Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or the italicized quote at the beginning—that is from Torchwood: Children of Earth.
Author's Note: I saw 'Children of Earth' before I ever heard of Doctor Who, so when I was watching it I wondered who this Doctor was. Now that I've become a fan of Doctor Who and I know, I was inspired to write a one-shot based off Gwen's speech. I hope you enjoy it!
"There's one thing I always meant to ask Jack. Back in the old days. I wanted to know about that Doctor of his. The man who appears out of nowhere and saves the world. Except sometimes he doesn't. All those times in history when there was no sign of him, I wanted to know why not. But I don't need to ask any more. I know the answer now. Sometimes the Doctor must look at this planet and turn away in shame. I'm recording this in case anyone ever finds it, so you can see... you can see how the world ended."
The screen went blank and the room, for a few moments, fell silent.
"Humans are incredible," came the hushed response and all at once it seemed safe to breathe again.
"I though the point of this was the exact opposite," Jack Harkness remarked. He stood directly behind the Doctor, still facing the screen, observing the other man with a mix of relief and curiosity.
"To you and her, perhaps," the Doctor said, "but the very fact that this video was made at all shows how incredible humans are. They will always survive in some way, no matter how the odds are against them. It's in their nature to survive! Humans just can't let themselves die without a fight. And that's only the beginning! Did you hear what she said?"
"Of course." Jack frowned. "I was standing right here. I've seen that video many times."
The Doctor turned around so fast that Jack had to take a step backwards. "But did you understand it?"
"I was there. Well, not with her, but on Earth. I know what she was talking about."
The Doctor shook his head and laid sombre eyes on his former companion. "Read between the lines, Jack. She was telling the world the truth."
"The truth…" Jack sighed. "So you really turn away from the human race in shame? Is that why you don't come sometimes?"
The Doctor frowned at him. "Is that what you all think? I thought she might be the only one! Of course, that wasn't exactly the truth I was talking about…I was thinking more about the situation itself, not my involvement…She was showing how shameful the actions of some humans could be."
"Your lack of involvement," Jack corrected softly. "But you still haven't answered my question."
The Doctor began to pace as he gathered his thoughts. "I don't come sometimes because I don't see that you need help," he said. "I mean, Torchwood was created for a reason. I run around the universe in my TARDIS trying to fix things where I can, but I can't be everywhere. Torchwood is a great help. You guys take care of things I might not be able to. I know when the Earth really needs my help, and that's when I come…" He lapsed into a thoughtful silence.
"But…" Jack prompted.
The Doctor looked up at him, expression grave. "But humans do disappoint me at times," he confessed, "so much so that I feel I should turn my back on them, just to keep others safe, or to teach them a lesson. But I never have, Jack, and I never will."
"Why not?" Jack asked. "We do some terrible things, you said so yourself. This recent occurrence is just the last in a long list of the horrors humans will commit onto each other."
The Doctor sighed. "We all do it," he said. "No others except humans have the power to be so disappointing." He frowned. "Well, barring Time Lords, of course, because we have more power. I could destroy the universe if I wanted, or I could simply let it die." He shrugged. "Humans could, too, if they wanted. But just as some humans can be a huge disappointment, others can be brilliant. Most of them are brilliant. Look at your friends from Torchwood, willing to risk life by going against their government for the greater good. That's brilliance right there! That's the beauty of the human race! And it happens every day. For every horrible thing a human does, there is another human doing something wonderful. And I believe that the human race as a whole is good."
The Doctor came to a stand-still in front of Jack. "You can tell your friend Gwen there that the reason I didn't come to help them wasn't because I was disappointed. I simply didn't come because I knew you all could handle it, and you did." He paused and stared at Jack. "Are you shaking?"
Jack was indeed shaking, but he chose to ignore this and instead said, "You can tell her. I'm not going to see her again."
"What—" The Doctor took a step closer to Jack, his face full of concern. "Please, tell me what happened. Why are you shaking?"
Jack took a step back just as the Doctor reached for him to offer a comforting touch. "You don't want to do that! I…I can't live with what I've done, so I've left."
The Doctor fixed him with a stern look, a look that, regardless of his appearance, showed his true age. "You can't run away from your problems, Jack." Softer, "What did you do?"
"I killed my grandson."
The admission was followed by a cold chill that seemed to set into the room, causing the Doctor to shiver as he stared, saddened, at Jack.
It was Jack's turn to pace. Anything not to have to stare the Doctor in the face. "It was the only way. We figured out a way to send the frequency waves back through the children to the aliens, which would kill them. We tried everything else! When I tried to negotiate with the aliens, they sent out a virus that killed everyone in the building. It was…" Jack found his throat tightening, to his horror, but he continued to speak. "It was hopeless. The government was taking the children and Gwen could only do so much. I knew that if I didn't do something she would be killed. The children would have been taken. All I needed was one child, and I had my grandson available. I know his life wasn't mine to take, but it worked. His life in exchange for the world, Doctor."
Jack came to a halt, the tears in his eyes not quite allowing themselves release. He still could not face the Doctor and he was shocked when he found a hand on his shoulder, comforting him.
"Now you know," the Doctor murmured. "There is a price to pay when you take the fate of a species, of a world, of a universe into your hands. There will be death and there will be sacrifice and sometimes…the pain is overwhelming. I think you have learned that. I know what you did was wrong but, given the same circumstances…I might have done the same if it meant saving everyone else."
Jack now dared to look up at the Doctor and saw nothing but understanding in the other man's eyes, coupled with a deep sadness that spoke of years of pain and sacrifice. It was then that Jack remembered who he was talking to—the man before him had saved millions, had saved the universe, but he had lost much in the process. Names sprung to mind—Rose, Donna…Just the last on a list of many.
The Doctor gave him a sad smile. "I know it'll take time to come to terms with what you've done. If you need someone, I am here…"
"I should go," Jack managed, and he turned and began to walk away. Still, the Doctor managed to have the last word, called out softly but still enough to reach down and grab Jack's very soul.
"It will take time for the pain to go away. But the pain reminds you that you are human, and that is the best thing you can be."