An Appointment With Death (1/3)
Author: Crimson Kaoru
Pairing(s)/Main Character(s): Overall: Jack/Tenth Doctor (main), other: Jack/Ianto, Owen, Gwen, Tosh; this part: brief Jack/Ianto
Rating: Overall: PG-13; this part: PG-13
Word Count: complete at ~15,500 words; this part: ~5,000
Spoilers: Adrift, Torchwood-wise, and through series three of Doctor Who.
Disclaimer: Torchwood and Doctor Who are property of the BBC, RTD, etc.
Summary: A few months after the Year that Never Was, the Doctor stops by Torchwood with a plan to take Jack on a spin in the TARDIS. He planned a vacation, but thanks to some incorrect coordinates, they find an empty ship, hanging freely in space. It all begins to go downhill when the dead won't stay dead and Jack starts to cough up blood.
· one ·
The sign on the door said 'Tourist Information Centre'. As he took a step back and gave the squat, dockside building in front of him a quick once-over, the Doctor decided that everything seemed to be just as Jack had described. He couldn't help but wonder if the so-called 'Hub' was a little more impressive on the inside—though he knew better than anyone that looks could be deceiving.
The Doctor threw a fond glance over his shoulder at the TARDIS, parked innocently beside the nearby steps. She hummed a tune only he could hear, and he smiled and turned back to the building. As he ran over what he was going to say in his head one final time, he tapped a quiet, age-old rhythm on the wooden boards beneath his trainers; it wasn't quite loud enough to drown out the noise of the greenish-grey water lapping gently below.
He considered, briefly, that he might look a little strange to those passing by—he'd been standing outside this building for the past few minutes, hands in his pockets, gazing blankly at the door with his glasses lodged crookedly on his nose. The Doctor was actually quite content to stand there and stare all day; though he'd gone over his plan enough times to ensure that it was kink-free, he didn't want to go in there and be rejected on the spot.
A few minutes later, though, the smell of fish and salt in the air began to get to him. With a deep breath, the Doctor rocked on the balls of his feet, pushed his spectacles up his nose, opened the door—and was so busy taking in the sights before him that he very nearly tripped over a hat stand a few feet inside the threshold.
The young man behind the desk—tall, with dark hair, in a black suit—looked up with a start from a brochure that he'd been skimming.
"Hello!" the Doctor said brightly. He righted his footing, then reached over and plucked the hat stand out of the way of the door.
The young man stared at him for a moment, looking as if he was trying to place where he had seen the Doctor's face before. When the expression on said face turned expectant, he checked himself and offered a polite smile. "How can I help you?"
The Doctor stepped forwards and draped his upper body across the counter. "I'm looking for a Captain Jack Harkness."
"I'm afraid I don't know anyone by that name," the young man said without missing a beat. He held up a phone book. "Would you like me to look in here?"
The Doctor picked up a pen lying on the desk and began to draw curlicues on a nearby brochure. "Oh, but you do. Maybe you could phone up and tell him that the Doctor's arrived? I'm sure he'll be pleased to hear from me."
The young man's whole body went stock-still at that. His expression closed off, and when he spoke, his voice was faint but lined with something darker. "The Doctor, you said?"
The Doctor nodded enthusiastically. "That's right." His eyes narrowed in concentration behind his glasses as he inspected the boy before him. "Now, which one are you? Jack told me about an Owen… what was it? Hawker? Oh, well. Owen Something, and—and an Ianto Jones. Jack talked about him a lot." Judging by how the young man jerked, just a tiny little bit, at that last sentence, the Doctor's guess had been right on target. His eyes crinkled in amusement and he grinned, wide and white. "Talked about you a lot, I mean. Good afternoon, Ianto Jones," he stuck out his hand for a shake, "I'm the Doctor."
Ianto Jones reluctantly took his hand. He broke away as soon as possible and reached for the phone; a few moments later, he turned aside and said quietly, "Jack? There's a man calling himself—there's—the Doctor's here to see you."
The Doctor strained to hear Jack's response, but got nothing but the buzz of static and Ianto's sigh as he put the phone down. "He'll be right up," he said.
And he was. It was only moments later when part of the wall next to the desk rolled back and Jack Harkness himself strode in. He was beaming and dressed, as always, in his old greatcoat. These past months had finally started to take a toll on it—the great old thing looked a little raggedy around the edges, unlike Jack himself: still as dashing as ever.
"Doctor!" he exclaimed, rushing forwards and wrapping his arms around the Doctor in a warm hug. He didn't seem to notice Ianto's heavy gaze, though the Doctor did. "What's the occasion?"
"Oh, I just thought I'd stop by for a chat." The Doctor couldn't help but smile at Jack's suspicious glare. "Well. Maybe not just a chat—but it doesn't involve the end of the world as we know it this time, promise."
Both Jack's laugh and smile came off a little strained; thinking back on the Year that Never Was must still have been painful. The Doctor couldn't blame him; a day didn't go by where he didn't steer his mind away from painful memories of wrinkled hands and a mocking smile on a youthful face. Now, however, was not the time for reminiscing: the Doctor had come to Cardiff to make new memories, not to get lost in old ones.
"So! Jack." He clapped his hands. "I was taking a quick spin through the Eoix Nebula recently, and I found myself on Barcelona! Not the city, mind you—"
Jack's face fell at once, nearly at the exact same moment that Ianto began, with a lot more force than necessary, shuffling pamphlets and sticking pens and pencils lying around on the counter back into their allotted places. "Oh, Doctor," Jack began, and it had I'd love to, but written all over it.
The Doctor brought up a hand to silence him. "But they've got dogs with no noses! Hah!" He hooted with laughter. "I said the same thing to Rose. You know, no matter how many times you tell that joke—" He trailed off, noticing that neither Jack nor Ianto seemed to be appreciating the hilarity. "But…"
Jack shook his head. He threw a quick glance at Ianto, and when he looked back, he seemed more torn than ever. "Doctor, you have to understand. I—"
The Doctor frowned and looked between Jack and Ianto. "Oh, come on," he said, and grinned at Ianto encouragingly. The smile wasn't returned, though he didn't let that daunt him. "Ianto doesn't mind if you go, do you, Ianto?"
Ianto crossed his arms over his chest. "I do mind a bit, actually," he said dryly. He turned to Jack. "Gwen took that case with Nikki Bevan and her son particularly hard. I think if you swanned off at this point—well, she wouldn't be best pleased. I don't think Tosh and Owen would take it that well, either."
"Owen!" exclaimed the Doctor before Jack could say anything. "Owen and Toshiko and Gwen. I heard about them, oh yes."
Jack shot the Doctor a glance that made it clear how much his help was appreciated, and tried to smile at Ianto. "It would only be for a little wh—"
The Doctor perked up. "Oh, you've decided to come along, have you?"
Ianto scowled. "No, he hasn't."
Jack placed a placating hand on his shoulder. "The Doctor and I have a lot to catch up on, Ianto. And it would only be for a little while. Wouldn't it, Doctor?" He rounded on the Doctor with a stern look in his eyes, and got laughter in reply.
"Yes, Jack," the Doctor answered obediently. "I won't keep you long, and I'll return you in tip-top shape, I promise."
Ianto glanced between them and seemed to wilt a little. "Gwen is going to kill you," is all he said.
Jack beamed at him, and the Doctor was halfway out the door when he turned back and saw Jack lean in close to Ianto and run a hand intimately along his jaw, whispering something in a voice too soft for the Doctor to hear. "Stop it," he warned, without really thinking about it.
Jack straightened, though his hand stayed on Ianto's face. Ianto himself didn't do anything about it. "Hey," Jack said, rolling his eyes. "I believe I have every right to be flirting with Ianto. Besides," he flashed a grin, "I don't see him complaining, do you?"
The Doctor shook his head and threw up his arms in exasperation. "I don't ever see anyone complaining, Jack," he sighed, and turned towards the door. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Jack pull Ianto close. He averted his eyes as they kissed, feeling very suddenly out of place, and stepped through the open door. It was only a few seconds later that Jack followed, his greatcoat flapping behind him in the breeze. "Boyfriend, is he?" the Doctor asked, not really expecting an answer.
Jack just laughed and strode towards the TARDIS. At the door, he turned back around. "So, where are we going? You said something about…"
"Barcelona," the Doctor supplied. With his hands in his pockets and his head thrown back, eyes to the sky—the image of leisurely genius, or so he hoped—he opened his mouth to explain further, only to stumble and stop short a few feet from the TARDIS' door. Suddenly on edge, the Doctor turned around and eyed the jetty for the source of the strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. The wind sent an abandoned newspaper whirling past, but save that, all was still. Frowning, the Doctor turned back to his ship, inside of which Jack was waiting with an eyebrow raised questioningly.
"You coming, Doctor?" he called.
The Doctor shook his head and kicked himself into a trot. "Anyway!" he said, crossing to the console and swallowing the weird upset. It vanished as soon as he laid a hand on the nearest set of switches. "I haven't been to Barcelona in years—never did end up going with Rose—" he smiled fondly, remembering, "but it's lovely there. Beautiful. Like I said, dogs with no noses." He drummed his fingers on the console and prodded at another few buttons. "Humans set up a nice little civilisation there in the sixty-third century, and it's thriving! Marketplaces as big as London! Lakes made out of crystal! Do you think you're up for it?"
Jack shrugged his greatcoat off, threw it over the railing, and was at the Doctor's side in an instant. "Let's go," he said with a grin.
The Doctor's face lit up and he turned back to the console. A few more flipped switches and pressed buttons later, he stood back and looked up at the column lighting up before him proudly. "Better hold on, Jack," he said, and then there was a great lurch and they were off.
Somewhere between entering the Vortex and landing with a shudder, the Doctor ended up on the floor, with Jack hanging on to the console for dear life. Not that he needed to, the Doctor couldn't help but think as he stood up and brushed himself off. "We've landed!" he announced, offering Jack a hand.
"I noticed," Jack said, taking the proffered limb and stretching with a groan. "Man, if there was something I didn't miss…"
The Doctor tsked and wagged a finger. "Don't say that," he said, patting the TARDIS' console gently. "You'll hurt her feelings." With that, he turned and grabbed his coat; he shouldered it as he jogged down the platform to the door. Just before opening it, he turned back to Jack and beamed. "Welcome," he said, throwing the door open and stepping outside, "to—"
The Doctor's smile faded from his face, and he stopped so suddenly that Jack crashed into his back hard enough to make them both stumble.
"What's wrong, Doctor?" Jack said, placing one hand on the Doctor's shoulder and stepping around him to take a good look. "Where are we—some kind of ship?"
The Doctor frowned. "That's what it looks like," he mused, staring up at the metal panels lining the walls and the floors beneath their feet. Without a word, he turned on his heel and returned to the TARDIS. He heard Jack's footsteps clanking on the grating outside. "Careful," he called, not glancing up from the console. "Well, we must be in the wrong place…" His eyes narrowed as his ship told him otherwise. "No—wait—we should be in the middle of the Dalí Market, but—Barcelona's gone. It's just… gone."
Jack poked his head in. "How can it be gone?"
"I don't—oh. Oh." The Doctor slapped his forehead, groaning. "Eighty-third century. Barcelona's long gone by now!" He looked up with a sigh and ran a hand through his hair. "Burnt to a cinder," he said, softly, mostly to himself. Then, louder: "Well! No matter." He pulled a switch and grabbed the hammer from the panels by his feet. "Off we go!" He glanced up, smiling, only to find that Jack had popped out again. He rolled his eyes. "Jack! Come on. Leaving you on a potentially dangerous ship in the middle of the eighty-third century was not part of my plan!"
Before he could continue, Jack's voice rang out, distinctly panicked—"Doctor!"
The Doctor propelled himself to the door in record time, and burst into the hallway. Jack was nowhere to be seen. "Jack!" the Doctor called, feeling a chill run down his spine. "Jack, where've you gone? What's wrong?" No answer, and the Doctor threw up his hands in exasperation. "One day," he grumbled under his breath, moving southwards to a corner, "I'll find someone who knows the meaning of don't wander off. I shouldn't have to say it anymore!"
Louder, he added, "Now see what you've done by wandering off! For all I know, you could be, um, hanging from a barrage balloon! Or chatting up the French elite!" He scratched his head, veering over to one side and peering into a porthole. Faint stars, cloaked in darkness, winked in and out of sight beyond the glass. "Though that was me, admittedly. Well, she started it." Mid-ramble, the Doctor rounded the bend—and skidded to a halt at the sight before him.
Jack looked up from where he knelt on the floor. "Doctor," he repeated, softly. His hand was on the neck of a woman lying face down on the floor, fingers pressed against her pulse. "She's dead."
The Doctor swallowed hard. His eyes lingered on her wine-red hair, matted with her own blood and vomit.
Jack, scowling, got to his feet, his hand already on his gun. "And it hasn't been long." He stepped past the Doctor and tossed a wary look back around the corner, towards where the TARDIS was parked. "Do you think—"
The Doctor looked at the discoloured skin of her hands, bone-white against the crimson of her suit and hair, and at the bruise-like circles of purple winding up her arms and legs. Bloody gashes could be seen through holes in her threadbare shirt. He shook his head. "No." The Doctor sunk to his knees and motioned Jack closer. "Help me roll her over."
Jack reluctantly took his hands off his pistol. Without a word, he crouched and leaned forwards, pushing the Doctor's hands away. He gingerly flipped the woman onto her back; at the sight of her face, he recoiled, grimacing. After a moment, Jack steeled himself and, reaching over, pushed a stray lock of red out of her pale face, closing her eyes as he did so. As he retracted his hand, he kept his eyes from her cracked, bloodless lips, still twisted in a last scream; her jaw that hung unhinged, as if something had tried to force its way out of her throat as she died.
The Doctor frowned, eyeing the purple blotches that stained her cheeks—the same as the rest of her body. "I've seen this before." He racked his brains. "She wasn't murdered. She—"
Before he could continue, a low groan issued from around the corner, where the TARDIS was. Jack was on his feet in an instant, hand on his gun, and the Doctor turned to see a man shuffling towards them. His skin was the same white as the woman lying on the floor, and the purple spots had taken up most of his sunken, narrow face. He stretched out an arm towards them, groaning.
Jack pulled the Doctor to his feet and levelled his gun at the man. "Are you sure it wasn't this guy?"
The Doctor swatted the pistol aside with a disapproving click of his tongue and turned back to the newcomer. "Hello," he said, a trifle nervously. "I'm the Doctor. I'm very sorry—your friend here is dead. Could you tell me what's going on? What's your name?"
The man said nothing. Instead, he continued to move towards them, hands spread wide.
Jack shot the Doctor a look. "Doc…"
The Doctor held a finger to his lips, effectively shushing Jack. He turned back to the strange man. "Can you tell me what's going on here? Is this your ship?" Aside, he added to Jack, "There's something awfully familiar about those purple marks." When Jack ignored him and just raised his gun once again, the Doctor frowned and placed a steadying hand on his shoulder. "Just look at the man, Jack! He's about to fall over, not attack us. I think we should be helping him, rather than holding him at gun—"
The 'point' went unsaid, as the zombie launched himself at Jack with a low groan. Open-mouthed, the Doctor sidestepped the assault and gazed on in shock. "I think he likes you!"
The man's hands closed around Jack's forearms, but before he could get any closer, Jack shoved him away with a guttural shout. "Get off me!" His finger twitched on the trigger of his pistol, and even as the Doctor cried out in protest, a bullet buried itself in the man's shoulder.
The Doctor looked on, horrified and speechless, for a moment as the pale man faltered and stumbled on his feet, then rounded on Jack, whose gun was still raised. "What the hell do you think you're doing? Put that down! We can talk to him—"
Jack shook his head. "I don't think he's listening," he muttered, pointing.
Confused, the Doctor whirled back around. The man, seemingly unaffected by the wound in his shoulder, stumbled towards them with his mouth gaping wide. Blood dribbled down its chin and onto the woman on the floor. Droplets rained down on her back, and a strange, almost acidic hissing filled the air. The next moment, the woman—the formerly very, very dead woman—rose to her feet, her bloodless cheeks startlingly pale against the black of her eyes. She and the man stood side by side in the corridor, blocking the way to the TARDIS.
The Doctor, calmly, turned around and gave Jack one word of advice. "Run!"
They took off down the hall as fast as their legs would take them. Every step took them further away from the TARDIS, but they could hear the heavy footfalls of their assailants behind and didn't dare stop. After careening around three corners and ending up in three respective identical hallways, the Doctor caught sight of a small door off to one side and grabbed Jack's sleeve, pulling him close as they burst through the door and into darkness.
Once he closed the door behind them, the shadows were actually so deep that, while the Doctor could vaguely see a hand waving in the still air in front of him, he wasn't sure if it was his or Jack's. The only sound was their breathing and the now faint footsteps.
"Let's see if we can do something about the lights," the Doctor said, feeling around for a wall to lean against. He fished in his pockets for the sonic screwdriver. "Actually, perhaps we ought to wait a little. Don't want to bring any unnecessary attention to ourselves." He smiled as his hand closed around something long and thin, and he pulled the device out with a triumphant ah-ha. When Jack didn't join him in the celebration, the Doctor frowned. "Are you all right, Jack? It's not like you to be this quiet. I hope you're actually there, and you've not fallen down a hole, or something…"
"I'm here," Jack's voice answered in the darkness, strained. "Just—a little winded."
The Doctor frowned and turned towards where he hoped Jack was. "Oh, dear," he said. "Gotten a bit out of shape, have you?"
Jack's laugh sounded more like a breathy rattle at the back of his throat. "Maybe," he said, and a hand landed on the Doctor's shoulder, sudden enough to surprise him. "Found you."
The Doctor shook his head. "So you did," he said, and continued looking for a wall. He soon found one, along with what felt like a broom handle, and cleared a space to lean against. Once situated comfortably, he slid down until he was seated on the ground. "You didn't have to shoot him, you know."
Jack plopped into place beside him. "If I hadn't, we'd have sat around talking to him until he started foaming at the mouth," he said dismissively. "He must've been the one that killed her."
The Doctor shrugged, even though he knew Jack couldn't see it. "I don't think so, though," he said. "Those purple marks… I'm sure I've seen them before. It would help if I knew where." He threw up his hands. "Or when. Ah, the troubles of being a time-traveller."
"You think it's a disease?" Jack asked. "Funny sort of plague. I just hope that it's not contagious."
"That would be a bit of a nightmare, wouldn't it?" The Doctor patted what he hoped was Jack's arm. "Good thing, too, that I've had all my vaccinations. Don't know about you, Jack."
"It would be a little hard to get vaccinated for a disease that doesn't exist on Earth," Jack said. "And you might want to move your hand."
"Not your arm?"
"Not quite." Jack reached over and took the Doctor's hand in his. His thumb rubbed gentle circles on the Doctor's palm. "Though I can't say I'm protesting. What do you say? One last shag for condemned men? Doing it in the dark has never really been my thing, but I'm sure I can accommodate."
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "Seeing as we can get out at any time, I'll have to decline."
"Don't think my offer's exclusive to now," Jack said, and his breath was a warm puff of air on the Doctor's cheek, startlingly near.
"Stop it," the Doctor warned, and his searching gaze found Jack's eyes, mere twin glimmers of light in the darkness. For a few long, tense seconds, they just stared quietly at each other, only a few inches apart. The Doctor was the first to break away, glancing elsewhere and clambering to his feet. "Now's hardly the time to be flirting, Jack." He turned away and fished the sonic screwdriver out from inside the pocket he'd dropped it into. "Now shush. I don't want them finding us because you're yapping away."
He heard Jack getting comfortable. "Sorry."
The Doctor stood and, after a moment's exploration, returned to the door. He pressed his ear against it and listened hard. A few minutes of nothing, and the footsteps outside grew louder, then faded away. "They're gone," he whispered, and turned back around, aiming his screwdriver at the ceiling. In the blue light that the device gave off, he found that Jack had stood and closed the gap between them, and now loomed close; they were almost nose-to-nose. The Doctor swallowed, a little nervously. To break the silence, he asked, "Ready?"
The single light hanging from the ceiling sputtered to life above them, and Jack backed away, smiling. "Back to the TARDIS?"
The Doctor nodded. "Exactamundo!" he said, then frowned and pulled a face. "I said to myself—never again!" He shook his head, ignoring Jack's bemused look, and placed one hand flat against the door, then took a deep breath and pushed.
The brightly lit corridor beyond had the Doctor blinking back a headache, but it was empty. Grinning, he ran out and spun around; before he could celebrate, Jack's arms were roped around his waist, pulling him back against the wall. "Jack!" he protested, pushing back against the firm chest beneath his fingertips. "I understand that you're happy we've escaped, but there's a time and a place—!"
Jack glared at him. "Be quiet, will you," he snapped under his breath. "They'll hear you! And—there might be more of them, so try not to go dancing about, all right?" The Doctor frowned but did as asked, and Jack released him. "Let's go, then."
"This way!" the Doctor said, pointing in what he hoped was the right direction. "I think."
Jack already had a hand on his holster. "Just in case," he said, when the Doctor frowned at him. "Hey, don't give me that look. Those creatures, whatever they are, aren't exactly friendly. I'm not about to get my arm chewed off."
"I'll be the one chewing on it if you continue to wave that gun around." The Doctor threw up his arms in exasperation. "How very Torchwood." Shushing Jack's protest with a finger to his lips, he sidled down the hall and around the corner. "We really should have taken note of some landmarks, or something."
"Like what?" Jack said into his right ear.
The Doctor jumped. "Oh, I don't know," he muttered, passing a hand over his eyes and taking a deep breath. "Let's go." Without waiting for a reply, he stepped out into the next corridor. Behind him, Jack laughed.
"A bit jumpy, aren't you?"
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "It's that old Harkness charm," he said, turning back to Jack and mock-scowling. The grimace turned into a grin halfway through, only to fade as he watched Jack's eyes stray from his face, watched the amusement on Jack's face vanish, replaced by surprise and fear. The Doctor whirled back around, already knowing what was there.
The man and the woman stood at the junction of the next hallway.
"I think we're going the wrong way," said Jack.
Before the Doctor could reply, the woman leapt towards him, diseased arms spread wide. He staggered back and out of her path as Jack shoved him out of the way, pistol raised. He fired two shots into her torso, then turned to the Doctor and pointed back the way they'd come. "This way!" he shouted, taking the Doctor by the arm and pulling him along as, behind them, the woman got her bearings.
The man was right on their tail as they belted past the broom closet they'd hidden in, back around three corners and through three respective identical corridors. As they turned the final bend, Jack swore as the woman latched onto his coat. He shook her off with a kick and pushed the Doctor into the waiting TARDIS.
The Doctor was at the console in a second, heaving a sigh of relief as he heard Jack slam the door closed. With a click, the lock slid into place, and the Doctor started at the coordinates. "Hold on, we'll be gone in a second. First," he accentuated the word with a jab to the keyboard, "let's make sure no other ships stop by here." He slammed his hand down on a large circular button and spoke to the screen before him: "By order of the Shadow Proclamation, Subsection E-eight-C-dash-Q, Quadrant B of Sector Three must be avoided at all costs. Repeat, avoid Sector Three, Quadrant B."
He pulled away and turned back to Jack, smiling. "Sixty-third century Barcelona," he said, one hand on a lever, "here we come! And I promise to get it right this time."
Jack grinned. "You better," he said, but he sounded out of breath. "Let's get the hell out of here."
The Doctor flipped a switch and moved around the console. "Think about it in terms of anticipation. Dogs with no noses!"
Jack strode up and threw his coat over the railing, laughing. Halfway through, his chuckles turned into a hacking cough, and the Doctor whirled around, startled, just in time to see Jack spit red all over the TARDIS' metal panels. At this moment, however, reprimanding Jack for staining the floor was the furthest thing from his mind.
Then Jack looked up and wiped blood from his mouth with the back of a purple-marked hand. "This is not good," he said, and collapsed.