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sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-17 12:50 pm

In Another Life, Ch 5 of 7; PG-13.

Thanks to: [livejournal.com profile] mcgonagalls_cat and [livejournal.com profile] spiderine for betas. Any remaining rough edges are my fault.

***

Rose

"You know I like England, really I do, but your concept of breakfast is beyond me sometimes," the Doctor said, but he said it even as he was tucking into a battered blood sausage with remarkable enthusiasm. Rose sat back and watched in amusement as he broke off a piece, added some fried bread, dipped it in runny egg, and fitted it all into his mouth, licking his fingertips. He caught her watching and shifted the food to one side of his mouth so he could say, "What?"

"We don't normally batter-fry them," she said, feeling smug and satisfied with the world. He shrugged and kept eating. Around them, other mid-morning Sunday diners on the outdoor terrace were talking or sipping tea or, it had to be said, watching him eat with something approaching morbid fascination.

Bringing him here had been smart. He'd been so still and so quiet Friday evening that when she came into their room she'd almost thought he was dead. In that split second she'd actually wondered if it was suicide, and that told her that on some level she was worried about him. She didn't ever want Ianto to have to tell her that the Doctor was troubled again. She should see it before it got to that point.

She never knew if reminding him that he was human would hurt or help him, but in this case -- well, look at him. That was her brilliant, mad Doctor, that was. As miserable and confused as he could sometimes be, he was still hers.

"What are we doing today?" he asked, having washed the whole mess down with orange juice.

"Dunno," she said, resting her chin in her hands. "We don't have to be at the train until four."

"Technically," he said, mock-thoughtful, "we don't have to be at the train at all."

"Do you want to stay?"

"No," he laughed. "But it's nice to know we could. Set up residence, become Citizens of Southend..."

"Live in a hut, set up a sausage cart on the beach," she suggested.

"Busk outside the arcades."

"Do you play the guitar?" she asked, grinning.

"I play the piano all right. Bit hard to haul around though."

"Nice big compartment for keeping change in, on the other hand."

"We could sell sausages out of it too," he said, and they both broke down into laughter.

"So, anything we want until four," she prompted. He chewed on some egg and considered matters.

"Cinema?" he said hesitantly, as if he wasn't sure she'd approve. She hated when he did that, especially when the next words out of his mouth would be -- "What do you want to see?"

"You pick," she said firmly. He looked up from his food, head still half-bowed, eyes curious under his brows.

"All right," he said, reaching into his pocket for his mobile. He had impeccable telephone manners, at least by modern standards; he never made calls in company unless he had to, and even then he stepped away. He never answered his phone in company, either, but in place of his sonic screwdriver he had...well, bonded with it a bit.

He worked the alphanumeric keyboard deftly with one hand, forking another bite of bread-and-sausage into his mouth with the other. She watched, amused.

"Couple of blocks north," he said. "They've got an action film, one science fiction show -- I'm not having with any of that, not after Star Wars -- two animated-do's and some period thing about the War of the Roses. Been there, done that," he added, and looked up at her expectantly.

She half-suspected this would descend into a row, but then that was part of a seaside holiday, wasn't it?

"You pick," she repeated. He opened his mouth to protest, and she sighed. "Doctor. You're going to have to stop being afraid that every time you have an opinion I'm going to dump you over it."

"I don't think that," he protested.

"Well, then pick a bloody film, already."

He looked stung. "Just for that I might inflict that science-fiction one on you."

"Oh, how I will suffer." She rolled her eyes. "Pick one you want to see."

He looked down at the phone, thoughtful.

"Oi," she said softly. He looked up. "Remember the end of the world?"

"What?" he asked.

"The end of the world. The observation platform? You said the TARDIS got in my head and I got all stroppy about it, and then we nearly died for the -- what was it, fourth time?"

"Third," he said.

"And then what happened?"

He gave her a blank look. "The world ended?"

"Personally."

"Erm. Rose, I don't really know where you're -- "

"I stayed with you," she said. "I said, show me the universe, and you did. We took turns choosing what we'd see, remember? I stayed with you. Even when you died and you weren't the Doctor I'd known anymore. I stayed. Which I think shows great fortitude on my part, 'cause it's not like you were a dream to be around for a few days after that, Mr. Let's-Crash-Land-The-TARDIS."

"Oh," he said. She watched the understanding wash over him.

"So," she continued. "Pick a film."

"One of the animated ones is about cats," he said, after staring at her for a few seconds. "Cats that talk, apparently. I'm partial to talking cats. And there may be..." he glanced back down at the phone again. "Hilarious mishaps."

She gave him a warm smile and he smiled back, delighted. "Cats it is then."

***

The next morning, back home in London, all hell broke loose over breakfast.

It started with four simultaneous telephone calls. Mary Ellen and Ianto both phoned the Doctor's mobile almost at the same time, and he was just excusing himself to call them back and see if something had blown up -- which was the only reason he could think of for both of them phoning -- when Pete's publicity manager rang his mobile and Jackie's began to go off as well.

"It's my mate, Kathryn," she said, answering it, just as Pete said, "They what?"

"Oh my god, you're in the Sun," Jackie said to Rose. Rose wasn't certain that the amount of glee in her mother's voice was really justified.

"That happened to me once," the Doctor said. "Well, nearly. We were stuck in the gravitational -- "

"For what?" Rose demanded, over top of him. "Not that sun," she added to the Doctor.

"Beach frolics?" her father said, raising his eyebrows. "Sweetheart, you're on the front page of the paper. Were you naked at all this weekend?"

"Not in public!" she said, annoyed. He returned to the phone call. Her mobile began to ring; apparently, not having got hold of the Doctor, Ianto was trying her number as well. "The world's gone mad," she whispered to the Doctor, and answered the call. "Ianto?"

"Seen a news-stand this morning?" Ianto asked, cheerfully.

"No, but apparently everyone else in the world has. How bad is it?"

"Well, you aren't naked."

"Why are all the men in my life so concerned with my nudity?" she asked. The breakfast table fell silent for a moment. Her parents glanced at the Doctor. He busied himself cleaning some peaches off of Tony's face.

"Well, if you're not bothered, I'm not," Ianto continued. His accent had thickened, as it did when he was annoyed or amused. "It's just a few photos of you and him. But they're making some implications, and I thought you should know."

"They're always making implications," she said, watching her father hurry into the hall to check the computer in his home-office. "Hang on, Dad's on the move."

"Lisa thinks he looks quite good in swim-trunks," Ianto said.

"Got it up now -- call you back," she said, and hung up as she leaned over her dad's shoulder where he was bent at the keyboard. The Doctor leaned over his other side, looking happy to be in the thick of it, and her mum, holding Tony in one hand and her mobile in the other, tried to elbow her out of the way.

"Why shouldn't she show off if she's got it?" she said into the mobile, and Rose rolled her eyes.

"My goodness," Pete said.

"That's quite flattering for you," the Doctor added.

"Lisa likes you shirtless," Rose told him.

"You're not in the habit of tackling my daughter, I hope," Pete remarked.

"Only when the situation warrants."

"You could get a modeling gig out of this," Jackie observed.

"Mum!"

"I'm only saying."

The banner on the Sun's front page just showed thumbnails -- one of Rose in her bikini top and another of her and the Doctor in mid-tumble after he'd pulled her down on the beach on Saturday evening. She was surprised the photographer hadn't bothered to get any closer; perhaps he wanted an exclusive without tipping them off. Pete clicked it and waited for the page to load.

Romping English Rose, the headline read. Rose giggled.

"Is that the best they could come up with?" she asked.

"I was hoping for Tyler'd up in knots," her father said, grinning wickedly. "Or maybe Torchwood Tumble."

"This is serious, you," Jackie swatted him.

"Don't tell me. She's a grown woman."

"Oi," the Doctor said. "Who are they calling a beaky geek?"

"What?" Rose asked, squinting at the text. Rose Tyler has found love at last, if this weekend's antics are any indication. The heir to Pete Tyler's health-drink fortune has been seen about town with a man identified as an employee of the Torchwood Institute where Tyler rules the roost, a beaky geek whose name the company is keeping under wraps for obvious reasons. Newspapers can't ignore the tech-savvy twosome any longer, though many ask what the leggy blonde Tyler sees in her companion. Maybe he has a really big...brain?

"Well, a beaky geek with a big brain," Jackie ventured.

"I do have that," the Doctor said smugly.

"They don't actually mean brain," Rose whispered.

"Oh," he answered, and looked thoughtful.

Our cameras captured the couple rough-housing in the sand at Southend this weekend, where Tyler was also seen dining in style with her mysterious employee and sharing a hotel room. Sources say Tyler paid for everything. Is shy Rose finally discovering the lighter side of life? An older man's the one to show her, we suppose.

"Well," the Doctor leaned back. "I don't come off at all well in that, do I?"

"Nobody ever comes off well in the Sun, that's the point," Rose sighed. "I'm a slut and you're a lecher. Are you much fussed?"

"What, at being painted as an aging social inept with a big nose that you're too good for?" he asked, then seemed to consider it. "Not particularly."

"Slow news day, I suppose," Pete said.

"Do the lot of you live in the same world as me?" Jackie asked suddenly. Everyone looked at her. She shrugged. "It's a good story, innit. They've been after you to be the next big tabloid star for months. They think it's sweet, the shy geek princess and all that rubbish. You finally go out with a boy, they're going to cover it. Next you know they'll be saying you dumped 'im," she jerked a thumb at the Doctor, "for some telly star. Remember when they tried to say that Tony was yours and I was covering for you?"

"Oh lord..." Rose dropped into the desk chair, covering her face and laughing wryly.

"It does pose a real problem," her father said, and he was more serious now. "People are going to pester the staff. Rumours are going to get about. And they won't be happy till they have a name for the Doctor. And some less flattering snaps."

"Less flattering than 'beaky geek'?" the Doctor asked. He didn't seem overly fretful, but she could tell the crack about his nose (currently beginning to peel from the sunburn) had smarted a little.

"You'd be amazed," Pete remarked. "It's going to cause no end of trouble for the labs."

"Well, I can fix that," the Doctor said. He glanced at Rose with a beam that split his face. "Budge over, let me have at the computer for twenty minutes."

"What are you going to do?"

"Just mess them about a bit. Want to go down to the Sun offices this morning?"

She grinned and got out of the chair. "Sounds like fun."

***

The Doctor

The office of the Sun newspaper had two security guards and a receptionist in the front lobby, which made sense considering the number of irate people who probably harassed them. The Doctor ignored the guards and walked up to the receptionist, a young man in a suit who reminded him strongly, in demeanour, of Mary Ellen.

"Hello," he said, with his best bright smile. He could feel Rose trying not to laugh, next to him. "I'm here to see the editor."

"News, sports, advertising, gossip -- "

"Front Page?" he interrupted.

"Do you have an appointment?"

He picked up one of the Monday newspapers sitting in a stack on the reception desk and held it up to his face. The young man looked up, blinked, and reached unsubtly for a panic button under his desk.

"Oh, for -- I'm not armed," the Doctor said. "I'm not going to pitch a fuss. I'd just like to see whoever approved the story, that's all."

"Name?" the young man asked slyly.

"I'm the Doctor, this is Rose Tyler," he said, giving Rose's hand a tug. She'd been halfway to wandering off, studying some of the framed photos in the lobby.

"Doctor who?"

The Doctor leaned an elbow on the counter. "What's your name?"

"Edward."

"Nice name," Rose said meaningfully. The Doctor shot a sidelong look at her. She'd been doing that a lot lately, pointing out names.

"Edward, I need you to do me a favour," he said. "A really big favour. It'll be doing your company a favour too."

"Sir?"

"I know you probably aren't supposed to, but I'd like you to call up whoever approved the article and tell him or her that the beaky geek and his shy girlfriend are here and would like a word. Let your boss make the decision on this one, all right?"

Edward the Receptionist looked uncertain. "All right, Doctor."

"Ta," the Doctor said, and waited while Edward picked up the phone. A brief conversation followed, which he eavesdropped on shamelessly, and then the phone was replaced in its cradle.

"I'll show you in," Edward said. "Sign, please."

He pushed a binder at them and Rose picked up a pen, signing her name. The Doctor thought for a minute and then wrote a rude word in D'Bral, which wouldn't be a language for another hundred million years, give or take. It looked faintly like a string of Kanji. Edward examined it, frowned, and gestured them on with a tip of his head.

They were led down a corridor and into an elevator, then out into a third-floor lobby and through a pair of wide wooden doors. On the other side, a young woman smiled at Edward and gestured them through.

"Go on in," Edward said. "Mr. Jackson's waiting for you."

The Doctor tipped a wink at Rose and pushed the door open.

It was a well-appointed office in shades of white and blond wood, very upscale mix-and-match -- someone with no taste pretending they had. There was a desk piled high with papers, and amid the drifts was a flat-screen computer monitor pushed to one side. A man stood next to it, a fake smile plastered on his face. He was middle-aged, not the sort who could really get away with cracks about other peoples' noses, in an expensive suit with a garish black-and-white plaid tie.

"Ms. Tyler," he said, offering his hand. "Bertram Jackson, supervising editor. I see you read the Sun."

"My mum enjoys it," Rose replied, offering him a likewise insincere smile. She ignored the hand.

"Won't you both be seated?"

"Ta," the Doctor said, and settled himself into an uncomfortable chair on the near side of the desk. Jackson sat on the other side. Rose sat too and leaned back, crossing her legs casually.

"Can I offer you something to drink? Ms. Tyler, Mr...?"

"Doctor, actually," the Doctor said. "I'm fine, thanks. Rose?"

"I'm all right," she said, eyes tracking Jackson.

"Doctor," Jackson said. "Mechanical engineering or physics or something, I suppose. Oxbridge?"

"Kethsai," the Doctor replied. Jackson frowned.

"I don't think I know Kethsai University. Welsh?"

"It's very exclusive. Not Welsh, though."

"Foreign?"

"Oh yes," the Doctor agreed. "Extremely."

Jackson folded his hands. He looked uncomfortable, and like he was trying to hide it. "I don't suppose you've come to offer the Sun an exclusive interview."

"Not exactly."

"Serving papers?"

Rose snickered.

"I reckon you get a lot of that," the Doctor said. "But, no. As a matter of fact we just wanted to have a chat. Well. Really to make a request. Myself more than Rose, but also as a favour to her father."

Jackson raised his eyebrows.

"It's just that it's going to be a bit of an annoyance for us, having to deal with your reporters and photographers and all the other papers competing with them, down at the lab," the Doctor continued. "We do very interesting work there, lots of advancement-of-the-human-intellect sort of thing and you could really cause some interference in that. In fact, I suppose you could say we're asking on behalf of humanity as a whole, considering what we're getting up to and how disruptive a bunch of cameras could be. So, in essence, and to be brief, we want you to knock off stalking us for the sake of humanity's future."

The silence drew out for a few seconds, then a few more, until finally Jackson burst into laughter.

"I will give you points for being original, Doctor," he said, chuckling. "I've rarely been given human progress as a reason not to report the news."

"But not enough points to actually stop," the Doctor surmised.

"I'm afraid not. We give people the stories they want to hear; Ms. Tyler, if I may say so, makes an excellent story. As do you -- the mysterious scientist with the top-secret name."

"Mmh, I was afraid you'd say that," the Doctor sighed. "It's a shame too because ordinarily I'm very much for the freedom of the press. And you're certainly welcome to come have a guided tour of the declassified areas. But I really can't be having with you bothering my Rose."

"Your Rose, is she?" Jackson asked. Rose gave him a little wave and smile. "And what do you think of your white knight, Ms. Tyler?"

Rose glanced sidelong at him, enjoying the game. "Well, I like a man with a big brain."

Jackson had apparently not been expecting this. He hesitated.

"Generally," he said slowly, "the next step would be legal action, but I can tell you right now that it's rarely successful. Restraining orders aren't very useful in the face of telephoto lenses."

"That's all right," the Doctor said, and took his mobile out of his pocket. This was going to be fun. "I don't ordinarily bother with the law courts. Now, which button is -- oh, it's this one," he said, and pressed 1.

"Lawyer on speed-dial?" Jackson asked.

"No-oo," the Doctor let the hand holding the phone fall into his lap. "But I'd check your website if I were you."

Jackson frowned and turned slightly to face the plasma-screen, calling up the Sun website. The Doctor could see the screen reflected in the large tinted window behind Jackson's head:

Problem loading page - Unable to connect.

The frown deepened as the editor tried Google. It came up without a problem.

"I'm something of an expert in computers," the Doctor said modestly.

"If you hacked our server -- "

"Hacked isn't really accurate," Rose said. "What would you say, Doctor?"

"Oh, I dunno." The Doctor pursed his lips. "Possibly sacked. It's a good word, sacked, in the old medieval sense. Yes, I believe I've sacked your website. Pillaging, looting, burning, ground sown with salt, et cetera."

"That won't stop us," Jackson retorted.

"Good point; it'll probably just increase your hardcopy circulation. But it'll really annoy your advertisers. Anyway," the Doctor continued, "I wasn't finished yet."

He pushed 2. The computer died with a buzzing noise. The lights went out. Jackson reached for his phone, found it dead, cursed, and dug for his mobile. The Doctor pushed 3. He couldn't see the mobile's reception drop to nil, but he could see Jackson's face when he saw it, which was almost as good. Jackson got up and bolted past them to his door. The Doctor pressed four. The pneumatic hinges at the top of the doors jammed.

"You know it's not as good as my screwdriver," he said to Rose, conversationally, "but in a limited sense it does get the job done."

Rose glanced over her shoulder. Jackson was standing by the door.

"You won't get away with this," he said. "This is false imprisonment."

"Why don't you sit down, Bertram," Rose said, gesturing at the desk. "I don't really think we were finished talking yet. And you don't want someone to come break down those doors and let you out and haul us off before my Doctor restores your power, website, phone reception..."

The Doctor pressed 5. The phone on Jackson's desk began to ring.

"It's only dead for outgoing," the Doctor said with a smile. Jackson picked it up and barked, "What?" into the receiver.

The conversation that followed was pretty hilarious by any standards, as the photographer camped outside of Torchwood's lab building informed Jackson that he hadn't called him, that he had in fact been phoned by Jackson's desk phone. There was a lot of "I don't know" and "Well, solve it!" before Jackson looked up and met the Doctor's eye.

"Right, come on back in," he said wearily into the receiver. "I'll explain it when you get here."

"Tell him to have the others knock off, too," the Doctor suggested.

"Others?"

"Other newspapers, other photographers..."

"They won't go just because he tells them to."

"They will when their mobiles explode."

"You can't -- "

The Doctor pressed 6. Jackson's mobile, sitting on the desk, made a popping noise and began to smoke. Rose politely poured a pitcher of water on it and dropped it in the bin nearby.

Another short conversation; Jackson hung up the phone.

"Who are you?" he asked, standing well back. "What the hell's going on in that lab of yours? This is nine kinds of illegal!"

"Fifteen actually," said the Doctor. "And, well, this isn't the labs. This is just me. So imagine what the labs could do if Pete Tyler was annoyed that his daughter's in the papers."

"You can't suppress the news!"

"Well, technically I can," the Doctor said cheerfully. "But in this case I like to think of Rose as my girlfriend, rather than The News."

"Bertram, you'd better sit down," Rose insisted. He dropped into his seat. She leaned forward. "The Doctor has a mean streak. Just a little one," she said, holding up thumb and forefinger. "The problem is that when the mean streak and the great big brain get together, it gets his creative juices going. Now, I'm not saying we're going to tell you what to print. All I'm saying is, it'd be a great waste of resources to keep on at us, since honestly...we're not that interesting. Just a girl and a boy, who happen to like beaches and really cool technology. You listening?"

"Raptly," Jackson rasped.

"So honestly you're much better served finding someone who wants to be in the spotlight and giving it to them," she continued. "And we think that you should pass this message on to your friends on the other papers, as well."

"The Tylers are off limits," the Doctor said. "Unless you want problems with your printing press as well."

He held up the mobile and shook it gently. Jackson blanched.

"No!" he said.

"Then we're agreed?" Rose suggested.

"You can't just bully -- " he flinched as the Doctor's thumb slid over to 7. "All right. All right, the story's off, I'll -- I'll put in a blackout."

"I knew he'd see reason," Rose said cheerily.

"Seems like a sensible bloke," the Doctor said. He pressed 7.

Jackson visibly braced himself, but all that happened was that the lights came back on and the door pneumatics released. His computer bleeped as it started up.

Rose got up to leave; the Doctor stood too, and leaned on Jackson's desk, bracing his fingers on the wood.

"Remember what I can do," he said softly. "And that I'll do it, to protect my family. That you can publish as loud and as long as you want."

Jackson, pale and blinking, bit his lip.

"Can you tell me one thing?" he asked. "I won't publish, I promise, just -- tell me your name."

The Doctor smiled and leaned a little further in, bending to whisper in his ear.

"I don't have one."

***

Lisa Hallett

"It's all been a bit of a nightmare, really," Rose said, digging in the bottom of the crisp packet. She gave up and dumped the remaining crumbs on her plate, picking through them for the biggest pieces. "I mean, I don't care, not really, but people turn and stare on the street now."

"I know the feeling," Lisa said, flexing the brass-coloured fingers on her arm.

"Guess you would," Rose nodded. "Still, it's all sorted now. You should have seen it, yesterday, when the Doctor sacked the website."

Lisa glanced up from the little outdoor table and waved as Ianto and the Doctor came into view, strolling down the London street. The Doctor was still fiddling with some hand-held device; Ianto was trying to pilot him around the mid-day crowds. She speared a cherry tomato on her fork and chewed it.

"You know," she said, swallowing her food, "I have to say I don't really care what the writers put, I think he's a looker."

Rose gave the two men a fond smile. "He is a bit, yeah. But," she added, "now I've bored you with all this stuff, come on, wedding, I want to know. We're invited, yeah?"

"Course," Lisa said. "Small thing, Ianto's shy. He hasn't any family really, and I've only got mum, anyway. Couple of mates, you and the Doctor, civil ceremony. Mum gave me her old dress, Ianto's altering it. His dad was a tailor."

"Flowers?"

"White, mainly. Dinner at ours, after, nothing fancy."

"Sounds nice."

"I think so. Ianto's nervous. Keeps asking if I like the rings. I told him I'm not going to kill him if everything's not just so, but I don't think he believes me. But," she added, tipping her head at the Doctor, "what about you and him? Thinking about it?"

Rose shrugged. "We're happy as we are."

"I heard," Lisa added, "that there was some handsome American lurking around."

Rose laughed. "Captain Jack. Keep an eye out for him, he was checking out Ianto's bum."

"It's a nice bum," Lisa said, as Ianto succeeded in hauling the Doctor over to the table by the sleeve. Lisa smiled as Rose shoved her remaining crisps across to him and pressed a banana into his hand.

"Eat," Rose commanded.

"What're we talking about then?" the Doctor asked, slicing the top off the banana with a knife and peeling it deftly.

"Ianto's arse," Rose said. Lisa snickered and watched a faint tinge of blush rise on Ianto's cheekbones. The Doctor leaned back and studied Ianto from behind. Ianto pulled his suit jacket down.

"Seems all right," the Doctor said.

"Nice sunburn," Ianto retorted. The Doctor wrinkled his nose self-consciously.

"They started it."

"It can't all be field modulators and dark matter," Rose protested.

"Let's talk about quarks," Ianto suggested.

"Mmh," the Doctor swallowed. "Let's not, dead boring. You want physics, let's talk polarised black holes."

"You can't polarise a black hole," Ianto said, and the debate was on. Lisa was pretty proud that Ianto was beginning to be able to hold his own against the Doctor; he always talked as if he had firsthand knowledge of this stuff, and in the early days of working for him it had occasionally worn down Ianto's wits. Now she watched Ianto block at least two statements in five, and wondered if she could talk him into going to university eventually.

She glanced at Rose, who was watching the Doctor with affectionate eyes, fingers toying with a discarded bit of sandwich wrapper.

"Is this the part where we all live happily ever after?" she asked Rose in an undertone.

"Dunno," Rose said thoughtfully. "I think so."

***

Rose

The morning it all happened, they barely had time for a meal; they'd both overslept and Pete had already left for work by the time Rose ran into the kitchen.

"Breakfaaaast," the Doctor yelled from the hallway before he raced in, carrying her messenger bag. She took the bag, shoved an apple into his hand, caught the packet of breakfast pastry he tossed her, and put her arms into the coat he held for her, turning to straighten the hood on his. He offered her the keys and trailed after her, pulling his shoes on as they went.

"Is there a reason we're hurrying?" she asked in the hallway.

"Mrnflggl," he replied, the apple in his mouth. She took it out and kissed him.

"Glass rods," he said. She put the apple back in his mouth.

"You certainly know how to show a girl a good time."

"The screwdriver," he said urgently, throwing the door open, apple in his other hand now. "Glass rods getting in today. New batch. Might work this time -- " he paused briefly, scuffling with the seatbelt as she leapt into the other side, " -- instead of exploding. Ianto's going to be livid, I've already missed our run date."

"I think he'll forgive you," she said, throwing the car into gear. He plucked the packet of pastry out of her hand and opened it, passing it back. There was a silent moment as they pulled out onto the road, heading for Torchwood. After a second, he inhaled.

"You know, if this scientist thing doesn't work out," he said, "we could always become jugglers."

Rose smiled.

Ianto was standing in the lobby when they arrived; the Doctor skidded to a stop and looked at him like a child expecting a Christmas present. He smiled at the Doctor and held out a small brown package.

"Oh, brilliant," the Doctor said, heading for hallway that led to the individual labs. "Coming?"

"I was only stopping to make sure you got them," Ianto answered. "Mary Ellen's not shown up for work, and no call apparently. I'm going over to make sure she's all right."

"Sure? It's all going to come together today," the Doctor said, digging in his pocket for his key.

"I'll be back soon," Ianto said mildly. "Don't start the parade without me, yeah?"

"Good man. I'll hold off," the Doctor agreed, and disappeared into the corridor. Rose smiled at Ianto and backed the door open for him, then went off to the hangar. It was reports day; all the project heads were meeting to give updates. She was interested to see how things were coming on a number of fronts.

By the time a pair of maintenance workers wheeling a large lockbox emerged from the labs, Rose was knee-deep in a prototype for a mobile sonar mine-detector in the hangar. Nobody even caught them leaving, except for the lone unmanned lobby security camera.

***

Rose's mobile went off in the middle of a presentation on the solid-matter wireless mechanism; she wouldn't have noticed except she was typing in a note to have a word with the assistant on the project about the excessive man-hours they were putting in. It would be years before it was useful if it ever was; they were no good to anyone burnt out and anxious. As she was hitting the 'save' button the phone vibrated. Ianto.

She excused herself and stepped into the hallway.

"So," she said, as an opener, "Did you find Mary Ellen?"

"Rose, thank god," Ianto said, his voice thin and high. "I'm in Mary Ellen's flat, it's -- "

"What?" she asked, a chill trickling down her spine. "What's happened? Is she ill?"

"It's -- everywhere, it doesn't look real," he continued over top of her. "We have to do something, I can't -- it's on my hands -- she's dead."

"Ianto, slow down," she commanded. "What do you mean, she's dead?"

"Mary Ellen," he said, and she could hear his short fast breathing. "She's been -- shot -- a lot -- "

"Ianto, stop talking," she commanded. The silence was absolute. "Breathe deeply. Have you called the police?"

There was a swallowing noise on the other end of the connection. "No."

"Okay. Try not to move too much. I want you to hang up the phone."

"Her keys are gone," he said, randomly. "Her car's gone, but she's here. And dead."

"I know, I know, Ianto, just take deep breaths, okay? We don't need to worry about her car right now."

"No, you don't -- her keys. All her keys."

Rose stopped dead.

"Ianto, I'm going to hang up now," she said. "Call 999. Tell them where you are."

"Rose, don't -- " he said, but she hit end and took off running.

Heads poked out of lab doors as she dashed down the corridor, shoes squeaking on the tile floor, breath rasping in her throat. When she reached the Doctor's lab she slewed around the door and -- into an empty room.

Of course, he was getting a snack, or gossiping with Nelda across the hall, he did that sometimes, or lending Stan a hand with his chemistry...stuff...

Something crunched underfoot. She looked down.

Broken glass. His long-awaited glass rods, in shards on the floor.

She backed carefully away and fumbled blindly for the phone on the wall.

"This is Rose Tyler," she said, holding down the key for security. "Lock every door in the building. Don't let anyone in, don't let anyone out."

"Miss?" the man on the other end of the line said.

"There's been a security breach. The Doctor's missing."

***

The Doctor

He woke to find he was sitting upright.

It wasn't entirely unknown for him to fall asleep in a chair, or sitting up reading; what was unusual was to wake up in a seated position with one's ankles and wrists bound to various parts of the chair in question. Even this was not unheard of in a life like the Doctor's, actually, but it'd been a good few months at least.

"Hello, Doctor," said a voice, and he swung his head to the left. It ached.

"Let me guess," he said. "Bertram Jackson sent you."

"No," said the man, leaning against a wall and looking smugly self-satisfied. A familiar, ordinary face -- one of the two men who'd tried to mug him the day Jack Harkness offered him a ride in his spaceship. "Though I will say you seem to make enemies quickly."

"It's a skill," the Doctor replied. His tongue felt thick in his mouth. "We've met before, I think."

"Once," the man said. A door opened; turning his head to look at it made him dizzy. A woman entered, a ginger-haired woman with a scar.

"Hello, Doctor," she said, taking a seat next to the blond man.

"Listen, I try to make a habit of not offending people I don't even know," he said.

"And yet you fail so brilliantly," she replied.

"You got into my lab," he said. "Oh, bollocks, my glass rods -- "

"If I were you I'd be worried about far more than glass rods," the blond man said.

Cold fear washed over him.

"Rose," he whispered.

"We shot Mary Ellen, poor soul," said the woman. "I imagine your lab boy's finding her right about now. It really is foolish to give one person all your keys. We could have got into any of the rooms -- not to mention that big lab your girlfriend works in."

Fury overtook the fear. Mary Ellen was dead. That death was another on his head, because obviously they were after him, but if they'd gone near Rose -- they would suffer.

He strained against the bindings, icewater running in his veins and a tight pressure in his skull. He clamped down on it hard, but his human heart was hammering in his chest.

"Let's sort this out," he said, through gritted teeth. You have to give people a choice. You always have to give them a choice. "There has to be something you want. Tell me what you want and we'll figure a way out of this."

"We have what we want, for now," the man said. "We have you. You're going to fix all of this, Doctor. Then everything will be okay. One way or another."

"Though maybe not for you," the woman added.

"Okay, okay, what needs fixing?" he asked desperately. "If I can fix it, that's fine, but don't hurt anyone else, all right?"

But they were standing up, dusting off their hands, smiling at him. He pulled on the bindings again. "Tell me what you want me to do!"

The door closed and the room dropped into darkness.

***

"Please. Please!"

***

Captain Jack

So there I was in 4302, which was a good year for Earth. Stable climate, good food, friendly locals. It's a damn shame about the superstorm.

Although it has to be said that the superstorm was why I was there, because I was trying to move a freightload of burned-out electrolit diamonds I'd found on an abandoned freighter. They weren't worth much, but the point was that the superstorm's electromagnetic pulses would make it look like the burnout had happened after I'd sold the diamonds to my mark, but before they'd had time to inspect them. I like a smooth job. Besides, the best con is the con that the mark never even notices.

I wasn't in particular need of the cash just then so, when my phone rang during martinis with the prospective client and Rose Tyler came up on the holoprojected caller ID, I answered it.

"My favourite flower," I said, tapping the minibud in my ear. "How are you, darling Rose?"

"Jack?" she asked, as if she hadn't expected me.

"Aye, ma'am."

"But I didn't...what's your number doing under 'emergency' in my pho...you know what? Never mind."

"Doctor program it in?" I asked.

"It doesn't matter. I'm just glad you're still here," she said, which I wasn't, and I told her so. "But then how...?" she asked. There was a pause. She sounded like she was close to tears. I hate to see a human cry.

"He modded my phone," she said, mostly to herself I think. "When are you?"

"I'm here in the bar, having a drink," I said, hoping she'd get the message.

"Jack, I need your help, don't mess me about."

I glanced at the woman across the table. She was gorgeous and had just a little too much money. I was going to help her with that second part, but I'd take what I could get, even if that was just drinks with a gorgeous woman.

"Fire away, kid," I told her.

"The Doctor's been kidnapped. You know when you scared off the guys before, I think they came back. We saw someone who looked like them on the security footage. I know you can help me find him. Please, Jack."

"I'm working sales," I said. She got the message.

"Oh, Jesus Chr -- fine, okay, I'll make it worth your while," she said. I couldn't say no to her. I never can, which some would say is my problem, but they're bitter they're not as cute as me. "You can name your price."

"Be there soon," I said, and comm'd off.

"Secretary?" my client asked, arching her perfect eyebrows.

I flipped open my cuff and set it to take me back to Rose, auto-timed to go off in ten hours. Just because I said I'd be there didn't mean I needed to leave that minute. I mean, that's what time travel is for. I'm never unintentionally late.

"Business partner," I said. "Ms. Smythwik, I'm really sorry. This is my favourite part of a sales deal, but I've got a limited time now in which to move these diamonds. What do you say I knock off ten percent and we skip the business talk and the haggling and get straight to the part where I do unmentionable things to you in bed and in the morning you wake up to five hundred electrolit gemstones on your metaphorical pillow?"

She considered it. "Sure."

As we left the bar the first reports of a strange weather pattern over the Atlantic ocean started to show up on the infofeeds.

"Looks like it might rain," she said.

Nine hours and forty-five minutes later I was getting dressed in the dark and the promised rain was beginning to fall. I thought about taking the ship, just in case, but sometimes it's easier to travel light. I left it in high orbit, well above the stormhead, and triggered the jump early.

Rose was still on her mobile when I arrived. Damn, I'm good.

"When this is all over I am going to punch you," she said.

"That's not exactly good incentive for me," I said. "Not that I don't enjoy a little violence in the right time and place."

"He might be in danger and you're bargaining!"

"Yeah, that's what I do," I said. "Okay, so tell me how to help."

"Ianto's dealing with the police, he's good at that," she said. "But they can't find the Doctor. There's no way. You can track him, can't you? The artron radiation?"

I shook my head. "I can't pinpoint without a sweep. I mean I can tell you he's here, if he is here, and if he's still alive -- "

"Talk and work," she told me, pointing to the cuff. Which I am fully capable of doing, so I did.

"I can do a general net overland, in terms of the earth as a whole object," I said, working. "But if we want to get closer than five hundred miles or so I've got to switch to short range and that's going to take some time. And -- " I frowned.

Rose Tyler was giving off massive amounts of artron radiation.

"You've traveled," I said.

"That's not important right now!" she replied. She was frustrated, I get it. I recalibrated.

"O-kay, let's ignore you, and..."

I popped a chip out of my strap. A little red light on it was blinking, on and off, on and off. "This says there's someone with high levels other than you and I, in England. Listen, I can't guarantee it's him -- "

"Who else would it be?" she asked, snatching the chip out of my hand.

"As long as the light's blinking, whoever's setting it off is still alive or pretty recently dead. When the cells die the radiation dissipates." I pulled up a map of London and poked my finger into the holo. "We start there, circle outwards. If he's still in London we can find him eventually. It's a standard search, it's how I latch onto my hauls. Keep going in circles until the beeping thing goes beep. Early twenty-first century...still got combustion-engine landcars. What's the old phrase, you fly, I'll buy?"

She cocked an eyebrow at me.

"Fly me, gorgeous, let's find your Doctor," I said.

***

Man, London traffic, I think the contemporary word is: sucks.

***

The Doctor

He wasn't sure how long he waited in the dark for them to return; it felt like hours, but he couldn't track time as well as he'd once been able to. After a bit the brown-haired man, the blond's partner, came in and jabbed him in the throat with a piece of tech that shouldn't exist yet on Earth; he lost consciousness, and when he woke he'd been cut free of the bindings. His wrists were cuffed but they were at least in front of him, which gave him enough mobility to find a filthy bucket they'd left in the corner and see to some personal needs.

This was humiliating. The Doctor didn't take well to humiliation, but he at least recognised the purpose behind it. They wanted him to think they had all the power.

Which technically they did, at the moment, but that could change.

He sat on the concrete floor and felt bricks against his shoulders as he leaned back, propping his aching arms on his knees to try and relieve the cramps in his wrists from being cuffed. He decided to make a list of everything he knew and didn't know.

He started with the immediate situation. They wanted him to fix something and thought he wouldn't do it willingly, which meant it probably wasn't benign. They knew he was the Doctor, though he didn't know if they knew what that meant. He knew he was in real physical danger of death, but not whether they actually intended to kill him once he'd fixed their whateveritwas. They might have Rose, or they might not. If they did they'd almost certainly try to use her against him. He wondered if he could stand by and watch Rose die if it meant saving humanity. He'd...sort of done that before, on various occasions and with various people. His children and grandchildren and their mother and his brothers and sister and father had died in the Time War, at his hands, for the sake of the universe. They clearly had no scruples about murder, if they'd killed Mary Ellen, so it was a real possibility that he'd have to watch them kill Rose. But he'd never been tested as a human, and one of the many things he didn't know was whether he could do that.

Well, that just meant he'd have to find another way.

He drifted, though, without enough data to formulate a plan -- drifted into a more general sense of what he knew and didn't know. He knew the superficial customs and history of a thousand planets and star systems, the inner workings of the TARDIS, that a banana was technically a seed, how to build a sonic screwdriver, how to pick a pocket, who actually owned Picasso's Boy with a Pipe, what the names of his grandchildren had been. He didn't know what the heart of the TARDIS looked like, or what Rose had meant when she brushed off the marriage question, or how to get out of the cuffs, which really hurt. He knew that occasionally he didn't know the answers to the questions on QI, but he knew them way more often than anyone else and also sometimes, though it was painful to admit, Stephen Fry was wrong.

He might be having a breakdown. He was sure this must be what one felt like. A months-long breakdown beginning with the part where he had come into existence as the product of a union between a human woman and a severed hand in a jar.

He rested his forehead on his aching arms and closed his eyes.

The redhead and the blond came for him some time later, he didn't know how long; they hauled him to his feet, smiled in a way that would have been reassuring if they hadn't shown quite so many teeth, and half-marched, half-dragged him out the door.

He'd assumed he was in some kind of warehouse, from the damp cement floor and the brick wall; as they made their way down a drafty corridor he realised he was in some kind of industrial garage, abandoned by the look of it but still reeking, out here, of petrol and grease. Through two open archways, he could see wide empty structures -- a garage attached to a parking structure, perhaps. Or maybe it was an old zeppelinport.

He was shoved roughly into another room, not so large as the structure outside but much bigger than his little cell. They pushed him to his knees and a hand held his head tightly behind the ears, forcing it down.

There was a soft squeaking noise.

The hand on his head released him, and he lifted his chin slowly. There was a figure before him -- or, no, a machine -- no, a figure, moving out of the shadows. A large wheeled metal square, like a mobile door frame, stood in front of him. He drew his eyes up along a round, muscular strip of flesh: a spinal column, he realised, encased in flesh. It twitched slightly.

Further up the horrific tube of muscle terminated in a stumpy ribcage, attached by strings of sinew to two long protuberances. Arms, both hands missing, wrists flopped limply in the air. There were small narrow rods shoved roughly through the skin at wrist, elbow, and shoulder; the end of each rod had a small yellow light, which blinked as the muscles flexed. Cords were attached to them, suspending the arms from the top of the frame.

He looked up finally at the head, sitting on the narrow tower of flesh and bone that had once been the thing's neck.

It smiled at him.

"Hello, Doctor," Davros said.

Something crunched, like a tooth under pressure, only it was in his mind; he felt the thin thread of sanity snap, and he began to laugh. Hysterical giggling laughter, at the sheer ridiculousness of it all: at Davros suspended like a coat on a hanger or a puppet on a hook, at the smell of oil, at the fact that he was a human who was undoubtedly about to die, at the way he'd fought this battle and killed to win it and sacrificed a race he was no longer even a part of and they still survived.

Then he screamed.

***

"Why won't you die?"

Chapter Six

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