A/N: written for the unusuallygen "It's Not Usually Gen" multi-fandom ficathon
Jack leaned his head back against the TARDIS door and watched the vehicles passing overhead. He let out an audible sigh, waking the blonde that sat beside him and whose head was lying on his shoulder.
"Still nothing?" Rose mumbled tiredly, barely sneaking a look under half-lidded eyes. She moved her head to a more comfortable position and continued to sleep on Jack's shoulder.
Jack figured he'd give the Doctor another hour before he went in search of lodging for the evening. No sense in having him or Rose fend for themselves, as he was unsure of what to expect once the sun set. The natives had kept their distance so far, but Jack was well aware that the rules usually changed once night descended.
The Doctor was going to have a lot of explaining to do. "Don't go wanderin' off." He could hear the rich baritone repeating the well-known mantra in his mind. Every time they visited a new planet, and sometimes two or three times throughout their explorations, he'd remind them of rule number one. Obviously it only held true for companions, as this time it was the Doctor who'd managed to wander off and get himself lost, leaving Jack and Rose stranded.
Even the TARDIS was being uncooperative. Rose's had key refused to turn in the lock, which explained why they were both sitting atop Jack's coat, now leaning against the blue box, waiting for the Doctor to arrive. How much longer before the Doctor noticed their absence, and made his way back to the ship, their agreed upon safety zone?
It was currently over eight hours since they'd last seen him. Jack punched a few commands into his wrist computer and came up with the same readout he'd viewed the other five times.
When the Doctor decided to disappear he did it quite efficiently, leaving absolutely no traces behind. Jack's biggest concern was, since the TARDIS refused to let them enter, did that suggest the Doctor had come to harm? He hadn't voiced his concerns, knowing Rose was bright enough to deduce her own, but left unspoken they seemed less of a reality. And together they didn't need to run through a myriad of frightening scenarios, all of which led to the inevitability that they were probably stranded here.
"Damn it, Doc. Where the hell are you?" Jack thought, worry written on his face as he clenched his fists in anger.
At first he thought he was imagining things when he felt a slight vibration against his back. There it was again. This time, Jack pushed Rose off, shaking her awake as he faced the TARDIS on his knees. "Rose, wake up," he coaxed softly, trying not to startle her.
"Mmm, what is't?" She blinked at him, getting her bearings, and yawned widely.
"It's the TARDIS," he stated, laying a palm flat against the wooden surface. Rose looked at him, saw his determination and laid her hand next to his on the blue panel. "I felt something," he said, both hands splayed against the box as if he could push his way inside.
Rose shook her head and sat back down. "I'm not feeling anything." The disappointment in her voice angered Jack and he balled his hands in frustration. Standing to his full height, he began pounding on the unyielding box.
"Damn it!" he shouted, as Rose stood up next to him and placed a hand on his forearm.
"There's no vibration, Jack. Maybe the Doctor—"
Jack cut her off abruptly. "No. He's coming back!" he yelled, slamming his arm against the panel, and then slumping sideways against the solid barrier. The Doctor wouldn't just abandon them, would he? He wasn't ready to start over again.
Rose placed her hands on Jack's shoulders and squeezed hard, staring at him. "I never said he's not coming back," she told him gently and suddenly he was overwhelmed by the complete trust she placed in the Doctor.
"Sorry," he mumbled, dropping his head as Rose pulled him into a hug.
"We'll be okay, yeah?" she assured him and Jack nodded as he slowly pulled away, giving her one of his patented grins.
"Yep," he said trying to muster his fragile confidence. "We're going to be fine. And when we find the Doctor, I'm giving him a piece of my mind." He reached down and picked up his long coat they had used for a blanket, shaking it out. "For starters—"
They both froze, Jack slowly turning his head towards the TARDIS. Impossible, he told himself as he stared at the partially opened door. He made as if to barge through, pulling up short, when he heard the voice again.
The Doctor sounded tired and much older. Jack stopped at the threshold; one arm braced against the door and looked back at Rose, her face betraying hurt at the request, before facing forwards again.
The interior was dark, except for a long, thin streak of pale green, indicating the time rotor.
"Doctor?" Rose tried to push past Jack, who sidestepped, blocking her way. She tried to shove against him, in an attempt to see the Doctor, but Jack kept himself between them.
"Don't bring her in here, Jack," the voice was pleading and threatening at the same time, causing the hairs on the back of Jack's neck to stand.
"What's going on, Doc?" Jack demanded, still trying to pinpoint the voice inside. "And why the hell did you pull a disappearing act?"
"Not now," he answered tiredly.
"Not now?" Jack was incredulous. "If not now, when?" Jack stepped forward into the ship. "Why the hell do I need to wait for—"
"Don't let Rose in here!" the voice ordered, and years of following the tone of authority had Jack stepping back, pushing Rose outside. She tried to scoot past, but Jack was quicker and stronger and pulled her back, wrapping her in a bear hug as she struggled against him.
"Let me go, I want to see him," she protested vehemently.
"We both do, and you know he wouldn't keep you out unless it was something serious. You've got to trust me, Rose," he pleaded.
Jack slowly released his grip as Rose grew calmer then stepped back. He could see she was fighting tears, and reached for her hand, before turning back towards the TARDIS. He wanted nothing more than to ease both of their minds, but first Jack needed to discover exactly what was going on.
"I'm not leaving her here, alone" Jack stated defiantly.
"No. No—" the Doctor conceded, then spoke quietly and Jack had to strain to hear. "Five minutes, Jack. Then you can enter." Jack was about to protest when the Doctor continued. "Both of you. But she goes no further than this room."
Jack nodded, unsure if the other could see him, and then turned to Rose who also nodded her agreement. Her eyes begging for further answers, but she was willing to abide by the conditions set.
"Okay, five minutes," Jack agreed, dropping his arm to his side and letting the door close again. He let out a heavy breath as Rose whispered.
"What's happened, Jack?"
Jack looked wistfully at the closed door and shrugged. "I don't know, sweetheart." He put a reassuring arm around her shoulder. "We will figure this out though," he told her as she pressed closer, both of them keeping an eye on the door.
After what seemed like a short lifetime to the pair standing outside, they heard the unmistakable click of the door as it opened. Jack pushed inside with Rose immediately behind him, the console room was once more bathed in the familiar, warm, amber lighting, and from all appearances nothing had changed.
Rose promptly seated herself in the leather chair and watched Jack as he circled the console. He stopped in front of the monitor, knowing the two words displayed were for him.
"You'll be okay?" Jack asked, turning the screen so that Rose could read the message, medical bay. She bit her bottom lip and slowly nodded. Jack cupped her cheeks with his hands, planting a light kiss on her forehead.
"I'll be back as soon as possible," he assured her. Laying his coat next to her he strode out of the room, hoping she'd believe his bluff of confidence as he exited.
His steps slowed as he neared the medical room, unsure of what he would find. The light from the hallway left most of the room in shadows and Jack entered, being sure to step next to the wall to keep from darkening the room further.
"Doc?" he asked tentatively, squinting at what he thought was the Doctor's outline.
"Right here," came the resigned answer and the dark figure waved a dismissive hand. "You won't be needing that, put it away." The tone of annoyance seemed to convince Jack, the Doctor had most of his wits about him, and slid his pistol back into the holster. It was too dark to get a good look at the Doctor to tell what was amiss.
"Mind explaining yourself now?" Jack demanded, finding himself staring at the Time Lord's eyes and he fought the urge to add 'sir'.
"All in good time." The Doctor dropped his gaze and buried his face in his hands, sliding down the wall until he was seated on the floor.
Jack had crossed his arms and was now leaned back against the wall on the opposite side of the room, giving the appearance he wasn't planning on going anywhere for a while. "Seems as good a time as any. We've been sitting outside for the better part of the day, wondering what had happened to you, and you don't seem to be the least bit concerned about Rose."
The Doctor jerked at the mention of Rose's name, his eyes grew wild and he pushed himself into the corner, licking his lips. Jack took a step forward and halted when the Doctor held a hand up.
"Doc?" Jack frowned, sensing something familiar and yet not able to put a name to it, and seeing the Doctor obviously afraid of something gave him pause.
Jack began to grin, and had to grasp the counter for support as his body sagged with relief. "Oh, no—" he breathed, trying to swallow the laughter as he saw the panic in the Doctor's eyes at his realization. "A bit careless, were we, Doc?" Jack moved to join the other man and sank down to the floor next to him, letting out a relieved chuckle.
"I'm glad you find it so funny."
Jack waved him off. "Why didn't you just tell me, instead of all this sneaking around and scaring us half-to-death?"
"Because—I can't find a cure," spat out the Doctor, dropping his head into his arms.
"You still could have said something," Jack chided him lightly, until the lifted his head and glared at him. Jack swallowed. "Ahh—right—Rose."
The Doctor nodded and let his head fall back against the wall with a loud thump. Jack grimaced, not used to seeing the Doctor give up so easily, then leapt to his feet and started rummaging through the drawers.
"Have you tried—"
"Tried everything," the Doctor cut him off sharply, Jack gave him a helpless look as he slammed the drawer closed and leaned forward against the counter.
"Suggestions?" he asked, turning slowly and letting his gaze drift over the room, searching for any hint of an answer. He slid his hands into his pockets and settled back with shoulders sagging in resignation.
The Doctor shrugged indifferently, his face barely masking his own frustration. "Doesn't matter, this particular strain seems resistant to any counter measure drugs, and according to the lab results, it has at least a weeks incubation time. It doesn't appear to be contagious, leastways not airborne." Jack glanced at him sideways as the Doctor continued, almost reading the Captain's mind. "And I'm not about to find out any more than that," he stated in a tone that brooked no argument.
Jack whistled low. "Well, you do know how to do it up in a big way." This only earned him another surly glare from the sullen figure. "Do you think this ship's big enough for us to avoid each other for a week?" Jack mused aloud, trying to keep his voice light. "Unless I'm immune—" His face fell when the Doctor shook his head. "How long until I'm the likely victim?" he asked hesitantly, now closely studying the Doctor's expression.
The Doctor continued watching his own hands, clasped together in front of him as he answered. "A day or two, tops."
The words bounced around the room and echoed in each man's mind. That didn't leave a whole lot of options open for either him or Rose to help the Doctor, unless it was by long distance.
"I've got an idea," Jack said as he rushed out of the room, leaving the Doctor hunched miserably in the corner wondering what mad scheme the former con-artist was about to propose.
Rose jumped from the chair and maneuvered to the other side of the console when Jack burst into the room. Her eyes looked past him, expecting the Doctor to have joined him. Jack slowed to a walk.
"It'll be okay, Rose," he assured her as he began to enter coordinates and set a flight pattern.
"You know what's wrong with the Doctor then? He's all right?" She watched him suspiciously, keeping the distance between them.
"Let's just say he's contracted a—" Jack paused, while he continued programming the data. How did one tell a human female, unfamiliar with most of the workings of the universe, that the man she was travelling with had been infected with alien sex pollen, and he was likely going to be very, very assertive shortly. It was going to prove to be a bit awkward.
"Contracted a what? And can't the TARDIS make him better? Isn't that why he had you meet him in the medical bay?" Rose was inching her way towards Jack with each question, demanding an explanation.
Jack paused momentarily and figured he would be blunt. "The Doctor's contracted a rather—" His resolve crumbled. "Let's say sensitive—virus." He dropped his gaze and went back to the ship's controls.
"Is it contagious?" she asked slowly.
"The Doctor says it isn't."
"Then I can go see him—"
"No." Jack answered brusquely and moved to face her, grasping her by the arms. Her eyes widened as Jack tried to impress upon her the severity of the situation. "You don't go near him." The ferocity of his words had Rose trying to pull back out of Jack's grasp and he loosened his grip to slide his arms around her shoulders instead and softened his voice. "You—and me, both—need to stay completely away from him, for now."
"To give him time to heal," he said simply, knowing himself it was a lame answer.
"You said he wasn't contagious," she stated in a meek voice.
"And he's not," Jack quickly assured her. "It's complicated, Rose."
"Then un-complicate it." He smiled at her tenacity and stood back.
"Yeah, okay," he said, leading her to the captain's chair. "The Doctor's infected with some kind of alien sex pollen." He watched her brows crinkle as she tried to imagine exactly what that meant. "It means we aren't safe around him," he continued gently, gauging her reaction.
"Well there's got to be some kind of cure somewhere—"
Frustrated, Jack interrupted. "Usually it's having cured by having sex!" he spat out, instantly regretting his words as Rose stepped back from him, a horrified expression on her face.
She brought a hand up to cover her face and Jack stepped towards her. "I'm sorry, Rose," he began then stopped. She was laughing and stepping further back from him, now pointing a finger in his direction.
"This from the king of swing?" she asked and Jack smirked at her suggestion, raising his own hands in mock surrender.
"Don't think it didn't cross my mind. Quite tempting too, if I were to stop and think about it. But there's no guarantee that would cure it, and besides, I'd hate myself in the morning." He contemplated the thought a moment longer as he turned back towards the console, and twisted a few knobs. "Well maybe not that morning, but probably the day after. What he needs, is time to himself with no distractions."
Rose listened quietly and gave Jack a steady look. "How much time?" It wasn't a question, it was a statement, and it was Rose's way of saying lets get on with this, I want the Doctor back.
"That's my girl." Jack grinned in agreement, moving once more towards the console. "I figure a week on his own ought to cure it," Jack stated, pulling back on the handbrake. "Powell Estate, here we come!" he crowed victoriously, as Rose's face turned to pure horror.