He saw the Cyberman blow the console, and saw the morbid realization cross his young friend's face. He watched Adric's actions, and knew precisely what his thoughts were. "Adric."
The boy spun, startled, then relieved. "Doctor! You're here! I-I can't stop the ship, I don't know what to do!"
Get out, he had to get Adric out of there, he had to…the Doctor gave his head a shake and reached out for him, took his arms. "Listen to me, I don't have much time. I need one more equation from you. One more impossible set of numbers."
"To stop the ship?"
His mouth tried to turn into a frown of despair, but he wouldn't let it. "You've saved the earth, Adric," he said, his voice shaky. "Your time jump saved the earth. This crash is meant to happen. Now I need for you to save the universe. Only you can do it, Adric."
His face was so young and innocent, even after everything he'd seen. His hair hung in his eyes, his cheeks were flushed. The Doctor realized this would be how he'd always remember him, just like this. "I don't understand," the boy said. "We should get back to the TARDIS!"
This hurt, it hurt so damn much. "I'm not here, Adric! Not in your time. Right now, I am on the TARDIS."
Adric pulled away. "I don't understand," he said once more.
The Doctor's face fell. "Oh, Adric. I'm sorry. I am - so sorry. I failed you."
The boy's eyes darkened. "I - I am going to die. Aren't I?"
The Doctor could only look at him.
"Get me off this ship!"
"I can't." His voice broke. "I wish I could make you understand," he glanced back at the screen, at the earth racing towards them, "but there's no time."
"And we're back at that again! Go on, Doctor! Tell me again about how there isn't any time!"
The Doctor steadied himself and took the boy by the arms once more. "There isn't any time, literally, where I'm from," he said quickly. "It has been shattered, fragmented by the Master. I need your brain, Adric. I need you to repair time itself, to put the time strings back into their proper places. They're shredding, crossing over each other. Time is no longer linear. Remember Castrovalva? This is infinitely worse. I can't. . ." he shook his head and tightened his grip. "You're the only one who can do this, Adric. You've already saved the earth. Now you can save the entire structure of space-time itself. Please, Adric!"
Adric looked stunned.
"Do this for me," the Doctor pleaded. "I'm wrong to ask you, I know it. But you're the only one in the entire universe who can save it." He looked deep into Adric's eyes. "The only one."
Even now, Adric didn't want to disappoint the Doctor. He gave a small nod.
The Doctor kneaded his arms in relief, then glanced over his shoulder at the scanner. He led Adric to a different console and quickly explained everything he knew about the situation as Adric turned into a machine, and started punching in numbers.
Jack felt a tug.
He looked down at the time strings streaming from his body. Yes, there was a movement. And another. And another! He suddenly felt stretched, and cried out.
The Doctor was there, having jumped from his perch. He started gathering the strings into his arms, lumping them together into one whole. Jack wanted to make a joke about him being in two places at one time, but agony ripped through him. He heard the Doctor yell for him to hold on.
"That's it Adric, you're almost there!" The Doctor's head jerked from the screen back to the busy young man, and back to the screen again. "Keep going!"
"I'm trying, but it's difficult to concentrate with your constant railing!" Adric snapped back.
"I'm not railing!" the Doctor quickly protested, then physically used his hand to clamp his mouth shut. "Sorry, sorry," he muffled, his eyes now fixed on the orb which completely filled the screen.
Adric was no fool. He glanced up, and typed faster. "Doctor, there's something I need to say."
"I learned a lot from you." He punched in another key, then straightened. "I'm glad I traveled with you. I'm glad you gave me a chance."
The Doctor felt tears sting his eyes. "I would take you with me if I could."
"No. You can't, and besides, this is how it is supposed to be. This is my purpose, right? Excelling in math, leaving E-space, meeting you. It led up to this moment." He tried to put on a brave smile.
The Doctor had died many times. He died once more, right then. But he forced himself to straighten as well. "I'm glad for the chance to say a proper goodbye." He hesitated, and took the young man's hand in a firm grip. "Adric, I'm very proud of you. It's been an honor."
The boy smiled bashfully through his tears. "The honor's mine, Doctor, you know that. Take care of Nyssa and Tegan for me. Tell them…I'll miss them both."
The Doctor swallowed hard, and nodded.
Adric turned and typed in the final set of numbers. "I've created a code. I hope this works."
The Doctor nodded, looking around him. "Things are already happening. Look, Adric! Look at what you've done!"
Adric looked up, his eyes widening at the shifting swirls and patterns of a suddenly visible string of time, reaching out, finding another, connecting on its own. The numbers were alive within the strands, and each strand was searching for the other.
"It's becoming whole again," the Doctor whispered to his tearful friend. "You did that, Adric. You did it."
Jack couldn't endure the pain. He prayed for death.
The Doctor bundled the strings of time, and cried out.
A white flash erupted, and there was nothing.
"Doctor! Doctor, wake up! Come on!" the voice was growling, insistent, and irritating. It was Adric! No, it wasn't Adric, it was another male voice. A very annoying male voice.
The Doctor moaned and turned his head to the side, daring to open his eyes into a slit. The dark, unmoving form of Jack Harkness filled his vision. He tried to lift his head but felt a hand press him down as another voice said, "No, don't move. Not yet."
"Where am I?" the Doctor asked.
"You're on board my TARDIS," the familiar voice said. "The capitol was crumbling. We had to leave."
The Doctor's breathing sharpened as memories flooded him. "Did we do it?"
The Doctor opened his eyes and found himself staring into the brown ones of his counterpart. He was surprised to see they were filled with tears, even though the smile was pleased. But of course, he would know what had happened. He would remember. The Doctor let his eyes drift closed as he asked, "Jack?"
"He'll be all right."
"Thank you, Doctor."
Blue eyes opened once more. "For?"
His counterpart smiled, and gripped his hand. "Closure."
Jack gasped and opened his eyes.
He rolled, feeling the hard ground beneath him. His hand clawed into the dirt, digging underneath his nails as he fought for breath. He cursed loudly, wincing, clenching every muscle in his body. Dammit, he would never get used to this!
He squinted up toward the shadowy figure of the Doctor standing before his TARDIS, his hands tucked into the pockets of his brown coat. "What - what's. . ."
"It's done. Finished." His eyebrows raised. "We won."
Jack smiled, then laughed as he rolled flat onto his back and looked up at the familiar pattern of stars overhead. "We did it." He sighed in relief, then painfully pressed up to his elbows. "The soldiers?"
"The planet destroyed itself."
Jack frowned. "All those people."
"Nothing could be done." The Doctor had that look on his face, the one that Jack had come to realize meant there was much more to the story than he would ever know.
"What about Turlough? And…you?"
"Everyone is back where they should be." His mouth quirked, and he pulled out a piece of paper. "Seems I left a message for you. It says. . .thanks. We will see each other again." He folded the paper and handed it over.
"From your other self?" Jack accepted the paper like a piece of gold.
Jack nodded slowly, and smiled. "It's odd, Doctor. I've met you many times, yet I still feel like I don't even know you."
"There are days when I feel like I don't know myself," The Doctor admitted wryly. "Still, one is ever-changing, eh?"
"Not like you," Jack laughed. He opened the paper and read the message himself, marveling at the flowing handwriting. "I'm sorry."
"What for?" the Doctor asked softly.
"I doubted you." He folded the paper carefully. "I thought you left me there, back on Orta. I was beginning to think…." He couldn't finish.
The Doctor looked sad. "Jack, I thought we settled that."
"No, you don't have to explain again. But, I guess I just need - more chances to trust you again?"
"Are you thumbing a ride?"
Jack wanted to. God, he wanted to!
The Doctor smiled, and nodded into the distance. "You have company. I better be off."
"No, wait," Jack scramble to his feet, then extended his hand. "Look, just- don't be a stranger. Please. That includes your other selves."
The Doctor smiled his sad smile. It was such a contrast to the more relaxed expression his other incarnation wore! Jack hurt inside. "You have a life, here. You'll continue to do great things. You don't need an old man in a police box."
"No," Jack agreed, "but I do need an old friend in a police box." He gripped the Doctor's hand tightly. "Please. Don't disappear on me."
Again the Doctor's mouth quirked, and he squeezed Jack's hand in return before quickly letting go and walking into his TARDIS in a rustle of brown fabric.
Jack's breath frosted the air. He stepped back as the light atop the box signaled activation, and the box vanished.
He fought back the tears, but smiled through them, turning as voices behind him shouted his name in relief.
The Doctor toyed with the double helix necklace from Kinda. The artifacts his companions kept, he never could be rid of. Rooms and rooms were devoted to trinkets and baubles and the like. Each one reminded him of an adventure, and of the person. He set the necklace back inside the crate, and sealed it.
"I suppose I could stay a little longer."
The Doctor looked up from his contemplation, seeing Turlough watching him from the door. "You do tend to get into the most terrible trouble," Turlough added.
The Doctor regarded him evenly, then folded his arms across his chest. He wasn't sure. Maybe he should go on alone for a while. But then, he'd been willing to take on Peri. Maybe one day, he'd go back for her. Maybe. If not in this lifetime…
"If you'd have me." Turlough watched him, hesitant. Hopeful. Young.
Ghosts of past companions filled the corridor. Tegan was gone. Nyssa. And Adric. . .
The Doctor took a deep breath, let go of the past, and smiled. "Oh, very well. Why not?"
Thank you so much for reading! This is the first time I've written a Doc Who fic, though I've been a fan most of my life. Peter Davison (5) is "my" Doctor. And I love David Tennant, I think he carried the banner brilliantly. Jack is a character completely to himself, so there was no way I could resist putting the three together. I'll probably do it again. Seeing Tennant and Davison together in Time Crash brought me to tears and solidified my desire to get these two together again, but with the "younger" fifth Doctor. And heck, the fifth Doc is HOT, so of course Jack would be interested. LOL! I hope it wasn't too confusing, I tend to get stuck in metaphysical mumbo jumbo from time to time. I can see it in my head, I just hope it translates to screen. Please let me know what you thought of the story, and thanks again! Oh, and if anyone wants to hash out story ideas or beta for me, send me a message. Appreciated!
Love and respect...