A/N: Oneshot. Not applicable to canon – specifically, it does not fit in with the canon that is Rose's brief return in series 4. Nor has the Doctor regenerated. He has, however, spent the last decade travelling with various companions, occasionally dropping in on Jack at Torchwood Cardiff. And so this does not fit in with canon regarding Torchwood: Children of Earth, either.
"Jack, I need you."
"Oh, how I've longed to hear those words," Jack grinned saucily, glancing up to see his friend enter his office. He stood up and walked around his desk, standing in front of the Doctor.
The Time Lord rolled his eyes. "You ever gonna give up?"
"I dunno. Are you ever gonna give it up?" Jack countered. The Doctor tutted and Jack stepped over to him, quickly patting his shoulder in greeting. "What's up?"
"Well, I've recently acquired a new travelling companion, and I'm having a spot of bother."
"Why, what's happened?"
"She fancies me," he sniffed.
"You do have a habit of picking up people who fancy you," Jack informed him.
The Doctor sighed. "Anyway, I need you to have a chat with her. I'm useless at those sorts of conversations – too tactless, in fact. Can you have a word?"
"And what exactly do you want me to say?"
"Tell her the truth. That I'm a Time Lord and don't do that sort of thing."
"You used to do that sort of thing," Jack pointed out before he could stop himself.
The Doctor blinked at him for a moment then looked away. "That was different," he said softly.
There was an awkward, tense pause, before Jack murmured tentatively, "Do you know that in a couple of days it's the tenth anniversary of - "
"Of course I know," the Doctor interrupted him, still not meeting his eye.
"Well then. A whole decade. Don't you think it's time you -"
"What?" the Doctor snapped, turning his head to face him. "Moved on? Embarked on another proper relationship?" He heaved a sigh and looked disappointed in his friend. "You seem to forget I'm not human. I can't just repeatedly fall in love on a whim."
Jack folded his arms, disliking the Doctor's tone. "Oi. Firstly, I wasn't gonna say that anyway. Secondly, stop disrespecting my species."
"Hmph," the Doctor grumbled, plonking himself down in one of Jack's chairs.
"What I was gonna suggest is, if you have any hope of healing from your loss - "
"Don't make it sound like she's dead," said the Doctor in a low, gravelly voice. The kind of voice that signalled dark things ahead for the person he was speaking to. Jack had heard this voice directed him quite often, though, so he wasn't scared of it.
"Would you just listen?" Jack snapped impatiently. "The fact is, you're stuck in some sort of limbo, Doctor. You won't let go but you also won't try to find a way to get her back. So you're left like this, stuck in the middle, unable to properly recover."
"Jack," he said darkly.
"No. This is a truth you're gonna have to face up to. Either you do something about it or you try and move past it. That's your choice. Thing is, after all these years, I expect you've built up a pedestal to sit her on inside your head so that you can privately idolise her. But that's insubstantial. It's not realistic and look, she'd want you to be happy, yeah?"
The Doctor winced.
"Doctor, you know I loved her too, I'm just being cruel to be kind here, right? Because I hate seeing you like this."
"I'm fine!" he insisted. "I'm not moping around wallowing am I? I'm carrying on with life, without her, just as she's carrying on with life without me!"
"Ten years, though, Doctor. And when I come travelling with you, I still here you talking to her."
The Doctor swallowed hard. "That's not – I just – sometimes it's nice, alright, to pretend that I can still share these things with her."
"I know. But if ordinary people did things like that they'd be carted off to a psychiatrist."
The Doctor huffed. "Thing is, Jack, you just assume that I..."
"That you what?"
"That I stopped looking."
"What do you mean?"
"I keep travelling and saving worlds, Jack, because that's what I do. But I never stop searching for a way to reach her. It's there, in the back of my mind, ready to ponder over when I don't have my hands full with some other mystery or adventure. Sometimes I wake up with a fit of inspiration, and try it out, this new idea. Obviously all such ideas have failed thus far, but I don't – I won't – stop trying."
Jack blinked at him in shock. "I thought you'd given up years ago," he admitted. "And that you were just clinging to the memory. I'm sorry."
The Doctor shrugged his apology off. "I know you probably think I should give up – and I did, for a few months, after those first couple of years when nothing worked. But I can't... Look. I know that she'll be living a fantastic life, I do, I get that. That maybe she's moved on. But something in me tells me that she'd still...that she'd want me to keep trying, that she'd want – me, still. She was...I don't know, we just had this sort of, what's the word - "
"Connection?" Jack suggested softly.
He nodded. "I don't think I could ever have that with anyone else. I don't think she really could either. That's not me being arrogant or overstating what she felt for me – I just know, somehow, that however happy she is, however wonderful her life, she'll always remember what we had and what we could have had and what we'll probably never have the chance to have, and I...god, I still remember, Jack, I remember everything about her; stupid Time Lord capacity for memory never lets me forget a single day I spent with her. And maybe I do idolise her, a little, but I still remember that she wasn't perfect, that we weren't perfect, but we were – we were together, Jack, and that was what mattered, and..." he trailed off, his voice raw with emotion. He met Jack's sad gaze. "Blimey, I never meant for all this to spill out." He sniffed purposefully. "Ignore me rambling on."
"Doctor, I don't mind. You need to talk this out. You do. You've spent years refusing to talk properly about it. But I'm here for you, to listen."
"It's...difficult," he replied quietly. "It still..."
Jack smiled sympathetically. "Hurts? Yeah. I know."
They were silent for a few moments. The Doctor cleared his throat. "Anyway, back to what I originally came here to ask you," he said, trying to distract them both. "Would you talk to Leila for me?"
"Is Leila beautiful?" Jack asked.
The Doctor snorted a chuckle. "Probably; how would I know?"
"On a scale of Rose to Marilyn Monroe to Audrey Hepburn?"
He frowned. "Why is Rose at the bottom?"
Jack grinned. "Oh, alright. On a scale of Queen Reaniaa of Cataplasmorico to Dame Rose Marion Tyler of the Powell Estates, how beautiful is this Leila girl?"
"I don't really comprehend your system of ranking," he replied. "But I s'pose she does look a bit like Cleopatra, so. Where does she fit on the list?"
"You tell me, you're the one who called her Cleo," Jack snorted.
"Rose told you about that? Huh. I only said that to make her jealous." He smiled to himself. "Guess that worked."
Jack raised his eyebrow. "Alright, if she looks a little like Cleopatra, then I'll definitely come and meet her."
"That your policy, then?" the Doctor said, sounding disapproving. "You'll only meet my friends if they meet your subjective standards of beauty?"
Jack held his hands up in surrender. "Woah, don't get touchy, I was only winding you up. You know that I'll flirt with anyone, good looks or no."
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "And what does Mr Ianto Jones think about that?"
"Oh, he knows he's the only one who means something," Jack assured him.
"Yeah, course he does. Eight years with him, more or less, and I've never strayed, apart from the odd cheeky snog. Are you proud of me?"
"I am, yeah," the Time Lord replied. He looked out of Jack's office window, over to where Ianto was searching through some files by the desks. "Do you want to bring him next time you come along for a trip?"
"Can I?" Jack replied instantly.
"Yeah, course you can."
"I'd like that. Thank you."
"She's on the TARDIS. Go and say hello. I'm gonna stay well away whilst you discuss my disinterest," he told him wisely.