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Fic: Notes from the Journey

Title: Notes from the (temporal) Journey
Summary:
Characters: Jack, Nine, Rose
Spoilers: The Doctor Dances
Rating: Mild PG
Word count: 6421
Notes: Written for wendymr who won me over at help_haiti and who wanted to see my OT3 beast finished - took me some time, but there it finally is! Thanks go to xwingace for her beta skills. Concrit is love.
Fic Masterlist: Here, archived at alien_sands




The only journey is the one within

- Rainer Maria Rilke



"Interesting." The Doctor frowned, eyeing the small bed carefully.

"Certainly not what I expected," he added as he inspected the small room. He'd declared it to be Jack's temporal domicile when he'd opened the door with a flourish. Where the future might lead from a good night's sleep here Jack didn't know, but after nearly dying the thought of even having a future was a feeling like being drunk on champagne.

Jack decided to swallow the question how a pilot couldn't be sure of a room on his own ship, too tired to even muster a tiny bit of awe. The distance they'd walked in silence to get to this nondescript door had been enough to reignite his curiosity, but the events of the day were finally catching up with him. He definitely needed rest before the dancing with the wonderful Rose could be continued (the Hands Off signals from the Doctor had been more obvious than an unshielded super nova, but he loved a good challenge – which both of them certainly were, for different reasons) and the unavoidable questions could be answered. Judging from the glances that the Doctor had thrown him all evening that would soon include the obligatory 'Won't you just go?' that probably meant being stranded on a backward planet again.

"Thought you'd be a more luxurious kind of man with a big bed and lots of pillows," the Doctor quipped, gesturing at the coarse blanket and leaving the vague accusation unfinished. Apparently even his host was tired. Jack had no idea what his wishes had to do with the room he'd gotten, it wasn't as if he'd even asked for it.

"It's a bed," Jack replied, honestly grateful for the small space and the prospect of a good night's sleep. He ran his hand over the clean sheets, adoring the military precision of every crease. "Haven't seen one of these for too long," he sighed, flopping down on top of the covers, enjoying the feeling of the hard mattress.

"Heaven," he declared as he stretched, his body heavy with exhaustion. Sleeping through the London Blitz in a bunk was no substitute for this. He'd been running on pure adrenaline for the last few hours.

Despite the strong lure of the clean sheets, unfinished business had him open his eyes again to glance at the dark figure still looming in the doorway. It was time to win back some control over his current situation.

"I still I owe you for saving me." He grinned and moved his hip slightly to show off all his good angles. It usually took fewer subtle hints for his hosts to be all over him, but the shadow in the doorway still didn't move. "I could pay you back right now if you want to," Jack purred, suppressing a yawn that tried to ruin the moment. Adrenaline flooded his veins when the shadow stepped over him in one impossibly quick movement, blue eyes suddenly just inches from his own.

"I bet this works on many pilots, doesn't it, Captain?" The Doctor's grin was sardonic but not unkind and left Jack speechless for all the wrong reasons. "Good night." Despite the glare, the amusement underneath was still palpable. Jack frowned, watching the man leave without looking back.

What a strange ship he'd stumbled onto.


---


For what felt like the thousandth time, Jack wondered what he'd gotten himself into, clinging on for dear life while the ship around him shook in ways he hadn't thought possible and some more he couldn't even name.

It had been years since he'd been dependant on another man's piloting skills like this, and he really didn't like it. This felt more like a reality quake than navigating through space and time, but he'd learned long ago not to argue with the designated driver. It was also one of the reasons he always tried to be said driver.

The floor lurched and he lost his grip on the railing, falling ungracefully at the Doctor's feet, both of which were inexplicably still firmly placed on the ground near the console. Another lurch brought Jack's head in painful contact with the floor as his body obeyed Newtonian laws (while the Doctor's obviously didn't). It sent stars dancing in front of his eyes. When his vision returned, there was a hand in front of his nose and he grabbed it warily. This was not piloting, this was madness. Nearby, Rose got up from a jump seat, her hair tousled like his pride.

"How come you never land on your backside?" Rose asked with a tone that betrayed this as a common argument between them.

"Rose Tyler, I can't help that slight dimensional quakes aren't shaking me quite as badly as your sorry four-dimensional backside." The Doctor said. He grinned at Jack's frown before returning his attention to what was probably the flight computer. Rose just took the weird answer in her stride, rubbed her (quite delicious) backside once more and came over to glance at the monitor as well.

"Where are we?" She asked with obvious glee, the Doctor able to increase her joyful smile with an inviting gesture towards the front door. Jack would've laughed, had he not known that this was no random journey. He'd been shaken around a little, and now this was the destination he was being kicked out at. He was neither a very good passenger nor a very good companion, he knew. The Doctor knew it too, teasing him with his rank whenever he could.

And yet he still couldn't help but smile when Rose opened the doors, her eyes widening in wonder at a mauve sky.

At least the atmosphere seemed to contain oxygen. That was a start.


---


"They didn't even talk to me!" Rose tried to fake indignation, her annoyed tone not in the least hiding her smirk.

"Of course they didn't, they're shy," the Doctor answered with faked annoyance at the girl currently clinging to his arm. They were such a cute pair, Jack thought once again as he walked behind them, watching, observing. He didn't like acting like a stray, but couldn't help it.

"Stick insects," Rose shook her head, still confused by the planet's inhabitants. "They didn't even talk to me when I poked them!" Her faked annoyance slowly melted from her voice, revealing the amusement underneath. It was infectious, the Doctor joining her laughter. Jack didn't. Their happiness grated as much as the uncertainty of his situation, and he didn't know why he even cared.

"They're great architects and praised musicians - and like I said - shy," the Doctor repeated, feigning hurt when a playful punch hit his shoulder.

"They're one of the wisest races in the galaxy; they trade their life span for wisdom," the Doctor rambled on, but Jack wasn't listening.

These two were unbelievable. Either terribly cruel or terribly oblivious. He buried his hands in his pockets, waiting for the inevitable as they trailed back to the TARDIS, waiting for the sign for him to stay behind.
Jack looked back at the rolling green hills. Far off any trade route, Lawson Prime was beautiful, but it offered a bleak outlook for someone who was used to fast ships and adventure. More out of habit than conscious thought he kept on following the pair in front of him.

Rose's blonde hair was flowing freely in the wind, the dark shape of the Doctor seemingly lighter than before. They fit together in a way he couldn't grasp, but Jack had seen stranger things. He was in fact already cataloguing some of them with his WristComp, things on this world that might help him survive when the Doctor shut the TARDIS door in his face and took off without him. He'd find a ship, he told himself. He wouldn't be trapped here forever.

"Oi, no dawdling!" The Doctor's voice tore him out of his ponderings, igniting Jack's anger again. The bastard certainly took too much pleasure out of stranding him here.

But the man standing in the entryway of that impossible blue box only smiled at Jack's glare, turning around and leaving the door open for him to follow. Confused and before analysing what he was doing, Jack picked up speed and carefully closed the door behind him.

He let out a breath he didn't know he was holding when Rose asked what was planned for dinner.


---


He couldn't sleep. Last night he'd simply crashed with exhaustion, but tonight was different.

That damn ship kept him awake, his headache pulsing in synch with the thrum of the background noise of the TARDIS. Jack sat up in the darkness of his room, trying to identify the hum as familiar machinery, but he couldn't think of anything. The longer he listened to it, the more it felt like a heartbeat, trying to lull him to sleep. He shook his head to get the metaphor out of his head. This was not a place to feel safe. It was that damn bed, he was sure. Nothing had changed about it, but now everything was suddenly too soft. It made his head hurt as much as the unanswered questions that kept him awake.

Sleep not forthcoming, he got up and found his way to the kitchen, still trying to ignore the ship's noises. He stared at the coffee machine for a while, as if it would explain why it was already switched on and done before he'd even thought about coffee. Something felt odd about this ship, he thought as he wandered aimlessly. It had something to do with the way the corridors curved, or the light seemed more golden when woke from a bad dream.

Mug in hand, his feet (or probably the corridors themselves) took him to the console room, the swirly mass of circles on the flight monitor telling him the Doctor was still rebooting the system after his latest repair session this afternoon. He'd been allowed to help, but he'd only understood half of the chores he'd been assigned, ancient tech warring with futuristic concepts. For such an improbable ship, it seemed fitting that it would make no sense.

Jack stood in the semi-darkness, unsure what to do and frustrated by the simple truth that he had no idea about even the simplest task on the machine in front of him. He needed something that could distract him from everything. He tried to busy his mind by trying to recall which buttons were necessary for steering and setting coordinates, but it was an impossible task. Even the Doctor seemed to improvise a lot.
He breathed in deeply and held his breath. Calm down, don't lose it now. He shouldn't like it here, but he did, despite the nagging feeling of not belonging. He was a guest without any kind of piloting skills, just a pair of hands for shifting weights and he hated losing control like this for longer than was necessary. He wouldn't be put in a cage again. Not by obligations, friendship or honour, nor by anything else he'd thought of as important before losing it all and two years of memories on top, finding out the hard way that there was no one to rely on but himself.

Something on the screen caught his eye, a flicker of numbers in a script he understood luring him towards the console's monitor, his coffee mug carefully set out of the way (drinking and driving got a whole new meaning after you'd nearly been killed by a flying coffee mug during one of the Doctor's landings). He stared at the calculations, then stared some more. A prickling sensation on his neck told him someone was watching him, and the thrum of the TARDIS changed slightly as her pilot entered the flight deck to join Jack at the monitor.
The leather jacket was gone, revealing the deep red jumper in all its glory as the Doctor leant into the monitor's diffuse light to glance at the calculations that kept Jack's attention. The light cast weird shadows on the Doctor's face, revealing a hardness Jack had last seen in 1941, when he'd nearly committed genocide.

"These are calculations for ripping apart a neutron star," Jack tried hard to keep his voice steady. He placed his hands on the console to hide how much they were shaking.
The temperature seemed to drop several degrees when the Doctor's eyes focussed on him, reflecting the weird circular designs scrolling past on the computer. Just what had he stumbled into? Jack's survival instinct was screaming, but his mouth continued to talk. No race had ever possessed that power, or at least hadn't lived long enough to tell the tale.

"That could destroy entire solar systems and you couldn't do anything to stop it. Who would -"

"They were desperate." The Doctor's voice was unnaturally controlled. "All that knowledge, and we used it for interplanetary bombardment." His shoulders slumped as he moved away from the console to lean against a strut, swallowed by the shadows of the cavernous room. Jack blinked, his brain unsure what to make of the figure in the darkness. The silence threatened to swallow them both, but then the Doctor's spoke up again, a false cheer back in his voice.

"So Captain, where to next? Ever been to the Vegas system?"

Jack decided not to mention the bounty that was on his head there, unable to ignore what he'd just seen. Despite breaking the delicate stalemate between them, he asked the question that had been on his mind ever since his first night on the TARDIS.

"Why am I still here?" He tried to look the Doctor in the eye, but the shadows had thickened, preventing him from gauging the other man's reaction.

"Do you need to be anywhere? Appointments? Weddings I should know of? I hate being late for weddings, especially my own." The Doctor's cheerfulness was grating, so completely out of place when behind them mythical weapons of mass destruction were being defragmented from the ship's database.

"No, but-"

"Well then," the Doctor clapped his hands, the sound like a gunshot in the silence of the room. Even the ship seemed to hold its breath. The Doctor's dismissing gesture made Jack's anger mingle with confusion.

"Just what are you?" It wasn't meant to come out so loudly, but a race that could build dimensionally transcendent ships and blew up neutron stars was beginning to gnaw on everything he'd thought of as real. The Doctor simply shrugged and took a step forward, back into the light of the console. It drew strange shadows in his face.

"I'm a Time Lord."

The silence between them grew, but all Jack could do was gape, pieces of information suddenly fitting themselves together. The little hints, the strangeness of the ship. It fit. Oh Gods, it fit perfectly.
The Doctor watched his reaction carefully, unsurprised by it. He had to get the stare quite a lot, Jack thought, trying to decide which question was the most important one to ask a being that some had considered a god.

"What do you see?" He blurted, then cringed. So many intelligent questions and he went for the first inane one that came to mind. Typical. The Doctor raised an eyebrow admonishingly and crossed his arms, waiting for the little ape to make sense. It was too late for backpedalling now. Jack was travelling with a Destroyer of Worlds, and the being was answering his questions.

"What do you see when you look at us?" Jack specified, barely stopping his voice from trembling. His headache was back with a vengeance, but he wouldn't blink now.

The Doctor hesitated for a moment, as if trying to find the right words. "Potential," he finally answered. Then he smiled at Jack and left the console room by merging with the shadows. When Jack found his wits again, he tried to follow, stumbling after the Time Lord into the corridors, but was greeted only by emptiness wherever he turned.

Time Lord, the silence echoed. Time Lord.


---


He watched the Venusian board her ship, one pair of hands making no uncertain gestures that he was invited to join her should he so desire, and the others giving a more graphic description of just how much he was going to enjoy it. He loved Venusian sign language for its lack of subtext.

On instinct his eyes found the Doctor and Rose in the crowd behind him, oblivious to the conversation that Jack had across the small space port of Aldebaran. Rose was too engrossed in the local jewellery and the Doctor was too engrossed in watching Rose's joy over the necklace she held. He could vanish into the crowd, disappear between the other humanoid citizens so quickly that even the Doctor would be unable to track him down. Not that the Doctor would do that. Jack was useless, after all, and Aldebaran was definitely one of the better destinations to be stranded on. The urge to run battled with the urge to stay, rooting him to the spot. It had been years since he'd had no idea what to do. It was confusing, this life of What Ifs. Confusion was dangerous.

A heavy hand on his shoulder tore him from his thoughts, the Doctor's amused glance at the Venusian and her ship revealing that Time Lords probably had eyes at the back of their heads. That or the rumors about telepathy were true. Jack wasn't sure which he preferred.

"You can do better," the Doctor simply said, before waving Rose over to join them.

Jack was dumbstruck, even more so when Rose looped her arm around his waist, telling him all about her newest trinket on their way back to the TARDIS. He'd missed something here, he thought, but he wasn't sure what.

"What kind of alien was that, with all the arms?" She asked out of the blue when they'd left the market and were strolling through empty streets back to where the TARDIS was parked.

"Venusian." The Doctor looked at Jack fondly, the other sentence still rattling in Jack's mind, tugging at something under Jack's heart. "Their writing is completely made of pictograms - even more literal than Egyptian hieroglyphs," the Doctor continued, throwing his arm over Jack's shoulder. He felt trapped between the alien and the human for a moment, but he suddenly got the rythm of it and they walked on as if they'd never done anything else. It felt good. A little too good. Jack swallowed.

"You should see their romance novels, Rose," the Doctor halted and frowned. "On second thought, don't read their romance novels." He gave Jack a wink before starting to laugh, and it didn't take long until Rose was giggling as well. Jack joined in, the laugh loosening the knot in his stomach he'd had ever since the Venusian had smiled at him across the market.

He didn't resist when the Doctor's hand gently shoved him over the TARDIS' threshold.


---


Some day something had to go wrong. It was a universal law and even more reliable than gravity in some parts of the universe.

"You'll love their hydroponic forests," the Doctor boasted as they strolled down the colonnades of Saltori 9. "The sight of lianas hanging from the sky is just breathtaking."

He was trying to talk the grey Biodome on an even greyer moon into something beautiful when it barely classified as a space port. Even Rose knew it, but nodded politely now and then, eyeing the rusty spare parts on display with disinterest. The TARDIS needed a tofofan crystal, and this was one of the best places to get it and some more obscure spare parts (as long as said parts didn't include bicycle pumps, Rose had agreed).
Saltori 9 was a good place for men like him, Jack knew from experience. Lots of ships with at least rudimentary temporal drives, lots of other opportunities to get money or out into the galaxy, to places that were more inviting and didn't suffer from hypervodka prohibition.

That was, should he decide to leave. But did he want to? He remembered the arm around his shoulder, and wasn't too sure anymore.

He watched the Doctor haggle over a corroded antigravity node, dropping a pile of coins into the vendor's claws without even so much as looking at them twice. The careless gesture revealed how ignorant he was of the local monetary system and judging by the vendor's blushing scales, he was probably off by quite a few thousand credits.

"Will that be enough?" The Doctor grinned happily, ignorant of the local law keepers (the badly concealed weapons always gave them away) watching the little exchange from a distance. He could leave now, before there was any trouble and he got involved and no one would look at him twice, only the Doctor at the center of their attention. Their observers spoke into communicators and the hairs on the back of Jack's neck stood up. He felt for his blaster (recharged by now), instinctively taking a step closer to Rose, weighing their options, his decision made.


---


He'd never wanted to be a hero, Jack thought miserably. Heroes were the ones who got killed and became martyrs - or even worse, got their friends killed and then woke up with two years of their memories missing.
But even after choosing the coward's way, he still ended up in the wrong place and the wrong time. The wrong place was probably nobody's fault, but the wrong time was definitely due to the Doctor's driving. Being a hundred years early in a planet's history sometimes made all the difference, as the teachers at the Agency had liked to say.

And here he was, his blaster fire enough to ensure the Doctor's and Rose's escape, but not his own. The Agency would've given him a medal, then executed him for letting a Time Lord slip from his grasp. Jack laughed, the situation suddenly too funny for words. His captors frowned and tightened his restraints, cutting into his forehead.
They threatened to give him over to the slave process after they'd burned out his brain with the Mind Probe. It would turn him into a toy for anyone who had the money to afford him, with a Retain Chip guaranteeing he'd enjoy every second of it. They'd be kinder if he told them about the other revolutionaries and how they'd been able to flee the security grid. Jack simply laughed at the idea of the Doctor's careless shopping as revolutionary, concentrating on the pain and trying to remember his training.

Focus. Breathe in. Never lose control.

He wouldn't be able to lie to the Probe, but that didn't mean he'd tell them anything. He babbled about Venusians and the London Blitz when the pressure of the Probe became too much, about Time Lords and Reapers, and they didn't believe one word.

Able to flee the security grid. He smiled.

They were safely back aboard the TARDIS, probably halfway across the galaxy. Rose had always wanted to see dinosaurs and without Jack objecting (he just couldn't shake his raptor hate), this was probably a good opportunity. Everything back where it belonged. Confusion was not something he was accustomed to and the myriads of feelings flitting through his heart about those two wonderful people confused him enough to keep his attention away from the pain for a moment. A scientist bent over him with an injector, declaring it time for other measures. There was a brief sensation of pressure, not even really pain. Then whispers shifted through his mind, deafening in his ears, crawling through his thoughts and taking hold of his body.

He tried to scream, but even before the air could leave his lungs, he couldn't remember why he'd tried. He stopped himself. His masters wouldn’t like his screams, the voices told him.

He stilled in his restraints, waiting for orders.


---


Time passed. Maybe. He couldn't tell anymore. It was all a dream to him.

His body moved on its own, the voices in his brain (the Chip, something in his subconscious supplied, then turned around to doze again) whispering to him, steering him while his mind slept. He was awake, walking, obeying orders. He couldn't remember why he shouldn't. He was a their servant, after all. Time was meaningless. Only orders mattered. So he was happy to follow the order that sent him running after a pair of intruders.

He was good at killing, he remembered, but didn't know why.

"Jack?"

He shook out of his haze when he heard that concerned voice, surprised to find himself in a grey corridor, advancing on an unarmed girl and holding a gun to her head. Did he know her?

Rose, his mind supplied before the presence in his head could make him forget.

Memories of her smile broke to the surface of his thoughts; of the last time he'd seen her, her hand clasped tightly in the Doctor's (what doctor? He couldn't remember), running and leaving him behind. Rose was safe. But now Rose had come back. To rescue him, he realized angrily as she advanced with open hands, walking right into a trap.

The stupid, stupid girl.

"Run," he told her. His hand was shaking only slightly, not wavering from its aim no matter how hard he tried. He tried to regain control over himself, but the Chip holding his brain hostage told him to kill her. A rogue element, it whispered, tightening his hand on the weapon, causing a splitting headache when he refused to obey, his thoughts suddenly hazy again.

Why did he fight it again? Did he know that girl? Why should he care to see her cry?

There was a presence behind him, something dark with the taste of an approaching thunderstorm. Time Lord, his brain supplied from somewhere deep down, but why should he think of fairy tales now? His eyes watered with pain, but he focussed on the girl again, refusing to look or even think about figments and fairytales behind his back.

"Run!" He repeated, his control gradually slipping, the Chip extending its grasp on his consciousness like a spider spinning her net. He'd be gone completely soon, unable to wake from the red haze, but he had to save her. He had to, even if he couldn't remember why.

Cold fingers suddenly grasped his temples from behind and the spider in her net screamed, trying to make him fight the touch. But something else had sneaked inside his brain, a wave of coldness pushing and tearing at the alien thing in his head, paralysing his muscles. The pain became unbearable and his brain simply shut off, welcoming the darkness.


---


Consciousness returned, but he kept his breathing even and his eyes closed until he could figure out where he was. Prison? No, the mattress he lay on was too soft, there was no pressure of restraints on his body and even after such a short time aboard he'd recognise that biomechanoid hum anywhere.

He listened to his thoughts and found that he was once again alone in his brain. His head felt like it was stuffed with cotton, which was only to be expected after the influence of a Retain Chip. The most common side effect of removing one was usually death, so he couldn't complain. He tried to open his eyes. The task harder was than he'd thought, but his efforts were greeted with a soft hand on his cheek and Rose's wonderful smile when he finally managed to see straight.

"Hello," he croaked, trying to smile when talking turned out to be even harder than keeping his eyes open. He wouldn't charm his way out of this with words for now. His memories were hazy at best, but he remembered the tears she'd shed as he'd held her at gunpoint. Sweet little Rose from the 21st century, how could he make her understand? Mind control was certainly not something she'd seen before.

"Hello," Rose replied and any doubts about her reaction evaporated in the sea of empathy she swamped him in. There was no accusation in her face. She held her finger to his lips when he tried to speak again. "Let's not start with the hellos again, okay?" She smiled, stroking his hair.

He wanted to explain, to apologise, but his body wouldn't obey. He struggled when it occurred to him that this could be just another dream that he might wake up from too soon, to a world where he'd killed her. She stroked his forehead, soothing him until he stilled again.

"It's okay, we've got you," she whispered and it was enough to let him relax back into the darkness.


---


"You nearly shorted out the Retain Chip when you saw her," someone said through the fog in his head when he woke next. "Fried a lot of neurons, even before I had a go at them."

Jack had to try hard to follow the words, his thoughts still too sluggish to be quite ready for conversations.

"That was incredibly stupid." Disbelief and just a hint of awe were hidden under the insult.

Who was talking like that? He was a bit old to develop talking terms with his conscience, surely. And why would it speak with a northern accent? Memory came rushing back and he flailed as he tried to sit up, but was overwhelmed by dizziness instead.

"You've been interrogated before," the Doctor's voice rumbled from somewhere near his head and when Jack opened his eyes, immediately blinded by the blue light of the Sonic Screwdriver.

This was the first time he'd spoken since Jack had woken up in the med bay. It was Rose who'd filled in his gaps about their escape, the Doctor not so much as giving approving grunts. Jack couldn't blame him, he'd probably been ready to kill Jack when he'd found Rose at his gunpoint and it was undoubtedly to Rose's credit that he was being patched up before being kicked out somewhere nasty. No one made Rose cry without severe consequences. That much had been obvious from the start.

"You've been interrogated with a Mind Probe before," the Doctor repeated. It wasn't a question. Jack shrugged as far as he could while lying down and being weak as a kitten. At least his voice was back by now.

"Mind Probes, Aurora Chairs, Psi Scans. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt." He shoved aside the unwanted pictures that the words brought up. Mastery over your thoughts, mastery over your destiny, he repeated the Agency's mantra until the memories faded. When he looked up again, the Doctor was still looking at him, something dangerous glinting in his eyes. Of course he'd be angry. Human minds could be tampered with so easily when you had machines like that. Saltori had been a not so subtle reminder of that.

"When?" The Doctor finally asked, his voice controlled while his fingers had fisted uncontrollably around the Screwdriver, his knuckles white.

Jack had carefully managed not to lie since that fateful night in the middle of the London Blitz. Omitted things from his past, yes, but it certainly wasn't his fault that their conversations had never included real names, Mind Probes or sleeper agents. Still, Jack understood the sentiment. There was a very possible threat lying in the Doctor's med bay all of a sudden. Who said he wasn't a reprogrammed Time Agent sent out to find and befriend the most impossible being in the universe, never raising any suspicions until he had control over the TARDIS and could bring his/her owner in? The Agency didn't believe in fairy tales, but they certainly believed in technology and its power.

Jack looked away, asking himself for the thousandth time if maybe, just maybe there was some truth to it. He'd looked, but this sort of reprogramming was not easily spotted, especially not under two years worth of memory removal.

"When?" The Doctor asked again, louder, the single word enough to tell Jack that lying would probably see him on a barren asteroid (atmosphere optional) quicker than he could say 'Clom'.

"Training," he said, trying to make it sound irrelevant when the memories told him it was anything but. He'd never wondered about the Agency's true motives until it was too late, waking up in a puddle of his own blood on a planet he'd never even heard of, missing two years of his life. Keep control, he told himself, biting his lip to help him focus on the pain. Judging by the way the Doctor suddenly looked even angrier it was clear that his doubts about the person in front of him had just gained strength. Jack couldn't blame him.

He broke the Doctor's gaze to avoid that piercing stare and glanced at the golden light that seemed to permeate the walls. The loss of eye contact made him dizzy, as if the Time Lord had physically held him awake. He had to shut his eyes when the headaches hit again. Damn, back at the Academy he would've been in binge drinking condition again, ready for combat.

"They made you go through that for training?" Jack blinked, prepared to take the Doctor's anger, but confused to realise the anger wasn't directed at him.

"Mind Probes are only dangerous when you lie." He shrugged. "They still hurt like hell," he added wistfully.

"Headaches." It wasn't a question, but when Jack failed to answer, the Doctor's anger exploded. "Stupid ape, you've been having headaches ever since you came aboard, haven't you?" Jack nodded dejectedly, guessing where this was going. Symptoms were the key to everything.

A string of alien language left the Doctor's mouth, and Jack didn't need a translator to recognise the cursing.

"The TARDIS, gets inside your head." He huffed, shining that stupid Sonic Screwdriver into his eyes. "She translates," he added, "reads in humans like a book. What you like and what you don't."

Jack suddenly remembered his first night aboard, the perfect bed and the Doctor's curiosity.
The blue light of the Screwdriver travelled through his optical nerves directly into his frontal brain, pain exploding there and making him flinch. His guts grew cold, his worst fears confirmed.

"She tries to fix things. Buts she can't fix what's not there." The Doctor shut off the light, and Jack made himself look the other man in the eyes.

"Or what's buried too deep," Jack mumbled.

"Triggers?" The Doctor's face softened suddenly, a cold hand squeezing Jack's shoulder. Jack nodded, not trusting his voice.

"This has shaken you more than you admit," the Doctor said then turned around to grab an instrument from a counter. "Conditioning is a tricky thing." He glanced at Jack as he scanned his head, but it didn't hold suspicion or anger now, just empathy. Jack swallowed again.

"I could have a look if you'd let me," the Doctor trailed off, the offer clear enough to Jack, who still remembered that cold, raging presence in his mind as it tore away the Chip's hold on his brain.
Someone who could turn Retain Chips off without killing its victim would possibly be the only one able to help. He was given a choice, Jack realised as the Doctor stood and waited patiently, treating him not as a possible threat, but as a friend. Jack closed his eyes, and struggled to sit up.

"Please," he whispered, and fingers pressed gently against his head, the cold presence back, gently spreading across his mind. It was over as quickly as it began.

"There's nothing in there that doesn't belong there," the Doctor smiled, removing his fingers (warmed to human temperature by now) from Jack's face.
Jack nodded, transfixed by the Doctor's stare, his body too heavy to move. He slumped forwards, but before he could fall face first off the med bed, a wall of cold leather caught him, easing him back into the pillows.

"We shouldn't have done this so soon after the Mind Probe," he heard a voice rumble, but couldn't for the life of him remember whose voice it was. "It's taken too much out of your limbic system. I'm sorry."

Jack blinked at the dark figure above him, cold hands somehow managing to soothe his raging headache by a simple touch to his forehead. He yawned, but jerked awake when memories of mind control entered his thoughts, but when the deep, soothing voice told him to sleep, he obeyed gladly.


---


He woke to the dimmed lights of the med bay that indicated deep night, woken by something warm and soft shifting on his side.

It took some considerable strength to move his head, but he was rewarded with the wonderful view of a sleeping Rose snuggling into his shoulder. He wanted to stroke her hair, but settled instead for watching her sleep. Belatedly he realised that there was a figure shadowing the doorway again, this time its presence neither threatening nor sinister. Jack managed to lift his head and smile before his head fell back to the pillow again, his muscles screaming with exhaustion. The rush of adrenaline from the disadvantages of his current condition just wouldn't come. Rose slung a heavy arm across his chest and mumbled something about chickens in her sleep, coaxing a quiet snort from the man by the door.

The spell of the moment broken, the Doctor moved forwards, his face unusually soft in the dim light as he stroked a strand of blonde hair from Rose's face, finding Jack's eyes and his smile widening.

"Couldn't just leave you," he said, nodding at Rose and not only meaning leaving him alone in the med bay.

Jack didn't know what to say, the genuine benevolence in the Doctor's eyes rendering him speechless. The background hum of the TARDIS seemed to shift and something inside Jack's heart yielded under the gentle sound, realising what had been offered to him ever since he'd stepped onto the ship. It had taken him a bit longer to recognise it for what it was - a place amidst those wonderful people.

It had been a long time since he'd been trusted that much. It was frightening, insane and wonderful and he took it gladly, relishing in a sense of security he hadn't known existed.

"Welcome aboard," the Doctor said, and Jack fell asleep with the sensation of the Doctor's hand resting on his shoulder.





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alien_sands
Dreaming of alien sands

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