A/N: And here we are, the end of the line. Thanks again to everyone who reviewed. And if you haven't, it's not too late. =)
When he awoke, Jack cut off his own gasp and resisted the urge to open his eyes, taking a mental tally of his surroundings instead. He was lying on a hard floor on his back, arms and legs sprawled haphazardly. He slowly flexed the fingers of his right hand. He was still holding the spanner. Perfect.
Keeping his breathing barely perceptible and his eyes closed, Jack recognised the nearby Doctor's babbling.
"I'm telling you, you're making a mistake! You didn't see the destruction! If I open that time lock, your entire army – your entire species – would be wiped out in seconds. Maybe minutes, if you're lucky and the Daleks are having a bad day. And then the real destruction would start. Never mind the damage the Daleks would inflict on the universe – you don't know what the Time Lords were like at the end of war – "
General Staal interrupted him, and Jack nearly tensed at how near the Sontaran was. "If the Time Lords are anything like you, cowering behind a human to escape your fate, they will hardly be a challenge to the great Sontaran fleet!"
"I can't do it," the Doctor declared, "I won't."
"Then the female will die."
Jack forced himself to stay still as he heard Rose wince. He dared to crack his eyes open just slightly, and caught the barest glimpse of Rose. She was on her knees with her hands behind her back. Two of the three Sontaran guards had their laser rifles centimetres from her head.
"Doctor, don't," Rose pleaded. Her words were nearly drowned out by the increasing hum of the laser rifles powering up.
"Alright, alright, stop it!" the Doctor snapped, stepping forward.
The hum died down. "Work!" Staal barked. "Unlock the Time War!"
Rose's voice rang through the chamber. "Don't, you can't!"
"The female will be silent!" The Sontarans' laser rifles started to power up again.
"No!" the Doctor cried, waving his hands in agitation. "Stop, I'll do it. Just stop."
The laser rifles quieted once more.
Jack could almost hear the wheels turning in the Doctor's head. "Right, one unlocked Time War coming right up. Don't hurt her."
Jack cracked his eyes open to see the Doctor looking straight back at him, eyes filled with sorrow, though this vanished when he saw Jack was awake. The Time Lord gave him the tiniest of nods, and then turned to the machine. Jack shut his eyes tightly again. He heard small bangs as the Doctor rummaged through the pile of tools and began working.
Eventually, Jack slowly dared another peek, this time at Rose. She was staring at him, and her eyes widened when she saw his eyelids slowly crack open. Jack winked at her, then shut his eyes again, resuming his dead corpse act.
He remained painfully motionless for several more minutes with nothing to entertain him but the clinks of metal on metal as the Doctor worked. When the Doctor finally spoke, Jack let the familiar voice wash over him.
"So I've been wondering," the Doctor said conversationally, "Where you found this lovely specimen of broken Gallifreyan technology."
"Yes, yes, or you'll torture me and kill my friends – or rather my remaining friend, you've already killed Jack – I know the drill." Jack heard a the machine emit a faint hiss and another clink come from Doctor as he picked up another tool. "But you see, my brain's too big. Needs a bit more stimulation to think. I need noise. And since I doubt you're willing to enlist your guards over there to sing a quartet with Rose, I've decided to just stick to running my own gob. Or, if you like, you could talk back to me. Conversation. Brilliant for getting the ol' synapses going. Might help me work faster."
"We discovered the lock in the ruins of Arcadia," Staal admitted.
"Ah, Arcadia," the Doctor muttered darkly, "I was there, you know, right there, at the front line….But what's one more war story to you?"
"Keep working!" Staal barked.
"Yes, yes," the Doctor said, snapping from his reverie, "I'm working. No need to shout. I have enough people to shout at me, thank you very much..."
"I KNOW!" the Doctor yelled back, snapping something into place. "But you know what I don't know? Why you've resorted to hiring Muertons to do your dirty work. Not very brave, is it?"
"Sontarans do not lack bravery!" Staal shot back.
"No, no, I suppose not. It's numbers you're short on, isn't it?" Jack could hear the Doctor's smug grin. "Oh, I'm right, aren't I? I like it when I do that. 'Cause this ship's not the average warship, is it? Looks more like a stasis ship to me. Your whole army's in stasis; just a couple of you awake to run the ship. Why's that, then?"
"The new army rests in preparation for the Time War!"
"Oh, yes, yes. New clones, brand new batch of Sontaran warriors, might not even be finished developing yet. First day on the job for the new clones, a good night's sleep is very important...or so I've heard. I suppose it's easier, too, for a Muerton to take two humans and a Time Lord than it would be for a Sontaran. Three very tall humanoids…"
"You will be silent," Staal ordered tersely. "Or the human female will be killed."
The Doctor did not say anything else for a long time.
Without the Doctor's babbling, Jack was almost beginning to drift off. The only thing keeping him awake was the terrible, gut-wrenching urge to scratch his nose and the sheer terror that one of the Sontarans would notice he was still alive. Another quick peek confirmed that the Sontaran guards, at least, seemed completely focused on hiding their expressions of boredom from their commander.
On the other hand, Staal had begun to pace again, his steps quick and agitated. Jack listened to Staal's feet, calculating the timing of each step and the distance from his body to Staal's path.
A couple times when Staal's pacing made him face away from Jack, he chanced another peek at Rose. She was watching Staal pacing, brow creased in worry. Through it all, the Doctor worked on in silence.
"How complete is your work?" The general demanded suddenly, nearly startling Jack into moving.
"Oh, am I allowed to talk now?" The Doctor said in surprise.
"How complete is your work?" Staal asked again, anger building.
"Complete?" the Doctor repeated as if puzzled. Through the open slit of his eyelids, Jack could see the Doctor rubbing his head. "About…half-way maybe?"
"Work faster," Staal ordered. "I grow impatient."
"Oh, I doubt that. Don't grow much at all, do you?"
Staal practically growled.
"Sorry, was that rude?" the Doctor wondered. "My fault, sorry."
"Worker faster, or the human will – "
"Yes, I know," the Doctor said louder. "Believe me, I am very, very much aware of all the nasty guns near her head. More to the point, do you know what would be extremely useful right about now, besides a sonic screwdriver?"
Jack's body, which had been lying agonizingly still for who knew how long, tingled with anticipation. He peeked his eyes open again and fully opened them when he saw all attention was focused solely on the Doctor. He gripped the discarded spanner tightly in his fist.
The Doctor's eyebrows waggled as his mouth formed the words, "A spanner."
In one fluid movement, Jack leapt off the ground and toward Staal, swinging the heavy spanner straight into the probic vent at the back of the general's neck. Staal dropped instantly. Before his body had even fully collapsed, Jack snatched the general's blaster and aimed it towards the Sontarans surrounding Rose.
The guards swerved their rifles' aim from Rose to Jack, and Rose rolled in a backwards somersault away from them.
"Hold your fire!" the Doctor barked, and the guns swiveled to him instead. He held a remote with a pulsing red button above his head, thumb poised to press it. "I've got a bomb!"
"You have no bomb," scoffed one of the Sontarans.
"Don't I?" said the Doctor, eyes wide in mock bewilderment, "I wonder what it is I've been working on for all this time then?"
Rose managed to scoot herself over to Jack, who helped her up without budging his aim from the Sontaran guards. One of the Sontarans kept his gun trained on Jack; the other two were reserved for the Doctor.
"Sontarans are not afraid of death," boasted Kaagh.
"I'm offering you a choice," the Doctor said darkly, his hand tightening over the button, "I don't know how big this ship is, but there must be thousands of Sontarans onboard, not to mention there's the ship itself. I can set this bomb off and destroy them all. Or, you can transport my friends and I back to where your Muertons found us. Just leave. Leave now and never come back and live to fight another day. What do you say?"
The Doctor hesitated. "You're picking death, then?"
"Death before cowardice!" confirmed one of the other Sontarans. "And your friends will be the first."
Jack nudged Rose behind him with his elbow, keeping the gun leveled at the nearest Sontaran.
"You're going to doom them all?" the Doctor asked desperately, "Destroy your entire ship?"
"Better than to die a coward," Kaagh shot back, "And you have no bomb."
The Doctor's grip on the remote tightened. "I am giving you a chance to leave."
"Take aim." The Sontarans aiming at the Doctor switched their aim to Jack and Rose. Jack's finger touched the trigger, ready to fire.
The Doctor's shoulders slumped. "Then I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." His thumb came down on the button.
Jack felt Rose flinch next to him, and he braced himself for the explosion…
The Sontarans all laughed. "Such unwarranted arrogance! There is no bomb!"
The Doctor shrugged joylessly, hands in his pockets as he wandered over to where Jack and Rose stood. "Of course there is," the Doctor said lightly. "It's on a delay." Then he snatched Rose by the arm – her hands were still bound behind her back – and pushed Jack towards the door. "RUN!"
Jack ran backwards, throwing wild shots behind him to keep the Sontarans from firing or following too closely, before fully turning and running as fast as he could after the Doctor and Rose.
As soon as he was through the door, the Doctor pulled it shut quickly and sonic-ed it. Then he pointed the screwdriver at Rose's cuffs. "You both alright?" he asked frantically.
"Never better," answered Jack, eyes darting around for potential attackers.
"Brilliant," Rose said shakily as her cuffs snapped off.
The Doctor gripped her freed hand and squeezed it. "Good, because there's a bit more running ahead."
They dashed through the halls of the doomed ship as if monsters were on their heels, and soon enough there were. Muertons emerged from behind a corner, guns primed, which forced the three to take an adjacent hallway.
"Which way to the TARDIS?" Rose gasped, legs pumping even quicker to keep up with the Doctor.
"Right!" Jack directed, pointing the gun wildly behind him and letting off a few shots to deter the Muertons. The Doctor did not tell him off for his use of weaponry, which was, Jack supposed, because everyone on the ship would be dead soon anyway.
Soon, the blessed blue box was within sight. "Come on," the Doctor urged, yanking Rose forward, "Come on, come on, come on…"
Jack wrenched the glass panel open and all three of them burst through the TARDIS doors and tumbled inside. Ducking to avoid a blast that nearly took off his head, the Doctor kicked the door shut and jumped over the heap of limbs that was Jack and Rose to the console.
Quickly Jack disentangled himself from Rose and helped her to her feet, trying not to grin idiotically at the sight of the Doctor at the TARDIS controls, no matter how frantic the Time Lord was.
All three of them were alive and well in the TARDIS. He'd done it.
The TARDIS landed with a slight bump, and the Doctor let his hands drop to his side. With a tired, grim silence, he strode past both his friends and out the TARDIS doors. Rose and Jack followed out behind him.
They were back on Warren Delta Three, Jack realised as he saw the light of the moons reflect off the restaurant's windows. The Doctor stared up at the dark sky, and both Rose and Jack squinted to see what he was staring at.
With a resounding boom, fireworks erupted in the sky, spilling brilliant ribbons of orange and crimson. A crowd of Warrenites poured out of buildings, all pointing and staring at the show. Some of the younger Warrenites laughed in glee at the display, unaware of its bloody origin.
"That's the ship, isn't it?" Rose asked quietly, pulling her gaze away to look at the Doctor.
The Doctor watched the ship explode with stony eyes. "Yeah," he said flatly.
Rose's lips tightened into a sad smile. She reached over to take his hand and squeezed it. "We're alive, though, yeah? Not too bad."
The Doctor turned from the exploding sky and gave the tiniest glimmer of a grin. "Not too bad."
Jack watched the fireball as it expanded, slowly fading. He clapped a hand on the Doctor's shoulder. "Got a teleport to dismantle."
The Doctor tore his gaze away from Rose. "Yes! Teleport. Lead the way, Captain."
One dismantled teleport later, Rose and Jack lounged on the captain's chair while the Doctor meandered around the console, absent-mindedly flicking switches.
"So…you saved us again," Rose said with a smile, "Now what?"
The Doctor looked up from the controls. "No, Jack did." He nodded sincerely at Jack. "Thank you."
"Hey, no problem," Jack said with a grin, casually stretching and bringing his arm down around Rose's shoulders. She raised an eyebrow at him, but didn't protest.
"No really, you were brilliant," the Doctor said warmly.
Jack gave a half-shrug, but inside he basked in the glowing praise. "You're the one who kept giving me another shot to get it right."
"That machine's how you did it, wasn't it?" asked Rose, "That time lock thing?"
The Doctor stuck his hands in his pockets. "Must have been. I definitely could have made a short-range memory suppression bubble out of that, but as for the time loop….You have to understand, forcing time to loop back on itself is complicated. Immensely complicated. And to do it without the Eye of Harmony…that sort of thing's never been done before, not even by Time Lords."
"So, what, you invented a method for creating a time loop, by yourself, not once but several times?"
The Doctor rubbed his hand down his face. "Apparently. Mind you, I've no idea how I did it…That time lock…" His lips turned down slightly as he concentrated. "Maybe if I rerouted the paradox inhibitor conduit…" He looked thoughtful for a moment, then shook his head. "Nah, that'd just blow the whole thing up, wouldn't it?" He pumped the bicycle pump absent-mindedly.
Rose grinned. "Whatever it was, it was amazing."
"Doubt I could do it again."
"Bet you could."
Jack whistled. "And still. It'd take a genius to figure something like that out."
The Doctor yanked down a lever and leaned back against the console, arms folded in front of his chest and a smirk across his face. "Yep." He cocked an eyebrow at Rose. "Impressed?"
Rose stuck her tongue out the corner of her lips. "Maybe a bit. Could do with a bit more impressing."
Accepting the challenge, the Doctor attacked the console controls in a dizzying frenzy. "Something impressive coming right up then!"
"Phroditamite," Rose called.
The Doctor whirled to face her, eyes incredulously wide. "What? But Rose, the music – "
Rose snuggled into Jack's side, much to the captain's delight. "Think Jack deserves it, don't you?"
The Doctor pouted at him, but Jack just grinned and wrapped his arm tighter around Rose. His voice reached an unthinkable falsetto as he sang, "Her clavicle's quite angular, wish I could disentangle her, Oh sweet dream, won't you – "
"Alright, alright!" the Doctor shuddered, pulling some more levers.
Rose and Jack high-fived with a whoop.
"You can show me your dance moves," Rose called, and the Doctor smirked, shaking his hips in a circle in response as he reached for another lever.
"You can do better than that!" Jack crowed.
The Doctor yanked the lever down and the ship jolted, throwing both his friends to the floor. Utterly unruffled, he reached out a hand and swooped Rose off the floor in one fluid motion, leaving Jack to scramble to his feet.
Grimacing, the Doctor pushed the door open. Hot pink lights washed over the three immediately as a pulsing beat made their very bones rattle. The humidity of an entire dancing planet's sweat soaked their clothes almost immediately.
"Come on, then!" Rose yelled, voice indiscernible over the pounding music as she yanked the Doctor out the door. Jack grinned as he shut the door behind him and followed.
Hours later, the Doctor stumbled inside the TARDIS, Rose and Jack on each side supporting him. A goofy grin decorated the Time Lord's face.
"The bare necessities of life will come to you!" the Doctor sang happily. "Like bananas!"
"Like in those banana floats, you mean?" Rose rolled her eyes and glared at Jack. "That you said weren't alcoholic!"
"I didn't think they were, or I wouldn't have convinced him to drink so many!" Jack protested as they heaved the Doctor onto the captain's chair and sat on each side. "How many of those did he have, anyway?"
"Oh, are we back on the TARDIS?" the Doctor said delightedly before bursting into song again. "Wherever I wander, wherever I roam, I couldn't be fonder of my big home…No, sorry, that's 'The Jungle Book,' isn't it?"
"I don't think he had that many," Rose said with fond exasperation.
"Disney!" the Doctor interrupted brightly. "Walter Elias Disney! Good ol' Walt! Brilliant chap, left me his head to keep on the TARDIS….still haven't dropped it off at the cryogenic reviving station on Vesper Four…" He rolled his head to face Rose. "Want to go meet him?"
Rose's nose wrinkled. "You want to meet a man whose cryogenically frozen head is on your TARDIS?"
"No, I want you to meet him. I already did. How else would I have gotten his head?" the Doctor said reasonably. He beamed. "His head can make friends with my hand!"
"Any other spare body parts floating around I should know about?" Jack asked, trying not to laugh.
"There's an ear floating around here somewhere…" the Doctor said thoughtfully. "Forgotten whose that was…not Van Gogh, haven't met him yet…want to go meet him? No, Disney!" He lurched off the chair, reaching for the TARDIS controls with all the coordination of a bat in daylight.
Rose gently took his hands off the controls as the TARDIS entered the vortex. "Don't think you should be driving drunk. Mum'd kill you."
"What?" the Doctor said indignantly as he and Rose both landed back on the chair. "Me, driving drunk? Never. Time Lords don't get drunk."
"Bet Time Lords don't get hangovers, either," Jack said cheerfully.
"They don't!" the Doctor insisted.
"Oh, I dunno." Rose smiled and squeezed the Doctor's hand. "There was that time on Florana…"
"And Fiesta 95," Jack added.
"That planet with the polka-dotted sky…"
"King Henry the Eighth's birthday party…." Jack stopped, and looked down at his shoulder. The one that the Doctor was now leaning against, soundly asleep.
"Did he just fall asleep on me?" Jack asked in disbelief.
Rose used her free hand to poke the Doctor's shoulder. The Time Lord didn't even stir. "Yep."
Jack grinned evilly, but Rose didn't notice. Yawning, she snuggled into the Doctor's side. Jack propped his elbow up on the back of the chair so he could lean his head against his hand. Within minutes, Rose was asleep too, curled up against the Doctor with her fingers loosely intertwined with his. Jack watched the steady rise and fall of their chests for awhile, then yawned and let his own eyes close.
Soon there would be danger to dive into, worlds to explore, people to meet, music to dance to, adventures to live. But for now, there was only blissful dreaming as the TARDIS drifted through the endless universe waiting for them.