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FIC: A Grieving Heart Part 6

FIC: A Grieving Heart
Author: NightRider
Beta: The wonderful starxd_sparrow
Rating: PG-13 for angst
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Doctor Who. What a pity!
Characters: Tenth Doctor, Jack, Martha, and various others of my own creation
Spoilers: Vague discussion of all three seasons of the new Doctor Who
Summary: After the Last of the Time Lords, the Doctor isn’t coping well and decides he’s finished with…well, basically everything. Martha and Jack encountered a strange alien which has taken up residence in a child.
A/N: This is the final chapter. There will be an epilogue to this story.





Jack blinked in the darkness, his body rising to wakefulness slowly. No dreams, no thoughts haunting him from the shadows, no jerking awake suddenly and reaching for his blaster. That led him to one conclusion – the Doctor. He carefully disentangled himself from Martha and tucked the blanket around her shoulders. She looked so peaceful; he couldn’t resist pressing his lips to her forehead before going to search for their wayward Time Lord.

He walked down several corridors before he heard the distinct sound of – drilling? His jaw dropped as he rounded the corner. “Please tell me you’re not doing what I think you’re doing.” Jack rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands.

The Doctor turned slowly, the sonic screwdriver wedged firmly between his teeth. He had the decency to look sheepish, and it was a testament to his exhaustion that he didn’t hear Jack’s approach.

“You’re putting up shelves.” Jack shook his head slowly, his eyes wide. “You’re putting up fucking shelves,” he repeated.

The Doctor shrugged and turned around to continue his work. Jack rolled his eyes and walked forward until he was standing next to the Time Lord.

“That was a nice trick you pulled,” Jack said conversationally. “Making us both fall asleep. I never realized you could do that.”

The Doctor pulled the screwdriver out of his mouth and picked up another shelf to place on the stack. “Why do you think you slept so well in the TARDIS?”

“Wait – you’ve done that before?”

The Doctor shrugged noncommittally, and Jack resisted the urge to shake him until his teeth rattled. The more he got to know the Doctor, the more he realized he’d barely begun to scratch the surface.

“If it’s any consolation, only when you were injured or especially exhausted,” the Doctor explained. “You barely slept your first two weeks on the TARDIS. I was trying to help.” Even though Jack was more touched than he cared to admit, he wasn’t going to allow the Doctor to shift the focus of the conversation.

“So while everyone was sleeping, you wandered around and - “ he gestured towards growing structure. “Put up shelves?”

Again, the Doctor shrugged. “Translated manuscripts, reviewed quantum mechanics and string theory, tinkered with the TARDIS, put up shelves. You know, the usual.” When Jack raised his eyebrow, the Doctor bristled. “Well, how do you pass the time?”

“Ianto does have a certain –“

The Doctor covered his ears. “Never mind, I don’t want to know.”

“Did you know what that parasite could do to you?” Jack asked suddenly. The Doctor dropped to one knee, sonic screwdriver in hand, and began fidgeting with the alignment. “Answer me,” Jack persisted.

“Does that look straight to you? Step back and tell me –“

“No, we’re not going to do this,” Jack stated as he hauled the Doctor to his feet. “You haven’t given me a straight answer since we stumbled on your half-dead body five days ago.”

“What do you want me to say, Jack?” The Doctor shrugged out of his grasp. “Do you want me to tell you that I knew that parasite could kill me? Yes, I knew. I knew before I took it out of that child. I knew the risk I was taking, and just so we’re clear on it, I’d do it again.” For several seconds they stared at each other. “Feel better now?” he snapped.

“Thank you for being honest,” Jack returned easily. He wasn’t going to rise to the bait. This wasn’t going to turn into an argument where the Doctor got to storm away.

An eyebrow was raised in confusion. “That’s it?”

“We’re not going to get anywhere tonight if you’re speaking in riddles. I asked a question, and you gave me an honest answer. For you, Doctor, that’s progress.”

A parade of emotions floated across the Doctor’s face. Eventually his shoulders sagged in defeat. Running and avoidance were two things he’d raised to art forms, but even the brief solace that evasion offered was fleeting and short-lived.

“We’re friends, right?” Jack asked. He wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to know the answer.

“If an innuendo is following this –“

“Just answer the question.”

“Yes, we’re friends,” the Doctor confirmed, albeit hesitantly.

“Well, there’s this thing that friends do, and please stop me if you’ve heard of it: it’s called talking.”

“I’m not an idiot, Jack,” the Doctor barked. “Just because I don’t go around burdening people with –“

Jack cut across him. “You see, that’s what I’m talking about! I want you to burden me.” He brought his closed fist to his chest. “You’re not infallible, Doctor. You’re not immune to emotions. I don’t give a damn what you say. Time Lord or not, you still feel things. Hell, probably more than humans.”

“It’s not your responsibility.”

Once again, Jack fought the urge to shake him senseless. “You feel like you owe me, don’t you?” The Doctor glanced at him wearily before dropping his gaze to the ground. “It’s not a secret, Doctor. You carry more guilt around than the sky has stars.”

“I do owe you, Jack. How many times have you died because of me?” Jack didn’t think it possible, but the Doctor managed to look paler underneath the glow of the TARDIS’ lights. “How many times have you died for me?”

“Then talk to me. That’s what you can do. Please, I want to help and frankly, I don’t think you’re in any condition for me to beat it out of you.”

The Doctor chuckled. “Must you always resort to violence?”

“Well, if a certain Time Lord would actually talk to me, then I wouldn’t have to.”

The Doctor studied him for several seconds. “Pass me that anchor.”

They worked in silence, the Doctor building his shelves, and Jack handing him whatever he requested. It reminded Jack of old times, of a worn leather jacket, and a beautiful blonde he’d never see again.

“I wasn’t planning on coming back,” the Doctor said suddenly. He was lying on his back tightening a screw, and Jack was sitting cross-legged next to him. “After the Valiant, that year –“ the Doctor reached his hand out and felt around until Jack handed him another anchor. A minute passed. Then another. Finally: “I had nothing left. Nothing more to give. I couldn’t bear the thought of taking another companion, of subjecting another innocent person to –“

When it became clear the Doctor wasn’t going to continue, Jack said, “My leaving had nothing to do with you. My team, they need me, or at least I’d like to think they do.”

“Don’t feel guilty because you’ve found a place where you belong. I knew you were going to leave, Jack. Same goes for Martha.”

Jack cocked his head to the side and studied the Doctor’s face. Jack would have seriously considered the Doctor’s offer if he’d known Martha wasn’t going to travel with him anymore. The Time Lord shouldn’t be alone. He also figured the Doctor knew he’d feel some silly need to go with him just for that reason which is why he opted not tell Jack about Martha’s decision.

“How’d you know?”

“You humans are more predictable than you think.” He graced Jack with a lazy smile. “Martha’s family needed her. I knew she would stay behind to be with them. You have your team. Someone has to save Earth, after all.”

“You save the planet all the time,” Jack pointed out. “Lift the left side a little more.” The Doctor raised the board higher. “That’s better.”

“I’m not human. It’s not the same.”

“You mean you’re not there all the time,” Jack clarified.

“No, I’m not human. A hero should be the same species.”

“Is your weird way of saying you don’t detest Torchwood?”

“I don’t detest you, Jack.”

Jack rubbed his hand across the back of his neck. “Same thing.”

The Doctor slid further underneath the building materials. “If you choose to see it that way.” Jack smiled and shook his head. That approval meant more than he could put into words.

“Aren’t you going to ask me why I forgave the Master?” the Doctor asked suddenly. Jack dropped the handful of screws he’d been holding. His throat instantly went dry, and he swallowed several times. He felt like the Doctor had just picked a scab that barely covered a festering wound. Yes, it was a question that had been burning in the back of his mind since he watched the Doctor sob over the Master’s dead body. He knew why he wanted the Master to live; he just didn’t know why he had to forgive him.

“You were the one that wanted to talk, Jack. If you like, you can go and see if Martha –“

“Why’d you forgive him?” Jack asked, the words coming out harsher than he intended. “After everything he did, all those innocent people that died, after what he did to Martha, to you…” His mouth snapped closed when he realized he was yelling.

The Doctor tinkered away for several minutes before his quiet voice caught Jack’s ears once more. “Hate is a slippery slope. Once you allow yourself to start hating, when does it stop? Does it ever stop? Hate lends itself to rage, to bitterness, to revenge. Live as long as I have and you can’t afford the luxury of hate because when does it end? The lines blur and before you know it, you’ve changed, and it’s not a change for the better.”

Jack stared at his hands, but he wasn’t seeing the calluses on his skin. “You’re a good man, Jack.” The Doctor knew. He always knew. “Don’t ever forget that.” The Time Lord remained one of the few, if not the only person that could make him blush.

Jack wiped his eyes and decided the TARDIS could use a good dusting. “Just who’s comforting who here?” Jack asked after clearing his throat.

“What do you humans call it? Group therapy?”

“The Earth needs you, Doctor.” The Time Lord reached back to retrieve another bracket, and Jack grabbed his hand and pulled him out from underneath the shelves. He was still on his back, and Jack leaned down close to him. “I need you.”

“You don’t need –“

“It’s not about saving the world or the Universe or any of that,” Jack said as he curled his fingers around the Doctor’s hand. “Relationships, friendships, this –“ Words evaded him, and he hoped he was getting his message across.

“I know,” the Doctor replied with a hesitant smile. “Quite right too.”

“I don’t regret it,” Jack added. “Any of it. You know that right?”

“Same goes for me,” Martha said from the doorway. Two pairs of eyes swung around to find Martha standing in the doorway fighting the remnants of sleep. She padded across the room and plopped down next to Jack. Leaning forward, she rested her elbows on her knees and studied the Doctor. “I don’t regret it,” she repeated. “Not for a minute.”

For a second it looked like the Doctor was going to protest, but he sighed and closed his eyes in relief. “I needed to hear that.” Feeling brave, she reached out and combed her fingers through his hair.

“And don’t you forget it, mister,” she added with a smile.

They remained together, the Doctor lying on the floor, his head resting on Jack’s thigh, with Martha and Jack keeping a silent vigil.

“This is nice,” Martha commented. Jack lazily smiled at her, his eyes warm and kind.

“He’s not bad company when he’s quiet,” he returned with a wink.

“Oi! I’m still awake you two,” the Doctor snapped and managed a one-eyed glare.

“You shouldn’t be,” Martha grumbled. “How long were we out anyway?” The Doctor coughed and tried to lift his head off Jack’s lap.

“Answer the question,” Jack pressed, his fingers gently rubbing the Doctor’s shoulder.

“Being immortal, you weren’t asleep that long, Jack.”

“That’s not an answer,” Jack replied.

The Doctor sighed irritably. What happened to the days when his companions left well enough alone? “A little more than six hours.”

“Six hours!” Jack exclaimed. “I haven’t slept that long in years!”

The Doctor rolled his eyes. “That’s Torchwood for you.”

“So what were you doing?” Martha asked curiously. Jack snickered and pointed to the completed stack of eight perfectly constructed shelves. “You were putting up shelves.”

The Doctor grinned and pushed himself to his feet. This time Jack allowed him to go. “They’re quite nice, aren’t they?”

“You put up shelves,” Martha repeated. “Shelves were more engaging than staying in bed with Jack and me?”

“We must we losing our touch,” Jack said with a sigh.

The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck and glanced around the room. “Well, you see, it has nothing to do with you and Jack exactly. It’s more – well, shelves tend to be –“ he paused as he struggled to find the right words. “Ever been sitting around and need to –“

Martha lifted her hand. “It’s okay. I get it.” She smiled reassuringly. “They are nice as far as shelves go.” The Doctor smiled proudly before palming his screwdriver and moving to remove one of the anchors.

“Wait – what are you doing?” Jack asked.

The Doctor gave him one of his “stupid apes” looks. “Dismantling them, of course.”

“You spent all night putting them together,” Martha stated.

“And now I get to spend all day taking them apart.” It was idle distraction at its best. “Why would I need shelves on the TARDIS?” the Doctor continued, shaking his head at the sheer absurdity of it all. “She arranges the rooms to suit my needs.” The TARDIS who had been quiet until now hummed in agreement and seemed to sniff condescendingly in the direction of the structure the Doctor created.

Jack had thought he made progress with the Doctor during their conversation. Now he was wondering if he even made a dent. Suddenly the Doctor’s face contorted, his eyes closing as his lungs filled with air. Jack marveled at the beauty of something as simple as a yawn.

Martha eyed the Time Lord carefully. “You’re dead on your feet.” Jack mentally prepared himself for another round of Time Lord evasion tactics and crossed his arms over his chest.

The Doctor glanced at him out of the corner of his eye and raised both hands in mock defeat. “All right, all right. Stop trying to make yourself look big, Jack. I’m going, okay?”

Jack smiled, his arms dropping to his sides, and together they walked down the hall. The TARDIS dimmed the lights of the bedroom, and Martha flopped on the bed.

The Doctor balked in the doorway, staring at the bed cautiously. A warm hand pressed against his back – support, friendship, and understanding. The Doctor glanced over to the bed, and the corner of Martha’s mouth lifted. She pulled the blanket back and waited.

It was the enduring support that caused the Doctor to slowly walk to the bed and lay down. It was the security of their friendship that made the Doctor’s eyes to drift closed, and under the warmth of gentle understanding the Doctor found himself on the wings of slumber in a deep, dreamless sleep.

Epilogue

Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
adaliazandra
Mar. 22nd, 2008 11:00 pm (UTC)
The shelves... oh Rassilon, the shelves... you just took everyone's favorite one-liner from S1 and turned it into a beautiful commentary on the Doctor's coping mechanisms! ::is in awe::

I love the rest of this part as well, between Jack's inner dialogue with himself about the Doctor and the Doctor's reluctance before he eventually talks. And then a touching scene with the three of them and the completed shelves, Ten just resting for a bit and then... I love it so much!... starting to take them apart again.

And then, finally, letting the others prod him into going to bed. He'll get some sleep now, yes?

A beautiful part! Looking forward to the epilogue, even though I don't want it to end. :-)
nightrider101
Mar. 22nd, 2008 11:22 pm (UTC)
Aww! *melts into a puddle of goo* Thank you for the wonderful compliments!

I wrote this whole story for that scene. The classic shelves line could not be overlooked. :)

Yes, he's finally going to get some sleep. The Doctor was able to discuss what happened, but I think he took the most solace in the fact he got to comfort Jack. Losing yourself in the care of another goes a long way to healing your own wounds. :)

A beautiful part! Looking forward to the epilogue, even though I don't want it to end. :-)

Thank you so much! Even though this story is drawing to a close, I'm nurturing a basket full of hopping plot bunnies! :D
vail_kagami
Mar. 23rd, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)
First thing: “Do you want to tell you that I knew that parasite could kill me? A 'me' missing, perhaps?

Now for the squee: can you hear it all the way to Florida? That's me! I love this story so terribly much, because it's one of the most in-character pieces existing and because it's so incredibly beautiful I love how your Doctor is vulnerable while remaining the strong one. I love Jack and Martha.
And I love the Doctor for putting up shelves in the middle of the night. Somehow him taking them down again made me sad - it seemed so senseless and wasted and reminded me of the poor kiwi, which made me even sadder.
Now I have an epilogue to wait for before the entire fic will be locked in my drawer of all-time favourites to be taken out for re-reading whenever I feel like it.
nightrider101
Mar. 23rd, 2008 02:02 am (UTC)
*headdesk* One grammar error always slips passed me! Thank you for catching it! It's corrected now.

You've got me blushing like a school girl. I think this is the best feedback I've ever received. You do wonders for my ego. You do know that, don't you?

Yes, the Doctor is very vulnerable, but I can't see him as weak. You know my feelings on the subject. *wink*

Thanks again for your support and friendship. I doubt this would have gotten written at this speed without you!
vail_kagami
Mar. 23rd, 2008 02:14 am (UTC)
Yes, I noticed that sice I poke you your writing speed has increased. I'll gladly continue doing so!
Nothing but the truth was mentioned in my comment!
nightrider101
Mar. 23rd, 2008 04:51 am (UTC)
Poking does seem to increase my speed. ;) Anyway, it gives us more fodder for our conversations!

Now off to bed with you!
vail_kagami
Mar. 23rd, 2008 05:00 am (UTC)
On my way!
*poke* Get back to writing!
sarkywoman
Mar. 23rd, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC)
AAWWWWW! I love this so much.

“Why would I need shelves on the TARDIS?” the Doctor continued, shaking his head at the shear absurdity of it all. - Oh god the LOL. (EDIT: Though I've just noticed after commenting that shear should be sheer.)

This is seriously the best chapter yet. Brilliant. And Jack 'trying to make himself look big'? I love that.

Edited at 2008-03-23 02:53 pm (UTC)
nightrider101
Mar. 23rd, 2008 03:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I've edited that line so it's all fixed now. Thank you for the kind feedback. I'm so glad you enjoyed this chapter.
catsfiction
Mar. 23rd, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC)
I have loved all this story. The Doctor's vulnerability and despair is incredibly moving, as is his ability, despite it all, to spend himself for the sake of someone else. You nail all his evasive coping mechanisms perfectly, which is easier said than done. The shelves device, as well as being pure Empty Child, made me think of the Radiation Room scene and the way many men are unable to discuss anything emotional without a touch of occupational therapy.

I rarely read Jack/Doctor/Martha fics that convince me any resolution for the Doctor is possible, but this one truly does. It's become a favourite.
nightrider101
Mar. 23rd, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I feel especially priviledged to get such high praise from such an accomplished author. :)

This pairing was a first for me, but I needed more resolution after the LotTL. I'm so glad this story worked for you. Thanks for reading and commenting!
ziggychaos
Mar. 24th, 2008 12:08 am (UTC)
Ooo, excellent chapter!

I, too, wondered why the Doctor forgave the Master. Nice explaination! Makes sense!

Like others, I can't wait to see the next part, but sorry to see it end.
nightrider101
Mar. 24th, 2008 12:12 am (UTC)
I think we were all wondering why the Doctor forgave the Master. lol That's the reason that made most sense to me.

I appreciate your kind feedback. Thank you for continuing to follow this story.
caduceus03
Mar. 24th, 2008 01:57 am (UTC)
The Doctor tinkered away for several minutes before his quiet voice caught Jack’s ears once more. “Hate is a slippery slope. Once you allow yourself to start hating, when does it stop? Does it ever stop? Hate lends itself to rage, to bitterness, to revenge. Live as long as I have and you can’t afford the luxury of hate because when does it end? The lines blur and before you know it, you’ve changed, and it’s not a change for the better.”

When I first read this, what came immediately to mind was the first season episode "Dalek," and I just went yes. That moment you wrote right there just might be one of my favorites in DW fandom just for fitting with canon so gorgeously.

Overall, a lovely depiction of the Doctor - struck just the right chord of vulnerability and sharing with Jack but still kept that rather enigmatic closed-mouthed character intact. Nicely done!

Plus, shelves. The shelves were just win in and of themselves ^_^
nightrider101
Mar. 24th, 2008 05:24 am (UTC)
Wow. Thank you so much! The Doctor will always been an enigma to me. He's a mystery that's not meant to be solved. I suppose if anyone has a chance of figuring him out, it would be Jack.

Oh yes, the shelves. :) How can you not love the shelves? That was one of my favorite moments from season 1.

Thank you so much for the kind review. I appreciate it!
aschicca
Mar. 24th, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)
“You see, that’s what I’m talking about! I want you to burden me.” He brought his closed fist to his chest. “You’re not infallible, Doctor. You’re not immune to emotions. I don’t give a damn what you say. Time Lord or not, you still feel things. Hell, probably more than humans.”

I loved this bit. It was so full of emotions and showed so perfectly just how much Jack knows the Doctor... they're so connected *sighs*

Such a lovely chapter :) The shelves, the Doctor finally sharing something, the humour (Shelves were more engaging than staying in bed with Jack and me? LOL). Everything was well builted and really enjoyable.

I can't wait for the epilogue even if I have the feeling there will be goodbyes and I'll get weepy *sighs*

*hugs*
nightrider101
Mar. 25th, 2008 02:10 am (UTC)
Thank you! I wrote this whole story for that scene with the shelves. :) I'm thrilled it worked for you.

Yes, there will be goodbyes. Sorry about that! Once this story is done, I can focus on a lovely little slash bunny that I've been nurturing.
souleswanderer
Mar. 28th, 2008 02:23 am (UTC)
Having sat and read this in one sitting, (it's nice to get off of work early) I would like to point out, that the link on the 'tbc in the epilogue' is not working.

Yes, I know, for those that take me literally, it hasn't been posted at this time, but I want more dang it!!

And then you throw in a teaser of slash bunnies?? Hurry home girl.

This whole story was amazing from the get go, each chapter wrapped up with so much emotion that I felt like a kid at a rollercoaster park. Love the interaction between the three, and even not being that much of a Martha fan I must admit she worked well in the story.

Now to go peruse for more, more, more!
nightrider101
Mar. 30th, 2008 09:46 pm (UTC)
*clicks link* Hm... It's not working for me either. I suppose a certain slow author should get off her lazy rump and write it!

This whole story was amazing from the get go, each chapter wrapped up with so much emotion that I felt like a kid at a rollercoaster park. Love the interaction between the three, and even not being that much of a Martha fan I must admit she worked well in the story.

I'm so glad you took a chance on this story especially considering you're not a big Martha fan. She's not my favorite companion, but I don't mind her. Thanks again for the lovely feedback. I appreciate it so much!
souleswanderer
Mar. 30th, 2008 09:58 pm (UTC)
You aren't on any instant messengers by chance? I have yahoo and msn....
nightrider101
Mar. 30th, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC)
I can be. :) I've got yahoo. brazen226 is my id. :)
hence_the_name
Apr. 16th, 2008 02:07 am (UTC)
Aaaw. ::happy sigh:: (I couldn't possibly wait for tomorrow. You overestimate my willpower!)

“Well, there’s this thing that friends do, and please stop me if you’ve heard of it: it’s called talking.”

Love. As others noted, I love the shelves, and the Doctor's evasions are spot-on.

And his hesitation at the doorway to the bedroom, and Jack giving him that last push--that got me. Bigtime. Well done.

Looking forward to the epilogue. :) Keep me entertained until it's time to go to grad school, eh?
nightrider101
Apr. 16th, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
Aww! *melts* You're such a sweetheart!

Looking forward to the epilogue. :) Keep me entertained until it's time to go to grad school, eh?

Ah, grad school. Join me! We can complain together. LOL

What are you going to study, if you don't mind me asking?
hence_the_name
Apr. 16th, 2008 02:57 am (UTC)
I'm starting in an MA/PhD program in English in the fall. I'm interested in a bunch of stuff--20th cent. American lit, film and pop culture, and race and gender/sexuality studies. I'd like to one day be a prof, though I hear you need a few more letters after your name before they'll let you do that. :)

And you?
nightrider101
Apr. 16th, 2008 03:03 am (UTC)
Oh, very interesting! It appears we've got similar interests. :) Congratulations on continuing your education!

I'm currently doing two Master's programs - Public Health and Forensic Studies (Death Investigations Specialty).

Once I'm done I'd like to go on for my PhD. We'll see how it goes. :)
petit_fox
May. 24th, 2008 04:49 pm (UTC)
Awwwwwwwwwwwww, so sweet! Finally Ten is getting some sleep!

“Why would I need shelves on the TARDIS?"
ROFL! Right, geeeez, how stupid can people be at some times?! ;) He's such a sweetheart. I want to cuddle him!

I liked that "talk" scene. Jack tried to comfprt him, and then...suddenly the Doctor is comforting him too! <3

I'm in a rush for the epilogue!
nightrider101
May. 24th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
You know I actually wrote this whole story for that blasted scene with the shelves. That's the idea that popped into my head and this massive story was born. :)

I'm so glad you liked the chapter! I was particularly proud of that scene.

I breathed a sigh of relief when Ten finally got some rest. I was starting to feel bad for him. ;)

*hugs*
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )