A Fine Line between a Fool and a Hero by nordesm
Summary: The Doctor and Jack have a history of self sacrifices and for once the universe decides to give something back.
Rating: All Ages
Categories: Tenth Doctor, Torchwood
Characters: Jack Harkness, Jack Harkness, The Doctor (10th), Torchwood
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Chapter 2: The Line Between a Fool and a Hero Still Exists
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Author's Notes: Thank you to Jess for the beta work.
“The rift is out of control!” Tosh screamed as the ground shook. There was something terribly wrong. It was the rift yet it wasn’t. It was time, a pocket of time perhaps, a tear in time and space. It was something the team hadn’t encountered before, and frankly, due to the direness of the situation, were likely never to encounter again.
“We can’t stop it!” Owen cried as he grabbed onto the metal railing. Four sets of imploring eyes turned to Jack as if he possessed all the answers.
“Jack, think of something!” Gwen demanded as she reached out to steady Ianto. Jack knew the one person who stood a chance to fix this was probably jaunting across space with a lovely blonde clinging to his arm.
“I’m going into the rift,” Jack announced as he pulled his jacket tighter around his body. His voice could barely be heard over the howling wind.
“You’re going to do what?” Ianto screamed as he stared at his part-time lover through wide eyes. “Only a fool or a hero would even attempt it!” Jack figured on a good day he could be considered both, probably more of the former than the latter.
As if on cue, a blue police box fell through the sky, the widening rift closing after its exit, and dropped to the ground several meters away from the startled team.
“That’s one way to close a rift,” Owen stated.
“Nice entrance,” Gwen added with a smile.
“That bastard stole my thunder,” Jack muttered as he strode forward to wait for the door of the TARDIS to open and a smug Time Lord to appear on the other side.
“It’s him, isn’t it?” Ianto asked quietly. “It’s your Doctor.”
Jack waited for several seconds before using his key to open the TARDIS door. If there was any question that Jack had been involved with the Doctor, it was answered when he used his personal key to gain access to the precious ship. The team waited quietly while Jack searched the TARDIS, and several minutes went by before Jack reappeared. He was still alone.
“Well?” Owen asked.
“He’s not there,” Jack returned quietly as he ran his hand through his hair. That could only mean one thing. It wasn’t a possibility Jack wanted to think about. He leaned back against the blue door, exhaustion and a profound sadness pricking at backs of his eyes.
“Jack, I’m so sorry,” Tosh offered gently.
“I know you and the Doctor were close,” Gwen continued with compassion in her voice. Close? Yes, he and the Doctor were close. They were so many things, but no words in the English language seemed adequate to describe their complex relationship.
They waited for the imminent breakdown, for Jack to succumb to the powerful emotions that were dancing across his face. His eyes narrowed dangerously, and all four members of the team took an involuntary step back.
“That jerk,” Jack growled. “If he thinks he can march in here, save the universe, and go all self-sacrificing martyr on me, he’s got another thing coming!”
“No you don’t, you alien bastard!” Jack yelled as he spun around and glared at the star filled night sky. “Get your scrawny ass down here so I can kick it across time and space!”
“Well, I’m glad to see Jack’s not affected by all this,” Owen deadpanned.
“Jack, he saved the planet,” Gwen offered gently as she reached out to touch his arm.
“That’s my job,” Jack barked as he stepped back. Apparently the legendary Doctor stepped on someone’s toes with his heroic gesture.
“Oh really?” Owen asked. “Is there a contest between the two of you? Who can save the planet the most times? Who’s winning?” He winced when Tosh jabbed her elbow into his side.
“I’m sorry,” Ianto said as Jack continued glaring at the sky as if he expected the stars to provide answers that he was desperately seeking.
“Just once you’d think the universe could give something back,” Jack sighed, his shoulders sagging, his impossible age showing in his weary movements. “Just once it’d be nice if life was fair.”
“Is there anything we can do?”
Jack shook his head, his eyes dancing between insanity, pain, and loss.
“You can’t bring him back,” Jack sighed as he spared a glance at the TARDIS. Anger crept into his bones, a welcomed substitute for the grief that was threatening to overtake his soul.
“This is just like him,” Jack growled. “Flies in long enough to save the day and doesn’t bother stopping by for a proper hello.” Owen and Ianto glanced at each other, concern evident in their eyes. No one bothered to inform Jack that saying hello was rather hard if you were dead.
“We should go back to the Hub,” Gwen stated. She figured if nuclear meltdown ensued, it would be easier to contain Jack in a familiar environment. Owen’s large supply of sedatives wouldn’t hurt either.
“Oh no!” Jack yelled as he defiantly crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m not going anywhere!”
“So that’s then?” Owen asked. “You’re just going to stand out here all night?” It wasn’t that he wasn’t a compassionate man. Well, most of the time he wasn’t, but in this situation he was a realist.
“Why yes I am, Owen! I’m going to sit out here until the damn Universe spits the Doctor right into my lap!” Jack hollered, his voice growing louder to be heard over the howling wind. He spun around, his arms once again opened, as a cool body collided with his and sent him sprawling to the ground.
“Well, that’s one way to do it,” Owen said as he dropped to his knees to examine the man that had just fallen from the sky and landed directly on top of their leader.
“That’s the Doctor,” Ianto commented as he leaned down to verify Jack was still breathing.
“What could have given possibly given that away?” Tosh quipped.
Jack groaned, one hand curling around soft, brown fabric, and another reaching up to rub his forehead. “Doctor?” he asked as he forced his eyes open. “Doctor, look at me! Say something!” He sat up, the Doctor’s upper body wrapped in his arms. “Oh no you don’t. You don’t get to fall from the sky just to die in my arms!”
Eyelids lifted to reveal gentle brown eyes. “Hello Jack.” Jack was the only one that breathed a sigh of relief. The rest of the team didn’t know what to think. It wasn’t often that Torchwood’s worst enemy fell, quite literally, right into their laps.
“Hey,” Jack returned gently. Ianto found himself wondering where all that earlier anger had gone.
“Seventy four,” the Doctor muttered. He laughed briefly, before his eyes slipped into welcomed unconsciousness. Jack growled, a low sound coming from the back of his throat, before standing with the Doctor in his arms.
“Seventy four, sir?”
“He’s saved the earth seventy four times,” Jack sighed as he adjusted the weight in his arms. “He’s just trying to make me look bad.”
Jack knew the universe wasn’t always fair and usually wasn’t kind. He also knew that sometimes, maybe once or twice in a lifetime, if you asked the right way, the universe had a way of giving you exactly what you needed.
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Chapter 2: The Line Between a Fool and a Hero Still Exists
Author's Notes: I'm anticipating three parts to this story. Thank you to Jess for the much appreciated beta services!
“What are you doing?” Jack asked, snatching the uncapped needle from Owen’s hand.
“I was trying to take a blood sample,” Owen snapped as he opened the medical cabinet to retrieve a fresh syringe.
“No blood samples, no tests, no — just don’t touch him.” Jack didn’t feel like having to explain what one vial of the Time Lord’s blood could do to the universe. He had even less desire to explain what exactly a Time Lord was.
“He’s my patient, Jack.”
“He’s my friend, Owen,” Jack returned with equal venom. “He’s certainly not one of your patients.”
“Let’s break this down, shall we? He’s an unconscious, possibly injured alien in my medical unit. Sure sounds like a patient to me.”
“Leave him alone,” Jack growled, straightening to his full, imposing height.
“Oh, quit puffing your chest out.” Owen returned the syringe to its rightful place in the drawer. “You look like a chicken having a strop.”
Jack felt the air deflate out of his lungs and he leaned against the wall. He always was rather silly when it came to the Doctor. It wasn’t like the 900-year-old alien wasn’t capable of taking care of himself.
“Since you won’t allow me to examine him,” Owen began, tossing a pointed look in Jack’s direction, “you do expect him to wake up, don’t you? I mean, he has done this before, correct?”
“He’s got an advanced healing system,” Jack stated. “He’ll be awake soon enough.” Owen nodded and wandered out of the medical room to leave Jack alone with his mysterious friend. “You better not make a liar out of me,” Jack growled as he settled down to wait for his friend to wake up.
Two Hours Later
“How’s he doing?” Gwen asked from her place on the landing.
“He’ll be fine,” Jack said with confidence that was flagging and a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “Falling through the Vortex can’t be easy on the body.”
“A human would never have survived that,” Gwen pointed out.
“Then I suppose it’s a good thing he’s not human.”
“What is he, Jack?”
“He’s an idiot.”
Five Hours Later
“Jack, it’s almost morning,” Tosh said quietly.
“Why are you still here?” he asked wearily, his gaze barely straying from the Doctor’s still form.
“We all stayed. We’re worried about you.”
“I’m not the one who’s unconscious.”
“He’ll get better, won’t he?” She looked at the Doctor, cocking her head to one side. “You made it sound like he does this sort of thing all the time.”
“He’ll get better,” Jack confirmed with a nod. “He’ll get better if he knows what’s good for him.”
Nine Hours Later
“I brought you some coffee.”
“How is he?” To his credit, Ianto actually sounded concerned. It was no secret that Jack held a great respect for the strange alien - Ianto had heard stories about the Doctor, but the skinny, bedraggled man who fell from the sky wasn’t what he had been expecting. The phrase ‘drowned rat’ seemed a more apt description than ‘intergalactic hero.’
“Is there anything we can do?”
Jack sighed as he reached out and checked the Doctor’s wrist for a pulse. If one more person asked him if there was anything they could do, Jack swore he was going to have a mental breakdown. If there was something that could be done, didn’t they think Jack would be doing it?
“He shouldn’t be out this long.” There. He finally said it. “This isn’t normal for him.”
“What is normal for him, sir?” Ianto asked.
“Not this,” Jack growled. “He just couldn’t leave well enough alone. Always has to meddle. Always has to shove his pesky, know-it-all Time Lordliness where it’s not wanted!”
“Don’t lie. It doesn’t suit you,” Ianto stated simply. “You know you love it when he comes around.”
“Don’t ever let him hear you say that,” Jack admonished with a distant smile. “I’d never hear the end of it.” At that moment, he’d have given anything to have the Doctor wake up and insult his mediocre human intelligence. Anyway, Jack knew he didn’t mean it. It was no secret how much the Doctor adored the human race. The universe was full of planets with thousands of alien races, yet the Doctor kept returning to this planet — and Jack knew it wasn’t to admire the scenery.
“You should let Owen run some tests. Maybe there’s something we can do,” Ianto offered. Despite everything, he couldn’t find it in his heart to be jealous of the Doctor. Jack had told him once that it was like comparing apples and oranges. Ianto knew he gave Jack something the Doctor never could, but he was also acutely aware that the complex relationship between their team leader and the infamous Doctor crossed time, space, and several dimensions.
“Don’t you leave me, you alien bastard,” Jack whispered. “I forbid it. You hear me? I forbid it.” When Jack looked up, Ianto had gone.
Twelve Hours Later
The shrill sounds of the alarm system echoed through the Hub and the team began gathering readouts and weaponry, preparing for the disaster du jour.
“What is it?” Jack asked as he jogged down the stairs. It was the first time he’d left the Doctor’s side since he’d placed him carefully on the bed over half a day ago.
Tosh passed him a computer printout. “Temporal disturbance.”
“I think we’ve got company,” Gwen said as she spun her computer monitor toward Jack, showing him the CCTV footage from across town.
“Time to save the world again,” Owen added glibly, tossing his set of car keys in the air and catching them.
“Did somebody mention saving the world?” a cheerful voice asked. Five sets of eyes swung to the staircase where a lanky, smirking alien was wandering towards them.
“Doctor, you’re awake!” Jack exclaimed.
“Well, I’m glad to see your ability to state the obvious is still in tact,” the Doctor replied with a sniff.
“You’re okay?” Jack continued, still unable to process the fact that the Doctor was up, walking, and seemed well enough to insult his intelligence. Things were obviously looking up!
“Well, according to you, I’m an idiot.” The Doctor busied himself reading the data Tosh had collected and then moved to Gwen’s computer screen.
“Wait a minute,” Jack began as he pointed an accusing finger in the Doctor’s direction, “You heard that?”
“I was resting, Jack. I wasn’t dead,” the Doctor stated. “And you like having me around so don’t even lie.” The Doctor winked at Ianto before he started tapping on the keyboard.
“You didn’t think it might be a good idea to let me know you were okay? I thought you were dying!”
“Like I’d give you the satisfaction,” the Doctor returned. Jack growled and resisted the urge to strangle the Time Lord.
“Is he always this polite?” Owen asked, smirking.
Gwen huffed. “I’m sorry to interrupt this lovely reunion, but we’ve got several alien life forms —“
“Hm…” The Doctor’s quiet sound cut Gwen off mid-sentence.
“’Hm’ what?” Jack asked apprehensively as he folded his arms. He knew the Doctor well enough to know when he was plotting something. “’Hm’ what, Doctor?”
The Doctor pressed a more few buttons on the keyboard; the GPS system was tracking something he had obviously discovered and thought was worthy of attention. Jack vowed that one day Torchwood was going to have a security system that even the Doctor couldn’t crack.
“That should do it,” the Doctor confirmed as he pushed back from the computer, stood up, and jogged towards the exit.
“Doctor! What are you doing? Where are you going?” Jack yelled. “Don’t you dare! Are you listening to me? You aren’t listening, are you? You are not saving the world without me!”
“Nearly seventy five, Jack!”
“Doctor, get back here!” he shouted, grabbing several weapons from the table, and motioning for his team to follow. He’d be damned if he was going to be shown up on his home turf.
“Just a day in the life of Torchwood,” Owen sighed as grabbed his medical kit and dashed toward the disaster.
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Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Author's Notes: I might turn this into a series in the future. Thank you to my darling beta Jess.
Despite the history of the Doctor being Torchwood’s number one enemy, the team quickly warmed to Jack’s friend. He was funny, brilliant, and seemed perfectly content to give their fearless leader a hard time. It had been awhile since they’d seen Jack squirm.
They’d been searching the deserted building for the better part of an hour. “I’m going to have a look in the basement,” Jack said as he waved the team forward. “Doctor, stay with them.”
“I’m not one of your new recruits, Jack.”
“Just go with them,” Jack ordered. “Help Tosh decipher that manuscript we found earlier.”
“And here I thought working with Torchwood would be a challenge,” the Doctor replied with a completely uninterested sigh.
“I resent that,” Owen snapped.
“You would,” Ianto said. He rolled his eyes for effect.
“Here’s the manuscript,” Tosh offered after they walked outside. She handed the tattered parchment to the Doctor who pulled a pair of black spectacles out of his pocket.
“You wear glasses?” she asked.
“These are purely for effect,” the Doctor replied as his eyes busily scanned the manuscript. When he looked up, all hint of humor was gone from his eyes. “Get Jack on the phone. Now. Tell him to get —“
An explosion ripped through the street as rubble and debris flew past them. The seven-story structure had been decimated in seconds.
“What the hell?” Owen gasped.
“Jack’s in there!” Ianto exclaimed.
“Jack, can you hear me? Jack!” Gwen kept pressing her earpiece trying to make contact with their missing team member.
“There was a spike in energy right before the explosion,” Tosh explained. She tried to show the Doctor the readouts, but he was standing with his arms crossed over his chest glaring at the pile of burning rubble. “Doctor?” She reached out to touch his arm, but he brushed past her and starting walking in the opposite direction.
“Where are you going?” Gwen called.
“To get Jack.”
“But the building’s the other way,” she replied. She jerked her thumb in the direction of the smoldering remains of the structure.
“Well aware of that, thank you.”
The team stared in stunned silence as the Doctor stalked down the street and disappeared around the corner.
“Just what exactly is he a Doctor of?” Owen asked.
Several minutes went by before they heard the grate of metal on metal and the distinctive sounds of wheezing.
“Oh, what now?” Owen barked. “Torchwood is bloody closed!”
“Isn’t that the blue police box that fell out of the rift?” Tosh asked.
The door to the mysterious box opened and the Doctor stumbled out. He was covered in ash and dirt, his forehead was cut, and his arms were wrapped around Jack’s bloodied upper body. The Doctor was walking backwards with Jack’s legs dragging on the ground. It would have made a laughable sight if Jack wasn’t still dead. They really were quite a pair.
“What’s he saying?” Tosh asked curiously.
“Whatever language it is, I’m sure he’s cursing,” Ianto stated.
“How do you know?”
Ianto shrugged. “Jack tends to have that effect on people.”
“I’m a trouble magnet?” the Doctor growled. Jack’s head rolled to the side against the alien’s chest. “Pot. Kettle. Black.”
“The SUV is parked around the corner,” Gwen offered. She pulled the keys out of her pocket and jogged away.
“What do you think caused the explosion?” Tosh mused as she rechecked the rift activity device.
“I don’t know. Maybe the aliens we were tracking somehow — “
“Are you three always this thick?” the Doctor barked. “What do you think caused the explosion? It was Jack! It’s always bloody Jack! The only way to seal the bridge was to ignite a —“ The Doctor stopped immediately when he felt Jack stir in his arms.
“That hurt,” Jack groaned. He forced his eyes open and became acutely aware of the cooler-than-human arms around his chest. “Doctor, I didn’t know you cared,” he teased. The Doctor immediately released him, and he crumpled to the ground in an undignified heap.
“I don’t care,” the Doctor replied as he jerked his hand through his hair. Dust and ash floated to the ground. Owen, Gwen, and Ianto shared a private look. Sure, he didn’t care. And Torchwood didn’t have its name printed on the side of their super secret vehicles.
“I just — well, I shouldn’t care! It’s not like you care about your own life.”
“Not this again,” Jack grumbled as he struggled to his feet. He dusted himself off and lifted his gaze to meet the Doctor’s. Raising an eyebrow, he pointed at the Time Lord. “What the hell happened to you?”
The Doctor crossed his arms across his chest. “Last time I checked, I don’t answer to you.” Ianto’s eyes widened, Tosh found the ground suddenly interesting, and Owen snickered.
“How did the TARDIS get here?” Jack questioned.
“Didn’t you know? She comes when I call her. I was just leaving,” the Doctor explained as he pushed past Jack.
“Always running away, aren’t you?” Jack accused.
“Always looking for a chance to die, aren’t you?” the Doctor returned.
“I saved the world, you know,” Jack replied. He paused as scratched the dried blood behind his ears. “Last thing I remember was falling chunks of concrete.”
“Isn’t that a lovely thought,” Owen sighed as he continued cataloging Jack’s healing injuries from a distance.
“How did I get out of there?”
“Torchwood to the rescue again,” the Doctor called as he stepped inside the TARDIS. “You don’t need me after all.”
“Looks like I saved the day, Doctor.” Jack smirked as the Doctor rolled his eyes and slammed the door closed. “Score one for Captain Jack Harkness.” Apparently the Doctor didn’t like to be shown up either.
“You do realize he saved you,” Owen said quietly as the TARDIS began to dematerialize.
Jack’s smirk disappeared immediately. “He — he what?”
“How do you think you got out of there?” Ianto asked. “You were buried underneath a mountain of rubble. It would have taken us days to dig you out.”
“But he said — “ Jack pointed to the spot where the TARDIS was standing moments before.
“Yeah, he lied,” Owen replied.
“I hate him,” Jack growled. He realized it had nothing to do with their silly game. The Doctor all but verbally admitted that he cared — really cared. Alien bastard.
“Don’t lie,” Owen sighed.
“It doesn’t suit you,” Ianto finished. Gwen pulled the car around, and they started walking towards the SUV.
“So who won that round?”
“Shut up, Owen.”
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