Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: Rose Tyler, Jack Harkness, The Ninth Doctor
Summary: Why do I always get these rubbish mental pictures at the worst possible times? Rose Tyler learns the crucial art of defensive silliness.
Author's note: After a month or so spent lamenting my inability to write stories for the one fic event in which I take part, fandom_stocking , this story happened. Alas, fandom_stocking 2016 is now in the rear-view mirror, but the story is done. If you, like me, would love to have Rose Tyler and Jack Harkness action figures, because you know that the Doctor needs his own personal SWAT team from time to time, you might enjoy this. These are my OT3, and one or two sentences in the story reflect that. One can blithely ignore those and see them as simply friends.
*** *** ***
Rose nodded agreement in Jack’s direction. She hadn’t yet been able to dislodge her gag, but she was working on it as best she could whilst tied to a chair with her hands behind her back.
Jack had somehow gotten one hand free and had yanked his gag away from his mouth. He spoke again, as quietly as he could, in order to avoid attracting attention on the part of their captors. “I think I heard them say they’re going to kill him during the ceremony, and that’s planned for sundown. That gives us about 10 Earth minutes to get there and extract him.”
Jack’s turn of phrase stuck in Rose’s head, as she tried not to think about the short time they had to rescue the alien they both loved. Which meant, of course, that she couldn’t get ridiculous images of Jack and her as dentists, extracting a tooth-like Doctor from an alien mouth, out of her head.
Why d’you always get these rubbish mental images at the stupidest times? She didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or scream — admittedly a common conundrum when you were running with the Doctor and Captain Jack Harkness — and the confusion was keeping her from thinking clearly. As was the awful-tasting gag … the image of the Doctor in a tooth costume reasserted itself.
She snarled through the gag, although the sound was muffled. That. Is. Enough! She stopped focusing on the rancid thing, and returned with a vengeance to worrying her left wrist back and forth, trying to loosen the leather strap or, better yet, break it as Jack seemed to have done with his.
As she struggled, she saw Jack free his other wrist and, in short order, his feet. Moving as quickly and noiselessly as he could, he crossed to her chair, pulled the noxious gag from her mouth, and freed her.
“You okay, Rosie?” he asked, putting one hand gingerly to her cheek, the one the Administress had backhanded.
Rose eyed the black and crusted blood on his forehead, souvenir of the clout that had come frighteningly close to his temple when he’d cursed and leapt at the woman a split second later. “I’ll ask the same thing. Look at me.”
He quirked something that attempted to be a grin. “Don’t I always?”
“Seriously, Jack. Look here, open your eyes.” She hadn’t meant her whisper to be so close to a hiss, but dammit, she was worried.
“I’m fine,” he said, but he obediently brought his face close to hers.
She checked his pupils and nodded, satisfied, then gave him a quick kiss before hugging and leaning on him while she shook her hands and feet until they were free of pins and needles. “What now?”
“Our hosts are busy preparing themselves for apotheosis, which I gather involves taking off their ridiculous weekday robes and putting on some of those even more ridiculous white robes over there — why is it that cults are the same on every damn planet we visit? Stupid uniforms, stupid rules, stupid beliefs —”
She could tell he was just about at the breaking point; he always gabbled on like that when he was close to panic. Alright, Tyler, time to step in, and be the senior partner. “Here’s what we do, Jack. We grab a couple of those robes — they’re stupid, but they’ll cover us up because of the hoods, yeah? We know that the main ceremony, where they’re bringing the ( oh god, don’t think about it, just plan ) whatd’you call’em, the chosen ones —”
“— like a Berkshire shoat chooses to do anything —”
“We know where they’re bringing them in, and there’s a mezzanine above the main room, running along all three sides — remember? The Administress showed us when she was giving us the tour. We find a couple of those stupid robes, nobody’s gonna stop us. Like the Doctor says, yeah? Act like we belong there?”
Jack’s eyes narrowed, and Rose relaxed a tiny bit, because that look meant that the panic she’d heard in his voice was diminishing as the strategic time agent surged to the forefront. “We’re going to the mezzanine. What then?”
Rose felt hot blood pulsing at her temples, the thud of her heart, almost heard the buzz in her ears, almost felt the dizziness of standing on the edge of a cliff, and almost hated that she loved the feeling. But she couldn’t hate it. It was one of the drugs the Doctor and Jack had introduced her to, this adrenaline rush. She needed it … and she needed it especially now, because everything seemed so much clearer, so much easier to predict and plan, once she stepped off the cliff.
She gestured to Jack to follow as she headed towards the second door in the room, the one their captors hadn’t used, and spoke as she went.
“We’ll be above them, and they won’t notice us; the mezzanine is normally used just for women, and the only woman allowed in the ceremony is the Administress, and she’ll be downstairs. So they’re all gonna be facing toward her, and she’ll be looking at them. If we’re lucky — maybe — the chosen ones will be in the center or at the back the room, before the sacrifices ( No, don’t think about it ) begin.”
She looked around, partly to give herself time to think. She spied the ropes that had been used, along with the leather straps, to immobilize the two of them, and the inchoate plan started gaining solidity. “Didn’t they grab rope from over in that corner when they dragged us in here?”
“Yeah.” With that, and with no other urging, Jack sprinted to the far side of the room, perilously close to the door beyond which the cultists presumably were, and grabbed a huge length of rope. Once back by Rose’s side, he said, “I don’t have any clamps, so we’ll have to hope my knots hold true.”
She smiled at him, loving his quick mind as much as she loved every other inch of him, physical and otherwise. “Your knots’ll hold; all we have to do is hope the balustrade holds.”
He grinned, that fierce and feral grin that should make any enemy of Jack Harkness step back and reevaluate their options. “We know that our Gallifreyan confidante has all the wiry strength he needs to grab the rope. All we need is two to 10 seconds of chaos, to give him a chance to grab it.” He stopped. “If his hands aren’t tied.”
Rose shook her head, willing that concern out of existence. “Nope. They’re called chosen ones for a reason. Most of the sacrifices are there willingly; at least, they’re supposed to be. They only put the Doctor in the mix because they wanted to get rid of him, fast, and they didn’t think we were important enough to do the same thing with us. So I’m betting they want him to look just like the others. He won’t be bound — but he’ll probably be surrounded by guards, so throwing the rope has to be accurate.”
“I’ll do my best.” But Jack looked doubtful, and Rose’s heart sank.
“If you can’t be at least 90 percent sure, we can’t try,” she said. “We’ve only got one chance.”
“If I had something solid to wrap the end around, like a harpoon, I’d have no problem getting it straight to him, but I don’t. We’re lucky we got their leftover rope.” He checked the time again. “We have no choice, though — you yell to catch his attention, and I’ll make the throw.”
Rose looked at the rope, and thought hard. You did it once, you can do it again. “No.”
“Did I ever tell you how I met the Doctor?”
“Yeah, couple of ti—” Jack stopped and stared at her, clearly alarmed. “No. No way. You’re not playing Tarzan.”
“Who said anything about Tarzan?” She smiled, probably a little too brightly. “I’m Jane, and I’m gonna rescue our mutual Tarzan, how about that?” If she’d thought her pulse was pounding before, it was positively racketing now. But she felt as if her idea was the best possible chance to rescue the Doctor.
“You can’t grab him, he’s too heavy.”
“He’ll grab the rope, not just me. He thinks fast.”
“The two of you will just hang there!”
“No we won’t. We’ll kick off of something to start swinging back to the mezzanine, you’ll haul us in, and there you go, slick as you please.”
“You could lose your own grip. Rope’s different than a chain; you ever burn your hands on a sisal rope?”
“Sure. Gymnastics club.”
Jack looked around himself, apparently trying to find someone who would agree that this was an insane idea. Finding no one, he turned his glare back on Rose. She glared back at him, utterly mutinous.
“This is —”
She huffed out a breath, tucked a hand into her jeans and extracted a hair grip that she used to pull her hair back in a bunch. “This is what we’re gonna do, Jack. I’m surer of what I’m doin’ than you are, yeah?”
His growled, but Rose knew he’d reluctantly agreed. “Let’s get those robes on, then.”
The two of them shimmied into the robes; Rose didn’t like the way hers clung to her jean legs, but she figured she’d tuck the whole mess up under her belt if she had to
“Hoods up, Rose; someone’s coming.”
Shit. Why’s Murphy deciding to show up now? Rose pulled the hood up over her head. “Walk behind me, Jack; you’re taller.”
They had just begun to walk when the far door opened. Behind them, “You two — where are you going? Where are the prisoners?”
“Yeah, well that didn’t work,” Jack groaned. “Run!”
The two of them made it through the far door just as the cultists reached out to grab them. Rose and Jack slammed their door shut against their pursuers’ angry shouts. Jack looked around wildly for something to keep the door jammed shut and finally settled on the dubious strength of a broom that had fortuitously been left on the mezzanine. He ran the broomstick through the doors’ handles. It wouldn’t hold for long, Rose knew, but it might last just long enough ….
Please god, let the Doctor be where I can get at him. Rose peered over the mezzanine balustrade, and breathed a sigh of relief. Most of the Administress’s followers had already filed into the chamber below — and sure enough, there was a cadre of the guards, recognizable only by a thin line of red at the hem of their robes, surrounding a taller figure, robed in the grey of the “volunteer ascenders.” Rose held back a sardonic snort at the disingenuous terminology, and checked the scene further.
On the dais in front, the Administress had begun her harangue, loud enough that the shouts of her upstairs followers couldn’t be heard. Small mercies, Rose thought. Then she caught a glimpse of the altar behind the Administress; a crude stone table. Even from where she crouched, she could see the rust-brown stains; the weight of what she had to do landed in the pit of her stomach.
Put on your big girl pants, Tyler. She didn’t take her eyes off floor below, gesturing blindly to Jack. He was beside her immediately.
“Has to be now,” she whispered. “Has to be, Jack.”
“I know, sweetheart.” With that, he tied one end of the rope around one of the balusters. Then he wrapped it around himself.
“Trust me. I’m not going to risk you or him against this wood. I’ll be hauling you back.” His eyes were wide, the pupils dark, and his face was whiter than paper. Rose nodded, then leaned in for a kiss before impulsively pulling off the robe she’d just struggled into; no need to hide now. Then she grabbed her end of the rope, trying it around her waist, and wrapping another length around one wrist. My other hand’s for grabbing a Time Lord .
She laughed, a little breathlessly, and pulled herself up onto the top railing. One last look to Jack —
This is it.
“Hey! Gallifrey!” Jack’s bellow carried easily across the auditorium, even over the Administress’s voice. She and her followers looked around themselves, trying to ascertain from where his shout had come. The tall figure in the middle, though, knew immediately where to look. It threw off the hood covering its head —
There you are, love —
She leapt, swinging and adding her own treble yell to Jack’s, adding more sound and unexpected fury to what awaited her below. “Catch, Doctor!”
The first weightless moment of her leap became wind against her face and the weight of momentum. The white and grey crowd barely registered, a swelling mosaic of surprised and snarling faces; she saw the Doctor raise both arms toward her and forced herself to keep her eyes open, despite the urge to shut them ahead of the impending crash.
The jolt was significant; Rose was glad she’d wrapped the rope around her waist, as she freed one hand to reach for the Doctor. “Hold on!”
In the frenzied half-second after they collided, Rose felt the Doctor’s arms go around her shoulders, felt his hands grab her free one and bring them together until all four hands were securely wrapped around the rope, felt a tug from above them; Jack, trying to pull them back before anyone could grab them.
Jack’s action might have had the wrong effect, pulling Rose and the Doctor away from anything they could use as a launch point to power their swing, but just as Rose realized that, the Doctor simultaneous jumped and kicked out at the ample paunch of his nearest guard. Since the guard happened to be backed up against two or three of his fellows — all of whom had instinctively reared back from the crazed invader bearing down on them from above — he accomplished two things; giving the two of them the momentum to swing back toward the mezzanine, and sending four or five cultists sprawling, each knocking another handful down like ninepins.
One more moment of confused impact, as the two of them swung close enough to the balustrade to grab it and then, with Jack’s help, pull themselves over it onto the mezzanine.
“You lot — why didn’t you head to the TARDIS, like I told you to?” the Doctor asked, before hauling Jack into a hug along with Rose. Before either of them could react to that, he continued. “Thanks for paying no attention. Now, how do we get back to Her?”
The broomstick snapped, and more enemies tumbled onto the broad upper walkway.
“Tell me we don’t have to get past them,” the Doctor said.
“We don’t, not if Rose knows the way,” Jack said.
“Leave that to me,” Rose said, waiting for her odd internal GPS system to kick in. As she spotted yet another door, it did. “Follow me!”
“After the lady,” Jack said.
**** ***** **** ****
Much, much later — after debriefing and a number of sheepish apologies from the Doctor for having precipitated the entire situation, after hot showers, sybaritic baths, relaxation and some much deserved time under the covers with each other — Rose put down the magazine she’d been reading in the library and started to snicker.
Jack and the Doctor, who’d been fiddling about with Jack’s vortex manipulator in one of their never-ending attempts to render it a less bumpy ride to use (“Never know when you might need a Model T when the Lamborghini’s in the shop,” according to Jack), both looked up.
“Any particular reason for the sniggering? Something you want to share with the class?” the Doctor said, managing to look fond and slightly annoyed at the same time.
“Nah, it’s nothing,” she said.
“Nothing doesn’t usually give you a fit of the giggles,” Jack said, one eyebrow raised.
“S’nothin’, I swear. Aren’t you boys supposed to be figuring that manipulator out?” That usually served to send them back to their technological neepery.
The Doctor wasn’t sidetracked; nor was Jack. “‘Fess up, Rosie,” the latter said.
She wasn’t going to shake them, that was obvious. She sighed, already embarrassed. Like they need any new reason to laugh at the Earth girl, after I’ve worked so hard to get their respect .
“Alright. You know when we were tied up, Jack, just before we freed the Doctor?”
“Little hard to forget,” Jack said. “What about it?”
“Well, you said we had to extract him, and I got this — really, it’s so stupid, I don’t know why I started thinking about it now — but I got this ridiculous picture in my head. Of the Doctor being a tooth. Like me and you, Jack, we were dentists and we were going to just … I dunno … pull him out like a bad tooth. And it struck me funny at the worst possible time; I literally had to bite my tongue so that I wouldn’t start to laugh. And it just occurred to me again, and it still struck me funny.”
Neither Jack nor the Doctor said anything, but the Doctor had a queer glint in his eye. Rose felt compelled to explain further. “Thing is, it happens a lot. When we’re in some awful situation, hangin’ from a cliff, or whatnot, and we have to save ourselves, that’s when I start thinking the most stupid things.” She trailed off, looking at her hands.
To her surprise, the Doctor came over and sat down beside her. “Did thinkin’ I was a tooth — which I’m not going to be able to stop picturing, ta very much — stop you from rescuing me?”
She looked sideways at him and shook her head.
“Were you afraid before you got the dental Doctor in your head?” He grinned his daft grin as he said it, and she giggled.
Then she frowned slightly, realizing what he was getting at. “Yeah, really scared. But I was scared afterward, too.”
“Not so much, I’m guessin’.” His blue eyes were kind.
She normally didn’t like to think back to their close shaves, but this time, she made a deliberate effort to do so. In a bit, it started to come back to her. She remembered feeling irritated at herself, impatient and … she nodded slightly ….
The Doctor was right; the irritation had acted, if only very slightly, like a hot cup of black tea first thing in the morning, washing the last thickness of sleep from tongue and mind. In the act of forcibly jettisoning the preposterous mental images and refocusing on her plight instead of laughing, crying, or screaming, she’d actually been able to decide to stop panicking over the foul gag and start working on loosening her hands. By the time Jack had reached her, by the time she’d worried about his injury and worked to calm him down, her fear had begun its transmutation to adrenaline.
Jack, who had been listening, came over, manipulator forgotten. “Should I ask what you think about when I’m the one tied up? I’d like to think very different ideas tumble around in your lovely head when I’m helpless and in your power.” He waggled his eyebrows; she grinned and the Doctor rolled his eyes.
“Don’t feel embarrassed about things like that,” Jack continued more seriously. “Our minds don’t always help us out when we’re in danger, but at other times … well, humour is a very valuable arrow in an adventurer’s quiver.”
Rose thought of all the times the Doctor said or did things that were absolutely loony. “It’s helped you out, hasn’t it Doctor?”
“Me? Rose Tyler, I’ll have you know that I am always deadly serious when danger threatens!” That glint in his eyes, even more pronounced now, danced above his grin.
She hugged him, kissed the tip of his nose and reached out for Jack’s hand. “Fine then. I’ll do the laughing for us. The designated daffy dame, that’s me.”
She thought she felt something in the back of her mind, like bubbles of champagne up her nose. Somehow she knew the TARDIS was laughing with her, not at her. It felt very, very good.