Author's notes (strictly optional):
A Doctor-centric Torchwood story, if that makes any sense. Set after Voyage of the Damned for the Doctor and after Sleeper for Torchwood. Quite definitively AU, as it ignores the rest of season four entirely.
A few disclaimers:
1. I have seen all Torchwood episodes up to this point and several after, but I have not watched them as often or obsessively as I have Doctor Who. I think that I have a fairly good grasp on the characters, and have done research on the tricky bits (like the layout of the Hub), but if you see any mistakes, feel free to point them out.
2. There seem to be contradictory accounts on whether or not Jack sleeps. For the purposes of this story, he can, but doesn't have to.
3. There will be profanity, but not nearly as much as in a typical Torchwood episode. This has less to do with any objections I have to it, and more to do with the fact that I'm just not very good at swearing.
4. Any opinions expressed in this story are those of the characters themselves, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author.
On with show!
In which Jack's day is ruined, Ianto is confrontational, and the Doctor relates a tale which he rather wouldn't.
Jack sighed, running a hand tiredly over his face. It was times like these, when the Hub was silent and empty, and he had spent the past two days running after Weevils and all night filling out paperwork, that he really missed the mortal excuse of needing sleep. He glanced at his watch. Nearly six AM. Ianto would be here soon to get the coffee started.
He stood up and stretched, taking the opportunity to glance down at the main area. Everything appeared to be in order. The pterodactyl was nowhere in sight, presumably sleeping; one of the lights on the far side was flickering, he'd have to remember to bug Ianto about that; the doors were all secure, not that he had expected any differently; the Doctor was leaning over Gwen's computer – wait. What?
"Doctor?" Jack yelped, his voice jumping embarrassingly in pitch.
"Hello, Jack," said the Doctor absently, not even looking up from the computer screen as Jack practically flew down the stairs. "You don't mind if I borrow your systems for a bit, do you?"
"Well, seeing as you've already broken through our supposedly impenetrable security completely undetected, I don't suppose it matters much if I do," said Jack dryly, but without bitterness. The Doctor's head snapped up, his eyes wide.
"What?" he asked, sounding horrified. "No! No no no no no. If you don't want me to – I mean, obviously I wouldn't – I just thought –"
"Doctor!" Jack cut him off, more than a little alarmed by his friend's reaction. "It's fine. I was joking. Of course you can use the computers."
"Right," said the Doctor, squeezing his eyes shut and knocking his glasses askew as his pinched the bridge of his nose. "Joking. Of course. Thank you."
"No problem," said Jack slowly, taking a moment to observe the Doctor more closely. The Time Lord looked even more exhausted than Jack felt. His face was pale, accenting the dark circles under his eyes, and – was that -? Yes. It was hard to be sure, as his nimble fingers skittered over the keyboard, but it seemed that his hands were trembling.
God, Doctor, what have you been doing to yourself?
Jack knew better than to actually ask if he wanted to get an answer. Instead, he leaned in to get a better look at the screen. The Doctor was scrolling through pages too fast for him to make much out, but it looked like he was looking at news postings.
"So," said Jack, trying to keep his voice light and casual. "Not that I'm complaining, but is there any particular reason that you're breaking into Torchwood Three at six in the morning to hijack our computers?"
"Hm? Oh, the TARDIS is busy refueling; I thought I'd give her a bit of a break. I just need to check a couple things, and since I was here anyway . . ." He trailed off with a vague wave of his hand that could have meant 'it seemed like a good idea at the time' or 'daddy's busy; run along and play' or 'something behind you is on fire; hadn't you better put it out?'
Jack glanced over his shoulder, found nothing to be aflame, and turned back to the Doctor.
"Okay. So what are those things that you're checking?"
"I was just passing through, noticed some irregularities in the psychic signature of the area. Not wholly unexpected, what with the Rift and all, but it can't hurt to make sure. Probably nothing to worry about."
Jack shut his eyes and resisted the urge to bang his head against the nearest wall. Knowing the Doctor, that meant that sometime in the next twenty-four hours he was going to find himself running for his life – well, his consciousness - from psychic aliens bent on world domination.
"Right," he said. "My team'll be in soon. Let me know if you need anything."
The Doctor made a vague sound which meant that he probably hadn't heard a word Jack had just said. Jack rolled his eyes and moved away. He had been looking forward to a relatively quiet day – finish up the last of his paperwork; distract the rest of the team from theirs; maybe play a bit of basketball. Now, his mind was buzzing with a host of new dilemmas: most immediately, how to explain the Doctor's presence to his team, but also how to deal with the Doctor's obviously ill health without him bolting and, on a related note, whether or not to contact one Martha Jones.
The invisible lift rumbled to life, almost drowning out the clatter as the Doctor jumped terribly and knocked a box of pens off the desk. Jack shot him a concerned look as he moved to head off Ianto, who had just slid into sight.
"It's alright," said Jack quickly as Ianto's hand jumped to his gun upon seeing the Doctor. "He's supposed to be here." Well, that was a bit of a stretch. The Doctor wasn't really supposed to be anywhere, but Jack intended to make sure that he at least had somewhere where he was welcome.
The Doctor tucked his glasses into his pocket and came forward.
"Hello," he said, "You must be one of Jack's teammates. I'm the Doctor." His voice was cheerful and he was grinning, outwardly amiable and benign, but his eyes were dark and calculating. He was sizing up his new acquaintance, trying to decide whether he was an enemy, and if so, whether he was enough of a threat to bother with. Ianto wasn't doing the same, which told Jack that he had already come to a decision.
"I know who you are," the young man said stiffly. The Doctor's grin faltered, but only slightly.
"Heard of me, have you?" he asked, keeping his tone light and casual.
Jack edged around until he was almost between the two of them. He would have liked them to work this out their own – actually, what he would have really liked was to never to have to deal with the two of them in the same room, or at least to have a chance to talk with both of them first – but he was ready to intervene if things got out of hand. Not that he expected them to, as neither the Doctor nor Ianto tended to be violent, but tensions were running high and the last thing he wanted was either of them hurt.
"I used to work for Torchwood One," said Ianto, and his tone was bold, like a challenge. "I was at the Battle of Canary Warf."
The grin – more than half fake to begin with – slid off the Doctor's face. There was a flash of anger, but it was gone as soon as it arrived, leaving loss and sorrow and old pain that hurt like yesterday.
"I'm sorry," said the Doctor, and Jack wanted to shake him, wanted to yell at him that it wasn't his fault, that Torchwood had been screwing around with things they shouldn't have, that he was the one who had saved the planet. "I'm so sorry."
Jack saw a dozen different responses buzzing in Ianto's head, probably ranging from shooting the Doctor on the spot to 'sorry won't bring Lisa back' to saying nothing at all. He glanced at Jack, and he must have seen the request in his eyes (let it go, just for now, we can deal with this later), because he nodded and adjusted his stance to something less hostile.
"Do you prefer tea or coffee?" he asked, stiff professionalism replacing his earlier antagonism.
"Tea would be lovely," said the Doctor with a relieved smile, and this one was far more genuine. "Three sugars, no cream."
Ianto nodded again and went to put the kettle on. Jack looked back to make sure that the Doctor was absorbed in his work before following.
Jack was able to convince Ianto to give the Doctor a chance, and the introductions to the rest of the team went more smoothly, once Jack assured them that he would not be disappearing again. They were all suspicious at first – Jack couldn't really blame them, considering what had happened the last time an old friend of his had dropped in – but were quickly won over by the Doctor's cheerful enthusiasm. Well, except for Owen, who was mostly acting annoyed and making lewd insinuations which Jack parried easily and the Doctor purposely misinterpreted. Jack suspected that the Doctor's unusually frail appearance was working in his favor – he didn't look like a threat to anyone but himself, at the moment.
Sure enough, Owen sidled up to him at around eight thirty, while the Doctor and Tosh were constructing some sort of special sensors to take a closer look at the Doctor's psychic anomalies (which, true to form, were turning out to be a bigger deal than originally thought).
"Your friend might call himself a doctor, but he looks like shit," said the smaller man bluntly.
"I know," Jack replied evenly.
"You planning to do anything about it?" Owen might have been a mean bastard in general, but he was a doctor for a reason. The Doctor irritated him, but he was not about to ignore anyone who was obviously unhealthy, especially when said person was within Torchwood.
Jack was saved from having to answer when Gwen's voice drifted over, startled and concerned.
"Doctor, what happened to your neck?"
The Doctor jumped. "What?" His hand went automatically to the back of his neck, and he winced and continued before Gwen could respond. "Oh, that. Yes. Bit of an incident on the moon of Taxial IV, nothing to worry about."
"Let me see," said Jack, who had made his way down to them. He pushed the Doctor's hand away and pulled down his collar before he could respond. The Time Lord jerked away with a noise of protest, shooting him an affronted look, but Jack still managed to glimpse what had once been a deep incision running horizontally across the base of his neck. "I thought Time Lords couldn't scar," he said, crossing his arms and refusing to be moved by the Doctor's (admittedly excellent) impression of a kicked puppy.
"We – I don't," said the Doctor, giving up on looking injured and going for resigned instead. "Not generally. But there are certain things – a couple types of radiation, a few toxins – that impair the regenerative process."
"Fiend Fire and Basilisk venom?" suggested Ianto dryly from where he was pretending to tidy up. Jack had no idea what he was talking about, but the Doctor nodded absently as turned back to his contraption. His mouth kept going, but it was obvious that his thoughts were elsewhere.
"Mm, yes, quite. You know, I saved the world with J. K. Rowling once. Well, with her words. We-ell, it was really Martha Jones and Shakespeare who did most of the saving –"
"Doctor," said Jack, cutting off was he was sure was a very interesting story (absolutely sure, because he had heard it already from Martha). "You still haven't answered Gwen's question. What happened to your neck?"
"Like I said, small incident on the moon of Taxial IV, all healed up now –"
"Taxial IV?" interrupted Jack, knowing an evasion when he heard it. "With all those research facilities on its moon in the forty-ninth century?"
"Yep. Landed in one of them; turns out it was a restricted area. Least I didn't get executed, which is what they wanted to do to me at first. A bit nasty, that lot. No sense of humor."
"So why didn't they execute you?" asked Gwen curiously, and she didn't know the Doctor well enough to notice that his light, absentminded tone was all an act, that his eyes had gone dark and his grip had tightened on his sonic screwdriver.
"One of the . . . researchers who caught me was an expert in neurobiology. I have a very interesting nervous system. Unique, in fact." His voice had taken a bitter edge that everyone could hear, now. Jack was beginning to get a picture of what was coming next, and it wasn't pretty.
"So, what, they tied you down and dissected you like a frog?" drawled Owen, who never knew when to keep his mouth shut.
"Sort of," said the Doctor, his artificially casual manner beginning to crack. "Scalpels and such are all a bit obsolete by that time, of course, especially when you're only interested in the nervous system. They just needed an incision near the spinal cord to send the nanobots in – and they needed me awake and talking, to tell them where it hurt when they poked at my brain. That was the idea, anyway," he said darkly, with a bitter smile. "I didn't cooperate."
"That's terrible!" gasped Gwen, and by the look of things, the others agreed with her. Tosh had stopped working on the sensors, her face pale and horrified. Ianto had given up any pretence of being busy, and was staring at the Doctor as if he had never seen him before. Owen looked ill, though he was trying to hide it.
It was even worse than they were imagining, Jack knew. If they had had the Doctor strapped down, his nervous system almost literally at their fingertips, and he had refused to cooperate . . . . There had been whispers, when he had been a conman and pretending to be more of a criminal than he was. Rumors of a method of torture, very risky, very effective, and ivery/i illegal. You opened up the victim's brain, found the pain center. Kept stimulating it until they either gave you what you wanted or passed out. Woke them up and started over. Hoped that they didn't go mad, because then they were no use to you. Hope that iyou/i didn't go mad from the screaming . . . .
Jack gave the others a Look, and they quickly found somewhere else to be. Once they were left alone – sort of, because Jack didn't doubt that at least some of the team was watching on the surveillance cameras – he turned to the Doctor, careful to stay within his line of sight. This Doctor wasn't quite as jumpy as his previous incarnation, but with the knowledge of recent events Jack wasn't going to take any chances.
"How long?" he asked simply.
"Oh, the sensors should be ready fairly soon, thirty minutes at the most –"
The Doctor was silent for a long time, long enough that Jack wasn't sure he was going to respond.
"Three days," he said at last, his voice so low that it was almost inaudible. Jack let out his breath in a sharp gush, but didn't give any other indication of his shock. The longest he had ever heard of anyone holding out was thirty-eight hours.
"And how long since then?"
"Two. I had some loose ends to tie up, and then the TARDIS needed to refuel."
Loose ends. Jack knew exactly what he was talking about. The shady dealings of the Taxial IV research facilities had only been revealed through the testimony of the test subjects, all of whom had been mysteriously transported to the planet's surface just minutes before the moon, with all its facilities and some of its staff, spontaneously broke orbit and fell into their sun. No one ever found out what had happened.
And the Doctor had gone straight from being horrifically tortured to incinerating a moon to building sensors to track psychic aliens. By the look of him, he hadn't even paused to sleep – or to eat.
He's self-destructing. They had all gone through hell and he and Martha had run back to their individual support networks. They had left the Doctor alone to fight the monsters of the Universe, and he was losing to the ones within his own soul.
That settled it. They would deal with these so-called psychic anomalies, and then he was calling Martha. The two of them would not let the Doctor take off again, to keep running until he crashed and burned.
"You said the sensors were almost ready?" Stop the (probably) imminent apocalypse first, stop his friend/mentor/other-member-of-a-ridiculously-difficult-to-define-relationship from falling apart later.
"Yep," said the Doctor. The chipper note in his voice was still forced, but some of the darkness had left his eyes – not gone, but pushed beneath the surface for the moment. "It would go faster, though, if I had Dr. Sato to help me."
"Right. I'll send her down."