Otherwise he wouldn't be within a hundred feet of Torchwood. Jack's promises or not, Torchwood is responsible for a lot of pain and loss. But now, right now? Jack is in pain. The Doctor knows it and he's going to run away this time.
The conversation starts out light. Nice place you got here, Jack. Oh, do you like it? I found the design in a Guide to Sewer Living. The pterodactyl is a nice touch. You want a cup of tea? I'd love one, thanks.
Jack turns away, and it's obvious to the Doctor that the man is no longer merely 150. No, no, something's happened. The Doctor doesn't need a visual octonometer to know that Jack's lapped him in years.
How old are you now? he asks Jack.
Ooooh, that's one of your chat-up lines, Doc, don't think I don't know. Jack's smile fades. Somewhere just over two thousand. And you're, what? 903-ish? Funny, I don't feel older than you.
It's not the years, Jack. It's the mileage.
When Jack comes back with two mugs of tea, the Doctor has migrated to Toshiko's desk. His glasses are on and he's looking at one of the snapshots of Owen and Tosh. All bright and happy moments in the pictures on her desk. The Doctor tries to imagine those spaces in between; the long stretches of life he will never know about.
It wasn't supposed to happen like this, Jack says. He tells a story to the Doctor about his life back in the 51st century. About the creatures that attacked them and losing his brother. It's a story the Doctor has never heard before, something Jack never wanted to share. The Doctor understands why Jack is ashamed of this part of his past. The Doctor would keep that part of himself hidden, too.
Gray set the core reactor into meltdown, it killed Owen. There's not enough left of him to give back to his mother. Jack's voice is strained, he's only just keeping it together. The Doctor imagines he's all dried out of tears by now.
He just shot Toshiko in cold blood. I had no idea she was up here suffering. I could've saved her, I just…I didn't know. The guilt he hears in Jack's voice shouldn't belong to Jack. The Doctor wouldn't blame him for this situation and the Doctor is one to blame a lot of people for a lot of things. But Jack's taken the burden onto himself.
It's funny, how very alike he and Jack have become. The Doctor's become flirtier and more charismatic, while Jack's become darker and more responsible. Somewhere there, they met an even middle and it's…weird to look across the room at him and see a reflection of himself.
Of course, in a few hundred thousand years Jack'll just be a big head in a jar. But he'll be a big head in a jar that the Doctor will and did respect and look up to. Textbook enigmatic. The Doctor sometimes reminds himself that Jack will become the Face of Boe whenever he gets frustrated with one of Jack's less-than-amusing antics.
There are no antics, now. The room is heavy with grief and something dark has fallen over Jack's eyes and he's looking at the Doctor but not seeing him. Two people that Jack loves are gone.
Jack doesn't ask the Doctor to go back in time and fix it. He knows what the Doctor will say and refuses to pass the blame of the situation onto a responsible time traveler.
Did you find him again? the Doctor asks. Your brother.
What did you do?
Jack blinks and smiles thinly at the Doctor. He knows the Doctor expects some sort of a violent reaction out of Jack. That he murdered his brother, threw him into the rift…something painful and heart wrenching that's only worsened by the fact that Gray is his brother.
Instead, Jack's words are pained, but completely unexpected. I forgave him.
Jack will be the Face of Boe, eventually. He'll lead nations and planets. He'll see the universe and give birth to no less than 400 children. One day, he'll even be wiser than the Doctor is.
The Doctor smiles in return. Good.
But right now, he stands across the room from the Doctor as an equal. And the Doctor admires Jack for the man he has become.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 790