Sleep and Time
"Sorry I asked," Rose muttered sleepily from an armchair in the TARDIS library.
When the Doctor said they should go through lecture tapes, she had wrongly assumed he maybe one of two audio clips to listen two. In fact, the Professor had given a series of lectures, and they were now on tape eighteen. The Doctor was fascinated, leaning forward in his seat as Professor Edwards droned on about his wayward time theories. Once in a while he'd let out a guffaw or two, comparing Edwards to the Keyboard Cat or some other very impressive Earth animal. Rose, for the most part, had checked out during tape number three. If there was anything in the words to clue them in to the disappearance of their owner, it was definitely worth finding, but the Doctor seemed to have a handle on it.
The Doctor laughed. "Did you hear that, Rose? He just compared the Time Vortex to a slinky. Can you imagine? It's a bit wibbly mind you, but definitely not wobbly. Well, maybe a little wobbly, but nothing like a slinky. Besides, you know what's more fun to push down the stairs than a slinky? A Dalek. Seriously, they tumble quite nicely—are you listening to me?"
"Daleks are slinkies, wibbly wobbly, nothing boring on the TARDIS," she yawned.
He blushed a bit, pausing the tape. "It is quite late, your time; we've been in here a couple of hours." he mused. "Would you like a couple human hours to sleep?"
She glanced nervously at Jack in the corner.
"I can watch him, he'll be fine," the Doctor promised.
"Should he sleep?"
"Could be. If he gets tired, he'll fall asleep. That's a reflex even human babies have, Rose, he'll make do. You can't exactly teach him."
"I'm sleeping here, then," she muttered, laying back against the chair. "If you need anything, wake me up."
"We're fine," he promised, switching the tape back on, "get some rest. I love you."
She smiled as well as she could muster, muttering something in agreement before drifting quickly off to sleep.
Jack did not notice anything going on behind him. Rose had been worried, at first, about bringing him into the TARDIS library with them to listen to some man talk about science concepts she had no comprehension of to begin with. As soon as they had walked into the room a few hours before, though, his attention had been immediately diverted. Standing in the corner of the room, and covered by more clutter than anything in here had a right to be covered in, stood an old record player the Doctor had used decades before.
Jack was drawn to it instantly—the Doctor had left the record spinning without the needle down the last time he'd used it, and with the TARDIS's perpetual energy that could have been anywhere from a day ago to a century. The last record spun silently around and around as Jack had approached it, wondering what this new things was. The Doctor had reached around him, pulling the little needle down to the grooves.
"Ah, perfect! Let's have a little music." Strange rhythmic sounds poured from the record and he jumped, fascinated as he watched the little needle dance over the sound.
I have died every day
Waiting for you
Darling don't be afraid
I have loved you
For a thousand years…
"Hey, I know this song," Rose hummed, "How did you find this on a record? Those are ancient."
"Nah, not for long. By 2013 vinyl was making a comeback. By 2020 you could find them just as easy as downloads. One thing I love about humans; they are suckers for a bit of nostalgia." He took Rose's hand and spun her to his chest. "Dance?"
"Love to," she giggled, stepping quickly into a happy waltz. It didn't match the song, or the tempo, but it was beautiful, and Jack had watched them with wide eyes and a broad grin. When the song finally had switched over to the next one the two adults had settled down to listen to the lecture tapes, but Jack was not interested in what they were doing. This new thing, this music, was wonderful, and this new song sounded so different than the last. The voice was higher, and just as melodic. He had plopped himself down in front of the machine, staring at it as the notes floated around him.
I remember tears streaming down your face
When I said I'd never let you fall
"That's what you are, Jack," Rose had called over, "safe and sound, Love. Should we find something productive for him to do? This isn't like parking your kid in front of the Telly is it?"
"Oh, he's fine. Music's good for you, it'll help his vocabulary anyway."
That was the first moment Jack realized that these sounds were words. He'd heard words before, from the three people he'd met, but he had never heard them put to music. He was entranced then, listening to each song intently, learning new words he hadn't heard from anyone before. He was convinced from that moment that there was a specific song he was waiting for, that somewhere someone had written a song especially for him and he had to find it to understand more of what was going on around him. Every now and then the machine would stop playing and one of them would come over and place a new black disc on it for him.
After an hour, Rose had come and placed a small plate of foods he'd enjoyed the last time in front of him, plus a few new foods he hadn't recognized. He smiled at her and repeated the actions he had learned in his grandmother's kitchen, clearing his plate so quickly that Rose brought him another, thinking he must have been starving. He picked at it, wondering at this 'food' business. When he'd woken in the bed at Jackie's he'd been very uncomfortable around his middle. There was an empty echoing, like something was missing, but he didn't know what it was. Then, after he'd eaten, the ache went away.
After two hours of listening to music, some new thing was beginning to bother him. There was an unpleasant weight behind his eyes, and the lids to them kept closing without his permission. A new song started and he tapped at his hand in annoyance, hoping to make himself pay attention.
Whatever you do,
I'll do it, too
Show me everything and tell me how
It all means something
And yet nothing to me
His ears picked up and an eyebrow raised. He understood most of these words now, and something about them felt important.
All these emotions I never knew
Of some other world far beyond this place
I see myself as people see me
I just know there's something bigger out there
I want to know
Can you show me?
I want to know about these strangers like me
Tell me more
Please show me
I want to know about those strangers like me
He giggled a bit, looking at his own hands. This was it, he had found the song he was waiting for. The mum would be so happy to hear he had a song. He hopped to his feet and spun around, trying to figure out how to get them to replay the song for him, when he noticed something had changed. The Doctor was sitting in the same spot, still listening to the tape in front of him on the table, and the Mum was there too, sitting in the soft chair. The Mum's eyes were closed now, though. She wasn't moving.
His first instinct was to run to her, to check on her and make sure she was okay, but he heard the mysterious voice whispering in his head again. Oh, do let the poor yellow girl alone. She has not slept well in a very long time. Her body got no rest before, she was giving you all her strength you lucky boy.
He stood still, not wanting to disobey the voice, but his heart was racing fast in his chest. "D…Doctor?" He stuttered out for the first time, sheepishly staring at the floor.
The Doctor looked up from the tape, a crooked smile on his face as he slid off his brainy specs. "Well, hello there! Getting a bit tired of the music? We can find something else for you to do instead. It's a big ship, lots of rooms to play around in."
"Mum," Jack said, worriedly, pointing at her limp form.
"What about her?" the Doctor whispered, glancing over at Rose. "Oh! Don't worry. She's just sleeping. She's fine."
Jack tilted his head a bit, eyeing Rose worriedly. He was about to say something else when a great rumble started to run through him. It started in his chest, and then traveled to his ears as he sucked in a large breath and let it out slowly.
"Yawning? You're actually tired? Well, I guess you have been through a lot today, after all. Okay, come on; we'll put mom to bed and then get you into one."
Jack was going to ask what he was talking about, but the Doctor held a finger to his lips. The older man gently lifted Rose from her chair, so slowly and carefully that she did not so much as stir. He inclined his head, motioning for Jack to follow him, then they carried her out of the library.
Jack recognized the room they set his mother in—he'd seen them in it before when he showed them his clothes. The Doctor set Rose down gently on one side of the bed, folding the covers over her. He kissed her forehead, then he took Jack's hand and led him out of the room.
Jack yawned again as his father led him to a door right next to the other one. The Doctor knocked on it a couple times, smiling into empty space. "Remember what I asked you to do?" he called out to the TARDIS. "I hope you heard me."
Oh, yes, my Doctor, Jack heard, I heard you, I always hear you, it's only you who does not listen.
The Doctor peeked inside the room, then clapped his clapped his hands against the doorframe excitedly. "There's my girl. Jack, what do you think?"
He pushed the door open and Jack peeked inside. Inside there was a new room, wide, but still snug. The wallpaper was a bright burnt orange that seemed to glow just a little in the bright light. Along one wall was nothing but shelves and shelves of books of all different genres and sizes. In one corner sat a brand new record player, much nicer than the one in the library. There were vases of roses along a short, black dresser. Just across from the door there was wide four-poster bed, covered with soft red bedding. Above the bed there were intricate circles and lines drawn in shining ink.
"It's us," the Doctor explained, running his long fingers over the glimmering rings. "This is Gallifreyan for Doctor, Rose, and Jack. I asked the TARDIS to pull it together for you, it's just a little desktop room, but it should work, eh?"
Jack ran his fingers alongside the Doctors, examining the circles. There was something familiar about this writing in a primal sort of way. He didn't need the writing explained—he'd known what it said the minute he saw it. He wanted to tell the Doctor this, but he wasn't sure he had the right words.
"Well, anyway," the Doctor said, "time to get to bed." He pulled back the covers and sat Jack down on them, pulling off the outer layers of his wild clothing before laying him down and covering him up. Jack raised a confused eyebrow, wondering what new strange ritual this was. He yawned again.
"Goodnight," the Doctor said, heading to the door ad flicking off the light.
Suddenly Jack was in darkness, and he didn't like it. He let out a frightened yelp and the Doctor quickly turned the light back on. "What? What's wrong?"
Jack looked at him shyly, the effective injured puppy look on his face again.
"Oh. Well, maybe you don't understand." He pulled a chair over to the side of Jack's bed. "Okay, um, humans—and Time Lords too, don't get me wrong—we sort of run on a battery. When we stay up and active for a long time we run that battery down and need to recharge it. The way we do that is…how do you explain sleep? It's normal, perfectly normal, humans need it every day to function properly. I can go on much less, but you might fall somewhere in the middle. Um…watch."
The Doctor pretended to yawn. Jack copied him involuntarily.
"See that? That's a yawn. It means you're tired. It means your body wants to close up shop for the day. Tomorrow morning you'll be all ready to run wild again."
Jack stared at him blankly.
"Kids and bedtime…" the Doctor sighed, thinking deeply. "Okay, how about a story? I think I have enough of those to get through. Let's see…Once upon a time, a long, long distance away from here, there was an orange planet with red grass and giant mountains."
Jack smiled, seeming to settle down into his pillow.
"Okay, you like stories. Good, love stories, they can take you anywhere a TARDIS can. Anyway, on this orange planet there was an old man who wanted to see the universe, and his granddaughter Susan—your niece, as a matter of fact. So the man and the girl decided to leave their home."
"So, anyway I, Jaimie and Zoe are walking through the tall forest with these weirdly shaped trees, and we still have no idea who pulled us here of where the TARDIS is. Jaimie climbs one of them and—get this—they're letters. We're walking in a giant paragraph, I swear, acres long and I—"
He stopped and glanced at Jack's excited face. "This story is dragging on a bit longer than I intended. I probably should have stopped after my first regeneration there. Are you tired yet?"
Jack looked at him in confusion, then yawned again.
"Okay, still tired, still confused. I don't know what to do for you, Son. We tried warm milk a half hour ago. I don't even know what time it is," he said, pulling a small pocket watch out of his suit and clicking it open.
The Doctor was checking the time when Jack's hand came over his, grasping the watch gently from him. The boy brought the timepiece to his examining the little hands, spinning in a perfect pace.
Tick-tock tick-tock tick-tock.
"Craftmanship from our home. Jack. They had the best watchmakers in the universe, in any universe. I wish you could have seen them put one together."
Jack turned it over in his hand, then gently set the watch against his ear. His eyes got heavy, and the lids started closing repeatedly like they had in the library.
"Oh," the Doctor gasped, "of course, don't know why I didn't think of it sooner. You want an Earthling to sleep, play them the ocean. You want a Time Lord to sleep, let him listen to white noise where he's from. The ticking of a clock, Jack—not many sounds in the universe more beautiful than that."
Jack barely heard him. The Doctor's voice was becoming faint, drifting away from him as he got lost in the sound and the soft blankets. He felt a small, gentle pressure on his forehead, then he saw the room get darker through his eyelids.
"Goodnight, Jack," he heard the Doctor whisper somewhere.
Then everything was warm and dark.