"Jack, get up!"
The Doctor hadn't even touched his shoulder when Jack's eyes snapped open and he was wide awake in an instant. Years - decades really - of serving in the military and working for Torchwood had trained him to awake instantly. No sleepy blinking and snuggling back into the covers for him. Especially not when a frantic Time Lord was pushing at him to get out of bed.
"Move it, Captain!"
Jack only managed to slip on his boots and grab his discarded jeans before he was dragged out of his bedroom. Usually he would have made a quip about how the Doctor obviously couldn't wait to get his hands on him but even Jack knew when his remarks weren't welcome. Not that they ever were where the Doctor was concerned but usually they only got him an annoyed snort. Right now though, Jack wasn't so sure if the Doctor wouldn't snap if he was pushed too much. His whole posture was tense and rigid. His hair was an absolute mess as if he had ran his hands through it numerous times but even more telling was the state of his clothes. Jack couldn't recall the last time he had seen the Doctor wearing less than one of his pinstripe suits. More often than not he even wore his trench coat around the TARDIS. Now though, he had got rid of not only the coat but of his suit jacket as well with the sleeves of his shirt rolled up to his elbows. Whatever was wrong, it had to be on a scale somewhere between them being surrounded by Dalek fleets and the universe running out of bananas. Or... something was wrong with the TARDIS.
Jack felt a shiver run down his spine when he stumbled into the console room after the Doctor and became aware of the flashing red lights. God, something was definitely wrong with her.
"Don't worry, beautiful. We will... Ouch!" Jack stared down at his hand which was starting to blister from the zap the TARDIS had dealt him when he had touched her walls in passing. Not that it was the first time that she had shown him her displeasure in that way but usually it was merely a playful slap. Nothing that would really harm Jack. She must really be bad off when she was lashing out like that.
"Doc," Jack started and stumbled a little when he was pushed out of the door of the TARDIS.
Jack spun around just in time to have the door of the TARDIS closed in his face and the dematerialising process already having started. He could only stand there and stare as the TARDIS - and with her the Doctor - vanished right before his eyes. Even when no trace of the blue police box was left anymore, Jack still kept staring at the spot where it had. A part of him hoped that the Doctor would reappear within seconds to laugh at his stupid face while another part of him was too shocked to do anything.
Jack wasn't a stupid, young boy anymore. He had known from the start that the Doctor would leave him behind again even when he had agreed to travel with him after the ordeal with the Master. No, Jack certainly hadn't dreamed of staying by the Doctor's side forever. Still, he had expected to remain the Doctor's companion for longer than a mere month.
"Here we are again," Jack murmured to himself and was reminded by a cold breeze that he was only wearing his boots and nothing else. Maybe, he should rethink his habits of sleeping in the nude. Not that pyjamas would have given him much protection against the stiff breeze from the sea but there were certainly less planets where a human would be arrested for wearing pyjamas than ones where running around nude could get you sentenced to death. Thankfully, it looked like dawn was just around the corner and no one was on the beach at that time of the night cycle on this planet. Where and whenever it was. It certainly wasn't earth, not with four moons circling the planet and at least one sun set about to rise.
Jack had just slipped on his jeans when something niggled at the back of his mind.
Four moons. One sun. And a beach. Trepidation settled low in his stomach even while he prayed that he was wrong about where he was. Or at the very least that it was earlier in the planet's timeline. It would mean no spaceport and having to wait for a few decades until Jack would be able to get his hands on the necessary equipment to repair his Vortex manipulator but that would be preferable to... Of course, he never was lucky.
Jack swallowed hard at the sight of the majestic tower that rose over the roofs of all the houses in the city which was just a few miles up the hill from the beach.
No! God, no!
Jack barely managed to clamp down on the pathetic whimper that was threatening to slip from his lips. Of all the places in space and time the Doctor could have abandoned him it had to be Paris III. Which also wouldn't have been so terrible if the Doctor had thrown him out some time before the tower - which only reminded of the famous Eiffel Tower in name - had been finished. But the tower had been finished and from the looks of it even the opening ceremony lay in the past. The opening ceremony which Jack remembered all too well although it had been about 200 years for him since then. He had been there on Time Agency business and while he had completed the mission without troubles he had overdone the partying afterwards. And how should he have known that dancing with men and women at once was punishable on this planet. Punishable by death even. Of course, Jack had fled before the torturer could get his hands on him and that had been it... or so he had thought.
Jack slung his arms around his chest and dug his fingernails into his own flesh to prevent himself from losing it completely. Already he could feel the panic rising inside him while memories he had buried inside his mind threatened to rise to surface.
"Shelter," Jack whispered to himself and turned on the spot to look down the length of the beach. There was a formation of large rocks that should allow him to hide for some time. Not that he expected many people to venture to the beach when it was so close to their winter and the temperatures were dropping each day, but Jack didn't want to take any risks. Not here and now when he knew exactly what would happen if someone found him.
Jack huddled between the rocks which thankfully surrounded him on three sides and sheltered him from the cold breeze. Not that it would help for long but it would have to do until he could think of something else. Although he didn't have the first clue what that would be.
Jack drew his legs up against his body and slung his arms around them. It didn't only provide a certain amount of warmth but also at least a little comfort. Not that there was much that could comfort him after he had been abandoned by the Doctor... again. Jack tried to nudge the anger at the thought to the forefront of his mind but failed miserably as cold fear crept up inside him instead. Paris III was well known for torturing people that were sentenced to death in this part of the solar system. Which wouldn't be all too bad - from Jack's point of view - if they didn't also like to display the bodies of the deceased in the middle of the city. Obviously they had mixed up the history of the original Paris on Earth a little if they believed that it had been normal to hang people from street lamps.
A shaken sound escaped Jack's lips. If they would simply kill him after capturing him, he would have already ventured into the city to get it over with. Even a round of torture wouldn't have stopped him from going ahead with it but... If they realised that they couldn't kill him. If he came back to life in the middle of the city then it wouldn't end so easily for him. Humans were curious after all. They would try to figure out what was wrong with him. Something that would mean getting killed over and over again for him. They would stick to the usual methods first but then... they would get creative.
Jack shuddered and pressed himself closer against the cold stone. It wouldn't be the first time that someone experimented on him. Hell, it wouldn't even be the first time that he was tortured and killed just for the fun of it but... usually he managed to go a few decades between torture sessions before the universe decided to make his life hell again. Going only one month without getting tortured sounded like a new record even for Jack. Especially after he had been tortured on a daily base for a whole year.
Unbidden the Master's grinning face floated before Jack's eyes and although he knew that it was only a projection of his tired mind, he couldn't help but flinch back against the rocks. The sharp pain that bloomed between his shoulder blades at the impact did nothing to help him stay in the present. Instead it sent him right back to the time when he had been the favourite toy of the crazy Time Lord.
"Does it hurt?"
Jack would have laughed at the stupid question if he wasn't too busy keeping himself from screaming out loud. Of course it hurt to get beaten with hot iron rods. Jack doubted that there was even on being in the whole universe that wouldn't be in extreme pain after hours of this torture. Because it must have been hours considering that the Master had remarked a few times on how some of the burns had started to close already. Of course, he had only mentioned it to the guards so that they would hit these spots again. It was a never ending circle of hot flashing pain and flesh that knit itself back together. Jack had wished often that his body wouldn't heal itself so fast. If it weren't for his fast healing he would have died already. And while this wouldn't mark the end of his ordeal he would have at least woken up to no pain. No matter how short lived that relief would have been.
"You know," the Master circled him until he came to stand directly in front of Jack, "It's disgusting how fast you heal."
Jack forced himself not to react in any way as the Master trailed a healed burn with his finger. "Your whole existence is against every natural law."
"Just like the paradox you have willingly created, you mean?"
Jack didn't even flinch at the slap to his face. The little sting was nothing in comparison to the pain that was setting the nerve endings of his whole body on fire.
"Don't you dare to compare me or anything I do to yourself, Freak!" The Master's face was a hateful grimace when he grabbed Jack's chin to force him to meet his eyes. "I am a descent of the mightiest species of the whole universe. You're nothing but an abnormality. Something that shouldn't exist. Looking at you makes a Time Lord want to retch."
Against his will Jack flinched at the words and at how similar they sounded to what the Doctor had thrown at him before they had boarded the Valiant. Of course, the Master noticed and the grin on his face became even wider.
"You are thinking of him aren't you?" An ugly laugh echoed through the room that even made the guards shift nervously. "I can assure you that the Doctor sees it just like I do. It might even bother him more seeing as he always wants everything to be right. Oh, but you knew that already!"
Jack didn't know what had given him away but it also didn't matter when the Master clapped his hands gleefully together. "That's just perfect!" The Master brought his face closer to Jack's until he could feel his hot breath on his skin. It made him want to retch. "You know that he can't stand to be around you and yet you still follow him around like a good pet. I always knew that you humans were stupid but I never thought that even you lot could sink so low. Well, we live and learn, right?!"
Jack did the only thing he could in this situation, he spit in the Master's face. The look of disgust and outrage was worth the surging pain when a rod of hot iron was driven into him. Jack felt his body shutting down but before the well-known arms of death could embrace him the Master delivered one final blow. "He will never want you. Never."
Then his world went black.
Jack gasped for breath when he pulled free of the memory. Here he had thought he had left the year on the Valiant behind him but obviously he had been wrong. The Master's words - his cruel taunts and biting remarks - still haunted him just as much as the torture he had suffered at his hands. It had been easy to leave it all behind while at the board of the TARDIS and around the Doctor but now... Now, Jack was alone again. And worst of all, the Master's words had been proven right. The Doctor had left him. Thrown him out on a planet that promised torture and numerous deaths to Jack.
His eyes burned when he leaned his head back against the rock and blinked up towards the rising sun. He wanted to believe that the Doctor hadn't known about Jack's fate when he had chosen this planet to get rid of him but doubts were creeping up on him. Maybe this was the Doctor's way of punishing him for his existence. Or maybe the TARDIS had chosen this destination specifically for him seeing as she hadn't wanted him to touch her anymore.
Jack stroked a finger over the still sore flesh on his hand. The worst of the burn had already healed and the next time he died even the scar would be gone. Nothing to remind him of this day then except his memories.
And he would die sooner or later on this planet, Jack was certain of it. If he ventured into the city someone was sure to recognize and arrest him. Some time ago he would have still risked it on the off chance to escape via the spaceport undetected. But now even the threat of more torture made him break out into a cold sweat. There was no way he would go through endless days of pain again so soon after finally regaining his freedom. That though left him with only a few choices. He could stay on the beach and die of the cold over and over again until the winter was over. Then he might get lucky enough to sneak on board of a private spaceship of some tourist who landed directly on the beach. There was also the option of heading inland to find shelter in one of the forests that surrounded the capital of Paris III.
Jack didn't allow himself the illusion that the last option wouldn't also cause him to die a few times. There wasn't just wildlife out there that could kill him and poisonous plants but the cold was also a factor to consider. At least though he wouldn't dehydrate in the forest.
Jack licked his dry lips but otherwise didn't move. Too dangerous to travel during the day when other people could be about as well. This was how he justified his decision to stay at the beach for another day. Nevermind that Jack was much too self-aware to believe his own excuses. He knew that deep down, he was still hoping for the Doctor to come back for him and if he didn't... what use was there in ever getting up again?!
Jack groaned and whimpered a second later when his lips split at the movement. The taste of blood filled his mouth and only the very real sensation of the hard rock in his back kept him anchored in the present. With an effort Jack managed to peel open his eyelids which were encrusted by sand and salt. His vision remained blurry even as he tried to focus on the setting sun.
"Not long now," he whispered into the cold sea breeze just to hear something besides the clashing of the waves and the crying of the birds. He couldn't say for sure how long it had been since he had been abandoned on the beach. The first couple of days he had fooled himself thinking that he would get up soon to find a way out of his predicament. Only when his body had been too weak for him to even entertain climbing up the dunes to the main street had Jack admitted to himself that leaving had never been an option. He was so tired of always having to find new ways to get out of trouble. And for once there was also nothing to motivate him to still give it a try. His team was safe in Cardiff. Humanity didn't need saving and the Doctor... The Doctor didn't want him.
So nothing out there to keep him going. Nothing besides the energy that ran through his body and would never allow him to die. At least not without bringing him back to life again. But at least for some time Jack would be granted respite from his bleak existence and then... Maybe after his revival he would feel strong enough again to move. Spending a whole winter freezing to death and awakening again was only marginally better than being tortured to death after all. Yes, Jack thought as he closed his eyes against the too bright sunlight again. He would think of something better to do with eternity than sitting uselessly on a beach in his next life.
A well-known sound echoed over the beach and Jack's lips twitched upwards even as he slumped back against the rocks. A trick of his mind for sure but he was grateful for the hope that the sound of the TARDIS materializing gave him even in the hour of his death. Then the world turned dark.
Wakening up was like fighting his way back to the surface through muddy water. Jack groaned weakly when pain shot through his head when he tried to move it. Great, what were the perks of dying when you didn't feel better afterwards?!
Slowly he opened his eyes and squeezed them shut again when he was assaulted by a bright light. Artificial light, he realised the same second he noticed that something was covering his body. A thin but warm blanket judging by the feeling of the fabric against his naked body.
Jack gulped down a breath and forced himself to lie completely still even as shivers ran up and down his body. Artificial light, a warm blanket and no clothes could only mean that he was at a hospital. No one in their right mind would cover a corpse with a heating blanket after all therefore Jack couldn't be in a morgue.
But when had he been brought to a hospital? Jack frowned slightly but didn't move any other muscle. No need to alert anyone to his returned state of consciousness before it was absolutely necessary. Had someone found him right before he had died and brought him to the hospital? It seemed to be the only logical explanation seeing how he still felt sluggish and exhausted. If he had died, Jack would have had completely recovered from his stunt at the beach. As it was he doubted that he could outrun any guards that would soon be alerted to his presence. Maybe if he fought and they killed him at the hospital, they would bring him to the morgue and give him a chance to escape when he woke up again. It was certainly worth a shot.
Slowly Jack moved his legs and then his arms to make sure that he wasn't restrained before he tried to sit up. Tried was the important part since he only managed to push himself partially up before his head started to spin and he was forced to lay back with a pained groan. Fuck, he was too weak to even pretend to fight for his life.
"Ah, I see you are awake!"
Jack jerked into a sitting position at the voice and regretted it a second later when he barely managed to lean over the side of the bed as nausea made him retch.
"Easy." A cold hand rubbed his back soothingly. A hand much too cold to belong to a human. Jack's heart stuttered in his chest as hope welled up within him even while he heaved up more bile. His throat and eyes were burning but somehow he still managed to get both to work. The interior of the TARDIS' med bay came into focus and his voice cracked the one word he hadn't believed he would ever voice in this context again: "Doctor?"
"In the flesh."
Brown pinstripes came into focus when the Doctor stepped around the bed to stand in Jack's line of vision. Unbidden tears welled up in Jack's eyes at seeing the familiar face again. He reached out with one hand to make sure that his mind wasn't simply playing a trick on him but let it fall back down to the bed before he could make contact with the Doctor. If his mere presence had the Doctor abandon him on a beach Jack didn't want to even imagine what reaction his touch would provoke.
"You surprised me, Jack and not many can claim that for themselves." The Doctor's voice sounded worried even while he tried to give it an amusement lilt. "I didn't expect to find you on the brink of death after only four days."
Four days. Jack blinked up at the Doctor who was busy changing his IV bag. "Could've let me die."
He almost rolled his eyes at how the Doctor flinched at his words. Really, it wasn't like he would stay dead forever or even for long. Actually, it was rather hypocritical of the Doctor to pretend that Jack's death mattered to him when he had used his immortality as a tool before.
"Letting you die wasn't an option."
Jack snorted and groaned in pain when his throat throbbed painfully at the abuse.
"Right, water!" A bustle of activity and then a straw was pressed against Jack's lips. The first drop of lukewarm water felt heavenly as it run down his throat and Jack took another one greedily.
"Slowly or you will make yourself sick." The straw was moved away from his lips and Jack glared at the Doctor. "Why'd you care?" Speaking still felt like swallowing needles but Jack would be damned if he let that stop him. "Not like you cared when you abandoned me on that beach."
"I didn't...." The Doctor bristled angrily above him. "How should I know that you stupid ape wouldn't manage to make your way into the city?!" The Doctor slammed the glass down on the nightstand with enough force to rattle it. "It wasn't like anyone was forcing you to stay on the beach and die of dehydration and pneumonia. I already cured you of the latter by the way if you want to thank me."
Laughing hurt even worse than speaking but Jack simply couldn't hold back the ugly sound. "Thanking you?! For leaving me on a planet with a death warrant for me, I think not!" Jack glared angrily at the Doctor, daring him to make light of it but frowned slightly when he noticed the ashen colour of his face right before the Doctor slumped into the chair next to his bed.
"Death warrant? On Paris III?!" There was a tremor in his voice as he stared at Jack with wide, panicked eyes. Something inside Jack was soothed at the distraught look of the Doctor. It helped to know that he hadn't been completely wrong about the Time Lord. He might have thrown Jack out but he hadn't wanted any harm to befall him. This was something at least.
"I am sorry, Jack." Warm, brown eyes filled with sorrow and guilt met his own and Jack was torn between wanting to reach out to the Doctor and the urge to slap him. In the end he didn't move at all but only watched the Doctor warily when he reached for his hand. "So sorry. It must have been horrible for you."
"Better than being tortured."
The Doctor flinched visible at the words but Jack couldn't find it in him to feel guilty about it. Though the Doctor hadn't wanted any physical harm to come to Jack, he had still abandoned him on that planet in the first place. If Jack had survived four days without food or water in the cold then the Doctor could handle a few truths however painful they were for him.
"I am so sorry." Cold fingers started to rub soothing circles on Jack's hand right above the scar that the TARDIS' painful zap had left behind. "She is sorry as well."
A low hum that sounded like an apology echoed through the room before soothing warmth engulfed Jack. He smiled tiredly up at the ceiling of the med bay and then turned his head to meet the Doctor's eyes. "It's alright." It wasn't but what else could he say. "Neither of you can stand to be around me after all." He squeezed his eyes shut and took a shuddering breath before looking at the Doctor again with a false smile on his lips. "Just take me back to Cardiff and I won't bother you again. And some more time for packing would be nice. Not that I mind being naked around the right people but..."
Jack gaped when his rambling was interrupted by a soft pair of lips on his. It took his mind a second to make the right connections and come to the conclusion that the Doctor was in fact kissing him. When the realisation finally hit, Jack moved his head away and pushed against the Doctor's chest. "What the fuck do you think you are doing?"
"Language," the Doctor remarked with a wry smirk and leaned back in his chair while still holding on to Jack's hand, "This just seemed like the best way to shut you up."
"If you didn't want to listen to me, you only had to leave me on Paris III. I forgot to ask, why did you even come back for me?" Jack looked searchingly at the Doctor who somehow managed to pale and blush at the same time.
"I never intended to leave you there." The Doctor rubbed his neck nervously. "You see, we didn't manage to remove everything the Master had installed in the TARDIS. I needed to make some more repairs."
Jack frowned. As explanations went this was a poor one. "And I couldn't have helped you?"
The Doctor shook his head. "No, you would only have made it worse."
Jack flinched like he had been slapped. Right, of course, he couldn't be trusted with the wellbeing of the TARDIS. As if he would ever hurt her. The pain at the rebuff must have been written plainly on his face as the Doctor's eyes widened before he grabbed Jack's hand with both of his.
"It's not that I don't trust you, Jack but... she was hurting. The TARDIS was in so much pain that she couldn't think clearly anymore. Think of a soldier who has woken up in field hospital, who is in pain, still running a high fever and his whole mindset is focused on surviving and then multiply that by a thousand. That was how the TARDIS was feeling."
"Okay." Jack frowned at the Doctor while he tried to understand what he was trying to tell him.
The Doctor sighed and when his eyes met Jack's there was a deep sadness mirrored in them. A sadness that only someone who had lived for an extremely long time could understand. "The TARDIS was lashing out at everything that seemed like a threat to her and you..."
"I am wrong," Jack finished the sentence finally seeing where this was going. To his surprise though the Doctor shook his head. "No, not wrong." He lowered his eyes to where his hands clasped Jack's. "I am sorry I said that. Yes, you are unique and the Time Lords would have never allowed you to exist as a fixed point but... you aren't wrong. You just are and if years of training at the Academy hadn't blinded me I would have realised sooner that..."
"What?" Jack squeezed the Doctor's hand to encourage him to carry on. He couldn't leave him hanging like that after the little speech he had just started. It would be immensely cruel even by Jack's standards.
"You were never hurting me," the Doctor continued with an embarrassed smile. "I just needed to get used to your brightness. Just like the TARDIS needed to come to terms with the fact that you exist at all. And she did but," the Doctor sighed quietly and patted the wall closest to him, "When she was hurting she lashed out at the only being that was different from everything else in the universe. She almost throw you out into the Vortex."
The Doctor shuddered and Jack's grip on his hand tightened. While he wouldn't have died permanently from direct exposure to the Vortex, Jack could imagine more pleasurable activities than dying over and over again while drifting through timeless space. "So you landed on the planet that was nearest and threw me out to repair her?"
The Doctor nodded. "Yes and I am so sorry..."
"Stop with the apologies." Jack coughed and accepted some more water from the Doctor before he continued. "I understand why you needed me out but... there was no chance you could have taken five more minutes? Only five minutes to tell me what's going on and to give me the chance to take a few things with me?"
Judging from the contrite look on the Doctor's face, Jack already knew the answer before it was verbalised. "Five minutes would have been manageable but feeling her pain through the telepathic link made me frantic and," the Doctor brought one hand up to run his fingers through Jack's hair reverently. "I was convinced that you would manage just fine on your own. When I came back four days later instead of only a few hours after landing I expected to have to search the whole city for you."
Jack raised an eyebrow at that. "Even without a death warrant hanging over my head, where should I have gone with only a pair of boots and my jeans?"
"You are inventive. I was positive that you had charmed your way into a warm bed."
An amused chuckle sounded from Jack and his lips twitched upwards into a grin. "That's how you see me then." He winked teasingly at the Doctor.
"What?! No, I just..."
"It's fine, Doc." Jack brought the Doctor's hand up to his lips and pressed a chaste kiss to the knuckles.
"Really?" There was a hopeful look in this ancient eyes that almost broke Jack's heart. "You don't want to go back to Cardiff then?" You don't want to leave me, went unsaid but Jack got the message. He sighed and shook his head slowly. Most of his anger at the abandonment had vanished and although the fear and pain from the last few days would haunt him in his sleep he was certain that he could let go of them in time.
"No, I want to stay with you although," Jack added before the Doctor's bright grin could lead to excited rambling, "I have one condition."
Jack raised an eyebrow at the carte blanche he had just been given. "You really shouldn't go around saying that or I might get the wrong idea." He leered at the Doctor who blushed attractively but didn't avert his gaze. Interesting, Jack filled the information away for later. "Anyway, you have to promise me to never abandon me again. If you tire of me, fine then tell me and I will go but don't just leave me behind again."
Something complicated passed over the Doctor's features that Jack couldn't decipher before they settled on a determined expression. "Never."
"Never what?" Jack looked searchingly at the Doctor.
"I will never tire of you, Captain."
A reply was on the tip of Jack's tongue but it was swallowed by the Doctor's lips when they met Jack's in a tender kiss. To his shame Jack had to admit that it took him a few split seconds before he managed to react and return the kiss. When the mattress dipped under the Doctor's added weight and Jack's fingers were tangled in soft hair, he found that he didn't have a problem with the Doctor's way of sealing a promise. None at all.