An Appointment With Death (3/3)
Author: Crimson Kaoru
Pairing(s)/Main Character(s): Overall: Jack/Tenth Doctor (main), other: Jack/Ianto, Owen, Gwen, Tosh; this part: Jack/Doctor, Jack/Ianto
Rating: Overall: PG-13; this part: PG-13
Word Count: complete at ~15,500 words; this part: ~4,000
Spoilers: Adrift, Torchwood-wise, and through series three of Doctor Who.
Disclaimer: Torchwood and Doctor Who are property of the BBC, RTD, etc.
Summary: A few months after the Year that Never Was, the Doctor stops by Torchwood with a plan to take Jack on a spin in the TARDIS. He planned a vacation, but thanks to some incorrect coordinates, they find an empty ship, hanging freely in space. It all begins to go downhill when the dead won't stay dead and Jack starts to cough up blood.
· three ·
By the time the TARDIS hurled itself free of the Vortex and landed on Earth with a rather disconcerting clunk, the Doctor was already pulling his coat around his shoulders and making for the door. With one last check that the beaker was still safe in his pocket, he stepped out into Cardiff.
The Doctor blinked. He looked up at the sky, one hand shielding his eyes from the rain pelting down. It hadn't been raining when he left, but now the clouds were hanging low and dark, and wind whipped his coattails about him. The streets were, for the most part, empty, and the puddles on the ground suggested that the weather had been like this for hours.
With worry settling in his stomach, he walked over to a rubbish bin. Lying on top of it was a soaked newspaper. He picked it up and shook it out, drenching his front in the process, and found the date in a corner. The Doctor pushed sopping hair from his eyes and blinked rain away, and looked at the date again. Months. Months before he'd arrived to sweep Jack off his feet, only weeks after the Year that Never Was.
The Doctor dropped the newspaper and ran a hand through his hair, pulling it back from his face and up into spikes that were, only seconds later, plastered once again to his forehead. He mapped his face slowly with one hand, fingers dragging along the stubble at his chin, and leaned back, head tilted towards the sky, mouth open and eyes closed. He barely noticed the chill rain sliding across his cheeks and down inside his collar.
And then he thought back on what Jack had said.
You told me. Months ago. A letter. Had a little vial, green stuff. Your handwriting.The panic coiling inside him vanished, washed away by the warm tones of Jack's voice. Relief made the Doctor a little unsteady on his feet, and he hurried back to the TARDIS, unearthing a piece of paper and a pen that his courteous ship had conjured.
'Dear Jack,' he wrote. 'Take this beaker and store it somewhere safe. A time will come when you'll need it. You'll know when. Until then, leave it alone.' The Doctor chuckled lightly, knowing that the cryptic message would make Jack even more keen to analyse the substance inside the this, all that was needed had been said; the Doctor went to write his goodbyes, only to pause as a thought struck him. He stood there, tapping his pen against his lip absently, for a good thirty seconds before laughing and penning, 'Love, the Doctor.' Satisfied, he folded the paper into thirds and stuffed it in his pocket.
Venturing into the tourist office meant that he might encounter Ianto, which, needless to say, was not a good idea. The Doctor settled for slipping the note under the door, then rushed back to the TARDIS before Ianto could poke his head out the door to see whom the mysterious letter was from.
Beaming, the Doctor hummed an energetic melody to himself as he rerouted his ship back to the right time. He righted the coordinates, flipped a pair of switches, and he was off. The trip was a short one, but rocky; when the TARDIS touched down, the Doctor was pressed into the metal floor panels. He rose, and a screen on the console showed an imprint of the grating on one cheek. He rubbed at it impatiently with his sleeve; once his face was red and burning but mark-free, he crossed the room and flung open the door.
And stopped dead.
This time, the TARDIS had landed on the street above the tourist office, and below him, on the boardwalk, he saw himself. Same suit, and while it hadn't been long since he saw the back of his own head, it was still a refreshing sight. Frowning, he willed the version of himself standing on the pier to run a hand through his hair. It was lying annoyingly flat.
Unfortunately for him, the Doctor standing below did no such thing. Instead, he adjusted his glasses and stepped up to the door. Once he was gone, the Doctor standing bewildered in the street reached up, wide-eyed, to adjust his hair. Absently tugging it into appropriately dramatic shapes, he looked around at the two TARDISes and bit his lip. He'd messed up royally in the past—missed the date by one hundred years, or twelve months for twelve hours—but crossing his own timeline was dangerous.
The Doctor jumped backwards as he saw himself re-emerge, this time with Jack in tow. He knew now that he was the cause of the strange sensation he'd felt earlier—a Time Lord sensing another Time Lord, distorted by the fact that it was the same Time Lord—and ducked down behind a rubbish bin. Just in time: no sooner had he hid than the version of him below glanced around in confusion, then brushed it off and disappeared into his ship after later, that TARDIS disappeared, taking that Doctor and Jack away on a doomed trip, and the Doctor above straightened up with a sigh. He wasn't that far off, at least. A few hours wait and the first version of himself would head off to the forty-eighth century, and then he could come dashing back in.
At a loss for what to do, the Doctor hung back and took a look around. Outside a small café, a dark-haired woman chatted with a blond policeman. He recognised her as Gwen Cooper and ducked out of her sight. It wouldn't do to have her spot him.
For a few long hours, he perched on the rail, waiting for the TARDIS to reappear and for himself to come out of it, dragging Jack behind him. Once Gwen had slipped off with a heavyset man (who the police officer had, quite noticeably, detested), he popped into the café for a drink. When he came out again, he saw Gwen returning to the Hub; it wasn't long after that that the Doctor heard some familiar noises: the clink of the TARDIS' gears, the whoosh of air as the ship materialised below. He hurriedly jumped off the rail and crouched behind it, preparing to get reacquainted with the back of his head.
The sight of Jack—unsteady on his feet, blood dripping from one corner of that pale, pale face—tied the Doctor's stomach into knots. It took a few moments to shake the sensation away.
And the Doctor waited. Night fell and the streets cleared. Once or twice, he dozed off; the second time, he nearly fell from the rail.
The moon was high in the sky by the time he finally spotted himself emerging from the office. That version of himself didn't spare a sideways glance as he hurried into the TARDIS; only moments later, it vanished, and the Doctor didn't waste a moment before hurrying down the steps and through the door. He found, with some difficulty, the button behind the front desk, and dashed down the now-opened passage beside it, into the Hub.
Ianto looked up from Jack's side as he entered. Gwen stood beside them, just as she had when the Doctor left. Owen poked his head through the plastic partition that shielded the autopsy bay from sight. Toshiko was a blurry blue shape behind it.
"I thought—weren't you going to—" Ianto started, rising. His brow drew together, worried and angry. "I thought you were going to get the cure."
The Doctor beamed and put on his spectacles. "I did!"
Owen scowled, unconvinced. "Jesus, that was quick."
The Doctor nodded. "Time machine," he said flippantly, and knelt beside Jack. Owen's "Where is it?" went unanswered. "I'm here," the Doctor said softly, and Jack's eyes fluttered open. He looked confused.
"You've only just gone out the door," he said.
"Yeah." The Doctor scratched his ear. "Went and got the cure, wrote that letter, um, then came back here a little early. I've been waiting out there for hours. Crossed my own timeline, can you imagine? Ooh, I bet you can, actually." He laughed softly. Jack tried to join in, but his chuckles sounded more like coughs, and the Doctorplaced a gentle hand over his mouth. "I can laugh enough for the both of us," he offered. "Now, where did you say you put that beaker?"
Jack's eyes flitted elsewhere. "Office," he whispered, wincing as if the pain and nausea were rising up again, getting to be too much. "Top left drawer. At the very back."
The Doctor nodded. "It'll all be over soon," he promised, and jumped to his feet. "Can one of you direct me to Jack's office?"
Ianto was the one to point him towards a small room only a few feet away.
"Oh," the Doctor said. "Thank you." He stepped inside and glanced around. Panes of glass stretching from floor to ceiling put the whole Hub on display. A massive safe took up a portion of the back wall; beside it was a row of television screens, all silently displaying static. Near a small, circular opening in the floor—a quick glance downwards revealed a narrow bed and an antique-looking oil lamp on the table beside it—was Jack's desk, littered with papers and a large piece of coral. The Doctor's eyes narrowed. He would have to ask Jack about that later.
For now, he just turned and smiled at Ianto, who, after following him, had stopped just inside the door. No response was given, so the Doctor turned away and sat himself down in Jack's chair. Ianto didn't leave, choosing to watch as the Doctor wrenched open the top left drawer and stuck his hand inside, groping blindly around for—
There it was. His hand closed around the beaker, cool and coated in a thin layer of dust: untouched. He pulled it out with a triumphant ah-ha! and waved it at Ianto with a grin. "Found it," he said.
Owen appeared in the doorway, eyebrows arched high. "It was here?" he asked, disbelieving. "It was here all this time?"
The Doctor shrugged. "Not exactly." There would be time to explain later; right now, getting Jack better was his top priority. He waggled the vial again, this time at Owen, and stood. A tiny smile twisted his lips. "Get me a syringe."
Surprisingly, Owen turned and did this without a single complaint. When they met in the middle of the Hub and he silently held out an empty syringe, the Doctor thought that Owen must have been anxious to see Jack well again. Knowing that voicing this would only serve to tick Owen off, he kept quiet about it and settled on a simple thank you as he took the needle and crouched by Jack.
He was suffering. His eyes were rolling in his head, and his cheeks were flushed with heat. When he grabbed the Doctor's hand, his touch was clammy. The Doctor tried to soothe him with a gentle hand on his forehead, brushing his hair away, but Jack moaned and shook his head until the Doctor pulled back. "I'm sorry, Jack," he whispered. "I'm so sorry. It'll all be over soon, I promise." He held up the syringe and smiled. "Here, look, it's the antidote! Couldn't have found it if it wasn't for you."
Jack's lips curled into the tiniest of smiles. "Yeah, well. You can thank me properly later."
The Doctor rolled his eyes, mock-exasperated, and rolled up Jack's sleeve. "This'll put you to sleep," he said softly, rubbing Jack's arm. "When you wake up, it'll all be over."
The needle was in. Jack struggled to open his eyes. "Will you be gone?" he asked, voice barely audible.
The Doctor hesitated. "No," he said at length, suddenly sure. "I'll be right here, Jack. I promise," he pulled the syringe free as gently as he could, "my face will be the first thing you see when you wake up."
Jack smiled. "It's a nice thought," he said faintly, and went silent.
For a long moment, the Doctor just stared at him. Then he reached forwards and cradled Jack's face in his hands, thumbs stroking along too-warm cheeks. With a sigh, he leaned in until they were forehead-to-forehead, and just stayed like that, eyes closed, saying nothing. He listened to Jack's even breathing, to the single beat of his heart. Even now, he felt Jack's constant presence stirring the Universe and Time alike. That wrongness had once so disturbed him; in their time apart, it had come to feel like a light, drawing him in.
That light had never been brighter.
The Doctor smiled. His fingers brushed Jack's mouth.
Someone cleared their throat.
Startled, the Doctor pulled away and looked around him, blinking. He'd forgotten there was anyone else in the room. The air was thick with tension, and he stood, sticking his hands in his pockets as he did so. Each one of Jack's team was staring at him; Owen looked triumphant, whilst Toshiko looked like she'd just lost a bet. Gwen appeared mystified and Ianto's emotionless mask had begun to crack.
"Well," the Doctor said, uncomfortable. "Is there anywhere more comfortable to put him? Don't tell me he sleeps here."
"He does," Ianto confirmed quietly. There was an edge to his voice, like he expected—or wanted—the Doctor to challenge his knowledge.
The Doctor didn't bite. "Ah, Jack," he sighed, glancing over his shoulder. He paused. "Well, I was going to say he needs to learn how to get away, but I'm sure he has no trouble doing that. Anyway!" He clapped his hands. "Nowhere to put him, then? I suppose I could drop him down his hidey-hole and onto the bed. Seems kind of precarious, though." Frowning, he thought about how that might go awry.
"All right," he decided, after a moment. "We'll leave him on the couch. Get him a blanket, proper pillow, that sort of thing. The worst is over! Jack's going to wake up tomorrow, and it'll be as if this never happened. For the most part, anyway. Isn't that good news?" Without waiting for a response, he checked the clock on Toshiko's nearby desk and jabbed a finger towards the door. "And it's midnight. You should be heading home. Jack will expect you bright and early in the morning, I'm sure."
Toshiko and Gwen looked pleased at the prospect of going home. Owen showed his appreciation by grabbing his bag, slinging it across one shoulder, and making for the door—all before the Doctor had even finished his sentence. On the threshold, Owen paused, perhaps feeling the heat of Ianto's glare. "See you," he said, a little awkwardly, and with one last glance over his shoulder at the sleeping Jack, he vanished out the door.
As Gwen pulled out her mobile, Toshiko began to pick up her things. Her coat was draped over the back of the couch where Jack lay; as she reached for it, she gazed down at him for a moment, fondly, before turning to the Doctor. "Thank you," she said. A moment of hesitation, and then: "Will you still be here tomorrow?"
The Doctor stuck his hands in his pockets. "I promised," he answered.
Toshiko smiled—polite and closed-mouthed, but still distinctly relieved—and followed Owen out. Gwen left a few moments later, after stuffing her phone away in her pocket, giving the Doctor a quick little thank you hug, and patting Ianto in a sufficiently awkward manner on the shoulder. He did little more than smile at her, but she took that as permission to leave. She told the Doctor where the blankets were kept and hurried out.
Ianto wore the same expression he had since the Doctor had suggested they go home. He was stony-faced, but he couldn't hide the mix of hurt and relief in his eyes. It only intensified when he went to stand by Jack. One hand reached down smooth a rumpled sleeve.
The Doctor stood behind him, at a little bit of a loss for what to say or do. "Aren't you tired, Ianto?" he tried. "It might be best to get some sleep."
Ianto straightened. For a long moment, he did nothing but stare down at Jack quietly, almost contemplative. Then Ianto turned his head, giving the Doctor a shadowy view of the sad half-smile on his face. "Once," Ianto said softly, "Jack told me that he wouldn't change having left his own time for the world, because here he'd found and loved people he never would've even met. When he said that, I made myself believe he was talking about me. But," Ianto hesitated, then turned around fully, meeting the Doctor's steady gaze, "I think he was talking about you."
Before anything more could be said, Ianto picked up his things and disappeared through the door.
The Doctor just stared after him, his mouth hanging open. He closed it with a click once he heard a faraway door clanging shut, and turned back to Jack. Then, very quietly, he went and fetched a blanket and a pillow. After shoving the latter under Jack's heavy head, he sat down on the edge of the couch and fidgeted for a moment.
Jack snuffled quietly in his sleep, and rolled over.
The Doctor grinned toothily, a knee-jerk reaction to the childish sound, then shook out the blanket and curled up beside Jack. It wasn't a large couch, so he ended up on the very edge with his knees hugged to his chest, pressed close against Jack's side, just taking in his warmth.
For a long time, the Doctor just watched Jack's sleeping face, only millimetres from his own. Then his eyelids began to droop, and he let the sounds of the Hub—the clanking of old, rusty pipes somewhere far below, and the hum of machinery, not dissimilar to the sounds the TARDIS made—lull him into much-needed sleep.
The Doctor made a very undignified noise and forced his eyes open. As his vision cleared, Jack came into focus—awake, smiling, with colour in his cheeks: so very alive. The Doctor pushed himself up onto one elbow so fast that he lost his balance and would've fallen from the couch if it hadn't been for Jack's arms twining around his waist and pulling him to safety.
"Whoa! Easy there," Jack teased, and let go. His hands lingered on the Doctor's back, and for once, the Doctor felt no need to push them away.
Instead, he just smiled and reached up to wrap his own arms around Jack's neck, pulling him down for a brief hug. "Good morning," he said, craning his neck to look at the clock on Toshiko's desk. It was earlier than he'd expected; before, even, the Torchwood team was due to arrive. "How are you feeling?"
Jack pulled away and sat up, taking the blanket with him. The Doctor barely suppressed a shiver at the sudden lack of warmth, both from the coverlet and Jack's embrace.
"Good," Jack said, stretching. "Great, actually. Last night's kind of one big blur. How long was I out for?"
The Doctor shrugged and rose as well, flapping a hand over his mouth to mask a yawn. "Oh," he said, "only a few hours. I expected the process to take much longer. I must've gotten the information on the vaccine a bit wrong. Or maybe I heard about it at an earlier point—anyway. You look good."
Jack smirked at him. "Always do," he said, and eyed the Doctor up and down. "You, on the other hand, look like shit."
The Doctor frowned and ran a hand through his hair. "I thought that saving you was more important than stopping for a bath," he said. "Maybe I got it wrong. There's always next time."
Jack laughed and stood. "Where's my team?" he said.
"I sent them home last night," the Doctor explained. "Figured they might need a bit of a rest." He sighed and got to his feet, absently smoothing the front of his wrinkled suit as he did so. "I should go," he said, feeling more than a little awkward.
Jack whirled back around, dismayed. "Don't."
The Doctor shook his head. "I have to." He smiled, sadly. "Your friends will be here soon, and then it will be just another day at Torchwood. You know I can't argue with saving the Earth."
"Oh, Doctor." Jack stepped up to him, into his space, and cupped his cheek. The Doctor felt the sudden urge to run away, but quelled it as Jack slid the hand on his face to the back of his neck and leaned closer still, pressing their foreheads together, unconsciously echoing the Doctor's earlier actions. "When will I ever learn?" he breathed into the shared space between their lips. "You show up one day out of the blue and make all these ridiculous offers, and what can I do but go with you? Of course, I end up half-dead. And then you play the hero and patch me up again, only to swan off as soon as your job's done." He sighed. "One day, Doc, I'll know better."
The Doctor's lips twitched. "I hope not," he said, with a lightness that came off slightly strained. He pushed against Jack's chest and backed away. "Got to go. The TARDIS is waiting. Planets to see, people to help." He paused, smiling. "A whole lot of running to do. The usual."
Jack set his mouth in a grim smile. "I'll be here."
The Doctor glanced down at his hands. He fidgeted and looked up again, opening his mouth to speak. What he'd been planning to say died in his throat as he thought of what he'd told Toshiko the previous evening.
Will you still be here tomorrow?
Well, he'd kept his promise, hadn't he? His face had been the first thing Jack had seen when he'd woken up.
The Doctor swallowed the wave of guilt and turned to the door, his expression turning regretful. "Say sorry to Toshiko for me," he said, quietly. Jack watched him, silent, and the Doctor added, "Tell Ianto—tell him that I don't deserve it. And…" He hesitated, then steeled himself and turned back around. "And that I'm sorry."
Before Jack could ask why, the Doctor had closed the gap between them and taken Jack's face in his hands. For a moment, he just studied Jack's face, a thumb brushing across his cheekbones. Then the Doctor leaned in and brushed a feather-light kiss across Jack's lips. Jack made a noise against his mouth, something between a groan and a plea, and the Doctor's fingers clasped in Jack's hair, and they kissed deeply.
All too soon, the Doctor pulled away. His fingers brushed Jack's lips one final time before he turned away.
On the way out, while paused halfway into the TARDIS, he saw Ianto crossing the Plas, a paper bag clutched in one fist. Before he could be spotted, the Doctor ducked inside his ship; once the door was closed, he fell back against it and his eyes slipped shut. For one long moment, he just thought about Jack—hidden away in his Hub far below, preparing for the day's work, and how he'd smile when he looked up to see Ianto coming in.
The Doctor's eyes opened. With a slow, nostalgic smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, he strode up to the console. A few pulls of a lever later, the TARDIS took off through the Vortex, whirling and spinning and sending the Doctor crashing to the floor with a peal of surprised laughter.
Wouldn't change this for the world.