trobadora: (Ten/Jack - connection)
trobadora ([personal profile] trobadora) wrote in [community profile] wintercompanion2017-07-01 05:14 pm

dustlines: The Stillness Here (Ten/Jack) [PG-13] - SUMMER HOLIDAYS PROMPT 1

Title: The Stillness Here
Author: [profile] dustlines
Beta: waffleguppies
Prompt: 1: fear, talking, code, Cesaria Evora - Tiempo y Silencio
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Jack Harkness/10th Doctor
Words: 3,268
Genre: Hurt/Comfort
Spoilers: General spoilers for Torchwood: Miracle Day, and Tennant-era Doctor Who
Author's Note: I interpret the Doctor as existing somewhere on the ace spectrum, but in my view, this is still absolutely a romance.

Summary: Set after Miracle Day. In a quiet, safe space, the Doctor and Jack help each other cope with the losses they have suffered.

***

"Mortality hurts," the Doctor says, apropos of nothing. He is leaning back against a spaceship wall carved entirely from translucent sapphire, one faded white Converse shoe crossed over the other so that his scuffed left sole is pointed at Jack. As if looking through thick, colored glass, Jack can see lights and living beings moving around silently on the other side of the deep blue wall, but an automatic digital filter, for privacy's sake, has obscured the faces behind the stone.

Still reeling from his brief return to being able to die, Jack feels exposed in front of so much movement, so he leans his back against the soundproofed, cold gemstone wall and pretends they are alone on this ship. Beside him, the Doctor seems to have no such concerns about being watched. He had turned up unexpectedly after Esther's funeral, just short of demanding Jack come with him. After accepting, Jack had expected to be taken to some crisis zone in need of help, but instead he'd only been taken here, where everything is calm and made of crystal. In front of them, the entire opposite wall is composed of a clear stone similar to quartz, which allows them to look down through minute rainbow refractions at a multicolored planet below, upon which many jeweled continents glimmer under the firefly light of a green sun.

"Yeah," Jack agrees, his hands shoved low in his coat pockets to avoid the chill seeping through the crystals around them. "Can't say I wanted the reminder." There is an ache in his lungs that still won't go away, a weak pulse of fear at the center of whatever provides the immortal strength in his bones that the Miracle had temporarily stolen from him. He takes a few calming breaths of the air, which itself contains so little of its own scent that he can only smell the wool of his coat and a peculiar, cinnamon and fire scent that only floats up from the Doctor when he moves fast enough to make his coat sway. The Doctor often carries odd scents with him, seemingly without realizing it. Wherever he's traveled to follows him through time, like a shadow of somewhere else's air.

Mostly still now, the Doctor takes a sip of whatever bright, yellow-and-red-swirled drink is in his martini glass, which is cut from the same sapphire stone as the wall behind him. He tilts his head to the side and sighs. "Oh, well, sometimes you can forget for a while," he says, then takes another sip of his drink. He seems to have a hard time swallowing, and then he sniffs and adds, "Bit harder, once you've been reminded again, though." Though his tone of voice is relatively casual, the shadows in the Doctor's usually bright eyes as he refuses to meet Jack's gaze tell another story. At this point in the Doctor's personal timeline, he has not yet met Donna Noble for the second time, and his loneliness at having no companion to travel with follows him like a heavy snake that has wrapped itself around his leg and sunk its teeth into his heel.

Jack does not want to think of how, in many respects, he is standing beside a ghost. Though Jack has yet to have his own final encounter with this man who has inspired so many legends, Jack recalls so clearly the night when Martha Jones had called him to confess, through her tears, how she had caught a glimpse of the Doctor she knew, watching her and Mickey from afar, and how she had just known that the Doctor had been saying goodbye. A similar story from Sarah Jane only corroborated this feeling, though the Doctor in this very moment, a tall, slim man in a brown suit who is leaning so casually beside Jack in this sapphire ship that orbits a jeweled planet, does not know anything about the deaths and regenerations ahead of him, at least not yet. Meanwhile, it still remains a possibility that Jack will see this version of the Doctor many more times, all while knowing that, from certain perspectives, the man has already died.

Jack crosses his feet at the ankle, his hands clenching into fists inside the pockets of his coat. He thinks this line of thought is getting to be too much, too soon. Though he is several thousand years and millions of miles away from their deaths, he still feels like he's only just watched both Esther and Angelo be lowered into the ground, as though their bodies are only now beginning to cool, though he knows they must be only dust by now. Time allows so few to linger. Not even the sliver of pure, energetic intent with its brown suit, tan coat, and slim frame beside him will survive it all, though the Doctor comes closer to eternity than most.

"Bit of advice, Jack," the Doctor says, after a long pause has haunted the both of them in their shared silence. As he lowers his empty glass with a clink to rest on the ground beside him, his voice echoes slightly within the sapphire walls of the spaceship, which, given its immense size, is really more a floating city than anything else. The beings on here have lived in the orbit of their home planet for so long that even their evolution has been shifted by the ship's low gravity, their bodies more feathery and hollow-boned than those of their fellow citizens on the jeweled planet below.

Jack looks back up at the Doctor, having not realized until this exact moment that he has not lifted his gaze from the shimmery, polished black onyx floors in a while. "Advice?" he asks, with a half-hearted laugh. "Coming from you, this is bound to be good."

Unfazed by the mild taunt, the Doctor turns so that he is leaning only one shoulder against the wall, allowing him to gaze more directly at Jack. The lights behind the wall cast a haunting blue glow over his features, giving him the not-inaccurate appearance of an unearthly being, though he normally hides it so well. Beneath the light, there is something in the Doctor's expression that Jack cannot quite read because he's never seen it there before, something that unsettles him in the way walking past a graveyard at night does. Here, in this moment, the Doctor looks like a carrier of death, or at least a man who regularly keeps its company, a man whose eyes see the possibility of death everywhere he goes.

Jack shudders and looks away. He can't remember ever having felt so unnerved around the Doctor before, but his recent—through brief—return to mortality, spent constantly on the run and even nearly dying from poison, has shaken him. For the first time in centuries, Jack is remembering what it's like to be afraid of death. He understands the Doctor is not the source of his fear, but that does little to calm it down.

"Jack," the Doctor says, his voice low. His hand lifts, fingertips pressing lightly against the curve of Jack's jaw. This near, the Doctor is like a black hole, pulling Jack closer as if by gravity. Jack could not escape the touch, not even if he wanted to. He can feel the truth of this all the way down to his core. The only way to ever truly leave the Doctor is to be left behind by him, and, even then, only if he never comes back.

"Listen to me, Jack," the Doctor continues, as he holds Jack in his orbit. "The worst truth is that people die, and when they do, or if you're just looking at them while they're still alive and you can't stop fearing when they won't be anymore... you must always do one thing. Just one thing, Jack."

The Doctor's touch against his cheek is cool, which is normal for the Doctor, but less normal for Jack now. Somewhat unintentionally, he has gotten used to the softer warmth of other humans: of Gwen's friendly hugs, and Rhys's playful shoves as he pushes Jack away at the end of a joke, and a little further before that, of Ianto's careful, insistent hands around his back and up his sides, the breath of him puffing warm against Jack's neck. There are others, of course, all blending together now, so many of them gone from Jack's life. Up as contrast against them all, the Doctor's cool touch seems unexpectedly foreign as his palm presses closer to Jack's face. Still, Jack lifts his own hand to cover it, providing warmth from his own body to the back of the Doctor's hand.

"And what would that one thing be?" Jack asks. He can't avoid the shiver in his skin, nor the way his grip is loose against the Doctor's touch, though perhaps this is for the best. The Doctor has always resisted being held onto. As the Doctor leans even closer, Jack's heart beats fast within his chest, fluttering like birds in a hurricane: unsteady and unsure, just wanting the safety of a place to land. He has a terrible feeling he knows where this is going, though he does not know why it would be terrible, except maybe just that he, in general, is afraid, and he does not want to start anything with the Doctor when he is afraid.

The Doctor's face is so close now, only his breath caressing Jack's mouth. Perhaps noticing Jack's lack of response, however, the Doctor goes still before the obvious attempt at a kiss can begin. Looking carefully into Jack's eyes from just a few inches away, he holds his breath, which is what it takes for Jack to realize he has also stopped breathing, and that his chest is burning from the lack of air. Before Jack can say anything, the Doctor pulls his hand out from under from Jack's barely-there grip and steps back, leaving the echo of a moment that could have happened lingering between their bodies.

Settling his back against the sapphire wall that is giving him such an eerie, alien glow, the Doctor crosses his arms around his chest to further separate their bodies and then says, in one long exhale, "You must remember to live, Jack. It is the most difficult and yet best thing you can do."

Heart thudding in his chest, Jack stands there in what seems to be a crevice of uncanny valley, like a chasm of space where nothing makes any kind of sense anymore. Suddenly, his personal crisis about mortality has become a mess of an entirely different kind of emotion. He licks his lips, which have dried, and he says, "Doctor... was that what I think it was?"

The Doctor looks past him and out the view screen, where that luminous, jeweled planet still spins on its slow, steady path below the firefly green light of its sun. In the colored light around him, the Doctor glows and shimmers in a way Jack thinks might actually be appropriate for the Doctor to look like every day. Certainly, the Doctor has always seemed more luminous than he appears.

The Doctor then shrugs with just a shoulder and one eyebrow: an embarrassed, utterly human quirk, and his normalcy returns in a flash. He runs a hand up his neck, ruffling the back of his hair in embarrassment. "Expected a more responsive reaction from you, to be truthful. Timing's always been a bit off between us, you know." He shrugs again. As if to remove himself as quickly as possible from his recent actions, he speaks in a rush as he adds, "Ah well, it's no matter. Probably for the best, that. Don't want the next few millennia to be too awkward between us. We'll run into each other a few times yet, I imagine."

Jack inhales a slow breath through his teeth, wanting to feel what he expects should be excitement about this development between himself and the Doctor. For so long, he has wanted to know what the Doctor might feel like in his arms, but now that he has been given the opportunity, he only feels vaguely uneasy about how he'd almost just gotten him there. On the ground before them both, there are shadows calmly flickering past, bringing intermittent pauses to the light glowing through the sapphire wall at their backs, and as Jack watches those shadows move, he makes fists inside of his pockets, tensing his jaw as he considers what to do.

Finally, he simply rolls his shoulders before saying, "Doctor, as flattered as you know I am by the offer—however far you'd planned to take it—I've rather gotten the impression that you don't normally go for that sort of thing."

The Doctor makes a brief, high "hm!" noise and looks pointedly out the view screen, avoiding eye contact. "Well," he says, as he pushes away from the sapphire wall and takes a few steps closer to the planet below, his hands folded behind him. "I'm not, per se, against it. Well, I say that, but then, it's also true I wouldn't seek... I mean, well, on occasion, I've considered, or even... well, that was..." He pauses, furrows his brow and then runs a palm over it, ruffling his hair again. The mere lack of cohesion in his words is more than enough confirmation for Jack to realize he's made the right call, especially when the Doctor stammers for a few more seconds before making a frustrated sound and saying, "Well, I don't have any particular leanings, either for or against," He turns around, arms up and expression a little lost as he says, "but I'd hoped it might make you feel better."

Jack can't help it. A small smile begins to warm his face as he looks upon the Doctor, feeling both a little sad for him, for being willing to sacrifice his own comfort for someone else's, and also so deeply fond of him for being as caring and kind as he is.

"You know that's not a good reason to start something with someone, right?" Jack has to be sure, as he continues leaning against the wall. "Either all involved parties are into it, or it's just no good." He frowns a bit then, lowering his chin but looking up to more plainly indicate his seriousness when he re-emphasizes, "You do know that, right?"

Before him, the Doctor seems a bit flustered now. He paces in front of the wall-sized window, the motion of his coat finally enough to swing that odd, fire and cinnamon scent into the air. "Jack, I brought you here because I knew you needed a distraction, and calm. Because I felt it when you became a non-fixed point in time, and I..."

"You were worried," Jack finishes for him, "that I was actually going to die."

The Doctor freezes where he is, taking a deep breath. Plunging his hands into both pockets, he turns back to facing only the planet outside, which still hovers in its glittering, firefly green glow.

"That scared you," Jack realizes further. He huffs, and then says, "You didn't just come get me for my sake. You did for yours, too. To convince yourself you still had at least one person around who couldn't die on you."

The Doctor doesn't respond to this. He just keeps looking outside, his back as still as the gemstone walls around them both. The posture is an eerie one to see him wear, as usually even his moments of stillness contain some hint that he is going to move sometime soon, and this carries none of that.

Looking down at the silent, gentle motion of shadows across the gleaming onyx floor, Jack thinks about how he is not the only one who has lost people, nor the only one who has more people to lose. At this point in the Doctor's life, for example, he has not even met up again with Donna, much less lost her a second time. Jack has no way of knowing how much longer the Doctor will remain alone, but at least, right now, the two of them have the company of each other, as sad or fearful as they might be in the face of their respective losses.

Painfully, Jack clears his throat, and then peels himself away from the wall. He does not approach the Doctor, not yet. He only says, very quietly, "So is there anything you are into?"

Still facing away, the Doctor makes a small motion with his shoulder, possibly the hint of a flinch, or maybe he's embarrassed to be into so little. Perhaps he expects to be judged for that, but that's not why Jack asked the question.

Slowly, Jack begins walking towards the Doctor until, standing beside him again, he can see the taut lines of the Doctor's jaw, clenching beneath his skin. When Jack attempts to catch his eye, the Doctor looks away.

"I don't control how I am when I regenerate," he says, as if he's annoyed to even have been caught in a position of needing to have this conversation at all, and his tone is vaguely defensive as he adds, "Some things, I just am. I can work around them, though, when I need to. I was going to, but—"

"A hug?" Jack interrupts. "You like them still? I like them. If you could use one, I could use one."

The look the Doctor turns towards him then is bewildered, like it's completely in opposition to what the Doctor had expected Jack to say. They are both hurting, and they are both more alone than they want to be, and they both keep so many secrets they think they can never afford to share with anyone, out of the belief they could never find someone who would understand.

Jack offers his arms, and the Doctor responds in kind. When they draw together, chins settling over each other's shoulders, Jack feels the shuddering of the Doctor's lungs as he sighs. His arms come up around Jack's back, holding him close enough to press their chests together. Jack expects the hug to only last for a few seconds, but because the Doctor doesn't let go, Jack doesn't either.

"You're a fixed point," the Doctor murmurs, after a while. "I can always tell." The comment doesn't seem attached to anything in particular, so Jack waits for him to continue. The Doctor keeps holding on to him, arms tight and his two heartbeats thumping against Jack's chest. "But... you're not wrong, Jack."

It's a throwback to a time that seems so long ago, to the end of the universe and an overheated, red-lit room, where a conversation about immortality and the prejudice of Time Lords was had through bulletproof glass.

"There's nothing wrong with you, either," Jack sighs over the Doctor's back, and feels the tense muscles in the Doctor's shoulders go loose at the statement.

The Doctor swallows, and then rests his cheek against Jack's shoulder. He doesn't speak anymore, but neither does Jack, not for a long while. They only stand there, in front of a window overlooking a glittering, jeweled world, recounting their losses and holding on to what they have left.

Jack still fears the cold of death, both his own and that of others, and so he does what the Doctor suggested before, and what Jack himself has for so long excelled at.

He continues to live, and, for now, the Doctor in his arms does, too.




~end.

xpost: http://wintercompanion.livejournal.com/262203.html

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