Act the Fifth: The Doctor Dances
Word Count: 13000~
The mauve capsule they'd been searching for was really just that, a big mauve capsule. Large and cylindrical and mauve. It seemed to be made of metal, steel or something. Rose didn't particularly want to touch it and find out, so she huddled with… Nancy? She was pretty sure that was what Ianto had called her. Regardless, if the boys wanted to fiddle with it that was their choice.
"See? Just an ambulance," Jack pointed out, his tone and posture reeking of I-told-you-so.
"That thing's an ambulance?" Nancy's skepticism was clear.
Rose smiled tightly, and gently wrapped an arm around her, "It's hard to explain… it's… it's from another world."
"They've been trying to get in," Jack observed, pointing to what looked like a keypad of some sort.
"Of course they have," the Doctor scoffed, the two could not seem to get along. Rose saw Jack shoot an annoyed look as he knelt down and began pressing buttons. But the Doctor was never one for tact and elaborated further, "They think they've got their hands on Hitler's latest secret weapon."
"What are you doing?" Ianto asked, also kneeling down. At least he wasn't accusing, Jack hardly deserved it. He may have tried to con them, but he'd also saved them. Rose wished the Doctor would see that.
Jack smiled at Ianto, and Rose had to wonder if it wasn't just the teensiest bit flirty, "I'm opening it, the sooner I show your friend it's empty, the sooner he'll realize I had nothing to do with this."
The men jumped back as sparks flew and a loud, piecing alarm sounded. All eyes fell to Jack, who looked somewhat lost.
"Didn't happen last time…," he offered, as he righted himself.
The Doctor's face looked stern as he helped pull Ianto up, "It hadn't crashed last time. They're the emergency protocols."
"Why is that never a good thing?" Ianto deadpanned.
A bright red light winked to life on what seemed to be the top of the ambulance, the blinking growing more and more rapid until it was flashing almost angrily at them. "What is that?" Rose asked, nerves creeping in.
"I'm going to hazard a guess and say… not good," Jack weakly joked as all eyes were trained on it.
A loud banging reached her ears and instantly Rose turned to the source in time to see the wooden doors rattling as someone pounded into them. "Doctor!" she shouted anxiously.
The Doctor's face turned deadly serious, "Captain, secure those gates!"
"Why?" Jack asked, honestly confused.
"Just do it!" the Time Lord ordered, panic and exasperation thick in his voice. The door rattled again, and Jack finally seemed to realize the urgency as he headed for the wooden barrier. The Doctor fixed his attention on the girl, "Nancy, how did you get in?"
"I cut the wire," she answered.
"Show Rose," the Doctor ordered and tossed the sonic screwdriver to her. Rose managed to catch it, thankfully. "Setting two thousand four hundred and twenty eight D."
Rose balked. She had no idea what that was supposed to mean. It wasn't as though the Doctor ever sat her down and explained how to work the blasted thing, "What?" she demanded, bewildered.
"Reattaches barbed wire. Go!" he barked.
Nancy took off and Rose had no choice but to follow her and hope that the Doctor's faith in her wasn't misplaced.
"Well, it's as secure as I can make it, but those things… it won't stop them for long," Jack announced as he returned to the capsule.
Ianto felt himself frown as he tried to figure out what to do now, "Is there some other way to open this? An override?"
"Now we're thinking," the Doctor clapped him on the shoulder, and knelt down to the controls again.
Jack looked distinctly not amused, "It doesn't matter, opening the ambulance isn't going to do anything." The door rattled and the sound of marching steps filled the air, "Do you both hear that? Those things are coming, and an empty Chula ambulance isn't going to solve this!"
Ianto bristled, but the Doctor stepped in before he could say anything.
"And what do you suggest, Captain?" the Time Lord asked, crossing his arms and fixing Jack with a patronizing expression that had the con artist's hackles raised. "Because if you've got a plan hidden up those fake jacket sleeves now would be a good time."
"Fine," Jack bit out, "move over." And then the former Time Agent set to work, his fingers flying over the keys as the alarm continued to sound, constant ringing that drowned out the marching now. A satisfied smile crept over his features as the capsule chirped and the classic sound of a latch being released echoed in the night. Jack triumphantly slid the ambulance open, the metal scraping sharply.
"It's empty, look at it." Jack insisted.
Ianto stepped closer and tried to get a glimpse of the inside, he hesitated when the Doctor made no such move. Instead the alien remained where he was, arms still crossed and patronizing expression still in place.
Rose and Nancy returned, both of them trying to figure out what had caused this stand off. In all honesty, Ianto wasn't sure either. Jack had opened the vessel and by all accounts it seemed empty.
"And what do you expect to find in a Chula medical transporter? Bandages? Cough Drops?" the Doctor chided and then looked to Rose, "Rose?"
Rose looked baffled by the sudden question and haltingly she replied, "I- I dunno."
"Yes, you do. Ianto? What would you expect in a Chula medical transporter?" the Doctor persisted.
For a moment, Ianto blanked, but he thought and then he hazarded, "Nanogenes?"
The Doctor beamed, but turned somber quickly as his gaze fell on Jack, "It wasn't empty, Captain. There was enough nanogenes in there to rebuild an entire species."
"Oh, God," Jack exclaimed softly. He looked disturbed and horrified, clearly he knew more than Ianto.
"Getting it now, are we? When the ship crashes, the nanogenes escape. Billions upon billions of them, ready to fix all the cuts and bruises in the whole world. But what they find first is a dead child, probably killed earlier that night and wearing a gasmask," the Doctor explained.
Ianto felt foolish and he wasn't sure he understood. The child was Jamie? And the nanogenes brought him back to life as… as a superhuman? A Chula?
Rose clearly wasn't entirely sure either, "And they brought him back to life? They can do that?"
The Doctor nodded slightly and continued, "What's life? Life's easy. A quirk of matter. Nature's way of keeping meat fresh. Nothing to a nanogene. One problem, though - these nanogenes - they're not like the ones on your ship. This lot have never seen a human being before. Don't know what a human being's supposed to look like."
Ianto closed his eyes briefly. Now he understood. Now it all made sense. And the fact that the Doctor wasn't finished was all the more horrifying.
"All they've got to go on is one little body, and there's not a lot left. But they carry right on. They do what they're programmed to do, they patch it up. Can't tell what's gasmask and what's skull, but they do their best. Then off they fly - off they go, work to be done. 'Cos you see nowthey thinkthey know what people should look like and it's time to fix all the rest. And they won't ever stop. They won't ever, ever stop. The entire human race is gonna be torn down and rebuilt in the form of one terrified child looking for its mother, and nothingin the world can stop it!" The Doctor's voice grew louder with each word, and Jack looked ill.
Not that Ianto blamed him, and a grudging sympathy emerged. The con man really hadn't known, and he clearly felt terrible about what was happening. But then, his aggression and bravado was back, his countenance harsher.
"I didn't know," Jack spat defensively.
The Doctor shook his head as he picked his way over the rubble towards the blinking red light. He held out his hand and Rose gave the screwdriver back to him. Silently, the Time Lord crouched to the ground and began waving the device over the light.
Ianto let his gaze wander up to the balconies, and to the fence. The patients stood there crying out softly for their mummies. His eyes fell back on Jack, whose jaw was tight and stubbornly set. He certainly wasn't handling it well, but then, how should he be acting? For the first time, Ianto considered the possibility that the Doctor was being too harsh.
Nancy shouted fearfully, "Rose!"
Quickly, Rose darted to her side and Ianto saw what had Nancy so concerned. They were coming, slowing making their way across the tracks. Rose hurried back to the Doctor's side and, carefully, Nancy did the same. Jack maneuvered himself in front of Ianto, which Ianto assumed was to get closer to the Doctor, or possibly the ambulance.
"That's what's bringing the gasmask people here, isn't it?" Rose asked the Doctor.
"The ship thinks it's under attack, it's calling up the troops. Standard protocol," the Doctor absently replied as he continued fiddling with the wires.
Rose turned her head to the approaching masses, "But… the gas mask people aren't troops."
"They are now," the Doctor explained, "this is a battle-field ambulance. The nanogenes don't just fix you up - they get you ready for the front line. Equip you, program you."
"That explains the child's strength… and why it can Om-Com," Ianto inferred.
The Doctor nodded. "It's a fully equipped Chula warrior, yes. All that weapons tech in the hands of a hysterical four year old - looking for his mummy. And now there's an army of them," he explained as he stood up. At least he managed to stop the alarm.
More of the patients appeared, huddling by the fence. Waiting. Ianto swallowed.
"Why don't they attack?" Jack questioned, venturing forward.
The Doctor looked grim, "Good little soldiers waiting for their commander."
"The child?" Jack postulated.
Nancy suddenly fixed him with a sharp look, "Jamie," she corrected.
"What?" Jack asked, thrown by the unexpected severity.
"Not 'the child'. Jamie," Nancy explained, still glaring at him.
A low flying plane passed overhead, and the whistling of falling bombs echoed closer than Ianto liked.
"How long before the bomb falls?" Rose demanded.
Jack responded quickly, "Any second."
"What's the matter, Captain? Bit close to the volcano for you?" the Doctor practically sneered as he brushed past Jack.
Nancy's eyes watered, "He's just a little boy."
"I know," the Doctor said.
The dark-haired girl grew more upset and Ianto felt at a loss. He'd never been good with emotions, other people's especially. And what could he possibly say that would comfort her? Her little brother had turned into… into a monster.
"He's just a little boy who wants his mummy," Nancy whimpered.
"I know," the Doctor repeated, gentler, "there isn't a little boy born that wouldn't tear the world apart to save his mummy. And this little boy can."
"So what're we gonna do?" Rose demanded. Evidently she had noticed the lack of action as well.
The Doctor replied glumly, "I don't know."
Ianto sighed, heavily. Had the Doctor given up? Was there really no way out of this? He wasn't used to hearing the Doctor at a loss. Tears welled in Nancy's eyes.
"It's my fault," she whispered.
"No," the Doctor consoled.
"It is. It's all my fault," she insisted.
The Doctor gave her a lopsided smile, "How could it be—"
Nancy began crying, clearly trying to stifle it and failing miserably. The Doctor spun, his eyes darting everywhere as though looking for something. Ianto instinctively glanced around as well, but he had no idea what the older male was even searching for. Finally the Time Lord's attention rested solely on Nancy.
"Nancy, what age are you?" he demanded, "Twenty, twenty-one? Older than you look, yes?"
A bomb exploded several meters away, the fire roaring as smoke billowed. Ianto stared in horror.
"Doctor," Jack warned, "the bomb. We've got seconds."
Rose drew closer to him, "You can teleport us out."
"…Not you guys. The nav-com is back online, it will take too long to override the protocols."
"Bloody protocols," Ianto growled viciously. Jack gave a wan smile.
The Doctor continued to study Nancy, but said, "So it's volcano day. Do what you've got to do."
"Jack," Rose croaked, her eyes begging him. Ianto wasn't sure what she was expecting. That he'd let himself die? For what? It wasn't as though they were friends, and staying here wasn't going to help. It wouldn't be a noble sacrifice, it wouldn't solve anything. It would better for him to leave. If the Doctor couldn't stop the nanogenes, Jack would have to be the one.
"You should go. Find a way to fix the nanogenes," Ianto told him. Rose stared at him, aghast, and he elaborated, "someone has to."
Jack met his eyes, staring into them until Ianto couldn't help but avert his gaze.
"You know I'd take you all with me," Jack told them.
Rose's lower lip trembled.
"You can't, so go," Ianto instructed bluntly, daring to meet Jack's eyes again. They were apologetic. Jack held up the tiny device and pressed it, then he was gone. Rose looked lost, and Ianto offered her his hand. To hell if they were going to die miserable and alone. She took his hand, and hugged him tightly as they waited for the end.
Oh, oh this was brilliant, this might just work and maybe they'd get out of this unharmed. He had to be right, it made so much sense!
"How old were you five years ago? Fifteen, sixteen? Old enough to give birth, anyway," the Doctor pressed. Nancy's eyes flickered to him and then away as another sob wracked her slender frame. She looked so ashamed, and now he had his answer.
"He's not your brother, is he?" the Doctor asked though he was sure of the answer already.
Nancy slowly shook her head.
"A single teenage mother in 1941, so you hid, you lied," the Doctor continued, "you even lied to him."
Nancy continued to cry silently, true anguish. A mother's anguish.
Suddenly the gates gave way, the doors clattering loudly as bombs continued to whistle. It was Jamie, he was here.
"Are you my mummy?" he asked, just as always.
The Doctor tried his best to sound reassuring and firm, "He's going to keep asking, Nancy. He's never gonna stop. Tell him."
Nancy stared at the boy, unmoving as he marched towards them. She must have been scared still, seeing her little boy leading an army of identical gasmask faced people. The Doctor looked at Rose and Ianto, they were scared too. But he was going to save them. He had to.
"Nancy… the future of the human race is in your hands. Trust me… and tell him," he instructed Nancy and gently nudged her towards Jamie. For this to work he needed the nanogenes to understand.
"Are you my mummy?" he asked, "Are you my mummy?"
Nancy stepped closer, she was still trembling and her voice was scarcely there, "Yes."
"Are you my mummy?" Jamie asked again, his head tilted in contemplation as he stopped.
"Yes," she spoke with more determination, "I am your mummy."
"Mummy?" Jamie repeated.
No, no, he wasn't too far gone. He had to recognize her. This had to work.
Nancy knelt down so she was eye level, "I'm here."
"Are you my mummy?"
"Yes," she whispered, pained.
The Doctor looked to Rose and Ianto and despaired, "He doesn't understand. There's not enough left of him."
No, a thousand times. That couldn't be it, this couldn't be the end of them, or the human race.
"I am your mummy," Nancy asserted, voice choked with regret, "I will always be your mummy. I am so sorry." And then she took Jamie in her arms before anyone could say a word and the pair began to glow.
Relief swept through the Doctor, oh, those fantastic little robots!
"What's happening?" Rose asked, pulling away from Ianto and drawing nearer, "Doctor, it's changing her, we should-"
"No," Ianto spoke up, "this isn't what happened to Doctor Constantine, or the soldier."
"He's right, this is something else," the Doctor agreed, then began encouraging the robots, "Come on, come on, you clever little nanogenes. Figure it out! She's the mother, there's got to be enough information, figure it out!"
"Wait, what's happening?" Rose asked again, as the three of them stared at the spectacle. The gold enveloped Nancy and Jamie almost entirely, but the Doctor could still make out the two. He pointed at them as they began to swirl around Jamie, hovering all around him.
"See? Recognizing the same DNA," the Doctor explained, delight evident in his voice.
Nancy tumbled backwards and he rushed forward, barely noticing Rose and Ianto doing the same, but they rushed to Nancy's aid while the Doctor stood in front of Jamie. Hope blossomed in his chest and he couldn't fight it down.
"Oh, come on. Give me a day like this. Give me this one!" he said to himself as he carefully reached out to remove the gasmask. If this didn't work he'd be infected, the entire human race would be doomed. But he had to know, he had to see. His hand hovered over the muzzle and then he braced himself and lifted.
Yes! Yes! It came off and there was Jamie, the real Jamie with his sandy blond hair and the sweetest smile the Doctor had ever seen. Fantastic! He scooped the little boy up in his arms. There were never days like this, he was never able to save everyone, oh, but this time! This time!
"Ah-ha-ha! Welcome back! Twenty years 'til pop music – you're gonna love it!" His joy bubbled out and he didn't care if he didn't make sense. He hugged Jamie tightly.
"What happened?" Nancy asked, staring at her son in awe.
The Doctor felt his heart soar, "The nanogenes recognized the superior information - the parent DNA. They didn't change you because you changed them!" A delighted laugh escaped as he placed Jamie down in front of her, "Mother knows best!"
"Jamie," Nancy very nearly began crying again.
Another explosion only meters away. Fire, noise, smoke. But the Doctor wasn't bothered by the ruckus.
"Doctor, the bomb," Ianto pointed out.
The Doctor beamed at him. "Taken care of," he informed his companions smugly.
"How?" Rose asked, giving him a skeptic look, but he was in too good a mood to take umbrage.
He beamed at her too, beside himself with cheer, "Psychology."
Almost as if on cue the bomb came hurtling towards them, whistling through the air until the tractor beam caught it. Just as he had predicted. He smiled as Jack teleported himself onto it. Seemed the man couldn't resist showing off…
"Doctor," Jack greeted.
"Good lad," he responded.
"The bomb's already commenced detonation. I've put it in stasis but it won't last long." Jack had to shout to be heard over the loud humming. The Doctor was a little impressed. Catching the bomb and creating a stasis field was no easy task, apparently Jack had some talent. He almost laughed, he must have been in a good mood to be complimenting Jack.
"Change of plan - don't need the bomb. Can you get rid of it? Safely as you can?" the Doctor asked, also raising his voice to be heard.
Jack gave a swift nod and then turned his attention elsewhere, "Rose?"
"Yeah?" she responded.
"Goodbye. And Ianto?"
Ianto looked surprised at being addressed at all, which seemed to amuse Jack.
Before the Welshman could ask what he was being thanked for, Jack teleported with the bomb. The Doctor had to admit he didn't like the way Rose seemed to deflate with the disappearance.
"By the way – love the suit," Jack added, suddenly back and grinning and then gone again faster than they had time to process it. The Chula ship took off, hopefully Jack would find somewhere safe in time, but the Doctor couldn't worry about that yet.
Instead, he concentrated on summoning the nanogenes, the ones that had hovered around Jamie and Nancy. It took him a moment to remember how to reprogram them, but he did eventually.
"What are you doing?" Rose asked.
The Doctor explained, "Software patch. Gonna e-mail the upgrade." He spared a glance at her. "You want moves, Rose? I'll give you moves!"
He flung his hands out, ordering the nanogenes to spread the update and change everyone back. The effect was immediate. "Everybody lives Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!"
The three of them entered the Tardis, and Ianto found the Doctor's enthusiasm almost contagious. The Time Lord was all smiles and laughs as he began punching buttons and cranking levers on the console.
"The nanogenes will clean up the mess and switch themselves off - because I just told them to. Nancy and Jamie will go to Doctor Constantine for help - ditto - all in all, all things considered - fantastic!" he gushed at them.
Rose chuckled, teasing him with, "Look at you, beaming away like you're Father Christmas!"
"Who says I'm not?" the Doctor was quick to respond, pointing at her, "Red bicycle when you were twelve," then he gestured to Ianto, "plastic pteranodon when you were six."
Ianto blinked. Was the Doctor serious? Had he really given him that Christmas gift? Judging by Rose's startled expression, she really had received a red bicycle as well.
The Doctor opened his arms wide, "Everybody lives! Every single one!" he flipped a switch. "I need more days like this."
"Doctor," Rose interrupted.
"Go on! Ask me anything, I'm on fire!" he responded.
Rose glanced towards Ianto, and then back towards the Doctor, "What about Jack?"
The Doctor's face fell and he returned to the buttons on his console, suddenly concentrating on them and refusing to make eye contact with either of them. Ianto cleared his throat.
"Why did he say good bye?" he asked. The sudden shift in the Doctor's demeanor had Ianto concerned. He may not have liked Jack, but, well, the man had saved them and maybe he wasn't as terrible as Ianto had first assumed.
When the Time Lord didn't respond, Ianto prodded, "He said the stasis wouldn't hold it for long… how long did Jack have to get rid of the bomb?"
The Doctor looked up and quietly admitted, "Less than three minutes."
Rose looked horrified, "Less than three minutes? That's not enough…!"
"I'm already setting the coordinates to pick him up," the Doctor responded and his eyes twinkled, revealing the charade. He had known. The entire time he'd had this planned. "I told you, everybody lives, even over-confident de-frocked Captains."
Rose smiled, "That's more like it!"
"I'll prepare some coffee," Ianto announced and took his leave as Moonlight Serenade began playing.
"Oh, little too much vermouth. See if I ever come here again!" Jack said to the computer and laughed at the dark joke he'd made at his own expense. He didn't want to die. He wanted to be a hero.
He wanted a foursome.
His chuckling subsided, "Funny thing… last time I was sentenced to death, I ordered four hyper-vodkas for my breakfast. All a bit of a blur after that. Woke up in bed with both my executioners." He remembered them well. "Hmm, lovely couple. They stayed in touch!" He studied his glass thoughtfully. "Can't say that about most executioners."
He laughed, but he didn't feel it. He didn't want to die. He wanted to be with Rose, Ianto and the Doctor. Well, Rose and Ianto at any rate. He didn't want to be alone with this next to useless computer that was for sure.
"Anyway. Thanks for everything, it's been great," Jack murmured sarcastically as he took another sip. Still too much vermouth.
Faint music reached his ears. Moonlight Serenade? That wasn't part of the emergency protocol. He whipped around and was more than a little shocked to find Rose dancing with the Doctor beside a strange console, glowing a soft blue. She smiled at him.
"Well, hurry up then!" she beckoned, and Jack was all too happy to follow. He leapt to his feet and rushed inside what must have been their vessel.
This was the same ship the three of them had arrived in? This impossibly large interior plated with gold and filled with large gorgeously curved columns? He knew he was gaping, but how could this have been that blue police box with the paneling he'd liked so much?
"Right, and turn…," he heard Rose instructing the Doctor and Jack's gaze returned to the duo. He almost laughed as he watched the seemly genius Doctor fail to properly spin Rose, instead twisting the poor blonde's arm. "Okay, okay," she exclaimed and the man released her. "Try and spin me again, but this time – don't get my arm up my back!"
The Doctor looked contrite, and prepared to begin the dance again.
"No extra points for a half-nelson," Rose grumbled, and Jack did chuckle at that.
"I'm sure I used to know this stuff," the Doctor defended, then finally took notice of Jack. "Close the door, will you. Your ship's about to blow up," he pointed out, and Jack hurried to close the doors, "there's gonna be a draft."
Just what kind of ship was this, Jack had to wonder. The Doctor pulled away from his dance to flick a few switches, "Welcome to the Tardis."
"Much bigger on the inside…," Jack observed, he was still a little in awe.
The Doctor leveled him with a stern look, "You better be."
Jack swallowed tightly. So the guy still didn't like him.
"I think what the Doctor's trying to say is… you may cut in." Rose beamed at him. Jack grinned back and took her hand, ready to impress her and happy for the warm welcome. Happy to be alive.
The Doctor interjected excitedly, "Rose! I've just remembered!"
"What?" Rose asked, and the beat picked up into something a bit livelier, In The Mood, as the Doctor began snapping his fingers.
"I can dance!"
"Actually, Doctor," Rose began, tentative as though worried about deflating his mood, "…I thought Jack might like this dance."
The Doctor didn't break eye contact with her, "I'm sure he would, Rose. I'm absolutely certain. But who with?" he asked. Rose giggled and joined the Doctor, and Jack had to wonder if the earlier failed attempt had been nothing but a ruse as this time the Doctor moved flawlessly. Every movement was perfectly in tune with the music.
Rose was clearly ecstatic with the development, laughing and smiling brightly. Infectious - Jack felt himself smiling while he watched, leaning against the railing.
"Coffee?" a rich accent asked from slightly behind him as a porcelain mug appeared to his right. Ianto. He smiled and accepted the drink.
"Oh," he half-moaned. Sweet Jesus, that was a fine cup. And that smug little smirk on that smooth, young face wasn't too bad either, it was shy and confident all at once. It disappeared when the Welshman took a sip from his own mug of coffee.
Rose and the Doctor paused their dance. "Is that coffee?" Rose asked.
"Yep," Ianto responded, and gestured to a folding table with two more cups. The music continued to play as the other two joined them.
"Isn't his coffee amazing?" Rose gushed. The Doctor smiled and picked up a mug.
"I noticed," Jack responded. It was certainly a lot better than a martini with too much vermouth.
And he was pretty certain this could be a much better life than trying con Time Agents. Jack smiled, and took another sip.