“Gone? What the fuck do you mean she's gone?”
Jack twisted in his unneeded sleep and dreams — the first time he'd fallen asleep in a very, very long time.
“I lost her. When...” The Doctor's voice almost broke, and he cast a glance at his new companion, and instead led Jack into a side room that the TARDIS had just conveniently provided for them. He sat down on a stool in the room, took off his thick black glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Doctor.” Jack folded his arms tightly against his chest. The Doctor looked up at him, studying him.
“The fight at Canary Wharf. She resisted me sending her back to Parallel Earth and helped me draw all of the Cybermen and Daleks into the Void. But then she fell..and Pete Tyler from that other Earth appeared with his little yellow transport button, snatched her the moment she was about to touch the Void and took her back to Parallel Earth. So she's still there, safe and sound. But she can't come back here. No more cracks in the Universe to let her through. I closed them all. I had to.”
“You can't ask me to do that Jack, not even for Rose. That would mean tearing the entire Universe apart in the process.” The Doctor's voice was flat, resigned, as if he'd debated this with himself many times before. Many times. He looked up to see Jack glaring at him with a hate he'd never seen before in his eyes.
“It's Rose. You said once you'd do anything for her.” His voice came out in a quiet growl, and shoved him up against the wall. “You said you loved her.” And me. But that last part was unspoken, though it hung in the air between them almost palpably.
“I do!” He shouted back now, his calm coming to pieces. “You don't think I remember how it used to be, all three of us? How it was like spring again? Like I could actually feel something in me? You think I don't know that?” He hissed, his eyes tearing up.
“You certainly have forgotten her quick with that new companion of yours.” Jack said so softly, almost inaudibly, his eyes so angry.
The Doctor flinched. “She was in trouble, and I couldn't not take her in.”
Jack was silent and now just stared at him, having backed off.
“You just don't want to be alone.”
“No. No I don't.” He hissed back, slamming the wall next to him. “And neither do you. Obviously, with that Ianto fellow...”
“Is the Doctor jealous?” Jack parried instead, purring softly with a smile. The Doctor flashed on that smile in his mind, remembering when it was full of promises and delight and luscious exhaustion. Not this different, angry version. “You made me love you, the two of you. It wasn't just sex. It was love. And you know that.”
“You've changed, Jack.” He said wearily, sitting back down. “At least you've figured out the difference though, between sex and love.”
“You people left me for dead.”
“We didn't know”, he said softly, eyes watery. “I had no idea what Rose did after she took the heart of the TARDIS into herself. Had I known, I would have stopped her. But I was failing in that other body, my regeneration didn't even go right. I can't forgive myself for that. I can't forgive myself for letting Rose help me that day, but it was her choice. And it was your choice.”
Jack sat down himself, his head in his hands. For all of his new emotional armor, shellacked with bitterness and hate and how much he needed them, strengthened by his immortality and Rose's gift to him (or was it the TARDIS?), the love from his Torchwood team. Gwen's innocence, Tosh's shy heart, Owen's anger, Ianto's confusion. All of them, in him. And Rose. Always Rose. For all of this new armor, it certainly wasn't doing him any good with the person he most wanted to fight with and blame.
The two words he'd most wanted to hear since the Doctor came back.
He woke up with a jolt, and saw that he had only been asleep for half an hour. Realizing his cheeks were wet, he wiped them away.
“I can't even hate you.” He whispered to himself aloud, lying back and staring at the little mica stars in the ceiling. “After all of this, I can't even hate you for all that you've done.”
He looked at the hand floating in its tube, and even then it seemed to be waving goodbye.
“So why don't I get to go again?” Jayne asked angrily, waving an empty Vera around in the air above his head. “Is Miss Crazy here replacin' me?”
River just looked at him, trying not to laugh. He was acting like a child about all of this. Instead she trained her gaze on her own gun as she locked and loaded, and put it in her holster inside of her boot.
“I don't have time for this, Zoe's already with Badger at the drop spot”, Mal waved him off, then looked at River, “You ready, Lil' Albatross?”
She nodded. She was at his side, his deadly little albatross hanging around his neck, and it made her happy to think she was of some use to him, to Serenity.
Kaylee was coming in from the beach outside, wringing out her hair on the sand as they were leaving. “Bye now!” She said enthusiastically, with a wave, “Have fun! Don't let the Big Bad Wolf get you!” She giggled at her own joke.
Mal just shook his head while River gave her a tiny smile. When they got to the pub and hotel that Rose was staying at, Zoe was already there with Badger, sipping weak cocktails for the sake of the argument as not to arouse suspicion.
“Sir.” Zoe nodded to him and River. Badger turned round, gave them both a big smile. Ever since that real estate deal they made last year things had been far more smooth with Badger and his lot, though they were still adequately wary of each other.
“Malcolm!” He said grandly, clapping him on the shoulder. He looked surprised when he saw River. “What? No Jayne?” He laughed, “I bet he's bitter on account of River here taking his place.”
Mal allowed a tight smile. “Ain't no one gettin' replaced here, Badger. We just didn't want to spook Huai Lang off, 's all.” He patted River's shoulder, “Girls have a use for that.”
“Instead of big men with big guns.” Zoe added, taking a sip of her drink.
As the two talked, Zoe leaned into River. “Anything?”
She looked at her and then back out the crowd. She knew in times like this she was allowed to use her Reading abilities (when other times it was rude, though she didn't quite understand that distinction she didn't argue). It had saved their lives quite a few times over. She scanned over the noise. “Badger isn't lying about this”, she said back quietly, but loud enough to be heard by Zoe only. “She is here.”
River was quiet again as she shut her eyes, feeling around. She came up against a big blank wall. She opened her eyes wide. “Something is here. Big blank white wall.”
Zoe nodded. “That would match up with reports. She has a psychic wall up. Torchwood was given psychic defense training, so it would seem.”
River nodded. “It feels like nothing else here.” She motioned with her hands, trying to describe what she was feeling. “Not similar. Different, old. Yes, old. Very old.”
Zoe turned to Mal. That was the signal.
“So, Badger, where might our fine guest be?”
“Up in her room. Shall we go see her?”
Rose sat on her bed. She'd known Badger for a very long time, since he was a boy on Dyton. She'd spent time there, so homesick for London on Earth-That-Was, tried to help the people there. So she trusted him — even though he was a thief and a cheat, she knew his heart, and she knew he wouldn't betray her.
A soft knock at her door, jerked her out of her thoughts. She reached for her gun, just in case, but heard Badger from the other side. “Come in.” She said, withdrawing her hand but still wary.
And eyes wide when she saw the girl from her dreams enter the room along with another man and woman. This girl who had asked for her help. Rose White and the Bear. The girl gave her a small smile at the recognition.
“We meet again, Rose Red.” River said softly as Badger excited the room, mollified by a bag of coins for his trouble.
And Rose Tyler mirrored River's smile back to her. “Likewise, Lil' Albatross.”