AUTHOR: Amet (amet)
FANDOM: Doctor Who
SUMMARY: Is it better to have loved and lost? A Jack/Doctor vignette.
WARNINGS: Existentialism. M/M relationships. Probable American turns of phrase in all the wrong places.
SPOILERS: If you don't know anything about Jack post new series 1, do not pass go or collect $200.
ARCHIVED: Onion Girls
FEEDBACK: Yes please! ^.^
THANKS: To sephyelysian, because I ♥ her.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I still haven't watched the last episode of series 3, but one particular spoiler woke up ye olde Jack muse. I didn't even know I had one. XD;;
But Not Today
A Doctor Who fanfiction
It's the year three billion, and Jack's in a bit of a pickle. He's had many a day of wholesome good fun chained to a wall like this, but these people aren't interested in amusing him. They've already killed him three times and can't seem to get it through their thick, armor-plated skulls that no really, he's not saving himself by some medical marvel they've never heard of or just getting lucky, he really is immortal, so if they could stop killing him to just check on that he'd be very grateful.
He doesn't think they really care if he's grateful, but it's getting damn annoying to sit through this.
He thinks he's scaring them with the blasé way he's taking this, their threats and the violence that would have scared him witless as a younger man, impressions dimmed by the weight of time and really at this point they'd have to try one hell of a lot harder to make his blood pressure rise. Pain without context, without meaning when he knows he can't really be hurt, is just another sensation to live through. He's more sick of this shabby little room than anything.
It doesn't last much longer. He gets his deus ex machina in the form of a scruffy little man in a checkered waistcoat, blundering in brandishing a sonic screwdriver like it's a weapon. Jack finds that's still hilarious—laughing all the way out of the compound and into the marshland beyond, until the Doctor decides he's obviously gone mad from the torture and dumps him off beside a small pond, looking at him like he's trying to decide whether to haul off and slap him.
It takes several hours of explanation before that look goes away, and when the words run out they're left sitting companionably until the Doctor gets impatient to move on.
"Well then," the Doctor says, wincing as he hoists himself up with a wry little grin, "Time to go. I'd race you to the TARDIS, but I think I might've fractured something in my leg."
He starts for the blue box without waiting for a reply. Jack studies the marsh, watches an ibis-frog flapping its viscous wings to stretch a hop over several meters. He doesn't blame it. There are predators in these waters.
The Doctor doesn't turn until he's got a hand on the door, when it finally dawns on him that Jack's still studying the long grass at his feet like it's the most fascinating thing in the world. Jack can imagine the look on his face, but he doesn't dare turn to see it, afraid for his resolve and his ability to hold it in until the Doctor is gone.
"Can't do it, Sweetheart, I'm sorry."
"I take it back," Jack says quietly, picking at the grass nervously, and isn't it funny that the Doctor can still make him nervous after all these millennia? "Took it back years ago in my head, but I don't think I ever said—I don't wish I'd never met you."
He finally makes himself look the Doctor in the eye and finds his brow furrowed, the Time Lord frozen in indecision that doesn't suit him.
"Because you see," Jack continues, clamping down hard because his voice will not waiver, dammit, "The only time I've ever felt at home was standing next to you." He laughs. "As old as I am, do you know how ridiculous that is?"
The Doctor straightens, expression evening out and Jack can see the self-assurance seeping back into his posture, taking that admission and all its meanings and running a few dozen miles over the line with it. He can see it now, the childishness there, the insistence that any admission of feeling means some kind of weakness and the poor kid thinks he's got the upper hand, that Jack's just handed him a bargaining chip he can use to get his way.
He'll learn eventually. But not today.
"Jack," the Doctor says, glibly, almost admonishingly, "I'm not waiting all day. I've got errands to run and—"
"What?" Jack asks. "Time's a wasting? I've got all the time in the world, Doc. That's the problem."
The Doctor sighs and stomps back to his side. "You're not making any sense."
Jack can see the Time Lord's clenching fists in his peripheral vision and after a few moments reaches out to tug the Doctor down beside him.
"Siddown, kid," he says, and smirks at the Doctor's petulant expression. "I ran into Sarah Jane Smith once, when I was in Torchwood. Maybe more than once, my memory's a little hazy."
"I have a point, lemme get to it before you argue with me. I met her—God, I must've been barely pushing a century—and one thing led to another—not like that, stop making that face—and we talked. About you, about me, about her and how we all tangled together, and she told me about the time you showed up in the middle of an investigation she was running with Rose and half her family in tow. How Mickey joked it was like the ex-wife meeting the new one and hello train wreck!"
The Doctor smiles a little at the memory, probably a handful of regenerations back and long since lost its sting.
"And she realized who I was, and how I felt," Jack pauses to throw the doctor a sideways glance, "about you. She joked that we should start an ex-wives club, like in that old movie, and I told her I was nobody's wife and spent the rest of the day sulking because she'd so neatly put into perspective how many people you'd tossed aside just like me. It wasn't fair, because I was immortal then too, and you just wouldn't pause long enough to see.
"But I think I was the one who didn't get it. And I get it now, I understand why you left them. Because Doc, I know this is going to bruise that gigantic ego of yours, but I've surpassed you in one thing—I'm immortal. Honestly, seriously, looking for a way to die immortal and you're... not."
The Doctor frowns and says, "So we'll have a good long run together then. And a grand old time before we're done, if I know you at all. I've thought about it, Jack. I've had a long time to think about it and I'm alright with it now, you don't have to worry about—"
Jack laughs. "It's good. That you're good, I mean. But I'm not. I hope I run into you every other day, Doc, I really do, but I've realized that I'm not meant to walk a linear timeline with you. I'd tear apart heaven and earth to see you safe, and there's going to come a point where that's not possible. I'd rather not run the risk of destroying the world because I know we'll never run into each other again. At least if you're out there... you're out there."
"And you'll never be happy," the Doctor says, face going perfectly, painfully still. "Because you'll never let yourself."
"Is it better to have loved and lost?" Jack muses, tipping his head quizzically. "I used to think so, but now the loss is overbalancing the rest and it's all I can see anymore." He fights the urge to roll his eyes and adds, "I sound like you."
The Doctor shifts beside him, fingers spreading in an almost-hold over his own. "The stars that burn brightest..."
"Burn out," Jack sighs. "Long before you're ready."
"I must seem a pittling thing to you now," the Doctor says, almost mournfully and that's not something Jack wants to associate with his Time Lord.
"And that scares you to death, doesn’t it?"
The Doctor looks at him like he's seeing him for the first time. Not the man who danced with their Rose in the middle of an air raid, but the ages old creature who had never quite managed to stop caring about everyone and everything, who lives on in a world where human beings have all the lifespan of a summer garden and feels every withering bud like the end of his world. Beside him, the Doctor shudders.
"I could spend the rest of my life with you," the Doctor says, almost in awe of it and it hurts to hear.
"I know," Jack says. "I wish I were strong enough to let you."
He stares at the fireflies drifting up out of the marshes long after the Doctor has left, with the brand of the Time Lord's kiss burning on his lips. The Lonely God is out amongst the stars once more, where he belongs.
Where Jack needs him to be.