Saving Captain Jack
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who.
It was damn near impossible to be mad at somebody for dying in place of you.
None of them had expected to be captured and forced into playing reality telly from hell. Rose had never really seen the point of it though her mother watched it often enough that she was fairly familiar with it. Familiar enough to know what the Weakest Link was if not to actually know pop culture questions from centuries into her future.
She'd been separated from the Doctor then and by the time she got a chance to talk to him again, they knew all about the Daleks. The Doctor knew they were doomed and was planning on tricking her into going home – because she never would have abandoned him like that – so of course he wouldn't warn her of the possibility that he would die. That the Daleks would kill him over and over and over again until he stopped regenerating.
It still didn't quite let him off the hook for travelling around with her for months on end (had it been a year? It was so hard to keep track of time spent travelling) without warning her about regenerations but she supposed that no one wanted to face their own death, not even a man who had died before. He was sort of like a cat that way, or at least the cat myths. Except he must have had more lives because he'd died nine times. Was ten his limit? Rose hoped not.
She wasn't comfortable with the Doctor dying for her even if technically he was just fine. She couldn't imagine that anybody dying for her would be a good feeling but it was better and yet somehow almost worse because it was him. Yes, unlike, say, Mickey dying for her the Doctor was alive and well but people like her and Mickey only had a hundred years at most to live and would probably last a lot less. Her Doctor was over nine hundred years old (though she was really starting to suspect he wasn't properly keeping count anymore so who knew how much older he really was?) and that worked out to be a human lifespan every regeneration.
Maybe some regenerations he lived for centuries and others he passed through quickly. Rose had no idea how long he had been his original…no, not original but at least the first self she had met. It hadn't been his time to die, though, and so whatever time he had left in that form was now gone. She didn't know how many regenerations the Doctor expected to have but surely at some point there must be a limit, right? The Doctor had lived for nearly a millennia but one day he, too, would die and this time it would be for real. He would do it so much sooner now because of his sacrifice for her. It was the best gift she could ever ask for and proved Jack's words about her being worth fighting for (which she hadn't known just how much she had needed to hear) but all the same it was a horrible feeling.
There was nothing that could be done now, though, except to make the best of her life and try not to disappoint the Doctor and make him regret what he had done for her.
While Rose knew herself well enough to know that she wouldn't have wanted to face the Doctor's mortality – and the added reminder of her own – if the Doctor had tried to explain about regeneration, she would have taken the news better had she heard it in advance from her first Doctor rather than having her current one awkwardly try to explain it.
And she had taken it horribly. She hadn't quite forgiven herself for rejecting the Doctor and telling him to turn back. The very first time he had met anybody (and it was her of all people who he cared for and who he died to save!) and they rejected him. She had rejected him. It had taken her far longer than it should have to come around but once she saw him dealing with those Sycorax she knew.
It had taken a little longer for them to get over the awkwardness of her being the same and him being so alike and yet so different. He had the same memories, of course, and the same feelings for her (that she had been especially worried about and, as it turned out, so had he). He looked completely different and his personality was so changed. He seemed…better. He had always been so haunted before but now it was like all of that had melted away and he was so much more light-hearted. Oh, he still had his darkness of course (whatever happened to that promised golden age?) but it came out more in isolated moments. And his mission to go adventuring and save whoever they met along the way remained unchanged so it was really only a matter of adjusting to the change.
Rose had been afraid to say something before because she hadn't felt comfortable enough with the new Doctor but now that she did she knew that she couldn't wait any longer. It was important and, as per usual, she was probably building it up in her head to be much harder than it actually would be.
Rose took a deep breath and entered the control room.
"Ah, Rose, excellent timing!" the Doctor said excitedly. "There's this planet called Midnight that you're just going to love."
"Actually, Doctor, I wanted to talk to you about-" Rose stopped. "Wait, a planet called Midnight? That seems odd."
"No odder than naming all of your planets on gods from long-debunked Roman mythology," the Doctor replied. "Midnight isn't a normal planet anyway. The sun's radiation is so toxic that it outright vaporizes organic matter so we'd have to be careful to stay inside. Imagine, Rose! A planet that no one's ever touched, even in the future! Well, I say no one but there might be some native life on the planet. Really impossible to tell without further exploration which is so difficult with the sun being like that. Or the native life could approach someone but I've never seen it happen."
"If a planet is so toxic then why would anybody want to go there?" Rose asked blankly.
"It's a leisure planet," the Doctor explained. "Oi, look at you! You can't even comprehend devoting an entire planet to leisure, never mind multiple planets. Midnight has a wonderful resort on it and a great view which is, I suppose, why it was chosen as a leisure planet in the first place. That and the fact that its sun means it's no good for colonization or whatever else you'd want to use a planet for. So, what do you say?"
"I say that that sounds lovely, Doctor, but I need to talk to you before going anywhere," Rose said seriously. It was tempting to put it off until they got to go investigate this 'Midnight' place but she couldn't stall any longer. It was a horrible pattern to fall into, putting something off just a little while longer because there was always so further cause to put something off.
The Doctor sobered immediately. "Of course, Rose. What's on your mind?"
"Satellite Five," Rose replied simply.
The Doctor tensed as she knew he would. Satellite Five was where she had somehow managed to destroy an army of Daleks who had massacred everyone but Jack and the Doctor. Or so he said. She never had seen Jack again and she wouldn't put it past the Doctor to lie to her to make her feel better. It really was sweet but she didn't need to be coddled.
"What happened to Jack, Doctor?" Rose asked him point-blank.
"I told you, he wanted to stay behind to rebuild Earth. It needed it after all those tweaks to the timeline," the Doctor said quickly.
"Jack. Our Jack just up and volunteered to live a thankless life of reconstruction in a time that wasn't his own?" Rose asked skeptically.
"Oi, you should have more faith in him," the Doctor told her. "He was willing to die for you, you know."
"I do!" Rose insisted. "It's just…that's really thankless and he never even said goodbye."
"Rose…" the Doctor trailed off.
"I can't believe that he would tell me that I was worth fighting for and just run off to try to fight the Daleks even though he knew he couldn't and just leave forever without telling me goodbye," Rose said, trying not to get too worked up. The thought that he would was…it couldn't be. It just couldn't.
"Some people just aren't the 'goodbye' type," the Doctor said awkwardly.
"That's no excuse and Jack wouldn't do that," Rose said confidently. "And if you think that one day you're going to just slip off without a goodbye then you've got another thing coming, mister."
The Doctor grinned briefly at that. "Your mother would track me down and slap me into next week."
"I'll have you know that I can be pretty scary, too," Rose informed him before getting back to the matter at hand. "And I want to see him."
The Doctor looked positively cagey at this. "See who?"
"See Jack," Rose said impatiently. "Even if he really does want to spend the rest of his life there and even if you're satisfied, I want a goodbye. In fact, I think that I need one. After everything he did for me…it just wouldn't be right otherwise."
"I don't think that's such a good idea," the Doctor told her. "I mean, they're really busy. Rebuilding a civilization isn't for the faint of heart."
"I'm sure he can take five minutes out of his very busy schedule at some point during his life to say goodbye," Rose said, brushing his objections aside. "And if he really doesn't want a goodbye then he can make sure to make it a short one."
Still, the Doctor was unmoved. "That really isn't a good idea, Rose."
Rose couldn't understand his hesitation. The Doctor and Jack had gotten along wonderfully and even if the new Doctor didn't feel the same way, he wouldn't deny her the chance to say goodbye to someone who had meant so much to both of them. "Doctor…did Jack die?"
The Doctor winced.
"Doctor?" Rose repeated with growing alarm.
"Well…he did and he didn't," the Doctor said slowly.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Rose demanded.
"Just that. He died and then he wasn't dead anymore," the Doctor tried to explain.
"You mean…like a zombie?" Rose asked, startled. "Is Jack a zombie? Are there zombies? Are they alien zombies? Because every other supernatural creature we meet turns out to be aliens."
"Jack's not a zombie, Rose," the Doctor was quick to assure her. "It's just that he was killed by the Daleks and you brought him back to life right before destroying the Daleks."
"I…what?" Rose asked, flummoxed.
"Surely that's not so unbelievable," the Doctor replied. "You literally disintegrated an army of Daleks and spread the words 'Bad Wolf' throughout all of time and space to give yourself the idea. Although that leads me to wonder why 'Bad Wolf' in the first place. I know it was the name of the corporation but was that your doing as well? Did you name yourself Bad Wolf because of the corporation which named itself because of you? That's the kind of thing that can make one's head explode."
"Doctor, about Jack?" Rose asked pointedly.
The Doctor frowned, a sure sign that he'd been trying to distract her. Well not this time. She wanted answers.
"So Jack died and came back to life and this means that you don't think I should say goodbye to him because…?" Rose prompted.
The Doctor mumbled something.
"What was that?" Rose inquired politely.
"I said 'he came back wrong'," the Doctor told her.
Rose's eyebrows shot up. "What is this, Buffy?"
"Rose…you didn't just bring Jack back to life," the Doctor said reluctantly. "You brought him back forever."
"Th-that's horrible!" Rose exclaimed. "Does he still age? Will he heal? What if somebody gets their hands on him and tries to study him or 'test' his immortality?"
"I don't know," the Doctor replied. "I just know that he's a fixed point now. He just exists. And that…that is not natural."
"Then you can wait in the TARDIS while I say goodbye to Jack," Rose said a bit frostily. If Jack had been brought back 'wrong' because of what she had done then the Doctor had no business faulting him for it.
"I said that he might not have technically volunteered to stay behind to rebuild," the Doctor admitted so quietly that she could barely hear him.
In the end, it had taken a good three weeks of non-stop pestering (when they weren't on the run or in the middle of helping people, of course) before the Doctor relented. Rose was secretly relieved because she was beginning to think that he never would.
"This is a bad idea," the Doctor complained as he landed the TARDIS.
"It wouldn't be so bad if you hadn't abandoned him in the first place," Rose replied. "Do you do that kind of thing often? Are you going to abandon me one day?"
"No, of course not!" the Doctor protested hotly. "Jack's different."
"I better hope that I never become a fixed point in time or else all our time together will become meaningless in your quest to get as far away from me as possible," Rose said, annoyed.
"I wouldn't do that. I shouldn't have done this. I know," the Doctor said wearily.
"Do you know how long ago you left?" Rose asked him.
"I don't know," the Doctor admitted. "The TARDIS has never been very precise. Hopefully he's still here."
"Where else would he be?" Rose wondered.
"He's still got that Vortex Manipulator," the Doctor reminded her. "And it may not be proper time travel but it will get you somewhere."
Rose opened the door to the TARDIS and peered around. Her face broke into a wide smile as she saw Jack standing right in front of her looking stunned. Almost immediately, she found herself in Jack's arms. "Hello to you, too," she said before pulling back to look at him properly. Well, he didn't LOOK any different.
"Rose?" he asked.
"In the flesh," she confirmed cheerfully.
"But…didn't the Doctor send you home?" Jack asked uncertainly.
Rose crossed her arms in irritation at the memory. "I'm not a child, Jack."
"I know you're not but…Daleks. They killed me, you know. Or at least I thought they did. Where's the Doctor? Is he okay?" Jack asked urgently.
Rose rolled her eyes. "In a manner of speaking. And you did."
"Did what?" Jack asked, puzzled.
"Die," Rose explained. "But then you got better. You have me to thank for that."
"I do?" Jack asked, surprised. "I guess I owe you then. But how did you manage to pull something like that off?"
"I looked into the heart of the TARDIS," Rose explained.
Jack whistled and Rose knew he was thinking about Margaret. "That doesn't sound very healthy."
"It's not," Rose agreed. "But I was desperate and there was a huge Dalek army and the Doctor was able to take it out of me eventually."
"Thank God for that," Jack said seriously.
Rose smiled briefly at him. "You're also apparently a 'fixed point' now so you're going to live forever but we don't know if you can still get hurt or die temporarily or age or anything. Sorry about that."
Jack was silent for a moment. "You're not serious."
"Well, I don't know," Rose admitted. "But the Doctor says that you are."
"How would the Doctor know?" Jack asked matter-of-factly.
"He can feel it? Maybe?" Rose guessed. "Here, come into the TARDIS and ask him."
Jack nodded and followed her into the TARDIS.
"Rose, you said you wouldn't," the Doctor protested.
"So I did," Rose agreed, unconcerned. "And yet…here he is."
"You can feel that I'm immortal apparently?" Jack said by way of greeting.
The Doctor made a face. "Oh yes."
"And I'm just supposed to take that on faith?" Jack asked skeptically.
"You don't have to, I suppose," the Doctor replied. "You could always wait until you don't age or do age but fail to die when you should."
"I'm supposed to wait for confirmation for years?" Jack demanded.
"You could always prove it now but that sounds a bit…unhealthy and inadvisable since you don't seem like you believe me," the Doctor replied.
"I'm not the suicidal type," Jack confirmed dryly.
"Didn't you already die once, though?" Rose asked. "Shouldn't that prove it?"
"I might have just been knocked out," Jack replied.
The Doctor shook his head. "The Daleks don't knock people out, Jack. They kill them."
"Well…even if Rose did bring me back to life that doesn't mean it's forever," Jack insisted. "And no offence, Doctor, but I'm not really in the mood to trust your 'feelings', especially not after you left without me. And when did you regenerate?"
"Wait…" Rose trailed off. "You know about regeneration?"
"Of course," Jack said, looking surprised. "Who doesn't?"
"I didn't and it really freaked me out!" Rose said, throwing her hands up in the air.
"You know, Doctor, if you hadn't left then I could have explained it to her," Jack pointed out.
"Yeah, well…" the Doctor said, pointedly not looking at Jack.
"How long were we gone for?" Rose asked softly, uncertain if she really wanted to know.
"A week," Jack replied simply.
"Oh, Jack, I'm so sorry! I had no idea," Rose said earnestly. "He told me that you had stayed behind to rebuild Earth and I was unconscious when we left and so I didn't know."
"Me? Rebuild Earth?" Jack seemed to find the idea amusing. "Wouldn't that be something?"
"I'm sorry we left," Rose apologized.
"Why did you leave?" Jack asked, glancing at the Doctor. He sounded betrayed. He should, Rose thought. After all, the Doctor had just abandoned him and it had taken her this long to force the issue to come back for him. Fortunately it had been far less time for him than it had been for them.
"It's not easy even just…just looking at you Jack, because you're wrong," the Doctor said lamely.
"Thanks," Jack said sardonically.
"We did talk about that," Rose muttered.
"You are, I can't help it," the Doctor said unrepentantly. "I'm a Time Lord. It's instinct. It's in my guts. You're a fixed point in time a space. You're a fact. That's never meant to happen."
"But it did," Jack pointed out. "Supposedly. If it is true, is there any way to change me back? I mean, don't get me wrong: I'm glad that I'm not dead but at some point I'd really like to be."
"I don't know," Rose admitted. "Like I said, the Doctor took the time vortex out of me."
"Can you look into it again?" Jack asked.
"Jack, last time I only meant to bring you back to life and I brought you back forever," Rose pointed out. "I obviously can't control it and I don't even remember what happened. And besides…" She glanced over at the Doctor.
"It would have killed her. I absorbed it instead and it killed me," the Doctor said curtly.
"So that's a 'no' then," Jack concluded.
"I'm sorry but there it is," the Doctor told him. "Presumably sooner or later you'll end but you have quite a long wait. Well…unless I brought you to the end of the universe or something but I've never been there and don't particularly care to. Nothing good can come of it."
Jack nodded. "I'm not ready to die just yet."
"Well, you won't be the only life form out there with an obscenely long life," Rose said brightly, trying to cheer him up. "They say the Face of Boe is over five billion years old! And pregnant, actually, which is really weird because I saw him once and he really was just a giant head."
Jack was staring at her in horror.
"What?" she asked self-consciously. "I didn't actually see the pregnancy, a news network reported it. And it was an evil news network so it might not have even been true."
"Rose…I used to be a poster boy when I was a kid back on the Boeshane Peninsula. Tiny little place. I was the first one ever to be signed up for the Time Agency. They were so proud of me. Do you know what they called me?" Jack asked her.
"No," the Doctor breathed.
Jack nodded grimly. "Yep. The Face of Boe. So apparently one day I start going by that. I wonder if that's before or after I survive decapitation!"
"It…it could be someone else?" Rose offered weakly. "I mean, can you even get pregnant?"
Jack cocked his head. "Well…"
"Can just your decapitated head?" Rose clarified.
"Well now there you've got me," Jack admitted. "Still, it would be a hell of a coincidence. I guess I'll find out sooner or later. Note to self: avoid decapitation."
"That does seem like a sensible rule," the Doctor complimented.
Jack nodded. "Thank you. But that still leaves us with the question of what now."
"I really don't think that having you here is a good idea," the Doctor said bluntly.
Jack snorted. "I think I gathered that from the way you up and left me last week."
"We can't just abandon him here," Rose insisted. She paused. "Again."
"I suppose I can give him a ride," the Doctor said grudgingly. "Any particular destination?"
Jack thought for a bit. "Not really. I can't go back home because the Time Agency is looking for me and there's nowhere else I really want to be. If I can't keep travelling with you guys…well, pick a place."
"I don't know enough about the future to be able to judge," Rose said slowly. "But if it's on Earth then I think the present is better than the past. If nothing else, we've got more advanced technology. But it's not like the kind of technology you're used to, I bet."
"Some technology is overrated," Jack said distantly.
"Personally, if I had to be stranded someplace forever – and trust me when I say I'd rather die – then twenty-first century London is where I'd go," the Doctor announced. "Assuming I got a choice and I doubt I would. Twentieth century London would be good if I needed to catch a ride with a past self but between us I'm rather sick of that century at the moment."
"So that's two votes for twenty-first century London and one abstention," Jack noted. "I suppose that wouldn't be too bad. I'm hardly an expert on the time period but I know that Torchwood is around so perhaps I can look into that."
"What's Torchwood?" Rose asked, frowning.
Jack said nothing.
"Well?" the Doctor prompted finally.
Jack started. "Oh, sorry, I thought you were going to tell her."
"I've never even heard of it," the Doctor protested.
"Really?" Jack asked, surprised. "Well then."
"Just tell me," Rose said impatiently.
"Torchwood in the twenty-first century exists to fight alien invasions and basically help prepare the world for alien contact," Jack explained. "It was founded by Queen Victoria to fight the Doctor, actually, which is why I'm surprised you haven't heard of it."
The Doctor choked. "T-to fight me? Are you sure?"
"Positive," Jack replied. "That's just basic history. I guess you haven't done that yet…"
"Why would Queen Victoria want to fight you?" Rose asked, confused.
"Don't ask me, I've never met the woman!" the Doctor claimed.
"Don't worry, eventually an army of Daleks and Cybermen invade Torchwood's main office, kill or convert most of the staff, and then mysteriously vanish," Jack assured them. "After that Torchwood is much more Doctor-friendly so I guess you had something to do with it."
Rose and the Doctor exchanged a look. Rose didn't know what a Cyberman was but another army of Daleks? Turning Jack away now, "wrong" or not, would be madness.
"Maybe it would be alright if you travelled with us for a little while longer," the Doctor said finally.