As far as life on the TARDIS goes, things had been rather calm lately. No one had tried to kill them. They hadn’t run for their lives on the last two planets they visited. Frankly, things were getting downright boring.
Jack and Rose had almost gotten used to the new Doctor. His wide grin was irresistible. He was funny, sexy, witty, charming…and sexy. There was also something else, something that was more difficult to pinpoint hidden beneath his childlike enthusiasm and endless capacity for banter.
The Doctor was more open with them now which was something Rose and Jack were grateful for. It had only been in the last couple of days that he had begun to withdraw from them, and the loss was palpable.
“You sure he’s okay?” Rose asked as she stirred her tea. She seemed to be imploring the cup of heated liquid for answers that she did not possess.
“I don’t know. I mean, he’s the Doctor after all. I can’t imagine him ever not being okay,” Jack returned with a shrug. He reached out and laid his hand on her shoulder. It was a gesture of friendship, but Rose found herself leaning into the touch, the warmth, the sign of something familiar. “You know how he liked to brood. I suppose this is just par for the course.”
“I guess.” She sighed and sipped her rapidly cooling tea. “He’d come to us though. I mean, he would tell us if something was wrong though?”
Jack regarded her quietly. Her bright eyes were downcast; her golden hair was spilling around her face casting it in a shadow. He couldn’t find it in his heart to lie to her.
“If there was something wrong, we’d know,” Jack said firmly. He also made a mental promise that he was going to find the Doctor and try to work out whatever was responsible for his recent change in behavior. Sure, the Time Lord loved to talk he just typically never talked about anything that mattered. Jack didn’t see the Doctor, no matter what incarnation, telling him all about his problems.
As if somehow summoned by the conversation, the Doctor wandered into the kitchen. He searched through the cabinets oblivious to the two humans who were studying him silently.
He spun around, his eyes widened, and then he smiled as his gaze rested on Rose. “Yes?”
“Any plans for tonight? Perhaps we could watch a bit of telly?” she asked, her tone hopeful. Typically the Doctor would join them and make casual comments that would cause Jack and Rose to double over from laughter. The Doctor never seemed to understand what they found so funny.
“You and Jack go ahead. I’ve got…things…plans…stuff that needs to be done.” Stuff? The Doctor wasn’t one to use the term stuff to describe anything that he needed to do. He usually named things to death, giving everything some sophisticated term he knew neither would understand. He was the Doctor, after all.
“Just so you know, Doctor, I make no promises. The nights can get rather lonely and having Rose cuddled up next to me might be just the distraction I need.” Jack winked at Rose and waited for the Doctor’s rebuke.
“Whatever it takes to get you through the day.” The Doctor’s response was spoken softly, and the casual shrug that followed left Rose and Jack standing there staring with their mouths hanging open.
The Doctor disappeared through the door with his long coat swirling behind him.
“Something’s eatin’ him,” Rose said as she got up to follow.
“Rose, I think we should leave him alone.” Jack reached for her arm. “Who knows? This could be some sort of Time Lord ritual.” The ‘keep away’ vibe that the Doctor had been sending them moments ago was not something that Jack could easily overlook, nor was he one to pry. If the Doctor wanted space, then so be it.
“He’s hurting.” It was a simple statement, one that Jack couldn’t easily ignore. What exactly does one do with a hurting Time Lord? Leaving him alone seemed like the most viable option. He was over 900 years old, after all. He obviously had managed to cope for this long so what were a couple of humans really going to tell him that he didn’t already know?
“Let’s just give him some time. We’ll check on him later.”
“Of course.” He wrapped his arms around her, and she leaned against his chest, both temporarily lost in their thoughts.
“Come on, let’s go find something to watch,” Rose said finally, grabbing Jack’s hand and tugging him down the hall.
Rose and Jack found themselves lying on the floor next to the couch they both had been dozing on. The television was humming in the background as they sat up.
“How long have we been asleep?”
“No idea. It’s a shame I wasted precious time sleeping when I had you in my arms.” Jack wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, and Rose slapped his arm playfully. Jack already proved that the end of the universe wouldn’t stop him from flirting.
Suddenly the TARDIS wheezed and lurched, and Jack grabbed Rose and the leg of the coffee table before they both went rolling across the floor.
“Okay, what the hell is going on?” Rose cried as the floor titled in the opposite direction causing the confused pair to slide in the other way.
“I don’t know. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the TARDIS just fell down,” Jack mused as he leaned against the wall and helped Rose up.
“We need to find the Doctor.”
Jack nodded, tucked Rose safely against him, and led her away from the living area. They searched the halls quietly, often grabbing on to each other when the TARDIS jerked in one direction or the other.
“We’re never going to find him,” Rose grumbled as she recognized a hallway they’d already been down several times.
“Apparently the TARDIS doesn’t want him to be found,” Jack replied, dusting himself off after another near miss with one of the TARDIS’ interior supports.
Suddenly the lilting voice of the Doctor carried down the hall, and Jack and Rose shared a knowing glance turning toward the source of the voice. A door was open to a room that neither Rose nor Jack recognized. The sight that greeted them was equally as unfamiliar.
“Can you believe I actually said that to the Council? It’s a wonder that I wasn’t thrown out on the spot! I suppose I always was a bit of a rebel…not that you were any better.” The Doctor continued to prattle on about a planet that only existed in myths and legends while readjusting his position so his legs were draped across a leather chair and his back was pressed into the arm rest. His coat and tie had been discarded and he was sitting with his sleeves partially rolled up his arms. His long fingers were casually wrapped around a stemmed glass which had obviously been emptied and refilled several times.
The TARDIS wheezed in response, and the Doctor laughed gleefully while reaching for a bottle of some type of wine. Due to the smoke raising from the bottle, it didn’t take Jack long to work out that it wasn’t from earth.
“He’s drunk,” Rose stated flatly as she watched the Time Lord through wide eyes. The TARDIS spluttered in the background and Jack shook his head. If that was what he thought it was, he wasn’t sure if it was downright hilarious or just flat out scary.
“You always were a cheap date,” the Doctor laughed as he opened the bottle and poured some into a glass that was attached to the desk. The wine disappeared from view and the TARDIS jerked several times before humming in response.
“He’s getting the TARDIS drunk too!” Rose cried. The Doctor jerked around after hearing Rose’s voice and ended up sprawled across the floor in an undignified heap. The greatest mind in the universe, the last defense against armies of unspeakable enemies, was now sprawled out on the floor holding his glass in the air triumphantly.
“Ha! Didn’t spill a drop!” he said, his voice nearly manic as he lifted his glass proudly and guzzled the remaining contents.
“I think he’s already succeeded,” Jack said gently as he guided Rose into the room. The TARDIS offered what could only be described as a hiccup in response. He had hoped to watch this scene quietly from the doorway, but Rose obviously didn’t have a similar idea.
“Watcha doin’, Doc?” Jack asked as he lifted the bottle and sniffed the contents.
“No,” the Doctor barked as he grabbed the bottle from Jack’s hands. “It would kill you. It’s poisonous to humans.” The seriousness of the Doctor’s statement was lost as he began laughing again.
“I’m apparently missing something. What’s so funny about getting drunk with your ship?” Rose asked as she tapped her foot several times. Again, this was something that Jack could see the humor in. He’d never seen a drunk Time Lord and had absolutely no idea that the TARDIS could join in the fun. Something in the back of his mind told him that perhaps that TARDIS was just humoring him, and knew this was something that the normally aloof Time Lord desperately needed.
“What’s the occasion?” Jack asked curiously, noticing several discarded bottles lying around the room.
“You humans and your occasions. Sometimes it’s nice to just celebrate and allow yourself the levity that a night of alcohol-induced intoxication so freely allows! After all, it’s a time honored tradition with your species, isn’t it? At least that’s what…”
He continued to ramble, his voice becoming more intense as his thoughts scattered from planet to planet. The TARDIS wheezed in response, and the Doctor’s mouth snapped shut.
Silently, he refilled the glass that obviously belonged to the TARDIS and settled on the chair with the bottle loosely hanging from his fingertips.
“I had forgotten about that,” the Doctor mused quietly. “The Academy definitely didn’t bring out my finer points.”
“What’s he going on about?” Rose asked.
“You two should go.” Rose and Jack paused to glare at the Doctor who was now staring at them behind dark eyes. The pain that was present in their depths was both unmistakable and undeniable. True to the form, the Doctor had gone from what looked like simple fun to a staunch seriousness that threatened to overtake everyone in the room.
“I don’t know if we should leave you alone right now,” Jack began as he reached up to rub his neck. What exactly do you do with an intoxicated Time Lord? He really wished he’d paid more attention in his history classes. Surely they would have covered something like this! Should you ever happen upon a drunk Time Lord…
“I’m not alone,” the Doctor pointed out before grinning widely and reached up to stroke the wall. The TARDIS seemed to shiver around them before jerking violently sending Rose and Jack nearly falling to the floor. “Never could hold your liquor,” the Doctor responded with a sniff.
“Okay,” Rose stated recovering first, “then we shouldn’t leave the two of you alone right now.”
The Doctor was now studying the bottle which was sitting in his lap. Leaning back so his neck was resting against the arm of the chair, he brought the bottle to his lips and took several long, leisurely sips. Jack and Rose watched silently as the Doctor’s slender throat seemed to stretch on forever as he pulled the rest of the liquor into his mouth, swirled it around, and swallowed.
The bottle fell to the floor as the Doctor struggled to sit up. He reached for another bottle several times before his fingers finally wrapped around the neck.
“Doctor, maybe you’ve had enough…”
Jack closed his eyes and reached for Rose’s arm. He knew she was only trying to help, but he also knew what the Doctor was trying to accomplish here. He’s been there more than once. This was a man that was trying to forget.
“Ah, but you’re wrong, Jack,” the Doctor murmured as he pulled the cork out of the bottle with his teeth before spitting it across the room. Jack’s eyes were wide as he silently begged the Doctor to continue. “I’m not trying to forget.” He waved the bottle in the air in a silent toast before quietly adding, “This is the one night I let myself remember.”
“The Time War,” Jack muttered grimly.
“Ah, he got it in one! Very good, Jack. The final day of battle actually. The day that Gallifrey burned so the universe could be saved. The day that Time Lords, Daleks, and TARDISes were effectively wiped from existence! The day that…that…”
The maniac, near hysterical tone was gone now, and the Doctor’s hands were wrapped around the open bottle as if it was his lifeline, the only thing holding him to this universe that he had fought so many times so save.
“Oh Doctor…” Rose’s gentle voice carried through the room which was now eerily quiet.
She stepped towards him, but he lifted his arm to stop her. “No…just no…” He shook his head several times, much harder than necessary, Jack noted, before turning and dropped his head on the desk with a resounding thud. “Please go. I don’t want you to see me like this.” That was the first thing the Doctor had said that made sense. The Time Lord never showed weakness, never showed that he was vulnerable. It was obvious this was a private party between the last Time Lord and his beloved TARDIS.
“Doctor, we want to help,” Rose pleaded her voice breaking.
“Yeah, no point in brooding alone. You’ve got us now,” Jack offered. He knew it was a cheap substitute. The Doctor had lost his entire race of people, had lost all the Time Lords, his planet, his home…
The Doctor seemed to consider Jack’s response as he rested his cheek on the cool wood. “I know I’ve got you…both of you and that means more to me than you’ll never know. I’ve just got to do this…please…”
Jack and Rose looked at each other helplessly. There wasn’t anything they could do. Jack wrapped his arm around Rose and led her away. She pressed her face in his shoulder as they walked the hall.
“I can’t believe we’re just going to leave him to it,” Rose muttered sadly.
“He wants to be alone.”
“So? If we were hurting, do you really think he’d just leave us alone? No! He’d help us just like he helps everyone.” Rose had pulled away from him. Her hands were now resting on her hips, and she was glaring for all she was worth and as much as he hated to admit it, she had a point. The Doctor would help them because he simply didn’t know how to do anything else. He’d do something with his sonic screwdriver, he’d brush your temple to soothe your thoughts, he’d pull you into a hug as only the Doctor could…
The problem still remained, how do you help a Time Lord whose hearts were hurting?
“How do we help him, Jack?”
“I don’t know,” he returned with a shrug. “We’re not Time Lords.”
“No, but we’re human, and that’s worth a hell of a lot,” Rose stated purposefully. She turned to walk back to the room the Doctor was cloistered in and stopped as her foot kicked something on the floor.
Jack reached down and picked up a tray which was filled with various beers and liquors he recognized instantly. The TARDIS had managed to provide them both with their favorite drinks. Perhaps she wasn’t as intoxicated as she’d originally let on.
“You thinking what I’m thinking?” Jack asked as he raised his eyebrow in Rose’s direction.
“If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” she returned with a sharp nod.
They returned to the room, Jack now holding a bottle of beer, and Rose had managed to mix some type of drink while walking. They stopped in the doorway as the Doctor came into view. He was lying on the floor, his eyes screwed shut, his lips barely moving.
Soft tones drifted across the room as the TARDIS seemed to sing in harmony with the Doctor’s barely audible voice.
“They’re singing,” Rose whispered.
It was the most beautiful, most painful sound Jack had ever heard.
Taking the lead, Jack walked into the room and sat on the floor next to the boneless Doctor. Rose sat on the opposite side and rested the tray on the floor. The Doctor’s eyes opened to slits after noticing the intrusion.
“I thought I said I wanted to be…”
“Yeah, change of plan, Doctor.”
“We’re joining you. You go ahead and do whatever you need to do, but we’re not leavin’ you, so no more talk of that.”
The Doctor opened his eyes fully and gazed at both of his companions who were staring back at him. Jack managed to down a bottle of beer with two sips before reaching for a new one. Rose wasn’t exactly holding back either. It was fairly evident that neither of them was going to leave.
Sighing, the Doctor lifted his head, Rose and Jack waited silently praying he wasn’t going to try to throw them out again, but instead, he turned and settled so his head was resting in Rose’s lap.
Rose smiled and glanced at Jack who was silently sharing in their victory. Score one for the humans. Her fingers casually combed through his wayward brown hair. It was a blatant sign of trust that the Doctor allowed her gentle ministrations. He was allowing them to be close to him during his moment of weakness.
“We do this every year,” the Doctor mumbled as reached for the bottle that had been forgotten moments ago. Seeing what he wanted, Jack grabbed the bottle and placed it in the Doctor’s hand. “The TARDIS and I have a little memorial service to our lost world.”
“You didn’t do this last year,” Rose mused as she started running her fingers across the Doctor’s forehead.
“You’re assuming that Gallifrey has an Earth calendar year.”
“Good point,” Rose responded sheepishly.
The TARDIS groaned beneath them, and the Doctor reached for Jack’s hand. Frozen to the floor, Jack waited for the Doctor’s request. Right now he would deny the Time Lord nothing. Of course that wasn’t different than any other day…
“She wants another round,” the Doctor stated with a half smile.
“Can you really hear her?” Rose asked curiously as Jack got up to pour another glass full of steaming alcohol for the TARDIS. The Doctor’s lean arm reached out to stroke the floor and the TARDIS hummed in response.
“She’s been the one constant in my life.” His fingers curled as he reached for something that wasn’t there. “I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
“Don’t think like that,” Rose admonished gently. “She’s right here.” The TARDIS seemed to sing in response, which was followed by a distinct hiccup.
“We’re here too, Doctor.” Opting for bravado, Jack reached for the Doctor’s hand. His fingers wrapped around the cool palm, and he found fathomless eyes studying him. Jack knew he was never going to get used to staring into those eyes. Something seemed to click, and the Doctor shifted and turned so his legs were now stretched across Jack’s thighs.
Again, Jack and Rose eyes met over the Doctor who was now shamelessly lounging on both of them. Score two for the humans.
“For what it’s worth,” Rose began softly, “Thanks for saving the universe.”
“Us humans really appreciate it,” Jack finished with a gentle smile.
The Doctor’s eyes slammed closed as they could feel him recoiling away. Rose continued rubbing the errant mop of brown hair, and Jack rested both of his hands on the Doctor’s legs. They were there…and that had to be enough. They refused to let him disappear, to let him suffer through his grief alone.
It was all they had to give and they both prayed it would be enough.
Lost in his thoughts of planets destroyed in a war that no one remembered, in a battle long since forgotten, and he was only one that was left. The lone survivor…
It was his blessing and it was his curse.
The TARDIS began humming around them, a tone much like what was being sung as they entered the room before, and the Doctor’s face seemed to relax. Soon, his voice reached up to join the TARDIS in a doleful lament for a planet and a race that was no more.
Save a lone Time Lord and his trusted TARDIS.
Rose and Jack lost themselves in the song and both counted themselves as lucky. Rose, a shop girl, young and impossibly naive, was now cradling the most incredible creature she could ever hope to meet in her lap. Jack, a conman, an impossible flirt who had no purpose or goals, was fortunate enough to meet a man, a Time Lord, who had managed to renew his faith in himself and the universe.
The song ended, and the TARDIS seemed to drift back into the distance as the Doctor lazily stroked the floor.
“Was that a song about the War?” Rose asked gently, hoping her question wouldn’t destroy the mood. The Doctor’s eyes opened, and he smiled at her. It was a genuine smile, his smile.
“It was a song about friendship,” he returned.
“So you’re going to be okay, then?” Jack questioned. As much as he didn’t want this to end, he knew that the Doctor would return to them, whole and renewed, and they’d be off saving another world without so much as a thank you. That was worth more than anything.
The Doctor released a shaky breath and nodded. “I will be.”
Rose and Jack both smiled down at the incomprehensible man that was sprawled across them. Perhaps in some way they had helped.
“I should probably get some…” Jack moved to stand, but stopped when he felt a cool hand wrap around his wrist.
“What is it, Doctor?” Rose asked, her voice once again concerned.
“Let’s just sit here for awhile, yeah?”
“Whatever you want,” Jack stated as he resettled the Doctor’s legs across his lap.
“I’ve got no place to be,” Rose offered with a nod as her fingers began to retrace the furrows through the soft, brown hair.
“Did I ever tell you guys how I ‘acquired’ the TARDIS?”
Jack and Rose soon found themselves laughing as the Doctor recounted the story of how the TARDIS ended up in his care. Jack swore the felt the TARDIS giggling beneath them as the Doctor’s energetic voice returned and his hands began wildly animating the tale.