I’m going away in the morning so this is written quickly and unbeta’d, but I really wanted to say something while it’s fresh in my mind.
WORD COUNT: 856
CHARACTERS: Jack, Ten
SPOILERS: Up to Children of Earth, Day 5
WARNINGS: One or two swear words.
DISCLAIMER: No, they’re not mine.
It’s taken months to find him. A thousand bars on fifty planets, in five different galaxies. When you really want to hide, it isn’t that hard to do it. He knows that better than anyone.
He’s been looking ever since he stopped off at Cardiff and found a hole in the ground where the Hub used to be. Since he looked up Gwen and Rhys laid him out.
“So where were you, boyo, when we needed you?”
Since Martha and Sarah Jane, graceful enough not to reproach him, had brought him up to speed, fact by painful fact.
Since he’d realised that he’d done a lot of bad things, most of them impossible to fix now, but one thing he could do something about was the self-indulgence that had made him disable the Tablaphone for all that time.
And now, finally, he’d made good on his promise to them all. A promise that had somehow, almost without him noticing it, restored his will to live. Someone needed him. Not to save their world, but to save their soul.
“I’ll find him,” he’d promised.
The Rift was unguarded and in a dangerously unstable state. He could only hope that somebody on the other side, in another world, would notice it – and that it would be the somebody he wanted it to be.
And now here was Jack, sitting in front of him, begging him for the very thing he knew he couldn’t give.
“Take it away,” he was saying. “I know you can do it. You did it to her.”
He shakes his head. “I can’t.”
“You did it for Donna!” He thinks, for a moment, that Jack’s going to hit him. He’s seen plenty of people at the end of their tether in his time, but there’s an eternal darkness of self-loathing in Jack’s eyes that makes him shiver.
“That was different,” he says. “She was dying.”
“Lucky Donna! Do you think I wouldn’t die if I could? I have to live and I can’t live with this. Finish what Rose Tyler started. Interfering, stupid little bitch…”
He knows Jack’s very drunk, a state in which he suspects he’s spent most of the last few months. So he represses the wish to strike him and tell him to wash out his mouth. Somehow, he’s finally gained enough perspective to see that Jack might actually have a point. He was always far too soft on Rose and too hard on everyone else.
So all he says is, “Don’t, Jack. Doesn’t help.”
Jack’s swaying, eyes shut, close to falling off his chair. “Take it away,” he repeats, mantra-like. “I can’t live with those memories,” he chokes. “Every minute of every day I see Stephen – shaking, screaming, falling down. I hear Alice. I see the look in her eyes. And I can’t live with it, and I can’t stop living.” His eyes snap open, and he manages to focus on the Doctor’s just for a minute.
“You know what’s good for everybody,” he slurs. “You and your big-headed ideals. I looked up to you. I loved you. Yes, I did. I fucking loved you and you screwed me over and left me…”
“Jack, Jack…” He crouches down in a symbolic recognition of the truth between them. “I’m so sorry. I did it because I was doing what you’re doing now. Running. Putting the distance between myself and the consequences of my decisions.” He doesn’t feel comfortable preaching to his friend; even in this, the most verbose of his incarnations, he’s learned the limitations of words. Instead, he wraps Jack in his arms as the man dissolves into broken gasps, cradling his head against his chest.
Then he kisses him, just very lightly brushing the top of his head, feeling the grease on Jack’s hair, once so immaculate, now long-unwashed.
“No,” he says. “I won’t take it away. It doesn’t help. I tried. Yes, I know about Donna. I wonder, sometimes, if I was right.” He stops. He knows the answer to that. He had to act quickly, but that had been an excuse. The alternatives weren’t impossible. They were just inconvenient.
Love, he’s discovering – or perhaps – rediscovering, is the least convenient of emotions. But also the most necessary.
He knows what Jack needs and he feels he’s the worst possible person to give it to him. But he also knows he’s been wrong before, and he’s probably wrong now.
After a few moments, he removes his lips from the top of Jack’s head.
“I forgive you,” he says.
Jack nods, eyes closed. Gradually the tears stop and his shoulders stay still.
“Stand up,” he says. “Come on. Doctor’s orders.”
After a token resistance, Jack climbs to his feet.
“I’m taking you back to the TARDIS,” says the Doctor. “We’ll talk in the morning.”
It’s not as if he’s rushing off anywhere after all. He’s been alone too long. It’ll do him good to have someone to care for.
“Come on, Captain.” Together, they move towards the blue box and the door opens, unprompted, before he even puts his hand into his pocket for the key.