Disclaimer: I do not own Jack Hawksmoor or the Doctor.
Rating: PG-13, for lots of swearing. Hey, it's the Authority.
Spoilers: For the third Authority TPB, as far as #20.
Author's Notes: Written for Kangeiko as part of the Comica Obscura ficathon.
Not A Sparrow Falls
When Jack Hawksmore found the Doctor, he was in Rome, sitting at a café table with a full ashtray and an empty coffee cup, watching the people go by. He hadn't needed to look very hard, but the fact that he'd had to look at all had him mildly pissed off – the team's shaman had vanished from the Authority's radiotelepathy network yet again, not long after they defeated his rogue predecessor. Perhaps he'd wanted to be well out of the way while the rest of the team voted on whether to let him stay in or not. The Doctor's plan might have saved the world, but there were still his recent absences and his drug habit to consider.
Given the way the press had been hounding all of them lately, it was odd to find him in a densely populated city. If he hadn't wanted to be found, he should have gone somewhere Jack might have had trouble following. So perhaps he did want to be found. With the Doctor, it was always hard to tell.
"If you were trying to hide, I'm surprised you picked here to unwind," he said, sitting down opposite his team mate, "but thanks for making yourself easy to track down for once. Rome's always too busy to talk for long, but at least the Eternal City isn't high as a kite, like Amsterdam."
"There's no such thing, you know," said the Doctor, looking at him with slightly bloodshot eyes from behind his sunglasses. Removing his distinctive goggles was probably all the civilian disguise he needed - or perhaps the way the crowd was ignoring them both had some magical cause.
The Doctor took his time lighting another cigarette. "No such thing as an eternal city." He waved a hand at the streets dismissively. "People think this place is so fucking ancient, but it's nothing. I remember cities ... well, a hell of a lot older. Atlantis was amazing, even better than you'd think. You'd have loved it."
"I know all about Atlantis," Jack said, "and you're right. Wish I could have seen the twelve gates with my own eyes."
The Doctor looked at him appraisingly. "Alright, point taken. I'm not the only one with memories from long before I was born. It probably seems like a long time ago to you, but it's not - even Atlantis isn't old, not by the planet's standards."
Jack raised and eyebrow. "Forgive me for asking, but is this monologue going somewhere? I came here to get our shaman back, not to talk philosophy."
"My point is that we mean fuck all, in the greater scheme of things, despite all we've built. Even the damage we've done here. The whole human race could be the equivalent of a twenty-four hour stomach bug, as far as the Earth is concerned."
"If you think we're a virus," Jack asked, "then why side with us when she got angry? Don't tell me that you regret it."
"The shaman's job is to protect the village. I'm also meant to be a bridge between civilization and the natural world. I'm not a part of the village, not the embodiment of it like you are. I'm the line of communication between humanity and the Earth - except I fucked that up so badly she tried to kill everyone."
"It's not your fault she got angry about what God did, Doctor, and I haven't forgotten that you saved our collective asses. You did your job when the shit hit the fan, like you always do."
"No, the rogue Doctor did my job. He was the one who convinced the Earth to stop trying to destroy the human race, not me. What does that say about my ability to stay on the team, Jack?"
"Is this about why you took that overdose?"
Jack hadn't joined the authority to play amateur psychiatrist to Dutch junkies with the ability to warp reality, but there were some questions on a team leader could really ask. He trusted the Doctor with his life – with the lives of his team, and the world – because in spite of the man's tendency to flake out he always seemed to come through in the end. He couldn't honestly claim that he'd never had misgivings about his mental health issues, though.
"I didn't –" the Doctor looked down into his coffee cup, as if there might be an answer there, and frowned. "Partly. It's also about why I drowned all of Italy in an alternate dimension, and why we go around tearing people's heads off."
"We tear people's heads of because it's necessary. It took me a long time to understand that, but much as I'd like it to be otherwise pacifism only works if everyone is willing to play by those rules. While there are still people out there who believe in violence ..."
"Believe? I think that's a strong word. You think those SPBs Kreigstein sent up against us were really responsible for their actions? Or the thousands of clones Kaizen Gamorra used to attack Moscow, London and LA? I've killed more people than any one of them ever did. Probably including a hell of a lot more babies, if you think about it."
"If you're trying to tell me that you feel guilty ..."
"I'm trying to tell you that I can't handle it – I can't deal with the responsibility, looking at things from that perspective. The empathy that made the rogue Doctor give up the fight – I feel that all the fucking time Jack. The wind through the trees in Brazil, worms crawling in the dirt in Thailand, the giant squid at the bottom of the ocean, and because I feel all of it I don't feel any of it. I'm looking at you now and I can see how I could turn you into a stack of pancakes, if I felt like it. It's all just – matter and energy." He stopped talking abruptly, and took a long drag of his cigarette, looking at the paving stones.
"So, when you turn someone's lungs into custard, it's just your way of telling them to come back as a configuration of matter and energy that doesn't want to shoot you?"
"Nothing personal." The Doctor managed a rather grim smile. "Sometimes I think nothing is personal to me. Not anymore."
"So when the woman you'd been married to for all of forty-eight hours walked out on you, you overdosed on purpose?"
The Doctor looked up, and as far as Jack could tell their eyes were meeting. "To be honest, I don't know what I was trying to do. Not exactly reassuring, is it? If I didn't get everyone killed this time it'll be next time. I can't do this any more."
"I seem to remember you told the Authority's first leader the same thing, and she begged to differ. I also think she was right. You've done a lot of good, the past couple of years."
"You forget, I know how this goes. My life will be going alright for a change, I'll feel good about what I'm doing, then the next moment I'm cracking up or getting super powers or some crap. Half my team mates want me gone and the planet I have a psychic bond with won't listen to a word I say."
"And how would leaving the team change that? I know a thing or two about getting superpowers without asking for them, but even if I went and stood in the middle of a desert somewhere – always assuming I could stand the pain – that wouldn't make me any less an SPB with a symbiotic link to cities. Wherever you go, you'll still have all the responsibility of the Doctor. At least if you stay with the Authority you've got friends to watch your back."
"Several of those 'friends' asked you to kick me off the Carrier – don't think I don't know. We globally connected shamans have a way of finding these things out. Besides, what are the opinion polls going to say, after that footage of me shooting up?"
"Doctor, I've just spent three hours defending your behaviour to the press, and I hate putting up with the media circus for no good reason. The rest of the team voted unanimously to let you back in." He paused for a response, but the Doctor appeared to be waiting for something. "Unanimously included Angie," he added.
The Doctor smiled. "Actually, I was wondering about the Midnighter."
"If the Midnighter really wanted you gone, he wouldn't have saved your life. He's a bastard that way."
"Good point," the Doctor admitted. "Maybe I'll get the chance to return the favour some day."
"Look," Jack said, "if you don't want to do this, I'm not going to pressure you. I can't force you into anything, and I'm not dumb enough to shoot myself in the head. Your choice."
The Doctor looked at him blankly, then grinned. "You know, Jack, in your way you're as much of a manipulative cunt as Jenny Sparks. Congratulations – you got me to feel guilty."
"So is it going to work?" Jack asked, smiling.
The Doctor sighed. "There's not actually much point arguing, is there? You're right, I'm stuck with being the Doctor, no matter what I do. Even if I'd died, I'd just have ended up in the Garden of Ancestral Memory, and I don't know if I could stand the company there 24-7. You already knew I'd come back before you sat down."
"I had a fair idea – just thought you could use the chance to get some of that off your chest. Now, please trust your fearless leader. Come to the party to celebrate the Earth being still here and no longer quite so pissed off with us. I guarantee you'll feel better inside six hours."
"You only want me back so I can babysit – I haven't forgotten whose turn it is to look after Jenny."
Jack smiled. "Well, that too. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself. Just don't let her near any of the hard drugs, they might stunt her growth." He stood up and wriggled his bare toes, promising to visit Rome again soon.
"Oh, and Jack? One other thing. My name's Jeroen – you know, just in case any of you ever wondered."
Jack looked back down at the man sitting at the table. Today it was easy to remember that only part of the Doctor's brain was millions of years old, and the rest was just twenty-five. "Alright – Jeroen. Now are you coming home to get properly drunk and find a groupie to distract you, or not?"
"When you put it that way, I'm not sure why I ever left at all," the Doctor said, getting up.
"It's a tough life, but somebody has to do it."
Jack said one last goodbye to the city as he called for a Door back to the Carrier, congratulating himself on more than one job well done.