23 July 2011 @ 09:13 pm
DW: Cell 6710 (PG-13), Ten/Jack.  
No one goes to Drakoon if they have any sense at all.

There's a stutter to her heartbeat—every time he touches the walls, it misses one or two, and makes up for it a moment later by speeding up. He tries to keep his hands to himself, but he misses crawling under that console like it was where he belonged, his fingers connecting and disconnecting and her humming all the time.

Jack's not used to women shying away from him, even those of the transdimensional variety.

"You're looking at this all wrong," the Doctor had told him, when he first worked up the nerve to mention it. "Most people can't hear her heart at all."

He wants to take comfort in that, but it isn't helping anything that the Doctor is reacting to him the exact same way. He's skittish and always out of his reach, and Jack's starting to wonder why he took him up on this offer, he's wondering why it had been made in the first place.

But he supposes he's a part of them both—whether they want him to be or not.

- - - -

Jack has always been running, since that first time his brother's hand slipped from his, and there wasn’t any place far enough, or strange enough, or dangerous enough. He and the Doctor have that in common.

He signed up for the Time Agency when he was barely eighteen and they let him run for a living. So he's seen a lot of worlds, gritty and dark and seedy, and for a long time he thought that was all there was. War was like air—he'd suffocate without gun smoke.

Then he met the Doctor. A little different then, but the same where it counted, smiling and brilliant and bright. Everywhere he went with the Doctor was somewhere new, even if he'd been there a dozen times before. Seeing the universe through the Doctor's eyes was like nothing else. He brought everything to life.

He had trouble associating gritty and dark and seedy with the Doctor when he met him, and it's even harder now, with his neat pinstriped suits and his delicate features and his converse sneakers.

So when the Tardis brings them to Drakoon instead of Linos 7 as planned, he knows it must be down to him.

- - - -

No one goes to Drakoon if they have any sense at all.

It used to be a prison planet way back when—Jack had even dropped a few convicts off there, back at his time with the Time Agency. There were never any good prisons in the 51st Century, so all the worst criminals got sent back in time to Drakoon in its glory days.

The buildings are all the same as they were then, if crumbling around the edges a bit more than they were before. The cells are selling as apartments and there are merchants lining the cold dank corridors, most of them peddling drugs or weapons or sex. Drakoon had become the Red Light district of the universe—the residents for the most part born to it, because even the most desperate avoided it all costs.

The Doctor frowns out at the scenery whilst looking perplexed, as though he can't quite understand people living this way. "Drakoon," he says, rocking back on his heels and clicking his tongue. "Now how did we end up here?"

"I say we don't stay to find out," Jack says fervently, but he knows it's a lost cause. He can see that spark lighting in the Doctor's eyes already, sliding like a spotlight across the horizon, searching for whatever mystery has brought them here.

The Tardis never goes anywhere without a reason.

- - - -

The weirdest thing is that the Doctor doesn't seem as out of place as he expects him to. Then again, the Doctor has a talent for blending in—and he has one for standing out too. His coat is hanging open and he has his hands in the pockets of his blue suit, one red converse tapping along the dirt caked concrete.

"There's nothing here," Jack assures him. "Doctor, we need to go back. Believe me, I know this place."

"What makes you think I don't?" the Doctor asks, smiling strangely as he looks up towards the sky. "I've been here plenty of times before."

Jack huddles into his own coat and looks back behind them. He stops himself from asking why the Doctor's been here, and he carefully arranges his features so he doesn't look surprised. He should know better by now than to make assumptions about the Doctor.

The Doctor closes his eyes and stays with his face turned towards the planet's red-hued sun. "You're wrong," he says.

Jack has to stop the automatic flinch. The Doctor is only talking about his statement this time, not about him.

"There's definitely something here," he finishes, and he pulls one hand out of his pocket to stare at it. He holds it out, and it trembles. He follows the line of sight from the tips of his fingers to that towering former prison in front of them.

Jack frowns as he watches his strange movements; if the Doctor's meant to be reassuring him they need to be here, he's not. Jack adds the Doctor's fascination with this place to the growing list of reasons they should leave.

The Doctor was rarely fascinated without some modicum of mortal peril.

- - - - -

The Doctor doesn't seem to realize he's out of his purview. He still walks right up to people with a bright grin to introduce himself, before moving on without so much as a dent in his optimism after being totally ignored.

Jack just tags along behind him, hands stuffed in the pockets of his coat. There is a woman watching him from the doorway of Cell 6710. Her eyes are milky blue, like they've been whitewashed, but they follow his every move, so he doesn't think she is blind. She grabs his wrist when he gently tries to move by.

"You're burning," she tells him, her voice rough with disuse. "It calls to you, immortal, it's one of the last that knows what you are."

He moves to pull away but her fingernails have dug in like talons, pressing in deeper the harder he pulls. He starts to pry her off but stops when he sees the fire reflected in her strange white eyes. He looks behind him and nothing is there.

"Let me go," he tells her.

"There's nowhere for you to go," she says, even as she releases him, holding both hands up, withered palms held out. His blood is dripping from one long curled nail. "You are the end of everything. Your companion can see it, why can't you?"

He looks up at the mention of the Doctor, but the Doctor is gone. He turns back to glare at the woman. "What do you know about him?"

"He is the Oncoming Storm, the Trickster God, the Destroyer of Worlds. The man with many faces, and as many lives. Limitless compassion and limitlessly merciless all at the same time." The woman's eyes shine gold, like the heart of the Tardis. "Is it terrifying?"

Jack feels sick under her piercing gaze, even though the gold washes away with a single blink. He doesn't know what she is, but he remembers the people that used to be brought here—powerful, dangerous, talented. The criminals no other prison could hold.

"Is what terrifying?" he asks.

"I speak of course of him," she says. "What else do you have to be afraid of?"

Jack can't bear to look at her any longer, and moves away. She laughs and takes a single step after him.

"He's going to kill you," she says to his back. "He's the only one that can."

- - - -

Jack makes his way all down the main street, but the Doctor is nowhere to be found. He can feel the panic building in him, and he knows it's unreasonable. The Doctor is more than capable of taking care of himself—except he doesn't, Jack knows, which is the whole reason he's here. And now he's lost him, the first five minutes in.

He goes back to the Tardis to see if he's there and the Tardis' heartbeat is panicked and fast, so he turns right back around, searching through all the merchant lanes and finding no trace.

Eventually he finds his way back to Cell 6710.

"I can't tell you what you want to know, so there's no reason to ask," she tells him before he can say a word, and she is weaving a blanket without looking at it, spinning the thread like her hands are a loom.

"I have to find him," Jack tells her. "You're obviously some kind of seer."

"Seers see the future, I see things as they are," she says. "And there's no way to find what isn't lost."

"I know what this is," Jack says wryly, checking his pockets for some acceptable form of currency. "Only the first reading is free, right?"

She flashes a grin that is a grotesque parody of his. "Immortal, you know better than that," she says. "You can not buy your future. But if you wish to find him then ask yourself why you're here."

"This is just where we came," Jack snaps impatiently.

"And why is that?" she asks. "I've already told you the most important thing you need to know. He's going to kill you. Why do you search so for your death?"

"I don't believe you," Jack says. "He would never hurt me."

"Are you certain?" she asks. "Death comes in many forms, and he's tried to collect you in so very many. There isn't much you wouldn't die for."

"Only because I can't die," Jack says.

"Is that what he told you?" she asks, grinning wryly. "It's never very good luck to be favored by the Gods, is it? Their love is so destructive; often even their enemies fare better. Just ask the Bad Wolf."

"He isn’t a God," Jack tells her. "And he's not to blame for anything that happened to me."

"You don't really believe that; you blame him, and pray to him, and after all we make our own Gods," she says. "I was once one myself."

"You need to start giving me a straight answer," Jack snaps.

"Ask the right question," she says calmly, and spreads her new blanket across her lap.

- - - -

He follows her into the cell. It's much bigger than he expects—usually they were only ten by ten, bed and toilet, and not much else. Maybe they'd done some renovations, or maybe this cell used to belong to a very special prisoner.

The room opens into a large space, with a stone table in the center of the room, some vials and metal devices turning like something from the mind of Mary Shelly.

Jack feels wrong here, in a way he never has before—like all his fears about the way the Doctor sees him, all his fears about himself, they're all true.

"You're very special," she says, moving around the table, one long, taloned hand tapping along the edge. She doesn't move like he imagines she should—there is no hesitation, no twinges of pain. Her body looks ancient but she moves nimbly as a child.

She stares at him the way she had before, her gaze spinning madly, that milky blue swirling like she has clouds in her eyes. "Unique. An aberration. I find it hard to fathom. Made immortal by a stray thought from a stupid girl wielding far more power than she could hold."

"How do you know so much about me?" Jack asks.

"I know Time," she says. "I see patterns. You don't fit into any of them, but you're in all of them. And then there's him." She smiles then, and for the first time it seems genuine. "And him I know."

"This all keeps coming back to him. Who is he to you?" Jack demands.

"You revolve around him I suppose? Most who have met him do," she says. "But I can promise that I'm not one of his satellites. I care nothing for him except that he's brought you here."

"We didn't plan to come here," Jack snaps.

"That doesn't mean it wasn't planned," she says. "I'm trying to save you from him. I wanted to give you one chance to reach your full potential."

Jack looks back towards the exit of the cell, judging the distance as the danger of this woman starts sinking in, but the stone cell door slams shut on its own before he can take a single step.

That's when he notices. The cell has a heartbeat. It's faint and dying, but it's there.

And it's bigger on the inside.

"Master?" Jack whispers in horror.

She laughs. "You poor child, you've only had such aberrant examples of my kind—one extreme and the other." She smiles brightly. "Well I'm the happy medium. I'm as we should be."

"The Doctor said there was no one else," Jack says.

"He said that before the Master woke up, too, so I'd hardly call him a reliable source," she says. She draws a pocket watch from the inside of her dress, and it hangs draped around her neck like a jewel. She pries it open with one chipped nail, lifting the edge half an inch. Jack's eyes stare into it helplessly, and it is glowing and spinning and calling and—

He presses his eyes shut to block it out.

"Lovely little creation, the Chameleon Arch," she says. "But I found it had a rather large defect, what with storing the mind of Time Lords along with everything else. I knew the Master and I would need to hide from him, and so gave the Master his fob watch and sent him off so very human and harmless. Then I made a few modifications to mine. I didn't want to lose touch."

"Who are you?" Jack asks.

"Always such a preoccupation with names, you humans, as though it can tell you who someone is," she says, staring into her watch with those strange eyes. "I suppose that's why us renegade Time Lords always choose our own, but I've been separated from myself for so very long I'm not sure I could say for certain what it was I chose." She snaps the watch shut. "It's like having little voices inside of your head. Brilliant, mad voices, that never stop speaking to breathe."

"The Doctor could help you," Jack says. "He would do it, too. I know he would."

"The Doctor cannot even help himself," she says, before darting across to the other side of the console, and snapping a lever into place.

Jack feels like gravity has just been turned on its head, and he starts dropping like a stone—the world's gone black before he hits the ground.

- - - -

The room comes back into focus slowly, only around the edges at first, like an inverse telescope.

"I've remembered my name," a voice says, in some strange semblance of sweetness. "I am The Rani. We don't speak our given names, not to just anyone. But our titles are more telling, yes? Doctor. Master. Me."

"You're not well," Jack says weakly, forcing open his eyes. He has been tied to one wall by sickly grey vines that are wound around his arms and legs. He can feel them pulsing, like something alive.

"Yes, it's true that I've gone quite mad," she admits. "It's a madness you should understand. I've been human for centuries, kept alive by what I could become, by the thoughts in my head that are as much my own as they aren't."

"So why don't you just open it, and wake up?" Jack asks with a frown.

"Why? You ask why?" the Rani laughs. "He would have come for me. Your precious Doctor. He would have swooped down at once and that would have been the end of me. You see, I've been stranded. I've been powerless here. Prisoner. Do you see?"

Jack's breath caught. "You were one of the original prisoners here," he realizes.

"Yes," she says. "Your Doctor caught me long ago, before even the war, and trapped me, and brought me here, and he crippled my Tardis, to make certain I couldn't leave."

"He destroyed your ship?" Jack asks. A Tardis had a life of its own, and that didn't sound like the Doctor.

"He put it to sleep, just like singing a lullaby," the Rani says. "Then he took the heart right out of it, still beating, and crushed it in his hand."

Jack can hear her laughter, though he can see clearly she hasn't moved. His eyes are drawn again to that watch, looking so ordinary where it rests against her chest.

"It's only fitting then, don't you think? That I should use yours to replace it. A living battery. Unlimited and forever." The Rani tilts her head, moving back into his line of sight. "And together, we are going to escape."

- - - -

A battery.

Jack leans against the wall as the implications become clear. He realizes then that it is not by the strength of his restraints alone that he is held in place—they are wrapping around his mind, as well, searching for something inside of him that they need.

"It doesn't have to be unpleasant," the Rani tells him. She is mixing something in a glass vial, a strange liquid that goes from purple to blue as she spins it in one hand. "It's been said that I'm the best there is when it comes to chemistry. I can ease your mind. Before you know it, you'll want to be where you are."

Jack lets out a choked laugh, which sounds more like a sob. "You know, it really isn't fair, that of everyone on his planet, the only ones that survive are you and the Master."

"But that's not entirely true, is it?" The Rani grins. "He survived too."

"He had to do what he did," Jack snaps.

"Did he really?" the Rani asks, laughing slightly. "You say that with such certainty, but do you even know what it was he did? Your noble knight? He killed them all. The only reason he didn't kill me and the Master too was that we were smart enough to hide. We were the only ones that understood the Doctor enough to know we'd better not still be there when he came around to end the war."

"He only did it to save the rest of us," Jack snaps.

"Oh, darling, you misunderstand, I'm not judging," the Rani says. "I was quite impressed with him. Good riddance to the lot of them anyway, I say. It's why I didn't try to stop him, and it's why I'm still alive."

"If you're so scared of him, then why are you doing this to me?" Jack demands.

"You think he'll come for you?" the Rani asks gently. "You need to understand something. What was done to you was very very wrong. You burn like a sun. It doesn't bother me so much, I'm wrong myself. But the Doctor has always tried so hard to be good, and he will never accept you."

"Even if that's true, he'll still come for me," Jack says.

"I'm sure he would, if he could remember you," the Rani says. "But I've exorcised you from his mind like a ghost—honestly I thought it would be harder to do, to erase you so completely, but he let you go with relief. He's wandering around right now trying to remember why it was he came here. Soon he'll find his way back to his Tardis and leave."

"I don't believe you," Jack says, but the doubt is already building—you're wrong.

"I have no reason to lie to you," the Rani says. "I am not the Master. I do not play psychological games. I'm a scientist. You're a battery. It's really as simple as that."

"Lady, all you've done since we met is play mind games," Jack says.

"The ruse was necessary to lure you here, but it's my hope we can get past all that," she says, and taps a finger against the blue liquid in the vial.

"I'm never going to be your slave," Jack says. "The Master kept me bound like this for a year and didn't break me."

"I've never been all that great at hypnoses, like the Master. And I've never been as good at inspiring loyalty as the Doctor. But I have my own ways, and unlike theirs, mine work every time," she says. "The mind is so complex, but like a computer virus can rewrite a hard drive, I can rewrite you."

"It won't work on me," Jack says. "I'm a fixed point, remember? Unchangeable."

"Possibly," the Rani says, sucking the liquid into a hypodermic. "Let's test your theory."

Jack steels himself as the Rani approaches. She jams the needle into his neck without preamble, and depresses the plunger before jerking it back out. She watches him carefully then. "How do you feel?" she asks.

Jack can feel it working its way in. It's twisting around him just like the arms of this broken Tardis, trying to twist him too. He goes limp and closes his eyes, feeling the bonds loosen at he gives up his resistance. He feels like he is floating very far away.

Then he hears the voice.

It sounds like the Rani, but stronger, sharper, almost frantic. It is listing instructions in-between reciting formulas, equations and theories, bound together in a non-linear sequence that Jack could never hope to follow. The human Rani murmurs yes, and no, and I didn't think of that in response.

The human red herring with the Time Lord voice calling the shots. It meant two enemies, two separate entities to deal with. Two against one. That wasn't playing fair. Jack lifts his fingers as high as the vine will let him, and catches hold of the chain around her neck as the Rani turns to walk away. He pulls as hard as he can, then lets go, watching as momentum sends the watch slamming into the wall.

It cracks and falls open at the Rani's feet. When the screaming starts, Jack's not quite sure where it's coming from—the old woman, or the watch.

- - - -

The Time Lord's soul comes out of the casing, and it looks like a map of a cluster of constellations, green-tinted space and stars. The Rani pulls it into herself like smoke and the scream cuts itself off at its highest note.

She drops to her hands and knees, breathing hard, for maybe the space of two heartbeats—one for each heart, before jumping to her feet, and turning at once to work frantically at the controls of the Tardis.

"Problem?" Jack asks lazily, the words moving fuzzily from his mouth, the drugs still holding him in place like a vice. He can feel them sinking in, but they're being held back, leaving just enough space for his thoughts to stay his own.

The Rani pauses and looks directly at him. Her eyes are no longer that pale blue, but bright green. She laughs as she watches him. "You think you're clever, but you don't realize what you've done," she says. "All that power that was being kept at bay by feeble human emotion and fear, and you came along and set me free."

Jack feels her pressing at the edges of his mind—indescribable power, power that the Doctor masked with charm and the Master with madness, shining right out in the open in her. Her own madness seems to have been confined to her human self, her clear bright eyes now look sane enough to nearly be mad again.

Outwardly, she appears the same except for the eyes, but she holds herself differently. A little higher. Her wrinkled decrepit face held tauter somehow, looking wise now instead of wizened.

"I'm free," she says again, staring at her hands. "So long I lived there, in that nothing place. Swirling in place like an insect caught in a jar." She looks up at Jack. "I owe you more than I can repay, but this I can promise, I will keep you alive. You would die with him."

"I'd rather die with him," Jack tells her softly.

"Of course you had to be noble, he always falls for noble," the Rani says tiredly, sounding horribly put out. "But don't worry, darling, we have forever to get you over that."

Jack watches the Rani work the controls, growing increasingly nauseous as he does. He glances to the side and sees that the grey vines have gone gold, and are glowing, pulsing stronger by the second. That, he realizes, is coming out of him.

"It's working," the Rani tells him, tossing him a grin. "It's actually working. You really are amazing. Where should we go, do you think? Miasimia Goria was lost in the Time War, but it shouldn't be too hard to find some place to settle down for a bit, start up my research again."

"Some things never change," says a quiet voice, and Jack and the Rani both turn to look in its direction.

The Doctor is leaning casually against the closed Tardis door, his feet crossed at his ankles and his hands in his pockets. He looks harmless, like he's just come in from a stroll, but the Rani goes pale and steps back.

"How did you get in?" she asks.

The Doctor takes one hand from his pocket, and spins a key on a chain. "Kept a copy," he says. "Just in case."

"Should have changed the locks," the Rani says. "But I was a bit busy."

"I can see that," the Doctor says, before looking at Jack. "You alright?"

"Oh, you know me, just been hanging around," Jack says, flashing him a huge grin. He can feel the drugs fading even quicker now, either being drained away into this Tardis with the rest, or fought back by the presence of the Doctor alone.

"You do know him, don't you?" the Rani snaps. "You're not supposed to."

"You never were any good at psychic ability," the Doctor says dismissively. "I let you think you had what you wanted so you'd leave."

"You're not that strong," the Rani insists.

"We'll call that your first mistake," the Doctor says. "Do you want to know your second mistake?"

The Doctor slides the key back in his pocket, his eyes locked on the Rani. She meets his gaze steadily. "You've already lost everyone, you've already lost the Master, you can't stand to lose anyone else. I saw that much in your mind—you won't harm me."

"No, but nice guess," the Doctor says. "Taking my friend, that was your second mistake. Thinking I'd choose you over him, that's well—oh, who knows? I've lost count." The Doctor turns back to look at Jack. "Jack, get back."

"No, you listen to me, Jack, you belong to me now," the Rani says. "Can't you feel it? You want to do as I say, it's in your blood."

Jack can feel it, but his body is rejecting it and returning to its default state. "Sorry, looks like your experiment failed," he tells her, before looking back at the Doctor. "And I'd love to join you, Doctor, but I'm a little tied up."

"Oh, right," the Doctor says, and waves a hand in his direction. The vines all unravel from around him, and Jack stumbles forward, freed.

"No," the Rani screams. "You can't do that, you can't have done that!"

"You forget that me and your Tardis are old friends," the Doctor says. "You know it begged me to ease its suffering, to put it to its rest? And I did. I let its power free so it could die, but you've brought it back, kept alive all these years, forcing it to exist."

"My Tardis answers only to me, it can obey no other," the Rani protests.

"Your Tardis is a hollowed out shell," the Doctor says. "This is what you do to things, Rani, you tear them all apart just to know how they work. Haven't you ever thought to ask?"

"You can't trust others to tell the truth, it must be sought out," the Rani snaps.

The Doctor shakes his head. "You're worse than the Master, because at least he was mad. I always expected so much more from you."

"And what have you left behind, Doctor? I suppose no one knows. You don't leave witnesses," she says. "Genocide is still considered a crime, is it not?"

Jack watches the Doctor for any sign of that edge of desperation he had when faced with the Master—but he shows no sign of it, here. "I've done this already," the Doctor says quietly. "There's nothing you can say to me."

"Nothing?" the Rani asks. "What if I promised to behave? To stay with you? Just the two of us, in your Tardis. You're probably right that this one has had it. Even your friend there might not have been able to keep it going for long."

"You're not going anywhere," the Doctor says. "Maybe you're forgetting, but you were sentenced to stay here for life. I made a promise to the Counsel that you would."

"All those you promised you've killed, so there's really nothing to hold you to it," the Rani says.

"Yes there is," the Doctor says.

Sensing the losing battle, the Rani turns to look behind at him at Jack. "He's a murderer, see? You're next. I saw it in his mind. He's been plotting to kill you since the first moment you came back."

Jack ignores her, looking to the Doctor. "Whatever you need me to do," he says.

"You don't have to do anything. Just stay back," the Doctor says simply, and the Tardis comes to life around them, vines crawling out from the wall to latch onto the Rani and drag her back.

- - - -

Jack sits against one wall and watches as the Doctor works at the broken Tardis controls. The Rani has stopped shouting at them, hanging limply from the vines instead, muttering curses aimed at the Doctor and Tardis both.

"Won't be long now," the Doctor says soothingly, running a hand along the console. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I should have known she'd drag you back."

"Is he talking to the ship?" the Rani sneers.

"Maybe it's something you should have tried," Jack says softly. "You might not be in the position you're in."

The Rani turns her glare on him, but Jack ignores her and keeps his eyes on the Doctor, who has come to kneel in front of him. His eyes are bright like he's holding back tears. "I can't save him, the Tardis," the Doctor says. "I couldn't before, either. She's done too much damage."

Jack nods, not sure what he's supposed to say. "I'm sorry."

"Jack—" the Doctor's voice breaks, and he looks away. "She wasn't lying. About me. It was the truth, if out of context. I have been looking for a way to kill you."

Jack's heart stutters for a moment but doesn't stop. He nods again. "Okay," he says. "It's okay. You do what you have to."

"No, that's not—" the Doctor breaks off again.

"You should have sided with me," the Rani calls. "We could have had such wonderful adventures."

The Doctor keeps his focus on Jack, ignoring her. "You've been buried alive and torn apart and I can hear you screaming, all the time, Jack," he says, pressing the palms of his hands into his eyes. "It echoes through the whole of time and space."


"No one is meant to be like that, and it isn't a gift she gave you, but I couldn't bring myself to take it away," he says. "Well, I didn't know how, but I didn't try to figure it out either, because I didn't want to lose you. But that's selfish. Or maybe trying to stop it was selfish. I'm really not sure. And then I realized that I never once asked you what it was you wanted."

Jack swallows tightly, watching the Doctor carefully. He looks distraught, and Jack realizes what it is he's doing—not trying to kill him, exactly, but trying to put him right. To fix him. And to be human meant death.

"So this is me asking," the Doctor says softly. "Do you want to live forever, Jack? Because I have maybe one shot at making things right again and it's right now."

"Then do it," Jack whispers.

"Right then," the Doctor says, and jumps to his feet. "Do you trust me?"

"Always," Jack says.

"Then close your eyes," the Doctor says.

"No, you can't let him do it!" the Rani protests. "Don't you realize what you are? How important you are? You're forever! You can't undo forever!"

"Watch me," the Doctor says. "Actually, you'll probably want to close your eyes." Without any more warning than that, the Doctor reaches over and opens the center console, revealing the broken heart of the Tardis.

Jack has kept his eyes open long enough to see this, and he jumps to his feet. He remembers hearing that the last time the Doctor had taken the heart of a Tardis into him, he'd been forced to regenerate. "Doctor, no, not like this!" he protests, but he's already too late.

The Doctor turns around and he's glowing, haloed and bright, his eyes burning like miniature suns. "I release you," he says, and his voice echoes with power unimaginable.

Jack wants to scream in frustration, to take it all back—he'd gladly face forever if it meant keeping the Doctor safe. He opens his mouth to start tying to bargain, but the Doctor is right in front of him, burning so brightly that Jack gives in and closes his eyes. He prepares himself for pain, but the only thing the Doctor does is pull him in for a kiss. Then the world beyond his eyelids flashes white.

He feels the last of it go with a strange tug as the Doctor breaks their kiss, and Jack drops back against the wall, exhausted in a way he hasn't been in so many years he'd forgotten what it was like.

The Doctor doubles over, his golden eyes widening. He grabs onto the console and forces them shut, but light seems to be leaking from his eyelids. Jack wants to jump up and help him, but he can't get his feet under him, and he doesn't know what he can do.

"Now," the Doctor says, in that same strange voice, and there is flash so bright that for a moment Jack goes blind.

He forces himself to his knees as the world slowly fades back to color. He can see the Rani against the back wall, her eyes still shut, and he can see a pair of converse shoes sticking out from the other side of the center console. Jack forces himself over to the Doctor at a crawl.

"No," he says brokenly. "You don't get to do this." He grabs the Doctor by his arm and pulls him up and then against him, shaking him slightly. "Doctor?"

The Rani opens her eyes, grinning when she sees them. "Well, that was unexpected," she says brightly. "Knew he was going to kill you, but didn't think he'd kill himself to do it. Rather spiteful, don't you think? What do you say you let me loose?"

The Doctor gasps and jerks in his arms, struggling to pull away. Jack holds him carefully, one hand on his forehead and the other around his waist. "Easy," Jack says softly. "You stupid—you know I never would have agreed if I'd known you were going to do that."

The Doctor stills and goes limp against him, his eyes tracking along the wall until they meet the Rani's. "We need to secure her," he says. "The ship is dead. It's only got a bit of residual energy left."

"You need to stay right where you are," Jack hisses. "How bad is it? Are you going to have to regenerate? Doctor? Doctor, look at me. How bad?"

"S'not bad," the Doctor says, trying again to wiggle free. "I'm fine. Right as rain."

"How?" Jack asks. "When Rose—"

"Because he let the ship die in his place," the Rani says coolly, as she realizes what's been done. "Fed all that energy straight back into it and burnt it out."

"Yes," the Doctor says. "There was no way to save it. He begged me to do it."

"You're going to pretend it was mercy then?" the Rani asks. "It's funny how it's always mercy when it's you."

"Doctor?" Jack asks. "Are you sure you're alright?"

"Yes," the Doctor says, managing to get free of Jack's hold, and push himself up against the wall beside him. "How do you feel?"

"I ache all over," Jack says. "And I'm starving. And my head hurts."

"Yeah, and how's that all feel?" the Doctor asks.

Jack grins brightly. "Amazing," he says. "I feel alive."

"Yeah, well, you're not going to be for long," the Rani snaps. "I told you he would kill you."

The Doctor forces himself to his feet. "Brought down by your own prophecies," he says. "You always were too clever for your own good."

The Rani glares up at him with red-rimmed eyes. "And what of me? Will you kill me now as you have the rest of your kind and kin?"

"Your sentence was life, not death," the Doctor says, picking the fob watch up off the floor and hooking the chain back together.

"What are you doing?" the Rani asks nervously.

"Sending you back," he says. He winds back the watch, and with every turn, he sucks a bit more of her Time Lord soul back inside it. She screams in protest, but it flows out of her when called, winding its way back in the clockwork, twisting around it until he snaps it shut.

The last residual energy of the ship gives out at the same time, and the Rani drops to the floor as the vines loosen their hold. The Doctor kneels in front of the frail old woman, and drops the watch back around her neck.

"For what it's worth," he says. "I am sorry."

The walls around them are shuddering and starting to close in. The Doctor looks at Jack. "Can you walk?" he asks.

Jack forces himself to his feet. "Yes," he says. "What about you?"

"I'll manage," the Doctor says. "We need to get out of here." When Jack makes no move, the Doctor points to the door. "Go, Jack. Please."

Jack reluctantly slips out the door, and the Doctor turns back to the Rani. She has wrapped her hands around the watch, her eyes glistening with tears. "I'll go mad again," she says. "The voice. It's me the voice, and it's not."

"You made it this way," the Doctor says. "There's a reason the Chameleon Arch is supposed to hide the mind and soul of the Time Lord inside. But you never could resist messing about with things. Consider this your punishment."

"Haven't I been punished enough?" the Rani demands. "Haven't you punished us all enough?"

"I'm gong to leave now." The Doctor backs away as the room continues to shrink, the Tardis finally going to its rest. "If you want to see me again, then all you have to do is open that watch and I'll come," the Doctor tells her. "But I wouldn't recommend it."

Then he turns and leaves her in that ten by ten cell.

- - - -

Jack lets his forehead rest against the wall of the Tardis. It's almost purring under his hands, finding comfort in both its passengers and the swirling Vortex outside. The Doctor had taken them into the Vortex at once, but has yet to take them out. They were just spinning in place, and it was comforting in some ways, to be so far out of reach.

Jack and the Doctor had stumbled back together, but as soon as they reached the Tardis the Doctor had received a burst of energy and started working the console at his usual speed. Even Jack was feeling better now, leaning against her this way.

Jack wants to yell at the Doctor for doing something as stupid as taking the broken heart of that Tardis into him, wants to yell at him for nearly killing himself, but he knows it had to be this way. He remembers that visit to the end of the Universe, and he could never imagine himself there, had been afraid to think of a life that long—death had never been something he was afraid of. Life terrifies him all the time.

"Are you alright?" the Doctor asks, but it is said casually, and he's looking at the console instead of him.

Jack spins in place so he's facing him as he leans against the console. The Doctor's skin is still luminescent, like it's lit from within. "You're still glowing," he says, instead of answering.

"Just a bit of residual energy from the vortex—" the Doctor says, before narrowing his eyes at Jack. "There's some left in you, too."

Jack looks down at himself, but his skin looks the same way it always does. "What's that mean?" he asks warily.

"Oh, you're not immortal, just a little hard to kill than average, but then again, you always were," the Doctor says brightly, before frowning slightly. "I mean, before the first time you died. You've been kind of rubbish at staying alive since then. We'd best work on that."

"So I'm human again," Jack says, trying the words out on his tongue, clenching one hand to test its strength.

"Always were," the Doctor says. "But you're no longer a fixed point. You've got an ending out there somewhere, like the rest of us."

Jack can feel the Tardis nearly glowing behind him, welcoming him back. "How long do you think I have?"

The Doctor eyes him critically. "That's up to you," he says. "You're going to have to change your death wish ways, certainly. But you've got decades left if you behave. Maybe longer, with that bit of the Tardis still in you. Not really sure, to be honest. There hasn't ever been anyone like you. But isn't not knowing the best part?"

Jack gives him a lop-sided grin. "Well, I'm good at behaving at least," he says, dropping down onto the couch. "And what about you? You going to be okay? I mean, with what happened with the Rani?"

"Yes," the Doctor says flatly. "We were friends once, but that time doesn't even exist anymore. Anyway the Rani doesn't form connections. She has no compassion or remorse."

"You let her live though," Jack says gently. "She's still there. You're not alone."

"She was right about one thing, I've killed enough," the Doctor says, sitting down beside Jack, before standing right back up. "I didn't have a choice about the Tardis. He was dying anyway. So she gets one more warning, one last chance. As long as she doesn't open that watch, she can live out her life."

"Why do you think the Tardis brought us here?" Jack asks.

"I expect she was responding to a distress call from the other Tardis," the Doctor says. "That's probably why she's been so upset lately."

"You mean, you don't think it was me?" Jack asks.

The Doctor shrugs, leaning across the console to hit a switch, the siren song starting as the dematerlization began, and a new course was being set. "I guess now we'll never know," he says.

Jack nods. "Okay," he says. "Then there's just one more thing I want to know."

"Yes?" the Doctor asks.

"About that kiss," Jack says, shooting the Doctor a wide grin.

"Oh, that. Purely incidental," the Doctor assures him, backing away. "It expedites the transfer of energy—"

"That it was only incidental would be my complaint," Jack says, before leaning forward to kiss the Doctor.

The Doctor's protests are lost in the kiss, and he relaxes into it, grabbing the back of Jack's head to pull him closer. They're both breathless when they pull away. "That was…um…oh."

Jack grins. "Sorry, had to," he says. "I haven't got forever anymore, so I can't afford to let opportunities pass me by."

"Too right," the Doctor says, in something of a daze. "What was I saying?"

"You were talking about the transfer of energies," Jack says. "Through the mouth."

"Right," the Doctor says. "Only I'm sure it didn't sound that dirty when I said it."

"That's okay, we can work on that," Jack tells him. The Doctor snorts and continues around the console, still plotting their course. "Seriously, though, Doctor. Thank you. For coming back for me."

"Did you think I wouldn't?" the Doctor asks.

"For a minute there, yeah," Jack admits.

"Yes, I suppose you would," the Doctor says sadly. "She gave it her best effort of course. Walked into my mind and tried to take you out of it. Only she's never been known for her psychic ability, and she was even weaker considering she wasn't fully a Time Lord at the time. I wasn't going to let you go though, Jack. If I hadn't been able to fool her so easily, I would have fought. I would have fought for you. I'm sorry if you thought I wouldn't."

Jack closes his eyes, letting the words sink in. He's never felt quite wanted with this Doctor, because it was hard to be with someone who thought you were wrong. It would have been easy to forget all that now that he was mortal again, but it meant more than he could have imagined to learn the Doctor would have fought for him even when he was still immortal—still wrong.

"Jack?" the Doctor says quietly, appearing in front of him. "I'm sorry. I've upset you. I'm always upsetting people in this regeneration. I never know the right thing to say. I just—"

Jack reaches out, kissing the Doctor again, and it's still as amazing as he thought it would be, but better, because the Doctor melts against him in a way he never expected he would. "Doctor," he breathes. "You haven't upset me. You said exactly the right thing."

The Doctor looks adorably mussed when Jack pulls away, but he sidesteps him at once, spinning towards the Tardis door. "Well, that's good," he says. "That I haven't upset you, I mean. But oh, look, here we are! I thought we should head to Linos 7, since that's what we'd planned."

"Linos 7 is known for its pleasure resorts, isn't it?" Jack asks with a grin.

"Is it?" the Doctor asks, giving a lop-sided smirk as he pulls open the door. Jack jogs up to join him, and they both watch as a couple runs screaming past them, chased by three large creatures in battle armor.

"Oh," the Doctor says, in a tone that sounds like a cross between intrigued and disappointed. "This isn't Linos 7."

"Doctor, don't ever change," Jack tells him, grinning hugely, and he grabs the Doctor's hand before jumping into the fray.
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Layton Colt: ten and the time lordslaytoncolt on July 26th, 2011 - 11:58 pm
Thank you! And I figured the Doctor's defenses would be at full after his encounter with the Master, but I admit to having a little a trouble with him in this! When I got the idea, it mostly centered around Jack. ;-)
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