the involuntary grin, even as he flicked his gun up and into his hand. He still hadn’t quite gotten used to thinking of the correct pronoun. He couldn’t wait to meet her. His hand rested over the safety catch of the blaster but, for the moment, he left it on. He didn’t want to make a bad first impression, after all.

There, in the corner of the hanger, a familiar blue shape. Jack’s heart leapt almost painfully in his chest. He didn’t actually sprint across and hammer on the door, he was a professional after all, but he wanted to. With little more than a cursory glance around the rest of the room, he began making his way towards it. This area seemed clear at least. His scanners had said the TARDIS was sending out a call, but that didn’t mean the Doctor was aboard. Captured, injured, lost...all things Jack had seen befall the Time Lord before.

As he got closer however, he did spot a shadowy figure, standing off to one side. He raised his blaster, thumb instinctively thumbing the safety. To off this time.

“Who are you?” He called out, “Identify yourself.”

There was a long silence and, just as Jack was thinking about a warning shot, the figure moved, pushing itself up straight from where it had been leaning against the TARDIS and stepping forward into the murky light. It was a woman, tall and stately. Her dark eyes were alight with intelligence and her chestnut skin was offset by the rainbow shirt she wore.

Jack’s gun dipped slightly, “Doctor?”

“Yes. I’m the Doctor,” she said, a confident certainty resonating in her tone that just couldn’t be faked.

Jack smiled, and lowered his blaster fully. He moved a little closer. “It’s me,” he said with a grin. “You called?” he didn’t actually wink, but he was just waiting for the opportunity.

“I did,” she answered. “I need help. The TARDIS is damaged.”

Her face didn’t change in expression and Jack felt his first stirring of unease. The Doctor was never expressionless. Or never had been before. During that Year That Never Was, Jack had had cause to wish more than once that the Doctor could keep his emotions hidden from the Master, but he’d never been able to. The dead look in this new Doctor’s eyes was unnerving. Intelligence, yes, but no feeling or warmth behind it.

He took another step closer. “Doctor? What’s wrong? Has something happened?” He had always intended to hug her. Jack was a tactile man by nature and he had missed the Doctor terribly over the last decade. He had longed, more than once, for the safety and security that had been offered (if rarely) by that strong certain embrace, like that of a parent that reassured that the monsters had been banished and all was well. He’d needed that for...a long time.

Even so, a Doctor, any version of the Doctor, shut down like this could only mean tragedy, could only mean terrible loss. His heart thumped as his mind roved back over the three friends he’d met just a few weeks ago. He hoped nothing had happened to one of them. So he didn’t offer (or take) the hug he had wanted for so long, and instead reached out, touching her carefully on the upper arm.

“Is everyone ok? Graham? Ryan?”

She stepped from his touch, not a flinch, more an expression of revulsion that she couldn’t keep hidden. Jack dropped his arm back to his side. Perhaps this was a new regeneration, one unable to cope with the wrongness that poured off of him. He didn’t want to hurt her.

“Yes, everyone’s fine, don’t worry.” She answered, after slightly too long a pause. “Come in.”

He still felt uneasy, but he could no more not accept the Doctor’s offer to go back into the TARDIS after all these years than he could lie down in eternity with any of the people he had loved. He followed her through the familiar doors.

The interior was wonderful and beautiful, as always. It was a little retro looking for his tastes, very minimalistic in whites and blues, hexagonal patterning on the walls. It was different to the room he still imagined, but for the control panel with the time rotor in the centre, in every way, but this was still the room he dreamed about. He’d missed this place.

He turned to say as much to the Doctor, grin stretching his face with simple joy. He was brought up sharp on the business end of the kind of lazer gun that would normally have had him reaching for the ‘compensating for something?’ quips.

“Wha-?” he said instead. Not his best moment, nor his most articulate. But he’d never seen the Doctor wielding a weapon with intent before, and his brain still wasn’t sure how to compute what his eyes were seeing.

She never answered. Instead, there was the soft purr of a well calibrated discoporator, a white flash, and a single second of searing pain as his every atom flash fried.

Back to index


Chapter 2: Chapter 1

Author's Notes: Some reference to previous torture and abuse in this chapter, but all the violence has already happened, and I promise I'm going to fix it at the end.


The foreman of the mine wilts as she keeps glaring at him. The Doctor doesn’t back down a single inch, but she does relax slightly.

“She’s gone. Her that runs this place. I’m just doin’ whats I have to do to make money. I gots a family too, you know,” he whines.

The Doctor feels the glare creep back across her face in full force. “Get out. Unfortunately, current Galactic Law will agree with you, so I see no point in wasting my time dragging you in front of a committee that will give you air time and sympathy, but I don’t want to listen to you either. Morality costs nothing!”

Yaz never thought she would see a seven foot tall space alligator in biker leather shrink like a scolded school boy, but such is the force of the Doctor’s personality. If she wasn’t standing in the centre of an underground warren filled with emaciated, shivering figures in rags who have been kept here for years, mining the shining rocks Yaz can see glittering in the walls, she might even smile. “Keys,” she says instead, holding out her hand. She’s raided people smuggling crime scenes before, there’s bound to be more poor souls in the bowels of this place.

The foreman scowls, showing off his serrated teeth, then he catches the Doctor’s eye again. She nods her chin at Yaz. “Keys,” she concurs.

He huffs and shoves the keys into Yaz’s hand with more force than necessary, before stomping off towards the docking bay.

“Ryan, Graham, can you sort out everyone here?” the Doctor asks. “There’s a kitchen down there, I’ve already radioed this in, there should be ships coming to collect everybody in a bit. Patch up any injuries?”

“‘Course,” Graham says, and drags Ryan with him towards the largest knot of workers.

“Come on, Yaz,” says the Doctor grimly. “Let’s go and get the people deemed too ill to be useful in the mines.”

The tunnel the Doctor picks for them is one of the narrowest and the grimiest. Neither Yaz nor the Doctor are large, but within a few metres they are down on their hands and knees.

“What are they mining?” Yaz asks as they crawl to take her mind off the horrible thoughts of living down here that are invading her mind. Her voice echoes in the confines of the tunnel.

“Kanin crystals,” the Doctor answers. “Fuel. Power loads of things, Kanin crystals. Power cells, ships, communicators.” There’s a long, weighted pause. Yaz follows the Doctor as they ease themselves over and around some fallen bits of ceiling. “Weapons.” The Doctor adds. "Places like this cause chaos across the galaxy."

“I’ve seen places like this back on Earth,” Yaz admits softly after a while.

There’s another silence. “They’re all over the galaxy. And the people running them somehow always manage to slip out the back.”

Yaz can hear in her tone that she’s slipping back into the black mood that keeps sneaking up on her. Yaz hasn’t known the Doctor that long, but she’s never seemed like a negative or pessimistic person. One of the things that makes the Doctor so wonderful to be around is her pure, unfeigned, childish joy, both at the big wonders of the universe and of the simple everyday moments they all share. “That’s why we do this, right?” Yaz pushes.

She hears the smile return to the Doctor’s voice. “Yeah, you’re right. That’s why we keep going where people need us.”

Yaz is about to say something else, something stirring and heartwarming and probably awkward about being glad to do it, and being glad to do it with the Doctor, because the Doctor has needed to hear that lately. That she isn’t alone and that she is valued and admired and necessary.

Before she gets a chance, the Doctor stops. “Grating here, and the sonic is picking up life signs.”

There’s a familiar whir, then the Doctor presses herself in against the wall allowing Yaz to crawl up beside her. It’s a tight squeeze, and the Doctor is all edges and elbows, but they manage to fit together, side by side, and Yaz can see what the Doctor is looking at. It’s a round, circular grating, rather like a manhole cover, made of rusted, flaking metal. There is no light or sound coming from beneath it.

“Someone’s down there?” she asks.

“According to the sonic.” The Doctor’s mouth is a flat line. “Help me move this.”

They both wrap fingers around the bars and, on the Doctor’s soft count of three, pull. It lifts up with a grinding sound. They have to push it ahead of them, there’s no space behind.

“Hello?” Yaz calls into the stillness.

The Doctor points the sonic into the darkness beneath. It gives another shrill beep and glows blue. “Definitely something.”

“Maybe they’re hurt?”

“Yeah.” The Doctor pulls herself up until she’s sitting on the lip.

“You can’t jump down, we don’t know how deep it is!”

“Can’t be that deep, listen to the echo. Ground isn’t that far away.”

“Well, how will we get back up?”

“Bound to be a control panel. The guards must get up and down somehow.” Yaz is still looking uneasily down into the dark, and the Doctor relents. “Here,” she hands her the sonic. “This passage doesn’t go much further, follow it to the end, check if there’s anyone else.”

Yaz still isn’t happy, but any people down here are likely to be hurt and sick, they may need urgent help. She takes the screwdriver, and the Doctor waits as she moves ahead. “Be careful?”

“Always,” answers the Doctor with a tiny smile, and pushes herself into the black.

Her first sensation is of landing on rough, hard ground, but landing well. She takes a moment to feel pleased with herself.

“Doctor?”

“I’m fine. Go and check the rest of the passage.”

She’s in a small, round cave, probably natural, judging by the feel of the wall and the floor. Ahead of her something moves with a low, choked groan. She stays where she is for a moment, letting her eyes adjust, until she can see in grainy grey shadows. Yes, there’s someone huddled at the back under an awkwardly shaped blanket that is too small.

“It’s alright,” she reassures quietly. “I’m the Doctor. I’m here to help you.”

Whoever it is gives another muffled whimper and pulls themselves in ever more tightly.

The Doctor’s hearts constrict. All beings should be treated with more compassion than this one apparently has been. Deprived of sight, her other senses are kicking in and compensating, and she can smell the rich cloying scent of human filth and decay alongside the iron rich tang of blood. This is more than mere sickness, this person has been brutalised, and for a long time.

“Can you speak?” she asks gently.

It doesn’t answer and she can wait no longer. She can offer better consolation in person and this much blood suggests massive injury. She picks her way carefully towards the back of the cave.

It’s a man, she recognises as she draws close. Once broad, most likely, and now with the shrunken look of one starved down to little more than a skeletal covering of skin. It’s not a blanket he’s huddled under at all, but a large great coat and he has tucked himself into a ball smaller than the size of his frame would suggest is possible, to get as much of his body as he can underneath it. His face is angled down and away from her and the features of it are stolen by the gloom and by shaggy hair curling around his ears and nape.

There’s something metallic blinking amongst the curls and the Doctor can’t help but reach out to touch it. It’s fixed firmly to him, judging by the burned, puffy skin around it, into him, is all she has time to realise before he cries out - pain and terror - and flinches violently, before going completely still.

She pulls her hand back. “We’ll worry about that later then.” It doesn’t reassure him, he doesn’t untense or move. “I’m the Doctor,” she repeats. “I’m going to help you. The mine has been closed.”

His face is still angled away from her, but for the briefest instant, a pair of tears catch what little light there is and glitter as they fall.

“Are you hurt?”

No response, no movement. The Doctor feels the cold, hollow horror take up residence inside her chest again. She cannot abide what sentient and supposedly intelligent creatures do to one another. To what purpose, reduce a man to this?

In moments he will be the rescue team’s responsibility, he needs more help than she can give, but she wants to see his face. He deserves to be known; to be remembered. She reaches out and lays fingers over his cheek. It is bony, like the rest of him, sunken with stress and pain and malnutrition and covered with the prickly hairs of a beard. She lets her fingers rest lightly there for a moment, letting him become accustomed to her touch and when the tremor running through him subsides slightly, she pulls him gently towards her.

She looks into his face and recognition is a breath stealing punch to the guts.

He was handsome. She could have told that even if she didn’t know. No amount of hardship can erase the chiselled lines of his jaw or the artistic symmetricality of his face, but his blue eyes, once alive with wit and mischief are gone, replaced instead by starbursts of red and black scarring that brings the taste of bile to her mouth.

His mouth too is ruined. No longer quick with jokes or innuendo or a flirtatious greeting, it is pulled into a hideous parody of a smile by something that distorts the shape of his lips slightly. There’s an unnatural colour playing over it, something pulsing an electric blue. She reaches out to touch his mouth, she can’t help it, instinct more than thought. He cringes at the brush of her fingers and the colour intensifies. The Doctor feels the painful spark all the way up to her elbow, and Jack lets out another of those awful muffled sounds.

“Jack!” the Doctor breathes. Then stops. She doesn’t know what else to say. He couldn’t answer anyway, his lips have been sewn together by some kind of energy beam.

“Doctor?” Yaz’s voice comes from above.

Jack jerks back so violently he hits his head on the wall.

“Sssshhh,” the Doctor comforts, reaching out to touch him where she can see in the gloom isn’t too badly injured. She doesn’t want to hurt him again. “It’s ok. It’s just Yaz.” His trembling doesn’t stop and she runs fingers into his hair, behind the opposite ear to the one with the metal glowing thing and scratches gently in the way Jack has always loved. “We’re down here!” she shouts back. “I’ve got...well. I’m coming up with someone, we’re probably going to need help.”

“No problem. The other cells up here were all empty so I’m all yours.”

Jack is still cowering under her soothing hands and the Doctor feels a stirring of hot, righteous fury at that. Jack is not a man to cower easily. She’s just moved whoever was running this monstrosity up her priority list. “I need to see if I can help Yaz get us out. I’ll be back in a second.”

It takes her and Yaz a bit of figuring out, but the sonic eventually overrides the need for a password on the locked mining caddy, and the Doctor half supports, half drags Jack over to it and they head for the surface of the tunnel.

“Good job you’re so thin,” she jokes gently. “You’d take half the skin off your back crawling through the tunnel Yaz and I came down if you were back to your old fighting weight.”

By the time they get him back to the central meeting point the others were gathered in, it’s empty but for Ryan and Graham. “Transport ships are loading the last now,” Ryan starts, “if that’s another one, the medics are still-”

Graham cuts across him. “Captain Jack Harkness!

The arm the Doctor has around Jack’s waist, the one that she thinks might be the only thing keeping him upright, tightens protectively. “He’s coming with us.”

Jack flinches again and the noise that escapes his mouth can’t possibly be anything but a plea. Graham takes up a position on Jack’s other side and pulls one of his too thin arms over his own shoulders. “It’s alright, Jack, old son. We’ll take you back to the TARDIS. Doc’ll have you patched up in no time, she’s pretty good with her medical machinery. Barely hurts at all.”

They take Jack to the medical bay first. The medical bay is one of the Doctor’s least favourite rooms in the TARDIS. She never visits if she can help it, and the TARDIS knows it so she tries to make it welcoming: plush beds with cloud soft blankets, tangerine lighting. It doesn’t really work, The Doctor still never willingly goes in, and even then, almost only if one of her friends needs more treatment than she can give them.

The Doctor leads Jack over to one of the beds, and they all gather round. “Give me some space, gang,” the Doctor orders, trying to be calmer and more in control than she feels. She’s getting really tired of the way Jack flinches at the sound of her voice.

She pulls the scanner over him and sets it to monitor life functions only. His heart is beating too fast, respiration shallow, he’s in pain and dehydrated enough that it’s showing up on this kind of basic scan. A scan of the tech on his mouth tells her it is what she thought it was - a fine line of lazer thread, drawing on his own body heat for its power. She still isn’t sure about the one behind his ear, but very few people know about Jack’s ‘special skill’ and she can’t imagine he was anxious to tell them.

She picks up a syringe and checks it has a far too large dose already loaded, one calibrated for her physiology rather than his.

“Doc? Isn’t that a lot?”

She smiles back at Graham. An angry smile, too many teeth, and she turns back to Jack before he gets a chance to study it too closely. “Jack’s special.” Death won’t heal the memories, but it should restore his eyes and the worst of the physical damage and deactivate that awful awful thing holding his mouth closed and then..well. They’ll work from ‘then.’

She takes his arm and inserts the needle into his wrist, quicker than setting up an IV. She ignores the way he’s still shaking, the tiny sound that slips from between lips at the pinch of the needle. She keeps holding his hand, lacing their fingers together. She doesn’t often think about how small she is now compared to before, sometimes when she has to jump she remembers (and longs for) long legs and a greater arm reach, but looking at their hands, she can’t help but notice the difference. She wonders if she can still outpace him.

He’s still shaking, the drug not working as quickly as it should. Her eyes flick to the scanner and it shows his readings going haywire, but none of them at critical level. She looks back at the one monitoring tech. The thing behind his ear has lit up like a switchboard and is doing...something. She leans in, waving the sonic over it for some different kinds of readings and prods carefully at it. She looks back at the medical scanner, then at the sonic, then at the distinctive shape of it, like a human harp or a shield but twisted at the edges as though it is curling in on itself in shame.

Her hearts stop.

No.

No one has that technology any more.

Surely even the Master wouldn’t use this.

“Jack,” she says quietly, keeping her voice steady by sheer force of will, even though she wants to cry or scream or both, “this is going to hurt, but I need a closer look.”

She runs fingers over the contorted rim until her nail finds what she is looking for, a tiny switch. She flicks it and a control panel springs out. A keypad of icons in circular Gallifreyan. Jack arches off the bed, spine bowing in agony as it sparks.

She doesn’t throw up, but it’s a close thing. She has to tell him, Jack deserves to know, but selfishly cowardishly, she doesn’t want to tell the fam. They let her remember the good about her people, let her pretend that their loss is nothing but terrible.

“Can you guys leave,” she says quietly. She doesn’t turn. “I need to talk to Jack.”

Yaz sounds like she’s going to object for a minute, before Ryan catches something in the Doctor’s voice and he ushers her out.

“If you need anything-”

“Yeah, thanks, Graham.” She waits until the door wooshes closed, waits until the TARDIS drops the lights for a few seconds to tell her that they’ve gone. “This is an old CIA - Celestial Intervention Agency - device,” she confesses softly, pushing the control panel back into it and removing her fingers from it.

Jack relaxes slightly, panting.

“It was outlawed centuries ago; even the Time Lords agreed it was barbaric. It’s for interrogation. It holds you in a regeneration cycle. This one has been altered, it’s stopping you from dying, so I can’t just...reset you . Not until I can figure out how to deactivate it, anyway. We’re going to have to do this the long way.”

Another heartsbreakingly terrified whimper slips out of him. She really doesn’t like that he’s hooked up to a Time Lord torture device and is so obviously scared of her. She plays around with the scanner, setting it for a more in depth full body scan and closes her eyes while it performs the function, slowing her breathing.

She can’t not look though, Jack needs her help.

The list is horrifying. The eyes she’s already seen, and they aren’t infected at least, but the scarring is intense and still raw and painful. The lazer thread in his lips is burning him and set to shock at any suspicion of tampering. His ribs are also broken, lungs filling with fluid due to restricted breathing, he has three missing toes with cauterised stubs, a back with layered welts. Why didn’t he tell her? She’d have arranged him face down instead of letting him lie on them in what must be agonising pain.

Worse, flashing an alarmed mauve on the dashboard, his whole crotch area is highlighted. The Doctor feels palpably sick. She doesn’t think she can stand the idea of Jack having been assaulted.

“I need to look,” she says tightly, touching his hip.

Tears spill over the scarring and she knows the salt must hurt terribly. She reaches up, thumbing them away, shushing him helplessly. “I know. I know. I’m sorry. I’m not going to hurt you.” She already has. She undoes his button and he lifts his hips obediently. It’s nothing at all like this moment should be.

Fear is crawling through her stomach, she doesn’t want to look, she wants to run and run and run and never look back and never say goodbye. She doesn’t want to see, doesn’t want to know. She has no choice.

Whatever has been done to Jack, she has to help him. He’s her responsibility and more, he’s her friend. And whoever did this was almost certainly one of her own.

She pulls down layers of cloth and looks.

Jack isn’t totally smooth between thighs, because whoever did this to him didn’t do it that humanely. Where a human male should have a penis and testes, Jack has instead lines of twisted vicious purple scars as thick as her finger. They curl over his legs and up to his navel like a nest of snakes. They are still weeping, yellow greenish pus making his thighs slick and sticky.

Jack’s tears increase and his legs curl up slightly, trying to hide himself or protect himself, she isn’t sure.

“I have to clean this,” she says, or tries to, the words dry in her throat like speaking through sand. But then she just stops and stares. It’s not until she sees water dropping onto the ruined mess that is left that she realises she’s crying too and that stirs her to move. She rummages through cabinets until she finds what she needs, a surgical bowl which she fills with lukewarm water, sponges, a sterile cloth for drying, a bottle of a disinfectant with a numbing agent.

She doesn’t want to touch him. She knows it needs doing, but it’s going to be excruciating and Jack is in no state to understand that she is only doing this because it is necessary. She takes a break and pages the fam, Yaz answers.

“Jack’s room is still...somewhere. The TARDIS will direct you. Will you go and pick him up some clean clothes?”

There’s the sound of muffled voices. “Course.” Yaz answers. “Is he ok?”

She can’t lie to them, but she couldn’t protect Jack from this, she can at least protect him from their questions. “No. But I’m going to help him.” She forces a smile into her voice. “Can’t say any more, Doctor Captain confidentiality.”

Yaz laughs; the Doctor has never felt less like doing so.

With nothing more to distract her, she walks back across the room to Jack, and starts carefully washing him in long sweeping strokes. When he’s clean and dry she rubs on the cream. They’re both weeping by the end. Even clean and treated it is still a mess. Even assuming he understands that she’s helping and that the pain is nothing she would willingly inflict on him, the ugly blush staining his cheeks tells her that just the fact that she knows what has been taken from him is devastating him.

She has to concede it is an effective torture. Jack’s sexuality is such a huge part of him, to remove or pervert that...Easy then to get under his skin. She says little more than a brief warning of her touches as she treats the rest of his physical injuries as best she can.

She fetches the clothes Yaz has brought, and bless her, but she’s thought of everything. Including a new, clean coat. She dresses Jack in the soft, warm clothing, and by the time the mundane task is completed she feels fractionally calmer.

“I can try and remove…” she reaches out, but doesn’t touch. “Your lips, your mouth. If you want?”

He shakes his head violently and his hands come up, appealing.

She should. She shouldn’t keep him silent, not after everything that has been done to him. But it will hurt and she can’t bring herself to inflict more.

“Alright,” she puts the coat into his hands, and knows he isn’t able to stand and swing it about him, but she wishes he were. That he was the staunch ally she remembers. “Let me know when you’re ready.”

By Rassilon, she’s going to kill the Master, pacifism be damned.

Back to index


Chapter 3: Chapter 2

Author's Notes: I will say again, I like Jo Martin's portrayal of the Doctor, but there seemed to me to be a few characterisation inconsistencies, and this was written before The Flux. At the risk of spoiling my own work, of course she isn't a villain. She's the Doctor, but this was me patching together some issues that I couldn't get around.

Summary: The Doctor discovers who the true enemy is.


Two days later though and she’s no closer to finding him than she has been for the last several weeks. She’d become accustomed to the morose desperation of a seemingly fruitless search; she'd been looking for him virtually since she’d left the ruins of Gallifrey. She used to go back, just to look at the burnt out, blasted, forever-barren citadel, to walk in the dust that is all that is left of her hoped for redemption. She doesn’t know why.

Yes, she does.

Punishment. She should have been there. Or should have stopped him. Or should never have brought them back at all, should have let them die in the Time War, at least that had been for a greater purpose than the Master’s childish spite.

She’s never found any trace of the Master, though she’s certain he must have escaped the explosion. He has a talent for escaping such things. She isn’t having any more luck today, and today her inability is infuriating her. There’s a rage pulsing through her, not the white cold anger of her twelfth self, or the blank depthless fury of her eleventh. This rage is burning, hot as a newborn star, and capable of annihilating solar systems. Like this, she feels merciless, a vengeful god: powerful as a tornado, a tsunami, an oncoming storm. This rage could end worlds, has done.

She hates this feeling, it’s destructive and untidy and not helpful, but she can’t purge it, can’t fight it, because she’s trapped here in a cycle of desperation for some answers and an inability to find what she’s looking for.

In practical terms, this means that she’s been crashing and banging around the console for hours. The fam have long since gotten tired of her snarling at them and cleared off somewhere else. She’s grateful really, they don’t deserve her in this mood, but they don’t understand. They don’t understand that the Master had been her best friend and that she had loved him and thought the world of him and that every unpleasant and evil action is a betrayal. They don’t understand that even as her arch enemy, he has hurt her friends in front of her, used them as bait to lure her in, but never acted with this kind of sadism. Finding Jack when she had was pure chance. This had been nothing but sport.

They don’t understand that, since he has destroyed their planet once more, and forced her to do the same, they are the only two (and there’s that other one, but she can’t even think about that and about her, too complicated, too much). They don’t understand that that makes him her responsibility, her burden. His actions are her fault. Bad enough if he had done this to just anyone, but Jack makes it personal. This has happened to Jack because of her.

The fam doesn't understand, and they don’t deserve her temper, but she can no more control it than she could turn back a tide, control a storm. Their questions like the irritating questions of a restless child. She hopes they’re enjoying whatever they’ve found to entertain them. There’s the movie room and the swimming pool and the rainforest and she’s sure there’s a bowling alley somewhere. The TARDIS will find something for them.

Even the TARDIS isn’t speaking to her. Tired of having her buttons hammered unnecessarily and her levers yanked about, tired of being called useless for not turning up anything the Doctor can track on the scanners, tired of being blasted with silent rage. The emptiness of the usual comforting hum leaves a psychic blank, not painful, but unignorable, like the gap where a tooth should be that you can’t help sticking your tongue in. That frustrates her too.

Jack is mere feet away. Ryan and Yaz had brought up a chair and he’s sitting in it, head angled towards her. His hand white knuckled around the pole of the IV she had been forced to set up. He still won’t let her touch the lazer thread, and he can’t die. She has to get liquids into him somehow. He flinches at every crash, it does nothing but make her frustration ramp higher. She’d almost ripped the dematerialisation circuit right off the board when she’d seen him angle his face up towards the others in mute appeal when they’d been leaving the room. They hadn’t noticed, and she’s glad for that. It makes something low crawl in her belly that he’s afraid of her.

It grows claws at the knowledge that her clattering isn’t helping, but she can’t stop. Nothing she does helps the rage pulsing hot and bright behind the eyes, the drums the Master talks of, a throb with each beat of each heart, telling her that she must find him. Must find him now.

Another scan, across another timeline and another negative beep. The Doctor closes her eyes and takes a long, slow breath. He must be somewhere. “Universe, provide for me,” she growls out, a prayer or a plea, and turns another couple of dials. Still nothing. She bangs a hand down flat on the dashboard. “Stop sulking and help me,” she orders, a demand this time, and doesn’t look at Jack, pressed back in his seat as though braced for impact.

The TARDIS grudgingly materialises a few centuries back and a galaxy over, lets her scan and then flings them back into the void. She’s honestly desperate enough to chance crossing her own timestream if something doesn’t show up soon. He’d been captured by Nazis in 1943, perhaps she could just show up later that year. The TARDIS hums warningly as she plays around with coordinates, and with very bad grace she pulls her hands off the console. Not yet, then. She doesn’t kick one of the circuitry panels, but she thinks about it and hopes the TARDIS hears her.

Ryan enters, crashing through the door as he always does. His excitement and enthusiasm usually bring the Doctor joy, but today she’s turning to snap at him even before he stumbles over his own too big feet, catches a hand around Jack’s IV and goes down, wrenching it to the side as he does. The Doctor lurches towards them, but she’s on the wrong side of the console and she can’t stop the whole thing sliding a metre to the right.

Jack jerks with it, a pained cry leaving him and the now familiar duck of the head, as though he fears a blow for making the sound.

“Ryan!” she barks and her rage comes to the fore, burning yellow and sparking and ready to unleash on this new target. He’s self conscious about his clumsiness and she would never normally berate him for it, but even knowing all of that, she knows she’s going to shout at him, going to thunder with rage. She stomps across the console room, stamping her boots just to rid herself of tension. “Ryan!” she says again, louder this time, with a definite edge. The voice that had once told Susan that she really was serious and to go to bed right now.

Ryan has managed to stagger to his feet, so has Jack. As the Doctor takes the last couple of paces bringing her near enough to grab the IV to push it back into Jack’s hand, she watches as Jack gropes out with his other arm. For a second she thinks he’s doing the mute appeal he does, the one that makes her forget that she’s a pacifist and very seriously think about using the device still wired into Jack’s brain on the Master instead.

It’s worse.

He flails for a moment until he finds Ryan’s sleeve, then he grabs him and pulls. He pulls Ryan out of the way of the Doctor and behind him, stepping in front, as though he’s going to meet the Oncoming Storm blind and mute and still favouring his left ribs. As though he should ever need to.

It’s like a plug being pulled, or a power cut. The rage doesn’t drain out of her; it just disappears, washed away in one blank burst of horror.

“Hey,” Ryan is patting ineffectively at Jack’s shoulder. “It’s just the Doctor, it’s alright.”

Shame replaces rage. She wasn’t going to touch Ryan, of course she wasn’t, that had never even crossed her mind, but she would have hurt him.

“Jack, I wouldn’t…” she hears the cracks creep into her voice, knows she sounds raw and vulnerable: like Amy telling him that the other world had to be the real one because a world without Rory was impossible; like Nyssa asking about her father and if he was still alive; like Jo sobbing in his arms. “Do you really think I would hurt him? Hurt either of you?”

She’s been hurting the TARDIS for days, pummeling her, punishing her, like a spoiled child denied a treat.

Ryan pulls out of Jack’s grasp, reassurances falling off his tongue. Jack hunches into himself like he fears retribution. Jack Harkness never used to fear: Jack Harkness had laughed in the face of death and daleks. She doesn’t approve of the quick way he resorts to weaponry, but he is good and brave and, more than the damage wrought to his body, she is enraged by the damage done to his soul.

She forces herself to relax, to speak softly and evenly. “I am going to find who did this to you, Jack. I promise I am going to find him and make him sorry.” That’s true, even if she hasn’t quite figured out the how. The lights flicker in the glowing columns, TARDIS approval, and the Doctor smiles. “But I need you to understand that it’s me, that it’s the Doctor, and I’ll look after you, ok?”

Jack nods, a pre-programmed response. She hasn’t changed anything in his mind. She wishes his face wasn’t forced into that grotesque smile, that she could read something of his emotions.

“Wouldn’t it be easier if you could speak?” Ryan asks, echoing her thought. “The Doctor knows how to free your mouth up now.”

She doesn’t even think it will hurt that much, but he’s been subjected to so much, she won’t do that until he is ready.

For an instant, something of the old Jack is in his stance, in the tilt of his head. He can’t set his mouth the way he usually does, in that arrogant, determined scowl, but she can see he wants to. Her stomach drops. He thinks she wants him to beg.

“You don’t even have to ask, Jack,” she reassures. “I won’t do it, I know you don’t trust me, Ryan can manage, or you can do it alone.”

Something like hope suffuses him and she watches him tamp it down. He nods once, slowly, and she knows he thinks she is going to laugh in his face and refuse him.

“You? Or Ryan?”

There’s another silence, then Jack reaches up and tentatively taps Ryan’s arm.

She pulls the sonic out of her pocket and selects the correct setting, handing it to Ryan. “It’s being powered by your body heat,” she explains quietly, speaking to Jack, but eyes on Ryan to include him as well. “If we can cool it down, it should just turn off and then we’ll remove the control circuit. It might spark a little, but it shouldn’t read this as an escape attempt, so it won’t be that bad. As soon as it disappears, open your mouth as wide as possible, that’ll break the link.”

Both men nod.

“Ryan, you need to turn it on and then very carefully place it against the thread, don’t touch his skin at all. It’s going to get cold.”

Gingerly, Ryan does as she says, the familiar whir of the sonic begins. As the Doctor watches, the thread pulses a couple of times and Jack’s hands clench spasmodically. She wonders what he’s thinking, if he believes she is trying to help or if he thinks this is another torture being inflicted on him that he is being tricked into standing still for.

There’s another spark and he groans low in his chest.

“Just another second, mate,” Ryan reassures him, though the Doctor can see the worry in his eyes.

She steps up close and Jack must sense her because he snaps his head back and away. Luckily, at that moment the thread winks off and disappears.

“Jack, now!” she says sharply and a dozen memories from lives past flash across her mind.

Jack responds as instantly and as instinctively as always. His mouth opens wide and he reaches in with a finger, pulling out the curved metal something that had been forcing his lips into that hellish grin. He drops it to the floor where it sits, sticky with gobs of saliva and blood. “Thank you,” he rasps out.

She ignores him.

“Is that it?” Ryan asks, “Is that the on switch?”

The Doctor reaches down and picks it up and brings it to eye level. “No. This is something else. Jack, there must be another bit in your mouth.”

Fingers are already groping inside, but now he removes them. “It’s...it’s in my throat. Can I-” he stops, flinches, straightens, tries again, “Am I only allowed to remove the pieces in my mouth, ma’am?”

He’s always called her sir when he’s looking for direction, military mindset. John and Mike had both used to do the same. This isn’t at all like that.

“Can you do it without hurting yourself?”

He nods slowly.

“Then get it out.”

She should probably have made him wash his hands, but too late now. Mouth still open wide, preventing the lazer thread from reinitializing, he sinks his index and middle digit down his own trachea and gropes around. There’s a really terrible joke about Jack’s unsurprising lack of a gag reflex that now is not the time for rattling around inside her skull, then he pulls out a flat square about the size of a postage stamp and tosses it to the floor.

The Doctor recognises it as the control circuit, she’s been gagged with almost every piece of technology in the universe at one time or another. She doesn’t even bother to pick it up, just brings her boot heel down on it, shattering it completely.

Jack is stretching his jaw and massaging tattered lips. “Thank you,” he says again, more reverently this time.

“Don’t. Just don’t. I don’t deserve your thanks, I should have come sooner.”

“You didn’t know?” Jack sounds like he’s trying the words out for the first time.

“I didn’t know he had you, but I knew he was back. I should have thought-”

“She.”

“What?” Not Missy. Surely not Missy. Missy had been mad and capricious and spiteful but not monstrous, not capable of this.

“She. Not he.”

She thinks about Clara locked in a dalek casing and handed over for the Doctor to destroy. She would have thought Missy too fastidious to get her hands dirty in this way, but it’s possible she might consider getting revenge on Jack to be more worthwhile, more personal. Jack had seen him defeated and cuffed; had helped. And then there’s the nausea and the migraines that Time Lords get just from being around him, a fixed point, a wall that time itself slams into.

She shakes her head. “I’m sorry. I still should have known. I should have checked up on you when I realised he’d regenerated.” Stupid, Doctor. Stupid, stupid. She’d taught herself to think like her enemies, but then she didn’t utilise the skill.

Confusion crosses Jack’s face. He tilts his head to the side, licks his lips, swallows.

“You can ask me,” the Doctor prompts. “Whatever it is, you can ask me.” She’s not above prevaricating, but she wants Jack to believe he can ask.

“Who- Who do you think did this to me, Doctor?”

Ryan looks wide eyed from one to the other. She hasn’t discussed her suspicions with them, hasn’t discussed much of anything, too busy crashing around furiously searching, but they must suspect the same as she does.

“The Master,” she answers. She can’t decipher the emotions that cross Jack’s face, but guilt is among them. He hadn’t gone searching for the Master alone, had he? That would be unconscionably stupid for any human, but particularly for one the Master could sense coming streets away.

“No.” Jack’s soft word breaks off her thoughts. “It wasn’t the Master, Doctor. It was you. A different version of you.”

Back to index


Chapter 4: Chapter 3

Author's Notes: A bit of character fluff before I start putting them all through the wringer.

Summary: Jack starts to get to know Thirteen.


The Doctor actually backs up a few paces at his words, she stumbles as the back of her ankles hit the dais and sits down hard.

“Doctor?” Ryan sounds worried.

She needs to move, needs to say something that will make this ok, and she can’t, can’t find the words, can’t think. Can’t forget the image of her Other with a lazer rifle that she’d hidden away in case of need as though weapons were ever the answer. Can’t forget the image of the woman, tall and strong and setting that rifle to backfire, not to distract or surprise or even wound, but to kill.

“So she was lying then,” the Doctor murmurs under her breath. “She must have known me, she’s from my future.” It would be an unlikely and astonishing coincidence for her to pick Jack if she is not.

“Doctor?” Ryan asks again, uncertainly.

The Doctor gets to her feet, holding out a hand to stop him coming closer. “I’m alright,” she lies out of habit.

“You don’t look alright.”

“Nothing a bit of positive attitude can’t fix,” she gives him a smile she hopes looks better than it feels.

“From your future?” Jack asks hoarsely. “So you wouldn’t- You haven’t-”

“No!” He flinches at the near shout, but that doesn’t stop her repeating it. “No! Jack, no! Of course not! You even have to ask!?”

Of course he has to ask.

“Tell me about her,” she insists fiercely.

“I- Doctor. I- No. I can’t.” Jack is shaking his head, breath coming short and rapid. This is why he has to ask, because she can’t treat him as gently as she should in this moment. She needs answers too badly.

“You can. What did she look like?”

“Tall. Rainbow blouse. Dark skin.” A full body shudder ripples through him. “Regal. Like a queen.”

She forces herself to take a step forward instead of hiding like she wants to. “And how did you know she was me?”

Jack shakes his head convulsively again. “She- She said- I’m not supposed to-”

“Tell me!” Around them the lights flicker and the console sparks, the Doctor’s rage rolls through the console room like wind in a bottle, a tingle of electricity over the skin. Jack’s coat fans behind him.

“Doctor! Leave him alone!” She is a Time Lord and angry enough to destroy worlds and Ryan Sinclair steps up to her and puts a hand on her arm. “He needs to rest, yeah? You can ask later.”

It’s like he doesn’t even know how dangerous she is, even with the evidence staring him full in the face. It is that fact, Ryan’s simple, easy trust, and that alone that pulls her back to herself. “Yeah. Ok. Yeah. Later.”

The lights come back up and normal flight resumes, the TARDIS hums a soft warning into her mind and the door on the far side of the room opens sharply, Yaz and Graham tumbling in.

“What happened? Are we under attack?”

The Doctor feels drained out and removed from herself. In the absence of emotion, the console room feels cold. “It’s fine. Just got a bit carried away,” she says through numb lips.

“It’s fine,” Jack repeats, and her hearts convulse in her chest, because Jack always repeats what the Doctor tells him as though it is gospel, when two thirds of the time it is wish, at best.

His words successfully distract the others though. Yaz breaks out into her open, friendly smile. “Your mouth, Jack. The Doctor figured it out then?”

He touches fingers to his lips once more. “Yeah. Yeah, she did. It’s gone.”

“That’s good!”

He nods fervently. “Yeah, it really sucked.” And, for the first time, a shadow of his usual grin crosses his face.

“Well, now that’s sorted, you want a cuppa?” Graham asks.

That raises another of those shadowy fleeting smiles. “Coffee, if you don’t mind?”

“No trouble at all,” Graham reaches out and tugs gently on Jack’s sleeve, pulling him in the direction he wants. Jack hesitates just long enough to remove the IV with a steady hand that speaks of plenty of experience, then follows, steps reasonably sure.

“You coming, Doc?” Graham glances back at her.

“No,” she shakes her head and turns back to the time column, still lazily moving up and down. “I’m going to find us somewhere to land. We all need a rest.”

She waits until they leave, then she drives the heels of her hands into her eyes and scrubs. She’s not crying, too hollow to cry. She feels like a black hole in the shape of a person, an empty void. She feels every one of her too-many-to-count years as she ascends the dais and starts fiddling around with scanners and system readings.

She’s not alone in her mind any more, at least, the TARDIS is back, radiating reassurance and concern and empathy. “You wouldn’t let me, would you?” she murmurs, stroking over the panel. “You’d take me to uninhabited places, orphan planets, dying asteroids, wouldn’t you?” The lights glow, warm and soft, but it’s a meaningless platitude. She and the TARDIS are too tightly bound and interconnected, if one of them changed the other would change in tandem. You’re not really supposed to have this depth of psychic bond with a ship, far too dangerous, far too easy to be pulled off course and lose yourself in the void, but she hadn’t had a choice. She’d been alone for so long, just wandering, and the things she had seen with no one to share with...

And then the Time War, and a whole sense just gone, a loss that could never be articulated, grief matched only by guilt.

The TARDIS had held her mind together, kept her sane. Mostly sane. But a bond like this is dangerous for the TARDIS too; they are machines, living machines, but machines, not designed for the intensity of sentient emotion. Perhaps she had driven her oldest friend mad and then been swept along in the maelstrom.

She feels old and stretched, like an old lady, or a fraying piece of string. “Let’s go to the Eye of Orion,” she says softly. It’s her favourite meditative spot. She can think there, and it’s one place that she knows for certain is safe.

She takes time inputting the coordinates, she hasn’t been in regenerations and has to dig out her old diaries. When she was younger, she’d gone meticulously through all the records she could lay hands on for the Eye, and had picked out seven weeks where everything was perfect. No surprise invasions, unexpected quarantines, nefarious cults, other visitors being characters of ill repute or any other ridiculous and unlikely problems that she (or her blasted TARDIS) seemed drawn to. Even the weather was exactly as it should be for a trip to the Eye of Orion, clear and sunny, not too warm, blossom in season, scent spreading soothingly on the light breeze.

Trouble was, she’d been visiting during these same seven weeks for millenia, and she needed to be careful not to cross paths with her other selves. If she really is mad in her future, she needs to think about setting up some kind of timelock to prevent that version of her from getting in.

Coordinates input, she wanders around the console, resetting things back to usual, instead of in the senseless restless combinations she’d put them in whilst searching for - she now realises - the wrong mad Time Lord. Half an hour later, they still haven’t landed and she wanders back to look at the navigation array.

The coordinates have changed. She stares at the new ones until she realises why they seem so familiar, then narrows her eyes at the ceiling.

“No. We’re going to the Eye of Orion, where it is restful and safe,” she says firmly, reinputting her own selection and pushing the dematerialisation lever in her very best ‘now, no more nonsense,’ manner.

Even if she wasn’t watching, she couldn’t miss it when they veer sharply left in the time stream and when she looks back at the screen, sure enough, the coordinates have reverted. She sighs. “Of course you’re soft on him. Just like every other woman in the galaxy.”

She eyes the readout for another moment, but the TARDIS isn’t going to take no for an answer, that much is plain, and she’s always trusted the old girl to take her to where she should be.

“Fine,” she agrees after a second and the high pure note of pleasure that resonates from the TARDIS can’t help but make her smile. “I still think you’re a shameless old flirt though,” she says, patting the dashboard. The TARDIS ignores the insult and the column starts to move.

Back to index


Chapter 5: Chapter 4

Author's Notes: This marks the beginning of a section with just Jack and the Doctor. In my opinion, one of the biggest flaws of the current series (and of some earlier one, Five's Team TARDIS for example) is that there are too many companions and not quite enough plot to hand out. At the moment, Jack is the one with the most plot relevant knowledge, he needs time to naturally be able to impart that. Don't worry, Yaz and Co. will be back.

Summary: The fam and Jack arrive in Cardiff.


They rematerialise in Cardiff, in their usual parking spot. It’s cold.

“Cardiff?” Yaz asks in surprise as they step out the door and look around. “What’s in Cardiff?”

“Absolutely nothing of interest,” the Doctor scowls at the TARDIS.

The fam swap looks and elect not to ask.

The Doctor sighs, she knows she’s being a misery guts. “There used to be a cafe along there a bit,” she points. “Did good chips.”

“Shut down,” Jack interjects. “There’s a pizza place though.”

“Pizza sounds good,” Graham agrees brightly and Ryan rolls his eyes.

Jack backs up until his heels touch the door. “I’m not that hungry, I’ll just stay here.”

The Doctor looks at him, really looks at him. Jack had always been vain, and she’s sure that the ruin left of his face by whatever has been done to his eyes must upset him and he may still know people around here, people who might want to know what had happened, but this is more than that. He’s tired and drawn. He’s been through a lot and for who knows how long. Even consummate extrovert Jack Harkness has reached his capacity for dealing with lots of people.

“I’m not that hungry either,” she agrees, “just bring us back some, yeah?” She fishes in her pocket until she pulls out a debit card and hands it to Yaz. “Don’t go spending it all on sweets, but you can top up the kitchen, and Ryan needs new trainers. His got slimed by that bug thing on Monday.”

“You sure? We can go somewhere quieter?”

“I’m sure,” and if the Doctor had wanted to push that would have stopped her. It’s the first time Jack has sounded sure, telling instead of asking.

“I’ve got some repairs to make anyway,” it’s not a lie, she hasn’t replaced the transistors she blew out yet, “and Jack’s an excellent TARDIS mechanic.”

“You never let us help,” Ryan mutters. “I’m doing an NVQ.”

“Yes,” the Doctor says patiently, “and I will let you help when I have time to teach you. But Jack’s from the fifty-first century, he already knows how spaceships work. The TARDIS just isn’t like a beat up volvo.”

Ryan scuffs the ground with his shoe.

“C’mon,” Graham breaks the tension. “Let’s get you some shoes and me some pizza. See you later, Doc.”

“Yeah. I’ll be done around 6,” the Doctor answers. “Stay in touch,” she waves her phone.

“Don’t blow up anything we need,” Yaz calls cheerily over her shoulder.

“Rude.” The Doctor mutters. “I’ve never blown up anything we need. Some things we want, occasionally.” She stands and watches them leave, pushing each other and laughing. And ok, Cardiff has a reputation, but that’s because Torchwood kept attracting stuff or experimenting on things they had no business touching. The TARDIS knows they’re here for rest, she won’t have picked a day with a massive problem, they’ll be fine. They’re grown adults who are capable of doing some shopping alone.

“You could go with them,” Jack offers.

“And leave you and the TARDIS alone. I’d come back and you’d have run off together.”

Jack looks stricken. “I’d never. Please-” he tries to back up, but the door is still in his way. “I don’t even have a key any more. Not since-”

“Jack. Jack, I know, it was a joke. I was going to take us to the Eye of Orion, but the TARDIS brought us here because she’s sweet on you, that’s all.”

His breathing is still panicked and rapid and the Doctor has no idea how to fix this. Rescuing people from captivity in slave mines? She considers herself pretty good. But dealing with the trauma afterwards? Martha had stayed on Earth because she’d recognised her family needed someone to talk to; the Doctor never stays. Free the slaves, load them onto medical ships and onto the next adventure, that’s how it goes. This is new.

“I wouldn’t,” he promises again, panic still edging his words.

She probably shouldn’t ask, but she can’t help it. “Did you try? With her TARDIS?”

A long silence. “Just once.”

She doesn’t dare ask what happened to him afterwards. “We don’t have to go in,” she offers instead. “We can go...somewhere. Is there anywhere you’d want to visit?”

He shakes his head. “The Hub’s gone. And so are all my friends. Even Gwen doesn’t live here anymore.”

“We can just sit?”

He pushes away from the TARDIS and, angling himself by sound, reaches out and touches the water feature, the silver drops flow over his hand. He freezes like that for a moment, like he’s communing with it, then brings his wet hand up and touches the water to his eyes, like a pilgrim hoping for a miracle. Of course, nothing happens. “I’d rather fix the transistors. Do something useful.”

Back to index


Chapter 6: Chapter 5

Author's Notes: Summary: The Doctor and Jack find an adventure. Just another Tuesday.


The Doctor is underneath the control board, goggles firmly over face, screwdriver in mouth, removing splinters of shattered glass tubing when Jack speaks. He’s sitting on the floor, legs to the side of hers so that she can feel the human warmth of him. He’s stripping wires, an easy job to do by touch alone.

“I didn’t believe she was you for months.”

The Doctor freezes, then makes herself continue refitting the chronometre, trying to radiate normalcy.

“I thought what you did. That it was the Master. But she was so familiar with the TARDIS, and she just didn’t feel like him. I told her everything she wanted to know in the end.”

That merits a response and the Doctor carefully removes the sonic from her mouth, determinedly keeping up with cleaning the ancillary chamber. “She wanted information?”

“About you. All the other yous. She said she came first.”

“What do you mean, didn’t feel like him?”

“I was so sure it was him, and, well, I’ve had practice withstanding the Master. It was...not good. But it wasn’t...And asking me about you, about things he should have known about you, it seemed like the kind of mindgame he’d play. But he, back on the Valiant, the Master used to do this thing, push into my mind.”

She hadn’t known that and feels a dim kind of retrospective horror. Back on the Valiant, he and Jack had played a dangerous game of tag teaming the Master. The Master couldn’t kill Jack and was unlikely to kill him, and they’d used that to keep him occupied, to keep his attention off Earth and off the Joneses. If he’d known the Master was forcing contact though, he wouldn’t have allowed Jack to be quite so self sacrificing.

“And one day,” Jack is still talking, she risks a quick look at him. Even though he can’t see, he is looking down at the bunch of wires in his hand, still methodically stripping them, “she came in, and she did the same. And just...it felt different. His mind was like broken glass and barbed wire and scalpels dipped in acid. Hers was like a wrecking ball or a brick to a window.”

No finesse at all. That’s what her tutors at the Academy had always said. That she was powerful mentally but had all the subtlety of a hammer. The Master had used to tease her for it, inviting her into his mind and winding tendrils of thoughts like fairy lights around her until she was tangled and twisted and couldn’t remember which were her thoughts and which were his. It had taken years even to realise he was behind her own defenses while he did it. She had never figured out how to stop him but to decline his invitation completely.

All the pieces of glass are removed now. Blindly, the Doctor reaches into the box of parts beside her and starts refitting the tubes. Jack hands her a wire and she takes it. They work in tandem for long moments, she and Jack have always worked well together.

“What did she want to know?” The Doctor asks at last. Perhaps she can guess her other’s plans if she knows what information she had wanted.

Jack takes a long shuddering breath. “Everything.”

Too much information; and not enough at all. The Doctor fits the final tube and closes and relatches the panel. She sits up and looks at Jack who is twisting fingers together in his lap. Before she can ask a question though, an alert sounds on the dashboard and the Doctor gets up to check on it.

When she turns back, Jack is replacing the tools they’ve used in the box, something she rarely bothers to do, she just shoves them in pockets and then complains when she can’t find the interdimensional sprocket wrench she wants. He offers her a small smile. “Do we need to make a house call?”

She can’t not answer a call for help, maybe if she answers enough of them she can fight off the darkness of this forgotten past life that has risen to haunt her. And she always feels better in motion. She pushes the old chronometre into her pocket. “Just a quick one. We have to pick up the others for dinner,” and she activates the flight component.

As the Doctor opens the door of the TARDIS, her first impression is of familiarity. In her peripheral vision, Jack too is a familiar silhouette.

“I know this place,” he says in surprise, and for a moment it’s like old times.

Then, the Doctor turns to face him, a question on her lips and her ‘where are we?’ becomes, “How do you know?” as she catches sight of his ruined eyes.

He smiles very slightly, a bitter edge. “I was here for a long time.” He steps out of the TARDIS, steps confident, and into the room that they have materialised in.

It’s an office of some kind, two old rusted computer banks settled on a dilapidated looking desk. There’s a reception area with some more battered soft chairs and a low table. Through what was once a screen door, there’s a waiting room with low sofas and storage cabinets around the edge, an ugly picture of a fish on the wall. Someone has obviously done some major salvage work at one time and there are bunches of cables abandoned on the floor. Everything is coated in layers of dust.

Jack walks up the room, and only the way his hand trails along the wall, tells the Doctor that he isn’t as certain of his steps as he looks. He stops in front of the control panel that leads into the main area of the building.

“This is Satellite 5,” he says quietly.

The Doctor slaps her forehead. “Of course it is. The Gamestation!” For an instant an image of the Controller flashes across her mind, then she pushes it away. “That explains why the Earth alarm went off. We’re in the future of the Station, but whatever is here is threatening the planet below.”

Jack nods slightly. “I wonder why they never reclaimed it, never did anything with it.”

The Doctor pulls out the sonic and runs a quick scan, then starts fiddling with the nearest computer, trying to get it going enough to use Station scanning. “No idea. It looks like it’s been untouched since…”

“I was here a long time,” Jack agrees, “and I never saw anyone until the rescue ship, and even then they were only aboard for the hour or so that it took to pick me up and care for the...the bodies.”

The Doctor looks at him for a long moment. “I’m sorry.”

“You thought I was dead.”

“No. I knew. I felt it. But it- it hurt and I was dying and I ran.”

It’s an old hurt. It twinges deep inside Jack, made raw by being here, by the memory of abandonment made real in the smell of dust and loneliness, but he forgave the Doctor for this long ago. “It’s alright, Doctor. I understand.”

She watches him a moment longer and then returns to the computer. She might regret her past actions, but she can’t change them and she’s apparently done worse since to Jack.

She changes the settings on the sonic and tries using that as a power source, tapping a few keys on the keyboard optimistically. The sonic bleeps forlornly and she flips it over to check the readout. “Innards are fine, monitor is paggered. Give me one of those cables.”

She holds out a hand to Jack imperiously, even while she goes to work with the sonic detaching everything she doesn’t need. Five seconds later she turns sharply at the sound of a glass shattering. Jack is scrambling around on the floor trying to find what she wants, in his anxiety he’s banged into the desk and toppled a dirty glass, abandoned by its previous owner, to the floor. She halts her immediate impulse to go and help him, Jack wouldn’t want to be helpless.

“About three feet to your left,” she says instead. It takes Jack a moment to calm himself, then he passes her the cable. She slaps her forehead again. “Stupid Doctor,” she says and then she’s dashing back to the TARDIS, rummaging through drawers and under the console until she finds what she wants.

When she races back out, Jack is standing in the middle of the room looking confused. “What was that about?”

“I’ve got a thing.” She presses a pair of sunglasses into Jack’s hand.

He raises an eyebrow. “Sunglasses. We’re inside, in space. I’m probably fine.”

“I was blind for a while, last regeneration. I was grumpy and Scottish, you’d have loved me. Being brilliant and blind is hard work though, so I invented these.”

Jack turns them over in his hands. “How do they work?”

“Kind of like echo location. They send out sonic resonance which projects onto the lens of the glasses. It’s not perfect, but it’ll stop you walking into doors and tell you if a Jagrafess is coming at you.” Jack is already raising the glasses to his face as she finishes, “Then it psychically projects it straight into your brain, bypassing the optic nerve completely.”

Jack freezes. She watches his hand stutter as though he intends to throw them away from him. Instead he reaches stiffly out to hand them back to her. “I’m fine.”

Her hearts spasm in her chest. What had her other self done to him? Well. She knows, doesn’t she? Forced contact, the worst crime her people can commit, above even erasing time lines and creating Never Weres and alternates.

“Jack, they’re just glasses, I’ve deactivated everything else.”

“I don’t want them,” he sets his jaw in a scowl.

She finally takes them back and stores them in her own pocket. “Help me get the computer up and running.”

There’s a silence. “Thanks,” he answers. Then, “Tell me what you need me to do.”

Back to index


Chapter 7: Chapter 6

Author's Notes: Summary: The argument that's been brewing since the mine.


She sets him to storing and sorting while she gets the equipment up and running. It takes longer than she’d like and by the time she has a blurry purple and blue readout, she’s ready to go exploring with or without a scan. She pats the casing gratefully. “Good girl.”

Jack smirks lazily up at her. “You or the computer?”

The Doctor rolls her eyes. “Don’t start. You do realise this equipment is almost 250 years old?”

“Seriously? Why did no one ever do anything? I mean, the daleks are terrifying murder drones, but people don’t tend to think about that after more than a handful of years. Humanity moves on.”

“This dates back to before even the daleks. This stuff hasn’t been updated since this place was making the news.”

“Explains the retro look. I thought these screens felt a bit boxy.”

“Hmmm,” the Doctor jams the sonic between her teeth and starts digging into the station archives. She flicks through some files. Then shrugs. “No explanations. And it’s not that it was all running fine so no one could be bothered changing it. There’s thousands of error reports here.”

“Good old fashioned leg work then, Doctor?”

She stands and stretches. “Not for you.”

“What?”

“Jack. It’s an huge abandoned satellite that was creating a danger bad enough that my detector picked it up as a planetary threat. This place could be full of anything and you can’t see. If you don’t want to wear the sunglasses, that’s fine, I’m not going to force you, but you stay here.”

“No.”

“Not your choice to make. It’s my choice,” she answers firmly. “You’re travelling with me, you’re my responsibility. I’m not going to get you hurt.”

“You didn’t use to care,” he retorts bitterly.

She rears back as though slapped. “I always cared. I’ve used your deaths as a distraction to save our friends, but I have never once asked you to-”

“That’s not what I meant,” he shouts. “You didn’t care when you were forcing me to watch a supernova until it burnt out my eyes, when you were ripping my skin off piece by piece until-” he chokes that thought off. “You didn’t care when you pushed me out the TARDIS and let me float in space, dying over and over again until you got bored of watching and let me wake up in that mine.”

“I didn’t!” she shouts right back. “I wouldn’t!”

“You did! You will!”

“Jack. You have to believe me. I’d never- She can’t be-”

“She was. Is. I could feel it when she was in my mind. She was you and you...I loved you and I trusted you and you hurt me and enjoyed it. You said I deserved it.” His hand drops, unconsciously, to his belt. For a blaster or to indicate his ruined groinal region, the Doctor doesn’t know.

She feels sick. On the one hand, she is certain, certain that she would never. But on the other, she had locked away the Family in personally selected torments, she had once talked a dalek into committing suicide, had kidnapped a pair of school teachers for the crime of being worried that her granddaughter was being held back from achieving her potential. There is darkness within her, she has always known it.

She and the Master started as friends.

She takes a step back, out of his space. “But I didn’t,” she says firmly, calmly, with dignity. “I didn’t. I don’t know what made my future into that, but I swear to you, on everything we both hold dear, on Rose, on the TARDIS, on my name, I would never choose to do that to you.”

They are both panting with exertion and stress.

This time it is Jack who takes a step back. “But you did,” he repeats; there’s no anger this time, just pain and loss.

It might be entirely the wrong thing to do, perhaps after everything he has suffered (suffered at her hands) she should give him his space, but instead she goes back to him and wraps him in her arms. Jack sags into her, She’s half his size, but he curls himself around her, face dropping onto her shoulder. She doesn’t flinch under his weight, she owes Jack whatever support she can give him. She’ll hold him as long as he needs it.

She raises one hand to his head, petting the hair behind his ear, murmuring the soothing nonsense that she has soothed various children and friends with. “I would never,” she promises and she means it.

At last he straightens, but doesn’t pull back. He stays close, clinging to her. “Gimme the sunglasses. I need to be able to see if we’re going to save the planet.”

She hands them over and gives him a moment to get used to them. The glasses give him a rakish air that she hasn’t seen on Jack since 1941. “You look like some kind of ne'er do well,” she says, simply because she knows that he wants her to.

He smirks. “You know you like it.”

She smiles slyly out of the side of her mouth as she leads them towards the door. “I like fish fingers dipped in custard, me liking it isn’t exactly a recommendation for the rest of your species.”

“That’s alright, Doctor. I’ve only ever had eyes for you.”

It’s a rather dark joke and it catches the Doctor’s retort in her throat. In the beat it takes her to eye Jack, even as she leads them out of the office and towards the lifts, his stomach rumbles, and she takes the opportunity to steer them into safer territory. “Bet you regret not going for pizza now.”

He shrugs lightly and follows. “I could eat.”

She reaches into her pocket once more. “You’re as bad as Graham.” Her hand comes out clutching something yellow and she throws it to him.

The glasses do their job and Jack’s hand comes up, catching the fruit easily. He looks at it bewildered for a moment. “What’s this?”

“Banana,” the Doctor answers, pushing the button and feeling ancient machinery grind back to life as the lifts start to move. “Bananas are good.”

Jack can’t help it. He starts to laugh.

Back to index


Chapter 8: Chapter 7

Author's Notes: Summary: The Doctor and Jack begin to explore Satellite 5 to discover why the TARDIS has summoned them here.


“Which floor are we on?” Jack asks as the doors grind open again.

“499,” the Doctor answers. “The scanner said life signs here - they’re faint, but there’s something. Either a few people or a really impressive rodent infestation.”

“Or something slimy and evil and not quite alive.”

She nods. “Best not to think about that one.”

“I never do,” he agrees and finishes the banana.

She looks around for a few seconds, then picks a direction and walks, screwdriver in hand. Jack can hear it whirring as she follows some signal or another. They make their way down the long hallway. It’s only rendered in Jack’s mind as thin green lines, rather like an architectural outline, but he can visualise it perfectly. This is the floor where he died. For the first time anyway.

They pause outside a couple of the doors that once held those monstrous games, but whatever the Doctor’s sonic is reading, it doesn’t inspire her to go in. Then, right at the end of the corridor, she stops properly. “Ah ha.”

“In here?”

“In here.”

“And me without my blaster.”

“We don’t use blasters, Jack. You know better.”

“Nice to have a Plan B though,” he observes.

He can imagine the wounded look, all big eyes and disappointment, but the Doctor doesn’t say anything, and a moment later the door is opening.

Jack would like to think that he’s ready for anything, but in the end, preparation turns out to be unnecessary. The green lines winding through his mind pick out a broad empty space, but someone, or more likely a group of someones, have clearly set it up as some kind of makeshift camp. There are sleeping bags and the various other accoutrements of human life scattered around. A blur on his mind catches his attention, small but definitely something, and he leans down to scoop up what his fingers quickly identify as a tattered teddy bear.

A sound pulls his attention and he whirls towards a dozen or so approaching figures.

“Hello,” the Doctor says cheerfully. “I’m the Doctor, and this is my friend Jack.”

“Are you ghosts?”

Jack feels his eyebrow creep up. He’s been asked loads of weird questions over his long life, but he’s never been asked if he was a ghost.

“Nope,” the Doctor’s cheerful voice doesn’t waver. “We’re just as alive as you.” She pauses, “Why would you think we were ghosts?”

“No one here except ghosts. That’s why we’re the only ones who would come,” answers a different voice.

He feels more than hears the considering noise the Doctor makes, then a sharp whistle cuts through the room. “Is that a kettle? Brilliant. I think we all need a cup of tea and a sit down.” Fitting actions to words, she immediately settles herself on one of the crates pulled into a rough semi circle. Of course, everyone follows suit. “And now,” her tone turns serious, “tell me what’s going on here.”

“This place has been here for centuries, hanging over the earth. Been here since forever.”

The Doctor nods, “Yeah. Used to broadcast the news, and then it was reality TV shows. But it should all be fixed now, the Great and Bountiful Human Empire.”

Someone laughs.

“You sound like one of them,” retorts a man on Jack’s left suspiciously.

“Nope.” The Doctor says again. “Definitely not one of them. Who are ‘them’ anyway?”

“You know. The Broadcasters. They don’t call it news anymore, but the Broadcasters read the Daily Bulletins. They’re always talking about the Great and Bountiful Human Empire, but I’ve never met anyone who’s seen any greatness or any bounty. It’s a slave planet, and everyone knows it. Off worlders don’t even visit anymore - boycotted on moral reasons. As though that helps anyone.”

The Doctor nods slowly. “But the Broadcasters don’t broadcast from here like in the old days?”

The speaker laughs harshly. “They wouldn’t dare.”

The Doctor takes a deep drink of tea. Jack does the same. It’s been years since he had a cup of tea. “I’m confused.” She says after a moment of consideration. “Start from the beginning. Tell me your name.”

“I’m Jaydellion. Jay. This is my, well. My crew. We’re-”

“We’re refugees,” a female voice cuts across him. “I’m Cerulean, by the way. Jay’s sister.”

“Refugees?” Jack asks, “From where? You said there were no off worlders?”

“About 200 years ago,” Jay picks up, “There was a huge collapse of Earth’s society. Something happened on Satellite 5 and it shut down all information and transmissions overnight. We lost everything: communications, government, finance.”

Beside Jack, the Doctor fidgets uncomfortably and he gives her a quick look. She doesn’t look back.

“And it led to a total destruction of the planet, reversion to fossil fuels, but on a massive scale. It almost destroyed the Earth. We were on the cusp of the whole thing becoming little more than a ball of pollutants, falling through space. And then the daleks attacked. They destroyed whole continents, wiped out virtually everything that we’d managed to build since the Satellite 5 catastrophe.”

“People were leaving, evacuating,” a third voice carries on. “Earth born humans got quite the reputation as mercenaries and researchers.”

“And then some of those researchers came back, with new terraforming ideas and they resurrected the planet from the brink of death.”

The Doctor smiles, the warmth comes through in her voice. “Exactly what humans are good at. You wait until the last day, but you do always come through.”

“That’s what we thought,” Cerulean answers. “They turned Earth back into a paradise.”

“But the people that stayed, they considered it their planet. They said they had been the ones who hadn’t abandoned it. They had charters where they owned whole countries.”

“They charged hundreds of credits just to move back. Buying property became impossible and rent…crippling. It takes years to get moving permits just to move between cities, moving to a different country can put your family in debt for generations.”

“And they control the space ports and the space lanes. You can emigrate in...if you’re pure human and if you have the credits, but leaving..?”

“That’s why we’re here. This place has been hanging above Earth, useless and empty, a huge eyesore blighting their ‘perfect planet’ propaganda, but no one will dare to come here because of the ghosts. They said if we stripped it, if we could find 20 million in salvage, in antiques or tech or stores, they’ll give us the ship and we can go anywhere that’ll take us.”

“And the ghosts?”

“It’s haunted here,” says a young voice. “Everyone knows that. Bad ghosts from all the bad things that have happened.”

“But what do they do? What do they look like?” the Doctor presses.

“I don’t know,” Jay says, he’s trying to sound dismissive, but Jack can hear a thin thread of fear. “They’re just stories. People talk about shadowy figures, cold, a sense of dread...but, so the stories go, they control the systems. The lights. The doors. The life support.”

There’s the sound of a mug clinking against the floor then the Doctor claps her hands together. “Well, I suppose we’re going ghost hunting.”

A small hand tugs on Jack’s sleeve. “Can I have Mr Snuggles back?” the child whispers. Jack awkwardly hands over the bear that he belatedly realises he’s still holding.

“Where have there been the most sightings?” the Doctor asks.

Jaydellion, Cerulean and the other adults all shrug, but there are three children, all clustered together. The smallest one of them, the one who has just taken the dirty teddy bear from Jack, removes her thumb from her mouth. “At the top,” she lisps.

“That’s just a story, Sweetheart,” Cerulean starts.

“Lots of good information in stories,” answers the Doctor. She crouches down in front of the child. “How do you know the ghosts are at the top?”

“They come from the top of the castle,
Where everything is cold,
They come from the top of the castle,
Where the walls are made of gold.

“They come from the top of the castle,
Where they are trapped within,
They come from the top of the castle,
Searching always for lost kin.

“They come from the top of the castle,
Souls alone without form,
They come from the top of the castle,
Stealing bodies to be reborn.”


The child recites immediately.

“It’s nothing. It’s just a nursery rhyme. Everyone knows about the haunted satellite. Even travellers stay away from here.”

The Doctor shrugs, “Maybe, maybe not. But the very top of this station is where the Dalek Emperor died. That’s as good a place to look for ghosts as anywhere else.”

“Alright. Let’s go ghost hunting,” echoes Jack.

Back to index


Chapter 9: Chapter 8

Author's Notes: Summary: The Doctor solves the mystery of the ghosts of Satellite 5.


In the end, they split into two parties. The Doctor, Jack, Jay, Cerulean and a couple of adults head up towards floor 500, whilst some of the others take the kids and keep hunting for trinkets. Jack thinks 20 million is an unreasonable target, and he knows the Doctor thinks the same. A problem for later, but one that needs addressing before they go.

The Doctor grabs Jack and pulls him aside as they head for lifts. “If these things aren’t corporeal, the glasses won’t register them. Stay close.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he acknowledges the order, but this time he sounds more like his old military self.

They head out of the room in a group. The Doctor takes point and, despite the instruction, Jack falls back to take the rear. Cerulean takes up position beside him, he recognises the sound of her voice as she says goodbye to the children clustered around the door. Jack gives her one of his smiles. “Cerulean. Pretty name.”

“Stop it!” the Doctor calls back to him.

“I’m just saying hello.”

“Well, don’t. We’re busy.”

“She’s jealous,” Cerulean observes softly. “It’s ok. I’m married anyway.”

“We’re not-” but she’s already taken a couple of steps forward to join the rest of the group. Jack doesn’t know what to say, so in the end he doesn’t argue further, just follows.

They enter the control centre. The lights still work surprisingly, and the room is bathed in a cool glow that picks out the furniture in the centre and leaves sinister black shadows. It looks exactly like it did the last time they were there. Jack stops for a moment to look at the long computer banks breaking up the large rectangular room. He’d spent days crouched in front of these, trying to get one of them to send a communication to Earth for rescue.

The Doctor is in front of the raised stage, looking up at the disused dangling plasma cables. She turns away after the moment, and looks at the door that had led to archive 6. She lays a hand against the palm panel. Nothing happens.

She’s about to start using the sonic to enter the room, when the main lights flicker. Jack doesn’t notice that, but he becomes aware of everyone turning in unison. Then all the computers whir to life at once with a buzzing hum.

“I suppose this means we’re in the right place,” Jack notes.

The Doctor turns her sonic from the door to the computer bank. She scans for a long moment. “Huh.”

“Huh what?”

“Huh nothing. There’s nothing there. It’s not even registering that the computers are on.”

Jay and the others have gathered at the door, but Jay moves further into the room as the Doctor heads for a computer bank. “Don’t touch it!”

The Doctor already has her hand over the keyboard. “Why not?”

“They get into your mind. Drive you mad.”

She wrinkles her nose, but obligingly pulls back, at least a little and kindly doesn’t point out that Jay had claimed the ghosts were only a story a mere half hour ago. “Can you hear me? Whatever you are?” she says.

The computers flare brighter.

Jack draws a little closer to her. “Anything?” he murmurs.

“I know you’re here. Can you tell me who you are? What you want?”

There’s another hum, a whine, and the room is plunged into darkness.

Over by the door there are a few gasps and cries. The Doctor ignores them. She looks up at the ceiling for a long moment and pulls in air between her teeth. Then she clearly makes her mind up and takes a single step forward.

Since the sunglasses the Doctor has given him work psychically, the dark doesn’t affect them. Jack realises what she’s going to do and a sudden fear seizes him. “Doctor!” he cries out.

“It’ll be fine.” She’s already reaching for the keyboard. She taps a few keys at random and there’s a lightning flash of blue. For a long moment her outline glows cyan, her hair stands on end; for a few seconds her skeleton can be seen, two hearts clearly beating behind ribs. A smell of burned toast fills the room.

Then the glow dies and she turns back to Jack. When she speaks her voice is rich, musical, like a dozen voices speaking at once.

“You have finally brought us what we need.”

“Doctor?”

The lights come back up. The Doctor’s coat is singed at the edges. Her smile is viciously triumphant. “Not anymore. We are the dead of Satellite 5. We are still working, still doing the jobs they programmed us to do, but now we’ll rest, go home.”

“You can’t go home,” Jack argues. “Your home is gone. It’s been 200 years.”

“No. We will find them. People are here to collect us, they will take the hard drives to Earth, we will find people to carry us, find people to take us until we can find our families.”

“We have to.” Jay interjects from the doorway. “We have to take the machinery home, it’s our only hope of getting enough credit together to be able to get off Earth.”

“Even if it does this?” Jack says angrily.

“Who cares!” snaps Cerulean. “They deserve it. Let the ghosts have them. Maybe they’ll do better.”

Jack needs back up. He lunges forward and grabs the Doctor’s wrist and slams it back down on the computer. She laughs, a high cracked sound that raises the hairs on the back of his neck.

“You thought it would be so easy to get us to give up this body?”/”It’s exactly this easy,” the Doctor says in her normal voice and then, “Jack! Let go of me!”

Seconds later, she’s glowing that unsettling colour once more and staggering backwards. She crashes into Jack and he steadies her instinctively. She shakes her head violently. “Right, well, that was quite weird.”

“You ok, Doctor?”

“I’m...hmm. Bit wobbly,” despite her words she pulls herself up straight and turns back to the computer. “Oh, stop sulking,” she says to it. “I’ve picked up enough from you to understand you have a genuine grievance. We’ll sort something out.”

The computer gives another petulant hum.

“Turn the lights back on so we can talk,” she demands.

Nothing happens.

“I mean it. I want to help you. You must have sensed that when you took me over - something you should probably ask before you do, by the way - but I refuse to plan in the dark.”

The lights grudgingly come on.

“Thank you.” The Doctor turns to the huddled group by the door. “It’s alright. You can come in. They’ll behave themselves.”

“Can you get rid of them?” Jay demands.

The lights dip warningly.

“I can help them to find forms of their own,” the Doctor answers. “I know who they are now.”

“I’m still lost,” Jack admits.

“They’re the dead of Satellite 5,” the Doctor repeats simply. “Back when this place reported news, the journalists had chips put in their heads to allow data to stream through them. But the station had been taken over by a creature called the Jagrafess. It was killing anyone who suspected its existence, but because of the chips in their head they were able to keep working at the computers doing administration tasks.”

Cerulean laughs. “Typical Earth mentality. Are you sure it was this Jagra-thing? Keeping us working even after we die, sounds exactly like my boss back home.”

“Well, these chips did more than that. They formed a backup of the person, a digital download of their memories, beliefs, personality, everything. It was a safety feature originally, in case of a power surge in the newscasting machinery causing damage to the brain.”

Jack tips his head to the side. “So...they’ve been in the machine all this time? No wonder they’re unhappy. I was here for about three months and I was about ready to kill if that’s what it took to get a ride.”

The Doctor shakes her head again, hair whipping about her chin. “Well, yes. But they were just junk files. Then the daleks came, hooking themselves into the system, searching for the bits of humanity they could use.”

“And that woke them up?” Jay asks. He turns his attention to the computer. “They’re dalek!?”

“They’re human,” the Doctor says firmly. “But the daleks woke them up and then these Broadcasters of yours reminded them of home. They’re using this Satellite to beam the bulletins around the world. This place is being used as a huge deflector.”

“So when they asked us to strip it…”

“The dangers of an elite class that has nothing to do with the means of production. They’re so anxious to acquire more and more and more they haven’t realised that they’ll cannibalize themselves. When you strip this place down, no matter how much you get or don’t get they’ll no longer be the only voice to be heard, and certainly all those voices won’t be in unison. Finally, humanity should be able to have debate and critical thinking again. And, this place still has all of Satellite 5’s history files. The ghosts have them. We’ll drop them into Earth’s datastream so everyone has access to human history, packaged for an Empire instead of for the biases of one little planet. Between that and an enforced broadcasting cessassion...I think you should be fine.”

“Except for the ghosts.”

“Well, I have a fix for that too. They want form and family, that’s all. They don’t care about Earth, not really. Jack and I will take them to the Solitract. They have no form so won’t be able to destabilize the Solitract plane and the Solitract will be able to give them whatever they want and then maybe neither of them will be so lonely.”

She beams, pleased with herself.

“So all we have to do is move them?”

“That’s the only problem. They can stay in these computer systems, because it’s where the software supporting them is, or they can be uploaded to a real living brain.”

Jack breathes in, deep and slow. Determined. “They can use me.”

“Jack...no. I-”

“I’m offering, Doctor.”

She folds her arms across her chest and tilts her chin but before she can say anything. Jack cuts across her again.“I’ve never doubted you, Doctor; never will. If you’d let them in your mind, I trust that.”

She has rarely been so proud of anyone, even if she didn’t have a solution she would refuse, it’s the principle of the thing. She would take them herself. The ghosts are powerful and harmonious, but they are nothing to a Time Lord mind. She smiles up at him like a proud parent. “It’s ok,” she says. “We won’t take them in the TARDIS. I’ve got the settings stored in the sonic, we’ll open a portal to the Solitract plane from here and just send them right through.”

It takes only a few hours. The lights dim every now and again, speaking of impatience and anxiety, but each time the Doctor bullies or cajoles and finally, she is satisfied with whatever it is she has been rigging up. She opens the door to archive 6 with a flourish and steps through and...disappears. Jack taps at the side of the glasses, but they are definitely still registering shapes, she’s just gone.

He waits for a heartstopping 5 minutes and then the Doctor is back, smile wide and happy. She steps back to the keyboard. “OK, people, I have the perfect place for you. My friend is going to look after you and you’re going to live happily ever after.” This time the whine of the machinery is like enthusiastic children, a noise that makes Jack bounce on the balls of his feet with an excitement not his own. “Come on,” the Doctor lays her hand down flat on the keyboard.

“Thank you for your help,” she says in that musical voice and walks across the room.

This time she doesn’t step through the door into whatever the nothingness is, just holds her arm out into it. The glow isn’t as extreme, but this time it is a rainbow of colours: aquamarine, lemon, sage, violet, carmine all flickering and sparking against one another. As Jack watches, she actually levitates a few inches and then, with a gasp, it’s done.

“Good bye,” she says softly, and shuts and locks the door.

“Is that it?” Jay asks.

“Is it done?” Cerulean follows.

The Doctor sighs a sigh of pure contentment. “Everything fixed,” she says. “All you have to do is strip this place down and watch the world change.”

Jay beams back. “Done,” he answers.

Back to index


Chapter 10: Chapter 9

Author's Notes:
Summary: And now that we're all reacquainted...back to our main plot


Jack and the Doctor stay long enough to help. The Doctor uploads the history records. They pull out every chip, every screen, every strand of wire they can put their hands on, and only then do they wave Jay and the rest of his crew goodbye.

“Ready to go and pick up the others?” the Doctor asks Jack.

He’s standing tall and straight again, the way she remembers him and there’s a peacefulness in him, a confidence. “Whenever you are.”

They walk in easy silence back to the office where they first materialised. At first the Doctor thinks they’ve made a mistake, corporate offices aren’t known for their personality. There could be a dozen just like this, but no. She recognises the picture on the wall, the glass that Jack broke.

The TARDIS is just gone.

The Doctor turns in a slow circle, squinting at corners, as though she may somehow just not have noticed the familiar shape of the blue police box. “But it can’t just be gone,” she mutters, practically to herself. She pulls out the sonic and bleeps a few buttons. Nothing.

Jack can feel the frustration rolling off her like waves, like the pressure in the air before thunder. “Could the ghosts have taken it? Or Jay’s Broadcasters?”

She rounds on him, crackling irritation barely contained in her small form. Jack can only see her as a vague outline of green lines, but from the way it blurs slightly, he’s already realised that she’s never still. That she’s always moving and shifting. Right now, she’s almost vibrating.

He doesn’t back up. He wasn’t - quite - lying when he said he didn’t doubt her. Whatever, whoever, hurt him before, he doesn’t believe that she would. Most of the time. He doesn’t back up, but he feels his heart rate increase.

He knows the Doctor knows when she does her best to settle herself. “No. Not my TARDIS. It’s not easy to steal.”

“Well-”

“OK, the Master managed that time, but he knew what he was doing.”

“And-”

“And yes, Torchwood have moved it in the past. But where would anyone take it? And there was no one here.”

“So where else could it be?”

The Doctor scrunches up her face. “I have a better question. The sonic doesn’t register that it ever was here. Something is interfering with my timeline.”

A chill runs through Jack. “Like...her?”

She doesn’t answer.

But someone does. “Not in the way you mean.”

They both whirl to face the speaker. A tall figure, Jack realises first. Thin. And a male voice. Then the shape of his clothing filters into his mind, the big mushroom shaped collar, the robes.

The Doctor’s hand halts his reflexive twitch towards where his blaster would normally sit with fingers curled around his wrist. She steps forwards to meet the arrival, and Jack is struck by a memory of his Doctor, his first Doctor, stepping up to meet the gas mask figures. For a moment, he’s certain the Doctor will send the new arrival to his room.

“Who are you?” the Doctor says instead. “You’re from Gallifrey but not-” she looks the figure up and down. “Not Gallifrey now. Not in that outfit.”

“I don’t have to answer to you,” the Time Lord says coldly. “You’re the reason we’re all in this mess.”

There’s a drawn out silence. The Doctor is vibrating again. Jack is honestly surprised she hasn’t started firing questions with the rapidity of a machine gun. The Doctor hates not knowing.

Instead, she deliberately relaxes. “And yet, you’re here. There must be a purpose for that. So, you may as well tell me. Did you take my TARDIS?”

“No.”

Another silence, and this time the Doctor can’t restrain herself. “Did she?” She asks, more quietly now.

Jack shudders. He has rarely heard the Doctor afraid.

“No. Your TARDIS was never here.”

“...She’s changing my history.”

“She is. She is a version of you who should never have existed.”

“And you’re looking for her to put time back on track?” Pointless optimism, the Doctor knows. The Time Lords are not known for their mercy and they have wanted to be rid of her eons.

The Time Lord faces her blankly. “We are going to destroy her. She is an Agent of Chaos. She must be eliminated to preserve history.”

“But removing me from history must cause chaos. I’ve-”

That raises an expression. A flicker of irritation. “It is no wonder you were picked, Doctor. Even making your own decisions, you leave chaos strewn in your wake. Your removal will simply reassert the tapestry of time as it should be.”

“But the Time War! I-”

“I have read the archives. I know all you have done and could do. You had the opportunity to remove the daleks from time long before the war. Any other we could have sent would have followed orders, not allowed sentiment to override sense. The Time War will be won, with or without you.”

Jack feels the Doctor stiffen: fear or rage, he isn’t sure.

“If you’re here to destroy me, I demand a full trial by the Council.”

“You are in a position to demand nothing. But I am not here to destroy you. Instead…”

“Instead you want our help,” Jack interjects. It draws the Time Lord’s attention and he raises an eyebrow, pulling his lips into a smirk that feels like a disguise. “Because you’ve lost this version of the anti-Doctor.”

“Who is this?” The Time Lord waves a dismissive hand at Jack.

“You still haven’t given us your name,” the Doctor points out archly.

Another sigh. “I am Quaestor.”

“This is my friend, Captain Jack Harkness. And we’re happy to help, Quaestor. What is it that you want from us?”

“Where would you go, Doctor? Where is it that you would go to hide?”

How can they not know the answer to that question? Gallifrey has long condemned her association with Earth.

She looks blankly back. “I have no idea. She could go anywhere. Never stop running, that’s me.”

The Time Lord sneers. “I’ll leave you to consider then, Doctor. I’m sure you might be able to think of somewhere, given time to think.” He waves a hand around himself. “Nothing else to do here.”

The Doctor’s mouth pinches. “Is that a threat? I don’t do well with threats.”

“It is a fact, Doctor.”

“You’re going to leave us here?”

“Why would I do anything else? Your existence will be snuffed out when we bring this other to justice.”

“Oh, well. Great incentive to help you then.”

Another cold smile. “The great philanthropist. Unwilling to sacrifice to prevent chaos and destruction and pain. You are the same as her, Doctor. An Agent of the Pantheon.”

The Doctor takes another step forward. There’s a coldness radiating from her now. “I am not like her. But I have no reason to trust you when you say that eradicating my timeline will stop her. You won’t even tell me how she came into existence.”

They regard one another. A stalemate. Then the strange Time Lord raises a hand. The Doctor instinctively flinches back out of his range, but he stops, hand simply hovering in mid air. “Contact?”

Another long pause, leaden with everything unsaid. The Doctor’s curiosity wars with her fierce autonomy. She has never wanted the great and the good of Gallifrey in her mind. There are very few people that she wants in her mind. But she also wants to- needs to know who she is. Needs to understand how she became that person.

She matches his gesture. “Contact.”

A blurry wave of information swamps her and, as he breaks the connection, she stumbles back. Jack catches her by the upper arms, steadying her as she wobbles. She takes the offered strength, and looks up to meet the Time Lord’s eyes with her own wild gaze.

“Where would she have gone?” he demands again.

The Doctor swallows dryly. She doesn’t want to send a Time Lord to Earth, but she cannot allow that to bring chaos and hardship while wearing her name. She cannot. “Earth,” she grinds out.

“Doctor!”

“No choice,” she explains shortly, and Jack falls silent.

The Time Lord disappears and the Doctor sags forward, hands on her knees. Her hair swings forward into her face.

“Doctor?” Jack repeats.

She closes her eyes, swallows, breathes in. She can’t explain this.

“Is she you?”

She can’t lie either.

A short nod.

Jack draws back. She hears him suck in a shocked breath of his own. She almost expects him to turn on his heel and leave the room. She almost hopes he does. It would be nice not to have to be strong, to be able to hit the floor and wait for this to pass; for the universe to settle back into a shape that makes sense.

“Before you? Or a later one?”

“Early. I’m the one who doesn’t remember her. She has no way of remembering me. I’m new.”

She takes another breath, steadying like she has just finished a marathon.

Jack doesn’t pull back further.

The Doctor straightens up, she’s pale but composed. “Give me your vortex manipulator.”

“I don’t have it. She took it.”

The Doctor sighs. “Of course she did. OK. Assets.”

“Your sonic.”

“And your glasses. They’re sonic too. Same mainframe, even.”

“We’ve both travelled in time.”

“Residual energy,” the Doctor agrees. “And we’re on Satellite 5. Computing system. Plenty of power. Transmat pads, even.”

“If we can get anything working after we stripped it of every piece of technology we could put our hands on.”

The Doctor looks shifty. “There’s some less accessible systems we didn’t bother with. There’s wiring that we can use and repurpose. Oooo! And...” she dips a hand into her pocket and pulls out a brass and glass bell like structure. “Most of a chronometre that sort of works. If only we had a power cell.”

They consider for a moment, the Doctor digs hopefully through her pockets: half a packet of digestives, a handful of coins from assorted planets, spare earring back, a Jasmine teabag, some pan-galactic screws, a pen and...her fingers close around the flat rectangle. Her phone! It has a green light blinking. Unread message.

It’s a selfie of Yaz and the lads, arms around each other and grinning. Ryan is pushing a slice of pizza into his mouth. Enjoying Cardiff, see you soon.

The Doctor smiles and sends a quick response, then turns it off. “Phone battery,” she says triumphantly.

Jack stares at her. If he had any doubts he doesn’t any longer. This is definitely the Doctor, no one else is this completely and utterly mad. “A twenty-first century cell phone battery is not powerful enough to teleport the pair of us to Earth. And through time.”

“I’ll give it a boost with the sonic. It’ll be fine, Jack. Trust me.”

He gives a slight smile that she can’t read. “Always, Doctor.”

Back to index


Chapter 11: Chapter 10

Author's Notes:
Summary: If only there was a spare TARDIS just lying around...


The Doctor straightens her coat around herself and lets out a tiny “Oooof,” as they hit a muddy embankment.

Jack loses his footing completely and slams into the ground with a grunt of his own. 

The Doctor offers him a hand up while looking around. “I didn’t think that was going to work!”

“Thanks for keeping that to yourself,” Jack groans.

“Worked better than expected too,” she says brightly, looking at her watch. “We’re exactly where we wanted to be. Stangmoor Prison, 1973.”

“And this is where we wanted to be, why?”

“Because, I happen to know where there is a TARDIS that, with a few minor repairs, will be perfect for our purposes.”

“Repairs.”

“It doesn’t work.”

He just looks at her.

“The Time Lords trapped me on Earth. They took away my knowledge of time travel and stuck me here to learn my lesson.” She sets off.

“And which lesson was that?” He follows.

She shrugs moodily. “To do as I was told.”

He can’t quite restrain a grin, but since her back is to him, Jack doesn’t worry about it too much, and keeps following her across the dank field. That lesson clearly never took. “And this TARDIS will still be here?”

“Yes. If my timeline is disintegrating due to a divergence, it will disintegrate from the end first. This version of me is pretty near to the beginning.”

Jack nods. They’re making good time across the field, almost at the squat, dismal looking gatehouse. “Stangmoor Prison. That sounds familiar.” He snaps his fingers. “Wait. Torchwood was desperate to get in here in the early 70s. Or was it 80s? There was a special prisoner here. Prisoner M. Was that you?” 

She flicks a quick look back over her shoulder, insulted. “Of course not.” His gaze burns between her shoulder blades. “The Master.” She admits. 

“Huh.”

Before he can say anything else, the Doctor is fishing out her psychic paper and waving it at the guard. “Hello. When’s the next UNIT convoy?”

He squints at whatever he can see on the page and offers a crisp salute. “Bout an hour, Ma’am.”

She nods. “We’ll wait in the canteen. We need a ride back to base.”

He blinks, but doesn’t contradict her. He salutes again as he lets them through.

“Who does he think you are?” Jack whispers as they head across the tarmac. The Doctor seems to know where they’re going.

“Errr. She glances down at the paper. “Minister for Defence’s cousin. Cousin? Sometimes being female is such a pain!”

She wrenches on a heavy door that could use a new coat of paint. Jack leans forward to help her and she gives him a look that might strip a few more flecks from it. He raises his hands and she eventually heaves it open. 

“So where are we going?”

“Canteen, Jack. Weren’t you listening? I need a cuppa and a chip butty.”

It’s fairly rundown on the inside. Clean, but looks like it hasn’t been decorated since World War One. Jack settles at a table with a few stains and cracks and in a moment the Doctor is back with two cups and a plate with a sagging slice of chocolate cake. 

They don’t have to wait that long before a tall man, dark with a few hints of ginger under the sharp fluorescent lights, comes in. He’s wearing a UNIT beret and in full uniform. 

The Doctor leaps to her feet. “Mike!” She beams. 

The man stares at her. “Do we know each other?”

“I-” she stops, considers. “I’ve heard about you,” she finishes lamely. 

He grins uncertainly back. “All good, I hope.”

“All good,” she assures him. “Now, we were hoping for a ride back to base, we have business with the Brigadier, but our...transport broke down.”

“We only have the troop carrier. I can have a car sent?”

“Troop transport is fine, Captain.” 

He shrugs. “If you’re finished then, ma’am?”

“Call me-” she hesitates another beat. “Jane.”

Jack smooths the awkward moment by offering his hand. “And I’m Jack. I’m Jane’s Aide.” He smiles.

“Don’t start, Jack,” the Doctor sighs. 

Mike drops his hand. “We’re parked just outside.”

The ride back to UNIT HQ is bumpy and uncomfortable. The Doctor squirms with an adorable excitement that intrigues Jack. He’s always thought that she disapproved of UNIT on principle. 

They are shown into an office containing a desk, an old fashioned red telephone and an irritated looking man. 

“Thank you, Captain,” the Brigadier says and Mike makes a quick escape. “To what do I owe a visit from the Home Office?” the Brigadier asks with a veneer of civility that the Doctor knows masks deep seated irritation at what he perceives as meddling.

She spreads her arms and spins. “Don’t you recognise me? It’s me! The Doctor!”

The Brigadier closes his eyes, then pinches the bridge of his nose, then tugs at his moustache as his eyes rove over her from ridiculous stripy t-shirt, to trousers that are several inches too short. His gaze lingers on the neon braces. Well. She certainly dresses like the Doctor. 

He counts breaths. In. Out. He tries never to give the Doctor the satisfaction of an expression. In. Out. He sits down at his desk and starts moving papers from one pile to another. “I’m really terribly busy, Doctor.”

She scowls. “No, you’re not. I arrived during a week nothing much is happening. I’m in my lab right now doing experiments on nothing important.”

On cue, there is the muted but distinctive sound of an explosion.

“Your experiments on nothing much important have been making a mess of my base.”

“Well. I’ll clear up afterwards.”

He raises an eyebrow. 

“No one else comes in the lab anyway.”

His eyes move from the Doctor to Jack, stood at ease behind the Doctor, ruined eyes still hidden by sunglasses. Something in Jack’s bearing screams military, and the Brigadier doesn’t ask about the glasses which seem so out of place. 

“It’s usually your female companions who get replaced with a younger model. Doctor.”

Her lips twitch. “No one could ever replace you, Alastair. This is Jack Harkness. He’s from Torchwood.”

The Brigadier pauses in the act of offering Jack a hand. “You brought Torchwood onto my base!” he says, shocked. “We have weekly meetings about not letting Torchwood on my base.”

“Jack’s an old friend,” the Doctor says firmly.

And, though the Brigadier eyes him suspiciously, he accepts that enough to finish offering Jack the handshake, even as he demands, “Tell me why you’re here, Doctor?”

“I don’t answer to you,” she snips. 

He ignores her. “Do you need to speak to your counterpart?”

“No. My timeline is in enough danger without running into myself.”

The Brigadier nods as though that makes any kind of sense. “What is it that you want?” he asks with a sigh.

She sucks on her bottom lip for a second. “Can you get me out of the way for five minutes? I need to borrow my TARDIS.”

“Because your TARDIS is..?”

“Not here. I’m just going to borrow my younger self’s one. I’ll bring it right back.”

“How am I supposed to get you in?”

She smiles. “You’ll think of something. I remember you being resourceful.”

“I like a resourceful man,” Jack grins. 

The Brigadier colours slightly. 

The Doctor gives a grin of her own. “Well done, Jack! I can never embarrass him anymore.”   

The Brigadier scowls. “I’m used to your brand of idiocy by now. Torchwood is a shock!”

“Well-” Jack begins and the Doctor cuts him off by pulling on his coat. 

“We don’t have time. Five minutes, Alastair!”

The Brigadier gives a tiny nod and his eyes meet the Doctor’s for a second. She looks back. She’s missed him. “Thank you.”

Seconds later, there are yellow lights and sirens. “Fire drill,” the Doctor says cheerfully. “Classic distraction.”

The TARDIS hums with pleasure when she enters and flickers between some different desktop settings. “None of that,” she says, patting the wall and smiling at the round things. “I won’t appreciate my older self redecorating. Now, let’s get you working again.”  She fiddles under the console for a second. “This is such an easy fix, it’s actually humiliating that the Time Lords removed the information I needed and kept me here for years.”

The column moves up and down lazily. “Where to go,” she plugs her sonic into a convenient port and taps at the library computer. “There!”

“What are you looking for?”

“Ruth. I scanned her when I met her to see if we did have the same biosignature. We’re similar enough for the sonic to tell we were the same person but, provided I have the biological code, I can search for any one of my regenerations. Handy for making sure I don’t end up at a beach resort over the same holiday weekend. There she is.”

The column began moving in earnest. 

“Where is she?” Jack’s voice is admirably steady.

The Doctor pulls a lever and adjusts a couple of settings. “Where did I keep the...oh yes,” she twirls a handle. “Fifty second century,” she answers after a moment. “Intergalactic stock market.”

There’s a silence as they land. The Doctor sets the viewing screen to get a quick look at the outside before committing to a course of action. 

“I...she. The version of me before her...He made a deal with a creature that feeds on chaos. The version of me that is her, is seeking to cause chaos across the galaxy, across time, by undoing what I have done and by pushing things over the tipping point.” Her expression darkens, “All my lives, I have tried to pull worlds back from the edge, and she is doing the opposite. She is corrupting everything I have ever tried to be.”

She stares unseeingly at the crowd on the selling floor. 

“Sentiment before sense,” she mutters bitterly, “just like he said.”

“Why would she do that? Be that?” Jack asks. “How could she be so different from you?”

The Doctor’s mouth pulls in a grimace. “Part of the bargain he made; made for the right reasons, but with terrible consequences.”

Jack doesn’t ask further. The Doctor looks back at the viewing screen and is just about to suggest they go and poke around when someone catches her eye. She peers closer.

“You said she wanted information from you.”

“I said I gave her information, Doctor,” Jack confesses, looking away from her, even though he can’t see. “I told her everything.”

“But you weren’t there when- Martha. You told her about Martha.”

Jack nods silently. His voice drops. “Yeah. Martha. Ianto.” His voice drops further. “Rose.”

“OK.” The Doctor straightens, energy flowing through her like a tide. “Time to go. She’s here.”

Jack hesitates only for an instant, then his stride is sure as he crosses to the Doctor, still next to the console. She notices anyway. “You can stay here if you need to. I don’t- I’d never think less of you, Jack.”

He shakes his head. “I’d think less of me.” He pulls himself up to his full height. “I won’t leave you. I’ll stand with you on the edge of the universe and watch the last star burn out.”

“We’ve already survived that.”

“My point exactly.”

She huffs a laugh. “Come on then. Stay close.”

Jack nods. “No arguments here.”

She hesitates a moment more, playing with a few buttons. “Return engaged, and a subroutine to set the dematerialisation circuits to return to their misalignment and…”

The central column moves again. The walls fade, and suddenly Jack’s glasses are registering a boxy hallway. The TARDIS is gone.

“Now what?”

“Now we find her and her TARDIS.”

Back to index


Chapter 12: Chapter 11

Author's Notes: Summary: It's never quite as easy as it sounds, though.


They thread across the floor. The Doctor’s psychic paper letting them into private backrooms and getting people to answer their questions. There’s an intensity in her, a franticness that Jack doesn’t recognise.

“Who else is here?” He asks after about an hour of watching the Doctor methodically take the place apart.

It’s a mark of the Doctor’s tension that she doesn’t prevaricate. “My daughter. Jenny.”

Jack doesn’t ask and simply nods once, sharpening his focus as much as he’s able without his sight. They push through crowds, the Doctor all but shoving her way past people. Jack scans the area, looking for the familiar dimensions of the TARDIS on his glasses.

After a while though, the Doctor steers them to a halt by one of the white stone pillars, overlooking the main room, ringed by counters and screens and the thronging masses with mild distaste. She is panting slightly and rubbing at her temples.

“Are you ok?” Jack asks in concern.

“Yeah,” the Doctor says and swallows a couple of times as though feeling nauseous. “I’m just...my mind should be similar enough to hers that I should be able to sense her without formal contact. But half the people here are trying to cheat each other and having my mind open is just...a lot.”

“You have a headache from bad vibes.”

The Doctor doesn’t feel like correcting him and it’s not like he’s wrong. “Yes, Jack. I have a headache from bad vibes.” And if she’s honest, his proximity isn’t helping. Jack’s wrongness can give her a migraine even through her customary shields. Then she stiffens, breath stuttering on an almost-whimper, “And there’s at least three truly awful people here with plans we actually need to stop. If this place falls...this is the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, finally back on track. We can’t let it be derailed again.”

“Must be Tuesday,” Jack says with resignation.

The Doctor smiles up at him, taking strength from his easy, unshakable confidence in her, even as the weight of that settles onto her shoulders.

“What do we need to do?”

“Some insider trading somewhere on the main floor...something...I don’t know. Something bad is going on in one of the conference rooms. Felt like a Time Lord mind, but isn’t mine, and she - me - is somewhere. I think she’s hunting Jenny.” She grits her teeth. She can’t let any of these things happen, but her instincts burn to go after Jenny first. “The first is easy to stop,” she continues, forcing herself to steadiness.

She marches up to the first guard she sees, psychic paper in hand. “Federal Marshall of the Shadow Proclamation, Psi Division. Suspicion of Insider Trading on the main floor.”

The Judoon examines her credentials and hits a button. There’s the screech of an alarm, the clang of the main door and trading stops. The people look around in alarm.

“OK, not as subtle as I’d hoped.”

The Judoon steps up to make an announcement; the Doctor slips through the door that he’d been standing in front of. Jack follows her. She lowers her mental barriers as far as she can bear, even as pain lances into her psi cortex from the malevolence, and now panic, permeating the building. Her senses immediately pull her in opposite directions - how annoyingly predictable. She wishes for another pair of hands, not that she would willingly send any of her friends into danger without her, but certainly she will not risk Jack running into her other self alone. He’s been hurt enough.

While she thinks, she keeps them straight, turning only as the long hallway does. And there, tucked away in an alcove, blue and imposing, is the TARDIS.

The Doctor walks up to it, putting her hand flat against the door. “Well, that’s something.” She smiles at Jack. “Let’s make sure she can’t take off without us.”

The Doctor’s TARDIS key had disappeared from her pocket along with the TARDIS herself, but a snap of her fingers and the door is open. The Doctor lets them in. It looks as she remembers: stark white, but for some blue hexagonal fletching in places. Jack announces he’ll keep a lookout and hesitates in the doorway; she doesn’t press him.

The Doctor herself heads straight for the console and makes the same adjustments the Time Lords had made to her Third self’s. It’s not foolproof. As she had said, it’s reasonably easy to solve, but at least that will allow them a quick getaway if they need it.

She meets Jack at the door and locks it behind her, patting the wooden paneling one more time. It’s incredibly reassuring to have her TARDIS at her back once more.

“Two enemies,” he says when she joins him, “and two of us. Obvious solution.”

“Oh, no. We are not splitting up. Are you new? Splitting up is basically an engraved invitation to danger and kidnapping and…” the Doctor runs out of examples, “and danger,” she repeats instead.

“She’s after your daughter,” Jack goes for the lowest blow he can think of. Fighting fair was never a requirement of either the Time Agency or Torchwood. They didn’t care as long as you won. “And you know she’ll be distracted by me.”

“She already has everything she needs from you,” the Doctor retaliates in kind. You don’t have a several millennia frenemy relationship with the Master without being able to shake off cruel taunts with blows of your own. “You’ve already told her everything. Why would she leave Jenny for you?”

“Because she’s you. She’ll want to know how I escaped. She’ll want to know if I’m still-” Jack’s voice hitches and he stops. “I can distract her.”

“I will not lose anyone else,” the Doctor growls, low and certain and absolute as rock, leaving no room for argument.

“You won’t lose me. She can’t kill me.” Jack argues right back.

The Doctor growls again, paces a couple of steps away from the TARDIS then turns and faces Jack once more. Her eyes are blazing. “You don’t let her hurt you if you can possibly prevent it,” she says with the same absolute authority. “You can’t run her a merry dance indefinitely with your eyes, but you try. And when she catches you...Jack. Do what she wants. Tell her whatever she wants. Do not dare try to protect me.”

He nods, and only then, with Doctor’s grudging acquiescence, does the fear kick in. He gives her the best smile he can twist his lips into, but before he can muster the strength to turn, he can’t help but ask, “You’ll come get me, yeah?”

He’s so much taller than her now, so much bigger in every possible sense, but when the Doctor grabs him by the lapels, he feels dwarfed by her sheer presence. She has to stand on tiptoes to press a chaste kiss to his lips, but the power in it, the intensity, warms him to his core. “I will come for you,” she vows. “I’ll be as quick as I can. Don’t let her hurt you,” she says firmly once again.

“Yes, ma’am,” and then he’s sauntering down the hallway towards a danger he cannot see, arrogance and strength in every stride. The kind of walk that invites the interest of predators.

The Doctor watches until he is out of sight, then she takes the opposite path into her own danger.

Back to index


Chapter 13: Chapter 12

Author's Notes: Summary: First, the Doctor deals with her own problem


She follows the winding hallway, using her psychic senses more than any other means of discerning direction. There’s a Time Lord mind, just on the edges of her perception. She can only sense it at all because she is searching for one.

The lights are dimmer here and flickering, this part of the building falling into disrepair and disuse. The Doctor doesn’t bother to keep to the shadows, instead moving quickly down the very centre of the hallway, daring anyone to get in her way.

Her sonic is already in hand when she reaches a door on the extreme edge of the building. There’s only one fluorescent strip light casting an orange-y glow, painting the windowless hall in tiger stripes. The door she’s aiming for is ajar and there are angry voices coming from beyond it.

The Doctor’s instinct is to make her way straight into the room, deal with this problem as quickly as possible, and get back to Jack and her other self, but the knowledge of another Time Lord makes her hesitate in the doorway. She wants to know who it is before she reveals herself.

It’s little more than a storage room, down to the chipped number and old fashioned catch on the Doctor’s side of the door, and piled high with broken chairs and cracked screens, twins to those in the main room downstairs. It isn’t as dark as the hallway outside, not because it is in better repair, but because someone has fixed fat, dripping candles to every available surface. There are two tall lamps with multi coloured glass globes full of light in each corner.

They serve to throw the room into sharp relief, and rundown and ramshackle as it is, it is clean. Her eyes latch onto a large pile of comfortable looking, even luxurious, bedding rolled in a corner. Someone is living in this room.

Her attention though is held, not by the incongruities of the space, but by the figures within.

The one facing the door is obviously a Time Lord. This close, the presence that was before only on the edge of the Doctor’s awareness, is almost over powering, a swirling mass of silver-greys so that the mind feels like storm clouds full of thunder and blades and bismuth metal, charred dark. Her thoughts are fathomless and shot through with threads of red and orange and gold. A firelike fury that only her fearsome will keeps contained. It’s a new regeneration, but the Doctor could never forget the shape of those thoughts, patterned like Damascus steel. This regeneration is young, and looks as sharp as the knives the thoughts feel like. She has high cheekbones and furious looking eyes that crackle with the fire that burns the Doctor, as her lowered awareness brushes over those once familiar thoughts. She is wearing a black wraparound and high, many buckled boots this time around, instead of the important looking power suits or practical work clothes she had worn in the past. Her huge quantities of hair are held back from her face with a complicated looking system of black bands.

What is the Rani doing here?

And why, the Doctor notices with a sudden bolt of alarm that causes both of her hearts to skip a beat, is she facing another figure that she recognises?

This one is unforgettable and unchanged, unaged even: slim, gymnast’s frame and blonde hair identical to the last time the Doctor saw her. It crosses the Doctor’s mind that they share a family resemblance now.

Jenny stands in the centre of the room, hip cocked and full of a conviction that the Doctor recognises, still dressed in muted olive military tones. She looks confident and strong and the Doctor feels her hearts swell.

She doesn’t enter the room. Doesn’t want Jenny to feel like she’s taking over in part, but Jenny is also twirling a small remote of some kind in her hand with a studied indifference. Its chrome edges catch the light. She’s obviously worked hard for this moment, and the Doctor doesn’t dare distract her. The Rani is a master at taking advantage of tiny distractions. She doesn’t dare leave either though.

That conviction is familiar to the Doctor, and she knows, she hopes, that she still does have an immovable faith in some absolute rightness, but Jenny’s posture speaks of youth and strength too and it’s been a long time since the Doctor felt that. She knows the consequences of feeling that.

So she lingers where she is, just out of sight, to be certain that the Rani has no opportunity to teach those consequences to Jenny.

She deserves to keep her conviction for a little longer.

“Nothing I’m doing here is illegal,” the Rani is saying archly. “The Shadow Proclamation doesn't care how I choose to play the stock market, as long as my techniques are non lethal and I’m not causing harm to anyone.”

“Just taking advantage of it.”

“Not my fault if timelines are rearranging themselves. Like I said, I’m well within my rights.”

“Arms dealing is frowned upon.”

The Rani raises an elegant eyebrow. “Arms dealing? Who said anything about arms dealing? Sounds tacky to me.”

“You’ve bought every remaining share in the Villengard Consortium. The only thing of value they ever had was the Villengard Factory. Those shares are worth nothing, but if that factory just...sprung back into being, you’d have all the Galactic Credits you could spend.”

The Rani makes a show of looking around in boredom. “Yes. This is my plan, I know how it works.”

“No point in owning a weapons factory if you’re not going to take advantage of it.”

She shrugs. “Prove it!”

“I can’t, and you know it. But we both know whose timeline is disintegrating to bring that factory back. And if he stops, if all his deeds are removed from time,” her breath hitches and the Doctor inches forward a step. She does love a good entrance and few lines are as perfect as that.

The Rani shifts forward too with Jenny’s fractional change in focus and Jenny is forced to dance back a step.

The Doctor freezes again. She’s lived through this moment with any number of villains any number of times. She wouldn’t have appreciated an intrusion. Besides, Jenny is like her. Is her. She would not have appreciated her dad striding in and taking over her moment of thwarting a nefarious plan. She raises the screwdriver though, ready to blow out one of the lights to give Jenny a moment without the Rani’s eyes on her if needed.

“...If all his deeds were removed from time, you’d have endless war across the stars to supply guns to!”

“As though I care about paltry trade. But the universe will become a petri dish for my experiments in chaos theory.”

Jenny’s shoulders roll, confidence mutating to smugness. She holds up the box. “Not without this. Timeline reader, isn’t it?”

She’s going to destroy it. The Doctor senses it, and the Rani must too, because throwing caution to the wind she leaps for Jenny. It does her no good.

Jenny isn’t armed, the Doctor feels, if possible, even more proud, but she is prepared with an electromagnet. The thing pops and sparks and the Rani howls. Jenny throws the useless remnants of the control at the Rani. Those perfect soldier reflexes make her aim true and it bounces right off the centre of her forehead. “Guess you’ll need to gamble on your stocks, same as everyone else.”

It doesn’t even slow the Rani down and Jenny, having wasted a crucial second on sarcasm, is a fraction too slow.

The Doctor uses her sonic, a high, whining sound, beyond human, beyond even Time Lord, hearing shakes the room. The resonating note is such that it only takes a second. With a sound like a minor musical explosion, the glass globes shatter and the light shuts off.

The Rani yelps and pulls back, instinctively shielding her face from the flying glass. Both of the women are thrown into the soft focus of candlelight. It plays the tricks the Doctor has often relied on with improbably lengthened shadows and distance. Jenny twists sideways and heads for the door like an eel, body straight as a professional runner’s.

The Doctor would love to catch her in a hug, spin her around and tell her how brilliant she is, how good and brave and clever. How she is everything she could have ever wanted a child of hers to be. How she learned the most important lesson the Doctor had to teach her in exactly the way the Doctor wanted her to.

She’d like to say sorry for not protecting her on Messaline. How he would have done anything to have taken the bullet in her stead.

But Jenny doesn’t have time.

She has only a second of distraction before the Rani is after her. Indeed, even as she rounds the first corner, the Rani appears in the open doorway. The Doctor is prepared to trip her, to buy Jenny another second, but the Rani has always been concerned with her dignity and the loss has already occured. The Rani has too much pride to chase her.

Instead she stops in the doorway, and the presence that had been overwhelming before is suffocating now, almost enough to drive the Doctor to the ground, certainly enough to push her back against the wall, scrambling to reassemble her barriers.

“Go on then!” The Rani screams, hoarse and animalistic sounding with rage. “Run! Your precious Doctor will be gone from the universe in 16 days, and you along with him, brat! The latest regeneration will disappear in 4 days and then one each day. And HE’LL BE GONE!!”

“She, actually, nowadays,” the Doctor says, stepping into the hallway fully. She pushes the Rani back, slams the door, and locks it. It won’t hold her forever, but it will give her a few moments.

The Doctor spins on her heel and hares down the hallway. She longs to follow Jenny, but she takes the left turning, and goes after Jack.

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Chapter 14: Chapter 13

Author's Notes: Summary: And then, Jack tries to deal with his. (The Doctor helps.)

Sorry for the long chapter, gang. This just kind of...kept going. Enjoy!


It doesn’t take Jack long to sense that he’s being followed. He does what the Doctor told him and does his best to lead whoever it is on a wild goose chase, made harder by the Judoon lockdown in certain areas.

At least it means that the place is empty.

Whoever is following him isn’t quite as stealthy as he; more focused on speed. He hears the click of a boot heel occasionally, the creak of a door opened too quickly. No matter how far ahead he gets though, no matter what false trails he leaves, they never falter. It’s like a nightmare, no matter what he does it’s always right behind him.

Like they can sense him.

The Doctor once said that he just felt wrong, it had hurt, at the time. And okay, the Doctor left him and that had hurt too, but he...she...had always been too kind to go on about it.

Jack has, by now, faced off against two much less kind Time Lords. They have been more than happy to tell him what he feels like in their minds.

Like something slick and slimy and oozing, unignorably unpleasant.

Like a pebble in the mind, rubbing and uncomfortable with every thought, every motion.

Like a too bright light that prevents sleep or relaxation and burns even through closed lids.

Nothing he does hides the trail he knows he is leaving.

He is unutterably grateful for the sunglasses the Doctor gave him. He can feel his heart slamming against his ribcage, breath catching in his throat as fear surges through him, urging him to hide and curl up small and hope. He cannot imagine how terrifying this would be if he were stumbling around in the dark.

At least she never made him do that. The blindness was designed to keep him close.

The green blocky lines projected into his mind by the sunglasses allow him to make his way through the warren of corridors. The Intergalactic Stock Exchange is huge, full of offices and archival rooms and communication hubs to broadcast the latest data across the galaxy. He dashes through an empty floor that looks to have once contained the Humanoid Resources department. There’s a paddling pool at the back that normally he would have been fascinated by for a worker who must have been slightly less humanoid. A huge, bay windowed corner office usually manned by someone important - Finance Director probably. He avoids her through the maze of the IT department, though the shape of the room and the sparse decor throw echoes in all directions. More than once he is certain he is about to feel the touch of her hand.

At the top of a staircase, he finally makes an inevitable error. He’s lapped both the floor he started on and the one above. He has a working internal map of the shape of the building and, as he sprints up another flight of stairs, he assumes that the door he is pelting through is a waystation. A place for resources to be stored, for a receptionist to direct guests, for staff toilets and a vending machine.

It isn’t and there isn’t a door on the far wall. Instead, it’s an enormous conference room, a table big enough to seat fifty takes up the centre space, with a large projector system at one end and a tiny kitchenette on the left. He spins to head out again, to go back to the stairs, maybe. Or try the other direction.

And she’s already in the doorway, blocking his exit unless he barrels past her.

He probably could. He’s put some of his previous muscle mass back on in the time he’s spent in the TARDIS. She, despite her imposing way of holding herself, would be no match for his raw strength. But he fears to go too near to her, and he hesitates a moment too long and her blaster is in her hand.

Jack knows all too well how much that hurts when he has to live through it.

He stops and raises his hands.

Even only able to see outlines rendered in green lines, he can visualise her perfectly. The jewel tone shirt: bright, happy colours, perfect for a young, innocent - more innocent - version of the Doctor. He knows the expressions of her face. He spent months studying them, knowing each and every one of them, knowing what they mean and how to react to them to prevent the worst of the pain.

She cocks her head to the side, blaster resting in her hands, held with a casual competence that Jack knows well. “How can you possibly be here?” she asks.

He swallows hard. “Is this a conversation or an interrogation?” His voice is would-be steady.

She remains still, then shrugs and lowers the weapon, letting it dangle at her side. “Now answer the question.”

“The Doctor rescued me,” he says defiantly.

“I’m the Doctor,” she says dangerously.

Jack’s nerve fails him and he doesn’t dispute her. “A different Doctor,” he says instead.

She takes a step forward and he can’t help it, he takes a matching one back. “How did you trick her?”

“W-what?”

“How did you get her to release you instead of keeping you where you belonged? Why couldn’t she sense your perversion of the timestream?”

Her incredulity firms Jack’s jaw slightly. “I told you. I travelled with you. Before. She knew me. She helped me. That’s what the Doctor does.” His heart gives another painful slam against his ribs. It’s been a long time since he dared tell her she wasn’t the Doctor, but that was self-respect earningly close. Even though the Doctor says she is.

She takes three quick steps towards him this time, heels clicking on the hardwood floor and Jack can’t back up any more, the table is in the way. He flinches when her hand wraps around his arm and he can’t help the reflexive tilt of his chin downwards. He’s not supposed to look her in the eyes.

The other hand reaches out and plucks the glasses from his face. He gives a small mewl as the psychic link stretches and snaps, as he’s plunged back into darkness, and he can feel himself start to shake.

“What are these?”

“They let me see.” He keeps his tone low and respectful and soothes his pride by reminding himself that the Doctor had told him to give her what she wanted.

He hears the glasses hit the floor and lets out a low plea that he has no hope of restraining. It doesn’t even slow her down and he hears them crunch under her boot. “You don’t deserve to see,” she reminds him, calm and reasonable. “You’re too dangerous. A man who is also a fixed fact in time, you shouldn’t exist. You have to be confined for the safety of the universe. You understand, don’t you?”

He nods and wants to tell himself it’s nothing but habit, that her words don’t hook into him. But he is dangerous. How many people has he gotten killed?

She doesn’t allow a silent nod.

“That’s not how we answer questions.” Still kind in tone, but firm too, a nursery teacher insisting on hands being washed before treats are given.

“Yes, My Lord Doctor. I’m too dangerous to be allowed to see.”

“Good boy. You haven’t forgotten everything, I see.” Her hand, still on his arm, squeezes almost comfortingly. Then a pause.

Jack waits patiently, allowing her to consider what to do with him. There’s a fine tremor in his limbs, but he can already feel the old instincts of immediate obedience washing back into him. Still anchored in place by her hand, Jack allows her to probe the still-tender scarring around his eyes with a cold finger.

“Healing. Good.”

The hand trails down his body, testing the ribs - mostly healed - and his back - no longer ruined skin, but still new and tender.

“Which Doctor are you with?” she asks.

“Your thirteenth self,” Jack answers. “She’s female, not like the Doctors I travelled with.”

“What does she look like?”

Jack flinches. He’s always been punished for not answering her questions immediately and fully. “I- I don’t know. I can’t- She’s short. Earth-English Northern accent. Strong and steady and kind.” He’s babbling and he can’t stop and it’s what the Doctor told him to do but he feels as though he’s betraying her. He grits his teeth against pleas and apologies. He won’t, not again.

She sighs, heavy and irritated. “Yes. Rainbow Barbie me. We’ve met.”

Jack’s lips twitch, but before he can say anything her hand travels still lower and gropes him firmly between the legs. “Well, she might have been thoroughly taken in by you. She seemed like an idiot, maybe she doesn’t realise that you need to be prevented from running amok through time, but she hasn’t repaired you, you still can’t pervert the timelines further with your seed.”

Jack can’t help it this time, he fights. He’s healthier than he’s been in months and unbound and he lashes out wildly. The Doctor though, in any incarnation, is used to unexpected blows coming out of nowhere and she’s ready for him. Quick as a snake she dodges and lets go of him. Though he can sense her nearby, he can’t pinpoint her exact location.

She grabs his wrist as he makes a desperate grab for her and twists it in a way that makes him freeze. It doesn’t hurt, but he can tell that she could make it. She pulls the arm up and back, extending the elbow, and it still doesn’t hurt, not exactly, but he can feel muscles pulling away from their usual position, twitching and locking and he feels like a fish caught on a hook. She could rip his whole arm off like this, he has no doubt. There’s the characteristic whine of a blaster powering up.

“Get down,” she orders quietly. “I won’t let you hurt anyone else like the dangerous animal you are.”

He should. His every instinct tells him to follow the order: fear of pain and fear of her and the Doctor’s orders all in agreement. But he fights anyway because she might defeat him but he isn’t beaten until he believes that he is.

Instantly, he’s proved right. The unnatural stretchiness in his elbow and wrist and fingers becomes white hot agony, then she drops his arm, easing the pain for a moment and leaving him doubled over and panting through his teeth as he fights to keep the pained sobs from her. The blindness and the distraction lets her step in and drive a knee firmly into the still painful and raw wound between his legs. His breath is punched out of him, no less painful for the fact that there is technically nothing there. A sudden wash of warm wetness tells him she’s ruptured at least one of the scars that the Doctor has been so fastidiously treating for him.

Then her foot hooks around his ankle and tugs and he hits the ground on his back. A knee against recently healed ribs tells her she’s crouched beside him and promises more pain. “Now,” she begins, “you are going to tell me why she rescued you and where she is. You’re going to do it quickly so I can get back to shutting this place down.”

“Get your hands off of him,” thunders a familiar voice from the doorway, ringing with command. “I can answer that for you.”

Beside Jack’s ear there’s a soft scraping sound. “Doctor,” he chokes out in warning, knowing it’s the blaster.

“It’s ok, Jack. She won’t hurt me,” says the Doctor he is calling out to, whilst her Other leans her knee into him even harder so his words trail off into a pained whine.

“Stop!” he hears the Doctor above him order, and she must because the punishing pressure slacks off slightly.

“No one needs to get hurt here. You don’t need to do this.”

Jack almost laughs, soft reasonable words aren’t going to work, he’d tried that for months.

But somehow, this time, they do. He feels the Doctor pull her knee off him completely, feels her stand. He doesn’t get up though, doesn’t move other than to curl a little, protecting his most wounded parts, but stays on the ground where she wanted him. He believes in the Doctor, he’s always believed in the Doctor, but she can’t beat this nightmare force. He stifles a sob at the fear that she will soon have him in her power once more.

The Doctor watches her counterpart pull away from Jack. The blaster is still held with loose competence at her side, but she doesn’t fear that anywhere near as much as she fears the way Jack is curled and half sobbing on the ground.

“Why are you doing this?” she asks instead. “This isn’t who you- I- we are. This isn’t why we took the name the Doctor.”

“He’s dangerous.”

The Doctor waves her arms furiously. “Lots of things are dangerous. Daleks are dangerous, Autons are dangerous, despotic rulers are dangerous, but we’ve never been a torturer before.”

“Sometimes it’s necessary. He can’t be removed or destroyed. He needs to be tamed and fixed, his danger minimised.”

The Doctor’s lips tightens. Heedless of the blaster she strides nearer. The other Doctor steps over Jack’s body to meet her, toe to toe. The Doctor glares up at her, “I’m dangerous, and I will stop you. I will not let you carry out this abomination.”

“How are you going to stop me, Doctor? I’m an early version of you, anything you do to me will ripple through your own timeline. Besides, I’m right.”

The Doctor’s eyes narrow, but, as she looks up into her counterpart’s face, she sees something else. Something different. There’s something not quite right around her eyes. Something...blank.

“How did you become me? How did you regenerate?”

“You should know.”

“But I don’t. I don’t remember you.”

“I was...well. I was a different version of me, and now I’m this.”

“And why are you on the run? Why are you hiding from our own people?”

“Because I had to!”

“But why?”

“Because...because…”

“You have no idea. You have no idea who you are. It’s just that name, the Doctor. But there’s no history in you at all. Someone else is controlling you, Doctor. And if you’re even a little like me, that isn’t something you’re just going to accept.”

“No one is controlling me! I make my own choices.”

“Who are you working for?”

“An elite division in the CIA. I remove threats to time, excise them utterly from the time stream, or control them if that’s impossible.”

“You’re telling me I willingly became a member of Gallifrey’s secret police? I don’t think so.”

“Well, you did. I can see that you wouldn’t be able to. But there are versions of you that do have the strength.”

“This is wrong! Can’t you feel it, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong, Doctor. I should remember you, but I don’t, and you shouldn’t be willing to hurt people, but you are. You say I can’t hurt you because I’ll damage my own timeline, but my personal history is already collapsing, my TARDIS is gone and it’s because of you, because of something you’re doing.”

“Don’t be stupid. How could my actions be affecting you?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know, but they are. Can I...can I see? Your memories?”

It’s too hard a push and too fast. The Doctor steps back quickly, the blaster repositions and fixes unerringly on Jack. “I don’t let people I don’t trust into my mind, and you don’t make the cut.”

The Doctor grimaces and raises her hands. “What about my mind? Will you look into mine and see that I am telling the truth?”

A long pause. “Yes.” She reaches out a hand.

Jack struggles up to his knees and reaches a hand out imploringly. “Don’t, Doctor, don’t. It hurts. She’ll hurt you, don’t-”

He is silenced with a cursory kick to the gut. The Doctor’s expression tightens and she rocks forward on her toes as though intending to rush towards her friend, before taking a large, deliberate step back. “If you want to make it hurt, you can, but leave him alone.”

The Doctor just raises an eyebrow. She has to step away from Jack now to make contact, but she does, her hand brushes over the Doctor’s temple, fingers tangling in blond hair.

The first touch of her mind is icy, like a blade of wind through an unexpected open window and the Doctor gasps but doesn’t pull back and only starts throwing all the imagery she can find that makes her point to the front of her mind. Snippets of lives long gone, of mercy given because it was the right thing to do.

I never would

Her history with Jack. The fun they’ve had together, the adventures, the times they’ve saved one another’s lives, Jack’s goodness and heroism and bravery, all the times he’s saved the world and everything he has sacrificed to do so.

The Doctor follows the memories down, deeper and deeper into the Doctor’s mind and she lets her, opens her memories and thoughts up to her, gathering strength and then, steeling herself to carry out the greatest violation her people have, she pushes back. Not to push the Doctor out of her mind, but to reverse the transfer.

Contact she screams inside her mind. Contact!

They are already entwined and connected, already in contact. Contact the Doctor’s mind echoes instinctively, and she’s in.

There’s nothing there. Oh, some recent memories and behaviour protocols, but it’s not like her mind, a winding treasure trove of memories and knowledge; quotations and snatches of music; colours and shapes and half born thoughts. No, this is an empty vault. An empty vault full of high walls as impenetrable as cliff faces. As soon as she thinks it, the walls are given physical form, appearing as huge slabs of smooth white marble. They have no imperfections, no chips and no purpose, other than to keep the room empty, to allow only the surface trickles through. The Doctor places a hand against one in the mindscape, leaning into it, feeling for...for something and...

THUD

She’s thrown out of the Doctor’s mind with such violence and force that she actually falls, skidding a meter across the room before coming to a stop and touching fingers gingerly to her temple.

“How dare you!” The other Doctor strides across the room, standing over her, her hand is trembling on the blaster.

The Doctor stays where she is, knowing a sudden move right now might be her last. “I’m sorry,” she says, and means it. “I’m sorry, that was unforgivable, but I had to. You were deep enough in my mind that you know what I’m saying is true.” There’s no response, and she dares to stand. “Did you feel it?”

“What was that?”

“I have no idea. But that is whatever unnatural thing has control of you. You couldn’t sense it before because it’s the only mind you’ve ever known, but you should be able to now.”

The Doctor touches fingers to her forehead. “I don’t believe you. You did this.”

“I didn’t. Think about it, you know that.” The other Doctor scowls and the Doctor knows how stubborn she can be, this is going to take time to accept. “Fine. You don’t have to believe me right away, but believe that I would never hurt Jack.”

“He’s an anomaly. I have to- I have to-”

“You have to get rid of him. Give him to me. He won’t be part of your timeline at all any longer. A problem for the future, yeah?”

Still looking dazed and shocked, the Other can only nod and that’s good enough, right now. The Doctor can’t wait around for anything more than that. When you’re ready, come and find me, you’ll be able to track me. Twenty first century. Earth.”

The Doctor nods and the Doctor takes her attention from her younger self’s face and settles on Jack. “Jack...come on.”

“I-”

“Jack, come here. We need to go.”

She can see him shaking, but he drags himself a few paces along the ground until he can scramble to hands and knees and then to feet, she grabs his hand and drags him. They’re not running, not exactly, more a power walk.

“She let us go.”

“She did, but she’s confused right now. In a minute, she’s going to either believe me - ideal - or not believe me - less ideal - and if it’s that second one, we’re in trouble. We need to get to the TARDIS first. It’s the only way off of here.”

Jack doesn’t argue further, and the Doctor’s sense of direction is flawless, in just a few moments they’re through the TARDIS’ doors, the Doctor effects some quick repairs and then the familiar grinding whir fills Jack’s ears. He stands by the door, panting, head down.

“Are you ok? We need to go to the medical bay.”

“I- Am I yours now?” He bites out.

“Are you-?”

“You made her give me to you. I don’t know what you did to her, but you made her give me up into your custody. So am I yours, My Lord Doctor?”

The address hurts, and the Doctor focuses instead on the bitterness and rage that suffuses it, that should suffuse it, and ignores it. “Jack. You’re my friend. That’s all. You’re caught up in this somehow, and I think you should stay with me. I think that would be best, but if there’s somewhere else you’d rather go, someone else you’d rather have take care of you…”

He pulls in another couple of shuddering breaths. “I believe you.” Then his face splits into an amazed grin. “I believe you! You’re the Doctor and you’re not going to hurt me!”

Caught up in his joy, the Doctor steps towards him, a laugh on her own lips, she catches his hands and they perform a couple of quick dance steps as the time column continues to move up and down. Jack dips her and she slaps at his arm. “I’m leading.”

“Tallest leads,” Jack points out unrepentantly and whirls her a couple more steps to the side.

She cups a hand around the back of his neck and pulls him towards her so she can lower her voice as she vows, “I’d never hurt you, and you belong to no one but yourself.”

“Yeah.” He leans his forehead against hers. “Yeah.”

“Now, let’s check your injuries. We’ll be back in Cardiff soon. We need the others. There’s work to do.”

End of part 1
~ Closing Credits ~
Dooo Wee Wooo

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