“Doctor!” Rose is screaming at the top of her lungs. “DOCTOR!” Desperately, she tries to stem the blood seeping out of Jack’s wound, but the sharp tree limb he’s impaled on doesn’t allow her to get a proper grip. At least it’s stoppering most of the wound at the same time – that has to be good, right?
There’s crashing in the underbrush, and the Doctor emerges at a dead run. “I told you two not to wander-“ Horrified, he stares down at them. “Jack!” Quickly, he scrambles down the side of the trench, just as Rose did a minute ago, after Jack fell.
She looks at her friend, fighting down a sob. They’d been walking along, looking at the strange, purple-pink vegetation, bantering as they always do. The Doctor was off somewhere scanning for samples of a specific bacterium he needed to maintain the TARDIS biosystem. He’d told them to stay in the TARDIS. If only they had.
But instead, they decided to have a look around. It was all right at first; they were smelling the flowers, joking about the strangely-shaped fruit, trying to outdo each other with the outrageousness of their comparisons. When Jack had made a teasing comment likening a pink melon-like fruit to her bum, she’d playfully shoved him, not realizing how close to the trench he was. His foot caught on a root, he overbalanced, fell with a yelp – and was impaled by a broken-off tree limb sticking out of the mud. Now he’s bleeding, and thrashing wildly, and his eyes are frighteningly dilated.
The Doctor is by his side, scanning both Jack and the tree limb with his sonic screwdriver. He bites out something the TARDIS refuses to translate, then looks up at her. “It’s poisonous.”
“God…” Her vision goes fuzzy with tears. As if it wasn’t bad enough that she’s impaled Jack, she’s also poisoned him.
“Jack!” The Doctor is gripping his lover’s shoulders, speaking sternly. Rose can see the utter panic in his eyes, but there’s no trace of it in his voice. “Jack! Listen to me! I need you to hold still, all right?”
Jack keeps thrashing back and forth. His eyes seem unfocused; Rose is not sure if he’s even heard the Doctor.
The Doctor curses again.
“We need to get him to the TARDIS!” Rose says, panicky.
“I know that! But if we pull him off this thing thrashing like that, he’ll rip apart his own organs.” Are those tears in the Doctor’s eyes?
“So what can we do?” The Doctor always knows what to do. Surely there must be something.
The Doctor begins to shake his head, but then he looks at her sharply and his eyes darken. “There’s one thing.”
“Could go into his mind. Make him hold still.”
“Well, what are you waiting for?” If the Doctor has a way to fix this, why isn’t he doing it?
“It’s… it’s wrong.”
“Saving Jack’s life is wrong?” What is the Time Lord on about?
“Going into his mind without his permission is wrong.” The Doctor shakes his head slightly. “Jack hates having his head messed with. His memories-”
“Are you daft? There’s a difference between stealing his memories and saving his life!”
The Doctor looks back and forth between her and his lover. “I don’t know…”
She’s hasn’t heard him sound this indecisive since Downing Street. “For God’s sake, do it! Would you rather have him angry at you or dead?”
Rassilon, Rose is right. What is he thinking? Keeping Jack alive has to be his first priority. The shock of seeing his lover like this when he’d thought him safe in the TARDIS must have addled his brain.
He presses his fingers to Jack’s temples. “I’m sorry,” he whispers, and makes contact.
He’s barely reached the surface of Jack’s mind when the barriers go up – smooth steel walls, right into his face. So much for thinking Jack might be all right with this. This is a clear “Keep the hell out!” if he ever saw one.
There’s no time to lose. Jack will never forgive him for this. But at least he’ll be alive. Hopefully. If they can get him to the TARDIS quickly enough.
With hardly an effort, he pushes through the barriers. Not bad for a human, but barely more than cobwebs to a Time Lord. I’m sorry, Jack, the Doctor sends, but there’s no reply.
The pain is raging, a sea of angry red and orange flames. He pushes right through them, until he finds the point where Jack’s mind connects to his body. Clamps down hard on the connection. He can feel the link snap, and immediately withdraws.
Jack’s body stills, and the Doctor’s eyes open.
“It worked! He’s holding still now!” Rose is actually smiling through her tears.
“Yeah. ‘course it worked.” The Doctor seems almost bitter.
Jack is looking up at both of them with a wide, panicked stare. His eyes are moving, but the rest of his body seems frozen.
“’s all right Jack. The Doctor’ll fix you. At least the pain is gone now, eh?”
The Time Lord is fumbling with his sonic screwdriver. “No, it isn’t.”
“Just severed the outgoing connection. He can still feel.”
“You left him in pain?” Rose is aghast.
“Had to. Not enough time to separate out the pain from his other sensations. Could only have clamped down completely – but that’d have taken his sight, his hearing, all his senses. He’d have been caught in complete darkness and silence. No way to reach him, explain why.”
Rose gulps. That would be terrifying. Jack might have thought he was dead, even. Probably better to feel the pain. Though being in that much pain and unable to move, or even scream…
Before she can dwell on that thought, the Doctor is handing her the screwdriver. “There. Going to lift him off this thing. Hold this to his wound. First aid setting. Too weak to heal this, but it’ll slow down the bleeding. Buy us time to get him to the TARDIS.” The Doctor’s jaw is tight, and he’s not quite managing to look at her. Or at Jack.
Rose nods. “Got it.”
The Doctor’s eyes lock on Jack’s for a moment. “I’ll be careful. But this will hurt like hell anyway. I’m sorry.”
There’s no reaction from Jack, of course.
The Doctor pushes his hands under Jack’s back and slowly but deftly begins to lift. Rose sees Jack’s pupils dilate, and his eyes roll back in his head. But she can’t focus on that right now. She begins to move the screwdriver along the rims of the wound in slow circles.
The Doctor pulls Jack free, gives her a moment to move the screwdriver over the wound on his back, then he scrambles up the side of the trench again – Rose has no idea how he does it without the use of his hands – and begins running to the TARDIS.
Rose follows, and pushes herself to overtake. She holds low-hanging branches out of the way and leads the Doctor and Jack through the underbrush. As soon as she sees a familiar flicker of blue through the trees, she pulls out her key and runs further ahead. By the time the Doctor and Jack get there, she has all the doors between the outside and the med bay – which is just two doors down from the console room now – wide open, and is prepping a bed. The Doctor has been giving both of his companions med training. Jack has a huge head start on her through his Agency training, of course, but there are some things she can do.
The Doctor stumbles in and puts Jack down on the bed. He’s moving so fast Rose can barely follow, barking instructions. Within minutes, Jack’s bleeding has been slowed to a trickle through some kind of stasis field, and the Doctor’s using the tissue regenerator on him. Rose is hooking up a blood pack to the IV. Next, she connects the scanner and the monitors. Then there’s nothing she can do but watch.
The Doctor keeps working frantically, and after a while, the lines on the monitor one by one turn green, and the frantic beeping settles into a calm rhythm. Rose slowly dares to start hoping again.
About half an hour after they first came in, the Doctor stops working. After a critical glance at the monitors, he turns to her. “Stable. Should be okay.”
Rose smiles and hugs the Time Lord. “Thank God!” She looks at Jack’s completely still form. His eyes are staring at both of them, wide and desperate.
“So… can you give him back his movement now?”
The Doctor’s face darkens. “No. Can’t. Can snap the link, but not knit it back together.”
Rose blanches. “’s not permanent, is it?”
“No! ‘course not!” The Doctor lets go of her and hastily turns to Jack. “It’ll come back Jack. I promise. Your mind is healing the connection right now. Just takes a few hours. Or… days.”
“Days?” Rose is shocked. Lying completely still, probably in considerable pain – the Doctor’s given Jack some pain killers, but mild ones, because his system couldn’t handle the strong stuff in his current state – she doesn’t even want to imagine what it would be like.
“One or two at the most. Might well be quicker, though. Jack’s got a strong mind. Has had some training, too. Probably only eight hours or so.”
“So, he just has to lie there, waiting for control of his own body to slowly come back to him?” Rose is almost crying. This is all her fault. She takes one of Jack’s hands and begins stroking it. The Doctor did say Jack could still feel, after all.
“Not slowly, no. It’ll be like this.” The Doctor snaps his fingers. “One second gone, back the next.”
“Well – give him something to sleep, yeah? No point being awake during this.” She sends Jack a reassuring smile.
“Can’t. And not just ‘cause I barely got the poison filtered out of his bloodstream. Putting him to sleep would stop the mental healing. Mind won’t recover if he’s knocked out. Natural sleep’d be all right, but…”
“Natural sleep? How d’you expect him to sleep when he’s in pain and scared stiff?” She wants to slap herself for that idiotic choice of phrase. Instead, she squeezes Jack’s hand and presses a kiss to his knuckles in silent apology.
The Doctor rubs a hand over his face. “Don’t you think I know that? Don’t you think I know what I’ve done? Just waltzed into his mind, I did, uninvited, broke right through his defences when he tried to throw me out, and condemned him to this!” His face is pale, and the pain in his eyes rivals Jack’s.
Rose doesn’t know what to say. She just keeps rubbing Jack’s hand.
The Time Lord steps around her into Jack’s line of sight. His shoulders are hunched and his eyes dark. “Listen, Jack. Not gonna ask you to forgive me, yeah? I’ll sort you out, make sure you’re fit an’ healthy again, then I’ll take you wherever you want to go. All right? Until then, I’ll stay out of your way, ‘cept for the medical stuff.”
What? “Doctor…” Rose begins. “He loves-“
The Doctor shakes his head. “No. You don’t understand, Rose. You’ve no idea what I’ve done to him. It’s practically rape. Worse than, in some ways.” He turns and walks towards the door. “Stay with him. He should be all right now, but call me if anything changes.”
Oh, God, go with him. Please. Bring him back! Jack tries to will the thought into Rose’s mind, though he knows it’s pointless. He’s not an active telepath at the best of times, and right now his mental control has been shut off, anyway. Plus, Rose is not a reader. All he has is the desperate hope that she’ll see that the Doctor needs her more right now than he does. And that he needs the Doctor here with him.
Rose is looking back and forth between the Time Lord’s retreating back and him. Finally, she sighs and sits down on the edge of his bed. Damn.
“Don’t worry, Jack. I won’t leave you alone like this.”
Jack wants to scream – but of course he can’t. True, he’d hate to be all by himself in this state, but having Rose here is a small consolation. She’s lovely, and his best friend, but he wants the Doctor, dammit. And fuck, the Time Lord is moping around somewhere on his own right now, tearing himself apart mentally, and Jack wants him to be alone in that state even less than he wants to be alone in his.
His lover may be a genius, but he’s also a complete and utter idiot. Does he really think Jack could hate him for saving his life? Does he always have to take every possible opportunity to wallow in self-loathing?
Rose is sitting by his side, stroking his arm from his shoulder down to his hand and back up again. “You’ll be fine, Jack. The Doctor said.”
Jack feels like crying. He wonders if he has that much control over his body. After all, his eyes seem to be more or less working. He’s in pain, he can’t move, which he has to admit is terrifying even though he knows it’s temporary, his wound is bad and will probably take a while to heal fully, and on top of all that the man he loves most in the universe is almost certainly falling to pieces right now – and there’s not a single thing he can do about any of it. He wishes he could at least scream. Not that it’d help anything, but it might make him feel a little better. Instead, he’s lying here, motionless and useless, and with no idea when relief will come.
If he’s honest, he’s damn glad after all that Rose is with him. She’s not the one he wants by his side the most, and part of him still wishes she’d take care of the Doctor, but she’s talking to him quietly and reassuringly, and stroking his arm, and it’s so much better than going through this alone.
The Doctor’s pacing in the console room. The TARDIS tried to soothe him at first, but after he snapped at her, told her he’d disable her core circuits if she didn’t shut up, he’s now being stonewalled – even the quiet hum has disappeared.
He deserves it, of course. Just as he deserves Rose’s disgust with his actions. Just as he deserves Jack’s…
Jack’s hatred. No point in denying it. If he’d just entered Jack’s mind without permission, he might still hold out some hope. Jack might understand. It was a life and death situation after all, and they are… were very close.
But Jack threw up barriers. Clean, hard, well-formed barriers. Those were no accident, no instinctive reaction. They were a clear message to stay out. And he ignored them, violated them, pushed right through as if Jack’s will meant nothing.
Yes, his lover will survive, will recover fully – he’s almost sure of that – but he won’t be his lover anymore. Not even his friend. Extenuating circumstances be damned, what he’s done is unforgivable. Even he is not enough of a self-righteous bastard to make excuses for it.
First rule of telepathy: you never, ever, not under any circumstances violate another’s mind. It’s the ultimate betrayal. Going in without permission is taboo, going in when clearly told not to is not even thinkable.
But he couldn’t let Jack die. The first person he dared to… love, dammit, might as well admit it, not like it makes a sodding difference now. The first person he dared to love since the Time War.
Oh, he loves Rose, too. Of course he does. With all his hearts. But it’s still different, because he’s always held some aspects of himself apart from her. Has not let her see his weakness the way Jack has.
He stops his frantic pacing as realization hits him. He’s lost her, too. ‘course he has. Once Jack can speak, once he can explain to Rose what the Doctor really did to him, she won’t want to stay around any longer. Oh, she heard his explanations, but she’ll have thought he was exaggerating. Once she hears it from Jack, she won’t want to be near him anymore.
He leans his forehead against a coral strut. “It’ll be just you and me again, girl.”
Stony silence. Damn, he almost forgot. Even the TARDIS is angry at him. And he deserves that, too.
With a strangled cry, half rage half pain, he slides down the strut and sits on the grating, knees pulled up, back against the wall. He crosses his arms on his knees and hides his face in them. He really doesn’t know what he could have done differently. Once again, he was forced into a horrible choice, and once again, doing the best he could do – the only thing he could do, because letting Jack die was never an option – has ripped from him everything he holds dear. Some genius he is – can never come up with anything useful when it counts. This is Gallifrey all over again, and these new wounds on top of the old plunge him into a level of pain he hasn’t felt since a certain blonde took his hand in the basement of Henrik’s and ran with him.
Rose is now lying next to Jack, her right arm carefully wrapped around him. She wishes she could be sure if he wants this or not – after all, it’s entirely her fault that he’s in this state to begin with. Her stupid messing around made him fall. And God, the Doctor doesn’t even know that yet. She would have told him, but between the frantic rescue and the Time Lord storming out of the med bay as soon as Jack was stable, she simply hasn’t had a chance.
Still, she knows that if she was in Jack’s place, she’d want all the physical contact she could get. And it’s not like they’re normally shy around each other. They often hug, or cuddle up with a blanket together to watch a film.
The day she first officially found out about Jack and the Doctor being together, she tried to put more distance between them. Thought she needed to, to prove that she respected their relationship. Sat in the armchair in the screening room rather than on the sofa with Jack. But he told her that she was being silly, that his relationship should not make their friendship any less close. Relieved, she sat with him again.
The Doctor walked in a while later, and found Rose with her head resting on Jack’s shoulder, his arm around her waist. She suddenly realized how they must look, and would have jumped up guiltily if her legs hadn’t been entangled in Jack’s and the blanket. But the Doctor was smiling, and his eyes were full of warmth and affection. Jack smiled up at his lover, and the Time Lord bent down for a slow, lingering kiss. Then the Doctor sat down on Jack’s other side, wrapped his arms around both of them, and that was that. No more shyness. She is not a part of their sexual relationship – and doesn’t want to be – but she’s in their hearts in every other way, and they in hers.
Rose sighs, and buries her face in Jack’s shoulder. “I’m so, so sorry I pushed you, Jack.” There are tears rolling down her cheeks, wetting Jack’s skin. “You know I’d never hurt you on purpose, right? And I know you’ve every reason to be angry with me. Wish I knew if you even want me here. I’m sorry if you don’t, but… I just can’t believe you’d want to be alone now.”
Well, she’s got that right. And what is that nonsense about it being her fault? His foot would have caught on the root on his next step anyway, he’s pretty sure. The shove probably didn’t make a difference. And even if it did – when it comes to hurting people through carelessness, he’s hardly in any position to judge, is he? Rose would never hurt him on purpose, and that’s all he needs to know.
Great. Now he’s lying here uselessly while both of the most important people in his life are suffering. He’s beginning to care less and less about his own pain – though the tearing feeling in his guts is vicious, and the regeneration field building up his cells adds a maddening, itching sensation. He just wants control of his body back so he can comfort them. Or box them around the ears. Whichever works.
Still, he’s so grateful to Rose for being here. Holding him. It’s exactly what he wants. It’s what makes this bearable. The knowledge that he’s not alone, that he’s cared for, is what makes him believe that ultimately, everything’s going to be all right again.
He realizes that Rose has stopped crying. Her breath has become very slow and deep. And her heartbeat, which he can feel beating against his collar-bone, is slowing down, too.
He’d smile if he could. She’s fallen asleep on him. Literally.
He’d worry about his health, but he’s still hooked up to a whole battery of scanners and monitors, and he knows the TARDIS will alert the Doctor if anything is seriously wrong. So he just relaxes, listening to the soothing sound of Rose’s heart. He starts counting the beats – not like he’s got anything else to focus on – and the combination of the regular sound, the warmth of her body, and the steady hum of the TARDIS in the background finally lure him to sleep.
The Doctor hesitates. He’s near the med bay door. There hasn’t been any alert, no shout from Rose, but the urge to check on Jack is just too strong. It’s been two hours. Well, one hour, forty-nine minutes, and twenty seconds, to be precise.
He stops in the doorway. Silently takes in the peaceful tableau before him. Both of his loved ones fast asleep. The urge to touch them is almost overwhelming – squeeze Rose’s hand, kiss Jack’s firm but oh-so-soft lips. Once they’re awake, he’ll probably never get the chance again. Not after today. But he’s crossed enough boundaries. He quietly makes his way over to the monitors, studies the readouts, compares the values to the ones stored in the TARDIS database.
“You’re taking good care of him. Thank you, girl,” he whispers, and feels an irritated ping at the back of his mind. He swallows. “I’m sorry. Shouldn’t have said that to you. I didn’t mean it. ‘course I didn’t. But still shouldn’t have said it. Was just… overwrought.”
The hum gentles and he feels a slight caress ghost through his mind. He’s forgiven. If only he could hope for as much from the humans.
It’s the TARDIS’s quiet reassurance that gives him the strength to turn around and leave the med bay. He has lost the two people dearest to his hearts, but at least he still has his ship. He won’t be completely alone.
“Jack will never forgive me for this,” the Doctor thinks. “But at least he’ll be alive.”
Jack wakes up with a yawn. He slowly rubs his eyes. God, why is he so tired?
Memory comes back. The wound. The telepathy holding him still… still? He looks at his hands rubbing his face, and grins. He can move!
Rose is still lying next to him, sleeping. He carefully touches her shoulder. “Rose? Rose, wake up!”
She slowly comes to, nuzzling her face into the mattress. “Lemme…” He watches as her eyes suddenly fly open. “Jack? You can talk-”
He grins and waves at her. “And move!”
“Oh Jack, that’s wonderful!” She hugs him happily. And he hugs her back.
“Thank you. For being with me.”
She suddenly freezes and withdraws, quickly getting up from the bed. “Jack, I…” She takes deep breath and looks him straight in the eyes. “Jack, I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be silly.”
“Hush.” He presses a finger to her lips. “Rose. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. Would probably have stumbled over that root no matter what. You just shoved my shoulder a little, you didn’t push me over the edge. It wasn’t your fault, it was an accident.”
“Accident.” He mock-glares at her. “Are we clear?”
She nods. “Okay. But I’m sorry, yeah? I just want you to know that.”
“Oh, Rose.” He grabs her hand and quickly presses a kiss to her palm. “I do know that. But it wasn’t your fault – or if it was, you’re forgiven.” He smiles at her warmly, and holds her gaze until she returns the smile.
He slowly begins to sit up. His abdomen is still sore, and he needs to use his arms to push himself upright. He carefully pushes the med generators off himself and deftly pulls out the IV needle.
“Jack, I’m not sure you should-“
“It’s fine. Wound’s healed up. Just sore now.” He smiles at her reassuringly. “Believe it or not, I’ve actually had worse.”
She shudders. “Do you need anything?”
“Nah.” He looks at her imploringly. “Go grab a shower or something? I need to have a serious word with a certain Time Lord. Privately.”
Rose bites her lips, looking up at him through her lashes. “You really are angry at him, then?”
He nods. “Oh yes. Just not for the reason he thinks.”
Not surprisingly, he finds the Time Lord in the TARDIS control room, buried deep beneath the console, only his feet sticking out. Other people drink when they’re in pain. The Doctor tinkers.
Jack clears his throat, and hears a loud thump as the Doctor clearly hits his head on something metal. In a flurry of gangly arms and legs, the Time Lord scrambles out from under the console. Relief, fear, pain, and anger are warring on his face.
“Jack! What the hell are you doing up?”
“Had to come looking for you, didn’t I? Since you weren’t there.”
“Back to bed, now!”
The Doctor takes a quick step towards him and grabs his arm. “You need to rest and I need to check you over.”
Jack freezes. Very pointedly, he stares at the Doctor’s hand on his arm, then looks up at the Time Lord.
The Doctor lets go and steps back, flinching as if he’s been burned. “Sorry,” he mumbles. “You won’t want me to-“
“Do I get to decide what I want, goddammit?” He takes a step towards the Doctor, squaring his shoulders.
“I- ‘course you do. I’m just… I’m sorry.”
Jack scoffs. “Do you even know what I’m so pissed off about?”
“’Course I do. I went into your mind without permission.” The Doctor is clearly fighting to keep looking at him.
“No. Wrong answer. I don’t fucking care about that. In fact, thank you. You saved my life.” He is grateful, of course, but right now he’s so full of anger that he’s well aware his thanks sound more like an insult than anything else.
“But I- I just waltzed in- you put up barriers, and I just- You didn’t want me to-“
“I was a Time Agent, for fuck’s sake! I went through psych training. Was never all that good at it, mind you, but got some things drilled into me anyway. And one of those is a barrier reflex. Anyone tries to enter my mind when I’m not aware – sleeping, unconscious, distracted, whatever – the barriers snap up automatically. I don’t even know I’m doing it most of the time. Certainly didn’t yesterday.”
“Oh.” The Time Lord’s shoulders slump. “So you weren’t telling me to stay out?”
“No, I fucking wasn’t!”
“I just know how you hate having your mind messed with and-“
“You were saving my life!” He’s yelling so loudly now that he can feel the strain on his barely-healed muscles. “Don’t you trust me to have the basic intelligence to distinguish between a breach of privacy and an emergency measure? Do you think I’m that much of an idiot?”
The Time Lord shakes his head quickly. “’Course not! You’re not an idiot! But… well… what are you so angry about, then?”
He takes two steps and is standing inches from the Doctor. He draws himself up to his full height, sore muscles be damned. “You left me,” he spits. “You just decided that what you’d done was unforgivable, and went off somewhere to wallow in self-loathing, when I fucking needed you.”
“Rose is sweet and she was there for me and I love her even more for that, but she’s not the one I- the one I’m with. And, for all her strength and warmth, having her around is simply not as reassuring and comforting as having you with me would have been!”
The Time Lord drops his gaze. “But I thought-“
“You thought I’d dump you as soon as I could, and went ahead and acted on that. Before I’d had any chance to say a word, you’d mentally ended our relationship.”
The Doctor looks up at him again. His voice is low and dark. “Yeah, I did. I just assumed. I’m sorry.”
With a grim nod, Jack takes a step back. “That’s better.”
“Should have been there for you, Jack. You needed me. Too busy wallowing, like you said.” The last words sound bitter, and the Doctor turns his head away.
“You’re doing it again now,” Jack points out sharply.
The Doctor’s head snaps back. “No! Listening to you. Paying attention.”
Jack shakes his head. He has the most impossible man in the universe for a lover. But then, he knew that. He can feel his anger retreat, and be replaced by exasperation and something almost like amusement.
“So…” The Doctor’s hearts are in his eyes. Rarely has Jack seen him so open. “Is it over?”
Jack raises an eyebrow.
“Not making assumptions! ‘M asking.”
Jack steps towards the Time Lord and kisses him. Hard, punishing. It’s not often that he controls a kiss like this, but – after the first second of shock – the Doctor is open, eager, following his lead.
Jack breaks the kiss. “It’s not over. I love you, you stupid non-ape.” He grins.
The Doctor’s grin is equal parts embarrassment and sheer relief. “Thank you.”
“But don’t ever dare to do this to me again, you hear? If I ever decide to dump you, I’ll tell you so. Don’t need you to do it for me.”
“If there’s a problem, we’ll talk. I know you hate that, but it’s got to be better than jumping to ridiculous conclusions.”
The Doctor nods mutely.
Jack puts a hand on his lover’s cheek and cocks his head at him. “Deal?” he asks, deliberately using the same word they sealed their relationship with the first time.
The Doctor barks out a laugh. “Deal,” he confirms.
When Rose comes to the console room half an hour later, she finds the door locked. She tries to open it, but the TARDIS is very insistent that she should not go in there for a while. With a blush and a relieved giggle, Rose goes to make some tea.
Supper that night is delightful. Despite the Doctor’s nagging and insisting he only eat light foods. Despite Rose nervously confessing their play-fighting to the Time Lord. Despite the mild telling-off they both get for wandering off in the first place. They are together, and they love each other, and all is right with the world.
That evening, lying on their – well, technically Jack’s, but who cares? – bed after another rousing bout of lovemaking, the Doctor is feeling a warm contentment he did not think he’d ever be allowed to feel again. Once more, humans’ astonishing capability for love and forgiveness is almost overwhelming. So different from his own people. Had he done what he did to one of them, he’d have been shunned. Or worse.
Jack is lying in his arms, seeming perfectly content to cuddle against his shoulder. But suddenly, he feels Jack tense. “Something wrong? Is the pain back?” he asks, concerned.
“Nah. Well, a little. But it’s fine. Just a little sore.”
“What is it, then?”
“I was just wondering…” Jack pushes himself up to look at him. “When you were in my mind…”
He flinches. “Yeah?”
“Well, you didn’t… happen to see any of my missing memories, did you?”
“Didn’t look. Just went in and out as quickly as possible. Didn’t want to intrude more than I had to.”
Jack nods. He’s looking thoughtful. “Could you, though?”
The Doctor sits up abruptly. Jack has to scramble into a seated position as his armrest disappears. “You want me to go into your mind again?”
“Invited. Because I’m asking you to. Could you find them?” The hope in his eyes almost breaks the Doctor’s hearts.
“Don’t know. Would have to see. Depends on if they actually deleted them. If they just covered them up, or severed the connection – then maybe.”
Jack crosses his legs and assumes the pose most humans associate with meditation. “Do it!” he says eagerly.
“What, right now?”
“No time like the present, right?” He winks, then closes his eyes.
The Doctor hesitates. “You sure? I couldn’t just go straight for those two years – would have to actually look through your memories to try and find them.”
Jack frowns. “Through everything?”
“Well – till I find them. But if there’s anything you don’t want me to see, just put up a barrier.”
Jack snorts. “Because my barriers are so good at keeping you out.”
“Because I never would go where I’m not welcome if there was even the slightest choice.”
Jack opens his eyes. They’re full of guilt. “I knew that. Sorry.”
He shakes his head and presses his hands to his lover’s temples. “Ready?”
Jack’s eyes close again. “Yeah.”
He makes contact.
He’s in a long corridor – a TARDIS corridor, in fact. He smiles inwardly. He knew Jack thinks of the TARDIS as home, but he hadn’t realized he’d internalized that so much already.
There are lots of open doors, so he starts looking around. Bar scenes. Fire fights. Classes at the Academy. And sex. Lots of sex.
He doesn’t comment. It’s not polite. He just wanders along the corridor, looking for clues. Turns left – entirely on instinct – at the next intersection. Different scenes here. A house at the beach. A gray sea, and lots of sand. Two boys playing-
A barrier slams up and he takes a step back, startled.
Sorry, he hears Jack’s voice drifting through the air.
He shakes his head. “Don’t be. You shut off anything you want.” There are several blocked doors now, then another intersection. The rooms in this corridor are lurid, full of floating colors. Fantasies, then. Most of them erotic. Why is he not surprised?
He can feel Jack’s grin in the air. Hope I’m not embarrassing you.
“Nah. I’m just complimented you think I’m that bendy.” He grins, and feels a chuckle playing through the air.
I could teach you.
“Nah, I don’t think-“ He stops suddenly, transfixed. “Jack – that could never work.”
Jack’s laughter surrounds him. That’s a memory, actually. More than one. It’s only a fantasy here because you’re in it.
“But – really? With a plunger?”
Intense amusement fills the air. Wanna bet?
“No, but…” A slow grin spreads over his face. “I know where there’s a plunger in the TARDIS!”
Something very much like a kiss ghosts through his mind, and he feels as if his right cheek has been pinched – and not the one in his face. Find it, and I’ll show you. Promise.
The Doctor chuckles, but then sobers. “Sorry, shouldn’t be standing here wool-gathering.” He continues along the corridor.
A few wrong turns and many revelations about the true extent of his lover’s flexibility later, he suddenly feels a change in the atmosphere. Something cold. Very out of place. “Jack? I think I’m getting close.” He turns a corner, and barely manages to avoid falling into a huge black chasm. “Yep. Think I found it.”
Jack’s mental presence is weaker here, unfocused, drifting. “’S okay. Don’t try to force your way in. Let me have a look first.”
He carefully probes the darkness. Does the mental equivalent of tossing a pebble down to see how deep it is. Inspects the edges. Then he sighs, and withdraws to the last corridor, where Jack’s presence is stronger.
The voice is hopeful, eager, trusting. It’s breaking his hearts to disappoint. “Sorry.”
He feels Jack’s spirits sink. Oh.
“There’s nothing there. Nothing I can unlock or repair. Just a huge gap. It’s unnatural.” He strokes the wall gently, that being the closest he can get to physically comforting Jack right now.
It’s fine. Doesn’t matter.
“Never a good idea to lie on the mental plane, lad. Too darn obvious.”
Sorry. I’d just so hoped there’d be something, but… I’ll live.
The Doctor nods and strokes the wall again. “Brace yourself. I’m pulling out.”
He opens his eyes and prepares to take his hands off Jack’s temples, but before he can, his lover has grabbed the back of his head and pulled him in for a kiss. Hungry, demanding, seeking comfort. He gladly gives all he can. Wishes he could have done more than this. In fact, he privately resolves that, one day, he will. There must be some way to get information, even if he has to creatively exploit some timey-wimey loopholes. But he won’t mention that to Jack yet. No point getting the lad’s hopes up.
Jack breaks the kiss, and smiles at him, in a way that almost reaches his eyes. “Thanks for trying.”
“’Course. Sorry it didn’t do any good.”
Jack grins. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that.”
The grin turns into a leer. “Well, at least it’s given us some new ideas.”
The Doctor feels his face split into a wide grin. “I’ll go and get the plunger!”
~ The End