A Teaspoon And An Open Mind: A Doctor Who Fan Fiction Archive
Tenth Doctor
Mending by LN29 [Reviews - 5] Printer
Author's Notes:
Technically a sequel to my other story, "Broken," but can completely stand alone as well.

The only thing you need to know from "Broken" is that the Master killed all of the Doctor's other companions on Earth. Other than that, it's self explanitory.

Takes place somewhere in between the Doctor burning the Master's body, and when we next see the three of them. There's no way they all recovered from that Year that quickly. So this is my attempt at filling in a gap.


Jack got to his feet nervously, and made his way to where they had parked the TARDIS. It had been over an hour since the Doctor disappeared inside, to continue the overwhelming job of repairing the broken time ship, and Jack hadn’t heard from him since.

It wasn’t that it was unusual for the Doctor to spend hours with his ship, forgetting everything else. It had been one of the most endearing things about him, back when Jack had travelled with him and Rose. However, circumstances being what they were, Jack’s newly-developed protectiveness over the Doctor did not approve of leaving the Doctor alone for too long, even with the TARDIS.

Despite the Doctor’s continuous insistences that he was fine, both Jack and Martha knew differently. He had never been fine, least of all now.

Jack approached the familiar blue box, and braced himself as he pushed open the door. Despite the fact that he’d seen it before, even helped to bring an end to it, the monstrosity that the Master had turned the Doctor’s beautiful ship into made Jack want to hit something. Preferably the Master, dead or not.

The angry red lighting had diminished some since they’d deactivated the paradox machine, and the sickening sound of the cloister bell had ceased, but she still hardly resembled the ship Jack had known and loved.

He scanned what was once the console room, and his heart constricted as he realized he couldn’t see the Doctor anywhere.

The next second, though, he heard a sound, and as he rounded the console, he saw a heap of brown pinstripes that could only be the Doctor.

Huddled on the floor of the TARDIS, curled in on himself, his palms pressing tightly against one of the columns that surrounded the console. His head was down, his eyes squeezed shut as though he was trying to block out the world, but he was shaking violently.

A moment later, Jack realized he was shaking with sobs.

“Doctor!” Jack cried out in horror.

He hadn’t seen any true, honest emotion from the Time Lord since he’d sobbed over the Master’s body. The Doctor had thrown up his emotional shields higher and harder than ever before, and while Jack and Martha could clearly see the anguish and sorrow lurking just beneath the surface, he flat-out refused to talk about it, deflecting them as only the Doctor could.

Deep down, Jack had known that they were hurtling towards an inevitable breakdown, but now that he was faced with it, he found himself utterly horrified and helpless.

The Doctor slowly raised his head to meet Jack’s panicked gaze, and Jack's heart clenched to see the tears staining his face.

“Jack…” he whispered, and the pure, raw anguish in the Doctor’s eyes hit Jack in an almost palpable wave. Those eyes, always alien, but now looking older than Jack had ever seen them, yet at the same instant, more young and defenseless than he could have imagined. Lonley and miserable, and utterly, utterly lost.

Jack dropped to his knees by the huddled Time Lord and caught hold of his hands. The Doctor didn't resist and relinquished his grip on the coral column, but pressed himself closer to it, as though refusing to lose physical contact with his ship.

“She’s so broken,” the Doctor whispered, his voice shaking. “Her pain…you can’t imagine it…”

“The TARDIS?”

“So alone, and so frightened. She tried to fight, resist with everything she had, but she was helpless, and he tore into her and he ripped her apart, right to the core, and she couldn’t fight, and there was nothing she could do!”

The words were spilling out of the Doctor, laced with raw emotion, and he was shivering violently.

“Her pain! Agony beyond comprehension, day upon day, month upon month, with no outlet! He made her into a monster, a paradox, the very thing she hated, and the very thing it was in her nature to avoid, and she couldn’t fight it, and she hated herself, what he made her, and she was so alone…”

Jack gripped his hands tighter, trying to get the other man to focus. He couldn’t understand what had so suddenly overwhelmed the Doctor. It wasn’t just being in the TARDIS. He’d been in here before without this sort of reaction.

Yet Jack sensed it was more than just a coincidental emotional breakdown. However inevitable a breakdown might have been, there must be a reason it had happened right here, right now.

“Doctor, talk to me!” he ordered, trying to get through. “What’s happening to you?”

He saw a brief flash of lucidity in the Doctor’s impossibly agonized eyes, and he clutched at Jack’s hands as though they were a lifeline. His hands felt thin and frail, but his grip was surprisingly strong.

“T...telepathic circuits…” he managed to gasp. “Back...online…” Then he dissolved back into sobs.

Realization struck Jack like a ton of bricks, and he cursed himself for not realizing sooner. He knew that the Doctor and the TARDIS were telepathically linked at all times. However, the Master’s machinations must have damaged that connection in some way, cutting the two of them off from each other. As the Doctor repaired his broken ship, he must have been able to reestablish that connection. And after so long apart, and so much suffering on both of their parts, the rush of emotion must have been overwhelming.

But it was more than that too. As far as he could gather, the Doctor and TARDIS wholly depended on each other, each supporting the other through a bond that needed no words. That could not be described in words. The little he knew of Time Lords told him that they were hugely telepathic beings, and with the absence of any other Time Lords, that bond would have been more important than ever to the Doctor, strengthening beyond anything they could imagine.

For the Doctor to have been forcibly cut off from his ship for an entire year, it must have been like having an enormous piece of himself ripped out. Unable to reach out to her, unable to receive any sort of support from her. Alone in his mind for the first time in centuries.

But even the Doctor would have had some sort of bond with the Master, however hateful that bond might have been, considering they were both Time Lords. However, if the TARDIS had been so damaged as to prevent contact with the Doctor, she must have been cut off from anybody. Completely alone, tortured by the Master into becoming a weapon, experiencing indescribable agony, but unable to locate an outlet for that pain. Locked inside herself, unable to fight, or even scream in her agony, with nothing but silence, a concept which must have been utterly foreign to her.

Jack’s breath caught as the enormity and horror of what had been done to both of them set in.

“She’s never been alone,” the Doctor whispered, one of his hands sliding out of Jack’s to rest instinctively on the column again. The whole TARDIS shuddered in response.

The moment of reunion must have been beyond overwhelming for the both of them. Was it any wonder that the TARDIS had poured her pain into the Doctor, her Doctor? Over a year’s worth of anguish, suffering, and horror, poured into the already broken mind of his friend…was it any wonder he’d shattered?

Tentatively, without even wholly realizing he was doing it, Jack stretched out his own mind towards the ship. He was nowhere near as telepathic as the Doctor or the TARDIS, but he possessed a few rudimentary skills in such things, which he could utilize every once in a while, so long as he didn’t expect too much, and maintained a constant effort to keep his mind open.

A wave of pure desperation and anguish flooded his consciousness as the TARDIS roughly seized hold of his mind, so desperate was she for any sort of telepathic connection, no matter how feeble, or who the other person might be. Jack nearly folded under the sudden rush of emotions and impressions.

Pain/ loss/ fear/ Doctor/ terror/ no!/ hatehatehate/ alone/ reaching/ searching/ silence/ abomination/ agony/ Doctor/ loss/ alone/ sorrow/ death/ whywhywhy/ pleading/ need/ want/ hate/ monster/ horror/ longing/ desperation/ weakness/ alone/ dark/ cold/ hot/ burning/ screaming/ DoctorDoctorDoctor…

Jack flung up his own mental shields, yanking his horrified mind away, and the flood stopped as quickly as it had come.

He was trembling all over, the strength of the TARDIS’s emotions still ringing in his very soul. And Jack wasn’t even a strong telepath. He hadn’t gotten the worst of it, merely echoes, incoherent glimpses. But the Doctor, telepathically sensitive, bonded more closely to his TARDIS than anyone else…how could he bear it?

“I’m sorry,” the Doctor whispered, his sobs intensifying until it seemed as though they would rip him apart. "I'm so sorry..."

Jack was witnessing an utter breakdown of his friend, and while he’d thought it was necessary, and perhaps it still was, he was wholly unprepared for how horrendous it was to witness. A year’s worth of pain and loss and terror and complete, utter heartbreak combining in both of them, TARDIS and Time Lord.

The Doctor suddenly clung to Jack, and as he did, Jack’s rudimentary telepathy caught a rush of returning emotions, this time from the Doctor

Fear/ death/ hate/ love/ no!/ sorry/ TARDIS/ weakness/ isolation/ desolation/ despair/ Jack/ death/ no!/ pleasepleaseplease/ Martha/ lost/ hope/ anger/ pity/ Master/ weariness/ listen/ screaming/ silence/ fight/ resist/ surrender/ yielding/ painpainpain/ Master/ forgiveness/ hatred/ TARDIS/ death/ friends/ gone/ Master/ enemy/ loathing/ compassion/ listen/ all/ lost/ hopeless/ worthless...

More of a window into the Doctor’s soul than Jack ever would have sought out or desired, and he truly saw how broken the Doctor was.

He felt like an intruder for even catching that momentary glimpse, as Time Lord and TARDIS poured their emotions into their shared bond. How could he even hope to repair this? Was it even his place to do so? But the Doctor had no one else, not anymore. Just him and Martha, and currently, he was the only one available.

He gathered the shaking Time Lord into his arms, wrapping his arms around the thin, vulnerable frame, trying to offer what useless comfort he could. Instinct, long possessed, but newly cultivated, told him that no progress could be made until the initial flood of shared consciousness was past, and all he could do was hold the Doctor, telling himself that this was a necessary step on the road to shared recovery.

He had never seen anything so heartbreaking, never in over a hundred years of living seen anyone so utterly miserable and desolate, broken and empty. And it was a thousand times worse because this was the Doctor, the man Jack looked up to more than anyone else in the universe.

The strongest man Jack knew.

And the most broken.

Finally, blessedly, the Doctor’s sobs quieted, and his painful tension relaxed a little, his body going limp in Jack's embrace. As more time passed, he seemed to gain more and more control over himself, and even the TARDIS seemed to relax a little.

“Sh...she didn’t…” the Doctor suddenly managed to speak. His voice was hoarse and breathless. “She didn’t mean it to be so strong. She couldn’t help it…it’d been so long…”

Jack was almost startled to hear him speak coherently, but only nodded.

“Okay.”

"I didn't mean to..."

"It's okay."

Slowly, the Doctor extracted himself from Jack, drawing back and pulling himself up into a sitting position. He was back in control, but his eyes remained open and honest, for once in his life, and Jack didn’t want to let this moment pass, didn’t want the barriers to come crashing back down.

“Are you back with us?” Jack asked tentatively.

The Doctor nodded slowly, running his hands across his face as though trying to scrub away both memories and tears alike. He was still trembling, but had regained mastery over himself.

He leaned back against the column, closing his eyes momentarily, and Jack moved so he was next to him.

“You’re crying,” the Doctor noted softly.

Startled, Jack reached up to feel tears on his own face. He let out a long sigh.

“My best friend has a meltdown, I think I have a right to get a little emotional.”

The Doctor shivered, resting his chin on his knees like a small child.

“I’m sorry,” he sighed.

“For pity’s sake, Doctor, don’t be,” Jack nearly snapped. “You’ve been running on the ragged edge for days now, never stopping, never taking a breath.”

The Doctor hunched his shoulders defensively, and didn't reply.

“You think Martha and I haven’t noticed how shattered you are? And no matter what we say, you just shut us out. You won’t talk. Not about what you're thinking, not about what happened to you, just bottling it up inside until something like this happens. Don’t tell me that was just the connection with the TARDIS that caused this.”

The Doctor only shrugged helplessly.

“What can I do, Jack? What can I possibly say?”

“We’ve got to talk about what happened,” Jack insisted.

"Because that will make it all better," the Doctor said sarcastically, but it was a weak attempt, as though he just didn't have the energy to be hostile.

“We can't just keep it inside. We've got to talk!"

The Doctor stubbornly refused to meet his gaze.

"For crying out loud, Doctor, I was there for most of it! It’s not like you’re going to tell me much that I don’t know. And Martha may not have been there, but she went through Hell down here on Earth.”

“Aren’t we a cheerful lot?” the Doctor sighed, but Jack could actually hear and see him shutting himself away again.

“We’re all so broken,” Jack pushed. “Myself included, as are you. How do we fix it?”

“I don’t know,” the Doctor confessed. He clenched his fists furiously, eyes blazing. “All right? Are you happy now? I'll admit it. I have no idea how to even go about beginning to repair this. Any of it. I don't know what to do or how to help anyone. I’m supposed to always be the one with answers, and I’ve got nothing, okay?”

“Hey!” Jack protested. “Who said you’ve always got to be the one with answers?”

“It’s always the case, Jack,” the Doctor said with a bitter smile. “I get everyone into these situations, so I’ve got to fix them.”

“You didn’t get us into this situation!”

Jack turned so that he was facing the Doctor. He knew the Doctor had a guilt complex, and that he’d no doubt be blaming himself for what had happened, but did he truly feel that he’d caused all of this?

The Doctor spun to face him too.

“Didn’t I? I was the one who brought us to Malcassairo in the first place, and didn't leave the second we arrived. I was the one who didn’t notice who and what Yana really was. I was the one who refused to believe the indisputable evidence, hesitating long enough to allow the Master to get the TARDIS. I was the one who brought you both onto the Valiant, delivered you into the Master’s hands, Jack. I was the one…”

“Stop it right now!” Jack broke in. “Stop it! Doctor, that is the biggest load of…” he paused, knowing how the Doctor felt about swearing, “garbage I’ve ever heard in my life, and we’re talking almost two hundred years here.”

The Doctor’s eyes slid away from his.

“This was not, in any remote way, shape, or form, your fault.”

He gripped the Doctor’s shoulders, forcing the other man to meet his eyes again.

“It. Was. Not. Your. Fault.” He accentuated each word, holding the Doctor’s gaze until the other man dropped his gaze with a reluctant, noncommittal nod.

It wasn't exactly an agreement, but neither was it denial, and Jack was momentarily satisfied, and released his grip on the Doctor.

They sat for a long time without speaking.

It was the Doctor who broke the silence.

“How many times did he kill you?”

Whatever Jack had been expecting, it wasn’t this.

“Doctor…”

“You’re the one who said we needed to talk about what happened. So let’s talk. How many times?”

Jack shrugged.

“Lost count,” he tried to deflect it.

“Jack.” That same serious, firm insistence that he’d used on Malcassairo, what felt like lifetimes ago, when Jack had dodged his question.

And as before, Jack couldn’t lie to him.

“Four hundred and twenty seven,” he sighed. The Doctor had been correct in assuming he’d kept an exact count.

The Doctor’s eyes darkened, but his face merely looked old and sad.

“Oh, Jack…”

“It wasn’t every single day,” Jack tried to clarify. “Some days, he’d do it a lot of times in succession…and by the end, he’d learned how far he could push me without actually, you know, killing me.” And that wasn’t making it sound one iota better. However, there was no way to sugarcoat it.

He shrugged.

“I got better, though. Always do.”

“He knew that I died a little bit each time you did,” the Doctor said frankly, with more honesty than Jack had received from him in a long time.

However, Jack couldn’t take the time to bask in this moment. Instead, it was his turn to ask the questions.

“But it wasn’t enough, was it? Killing me?”

The Doctor froze for an instant, his posture guarded. But then his shoulders sagged, as though he just didn’t have the strength or will to hold out on Jack, and he nodded mutely.

“How many?” Jack asked quietly.

The Doctor knew what he meant, as Jack had been certain that he would.

“Fifteen,” the Doctor said quietly. “Every one I ever left on Earth who was alive in the 21st century.”

Jack swore in several languages, and the Doctor didn’t even rebuke him. The infinite sorrow was back in his face.

“But they’re all back now?” Jack pressed.

“Yes.”

“But you still remember.”

It wasn’t a question, and the Doctor knew it.

“Yes.”

The Doctor suddenly looked over Jack’s shoulder.

“Martha.”

Jack spun around to see Martha standing in the doorway, looking horrified, upset, and hesitant all at once. She’d obviously come in search of them, and had stumbled across this lovely tableaux. One look at her face told him that she’d heard most of, if not all of, their conversation.

“Martha Jones,” Jack raised an arm in greeting and flashed her a smile. “Come and join the pity party.”

He intercepted the Doctor’s frown.

“Hey, Doc, if anyone ever deserved a pity party, it’d be us three, don’t you think?”

“Suppose,” the Doctor shrugged, and Jack counted this as a victory.

Martha hesitantly approached them, shivering a little as she gazed around the ruined TARDIS. The Doctor followed her gaze, and moved toward the console.

“I really should be fixing this,” he said quietly, catching Jack’s eye. “I don’t want to leave her like this any longer than I have to.”

“This wouldn’t be you trying to escape any more sharing, would it?” Martha inquired, with a quick flash of the old Martha, the one he’d barely gotten to know before they’d been separated and she’d been forced to grow up so much.

“No,” the Doctor said. “I can talk and work at the same time.”

“Hmmm…” Jack eyed him, but he understood the Doctor’s desire to fix the TARDIS as soon as possible. He hadn’t forgotten those echoes of despair that had resounded in his mind, and he nodded slowly. “Fine.”

He turned to Martha, who had sat down next to him, and was looking from one to the other with obvious concern. While the Doctor had pulled himself together, it was obvious just by looking at his face that he was only barely retaining control, though it was getting easier.

“We all need to talk,” Jack said, dropping his bantering mask. Martha needed this healing as much as any of them. “We can’t just keep avoiding what happened to us. We’re the only three who can truly understand…no offense to your family,” he added hastily.

Martha only nodded.

“To some degree, I can talk to them. After all, they were on the Valiant. They saw…” she bit her lip, “everything. But…you know, it’s not…” she shrugged helplessly. “They have enough problems. They don’t need me dumping mine on them too.”

They all sat in awkward silence, and Martha gazed around her at the ruined TARDIS.

“This…I can’t believe he did this to her,” she whispered. “He took something beautiful and turned it into…” she gestured helplessly at their surroundings, “this.

“And if I have anything to say about it,” the Doctor’s voice came from behind the console, “she will be beautiful once more.”

Jack rested his hands on his knees, looking over at Martha.

“So, Martha Jones, anything to share?”

“No,” she shook her head.

“You’re lying,” the Doctor firmly called out, and Jack nodded.

“You’re as bad as he is,” Jack told her.

“I don’t know what to say,” she admitted.

Jack just looked at her, and honestly felt that he agreed with her. Through no fault of her own, Martha’s entrance had shattered the raw honesty that the Doctor and Jack had been experiencing, and while Jack knew Martha required just as much processing, help, and healing as he and the Doctor did, he didn’t know how to accomplish it.

Martha sat, rigid, her eyes too old for her young face, rather like the Doctor’s. Jack couldn’t even begin to imagine what she must have endured down here on Earth.

He and the Doctor may have been at the mercy of the Master himself, but Martha had to witness and experience everything the Master did firsthand. It was she who lived through it, she who had to watch the planet she loved slaughtered before her eyes, and she who had had to shoulder a responsibility far too great for her young shoulders. He could see the weight of her experiences pressing down on her, but she was locking it away, trying not to add to anyone else’s pain.

Amazingly, it was the Doctor who found the right words.

He emerged from around the console, moving so that he was sitting up in front of Martha.

“Martha Jones, I am so sorry.”

She blinked, her carefully constructed mask slipping a little at these unexpected words.

“I asked so much of you. Forced so much onto you. I never gave you a choice, only thrust you into a position of authority you never should have had to bear.” There were tears in the Doctor’s eyes now. “It wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t right.”

“There was no other way,” she tried to rationalize.

“Perhaps,” the Doctor admitted. “But it was a cruel thing for me to ask you to do.”

“Me too,” Jack added. “I sent you away, gave you the vortex manipulator, made you go alone.”

“Why?” Martha asked quietly. “Why did you make me go alone, Jack? You were holding the manipulator, and we know it would have taken us both.”

Now her voice was rising in pitch, and it was all too clear that this question had gnawed at her for quite some time.

“Why did I have to be the one who went, while you stayed behind?”

“Because the fewer people who were out there, the safer you’d be,” Jack tried to explain what had been going through his mind. “Two of us would have been twice as vulnerable.”

He hesitated, but now was not the time to hold back the truth.

“And I knew that if I stayed behind, I’d be one more person for him to focus on. Someone to hurt, but who couldn’t die. It’d be one less person he’d kill.”

“He couldn’t kill Jack, and he wouldn’t kill me,” the Doctor said quietly. “There was nothing to protect you. I needed you out of there, away from him.”

“And how do you think I felt, abandoning you two? Abandoning my family? Everyone I cared about! Each time he’d come on that broadcast, and I’d see you, and all I could think was that I left you there, with him!”

“Because I asked you to,” the Doctor told her. “And it wasn’t fair.”

Martha drew herself in, trying to maintain the strong persona she’d been forced to develop during that year. Jack could see from her face that she was refusing to let herself give in to emotion. Because for the past year, to give in to emotion would mean death.

She closed her eyes for a second.

“I walk the streets now, and all I can think of is what they looked like when they were burning, filled with bodies, swarming with Toclafane. I see people on the street, and I probably saw some of them die. I walked the planet, saw every corner of the globe, but none of that actually happened, none of those horrible things I saw actually occurred anymore, but I remember them all, and no one else does!”

“We made you be strong,” Jack told her. “But you don’t have to be strong right now.”

“Not we, Jack,” the Doctor held up a hand. “You can’t claim credit for this. It was me. All me." Jack decided not to argue further. "And I am so, so sorry, Martha,” the Doctor finished.

And that did it. The honest, wholehearted apology coupled with the Doctor’s obvious disgust at his own actions finally broke down Martha’s barriers, and she began to sob.

The Doctor wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close, and Martha buried her face in his shoulder, sobbing as if her heart were broken. Which, Jack knew, it probably was. He moved to embrace them, wrapping his arms around them both. He could feel the Doctor beginning to cry again too, and he clutched them both tighter than ever, wishing with all his heart that he could make things right, when they were clearly so horribly, horribly wrong.

A brush of telepathy whispered past his mind as the TARDIS reached out.

Love/ sorrow/ sorry/ Doctor/ Martha/ Jack/ friends/ anger/ comfort/ sorry…

This was the second time he’d felt anything so distinct from the TARDIS, and he got the distinct impression she was allowing him to witness this particular feeling.

“I hate him,” Martha finally choked out, after a long time. “The Master. I hate him. I’m sorry, Doctor, but I do. Maybe it’s wrong of me, but I hate him.”

“So do I,” Jack said.

“I know,” the Doctor nodded, pulling back and swiping his own tears away. “I know you do. And I don't blame you. Never. It’d be easier if I did too. But I just couldn’t. And still can’t, not really. I hate what he’s done, the actions he’s taken, especially against my friends, but I can’t hate him.”

He closed his eyes.

“Why?” Martha asked quietly.

She seemed hesitant to push too hard. The Doctor had never been this open with either of them, and Jack knew in his heart that this would probably be a one-time thing.

“He was all I had left,” the Doctor shrugged.

Realization dawned anew on Jack. The Doctor didn’t want to lose his one connection to the home he’d destroyed, however cruel that connection was. And his desire to redeem the Master was also a manifestation of his own desire for redemption, after what he’d done to Gallifrey.

Jack knew the Doctor and Master had once been friends, long, long before anyone knew who the Doctor or the Master were. The Master had told him, and while he’d had to take everything the Master told him with a grain of salt, this part had rung true. And for the Doctor to see his former friend fallen so far, it was no wonder that he’d fought so hard to save him.

“I didn’t want to be alone again.”

“You’re not alone,” Jack told him firmly. “You never were.”

Martha nodded, but Jack saw that she wouldn’t quite look the Doctor in the eye. He suspected that she was planning to leave the Doctor soon, and he thought he understood her reasons. But he also knew from personal experience that ceasing to travel with the Doctor didn’t have to mean you abandoned him completely.

“You’ll always have us,” Jack continued. “And I know that we can’t take the place of what you’ve lost, but you’ll always have a family on Earth, no matter what.”

The Doctor nodded, but his posture was stiff and guarded, and pain flashed over his face, reflected most deeply in his eyes. Martha met his gaze and caught hold of his hand.

“What happened to them wasn’t your fault, Doctor.”

“They knew me,” the Doctor whispered, his voice suddenly hoarse with pain. “It was only because they knew me. Some of them hadn’t even travelled with me. Everyone I touch gets hurt.”

His eyes darkened into an achingly familiar look of self-loathing, but Jack and Martha were instantly united. The Doctor was not going to descend back into that particular frame of mind.

“Do you honestly think that any of them would have given up their time with you, in exchange for safety?” Martha demanded. “I know I wouldn’t.”

“Me neither,” Jack added. “Any of us are willing to die for you, Doctor.”

“But I don’t want you to,” the Doctor’s eyes blazed with sudden fire. “No one should die for me!”

“Why not?” Martha asked. “Because you’re not worth it?”

Yes!” he shouted.

Martha and Jack were stunned into silence.

The Doctor took a deep breath, and turned away from them both.

Martha caught Jack’s eye, and he saw his own desperation and frustration echoed in her face. How could he convince the Doctor, this battered, wounded, shattered man, that he was the best thing to happen in his life?

“When I met you,” Jack said slowly, letting the words come from his heart, “I was an ex-time agent. A con-man, who cheated and deceived people for a living. Who fought my way through life, because I honestly believed that there was nothing more to it. And then you came along, and you believed in me. You gave me a chance, which was more than anyone else was ever willing to give me. You taught me things about myself that I could never hope to know, and you taught me how to stand up for what’s right. Everything I am now, Torchwood three, all of this, is because of you.”

“When I met you,” Martha echoed, “I was a med student, struggling just to get through my internship. A medical license, that was as far as I ever thought I would go. Caught in the middle of my family, the constant mediator, trapped in my own world. Then I met you, and you took me away from all that, showed me that the universe was so much bigger than anything I could fathom, and you taught me how to be a leader. To stand up for myself. How to take a stand, how to be a better person. How to save the world. Everything I did this year, all of that, I couldn’t have done any of it if I hadn’t met you.”

“What about Rose?” Jack added. The Doctor, his back still to them, stiffened almost imperceptibly at the mention of her name, but Martha barely reacted at all. “A shopgirl, no proper education. Living at her mother’s house because she had nowhere else to go. Just a kid. And she met you, and you showed her how great she could be. By the time I met her, she was already changing, stronger, braver than anything you could imagine. And she saved the universe, absorbed time itself, and even brought me back. Do you really think she’d have done any of that if she hadn’t met you?”

“You change us for the better,” Martha told him.

“All of us,” Jack added.

The Doctor slowly turned around, his face still guarded and ever-so-slightly hostile, but those eyes told a different story.

“Each one of those people. They all were doing great things. They still are, now. Because they knew you, Doctor.”

“What about the lives you’ve saved?” Martha added. “The hospital, the Globe, everyone in those tunnels on New Earth, Manhattan…just to name a few.”

“You’ve taken lives too,” Jack continued, hoping this was the right thing to say. “We know. We’re not denying that. All of us have taken lives.” He caught Martha’s eye, and she reluctantly nodded confirmation. “But do those bad things really mean that anything good we do is worthless?”

“You always taught me that no one is worthless, that everyone is worth saving,” Martha said softly. “That means you are too, Doctor.”

“And guess what?” Jack added. “It’s not up to you to decide whether you’re worth it. That is our right, our choice. We are our own people, and we have the right to choose who we ally ourselves with, and who we die for.”

Martha nodded firmly.

“In my case,” Jack added, “many times over. And I’d lay any of those lives down for you, Doctor. Because despite what you think, I believe that you are one of the greatest men I have ever had the privilege of knowing, and had the honor of calling my friend.”

“Me too,” Martha nodded.

The Doctor looked from one to the other, those dark eyes suddenly inscrutable.

“And,” Jack added, nodding upward, “I think someone else would agree too.”

He couldn’t help but smile as he felt the TARDIS's telepathic confirmation, which she was again allowing him to see.

Doctor/ love/ mine/ friend/ forever/ yes...

Martha couldn’t sense the same distinct impressions Jack could, but even she seemed to sense the TARDIS’s agreement, for she patted the nearby column fondly.

The Doctor slowly reached out to catch hold of their hands.

“What did I do to deserve friends like you?” he asked quietly.

“You were you,” Martha told him. “That’s enough.”

For the longest time, they sat that way, hand in hand. Jack couldn’t help but marvel at the openness they’d all just experienced. In the past hour, he’d seen more of the Doctor than he’d seen in pretty much his entire time travelling with him. Judging from Martha’s face, it was the same with her.

“So,” Jack finally found his voice. “What do you think? Are we going to be all right?”

He looked from one to the other. The pain from the Year That Never Was was still present, still palpable in all of them. A year of agony wasn’t shaken off in an hour. But something had changed, as though a little weight had lifted from each of them.

“Yeah,” Martha nodded slowly. “I think we will.” She glanced at the Doctor. “Doctor?”

“I think we will be more than all right,” he said slowly.

He glanced at Jack, and a familiar yet foreign smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. A genuine smile, the kind he hadn’t seen from the Doctor since Malcassairo.

“We’ll be fantastic.”

Jack couldn’t help it. He began to laugh, and the Doctor’s smile widened. Even Martha, who didn’t understand the reference, beamed at the two of them. The TARDIS hummed quietly, a sound which almost seemed to be content.

They weren’t all right. Far from it. It would be a very, very long time until they were all right again. Perhaps some of the wounds would never fully close.

But in that moment, Jack knew.

They were going to be all right.
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