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