LOVE

Obligatory Disclaimer: Inspired by, dedicated to and in the greatest respect of Doctor Who, Torchwood and especially David Tennant and John Barrowman, who inspire me to do something I have come to love – tell stories.

"Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend."
Martin Luther King

Author's Note:

Standalone but follows my story "Stories."

PROLOGUE

Jack Harkness took a long hit off of his piña colada and with a sigh of contentment settled back comfortably into his beach chair.

"Happy, Jack?" the Time Lord asked him, not bothering to actually turn his head and look in the direction of his question's intended destination.

The Captain reflected for a few luxurious moments and then nodded in slow motion. "Yeah… yeah I am, Doctor. What did I tell you? It's beautiful here. And peaceful. It does my heart good to see it like this. How about you, you like it?"

Now the Time Lord did marginally shift position in order to scrutinize his friend. "Yes, this is very nice. It's indeed lovely. It is all that you claimed. I'm not surprised your forbearers chose to immigrate to this world. It would be perfect except for…" The Doctor's penetrating gaze traveled down to Jack's legs. Jack's bare legs.

"Doctor! You promised!" the Captain narrowed his eyes and glared back at his companion.

"Yes, I did. I know I did."

"Well then, what's the problem?"

The Doctor shivered in an exaggerated fashion, "It's just that I didn't expect them to be so… so gauche."

Jack rolled his eyes. "They are perfectly respectable board shorts," he retorted. "I told you: I got them in Hawaii, on Maui. They're bright and colorful in a tropical kind of way. They've got hibiscus flowers on them. In case you don't know, the hibiscus is the Hawaiian state flower. These shorts have UPF 50 sunblocking protection built into them. They're comfortable. They look great on me. And I look good in them. They are quality shorts, Doctor." The Captain inhaled loudly through his nose. "I just don't parse your negativity. Is it that you want a pair, too? Because if you do I have a couple of spare pairs in my closet…"

"I kind of doubt that they'll fit me," the Time Lord sniffed.

"What's this? Are you insinuating something? Are you telling me I'm fat?"

"No… well… yes… maybe. You've put on a little weight. But there's nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong at all."

"Doctor!"

"Don't misinterpret me! I think you are nothing but fine! I'm glad you're eating. After all you've been through, Jack, it pleases me to see you're regaining some of that weight you lost right after Wil left y-… Uh, I mean right after Wil disappeared."

"And I think you'd better shut up before you really stick your foot into the middle of it, Doctor." Once upon a time Wil Beinert's abrupt departure from Cardiff and Jack's life might've been an unpleasant and difficult if not extremely touchy topic of discussion; but now Jack's blue eyes were dancing and he was barely able to contain his laughter.

The Doctor smiled brilliantly and pulled his left earlobe. "Seriously, Captain, I'm glad you seem to be doing all right. I worry about you…"

"Doctor…"

"I can't help it, I do. It's all part of that social contract of ours you keep talking about. I worry, you worry, we all worry… Your emotional resilience is as impressive as your physical, and I have to admit you've bounced back nicely from Wil's rejection of your affections." Jack groaned yet The Doctor continued on blissfully unabated. "I'm proud of you, Jack. But I've been troubled over what went on with your brother."

The Captain frowned deeply and repositioned himself to bring his face closer to the Time Lord's. "I told you, I asked you, I begged you, can we please not talk about that? Pretty please? With sugar on it? We're on vacation, Doctor."

The Lord of Time turned his face back toward their splendid view of the horizon and remained silent.

"Sorry, Doctor."

Silence.

"Doctor?"

"Me too."

"Right." Jack picked up a frosty pitcher from the small table that separated the two beach chairs and poured himself some more of the thick, sweet mixture he'd been drinking. Then he refilled The Doctor's empty glass before placing the pitcher back down next to it. "A toast!" the Captain announced, straightening his back, raising his chin and lifting his glass high into the air.

The Doctor picked up his glass. "Magnificent! A toast! To what?"

"To the Boeshane Peninsula! Long may it thrive!"

"Hear! Hear!" The Doctor chimed before the two men quaffed their drinks in hearty enjoyment. The Captain emptied his glass and set it down firmly on the table with a resounding thud that was perhaps louder than what was required.

"That…" Jack pointed off far into the distance, his voice thick with reminiscence and piña colada amalgamation, "that was where the main part of the colony used to be. It's where my mother, father, brother and I lived when I was growing up. The settlement really was – or… sorry… will be, I guess is more accurate – on a low peninsula that juts out far into the sea. Our buildings were strong and tall, rising high above the level of the land."

The Doctor nodded. The Captain continued.

"The colonists were mostly artisans and fisherfolk; we lived off the bounties of the ocean, and the waters were bountiful indeed. We led a simple, easy, quiet life. Some of best times I can remember were when my father used to take Gray and me camping."

"Camping?"

"Yeah, it was the real deal. Tents, sleeping bags, cooking dinner over an open fire. We'd play baseball on the beach, sing old songs around the campfire, and stay up late talking and telling ghost stories. It was great."

"Camping! Don't get any ideas, Captain."

The air shimmered with Jack's laughter. "Yeah, I understand. It's an acquired taste, even among humans. No other race in the universe goes camping!"

There was a long, comfortable stillness between the two men.

"I'd go camping with you if you really wanted to go camping, Jack."

"Yeah… I know. I do know," was the half-whispered response. But then it was followed by an extremely wicked grin, "But would you share a sleeping bag with me?"

"I might not go that far…" The Doctor was nervously fiddling with his once again empty glass.

Jack looked out past the beach to the sea and beyond, and nodded slowly.

"What was he like?" The Doctor asked as he put down his glass.

"Who?"

"Your brother?"

Jack seemed to rumble a bit before answering. "He was a normal little kid. Why do you ask?"

"Oh I don't know, I was just wondering."

"Why do I not believe you, Doctor?"

The Time Lord shrugged.

Jack scowled, "He wasn't some kind of a monster, if that's what you're curious about. He didn't pull the wings off flies or stuff tiny kittens into burlap sacks and set them on fire."

"You don't have to get all defensive, Jack…"

"I'm not getting all defensive, Doctor!"

The Doctor ignored his friend's increasingly agitated tone of voice and kept his own inflection quiet, serene. "Something just doesn't add up about the invasion of your home world and you're the one who always says he doesn't believe in coincidences. Well… answer me this: why Gray? Why Boeshane?" He looked at the Captain inquisitively.

Jack's face went dark, "You've forgotten one, Doctor."

"One what?"

"You forgot one other question… you didn't ask why me?"

"Exactly. Why you?"

Jack closed his eyes and shook his head. "I have no idea, Doctor. Do you?"

Again there was a long period of silence, but this time it was less comfortable, more charged. Eventually Jack opened his eyes and turned his head. He was surprised, if not shocked, to observe the Time Lord openly staring at him, but The Doctor's face was lax, his eyes seemingly unseeing…

"Doctor?"

"DOCTOR?"

"What is it, Jack?" The Doctor blinked.

"Are you okay?"

"Yes, I am. It's just that you're… you're important, Jack," the Time Lord said wonderingly, almost reverently.

The Captain blushed a little and then smiled despite the conversation's grim nature, "Well gee, thanks."

"No, I mean it," the Time Lord's tone was suddenly very serious. "You. Are. Important."

"Huh?"

The Doctor took a deep breath and dry-swallowed. "There are some things, Jack, which even you aren't supposed to know."

"Well then… why are you talking about them?"

Now it was The Doctor's turn to scowl. He waved his hands through the air, palms open and facing outward as if in mock surrender.

All Jack could do was chuckle. What else could he do? "Like I always say, you're an enigma, Doctor."

"ME? You think I'm an enigma? What I can tell you is that at this moment I sit at the feet of an enigma giant – I am in the presence of the master."

"Hey! No name-calling!" Jack smiled as he reached for the nearly empty drink pitcher and split the remainder of the piña colada mélange between the two empty glasses.

Then the Captain watched as the Time Lord picked up his glass. The Doctor studied the large, heavy goblet intently as he swirled around its remaining contents, but he did not speak.

"Doctor?"

"Yes, Jack?"

"I have an important question to ask you and I want an honest answer."

"Yes, Jack?"

"Do you really think I'm fat?"

ONE

"Do you want to talk about it?" Wil Beinert asked.

She and John Hart were walking hand-in-hand through an immense field of tall, green grass. Above them two large, gibbous moons shone dimly in the bright azure sky. A strong breeze moved across the surface of the meadow creating immense waves of graceful movement and playing havoc with Wil's long, loose hair. With her free hand she kept shoving errant red strands out of her eyes.

Their strides were perfectly synchronized, although he was shorter than she, her legs significantly lengthier than his. They'd long since come to an unspoken arrangement concerning pace. And that agreed-upon pace did not alter as he responded. "No, not really. I believe I've said everything I want to say about the matter."

Wil masked a sigh. She'd seen the depth of his grieving. Had been sad and frustrated she could not share it with him. That he apparently could or would not allow her to share it. Was it the first glimpse of something ominous lurking darkly beneath his façade, or was it just the simple and relatively normal inability of a human male to display a particular type of intensely unpleasant emotion? She wasn't sure and, for once, had no idea how to pursue the problem, much less solve it.

So she had brought him here, to the Brave Woman galaxy. A galaxy she'd fashioned back when she was at once so much more and yet so much less than she was now. Although it felt like eons since she'd last been there, it remained a refuge and a sanctuary. She had hoped by openly revealing some of her own secrets that perhaps he would willingly disclose a few of his own – that he would unmask the pain that now dwelled within his beloved eyes and which imprisoned his beloved heart.

Like a classical symphony, she had once composed tens of thousands of nameless worlds in this galaxy, waving a fecund wand and birthing infinite diversity in infinite combinations; worlds filled with glorious beauty, both soft and gentle, as well as with frightful power and stupendous elegance. John had been astonished and amazed; yes, even he – John Hart – who'd seen so much, witnessed such wonders, experienced such marvels in his life. Even John Hart had been impressed.

And in the end they had come to that planet, that place, deep in the galactic habitable zone of the Brave Woman galaxy where she'd been at long last discovered – found again – by her friends The Doctor, Jack Harkness, and the sweet, brave, never-forgotten Rose Tyler. A planet of endless meadows, towering trees, and vast expanses of deep, calm water. Fragrant and warm, a world buzzing with colorful insects and singing joyously with bird-life… But nothing even remotely sentient: she'd purposefully left out that part of the limitless composition of life. Even with god-like powers, she would not then, not now, not ever, play God.

She recounted for John the tale of how The Doctor, that magical, marvelous Lord of Time, had finally come for her, after – from her perspective (and not his!) – she'd been lost and alone in the cosmic wilderness for so very, very long. He and his companions arrived and recovered her, unburied her, rescued her… and set her on a life-path that was still careening headlong into an uncertain, unknowable future. And although John had indeed responded strongly to her story, his reaction was colder, more removed than she'd expected. Her strange, intense, unpredictable and sometimes spooky lover had not reacted viscerally. She had imagined there'd be more, somehow, coming from him.

Wil couldn't help but feel a small piece of John had withdrawn… walled itself off from her.

She tried to keep any hint of the exasperation she felt out of her voice. "Yes, you've said what you wanted to say. But what about what you don't want to say?"

With that John stopped and turned to face her, taking her free hand in his and tenderly, warmly holding both of them as he met her eyes. "I don't know what you're asking me, M'Lady."

"I saw, we all saw your face when you spoke of him, of his death," she felt her eyes stinging with hot tears. "We saw how deeply he – his loss – affected you. I want… I wish to understand better what happened after I left."

John blinked, released her hands and dropped his arms to his sides. "I didn't sleep with Ecba, if that's what you're asking."

"Oh God, no," her face went ashen. "That's not what I mean, John! It never crossed my mind… but even if…" She shook her head. "No, John. Please. Listen. I was absent. I missed something that happened to you, something important. I didn't mean to be gone for so long… I never intended to be away from you like that. I – I love you; I don't want to be excluded from parts of your life. Please don't shut me out."

He shrugged, "I cannot give you what I do not have."

The tears that had been welling up in her eyes now freed themselves from their confinement and trickled down her face. "I'm sorry; I have no right to intrude."

"You're not intruding! Look, I loved him. We weren't lovers but I came to love him. I watched him fight a battle for his soul – I saw him win that battle but at such a dreadful cost. He was strong and brave and loyal and honest, and he died – he took his own life – so that I might have a chance to live. He killed himself, Wil, while his body was pressed up against mine. I could feel the flowing warmth of his spirit as it left him. But that's all I've got. If you want more, I don't have it to give you." He shook his head vehemently and looked down at his feet. "Jack would understand," he muttered.

"What was that?"

He looked up again and met her piercing gaze, unafraid. "I said Jack would understand."

To his surprise she nodded in agreement, "I believe he would."

"You know," he said after a small amount of time had passed, his voice almost a prayer, a whisper. "Some day one of us will go back to him. Perhaps sooner than you think."

Their earlier concurrence evaporated in a hot flash. "Well it won't be me."

"How can you be so sure?"

"I am so over him."

John smiled ruefully. "Take it from an expert. You can never be totally over Captain Jack Harkness."

She met his smile and raised it, her eyes penetrating, her tone sardonic, "These things you know?"

"If I'm an expert at anything, I'm an expert at being in love with Jack Harkness. It's a persistent condition. A permanent affliction. One I never wish to be cured of." He reached for her, "But at the moment all I want is you, M'Lady."

She leaned into him, allowed him to envelop her in his arms, in his warmth, in his scent, "And I you," she murmured. He kissed her deeply, insistently. But she felt a shiver far down in the depths of her spine, and it was not altogether pleasant.

-00-

"You call it madness, but I call it love."
Don Byas