Summary: The Doctor finally explains to Jack the real reasons he was left behind on Satellite Five.

Disclaimer: I, like the rest of us fan-fickers out there do not own Doctor Who, the Doctor, Martha, Jack or Rose. They still all belong to the BBC...unfortunately.

Why He Really Left

"Jack, might I have a word with you?" The Doctor jerked his head to the upended crates they'd been using as chairs in their makeshift command center. Clearly he'd waited until Martha had fallen into a deep sleep before speaking but wished to be out of her hearing in case she woke up whilst they were still talking.

"Sure thing, Doctor."

Jack followed the tall, slender object of his affections where he led, just like he always did. He couldn't help wondering what was on the Doctor's mind that he didn't want Martha to overhear but he doubted he'd have to wait long to have his curiosity satisfied. The Doctor (at least in this incarnation) either answered or evaded questions put to him but he didn't beat around the bush when he had something to impart.

After settling down next to the oil drum fire they kept burning night and day, the Doctor started speaking almost immediately.

"I owe you an apology Jack, well, to be honest I actually owe you a few. But first I want to say I'm sorry for brushing you off on Melcasairo when you rightly accused me of abandoning you back on Satellite Five. And for biting your head off about the blond comment."

"No, Doc, I'm sorry about that. I didn't know about Rose, if I had, I'd never have said that."

"Jack, I can't...you don't know what that did to me... I can't...", He broke off and ran both slender hands over his face from forehead to chin then tilted his head skyward for several moments before shaking it and looking back at Jack.

"Doctor, I saw the two of you together, remember? I lived with you both for a while. I have a bit of an idea."

The Time Lord averted his gaze again but not before Jack saw his enormous brown eyes start filling with tears.

"Anyway, 'm sorry. Mostly, I just didn't want to talk about it in front of Martha. Even so, when I told you I ran away from you because of what Rose had made you into, that wasn't the whole story either. When I said I was busy, I was being flippant but I wasn't lying. I told you I took the power of the vortex out of Rose, I didn't tell you why." He paused and took in a slow, deep breath. "It was killing her. The radiation...she was literally glowing like a sun, Jack. In a few more minutes she'd have burned to ash."

He fell silent then but looked back and Jack saw that he'd lost his fight with the tears. They were trickling slowly down his cheeks in sliver rivulets. Jack felt his heart clench for the pain he saw there. Then that same traitorous organ began pounding because the Doctor was blindingly beautiful with his huge doe-eyes shining and his full lower lip quivering and thrust forward, jaw clenched to keep from sobbing outright. Jack reflected for just a moment how tragic it was that such terrible sorrow should so enhance the Doctor's already exquisite face.

Jack still hadn't come to terms with the Doctor's changed looks. He'd long-since lost his heart to the man when he had crystal blue eyes and a gorgeous mouth that fought hard for balance with overly large ears and a slightly crooked nose that was just too long for the face it occupied. While he'd found the Doctor sexy as hell, it hadn't been his looks that had made Jack fall so hard. It was the man himself. Now however, he found he had to constantly jerk his eyes away from staring at what the Doctor had regenerated into. He'd always loved looking at him but now it was just ridiculous.

That spiky dark cinnamon hair drew attention to his pearly pale skin. The liberal sprinkling of golden freckles made Jack's fingers itch to play connect the dots all over while he discovered if that skin felt as soft as it looked. His narrow face and high sharp cheekbones just made his melted chocolate eyes look all the more impossibly large. He couldn't help thinking of those Japanese anime drawings. He'd always thought they exaggerated the eyes to ridiculous proportions. Those were fantasy eyes. No one real had eyes like that...until now.

Then there was the Doctor's narrow, high bridged nose which inevitably drew the onlooker's gaze down to his deeply pink mouth. Lips that could stretch into the most infectious grin ever seen or turn down into an alluring pout Jack found himself struggling not to try and capture with his own lips.

Then there was the rest of him. Everything about his body was long, lean and elegant. He had a loose-limbed grace that persisted even when he was leaping about in that hyper-kinetic manner of his. After a few hearty hugs, Jack had also discovered the Doctor's deceptively lanky frame was surprisingly well muscled under that pin-striped suit and long sweeping coat. To the eye he looked so damned skinny but he was all whipcord muscle and practically no body-fat. Jack didn't think at his most fit he'd ever managed that kind of definition. The Doctor had a very narrow build but Jack would bet his best sex-toys that the Time Lord was stronger than a man twice his size.

As the Doctor fidgeted slightly in silence, still clearly struggling to force his grief back down inside, Jack silently cursed the man. Now he found himself staring at the Doctor's hands. Those long, sensitive fingers had Jack's mind wandering down some seriously inappropriate venues considering the gravity of the Doctor's topic of conversation.

The Captain did manage to re-focus quickly when the Doctor began speaking once again.

"She was burning to death because she came back for me. She wanted her Doctor safe, she said." He shook his head in disgust that Jack knew was directed inward. "She destroyed the Daleks Jack, she blasted every last one of them to dust. Then she brought you back. I had felt you die and I felt it again when you came back. But she was burning up in front of me and I didn't have a lot of time. I managed to pull the vortex energy out of her before any permanent damage was done but that meant, I had to take it into myself. I'm not any more immune to that level of raw energy than a human is. She was unconscious and it was all I could do to get her inside the TARDIS without collapsing. It was taking me quickly. I saw you running for us as we dematerialized and I'm sorry but I didn't have the time to stop for you, not then. I barely got us out into the vortex before I could feel the regeneration starting. She came to then." A gentle, rueful smile stretched across his face. "She couldn't remember any of it. Just 'a light and then singing." He bit his lip. "I didn't even have time to explain to her what was happening. I tried but it's not really a concept you can get across to a woman who's mind's just been scalded when you have less than a minute to explicate."

Those long fingers pinched the bridge of his nose and Jack could feel him struggling to keep his emotions under control and keep on with the tale. For the first time in over 100 years the Captain felt that knot of hurt in his chest begin to ease. As the Doctor continued, the knot loosened further.

"Regenerating is hell, let me tell you Jack. I'm not sure how it compares to dying then coming back but you feel every single cell in your body, every one of them. It's like they burst, tear and then turn inside out before resealing themselves into a new configuration. The only good thing I can say about it is that part's pretty quick. I've always been rubbish at it. I knew some Time Lords who could control every aspect of it from how long the process would take, how they'd end up looking and even walking away from it like it was just a change of clothes. I never know what I'm going to get. And I rarely get to walk away from it fully functional. Poor Rose."

The Doctor turned the full force of those eyes on Jack and he felt his breathing stop dead in his chest.

"She was terrified. She didn't realize it was me and didn't believe me when I tried to explain it to her." He chuckled and the sound of it shivered through all of Jack's naughty bits. "She acted so brave though. Tried to be so tough, went so far as to poke me in the chest and order me to 'Bring the Doctor back right now!'" He stopped then, smiling at the memory.

"How'd you convince her?"

"I proved it by telling her exactly how we met, what my very first word to her was. She believed then but she wasn't happy about it."

The Doctor's soft mouth drooped a bit at that.

"She wanted me to change back and I couldn't. I think that was the very first time I couldn't give her something she asked me for. Anyway it seemed she didn't want to stay with the new me so I set the TARDIS to take her home, Christmas Eve 2006."

Jack sat up straighter at that, realizing exactly what Rose and the Doctor had returned to earth to find but he didn't interrupt.

"Well, like I said, I'm rubbish at regenerating and this wasn't an exception. I started having neural implosions, my head felt like it was going to split like a walnut. I had to get us down, and down fast. It was probably the worst trip I ever forced on my poor ship. She even started clanging that damn cloister bell. She can be a little melodramatic at times, you know. The TARDIS that is, not Rose. Although...Well, never mind. So I did manage to get us to exactly when I meant to, even if we came in with a bit of a rough landing. I popped out the door and there were Mickie and Jackie right outside. I think I managed a Merry Christmas before I dropped right on my face in a coma."

He looked Jack straight in the eye at that moment.

"Since you managed to salvage the hand I lost in that sword fight, I know damn well that you know what I woke up to the next day."

Jack just nodded. He felt he'd managed to keep his thought that the Doctor could have come back for him later out of his eyes but he should have known you can't hide much from the Doctor's direct scrutiny.

"Jack, I did manage to spare you a thought even as my brain was collapsing."

The Captain jerked in surprise at that.

"Yes, the thought of your...er...condition did rather make my guts twist but honestly, I thought you'd be fine. I thought you would stay there and help rebuild the earth in 200100. I never thought you'd try to find me. Really, it didn't even occur to me you'd come here of all places. And for that, I am sorry."

Jack leaned back against the empty oil drum behind him and regarded the Doctor for a long moment. Dozens of thoughts flashed though his mind.

"All right, you're forgiven...if you tell me one thing."

The Doctor simply arched an eyebrow at him.

"What did she really think of your new look?"

"You know she never did tell me herself but I got it second hand from an impeccable source." He grinned, winked and clicked his tongue. "She liked it."


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