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.