My brain won't leave the little lump of coral on Jack's desk alone. So this is an investigation of Jack, 500 years on. And what exactly the Doctor thinks of it.
He was old now. Far, far older than any human was ever supposed to get. And it was only now that he was truly beginning to appreciate what a mere speck his massive life-time was to the age of the universe. Funny that. It sounded clichéd, but wisdom did come with age. Sometimes more wisdom than one man could bear. But bear it he had to.
Jack rolled off his swag, standing in one smooth movement. It felt like he was cheating, somehow, being this old, and yet still physically young. The truly ancient were meant to be truly decrepit as well. He was sure there was some sort of formula for it.
Pacing along the stone corridors in bare feet, he moved with distracted efficiency, feeling small currents of air eddy against his skin. She was calling him. She'd been in his head, a constant, growing presence for more years than he could remember now. A golden glow, a warm, comforting, constant presence as everyone he knew aged and died about him (again, and again, and again). She'd started off as little more than a speck, a niggling feeling he couldn't quite pin down. It had taken him over a decade, and one horrifying accident to realise just what it was that had set up a telepathic link with him.
It had taken over half a century more (mostly due to development on her behalf), for that link to become even consciously recognisable. It had taken another two hundred years for it to be strong enough for them to be able to communicate anything by it, if communicate was the right word. It was more emoting, and simply connecting with one another. And she was drawing on him, in a way that somehow left him stronger.
Jack wasn't sure how many years it would be before he came to understand and accept just what was happening, what would come to happen. Her time was almost here though. He felt like a nervous new father; drew constantly on her deep well of calm, accepting patience to keep his nerves intact.
His heart flipped in his chest as he reached the cavern where she rested. He was constantly astounded by her beauty. Moving more slowly now, carefully, he walked reverentially up to her, eyes scanning every inch of her frame.
Expectant, she stood waiting. Unable to resist any longer, he stepped through the ragged archway, into the cluttered space within. Small as it was, it easily folded in more space-time than could be encompassed by the outside structure.
Beatific smile on his face, Jack moved forwards, reaching out to lay his hands on the as yet unformed console. Kneeling down, he carefully peered underneath, taking in some of the wires that had lengthened and grown overnight. 'Going so fast now, beautiful,' he murmured aloud, beginning to work. She needed so many things to help her grow. She was teaching him as they went, and yet the majority of his work was still trial and error.
Nimble fingers weaving amongst the technology, he re-routed here, connected this to that, trimmed here, and soldered there. She would be the best ship in the whole universe. It seemed like all his experiences garnered in his great long life had been waiting for this time, when he would help her to grow herself.
'If you keep going at this rate, you'll be ready to fly in a year,' he told her. She knew already, but he liked to talk to her as he worked. He'd been talking to her ever since she was little more than a lump of coral, resting dormant on his desk, gathering energy for her blossoming.
Those days, at the turn of the millennium, so far back in his memories, and yet the time still stood vividly in his mind. A time full of passion and determination and love that flared so brightly that it burned. Jack hadn't realised what was going on, unsettled by the tiny scrapings he'd felt in his head, at the very darkest, quietest moments in the depths of the night.
He'd scanned himself time and time again with every bit of technology he could get his hands on, looking for infection, or infestation, or possession. With his team completely oblivious, he'd slowly worked himself into a morbid terror, desperately seeking what the seed growing inside him was.
When he came to think about it in those terms, the Accident had probably been a good thing. That didn't change it from being the second most traumatic event in his entire long life.
Owen and Gwen had been play-fighting, chasing each other around the hub, squealing and laughing together. Jack had been half-watching them out of the corner of his eye, smiling slightly to himself. They had to be the least subtle pair he'd ever seen.
It had been sudden, a black, violent pain, straight to the very core of his being. Jack had collapsed, rigid, on the cold concrete floor, barely conscious, unable to breathe for the pain. The sheer black hollowness of that feeling still haunted him, in the quiet moments.
His ship hummed quietly to him, registering as a brief brighter golden glow in his mind. She sensed his anxiety, tried to soothe him. He reflexively reassured her, mind still elsewhere.
Tosh had seen him straight away, yelling in fear, alerting the others. He'd been bleeding, all over, blood seeping from his pores like sweat. Gods it had hurt. It had taken him two weeks to recover fully. Jack realised that was the closest to death he'd come since he had first died on the Game Station.
He'd felt his heart stutter to a stop in his chest.
And in the total emptiness of that moment, there had been one tiny pinprick of golden light, wavering like a candle flame in a strong wind. Somehow, through all the agony, that little light had been more important than anything he had ever strived for. Instinctively, he'd latched on to it, fed it as much life-force as he could. He'd kept going, even as his vision began to waver around the edges, kept going until the little spark was steady; burning weakly once more.
It wasn't until a week later that he'd realised the correlation, and just what had happened. Someone, either Owen or Gwen, had knocked that innocuous piece of coral off his desk. It had fallen to the floor. It would have shattered, broken forever, but it reached out in blind panic to him- the being it had already tentatively formed a bond with. And he had taken the shock for it, nearly died for it, without even knowing why.
Jack knew why now, and he was glad. She meant more than anything in the world to him. He didn't think he could live without her anymore. Didn't think he would have survived this long in his immortality, if not for her.
When he'd first acquired the baby TARDIS, he'd never really intended for it to ever be his, fully grown. What human knew they were going to be around in 500 years time? And even then, what human had the psychic ability to connect with such a mighty time ship?
His resurrection on the Game Station had clearly had more effect than he'd originally assumed. That all-consuming golden light, an image he'd carried with him for so long, hadn't been imagined at all. There was a matching light within, growing, connecting with him, and soon she would fledge. The mere thought sent excited tingles down his spine.
Jack had been living in a straight time-line for over 400 years now. It wasn't something he'd ever gotten used to. Even with his event-filled life, even after all the years, the wander-lust still bit hard, and often. Still, he waited for her, for her to be ready. They had all the time in the world. For once, that was something he didn't regret.
Soon. So soon. They'd fly.
Nostrils flaring, the Doctor raised his head, freezing in the midst of what he was doing. A small shower of sparks burned his hand suddenly and jerked him back to reality.
Eyes wide and manic, he quickly shut down power to the necessary circuit. That done, he froze into stillness once more, sensing… It was impossible, that little tingle he'd just felt. And now it was gone. Still, it had shaken him deeply.
He jumped, visibly, when it happened again, this time strengthening and stabilising.
'Impossible,' he muttered, under his breath. He turned his head, looking at the TARDIS console, as if she could somehow provide him with answers. Actually… she probably could.
With sudden energy, he sprung to his feet, grabbing hold of the scanner controls. He gave himself a moment, taking a deep breath and clearing his head. He'd find nothing if he went at it half cocked. The feeling in his head was so tenuous, he could probably snap it with a careless thought.
Carefully, as delicately as he knew how, he used the TARDIS's circuitry to amplify his own psychic powers, casting backwards and forwards in time, along the vortex. There, early twenty-sixth century Earth. Very close to a trans-dimensional rift actually. A small part of his mind registered this, even as the rest was still reeling, scrabbling desperately at the problem, unable to comprehend.
It was beyond impossible, what he could feel. The universe was surely ripping apart. Or he'd finally lost his sanity, from the sheer loneliness of being the last of a species. He was making up imaginary friends to keep himself company. Still… he couldn't keep himself from investigating.
Tongue sticking out slightly between his teeth, he moved the TARDIS into the vortex, working almost entirely out of habit. He was too shell-shocked to properly pay attention to his actions. He hardly even noticed her taking over some of the flying automatically for him. It was something TARDIS's weren't meant to be able to do, but after 900 years together, it was needless to say that in the right circumstances, she could and would.
The signal became clearer once they were spinning through the vortex. It didn't help him concentrate. Still, he latched on, tracing it backwards, finding its origin point. If there was ever a need to land accurately, then now was the time.
The Doctor was steering more with his mind than with any instruments this time. It was an unusual situation, letting the whole of time slip gently through his head, but not touching that massive, powerful flow. Just… feeling.
He picked out the one thread he wanted, tracing, and guided the TARDIS in, first to the general vicinity, then to the specific one, right down to the very second. Slow smile curling across his face, he yanked down hard on one particularly large lever.