http://magic-7-words.livejournal.com/ ([identity profile] magic-7-words.livejournal.com) wrote in [community profile] wintercompanion2011-12-16 10:35 pm

magic_7_words: What He Didn't Say (Ten/Jack) [PG]

Title: What He Didn't Say
Author: magic_7_words (a.k.a. WishingStar)
Challenge: Amnesty 2011 / Admiration Challenge
Rating: PG (for mild swearing)
Pairing: Ten/Jack
Spoilers/Warnings: Takes place some time after the end of Season 3
Summary: Locked in a psychic fight for his life, Jack needs all the help he can get.

The Doctor found Jack strapped to an examination table with electrodes stuck to his head. The room appeared empty, but the Doctor guessed that the responsible party had just nipped out for a moment, maybe on a milk run, because nobody would leave this much complicated-looking technology running unattended for long. Not to mention the small detail of leaving a person hooked up to said complicated-looking technology. Jack was unconscious, pale and clammy, but an array of screens and monitors displayed his vital signs and nothing had flat-lined, which the Doctor took as a good sign. Still, the Doctor would have bet his sonic that whatever those electrodes were meant to accomplish, it wasn't good.

"Nobody ever gets the 'don't wander off,' do they?" the Doctor muttered, unbuckling the restraints around Jack's wrists. "I don't know why I bother to say it. Every time I turn around." He lifted Jack's head to start removing the electrodes.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you."

The Doctor jumped, looking wildly around and failing to identify the speaker. "Why not?" he demanded of the room at large. "And hold on, why should I take instructions from a disembodied voice, anyway? Who are you?"

"In order of your questions: because the transfer's not yet complete and you could kill both of us; because at the moment I happen to be telling the truth; and I'm over here." A movement caught the corner of the Doctor's eye. One of the monitor screens had changed. Instead of a blood pressure readout, it now showed a waving arm and a man's face--blond, tawny-eyed, and all too familiar.

"I do love surprising you, Doctor. The look on your face never fails to make it all worthwhile."

The Doctor shut his mouth, which had dropped open without his consent. "You should be dead," he accused, stalling, trying to compose himself. "How are you here?"

The Master grinned and folded his arms--presumably, as his arms didn't quite fit into the screen, but his shoulder movements indicated arm-folding. "Oh," he said, "that's a long story, involving much creativity and profound genius on my part, but I won't bore you with the details. Your friend here won't last long enough for me to finish, and I'm afraid his passing would constitute an inconvenient interruption."

"That's Captain Jack, if you'll recall. Don't hold your breath, because he can't die."

"Really? You've concluded this based on your extensive, in-depth study of the subject?"

The Doctor experienced the distinct sensation of a small, furry animal scampering down his esophagus and into his stomach. Dammit, the Master knew all about Jack. He probably knew more about Jack's condition than the Doctor did. "What have you done to him?"

The Master laughed. "Isn't it obvious what I've done? I'm about to achieve my lifelong dream of immortality, Doctor! Isn't that thrilling?"

"You're taking Jack's immortality?" The Doctor kept his voice even, exhibiting admirable restraint, he felt. "No, that's an intrinsic part of him, can't be separated out,which means... oh, of course! You're overwriting his mind and stealing his body! Oh, that's not good. Look, if we could talk about this--"

"You haven't changed, have you, Doctor? You still want the two of us to sit down and--" the Master wiggled his fingers to signify quotation marks--"settle our differences." I'm afraid what happens here isn't negotiable. I'm taking the immortal's body. Once his mind's been crushed out of existence and I'm invincible, then we can talk. I look forward to it."

"I see." The Doctor stuck both hands in his pockets and looked down, trying to focus, letting the wheels in his mind do their spinning thing. He could think a way out of this, of course, he'd seen much worse. He just had to remain calm. Easy. Just had to stop thinking about how really, unbelieveably bad it would be if he botched up this one...

"Are you sure you can manage it?" he asked, still stalling. "I mean, Jack, he's no Level 1 psychic. He'll defend himself."

"Oh, he did, at first." The Master smiled, baring his teeth. "But you know how persuasive I can be, Doctor. And you helped, of course."

"Sorry, I what?"

The Master looked like a cat with a canary now. "It's just that we've been having a little chat, your Jack and I, of the psychic battle-of-wills variety. Getting to know each other's little foibles, as it were. I've had an excellent look at his emotions, and there's a funny little spike that happens every time your name comes up. You claim to be a medical expert; see what you make of it... Doctor."

The screen below the Master's face flashed a series of graphs showing Jack's brain activity in various regions. It only took the Doctor a few seconds to identify the pattern the Master referred to. His hearts sank. "That looks like--"

"Resignation. Hopelessness. A touch of despair. Call it what you like, it's making my job ever so much easier. That's what psychic overwriting is about, after all: locating a victim's weaknesses, eroding his will to resist. Dear Jack hasn't got long now, not with a flaw like that in his defenses. What you must have done to him..."

"I came after him!" The Doctor's voice cracked; he barely noticed. "He has to know I wouldn't just abandon him." Satellite Five didn't count. "Not when he's in real danger." Dammit, did torture count as danger? "Not... lately..."

"Oh, he knew you'd show up sooner or later. Soon enough or too late, of course, that was another matter. As it happens, you are too late. There's nothing you can do to halt the process now. But if you ask me--" the Master lowered his voice as if imparting a secret--"it's not that he ever believed you wouldn't try to save him. It's that he was pitifully in love with you and thought you'd never notice him."

"That's rubbish!" It came out sharp and defensive, so the Doctor licked his lips and tried again. "Would I be here if I'd never noticed him? I always notice." He deliberately avoided thinking about how they each might define the word notice.

"Do you, really? Did you notice him on the Valiant? He noticed you, let me tell you. He saw the way you pined when you thought you'd lost me, so I'm going to ask you, just once, are you sure you won't let me take him?"

"What?"

The Master closed his eyes as if the Doctor was testing his patience. "Let me take him," he repeated. "You want me back, don't deny it. You cried like a child when I was assassinated. Did you cry for him, shot down by Daleks to buy you time you never used? Somehow I doubt it. You're always extolling the virtues of humans, but they'll never measure up to another of your own kind, and you've finally begun to realize that, I know. And let's face it, I'm a genius, and you're almost as clever as I am. We could work something out. A new Gallifrey, minus whatever genocial elements drove you to lock it away in the first place. See, I'm willing to meet you halfway. You've gotten very quiet, Doctor."

The Doctor, who felt rather as though his thoughts had burst free of his control and run amok like hyperactive gerbils, didn't answer. Madness and empty promises, anything the Master offered, and he shouldn't...

The Master leaned forward, filling more of the screen. "Besides, we both know you've no real use for this one, not specifically. One human pet is as good as another, isn't it--ohh, I'm afraid he doesn't like hearing any of this. Pardon, I have some mopping-up to do, if you'll hold on a tick--"

"No!" The Doctor broke free of his mental paralysis, aided by the Master's latest words and an urgent bleeping that had set up from one of the monitors, some kind of alarm. He flung himself toward Jack, resisting an impulse to slap the man's face and elicit some--any--reaction, and settled instead for gripping his hand. "Don't you listen to him, Jack," he muttered through clenched teeth. "Don't you believe a word he says. He's making it up, trying to break you. You have to fight him! I--" Damn the Master for catching him off-guard and in a vulnerable mental state. "I need you to come out of this alive, Jack, I do. I need you to fight him with everything you've got. Can you do that for me? Of course you can. It's your mind, Jack, take it back, go on. Go on."

The alarm slowed its tempo, stuttered, and stopped. The Doctor held his breath, uncertain what that meant.

"My offer is still open, Doctor, if you want to reconsider. On the other hand, putting off an answer until I've taken full control of this body without your help, that will be interpreted as a 'no.'''

They each still had a foothold, then. More importantly, the Master had lied--there was plenty the Doctor could do to help. He straightened and faced the monitor, keeping one hand in Jack's.

"I'll save you the trouble of interpreting, then, because 'no' is my answer. You hear that, Jack? I'm choosing you over him. It's that simple." Let it be that simple, he pleaded silently.

"Disappointing, Doctor, I must say." If the Master was truly disappointed, he gave no sign. "Still, I can understand your concern. My consciousness in an immortal body would become one of the most powerful forces in the universe. If you're truly bent on stopping me, you'll do whatever it takes, down to telling a worthless human you've 'chosen' him when really it's got nothing to do with him."

"It has everything to do with him, Master." He managed to suffuse the name with icy contempt. Maybe it was the word 'worthless,' or the fact that the Master wanted to twist his words into a weapon, but the Doctor's indecision moments before now seemed foolish in the extreme, the path forward obvious. "Jack Harkness is twice the man you'll ever be."

"Nonsense." The Master's voice had an edge to match the Doctor's. "He's a pretty plaything, nothing more."

"He's done more with his puny human life than you could dream of. What do all your machinations come to in the end? A few people are dead, I've stopped you time and time again, and now you're reduced to stealing bodies. Again. You have nothing; you've squandered it all. You're a waste of incredible potential, and that's one of the saddest things I can think of. But Jack, he's just the opposite. Itty bitty human brain, human perspective, human limitations, and yet he's accomplished so much. He's defending the Earth now without any help from me. He's working against longer odds than you or I will ever face, because we know how to stack them and frankly, we cheat; Jack goes up against whatever's thrown his way, using whatever he can cobble together with Earth technology, and he copes beautifully. I wish I could say I'd do half as well in his position."

"Stop talking," the Master said abruptly. Half of his first word cut out, as if the audio connection had dropped for a moment.

"I'm just warming up. You know what else I admire about Jack? His optimism. It's a trait I've always loved in humans, and Jack has it in spades. That remarkable ability to make the best of a bad situation. Not the belief that things will always work out, because they don't, but the spirit to keep on hoping and trying even when the universe knocks you flat. Jack's very good at that. And he's dedicated, that's the other thing. Persistent. The man's like a bulldog in some ways. Found that irritating at first, but it serves him well. I've had friends take me to task over running away before the clean-up's done, but Jack, when he sets out to help you, he finishes the job. He's still leading Torchwood after what, two hundred years, and it's amazing, the way he's turned the place around. I remember--"

"If this uplifting little speech is for his benefit, you're wasting your breath. He can't hear you."

"Liar. Whose ears are you using, then?" The Doctor squeezed Jack's hand again. "And has your picture always been that snowy? Never mind, I wasn't finished, not even close. I spent awhile avoiding Jack, I guess you know all about that. It wasn't fair, and he deserved better from me, but there you go, I'm not perfect. He hunted me down after more than a century in his timeline, and do you know what he did when he found me? Forgave me. Just like that. A century stranded in a primitive time, and he just put it behind him. It's a rare soul that's capable of that kind of selflessness. One in a million, maybe less. But Jack's always been selfless--even when I first met him, conning Time Agents, he put his game on hold the minute he realized lives were in danger, came clean and tried to fix his mistake. Which brings me to his sense of responsibility... how's that spike looking, incidentally?"

The Master spoke through gritted teeth, and a background hissing accompanied the grainy picture. "Make no mistake, Doctor, there will be a reckoning for this. Even with your help, he can't hold out forever."

"He won't have to. Because there's something else you ought to know about Jack. One more thing that's absolutely vital." The Doctor smiled. "He's stronger than you are. Jack, wake up."

Jack gasped and convulsed, like he did when coming back from the dead. The screens and monitors all flashed wildly before settling into new, more active patterns. Jack curled to one side and brought both hands to his head, groaning.

The Doctor crouched beside him, stroking his hands to ease them away from his face. "Jack. Jack. Say something."

"Think he's got a sledgehammer in there," Jack mumbled. "Hi, Doc--ow--"

"Buck up, now, you'll be all right."

"Of course he won't be all right. He's got me in his head!" The Master raised his voice over bursts of static, sounding truly mad for the first time. Horizontal lines flickered across the screen, distorting his image. "I haven't gone anywhere!"

No turning back now, not when they'd made it this far. "Finish him, Jack."

"How?" asked Jack.

"He's little more than a thought now. Stop thinking about him."

Jack grimaced. "Easier said than done. Have you ever tried not to think about a raging headache?"

"Oh, come on, you must have some way! How do you normally distract yourself from unpleasant thoughts?"

Jack lifted himself on one elbow. He raised his eyebrows further. "How do I normally distract myself?" he repeated, slowly, emphasizing every word. "That's a dangerous question, Doctor."

"Don't you dare," the Master interjected.

"Why's it a dangerous--oh. Oh." The Doctor felt his face grow hot. "You don't mean..." He made a few vague, nonspecific hand gestures. Very intentionally nonspecific. "All that."

"Well. Not all that, necessarily. But hey, anything you can do to help. I wouldn't ask, except for... you know." He tapped his forehead.

The Doctor gave a wry smile. "I walked right into this one, didn't I."

"Almost like it was intentional." Jack smiled himself, tentatively.

The Doctor sighed theatrically and dropped into a crouch again, his face level with Jack's. "Just so we're clear, Captain: I'm doing you a favor, and that's all I'm doing, because you would get yourself into this kind of situation. Don't get any ideas."

"Doesn't mean anything. Got it."

"Right." The Doctor leaned closer.

"Oh, no, you don't!" the Master shrieked, before the screen cut out with a loud crackle.

Jack kissed like silk and chocolate--soft and sweet and warm and richer, somehow, than the Doctor expected. The Doctor gave him some tongue, figuring he might as well do the thing right, and Jack performed some kind of flourish in return that made him pull back, startled, breathless, thinking of imminent danger. "All right?" he asked, to defuse the moment their eyes met. "Has he gone?"

"I--think so." Jack glanced at the darkened screen. He shook his head and shivered, as if struggling to pull himself together. "Yeah. He's gone."

"Are you sure?" the Doctor pressed, feeling something like regret. He hadn't gotten to mention Jack's incredible courage, or how quickly he picked up new technology, or the dozen other things the Doctor could think of now that he'd given the matter some thought.

I'm--yeah. As sure as I can be." Jack ducked his head. "Thanks, Doctor, I--"

"Because you can't be too careful." The Doctor raised a hand to Jack's temple, wondering if he ought to check psychically for the Master's presence. "With him, I mean. It never hurts to be sure."

"Oh." Jack leaned into the hand and let his eyelids droop. His breath tickled the Doctor's cheek.

"Better safe than sorry, hmm?" the Doctor went on, suddenly unsure what he meant.

"Hmm," Jack agreed, and they were kissing again.

Jack broke away this time, though not until he'd pulled the Doctor down atop him by the hair and the Doctor had one knee up on the table for better leverage. He framed the Doctor's face in both hands, inches above his own, mingled wonder and anxiety and bafflement in his gaze. "Doctor?"

The Doctor tipped his head forward to rest against Jack's. He tried to make eye contact, went cross-eyed for his efforts, and settled for letting their noses brush. "There's a human saying, maybe you're familiar with it," he murmured. "That you don't know what you've got until you lose it."

Jack sighed, and the Doctor felt a slight nod against his forehead. "Yeah," said Jack, "I know that one."

"Well, then."

Fingers traced the Doctor's hairline, down past his ears. "You haven't lost me," said Jack, still with a note of uncertainty.

"No. I catch on quicker than most humans."

Jack snorted, a puff of air against the Doctor's lips. "Well, then."

"Mmhmm."

"Mmm."

He'd have to run some diagnostic tests. Just to make sure everything in Jack's mind was as it should be.

Time enough for that, later.

***

A/N: Credit where credit's due--the main concept for this piece is one I've borrowed from an excellent fic called "Hearing Things" on Teaspoon and an Open Mind. I just went and put a new spin on it.

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