Notes: This ought to be some uncast future Doctor, but really it's Ten. I guess that makes this an AU. Many thanks to Yamx for the beta! Any mistakes left are all mine.
"What does it feel like -- after?"
The question came out of the blue one morning as Jack and the Doctor lingered over their respective caffeinated beverages. Jack eyed his friend incredulously over the rim of his mug, but he had answered stranger things before when the Doctor's mood turned inquisitive. Given his activities the day before, the Doctor could only be referring to one thing, and it wasn't Jack's temporary deaths. Or maybe only the little ones.
"After? I don't know -- good. Loose, I guess. Relaxed. Tired and sticky and kind of -- smug. And a little lonely. Don't you remember?"
"Lonely?" The Doctor was dismayed. "That sort of thing was a long time ago for me, you know."
"Yeah, I know." Jack stared into his coffee, turning it between his hands. "I don't stay with them. It means something, when you do. I don't want anyone to -- expect me there, the next day."
The Doctor leaned his chin thoughtfully into his hands, watching Jack attempt to avoid his eyes. "Because you'll be here. With me."
Jack was startled and a little alarmed. "Well, yeah, naturally. On the move all the time, right? Can't stop for sleepovers."
"No, indeed. And speaking of moving! Have you ever been to Cememicron V? Lovely weather patterns, absolutely fascinating! Every afternoon like clockwork they have an electrical storm, snow, then the sun! What do you say we go take a look?"
Jack was just as happy to drop the subject.
The Doctor had explained it to him.
They'd met up again decades after Jack had begun to climb back out of hell, when he had slowly, slowly learned not to see the faces of the dead in every sentient he encountered. He'd healed enough to be something like the man he was before, and that was when the Doctor had landed the TARDIS right on his doorstep. Like he'd been waiting for the perfect moment.
For such a terrible driver, he had excellent timing when he wanted to. Jack hadn't need much persuasion to drop everything and come along.
The Doctor explained it to him then, because he wanted to head the usual problem off at the pass. Almost every one of the Doctor's companions, with monotonous regularity, fell madly in love with him. Jack had noticed this himself, and felt sorry for the poor things. He knew what that felt like, after all. The Doctor just tried not to see, and eventually they got over it or asked to be taken home. But Jack wasn't one of the usual companions, and as fond as the Doctor was of every one of them, he couldn't talk to them like he could to Jack. He was determined that he wouldn't lose this one over what the human laughingly termed his 'fatal attraction'.
Jack had asked, "Why is it so hopeless, though? I mean, one day... I always thought you and Rose..."
"No, not even her. I had good reason to leave her in the other universe with my double. I couldn't have given her what he could. Or anyone at all! That sort of thing is all right when you're young, Jack, but after the first regeneration the urge just goes away. People used to think we reproduced with looms, honestly." The Doctor had chuckled drily. "But even Time Lords weren't that detached. It was just very rare for one of us to leave Gallifrey before we'd got a couple hundred years under our belts. It wasn't considered proper to leave at all, but it was unheard of to go before you'd finished your education and passed on your genes, begat the next generation and all that. I was always a bit of a rebel, myself, but even I didn't shake Gallifrey off until I was a grandfather." With that he'd lapsed into a melancholy silence, and Jack hadn't raised the subject again.
He thought about it plenty, though.
It hadn't surprised him, because, honestly -- if the Doctor had been capable of sexual interaction, he'd have been interacting with Jack a long time ago. It wasn't his ego speaking. He didn't have sex with everyone he met, of course he didn't, but there were very, very few mature humanoids -- and not too many more of the more exotic species -- that didn't react to him at all on that level, and the Doctor was one of them. Oh, he'd always flirted, but there was nothing behind it but teasing.
In a way it was comforting. At least he knew the Doctor didn't ignore him out of dislike or disinterest in his person. A quirk of biology, Jack could resign himself to. Genuine indifference might have broken him. And if the Doctor would never be his lover, Jack was all the more secure in his friendship, and treasured it more than he would ever dare to tell. As for his other needs, well. He'd never had any trouble finding a playmate for an hour or an evening. For everything else, the Doctor was there: companion, teacher, and brother-in-arms.
Jack was content. He'd tried the more usual relationships, and it had ended badly every time. He could never grow old with a partner, be safe and steady, or help to raise a family. It wasn't fair to ask any lover to adjust to Jack's lifestyle, and he wasn't able to fit himself into theirs. It was equally unfair of the Doctor not to warn his companions about all the things he would never be able to feel for them. Jack sometimes wondered if that was why the Doctor was suddenly willing to overlook the things that made Jack Wrong, but he'd spent a long time training himself not to linger on that kind of thought. The Doctor had asked him along. Jack could take care of himself, he respected the Doctor's reticence, and he would never leave him over the things he couldn't offer. And if he was no wiser in his affections than the rest of the companions -- he didn't have to let on.
Jack and the Doctor rubbed along together pretty well, all things considered.
That didn't mean he ever stopped being lonely, after.
One evening, not long after Cememicron V (and hadn't that been a disaster) Jack left the TARDIS for a few hours convivial companionship with a charming and energetic young lady from one of the glittering, crowded casino palaces orbiting Earth in the thirty-third century. He enjoyed their interlude very much, but was glad to borrow her shower afterwards to wash the scent of her from her skin. She waved a cheerful and unconcerned goodbye before darting off to her job monitoring dice tables.
Returning to the TARDIS, Jack sought out the Doctor, but couldn't find him in any of the usual places. He wasn't around in the console room or underneath the console itself, he wasn't in the galley drinking tea or putting together something horrible and strange that he swore was a delicacy on one planet or another, you uncultured barbarian! -- or in the library or the wardrobe room or his bedroom. Baffled, Jack wound his way through the shifting corridors of the TARDIS to his own room, hoping the Doctor wasn't out having an adventure without him. He hated missing out. But when he opened his door, there the Doctor was, lying fully dressed on Jack's bed with his shoes on the coverlet. He had his arms crossed behind his head, and his long legs crossed in front of him, and he was waggling one trainer-clad foot in an attitude of resigned boredom.
"Blimey, Jack, thought you'd be forever! What were you doing, had a go at mapping the TARDIS? You'll never do it, she'll rewrite the matrix just to frustrate you!"
Jack entered the room slowly, his eyes fixed on his friend's blithe face. The Doctor's eyes were twinkling as if he'd solved a mystery and was just waiting for Jack to catch up. If it had been anyone else, he'd have a pretty good idea of where this was going. But it was the Doctor, and the Doctor simply wasn't capable of the usual sorts of entertainment one had on a bed.
"I was looking for you, actually." He sat down on the edge of the mattress and smiled down at the Doctor. He liked to smile at him, and he liked to see the Doctor propped up so comfortably on his pillows, whatever his reasons might be. The Doctor smiled back at him, gently, and Jack was a little flustered by the tenderness in his expression.
"I know. You always hunt me up. After." Jack was amazed to feel himself blushing, and the Doctor laughed to see it. He pulled Jack onto the bed next to him and wrapped him up in his gangly limbs. Jack went to him willingly, tucking his head under the Doctor's chin and breathing in his scent. The quick patter of the Time Lord's pulse in his ear almost tickled, and his voice rumbled in his chest.
"There's plenty of things I can't give you, Jack, but I can do this." He smoothed a rebellious strand of hair behind Jack's ear. "I think I'd like to, actually. If that's all right with you."
Jack rolled his eyes and poked him in the ribs as best he could without moving out of his comfortable position. The Doctor could be ludicrously polite at the oddest moments, and sublimely rude at all the others. But he knew Jack down to the bone, and loved him. Jack snuggled into his dear friend's arms, feeling his body relax into the satiation from before and his heart beat gratefully in the peaceful after.
They made an odd couple by some standards, but it worked just fine for them.