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Learning to Run Underwater

Chapter Text

There is water everywhere. Murky, dark, salty and thick. An ankle is swished experimentally through the swirling mass beginning to fill their prison turned tomb. It feels like trailing a limb through cut glass.

Blue eyes widen at their target, dimples somehow convey incredulity instead of their usual handsome perfection. The “Really Doc?” hardly has to be said.

Grey curls seem to bounce in place despite the poised stillness of their owner. A manically wide grin begins to form. The voice, when it joins the fray, is very edgy, its owner would probably say. And it was. Very dangerous too. And very Scottish.

“Really now lad, where’s your sense of adventure?”

The water snapped angrily against their shins, their bare toes no longer remotely visible.

Blue eyes met blue, before both rolled simultaneously, one set down, one up.

Where indeed.


“I think my sense of adventure wore off a few centuries ago Doctor.” Jack left off “And I’m cold,” but he rather suspected his intense shivering would give it away to even the densest of observers.

Naturally, the Doctor failed to notice either the shivering or the underlying meaning of Jack’s remark.

Figures, Jack thought, admittedly somewhat bitterly. Spend a thousand years looking for a guy, and the idiot can’t even spare him five minutes notice in return.

Jack has never thought of Scottish as a verb that describes something perfectly, but there really is no other word for the rebuke that chases the heels of his uncharitable musings.

“Stop sulking Captain, you’re giving me a brain ache with all that noise of yours.”

Jack is in the process of blistering a retort through his skull on the way to his tongue when a spidery hand brushes along his neck, almost casual in its swift firmness.

Abruptly, the shivers stop. Jack feels the crackle of Artron energy along his skin, the answering spark of the Vortex stirring involuntarily in his breast.

It does little of a material, tangible nature for the bones he knows are broken, the legs he can no longer feel, but somehow, it’s the warmest Jack has felt in a thousand years.


Jack tightens his good hand on the icy rail above their heads, water lapping at his lips. He watches the Doctor desperately sonic the paneling yet again, the tiny miniature Tardis slash Christmas ornament glowing an eerie, urgent blue in the growing darkness. It’s just bright enough to make out the rushing water surrounding them from every direction, the once Super Secret and Super Slimy Base obliterated by something as inexorable as time itself; the move of the tides.

A surging wave momentarily submerges Jack’s head, subsiding away before he can so much as sputter, his eyes refocusing through the sting of high salt content seawater in time to see the Doctor’s fist thump into the paneling above them, knuckles and screwdriver banging with equal echoes on icy blue metal.

Frustration. That’s a new emotion for the Doctor. Jack lets himself receive a slap of water to the face, a stinging reminder that no matter how many thousands of years it’s been, how many faces he has missed or not yet met, this is still the same man he’s always loved.

Sodden curls drip water in Jack’s face, the Doctor’s newly-for Jack-blue eyes regarding him with sorrow and resignation. Jack can almost hear the I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry.

He chokes on something besides water as a spidery hand tips his chin up, back above the lapping water.

“We can’t stay here much longer lad. You’ll freeze to death.” Jack manages to convey unimpressed with the jerk of his chin against the firm grip of the Doctor’s index finger and thumb. His voice is scratchy, but still there.

“Doc, I know it’s been a fair few years, but in case you’ve forgotten, I can’t die!” The Doctor’s mouth curls up at one corner in something that might pass for sardonic amusement, or might just be a grimace.

“I hadn’t forgotten that, as it happens. I’m going grey, not senile.” This regeneration is somehow even more intense than the last, for all its stillness. “And there’s a difference between not dying and not being able to stay dead lad!”

That-Jack doesn’t actually know what to do with that, doesn’t know how to even begin to answer the raw, naked fear in the Doctor’s voice with anything other than bitterness. It is a bitterness that neither of them needs. That perhaps neither of them even deserves, not anymore. Not now.

So Jack does what he’s spent centuries perfecting. He deflects, opening his mouth for some version of “Nothing going about the grey there Doc”, only to be cut off by the Doctor being something worse than frightening.

Gentle. “We’re going to have to swim for it lad.” Lad. Jack swallows salt, his lungs apparently too cold to cough. Not good.

Lad again. God, the Doctor still knew how to hurt him didn’t he. Of freaking course he did. Gentle, and lad. Fan-freaking-tastic.

Jack pressed his lips firmly together, his arm muscles screaming as he lurched himself towards the hatch. The Doctor’s hands found his shoulder, sinewy legs kicking for them both as Jack attempted to stave off exhaustion. They’d been treading water for at least the last hour by his estimate.

“Jack,” Yup, still gentle. Wonderful. “We can’t stay here forever lad. Unless you know something I don’t, that hatch isn’t opening any time soon, and even I can’t stave off hypothermia indefinitely.”

The unspoken, “And I can’t hold your corpse if I can’t feel my arms” didn’t really need to be said. Jack swallowed more salt.

For a moment, Jack can almost smell the sand and gunpowder. Even centuries of research and memory enhancement later, he’s never figured that one out. It was the fifty-first century for fuck’s sake. Who used gunpowder?

Jack feels his voice crack, his bad hand scrabble against the Doctor’s chest under the water, finding a heartbeat and resting against the reassuring thump. “I really hate swimming Doctor.”

Even the Time Lord’s eyes were gentle, the sonic a steady, pulsing buzz in their ears, almost as if the indignity of being used as a flashlight all this time was offending its sensibilities.

The words were a mere whisper, ghosting across the frigid water and rapidly diminishing air between them. “I know lad.” A sad smile. A hand tightening on his face, swiping downwards in something that might have been a caress in another life.

The water was still rising. Jack drew as deep a breath as he could, leaden limbs dragged down by the remains of their broken chains. He sincerely hoped the Doctor still ate the impossible for breakfast.

The Sonic blinked out just as the Doctor’s hand slipped from the rail, catching Jack’s answering limb securely as they prepared to push under the water together.

In the greenish-black afterglow, Jack could just barely make out the flash of the Time Lord’s eyes. For just a moment, he fancied he saw something in them. Something deep and old and timeless as the stars themselves. Something perhaps not unlike love.

And then there really was only one thing left to say.

“See you in hell Doc.” And with a flick of chain clad ankles, Jack tightened his fingers around the Doctor’s, and let himself slip beneath the surface of the water.

Somewhere, even in the silence of their watery tomb, he could swear he heard deep, slow, chuckling laughter chasing them out into the dark.


Somewhere, somewhen, a thousand years gone or tens of thousands of years hence, a man pulled a gun in defense of two people he had just met, and came up with a banana and a Time Lord instead.

And maybe Jack no longer remembers what it was like to be that man, that young, that naïve, that undamaged. But then, that must mean he also doesn’t remember what it felt like to not be in love with the Doctor. What the world looked like before the center of Jack’s gravity shifted to revolve around the Last of the Time Lords.

Jack hates drowning. Always has, even before it reminded him oh so much of chocking, over and over and over again.

But he’ll follow the Doctor anyway, today, tomorrow, and any other day. Because he no longer remembers how to do anything else.

And because, even after two thousand years, running has never become boring.

Although swimming promises to get old quickly.