A/N: Set some time after Children of Earth for Jack; a few weeks after the Waters of Mars for the Doctor. Set in Jack's new apartment, wherever and whenever that may be since he ran away from Earth.
No Pain Can Compare
"Where were you?" Jack asked, in a low voice.
The Doctor swallowed. "I was busy."
"You could have helped. You could have stopped it. You could've saved them."
"That's not good enough!" Jack exclaimed, shoving the table roughly against the wall as he turned to face him. "I had to sacrifice my own grandson, Doctor. My daughter will never speak to me again. And I had to lose Ianto," he told him, his voice cracking with emotion.
The Doctor met his glare with one of his own. "And you know about my life. You know that I had to sacrifice my own species. I'll never speak to my daughter again, either. And I had to lose Rose. So I think we're sort of even, don't you?" he demanded, his face like thunder.
"Rose didn't die," Jack countered. "You left her on another world on purpose! With a part-human version of yourself!"
"So she can be happy!" he burst out. "I didn't do it 'cause I wanted to!"
"But she didn't die."
"But she would've done. If I'd let her stay with me, I'd've had to watch her die, at some point. I couldn't...I wouldn't be able to deal with that. I had to let her go, so that I'll never know when she -" he broke off, inhaling a shaky breath.
"You're a coward."
"Yes. But at least she can be happy."
They were silent for a few moments. "You could've saved him for me," Jack murmured, eyes downcast.
"I can't save everyone, Jack," the Doctor rationalised quietly.
"Then what is the point of you?" he muttered. "What's the fucking point of you, if you can save hundreds of planets and hundreds of civilisations but not the people you or your friends love?"
The Doctor's jaw clenched tightly. "I'm sorry," he apologised again.
"Tell me where you were." He saw the Time Lord flinch. "Tell me."
"I was on Mars," the Doctor answered carefully.
"What?" spat Jack. "Go for a little holiday, did you?"
"Jack, you can't expect me to be able to jump in a save the day all the time. Earth has got to learn to defend itself on its own, too, in case one day I'm not...around anymore."
"What happened on Mars, then? Well? How many lives did you save there, instead of Ianto and Steven and all the rest that died here? Well?"
The Doctor cleared his throat sharply. "I'm going to tell you something. And I don't expect any sympathy, or any compassion, or any comfort whatsoever. You'll hate me for it, and you would be quite right to do so."
Jack stared at him questioningly. "What is it? What happened?"
The Doctor glanced away, blinking quickly. "I lost it, Jack."
"I don't understand..."
The Doctor looked back at him. "I went too far. I interfered, believing it was well within my right to, as last of the Time Lords, the only one left to uphold the rules of time. I finally lost it. For a short while I was completely, completely broken. Everything she did, to fix me, and I just - " he cut himself of, wiping the back of his hand across his eye. He was so irrefutably glad that Rose hadn't been there to see him in those moments. Then again, if she'd been with him, it wouldn't have happened in the first place. "It was as if the full impact of the Time War, and losing all that I've lost, crashed down on me and made me insane. It was as if Rose had never made me better, and I just...without her, or without Donna, without someone – anyone - there to stop me, I almost ruined everything."
To the Time Lord's immense surprise, Jack strode over to him, his arms engulfing him in a tight hug. "Doctor," Jack said firmly. "You realised you went too far and that's good, okay? You stopped yourself. Everything's gonna be fine."
"It isn't, Jack. It's never going to be fine," the Doctor replied. He squeezed his eyes shut against the tears that threatened. "I don't know what to do," he confessed.
Jack pulled back, tears glistening in his own eyes. "Me neither, Doc. Me neither."
The two men stood together, both trying not to break down. Each of them old, each of them tired, each of them heartbroken. They were probably the ones who could understand exactly what the other was feeling. That was why the Doctor came to him today, at least. He knew he could talk to Jack – tell him things he couldn't speak about with anyone else left in this universe.
"I'm going to die, soon. It's been prophesised," the Doctor told him quietly.
Jack swallowed thickly. "But you'll regenerate. You'll be fine."
The Time Lord looked to the floor.
"You'll regenerate, won't you? Doctor?" Jack persisted, panicked by the expression in his friend's face.
He sighed heavily. "What's the - "
" – no! No, don't listen to what I said earlier. There is a point to you, of course there is. The universe needs you." He paused. "I need you."
The Doctor was silent for a moment. "Do you know, I can't decide whether to be devastated about my impending death or not. I sort of am, because I like this body. I like this mind. And she..." he trailed off.
"Rose?" Jack guessed.
The Doctor tugged at his ear nervously. "She helped me so much, you know. After I went and regenerated on her. She stood by me and she helped me through the regeneration sickness and – ha, she approved of my wardrobe choice...you should've seen her smile, Jack. I was so relieved, she just...beamed up at me..." He gave a quiet chuckle, but it quickly faded, the brief light in his eyes fading with it. "And she loved me. And if I regenerate again, she'll never see the new me. And I'll never see her, not with the new eyes. And I'll never touch her with the new hands, or..." He sighed again. "I've loved so much like this, but I've also lost so much. I can't decide whether changing will let go of the burden or not."
Jack squeezed his shoulder comfortingly. "Doctor," he began quietly. "I don't know if I should tell you to do this or not. I'm not sure whether it'd cause a paradox or whatever. But. Why don't you, when you change, why don't you go back in time and steal some moments with her?"
He looked to the floor again. "I don't think I'll be able to walk away from her if I did that, Jack. I'd stay too long and mess up our future together."
"Well. Just...it's something to think over, yeah? It could be a great incentive to carry on living," he pointed out.
The Doctor inhaled sharply. "Yeah."
"Plus, I saw a man with her once."
"What? What do you mean?"
"You know I said I went back and watched her growing up once or twice?"
"And never said hello..." the Doctor continued.
"Yeah, exactly. Well. My last trip to the Powell Estate was after you'd already begun travelling together. I couldn't resist. In hindsight, I think it was after you'd regenerated, too, 'cos her hair was shorter – but at the time I assumed it was before you met me, hence why I didn't try to find you to punch you in the face. Anyway, you must've come back to visit her Mum or something, 'cos the TARDIS was parked there and everything. And...and well. There was another TARDIS, parked just a little down the way."
The Doctor gasped. "What?"
"And I dunno where you were, but Rose was talking to this man with a rather eclectic fashion sense. Tweed jacket, bow tie – that sort of thing."
"I hate bow ties," he grumbled.
"Not next time you don't. It must have been you, Doctor."
He shook his head. "I wouldn't risk something like that."
"Which was probably why you were hiding in an alleyway with her."
The Doctor frowned. "Right."
"I expect it would've caused a few billion problems if you'd caught another man with his tongue down her throat, no?"
The Doctor's eyes widened. "I – she - what? That better bloody be me, then!" he exclaimed.
Jack grinned, and he felt a little relieved at doing so. He hadn't smiled for far too long. "That's more like it."
"I can't believe I...I go back. I must be very masochistic next time 'round."
"As if you aren't now," Jack scoffed.
"I don't think I could deal with saying goodbye to her again, Jack."
"But maybe you couldn't carry on without her without telling her, just once, that you love her," Jack's voice wavered as he spoke. The Doctor met his gaze, his eyes filled with pain and longing, mirroring Jack's own in spite of the colour difference.
"You didn't tell him, did you," the Doctor murmured.
"Tell who what?" Jack muttered back.
"Ianto. And you know what."
Jack slumped against the table, his long-held denial finally exhausting him. "No, I didn't. I couldn't. He died in my arms, Doctor," he whispered, a cry wrenching from deep in his chest. "He died in my arms and there was nothing I could do. And he told me. He told me he loved me and I just – I couldn't get the words out. I didn't want to say it, 'cos I thought – I thought if I didn't say it yet, then he'd hang on. He'd not die. He'd wait. It wouldn't be the last chance. But I couldn't do anything, and he died anyway, and – and...and I miss him, Doctor. I miss him so much. And I wish, I wish I'd told him I love him, because I do. I do love him, and now he'll never hear me say it. I'd give anything to have a chance to do so."
The Doctor watched Jack struggling with his emotions, and made a snap decision. "You don't have to give anything. I'll take you back to a couple of weeks before it happened. One chance, that's all you get. You tell him, and then you leave."
Jack looked up at him in surprise. "You'd do that?"
"Yeah. But you get one minute Jack, that's all. It's too dangerous, otherwise. He'll know something's up."
Jack swallowed hard. "Thank you."
The Time Lord shrugged. "Least I can do really, considering. And it's only fair, if I get the chance to go back and tell Rose."
"When can...when can we go?"
The Doctor stood up straight and cleared his throat. "Now. We can go now. If you want."
"Yes. Please, yes."