The Doctor slouched down onto the console chair as the TARDIS took herself into the Vortex.
Yet again he felt hollow inside as the crushing loneliness tried to take hold and smother him. But as always he squashed it down mercilessly, the tears of grief and self loathing still threatened. Somehow it all seemed so much harder to lock it all away in this regeneration, it slipped into his voice when he didn’t want it to. Showing negative emotion other than righteous anger, he had never been very good at. But as he grew older all he could focuses on was the loss.
He let out a deep sigh, finally he was prepared to face the fact that he would now go on alone.
No more companions.
Or no more companions that would travel with him other than those who happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. But never again would he offer to take them with him, his hearts just couldn’t take it anymore. It was easier to deny them, than see them hurt, dead, or wore, leave him because they just couldn’t face the journey anymore from all the horrors they had witnessed.
Donna had been the nail in the coffin of his resolve.
She had denied him the first time. One of the few who had, seeing how terrible it all could be.
But she had also been one of the few to actively seek him out after the refusal.
The TARDIS hummed deeply and he couldn’t help but give a half smile as he nodded, feeling the slight touch at the edge of his awareness coming from his ship.
Yes, there had also been Jack, but Jack had wanted answers, and in the end, Jack had left him too.
Again he pushed Jack to the corners of his mind.
Donna had never wanted anything but to travel, to see the universe, and no matter what she witnessed or how much she screamed at him to do the right thing.
She had stayed.
She had enjoyed and she had reveled in the wonder of it all, even reminding him of why he never stopped. He found himself caught up in her excitement.
Donna was a true companion in every meaning of the word, she didn’t stand in awe of him or following him like a puppy, she stood besides him, sharing with him as an equal as much as she could be, being human.
And in the end, when she was more Time Lord than human. He had let himself live in the fantasy for a short time. Letting himself believe that their traveling together could truly be something wonderful.
But it had all come crashing down, as he had watched his old friends walk away from him yet again. As he had left his human self with Rose in the parallel universe kissing the other him passionately. Then he watched as the Time Lord consciousness finally begin to unravel Donna’s fragile mind.
His hearts had finally broken.
Ruthlessly he wiped away the betraying tear that leaked from his right eye with the palm of his hand.
He knew he should get up and do something, take his mind off everything, but he just couldn’t find the energy to get up and move.
“You know, you really are an idiot.”
He jumped, almost falling off his seat at the peeved but amused voice that filled the control room.
“Donna…?” He breathed out, his pulse racing; there was no way she could be here. Huon partials? But he had taken them from her. Had she remembered everything? A million and one possibilities to explain this sped through his mind and none of them good.
“Over here!” She sounded impatient and from the other side of the console, where he had taken the Time Lord conciseness from her, waved a see-through blue hand. “I cant move, so you’re going to have to come over here, there is no way I’m talking through the control column!”
Slowly he stood and edged around the console, and sure enough, there Donna stood, her arms crossed impatiently as she smiled at him.
“But how?” he asked, staring at her, she was one of the TARDIS’s emergency holograms, he could see right through her. He turned to the console frowning, seeing if there was anything there that might explain this.
“I did it while I was slowly loosing my mind.” She explained, “I hooked my conciseness into the TARDIS’s emergency protocols incase you started brooding… I didn’t think it would activate so soon though…” she mused. “Still, I’m here now, I’m not sure for how long.”
“The emergency holograms don’t take much power.” He stated, frowning deeper. He knew he could feed some of his own awareness into them, he had done it before, but it was a one time only deal. Once the messaged was played, only the standard message could ever be retrieved again.
“I know… so you have to listen to this now.” She smiled at him, even he could see the sadness in her expression.
“About?” he asked, though he didn’t think he wanted the answer, though the urge to run made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
She gave a sigh of exasperation as she threw her arms down. “I’ll get right to the point.” She said sharply, with her typical lack of patience, then all at once she calmed, softening her next question. “Why did you lie to him?”
“Lie to who?” He asked, turning fully to the console now, he knew it was a typical avoidance move. But he really, really wasn’t up for this now.
“I know everything you know Doctor.” Still soft, still filled with compassion. “But I still don’t know why you haven’t told him the truth. Or why you didn’t, this last time?”
He paused, fighting down the emotions that were still so close to the surface. “I was busy.” He finally said before closing his eye then whispering. “He would have only refused… again.”
He heard her chuckle at that.
“For someone so intelligent, you’re still as stupid as a brick sometimes.” The warm tone of her voice took any sting out of the words. “I know he has a duty to perform on earth… but you own a TARDIS, remember, off on an adventure and home in time for tea.”
“He still refused me; he doesn’t want to travel with me anymore…” he shook his head. “I’m not going to ruin his life anymore like I have so many others… everyone who I come in contact with get’s hurt! I cant do that anymore!” the last was growled out as he felt the sting of tears that leaked down his cheeks.
Yes he had just saved earth, and a multitude of other planets… but how many had died? An entire species wiped out, countless aliens on all those planets, killed by the Dalek’s. and all because of him, or the actions of his companions.
Everything he touched turned putrid in the end.
He couldn’t deal with the guilt!
Donna snorted, “You didn’t ruin my life.” She said with her usual annoyed defensive tone.
He whipped round to face her, anger replacing grief. “What!?” he growled at her, “How can you say that? When I just left you as you were! You don’t even remember…” he bit off the rest of the sentence, unable to carry on.
She smiled at him them, her head slightly to one side. “You left me as I was, no better, no worse… but YOU remember, you will always remember the excitement, the adventure… ok so we argued now and then… but I wouldn’t take a second back… not ever… and as long as you remember in that huge head of yours, that’s enough.” She smiled again, but there was sadness in it. “I just wish I could have kept my promise to you that’s all I regret, but I would never change anything… I saved worlds, and all in the matter of seconds, not many people can say that!”
“No.” he lamented, giving the hologram a half smile. “No not many can.”
“That’s more like it.” She grinned before her expression turned serious again. “So, back to my original question.”
With a sigh he leaned against the console with one hip, letting his eyes wander, unseeing, about the room. “He surprised me…”
Another scoff. “You tried to run away!” she admonished.
“The TARDIS fled to the end of the universe to get rid of him…”
“Don’t lie to me!” she snapped. “I’m not Martha or Jack, and I want to HEAR you say it!”
“Fine!” he shouted back, “I, Me, I ran away, just like I did the first time when Rose…” his growled as Donna frowned, displeased with him. “When the TARDIS, through Rose, brought Jack back to life… Nothing like that has ever happened before, at least not to my knowledge…” he signed. “He just feels w…”
“You say that and so help me I’m going to find a way to become corporeal and slap you!” Donna shouted. And he was slightly worried she just might.
He held up his hands to quell her. “Fine.” He took a deep breath. “He disturbed me so much because he FEEL’s like the heart of the TARIDS, all right? I told him he was a fixed point… but he’s not, not really…” he felt himself relaxing, or draining with the confession. “I don’t know everything… but I think he’s linked to the life span of the TARDIS, eventually she will weaken then finally fade, and as she grows old so will Jack…” He took a deep breath, then let it our slowly. “I got the clue when I had to stop off and refuel in Cardiff and I tried to ran away, despite having to fight the TARDIS to do so…” he sighed, remembering as the TARDIS protested, then flung them to the end of the universe, in protest or because time lines demanded it, he would never know. Rubbing the back of his neck he continued, “The TARDIS suddenly lost a lot of energy for no seeable reason, I found out later that Jack had given his life to stop a demon of sorts, it drained the life right out of him, and in so doing, he in turn drained power from her… or she gave it willing… I’m still not terribly sure… But…” he looked back up at her then, “I’ve watch him die… the Face of Boe… Gave his last energy so that the people of New Earth would live… and I never knew… but that’s the day…” he trailed off, still staring into her eyes.
She nodded slightly, “That’s the day the TARDIS dies too?” she whispered, understanding coming into her eyes. “And the day this universe looses it’s last Time Lord…”
He nodded, looking away again. Another knot of grief tightened around his hearts.
“But you didn’t know that when you lied to him.” She stated. “Then why?”
“He wants more from me that I can give.” He walked to the railing and sank down to sit on the floor, his knees under his chin. Noting as Donna did the same, but cross legged.
“What did I say about lying?” she chuckled softly. “Time Lords on the other bus?” she barked out a laugh. “If I’d been paying more attention back then I would have elbowed you in the ribs… explained a lot though.” She smiled at him, “And your other regeneration was quite willing to flirt back, and I know you meant it!” she wiggled a finger at him. “And he was human back then… but now…” the amusement left her. “But now he’s the only one… THE only one in the entirety of this universe and time, who CAN be with you through eternity…” she paused, her eyes loosing focus as if she was trying to remember something. “Just like you told Rose… she can spend the rest of her life with you, but you cant spend the rest of you life with her… and I KNOW you loved her… but you always let her go… because you knew you had to…” comprehension dawned on her face, before she looked at him again. “But I know you love Jack too… more so if anything!” she gasped, getting back to her feet. “You’re a complete muppet!” she growled at him, much the same way he did, it was very odd having someone do it back. “And my god you can sulk!” she waved her hands over the controls. “Get your skinny ass up here and get to where ever Jack is RIGHT NOW!”
At her urgings he found himself climbing to his feet before pausing. “But he refu…”
“SHUT UP!” she snapped. “That poor man!”
“Wha…” he didn’t know if he should be getting angry right now, or just staying on the side of bewildered.
Donna spun on him. “He refused you BECAUSE he loves you so much!” she shouted, truly irate now. “He thinks he’s so abhorrent to you that you don’t want him around! Yet one, ONE look from you and he throws his life away… Don’t even think it’s just because he’s immortal so you can shut your moth now!” she was now standing with her hands clenched into fists, her eyes shinning with unshed emotion. “He gave his life when he was mortal BECAUSE he believed in YOU…” she softened again as she stared into his eyes. “Because he loved you… He was willing to leave you…” she paused, letting that little bit of information seep into him, before she continued. “If you ever needed any proof that you changed someone for the better it’s Captain Jack Harkness, conman and ex-time agent…” she shook her head smiling, like she had just figured everything out, and maybe she had. “Sarah-Jane got over herself and is now doing good, all because of meting you. Martha…” she frowned, “Well maybe Martha is a little bitter, but she will come to realize that you did her good, even though she cant see it yet… Rose. You gave her the best thing your ever could, a you that she can love and die with, along with the rest of her family. And that’s just the companions I’ve met.” The smile she gave him was sad with understanding of how that fact still had the chance to squeeze both his hearts with grief at something he could never have. “and me.” She carried on. “You gave me more than anyone could ever dream off… and I’m still alive, even if that me has lost you...” she sighed. “But Jack… Jack’s something completely different. He will and has forgiven you everything. He is also maybe the only one to understand completely your loss, at watching people he loves fade and die… even I could see the grief you share in his ancient eyes for the brief time I met him.”
“But still.” He managed to croak out.
“Ah…” the look she now gave him what filled with compassion. “You didn’t do anything with any of them because you thought them all children, too young compared to the life of a Gallifreyan… But Jack told me he’s as old as you now… if not older… if that’s even a concern.”
He looked away a little embarrassed giving a little shrug. “Really?” he questioned quietly, not willing to admit that sometimes it was a foible of his, even now.
“Technically, yes.” She nodded. “So stop being a prawn and GO to him… Tell him the truth and then let him decide what he does next…” she grinned. “You told me you just wanted a mate all that time ago… but what you want is an equal. Jack, eventually, will be that for you.”
The TARDIS suddenly hummed.
“See… even she agrees with me!” Donna crowed in triumph as the TARDIS gave another deep rumble.
“Traitor.” He mumbled as he stroked the console fondly, eliciting another contented hum.
“So, go to him Doctor, go to him and let him stand by your side and let him into you soul, comfort each other, love each other.” Her words seeped through to him quietly but absolute in their sense. “And for heavens sake lay him so completely that he can’t run away from you!” she laughed out loud then.
He found himself laughing too at her audacity. “Is that an order?” he asked razing an eyebrow.
“Well if you don’t I sure would!” she laughed. “Go on, do it now, let the TARDIS lead you to him.”
He turned from her as he dashed about the console, putting the TARDIS into a vague automatic as Donna had suggested. “You do know that welsh man on the monitors, Jack has a thing with right now?” he asked as he threw one more switch into active before looking up at his impromptu guessed. “Donna?!” he gasped out.
“I don’t think you have to worry about that.” She smiled, she was already fading. “Looks like my times up.” She sighed. “Good luck Doctor… but I don’t think you need i…”
He bit his lip as he placed both hands on the console taking a deep breath. He was once again alone as the TARDIS’s engines booted up and she began to move.
+ + + + + +
Jack yawned loudly as he sat back in his chair. John was the last to leave a few hours ago, wishing him a happy New Year, which he had returned before taking part in a glass of hyper-vodka to celebrate the New Year by himself.
His team were all off to their own parties, he was giving them the day off, he had learned that they didn’t work well with stinking hangovers, and he wasn’t gonna pay them to mope about as he did all the work, after all, the rift had been less and less active over the years and he was here if anything should happen, as always.
He was woken by someone sitting in the creaky old chair at the other side of his desk, then something banging down on the top of it.
He must have fallen asleep then, his head cushioned on his arms, he opened his eyes to a pair of familiar Converse boots sat on his desk.
“And to think I could have had away with that quantum extrapolator in the other room!”
“Happy New year to you too.” Jack couldn’t help the grin as he sat up and eyed the Doctor sat casually at the other side of the desk.
“That would explain the boos then.” The Doctor grinned back, his teeth shinning in the dim light of the HUB. “So how longs it been?” he asked, settling a little more comfortably into the chair, his hands clasped together loosely on his belly.
Jack frowned, “About… umm… twelve years. You?”
The Doctor shrugged, “Not that long.”
Jack noted the Time Lord looked a little damp, as far as Jack new , it was a clear night, if freezing. “You here for a reason? Or just a visit?”
The Doctor started fiddling with a button on his coat, “Both, neither… depends I guess.” He mumbled.
Jack smiled indulgently, his heart still quickened at being in the alien’s presence despite the time they had been apart, he had accepted the fact he would always love the Doctor, even if the other would never return the favor. Just the fact that he HAD come to visit was more than enough. “Interesting.” He said as he settled back in his own chair.
“So, how’s that Welshman?... Ianto?” the Doctor asked as he started pulling at a lose thread from a hole in the button.
Jack looked away then, the loss still a little to resent. “Died last your, or two now I suppose.” He whispered.
“Work related?” the Doctor asked, still fiddling.
Jack shook his head, “No, the big C, in the end there was nothing we could do.” He sighed, “I have a whole new team now, Gwen’s now got kids and living nearer to her parents. Martha went back to UNIT and Mickey followed. Things seem to be stabilizing, so it’s a lot quieter.”
“Sorry for your loss…” the Doctor said as he pulled his feet down, no longer fixated on his button that would need fixing before it fell off completely. “So found anyone new?”
Jack chuckled, “Nope, I’ve thought about becoming a Nun.”
That got Jack the smile he wanted to see as the Doctor chuckled.
Then he watched as the man across from him sobered then seemed to shake himself, before Jack found himself staring into wide intent eyes, looking right into him.
“Doctor?” He breather, transfixed.
Without braking eye contact the Doctor leaned forwards, holding his right arm over the desk, hand open and offered towards him.
“I lied to you.” The Doctor said his voice slightly gravely as he spoke. “When I said you were wrong I lied, I was scared and I didn’t understand, and everything I said was wrong and I never thought to put it right…”
Jack was at first tempted to just take that hand, but as the Doctor spoke he pulled away until he was left frowning at the stranger sat across from him.
“What brought this on?” he asked, tying to swallow the lump in his throat.
“Donna.” The Doctor stated, he must have seen the disbelief in Jack’s face because he carried on. “She programmed her conciseness into the Emergency Hologram system and finally talked some sense into me… she saw the truth even though I didn’t want to acknowledge it myself…”
“So I’m not wrong?” Jack asked in disbelief, for so long he had been laboring under a false belief. He didn’t know whether to be furious or relieved.
“No…” the Doctor confirmed again, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry it’s taken so long to tell you.”
Jack could hear the regret in the Doctors voice, and as always he would forgive the other man anything. “Do I get an explanation?”
The Doctor nodded emphatically, “This time, yes… but first…” he wiggled the long fingers of his outstretched hand. “Come with me?” his voice implored.
Jack reached out, but didn’t let his hand fall onto the Doctors as he looked into those expressive brown eyes. “No emergencies?”
The Doctor shrugged his left shoulder, “Cant promises anything.” If it was possible the grin widened. “But you ARE going to buy me that drink if you do come…”
Jack suddenly couldn’t breathe as he gawped at the other man; it had been so long since someone knocked the wind out of his sails. When he finally took a breath the Doctor was stood besides him, patting him on the back, a look of concern on his face.
“Drink…” Jack gasped out stupidly watching as a predatorily gleam entered the usually warm ancient eyes, and Jack felt trapped as the Doctor loomed over him.
A shiver of fear ran down Jack’s spine involuntary and settled satisfyingly into part’s he’d almost forgotten how to use.
“In fact.” The Doctor’s voice got deeper and lower as he leaned down even closer. “I’ll be the one buying the drinks.”
Jack swallowed, then felt his mouth widen in a smile, the Doctor’s left hand had strayed to the back of his neck.
Without looking, but fumbling a bit, Jack took the Doctor’s right hand and placed his own into it.
“Lead on…” he managed to get out, without too much loss of dignity.
Then Jack found himself being dragged from his chair with surprising strength, then lead through the HUB, the Doctor’s hand cool but firm in his own.
“I’ll have you back in time for tea!” the Doctor chuckled brightly. “How ever long that takes!”