Rating: PG / Teen (to be safe, but on the mild side)
Word count this chapter: 2400
Spoilers/warnings: Post-"Journey's End," if that's still a spoiler, otherwise none.
Disclaimer: None of it's mine but the alt!ness.
Summary: Part two of my 2008 OT3 Ficathon entry (prompt under the cut in the A/N for minute possibility of JE spoilers). Crossposted to my personal journal.
A /N - This story is shaping up to be a real rarity for me: a WIP that doesn't stall out for a while at some point! :D The last two chapters are with the beta now, and many belated thanks to aibhinn, as always, for the unenviable task of beating my prose into shape for yet another story. ;)
The Doctor revelled in a sense of pure freedom, stretching his long legs and feeling his human musculature warm with activity while the new, lovely air ran over his skin in much the same way this planet's unique magnetic field caressed the Time Lord senses he still possessed. With an effort, he slowed to make things easier for Rose, though she was keeping up very well, shorter legs or not. Her hand was sweat-slippery in his and the touch of her skin sang to him in ways it hadn't when he'd been fully alien: pathetically, celibately alien, he now thought.
Really, half-human and half-Time Lord had to be about the best combination in the Universe. He felt wildly alive, exhilarated, intoxicated, like he could run forever . . . he pulled in another lungful of sweet air, perfumed with a slight spicy tang that rose up from the knee-deep vegetation that had replaced grass a while back, and something pinged deep in his memory. Intoxicated . . . ?
Unease slowed his stride as the memory swam up to the surface; when it broke through, he stopped dead. Rose, who'd felt him slowing, stopped with him.
"Doctor?" she asked, frowning as she took in his expression.
But he wasn't listening. He was looking down at the bristly, weedy, tan stuff in which they were standing knee-deep. "Ohh, bugger," he said aloud and his head snapped up, looking around to see where they were. The tan vegetation spread as far as he could see, with trees even fewer and farther between than before. The Mark Two was nowhere in sight. He hadn't intended to run anywhere near this far, just to the crest of the next rise or so. But one whiff of those subtle, mind-altering phytochemicals and it had all quite literally run away with him.
"Doctor?" Rose asked, getting concerned now. "What is it?" Her eye pupils were a little narrower than they should have been, even in the bright sunlight — he wasn't the only one who'd picked up a bit of a buzz, though neither of them was truly drugged at this point.
"We have to get out of here," he said, casting around as he tugged on Rose's hand and urged her into a jog back the way they'd come. If they were lucky, they hadn't been spotted. "This is dreamwort -- it's a drug crop, illegal as hell and not native to this planet."
Rose's eyes widened. "Oh, God, this is someone's narcotics plantation!"
"And they won't take kindly to trespassers, unless I miss my bet," the Doctor agreed, speeding up. Rose matched his pace without complaint as they began to run in earnest.
They topped a rise and the Doctor could see the distant line where tan dreamwort gave way to golden grass. He thought they were actually going to make it . . . but then he heard the rapidly-approaching rumble of engines. A glance over his shoulder confirmed that there were two skimmers coming up on them, fast, slipping through the air at shoulder-height on cushion of reverse-tractor energy. Very logical choice, skimmers. They could run smoothly over any terrain, and wouldn't damage the valuable dreamwort crop with their passage.
Even though here was no hope of outrunning their pursuers, Rose and the Doctor sprinted for it anyway. He heard the crack of a fired weapon, but instead of a projectile it was a rapidly-expanding mesh of sticky fibers that took them both down from behind.
Shoved forward, his arms bound behind his back, the Doctor lost his balance and fell forward onto the packed-earth floor, tucking into a partial roll to avoid injury. Rose, shoved in after him, staggered but kept her balance. She went down on one knee next to him as the heavy plank door behind them slammed shut.
"I'm all right," the Doctor told her, wriggling into a position that would allow him to stand up. Rose stood and, unable to embrace, they leaned into one another slightly for comfort.
Rose was already taking in their surroundings, and knew the Doctor was doing the same. Damp walls of roughly-dressed stone that looked very solid, a ceiling of heavy wooden beams and planks, a single lighting fixture, no windows, just the one heavy door, with no hinges or locks available on the inside . . . and, slumped in one shadowed corner, a humanoid shape. They weren't alone.
Just as the Doctor felt Rose's little jump of recognition and started to turn, a very familiar male voice said, "Welcome to the party. Hope you brought your own booze, though. Our hosts are pretty chintzy." The tone was tired, but alert and dry.
Rose's heart nearly stopped and she slipped around the Doctor, taking a few cautious steps towards the figure in the corner. "Jack?" she asked, unbelieving.
"Sorry. Oof." The figure heaved itself into a standing position. "I've been called a lot of things before, but that isn't one of them. Name's Jed. Jed Holbrook."
The man calling himself Jed stepped into to the light and Rose's breath froze. It was Jack. The haircut was different, he looked like he'd gotten the worst out of a fistfight and he was wearing plain, practical clothing that could have belonged to almost any era, rather than Jack's accustomed greatcoat, but it was him and no mistake.
“I’m the Doctor, and this is Rose,” the Doctor responded easily, covering for Rose’s stunned silence. He moved in close enough to bump against her back and leaned forward to bring his mouth close to her ear. "Gingerbread," he murmured and her brain kicked back into gear. That was their private code word for things that were the same — or different, depending on the context — in this Universe, compared to the one they were from.
Jack — Jed — caught the exchange and raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment. Nor did the lack of full names in the Doctor’s introduction appear to faze him. Instead, he asked, "So how'd you get invited to this shindig?"
The Doctor looked around the room, frowning. "Anybody listening in, do you think?"
Jed's eyes narrowed appreciatively. "I haven't been able to spot anything, but that doesn't necessarily mean we're alone."
The Doctor made a considering noise and Rose blinked as something happened inside her head. When the Doctor spoke again, she knew it was a different language altogether, though she still understood him perfectly. Some sort of change to the translation circuit, it must be. She hadn't known he could do that.
"Any chance they've been to the Boeshane?" the Doctor asked in the new language. Jed looked as shocked as if the Doctor had sprouted a second head: shocked, and scared.
"You know who I am," Jed said, backing away slightly, body language gone wary. "Who sent you?"
"Nobody," the Doctor replied, still in that other language. "We were just travelling through and ended up in a field of dreamwort."
"Yeah? Then how'd you know I speak 'Shaney?" Jed shot back, switching languages in turn. Rose grimaced as her perceptions twisted again; the sensation wasn’t painful, but it was very weird.
"Your accent," the Doctor said, as if it were obvious.
"I went to a lot of work to lose that accent," Jed replied, but Rose saw him relaxing fractionally. The Doctor was radiating his best friendly-harmless aura, and it seemed to be working.
"I've got a very good ear," the Doctor said, with a self-deprecating half-shrug.
"Either that or I need my money back from a couple language coaches," Jed said, with a return of his dry humor. Rose could see he was still wary; he no more than half-believed what the Doctor was saying, but he was at least willing to keep talking. "Anyway, to answer your question, this bunch is all from the Tau Ceti neck of the woods. I doubt any of them'd know 'Shaney if it tried to give ‘em head."
Rose snorted. Different Universes or not, some things did stay the same.
"I wasn't planning on offering anything of the sort," the Doctor said, matching Jed for dryness as he began to scan the walls of their prison again. "But it gives us a private way to communicate. What's your stake in all this?"
Jed considered, then gave an acquiescing tilt of his head. "I was contacted about a delivery job. When I found out what the cargo was, I balked." His tone was even, but his expression revealed an edge of genuine disgust.
"Dreamcrack," the Doctor said, making it a statement rather than a question. His lip curled slightly, as if the word itself had a nasty taste to it, echoing Jed’s expression.
"Is that a drug they refine from the stuff out there?" Rose asked. She resolutely ignored the sensation of her mouth and throat shaping strange words that still made sense to her ears.
Jed gave her a where the hell have you been? look, but nodded. "Forget dreams, that stuff's a nightmare. I'm not against a little recreational chemistry, but I wouldn't carry that poison on my ship for a million credits and the Nova Crown of Quarrenda. I was planning to stall them and then alert the authorities, but they kinda figured that out." Jed ran his tongue meditatively along a swollen and bloodied spot on his upper lip. "I estimate I've been in here the better part of a day."
"So why didn't they just shoot us? All of us?" Rose asked, looking from Jed to the Doctor.
"Me, I know they're planning to sell off to some former employers," Jed said. "You guys . . . not a clue. Whatever it is, they think you'll be worth some money. These people are all about profit. Slavery, organ farming, you name it." He was dreadfully matter-of-fact in his tone. "For what it's worth, you'll be getting the better bargain, once certain people get hold of me."
"Yes, well, I think we can all avoid our gruesome fates," the Doctor said. "I have a way out."
Rose grinned. "Would that be a sonic way?" she asked.
"Ye-ep. I'm very happy they only patted me down and didn't actually get into my pockets. Now the only problem is getting me into my pockets. Here, Rose, go back to back with me and see if you can do anything about these knots. Good thing they didn't have any cuffs or real restraints. I don't think they expected to be bothered, given how isolated they are here, which is to our advantage."
Jed was eyeing the Doctor's trim, close-fitting suit jacket and trousers doubtfully. There didn't appear to be anything in any of his pockets, or room for concealment. "This is a munitions bunker," Jed said. "We're underground, and the only way out is through the door. It may be wood, but it's at least ten centimeters thick and I’m pretty sure it’s reinforced. Unless you have a military-grade blaster in there, I can't see sonic anything getting us out of here."
"Trust me," the Doctor said, fixing Jed with a look of absolute sincerity.
Jed hesitated, then said, "Oh, hell, I was saving this, but . . ." He worked his arms for a second, and then his hands were free. He tossed the cord aside and massaged his wrists for a moment before moving to help untie them.
"I've had plenty of time to work," he explained, moving to undo first the Doctor's and then Rose's bonds. "And knots are kind of a hobby of mine . . ." his flirty tone of voice left no doubt as to what kind of hobby. Rose snorted, and Jed winked at her, the gesture achingly familiar; her return smile was pure spinal reflex.
“Don’t start,” the Doctor responded, rolling his eyes. It was so natural, Rose knew Jed’s resemblance to Jack had, however briefly, gotten under his defenses, too. This was going to be difficult in ways that didn’t even involve escaping a makeshift dungeon.
“I’m guessing there isn’t any visual surveillance, then?” the Doctor continued. His tone was casual enough, but Rose could tell he was aware of his own Jed/Jack slip.
“Nobody came busting through the door to stop me when I was messing with my own ropes,” Jed responded while Rose worked her wrists and joints in relief. “And I know I was pretty obvious once or twice. If they are watching, they aren’t being very hardcore about it.”
“Still, no need to hang about,” the Doctor said with a cheery smile, fishing his cobbled-together sonic screwdriver from his suit pocket and flipping it end-for-end in the air. It was considerably larger and clunkier than the original, and Rose saw Jed do a quick double-take; there should have been no way for something so ungainly to have fitted so invisibly into the Doctor’s trouser pocket.
The Doctor caught the screwdriver and immediately aimed its greenish light at the door. “Hunh,” he grunted, moving the trilling screwdriver around the edge of the frame. “Deadlocked.”
Rose’s stomach dropped slightly. “Does that mean we’re stuck?” she asked.
“Nope,” the Doctor responded, grinning over his shoulder and popping the “p.” “This is the new and improved sonic screwdriver — it works on wood now!” He thumbed the controls, aiming the device at the center of the door. The trilling changed, developing a stronger oscillation and an undertone that set Rose’s teeth on edge. The green light flared more brightly and there was a second, crackling sound like paper being crumpled.
The Doctor flicked off the screwdriver with a smug expression, slipping the instrument back into his pocket, which swallowed it up without a visible trace. Then he stepped forward and swung his closed fist sidelong, like a hammer, striking a solid blow in the center of the door.
With a brittle crunch, the door shattered into a mass of dust and wood splinters which pattered quietly to the ground, revealing metal fixtures and reinforcing bands still in their places. There was enough space for the Doctor to easily duck through.
“Oh, now that’s slick!” Jed exclaimed with the start of an admiring grin. He saw Rose looking at him and the grin widened. She grinned back.
“C’mon,” she said. “Let’s get out of here.”