A/N: This was supposed to be a set of five very short drabbles. It got a bit away from me, and at four this morning it was up to 3,500 words. I spent a good chunk of time this evening revising and working on the last bit, and now it's just over 5,000 words. So much for short drabbles. But I'm happy with it, and I hope you are too. Also, it is Jack/Doctor. I don't normally write slash, but then again, I don't normally fight with inspiration when she strikes, either. This story features Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor (briefly), David Tennant as the the Tenth, Matt Smith as the Eleventh, and John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness-or as close as I could come to resembling them on paper. Hopefully no one is too dramatically out of character. Feel free to berate me if you think they are.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Doctor or Jack or anyone else mentioned. BBC called dibs before I could. Also, there are a few quotes you might recognize...obviously not mine. Doctors numbers Twelve and Thirteen, however, are creations of mine, and I'd appreciate it if you went and made up your own extra Doctors and left mine safe with me, thanks. :)
Jack had resigned himself to dying. It was pretty much inevitable, with a trio of Daleks just around the corner of the steel-walled dead-end he'd been backed into. And the Doctor had looked at him before he'd gone downstairs—just before he'd given him that kiss good-bye—and there had been such sadness in his eyes. Bitter, guilt-ridden sadness, as if he blamed himself for Jack's death before Jack had even died. And it was in that moment that Jack knew he would not survive that day. So it was easy for him, when the Daleks rounded that steel-plated corner and declared his extermination, to say, laughingly, "Yeah, I kind of figured that."
What he hadn't figured was that he would wake up. Barely three minutes later, breath exploded painfully back into his lungs, and he opened his eyes. The first thing he saw in this painfully new and confusing life were the dusty piles of atoms that were all that remained of the Daleks. The first thing he heard, which made his freshly restarted heart wrench in pain was the wheezing whoosh of the TARDIS dematerializing. He didn't think he could run as fast as he did then, but he was still not fast enough—not fast enough to do anything more than call out for the Doctor to wait as the blue box faded into nothing, leaving him behind.
There was a twinge somewhere deep inside Jack, a faint, fleeting stab of pain that overwhelmed everything for a moment and he thought that this was not the last time the Doctor was going to leave him behind. That this was the first time in a long, long string of abandonments. And Jack slid down the wall to sit in the ankle-deep Dalek dust, trying desperately not to cry tears of anger, frustration, confusion, pain, relief that he had somehow, miraculously, inexplicably survived. And after a long time, when he finally realized that he was waiting for the Doctor to come back for him and that the Doctor was never going to come, Jack stood up shakily, gathered the shattered pieces of his life, and went to find the Doctor.
But Jack never saw that Doctor again. Nine, Jack learned much, much later, when he happened to meet a woman named River Song who happened to have a handy cheat-sheet and the spotter's guide to the Doctor, complete with photographs of every face the man she loved had ever worn. Nine, with his icy blue eyes and close-cropped hair, his scratched leather jacket and his thick Northern accent. Nine was the first face Jack had seen, the first face he had kissed…the first face he had loved, and the first face that had left him behind. But Nine was Rose's Doctor, not Jack's. Nine had taken Rose with him. He hadn't even bothered to look for Jack's body in the dusty ruins of Satellite 5, let alone waited for him. No, Nine had left him behind, and Nine was not his Doctor.
Arguably, Ten left him behind that first time. They debated the issue later on. The Doctor said that he couldn't have left Jack behind, even if he wanted to, because Jack was clinging to the TARDIS like a monkey. Jack argued that the Doctor had meant to take off without ever seeing Jack, and that if he hadn't meant to leave him behind again, he would have opened the door and let him inside before taking off. It was a bit of a sore point that had become a fairly funny inside joke, and while Jack counted it as the second in the long line of abandonments, the Doctor refused to. The Doctor also liked to pout and say that this one was negated by Jack's refusal of the offer to join the TARDIS crew after the business with the Master was over. That, the Doctor pointed out, was Jack leaving him behind.
But whether Jack had been left behind or not, they found themselves at the end of the universe. Humanity's last, despairing grasp at survival, at living in a dying world. And Jack knew better than to ask the Doctor for an explanation of what he had become and why the Doctor was frightened. He waited patiently as the Doctor scrambled for things to do, ways to put off the inevitable conversation and Jack wondered if he was avoiding the topic because Rose was part of it. But the Doctor ran out of excuses once Jack was inside the radiation-filled chamber, and he gave a semi-satisfactory explanation for why he had left Jack behind all that time ago and why he had attempted to do so again. Like how light made a headache worse if you looked at it, it pained him to look at Jack now. Jack shook his head, biting his lip. He was the light that made the headache worse, and he would never stop.
"You're a fixed point, Jack," the Doctor said. "You're wrong." Jack shrugged it off, made a joke of it, but those two words made something in him ache.
"You're prejudiced, you mean."
"I never thought of it that way."
"Shame on you." But Jack didn't mean shame for just the sort-of prejudice. He meant shame for the way the Doctor looked at him now—that awful mixture of pain and pity, revulsion and love, sorrow and apology, none of which Jack wanted. He wanted those deep brown eyes to sparkle with mischief and fun whenever he saw Jack, not look quickly the other way. Jack looked through the little window in the door and wondered why they could only have this conversation during a life-and-death moment, why the Doctor didn't want to talk about it, why he kept running away. And when the Doctor asked if he wanted to die, Jack knew: he felt guilty. He felt it was his fault that Jack was like this, his fault that there was nothing that could be done to reverse it, and his fault that there was no knowing the consequences. That was so like the Doctor, blaming himself for everything. And at that moment, Jack knew he loved Ten more than he had ever loved Nine.
But Ten left him behind again, after that whole business with the twenty-seven planets in the sky. Daleks again. Jack had hoped he'd seen the last of those foul creatures, but they were like roaches—no matter how many times you killed them, a few always survived to come back. The Doctor liked to argue that this one didn't count either, since it had ultimately been Jack's decision to leave and return to his diminished Torchwood team, taking Martha and Mickey with him. The Doctor argued that he had never really abandoned Jack when he wore the lanky, dark-eyed, wild-haired form that Jack had so grown to love. He admitted to attempting to leave him behind, but had never truly done so. Jack admitted that most of Ten's departures were rather well settled into the grey area. Except the last one.
When the Doctor came to say good-bye to Jack in the crowded bar at the centre of the universe, it was really all he could do to force himself not to cry. He made himself laugh for Alonso, but a part of him wanted to spend the next week in that bar, drowning himself and his memories of Ten in cheap, strong alcohol. This one, Jack felt, was very much like when Nine left him behind. He might come back, sure, but he would be wearing a different face, walking with new steps, speaking with a new voice—a whole new man, a brand new Doctor—and Ten had left him behind for good, never to return, never to be seen again. And try as he might to convince himself that Ten was his Doctor, Jack knew that this Doctor was torn too many ways to belong to any one of them. He was Rose's Doctor and Martha's and especially Donna's. Donna, who had given him simple, fun, easy friendship, no strings attached, no complications. Which, after the pain and anger of Nine, was all that Ten really wanted. Ten was Donna's Doctor—Jack would have asked too much of him, and Donna never would. No, Ten had left him behind, and Ten was not his Doctor.
Jack met Eleven on several occasions, and he was left behind by Eleven on several occasions as well. And one particularly memorable time, he left Eleven behind, running off across London Bridge at three in the morning in 1899, calling back over his shoulder, "I thought I'd save you the trouble, Doc!"
It took Eleven a long time to find Jack again. It seemed like he was deliberately not allowing their time streams to cross. But when he did finally turn up again—Amy and Rory on the last leg of their travels, just before Amy got pregnant and the semi-newlyweds said good-bye to the Doctor—Jack didn't want to see him. He was angry with the Doctor, who wasn't there when Jack really needed him, who was the only one who could have saved Ianto and who wasn't there to do it.
Jack heard the TARDIS materialize outside the coffee shop where he was ostensibly reading while really doing reconnaissance work, but he didn't go outside. He didn't look up from his book when the bell over the door tinkled cheerfully announcing the new arrivals, two men and a red-haired woman arguing loudly amongst themselves as to the safest way to determine the climate and safety of the environment outside the TARDIS. Jack made no move when the voices died abruptly, and he calmly turned the page nonchalantly as one of the men sat down in the chair across from him.
"Hullo, Jack," the Doctor said quietly. Jack raised an eyebrow but did not look up from his book until the Doctor reached across the table and plucked it our of his hands. Jack began to protest, but his voice died in his throat when he finally saw the newest version of the Doctor. Floppy, dark hair. Boyish, youthful grin. Green eyes so beautiful they made his heart leap in his chest. Tweed, with the elbow patches of a seventy-year-old professor. Suspenders, for God's sake. A bow tie. "Hello," he said again, waggling his long, slim fingers at Jack. Jack closed his eyes, a wry smile spreading over his face before he began to chuckle as his heart completely melted. He thought he had loved Nine. He was sure he had loved Ten. But there was something about Eleven that was simply…irresistible. No one could ever replace Ianto, but Jack thought that Eleven would come the closest. And that made him laugh.
"Are you laughing at the hair or the bow tie?" Amy asked, flopping down in the seat next to Jack while Rory scooted a fourth chair over. "Because I've been trying to get him to change both for ages."
"Neither," Jack said, eyeing the redhead. "Captain Jack Harkness. Who're you?"
"Oi!" the Doctor cried warningly.
"What?" Jack said, smiling as they replayed the exchange that had occurred nearly every time Ten had introduced him to someone new. "I was just saying hello. Can't I say hello to anyone?"
"I don't mind," Amy said, giving Jack a good once over. Rory rolled his eyes and sighed.
"Amy!" he said.
"What?" she countered in a fair imitation of Jack. "Can't I just say hello?" The group laughed and introductions were made, and this time, when the Doctor asked if Jack wanted to come along for a few adventures, Jack didn't say no. Somewhere inside him, he knew that this would end badly, in another abrupt departure, but he didn't care. He was running away from Ianto with the only man who would ever be able to help him overcome that all-encompassing grief that had nearly derailed him. Loving the Doctor was the only thing keeping him afloat, and Eleven's eyes never once held the pity or sorrow or guilt that had plagued Ten's. And Jack clung to that with all his might.
Until Eleven left him behind for the first time, in a rather uncomfortable jail cell in the inner sanctum of the cathedral prison at the core of the planet Machina. Admittedly, it wasn't the Doctor's fault. He didn't know that Jack had been captured, and thought that Jack had never left the TARDIS, so, when he took off at high speed, trying to avoid being dismembered by a rather unpleasant tiger-demon, he thought Jack was still on board. And by the time the tiger-demon was dealt with and Jack was missed, it was too late to return to Machina, and Jack was left to fend for himself. He shivered in the cathedral dungeons for two weeks, not knowing if the shivers came from the cold steel of the cathedral's foundations or from the sense of loss that penetrated his deepest bones, the shock of knowing Eleven was not going to return for him.
Only, two years later and several centuries in the past, the Doctor did find him again, entertaining the Empress's son on Shelos3.79. And when the Empress's favorite court physician, magician, and advisor managed to dose the Doctor with a concoction that induced headaches, Jack was left behind. Because he was light that made the headache worse. And though the Doctor promised to come find Jack after he'd found the cure, Jack knew better than to hope.
The third time Jack met Eleven was the adventure in late-Victorian London, which involved Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a rather nasty and quite lost Yeti, and running very fast away from Queen Victoria's personal guards. Jack took the initiative and left the Doctor behind after that one. He was tired of having his heart broken by Eleven, his green eyes, his long rambling speeches, his restless hands, his mischievous, childish grin. But no matter how many times the Doctor left him, no matter how many times his heart cracked in two, he still loved him. And every time the Doctor came back, eight or nine times after the Victorian episode, he smiled and laughed and forgave him and loved him all the more, always knowing that he would leave and his heart would break again. But that's the thing about being immortal: your heart heals up and you keep living no matter how often you want to die.
Jack was with Eleven when he regenerated, and it was the first time he cried since Ianto's death, years ago in the future. The Doctor laughed weakly when Jack's tears splashed down onto his pale cheeks while Jack desperately tried to staunch the flow of blood from the bullet wound in his side.
"Go on, Jack," the Doctor said, pressing his palm to Jack's cheek. "You can't save me. See?" He held up his other hand, where the golden glow of regeneration energy was already gathering. "Had this face for an awfully long time, didn't I? Time for a brand new me."
"But I love this you," Jack had whispered, more to himself than to the Doctor. And if the Doctor heard, he said nothing. He didn't have time before the regeneration kicked in and his dark, unruly hair curled and shortened and turned blond, and his beautiful green eyes darkened to brown, and his face became thin and rather pointy and he wasn't Eleven anymore. And Jack no longer loved him, because Twelve, it turned out, was a pompous ass.
And that was quite possibly the worst abandonment Jack suffered at the hands of the Doctor. When Eleven left him, he was fairly sure that not even Nine's cold-shouldering had been half as bad as this. Because Nine hadn't known that Jack loved him. Eleven knew and left anyway. Though, Jack supposed that was because Eleven wasn't really his Doctor, no matter how hard he wished he was.
Eleven was Amy's Doctor, her Raggedy Doctor. Her imaginary friend. And no matter how long that regeneration lasted after Amy and Rory left the TARDIS, little Amelia Pond's imaginary Raggedy Doctor was the very root of Eleven's identity, and nothing could change that. He was Amy's Doctor, despite the vast amount of time he spent wearing that face, despite the long list of people he had traveled with, despite Jack. Jack liked to pretend that Eleven was his Doctor, but deep down, he knew that he wore that face and that silly bow tie just for Amy. And Eleven had never once abandoned Amy, as he did to so many of his companions. After those first fourteen years of waiting, he never left her behind again. Not like Jack, who he tended to pick up and drop off like a hot potato. Jack loved him, madly, and the Doctor had loved him back, but not the same way. Not while there was Amy. No, Eleven had left him behind, and Eleven was not his Doctor.
Jack barely stayed one full adventure with Twelve. Twelve grated on his nerves. With his pale, pointy face and his bad habit of answering questions before you finished asking them and his smirk that made you feel like an idiot. It was hard to love Twelve. Jack tried, he really did. But he kept listening to Twelve's voice prattling on and couldn't help imagining how Eleven would have said it. He told himself that he would get used to Twelve, but when the Doctor threw the bow tie in the trash with a sneer at his former self's fashion sense, Jack knew it was impossible. If Twelve hated Eleven, there was no way Jack could ever love him. So he left.
He borrowed the sonic screwdriver to fix his vortex manipulator, reinstalled its capabilities as a teleport and a time-travel device. The Doctor was so caught up in whatever it was he was doing that he didn't even notice. And when Jack got caught inside a deadlocked and shrinking force field, with the Doctor on the other side, Jack knew it was time to go. He shouted his good-byes from down the corridor and zapped himself away. His last glimpse of the Doctor was of the saddened look on his face— perhaps grieving for the love he had once borne for Jack that he had managed to lose. It made Jack wonder if maybe Twelve would change, if some day he would realize and come back for Jack. But Jack never saw him again.
Twelve left him behind and left him behind for good. It was during this time that Jack met River Song, and they sat over drinks long into the night and talked about the Doctor. Jack was fascinated by the backwards relationship River described, their meeting constantly in the wrong order. He felt sorry for her, who loved the Doctor so completely and still the Doctor wasn't sure of her. He didn't know that River felt sorry for him, the perfect unrequited romance, loved but never loved.
She said she was sorry that he never met Twelve in his later days, after she'd met him…again. River spent a great deal of time with the Doctor while he wore his arrogant blond curls, and she had the pleasure of being the companion that defined that version of him. She promised Jack that she had changed him, that he wasn't nearly so impossible now as he had been at the start. But Jack never saw him again, so he could never be sure she wasn't lying to make him feel better. He met River many times—usually twice a year, in that inn at the crossroads of the Milky Way, out beyond the Sun, halfway to Alpha Centuari, where they could be two anonymous aliens meeting for drinks to talk about the past and the future that had already happened. He thought he got to know River quite well, but sometimes she still surprised him. She was complicated, like the Doctor. And Jack probably could have loved her, if they'd let themselves. But she was the Doctor's, and part of him was jealous and part of him was still too much in love with Eleven while she was off gallivanting about the universe with Twelve. So they met for drinks and talk and then she went back to Twelve, and he waited.
He didn't know whose Doctor Twelve was. He certainly wasn't Jack's. Jack suspected he was River's Doctor, but with River, one could never be too sure, and she claimed that Twelve still wasn't her Doctor, the one she had first met. But Jack saw enough of her to know that even if Twelve wasn't her first Doctor, he was the one she loved best. And so he came to think of Twelve as River's Doctor. After all, he never left her behind the way he abandoned Jack—at least, not without her leaving him behind in a mutual break. No, Twelve had left him behind, and Twelve was not his Doctor.
Jack met Thirteen completely by accident. There was a crisis in a hospital one Christmas—it was really getting a bit ridiculous, all these alien crises on Christmas. Jack wished for one year when Christmas could be the calm, peaceful holiday it was meant to be as he ran down one of the long, white corridors, smoke trailing from the edge of his greatcoat. He wondered vaguely when the Doctor would show up, as he almost always seemed to spend his Christmases running around saving the world. He heard one of the aliens squelching around the corner he had just flown past and pulled a fast summersault to avoid the laser beam that shot out from the alien's gun to burn a long gouge into the wall where Jack's head had been moments before. His bullets were useless against the creatures, not that he had any left anyway, and his only hope was to find a portable defibrillator with enough power still left in it to electrocute the things. Problem was, the aliens were more intelligent than they looked, and they had drained most of the power in the hospital.
Jack whipped around a corner, dodging another laser blast, tripping over something and careening into someone running in the opposite direction. They both crashed to the ground in a tangle of limbs and a slew of curses and apologies. The other man struggled to his feet and made a dash toward the corner Jack had just come around.
"I really wouldn't go that way if I were you!" he called. But the stranger ignored him and poked his head around. There was the sound of a laser and the man came back to where Jack was pulling himself together.
"Right, so, some sort of swamp creature, equipped with lasers. Lasers? Lasers. Firepower would be hard to use in the swamp, too much damp, gunpowder would get wet, wouldn't ignite, so no guns. Fire…methane would be best, why lasers? More accurate? More accurate, I think. Swamp creatures? Alright, need a better look."
Jack listened to the rambling monologue with eyebrows raised while a smile slowly spread across his face. There was only one person in the whole universe who rambled on like that. It was like listening to his brain work, jumping from one idea to the next to the next, sometimes with no connection at all. It didn't matter that he had never seen this man in his entire life. He knew it was the Doctor.
"Doc?" Jack called after the man, who was trying to get a look around the corner without getting blasted by the laser the creature carried. "Doctor?" The man held up a hand, waving him away.
"Yes, just a minute, Jack, I'm a bit busy, in case you didn't—" he trailed off and turned slowly to look at Jack, who grinned broadly at the look of disbelief on the Doctor's new face. "Jack?"
"So, you're finally ginger," Jack said, smiling. For he was. Shockingly ginger, the kind of hair that people stopped to stare at because it was so vigorously and vibrantly and flamingly orange. It wasn't curly, but it wasn't very straight either, and it stood up from his head like Ten's used to when he ran his hands through it. He had the biggest grin Jack had ever seen, and blue-grey eyes that sparkled on either side of his slightly crooked nose. He had a sharp jaw line, and a smattering of light freckles that made him look young, like Eleven. Jack was glad to see Twelve's stiff fashion sense had been replaced by the usually chaotic mismatch that defined the Doctor: pale blue Oxford with suspenders and a dark, pinstriped waistcoat, unbuttoned; soft, dark grey breeches and boots out of early nineteenth century London; a black pea coat like Ianto's. And it was all so quintessentially Doctor that Jack couldn't help running forward and catching him up in a tight embrace.
"Fancy meeting you here, eh?" the Doctor said brightly. Jack laughed.
"Come on, alien invasion in a hospital on Christmas? Had you written all over it, and I couldn't risk the chance of you passing me by." The Doctor grinned and flipped his sonic screwdriver—slimmer than Eleven's, longer than Ten's—over in his hands before raising his eyebrows and pointing back down the corridor.
"What do you say we work this cliché out together? I've decided they are swamp monsters and there's only about ten of them which isn't enough for an invasion, so that mean's it's reconnaissance. They squelch and they've got lasers which means they probably come from the bogs on Oohdoom Vee, which makes no sense because Earth is nothing like the bogs on Oohdoom Vee—though it might have been, anywhere from 330 to 410 million years ago, Cambrian Era, I think, or was it the Mississippian? Don't know for sure, never really bothered to check it out—which still does not explain what they're doing here now. I'm rambling, aren't I?"
"Just like old times," Jack confirmed. The Doctor laughed, told himself firmly to shut up and ran off down the corridor, away from the horrible squelching sounds of the swamp monsters from the bogs of Oohdoom Vee, Jack trailing along behind him, grinning like a madman and already totally in love.
It didn't take the Doctor long to reverse the power drain and find an electrical pulse large enough to stun the creatures but small enough not to kill them. It took them considerably longer to load the mushy beasts into the TARDIS and take off for Oohdoom Vee for a nice long, stern talk with the inhabitants who were seeking new planets. Once the Doctor had convinced the leaders of the Bog Council to try looking at terra-forming devices and the rather desolate and completely uninhabited planet that was right next door to Oohdoom Vee and promise to never, ever come to Earth ever again, he landed the TARDIS near the coffee shop where Jack had first met Eleven.
They lingered over coffee long into the night, reminiscing about the good old days and old adventures. The Doctor was surprised when Jack told him he'd met River, who had apparently never once mentioned where she disappeared to twice a year. Jack was surprised to hear that the Doctor had missed him, and had considered coming back several times, only to get sidetracked by some pressing need to save a world. They laughed at old jokes, remembered old friends, shared moments of silence for the fallen, made predictions for the future. It was several hours later when they fell into silence, each staring pensively into his almost-empty mug of coffee. Jack took a deep breath before breaking that companionable silence.
"I suppose you're going to leave me behind again?" he said carefully, not looking at the Doctor's new face, even though he wanted to spend every moment he could drinking in the sight of this gorgeous new version before he vanished like each of his predecessors. It took the Doctor a while to respond.
"Captain Jack Harkness," he said finally. "That's what you are."
"Sorry?" Jack asked, glancing up at his old friend.
"You are the one who has been left behind." The Doctor looked up at him from under lowered brows, almost nervously, as if he were afraid of what would be said next. Jack refused to be the first to speak. "Like Amy," the Doctor said finally. "Amy Pond, the girl who waited. For fourteen years. But you, Jack, you've been waiting this whole time. Since the moment you walked into that closed ward in that ancient hospital and saw me sitting there in my awful leather jacket, you've been waiting. And I've taken you for granted. I'm sorry. I truly am sorry. But…you've always been there. You are the one constant thing in my life, the one thing that would always pop back up, usually when I was least expecting it. You are the fixed point of this constantly changing universe, and I took it for granted that you would always be there. So I kept leaving you behind, because I knew I would somehow, somewhere, somewhen run into you again, so it didn't matter. It didn't matter that I was breaking your heart."
Jack's breath caught in his throat. It sounded matter-of-fact, the way the Doctor said it, almost nonchalant. But his eyes were full of something that Jack could not quite put his finger on, and that look made what the Doctor was saying okay. It made Jack forgive him, and it made Jack hope that maybe for once he wouldn't be left behind.
"Qui relicta," the Doctor muttered in Latin, scrubbing his hand through his ginger hair. "He who has been left behind. But no more, Jack. I promise. No more. Because," the Doctor stood up then, his bright eyes blazing, his hands never still. "Because I've been denying something for a while now, Jack. I've been hiding from it and running away and…and I've been leaving it behind." He ceased pacing, standing before Jack who found himself on his feet, staring into the Doctor's eyes, hardly daring to hope. And then the Doctor leaned forward and kissed him, and something inside Jack exploded, and there was only joy.
Jack had thought he loved Nine. He was sure that he had loved Ten. He had been madly in love with Eleven. He hadn't been able to love Twelve. And none of them were his Doctor. But Thirteen was different. Thirteen loved him. The rambling ginger with the wide grin was the first of the Doctor's many faces who loved Jack as much as Jack loved him. Thirteen was Jack's Doctor, and Thirteen never once left him behind.