A/N: This is another one of my little daydreams that exploded into an actual plot, complete with angst, TenRose romance, and whump. Oh the glorious whump.
This story fits in with my Doomsday AU series, but stands on its own as well. If you'd like to read those, the first one is Two Months, the second is The Planted Past.
Now with all that said...please enjoy. :)
Chapter One: The Madness Begins
The Doctor's fingers trembled as they worked, slick with blood and sweat. He wiped a hand off on his trousers, careful to keep his eyes on his work. If they thought he wasn't working, Rose's screams would be echoing in his ears faster than he could say "stop."
But he could save her, he reminded himself. He could still save her if he concentrated and performed a miracle. And a miracle it would be, because he wasn't even sure it was possible. In fact, it probably wasn't. Might not even work at all.
He could sense every slow second passing, every one of Rose's fearful breaths, and mentally kicked himself again. It wasn't the first time she'd been threatened to get him to do something, and if they ever managed to escape – and they would, he thought firmly – it wouldn't be the last. Why did he keep dragging her into these kinds of things?
They'd hurt him when he'd refused to do as they asked, and when that didn't work, they'd brought Rose in. He remembered how her eyes had widened when she'd realized what they were asking him to do, how she'd told him, begged him not to do it. Instead, he'd looked her in the eye, bowed his head, and told the aliens pressing the guns to her temple that he would do it.
Fortunately for him, he was clever. Oh, he looked very busy – he was busy working, but he wasn't exactly working on what their captors wanted.
Their leader was pacing behind him, and though the Doctor did not turn to look he could feel the impatience growing in each step. They wouldn't wait much longer. He gritted his teeth against the pain and snatched the last two wires.
He managed to hook them together without screaming. Daring to turn his head ever so slightly, he caught the tiniest glimpse of the alien pacing behind him. It was watching him with its beady little eyes like a snake surveying a rat, but it didn't seem to realize what he'd done.
Keeping his face focused in a look of intense concentration, the Doctor's hand found the lever he'd tucked just out of sight behind some wiring. He could feel the impossible power thrumming under his fingers. This was it, he realized, his mouth pulling into an even grimmer line. He hesitated a moment, hand clutching the lever so tightly that his knuckles turned white. He was the champion – no the lord – of foolhardy plans, whipped together at the last second with barely a prayer of working. But this…this took the cake.
It was all up to Jack now.
The Doctor took a deep breath and yanked the lever down.
Somewhere in the Mita galaxy, between the twin planets Sliya and Joll and just past the Drexel Nebula, a star was dying. Tendrils of gold and bright magenta bubbled and swirled, branching from a blinding white center, a network of color and energy. Flecks of electric blue burst from the center like millions of fireflies released from a jar. At the heart of the star, a crushing pressure built, ready to expel heat and light and sheer force in the star's final breath.
A nearby but safe distance away, a small blue box hovered in space, door ajar to reveal three people peering at the display in awe.
"It's beautiful," breathed Rose, squeezing the Doctor's hand. She sat next to him on the TARDIS threshold, legs dangling outside into the emptiness of space.
"Nearly as gorgeous as you," Jack added, leaning on their shoulders with his elbows.
"Thought you'd like it," the Doctor beamed. "This star's got a lot of interesting elements in it, makes the explosion rather brilliant…" He eased his legs back inside the TARDIS, and held out a hand to help Rose up. "But we'll have to close the door soon, or a massive shockwave's going to hit us in about, oh….thirty-one point two seconds."
"Oh, not cutting it close at all then," Jack said, standing and reaching to close the door.
"Nah," scoffed the Doctor, bounding back to the console and pushing buttons seemingly at random. "Plenty of time!" The TARDIS screeched as it entered the vortex.
Rose plopped onto the captain's chair. "So where we off to now?"
"Anywhere and everywhere," answered the Doctor, leaning against the console. "Suggestions? Anyone?"
"Phroditamite," proposed Jack quickly, settling next to Rose on the chair.
The Doctor's nose wrinkled. "Nonononono. Bad idea. Absolutely not."
"Oh, c'mon! Rose'll love it."
"Biggest nightclub in the universe," Jack explained, closing his eyes in relish.
"The high amount of cloud cover keeps most of the sunlight from reaching the inhabitants," babbled the Doctor, twisting some levers. "Keeps most of the warmth out, too."
"So the Phroditamines started a planet-wide dance party to warm themselves up," continued Jack.
"Why not go, then?" asked Rose warily. "What's the catch?"
"No catch," Jack insisted.
Rose raised an eyebrow and looked to the Doctor.
"They play only Fiery Vertebrae," he said darkly.
"I like Fiery Vertebrae!" Jack shot back. The Doctor shuddered.
Rose smiled, brow scrunching in confusion. "Who are they, then?"
"Fifty-first century band," the Doctor reeled off. "Studied lyric writing under a master Vogon poet. Highly argued to be the worst music in the universe." He reached out for Rose melodramatically. "Come, my dream, let's dance 'til our sides burst at the seams. Your uvula delights me, your eyes, they entice me – "
"They've got great beats!" Jack protested over Rose's howling laughter. "And if you hate them so much, why do you have their songs memorized?"
"I know everything," the Doctor replied smugly, "Well, almost everything. Well, almost almost everything – "
A ringing alert sounded from the console, and the Doctor rushed over to inspect the screen. "Distress signal," he announced.
"Where?" gasped Rose, still fighting the urge to laugh.
"Warren Delta Three." The Doctor frowned at the screen.
"Oh, I've been there," Jack recalled. "Great restaurants. They have amazing noodles."
"I'll get you some after we've saved the planet," the Doctor promised as he dashed around the console. "Rose, that button there – Jack, that one – "
They all tumbled to the floor as the TARDIS landed.
The Doctor, as usual, was the first one up. "Come on, come on!" He helped both his friends to their feet and shooed them towards the door, shrugging on his overcoat on the way out.
"Wouldn't want to keep the mortal danger waiting," Rose added, and all three of them opened the TARDIS door and strode out into whatever trouble awaited them.
"Are you sure the distress signal came from somewhere in this restaurant?" Rose asked.
"Absolutely positive." The Doctor frowned at his sonic screwdriver, shaking it vigorously.
"Only it doesn't look like anyone's in, you know…distress."
Jack yawned in agreement. They'd spent the better part of an hour traipsing through the town the TARDIS had landed in, following the distress signal past sunset. At last they'd managed to track the signal to this small but inviting restaurant. It had a vague sort of Earth Asian feel – warm orange lanterns dangled from the ceiling, and thick candles adorned each simple wooden table. The restaurant was only half-full; the rotund, almost panda-like Warrenites and the occasional offworlder chattered away as they twirled long fuchsia noodles around a notched stick.
No one looked to be in any state of alarm, distress, or danger whatsoever.
"Excuse me," the Doctor said loudly, attracting the attention of nearby tables. "I'm the Doctor – hello – and this is Rose and Jack. Is anyone here in trouble? In danger of being eaten or anything?" He glanced at the food in alarm. "Those noodles aren't sentient or anything, are they?"
"Doctor!" A particularly pudgy Warrenite waddled over to them, a tray of plates in his paws. "Back already?"
"Back?" the Doctor raised an eyebrow. "Er, yes. What was your name again?"
"Urzen," the Warrenite replied, setting the tray down on a nearby table. "You saved my restaurant this morning, and I thank you for it!"
"Oh, right. Of course." The Doctor stuck the screwdriver back in his pocket. "Of course I did."
"Sit, sit!" Urzen waved them towards an empty table. "You and your friends left before I could thank you properly. Dinner's on me!"
"Ah, you're welcome. I mean, thank you." The Doctor shrugged at both Rose and Jack, both of whom were trying not to laugh.
"Sit, sit!" Urzen repeated, pushing them into their chairs. "I'll bring you noodles straight away!" He scurried as fast as his stumpy legs would carry him towards the kitchen.
Jack lounged back in his chair. "He seems pretty grateful. What did you save his restaurant from?"
"I don't know," the Doctor grinned widely. "I haven't, yet. Wibbly-wobbly…"
"Timey-wimey," Rose and Jack both finished in unison.
Urzen returned, plopping hot plates of fuchsia noodles in front of them. "Enjoy!"
As their host returned to the kitchen, the Doctor poked at his noodles. Having determined they were not sentient after all, he began eating them with abandon. Sauce dribbled down his chin.
"I still can't believe you don't like Fiery Vertebrae," Jack complained between mouthfuls of noodles. "Have you no heart?"
"Two, in case you hadn't noticed," he replied flippantly, wiping his mouth off on his sleeve.
"What's music like, then, in the fifty-first century?" Rose asked, struggling to get her noodles to wrap around what she was beginning to think of as a single chopstick.
The Doctor slurped a noodle. "Remember that concert I took you to? Where they smashed the blenders?"
"And the lightning show?"
"That's the one. That was Kelvin Kalrezek. Best musician of the 50th century. Started the entire pop-breaking-glass revolution, which carried on into the fifty-first."
"Oh, I liked him," Rose remembered.
The Doctor sniffed. "You would."
"Kelvin Kalrezek," Jack recalled with a grin, "Also had the best hair of the 50th century. And those eyes…"
Rose rolled her eyes, smiled, and leaned towards the Doctor. "I like you better."
The Doctor adjusted his tie and cleared his throat. "Yes, well…quite right too."
Still smiling, Rose slurped a noodle. "You didn't even tell Jack why we were there."
"Oh, yeah!" The Doctor beamed. "So a couple rogue Audotrells were trying to use the sound system to transmit a homing signal to their mothership…"
The amount of noodles on their plates dwindled as the story continued, growing funnier with every word.
"And then Kelvin, he said…" the Doctor continued, barely suppressing his laughter enough to speak. "He said, 'Whot's that on your head, mate?' And Rose – "
Jack laughed harder as Rose choked on her drink, unable to swallow through her giggles. She wiped her dripping mouth off with her fingers. Behind her, Jack suddenly spotted a maroon, hairless humanoid at the next table, its slitted eyes watching them carefully, twisting an empty sack in its muscled hands. The laughter on Jack's face faded as he took in its reptilian snout, bony jaw, and steeply ridged eyebrows. That creature looked out of place in this restaurant full of furry, cuddly-looking people, and something about its presence here bothered him. What species was it?
The Doctor and Rose continued obliviously. "And then," the Doctor chortled, "He did the thing with the blender, and the signal – "
Suddenly the figure lurched forward, opening the bag wide and heading straight for the still-giggling Rose. Jack lunged towards her, one hand reaching for his blaster, but stopped as his vision went dark. Somebody had just pulled a wet bag over his own head. The stench of chloroform made him gag as he twisted in a vain attempt to free himself, groping for his blaster. His fingers only gripped air, an instant after his attacker – Muerton, he identified – had snatched the weapon instead. Around him, Jack could hear muffled yells and crashes – Rose's attacker had brought friends.
Trying not to inhale any more of the nauseating fumes, Jack managed to jerk his head out from under the bag. He gasped in fresh air as he watched in horror a Muerton wrenching a bag down over Rose's struggling head. Beside her, another Muerton was fumbling to bag the Doctor. It was proving to be a difficult task. The Doctor's eyes were filled with fury as his limbs landed blow after blow into the person behind him. Yet another attacker swarmed over the Doctor to help pin him down as the Time Lord yelled Rose's name repeatedly. Rose's attacker soon managed to get the bag over her head and wrap an arm around her neck. She tugged at the Muerton's arms, but her flailing was becoming more and more subdued by the second.
Jack squirmed in an attempt to help either of his friends, but the Muerton behind him pressed the soaked bag tight over his mouth and nose. Jack choked on the sweet fumes but fought even harder. One of the Doctor's attackers copied the idea, pushing the chloroform-soaked bag over the Time Lord's face. But the Doctor was having none of it. His resistance became more desperate as Rose weakened and finally stopped moving altogether.
Jack's own vision was dimming as the chloroform smothered him. His arms and legs felt as if they were stone; soon he could barely struggle at all. His vision began to blur as he watched the Doctor thrash like a wild animal, and he dimly wondered whether Time Lords were immune to chloroform. The Doctor was still yelling both Rose's and Jack's names, but Jack heard the sound as if it traveled underwater.
The Muerton attacking the Doctor must have come to the same conclusions Jack had, because it let the bag drop to the floor and punched the Doctor in the jaw. Jack gave one more ineffectual tug at his attacker's arm before his body slumped. He glimpsed another Muerton deal a blow to the Doctor's head as his vision slowly blurred to nothingness.
Slowly, Jack blinked, letting the plain white room – no, cell – come into focus. Rose's tear-streaked face shone over him.
"You're awake too!" she cried gratefully, throwing her arms around him. "I just woke up a minute ago."
Jack returned her hug anxiously, feeling the slightest rush of adrenaline leftover from the restaurant fight. "Where's the Doctor?"
Rose bit her lip and pointed towards the opposite corner. "Over there," she said softly, and Jack flinched.
The Doctor sat leaned against the cell wall, his head lolling unpleasantly. Dried blood was caked around his jaw, and a nasty purple bruise covered his eye. The rest of his face was either horribly pale or swollen. His suit was torn and blood-spattered.
Jack rushed over to him immediately to check he was still breathing.
"He's alive," Rose murmured, joining Jack at the Doctor's side, "First thing I did when I woke up was check his hearts. Only one's beating." She bit her lip again, surveying the broken man. "Jack, what happened? How'd he get like this? All I remember is we were in a restaurant…"
"A bunch of people attacked us," Jack remembered. "Muertons, I think. Tried to knock us out with chloroform. I'm guessing that didn't affect the Doctor, so…they must have tried to knock him out a different way."
"Oh, Doctor…." She carefully wrapped her fingers around the Doctor's limp hand. "But, Jack, what do they want? We haven't done anything! We didn't overthrow anybody, we haven't offended anybody – we were just eating!"
"Don't know," Jack replied grimly.
She fell silent, sitting next to the Doctor against the wall. Jack sat on his other side as Rose removed his tie and used it to wipe some of the blood and sweat off his face.
They sat like that for few minutes before the Doctor finally stirred. "R – Rose?"
"Don't try to get up," Jack ordered, pushing down on his shoulder to keep him from disobeying.
"I'm here," Rose replied soothingly, flicking some of his matted hair off his forehead.
He opened his eyes slowly and tried to sit up, then immediately grimaced and moaned.
"I said don't move," Jack snapped as the Doctor's eyes shut.
"Don't go," Rose pleaded. The Doctor's eyes opened again.
"I doubt I'm going anywhere," he said weakly. "What happened?"
"Chloroform," Jack supplied, "Doesn't work on you, does it?"
"Not really. It could if I actually breathed in enough of it, but….oh. Was I fighting then?"
"Like a rabid Chula," Jack smiled grimly.
Rose bit her lip. "Are you…okay?"
"Oh, this?" The Doctor prodded his face. "Mild concussion, fractured ribs, stopped heart, bruises and who knows what else everywhere? Oh…I'll be fine. Who took us then?"
Jack frowned. "Looked like Muertons."
"Mercenaries, then," the Doctor identified, wincing. "But who are they working for?"
"Does it matter?"
"Might help me figure out what they want…" The Doctor's eyes rolled into the back of his head, and Jack stopped pushing on his shoulders immediately.
"Doctor?" Rose ran a hand through his hair and patted his face. Still, it was a minute or so before the Doctor's eyes cracked open again.
He let out another groan. "Sorry…coma's a bad idea now anyway…" His head drooped again.
Jack shook him. "Sleep is a bad idea if you've got a concussion."
"Not a bad one," the Doctor whined. "I've had far worse."
"Like when?" Jack demanded.
The Doctor paused. "Loads of times. I know I have. What we need…" He grunted as he managed to sit up before Jack could stop him. "Is a way out…Do you hear that?"
Jack concentrated, and heard distant footsteps approaching their door. "Muertons?" he guessed.
"They're coming to let us out?" Rose suggested as the steps came closer.
The Doctor shook his head, trying not to wince. "I doubt it."
The cell door burst open, and several Muertons stormed in, heavily armed.
"Hello," the Doctor said cheerily, "Your services are no longer required. We'll be going now. Mattress is too flat, and the in-house massage leaves something to be desired. See if I ever book this place again."
"Take the Time Lord," ordered one of them.
"No!" Rose cried, blocking the Doctor from their view.
"Don't even think about it," Jack snarled, fists clenching.
One of the Muertons paused. "Are the non-Time Lords required?"
"Orders say they are not," grunted the first Muerton. "But they are preferred."
At this, the Doctor quickly pushed himself off the ground, grimacing horribly and gasping for air. "No, no, don't hurt them, I'll come willingly."
Rose tugged on his arm. "They've got guns!" she hissed.
"And I haven't," the Doctor insisted, gently removing her hand from his arm. "Which makes me the better person, don't you think?"
Jack took Rose's arm as they reluctantly watched the Doctor, still breathing heavily from the effort required to stay upright, be led from the cell. He stumbled once, and would have crashed to the floor had a Muerton not snatched the back of his collar. The Doctor cast one more look back at Rose and Jack, and then the door slammed shut, leaving them alone.
Rose leaned her back against the wall in silence.
Jack started to pace. "They know he's a Time Lord. How do they know?"
Rose bit her lip. "They want him for something. And they're going to kill him if he doesn't tell them."
"They're not going to kill him," Jack realized. "They're going to kill us."
Face set, Rose felt along the wall. "Well, let's not just sit here. There's got to be a way out."
They spent the next hour and a half searching every crack and prodding every section of the walls and door, but their search proved fruitless. As far as they could tell, their cell was inescapable.
"We should have taken the screwdriver," Rose groaned as Jack ran a finger along the doorframe.
"I doubt it would have worked." He rubbed his finger and thumb together, thinking. "If they know about him being a Time Lord, they probably know about the sonic. I'm betting this door's dead-locked sealed."
"And that's the part that worries me," Rose sighed. "They know about him. The Doctor must have met these people before."
"And the meeting didn't end on happy terms." Jack frowned. He moved closer to Rose and rubbed a hand over her back comfortingly, and she wrapped him in a hug. A memory of the Doctor in Torchwood, beaten and barely healing and strapped to a table, flashed in his mind, and he returned Rose's hug guiltily. He'd sworn he wasn't going to let that happen to the Doctor again, but he had no idea how to get them out of this.
"Or he hasn't met them yet," Rose realized. "But they've met him. Whatever we did that got us a free lunch…"
Jack grimaced. "Should've known. No such thing as a free lunch."
Both humans tensed as they heard stomping outside their cell. The door crashed open and several hulking Muertons poured in, heavy guns in their grasps.
"Where is he?" Rose demanded, breaking from Jack and stepping towards them. "What have you done with him?"
"Take the girl," came the order.
Jack sprung into action, moving between them and Rose. "Don't you dare," he seethed. "Take me instead."
The Muertons were on them in an instant. One of them slammed Jack in the gut while the other wrenched Rose away by the arms, kicking and screaming.
"JACK!" she shrieked, wriggling an arm free and reaching for him.
"Rose!" Clutching his stomach, Jack struggled to his feet and lunged for her, but the cell door slammed shut in his face, muffling Rose's cries.
Jack ran his hand down the door again, willing it to open. It didn't. He yelled and beat on the door so hard it trembled, but no one came and the door remained firmly shut.
Finally, he collapsed against the side of the door, mind racing. Whatever these people wanted the Doctor to tell them, he obviously hadn't. An image flashed in Jack's mind of the Doctor, bruised and broken and screaming as Rose was butchered in front of him.
Jack rubbed his hands over his face, hoping that would stimulate some brilliant escape plan. There was no way out of here. He needed a miracle…
The change was instant. One moment, Jack was in the cell, alone and defeated. The next moment, he was sitting at a table, and Rose was in front of him, laughing hysterically.
"He said, 'Whot's that on your head, mate?' And Rose – "
Jack's mouth fell open as his eyes swept over the room, taking in the clinking of glass, the glowing lanterns dangling from the restaurant's ceiling, the remnants of fuchsia noodles littering their plates.
"No freaking way."