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