STORIES

Obligatory Disclaimer: Inspired by, dedicated to and in the greatest respect of Doctor Who, Torchwood and especially David Tennant and John Barrowman, who play fictional characters that I make up stories about.

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
Maya Angelou

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Author's Note:

Standalone but follows my story "Forgiveness."

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PROLOGUE

There are two kinds of people in the universe, those who tell stories and those who live them.

The people who tell stories – the first category – have had all of the Story bled out of their lives. Instead they become fixated on sports or celebrities or fictional characters. It's the only way they can see themselves as part of an adventure. They have been molded into interchangeable pieces within systems that have sucked out any hope of unpredictability or randomness or hazard or even mystery from their existence.

You see, systems, whether they be economic or political or religious or social don't suffer their interchangeable components to be in stories of their own. If a cog in the machine comes home after work having been part of an exciting story, it would mean something had gone horribly, terribly wrong: a blackout, a strike, a spree killing, a plumbing catastrophe. Productivity would be disrupted. Complacency jeopardized.

Then there are the people who can't live without Story. I am one of those people. My name is John Hart. To be truthful, that's not my real name… it's just a name I wear these days. What's my real name, you ask? Well, it's been so long I don't really remember it, and it even if I did, it wouldn't be important. And actually, if you're interested – to be totally correct, I'm Captain John Hart, thank you very much. The "Captain" title was a sort of last minute add-on; an affectation, a bit of an indulgence conjured up on the fly, so to speak. It was in response to someone else putting on airs and calling himself Captain. But hell, for me it felt right at the time and it kind of fit, so I've kept it.

Regardless, like I said, my name isn't important. Who I am and what I do is important. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I believe the universe revolves around me or anything like that. But I try to live a life, you know? I try to do different things with different people every day. I try to learn new stuff and be a part of a different adventure every single damn day. On any given day I can write an entire book about what I am thinking and feeling, and it would be completely different from the previous day's book. And I always try to keep moving forward – even if occasionally it seems I'm not moving forward fast enough, I'm always still working hard to move forward. I try to keep living my stories.

I wish I could take credit for this philosophy, this way of life, but I can't. I didn't invent it, although once I adopted it, made it my own, there was no doubt it fit me like a glove. It was like I was born to it: I only had to be shown the light, have my eyes opened… No, I can't take credit for it; this way of life was exposed and revealed to me by none other than Jack Harkness. Jack Harkness opened my eyes.

Here's an interesting fact you may not know: Jack Harkness – or as he prefers to be known, Captain Jack Harkness – isn't his real name either. He sort of borrowed it, I guess you could say. Not that this detail is profoundly critical or anything. Are you doing okay coping with that? Going along with my insistence that monikers aren't all that important?

Good.

Jack Harkness was the person who enlightened me, who showed me the deep, breathtaking and indisputable truth about the difference between the people who tell stories and the people who live them. By becoming a part of his life, by walking at his side, by watching him be someone who can't live without Story, I changed. I became one of those people who live stories, too.

But I've also changed in lots of other ways. I don't want to bore you with the details, so I won't. If you don't know them already, you'll probably figure it out soon enough on your own. So pay attention, eh? I did want to stress, though, that each time I come into contact with Jack Harkness, as I continue to spend more time with him, I've continued to change. In fact, I've finally realized that I'm on a personal journey: a story within a story, you might say. As he moves forward, living his stories (and I am here to tell you that he moves forward prodigiously!), so do I. With all that forward motion, that relentless momentum, Jack is not the same man – and that is an understatement! – I first met all those years/centuries/millennia ago (or should I say years/centuries/millennia into the future?!). And I am not the same man that he first met. We are, both of us, evolving.

Now, before I bore you half to death, there's something else. Jack is special. Really special. As he's moved forward, whether with me walking at his side or on his own or with innumerable others, he's had some amazing adventures – he's had the most incredible and astonishing things happen to him. Want a few examples? Well, try this one on for size: Jack's basically immortal and he's died and resurrected, well, more times than you can shake a stick at. And let me tell you, although Jack always looks marvelous, being almost immortal is a lot harder than it appears. Jack has experienced people and lived events that could make a sane man mad, and a mad man psychopathic. He's taken on challenges, defied beasts and fought battles that make my blood run cold. When I tell you he's not the same person I first met, I am profoundly understating the fact. And I'm not sure anyone really, truly, absolutely comprehends who and what Captain Jack Harkness really is… Maybe – probably – not even Jack Harkness.

And even if you do figure it out, on some given day figure out who Jack Harkness really is, be aware that a day later it'll be stale information and you'll be wrong.

But there is one last fantastically interesting thing I must tell you about my friend and occasional lover Jack Harkness. Somehow he's not only become someone who lives his stories, he also has a propensity to tell them. He's the most amazing and rare of amalgams. Through Jack's stories, if you listen carefully enough, you just might learn who you are and where you are and where you are going. When he looks at you with those hypnotic blue eyes and begins to weave a tale, know that in his words he will not only reveal things about himself – if you're lucky! – but about your own self as well. Also be aware that not all those things you learn about yourself will be good things. What more can I say? That's how it is. He's special.

ONE

Captain Jack Harkness took a sip of coffee, leaned back in his chair and looked up at the Eiffel Tower.

"Ah, I love Paris in the springtime," he sighed melodically.

"A bit boring if you ask me," his companion smiled thinly as he swirled around what was left of the hot cocoa in his cup.

"What was that, Doctor?"

"I'm just saying, twenty-fourth century France is a bit, if you don't mind me saying so," the Time Lord inhaled loudly through his nose, "well… quiet."

"Oh well yourself. I chose the year 2364 on purpose, just because it is so quiet!" Jack had a peevish sound to his voice but his eyes were sparkling.

The Time Lord set his cup down on the table and shrugged. "I'm not complaining, Captain. The hot chocolate and the croissants are marvelous. Even better than I remember them."

Jack looked at his friend curiously, "When were you last here?"

"Ah! Ages ago. Regenerations ago. It would've been back in the latter part of the twentieth century – 1978 or 1979 or thereabouts…"

The Doctor's eyes became slightly unfocused as he stared off into the distance.

"And…?" Jack urged him to continue.

"Well, Romana and I got into a bit of a pickle with a green, tentacled, one-eyed monster."

Jack laughed out loud but then turned a tad more serious. "Romana? That's the Romanadvora…"

"Romanadvoratrelundar," The Doctor helped him.

"Right! The Romanadvoratrelundar you mentioned, um, earlier?"

"Yes, the one and the same. Well… actually the second Romana. You see she regenerated…"

"She was a Time Lord then?"

"Yes, indeed! A Time Lord and my companion. Although she was assigned to me only as an assistant at first… But eventually she became much more to me than just that."

Jack's smile was almost but not quite wicked, "More than a mere companion, you say?"

"Yes…" The Doctor's voice trailed off and Jack left him with his reminiscences for a short time before bringing the Time Lord back into the conversation.

"And the two of you came to Paris?"

"Oh yes! It was indeed magnificent! We sat for hours at outdoor cafes just like this one, watching the world go by. We had a marvelous time! Well, as marvelous as one might manage when one ends up fighting a nasty green cyclopean creature. Romana… Well… She's gone, now…"

"How did she come to leave you, Doctor?" Jack's curiosity was getting the better of him. He knew the conversation was skating on thin ice. The Doctor often, almost always, refused to talk about his past. On the other hand, departing companions were a topic of considerable interest – something that intrigued the Captain, not that he had any intention…

"She wanted to go and help these people who'd been cruelly enslaved – they were called the Tharils. Romana was always going around wanting to help people – so I left her in a different space, a different dimension, along with my robotic dog."

Jack made a face, "You had a robot dog?"

"Yep. His name was K-9." He shook his head glumly.

A sad Time Lord was not what Jack had in mind for company. The Captain was already beginning to regret prodding The Doctor for the anecdote.

"But Doctor! If Romana was in another dimension – mightn't she have survived the Time War?"

The Time Lord gazed deeply into the Captain's eyes. Jack realized with a start that the Doctor was deciding how much more of the tale to tell, how much more of the sadness to share, how much more of himself to reveal.

"Doctor?" Jack's voice was soft, barely audible, encouraging.

"Romana eventually returned to Gallifrey. She was President of the Time Lords during the Time War. She's dead Jack, dead along with all the others. They all perished when I…"

Involuntarily Jack reached for the Time Lord's hand and to his surprise it remained in place on the table as he gently covered it with his own. "Don't say it," Jack half-whispered. "You know it's not true."

"Oh but it is." The Doctor's face was cool, unreadable. "They're all gone. I am the killer of my own kind. I have accepted it, and so should you."

Jack recognized an attempt at intimidation when he saw one and he would not back down. Nor, he decided, would he remove his hand. This was serious, this was real, this was life but this was also, he knew, a game. And, as always, a competition…

"But, Doctor, the Dalek Emperor, the Cult of Skaro, Dalek Caan, Davros, even that bloody psychopathic freak the Master all managed to survive the Time War. You say all of them but how can you be so sure? We've learned there were places to hide – places like the Void, and at the end of the universe. Maybe there were other places. We've learned there are secrets hidden everywhere. How can you know with absolute certainty that you're alone?"

The Doctor rotated his hand and tenderly squeezed Jack's fingers before smoothly retracting his arm back and away from the tabletop. "I don't Jack. Not really. But it's what I need to believe. Does that make sense?"

Jack's exposed hand suddenly felt naked. He brought it to his chest and crossed his other arm over it, as if trying to warm himself up from a chill. A part of him wanted to shake his head but instead he nodded and lied. "Yes, it does. I'm sorry for asking…"

"Never be sorry, Jack. I didn't have to answer you. I wanted to. But I think that's enough storytelling for now… unless you want to buy me another cup of hot cocoa and attempt to weasel something else out of me?" The Doctor smiled brightly and the grin was contagious.

"I think we've had enough spirits for now, Doctor."

Jack's pun was not lost on the Time Lord, who chuckled softly. "In the twenty-fourth century the Louvre is still one of the greatest museums on the planet. How about we take in some of that good old Earth art and culture, Captain?"

The response was a silent but enthusiastic nod.

"Good!" The Doctor unfolded out of his chair and stretched his back. "Perhaps a brisk stroll and then… Well! Along the way I actually do have quite an amazing story I can tell you about when I met Leonardo Da Vinci and defaced the Mona Lisa!"

"What?!" Jack stood up.

"Oh, I might be exaggerating just a wee bit. Still, it's a great story! Do you want to hear it or not?"

Jack threw a couple of coins on the table and shrugged on his greatcoat. "Always, Doctor. Always."