Rose gazed out at the gloomy landscape, unimpressed and anxious.
Behind her, Jack groaned in disgust. “Ugh! I stepped in another one.”
She shuddered and very wisely chose not to ask, focusing instead on the miserable scenery before them, and the task ahead.
“You’re sure the guard will change at midnight?”
“Ugh! It’s all over my boots.”
“Jack!” She said in exasperation.
“They’ll need a solid week of polishing,” he griped.
“Huh?” He looked up. “What was that?”
“Focus!” she growled. “We need to get this right, or they’ll execute the Doctor at dawn!”
“I know, I know!” He said defensively. “I’ve been casing the place, haven’t I?”
“Yeah- which is why I was askin’ you if you’re absolutely positive the guard changes at midnight,” she said through gritted teeth, trying not to lose her temper.
After all, it wasn’t Jack’s fault that the Doctor had been captured by the High Council, having dared to stop a disgusting landowner from beating his slave, a small child of no more than ten.
It wasn’t the Jack’s fault that they’d felled him with a dart tipped in ginger before anyone had known what they were about.
It wasn’t Jack’s fault that they’d captured him and locked him in their high security prison with a round the clock guard.
And it certainly wasn’t Jack’s fault that she was about ready to crawl out of her skin with anxiety.
But that thought didn’t help in the slightest.
The thought of the Doctor, her Doctor, being trussed up, skewered and roasted like a suckling pig made her sick to the stomach.
Something behind her shuffled, and a few moments later a heavy hand landed on her shoulder., “I’m worried about him too, Rosie,” Jack said softly. “I love him too you know.”
Rose froze. “I-”
“Oh come on, Rosie,” Jack scoffed. “It’s pretty damn hard to miss! It’s not exactly a secret you’re head over heels for the Doctor- and he is for you!” He insisted, seeing her unspoken protest. “Honestly, you two need to get it together already- the sexual tension on the TARDIS is practically corrosive.”
She looked down, blinking furiously. “He doesn’t love me that way, Jack- he doesn’t!” She insisted at his disbelieving look. “He just doesn’t, an’ it’s fine. It doesn’t matter- all that matters it that he’s safe, alright? I just... I need him to be safe.”
“I do too, Rosie. He and you...you’re both my family, you know?” He cleared his throat and looked out over the murky plains. “I lost my family a long time ago, and after the TIme Agency and what they did to me, I thought I was hopping through the universe solo from there on out, until suddenly a blond in a Union Jack shirt dropped out fo the sky and into my lap. So I get it- maybe I don’t love him like you do- I’m pretty sure no one loves him like you do- but I do love him and you. We’ll get him out, OK?”
“Yeah.” She blinked rapidly, trying to clear her vision. “Thanks, Jack.”
“Anytime, sweetheart. We’re family, right?” He nudged her.
“Yeah,” she whispered, more grateful than she could express in words.
“Although if you want to work out a little of that tension or run a few practice sessions before you do a little Mattress Mambo with the Doc, I’m all yours.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
“Shut up, you plonker!” She half-laughed, swiping at her face.
“That’s better,” he grinned. “Chin up, Rosie- we’ll get him out, you’ll see.”
“Yeah, we will.” She took a deep breath. “So the guard changes at midnight, yeah?”
“Yep, I’ve watched ‘em for three days- every night, at midnight they change, and every time, they go through some ceremonial ritual of bowing and words and then they change.”
“Right, so, we set up the explosives to go off right in the middle of the prison courtyard, where they do their change ritual, yeah?”
“Right,” Jack said. “I’ve found a nice little pillar that’ll do nicely.”
“K, and while they’re runnin’ around in the dust, I’ll bust the Doctor out.”
“You got the blaster?” Jack asked.
She help up the compact blaster in response. It wasn’t the most powerful weapon in the world but it was all they had and it would be able to blast off the lock from the Doctor’s cell door.
Jack gave her a crooked half-smile. “He won’t like it, you know- the blaster.”
“Tough,” she said, her voice shaking slightly. “If he goes and gets himself locked up, then it’s his own fault if I need to use a gun.”
“Right.” Jack huffed. “And then we run?”
“Then we run.”
Just before midnight, Rose crouched behind a bush in the prison courtyard, a few feet from the Doctor’s cell door. The door itself was heavy iron and worryingly sold.
She could only hope the blaster would be enough to break through the thick lock.
If it wasn’t....
A slight rustling alerted her to Jack’s presence.
“All right Rosie?” He whispered, so quiet she could barely hear him.
“Yeah,” she said just as quietly. “Did you plant it?”
“Good to go.”
She exhaled in relief. Now to hope their plan would work.
If it didn’t....
“I wish we’d gotten him out days ago,” she whispered. “If we bugger it up now, he’ll be executed in the mornin’’. The three days of preparation are over.”
“I know,” came Jack’s almost silent reply, heavy with deep regret. “But it took days get those explosives.”
She swallowed. She knew that, and she also knew there was no point in dwelling on what might have been and what could go wrong. They both knew that, if this failed, they’d be staging a last desperate attempt to disrupt the execution and run.
And that they might not make it out.
“We’ll get him back, Rosie,” Jack whispered, as if he could hear her thoughts. “We’ll get him back.”
She nodded jerkily, knowing it was pointless because he wouldn’t be able to see a blasted thing in the dark, before marshalling her thoughts. She couldn’t afford to lose her focus now- she had to be read to run when the explosives went off.
The minutes ticked by interminably until, finally, Jack’s whisper came. “Thirty seconds.”
Sure enough, she could see the guards leave their post and pace slowly to the centre of the courtyard, where their replacements awaited them.
She held her breath and just as they began to bow, the entire courtyard exploded, bits of rock flying everywhere.
“Go!” barked Jack, whipping out his own blaster. “I’ll cover you.”
Coughing uncontrollably, Rose stumbled out from behind her bush and ran to the cell door. Whipping out the blaster, she willed herself to focus, trying to steady her shaking hands. Taking a deep breath, she fired.
The lock didn’t move.
She fired again, and this time it dented the lock.
Come on! She begged silently. Please.
She fired again and to her relief, the lock blasted into tiny pieces. Dropping the blaster, she seized the bolt and tugged, her panic giving her greater strength. Slowly, the door ground open and she stumbled inside, panting with exertion. She looked about desperately, quickly spying a slumped figure on a stone bench in the corner, arms tied to the wall behind him.
“Doctor!” She ran to him.
He looked up sluggishly, his blue eyes unfocused. “Rose?”
“Yeah, it’s me,” she said, blinking away tears as she tugged at the ropes binding his arms.
“You can’t be Rose. Rose is safe, far from here.” He squinted, trying to focus, and her heart ached. Who knew what they’d drugged him with?
“It’s me, she told him, untying the ropes at last and pulling them off him. “I’ve come to save you, Doctor- homemade stay of execution. Come on, we need to get you out of here! Can you stand?”
“Are you an angel?” he asked, his speech slurred. “You look like one. Don’t believe in angels, me. Or at least, I didn’t, until Rose.” he blinked. “You look like her. D’you know Rose?”
Her heart expanded until it felt as though it filled her chest. “It’s me, Doctor. I’m Rose.”
“Your Rose,” she vowed, meaning it in ways he couldn’t even fathom. “I’m your Rose and I’ve come to take you back home to the TARDIS but I need you to get up.”
“You know the TARDIS?” He beamed. “Best ship in the universe.”
Terrified the guards would return at any moment, she cast an anxious glance at the door. “I know she is Doctor but we need to hurry. Please! Look, I’ll help you.” Draping his arm about her neck, she tugged at him until he stood, hand automatically clutching her waist for support.
“Come on,” she begged. “Please, we need to get out of here.”
He reached out and wiped at her face. “Why are you crying?”
She hadn’t even realised she was crying. “‘M fine, just worried about you.”
“I’m fine, me. Always fine as long as I have Rose.”
“You’ve got me,” she vowed, clutching at his waist, his weight heavy on her shoulders. Slowly, inch by inch, they moved towards the door, Rose keeping fearful watch all the while. She started at a cry from outside, only to breathe easily when it was cut off suddenly. Jack had obviously silenced the guards.
They emerged into the heavy night air and she dragged him off the path and into the woods, where they’d left the TARDIS.
“Who’s that?” The Doctor asked indignantly. “Not your boyfriend is he?”
“Jack!” She nearly wept with relief. “I’m got ‘im, but he’s been drugged with something. I need help gettin’ him to the TARDIS.”
“You didn’t answer!” The Doctor said pointedly. “Is he your boyfriend or what?”
She couldn’t believe he was drugged and half-sensible in a forest escaping certain death and he was still jealous. “No, you bloody great prat, that’s Jack, he’s our friend. He travels with us!” She turned to Jack. “You ready?”
He shuffled and moments later he grunted. “I’ve got him. Ready?”
“I’m still keepin’ an eye on ’im,” the Doctor said. “Don’t like the look of ‘im, me.”
Rose laughed. “You do that. Now move!”
And together they moved, slowly, painstakingly into the woods towards the TARDIS.
Later, Rose would always swear that the TARDIS was closer than where they’d left it before. She couldn’t think how else they’d managed to get in and shut the doors, lugging a drugged Doctor, no less, just as a horde of soldiers had caught up to them.
She’d certainly helped Rose and Jack treat the Doctor in the infirmary, giving them the correct counter-agent for whatever drug he’d been given, and a sedative to help him sleep. Rose watched him now, sipping at her tea as he tossed and turned in his bed, and thinking on Jack’s plea that she take a chance and make the first move, and tell the Doctor how she felt.
She wondered what memories were troubling him, when he suddenly growled out two words.
Putting down her mug, she slipped one hand into his, stroking his face with the other. “Sssshhhh, it’s ok Doctor, I’m here. Rose is here. Your Rose is here.”
To her utter shock, his eyes suddenly flew open, his gaze automatically fixed on her.
Swallowing, shaking nervously, she took a chance and repeated quietly. “Your Rose is here.”