Pairing: Jack/Tenth Doctor
Rating: All ages
Series: Two Travellers. This is the fifth story in this series. All you need to know is that immortal!Jack is travelling with the Tenth Doctor, and that they are now lovers. After Children of Earth for Jack; before Waters of Mars for the Doctor.
Summary: “Doctor? Have you noticed that there’s something odd about this palace?”
Betas: wendymr and canaana
Author's Note: Written for the wintercompanion Summer Holiday Challenge for the prompt: Namroth; Month of the Twentieth Creche; The Ringing Palace; bellmakers
“Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clement’s—” The song echoes through the high, vaulted chamber.
Jack winces. It’s not that the Doctor sings badly. He’s got a pleasant, if weak, tenor voice. It’s not that Jack dislikes the song, either. It conjures fond memories of 1920s London and a chanteuse named Hélène Durand (ah, la belle Hélène!) who sang bawdy versions of English children’s songs in a deliciously raspy contralto. Jack enjoyed hearing the tune again—the first dozen times or so. Now he thinks that if he hears it once more he may throttle the Doctor. Since that would probably bollocks up their friendship, their sex life, and their current mission, he decides to go to Plan B—distraction.
“Doctor? Have you noticed that there’s something odd about this palace?”
“What do you mean?” The Doctor doesn’t turn around. His head is half-hidden inside the control box mounted on the wall of the Bell Chamber.
“The proportions are... I don’t know, wrong somehow.”
The Time Lord continues fiddling with wires and circuits. “Alien planet, alien architecture. All those years on Earth have made you parochial, Jack.” He sonics one particularly stubborn connector and mutters, “Humans!” under his breath.
Jack rolls his eyes. He may not have the Doctor’s centuries of travel experience (yet), but he was once a Time Agent. He’s visited more planets than he can count. Yes, Namroth is an alien world, and the Querilosi who settled it many centuries ago are a non-human species, but they are humanoid. They don’t look all that different to himself or the Doctor. The body-shape is about the same. Due to Namroth’s lower gravity, the Querilosi here have evolved to be somewhat thinner and taller than their kinfolk on the homeworld. Barring the pumpkin-coloured skin and the lack of hair, they’d fit in very well in a gathering of human basketball players.
The doorways of the Ringing Palace are at least a metre higher than they need to be. Okay, the Palace is the administrative centre of the city-state of Namkha—the one and only settlement on Namroth—and most sapient species want their government buildings to be impressive, but something isn’t quite right. Those same doorways are also narrower than he would expect. The Grand Staircase has steps that are low—at least, for a Namrothian—but too deep to be taken in one stride. Its green marble banister is at shoulder height for the Namrothians; chin height for the TARDIS travellers. That’s not a problem because there are handholds carved into the thick supporting posts. Still, it’s odd. Jack had been curious enough to ask one of the Palace officials about it.
“The Bellmakers chose to make it so, good kyri,” was the polite and uninformative reply.
‘The Bellmakers’ is the local name for the original settlers from Querilos, the ancestors who constructed the Ringing Palace. Presumably it wasn’t called the Ringing Palace then, as the dome that houses the Great Bell was added several centuries after the Palace was built.
He cranes his neck to look up at the shadowy apex of the dome where the bell hangs. Hard to judge size, but the thing must be at least four metres tall and five in diameter at its mouth. He doesn’t have any idea what it weighs; he hopes it’s well secured.
The Doctor extricates himself from the control box just as Jack hears the clack-clack of Namrothian wood-soled sandals on the staircase leading up to the Bell Chamber.
It’s Rurath, the elderly Seneschal of the Palace. “Kyri Doctor, Kyri Jack.” His dove-grey robes swirl around him as he bows low. “How fares the work?”
“Oh, it’s coming along,” the Doctor replies, “but—blimey!—your ancestors didn’t make it easy to figure out which circuit does what.”
Rurath bows again. “I regret that I can not be of assistance. Our knowledge has dwindled sadly since the days of the Bellmakers.”
There’s very little in the TARDIS Index File on Namroth, but Jack knows that 800 years ago some kind of disaster destroyed their data centre and killed most of the technicians. The Namrothians have been struggling ever since to re-create the knowledge of their ancestors. Dwindling resources haven’t helped the situation, either. Namkha is nestled in a fertile valley that yields many food crops, but little in the way of essential ores and minerals. Legend says that the Bellmakers tried to mine the rocky badlands surrounding Namkha until they were frightened away by ‘goblins’. Superstition? Wild beasts of some kind? The TARDIS sensors haven’t detected any creatures large enough to threaten an adult Namrothian. Maybe there used to be a predator that’s gone extinct.
If Jack had his way, he’d be scanning the badlands for those abandoned mines. Or upgrading the primitive computers that the Namrothians rely on. He’s pretty sure the Doctor feels the same way. Instead of doing something useful, they’re repairing the amplifier for Big Ben’s bigger brother, because that’s what the Namrothian government requested. And why does a bell the size of a damn escape pod need an electronic amplification system, anyway?
“I do not wish to seem in any way discourteous, Kyri Doctor,” the Seneschal says apologetically, “but tomorrow is the fifth day of the Month of the Twentieth Creche. If the Great Bell does not ring for the crowning of Princess Hilfanae...” Rurath sighs. “The people would regard that as a very bad omen indeed. It would make a difficult beginning to Her Highness’s reign.”
“That’s twenty hours from now. We’ll have it sorted by then. No worries!” the Doctor says cheerily.
Rurath looks at Jack for confirmation. His face is downcast; his pale green eyes anxious.
“We’ve pulled off miracles in much less time than twenty hours,” Jack assures him. Repairing some Level 7 technology doesn’t exactly require a miracle, especially since no one is trying to kill them while they do it. He wishes the Seneschal would go away and leave them to the work.
“When is the last time the Great Bell was rung?” the Doctor asks.
“Last Quarterday, for the solstice,” Rurath says promptly. “It’s only rung for special occasions, to spare the mechanisms from overuse. When I was a boy, it was rung once a week and on all the public holidays. They say that the Bellmakers rang it four times a day, every day.”
“Why so often?” the Doctor asks. His voice is muffled because he’s turned back to the control box.
“To frighten away the goblins, of course.” Rurath’s chuckle is as dry as withered leaves. “I know, I know. It seems unbelievable that our ancestors were so much more scientifically advanced and yet so superstitious. Still, the surviving historical records are quite clear: the Great Bell was constructed to protect Namkha from the goblins.” The Seneschal pauses for a moment. “Her Highness has the utmost confidence on you, Kyri Doctor. Though it is many centuries since we came to Namoth, tales are still told of how you aided our ancestors on the homeworld.” He excuses himself, bowing again, and heads down the staircase.
“Doctor, you’ve been to Querilos?” Jack asks.
“When I was young: about three hundred or so. They had some trouble with dragons—or maybe it was dragonflies. I can’t quite remember. Anyway, I sorted it for them.” He turns back to the control box.
The next few minutes are silent, except for the buzz of the sonic and the Doctor asking for specific tools. Jack wishes he could do something more interesting than serve as the Doctor’s tool monkey, but the control box isn’t large enough for more than one person to access it at a time.
He shouldn’t complain. A boring repair job is a nice change of pace from their usual misadventures. Suddenly, he becomes aware that the sonic has gone silent, and the Doctor is standing utterly still.
“Doctor? Everything okay in there?” Jack has to repeat his question twice before he gets a reply.
The Doctor steps aside. “Take a look at that.” He points at a section of circuits in the lower right quadrant of the control box.
Jack scans it with his wrist comp. “That’s not for amplification—that’s a transducer module for converting sound waves into some other form of energy. I don’t recognise the settings, though.”
“Nah, I don’t expect you would do. Not much call for generating samekh waves. They’re mostly rubbish, unless...” The Doctor scrunches up his face. “Oh. Oh! Jack, you’re brilliant!”
“I am? Yeah, of course I am. Do you mind telling me exactly what I’ve been brilliant about?”
“There is something wrong with the Palace—or, not so much the Palace itself as the people in the Palace.” He doesn’t give Jack a chance to ask the obvious question. “I’ve got to get to the TARDIS and run a multi-level scan. While I’m gone—” He hands Jack the sonic screwdriver. “—you can finish realigning the amplification circuits. Setting 2147.” The Doctor grasps Jack by the shoulder and pulls him close for a brief, forceful kiss. “Did I tell you that you’re brilliant? You’re brilliant! Sorry, must dash!”
Jack huffs out a soft laugh, then turns back to the control box.
Jack frowns. He’s realigned all of the circuits, soniced corrosion from various connectors and diodes, and checked the conductivity of every cable. For the past hour he’s been pacing in circles beneath the Great Bell, mentally reciting the filthiest limericks he knows. He’s trying to remember the one about Heisenberg when he hears the patter of trainers running up a stone staircase.
The Doctor explodes through the doorway. “Jack! You’re brilliant!”
“So I’ve been told,” Jack says dryly. “I’m still waiting to learn the details. What were you scanning for?”
The Doctor gives him a mischievous I’m-such-a-clever-boy grin. “Goblins.”
“The goblins that are just a superstitious myth?”
“Yup.” The Doctor bounces lightly on the balls of his feet. He’s very pleased with himself.
“Did you find them?”
“I found something. When we first arrived, I did a surface scan, and the only concentration of life signs was here.” The Doctor spreads his arms in a circle to indicate the entirety of Namkha. “But this time I did a multi-level scan. There’s an extensive cave system northwest of the city, and I found bio-signs underground.”
“Could be animals.”
“Could be,” the Doctor concedes, “if,” he adds triumphantly, “the TARDIS hadn’t also detected an electrical grid system running through those caves for at least point seven five kilometres.” He throws up his hands, palms upwards, looking very much like a stage magician who has just produced a bouquet of daisies from someone’s ear.
Jack studies the Doctor. “And we need to investigate.”
“I need to investigate,” the Doctor corrects. He waggles a finger at Jack. “One of us has to stay here and finish the repairs. Coronation tomorrow, remember?”
“So, you stay and I’ll—”
“Jack, I need to take the TARDIS. It’s twenty-seven kilometres of rough terrain between here and there. Neither of us could do it on foot, not in under nineteen hours.”
“Wait until after the coronation,” Jack says in as patient a tone as he can manage. “Then we can go together.” There have been too many close calls lately; too many last-second escapes that could have gone horribly, disastrously wrong. The Kreyt Rebellion, a hungry pack of dire wolves, the Ghiloz spaceship, Trevanian pirates... was it like this in the old days on the TARDIS with his first Doctor? Is this Doctor more reckless, more jeopardy-friendly? Maybe the problem is that Jack has changed. He didn’t think as often about mortality when he was still mortal. Back then he felt invincible. Luck was always on his side. And the Doctor? He would be around forever. “Just wait,” Jack repeats.
The Doctor shakes his head. “I can’t This planet is approaching a temporal cusp. A branch point.” He strikes a dramatic pose and intones, “There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.” He grins. “I once spent an evening at the Mermaid Tavern trying to explain temporal cusp theory to Bill Shakespeare. He was halfway through his second bottle of canary. I thought he understood the essence of it rather well for a—”
“Human?” Jack says wryly.
The Doctor arches his brows. “I was going to say ‘for a wine-soaked poet’, but... as you like. For a human, then. I’m not going to apologise for what I am, Jack. I’m a Time Lord. There are things I can sense that no human can—not even you, as brilliant and remarkable as you are—and I’m telling you I know that if I don’t go now, something disastrous will happen to the people of this planet.”
“Fine. Your Time Lord spidey senses are tingling. I’m coming with you.”
“I gave my word to the Namrothians to repair the Great Bell. I need you to finish the job for me.”
Jack’s tempted to say that he didn’t make any promises, but that would be a big mistake. The Doctor is sensitive about keeping his word. “Okay. I’ll take care of things here.”
The Doctor’s smile is incandescent. “Thank you. Look, I need you to reconfigure the transducer module to these settings, all right?” He hands Jack a yellow sticky note covered with numbers.
Jack studies the paper. “But won’t that—”
“I know. The change is important. Very important. I’ll explain in detail later.”
Jack holds back a sigh. “Just... keep your eyes open, okay?”
The Doctor pulls a face. “What are you worried about?”
“Oh, I don’t know... the unidentified aliens who may be just a little bit pissed off to have a stranger wandering into their secret underground base?”
“It’s not a nest of Cybermen, Jack.”
“Could be something just as dangerous. You don’t know what they are.”
“I’ll be careful. I’m always careful.”
“You? Careful?” Jack lets out a derisive snort.
The Time Lord strides towards the stairwell. He pauses in the doorway. “I’ll be as quick as I can.”
“What do I tell the Namrothians when they ask where you are?”
“Tell them I’ll be back in time for the coronation.” The Doctor gives Jack a long, measured look. “And try to trust me.” He doesn’t wait for an answer. With a swirl of his long coat he spins around and disappears down the steps.
The Doctor double-checks his readings. He enters a series of coordinates, twists a dial 187 degrees to the left, and pulls on the gyroscopic stabiliser. “Just a quick spatial hop, old girl,” he murmurs to the TARDIS. “The timelines are too delicate to be taking any temporal shortcuts.” The quiet purr at the back of his mind tells him that she’s feeling cooperative, but he still lets out a sigh of relief when he opens the main door and sees a craggy rock face with a shadowed opening.
He’s only taken a few steps into the cavern when the darkness envelops him. He reaches into his left coat pocket and pulls out a small brass railway lantern, flicking the power switch on the base. The lantern casts a circle of golden light about three metres in diameter. The rock underfoot has been artificially smoothed. He can see clearly enough to walk at his preferred brisk pace, but after a minute he can no longer see the side walls of the cavern. The echoes of his footsteps suggest a very wide space. His circle of light is a tiny raft in a vast ocean of darkness.
He starts to zig-zag, and discovers that the smooth surface is seven metres wide. Beyond it, on either side, the natural rough texture of the rock has been left unaltered. He’s walking on a path—no, a road, because there are faint tyre tracks visible here and there, where dust has blown in from the outside world.
Five minutes of walking bring him to a wall and a large door made of some dull metal. The sonic makes quick work of the locking mechanism. He slides the door just far enough to step through the opening. Immediately, it slides closed, and he hears the snick of the lock. He starts to turn and re-open it. It’s always a good idea to leave a route for a strategic retreat. Whatever Jack Harkness may think, he didn't make it to the age of 905 by relying solely on luck. Without warning, a brilliant blue-white light floods the area from a bank of overhead fixtures He squeezes his eyes shut and covers his face with his hands, but it’s too late.
When the dazzling afterimages fade, he blinks at the semicircle of black-cloaked figures looming over him. Their pale skin is so translucent that blue-grey blood vessels near the surface are visible, giving them the look of living statues carved from Carrara marble. They stare at him with large grey eyes.
“Hullo!” he says, giving them his best I-am-harmless smile. “Take me to your leader!” As he moves forward, the group of aliens silently reposition themselves to surround him on all sides, and he can’t help wondering if it wouldn’t have been wiser after all to bring Jack along.
The courtyard of the Ringing Palace is crowded with people draped in the greens and yellows that are the Namrothian colours of life and rejoicing. Jack is the shortest adult present, but he stands out in the crowd, his pale skin accented by a t-shirt that’s as black as his mood. It’s too soon to start worrying, he tells himself. The less rational side of his mind replies, This is the Doctor. It’s never too early to start worrying.
Rurath the Seneschal hurries over, resplendent in a leaf-green cloak over a deep gold robe. “Kyri Jack, please to stand over there. You are an honoured guest.” He gestures at a line of Palace officials facing the bright yellow dais where the Princess will be crowned. “Is the Kyri Doctor here?” It’s only the fifth time he’s asked the question.
“Not yet, but soon,” Jack tells him, hoping that it’s the truth. He steps into place and nods politely at the dignitaries on either side of him. One of them begins a conversation. Jack manages to reply, to smile and to make listening noises in all the right places. He’s flying on autopilot. It's a skill he mastered in his con man days. In an hour, he likely won’t remember a single word that was said.
The procession begins. Twenty children walking in pairs and carrying leafy branches emerge from the main door of the Ringing Palace. As they approach the dais they peel off—pairs going alternately to the left and right. A line of young women comes next, wearing some kind of intricately-wrapped garment like a sarong in vivid blue. TARDIS blue. Each carries a large, shallow bowl lacquered blue on the outside and mirror-bright silver on the inside. They move in a smooth, fluid dance, raising their bowls high, then bowing low, spilling sunlight on the ground like a sacred offering.
A phalanx of young men clad only in short red kilts follow the dancers. They hold flat drums, beating them in a steady cadence with thick, double-ended sticks carved in blatantly phallic shapes. A rude joke hovers on Jack’s lips, but dies unspoken. What’s the point when the Doctor isn’t there to shush him? Damn it, Doctor—when are you going to get here?
A restless murmur sweeps through the crowd. In that moment, the Princess and her retinue appear in the doorway of the Palace. As she takes her first step forward, the Great Bell begins to ring. Jack can feel its deep, sonorous voice vibrating in his bones. Fragments of “Oranges and Lemons” run through his mind in time to the tolling bell.
“When will you... when will you...”
“I do not know... I do not know... I do not know..”
The final note of the Great Bell is fading away when Princess Hilfanae steps onto the dais. The Officiant opens his mouth to begin the invocation. His words are drowned out by a discordant roar. It’s not as loud as the Great Bell, and certainly not as melodic, but it echoes in Jack’s chest, making his heart beat faster. The TARDIS is materialising in the courtyard.
The TARDIS door swings open, and the Doctor bounds out. He calls over his shoulder, “Right where I was aiming! Come on out!”
The three black-cloaked figures that follow him out into the courtyard have to stoop to get through the TARDIS doorway. They throw back their hoods and stand unblinking in the bright sun.
There are shouts and gasps in the crowd. Parents snatch up small children, prepared to run. Some of the officials back away; some move to position themselves defiantly between the dais and the grey, gaunt figures.
Princess Hilfanae stands quietly in the centre of the dais. The Officiant bends towards her, speaking in low, urgent tones and gesturing towards the city gate. She stills him with a single motion of her slender hand.
“Kyri Doctor,” she says in a clear voice that wavers only a little, “I am pleased that you have returned. Will you make your... guests known to me?”
“Your Highness, these are neighbours of yours. They live five leagues thataway.” He flaps one hand in a northwesterly direction.
The Princess’s eyes widen as she takes in his meaning. Twelve words have just changed everything she thought she knew about her world.
The Doctor continues, “May I present Kos Andar, First Minister of the Escrans, and his, erm... associates, Shalou and Avok.”
Kos Andar bows with unexpected grace. His ‘associates’—and if they’re not bodyguards, Jack will eat his boots for breakfast, with or without HP Sauce—nod their heads a fraction of a centimetre. “I greet you, Lady—”
“Goblins!” someone shrieks. “The goblins have returned!”
A second voice shouts, “Goblins! Ring the bell! Ring the Great Bell!” Others take up the cry. Jack tenses. Any moment now, this frightened crowd may become an angry mob.
The Doctor looks at Jack, raising his brows in silent query. Jack nods in reply. The Doctor smiles at Princess Hilfanae, who hesitates only a second before she crooks a finger at her Seneschal. Rurath gestures to one of his assistants.
A moment later, the voice of the Great Bell booms out across the city. The Nyrans are startled, as any species with functioning ears would be, but they remain stoically in place until the last peal ends. They don’t flee or collapse or vanish in a puff of smoke, or whatever goblins are supposed to do when the Great Bell rings.
Princess Hilfanae raises her hands. “People of the City of Namkha! I call you all to witness that there are no goblins here, no monsters out of children’s tales.”
Jack holds his breath. He doesn’t have to be a Time Lord to see that this is the temporal cusp, the moment of decision for this planet. The shrill buzz of voices lowers to a soft hum, then dies away altogether. In the hush that follows, Jack can almost hear the timelines snapping into place.
The Princess raises her hands again. “Rurath, Seneschal of the Ringing Palace!”
Rurath steps forward, and bows.
“I charge you to escort the Kyri Doctor and these new-come friends to places of honour, that they may witness me come into my birthright. When the ceremony is concluded, then we shall speak together of various matters of import.”
“So, there really were goblins, after all.” Jack settles himself on the Menkhibi sofa in the TARDIS’s second-best parlour. The smart-gel cushions obediently form themselves to his shape and body temperature.
The Doctor stops pacing for a brief instant and purses his lips. “There were people that other kinds of people called goblins. One of those misunderstandings that happen far too often. The Querilos colony ship was never intended to land here, but their engines were failing, fuel running short—the usual problems of a young race venturing out into the galaxy.” He smiles like a kindly uncle remembering a toddler’s first wobbly steps. “Meanwhile, in the not-yet-ringing Palace, the Escrans were throwing fits. They were technically advanced, but they had no spaceflight and no knowledge of sapient life from other worlds.”
Jack nods. It’s a common first-contact scenario.
“And before the Querilosi could say, ‘We come in peace’ or, ‘Could you spare a cup of petrol?’ the Escrans were attacking the ‘demons from the sky’.”
“And since retreating wasn’t an option, the Querilosi fought a war of conquest,” Jack guesses. “Took over the city and the Palace—but where does the bell come into this?”
“Ah, the Great Bell! The Querilosi didn’t have much in the way of armaments. Remember, it was a colony ship. Somehow they discovered that the Escrans were highly sensitive to samekh waves, and they worked out a low-tech way of generating those waves. A very clever and effective form of defence, at least until the circuitry started to wear out. The technicians who knew how it worked were killed in the planetquake that destroyed the data centre. By the time we came along, the colonists had forgotten that another race had built the Palace. All they remembered were vague legends about fearsome goblins.”
“The Escrans seem to have got over their xenophobia,” Jack comments.
“Yeah. They’ve had a millennium of exile in those caves to get used to the idea of sharing the planet. They’ve got a lot to offer the Namrothians. For starters, their level of technology hasn’t declined over the centuries, and they’ve located quite a lot of useful mineral deposits.”
“Happy ever after?”
“No one gets that,” the Doctor says, “but they’ll do well enough. The negotiations are progressing nicely; they don’t need us any longer.” He smiles just a little too brightly. “I was thinking that we might pop by Oukab Beta next.”
“Oukab? Why?” Jack is honestly baffled. There’s nothing wrong with Oukab, but there’s nothing particularly interesting about it, either.
“Erm... dinner? They have very good prawn cocktails.”
“Gmatukan has better. Besides, you hate prawns.”
“I don’t hate them,” the Doctor says with great dignity. “We have irreconcilable philosophical differences. Canoossi IV, then. Or Rho Persei XI, during the 33rd century. Ooh! Or Therab, the court of Mazri the Stupendous.”
Jack searches the Doctor’s face for any hint that the Time Lord is pulling his leg. All of the planets the Doctor mentioned have one thing in common: they’re peaceful to the point of being dull. Canoossi IV was used by the Time Agency as a training site because even the greenest cadet couldn’t get into trouble there. Outab is famed for its meditation centres, and the Therab Emperor Mazri the Stupendous was known throughout four galaxies as Mazri the Stultifying. The Doctor looks completely serious. There are some faint signs of tension for those who know him well enough to read.
Is he pissed off at me? Getting his own back because I told him to be careful? Jack finds that hard to believe. The Doctor can be moody and unreasonable, and he could win an Olympic gold medal in sulking, but he doesn’t do petty revenge. It’s not his style. Besides, the Doctor would hate those peaceful planets even more than Jack would.
The penny finally drops. It’s an apology of sorts: the Doctor’s way of offering him a respite from danger and worry. It’s a ridiculous overreaction, but also rather charming in a convoluted Doctorish sort of way. The Doctor would hate those planets, but he’d be willing to suffer the tedium for Jack’s sake.
Jack cocks his head to one side, pretending to consider the options. “As much as I appreciate a good prawn cocktail or a spot of meditation, I was hoping for something a little different. I was thinking of the Doshin Games.”
The Doctor’s eyes grow very wide. Doshin is an uninhabited forest world that’s been carefully groomed for the purpose of holding wilderness survival competitions. Teams of two are set down at equidistant points two hundred klicks from the goal with only basic equipment and a limited supply of food and water. The first team to make it to the goal are the Grand Winners. Every team that arrives at the goal alive within a week is deemed a winner. Each year, at least one team comes across the remains of competitors from previous Games who were lost to landslides, whitewater crossings, or the aggressive bear-like sa’atu. “You want us to go watch the Doshin Games?” The Games are closely monitored to make sure that no participants are using illegal equipment or interfering with other teams.
“Nah,” Jack says with deliberate casualness. “I want us to enter the Games. It’d be a lot of fun. All those long, moonlit nights under the rooshka trees...” He waggles his brows suggestively.
“But, it’s—” the Doctor sputters. Jack can almost hear him bite back the word ‘dangerous’.
“Lots of running. We’re good at running.” Jack watches with amusement as the Doctor fights a losing battle with himself.
“We are magnificent at running,” the Doctor corrects, sounding mildly offended.
“We are,” Jack agrees. He captures the Doctor’s gaze with his own. “We make a good team.”
Some emotion that Jack can’t quite read flickers in the Doctor’s eyes, and then is gone. “Yeah, we do,” the Time Lord says. He smiles. “We do, indeed.”
Jack reaches up with one hand, grasps the Doctor’s left forearm, and pulls him down onto the sofa.
“Jack! What are you doing?” the Doctor protests, but he’s laughing, and doesn’t resist.
“Teamwork requires constant practice,” Jack says earnestly. He glances up at the polished chrome ceiling panels. “No rooshka trees.”
“We’ll have to improvise,” the Doctor replies. “I remember once on Dembril V—”
Jack never learns what happened on Dembril V, because his next move renders the Doctor incapable of speaking. For the next hour or so, there’s very little talking at all. Fortunately, they’re very skilled at communicating their needs and intentions without words.
Teamwork is like that.
--- THE END ---