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So This Is You?

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Mature | Jack/Doctor | AU

...

The pain caused by the vortex manipulator was minimal; Jack was used to it. He blinked, eyes adjusting to the pink-tinted peach of the sparkling mist; it matched the beach and the water. White foam crept up the beach in the soft swell of waves and the sound was soothing. Jack shrugged off his coat and shook it before he dropped it on the sand six feet away away from the surf.  He sat down, grimacing at aches that hadn't healed yet.  As he sighed, he wondered how long it would take for his emotional wounds to heal.

Absently, his hand twitched, expecting to bring a bottle of spirit to his lips, and he growled to himself for not bringing anything.  Maybe he'd stop off at the dingy bar before heading back to Earth.  Thinking of that made him wince.  He'd left Ianto and Gwen to pick up the pieces, to mourn on their own.  At least Ianto had his sister and Gwen had Rhys.  Jack had ... The Doctor.  Though only in spirit, like a ghost that haunted.  Ten was a bit of a ponce, but Jack loved him anyway.

He grimaced again.  Love.  Why in the hell did he allow himself to fall for that crazy bastard?  With the Doctor, it wasn't easy to just let feelings wane with time because time had no relevance where the Doctor was concerned.  Damn him.  Damn, damn, damn him.  Jack snorted to himself, silently admonishing his hypocritical thinking.  Here he was, vilifying his love while at the place he'd chosen for his periodic rendevous with the Doctor.  It still gave him a warm feeling of satisfaction, having surprised the Doctor by showing him a place the Time Lord had never been.

Facha--which Jack tended to rename "Fuchsia"--was both a planet and a moon, and pretty small for getting attention.  Perhaps that's what the Doctor liked?  Jack liked it for that and for its beautiful scenery.  It was largely a gem planet, made primarily out of water and crystal.  Like volcanic beaches, the sand wasn't rock.  And the tiniest of crystals imbued the air, making everything sparkle.  One had to be careful breathing the air here, but only if you were human.  For Jack and the Doctor, it wasn't a problem.

Somewhere in the back of Jack's thoughts was the knowledge that he'd chosen this meeting place in order to keep Ianto away.  It was a conceit; when would Ianto ever follow him off-planet?  He literally didn't have the means, but Jack liked to think that Ianto would find the means.  And that he was that important to the man.

But mention The Doctor and Jack would be off like an arrow, seeking to affix himself no matter the cost.  Clinging to the outside of the TARDIS was proof of that.  A layer of guilt coated his thoughts for a moment, but long experience made it easy to push it aside.  For the time being.  Jack was too enamored with Ianto to be able to ignore him for long.

. . .

It was hours, sitting with his arms propped on his knees, before Jack looked at his watch.  It was startling, even for him, to know that he could just lose himself in thoughts both real and fantasy.  To be able to do that had been forced upon him, thanks to Grey.

Grey.

Jack angrily forced thoughts of his brother out of his mind, boxing up the grief to be laid open at some other time long distant.  It would take many years for him to come to terms with Grey's betrayal; now was not the time, and here was not the place.  This place was for solace, for solitude, for healing.  If only...

"So here we are again," came the voice behind and to the right.  Up a bit, standing on the rise built of grass and stones.  The voice made Jack freeze.  It was different, younger-sounding.  And yet who else could it be saying those words?

Jack refused to turn.  "Been awhile," he said quietly, swallowing.  "Didn't expect you."

"Yeah well that's me, always popping about, no time to say hello-goodbye."

Jack grinned sadly.  "And yet here you are."

"Yes, here I am."

There was no motion; neither Jack or the Doctor moved.  Jack cleared his throat and pointed his chin at the emptiness beside him.  "Join me?"

The Doctor was quiet for several long seconds.  "Why not," he said, and Jack pictured a man with sad eyes.  When the Doctor moved down, he sounded lighter in weight; it was something that a long life taught Jack to detect.  There was breath, and then brown shoes, not sneakers, and narrow trouser legs that ended too high.  Not a fan of fashion.  Jack grinned and stared down at his hands, not ready to look into the new face and remaining wardrobe.

"They're gone," Jack said softly, swallowing hard.

"I know," the Doctor said, his tone laden with sympathy.  "I'm sorry."

"Thanks," Jack said, then he looked.  Brown hair, still wild.  Jack loved it.  Gentler face, boyish and warm, but with a bit of a brooding brow.  He wore a brown jacket, blue shirt, and a bowtie.  A bowtie?  "Bowtie?"

The Doctor smiled.  "Of course.  Bowties are cool."

Jack chuckled and looked away, blushing because the laughter the Doctor provoked felt sensual.  He looked over again, taking in the whole.  "Yeah, on you, they are."

"You're blushing!" the Doctor laughed and punch-shoved Jack in the shoulder.  "Stop that or I'll have to leave."  He straightened his bowtie when Jack looked at him.  "I blush more these days.  It's a bit embarrassing."

"Embarrassed? You?" Jack said, not really surprised.  It fit somehow.  This Doctor seemed a bit more vulnerable than the others.  And yet there was also some terrific strength in there, a stubbornness to match that chin.  "It's not so bad," he added, just as the Doctor opened his mouth to protest.  "Don't worry, I can keep a secret."

The Doctor grinned.  "Not really a secret."

Jack grinned back.  "Who is she?"

The Doctor showed annoyance but it didn't reach his eyes.  "Pond.  Amy, and her husband Rory."

Jack was surprised.  "A couple?  Really?"

The Doctor looked away, his voice tense with false irritation.  "It's definitely a first.  And how did I know they wouldn't like the bunkbeds?"

Jack's smile grew wider, but as he expected more of an explanation, the Doctor's eyes grew dark and secretive.  "What?" Jack asked, then a horror popped into his mind.  "They aren't ..."

"No, no, nothing like that.  Just ... marriage.  You know, it's a bit ... new."

Jack suddenly realized that the Doctor didn't just mean Amy and Rory.  Despite his preparation, a heavy stone dropped in his stomach.  "You?"

The Doctor waved a hand.  "It's all so complicated and I'm not really in a mood to explain."

Jack automatically accepted that and he nodded.  "It's okay though?"

The Doctor winced.  "Like I said.  Complicated."

Silence rose between them, lasting for several minutes.  Jack didn't fill the emptiness with words.  There wasn't any need.  Except he wanted to get back to the bantering.  Banter made him feel like everything would be okay.

"I was married once," he revealed.

The Doctor raised his brows.  "You never said."  It was almost accusatory.

Jack shrugged.  "Not really something you talk about unless there's commonality, you know?  Long lives tend to keep 'talking about yourself' to a minimum."

The Doctor gave him a slightly mischievous look.  "Yeah.  Might take all day."

Jack laughed.  "You should talk."

The Doctor smirked at him.  "Didn't you say that once before?"

"Stop making it true," Jack retorted, smirking back.

The banter returned to Jack's relief, as they compared the planet to others they'd visited, and the subjects narrowed to a discussion of the number of gems found on every world.  An hour later, Jack's stomach rumbled and the Doctor rose like a shot.

"Be right back."  When he returned, he carried two quart-sized bottles made of dark blue glass with wide bowls and narrow necks.

"Oh my god, is that ...?"

The Doctor smiled.  "Faery Spirit from the Plane of Forgotten Smiles."

"That's ..."  Jack struggled to clear his throat.  The pale green liquor inside was light on the head but heavy on the stomach, like eating a full gourmet meal.

"I think the word you're looking for is 'yummy'."

Jack laughed.  "Are you using Earth slang now?"

"That would be a yes, given that I've been using contractions for eons," he said, handing Jack one of the bottles before sitting back down.  They popped off corks and clinked the necks.  "Cheers," they both said, and drank.

Jack had heard of this liquor but he'd never had the opportunity.  It was almost like water, but sweet and savory, with a dash of something else that reminded Jack of melon.  As the liquid went down, he was attacked with thirst, taking more and more.  When he pulled the glass away, he sighed with satisfaction, and for a moment, lamented that he'd drank it all.  He waved the bottle at the Doctor with a reproachful.  "I'm out, dammit."

The Doctor smiled knowingly and waved his bottle back.  "Not really."

Jack shook his head.  "Oh yes," he said, but as he started to tip the bottle, some liquid began to pour and he jerked it upright and held it aloft.  "Hey, wait a minute ..."  The bottle was refilled.  "But I just drank the entire thing.  Didn't I?"

The Doctor smiled.  "That's the magic of Faery Spirit, which I'm glad I to state was given a second home on Earth.  In Ireland to be more specific."

"Ohhh, you..." Jack said, smiling widely, thinking of the fairy myths and the Tuatha de Danann.

They sat for a while, just sipping the drink, thinking to themselves.  When Jack felt he'd had enough, he recorked the bottle and slipped it in one of his coat pockets.  "Thanks," he said.

The Doctor nodded as he looked out over the water.  The glow of the perpetual sunset softened his face and lit his eyes golden.  "You're very welcome."  He rose then, slipping the bottle into his own jacket.  "And now..." he began.

Jack tried to be stubborn, refusing to rise.  It lasted a minute, then he got up.  A soft smile appeared but it defied the longing in his eyes.  "Already?"

"Yes," the Doctor said.

Jack walked with him up the dune and twenty yards or so to the TARDIS.  Outside the door, they faced each other, then Jack took a breath.  It was shut off when the Doctor pulled him into a hug.  Jack tried not to squeeze hard, but it was the only way to describe the reason for his being there.

"Don't say a word," the Doctor said suddenly, in his ear.  He pulled back but kept him loosely in his arms, then framed Jack's face in his hands and softly kissed him.  "I know," he said softly.  "And I understand."  He then kissed Jack on the forehead before slipping into the TARDIS.

Jack took a few backward steps, feeling loss and elation in one contradictory expulsion of breath.  As the TARDIS fired up, he whispered, "You don't understand," while staring up at the light where the visual sensor resided.  "Maybe one day you will."

As the TARDIS began to disappear, the Doctor's voice came through, deeply echoed.  "Maybe I will."

Jack smiled and waited for the TARDIS to fade completely, then he stood there a few seconds, feeling the kiss lingering on his lips.  He retrieved his coat and folded it over one arm as he turned to look out over the pink ocean.  The glittering crystals seemed to be faery dust and he smiled and wondered if they were.