ext_4029 ([identity profile] wojelah.livejournal.com) wrote in [community profile] wintercompanion2014-04-21 11:30 pm

GIFT FOR THE COMMUNITY: A time to die, A time to build (Jack/Ten) [T] (Part One)

Title: A time to die, A time to build
Author: [livejournal.com profile] luorescence
Recipient: the community
Rating: T
Pairing(s): Jack/Tenth Doctor, Jack/Eleventh Doctor (mentions)
Spoilers/warnings: Set after Waters of Mars for the Doctor, after The Wedding of Sarah Jane to be more precise. Future!Jack. References to all four seasons of Torchwood. TW: Dark and mental torture at one point
Summary: When the Doctor told Jack he needed him on that planet before running away like he always did, the Captain hadn’t thought they would meet again before hundreds of years, at least. And yet, he’s standing quite literally in front of Jack’s nose, while the latter just got shot by sonic bullets. And he’s not even the right regeneration. Typical.
Author’s notes: Many thanks to my betas for their work and wonderful support. The Doctor and Jack wouldn’t cooperate, things got way out of hand, and well. The result is quite long, and just a tad timey-wimey.

**

Jack wasn’t pleased to wake up to blazing pain. His killer hadn’t even taken the time to push his body out of the way, leaving him in the middle of the control room and going back to checking the screens. He could feel him stepping over his body as the alien went from one visual display unit to the other, the brush of the long hair-tentacles trailing on the ground. In another context, there was no doubt Jack would have loved to test the flexibility of the supple cartilage-based scalp of the Kephlins.

For now though, Jack forced himself to stay completely still, keeping his breathing as stealthy as possible so it wouldn’t be noticed. The high priest wasn’t aware of his immortality and the Captain wasn’t keen on dying again so soon. That was without taking into account the fact that sonic bullets hurt like hell and the inevitable death was a mess, leaving organic fluids all over his face: sticky blood and a soft pinkish beige liquid he suspected had been his brain in his previous life.

Eyelids closed, the Captain could feel his headache growing stronger: maybe his new brain wasn’t complete yet -it wouldn’t be the first time he had woken up before his body had finished healing. He grimaced, quite happy his face was pressed against the ground’s cool tiles. At least the criminal wouldn’t be able to see him.

“Jack!” the voices of his partners exclaimed as one when they entered the room.

He was relieved to distinguish the three of them, Grant’s high-pitched voice and Laffy and Heln’s
much deeper ones, with their thick Kephlin accent that made it sound like “Jeq.”
When High Priest Elin, the bad guy of the day, blew a raspberry--thrice in succession, very loudly and Jack could feel some saliva dripping on his hands--in what could only be the Kephlin equivalent to fuck, he knew they had almost won. After all, they were alone against three men, and a fake corpse who was only waiting for the perfect moment to show he wasn’t so dead after all.

The work was almost done.

Almost, because experience had taught Jack that this was the ideal time for the unexpected things that tended to happen to him. Just like the whooshes of the TARDIS materialising somewhere on his left, probably in the small storage area whose entrance was facing the door where his companions still stood. Typical of the Doctor to have that kind of timing, or rather, typical of the TARDIS deciding she needed him to be here. Another one of these shenanigans the universe and its wicked sense of humour liked to pull.

Which resolved the why and led straight to the real question: which Doctor was it?

Certainly not the one who had brought him here, the one who flailed like he didn’t know what to do with his limbs and who had hair that felt like silk between his fingers. And that delicious companion of his, Clara, the mysterious girl who refused to live permanently in the TARDIS and who battled with her like no other companion before. Truth to be told, Jack had appreciated not being the only one to be disliked by the fiery ship. He just hoped for the sweet young woman it was more of a personal matter than a visceral reaction to her being some kind of “wrong”.

They had arrived, thinking it was Space Vega, only to be welcomed by the stunned expression of an assembly. The leaders of the world, they had learnt later, when they had escaped from the security staff, who had thought they were the terrorists that had detonated one aisle of the building earlier that day. The state police, the real terrorists had specified when they had crossed path with them, on their way to the closest exit. The Opposition, as they had called themselves, had lead them to a safe place and, in a pure Doctor-like adventure, they had taken an active part in the situation once the events had been explained.

They had overthrown the totalitarian government of a despot that seemed to come out of Orwell’s worst nightmares, with much talking between bouts of running. For Jack, there had also been plenty of shooting. Not at living beings though, the Doctor wouldn’t have taken that kindly. There had been one or two deaths, which the Time Lord had definitely not taken kindly: the Captain had earned himself a self-righteous talk about recklessness that sounded exactly like the regeneration before that one. Like the Doctor was better on that point.

Still, when the Doctor had told him he needed him here, someone he trusted to take care of the aftermath--after all, the Time Lord never stayed for that, he just left without a word--Jack found he still could only do what was expected of him. The long hug and kiss on the forehead had been his way of saying goodbye. In return, Jack had kissed him like he had kissed another Doctor, lifetimes ago.

Years had passed since then: enough time to create a life on this planet like he had done on Earth. As he thought, he hadn’t seen any of the Doctor’s faces since.

Once, facing such abandonment--at least, this time it had been as straightforward as the Doctor was capable of--he would have felt a mix of disappointment, anger and grief against the Time Lord, and mostly himself. This time though, he had found out he didn't, or nothing as intense anyway. Maybe because now that he was well into his two-thousand-something years--and that didn’t count the ones he had spent buried--he had grown too old for that. After all, he knew what it was to have to leave his dearly beloved behind, he had done it countless times, in one way or another. Also, he had since long lost the illusion that the Doctor was above other men in all regards. Travelling again with the Doctor, joined by Clara every Wednesday, had only reinforced that idea he had had such a hard time grasping: the Doctor wasn't perfect, never had been, never would be.

Not that it mattered, he thought as he heard the doors open. He shifted his head in that direction, all the noise around him dimming in the background as his eyes fell on trainers that belonged in beginning of the twenty-first century. They stopped only a couple of feet from his head. Jack could feel the heavy stare on his back that made his muscles contract.

"Oooh," the Doctor said, and Jack could almost see the mix of surprise and indignation as the Time Lord must have been examining the situation he had walked into. "So many guns, I really don't like guns." The Captain stopped himself from snorting. "Why is he dead?"

The Doctor nudged him in the ribs, his words strangely sounded like, "Why are you here?".

Jack couldn't really answer "Because of you", could he? And now that he thought about it, the older version of the Doctor had obviously known about their meeting and ensured it would happen. He remembered when they had met back on Qliver, somewhere in the sixtieth century, grinning from ear to ear as he had introduced Jack to Clara, saying how glad he was to see him and acting much more tactile than he had ever been, like there was something that had happened between them that Jack had forgotten.

The Doctor had kissed him senseless after an adventure harsher than the others. The Captain had chalked that up to this regeneration's peculiar quirks and happiness to be alive after nearly being burnt to death by an enraged sentient star. He had taken that and savoured the moment as a special occasion that wouldn't happen again before long. The universe had decided otherwise though--not that he had complained--and as soon as they had dropped Clara back on Earth, they had somehow found themselves snogging in the console room.

From that, it wasn't difficult to deduce that an older version of himself had had quite a good time with a younger Doctor somewhen in their timelines. Not that he had anything to say against that when his relationship with the Time Lord had been more than he had ever been able to imagine, even if it hadn't been the one he had dreamt of so many times.

A shrieking sound stirred Jack out of his thoughts, making his headache stronger. The criminal had retreated to a corner of the room, trying to fire those awful sonic bullets at the Doctor, who countered the attack with his sonic screwdriver. The balls were suspended in the air, resonating with the Time Lord's device, hence the dreadful noise.

Time to stop playing dead.

With a grunt, Jack forced himself to stand up and go to the alien, using his surprise to knock his weapon out of their hands, and pass his arms around his shoulders to immobilise him. The Doctor moved to the side, out of the bullets' way, before turning his device off. The relative silence was very welcome.

"Sorry, baby. I never seem to be able to stay dead for long," he mocked the Kephlin high priest as a shorter hair-tentacle lashed at his nose. "Kinky, I like that. Guys," he turned to his companions, "cuff them now. Bind the hair too, those are nasty things," he hissed when another one hit his left cheek.

"And the other one?" Laffy answered, hair-tentacles coiling with tension as they pointed their pistol at the Doctor, finger on the trigger.

"Come on!" The Time Lord frowned, indignation in his voice and hands up in the air in defeat. Jack didn't miss the accusatory glance he threw him, but ignored it. "I just helped you! Jack, you tell them!"

"Laffy, lower your gun. He's not a danger for us." Jack grimaced when his captive shifted to bite him, sharp teeth sinking into his left arm, drawing blood. He let out a loud hiss but didn't let go.

"Speaking of danger," he continued breathily, as the alien was now attacking his forearm and aiming
for his wrist. He had forgotten the things Kephlins could do with their very flexible bodies.

"Careful with them," he addressed his two other partners, Heln and Grant, who had already moved. The first took Jack's place, hair-tentacles coiling around the criminal to keep them still as the second tied them up. He winked at them before turning to Laffy, putting a hand on their gun, gently pushing it away from the Doctor. "It's okay. Don't worry about him, I'm taking care of that. You three, just deal with our fierce friend. The Congregation will want to have a word with High Priest Elin here about why he blew up a sanctuary and how he was about to bomb another one. I'm counting on you for that."

Laffy was silent but the green taint of his usual pale blue skin was a good indicator of his worry. Just like the fact he was nibbling his lips while glancing at the Doctor with suspicion. "You know each other?" he eventually asked after a while, bright golden eyes going from Jack to the Time Lord.

"Kind of--" The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck. He looked at Jack and corrected himself, "Jack is an old friend of mine. I'm the Doctor by the way, and you are?"

"Jack's team. I'm Laffy, and here's Heln. We're flock mates." Heln waved a hair-tentacle in greeting. "And the human's Grant."

The young man nodded at the Doctor, a big grin on his face. "Nice to meet ya, Jack's friend," he said with his thick Mercurian accent, all vowels prolonged. "I suppose ya've got much to catch up on."

"Indeed, yes. So, I'm borrowing Jack for now," the Doctor replied throwing Jack a pointed glance. The Captain raised an eyebrow at that, making the Time Lord scowl, much to his amusement. "Stop it. Now, let's go. Much catch up to do," he muttered while turning away, a hand on Jack's sleeve to urge him to follow.

"See ya later then, Jack."

Jack couldn't answer. He only nodded at the three of them before he went after the Doctor into the TARDIS, thinking about another team he had left to go after that same Doctor so many years ago. Not that--if he were to travel with him again--he would leave without saying goodbye: he wouldn't let them live through that peculiar kind of abandonment. He knew how that felt; he wasn't that much of an arse.

Or maybe he was, he told himself grimly when he stilled on the threshold, finally letting himself examine the Doctor. This Doctor wasn't the one with a companion he wouldn't fully acknowledge, because he was still grieving for Rose; the one who, in a very naive manner, had asked him to travel with him after calling Jack wrong and after that whole awful year that never was. Nor was he the one who had taken the feisty redhead, Donna, Jack reminded himself, that could keep the Doctor in check: she had been more an equal to him than Rose, Martha or himself before. Maybe because she had the fortune not to have romantic feelings for him.

No, this man was older and there was in his eyes the unmistakable shadow of someone who had lost everything. That one Jack knew well, for he had worn it far too long. The 456 debacle came to his mind, Ianto, then Miracle Day and its aftermath, Angelo, and in both cases, his need to get as far away from Earth as possible. This Doctor was the one who would show up to a much younger version of himself, to point him to sweet Alonso. That had been the last time he had seen him. And even at that moment, Jack didn't think he had looked as bad as he was now.

Still, he wouldn't ask the Time Lord about what had happened. He knew better than that. Even moreso when his successor had mentioned in passing how horrible the end of this regeneration had been. Jack could only agree now, looking at the gaunt face and dark rings under tired eyes that seemed too big. The man really could use some sleep--no matter what he said about superior Time Lord biology--and a good hug. Being hugged to sleep, Jack thought fondly, kind of disappointed it wasn't something he could do with this peculiar Doctor.

"Hello, beautiful," Jack said to the TARDIS, stroking a coral strut with affection as he watched the Time Lord throw his coat on the pilot seat and busy himself with the console. He was doing his best not to look at him, Jack noticed with amusement. He remembered the end of the universe itself, when he had met the wonderful Martha Jones and this version of the Doctor; how good it had felt to be reunited with him at last, how dreadful that had been to learn what the Doctor was thinking of him the times he dared look. And the fact that Jack couldn't do anything to change it.

If someone asked now if he would reverse his immortally given the opportunity, he would say no without hesitation. Because, even after years and years of inevitable and innumerable losses, he had grown to appreciate the good things he could accomplish wherever he went, like some human version of the Doctor.

The Doctor wouldn't engage the conversation anytime soon so Jack spoke, "I've got nothing against liquid, but this is getting really gross." He grimaced, passing his index finger over his cheek, then he rubbed the goo between his fingers.

The Doctor finally looked at him, examining his face. "Oh. Yeah. Right."

Jack reminded himself that this Doctor wasn't the one who had been more than happy to share a room with him. The other would probably find the idea repulsive. "Do you still have my old room?"
The Captain suppressed a gasp when he felt the nudge of the TARDIS in his mind, like tendrils poking him as easily as if he had no psychic barriers. With delight, he realised he could perceive a hint of the emotions the gorgeous Old Girl had. Nothing compared to the link he had developed with her future counterpart, but it was definitely there, thin threads the ship was exploring with curiosity.
The moment she brushed against the memories of another console room, metallic and nothing but shades of blue and grey, was when Jack became fully aware she was examining his recollections, searching for something. Jack couldn't tell what however, and she must have found it because she retreated to the faint satisfied hum in the back of his mind.

"Of course I h--" The Time Lord stilled, mouth hanging open in surprise. "What?" He frowned, looking at the console. "Come on! What did you do with Jack's room? Where did you hide it?" There was a light tremor in the ship's hum that seemed very much like a laugh.

"Conjugal problems, Doctor?" The Doctor scowled at Jack, who only made an amused smile. "Need help? I'm often told I'm good with women," he said, his right hand slowly retracing the branches of a sprout of coral. "And every other gender for that matter," he added with a wink.

"Stop it." Jack grinned: how the alien had followed the gesture with his eyes hadn't escaped him.

"That's not fu--" His face brightened. "Ah! There!" the Doctor eventually exclaimed victorious. "She just toyed a little with the layout. Although it's weird."

"What?"

"She didn't just hide your room. She completely deleted it and recreated it." The alien watched him carefully, his expression unreadable. "Did you do something to my TARDIS, Jack?"

"Absolutely not." Jack threw his hand up in the air when the Doctor squinted his eyes, a hand already in the pocket where the sonic screwdriver was. "Maybe it's a way of greeting me, new meeting between us, new room," he proposed, keeping his face still as he felt the ship pushing a little on their mental links. "So, where did she put it?"

"I'll show you," the Doctor replied then turned his back to him to get out of the control room, not waiting to see if Jack followed him.

Along the way, the Doctor spoke of everything and anything that was passing through that funny mind of his. Jack listened to his random babble, nodding and murmuring a response here and there, but not really answering. The other didn't notice, probably didn't care, the flow of his words fast and steady, as if he was just happy to have someone there to hear his voice.

When was the last time he had a companion he could talk to, Jack asked himself, even if the discussion was mostly one-sided. In fact, the Captain's attention was on the familiar layout of the TARDIS. After the anti-gravity shaft at the end of the corridor where Rose’s and his respective rooms had been, the Doctor guided him through a flight of stairs that hadn't been in the TARDIS last time he was there.

“Layout reconfiguration,” the Doctor grumbled as they passed in front of a swimming pool room and down another anti-gravity shaft. Truth to be told, after a turn on the left and the opened doors of a library, Jack realised he didn't need the Time Lord's guidance at all. He already knew the way to his room; the TARDIS had recreated to perfection that part of her future self's map, the only difference being her current interior design.

He stroke the wall fondly, concentrating on the hum of the ship to transmit her his gratitude, using thoughts and images in the way the Doctor had learnt him to do. Her answer was a pulse of bright light, while the tendrils of her consciousness bound themselves more into himself, making his headache a bit stronger. The joys of forging or reinforcing telepathic links, Jack thought. But at least that meant the TARDIS wasn't disturbed anymore by his wrongness and her welcome warmed his heart.

"And here is it!" The Doctor put a hand on the door controller, a protuberance on the wall that formed a greenish luminescent shell. When the panel slid to the side with a hiss, his face was lightened by the big grin of the explorer about to set feet in a new world. "Brand new room."
This was the room he had shared with the Time Lord with the bow tie and hat boxes in a pile one corner. He immediately spotted the greatcoat he used to wear, and that he had left on her future self, on the padded bench at the foot of their bed. The ceiling was the most interesting feature though, a reproduction of a nebulous space with circular Gallifreyan shimmering like constellations, providing the lightning. The circles' shape and colour were in flux, shifting every so often into new sentences.

The Time Lord walked to the bedside table. He picked up a Jammie Dodger from the plate resting on it and nibbled a bit before putting it back. After that he examined the bottle next to the food, containing a purple fiction mist, a part of the large Gallifreyan collection of Fairy tales from the Universe. One of the many books the Doctor used to read during the few hours of sleep Jack needed.

"Interesting," the Time Lord muttered while he stared above.

Jack didn't listen to the rest, taking advantage of the Doctor's inattention to cross the room and go straight to the bathroom. He let out a relieved sigh when he splashed his face with water. He washed himself then, musing about how he could help the Doctor when the latter would probably never acknowledge he needed help in the first place. And if there was something the Captain was sure of, it was that the TARDIS had brought her Time Lord to him because he could provide what the other needed right now. Good girl.

He smiled to his reflection to encourage himself and eventually went back to the room. The Doctor was now sitting on the bench, a red unknotted bow tie between his fingers.

"Didn't take you as a bow tie man." Jack shrugged. "So, tell me. Who are you, Jack? Last time I saw you, you were walking out of the TARDIS with Martha and Mickey. But you can't be him. And the TARDIS never has been such as ease with you, even before the Game Station. That without counting the layout reconfiguration and this whole room." He gestured at the air to illustrate his point. "Circular Gallifreyan, really? You're human, why would she put Gallifreyan in your room?"

Jack cocked an eyebrow in challenge, crossing his arms over his chest. It didn't take long for the Doctor to figure it out. After a few moments where he mmm'ed quite a lot, he eventually exclaimed, "Oooh!". The Time Lord studied him from head to toes, staying a little longer on Jack's face, like he was searching for a sign he had aged. "How old are you now?"

Jack shot him a charming smile. "So much older than when you last saw me. And looking as good as ever." He winked at him, chuckling when the Doctor rolled his eyes. Then he sat on the bench next to him, left shoulder against the Time Lord’s right.

A comfortable silence fell, both men lost in their thoughts. Jack's eyes settled on the nebulous ceiling. The interlocked circles of Gallifreyan writing had shifted. When he focused his attention on them, retracing the thin lines of each individual circle and their components; each ring comprised a whole sentence formed by a conglomeration of concepts represented by the geometric figures in it.

Jack could remember the Time Lord's whispers against his skin when he thought the Captain was asleep--much less than the Doctor thought; the immortal mostly kept the habit because it felt right, human--Gallifreyan that the TARDIS would sometimes translate at whim. It could be anything from a single word to bouts of sentences that Jack made a point of memorising. The process wasn't easy: the TARDIS didn't use words, but feelings and senses she transmitted directly into his mind, which was often confusing and could be overwhelming because of her alienness.

Still, Jack was patient and determined, under the Old Girl's guidance and with time passing by, he had succeeded in learning a few things about Gallifreyan, nothing fancy but he suspected it was more than anyone living except the Time Lord.

The ceiling's current configuration showed a paragraph made of three sentences. The largest circle was a sky covered with stars and a big bright copper moon in the distance. In his guts, he felt the twisting need to reach for it. Its border hid part of the smallest one. It was a silhouette standing on the top of a skyscraper, looking at the red dawn shining through a dome on a city of spires, high and proud. Also, infinitely ancient, older than anything Jack knew. The Citadel of the Time Lords.
The last one was between the others, adjacent to the biggest and masking a little part of the tiniest, like a link between the two. It was Gallifrey again, a never-ending plain of red grass like the Doctor had once described. The golden light that shone on the scenery gave it an air of eerie majesty, as if it was coming from a fairy tale. There was nothing, no animals, no sounds, no fragrance. There was only a giant silver tree with flowers whose shape reminded Jack of round paper lanterns, thin red and golden petals shrouding little balls of white light.

The more he contemplated the vision, the more Jack felt the lump that was forming in his throat, growing heavier. He gulped with difficulty, eventually closed his eyes and rubbed his temples like it would chase his unease away. It didn't. Now, he could see the Gallifreyan paragraph and its three images, without being able to decipher what would give them sense, like the missing pieces to complete the puzzle.

The TARDIS tugged on their link, the same moment the Doctor broke the silence, snapping Jack back to reality. The Time Lord was staring at him, frowning. "Are you okay?"

"Post-resurrection headache. It can do that when my head is badly damaged when I died. It'll pass." The other rose an eyebrow but Jack shrugged. "I'm fine."

He seemed about to protest but finally shook his head. "So, tell me. How did you end up in Kephlinox?"

For one foolish moment, Jack wanted to tell the Doctor about his next incarnation; how the sly fox had made sure they would meet each other. He knew that it was stupid to do so though. There was only one thing he could do. He lied. A lie true enough for the Doctor not to question it. "I was travelling on the Shroud, a Mercurian trade frigate, hired as a merc for the trip to Kephlinox."

The Doctor's eyes flew to the gun harnessed to Jack's left thigh, his face showing nothing but the Time Lord's self-righteous special brand of disapproval. Jack ignored him and continued, "I met Grant there and we got along pretty well. When we arrived in Kephlinox, we decided to stay because of the planet's high crime rate and the government's willingness to pay people to do the job. So, we resigned and used the credits to rent a flat and go after bad guys, as usual. Met Laffy on a job, they shot me dead by mistake, but I got better." That had been quite funny in a way: they were after a human drug smuggler and Laffy had thought Jack was him. The misunderstanding had been cleared up very fast. "We decided to stick together. Heln just came with Laffy. And without knowing, I had a team of my own again. A pretty good one."

"Brilliant, I mean it. Saving the world with a team of your own, that's my Jack!"

Jack answered to the Time Lord's large grin--so much like his first Doctor with the Northern accent in that moment--by a wink. "I learnt from the best."

He chuckled. Jack decided to take advantage of the light-heartened mood to hug him tightly while patting his back. Much to the Captain's pleasure, thin but strong arms circled his chest and spiky hair tickled Jack's skin as the other pressed his head against his right shoulder. Although it was just a little bit weird after all this time--Jack was used to flailing limbs and that big chin of his resting in the crook of his neck--it felt right nonetheless. He really had missed the hugs. Well, that and all the rest--his next incarnation was even more tactile--but that wasn't the sort of thing this Doctor would like to know.

"It's good to see you, Doc."

"You too, Captain."

They stayed in that position for a long time, the quiet hum of the TARDIS filling the comfortable silence between the two of them. Jack's eyes went back to the ceiling, where the word journey was written, followed by a very subtle nudge of the ship that made his temples pulse.

"Do you still want to travel with me?" He winced when the Time Lord tensed at his question. Right, he reminded himself with a mental sigh. In the Doctor's timeline, the last time he had asked Jack, he had said no because he had a team to take care of and responsibilities. Just like now. "You've got a time machine and I'd fancy a little trip with you. Just like old times."

"’Just like old times', you say? That sounds lovely."

Jack could hear the smile in his voice and at that moment, he was certain it wouldn't be a single trip for him. There were chances he wouldn't see his team for a while--maybe never again--but that was okay. He knew how the Doctor was when on his own; how that ugly part of him, darker and drearier than in any other living being--except Jack himself--came out because there was nobody to stop him.
The Doctor was the reason he was on Kephlinox to begin with, his priority over everything else. He needed a companion and Jack would stay with him as long as necessary. Moreover, he had to make sure their shared future would happen. He'd hate to lose everything they had.

The other eventually stirred away, a spring in his step as he went to the door, turning to Jack with a contagious smile. "Come on, allons-y! Where do you want to go?"

Part Two
Part Three

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