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trobadora ([personal profile] trobadora) wrote in [community profile] wintercompanion2014-04-11 06:12 pm

GIFT FOR PAMYMEX3GIRL: Break the Silence 2/2 (Jack/Eleven) [Teen]

Title: Break the Silence (Part 2)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] a_phoenixdragon
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] pamymex3girl
Rating: Teen
Pairing(s): Jack & Eleventh Doctor
Spoilers/warnings: Some Violence, Mild Gore, Horror, Angst, Dark, Character Study, Introspection, Mild Slash, One-sided UST
Summary: So many lives disrupted and destroyed in the wake of that box of bluest blue. It would have happened whether they had been there or not – maybe in a harsher degree than if they hadn’t been there. He had witnessed that first hand; more than once actually. Had wished for the Doctor’s brand of destruction to come and wipe away the destruction that was unfolding before his eyes so many, many times. But it was easy, easier to blame the Doctor than see the truth. The Doctor knew it. He expected it.

« Break the Silence (Part 1)

Break the Silence (Part 2)

O-o-O


The blast had been tremendous.

Jack had found himself gasping awake in the middle of an endless broken sea of people, the moans of the injured and dying muffled by the pervasive quiet that comes after a major detonation. There was nothing like it in the world; that ringing absence of sound a relief and a horror all at once. It meant it was over, that the very worst that could happen had already come about. But the aftermath…

They wouldn’t be here for the aftermath, Jack was quite sure.

He couldn’t find it within himself to really care though. Not this time. Not about these people. They created their own suffering. It was high time to let them wallow within it. He didn’t dare to dream they would learn from it, but that wasn’t really his problem either.

He couldn’t find the strength to stand, but he didn’t let that stop him, all thoughts circling around the Doctor and digging him out of the rubble. If he was alive, they could make their way back to the TARDIS and let everything sort itself out in time. If he was dead –

If he was dead, Jack would do him the honor of bringing him home.

In the end, neither digging the Doctor out (much less carrying the Time Lord to his TARDIS) were options. In fact, the Doctor’d had to do the digging and the carrying – Jack was just along for the painful ride.

The civilization they had encountered was amazingly resourceful, extremely far-sighted in their malicious intent and twice as destructive as even the Doctor had come to expect. At the time, Jack had wondered what had happened to him, how much he had learned at their hands (literally and figuratively) – but he just couldn’t bring himself to ask.

All he’d wanted to do was go Home.



O-o-O



It took Jack a while to stop running. It took quite a bit longer to realize he was far from all he knew, wandering aimless within the depths of a machine that carried all of eternity within Her walls. At first the thought brought a bitter smile to his lips. He had lost so much else to the Machine and Her Pilot – why not his physical self?

After a few more twists and turns in the corridors, a few more dusty rooms that hadn’t seen use in decades (if not centuries), common sense prevailed and he began to worry more than a little bit. Until he realized he was being guided.

It was subtle, that sense of being led. That whisper-tug that was (always) the TARDIS hadn’t dimmed or faded, really. If anything it had gotten stronger as he walked further into the depths of Her, the presence of the sentient machine warm and slightly exasperated as She allowed him access to some areas, ‘roped off’ others and kept his feet on a well-lit path. She likely knew what he needed more than he did himself at the moment – and even if he didn’t trust Her Time Lord (a lie), he had always trusted Her. She had never led him astray, Her love for the Doctor and his Companions a fact more than a feeling; but that in itself was a comfort (even when one didn’t want such comforts).

Just when he thought he couldn’t possibly walk any further, he found himself in (what he assumed was) an old console room, the vaulted ceilings both warm and foreign at the same time. It seemed oddly familiar (a tickle of memory), but he couldn’t place it; the room seeming to brighten as he approached the console itself, the strange mix of steam-punk Victorian and alien tech more quaint than off-putting.

He ran fingers over the wooden dais, smiling as the TARDIS hummed welcome at him, the sound still intimate and comforting even in such a large space. The similarities with the newer control room were striking, even as the atmosphere was different. This was sleeker, more sophisticated: the other was almost a hodge-podge of assembled junk parts, an innocent jumble of odds and ends made to look like a console…a child’s daydream of what the TARDIS was supposed to be.

He had a feeling that the console rooms generally matched their owner. With that idea in mind, the old green-coral room he had come to love so well made real sense. Dark, but homey – a sweet longing etched into every pillar – as if the pilot was trying to keep Her close, even in mourning.

He had no idea why he was thinking this, but it helped to calm him, keep him settled. Remind him of the Doctor and all that he stood for. Even despite his pronouncement that it might be otherwise.

Now that he was away from him (and able to think more clearly), the shock dropped away, leaving sadness in its place. He saw those words for what they were. He saw the Doctor’s anger at himself (still wishing he was a god, even as he declared the opposite) and what that anger represented as a whole. The mistaken idea that anyone (much less a god), could have prevented what had happened on that old battlefield almost terrible in its futility; the whole world had been already so soaked with blood, how could more blood even possibly make a difference?

To the Doctor it did though. He thought those deaths could have been prevented, even if the people that died were the very ones who ensured that their own demise would come about. They brought it upon themselves, but they were not the ones who held the blame in the Doctor’s eyes. He reserved that for himself. He should have been faster, smarter

Jack knew that thinking all too well. He had some of those same ideals, unearthed and polished by the Time Lord, even when he had all but given up on himself and the universe. Even after centuries of hardship and pain, he still believed: in the Doctor, in himself, in the inherent goodness of most of the beings in the universe.

Sometimes it was hard to remember that. Other times it was all too easy. This was one of those moments where it was easy – but only because of the man who declared it was a fallacy. That his own efforts, his own goodness was no more than a falsehood told by a madman with too much time on his hands and all the universe (past and present) at his feet. It told Jack everything he needed to know about the Doctor’s state of mind. Which brought more questions that begged answering.

Maybe it was time to find those answers.


O-o-O



It was the second (series of) explosions that was the surprise. They were small ones, but Jack knew that old Earth saying; he didn’t know who first said it, but they weren’t far wrong.

Coming back awake (gasping, shaking, palms and neck prickling from horrors on the other side that were only half-remembered), was less pleasant than the first time; darkness was falling when he rose once more (for the 2,578 time) from the cool grip of death. The disorientation never got old, the sense of skewed (or lost) time and the feeling that he was missing something was very much a constant, but he hadn’t quite gotten the hang of it all after all these years. Maybe that was a good thing – but when one had a missing Time Lord and a blood-thirsty mass of citizens that may or may not be dead…well, it just wasn’t wise to be out cold (there’s a joke for you), when the situation was this dire.

He really hoped the Doctor hadn’t died. But the lack of movement in any corner of the square raised the possibility just that much higher. Even before the last detonation, there was little to give hope: the sounds of the dying growing fainter before petering out altogether as he had crawled over the bodies of the fallen crowd. What little life there was in the mass of people underneath him was trickling away – and he’d never even gotten close to the center of it all before the world collapsed (once more) in white noise and numbing darkness.

He had sat up and brushed the dust and other detritus from his clothing, a little more refreshed this waking than the last – and almost died from shock all over again – when the Doctor appeared (like magic) by his side, face grim and eyes shadowed by the fading light above. Jack’d had to restrain the urge to shout at him (pulling the reflexive punch before he could get it off), his heart galloping madly in his chest as a little voice in the back of his head nattered on stupidly about spirits and haunts and madmen as poltergeists. He swallowed hard and tried to whip up a smile for the Time Lord, but felt it fall away as the thin lines around the Doctor’s mouth deepened, his eyes distant as he grasped Jack’s hand to haul him to his feet.

“We have to go,” the Doctor had said, eyes scanning the carnage with a grimace, before his glancing at the Captain – assessing, assessing, assessing. “I don’t know what other little surprises there may be under all the…there is nothing we can do here now. For these people. I can’t even –”

His mouth had snapped shut on his last statement with an almost audible ricochet of sound, his voice still carrying that hoarse quality that made Jack wonder what had happened before the bombs had even gone off. He was dying (funny, funny) to ask, even as he desperately didn’t want to know.

So many things he didn’t want to know.

Pain flared in his right leg as he made to stand on it and though he tried to hide it, the Doctor (even as distracted as he was), zeroed in on his awkward stance, silently sliding his bulk under Jack’s arm to give him better balance and take the weight off of his leg. He had tried to muffle the grunt as his right wrist and left side shouted abuse at him for his rash movement, but the Doctor seemed to know (as he always did), making Jack sit back down so he could look over his injuries and check him for any other damage. His assessment was quick, efficient and gentle, the soft murmurs of his voice dampened (instead of echoing) in the thick silence around them; the same silence only exacerbated by the occasional pop and crackle of a scattered handful of small fires that hadn’t yet died out.

“This usually doesn’t happen, am I right?” He’d asked, the frown in his eyes and at the corners of his mouth too at home on his boyish face for Jack’s liking, the cool drift of his fingers a balm and a distraction all at once. “I mean, generally after you…you come back whole – no injuries?”

“Generally, yeah,” Jack had replied, the urge to whisper in this field of the dead almost overwhelming – but he managed to bring himself to talk a little louder, even as it felt wrong somehow. “But with two deaths in such quick succession –”

He had regretted saying that almost as soon as the words left his mouth, the Doctor’s eyes darkening in response, gaze dropping away from Jack’s face.

“I see,” was the only reply as he shuffled through his pockets, coming up with gauze and four sturdy flat sticks, his hovering form dropping down into a crouch as he wrapped the Captain’s wrist and ankle, only pausing to ask standard questions about the tightness and comfort of the bandages.

“That’s the best I can do for now,” the Time Lord had said after checking his wrappings. “I’m afraid it will have to do until we get back to the TARDIS. It will be long going and I can’t promise these will hold up during the journey. You might find yourself in quite a bit of pain before we get there. If you do, let me know…of all the times to not have paracetamol in one’s pockets.”

The last was muttered more to himself than the Captain, his gaze still closed off, his demeanor becoming distant once more as he helped Jack to his feet for a second time. The Doctor’s grip firm but gentle, the coolness of his skin helping to anchor Jack and keep him steady as they limped awkwardly together over the bodies, the Time Lord testing the footing every step of the way before guiding Jack along the path he’d set.

Nothing further was said between them as they slowly groped their way through the sea of the dead, the heavy silence an indicator of everything that had happened over the last eighteen hours, even as there was so much that screamed to be talked about. Jack focused on one foot in front of the other, the flares of occasional pain as he stepped down wrong (once, twice) an almost satisfying deterrent to speech. After all, what could he say that could possibly make this any better?

Eventually it became too much, the distance versus his injuries serving to dump him straight into shock; his steps faltered and weaved, the Doctor’s stabilizing bulk forced to stagger with him or they would both be teetered over on their arses. He tried to breathe through it, ever aware of the Time Lord’s disapproval when it became apparent he couldn’t go any further under his own steam, even with the assistance from the Doctor.

“Don’t understand,” Jack had slurred drunkenly. “Usually heal faster than this.”

“Well, you are overworking the injuries,” the Doctor said with mild, fussy exasperation. “Maybe we should rest a moment.”

“No Doc,” Jack murmured, swallowing thickly at the bile that surged in his throat; the stench of the dead, the greasy smell of smoke and the steady throbbing of his leg and wrist (side long forgotten), almost overwhelming him for a moment. He tried to shake his head, but immediately stopped when nausea washed over him in a clammy-cold wave, his stomach heaving against his will when he tried to speak further.

The Doctor shushed him (the command reaching deep, stopping his voice) and shifted his weight, catching Jack’s bulk with an ease that belied his wiry frame. Jack tried to focus on the soothing nonsense that flowed from the Doctor’s lips instead of the unsteadiness of his legs and gut, cool relief spreading through his veins as the Time Lord soothed a hand over Jack’s face and throat, the tingling touch serving to make him sleepy and less nauseous within seconds. He tried to speak against that odd block, ask the Doctor what was happening, but the other man shook his head, smiling sadness into the receding line of Jack’s vision, gentle caress falling away as he lifted the Captain fully into his arms, grip still firm, still careful – like he was handling a delicate object.

“Ah, Captain,” the Doctor murmured softly, that sad smile just as at home on his face as his previous frown; Jack wished he could ease that terrible shadow gracing his lips, give him a reason for joy, for laughter, even as the world faded by degrees. “Always trying to put up that brave front. I’ve got you, you’re safe now. All you have to do is rest and heal – let me get us home, yeah?”

He wanted to agree, to tell him he trusted him absolutely – but found himself unable to do so, the effort almost too much to contemplate, much less follow through on. Nevertheless, cradled in the Doctor’s arms, he felt safer than he had for a long, long time. The comfort of that feeling wrapping him in drowsy warmth as everything went dark for the third time in less than three hours. But that was okay; he was safe now, he was with the Doctor and soon they would be Home.

When he woke up in the TARDIS (what seemed like minutes later, but was likely quite a bit longer than that), everything went to hell again, but in a completely different way. They were back to being (just) the Doctor and Captain Jack – an abyss that widened with every breath he took. No matter what Jack had thought during those horrible moments (gasping awake amid the sea of the dead) , no matter what he had hoped for afterwards, he just couldn’t seem reach him.

After too much time to reflect and too little way given by the Time Lord, he didn’t even know if that was (truly) what he wanted after all.



O-o-O



Butterflies.

In the TARDIS.

Butterflies as in ‘plural’; not one – thousands. Thousands of colorful, soft-winged creatures in a room that looked less like a room and more like a planet unto itself – the mild breeze stirring the fragile denizens of this previously unknown realm into a frenzied riot of color and the soft whicker of multiple wings in flight. They swarmed curiously just over Jack’s head: swallow-tails, monarchs, painted ladies…thousands upon thousands of different shapes, colors and species from all over the universe (though to be fair, the majority of them seemed to originate from the Doctor’s adopted planet, Earth). They seemed to study him – this interloper in their private (if vast) haven – before soaring away again, to cluster around the ‘room’s’ only other occupant, a lone figure seated on a hill just over the next rise.

Quite frankly it was both astonishing and beautiful.

Looking around in flabbergasted wonder (which was saying something for a man his age), Jack peered curiously at the door he came in from, not surprised to see it ‘floating’ about two inches off the ground with no frame to hold it. Lush green hills, willowy trees and clear creeks dotted the landscape all around him (even behind the door) – the sky a wide-open bluish haze, with a warm, yet softly shining sun peeking through the shredded-cotton clouds that drifted lazily above the hills. He’d think he was dreaming if he couldn’t feel the ground beneath his feet (springy, yet firm) or the breeze upon his face (wafting with the scent of oranges and cherry blossoms from the trees). The butterflies danced in sleepy patterns between and over the hills, tangled knots of vivid color resting like living blankets across the long stretches of green, almost indecipherable from the exotic flowers that dotted the landscape in wild bunches.

If Jack had an idea of heaven (a concept he hadn’t bothered to consider for a handful of decades), this would likely be it.

Of course this room existed in the TARDIS. How could it not? It was wild, beautiful, improbable and fantastic – just as the Machine and Her Pilot were. It made perfect, perfect sense, even as it was the most nonsensical thing he had seen all day. And consider the day (and all of its terrible outcomes), that was quite a stretch. But this created that perfect balance: a room of sheer beauty and peace – a technicolor contrast to the last twenty-four hours of ugly terror and weary insanity.

It would figure he would find the Time Lord here of all places. Nothing else could bring relief to a tired heart and tattered soul like this place. And he was quite sure the Doctor knew the terrain quite well. That thought made him sad and joyous all at once, feelings that seemed so at home when he spent time here in the TARDIS.

Once they had been welcomed, those feelings. That was Before: before he had been abandoned the first time; before the invasion that destroyed his family. He had a lot he’d had to forgive the Doctor (and himself) for. It was time to put that forgiveness, that understanding to the test and hone it like a hand up to be grasped instead of a weapon to be fought against.

With that in mind, Jack took a deep breath and made his way to the silent, unmoving figure just over the next hill, his eyes taking in all of the beauty around him, drinking it all in like a soothing elixir as he approached the Doctor on lighter feet, unsure of his reception, but not dreading it as he had thought he would. Whatever would come, would come.

If there was one thing Jack had learned how to do over the course of his long life, it was to roll with the punches (and sometimes the lack of them). It was a testament to his survival (as such) that he was still relatively sane and happy, even with his life and how long it was/is. He tried to keep himself human, but sometimes he needed help. Sometimes that help was anything but human. Most of the time, it was the Doctor.

He was silent when he crested the hill (slightly out of breath, but only because of the burst of speed he put into his steps and the steepness of the hill more than anything else), the urge to smile only quelled by the solemn set of the Doctor’s shoulders, his body stiff and out of place in the serenity of their surroundings. He made no acknowledgement of Jack’s arrival, other than to scoot a few inches over to give the Captain room to sit under the willow tree with him, his eyes still riveted to the chuckling, rushing stream that flowed on the other side of the hilltop.

The butterflies danced above them, seeming silly and earnest all at once – their vibrancy and frenetic patterns of flight almost surreal against the sleepy backdrop. The babble of the stream below and the whir of wings (again) above the only counterpoint to the silence that washed warm and comfortable over the two men seated on the hill.

At least Jack assumed it was comfortable. The Doctor didn’t look as if he was there, really: lost within the churning of his own mind (as he was inclined to do), though he had a soft (if sad) smile on his face; the antics of the butterflies seeming to amuse and inspire a different melancholy than he’d been carrying before Jack ran from him in a tangle of thoughts and flurry of limbs. Ran like the Doctor (and all that he meant) was the devil and was set to chase him down and burn him away. That wasn’t the truth, but it wasn’t far from the heart of it, either. In the end, the Doctor had to make peace with his own assumptions. Jack hadn’t done much to deter those assumptions, but then, the Doctor hadn’t really given him much of a chance (until now), to do so.

The quiet bled soft and slow as the minutes turned towards the half hour, the passing of time a mere fancy in this place where time seemed to stand still – the sun always shining, the sky always blue and the endless green of the landscape stretched ever on away from them. Jack didn’t push, his keen instinct telling him that the Time Lord would give way, let him in – but only if allowed to do so at his own pace.

There were so many differences with his regeneration, even as one could tell he was pretty much the same man underneath the newer face. This face that had seen and lived through much before his time with the Captain. He longed to know it all – all the adventures and triumphs and heartaches that came before he made his way back to the man with No Time and All Time in his bones. But for now? For now Jack could come to terms with what the Doctor was willing to give. Maybe all the other would come later. Maybe it never would. All he could do was be silent and wait (as so many had, he was sure), the Doctor’s body relaxing by degrees beside him as he marshalled his strength, his thoughts. Readying himself to explain, to share or just babble about nothing (which usually meant Everything in Doctor-speak).

After a few more minutes of reflection, Jack decided to try a different tack, a different way of clearing the path ahead (so to speak). Maybe it was his turn to open the conversation that neither wanted to have, though they both needed it. And just maybe he should get it started: not push, nor demand – but open the door. He’d never done that before, but then, he’d never really had to; his first Doctor was all silence and storms, his second was all bright babble and ridiculous outbursts at the first touch of emotion.

It was difficult sometimes to remember that though they may all be the same man, the way they saw the universe and their place within it was vastly different, as were their reactions to the same. This one carried the other two within him, but he seemed to walk a fine line between – a tightrope of living that must be thoroughly exhilarating and yet exhausting all at once. This one could be approached and would respond in kind. This one could accept that open hand, even if he treated it with weary paranoia; the expectation of retaliation more telling than his reaction to that retaliation (if it ever came at all).

“I’ve never thought you to be a monster,” Jack said softly, noting how the startled flinch of the Doctor’s shoulders melted back into stillness – eyes wary, though his posture indicated he was at least listening. It wasn’t much of a start, but it was better than Jack had hoped for, so he carried on with his thoughts, speaking them out loud a relief and a sorrow all at once. “I had often wished you were – just because it would be easier to…it would be easier. But I have never once thought that of you.”

He swallowed back any extra words that wished to tumble out, knowing (somehow) that this version of his old friend would see it as a deflection, a dissemblance that masked any real truth with the avoidance of the same. He had opened the door. He had let the Doctor see the path was clear. There was no trap (perceived or real) to tiptoe around or blunder through.

This Doctor always seemed on edge, always seemed ready to stumble head-first into trouble without any knowledge of how it manifested. It was sad and curious, but it was a raw nerve that couldn’t be poked at this point. Maybe if Jack could get the Time Lord to trust him in this conversation, to know it was okay to have this conversation, he would find out how he got to that type of thinking. For now, he would be content with even the barest bones of the thoughts spinning in the Doctor’s mind. If he could ease the hurt that lay beneath (or just get him to see it and see there was no need for it), Jack would feel he had accomplished more with him than he had in centuries.

The Doctor wasn’t a god, he just had the power of one. He wasn’t anything more than a man who lived (and had lived) for a long, long time. He’d had a lot happen to him – with a lot more would likely happen – before he let go of the universe he loved so much (or it let go of him). But he was just a man. He might feel and see things differently than most beings, due to experience and longevity – but in the end, he could be lonely, angry, tired, scared or hurt just like anyone else. It ached to have all previous illusions (sewn carefully into the psyche), by his other selves disarmed so gracelessly, though it was ten times better to see the real person beneath rather than the fantasy he chosen to portray.

“Doc?” Gently. A soothing touch against an unseen hurt, instead of a jabbing accusation.

“I hadn’t known…I had forgotten the universe held pockets of such cruelty,” the Doctor rapped out, almost as if the words were startled out of him before he could stop them. His eyes stayed on the middle distance, fingers twisting in his lap as he smiled his sadness at the butterflies above – their vivid beauty bringing an ache to what the Time Lord had to say – the feeling so close to happiness, even as it wrapped itself in a fog of melancholy. “I honestly thought…they refused to talk to me. To tell me why…I suppose the ‘why’ doesn’t matter, though, does it? There was no real reason. I am so used to reason. I have come to depend on it, even when things spin so wildly out of control. I have had so little control for a long, long time and I had thought…if just this once –”

He bit his lips and shook his head, eyes dropping to the cat’s cradle of his hands, knuckles white and tense, even as his voice stayed soft – that hoarse rasp almost gone, though not quite completely. Jack tried to breathe (slow and even) through the ache in his sternum, the stubborn lump in his throat as he watched the Doctor virtually pull away from him, curling around his own words as if to protect the Captain from everything he was; even if that was nothing that Jack needed protecting from.

“I didn’t mean for the bomb to…the shielding had deteriorated so rapidly. I wanted to – I thought that if I could just find a way to control it, wrap what was left of that shield around the device itself, maybe I could control the detonation. Keep it from…but I wasn’t fast enough.” Another wry twist of his lips that looked so similar to a frown, even as he visibly struggled to keep his face blank, his voice steady. “The magnetics were already fluctuating at a pace that was hard for the sonic to pinpoint – I couldn’t seem to get what was left under control. I don’t know if the other bombs weakened the relay on the inside of the device like they had to the shielding, or if maybe I had my sonic on the wrong frequency, but…the results were the same. All those people. I did that, Jack. In trying to save myself – I did that. Whether the device was triggered by me, or by faulty wiring, in the end I killed every person there. Intention is a moot point, really. What I intended doesn’t really matter. The results are all that matters and…I’m sorry. If I could have been just a touch faster. If I had realized how shaky the shielding was in the first place…”

The Doctor’s voice grew faint, trailing away as he risked a glance at the Captain – then he was looking down again, almost as if he could keep the truth from bringing more horror to them both. Maybe he looked away so he wouldn’t have to face that horror reflected back in Jack’s eyes, even as he seemed so sure he would only find Jack’s disappointment in him, in what he should have been: the dragon known as the Doctor finally revealed, the illusion destroyed, the sorcerer helplessly unmasked.

The Time Lord’s shoulders were tense once more, hands twisting together and apart as his body tilted away from Jack, waiting for the inevitable rage within a cold smile, that assured knowledge of Jack’s hatred a knife used to cut himself with (even as he unknowingly cut Jack); the Doctor’s wounded words and slices of thought didn’t seem to be enough for the tug of self-destruction he was listing towards. He needed that final push and he needed (he expected) Jack to provide it.

The Doctor was always too hard on himself – it was more instinct than habit by this point – and that habit, that instinct was the worst kind of drug. He was addicted to his own harsh judgments and no one could ever be as hard on him as he was on himself. It was like that with damned near every creature in the wide universe, but sometimes Jack needed that reminder that the Doctor was a living, breathing being like everyone else; and this incarnation brought that idea home like no other. It was refreshing in a way, even as it was a difficult concept to grasp. But at moments like these…

“I was just so shocked. I knew those two prisoners, Jack. R’lan’th just wanted to go home to his family. He was so, so young. I didn’t think they’d…they’d actually…kill him.” The Doctor went supernaturally still at his pronouncement, the pain bleeding from his words couldn’t have been thicker if it was one of his own people, his very being vibrating with the bewildered pain that had been visited upon him; Jack may never know what tortures those people had subjected the Time Lord to, but nothing could bring him to his knees faster than an innocent person being hurt, being killed because of (what he perceived as) his mistakes. He had barely known the youngling, but he took his horrifying demise to heart, that much was obvious.

“He was so innocent – a mere baby, really – and so very, very frightened. It was all Plna’ath and I could do to keep him calm. And…he died anyway. They both died and it made no sense. There was no reason, no point to it – and I just…let it happen! Why did I do that? How can you say I am not a monster, when I clearly behaved like one? So concerned with my own safety, I allowed them to die…they died for an ideal that didn’t exist all because I was too slow, too late. And when I finally came to my senses, they were both…gone and I had seconds to fix a problem that I should have known how to solve minutes before! What good am I, if I can’t even save a child from ignorance and terror? What good am I if-if I can’t…”

He cut himself off with a small, aborted sound of sorrow, the frown creeping back over his face as he stared sightless and empty at the tangle of his hands; he barely seemed to notice Jack sitting by his side, as though he expected Jack to leave – either out of disgust or the need to escape the undertow of pain in his voice. The reason wouldn’t matter, just the expectation that this would happen, that it would always happen. This version of the Doctor was so very (shockingly) lonely; so unwilling to share in anything but his triumphs. And it seemed his triumphs this go around were rather few and far between.

The lies his smile told more heartbreaking than the truth his eyes bled.

“You’re the Doctor,” Jack said simply, ignoring the small snort from the Time Lord sitting so quiet and eerily still beside him. “Even if you have forgotten what that means, the rest of us – your friends, your family – the people who love you…we haven’t forgotten. No, you couldn’t save R’lan’th and Plna’ath, but then…no one could. Those people, that planet –”

It was Jack’s turn to shake his head, angry at the civilization that had shored up the Doctor’s inner darkness – stunned that, that very darkness had almost swallowed the man completely, had almost eaten everything that made the Time Lord so special. He had allowed it to happen, that much was clear. Jack didn’t know how or why, but when the man you still thought of as a friend depended on you more as an enemy, something had gone seriously wrong.

Jack had allowed his own darkness to rage for far too long. Maybe they could both learn a lesson from this tragedy. Maybe he could get the Doctor to trust in Jack’s faith more than his hatred. It had been that way once (long ago and decades away); maybe he could make it that way again.

“Those people had left behind what made them ‘people’ a long time ago. There are monsters we can fight and then there are monsters that we can’t. They were the monsters Doctor, not you. You trusted in their reason, in that spark of decency that we find everywhere, in damned near everyone in the universe. It isn’t your fault they didn’t have it – and it is certainly not your fault that you tried to draw that goodness out despite them. That is what you do. That is what makes you the Doctor.”

Jack sneaked a glance at him, relieved that he was listening, even if the frown still lurked at the corners of his mouth. It was a start, it was a beginning – and it was almost better than Jack could have hoped for.

“That is half the reason so many love you, and half the reason so many more hate you. But all of us, even the ones who disagree with your ideals – respect you for it. They recognize who you are…what you represent. You might not always be there when any one individual needs you. And I know you can’t be everywhere you want to be, or even when you want to be. If anyone knows about fixed timelines, it’s me. But you are always there when it counts – even if it is just inside those who know you and love you. Who we are is made better because of you, not in spite of it. So…I know what you are thinking. But truly, none of this was your fault any more than it was mine. I mean, with that thinking, I should have been able to rescue all three of you before the shield went into place. We couldn’t know what would happen. Neither of us can predict evil, not on that level. Not when it wears the face that would normally house goodness, reason and sanity. Those people murdered R’lan’th and Plna’ath – not you. You were their friend when they needed one. You tried to save them – which is way more than the monsters who killed them ever tried to do.”

He fell silent again, letting the Doctor absorb what was said (and some things that were not said), and take away the truth, the meaning behind it all; if he could even see it. If he couldn’t see it, if he couldn’t find the light past his own darkness, Jack had many more arguments and a lot of time to bring them forth in. That planet had taught him much. Some of the lesson had taken a little longer to sink in, his own inner demons as strong (sneaky) and stubborn as the Doctor’s own.

They were old men: not as elastic, resilient or cock-sure as they had once been. But if experience had taught them anything –

“Have I ever told you,” the Doctor asked softly, small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, still sad, still hurt – but willing to try anyway, even if it was just for Jack’s sake in the end. “About my best friend Amelia and her husband Rory?”

“No, Doctor,” Jack replied with a small, hopeful smile of his own. “I don’t believe you have.”


O-o-O



Deep inside a blue box (bluest of blue) anywhere and any-when, there is a room. It is actually less of a room and more of a field, but it is hard to grasp until one sees it (and even then, it may be hard to grasp – especially if you consider yourself in any way a rational being – also known as a ‘grown up’).

Inside that room that is more than a room is thousands upon thousands of butterflies. Quite a few you know and several more that I am sure you don’t. And though they are beautiful and free and wonderful, the butterflies are less of a point than the room that is not a room.

The room (like so much of the rest of the bluest of blue box) is magick. The whole box is magick, really – but that room (filled with butterflies and beautiful swaying trees and streams that run to their own music) has a special kind of magick.

That magick has been known to heal old wounds, repair even older friendships; all under the endless warm sun floating sleepy-awake in the ocean of blue sky. That sun never sets there. The sky is always blue. The breeze is always sweet and smelling ever-so-faintly of cherry blossoms.

The room-field carries so much magick within it. Enough to make other types of magick possible. And occasionally (if you are lucky enough to see it), you can catch a glimpse of some long ago tomorrow that happened just minutes ago; a different magick that is very much the same (but only if that helps you understand it).

Right now, within that magickal room that holds all time (and no time at all), there are two old friends that are-were discussing everything and nothing. Relearning that not all hurts are permanent, that most wounds do heal and deep friendships (those true types that you read about in fairytales that happen all the time in the real world grown-ups talk about), never quite fade.

They talk for a long time under a sun that never sets and a breeze that never stops whispering through the trees. They talk of many things, of many lifetimes lived and the ones yet to come. They talk of hope and adventure and dashing heroics (and all the things that fall between). If one listens closely, one can almost hear of the next daring escapade yet to come that happened so long ago it has been forgotten by all but the gods.

And everywhere (like a living carpet of color and sound and thrilling, vibrant
thereness) are the butterflies, but they aren’t half as important as they believe they are. But oh, the things they hear from those long gone and yet to be; those truths, half-truths and truths to-come (and maybe quite a few that never were).

Maybe one day(through a whisper of delicate, strong wings forever flying), they may tell us.

But that is another real fairytale for another day…

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