Characters: Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler, Jack Harkness
Rating: Teen. Some sexual activity, not very explicit.
Summary: A supposedly harmless planet holds unexpected dangers, and disturbing revelations about the Doctor's past.
Disclaimer: The sandbox belongs to RTD and the BBC. I'm just playing here, in the corner, making little sand-TARDISes. Not making any money, not asserting any claims.
A/N: Sorry for the long delay on this chapter. My muse was being very uncooperative. I hope you'll find it worth the wait. Thanks (as always) to my fantastic beta, WendyMR.
Without interrupting his exploration of Jack's mouth, he extends his left hand to brush against Rose's cheek. His fingers skim over the jawline, down to the side of the neck, where the carotid pulse tells him what he already knows: her heart is beating faster. Rose leans into him and nuzzles against his shoulder.
Humans need touch; it's coded into their genes. Medical studies have recorded the deaths of otherwise healthy human infants who withered away because they were denied physical contact.
Time Lords do not. If they ever had such a primitive need, it was excised from their triple-stranded DNA eons ago. He has always been too fond of the physical senses -- the "animal senses", as his elders called them. Touch was the crudest of all. To enjoy it was weak and self-indulgent. To share it with lesser species was unseemly.
His people would have been scandalised if they'd known how often he'd held a companion's hand to comfort her in an alien dungeon or a monster's lair. They would have been horrified if they'd known that sometimes he took comfort from it, too. An' this? They'd have all sorts o' words for it, startin' with "abnormal". In the back of his mind he laughs. He is now the archetype of his species. Whatever he does is "normal" for a Time Lord.
Without haste, he pulls back slightly, ending the kiss. He exchanges a glance with Jack; wordlessly, they agree on the next movement in the dance. Rose, still leaning against the Doctor's chest, turns her head just as Jack leans forward to capture her mouth with his.
The Doctor can't move without dislodging Rose and Jack, but that isn't a problem. He enjoys watching his partners, especially when they're so close that he can hear the interweaving rhythms of breath and blood. Jack's eyes have gone unfocused, the pupils dilated. He takes Jack's earlobe between his teeth, biting down as hard as he can without breaking skin. Jack shivers.
A pink flush is spreading across Rose's cheeks. He lets his left hand trail slowly downwards, pausing to rest in the hollow of her throat. Further down, then sweeping across. She stiffens, holds her breath -- and makes a soft moan of frustration when his fingers detour around the expected target.
Humans have so little control over their basic bodily responses. Only to be expected of a young, undisciplined race, and it makes them such fun to play with. He waits until he hears Rose's heart rate slowing. It will be best if he can catch her by surp-- Rassilon! Jack should not know about that pressure point. No human should. And what he's doing to it ought to be illegal. He turns his head and glares at Jack. Tyrants have trembled beneath that glare; armies have fled from it; hardened criminals have dropped to their knees and begged for mercy.
Jack chuckles. "Gotcha."
Rose aims her own glare at the Captain. "You've got bloody awful timing, Jack. Did you have to interrupt him?"
"Sorry, Rose. Just couldn't resist."
"Don't think you've got away with that," the Doctor warns. "'I have plans for you, my lad."
"Can I watch?" Rose demands.
He gives her an amused look. "You can help."
"But not right now," Jack says quickly, looking at his wrist-comp.
The Doctor is about to say, "Pull the other one," when he hears two sets of soft-booted feet climbing the stairs.
Rose doesn't have Jack's technology or the Time Lord's hearing, but she knows how to read her blokes. "Company's coming? Damn." She finger-combs her hair and tugs at her rumpled shirt.
Bloody hell! She feels hotter than a bonfire, and now she's got to act all calm and cool in front of the A'atrans. She can't really blame Jack. It's her own stupid fault for teasing the blokes. Shouldn't have started, but the Doctor was hurting -- and trying to pretend he wasn't -- and she acted on impulse.
On the plus side, the Doctor is looking better. He's even got a hint of a smug, cat-in-cream smile.
"Only two of them," Jack says. "That's good news."
It is, yeah. Rose has become an expert on this subject. If there was ever a pub quiz on "alien arrest and detention procedures", she'd walk away with the jackpot. Two guards means the A'atrans aren't expecting trouble. Unless they've got more of that gas...
But when the guards enter, their hands are empty. No dangerous clay balls, no metal-tipped staves. "The Elders request the favour of your presence," one of them says, bowing slightly.
It must be some kind of standard greeting, because the Doctor bows in return and replies, "My ears rejoice in your words." Rose has to hold in a laugh. She's got this sudden image of the Doctor's large ears detaching themselves from his head and flapping around the room like a pair of demented butterflies.
The guards lead the way out of the chamber and down the stairs. The Doctor walks behind them, followed by Rose and Jack. As they descend, she has a perfect view of the back of the Doctor's head -- and his ears. She clamps her lips shut, but her shoulders shake. A warm hand caresses the nape of her neck. Jack must think she's nervous -- or feeling sick again. She take a couple of deep breaths to steady herself, then turns to give him a reassuring smile.
They're taken to the same round building as before. The Elders sit on the same curved stone bench; the offworlders are guided to the same three chairs. The A'atrans seem more relaxed than before, and Elder Dathiha is almost friendly. "Have you rested? Have you eaten?"
Probably there's some traditional, flowery answer to that. Still, no reason to make the Doctor do all the talking. "Yes, thanks ever so."
"We enjoyed the thorn-fruit," Jack adds smoothly.
Jack Harkness, if you make me lose it in front of these people, I swear you're gonna sleep alone and cold for a month. She bites her lower lip.
The Doctor rolls his eyes in the way that generally means Humans! "Have you got an answer for us?"
Elder Dathiha launches into a long speech that has as many bits of poetry in it as a Christmas pudding has raisins. The Doctor replies with some of the same, but not as long-winded. Then it's time for the bargaining. They haven't planned it. No need, really. The Doctor haggles like an old horse-trader when he wants to, and Jack could probably sell pickled eggs to a Slitheen.
Rose's job varies, depending on the planet and the situation: distraction, silent observer, asker of inconvenient questions. This time around, she has to swing the deal in the A'atrans' favour without making them suspicious. Remembering Jack's earlier crack about her "sentimental streak", she pretends to wheedle her partners. They pretend to be persuaded, and the Doctor grumbles about the cut in profit coming out of her share.
When the last formal words seal the agreement, Jack looks at the Doctor. "Will they have all the equipment we need?"
"Not likely. We'll need to get tools from the--" The Doctor's hesitation is so brief that Rose hardly notices it. "--ship."
She understands. Bad idea to say "TARDIS" around people who know something about Time Lords. "Have we got enough time before dark?"
"One point four seven hours," the Doctor says immediately.
"One of you must remain here," Elder X insists.
Rose shifts in her seat. I s'pose it should be me. The blokes know where all the tools and thingummies are stored.
"Jack will stay," the Doctor announces.
She feels a bit relieved, which makes her feel guilty, which makes her feel annoyed. There he goes again, making decisions for me. Blimey! I'm not a child.
Jack smiles at no one in particular. "Get a move on, you two. And no dawdling."
"I don't dawdle."
"Yeah? On Delos II, who stopped to sightsee with a pack of Yeth Hounds on his heels?"
Too right. Good job I had that spray bottle of perfume with me, or we'd have been Yeth kibble.
But the Doctor just looks at Jack and gives him Annoying Smile #17: You-must-be-thinking-of-someone-else, and leads Rose out of the council chamber.
He's the logical choice to stay behind. The only choice, really. The Doctor needs to go to the TARDIS to fetch the tools, and there's no way they're gonna leave Rose alone with a bunch of paranoid aliens who use poison gas on trespassers. No frigging way. He'd been about to speak up when the Doctor said his name. So why is he feeling pissed off?
Because the Doctor made it an order? Jack's been a soldier. He knows how to give orders and how to take them. You don't start a debating society in the middle of a firefight. If the Doctor shouts "duck!", Jack doesn't play Twenty Questions; he hits the ground. If Rose shouts "freeze!", he freezes. (And stays frozen while the venomous, metre-long Tree Scorpion scuttles into the underbrush.) It's not about rank or authority -- it's about trusting someone else's judgement when there isn't time to stop and talk things over.
Trust. That's what's causing the twinge in his gut. No split-second decision was needed here, but the Doctor had snapped out an order all the same. As if he couldn't trust me to do the right thing.
He takes a long, slow breath. Not the time or place, Jack. Not the time and definitely not the place. Getting distracted in the middle of a group of enemies can be hazardous to your health. Maybe it's a bit of a stretch to label the A'atrans enemies, but for damn sure he's not going to call them friends.
Time to get back to work. He looks around. The Elders have risen from their bench, and are drifting towards the door in twos and threes. Bits of quiet conversation waft across the chamber. "...change the work roster... burweed with a copper mordant... teach him patience... but Shabo wrote, 'The young are as hasty as a mountain stream...'"
Jack has already picked four possible marks and three lines of patter. It's a habit, just like carrying his compact laser deluxe, and knowing where all the exits are. He makes a choice, and approaches slowly, keeping his hands at his sides. The guards at the door are watching his every move. I don't want to make them twitchy.
"Excuse me, Elder. I have a question..." Jack allows a touch of uncertainty to show in his voice and his smile. He's calculated the most likely reactions, from friendliness to suspicion to cold disdain, and has a response ready for each. What he sees in the Elder's dark eyes is completely unexpected: fear. Cold, paralysing fear.