Final chapter!! At last! Apologies for being so slow! And I do hope you like! Oh and happy new year!!
Part Nine – Not Alone
There's nothing that I wouldn't do
To have just one more chance
To look into your eyes
And see you looking back
I'm sorry for blaming you
For everything I just couldn't do
And I've hurt myself by hurting you.
Christina Aguilera – Hurt
Everything I did, I did it for you.
Jack's hand was shaking as it hovered over the button. One touch would stop the energy transfer. One touch could stop a hundred hearts.
There were tears in his eyes as he looked up to Jane. A bead of sweat glistened on his forehead.
A hoarse whisper cracked his dry throat.
Slowly he let his hand fall to press the button.
They were running again, Jane struggling to catch up with Jack. The caves were filled with horrendous noises, clanking and grating, the screech of stressed metals echoing resoundingly through narrows tunnels and broader caverns, amplified in the enclosed space. Rocks were tumbling free of walls and roofs of the caves, dislodged by the tremors that shook the warren of underground caves.
When they reached the ledge on their hands and knees, Jane was almost afraid to look over. She held her breath as she and Jack hazarded a glance.
The blue glow had diminished, the only source now was a central column of light. It flickered and sparked sporadically, casting fitful shadows across the cave.
And the people… Jane's gaze tracked the villagers and farmers, each lying spread-eagled on the stones, white faces amid the grey. Too white.
"Oh no," she breathed, scrambling down the steep slope, not much slower than Jack who was already scaling the cliff-face, barely pausing to find hand- and foot-holes.
In her haste, Jane dropped the remaining metre to the ground, wincing as her ankle twisted sharply beneath her weight. But she picked herself up with barely a thought and hurried to the nearest villager, a man in rough woolens, his pale faced edged with a scruffy beard.
Her slim fingers quickly found the spot on his neck to press. His skin was icy and suffused with white-blue.
Prepared to despair, her breath caught in her throat as the skin beneath her fingers pulsed. Weakly, true, but it was a sign of life, however feeble. Fumbling in the dimness, she wrapped the man's coat more warmly around him then leaned over him to press her lips to his.
It took several tries, but finally he jerked. She sat back on her heels as he coughed, spluttering as he tried to breathe for himself. She helped him sit up and balance.
"Where-?" He coughed again, bringing his hand to his forehead. "What-?"
Eyes sparkling, Jane smiled.
Trying desperately not to trip over the bodies scattered where they had fallen, Jack ran. Guilt almost made him stop, just to see if these people could be helped but the thought of Rose hanging there, so lifeless, spurred him on.
There. Ahead, silhouetted against the column of blue energy, stood a tall man, the shape of a girl in his arms. Fighting a wave of fear, Jack stumbled closer.
As the Doctor's face became visible, Jack slowed. The Doctor met his worried gaze.
A sudden smile lit the Doctor's features.
Arms windmilling, Jane ran across the cave, skirts catching her legs, threatening to tip her to the ground.
"They're alive! Light, but they're alive!"
She stopped just short of them and they met her with bright smiles. Rose lay in the Doctor's arms, limp but her chest moving as she breathed.
To demonstrate the truth of her words, the villagers were stirring. Dazed, yes, confused, yes, but blessedly alive. Those who couldn't stand were pulled up by their fellows, tugging coats and shawls around frozen torsos.
Another tremor shook the caves, showering them all with a sheet of dust and sending dislodged pebbles skipping on the floor.
"Looks like this entire place is falling apart," the Doctor pointed out, earning himself a glare from Jane and leaving Jack to roll his eyes.
"There's a tunnel over there," Jane said, pointing. "Perhaps we should go that way?"
"Sounds good. Tell everyone to move that way!" the Doctor called, already trotting in that direction, Rose safely ensconced in his arms. Suiting action to words, he shouted to those he passed. "This way! Come on, this way now!"
Jane leaned over to help a child to stand, fear in its green eyes. "That way," she urged him, pointing and gently giving him an encouraging push. Jack was already at the other side of the cave, waving his arms and yelling at the top of his lungs.
As the flood of people reduced to a trickle, Jane ran to the tunnel herself. The cave looked all the bigger for being empty. The central column was flickering even more, lightning dancing across its shimmering surface, scorching the ground around it and leaving a painful afterglow in her eyes.
The Doctor was standing but the tunnel, smiling when he saw her.
"You just had to be the last," he admonished lightly.
"Where is Rose?"
"Jack's got her. He's gone ahead, to try and find a way out. C'mon, we should get out of here before this place falls on our heads."
The tunnel was dark and twisted, lit only intermittently by cracks of daylight where stones had fallen from the ceiling. Jane and the Doctor sprinted after the bedraggled villagers, Jane panting with tiredness that she hadn't really been feeling until now.
Rounding another bend, a flood of daylight dazzled them with unexpected brightness. They stumbled out of the caves, blinking, into the open air.
Jane doubled over, clutching her stomach and trying to catch her breath. The Doctor merely shielded his eyes with one hand and peered at the caves.
Just as Jane looked up, there was a tremendous crash which shook the ground beneath their feet. In a billowing cloud of dust, the whole hillside in front of them crumbled as if hit by an invisible hammer. They stumbled backwards, eyes wide as a ball of blue light rose from the wreckage. The remaining fog melted around it before it dissipated into the air.
Glancing at Jane, the Doctor whistled through his teeth.
"That was too close."
He turned around and started walking, taking long strides.
"Good thing I didn't park the TARDIS on that hill."
Jack and the Doctor barely saw Jane for the rest of the day. She was never long in the one place, always hurrying around. There were a hundred villagers and farmers who had suddenly found their homes in pieces. They had to find dry firewood, repair roofs and food had to scavenged from somewhere.
It wasn't until late that night that she managed to sit down in her sitting room, freshly changed into a simple brown dress. The villagers had most of her other clothes, even the rich dresses.
She had just settled into the couch when the door opened. She cut off her protests as Jack and the Doctor entered.
Jack immediately sat on the couch beside her, waiting for her nod to pour himself a cup of tea. The Doctor didn't sit, just stood beside the mantel, back in his leather jacket.
"Heard you found everyone a place to sleep," Jack said, sipping the hot tea.
"We did." She looked over to the Doctor. "How is Rose?"
The Doctor didn't answer, just stared into the flames.
"She's gonna be fine," Jack answered. "A little sleep and warmth, and she'll be fine."
"I'm glad to hear it." She hesitated. "I have not really had much time to think… but I just cannot understand what happened here. It does not make any sense to me."
"I'll let you explain, Doctor," Jack said, contentedly leaning back on the sofa.
For a moment, the Doctor was silent. Then he glanced up at the two of them.
"I'm not entirely sure, but I'd bet it goes something like this. I reckon that about a couple of thousand years ago, a spaceship crashed here, under those hills. Those caves looked about that old anyway."
"Spaceship?" Jane had a startled expression on her face.
"Just listen," Jack said.
"I say crashed cos those computer systems we found were totally hotwired and crosswired and rewired and every other wired. Makeshift, cos whoever those people were, they had no other resources. There wouldn't 'ave been much here back then."
"So they set up those machines to get energy to restart their ship?" Jack asked.
"Yeah, or to send a distress signal. Obviously didn't work though."
"But why our people?" Jane asked, distressed. "And why now? Why not thousands of years ago? And what about the fog?"
"Ah, this is the interesting bit." The Doctor perched on the coffee table, hands to either side of him. "You see, I'd say that they didn't start of by taking people's energy. Just energy in the air and that. But there wouldn't have been very much. And so they couldn't restart their ship or call for help and they died out. But the systems were automatic. They were programmed to keep going. And cos they weren't gettin' enough energy, they started branching out, taking more and more. From anywhere."
"And the fog…" Jack began, understanding where the Doctor was going with this, "as the machines drained more and more energy, the air was filled with it. The fog. And it could use the fog to pull more energy and even control carriers of the energy."
"The cold ones," Jane breathed.
The Doctor sprang to his feet. "Exactly! And it explains how all the trees and wood and everything were rotted. All their energy went to this machine.
"Until I cut it off," Jack said brightly. "And boom!"
The Doctor grinned. "Boom."
Rose had been given a room to herself, a luxury considering that there were five or six villagers in even the smallest rooms in the manor.
Early morning sunlight falling across her face woke her. She lay where she was for a moment, the blankets warm and soft around her. It was hard to pull herself up but she forced herself to and scrambled quickly into her jeans and jacket again.
Just as she was pulling her jacket on, there was a knock at the door.
"Yeah, come in, it's open!" she called, not turning.
She closed the last button of the jacket and turned to her visitor.
"Doctor!" She stared at him in surprise. "I thought you'd forgotten about me! I mean, Jack was up here every ten seconds yesterday, fussin' over me like a mother hen but I haven't seen you at all."
He didn't say anything, he just walked slowly over the window, the sun casting a pale yellow glow on his battered jacket.
Rose hesitated. Part of her wanted to go over to him but another was reluctant. She might have sounded casual, but she was fully aware that he was more than likely avoiding her. She couldn't forget what he'd said to her in the caves just like that.
He shifted, crossing his arms, staring out of the window. Her gaze followed the strength in his features, traced his sunlit figure with her eyes. Her heart was racing again, it seemed to constantly be doing that now.
Finally, he took the decision away from her by turning slightly to face her. Her heart went out to him, at the anguish on his face.
"Rose…" he began but she was suddenly by his side, arms around him and face pressed against his chest. Hot tears soaked into his black jumper.
It took a moment but then she felt his hands on her back and his nose buried in her hair. He was murmuring in her ear, softly.
"I'm so sorry. I'm sorry."
"Hey." She leaned back, swiping her hand across her eyes. His thumb wiped away any she had missed. "Don't worry about it. I understand."
"I guess I can be a stupid ape sometimes too," he joked, then let his sudden smile fade. His hand came up to caress her cheek. "I'm sorry for pushing you out. I thought it was the right thing to do."
"Well… it really wasn't. For anyone."
"You know I hate it when you're right."
"Cos I'm always right."
"Are you kiddin' me? You, always right?"
"Fine, but I am right sometimes."
"Oh, you are." He stroked a lock of blond hair. "You are."
His eyes were only inches from hers and they were at their most intense, sparkling with joy and affection that warmed Rose inside. She felt corny thinking that, but it was true. And that gaze was enough to send shivers down her spine.
"So… where does this leave us?" she said in a low voice, almost afraid to ask.
He tucked the stray lock of hair behind her ear. He was slow to answer. "Well… I reckon that we should find the TARDIS first. I haven't the foggiest idea where we left it." He grinned cheekily. "Much easier to decide things in there, you know."
"Oi!" She playfully thumped his chest at the suggestion, but her cheeks tinged pink and she hoped that he wouldn't be able to feel her pulse racing. "And anyway, what 'bout Jack," she asked, teasingly.
"Oh, he's gone to… um… say goodbye, yes… to Jane. Might take a while."
"Ah," she said knowingly. "Well, what are we waiting for?"
So he took her hand in his and they ran downstairs and out of the manor. Laughing and chatting, they walked, hand in hand, back to the TARDIS. The sunlight dappled through bare oak branches to play on her golden hair and a slight breeze tugged at his battered leather jacket.
The way it was supposed to be.
The Doctor and his Rose.