Beta: The forever amazing starxd_sparrow
Rating: PG-13 for angst
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Doctor Who. What a pity!
Characters: Tenth Doctor, Jack, Martha, and various others of my own creation
Spoilers: Vague discussion of all three seasons of the new Doctor Who
Summary: After the Last of the Time Lords, the Doctor isn’t coping well and decides he’s finished with…well, basically everything. Martha and Jack encountered a strange alien which has taken up residence in a child.
“I’m fine, Jack. I’m a Time Lord, Jack. No need to worry, Jack.” Jack continued his rant in a bad imitation of the Doctor’s voice as he slammed around the kitchen in the TARDIS. The cabinets were empty. There wasn’t a scrap of food in sight save some stale biscuits and a can of beans that had been on the TARDIS since he and Rose were traveling with the Doctor. “He’s going to get better, and then I’m going to kill him,” Jack declared with a nod.
“Talking to yourself?” Martha commented as she leaned against the doorway. “I never took you for a man who made death threats.” Jack had fixed the Doctor’s hand using the advanced equipment in the medical bay before carrying him to his bedroom and leaving him in Martha’s expert care. He was so frustrated he was ready to spit nails. It was glaringly apparent that the Doctor hadn’t been caring for himself. The idea of the Doctor not eating just seemed too…teen angst? For someone who claimed to be as advanced as the Doctor often did, he sure could use a few lessons in growing up.
“Consider it therapy.” Jack nodded towards the open cabinets. “I can’t find anything edible in the whole TARDIS. We’re going to have to go shopping before I take him anywhere.”
“I’ll go to the shops and grab some things before we head out,” Martha offered as she grabbed her handbag off the table.
“Wait, you’re coming too?”
She stopped and stared at Jack through wide eyes. Did he honestly think she’d bail when the Doctor needed them the most? Anyway, the TARDIS did travel in time. They’d be back before anyone knew it. She’d cared for the child since she arrived in the hospital several days ago - this was something Martha was going to see through to the end.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she returned with a smirk. “Keep an eye on him while I’m out.”
“Sure thing,” Jack agreed before waving as Martha turned to leave.
“You really did a number on yourself,” Jack murmured as he reached out to brush soft brown hair off the Doctor’s forehead. “I’d really like for you to wake up and get better so I can kick your ass.” He laughed and tried to keep his tone light. “You do have a fine ass just so we’re clear on that. It’s going to be a shame when I have kick it across the TARDIS. Don’t expect her to protect you either. She’s just as ticked off as I am. I suppose I’ll have to keep a look out for your fightin’ hand.” He fought the rising sense of disappointment as the Doctor didn’t move, didn’t blink, and barely continued to breathe. The silence in the room was deafening and he struggled to continue his one sided conversation. “Didn’t think I knew about the Sycorax, did you? The comment about your fighting hand? Doctor, that’s a bit lame even for you.”
He kept studying the Doctor’s ashen color and sunken features. It physically pained him to look at his friend in this condition. The previous conversation lost its appeal as he leaned forward and sighed. “What have you done to yourself?”
He’d seen the Doctor face down the worst enemies that the universe had to offer. What had happened that finally proved to be the alien’s undoing? He held the Doctor’s hand hoping that the simple gesture would provide some comfort to the ailing Time Lord.
“This better be a healing trance,” Jack muttered as he pressed his lips against the back of the Doctor’s hand. “Because of it’s not, I’m going to beat you back to life just so I can have the satisfaction of killing you myself.” It was an empty threat and Jack knew it. He just hoped the Doctor heard him and knew that there was still someone in this universe who cared. If Martha’s reaction was anything to go on, there were at least two people in this universe that still cared deeply. If he added parallel universes to the mix, he knew of several more.
Opting to keep the conversation going as much for his comfort and the Doctor’s, Jack began regaling the sleeping Time Lord with stories of the Torchwood Three team.
“I take it there’s no change,” Martha commented as she joined Jack at the Doctor’s bedside.
“I think he’s getting worse. He’s cold. I mean colder than normal.” Martha brushed her fingers around the Doctor’s forehead and pressed her hand against his chest. The Doctor’s skin was cold and clammy to touch.
“I wish we knew more about Time Lord biology,” she stated. She silently berated herself for not making a bigger effort to learn more about his anatomy and how to treat him if he became ill. She had seen him bounce back from being struck by lightning, being possessed by a sun creature, and being aged beyond all recognition.
He would heal. She wouldn’t accept anything less.
“In all the time I traveled with him, I can’t believe I didn’t think to ask what we should do if he happens to become infected with a parasitic worm.”
“You’re not funny,” Martha returned dryly. She did smile though, and Jack considered that a small victory.
“I’m sexy though. That’s worth something right?” Martha rolled her eyes as Jack gave her an irresistible wink. She grabbed an extra blanket and draped it across the Doctor’s body.
“I take it you know how to fly the TARDIS. The sooner we get this creature out of him the better,” Martha stated.
“I already searched for the Almatron system. There are over forty inhabited planets. It would be a big help if the Doctor told us where to go,” Jack explained.
“So we wait?”
“Looks like it,” Jack returned. He didn’t like the idea of this creature being inside in the Doctor any longer than necessary, but it seemed like they were stuck until he woke up.
“I’m going to check the library and see if I can find out more about the parasite. Maybe I can find something that will help the Doctor,” Martha said as she walked towards the door. She considered herself to be a woman of action, and sitting around wasn’t something she did well. She paused in the doorway and her brown eyes settled on Jack. “He did a good thing. Don’t be mad at him, okay?”
“I know. He did save that girl’s life.” He grinned, but it was forced. It was enough to satisfy Martha and she disappeared down the corridor.
“It wasn’t the fact that you saved her,” Jack mused after Martha was safely out of earshot. “You didn’t even stop to think about what it could do to you. Maybe you were caught up in the moment, maybe you weighed your options and decided this was the only way, or maybe you just don’t care about yourself anymore.”
The Doctor didn’t have an answer for him.
After deciding that the Doctor was resting comfortably enough, Jack went to continue his research on the Almatron system. It was an area he hadn’t come across in his travels. He’d lost track of how long he’d been going through holographic images of the various planets when the TARDIS wheezed around him. Jack sensed her discomfort immediately.
He wasn’t able to finish the question before a blood-curdling scream ripped through the TARDIS. Jack immediately flew from the control room and ran towards the Doctor’s room. He nearly collided with Martha at the doorway.
“You left him?” Martha snapped as she raced through the door and collapsed next to the Doctor’s bed.
“I thought he was okay! I had no idea he would…” His jaw snapped shut as his eyes traveled over the Doctor’s shivering body. He was curled on his side facing them with his eyes squeezed closed and his mouth contorted as if he was still screaming. The scary thought was that maybe he was and they just couldn’t hear him.
“Doctor,” Martha ordered as she reached for his shoulders, “tell me what’s wrong. Tell me where it hurts.” The only response she received was that the Doctor rolled away from her touch and somehow managed to press his back up against the wall.
The TARDIS seemed to shiver around them as if she was also caught up in the Doctor’s suffering. She could feel his pain. It was pain without reason and agony without a justifiable cause. She ached because her beloved friend was hurting.
“We’re missing something, Jack,” Martha murmured helplessly as she reached for the Doctor a second time. “Doctor, what do you need? Tell me what’s wrong.”
The realization struck Jack like a ton of bricks. “He’s still unconsciousness. The TARDIS can feel him even if he can’t respond to us.” Martha resisted the urge to smack her forehead. Why hadn’t she thought of this before?
“The brainstem has been linked to pain and its control. It sends sensory information all over the body. The parasite could somehow be sending signals with the potential of causing pain,” Martha explained. It was only a guess, but it seemed like theories were all they had to go on. A low moan escaped the Doctor’s lips and he somehow managed to curl himself into a tighter ball. If the situation wasn’t so dire, Jack thought he might cry.
“How do we get it to stop?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea. It’s not like we can sedate him. He’s not even conscious,” Martha whispered as she glanced at Jack. They were both desperate.
“The Doctor didn’t seem to think that this creature was a threat, so maybe this isn’t intentional,” Jack mused as he sat on the edge of the bed. “What if it’s playing on a feeling that’s already there?”
“You’re saying the Doctor was in pain before?”
“Pain isn’t always physical.” Jack always figured physical pain was easier to deal with. You healed and you moved on. A broken heart wasn’t nearly as easy to fix. Jack knew the Doctor had centuries of emotional pain buried deep in the recesses of his Byzantine mind.
“So you think the parasite is sending out signals based on something that was already there.”
“I don’t know, but it’s a working theory and it’s all we’ve got.”
“So how do we help him?” Martha asked. She more than willing to go with any idea that Jack had. The Doctor never seemed to find peace. Even now, unconscious and helpless, he was still suffering. Was there ever any justice in the universe?
Jack answered Martha’s question by kicking off his shoes, sliding to his knees on the bed, and starting towards the Doctor. He reached out and laid his hand on the quivering shoulder. “Hey Doc’, Martha and I are here now. We’re not going to leave you.” A sound which could only be described as a whimper escaped pale, dry lips. He managed to slide his arm around the Doctor’s shoulders and gently pulled him towards the middle of the bed.
“I hardly think this is the time to…”
“Trust me, even I have better timing than that,” Jack muttered as he managed to uncurl the Doctor and drape his slender body aside his own. “I’m trying to switch the signals. If we can somehow comfort him, make him feel something else, maybe we can alleviate some of the pain?” It was a shot in the dark, but it was better than staring at him and doing nothing.
Following Jack’s logic, Martha responded without hesitation. “Jack, if he wakes up, I don’t care if you come on to me.” She climbed on the bed slowly and stretched out next to the Doctor who was now partially lying on Jack.
“Hi Doctor,” Martha managed to whisper. Hesitantly she reached her hand out and ran it down his quivering back. “We want to make you feel better so we’re just going lay with you for awhile, okay?”
“We’re all together now. Everyone is safe. We just need for you to wake up, Doctor, and tell us what to do,” Jack explained as he ran his hand down the Doctor’s arm.
“He was too weak for this,” Martha sighed. She propped her head on her bent arm and rested her free hand on the Doctor’s hip. Jack could only nod as his hand continued its silent track up and down the Doctor’s arm.
The Doctor stiffened, his mouth opened silently, before he tried to curl on his side. It looked like he was trying to disappear. Jack froze before his eyes caught Martha’s concerned gaze.
“Oh Doctor,” Martha whispered as she molded herself against the Doctor’s back. She had pictured herself in the Doctor’s bed before, but never did she want it to be like this. Now she just wanted to help him, to take away some of his pain. Jack twisted on his side so that his arm crossed over the Doctor and his fingers were barely touching Martha’s side.
The Doctor’s whimpers became more vocal and more intense as his lean body began to shake uncontrollably. His eyes were closed as his subconscious was allowed free reign. What he was seeing and feeling, his companions hadn’t the faintest. They knew what pain looked like though. It didn’t take a doctor or a captain to know that the Time Lord was suffering horribly.
“Jack, I don’t think its working.” Martha tried to keep her voice from mirroring what she felt. It hurt to see her friend like this.
The Doctor tried to pull away from them. His arms were pushing against Jack’s chest as his back arced off the bed in an unnatural position.
“No,” Jack stated firmly as he reached out to grab the Doctor. Martha watched in silence as Jack placed his hands on either side of the Doctor’s pale face. “We’re not leaving you. I’m not going to allow you to push us away. Maybe you can hear me and maybe you can’t, but we are not leaving you. You hear me? We are not leaving you.” A silent shiver rippled through Martha’s body at the serious, authoritative tone of Jack’s voice. Then, in staunch contrast of his previous attitude, he gently pressed his lips to the Doctor’s forehead.
With one hand tenderly placed on the back of the Doctor’s head, Jack guided him back down to his shoulder. Martha resettled herself on the bed so her entire length was pressed against the Doctor’s side. For what it was worth, the Doctor wasn’t fighting them anymore. On some level Jack had managed to reach him.
“I’m impressed, Jack,” Martha murmured as a hint of a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.
“I was just returning a favor,” Jack said easily as he pointedly ignored her praise. Despite his naturally flirtatious demeanor, he wasn’t very good at accepting compliments from people he respected. If the Doctor had been lucid, he knew he would have been called on it.
“Did you get a similar speech before?”
Jack paused, his mind lost in a memory which seemed like a lifetime ago, and in many ways, it was. “I was a different person then, and-“ He glanced at the Doctor whose face was partially hidden against his shoulder, “so was he.”
“I think he’s resting more comfortably,” Martha stated as her fingers lazily traced down the Doctor’s side.
“I hope so.” Still, they couldn’t be sure of anything. Anything could be silently waging war inside the Doctor’s complex mind.
Martha attempted to suppress a yawn and Jack grinned at her over the Doctor’s head. Neither had slept since prior to meeting Anna at the hospital.
“You should try to get some sleep,” Jack offered.
“What about you?” It was obvious that the Doctor wasn’t the only one she was concerned about. Jack found himself marveling at the Doctor’s taste in companions. He always seemed to find the most compassionate people in the universe to travel with. Jack was certain it wasn’t just dumb luck.
“We both should try to get some sleep. If he moves, we’ll wake up. Who knows when we’re going to get another chance?”
“Life on the TARDIS, eh?”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Jack returned with a grin.
Martha’s breathing evened out several minutes later with her arm still protectively wrapped around the Doctor’s waist. Jack spared another kiss to the Doctor’s forehead before allowing his eyes to drift closed.
Jack wasn’t sure how long he slept. He woke to damp warmth spreading across his chest. He glanced down to find shimmering, brown eyes staring blankly across the room. Gently he lifted the Doctor’s chin and found tears slowly leaking down his face.
“It hurts.” The soft, broken whisper caused his heart to break all over again.