"Doctor, do you have a moment?" The hesitant question got Jack the attention of both his travelling companions. Rose looked up from the magazine, she was reading while sitting cross-ledged on the jump seat and the Doctor pushed himself out, from underneath the console.
"What have you done this time, lad?" There was a hint of amusement in the Doctor's voice, that softened the impact of the question. Only a few weeks ago, the question would have been accompanied by a deadly glare and at least one threat. Now though, after Jack had got the chance to prove himself, during their adventures, the open hostility of the Doctor had turned into acceptance. When he was feeling especially fancy, Jack even believed that the Doctor had grown fond of him. At least, Rose was convinced that the Doctor secretly enjoyed Jack's company, but Jack hadn't yet been convinced by her reasoning. Nevertheless, he was relatively certain, that it was safe to ask the Doctor the question, that had bugged him since he had come aboard the TARDIS, without getting thrown out.
"Nothing, I merely have a question." The Doctor raised an eyebrow at him, when Jack didn't continue. "Out with it, lad! I can't imagine what you want to ask, that you are so nervous about."
Jack smiled sheepishly at the Doctor's small jibe. It had been much easier to question the Doctor about his anatomy and sexuality than to inquire about, what was on his mind today. Jack only hoped that this time, he would get an answer, instead of a glare and a sharp rebuke.
Squaring his shoulders, Jack took a shaking breath and nodded towards the symbols on the console. "That's Gallifreyan, right?"
The Doctor stiffened and Rose closed her magazine, as she glanced worriedly at Jack. She had warned him, that the Doctor didn't like to talk about his past. Especially not about his home planet, Gallifrey, and that he was a Time Lord. It was for that warning, that Jack had waited until now to talk with the Doctor. Judging from the dark look on the Doctor's face though, it had still been too early, to ask.
"What do you care? It's not like you can learn to read it, not with your tiny ape brains,” the Doctor growled through clenched teeth.
"Doctor!" Rose snapped at the Doctor, who looked chastised for a second before he shrugged.
"Just the truth." At least he didn't sound like he was going to tear Jack's head off, anymore.
Jack took a shaky breath. He knew that he could back paddle and pretend that he had never asked, but he wasn't that much of a coward. "I don't want to learn it." After a second of contemplation, Jack took a step towards the Doctor. "I was just wondering if you could translate something for me."
Before the Doctor could voice any protest, Jack held his forearm out for the Doctor to inspect. There, tattooed in black ink, was his Soulmark. No one knew exactly how they were created, but fact was that every sentient being was born with the name - or names in some cases - of their soulmate on their left arm - or another appendage, in the case of some species. It wasn't unheard of, in Jack's century to have your Soulmark written down in a language, that wasn't native to one’s home planet. Some even had Soulmarks written in a language, that didn't exist in the time, they were born in, although it was rare. Not as rare though, as wearing a Soulmark in a language, that no one recognized. In fact, Jack had never met anyone else, in all the years he had travelled through time and space, that had circular symbols written on their arm. By the time he had come on board of the TARDIS, he had almost given up hope, to ever find his soulmate or to even figure out, what species they belonged to. And then he had seen the writing on the TARDIS' console and he had been ecstatic. At least, until he had learned about the Time War from Rose - the little bit she knew - and that the Doctor was the last of his species.
Somehow Jack hadn't been surprised. Disappointed yes, but not surprised. It was just his luck, that he had finally found out that his soulmate was a Time Lord, only to learn that they were all dead. Expect for the one, who was staring down at his arm, with an unreadable expression, but Jack wasn't naive enough, to even entertain the idea, that the Doctor was his soulmate. Not that he would have minded - not in the least - but that simply wasn't how his life worked.
"Is this your Soulmark?" Rose stepped up next to him and gasped when she looked at his arm. "Your soulmate is a Time Lord."
"Yes," Jack replied, without taking his eyes from the Doctor, who wore a pinched expression on his face. "I just wanted to know who they were."
Out of the corner of his eyes, Jack saw Rose's face fall, at the reminder that the Doctor was the last of his species. Before she could offer any kind of consolation though, the Doctor was speaking: "It appears you lied to us, Captain."
"What?" Jack blinked in confusion. That wasn't the reaction he had expected and he didn't even know what the Doctor was talking about. True he had lied often, but...
"Javic Piotr Thane." It took Jack longer than it should, to get over the shock of hearing his birth name, for the first time in years, to notice the rolled up sleeve of the Doctor's jumper. No, that was impossible! But it was true. Jack pinched himself, but the Doctor's Soulmark didn't change. It was his name. The Doctor was his soulmate.
Giddiness welled up in Jack and his face split into a huge grin. Apparently the universe had decided to make up for his bad luck, in the past.
"Jack," Rose demanded his attention and met his gaze with a puzzled look, "What's going on?"
It was hard to find the words for an explanation, when all Jack wanted to do was to jump around in joy and kiss the Doctor senseless - not necessarily in that order - but somehow he found his voice. "I was born as Javic in the 51th century. I only took the name Jack Harkness later in life." No need to get into more details here. "I prefer it though." He really didn't want Rose to start calling him Javic. It was a name, that held too many memories.
"So," Rose started slowly, but suddenly her eyes grew huge and a blinding smile lit up her whole face. "Oh my God, you're soulmates! Doctor! Jack! That's awesome." Rose nudged the Doctor's shoulder playfully. "Congratulations!"
"Let's not get carried away." The smile on Jack's face dimmed, as he noticed the hard expression on the Doctor's face. The lines around his mouth were more pronounced than ever, when he pushed his sleeve back down and crossed his arms in front of his chest. "These stupid marks ain't mean a thing. They are humbug, that keep stupid, little apes entertained. If they had any real meaning, Jack would have never ended up as my soulmate." The Doctor spat the last word with disgust.
It felt like a punch to the gut. Jack gasped and staggered a step back. His stomach lurched and for a horrible long moment he feared that he would be sick, on the floor of the console room, before he managed to swallow the rising bile, back down.
"A pairing, such as ours, could never work." A strangled sound was torn from Jack's throat at the Doctor's sneer. He couldn't stand it. Jack was dimly aware of Rose calling after him, as he fled from the console room, as fast as he could. He didn't pay attention to where he was going, but suddenly he found himself stumbling onto green grass.
Jack blinked. There were trees in all colours and shapes and just as many flowers. A gentle breeze - that shouldn't be there - rustled the leaves of the trees and brought with it, the scent of spring. He was in the Garden Room, Jack realised, even as he stumbled towards a huge, ancient looking tree. With a shaking breath, he sank down onto the grass, with his back pressed against the trunk, of the tree. Nature whispered around him, underlined by the comforting hum of the TARDIS and Jack gave a humourless laugh.
"Fuck!" He wiped furiously at his eyes, when his vision started to blur. He wouldn't cry. He hadn't cried since he had been forced to watch his best friend getting tortured and killed.
There was no reason to cry now. It was his own fault, for getting his hopes up and for being so stupid, as to believe in a happily ever after, with his soulmate. Such dreams were for other people. People like Rose, who was beautiful and pure, with a heart full of love. They weren't meant for the likes of him. Conmen didn't deserve the love of their soulmates. And yet, that had never stopped Jack from hoping and from looking, for the person whose name he carried on his arm. At times, the idea of finding his soulmate had been the only thing that had kept him going. Especially after he had woken up with two years of his memories missing. Jack had dreamed about meeting his soulmate for the first time and about the joy, that would result from it, for both of them. Reality was different though. He wasn't wanted.
A bitter laugh turned into a choked sob and his chest constricted painfully. Stupid of him, to hope for anything else, really. It was the story of his life after all, being rejected by people, that were supposed to care about him. Nothing new there.
"Here you are." Startled Jack looked up, to find Rose standing over him. He hadn't heard her approach and that alone spoke volumes about his current state of mind.
"Hi there." Jack wiped at his eyes and smiled. Or he attempted to smile, but judging by the worried look Rose gave him, he didn't succeed. "Come to join me?"
"Yes." Without further ado Rose sat down next to him. A second later, Jack found himself with an arm slung around his back and a soft weight leaning against his side.
It was easier this way, Jack realised, as he wrapped his arm around Rose's shoulder, to hold her close. Easier to accept her comfort, while he could pretend that he was the one comforting her. They sat quietly, with only the rustling of the leaves interrupting the silence and Jack found it easier to breathe, with every minute that passed. The peace couldn't last forever though. The first indicator, that it was about to end, was when Rose shifted, the second was her gentle voice. "Jack, I'm sure he didn't mean it."
No question to which he Rose was referring. With a sigh, Jack turned his head, to meet his friend's compassionate gaze. It was almost too much to handle. "Yes, he did." Jack squeezed Rose's shoulder and forced his lips upwards. His attempt at a smile was almost successful, this time. "He doesn't want me."
"Maybe he was simply shocked, which doesn't excuse how he acted towards you, of course." Anger flashed in Rose's eyes. "He was a right bastard and if you want me to slap some sense into him..."
Jack interrupted Rose's rant, with a chuckle and placed a kiss against her hairline. It was heart-warming, how much she cared for him, so much more than he deserved. "Thank you, sweetheart, but I think it was more than shock." Jack sighed quietly. "From what I have heard of Time Lords, they probably scoffed at the idea of soulmates and seeing how we are all stupid apes to the Doctor..." Jack shrugged even as something twinged painfully in his chest. "A human as a soulmate might be the worst, that could happen to a Time Lord."
"You aren't too far off the mark." They both startled at the Doctor's appearance. He looked out of place in the peaceful garden, clad in his leather jacket and especially with the distant expression on his face. "Could you give me a moment with Jack, please?"
Sceptically, Rose glanced up at the Doctor, before turning to Jack, who gave her a tiny nod and what he hoped, passed as a reassuring smile. Better to get it over with.
"Fine, but if you hurt him I will tell Mum." Jack noted with some interest, that the Doctor looked the tiniest bit intimidated by Rose's threat. He really needed to meet Jackie Tyler one of these days, to learn how she managed to install fear, in the Oncoming Storm.
"Time Lords," the Doctor started, after Rose was out of earshot and sat down next to Jack, "were extremely proud, if not to say arrogant. The idea of having the universe pick a soulmate for someone was smiled at, at best and met with scorn, at worst. If two Time Lords were soulmates and the union was beneficial to all parties, a marriage might be arranged, but that was the exception. Time Lords whose soulmates belonged to a lesser species were discouraged to look for them. In fact, it was an unwritten law, that no Time Lord should ever enter a union with someone beneath them... which included every other species in the universe."
Jack hugged his knees to his chest and stared down at the grass. A part of him was glad that the Doctor deemed him important enough, to give him an explanation for the rejection, but another part of him just wanted to stop listening, as every word felt like a whiplash. Not even in his worst nightmares had he dreamed, that the day of finding his soulmate would, go like this. And the Doctor wasn't finished speaking yet. "Naturally, I wasn't impressed by some ridiculous laws and norms. I always found the fondness of my people, for restrictions annoying. So I stole a TARDIS and took off to explore the universe."
Jack felt his own eyes widen, at the confession. The Doctor returned his surprised look with a smirk. "Thought you were the only one, who could steal a ship, lad?!" Amusement gleamed in the Doctor's eyes, before he sobered once more. "I didn't set out to find my soulmate though. I was simply sick of staying on Gallifrey and bowing to the dusty, old men in power. Meeting people of lesser species, was just a side-effect." A faraway look passed over the Doctor's features, before he visibly shook himself out of, whatever he had recalled about his past. "I soon realised that my people had been wrong. Other species weren't as advanced as Time Lords, but they weren't less because of it. I grew especially fond of the human race. I grew curious about my soulmate, in my fifth regeneration, but I never found the time to search in earnest. And it wasn't even necessary, in the end." The Doctor's smile was all teeth and Jack feared that he was going to be sick. His stomach twisted in painful knots, at what he had just learned. It was one thing to be rejected by your soulmate, because they held some stupid beliefs about lesser species but... it was worse to learn, that the Doctor didn't want him, because of who he was.
Jack dug his fingernails into his arm, to keep the prickling sensation in his eyes at bay, while he tried to find something to say. After a few failed attempts, Jack finally pushed some words out. "You are disappointed, then. I... understand." The air burned in his throat, as he exhaled shakily. "You probably wanted... someone like Rose and not... me." Jack finished lamely and squeezed his eyes shut. He wouldn't cry. It was his own fault, that the Doctor didn't want him, with everything he had done in the past.
"Of all the stupid things to think," the Doctor muttered, close to him. Jack yelped when his chin was grabbed by cool fingers and he was forced to turn his head. "Look at me, lad."
There was no way to refuse the Doctor, not even now. Slowly and praying that he wouldn't humiliate himself, he opened his eyes. The Doctor's intense gaze bore into his and Jack felt mesmerized by the depth of it. "It's not you, Jack, it's me."
A snort of laughter burst from Jack's mouth. "Really now, Doc?!" His eyes flickered down, to focus on the Doctor's chin, it was easier than meeting his gaze. "It's okay. I'm an ex-Time Agent and a conman, I understand, why you don't want me. Hell, I wouldn't want me either." Jack shivered. "And I don't even remember everything that I’ve done. Maybe I went on a killing spree and that's why they wiped my memory."
"You didn't.” The Doctor sounded absolutely certain.
Jack frowned. "How do you know?" Had the Doctor researched his two lost years and found out what had happened, or..."
"Because Jack," the hand on his chin shifted, until the Doctor was cradling his cheek in his hand, "I know you. There is no way you would kill innocents."
A sound - it wasn't a sob, definitely not - got stuck in Jack's throat. "But I did... innocent people died, because of me."
"But you didn't pull the trigger on them... I did. Billions of people died through my hand. I committed genocide twice over. My own people and the Daleks, two races, wiped out, because of me." Jack lifted his head and stared wide eyed at the Doctor. He had never shared this much about the Time War before and certainly nothing, that had been infused with his own emotions.
"Don't you see, lad?" The Doctor rubbed his thumb along the lines of Jack's mouth. "I'm a 900 years old Time Lord, with more blood on my hands than anyone else alive, in the universe. You deserve better than that. Better than an old fool, with a silly face, who had to be bullied by Rose, into talking with you."
Jack's lips twitched at the last part, but his expression grew serious, when he thought about everything else, the Doctor had said. There was a lot to wrap his head around, but for now, Jack knew exactly what he needed to say. He turned sideways and brought his hands up to frame the Doctor's face with them. "I actually like your silly, old face."
"That's not the time for jokes, Jack." A resigned sigh fell between them and the Doctor's shoulders slumped in defeat. "The universe made a mistake, you..."
"I can make my own decisions, thank you very much." Jack stared into the Doctor's eyes and willed him to understand, but sighed, when no comprehension dawned in the ancient eyes. "I want to be with you. I wanted to, even before I knew that you are my soulmate," Jack added hastily, as he guessed at the protest, that lay on the tip of the Doctor's tongue. "You don't get to push me away for, what you think of as, my own good, but," Jack swallowed nervously, "if you really don't want me... just say so, but don't hide behind some stupid excuses."
"They ain't stupid," the Doctor protested. "You deserve better than me, but," a tongue flickered out to wet thin lips, "I would be lying, if I pretended not to want you, although I knew I shouldn't..."
"Shhh!" Jack pressed a finger to the Doctor's lips, to silence any farther attempts at talking himself out of it. "Apparently, we both want to give it - us - a chance, so let's just do it."
Jack's hopes surged high, only to crash back down again, when the Doctor shook his head. "It's not that easy..."
"Yes, it is." Jack would be damned, if he allowed the Doctor to throw away the potential, for something special between them. "It's up to us. We can at least try to make it work." A pleading edge had slipped into Jack's voice, but he didn't care how pathetic he sounded. He only knew, that he would regret it for the rest of his life, if he couldn't convince the Doctor to give him a chance. To give them a chance.
Endless minutes ticked by, in which Jack barely dared breathing, as he waited for the Doctor to make his decision. Finally, he nodded. "Alright." Something complicated flickered through ancient eyes. "I must warn you, Jack, whenever I’ve made a selfish decision, in the past, it never went well."
"So, being with me is being selfish?" The Doctor nodded and Jack grinned. "Good."
Whatever else the Doctor had wanted to say, got muffled by Jack's lips. For a second Jack feared, he had made a mistake, when the Doctor froze at the sudden attack. Thankfully, he didn't get the chance to work himself into a panic, when the Doctor's hands came around his neck and he returned the kiss.
When Jack blinked, he noticed a blonde shock of hair, vanishing behind a tree and grinned against the Doctor’s lips. Apparently, they didn't need to worry about informing Rose, about the positive development in their relationship, any time soon. Still, Jack made a mental note to thank her later, for bullying the Doctor into talking with him, otherwise this day would have ended in pain and tears. Not that Jack was naive enough to believe, that everything would be easy sailing from here on. Certainly not with the Doctor and also not with all the package, Jack carried around with himself. Still, they could make it work, if they tried. And when Jack opened his mouth, to an insistent tongue and their kiss deepened, he was certain that they would succeed. Whatever the future held in store for them, they would always have the memory of this moment, shared between them and Jack swore, that he would always cherish it. Until the day he died.