Jack's tears run down his face and he doesn't bother to wipe them away as he staggers along behind, not caring that he's practically bouncing off the walls. His mind is reeling and his heart is heavy, yet his feet and legs continue dutifully carrying his body forward.
The Doctor steps into the control room and turns slightly. Jack doesn't see sorrow or even remorse on his face. He's witnessed his own demise and yet stands there calmly as if about to announce their next destination. Which in fact, is somewhat close to the truth.
Jack's fists clench at his sides, rage boiling inside him and it's all he can do to keep from shouting. "You bastard," he spits out, gleaning some small satisfaction when the Doctor winces. "Why didn't you stop this? You're so god-damned bloody smart, saving and destroying worlds, or is this another one of your games?" Jack's stepping forward until he's forcing the Doctor to look cross-eyed at him or back away.
The Doctor does neither, and instead tilts his head slightly and leans forward himself so he is cheek to cheek with Jack and speaks softly. "You can save everyone," he says.
Jack brings his hands up to the Doctor's chest and shoves hard. "I don't want to save everyone," he says, his tone threatening as he steps forward closing the distance. "I've already lost the only thing that matters."
The Doctor brushes himself off and rises to his full height, a small grin appears and begins to widen. "Oh really?" comes the sarcastic reply. "I'm normally a good judge of character, Captain." His words stop Jack in his tracks as he puzzles over the Doctor's words.
It's the Doctor's turn to lean forward. "Rose was right," he says, his eyes holding Jack mesmerized. "You are bigger on the inside." With that announcement the Doctor whirls, striding toward the console, and leaves Jack standing with his mouth open.
"Is he going to help or stand there like an idiot?" the Master asks as he begins turning dials on the console. It seems strange, Jack thinks, to see the youth working the controls with all the deftness of someone well practiced. Then he realizes the Doctor isn't assisting, only watching and, he's fading. Is this a result of his reincarnation dying? Will he lose them both?
There's panic in his voice, "Doc?" he cries. The Doctor raises an eyebrow, waiting for Jack's question.
"It's almost time," the Master shouts, barking out a stream of directions for Jack. It's the urgency in his voice and the certainty of those commands that impels Jack to respond. The two work in tandem in what looks like a choreographed dance.
"What's happening?" Jack asks, using most of his energy to focus on the task at hand, the Master unrelenting in his instructions.
"We're rewiring time," the Master announces with glee.
The TARDIS shudders, throwing both Jack and the Master back from the console. Picking themselves up off the floor, Jack sees the far wall visible through the Doctor now.
"We're losing him," Jack shrieks above the clanging of the cloister alarms and rushes to the Master's side, pulling him around to face the Doctor.
With a hiss the Master wrenches his arm free, never slowing his movements at the controls.
Jack turns as the familiar voice of his first Doctor shouts his name over the deafening noises. Even through the haze Jack notes his lips aren't moving. "You're the one to finish this, Jack. Consider it V-day." Telepathy, he thinks, opening his mouth to shout back then quickly closing it when the Doctor continues. "It's in your hands now, Captain. The future is yours to decide."
Ignoring the Master who is shouting behind him, Jack takes a step closer to where the Doctor's outline is barely visible. He's afraid to blink for fear of losing sight of him all together, but the hot tears blur the image. There are too many unanswered questions, and now, he's being left behind again.
"Why?" he screams, falling to his knees unaware that the console is throwing sparks and electrical circuits are fusing together. The green and amber glow of the room is turning to a crimson orange. Smoke grows in thick billowing clouds erupting from the rotor and the lights flicker like strobe lights. Motion looks ragged, a film running with jerking movements, incomplete. Jack's fingers curl around the grating and he heaves upwards feeling the pull in his shoulders and back as he lets out one long wail.
"Are you quite finished?"
His head snaps back and finds the Master's youthful face in front of his, a hand fisted in his hair. He swallows hard and feels his head being shaken roughly.
"You have to finish this!" he screams, and Jack feebly shakes his head. He's exhausted; his physical and mental capacities both thoroughly drained. Doesn't the Master understand nothing matters anymore? It's over; let it end here and now.
"No," he whispers, and thinks the calm in his mind is from letting go, he almost feels free and wonders if death will finally welcome him.
He no longer feels the hardness of the grating under his knees. No longer smells the pungent aroma of wires burning. There is a sense of floating, and Jack smiles.
"You won't save yourself, but what about me?" the Master pleads; his voice seems so far away until Jack opens his eyes and looks into those ancient, brown orbs.
Jack's breath catches in his throat. He sees universe upon universe held together by a golden strand. Galaxies swimming within those universes, and he's swept towards a solitary dot that grows exponentially as he races through the cosmos.
He keeps his focus on that one solitary speck that expands as he nears and sees the golden thread originates from the sphere. He slows as the red planet now fills his vision and a domed city looms in the distance. And still he continues forward, surrounded by mountains of silver he finds himself at last standing before a large shimmering globe that wavers with midnight hues and framed in gold.
A child stands beside him and he looks down at the terrified youngster, no more than seven or eight years of age, staring at the gateway. The child wipes his nose with a sleeve and rocks forward on the balls of his feet, snuffling loudly. Jack looks at the gateway and back to the child, a faint memory tugging at him.
A small circle of robed individuals become visible, although they don't appear to notice Jack's presence, and the most distinguished of the bearded figures speaks.
"Theta, now is the time to decide." It's more a command than a choice.
The child takes a quivering breath and steps forward.
But not before Jack feels a small hand sliding into his.
Jack closes his eyes and steps forward with the child. The child that will grow to become the center of Jack's universe. The child that will grow to a man forced to choose between the destruction of his home or the destruction of the universe. The child that will grow to become the Doctor.
Jack doesn't remember his hands dancing over the TARDIS's controls. He doesn't recall the amount of time that's passed. He only knows that his loss also became his gain.
He was able to save the Doctor, his Doctor.
He collapses onto the console as the ship offers one last shudder, a small tremor as if shaking loose the last bit of sand from one's shoe after a walk along the beach. Silence has descended, and there is a subtle greenish glow from the time rotor bathing the darkness of the room.
The Master is lying face down, not from his own spent efforts, but from an explosion when the far side of the console erupted signaling the end.
Jack closes his eyes. It's over.
Jack's hallucinating or having a very lucid dream. He opened his eyes and found himself staring at the ceiling in the medical bay. Bouncing around the room was the Doctor, his hair as madly manic as his motions and spouting some technically advanced jargon.
Jack closes his eyes again; sure this can all be explained by exhaustion and grief manifesting itself to another form. His throat hurts from the inhalation of smoke and he tries to speak.
Suddenly, the room stills confirming Jack's knowledge that he is alone and the Doctor was only a mirage. But that doesn't explain the warm air against his cheek or the feeling he's being watched.
He slowly peeks out from one eye and sees a dark shape hovering over him and forces himself to open the other.
He blinks again.
The youth, the Master, is grinning down at him and then turns his head to look over his shoulder. He looks once more at Jack, his lips moving but Jack shakes his head. He can't hear what is being said and disappointment crushes the last shred of hope inside. The universe plays its last cruel joke.
Jack covers his face with his hands and feels the hot sting of tears in his eyes. He resists when cool hands wrap around his wrists and gently tug at them. "Leave me alone," he cries, his words a harsh whisper of despair.
The hands continue tugging and he fears he's gone mad when he hears a familiar voice in his head. "Jack." The voice and hands are insistent and ever so patient. He takes a shuddering breath and wills himself to face his demons.
His hands are pulled away from his face and there is the face of the Doctor grinning at him with that wide toothy grin. He blinks, the tears fall from his eyes only to be wiped away by the Doctor's thumbs. He feels slight pressure against his temples where the Doctor presses with tenderness.
For a moment, he's bombarded with emotions of joy beyond words, and then one thought arises above all others. "You did it, Jack. You were fantastic!" The Doctor's still beaming at him and Jack's at a loss. There are questions, so many questions, and he's—
"Time for that later, plenty of time," the Doctor's voice says in his mind, his smile fades a little and then the Doctor is speaking out loud and Jack is able to hear him.
"Koeschi will be traveling with us, leastways until he recovers his memory," the Doctor says with a quick wink. Leaning closer he adds, "and I think it's time you bought me that drink, Captain."
Jack simply nods, promising himself he'll buy him a pub, hell, a distillery. The Doctor seems to understand what Jack isn't able to say as the mega-watt smile returns and he leans down to embrace Jack.
The two men hold each other tight, both realizing they've rediscovered home.