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.