One more ficlet done! This one's yours, Measi. It's a bit longer, since you bid on me twice. Hope you like it! :-)
I still owe Lindenharp and Taffimai ficlets for bidding, and Nightrider a longer ficlet becuase she also bid twice.
Characters: Nine, Rose, and Jack
Rating: All Ages
Beta: wendymr, She Who Hunts Extraneous Commas, Friend of Forgotten Hyphens, and Champion of the POV.
Summary: He found her simple act of breathing to be somehow hypnotic.
Giftee: measi, who was generous enough to bid on me twice! :-D
She lay stretched out on the sand just beyond Jack's reach. Her body was completely relaxed, her breathing slow and even.
The rise and fall of her chest with each inhale and exhale fascinated him.
The fingers of one hand were dug into the soft sand beside her, the other hand lay still atop her stomach. Not a muscle twitched other than for the purpose of breathing. Even her eyes remained still beneath closed eyelids, as if she was focused internally and intently upon something only she could see.
Her slow, even breaths continued as Jack watched from his own nearby position sprawled on his front in the sand. He found her simple act of breathing to be somehow hypnotic.
The strangely golden-tinted sunlight seemed to caress her, falling softly across her skin and setting her hair aglow with deep golden highlights. She had tied her hair back into a ponytail earlier in the day, but several strands had since come loose and now trailed haphazardly across her face and into the sand beneath her head. Each individual strand seemed to reflect just that much more of the dazzling golden color.
She was simply beautiful.
Perhaps slightly irrationally, Jack felt a distinct sense of jealousy towards the alien sunlight. There was a certain unfairness in the fact that Rose lay just out of his reach, embraced not by his arms but rather by the sun's bright light.
Though, then again, perhaps it wasn't too irrational at all. Jack had good reason to dislike both the alien sun and its bright, lovely light.
Its bright, lovely, and deadly poisonous light.
Light which now held Rose in its dangerous grasp, unconscious and possibly dying, the rise and fall of her chest the only remaining outward indication of life.
Light which similarly held Jack captive, sprawled as he was across the sand, too weak to move more than the fingers of the hand he was futilely trying to reach towards Rose.
Light which carried with it an oppressive heat that seemed to sear through Jack's body and mind, leaving behind only pain, confusion, and the ability to stare at the hypnotic continuation of Rose's breathing.
In and out. And in once again. It was all he could do to stay conscious enough to monitor these small, essential breaths.
Suddenly, he heard a noise. A strange, grinding, timeless, wonderful noise.
As Jack's awareness finally faded away to blackness, something blue and boxlike faded into existence nearby.
Simultaneously in absolute time...
The Doctor was not panicking.
He was not frantically slapping at various controls on the console in order to make his wonderful TARDIS move any faster, because he knew that would not make the slightest bit of difference to his arrival time.
She was a time machine, after all. It didn't matter how long it took, you'd get there at the desired time just the same.
Assuming no navigational errors, of course.
But there wouldn't be any navigational errors now. Not with so much at stake.
So if the Doctor was perhaps gently urging the TARDIS to greater speed, it was only because he hated to waste time.
Not because he was panicking.
Because he wasn't.
Panicking, that is. He wasn't panicking.
“Can't you go any faster!? Rose and Jack need us!”
The TARDIS put on another burst of speed.
Nope, the Doctor wasn't panicking at all.
Fifteen minutes earlier in the Doctor's personal timeline...
“You left them,” the Doctor said. His tone was accusing, and his glare clearly communicated dire consequences for those responsible. “You left them. Out there. In the desert. In the sunlight. The poisonous sunlight!”
“We're so sorry, Doctor! We just didn't know. It wasn't until after we got back that we realized what had happened,” the pilot explained nervously.
“They were supposed to stay on the plane. They knew they couldn't stay out in the sunlight for too long. I don't know why they even went outside!” the copilot added defensively.
“They went outside because they wanted to help. Which they did, not that you idiots noticed. Did you think that those scout ships just spontaneously decided to leak all of their fuel into the sand on their own?” the Doctor asked, advancing on the hapless duo.
They hesitantly began to back away, each now realizing that they might be in some serious trouble with this irritable alien.
“We thought that you had stopped them somehow,” the copilot replied. He truly just hadn't thought about it at the time, because why would two humans ever go out into the desert? It was madness!
“And how would I have managed to do that from all the way over here in the capital city? I'm impressive, but I'm not that impressive,” the Doctor pointed out grimly.
He had continued to advance, and now the guilty pair were backed as close to the wall as they could get.
“We're sorry!” the pilot repeated. “We can go back out to get them as soon as the refueling is finished. We can make it back to where we left them within five hours.”
The Doctor shook his head. “They wouldn't be alive, and you know it. No, I wouldn't trust you stupid... equines... to rescue your own manes and tails, let alone my... companions. I'll get them myself. And you had better hope that they live, or that you can run faster than a Time Lord.”
And with that, the Doctor turned and stalked away into his blue box, slamming the door behind him. A moment later, it made a strange grinding noise and faded away from reality.
The pilot stared at the empty space which had just a moment before contained the Time Lord and his TARDIS.
The copilot's gaze shifted to the table in front of them. The Doctor's leather jacket still lay where it had been tossed.
“Look, Todd. He forgot his jacket,” he observed inanely, shifting his hooves uneasily.
“Leave it there, just in case he comes back. I don't want him any madder than he already is,” Todd replied. “We really screwed up, Jeff.”
Jeff sighed. “I know. I hope they're all right.”
The two shared a look. Sadly, they knew it wasn't likely.
Twenty minutes later in the Doctor's personal timeline, and several hours earlier in absolute time...
The TARDIS finally landed with her usual grinding and clunking, and the Doctor was out the door a mere moment later.
The poisonous sunlight and its terrible heat barely bothered him, in fact actually feeling pleasantly warm. He shielded his eyes with one hand and looked out across the desert, noting the neat rows of scout ships each with a dark stain of fuel in the sand below them. Rose and Jack had been busy, and their efforts had helped to save the day.
Unfortunately, Rose and Jack themselves were nowhere to be seen.
The Doctor reminded himself that he was not panicking, took a deep breath, and dashed off towards the rows of ships and the small guardhouse nearby. Maybe they had sought shelter there.
But a fast and thorough search of the guardhouse and its environs bore no fruit. His companions simply weren't there.
They were somewhere else, out in this vast alien desert, unprotected from its deadly sunlight.
The Doctor was now seriously considering panicking.
He began to pace the interior of the guardhouse, trying to think through the problem. They had to be somewhere. They were last seen here, not too long ago in absolute time. They would probably be feeling ill and disoriented, so they could not have gone too far.
The problem was that beyond the area near the guardhouse the desert became a hostile and barren landscape with nothing in any direction for thousands of miles except giant sand dunes. They could have gone in any direction, could be lost behind any of those dunes with no way to tell which one.
The Doctor suddenly stopped in mid-pace and reached for his sonic screwdriver. He could scan for Jack's computer! That would at least give him a direction to continue his search in.
One hand reached for the lapel of his leather jacket while the other moved to dip into the interior pocket and fish out the screwdriver.
Both hands grasped empty air, baffling the Doctor for a moment before he remembered that he wasn't wearing his jacket. He'd left it, screwdriver included, back at the airbase. On the table in the room with those two idiotic equine pilots.
Cursing in three different languages, the Doctor left the guardhouse at a run and made his way back towards the TARDIS. He could find a spare sonic in one of his toolboxes, and then go back outside to scan the area. Or, for that matter, he could just use the TARDIS's scanners to pinpoint his errant companions' location exactly.
As he cleared the final row of scout ships and his own, much more stylish, ship came into view, the Doctor found the question of scanning for Jack's computer suddenly moot.
For there were Rose and Jack, sprawled motionless in the side of a dune which rose several meters behind the TARDIS.
With no effort, the Doctor changed his destination and smoothly ran around the TARDIS and up the dune to reach them. He skidded to a halt between them, dropping to his knees and checking first Rose, and then Jack.
Both were alive. Hearts beating, lungs breathing. Alive!
See, he really wasn't panicking. He'd found them, and they were both alive!
But both were also unconscious and badly poisoned. They would be all right with proper treatment, but he needed to get them back to the TARDIS sooner rather than later.
He glanced back down towards where the TARDIS sat at the bottom of the dune, and then back at where his companions lay. How to move them? He didn't want to leave one behind to move the other.
His eyes landed on Jack's greatcoat, which the captain had apparently taken off in the heat. He appeared to have carried it along for some reason, rather than leave it behind on the transport they'd ridden out into the desert. He did seem to be unusually fond the silly thing. He'd been unwilling to leave the TARDIS without it since they'd picked him up during the Blitz.
Maybe he was hiding something actually useful in the pockets? The Doctor supposed he wasn't one to judge another for irrational love of a coat.
Grabbing the garment in question, he laid it out as flat as he could in the sand and rolled Jack onto it. Next, he gently lifted Rose and settled her next to Jack.
The coat would just have to do as a makeshift sled.
Ever so carefully, the Doctor began to slide them down the dune. He stopped once halfway down to check on them, reaffirm to himself that they really were still with him, and then he continued sliding his precious cargo in a carefully controlled descent towards the safety of the TARDIS.
Once they reached the flat ground of the scout ship port, it was easy to pull the coat and its passengers the rest of the way to the TARDIS door. There he resorted to carrying them, one by one, first over the time-ship's threshold and then across the console room into the now conveniently-located infirmary.
Their bodies felt hot against his, so much hotter than they usually did, and they were so still in his arms. So frighteningly still.
The Doctor was not panicking. They would be fine. They would.
The next order of business was to remove the TARDIS from this miserable, sandy rock, which the Doctor accomplished with two quick button presses and one swipe at the dematerialization control.
Even before the dematerialization into the Vortex was complete, the Doctor returned to the infirmary. There he quickly set about giving the two humans the treatment they so badly needed.
Luckily, simple intravenous medication and fluids would have them both up and about soon enough, with no harm done.
Well, relatively soon. It wouldn't be soon enough for the Doctor.
He sat between the two infirmary beds, watching carefully and waiting for the slightest sign of recovery.
Those signs would come.
He reached one hand out to either side, resting one on each companion's arm. He settled in to wait.
He definitely wasn't panicking... any more.
Half an hour later in the Doctor's personal timeline...
Jack thought he was moaning, but couldn't be sure because his head was pounding so loudly that he couldn't hear.
A moment later a blessed coolness spread across his forehead, and Jack performed the herculean feat of opening his eyes. The Doctor was leaning over him, his hand providing the cool relief with a wet cloth.
“Owww,” Jack complained.
“You'll be all right,” the Doctor replied. “The poisons are out of your system. Go back to sleep. You'll feel better when you wake up.”
Jack tried to nod his understanding, which turned out to be a mistake.
“Owww,” he repeated instead.
The Doctor just continued gently wiping the cool cloth across his forehead. Jack closed his eyes again, relishing the comfort.
He drifted hazily, daydreaming about watching Rose sunbathe. Beautiful Rose, glowing golden in the sunlight... the sunlight! Rose!
“Rose!” he choked out suddenly, trying to sit up. “Where's Rose?”
The Doctor pushed him back down, still stroking his forehead soothingly.
“She's fine, Jack. She's right here, in the next bed,” he reassured his worried and ailing friend. “Actually, she's got more sense than you. She's still asleep.”
“She's okay?” Jack asked, turning his head to the side to try to see her.
The Doctor shifted slightly so Jack could see. There was Rose, as promised, asleep in the next bed.
Jack watched as her chest rose and fell with steady breaths.
“She's okay,” he repeated. “She's okay.”
“She's okay,” the Doctor confirmed. “Go back to sleep.”
Jack drifted peacefully back to sleep to the sight of Rose's breathing and the feeling of the Doctor's hand caressing his brow.
Five minutes of absolute time after the Doctor left Todd and Jeff at the airbase...
Todd and Jeff stood beside the table, staring at the Doctor's abandoned leather jacket.
“You really think he'll come back for it?” Jeff asked.
“Probably,” Todd replied. “The question is what kind of mood he'll be in when he does.”
Jeff winced, and Todd sighed.
They really had screwed up badly, somehow managing to leave the two humans behind in the desert and not even realizing it until hours later. Todd supposed they were lucky the Doctor hadn't had time to really get angry with them if he wanted to have any hope of saving his friends.
He really hoped the Doctor's ship was faster than the transport he himself flew. That was the only hope Rose and Jack would have of timely rescue.
“Are you sure you want to be here when he does come back?” Jeff asked.
Todd sighed again.
“Yeah. This is our fault. I won't ignore that.”
The copilot had opened his mouth to say something else, but was cut off by the same grinding sound the Doctor's ship had made before.
“He's back!” Jeff shouted instead. He backed away from the table, and the jacket, quickly.
Todd stood his ground as the blue box magically reappeared in front of him. It solidified with a thunk, and then all was still for a moment.
Todd took a deep breath and prepared himself for whatever was about to happen.
The door swung open with a creak and two energetic humans bounded out.
“Todd!” Rose called happily.
“And Jeff! What are you doing in the corner?” Jack asked.
Todd let out a relieved puff of air.
“Hi, Rose, Jack,” he said. “I'm so glad to see you're well! The Doctor got to you in time?”
“He did,” Jack replied, glancing back at the TARDIS.
There, slouching in the doorway, was the Doctor. His expression made Todd think of a storm cloud, but he at least didn't appear as angry as he had been before.
“We're sorry we didn't tell you what we were doing,” Rose said then. “If we had, you would have known to wait for us.”
“It was stupid,” Jack agreed. “You would have tried to stop us from going out, but we should have tried to convince you instead of sneaking off.”
“Yeah,” Rose continued. The she repeated, “We're sorry.”
Her eyes shifted over to the Doctor for just a split second before she looked back at Todd and Jeff, who had found to courage to move back out of the corner.
“We're really sorry,” Jack added. His eyes quickly glanced at the Doctor as well, and Todd began to wonder who they were truly apologizing to.
“We're sorry as well,” he replied. “Jeff and I should have checked on you before we took off.”
“There's really no excuse,” Jeff admitted. “We're sorry.”
Rose and Jack looked like they were about to object and claim complete responsibility for the mistake again, but the Doctor cleared his throat before either could speak.
“Everyone's sorry, I think we get it. Can we move on now? I'd like my jacket back.”
Jeff grabbed it from where it lay on the table and passed it to Jack, who passed it to Rose, who handed it to the Doctor with a smile.
Todd noticed that the corner of the Doctor's mouth lifted in a slight grin before he turned around and disappeared off back into the TARDIS.
“I really am glad you're both all right,” Todd told Rose and Jack once the Doctor was gone.
“We thought we'd killed you,” Jeff said quietly.
“We're fine,” Jack reassured them, giving Jeff a hug.
Rose took the opportunity to hug Todd, who found the experience to be quite pleasant. He hugged the little human girl back, patting her shoulder gently.
“We've got to go, now, though,” Rose said ruefully when they parted. “The Doctor won't wait long. I think he only agreed to come back because he wanted his jacket.”
“Bye, boys,” Jack said. “Keep on flying!”
“Goodbye!” both Todd and Jeff called.
A few seconds later, the strange trio of aliens and their magical blue box had once again disappeared out of reality.
“Do you think anyone will believe us?” Jeff asked after a moment.
“Not on your life,” Todd replied.