Ultimately, the only assurance they had that they were going the right way was the Doctor himself. The further they went, the darker and colder it got, and still there was no sign of Bobby, Jack and Ianto.

“Just who the hell is this bloody Captain Jack, anyway?” Donna asked Martha as they walked. “Because I’ve never seen the Doctor panic like that before, like when he got your call.”

Martha glanced at her sideways, but it was Owen who spoke, from where he was walking on the other side of the woman.

“Sorry, did you say panic?”

Donna nodded, remembering with a slight shudder the flurry of furious activity that Martha’s call had sent the Doctor into.

“Yeah, that’s what I said. I’m telling you, I don’t scare easy, but he scared the hell out of me then. Acted like the world was about to end… and with him, you know that could actually happen. So, who is this bloke? What’s he to the Doctor?”

“He’s a friend,” Martha said softly, painful memories whispering through her mind. “He’s a very good, very special friend.” And then, before Donna had a chance to press for more information, she hurried forward to catch up with the Doctor. “Tell me we’re at least in the right place? Doctor? We are in the right place, aren’t we?”

“He’s here,” the Doctor muttered. “Close, so close… C’mon, Jack, where are you?” He swung around slowly, holding out the screwdriver and frowning deeply. “I’m picking up four bio-signatures. One is definitely Jack…” He paused, his frown deepening as he made an adjustment to the settings on the screwdriver. “He’s unconscious.”

“Well, better than being dead,” Owen remarked dryly. The Doctor didn’t spare him a glance.

“Two more with him… moving slowly…”

“That must be Bobby and Ianto,” Alex said quickly, feeling a surge of relief at what she considered to be confirmation that her partner was still alive.

“And a fourth,” the Doctor went on grimly. “Non-human… and catching them up very quickly.”

“The Grysliaak,” Gwen whispered in dismay.

The Doctor took off at a sprint down the tunnel with a wordless shout. With just a glance shared between them, the rest of them took off after him, each one hoping fervently that they weren’t too late.

“I have to stop,” Bobby conceded finally, staggering to a halt and laying Jack’s limp form carefully down on the cold ground.

“I’m impressed you got this far,” Ianto murmured as he crouched down to check Jack over. The Captain was still unconscious, much to his quiet concern. “Bobby, how long was that supposed to last? You know… the Vulcan neck pinch?”

Bobby smiled wryly at the comparison. It hadn’t occurred to him before, he supposed that was exactly what it was.

“Fifteen… maybe twenty minutes, at the most. He should be waking up any minute now.”

Ianto looked down at his unconscious lover grimly.

“Sooner, rather than later, I hope. You can’t carry him any further.”

“I will if I have to,” Bobby told him wearily. “Ianto, if that thing catches up to us…”

“If you’re going to tell me to save myself, then don’t,” Ianto snapped. “We’ve already had this argument with Jack. I’m not going to have it with you, now, as well.”

Bobby smiled wryly.

“I appreciate the sentiment, but actually, I was going to say that it’ll be up to us to try and protect Jack. You know it’s going to go for him.”

Ianto nodded his agreement, grateful that Bobby was not trying to protect all of them. Broken arm or not, he could still put up a damned good fight.

“It may not be human,” Ianto said, “but it’s still in human form, with all the frailties that this form has. If we go all out, we might just be able to catch it off-guard.”

“It draws energy through its mouth, right? Like a… a vampire, I guess.”

Ianto nodded, wondering where Bobby was going with that.

“That’s right.”

“So we make sure it doesn’t get its mouth anywhere near us.”

Ianto couldn’t suppress a grin.

“Words to break Jack’s heart.”

Bobby smiled slightly at the less than subtle innuendo in Ianto’s comment.

“You two really are serious, aren’t you?”

Ianto stared down at Jack and smiled lovingly.

“Not so long ago, I would have said no. Especially after Jack disappeared. But when he came back, something had changed. He’d changed. Before, he was the epitome of casual. Now… We’ve been out on half a dozen bona fide dates since he came home. But I think what’s really convinced me of how serious he is about us is that he’s not propositioned anyone since he came home. He’ll still flirt with anything that breathes, but it doesn’t go beyond that. He was even talking about us being exclusive before we came here, and that was one word I never thought I’d hear out of his mouth. Nearly gave me a heart attack.”

Bobby chuckled softly.

“‘Exclusive’, do you mean?”


“Doesn’t surprise me,” Bobby murmured. “Anyone can see how much he loves you, Ianto.”

Ianto uttered a short laugh.

“Well, if he ever asks me to marry him, I may yet have that heart attack.”

“Doyou love him?” Bobby asked quietly, and Ianto allowed his fingertips to lightly stroke Jack’s temple and cheek. He didn’t hesitate with his answer.

“Yes, I love him, more than anything. And now that we’ve sufficiently stroked his ego, perhaps dear Captain Harkness would like to get off his arse so that we can get moving again.”

Slowly, Jack opened one eye and looked up at Ianto guiltily.

“You always were impossible to fool.”

Ianto merely smirked, and helped Jack up off the ground.

“How long have you been awake?” Bobby asked with a hint of suspicion.

“Long enough to hear you two discussing my disinclinations towards domesticity, except where Ianto’s concerned,” Jack admitted, somewhat sheepish in his confession. He paused, looking from one to the other, and all amusement rapidly fell away. “Now, could someone please explain to me what happened, because this isn’t where we were a minute ago.”

It was suddenly Bobby and Ianto’s turn to look guilty.

“I knocked you out,” Bobby admitted. “To stop you from going back and giving yourself up.”

Though Jack made no comment on that, the look on his face spoke volumes, telling Bobby they would definitely be dealing with that subject later on.

“Okay. So tell me then how we got here?”

“Bobby carried you,” Ianto told him. Jack eyed Bobby in astonishment, and the detective shrugged.

“I told you, we weren’t leaving you behind. Not for any reason.”

Just briefly, Jack’s throat tightened, and there was a slight burning sensation in his eyes as he fought off the threat of tears. Not even Ianto fully understood how much that really meant to him, even knowing the basics of what had happened on Satellite Five. He doubted he would ever grow tired of hearing affirmations such as that from those he had made himself responsible for – those whom he cared about.

Then, just as abruptly, another thought occurred to him.

“Do you have any idea where it is?”

Neither Bobby nor Ianto needed prompting to know what Jack was talking about, and Ianto shook his head in answer.

“No. We haven’t seen or heard anything from it since we came through into this tunnel.”

“That’s really not good,” Jack muttered. When he caught the quizzical looks from his companions, he offered a grim explanation. “It’s like spiders. You can’t see them, but you know they’re there. It could be anywhere right now.”

Ianto was about to speak again when Bobby suddenly cut him off, his voice rising slightly in tone and volume with barely controlled excitement.

“I think I can see lights. That way…”

Jack and Ianto both looked, and sure enough they could just make out pinpricks of lights down the tunnel.

“Jack, can you hear that?” Ianto whispered. They listened, and the echo of a voice floated eerily down the tunnel to them, faint but just intelligible.


“Is that the…?” Bobby gasped, unable to fully suppress a shudder of fear. Jack, however, shook his head and neither Bobby nor Ianto could possibly miss the way his entire countenance lit up in the darkness.

“No, Bobby, that’s not the Grysliaak. It’s something a million times better! I’d know that voice anywhere!” And then, he bellowed out a single name at the top of his lungs. “Doctor!

The response was almost immediate, and more of a relief than any of them could express.

They’re here! This way, hurry!

At that same moment, there was an angry snarl from behind them, and the Grysliaak came charging out of the darkness and hurled itself at the nearest man.

Bobby grunted in pain as he was brought crashing to the ground. His hands came up instinctively to stop the monster’s face from getting anywhere near him, but he knew he would only be able to hold out against its superior strength for a matter of seconds. The weight of the monster in human form crushed him into the ground, and he cried out in pain as he felt at least a couple of his ribs crack.

And then, just as abruptly, the creature was gone again, tackled away from him by Jack. He could breathe again, and he drew in a long, ragged gasp of air despite the fiery pain in his chest. And instant later, Jack was on his feet again, and pulling Bobby up as well.

“Run!” Jack yelled. “Run, and don’t look back!”

They ran, driven by a potent mix of fear and adrenalin. Bobby, already pushed to the limits of exhaustion from carrying Jack while he was unconscious, soon began to drop behind. It was only Jack’s hand grabbing hold of his own and dragging him forward that saved him from being brought down again. As it was, he felt clawed hands scraping down his back, shredding what was left of his shirt.

“Keep going, and don’t stop!” Jack thundered at him, while at the same time tightening his grip on Bobby’s hand, refusing to let go.

Bobby ran, focusing everything he had on those lights that were coming ever closer.

There was a howl of rage behind them, but Bobby took some small comfort in the realisation that they seemed to have put a little bit of distance between themselves and the Grysliaak. For the first time since they’d been taken, Bobby began to believe that maybe they might survive after all, and he put on an extra burst of speed, calling on reserves of energy that he hadn’t previously known that he even possessed.

Jack felt Bobby surge forward, and finally risked loosening his grip on the other man’s hand. For one terrifying moment there, he thought Bobby was about to collapse, and he knew it would have been fatal if he had slowed or stopped at that point. But now the man was running like the devil himself was chasing them… And, he supposed grimly, in a way he was.

He risked a glance to his other side, and was gratified to see Ianto was keeping up the pace, despite the pain that was all too visible in his beautiful face. But there was no time for sympathy now. Now there was only time for running, running as though their lives depended on it – and, for Bobby and Ianto at least, it did.

The lights were getting closer and larger and brighter, and now Jack could make out human shapes to go with those lights. They were heading towards each other fast, very fast, but right then Jack didn’t give a damn if he collided head-on with any of them. He just wanted to be safe, and the only way that was going to happen was in the protection of…

“Doctor…” Jack choked out, slamming into a tall, familiar and gratifyingly solid form that suddenly seemed to materialise right in front of him. Arms enclosed around his body as he went down, the strength suddenly sapped from him like water through a sieve.

“All right,” the Doctor murmured, hugging him tightly, protectively. “I’ve got you.”

He looked around, quickly taking in the scene. Bobby had literally fallen into the protective embrace of his feisty partner and their captain, while Ianto was being held and comforted by Toshiko, Gwen and Owen. Only Bobby Goren and Ianto Jones appeared to be injured in any way, but although there was not a physical blemish to be found on Jack, the Doctor had no doubt that he had probably suffered the worst of the three.

Martha appeared at his side, one hand going out to lightly stroke Jack’s matted and dirty hair, while Donna hovered just behind his shoulder. The only one not emotionally invested in the situation in any way, it was Donna who realised they had some very unwelcome company.

“Doctor? What the hell is that?”

The Doctor looked up slowly, his arms still protectively around Jack.

Sure enough, emerging out of the darkness, was a humanoid shape. It moved slowly now, aware that its prey was now in the protection of others. As it walked, drops of sweat beaded on its flesh and rolled in large drops down face, arms and legs, leaving behind a murky trail. Except, as it came ever closer, they could see that it wasn't sweat dripping from its body, but rather flesh itself – melting and dripping away like wax from a melting waxwork shape.

As it advanced, they could make out the increasingly misshapen head, the elongated arms and rubbery looking fingers that reached forward. Eye sockets were starting to break down, and the eyes in those sockets looked disgustingly like the squashy novelty eyeballs that could be found in toy shops.

“Oh, I think I'm gonna be sick,” Donna mumbled.

“What the hell is that?” Martha demanded, unconsciously tightening her hold on Jack.

“It's the Grysliaak,” the Doctor answered grimly. “Jack, when did it feed last?”

“Don't know,” Jack answered hoarsely. “Not off me since we tried to escape the power station.”

“That was nearly a day ago now,” Ross said quietly. His hand rested on his gun, despite the Doctor's warning against using it. He was willing to give the Doctor the chance to stop the monster, but if it so much as looked at Bobby or the other two the wrong way...

“It tried to feed off Bobby,” Ianto spoke up from where he was currently being cradled protectively in Gwen's arms. “But it was interrupted mid-feed. That was a long while ago... Hours. It hasn't fed since then, I don't think.”

“It's losing its assimilated form,” the Doctor said. “Once it assimilates, it needs vast amounts of energy to maintain that form. Without it, it begins to lose its form within hours.” He gently shifted Jack into Martha's waiting arms, and stood up to face the approaching creature, taking care to place himself between it and Jack.

“How about that,” the Grysliaak spoke in a voice that sounded like it was trying to gargle at the same time. “Someone's come to save Jacky after all.”

“Stop right there,” the Doctor warned it, at the same time drawing his sonic screwdriver from his pocket. “Don't come any closer.”

“Or you'll what? Talk me to death? You can't stop me from taking what I want. None of you can.”

It took another step closer, and the Doctor activated the screwdriver. It pulsed with blue light that lit up the dark tunnel, and the Grysliaak screamed in agony, waxy hands clutching at its head.

“What are you doing to it?” Gwen asked, confused.

“Ultra-sonic pitch,” the Doctor replied without taking his eyes off the monster. “We can't hear it because it's a pitch that travels exclusively on electrical current.”

“Stop!” the Grysliaak shrieked. “Stop it!”

The Doctor held the button fast for a moment longer before finally releasing it and ending the Grysliaak's agony. As it recovered from the shock, it looked up at the Doctor dazedly.

“Who are you?”

“I'm the Doctor,” came the flat reply. “That's all you need to know. Now listen to me closely. I have a ship. I'm willing to take you off this planet, and find somewhere that you can exist, without harming anyone else. Will you accept?”

The Grysliaak favoured the Doctor with a sullen glare, and then tried to look past him to where Jack lay slumped against Martha. The Doctor shifted, completely blocking its view of him.

“Forget him. He's not yours to take, not now or ever. Will you let me find you somewhere? Because I will not allow you to stay here, and continue harming these humans.”

The Grysliaak snarled angrily.

“You're not one of them. Why are you protecting them?”

“Because they're worth protecting,” the Doctor answered, his tone softening just a fraction. “This is your last chance. Will you accept my offer?”

It tried once more to get a look at Jack, and was once more blocked by the Doctor.

“He's mine,” the Doctor said in a low, threatening voice. “And I will always defend what's mine. Last chance...”

“All right!” the Grysliaak burst out suddenly, more than a hint of panic in its voice. “All right... I accept. I'll leave this planet... I'll go wherever you take me.”

The Doctor nodded slowly, satisfied.

“Good. Very good.”

“What now, then?” Alex asked tersely. She dared not take her eyes off the creature, grotesque though it looked. She didn't trust the ease with which it had accepted the Doctor's offer, and her only thoughts were for protecting her partner, no matter what.

“Now, we head back to the Tardis,” the Doctor answered. “I'll take you all back to One Police Plaza, and then I'll take him to another world, where it can't hurt anyone else. Try and get them up, we have a bit of a walk back to the Tardis.”

With some difficulty, Bobby, Ianto and Jack were all helped to their feet. Ross supported Bobby, ignoring his protestations that he was perfectly capable of walking on his own. Gwen and Owen helped Ianto, who seemed to be on the verge of giving into the shock that had been threatening to engulf him since their abduction, and Martha and Tosh did their best to support Jack. The Captain made no efforts to reject their help, and they both suspected the innuendos would have been free-flowing from his lips, had he been any stronger and less exhausted.

The Doctor walked ahead, keeping the Grysliaak at bay ahead of them with his screwdriver, while Donna all but hid behind him.

It was a long, silent journey back down the tunnel to the Tardis, and all of them felt immense relief as it came into sight.

“Never get tired of those panels,” Jack mumbled, too flat-out tired to put any real effort into the comment. The Doctor smiled wryly, though he didn't take his eyes off the Grysliaak.

“She loves you too, Jack.” He stepped up and unlocked the door, then waved the Grysliaak inside. “Go on. Move.”

The monster went, with the Doctor right behind it. Slowly, the rest of them followed.

Once inside, Jack pulled away from Martha and Tosh, and walked unsteadily over to the central control, reaching out to stroke his hand over the multitude of buttons and knobs with very real affection.

“Hey, old girl,” he whispered, and the others fancied that they could almost sense the ship's pleasure at the intimate greeting from the Captain.

“All right,” the Doctor announced, with fresh enthusiasm. “Next stop, One Police Plaza!”

And he finally turned away from the Grysliaak in order to set the coordinates.

In the next instant, all hell literally broke loose as the Grysliaak suddenly snarled and lunged across the control room floor to tackle Jack. The Captain barely had time to grunt in pain as he hit the floor, his head cracking hard on the metal.

Owen, Gwen and Tosh had their stun guns out instantly, and Ross pulled out his own gun and joined the Torchwood team in aiming his weapon at the monster as it grappled with a clearly weakened Jack Harkness. Somewhere behind them, Donna shrieked wordlessly, while Martha yelled at the Doctor for him to do something.

Stop!” the Doctor thundered, his voice bringing everything and everyone to an utter standstill. He focused a harsh glare on the Torchwood trio. “You should all know by now that the Grysliaak is an energy-based being. Exactly how effective do you think electricity-issuing stun guns will be?”

Silence reigned and then, as one, the three of them lowered their weapons.

“And you didn't bother mentioning this before because...?” Owen asked. The Doctor flashed them a brief grin.

“Thought I'd wait and see whether any of you realised.” His grin faded rapidly as he looked to Ross. “Put it away, Captain. Now.”

Compelled by the absolute authority in the Doctor's voice, Ross reluctantly lowered his gun, and holstered. Satisfied, the Doctor turned his full attention to the Grysliaak.

“And as for you...”

The monster glared up at him.

“Going to make me more offers, Doctor? I don't think so. But I have one for you. Let me go, and let me have this one, and I'll leave the rest of this planet alone. You have my word. All I want is Jack.”

The look on the Doctor's face was frightening in its intensity.

“I warned you. You had one chance, and one chance only. Jack is not yours to take. He's mine, and I will defend him!”

The Grysliaak leaned down low over Jack, easily overcoming the Captain despite its slipping form. Jack uttered a strangled cry of pain as the Grysliaak tightened its hold on him, and clamped its slimy mouth briefly to his throat, drawing out a fraction of the immortal's life force. Then, it looked back at the Doctor with a malicious stare.

“How are you going to stop me? With your little toy? I'll endure a hundred of them for this one.”

The Doctor made no move to activate his sonic screwdriver, but he did take a step sideways, putting him within reach of a particular button on the console panel.

“Maybe I can't stop you, but she can.”

The Grysliaak glared at him, angered in its confusion.

“She? Who is she?”

“My ship,” the Doctor answered. “You see, the Tardis is no ordinary ship. She's alive, and just like me, she likes to protect what's hers. And Jack is very definitely hers.”

The Grysliaak uttered a screeching laugh.

“Your ship is going to stop me? How?”

“This is how,” the Doctor said, and he hit the button.

There was a loud crack as the floor panel near Jack and the Grysliaak broke open, and the two of them were suddenly bathed in blinding gold light.

“Everyone, look away!” the Doctor bellowed. And then, “Jack, shut your eyes! If you can hear me, shut your eyes! Don't look at the light!”

Everyone looked away, driven to do so by the Doctor's thundered warning. Only the Doctor remained, watching breathlessly as the light from the heart of the Tardis engulfed man and monster until he could no longer distinguish either.

A scream rent the air, not of pain but rather of panic and rage. It filled the room for just a matter of seconds before fading away again until only an echo was left. Then, there was second loud crack as the floor panel fell back into place, and the brilliant light faded away.

“What the hell was that?” Owen whispered, rubbing at his eyes furiously to clear his vision.

“That was the heart of the Tardis,” the Doctor answered soberly. “I told you, this ship is alive, and she's very protective of her own.”

“Where is it?” Alex asked, from where she was crouching beside Bobby. “Where did it go?”

“It's been absorbed into the Tardis herself,” the Doctor answered as he walked around the console. “She stripped away its assimilated form, and absorbed it into her energy core. It's gone, and it won't be coming back.”

“Did you know that would happen?” Gwen wanted to know. The Doctor glanced back at her.

“I hoped it would take my offer to relocate it, but I'd guessed that it wouldn't. I couldn't do anything outside the Tardis, though. Not with a Grysliaak. I needed to get it in here, where the Tardis herself could deal with it.”

“That was a blood big chance you took,” Owen growled. The Doctor looked unimpressed with the young medic's irritation.

“You were never in any real danger from it. The only one it ever really wanted was Jack.”

“Uh... speaking of which...”

It was Martha who had spoken, and the Doctor looked over at her questioningly. She was kneeling beside Jack, who had yet to move from where the Grysliaak had tackled him.

“What is it, Martha?”

She stared up at him with frightened eyes.

“The Grysliaak didn't get a chance to, you know, feed off Jack that time, right? The Tardis dealt with it before it could kill him?”

“Yes,” the Doctor agreed impatiently. “What's your point?”

“And the Tardis was meant to save Jack, right?”


Martha looked back down at Jack, and couldn't quite contain her tears.

“Then why is he dead?”

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