Disclaimer: All this belongs to the BBC. I'm just playing. Please don't sue.
Author's Notes: This was written for the Post-POTW ficathon, for uktechgirl, who wanted giggling, physical pain, angst and NO sex. It may even have turned out a bit lower than her preferred rating, but it also turned out much shippier than I had expected it to be. Also big thanks to brunettejedi for betaing.
I write to get better at writing. The best way to improve is for people to tell me what I did wrong, and what I got right. Please do email me at xwingace at gmail dot com to tell me what you think. Because I have received some criticism, this story has now been updated to take that into account.
"Where are we?" Rose asked the still slightly unfamiliar figure of the—let's call it new – Doctor. She had decided to stay with him after helping him recover from regeneration. His abject helplessness at that moment had been impossible not to sympathise with and afterwards she had seen that, different though he might be, he was still the Doctor. He was still determined to help humanity save itself, as he had proven at Christmas. But the outward appearance and the voice were still something of a shock when she was expecting her Doctor to be there.
The alien in question was still staring at the screen on the TARDIS' console while he answered her: "Earth. Somewhere in Europe, I think. I can't make sense of these readings…"
"Okay…" Rose replied. This was also new. The Doctor always used to know exactly where they were. Well, he got it wrong on occasion, but she'd always gotten a definite answer before. "So… when are we? Should I change my clothes?"
The Doctor looked up at her, a single eyebrow raised. "What? No, I don't think so." He looked back at the screen and frowned. "We're in the year 200.110, or thereabouts." The Doctor turned to the TARDIS' central column and seemed to ask of the ship: "Why?"
Rose was as surprised as the Doctor. "200.110? But that's…"
"Right after the Dalek invasion." the Doctor finished for her. "If there still were any Daleks, at least." He looked over at Rose. His dark brown eyes were completely unreadable, but his mouth was drawn in a smile. "We fixed that, though. Everything out there should be all right. Let's take a look, shall we?" The Doctor dashed over to and out of the doors, his long tan coat flapping around his calves.
When Rose stepped out of the TARDIS she immediately felt the urge to go back in. The atmosphere was only just breathable, and it was even darker than the dimness that was customary in the console room. Any hope of more light was quenched by the thick blackish clouds that stretched uniformly as far as she could see.
The Doctor was standing a little distance away. His shoulders had slumped; his entire posture was one of dejection. Rose could see why. They were in a city, with wide roads running between grey buildings that seemingly touched the cloud cover. But the paving on the roads was cracked and missing in many places and the buildings showed their structural elements. There were a few points of light, somewhere in the city, but going by their colour they were more likely to be fires than electric lights.
"I just can't get it right, can I?" the Doctor said. The way he said it, with his new accent, almost made it sound like he was close to tears. Rose wanted to answer, to reassure him, but when she looked at him she saw that he hadn't really spoken to her. Then the Doctor seemed to notice that she had joined him and straightened his shoulders. He raised his eyebrow at her again. "Looks like we'll have to go take a closer look, doesn't it?" he said, then he grasped her hand and pulled her along one of the roads, in the direction of one of the fires.
They had not gotten very far when the ground became unsteady under their feet. The buildings around them started shaking, and bits of masonry were falling off. After a few seconds, it stopped.
"What was that?" Rose asked.
"Earthquake." The Doctor had barely finished his reply when the shaking started again, and this time it lasted longer. A building to their right creaked ominously, and the Doctor drew Rose away just as she started to see what was left of the building's face fall forward. After the rubble had cleared, Rose spotted an elevator shaft in the building that had just lost its front. The lift car was still there, with the doors open. It looked a lot more solid than the building around it. Now it was her turn to pull the Doctor along, to the relative safety of the cabin.
More tremors struck, each longer and more severe than the last. Only after the sixth did they seem to lessen. Then the quakes gradually subsided until they were barely noticeable. The Doctor, impatient as ever, was out of the lift car as soon as the force of the trembling was no longer enough to dislodge more than dust. He was still headed in the direction they had been going when the earthquake struck, only now he was running. Rose could still not see any people other than her and the Doctor, but now she could hear screaming from somewhere in the distance, and she sprinted to catch up with him.
They found people, all right. There was a slum village set up in what had been a large park in the middle of an enormous traffic circle. There had also been people in the buildings around the park. Some of those structures hadn't proven to be sound enough to withstand the earthquake. Rose could hear screaming from at least two buildings, signifying that people were trapped in there, but alive. None of those who had made it safely out, however, were giving any indication of wanting to rescue the ones still trapped inside.
The Doctor, on the other hand, was already busy doing something with his sonic screwdriver at the nearest wreckage. When that didn't seem to have any effect, he started pulling at the rubble with his bare hands. Rose came over to help and together they shifted the smaller pieces of concrete, steel and bricks. But the people here were trapped in a hollow largely sealed off by a large block of still-intact reinforced concrete that was too heavy for the two of them to lift. The Doctor tried the screwdriver again, but it had no effect either.
"Can we get some help here?" the Doctor shouted to the mass that had assembled around them, content to just watch. He got no volunteers. "Well? Are you just going to stand there?"
The people standing around now drew back slightly. The Doctor abandoned his position in the rubble and stepped towards the group. He pointed back to the wreckage. "People are dying in there, your friends, your family, and you're just looking on?" Some people in the back had the temerity to nod. Someone in the back said, just loud enough to hear, "What's the point of us risking our lives to get them out? They chose to live there." This generated a murmur of assent, though it wasn't all that obvious who was doing it.
The Doctor just stared at the whole group for several heartbeats. His furious words had not been sufficient to spur the watchers into action, but his icy glower kept the whole group enthralled. They barely dared to breathe. Then he gave up. He pointed at one man, the burliest of the group. "You. Help. Now." The man obeyed grudgingly, but he came forward, seemingly chained by the Doctor's glare which was now fixed completely on him.
With the help of this man, the Doctor succeeded in wedging a fairly heavy length of girder under the slab of concrete and using it as a lever. The concrete came up about ten centimetres, but the lever wasn't strong enough and was bending, so Rose scrambled to push some of the rubble they had previously removed back, now under the slab, so as to support it. They tried this a second time, but this time, when Rose was again scurrying to shore up the slab, she accidentally kicked at the rubble already there. It shifted out from under the chunk of concrete. This transferred more of the slab's weight onto the lever. The Doctor and his reluctant assistant, who were already labouring to hold up the mass of the concrete while it was still supported, could not hold the lever against its full weight. All three shouted in shock when the whole precarious structure they'd built collapsed.
Onto Rose's legs and right arm.
The Doctor's exclamation of her name coincided with Rose's cry of pain. Within the blink of an eye, he was at her side. Just as quickly, he was heaving again at the lever. Unsuccessfully, this time, because although the other man was still trying to help, the lever had lost its pivot. It just scraped through the debris. Even when they did manage to lift the block a little, it came down again. The pain of that second jar was enough to render Rose unconscious.
When Rose lost consciousness, the Doctor increased his frantic scrabbling to raise the block. He had lost Jack already; He couldn't lose her, not to something like this. Why did he have to get involved in the first place? If he had actually succeeded in destroying the Daleks the first time, when he sacrificed all of Gallifrey to achieve it, if he had noticed something was amiss the first time Rose and he confronted the supposed master of Satellite Five. Even if he had proven himself worthy of the title Great Exterminator, as the Dalek Emperor had dubbed him, humanity would be different from this band of apathetic drones that just stood by as people were hurt and dying. Gallifrey was gone, Jack was dead through the Doctor's repeated failure to do unto the Daleks as they had wanted to do unto him, and now he was going to lose the one person that had still kept him going through those shocks. But that was not going to happen while he still had regenerations left.
Then the glitter of transmat beams appeared in the road. Twenty new people stumbled from the confusion such transport induced. They recovered quickly, however, and soon a dozen hands were helping the Doctor lift the debris away. They freed first Rose, then the people trapped below with practiced efficiency. Then the group fanned out and started work on nearby ruins, leaving the wounded in an open area with two medics. One of them checked Rose over and said something into a handheld transmitter. Almost immediately, a transmat beam enveloped Rose. She was gone.
The Doctor accosted the medic in question and demanded to know where she had been taken. The medic patted the Doctor on the shoulder, trying to reassure him, with very little effect. "There's nothing to worry about, sir. She'll be just fine. But we can't treat her injuries properly here, so I've had her taken up to the Station. She'll be up and about in no time."
The medic frowned. "Satellite Five? The former Game Station?" The Doctor didn't need more answer than that and was already running. The medic was left shouting after him. "Hey, where are you going?"
The Doctor, of course, was on his way back to the TARDIS. She was his easiest option to get up to Satellite Five. Always Satellite Five. It just kept coming back to that. What had he missed last time? Unfortunately, the earthquake had upset the roads, and the Doctor had to pick his way carefully to get to his ship. It took him much longer than he was comfortable with.
Rose woke up from the commotion around her. She was lying on a bed in a large room filled with them. Most of the beds were occupied, and in the spaces between them doctors and nurses were walking around doing the things doctors and nurses do. Only when Rose tried to sit up did she notice the tingling in her legs and right arm. The tingling in her arm even transformed itself into pain when she tried to use it for support. She cried out and then used her left arm instead.
One of the nurses had heard her cry. She came over and tried to make Rose lie back down again. Rose would have none of it. "Where the hell am I? Where's the Doctor?"
The nurse pushed her down gently and then consulted the chart at the foot of her bed. "You're on Floor Sixteen, medical. The doctor's already been, honey." She smiled at Rose. "You had a few nasty fractures, but we've fixed those. If you'll just rest for an hour or so, I bet they won't even hurt anymore."
"I'm not resting. I have to find the Doctor." Rose tried to get up again. She ignored the pain in her right arm while she was getting up, but when her legs took the weight of her body she nearly collapsed again with the shock of the pain.
The nurse caught her. "You really should rest some more, honey," she said, but Rose wouldn't hear of it. When she transferred her weight to her legs again, they still hurt, but now that she expected it, she could bear it. Ignoring the nurse, who kept protesting, she managed to walk out of the room.
Into a large open area that was crammed with people walking or running to and fro. It all looked disturbingly familiar, too. Then she looked up towards the ceiling. High on the wall, over a large number 16, were the words 'Bad Wolf Corporation'. Rose knew where she was.
So the Daleks really had gone away and Satellite Five had been restored to the busy hive it had been the first time the Doctor and she visited.
How much of this was a true recovery? Maybe there was just another controller on Floor Five Hundred manipulating humanity for its own ends? The Doctor and she would have to check it out, and hopefully prevent whatever it was from further damaging the human race. She had seen how hurt the Doctor was by the people on Earth's refusal to help others. It looked a bit better up here, from first impressions, but who was to say that wasn't a deliberate ruse?
The Doctor wasn't here. They had managed to separate him from her. But as soon as he found out where she had been taken, he would come after her, Rose knew it. He was not so different from his old self as to not do that. And he would find his way up to Floor Five Hundred. So she might as well go ahead and see what was going on.
Nobody stopped her getting in the elevator.Nobody even noticed when she remained in it floor after floor, all of them as full of people as Floor Sixteen had been. Even as the elevator reached Floor Four Nine Nine and she remained in the cabin, there were no comments. In fact, she wasn't the only one. Half a dozen people got in, someone pressed all the correct buttons and the elevator proceeded smoothly up to the highest level. When the doors opened, the other people all streamed out. Rose followed a little more slowly.
Now this part of the station was different. When she and the Doctor had come here the first time, it had been cold and abandoned of nearly all life, excluding one obnoxious banker and a big toothy blob hanging from the ceiling. The second time she'd been here, it should have been full of staff regulating the broadcasts, but almost all of them had fled the Dalek invasion. Actually, the fixtures that had been here last time were still present, only this time every console had at least one person sitting in front of it, and there were more people walking about, carrying messages, talking into receivers or shouting to others on the other side of the room. It gave an impression of barely controlled chaos.
Rose just walked through it all and was ignored. The consoles were too crowded for Rose to get a look at one, but she could pick up some of what was being said or shouted across the room. The conversations ranged from weather reports in Antarctica and the pickup of raw materials for repairs in Siberia to someone regretting the lack of available airplanes to do a closer surface scan for survivors of an earthquake in southern Germany. When she caught that last one, Rose edged closer to listen for more, because the Doctor had said they were in Europe when they were surprised by the earthquake. This man seemed to know more. She might find out how the Doctor was doing.
Then she thought she heard a familiar voice through the din. But that was impossible, because the person—the hero—that voice belonged to was dead. He had died defending this very station from the Daleks.
He had, right?
Rose wanted to run across the room to the source of the voice. She didn't get very far like that, however, because she ran into a far denser crowd when she had got a little closer to it. She had to force herself through the throng, but she finally got close enough to see the speaker. Her heart promptly skipped a beat, and she couldn't help herself screaming the name. "Jack!"
Captain Jack obviously was used to random strangers shouting his name and possibly even annoyed with it, because he didn't immediately turn around. Rather, he responded instantly with a shouted "What?" before even starting to face the person who called out to him. When he had turned fully, Rose had gotten close enough to embrace him. His expression of preoccupied irritation morphed first into flabbergasted incredulity and then into unmitigated delight before he returned the hug and turned it into a kiss. Then both became aware again of the crowd around them before it occurred to either of them to start asking questions.
Jack let go of Rose, then turned to face the people he had been talking to before. "Alexei Feodorov, Xi Lu Xian, K!u, Melissa Torchwood, meet Rose Tyler." All four of them bowed slightly. When they stood up, they regarded Rose with a look of awe. Rose suddenly had the feeling that she had been promoted to the status of Madonna without anyone informing her. Jack ignored it and just ploughed on. "If she's here, that means the Doctor's not far off, which means you people will finally get me to do what you've been trying to convince me to do all night; take some time off. Xian, if you wouldn't mind taking over?"
The slim Asian woman nodded, then addressed the crowd around the central six. "You heard him. I want an update on the Munich situation now." Someone in the crowd shouted an answer and then, just as quickly as everything had ground to a halt, it now returned to the previous bustle. Which left Jack and Rose in peace.
Jack had changed. However long they had left him here, the time had added worry-lines to his face, and was that a smattering of grey at his temples? But the smile was still the same, with the even teeth and the glittering blue eyes. Rose almost felt like dancing. Too bad there wasn't any music.
But then there was a bigger regret. They had left him behind. How could you apologise for that? "We thought you were dead. The Doctor said he'd heard you die," she said. It was the only excuse she had.
Jack didn't seem to mind that much, though. "That's okay, I thought I was dead myself. Then I woke up and all the Daleks were dust." His happy grin got bigger when he saw Rose's incredulous look. "I'm not kidding. That's how it happened." He became more serious. "Then I walked in here just as the TARDIS was leaving. I can't say that didn't hurt a little." He paused. "A lot." The grin returned. "But you came back! Tell me, how long has it been for the two of you?"
"A couple of weeks." Very active weeks, though. Rose wasn't entirely sure how she could tell Jack about the Doctor's new face yet, so she chose to just return the question. "And for you?"
He actually had to think about it. "I'd say four years. Five, maybe." He gestured around him, at the people scurrying about on Floor Five Hundred. "It's been busy, and I didn't always keep track of time."
"Would you believe I was the only one left alive up here? And the Dalek invasion destroyed most of the civilisation on Earth. They destroyed what was left of the climate while they were at it." Jack interrupted his explanation to shoo someone away from a console and show Rose a satellite image of Earth. Only Africa was still in a recognisable shape. "Most people were dead, and those that weren't didn't have anything to protect them from the environment. I picked up some radio transmissions two days after…that. Then I remembered that I was sitting on a station with a large collection of transmat systems and with fully functional life support. So, I, uh, beamed them up."
Even Rose got that joke. She gave the obligatory grin. Jack continued. "So those people helped me set up this rescue operation, and we've been doing it ever since. Very hard work."
"I'm proud of you."
"You'd better be." Jack poked Rose teasingly in the side. Then he stopped and finally seemed to realise someone was still missing. "Where's the Doctor, anyway?"
Rose frowned. "I don't know. We were on Earth, and they transported me up here. The Doctor could still be down there."
"Well, we can check that." Jack called out to the woman he'd just asked to take over. "Hey, Xian, has a large blue box been seen anywhere? Might have just appeared out of nowhere."
Xian nodded, but it was Alexei who responded half a minute later. "Something of that description turned up in the landing bay on Floor Zero two minutes ago. You want me to do anything about it?"
"No, that's fine. We'll check it out. Thanks." To Rose, Jack said: "Come on."
The elevator ride seemed interminable, for all that it took only thirty seconds. And there it was, the TARDIS. Jack raced Rose to the door, but lost.
As soon as Rose was through the door, she was caught in a hug by the Doctor. "Rose, you're okay. I thought I'd lost you again." His relief at finding her was obvious, not only in the sound of his voice, but also in the way Rose was almost crushed by the force of his embrace. The Doctor started to say more, but then he must have seen who had entered the TARDIS behind her. He was struck dumb, and his grip loosened instantly.
"I'm hurt. I've only been gone a few weeks, and you've found a replacement already?" Jack didn't really sound all that hurt, just a little surprised. He walked over to the Doctor, who had let go of Rose, but was still unable to speak. Jack studied the Doctor intently for a few seconds. "Mind you, he doesn't look half bad."
The Doctor recovered some of his motor functions and caught Jack in a very similar hug to the one Rose had just experienced. Now Jack was really taken aback. "This isn't how you say 'hello' wherever you come from, right?" And despite his shock, Jack still managed to make that line sound flirty.
The expression on Jack's face really was too much. Rose started giggling just as the Doctor also burst out laughing. The Doctor stepped back from Jack and made an elaborate grande révérence while Rose said, as if it had been rehearsed: "Captain Jack Harkness, meet the Doctor."