The Doctor strolled through the moonlit garden, whistling happily to himself. A little running, a little shouting, and one well-thrown banana had ensured that the ninety-fourth-century planet of New New York (technically, New New New New York) was no longer terrorized by the mutant, insane hominid turtles. His latest companion had disembarked, hoping to make a career for herself on New Broadway. He’d miss her, but she was going on to stardom. He, meanwhile, was going on to the stars.
Just as soon as he found where he’d parked the TARDIS. When he’d landed, the crumbling stone walls made him think he’d missed by centuries and arrived after the city’s destruction, but it turned out he’d just landed right in the middle of a massive folly ruin in a public garden. Now he wandered among the sprawling grounds of artistically crumbling arches, perfectly fading murals, and rose bushes carefully maintained at their most pleasingly overgrown state, but there was not a blue box to be seen. Maybe behind those fallen statues and around the corner of that wall…
The Doctor saw no TARDIS behind the wall, but he did see Jack Harkness.
Quite a lot of Jack Harkness, in fact, since the Captain was naked. Naked was not all that unexpected for Jack. What was unexpected was the fact that Jack was in flagrante delicto with the Face of Boe.
The Doctor’s feet immediately took off backwards of their own accord, though his mind agreed completely once it caught up with what was going on. He flung himself away, shielding his face with his hands, but it was far too late to unsee that sight.
That was when the Doctor tripped over a brick and fell over backwards with a girlish yelp. Unfortunately, he fell right onto a statue that was tipped over on its back with its sword arm pointing skyward. The surprisingly sharp stone sword went through his torso, piercing his favorite tweed jacket, not to mention several major organs.
“Who’s there?” Jack called, disengaging himself hastily from the Face. The Doctor saw him hurrying closer, running the last few steps as he took in what had happened. “Doctor! Oh, no no no no no!”
“I should’ve said ‘Geronimo,’” the Doctor said weakly as Jack ripped open his shirt around the wound where the sword protruded from his chest. Jack’s face fell at what he saw.
“This looks bad, Doc. Just hang in there a few more minutes. Face! You’ve got teleporters. Can you take him to a hospital? My wrist strap’s on the fritz.”
“He would not survive a teleport,” the Face of Boe rumbled in their minds. It rolled forwards. Its tank was modestly closed again, and it was looking younger than the Doctor had ever seen it. It didn’t seem to recognize him. There was a faint blush on its grayish features. “I will go and fetch an ambulance. Err, I’ll call you, Jack.” The Face shimmered and disappeared.
The Doctor had never heard anyone say “err” telepathically before, certainly not a million year-old face, but apparently he’d got to do one last new thing in this body. He’d also never seen anybody intimately involved with a giant face before either, but that was an experience he could have done without. Especially this somebody and that giant face. Did that count as masturbation, incest, or just thoroughly twisted?
“Too late. Regeneration’s the only way now. Jack, you’ve got to…” The Doctor broke into a coughing fit, spitting up blood. This was no good. He needed to speak to Jack before regenerating, but he was too badly injured to reroute the regeneration energy into healing the wounds first or to delay the inevitable as he had his last regeneration.
“It’s okay, Doctor. Don’t try to speak. If you’re going to regenerate, I should probably move you off that sword, right?”
The Doctor nodded. The regeneration energy would probably take care of it, but no sense taking chances. He’d let Jack move him, but then he had to tell him…
Jack lifted him off the sword. It hurt quite a lot. The Doctor passed out.
* * * * *
Jack laid the unconscious Doctor on the ground, automatically moving to put pressure on the wound to control bleeding until he remembered that first aid was completely pointless given the pending regeneration. Might as well try to get a phoenix to stop, drop, and roll. There was nothing he could do for the Doctor except let nature take its course. At least this time the Doctor wouldn’t be dying alone. It was the least Jack could do after being the accidental cause of the Doctor’s death.
Jack had always been a fan of the old adage about people being allowed to do whatever they wanted sexually as long as they didn’t do it in the streets and scare the horses. Apparently, the warning should include “or do it in a secluded garden nook and scare the thousand year-old Time Lords.” Really, how did someone reach that age so sheltered?
The Doctor’s skin began to glow faintly. Jack sat beside the Doctor and took his hand. Not long now. As the glow brightened, the Doctor’s eyes snapped open.
Those eyes immediately widened in panic. The Doctor flailed around and yanked his hand out of Jack’s grasp. He seemed to be trying to speak, but was only able to cough up faintly luminous blood.
“Shh, Doctor. I’ve got you. You’re regenerating, and I’m so sorry about that, but it’s gonna be okay after that. I’ll help you get back to the TARDIS when it’s over.” Jack pulled the Doctor into a sitting position and hugged his friend’s torso to his.
Again the Doctor tried to pull away. He coughed again, finally managing to gasp out, “Can’t be so near when I regenerate!”
Jack realized what the Doctor had to be hinting at. “The regeneration energy’s too dangerous for a human to touch. I get it, but I’m going to stay with you anyway. Being a fixed point has to be good for something, and I would be honored to give a death to help you through this. I know how terrible it is to die alone.”
The Doctor’s reply was unintelligible, although if Jack didn’t know the Doctor’s distaste for cursing he might have thought it was “bugger this.” Then the Doctor’s body blazed up like a firecracker. Jack’s vision was blinded by the brilliance, and then all was black.
* * * * *
Jack came to and sat up, which was when he realized that he had finally died permanently. This was an unexpected turn of events, but there was no other explanation for the situation. None of his other deaths had included an out-of-body experience of looking down on his own face from the outside.
But why was his body wearing the Doctor’s clothes?
The face Jack saw in the mirror every day opened its eyes. Tweed-clad arms reached up and felt at the face. Jack saw himself sigh.
“I tried to tell you move away while I regenerated.”
“What?” asked Jack. His body, saying something about regeneration—had the regeneration somehow made him switch bodies with the Doctor? He looked down at himself in panic. No, there was his own body (all of it…he really ought to put on some trousers eventually, social etiquette on this planet being so pointlessly insistent on them). Jack was still himself, but that left the problem of the other person who also appeared to be Jack.
He laid his hands on the chest of the man in the Doctor’s clothes and Jack’s face. There were two heartbeats.
“Doctor?!” he asked.
“Present and accounted for. Oh, that’s just weird. I sound American. Hard R’s and everything.”
Jack gaped. “But…why are you me?”
“It’s a little side effect of your unique situation. There are similarities between the power that keeps you alive and Time Lord regeneration energy, so they can interact. It’s like when one object distorts the space-time continuum and creates a gravity well, drawing other objects in. You’re like a black hole among life forces. When I regenerated so close to you, your life force effectively redirected my regeneration to create the same external form that your life force recreates every time you come back to life.”
Well, that sounded like the Doctor’s love of explication. Somewhat less Doctor-like was the way he stood up and started flexing his muscles experimentally. He seemed pleased by what he found, but Jack still felt disoriented.
“You knew this would happen?”
“Why do you think I threw you at Alonso and ran off to regenerate alone the last time instead of asking for an old friend’s company? And did you honestly think I would have left you alone on the Game Station all those years ago without a hint of an explanation if I didn’t have to run away?”
Jack decided not to give that rhetorical question a full answer, or they would be here all night. “That doesn’t explain the staying away after you finished regenerating.”
“I had regeneration sickness! Things happened!...Mostly, things like me being an idiot and not wanting a confrontation. Sorry.” The Doctor seemed to rethink his defensiveness halfway through. “Anyway, when I was regenerating that time, I had no idea how far the effect of your presence would penetrate, so I left for a different time, giving myself a chance to make up some bad rationalizations for leaving you. It turned out that the TARDIS walls would have been protection enough, as we can tell from the fact that the Master didn’t regenerate into you.”
Jack shuddered at the severely disturbing thought of a Master who looked like his mirror. “So, that time when the Dalek shot you and you redirected the regeneration into your severed hand wasn’t all about your vanity after all?”
“If I were being vain, I wouldn’t have been avoiding this.” The Doctor flashed a million-watt smile. “It’s a good thing I had a handy hand on hand, though. Can you imagine how confused Rose and Donna would have been if I became your doppelganger?”
Jack could imagine it. Vividly. He could imagine all sorts of ways to resolve the confusion. He thought he might have to go back in time and kick the pinstriped Doctor in his skinny shins for preventing it.
“Oh, stop looking like that, Jack. It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“Fair enough to make a judgment error. There’s more than a few mornings when I’ve looked at the other occupant of the bed and said the same thing to myself.”
“About that…what the hell were you doing when I walked in on you?” The Doctor jabbed Jack in the chest with a finger.
“I should think that was obvious,” Jack huffed. “Honestly, Doc, how long have you known me? Now you’re even wearing my face. You can stop getting your knickers in a twist about something between two consenting adults.”
“That’s the problem. There was only one consenting adult! One! You’re amazingly lucky that your fixed point problem seems to have prevented a Blinovitch Limitation Effect.”
Jack stared at the Doctor like he’d grown a second head. What was he talking about? The Blinovitch Limitation Effect only applied to touching between two versions of the same person from different spots in the timeline… Suddenly Jack burst into laughter. He laughed until he couldn’t breathe, his entire body shaking.
“You mean,” he finally gasped out, “way back after the Valiant, you took me seriously when I joked about being the Face of Boe? You’re really that gullible?”
“Hold on. You’re saying you lied? You weren’t actually called the Face of Boe for being the first from the Boeshane Peninsula to join the Time Agency?” The Doctor squinted at Jack, obviously somewhat dubious of this changing story.
“No one on Boeshane—which locals never shorten to Boe, by the way—would consider it an honor to join a den of ne’er-do-wells like the Time Agency. Also, as you really should have realized by now, I’m not aging, not even a little, so I doubt I’ll ever be a head in a jar. This was the first time I’ve been intimate with the Face of Boe, but I’ve been acquainted with it since it came to give a guest lecture at Time Agent academy, and you’d mentioned knowing it too, so I decided to yank your chain a bit. Thought you’d spot the lie a light-year away.”
“Your little joke just contributed to my death,” the Doctor complained. Jack opened his mouth to grovel an apology, but the Doctor wasn’t done. “I…I really shouldn’t find it as funny as I do now.”
“Not quite as funny as this.” Jack gestured broadly, taking in the Doctor’s new body and his own identical (sans clothes) form.
The Doctor’s eyes twinkled. “True. There’s certainly potential for us to get up to some hijinks after the way you hijacked my regeneration.”
Jack groaned. “I 'hi Jack'-ed your regeneration? I can’t believe you just said that.”
“You should know better than anyone what I might say, and not just because you’ve known me for so long. I’m still the Doctor, but I think I may have picked up a bit of your body chemistry, as much as it can translate into a Time Lord body.” The Doctor cocked his head thoughtfully, then raised his arm and sniffed the armpit. “Yep. Neurotransmitter levels match your personality, and the pheromone cocktail definitely smells like you.”
“I’ve had people request to bottle that scent, but you get it for free.” Jack resisted the urge to sniff the Doctor to check out the pheromones for himself.
The Doctor pulled a mirror out of his pocket and examined his hair. “I suppose it’s a consolation prize for yet another lifetime of not being ginger. I’m more than a little disappointed about that. Still, I think I could get to like being in your body.”
That had to be a deliberate innuendo. The Doctor studied Jack’s reaction out of the corner of his eyes, a mischievous half-smile on his face. On the receiving end of that smile, Jack suddenly understood what it was like to be everyone he’d ever met. A rush of heat spread through his body.
Still got it, he thought to himself, not bothering to sort out whether he felt that way about his face’s performance under the Doctor’s direction or his own ability to inspire such looks.
“I hope you’ll find that my body can accommodate all your desires,” Jack said, never one to resist a challenge of that nature.
“Oh, I have high hopes for that.”
“And what hope tops your list?”
“Oh, there’s a couple of them up there. I don’t know if I can choose. I may just have to take things as they come,” the Doctor said. Then he unfastened his bow tie and twirled it lazily around a finger.
Jack licked his lips. He leaned in to the Doctor and very slowly began to slide the tweed jacket off his shoulders. He purred, “I think the first order of business is getting you out of these ruined clothes.”
“I don’t think I’ll want to wear that again even without the rips and bloodstains. Lucky for me, there’s a much superior coat right here!” The Doctor slipped away from Jack and snatched Jack’s much-repaired military coat off the ground and shrugged it on. “What do you know? Perfect fit!”
“That’s mine!” Jack protested, trying to grab the Doctor. The Doctor dodged playfully away.
“Hey! I just remembered where I parked the TARDIS,” he said with a grin. He vaulted over a low wall and took off running, calling out, “Allons-y!”
Jack dashed after the Doctor, still naked as the day he was born (and quite a lot of other days since).
“You only said that for one lifetime!” Jack shouted as he ran. “I don’t say that. Why start again?”
“Because you find it so very sexy,” the Doctor shot back as he zipped around a corner.
Well, no use denying the obvious. Jack threw his head back and laughed, then concentrated on trying to catch up to the Doctor. Understandably, they were evenly matched. Jack nearly caught him when the Doctor reached the TARDIS and had to pause to slip the key into the lock, but at the last moment the Doctor danced out of reach of Jack’s fingers. Jack kicked the TARDIS door closed and followed the Doctor on a wild chase through the corridors.
They hurtled through the TARDIS, careening into walls, until finally Jack managed to grab the Doctor by the shoulders of the coat and pull him backwards. The Doctor turned the movement into a push against Jack, sending both to the floor. They tumbled over each other in a jumble of two perfect Hollywood grins, four lively blue eyes, and eight muscular limbs in varying states of undress. At last, the Doctor managed to pin Jack beneath him.
“So, Doc, now that you’ve caught me, what are you gonna do with me?” Jack asked, panting slightly.
“What would you do in my position?” the Doctor asked, voice low and full of promise.
“I think you know.”
Jack leaned upwards just as the Doctor bent down. He saw his own face cover the last inches between them, like leaning in toward a still reflecting pool, but instead of cool water he found warm lips. Warm, though not quite human-warm, very talented lips, and an even more talented tongue right behind them.
“Fewer clothes. More bedroom,” Jack insisted when the Doctor finally broke the kiss.
“Excuse me. Who’s in charge?” the Doctor shot back.
“Sorry. There was some confusion, what with you being newborn in the same body I’ve been using for centuries,” Jack said sarcastically. Then the Doctor reached a hand downwards and did something very clever that left Jack gasping out, “Awaiting orders, sir!”
“Right.” The Doctor stopped speaking long enough to kiss his way down Jack’s neck and nip at his shoulder. Then he looked up and grinned devilishly. “It’s a good plan.”
He rose to his feet, offering Jack a hand up. It took five more stops and the help of a sudden downward slope in the corridor (accompanied by some amused whirring from the TARDIS), but they made it to the bedroom. The Doctor’s clothing didn’t make the same journey.
* * * * *
Afterwards, the Doctor promptly fell deeply asleep. Jack slept too. When he woke up a full six hours later (more than he usually slept, and much longer than he’d ever seen the Doctor sleep), the Doctor was still dead to the world. Jack lay pleasantly cuddled for a while, then eased himself carefully away to take a shower. The Doctor was still asleep when Jack got out of the shower, so Jack wandered down the corridor to the kitchen. He still didn’t have any clothes, but as long as he avoided frying bacon until he went to the wardrobe room, everything would be fine. He suspected this new version of the Doctor wouldn’t care.
He made eggs, waffles, and coffee enough to share with the Doctor. Then, because the Doctor had always preferred tea to coffee and there was no telling whether that would change, he made a pot of tea as well. He loaded all of that plus several bananas on a trolley and wheeled it back to the Doctor’s bedroom. The Doctor was still asleep, hair in disarray against the pillow, mouth slightly open. Jack wondered if he himself looked so silly and irresistible when he slept.
“Rise and shine!” he called. The Doctor blinked blearily, sniffed the air, and raised a hand to brush hair away from his face. He froze and stared at the hand, turning it back and forth. The he stuck a foot out from under the covers and stared at that too.
“Yes, you really regenerated into me. Not a weird dream, just a weird life. Sorry,” Jack said.
The Doctor shrugged. “I can handle weird. Sometimes I quite like it, especially if it comes with tea in the morning.”
Jack passed over the tea. The Doctor wrapped his hands around the mug, inhaled the vapor, then took several long swallows.
“Antioxidants–just the thing after regeneration. Good choice.” The Doctor slurped up some more.
“Guess I really do know how you think now,” Jack replied, nursing his own coffee.
The Doctor’s eyebrows lifted. “So what am I thinking right now?”
“You’re either hoping I’ll pass the waffles or, if I’m very lucky, trying to remember where you store the handcuffs.”
“Not quite,” the Doctor replied. “I’m thinking that for all of the awkwardness this situation is going to cause when I run into people you know or we travel together, this regeneration has some advantages. Most of the time when I regenerate, it takes some time for me to figure out what sort of man I am. This time, I already know.”
“Oh?” Jack sat on the edge of the bed, caught up in the Doctor’s eyes. They were the same color as his own, but in the depths of the pupils there were swirls of gold and a vertiginous sensation of deep and alien power.
“Yeah. Incredibly loyal, often to those who don’t properly deserve it. Also charismatic, brave to the point of recklessness, determined, and somewhat vain. Someone able to make the hard decisions. Damn sexy, of course, and not willing to lock it away like I usually do. Most of all, a good man. Someone I can be proud to be.”
Jack found a lump forming in his throat. “You’ve always been that.”
The Doctor shrugged. “Anyway, at the moment I’m also a very hungry man, so pass the waffles.”
Jack was happy to oblige. As he set the tray down on the Doctor’s lap, the Time Lord leaned up and whispered in Jack’s ear.
“By the way, you are very, very lucky, Captain. I already know exactly where I left the handcuffs.” He winked.