"That's it, I have sent us into the Time Vortex for the time being." When no reply followed his announcement, the Doctor looked up from his place at the console to take in the subdued forms of his two companions. Of course, he shouldn't expect the usual, inane chatter after what they had experienced. Not when he himself felt shaken from what they had found on Hasiera.
The Doctor took a deep, calming breath to keep his emotions at bay when the remembered smell of burned wood and iron filled his nostrils. He had wanted to show the beauty of the planet to his companions. By which he hadn't only thought of the deep blue lakes and colourful flower fields. No, he had also wanted to show them the beauty of various races living together peacefully on Hasiera... or so he had believed.
The Doctor clenched his teeth to stop himself from shouting in helpless rage and grief. When they had arrived on the planet, it had already been too late. They had been too late. Too late to protect the Felineares from the people that had decided, that they shouldn't live amongst humans. That they were less human, because of some of their physical features. Apparently, catlike ears, a tail and some heightened senses made enough of a difference to reduce your neighbour to the status of an animal, in some peoples' eyes. Namely in the eyes of the priests, that had fought for more power for years and poisoned the minds of the humans, until they had acted on the hate and prejudices, they had been fed. With the silent assistance of the military and some other institutions, of course.
Bitterness threatened to overwhelm the Doctor, when he recalled the bodies in the streets. Often enough the tails and ears had been cut off, in fits of misguided rage and hatred. He had made sure to destroy the corrupt government and take all power away from the priests, but that hadn't brought the dead back. All the Felineares had been killed, none of them had been spared... or at least that was what the Doctor had believed, until he had met back up with his companions, at the TARDIS. Rose and Jack had insisted on looking for survivors, while he had dealt with the government. They had both been the worse for wear, after hours of searching through the ruins of houses and checking dead bodies for signs of life. And yet they hadn't been as hopeless and furious as the Doctor had been. All thanks to one little miracle.
Relaxing his features into a less dark expression, the Doctor crossed over to his two companions to look at the small bundle in Jack's arms. Pointed ears, covered in black fur, twitched at the Doctor's approach, but the baby didn't wake up. Instead she snuggled even closer against Jack's naked chest, apparently content with being wrapped in his shirt. The lad had found her, hidden in the wardrobe of a destroyed house. She had been the only survivor of all the Felineares, on that planet.
The Doctor pushed the fury, that tried to rise to the surface, at that thought, back down. This was neither the time nor the place to vent his anger. Not when Rose was barely holding herself together and Jack was completely focused on the baby in his arms. Actually, the Doctor was sure that he hadn't looked up from where she was cradled against his chest even once. And to think the Doctor had believed Jack a cold, arrogant con-man, with only his own interests at heart. He was only thankful that Rose had convinced him to save Jack or... no better not to dwell on it.
"What are we doing now?" Rose's voice broke the silence and while she still looked shaken, the Doctor noticed the determined gleam had returned to her eyes. There was also no doubt what she was referring to, since her eyes were trained on the small, sleeping bundle in their friend's arms.
"Take care of her, of course." It was the first time that Jack had spoken, since they had come back to the TARDIS and the Doctor was relieved to hear that his voice was unbroken.
A frown appeared on Rose's face at Jack's words, even as she stepped closer to peer down at their new charge. "I guess that's supposed to be my job then, since I’m the only woman on board, but I'm not sure I know how to look after her. I mean," Rose gnawed at her lower lip. "I have looked after small children before, but never this small. She can't be older than a couple of weeks and I can't..."
"Who said that you should look after her?" Jack shook his head in what appeared to be equal measures of amusement and exasperation. "Being a woman doesn't make you a natural in looking after children, especially when you don't have any experience to fall back on." Jack's brow furrowed slightly. "I guess that idea wasn't widely accepted in your century though."
The Doctor watched Rose visibly relax at Jack's words, although the frown never left her face. "Then who is going to look after her?" The Doctor didn't need to hear the quiet inhale of breath, next to him, to know that Rose had just put her foot in.
"Me of course." The defensive note in Jack's voice stopped the Doctor from pointing out where and when the largest colony of Felineares was located and that they could be there, in a matter of minutes. Instead, he looked more closely at Jack who wore a haunted expression, that resonated with a deeply, hidden part of the Doctor.
"I am perfectly capable of looking after her," Jack defended himself when Rose kept on staring at him in disbelief. "She isn't even that young anymore. She is probably closer to four or five months in age." At that Jack glanced at the Doctor for confirmation, who nodded. "Yes, Felineares' children are smaller than human ones. They go through a growth spurt when they hit puberty, though." The Doctor hesitated for a second, but the desperation that gleamed in Jack's eyes finally made up his mind. "I want to monitor her for a few days on the TARDIS, to make sure she’s fine."
Jack's shoulders slumped at the announcement, but some of the tension still remained. What... Oh yes, of course. "I'm sure you will take good care of her, until we’re sure she is fine, lad." He squeezed Jack's shoulder in encouragement and stroked a finger between the little one's ears, through black fur. Her ears twitched and she pressed her nose closer against Jack's skin.
One look at the lad's face and at his content smile, when he adjusted his grip on the baby girl, assured the Doctor, that he had made the right call. Closing his eyes for a second he sent a request at his ship and was informed, with a telepathic huff, that she had already taken care of it. "The TARDIS has placed a cot into your room, together with other necessities. Seems like she is rather happy about the addition to our crew."
Judging from the happiness, that had finally chased off the haunted look in Jack's eyes, she wasn't the only one. The Doctor ignored the warmth that grew in his chest, at the realisation that he was, at least partly, responsible for Jack's smile. Sometime between saving London during the Blitz and today, he had grown a soft spot for the lad. More than a soft spot, if he was honest with himself, but now wasn't the time to ponder his feelings for one of his companions. He also didn't allow himself to wonder why looking after the little one was so important to Jack. Instead, he gave Jack's shoulder another squeeze before nodding in the direction of the bedrooms. "Better check if you have all you need, to look after her and then the little one might like to lay down for some sleep."
"I will check, right away. Thanks, Doc." Walking more carefully than usual, Jack made it to the doorway, from which a corridor led off to the bedrooms and deeper into the TARDIS and paused. "We should call her Myrna."
Neither Rose nor the Doctor said anything, for some time after that statement, until Jack was out of earshot. It was Rose who then frowned up at the Doctor. "You think Jack..."
"He will do fine, Rose." The Doctor cut her off midsentence. "Don't doubt him." Somehow, he didn't think, that Jack could endure having his friend doubt him. His earlier reaction to Rose's surprise had proven that.
To his utter astonishment, Rose only rolled his eyes at him. "I don't doubt Jack. Sometimes, I simply forget that he comes from three thousand years into my future and that things have changed." She poked her tongue out from between her lips. "Nice to know that gender roles change, too." Her expressive brown eyes flickered into the direction, where Jack had vanished. "I trust Jack to look after her - Myrna - but he shouldn't have to do it, all by himself."
"No, he really shouldn't and thankfully, on board of the TARDIS, he doesn't have to." When Rose beamed up at him, the Doctor pushed all thoughts of how hard it would be to give the baby back to her people, after Jack had named her, out of his mind. He hugged Rose instead and allowed himself to believe, that everything would turn out just find, when she smiled up at him.
A couple of hours and a shower for each of them - in the Doctor's case after several rounds with the punching bag - later, Rose and the Doctor were on their way to the movie room. Rose on calling it living-room though, because it was furnished with a comfortable couch, armchairs and a fluffy carpet, in front of the large TV screen. The Doctor hadn't argued with her about it, just like he didn't try to convince her to change her mind about the movie, she wanted to watch. In love with the sun, wasn't the Doctor's first choice of entertainment - nor his second or third one - but he would endure a couple of hours of watching a silly romance.
After stumbling through the ruins of houses and over dead bodies, Rose deserved to be spoiled a little. As did Jack, the Doctor realised with a pang of guilt. He hadn't checked in on the lad, since he had left for his room with Myrna. Then again, the TARDIS had assured him that he was alright. Nevertheless, once Rose was settled on the couch, he would check on Jack and ask him to join them. This decision made, the Doctor entered the movie room together with Rose and... froze.
Apparently, Jack wouldn't need an invitation to join them for a movie, since he was already seated on the couch. His presence wasn't what surprised the Doctor though, nor was it the reason for Rose's quiet gasp. No, this could all be attributed to Myrna - now clad in a yellow romper suit - who was cradled in the crook of Jack's arm, with her head turned towards his chest and her lips attached to his right nipple. The Doctor didn't need to hear the quiet smacking sounds, to know that she was just enjoying a tasty meal. It was obvious - to him at least - from the way she shifted minutely in Jack's arms. And if that hadn't been proof enough, the content smile on Jack's face, as he stroked her fur, would have given it away, for sure.
The sudden urge, to sit down next to Jack and hold him close, while he breastfed a baby, that wasn't related to him in any way, almost overwhelmed the Doctor. It hadn't taken him long to realise, that there was more to Jack than met the eye, at first glance. He was so much more than just a pretty face, with questionable talents. Only now though, the Doctor realised that he had still underestimated Jack. Or not him directly, but his ability to love.
The Doctor took a step towards Jack, who was still completely focused on Myrna, when he noticed Rose opening her mouth, from the corner of his eyes and turned slightly, to squeeze her shoulder in warning. The movement was enough to draw Jack's attention. He glanced up at them both, with a small smile, not the least bit embarrassed, about being found with Myrna attached to his nipple. "She didn't like the formula, the TARDIS provided."
The Doctor nodded in understanding. He still itched to go over to the couch, but he was aware of the questioning look Rose was directing at him and he knew he needed to explain to her, what she was seeing. Breastfeeding men were very rare in the 21th century, if the Doctor recalled correctly and he didn't want her questions to make Jack doubt himself. Somehow, he felt like this would be a likely outcome, no matter how self-assured the lad usually was.
"Think we need some drinks," the Doctor announced easily. "Anything for you, lad?"
"Wouldn't say no to Rose's famous hot chocolate."
"One special hot chocolate, got it." Rose beamed at Jack and then took the Doctor's hand, to head him towards the kitchen. The Doctor was only glad, that she always picked up on his motives so fast.
"So," Rose started, while she rummaged through the kitchen, for a large pot and the ingredients for her hot chocolate. Apparently, they would all get a helping of it. Not that the Doctor was complaining, although he would never admit how much he enjoyed Rose's creation. "How is it possible for Jack..." A faint blush rose to her cheeks, as she gestured towards her own chest.
"51th century biology." The Doctor leaned back against the kitchen counter, but at Rose's arched eyebrow realised that he had to elaborate some more. "When humans started to branch out into the universe and after they gained the necessary technology, they started to modify the human body. Improving the immune system was extremely important, but also to make sure, that men could breastfeed children - and even carry them - to heighten the chances of survival, for the human race. Theoretically speaking, the potential to breastfeed a child was always there. but some modifications made it possible for almost everyone."
Rose nodded slowly and stirred the pot, with the melted chocolate and her special ingredients. "Okay, but that still doesn't explain why," she scrunched up her nose in thought and started again, "Sometimes women can't even breastfeed, after giving birth, so even if it's as easy for men in Jack's century to breastfeed as it is for women, in my century, that still doesn't make it easy at all."
The Doctor shrugged. "Not exactly sure, to be honest. Maybe the close proximity to a baby is enough to trigger the release of the necessary hormones for milk production."
Rose seemed to mull that over for a bit and gave the chocolate a final steer. "Okay," she gestured for the Doctor, to distribute the hot chocolate amongst three mugs and went to the fridge. "If Jack keeps breastfeeding her, he needs to eat something as well."
The Doctor allowed his admiration for Rose to show in his eyes, while she prepared some sandwiches for their friend. He was truly blessed with his human companions and now more than ever, he was certain that they would do just fine.
"Wonder when Jack gets here." The Doctor glanced up from his crouched position, in front of the console, to where Rose was sitting on the railing, with her feet dangling in the air. She was dressed for a day inside, which meant sweatpants, a jumper and only a fraction of the make-up, she usually wore. Reasonable, since the Doctor didn't fancy to take them anywhere today, after what they had experienced yesterday. He was just about to suggest to her, to take a swim at the pool, instead of watching him tinker with the TARDIS, when Jack made an appearance. He was wearing a pair of jeans, but nothing to cover his chest. Usually, the Doctor would have ordered him to put a shirt on, but seeing as he was carrying Myrna, in a sling, he refrained from making a comment. Babies tended to enjoy close body contact and judging from the way Myrna was fussing, she would have been even more upset, if she had been denied the skin contact.
"Jack," Rose jumped from the railing and retrieved a steaming mug from somewhere, when he sat down heavily in the jump seat. "You look tired," she added when she handed the mug to him.
Tired was an understatement, if the Doctor had ever heard one. Jack looked like he hadn't slept in days. His usually perfectly styled hair was a mess and there were dark circles under his eyes. Somehow, he still managed a genuine smile. when he accepted the mug from Rose. A smile that grew even brighter at Rose's next words. "It's decaf. I read you shouldn't drink real coffee, when you breastfeed."
"Thank you, Rose." Jack took a huge swallow from the mug. “Although I would have loved something to keep me awake."
"That bad, huh?"
"She fussed for hours." Jack leaned forward to kiss the dark head of fur. "Only slept when I put her on my chest and then only for a couple of hours."
The Doctor leaned back against the console and watched Rose lean over Jack's shoulder to coo at Myrna. The sight twisted something inside him. It wasn't just the easy friendship between his two companions, but also how right they looked together like this. Two humans, with a baby - never mind the twitching cat ears - it looked like something that was supposed to be. Maybe, it would become a reality, one day. There was no doubt that Rose and Jack liked each other, after all. The Doctor grabbed the console for support to suppress the urge to march over to them and insert himself between them. There was no good reason for him to sling his arm across Jack's shoulders and tickle the baby's nose. None.
"Oh God, look!" Rose exclaimed in awe. "She has opened her eyes. They are golden." Rose was draped over Jack's left side, as she peered down in Myrna's face. "She is so beautiful. Doctor, look!"
Two pairs of joyful eyes - if one a bit tired - looked expectantly at him and he almost went over to coo at Myrna, as well. Almost. Instead, he crossed his arms over his chest and scowled. "Don't get too attached, we will give her away soon."
The words had barely left his mouth, when he regretted them already. Instantly, all the joy drained from Jack's face, only to be replaced by a look that could only be described as heartbroken. His arms came up around Myrna, as if afraid the Doctor would take her from him, right then and there and she wailed in protest.
"I think she needs a change," Jack slipped down from the jump seat and all but fled the room.
The Doctor didn't have much time to reflect on what had just happened, when Rose stepped up in front of him. With the glare on her face and her hands on her hips, she resembled Jackie Tyler greatly, although the Doctor refrained from pointing that out to her. "Was that really necessary?"
No, it hadn't been necessary, it had been cruel. The Doctor could admit as much to himself, if not to Rose, because then he would have to explain to her, why he had acted like this. And there was no way, that he was going to admit to her that he - the last of the Time Lords - had been jealous of her closeness to Jack. No way.
"It's only the truth." He shrugged, as if bored by the conversation. "Better to remind Jack of it, before it's too late."
For a second the Doctor expected to become the recipient of one of the infamous Tyler slaps, as Rose's hand twitched at her side. When her glare turned icy instead and she turned away from him, he even wished for it. Everything was better than Rose's cold distain, especially when it was warranted.
"I will be with Jack and see if he needs any help." With that she stormed from the room and after her friend, leaving the Doctor alone in the console room.
He was aware that he only needed to follow after them and apologize, but he stayed put. The TARDIS delivered the punishment for his cowardice, in the form of a zap. "You too, girl?" The question only earned him another zap and the telepathic equivalent of an angry huff. If there had been any doubt left, that the TARDIS was completely enamoured by her youngest member, it would have been dispelled, now.
"Alright, I will apologize." And he would, as soon as he had come to terms with his own feelings.
Even after living for 900 years, there were still some areas in which he was lacking, the Doctor reflected, while he stared off at the ceiling of the TARDIS. Apologizing was certainly one of them. No matter how often he had sworn to himself to apologize for his harsh words to Jack, he still hadn't managed it. First, he had led a few hours pass, to give them all a chance to calm down, but when he had reached Jack's room and heard the soft murmur of his companions' voices, he hadn't dared to interrupt. Instead he had buried his nose in a book, in the library and when he had next seen Jack and Rose, the tension had been so high, that he had hid away in one of the storage rooms.
Days had passed, since then and the atmosphere on board of the TARDIS could be described as awkward, at best. Rose only spoke to him, when absolutely necessary and glowered at him over the breakfast table and Jack...
The Doctor sighed. Jack was doing his best to avoid him. Tiptoeing around him, like that would make the Doctor forget about Myrna and prevent him from taking her away. He was damn sure, that the TARDIS was helping him to avoid crossing his path, although she had led him into the Garden Room today, while Jack had been there as well. It had been a broad hint to finally apologize to the lad, while they were both in a nice setting, but again the Doctor had hesitated. Not least, because of the scene that had enfolded right before his eyes.
"You like it out here, huh?"
The Doctor leaned against the trunk of a tree, his eyes fixed on the two figures farther inside the room, in the grass. Jack was lying on his stomach, his chin propped up by his hands and watched Myrna with a smile on his face, while the little girl was playing in the grass. At least if you could call crawling around and sometimes jumping a little, playing. Her tail swung from left to right, where it protruded from her romper suit and her ears twitched, whenever Jack spoke with her.
"Someday I will take you to a beach." Jack inched closer to Myrna, until they were nose to nose. "Lots of sand to play in, would you like that?"
Something like a giggle sounded from Myrna and the Doctor could only imagine the smile on Jack's face. He continued to watch, as Jack reached for Myrna and turned onto his back, while holding her above him, before setting her on his chest and cuddling her close. The Doctor couldn't hear, what Jack whispered to her before pressing a kiss to her forehead. It still made something incredible clear to him. There was no way he could take Myrna away from Jack, without breaking the lad’s heart. And yet, he still didn't know how to speak with Jack about it.
"I know you are angry at me, for letting the opportunity pass me by." The TARDIS brushed his words off and the Doctor sighed. So much for tinkering with the console. He would have blisters on his hands from the TARDIS' zaps, if he tried to touch her, when no repairs were necessary.
Rose and Jack had gone to bed hours ago, so he shouldn't expect to see them anytime soon. They both were more tired, these days, since they had started to take turns watching over Myrna, so that none of them had to go completely without sleep. Still, even though Rose had now been trained on how to change Myrna's diapers and how to sing her to sleep, most of the work still fell to Jack. Not only because he was still breastfeeding her, but also because he was Myrna's favourite. She would tolerate Rose, for a couple of hours, but then soon start to fuss and scream, until Jack took her in his arms. The Doctor only wondered how badly she would react, if he were to hold her. He would find out tomorrow, he decided with newly found determination. Tomorrow, after he had apologized and assured Jack that she could stay, he would carry her around the TARDIS, for a bit. If she let him.
The Doctor was so busy planning for every possible outcome of this endeavour, that Jack took him by surprise, when he suddenly burst into the console room.
"Doc!" There was helpless panic in his eyes, as he cradled Myrna to his chest. "It's Myrna. She has a fever."
The Doctor was across the room and at Jack's side in seconds. The lad had forgone the sling and was holding Myrna against him, with both arms around her. His breathing was erratic and the Doctor was certain that he would have been close to tears, if he weren't staying strong for the little one.
The Doctor peered down at Myrna, who was whimpering against Jack's chest. Her ears were folded forwards in misery and her tail was hanging down loosely. Most telling though were the red blotches on her cheeks and when the Doctor touched her forehead, she was definitely warm to the touch. Warmer than she should be.
"Med-bay, now!" He didn't need to tell Jack twice, who fell in step with him, as they hurried to the med-bay, which the TARDIS had placed closest to the console room.
Carefully, Jack sat down on one of the beds and turned Myrna around, until she was sitting on his thigh with her back against his chest. "It will be alright, sweetheart." The Doctor couldn't help but hear Jack whisper, while he calibrated the medical scanner. "You will be fine. The Doctor will make sure of it, I promise."
The Doctor's hearts clenched painfully at the words. Not only at how much Jack still trusted him, after how he had acted towards him, but also at how helpless he sounded. He didn't want to find out what it would do to Jack, if Myrna turned out to be seriously ill. Pushing the dark thoughts aside for the time being, the Doctor ran the scan and relaxed right away.
"What's wrong with her?" Anxious blue eyes looked up at him and the Doctor felt the sudden urge to take Jack into his arms. Instead he stroked Myrna's head. "Nothing. She is just teething. Felineares get their teeth a little earlier than humans do."
"Oh, thank God!" Jack's whole body sagged in relief, before he pressed a kiss to Myrna's hair. When he looked up again, his eyes were glistening with tears. "I thought... I thought I had failed her, too."
Unsure of what to say to that cryptic statement or if a reply was even welcome, the Doctor busied himself with retrieving a teether and some soothing ointment from TARDIS' cabinets. "Here," he held the items out for Jack to take, "This should help."
"Thanks." Jack took the items and got to his feet, but didn't move farther. The haunted look, the Doctor had seen before, was back in his eyes and it made him look older and younger, at the same time.
This time the Doctor gave into the impulse to hug Jack close, with one arm and when that made Jack look even more forlorn, he suddenly knew what to do. Or at least, he hoped that he knew what he was doing, when he steered Jack towards his own bedroom.
Jack didn't protest and only hesitated briefly, before he sat down on the bed next to the Doctor. Silence settled between them, as Jack applied the ointment and gave the teether to Myrna. The Doctor suspected the TARDIS behind the speed with which Myrna fell asleep in Jack's arms, afterwards. Or maybe she had simply been too exhausted to keep awake any longer, after her pain had been soothed.
The Doctor kicked off his boots, to have something to do, all the while contemplating how to start a conversation with Jack. In the end his friend took the decision from him, although his words were barely above a whisper as he started to speak.
"I had a child once. He was born prematurely. Usually not a problem in my century, but... He died when he was only seven months old." Unshed tears glistened in Jack's eyes and his lip wobbled dangerously.
"Oh Jack." The Doctor hugged him gently and when Jack didn't push him off, manoeuvred them around, until he was leaning back against the headboard, with Jack sitting between his legs and leaning back against his chest. Myrna was securely snuggled up against Jack. Her tail lightly curled around his wrist. The Doctor waited, until Jack had relaxed completely back against him, before he dared asking. "How old were you?"
"Fifteen, I had just joined the Time Agency - lied about my age to get accepted - and then I fell in love or rather," Jack inhaled deeply and old pain coloured his next words, "I thought I was in love. For him, I was nothing more than an affair and when I got pregnant..."
Jack's voice broke and the Doctor had to control his breathing, so as not to inhale sharply at the revelation. After Jack's first admission of having been a father before, he had somehow believed that Jack had sired the child. To learn, that he had also had to go through the traumatic experience of carrying a child to term, at such an young age, made the situation even worse. Not that Jack wouldn't have had access to an abortion, if he had wanted one, but that was besides the point. Just like it didn't matter, why Jack had got pregnant without wanting to. Contraceptives, even the ones in the 51th century, weren't 100% effective. If you added an uterine transplant and the Time Agency's tendency, to meddle with their agents’ body chemistry, into the mix, it was a wonder that there were only so little unplanned pregnancies, in that time.
"I am sorry, lad." There wasn't much the Doctor could offer in the way of comfort, expect to hold Jack close and stroke his arm gently. Thankfully, it seemed to be enough for Jack to find his voice again and keep talking: “The Agency paid for my leave. They actually have lots of resources, for agents with children... probably because few are stupid enough to get children, in this line of work. Especially, when they didn't have a partner - or partners - to help them." Jack gave a quiet, bitter laugh. "He left me, of course. Paid me to keep quiet about his role in all that."
The Doctor barely managed to suppress the bubbling anger, that was only seconds away from boiling over. The thought of getting the name of Jack's ex-lover and pay him a very unpleasant visit, was tempting, but the Doctor dismissed it, before he could ask for the name of the man. Jack didn't need his anger, but his support. He only hoped that he wouldn't muck this up.
"What about your family?" Certainly someone...
"Dead." A shudder ran through Jack's body and he took a deep breath, before he hoarsely continued. "No real friends either. I still thought I could do it, take care of my son... his name was Carwyn."
Jack breathed erratically and the Doctor couldn't do anything, but hold him as his friend's chest constricted, with pain and grief. He almost told Jack, that there was no need to tell him his story, but the Doctor knew that Jack had to get it out in the open. Knowing the lad, he had never shared his pain with anyone before, but hidden it away to let it fester. Myrna's arrival had reopened old wounds, which was likely to be better, in the long run. So the Doctor had to make do with holding Jack and murmuring calmingly into his ear, until the body in his arms stopped shaking.
"Sorry," Jack wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and leaned more heavily and exhausted against the Doctor.
"Never apologize for being in pain, lad."
Jack didn't comment on that but continued where he had stopped before. Apparently just pushing the words out now, to get it all over with. "I thought I could raise Carwyn on my own and it worked... until he got sick. I went to the hospital, but they couldn't help him. It was one of the few rare disease, that they couldn't cure. The doctors couldn't do anything and," Jack hesitated, "they made it clear, that they weren't surprised that this had happened to Carwyn. No one was. Apparently, no one believed me capable of taking care of my own son, from the beginning." Jack took a shuddering breath and stroked Myrna's back. The baby's tail twitched, but she didn't wake and only rubbed her cheek against Jack's chest. "She isn't a replacement," Jack whispered quietly. "When I look at her, I don't see Carwyn, but... when I found her I simply couldn't... I can't give her away."
Jack's whole body tensed after the admission and the Doctor didn't have to be a genius, to figure out the reason behind the lad's unease. It was his own fault, that Jack was afraid that he would take Myrna away from him, after his careless words. It was about time that he made things right. Closing his arms completely around Jack and Myrna - with one hand resting on the little ones back and the other one covering Jack's own - the Doctor tried to convey a sense of security for them both. While Myrna snuffled softly, Jack remained tense and the Doctor sighed quietly.
"I won't make you give her away. It's obvious how much she means to you and that she feels safe with you." The Doctor squeezed Jack's hand reassuringly. "I know what it feels like to lose a child." It was surprisingly easy to share part of his own pain with Jack. "My children and grandchildren, they all died when I destroyed Gallifrey." Pain and grief tore at his hearts, but the Doctor pushed it back into a dark corner of his mind, where it belonged. He had become good at it by now. "I will always have to live with the guilt for what I did."
"Same as me, then."
"No," the Doctor shook his head vehemently and grabbed Jack's chin to force him to look at him. "It wasn't your fault. If anyone is to fault, it's everyone who didn't help you."
Haunted blue eyes met his for a split second, before Jack glanced away again and the Doctor knew that he didn't believe him. Not yet at least, but he would be damned if he allowed Jack to blame himself for something, that he hadn’t had any control over, for all his life. It would take time but the Doctor was certain, that he could help Jack to work through his pain.
Some time passed in silence and the Doctor started to believe that Jack had fallen asleep, when the lad proved him wrong. "What happens now?"
The Doctor frowned. "I guess you should get some sleep and then..."
"No, with Myrna and I." Jack swallowed with difficulty. "I know we can't stay on the TARDIS." His voice shook. "I don't know, where we should stay. Somewhere where I can register her as my daughter, without too much trouble probably and..."
"Hush," the Doctor impulsively kissed the top of Jack's head. "You are not leaving. Neither one of you."
A jolt went through Jack and he contorted his body, in an attempt to look at the Doctor, without disturbing Myrna. "But a child on the TARDIS..."
The Doctor withstood the temptation to crush Jack against him, until all the fear had vanished from his gaze and he allowed the seed of hope, that was barely concealed in his expression, to bloom. Instead, he grinned as brightly at Jack as he possibly could. "We will manage. It's perfectly safe as long as we are in the Time Vortex and she will let us know if we land somewhere dangerous."
Sceptically, Jack raised an eyebrow. "She has never done that before."
The Doctor smirked. "Oh, but she will now, right my girl?" The hum of the TARDIS became softer and the Doctor felt the equivalent of an eager nod. "She is very fond of the little one. If possible, one of us could stay behind with her or we could simply leave Myrna here. The TARDIS wouldn't allow any harm to come to her."
"What... if we don't come back one day?"
The Doctor inhaled sharply. He didn't want to think about this possibility, but considering their lifestyle, it was a reasonable question. "I will create an emergency program." He had already one for each Jack and Rose, after all. "If the worst happens, the TARDIS will bring Myrna to a Felineares company. Depending on how old she is, she will be able to explain the situation herself or a message will be given to them."
"Alright." Jack visibly relaxed at the reassurances. "Thanks, Doctor."
It would be easy to leave it at that, but also cowardly. The Doctor sighed inwardly and moved one hand upwards to card his fingers through dark hair. "I still owe you an apology for how I acted towards you." Jack's eyes widened in wonder which hurt worse than if he had yelled at the Doctor.
"Don't think you have to raise Myrna on your own," the Doctor continued, after a few heartbeats had passed. "I know that Rose helps you with her and I will as well. I'm sorry for not doing it sooner."
The discomfort at having to apologize was diminished by the happy expression the Doctor caught on Jack's face, before the lad ducked his head away. "So, you want to co-parent Myrna with me?"
The Doctor opened his mouth to simply agree, but at a rather impatient, mental shove from the TARDIS, thought better of it. She was right, either now or never. "More than that if you want."
Jack's neck cracked when he snapped his head around, hurriedly to stare at the Doctor over his shoulder. For the first time in ages the Doctor gave into temptation and caught Jack's lips, in a brief but determined kiss.
Jack only stared silently at him in something that looked vaguely like shock and the Doctor's hearts sank. "You don't have to, of course. Nothing changes if you aren't interested." No way he was letting Jack believe, that he had to give something unwillingly in exchange for being allowed to stay with Myrna. "If you are interested though... the offer stands."
Two heartbeats passed and then Jack was kissing him. Lips and tongues moved together in a dance as old as time, until the uncomfortable position forced them apart. "Of course, I want you." One of Jack's trademark smirks curled his lips upwards, only to dim a second later. "But what about Rose?”
"We will tell her tomorrow. She will be fine with it." The Doctor did his best to sound convincing, but even when Jack nodded in agreement, some doubt remained behind in his eyes. No words would banish his fears and so the Doctor didn't add anything else, but simply held Jack safely in his arms, until he gave into his exhaustion and fell asleep. The Doctor stayed awake and kept watch over both Myrna and him. No harm would befall either of them, as long as his hearts were still beating.
"When do you figure she will start walking?" The Doctor followed Jack's gaze to where Myrna was crawling on the grass, a few feet from where they were sitting. She was certainly doing her best to push herself up, but had yet to succeed on getting to her feet all the way. Her determination to get upright was admirable. "A couple of months I would say. Felineares develop physical skills faster than humans do."
Jack nodded thoughtfully. A faraway look entered his eyes for a second, accompanied by an old pain, before it was replaced by a soft smile. "We will have our hands full then."
The Doctor's hearts skipped a couple of beats at the choice of Jack's words and he leaned forwards, before he could think twice about it. They kept their kiss light, aware that they couldn't get carried away, while watching after Myrna, but they still didn't notice another presence, until an amused cough sounded next to them.
"Rose." They didn't let go of each other, but the Doctor felt Jack tense in his arms. Apparently he expected a drama to unfold.
"So, you apologized then." Brown eyes sparkled with mischief when Rose glanced at the Doctor and sat down cross ledged in front of them. "Guess I don't have to ask if you forgave him."
At Rose's light tone, Jack relaxed and winked at her. "Rather obvious, isn't it?!"
"Yep." Rose's tongue darted out between her lips, when she reached for Myrna to settle her in her lap. "Glad you finally figured it out. And you helped, didn't you?" Rose tickled Myrna's belly and ducked her head to kiss her cheek, which earned her a whimper. "What..."
"She is teething," Jack explained and held out his hands when Myrna started to fuss on Rose's lap. "I will just..."
Rose shook her head. "Nope, I have got her. Poor baby." She stroked Myrna's head, who turned around to hid her face between Rose's breasts. "See, she is fine." Rose gave them both a pointed look and rolled her eyes, when they didn't react to it. Not that the Doctor knew what she expected them to do.
"Men," Rose muttered, but thankfully took mercy on them and elaborated. "Look, I can look after her for some time. You two enjoy some time together, while you can."
Startled, the Doctor met Rose's knowing gaze. They hadn't yet managed to tell her about the decisions they had met last night and yet she already...
"Oh, come on," Rose huffed in exasperation, "We are obviously keeping her. If my Mum could raise me all by herself, Myrna will turn out just fine, with the three of us looking after her. And," Rose added with a smirk, "You two certainly need to explore your new relationship."
"Rose Tyler," Jack jumped to his feet, leaned down to kiss Rose's cheek and winked at her, "You are a marvel!" There was nothing left to add to this assessment and so the Doctor didn't, when he got to his feet and took the hand Jack held out to him.
"We have two hours till she needs feeding," Jack whispered to the Doctor, as he led him through the Garden Room and towards the hallway.
"Always the romantic, Captain." The Doctor kissed the smirk from Jack's lips and only withdrew, when they were both panting.
His eyes took in Jack's tired, but happy eyes before he glanced back over his shoulder at Rose, with Myrna once more. For the first time since the Time War, the Doctor felt something warm and foreign bloom in his chest. Hope, he realised sometime later, when he followed Jack to his bedroom. It was a strange feeling, after he had been without it for so long. It was also right, with so many people he loved on the TARDIS. The Doctor smiled at the thought of Rose and Myrna and then focused his whole attention on Jack, who returned it eagerly.
Between kisses and touches, the Doctor allowed the love for his newfound family to fill his hearts. And when Jack straddled his lap and smiled down at him, he found himself looking forward to what was to come, for the first time in years. There was no way, that a future with Jack in it would be anything, but fantastic.