Spoilers Very, very vague ones for Last of the Time Lords.
Word Count: About 2,000
Betas: matsujo9 and unfeathered
Prompt: set2music Prompt 21: Tonight's the night the world begins again,
Summary: The first person the Doctor saw after his world died, screaming, was a young man with a brilliant smile, dimples, hair that kept falling over his forehead and blue eyes that looked older than the universe itself. A bit of a role-reversal for Jack and the Doctor.
Author's notes: There are no lyrics in this story. If you're interested in them, they can be found here. Wonderful, amazing, awesome, art by laurab1.
The first person the Doctor saw after his world died, screaming, was a young man with a brilliant smile, dimples, hair that kept falling over his forehead and blue eyes that looked older than the universe itself. He didn't recognize the features, had never seen them before in his life, but the hint of something already broken behind the vivid blue was as familiar as his own face.
In fact, it was more familiar than his own face; he couldn't remember the last time he'd looked himself in the eye.
The first words out of the smiling mouth were gentle and warm but there was a strength underlying them that the Doctor wanted to trust and, because he wanted to, didn't trust at all. "You shouldn't be here," the other man said.
"From the sound of it, you shouldn't be here, either," he snapped. The accent was American. That didn't fit this place, this time, at all. Come to think of it neither did the humanity. His forehead wrinkled as he frowned.
The man shook his head. "No, I'm exactly where I belong, Doctor. You're not."
Wariness became paranoia because he didn't remember this man. He'd never seen him before. Someone from his future? Someone from his past that he'd forgotten? Neither was good. One because it implied brain damage, the other because it implied a future. "How the blazes would you know? Why do you care? What do you want?"
"I know because I know. I care because I care. I want..." He paused and shook his head slightly. For just a second an ancient sadness and delicate fragility showed in the endless blue of his eyes. "What I want doesn't matter. You're supposed to be somewhere a long time ago and far away. Where'd you park?"
"Where I parked isn't any of your-"
"You have people to meet and worlds to save. Where'd you park?" There was steel underlying the voice as it cut him off and for all that it offended him - and it offended him rather a lot - he was briefly shocked into silence.
In that shocked, offended pause, the other man wrapped his hand around the Doctor’s upper arm. His hand was so warm the Doctor could feel heat seeping through the leather of his coat, his shirt, all the way to his skin and, he swore, halfway into his soul. Not burning, only a warmth that made him shiver. He dug his heels in to keep from being moved, and looked the other man squarely in the eye. "What's your name?" he tried to demand, but really only asked.
Blue eyes bored into his and, the Doctor thought, saw far, far, too much. His answer, when it came, came with a flash of a smile so bright that it eclipsed the bloody light of the dying sun and spread the warmth from that hand on his arm and half way to his soul down to the very bottom of it. "Jack."
"Jack what?" he asked. He frowned, stalling for time and doing not one bloody thing to get that hand off his arm although he knew he should. He didn't want to lose the warmth.
"Just Jack," the man said firmly. The Doctor noticed the fine lines around Jack's eyes, the slight dusting of silver in his hair. Barely there and unnoticeable until you looked for it, but impossible to ignore once you had. It only added to the almost palpable aura of authority, age, and warmth Jack projected. It was comfortable. He felt comfortable. The Doctor hated that.
"Well, Just Jack, how about you tell me what you know and why you want me out of here so badly, and then I'll think about-"
Cue an eye-roll. That was the most human thing the Doctor had seen from this man. The exasperation and the impression of throwing his hands in the air, even if he didn't actually do it.
"My past, your future. You're going to meet a beautiful, golden girl who is going to remind you about living and laughing and dancing. You're going to save the world a hundred times over, maybe a thousand, but you're not going to do it if you sit on this rock and wait for the universe to end. Now: Where did you park the TARDIS?"
The Doctor paused, harrumphed, and then started walking, leading the way across a gray and desolate landscape that was lit by a star too close to collapse to do more than paint with dark colors and cast shadows that were so thick he could almost feel them brushing across his skin. Jack went with him, following along more than leading. "What about you?" the Doctor asked after a half-dozen steps.
"What about me?" Jack asked. He sounded perplexed; that brought the Doctor some grim satisfaction. It was about time someone else was confused.
"Do I meet you?" he asked, starting to grin. It felt foreign on this face. It felt good. He didn't think he could stop.
"Your world just blew up. Be more traumatized and less annoying," Jack snapped.
It was thoughtlessly, carelessly cruel and it shouldn't have made the Doctor's grin spread, from the feel of it, from ear to ear. He told himself it was because he'd struck a nerve and scored a point. He wasn't sure he believed it. It felt more like he was baring his teeth, but then, he felt more like screaming than smiling. "That'd be a yes, then."
Jack let go of the Doctor’s arm as he continued to walk in the direction the Doctor had headed, but he didn't answer. He didn't speak at all. The Doctor reminded himself that he didn't have anywhere else to go or be, or anything else to do, and followed.
It didn't take long for the TARDIS to come into sight, glowing against the darkness but not penetrating it. Then the Doctor got his answer, because Jack had a key. Kept on an old ring among door keys and car keys and keys to boxes and blocks, Earth keys and Antarian and Orion ones, keys made out of iron and polymers and synthetics and wood from worlds thousands of miles away, was the TARDIS key.
Jack unlocked the door and pushed it open but he didn't step inside, just left it open and spilling light into the darkness, illuminating a strip of hazy gray air, dirt and dying, brittle grass. He returned the keys to his pocket, casual but careful, and stood just outside the door, silent and waiting, his head tilted a little to one side.
The Doctor let go of the last of his wariness when he saw the key. Jack could have known him from anywhere, but if he had a key it was because the Doctor had trusted and loved him - would trust and love him. Or, given the tangled timeline, both.
He went to Jack. In the full, glaring light from the open door, he looked into those incredible and complex eyes. The feeling that they could see not just into him but that every dark corner of his being, that every shameful secret and denied impulse was illuminated and exposed, returned and increased. The grin faded. It was a relief. "Why are you doing this?"
Jack was silent again as the last of the dying star’s weak rays faded and darkness closed around their little island of light. Just when the Doctor had decided he wasn't going to answer, Jack answered. "Because the universe needs you and you're not going to save anything standing around here, feeling sorry for yourself."
The Doctor hesitated. Felt the faintest flicker of a spark of hope, of purpose and of maybe. Then he nodded. "Who am I to argue with saving the universe? Where am I going?"
He was rewarded with another one of those grins and the light of Jack's eyes was warm again, not so painfully bright and soul-searing. Jack reached into his pocket and handed the Doctor a card. "Go inside and feed these coordinates into the console, then come back out."
He thought he should protest being ordered about, so he did. "Excuse me. Whose ship is it?"
Jack laughed. The Doctor liked it. It was rich and full with softness and the weariness that seemed to run just beneath the surface of the sound, like a current in clear water. "Alpha male contests later, coordinates now."
"Humans. Evolve enough to get out of the trees and you think the universe is there to order about,” he grumbled as he stepped through the door and into the TARDIS. He continued to grumble, softer and under his breath, while he set the coordinates.
When he went back out, Jack was standing with a hand on one of the panels, just resting there. He appeared to be deep in thought, but when the Doctor emerged Jack held his hand out and bent his fingers upward. "Give me the coordinates."
The Doctor frowned but returned the card. "London, 21st century. Not going to forget that, Jack."
"Because I loved you, even when you couldn't see me," Jack said softly.
"What? What are you going on about?" He was confused. Except he wasn't, really. The statement scared him out of his wits. He didn't want to be loved. It wasn't safe, for him or for them.
"Why I'm really doing this," Jack explained and stepped forward.
Jack caressed his fingers against the Doctor's cheek and then curled them around the back of his neck. Held him there while Jack's lips brushed his. Even in the first touch of breath and slide of soft skin, the temperature difference was shocking. The Doctor tensed, put his hand on Jack's shoulder to push away and gasped.
Jack took advantage of the gasp, tightened his hand on the Doctor's neck and deepened the kiss. There was a single, shining moment of suddenly being more aware. Of warmth and light and love. Of honor and valor and life. Of undying friendship and unending devotion. Of everything that Jack was.
Then the warmth exploded into searing heat and the light became blinding. All the energy of time - more power than the Doctor had ever felt - was unleashed in his mind and the Doctor was helpless to do anything, anything at all, but sink into it, be dragged under by it as harsh light was eclipsed by velvet darkness.
Jack caught the Doctor before he could hit the ground, swung him easily up into his arms and carried him into the TARDIS. He put the Doctor down gently and then took the time to look around. This was the ship he remembered from more than five hundred years ago. This was where he'd become someone worth being.
The shattered man he'd so carefully put down was the one who had picked up the pieces of the broken man that Jack had been and put them together in the shape of something better, something infinitely stronger. Something bigger on the inside.
That was the man he'd lived and died for.
More than half a millennium and Jack had aged and evolved, grown. He wasn't sure he'd ever be entirely beyond anger, but he was damned sure he'd never be beyond love.
He walked back out of the TARDIS with a final look, closed the door firmly and - with a flick of the still present and long-repaired wrist comp - sent the Doctor to Rose.