The first spark of it rouses him from a healing coma he'd allowed to continue for far too long. But his reactions are still sluggish and his head feels like a piece crammed into the wrong part of the puzzle, so he slips back under never acknowledging the soft bed beneath him or the sounds of monitoring machines going haywire.
However, the buzzing, centered in a part of his brain long silent, never really goes away, and eventually he decides the effort of ignoring it is not worth the trouble.
The room is dark when he opens his eyes, the only light spilling in from the bank of windows facing the nurse's station. He's lying in a bed in a hospital ward, but all of the other beds are empty. His is the closest to the door and the nurse's station, farthest from the wall of windows with a view of the sky. By the faint glow emanating from that side of the room, he assumes it is either early morning or very late evening.
The steady *click*click*click* of a woman's heels approaching grabs his attention, and he turns towards the noise in time to see her stop at the door. She's human, if his senses are working correctly, dark-skinned and petite, her hair pulled back in a bun that stops just shy of being severe, and she's wearing a doctor's coat.
"Well, hello," she says, pitching her voice at a level that is blessedly not grating on his ears. "Was beginning to wonder if I'd ever get to see those eyes open."
He says nothing, only watches her. She doesn't fiddle nervously under the scrutiny like most people would, only stares back at him.
"Do you mind if I come in?"
He opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out so he just nods instead.
She approaches the bed. "You've been in a coma, so don't expect everything to come back to you right away. Let's start with some simple yes and no questions, all right? I'm Dr. Jones; do you know who you are?"
"Do you know where you are?"
He opens his mouth, realizes his voice still isn't cooperating and settles for shaking his head no. He's in hospital, and based on her accent he assumes he's in some variant of England, but whether it's the original, a nostalgia planet replication, or one of the space colonies, he can't say. Shouldn't say, either, because each of those answers if given at the wrong time could cause him unnecessary trouble.
"I'm going to touch your arm, is that all right?"
She starts at his wrist, touching the bones and kneading the muscles gently as she works her way up to his elbow.
"Good. And higher." She continues the motions past his elbow and up to his shoulder, pushing the sleeve of the hospital gown up as she goes. "Anything?"
"Can I do the same with your leg?"
After a few more minutes of the strangest massage he's ever received, the doctor lowers the hem of the gown and recovers his legs again with the blanket.
"There's some controls on the side of the bed here, I'm going to move you into a sitting position very slowly, stop me if you experience any discomfort."
He nods and when she pushes the button a machine whirs to life and the bed begins to shift. In moments he's sitting up, hands uselessly resting in his lap.
"There's some water here, do you think you can drink?"
He nods yes and she picks up a pitcher on the nightstand and splashes some into a cup. He raises one eyebrow when she brings the cup to his lips, questioning the bare ounce of liquid at the bottom.
"Drink that with no problem and I'll give you more."
Gaze still trained on the doctor, he lifts his hand to take the cup from her and knocks back the water with ease.
"More," he rasps, handing the cup back to her.
Her eyes wide, she pours another ounce.
"More," he says again, and then a third time, until the cup is slightly more than half full with water. He takes it from her again and swallows it all in two gulps.
"Not right now. Let's let that hit your stomach and see what happens first. In the meantime, how do you feel about answering some more questions?"
"I'd prefer you answering mine."
Her lips quirk. "Fair enough. Trade?"
"Me first. Where am I?"
"Torchwood Hospital." He makes a 'go on' motion with his hand and she continues. "London, England, Earth. May 14, 2008."
He expects some measure of snark to accompany the oddly specific answer, but there is none and for the first time he wonders exactly what kind of hospital this is.
"What's your name?"
She laughs. "Well, I suppose that's better than John Doe. It's nice to meet you, Mr. Smith." He takes her hand briefly when she offers it.
"How did I get here?"
"I'm not clear on the details, you predate me, actually. I know that you were found barely coherent and you slipped into the coma soon after. Then, when your unique physiology was discovered you were brought to our attention."
"And what is your interest in my 'unique physiology'?"
"Huh uh," she smiles, "my turn. Do you have anyone... local we can contact for you? Family? Friends?"
No. There's no way he's divulging any names until he gets some more answers.
Her hand lands lightly on his arm. "I'm sorry," she tells him sincerely. "And as far as your physiology is concerned, it's utterly fascinating and I'm sure the doctors here would love to discuss it with you, but that's all. Torchwood's not what it used to be. I wouldn't be here if it was."
"And what is Torchwood?"
"We're the experts in the strange and unusual, the unique." She smiles, but it's not nearly as reassuring as she intends it to be. "Now, since you're awake, Dr. Harper - he's my boss, and he'll be here in a few hours to meet you - will probably want to move you to a private room."
"And what if I want to leave?"
"Obviously, I can't recommend it. You've been unconscious for over a year --"
"And if I try to leave?" he tries again.
She points over her shoulder, unaffected by the touch of menace in his voice. "If you can get up and walk out of those doors I won't stop you."
He looks behind her to the door she'd walked in. He could, if he wanted to, get up and walk out with barely a stutter to his step. His time senses were the last thing to come fully online, though he still feels like his mind is stuffed with cotton balls, however, physically he's in nearly the same condition he was when he went into the healing coma.
With an air of challenge, she walks over to a small wardrobe and opens the door to show him his jumper and leather jacket hanging side-by-side. A drawer at the bottom contains his denims.
He throws back the blanket and turns his body so that his legs hang over the edge of the bed. The doctor jumps toward him and makes a grab for his arm, but he pulls away from her and hops down. She's still poised to catch him when he straightens his shoulders and walks towards the wardrobe.
A choked noise from behind him registers at the same moment as the coolness on his backside.
"I'll just give you a moment."
Smirking to himself, he watches her flee the room before gathering up his clothes and depositing them on the bed. He pulls the curtain around the bed and dresses himself in no particular hurry while watching the sun as it slowly rises.
She joins him at the window several minutes later. "It is a lovely view."
London sprawls around them, the people like ants from this height as they scurry to work.
"I've called Dr. Harper. He's coming in early; he really wants to meet you."
He grunts noncommittally.
"If you leave, where will you go?"
"Around. I've always been sort of a wanderer."
"We can help you, you know, if you need a place to stay or transportation off-world."
She laughs when he looks down at her sharply. "What did you say?"
"You heard me. That is assuming you don't have a ship of your own."
"Earth isn't supposed to be aware --"
A proud grin. "I said we were the experts."
He returns his gaze to the window. "I have a ship."
"I'm staying. At least for a while," he qualifies.
She beams. "I'm going to hold off on the paperwork for putting you in a private room. It's obvious you don't need to be under observation and if we can get Dr. Harper's approval, it will be just as easy to put you up in a flat of your own."
"A private room is fine. For now." It's not like he's going to be sleeping there much anyway.
"If you're sure?"
"All right. Well, Mr. Smith, I've got rounds to do, but I'll be back with Dr. Harper in about an hour, okay?"
"Oh. Dr. Smith."
He doesn't bother to correct her and she leaves the room.
The back of his head is still buzzing, but it's less sporadic, more refined. It's still not by any means communication, but there is intelligence there. Honestly, he's more bothered by the zeppelins in the sky.
First he needs to locate the TARDIS, and then he needs to figure out what happened to Rose.