Title: Hearing Things
Genre: Torchwood/Doctor Who Crossover, Hurt/Comfort, Angst
Rating: R (for violence – there’s no sex)
Characters/Pairings: Jack, Tenth Doctor, Martha, Master, Torchwood Team; Jack/Doctor pre-slash, with hints of Jack/Ianto, Doctor/Master.
Season/Spoilers: Set in early TW S2, with references to the DW S3 Finale Arc, and to the Master’s past during Classic Who.
Word Count: 16,800
Summary: Jack’s mind is playing tricks on him. Or is it something more sinister?
Notes: This has taken about a year to write, as my fan-fiction muse seems to be reinventing herself as a non-fiction muse. But I wanted to finish it up and get it shared with you all!
Many thanks as always to my steadfast beta ladyra.
Warnings: Violence, as expected from the Master. Suggestive references to what he might have done to Jack on the Valiant.
Disclaimer: Not my lovely characters, just playing with them.
Read it one file on my web site (please come back and comment!!)
or in three parts on live journal
Jack was desperate and scared. There weren't a lot of things he was actively afraid of anymore, but this was one of them. His body was apparently going to live a very long time, but what if his mind betrayed him? He could end up like the poor bastards at Flat Holme, except that there was no secure facility he wouldn't outlast. It was a complete fucking nightmare, which seemed to be coming closer all the time.
He was desperate enough to finally dial the number, pretending that his hands weren't shaking.
"Martha, it's Jack. Jack Harkness," he said, trying to keep his voice steady. He was calling her at her new flat, and she probably hadn't been awake very long.
"Of course it is. I do recognize your voice, silly. On the pull again, are you?" she asked teasingly. After finding out that Martha had decided to stay on Earth instead of going with the Doctor, he'd kept in touch and established an ongoing flirtation.
"Ah, no, not this time. I need your help." He sighed loudly, expressing his frustration and resignation. "There's really no easy way to say this. I think…I think I'm losing my mind."
Puzzled, Martha asked, "Jack, what on Earth are you on about?"
"Martha, I'm really sorry to bother you with this, but I just don't know who else to turn to. I'm not used to asking for help." Even getting the words out was hard. "This is the first time I've felt… like I can't… handle something… myself. I need someone I can trust."
"Well you know you can trust me with anything. But what about your team?"
"They're still, um, a bit peeved with me. You know, for leaving them before."
"Oh my god, Jack!" she exclaimed. "Don't they know the price you already paid for that?"
"No! They don't. And I'd rather they didn't. That's one of the reasons I called you. You'll understand, uh, certain things." It was getting harder to concentrate. He didn't have much time left.
"Okay, Jack Harkness," Martha said sternly, "talk to me. What's going on."
He said it quickly, to get it out before he had to think about it too much. "I'm hearing things. In my head. That aren't real."
"You remember the drumbeat he used to hear? Of course you do, how could you not? Well, I'm hearing that. Sometimes it's deafening. But that's not the worst. I hear his voice."
"His! You know."
Jack winced. He didn't like using that name. "Yes. Look, I can't really talk about this over the phone. Could you come down here? I know you're busy, but it's getting worse, and," he swallowed the fear welling up in his throat, "I don't know what to do."
"Of course I will. I've got nothing on today that can't be postponed. I can be there in a few hours."
"Good," he said, relieved. "Just come to the tourist information office under the Millennium Centre."
"Jack," she said, and he could hear the worry in her voice. "Will you be all right?"
"I hope so. I really do."
It was easy to find the place she was looking for. After all, it had only been five weeks since she and the Doctor had said goodbye to Jack here on the Plass, and he had run eagerly toward home. Pity the reunion hadn't been everything he'd hoped for, what with the psychopathic ex-partner turning up first thing.
She entered the tourist office and a small bell on the door rang. Behind the counter a young man in a sharp suit looked up. "Yes, miss, may I help you?"
"You must be Ianto," she said. "I'm Martha Jones and I'm here to see Jack."
Barely a flicker of surprise was visible on the man's face. "I'm not familiar with any local attraction by that name. I could offer you some brochures…"
"Ianto," she said emphatically, leaning forward. "Captain Jack Harkness. He called me and asked me to come. I'm a friend of his. Ask him yourself."
The young man regarded her evenly. After a moment, he said, "Do you have some identification?"
"Yes." She handed over her driving license. "I know you have to be careful, but you do realize that some people are aware of Torchwood, yeah?"
"Miss Jones," Ianto said.
"Doctor Jones, as of next week."
"Doctor Jones," he inclined his head, "please wait here a moment."
He disappeared through a beaded curtain into another room, and she could hear him speaking quietly. After a moment he came back and handed her the ID.
"Jack isn't answering, which concerns me because I know that he is here."
"Well, he's sick. That's why he called me."
With a frown, Ianto pushed a button behind the counter and a section of the wall swung open. "We'd best go see, then, hadn't we?"
They went down a ramp and into an elevator. When the door opened again, Martha stepped out to see two people, a man and a woman, holding guns on her. The woman, Gwen, Martha surmised, said, "All right. I think you should explain your purpose here."
With growing impatience, she said, "I already told Ianto. Jack asked me to come."
"She is who she says she is," said a pretty Asian woman, who was sitting in front of an array of computer screens. Toshiko, then. "She was involved with the incident when the hospital was transported to the moon, then went missing for a couple of weeks. Was briefly sought as a terrorist along with Jack and the Doctor, then reappeared at the same time Jack came back, just after the problems on the Valiant."
"She says he's sick," Ianto informed them.
"That seems unlikely," Gwen replied. "I've never known him to be sick a day."
The skinny man, who must be Owen, said, "Healthy as a horse, always, our Captain."
"Except," Toshiko said, "he hasn't seemed himself. Haven't you noticed?"
Ianto nodded. "I noticed. I asked, but he insisted he was fine."
Gwen lowered her gun and said, a bit uncertainly, "I thought he was just sulking. He can be quite moody."
Martha had had enough. "I think it's more than that. Look, if you would just point me toward Jack and get out of the way, I'd really appreciate it." She walked farther into the cavernous room. It wasn't exactly an Earth-standard office, but after all she'd seen it didn't rate a comment.
Owen tucked his gun into the back of his trousers, making sure she saw that he still had it with him, and said, "I think he's hiding out in his room again. Been doing that a lot lately. This way."
Martha followed Owen across a walkway, with the other three Torchwood staff members close behind. They entered an office that had the look and smell of Jack in it, and his greatcoat hanging in the corner.
Owen rapped on a metal hatch in the floor. "Oi, y'r majesty. You have a visitor." He tugged the hatch open, and Martha looked down at a tiny, bare bedroom. It was dark, and she couldn't immediately see Jack, but she could sense that fizzy energy that signalled his presence. She started down the ladder, then said to the four people peering in from above, "Stay there."
Setting her feet on the floor of the odd subterranean room, she peered around the gloom. Martha gasped when she saw a flash of her friend's cheek illuminated by the light coming in through the hole in the ceiling. He was sitting on the floor at the foot of the simple bed, his back against the wall, eyes open but unseeing. "Jack?"
He didn't move or react in any way. Martha knelt in front of him. "Jack?" She reached out and touched his arm. "Can you hear me? It's Martha." There was a slight pinching around his eyes and a few blinks. With a firmer voice she prompted, "Jack Harkness, look at me right now. That's an order, mister."
Slowly, his eyes focussed on her until recognition animated them. "Martha," he breathed, still only partially present.
"That's right. It's me." She was more than a little freaked out by what she was seeing. The man before her bore little resemblance to the one she'd said goodbye to only a few weeks previously. Despite having lived through a year of torture and death, he'd been strong, whole and vital, giving the impression that resilience was his middle name. This man had dark circles under his eyes, sunken cheeks, and even in the dim light he looked pale. Somehow he seemed smaller than he had before. Fragile. It was terrible to see.
"Jack," she said gently. "Tell me what's going on."
His eyes narrowed in concentration. "Told you, hearing drums and voices. One voice. Always his."
"The Master," she confirmed, and he nodded. "Is it only auditory, or do you see things, too?"
Jack's brow furrowed. "See him, sometimes. More and more. We're on the Valiant, in the engine room. I'm strung up in chains, like I was." Now that he'd started talking, Jack rambled on distractedly. "You never saw me there, did you? That's good. It was ugly. No way for a human to live. Tish knows. She saw it all. Sometimes I think I'm back there in hell. All I feel is pain, and all I hear is his voice."
Glancing up, Martha saw that four heads were still hanging over the edge. They had to be hearing this, but there was nothing for it. They were going to have to know more about what had happened, because Martha wasn't going to be able to deal with this on her own, if at all. "What does he say?" she asked.
"Just like before. Freak. Failure. Weak. Helpless. Worthless. Abomination. Pervert." Jack snorted and said savagely, "Fucking hypocrite. He'd call me a pervert and then touch me. He'd say, if you're not good I'll hurt Tish or the Doctor. Or Gwen or Ianto." His voice weakened again. "Now he says if I don't give in to him, he'll hurt them. But he's dead, I know that. He's just in my head. It hurts so much, Martha." His face contorted and Martha was afraid he was going to cry. This sounded like more than flashbacks. She thought they might be looking at a full-fledged psychotic break.
"What does he want you to do, exactly?" she asked, determined to keep him talking.
Jack struggled to answer her. "Don't know. He says submit. Let go and it will all be over. But I can't. I won't. Won't let him win, Martha. I didn't before, no matter how many times he killed me, won't now. But he's so strong."
"Why didn't you tell me this was happening when we talked on the phone?"
"Wasn't bad at first. Just a niggle. Started getting worse a few days ago. Thought it was just reaction, you know?" She did. She and all her family were each having their own troubles adjusting, and she said as much. "But not like this," Jack countered sadly.
"No," she agreed. "Not like this."
"I'm there more and here less all the time. Can't stop it."
Jack tipped forward slowly and eased himself into Martha's lap, wrapping his arms around her waist. She supported his head with her arm and held him, glad that she could do that much for him, at least.
Against her abdomen he said, "Hate this. Sorry. Don't know what to do."
"Well," she said decisively, stroking his back. "First thing is to get out of this hole. You have equipment out there, yeah? We're going to run some tests. See if there's an organic cause, some lingering injury. See if you have an illness or infection that can be treated."
"I've died. Since. A couple of times. Can't be from the Valiant."
She didn't know exactly how Jack's immortality worked but it was a place to start, so she insisted. "Humour me. Tests won't hurt anything."
"Martha." He looked up at her, his eyes wide and desolate. "If we can't fix it, I don't know what I'll become. Could be dangerous. Nuke me. Cover me in cement and drop me in the deep ocean. Have the Doctor think of something. Don't let me hurt anyone."
"We won't let you hurt anyone." It was easy to promise, since he was weak as a kitten, but she knew that might not always be the case. There was one thing she was glad he'd brought up. "Jack, I'm going to need to call the Doctor."
"No!" he said sharply, then continued tiredly. "No. Please. Don't want him to see me like this."
Martha wasn't surprised to hear him say that. She knew how Jack felt about the Doctor, and how hard all this already was for him, without adding the Time Lord into the mix.
She sighed, "All right, for now. Let’s run the tests, see what they say. If I feel it's necessary, though, I'll call him. Understand? If this has something to do with the Master…."
He nodded in acquiescence.
She looked up. "I could use some help getting him out of here."
There was a flurry of motion and Ianto appeared beside them. Placing a hand on Jack's back, he said briskly but kindly, "I'm here, sir. Shall we get you up and seen to, then?"
"Ianto," Jack sighed weakly. "Sorry about this."
"I don't believe there's any apology necessary, sir. Not on your part, anyway."
Martha looked at him, but couldn't tell what he was thinking.
The young man helped Jack sit up, but it took both of them to get him onto his feet. It was good that Ianto had come down, since of all of them he was the nearest to Jack's size; the same height, but slighter of build. He was confident handling Jack, who seemed to accept the help without resistance.
They got Jack started up the ladder with Ianto directly behind him, bracing him when he slipped or sagged. Owen took hold of him and pulled him the rest of the way up none too soon, as Jack suddenly went limp and collapsed to the floor. By the time Martha had climbed up to the office, Owen, Ianto and Gwen were carrying their boss down a few stairs to the lower level.
Toshiko was waiting for Martha, her eyes wide and serious. "How long?" She asked. "How long was he on the Valiant?"
"A year," she answered. "A year of being tortured and killed. I wasn't there, but my parents and sister were, held hostage. From what they've told me it was bad, and I'm sure they don't know all of it."
"And the Master?" Toshiko asked. "Who was he?"
"Prime Minister Saxon. Actually an alien, the same kind as the Doctor. But think of the worst mass-murders you can imagine - Hitler, Pol Pot, Rwanda - and he made them look like amateurs. We defeated him in the end, the Doctor, Jack and me, and turned back time, but at a cost." Martha watched the others carry Jack down a curved staircase into what looked like a morgue.
"One that's still being paid, it seems," Toshiko said.
"Yeah." She followed them down, ready to start the tests. Hoping they would provide some answers.
Martha watched as Dr. Owen Harper studied the readout on his computer screen. He made puzzled faces and hmm'd a few times. She exchanged a look with Toshiko, who was standing beside her, with Gwen and Ianto close behind them.
"What is it?" Martha asked. "What does it show?"
"Well," Owen said, leaning back in his chair. "As I said, this is a hybrid of an f.M.R.I. machine and some alien tech. Since Tosh and I finished it, we haven't had a lot of opportunity to test it. We did take baseline readings of everyone on staff, though. This," he turned the screen so that they could all see, "is Jack's normal brain activity."
The monitor showed a three dimensional image of a brain, coloured to indicate the intensity of brain activity. The colours oscillated as electrical currents sparked, ebbed and flowed between the different sections – right hemisphere to left, brain stem to motor cortex, etc. –faster than the eye could follow.
"As much as I hate to say it," Owen went on, "when compared to ours, Jack's scan showed an average of one third more activity."
"Huh," said Gwen, with interest. "You never mentioned that."
"Wouldn't, would I? Have some sense of self-preservation. He'd gloat about it for weeks."
"Would he?" Ianto asked quietly. "Somehow I don't think it would come as a surprise to him. There's not much about Jack that's average."
"Oi, Teaboy," Owen said, "don't start with the tape measure again."
Martha rolled her eyes. She could see exactly why Jack felt at home with these people.
"Let's try to stay on topic," she admonished. "This was taken before he went away?"
"Yeah, about a month before." He pressed some keys, and the screen divided in half to show a second image. "And this is now."
Even at a casual glance the difference was clear. The new image was brighter, more active everywhere, with a few areas lit up blindingly. "May I?" she asked.
Owen stood and motioned toward the chair with feigned gallantry.
Martha sat and studied the images, then glanced at Jack where he lay on a nearby lab table, his head encased in a mesh cap lined with sensors, which was connected to a piece of equipment no larger than a toaster. He was unconscious, but not resting easily. Shifting facial expressions and muscular twitches telegraphed his distress.
On the screen his brain activity was displayed in real-time, with a startling level of detail. You could turn the image, zoom in to the interior of the organ, follow the paths of individual electrical currents. Alternately, it could be set to measure blood flow changes at the same level of detail. This was an amazing diagnostic tool that would change the field of neuroscience overnight, but that could wait until the immediate problem was solved.
She pointed to the brightest spot. "This is the pre-frontal cortex, executive control; planning, reasoning, concentration." Then another. "The primary auditory cortex; the drums and voices, I'd guess. The gamma rhythm radiation is off the charts." She indicated a few of the darker spots. "Some of the other sensory processing areas are dampened."
"What does it mean?" Toshiko asked. "Can you tell what's wrong with him?"
Martha sighed. "Not really. Not so that it helps us. Just that there really is something wrong, but it’s not a tumour or other observable physical cause. His blood work came back normal, the other tests were normal given the stress he's experiencing. This is clearly not normal, but we can't tell what's causing it. And I don't know what will happens if it keeps up. Will his brain burn out, will he shift to a new level of consciousness, or some other science fiction nightmare?"
"I dunno either," Owen said, "but I think we can assume it won't be good. There are drugs we can use to numb parts of his brain, try to slow this down."
"Yeah, maybe," Martha said thoughtfully, "but not yet. I'm going to request a consultation." She took out her mobile phone and hit the speed dial number. Jack hadn't wanted the Doctor to see him having a nervous breakdown, but this appeared to be a lot more than that.
The Doctor answered after a few rings. "Martha Jones, old girl! Do you miss me already?" he asked cheerfully.
"Absolutely pining, and watch who you're calling old," she said with a smile, then became serious. "We've got a problem."
"It's Jack. He's in trouble."
"Why am I not surprised?" the Doctor asked dryly.
"Not that kind of trouble. Look, I don't actually know what's wrong with him, but he's lying here unconscious and his brain is about to explode. He's been having hallucinations; hearing the Master's voice and seeing him, hearing drums. At this point we can't get him to come out of it at all."
"Martha," the Doctor was now completely serious, "when did this start?"
"A couple of days ago, apparently. He called me this morning and I came right down. Look, I don't know if this is something you can help with or not. There isn't exactly a wealth of medical knowledge about Jack's physiology - his team here probably has more experience with that than anyone else.” Other than the Master, but she wasn’t going there. “I could use a second opinion, Doctor. This is beyond me."
"Of course I'll come. Torchwood, Cardiff, I suppose?" he asked unhappily.
"That's right. But no one here will give you a hard time," she said, glaring at each of Jack's team in turn. They nodded their agreement.
"On my way, then." The connection broke.
"He's coming," Martha told the others. "He should be here within a few minutes."
"Will he land in his usual spot on the Plass?" Ianto asked.
Martha's eyebrows jumped with surprise. "I expect so."
"I'll go escort him in, then." Ianto headed up the stairs, and Owen went to remove the sensor net from Jack's head.
"His usual spot?" Martha asked the women.
"We've been trying to piece together information," Gwen said, "about what happened while Jack was away. Doctor sightings, CCTV records, Saxon's televised statements, the bit about contact with an alien race."
"We've surmised that it had to do with the Archangel Network," Toshiko added. "Some kind of hypnotic suggestion. It worked on me," she said, amazed. "Despite all my electronic shielding, I didn't suspect a thing. Not even when they were building the Valiant. I assumed UNIT was using their own alien technology, but that wasn't it, was it? It was Saxon. The Master."
Gwen said, "We knew something happened on the Valiant, but that part has never been clear. We had no idea." She looked at Jack mournfully.
"Did any of you think to ask Jack?" Martha challenged.
"I did," Gwen said. "He said he'd died a lot, but then changed the subject. He won't talk to us about his time away."
"Is that why you've been punishing him?"
"Who's been punishing Jack?" a familiar voice asked from the upper level.
Martha looked up and smiled with relief. "Hello, Doctor."