It's time to say goodbye.
Jack Harkness is dead.
It's funny, but it feels like the universe should be broken now. Something huge and fixed is removed from it. A moment in the Doctor's past can never happen now. The Face of Boe can never die on New New Earth, unless Jack was never the Face of Boe at all, in which case the universe should still feel wrong. And the future Jack, the one with the glasses and the wedding band and the strange scar on his face, he'll never happen, either. So much that's built up in the Doctor's future isn't going to happen.
And the universe just feels empty now. Not just the segments in his mind where Jack had connected, not just the rooms in the TARDIS that Jack frequented. All of it. He stands on the balcony of Terra Manus 7 and thinks about it.
"It's ready," a voice behind him says.
The planet they landed on is advanced. For a price, they take Jack's body and seal it in their mausoleum. The Doctor doesn't know if Jack will decompose, but if he doesn't, he doesn't want someone hunting him down and using his form. They'll watch him, they promise. They'll keep his body safe.
It shouldn't matter. Jack isn't in that body anymore. But it does, he supposes, and he loses himself in the preparations for sealing Jack up, in all the thises and thats involved in burying a loved one. This is, he supposes as he signs another document, the reason that humans do this. It gives a sense of control over the uncontrollable. Over death. Jack would've liked that. He would've liked that the Doctor could finally relate to something human.
He watches as they seal the box that contains Jack Harkness. Part of the Doctor is sealed away with him. Part of the Doctor always will be.
He leaves Terra Manus 7 and travels. Find someone, Jack had begged. Find someone. He does, and right away. He travels with a cheerleader from Texas. He doesn't grieve, not openly. Not around them, not when she can see. But he carries on, because he must carry on. Because Jack wanted him to carry on.
But he can't really carry on as he did. How could he?
The TARDIS grieves in her own way. She hates his new companion because she's not Jack and hates every place they're at because he's not there. She's being generally miserable and crotchety for the first few weeks, but eventually warms to the companion and begins enjoying the places. She keeps the blue lights over the console shining bright, though, and always warms the Doctor's room when he sleeps, to comfort him. He, in turn, takes long nights just lying in the console room, reminding her that he's still there. They're both missing part of themselves, but they will live.
He promised Jack that they'd live.
Three months later, he feels it. He's facing an execution squad at the edge of a cliff, and there it is. A heartbeat. It's right in the middle of his chest and nowhere near him at all. Empty spaces in his mind are warming, waking. Something is alive now that wasn't moments ago.
"I said, do you have any final words?"
When he runs, he doesn't run from the executioners or to the rebels they were working with, he runs to the TARDIS. His companion gives him a quizzical look, but he can't possibly explain. Too much has happened, too much is about to happen if he's right. When he snaps his fingers, the TARDIS doors open to Terra Manus 7. The guards watching over Jack race to him immediately. They were about to call. They don't know what's going on. He can't be alive, but there it is.
A heartbeat. Quiet, slow. A light in a darkened haze.
Jack the Fact is coming back.
He puts Jack in his old room with some medical equipment. Time, he knows, is what he needs, and the TARDIS and the Doctor have plenty of it to spare. His companion doesn't understand. Who is this man? Why are you bringing him here?
"He's someone I thought I lost," he says. "But I haven't."
He checks on him regularly. Keeps an eye on what's happening, an eye on how he's progressing. Weeks and weeks pass with nothing but that quiet heartbeat churning around unoxygenated blood. Sometimes, the Doctor stands and watches him sleep, watches the silent coma and wonders if he's doing the right thing, wonders if he should wait or should put him somewhere safer.
Eventually, Jack takes a breath. It's weak and quiet and the Doctor doesn't even realize it's happened until the monitor registers improved blood circulation. He's slowly healing. He'll wake up, soon.
His companion leaves, fallen in love with some handsome male nurse, and he finds a new one eventually. Find someone, Jack had said. This time, it's an older woman who ran a museum. They get on well when they don't talk about archeology. She searches the rooms of the TARDIS like a tomb. It reminds the Doctor of when River visits, on those rare and strange days that make no sense and yet all the sense in the world when she starts wandering the TARDIS like she's taking apart an archeological dig or putting together the pieces of some amazing adventurous puzzle.
His companion finds Jack, of course, as some things are bound to happen. She ignores the locks the TARDIS puts on the doors and forces it open. She asks who Jack is, how did this happen? What she's really asking is who is this man to the Doctor? How could he show such care for one person when he runs from all the responsibility and love he's offered?
He has no real answer, of course, but when she watches quietly as he reaches down and touches Jack's cold hand, he supposes she must understand something.
She leaves not long after. River travels with him for a few trips, and then a new companion, a sassy university student who dumped his girlfriend and hopped on board the TARDIS without so much as a second glance. He finds Jack eventually, too, but they all do, at some point.
Days blend together. He checks on the TARDIS, checks on Jack, and has an adventure. It's only by the passing of another birthday that he realizes four years have passed. He's alone again. Him, the TARDIS, and Jack. He sets the TARDIS for Saturn Beta and decides to take a holiday.
As he walks towards a city some time later, he feels it. It's there, in the back of his mind, like a bright light that shouldn't be there. The planet is dark and smoky, but he can see the light, he can feel it. He turns and races back to the TARDIS. It's not the Doctor, it's not his eyes that are opening.
Jack Harkness is alive.
It's time to say hello.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 1,171
Based on RP with quitehomoerotic
Prompt: What makes you cry?