Characters: Jack, Eleven, Amy
Summary: The man without a name, the Doctor who can't cure anyone, and the fairy tale princess meet, but not for the first time.
AN: Written for queenfanfiction. Unbetaed. Technically takes place ten minutes after the end of a different story.
He'd lost memories, friends, lovers, and family, but he admitted to himself (inside his head, where no-one on those particular lists could ever hear) that setting aside his name was always the hardest loss. When he'd put aside his birth name, he'd permanently given up that connection with his parents and his brother. When he'd stopped using the primary name he'd worn as a Time Agent, he let go of lovers and colleagues whose own real names he'd never even known. The name Jack Harkness had served him for centuries, collecting with it faces he swore he'd never forget, but there'd been a colony world where the name Shian Klon meant the difference between living and dying over and over, and he'd dropped the old name he'd stolen and he'd felt like he was cutting off a limb. (Well, not exactly like. He could describe in detail what that felt like, too.)
Four thousand years old, and his current name was nothing special, taken on to earn wages mining spices for bad pay and lousy treatment. Not coincidentally he'd started a little revolution among the miners that ended with fairer wages, a lot less punishment from the overseers, and two grateful and enthusiastic if unimaginative miners thanking a man they called Gentian Pos Inda.
That name was still buying him free meals in the locals, but the man without a name was already considering shipping out for new horizons. The stink of spice was too heavy here, and he grew unhappy when he lingered anywhere too long, collecting faces he'd only have to mourn later.
These thoughts chased him from the local, with shouts of fair night from people whose names he couldn't recall, including his two friends from the night before. Names. Names were harder to hold onto, even among those he knew now, and he had so many to keep in his heart from times long past.
Unhappy, yes, and maudlin as hell, he mused, and before he could breathe half a wish, he heard the noise.
Joy and worry both shot through his limbs as he dashed towards the familiar grinding sound. He hadn't seen the TARDIS in centuries, and it was exactly what he needed to get back to himself. The Doctor never showed up but there was something brewing, and an adventure would do him good.
In a back alley of the mining town, he watched her rematerialise. "Hello, beautiful," he said, holding back so she wouldn't shy away.
The door flew open, and a young man in a bowtie stuck his head out, with a hand in front of him, which he then pulled back to taste the forefinger. "Ah, yes, Denothin. It's a planet, well, mostly a planet. Call it an asteroid that made good. Good for mining a particular spice which …"
He cleared his throat.
The Doctor turned his head, saw him, and said, "Really, Jack, this is getting ridiculous."
He smiled. Jack. Yes. For the Doctor, any Doctor, he would always be Jack. "Says the guy with the bowtie."
"Now don't you start."
The Doctor was jostled, and then an absolutely gorgeous redhead popped out beside him. She frowned, and then her eyes went wide. Jack went to introduce himself, but the Doctor stuck a hand out firmly between them. "Amy, don't."
"But … "
"I mean it."
Amy gestured. "But he's right … "
"You said … "
"Year four thousand twenty-two, yes. I know."
"Sorry," said Jack. "Are we having a problem?"
"No," said the Doctor.
"Yes!" said Amy.
"It's time travel," the Doctor said, for Amy's benefit. "Sometimes you meet people a bit out of order."
"I get that."
"So you shouldn't go spoiling Jack's life for him."
"We meet up again?" Jack asked.
"It's the third time today," said Amy in a huff, and she pushed past the Doctor's hand firmly and stretched hers out. "For the last time, Amy Pond. And you're Jack this time?"
Jack took her hand and just to spite the Doctor, gave it his most charming lip press. "I'll go by Jack for now. Lovely to meet you, Amy Pond."
The Doctor rolled his eyes. Jack grinned. Memories of this regeneration came flooding back: a bit curmudgeonly, for all his youth, like someone's grandfather trying to be cool and failing. It had made a nice change from the previous two incarnations, though he was overall most fond of the next. Jack relaxed into his memories, enjoying the sweeter ones while he gradually let go of Amy's hand. He remembered Amy, though they had only met briefly as contemporaries.
"If you're quite finished," the Doctor said.
"I could give you a tour," Jack said.
"That'd be fantastic," said Amy before the Doctor could object, and she took Jack's arm firmly in hers. He did remember her clearly now. She'd been a shameless flirt then, too, which was why he'd liked her instantly.
"Welcome to Denethin," Jack said. "There are four pubs on this street. Housing is the next street over, and the company shop. Just past that building is the entrance to the mine. And that's Denethin."
"And us without a tourist shop to visit," the Doctor said. The Doctor's old face, using his old name, a part of Jack twisted, deep inside, far from where it could be read in his eyes.
Amy spun her head to glare at the Doctor, sending a cascade of red hair in a fragrant wave, and yeah, the smell of the spice was too much for him. "Hey, what do you say we blow this joint and find a better planet to visit? I'm a great guide on any planet where they serve cocktails with the little umbrellas in them." Jack put on a rakish smile he didn't entirely feel.
"I think we'll stay," said the Doctor. "I came here to see … "
The rumble started low. On instinct, Jack grabbed Amy and ducked over her, just as the buildings began to rattle ominously around them, and masonry from over their heads fell in deadly chunks.
"Inside!" the Doctor shouted, and Jack pushed Amy towards the TARDIS. He thought about going for safety too, but what was the worst that could happen? The rumble was almost certainly a collapse in the main part of the mine. People would be trapped. He paused one moment, touching the wooden box. If she left now, who knew how many millennia it would be until he saw her again? Then he ran, ducking falling bits of building, to the mine entrance. The air stank with spice fumes newly-exposed to the surface, and dust and debris choked him.
As he picked his way through, he heard running feet behind him. Good. He'd need a hand.
"Here," said the Doctor's voice, muffled. Jack turned. For one second, fear slammed hard into him as he came face to face with a gas mask, and then another was pressed into his hands. He slipped it on over his face as the Doctor and Amy had done.
"Don't say it," said the Doctor.
"Wouldn't dream of it."
Together, the three of them and everyone who came to help pulled survivors and casualties from the mine collapse. Jack wondered if this was something he'd forgotten from a history book. The Doctor seemed unsurprised. They'd won fair wages, and something tickled in his brain that they'd earn safety concessions now that it was too late.
Four very long days later, Jack sank into a deep, hot bath in what might have been his old quarters in the TARDIS. She'd even pumped in bubbles that smelled like honeysuckle and played some soothing music low in the background. She was good to him.
He was already losing the names: men and women he'd worked with here, living and dead, and only a handful he could recall. He'd begun writing things down, but he'd lost his notes twice, and starting over had been a hell he couldn't face. How many people had he intended to keep forever, whose names were already forgotten and that he'd forgot that he'd forgotten?
The heat of the bath soaked away the soreness in his muscles, but it added to the heaviness in his heart.
After, he wrapped himself in a robe that appeared by the bath, which of course fit perfectly. He padded barefoot down her corridors to the kitchen. The Doctor, also looking freshly-washed, was making tea. Without a word, he made a cup for Jack, too. Amy was nowhere to be seen, but had talked up a storm about washing her hair for the next week if possible. There was no teacup for her.
"You know," said Jack around his tea, "mentioning you run into me again is hardly a spoiler. I'm going to be around for a long, long time."
"Yes," said the Doctor. "But it's hardly worth risking the integrity of the universe to tell you when and where."
Something was bothering the Doctor. Jack waited him out. "Those two years you lost."
Jack thought back. In the scheme of things, two years was hardly a blink, even if some of those blinks had lasted lifetimes. "Yeah."
"You didn't get the memories back by chance?"
"No. Unless I did and they were so boring they've already been forgotten again." It was a limp joke, and the Doctor didn't even smile.
"Is it a spoiler to tell you that you'll eventually know what happened to them?"
"Probably." This wasn't like the Doctor, any of him. "But you're telling me anyway?"
"Call it a gift." Then he did smile, and it was crooked and goofy. This incarnation was never exactly handsome, but he was kind in an ancient sort of way. Jack was older than the Doctor now, by thousands of years, but the young old man in front of him made him feel strange, partly like an old man himself, partly like a teenaged boy with a crush on his teacher. Nothing new.
The Doctor sat back, even more ancient as he sipped his tea. "I never know what to do with you, Jack."
Jack had some ideas of his own on that score. "If you're looking for suggestions … "
The Doctor laughed, but gently. "I destroyed you. Martha too. But you always come back for more, both of you, even after you walk away. There's some psychology there."
Jack frowned, and drank the last of his tea. He didn't need to hear how badly the Doctor had destroyed Jack's life. He'd lived it, and because he was what he was, he'd survived. Martha had at least escaped in the end, found a life of her own to live. Two thousand years later, and Jack still envied her sometimes. Because he was hurt, maybe, he asked, "Have you figured out how you're going to destroy Amy yet?"
A sullen, sharp expression crossed the Doctor's face before smoothing out. "Spoilers."
"Don't have any. Just looking to the pattern."
And now it was out there, though the Doctor had said it first: he came into their lives, and changed them forever, and no-one walked away unbroken.
"I could tell you your future," said the Doctor, a touch angrily. "I could tell you just how long you'll be alone, how many people you'll outlive. We've been to the end of time together once."
Jack didn't let himself think about it, never could let himself. It was bad enough with the loss of everyone in his past, the casualties behind every name he'd shed, but to look forward and see the graves he was yet to dig, the tears he had yet to shed? Just the thought pushed him from world to world, drove him from bed to starship to interstellar void. Jack was old, but he would grow so much older.
The sharpness passed from the Doctor's face, as if he'd plucked the horror from Jack's mind, and he himself recoiled from his own blow. "Sorry. I'm sorry. No, I wouldn't do that to you. I'd never … "
Jack was already sliding away into his consideration of eternity, the thought that nagged and nibbled and ached and screamed, that he alone of all the souls that had ever lived would go on and on, losing and losing, watching his children die, feeling his lovers wrenched from his arms, everything gone.
The world tilted, became very small and cramped from his view of the abyss, and the Doctor's mouth was pressed hot and open against his. Instinct drove Jack into the kiss as much as any passion ever had: this was breathing, this was life, and this was … This was easy. This was right.
His mental shields, frayed from the mine disaster and too much time alone in his head, snapped back into place, lasering in on the joy right in front of him.
There was a cough, and a giggle. The Doctor pulled back first, and Jack only reluctantly, as Amy, her hair wrapped in a giant blue towel, poured herself some tea and sat down at the table with them, completely unembarrassed. "Something you two neglected to tell me?"
"No," said the Doctor, not blushing, but not entirely comfortable as he straightened his stupid bowtie.
"Why?" asked Jack, lounging back in his chair and feeling like his own self again. "Interested in joining us?"
The Doctor said loudly, "There will be no joining. There will be no us." He glared at Jack, as if Jack had been the one to kiss him and not the other way around. "Honestly, I can't take you anywhere."
"Nope," Jack agreed. Amy giggled again.
They left him on Telsa, which had a lively spaceport and an open-minded approach to, well, everything. Jack had contacts the next system over, and he thought he might like to drop in and say hello.
Amy hugged him goodbye. "I'll see you when I see you," she said.
Jack popped a kiss onto her forehead. "Looking forward to it."
He expected a salute from the Doctor, but got a hug instead, which was nice. There had been no more kisses, but Jack figured he had the rest of eternity to talk the Doctor into a few here and there.
"Can I at least ask when I'll see you again?"
"Me personally? Could be a while."
Jack nodded. It usually was. "I'll see you then."
He watched them board the TARDIS. The Doctor said, "Tell you what. When you do see me, I'll bring you a present. Something nice." He waved and they were gone.
Hm. That was typical of his relationship with the Doctor: always something to look forward to, and plenty of time to worry about it.
He made his way to the closest dock. "I need to buy passage to the Aldon system," he said when it was his turn in the queue.
"Both ways or one?"
"One for now."
The ticket agent nodded its shaggy head. "Name?"
He paused. He wouldn't have any qualms seeing the back of Gentian Pos Inda, but it meant a new identity, new chances to bind people to a name, and mourn them all over again when he let it go. With Gentian went the miners. With a new name, who knew what he had yet to lose?
The impish part of him, the superstitious, the silly and hopeful part even after all this time, wondered if he took an old name again, did it mean he got them back? It was ridiculous, but the hum of the TARDIS still rang in his ears, and anything was possible in her wake.
"Captain Jack Harkness." He added a twinkle. "Pleased to meet you."