Jack was still hammering at the controls and muttering a series of Ianto’s favourite curses under his breath as he brought the spaceship in for landing. Crashing might have been a better word, but, until there were witnesses, Jack was going with landing. Besides, he liked swearing in Welsh. It was satisfying.
With a final groan and a shudder that would have been concerning if they had still been airborne, the craft ground to a halt. Jack checked the displays as he straightened his coat, checked his blaster was holstered. Air breathable, gravity earth normal, TARDIS still broadcasting general distress; check, check and check.
He opened the door and stepped carefully out. He took a second to evaluate the terrain, but didn’t bother hiding in the shadows. His ship was large and unmissable. Equally unmissable was the hole he’d left in the roof of the aircraft hanger with his cra- errr. Landing. Emergency landing? He’d decide if this warranted the designation emergency landing later, he decided. Depended how much trouble the Doctor had gotten herself into, he supposed.
Jack couldn’t repress the involuntary grin, even as he flicked his gun up and into his hand. He still hadn’t quite gotten used to thinking of the correct pronoun. He couldn’t wait to meet her. His hand rested over the safety catch of the blaster but, for the moment, he left it on. He didn’t want to make a bad first impression, after all.
There, in the corner of the hanger, a familiar blue shape. Jack’s heart leapt almost painfully in his chest. He didn’t actually sprint across and hammer on the door, he was a professional after all, but he wanted to. With little more than a cursory glance around the rest of the room, he began making his way towards it. This area seemed clear at least. His scanners had said the TARDIS was sending out a call, but that didn’t mean the Doctor was aboard. Captured, injured, lost...all things Jack had seen befall the Time Lord before.
As he got closer however, he did spot a shadowy figure, standing off to one side. He raised his blaster, thumb instinctively thumbing the safety. To off this time.
“Who are you?” He called out, “Identify yourself.”
There was a long silence and, just as Jack was thinking about a warning shot, the figure moved, pushing itself up straight from where it had been leaning against the TARDIS and stepping forward into the murky light. It was a woman, tall and stately. Her dark eyes were alight with intelligence and her chestnut skin was offset by the rainbow shirt she wore.
Jack’s gun dipped slightly, “Doctor?”
“Yes. I’m the Doctor,” she said, a confident certainty resonating in her tone that just couldn’t be faked.
Jack smiled, and lowered his blaster fully. He moved a little closer. “It’s me,” he said with a grin. “You called?” he didn’t actually wink, but he was just waiting for the opportunity.
“I did,” she answered. “I need help. The TARDIS is damaged.”
Her face didn’t change in expression and Jack felt his first stirring of unease. The Doctor was never expressionless. Or never had been before. During that Year That Never Was, Jack had had cause to wish more than once that the Doctor could keep his emotions hidden from the Master, but he’d never been able to. The dead look in this new Doctor’s eyes was unnerving. Intelligence, yes, but no feeling or warmth behind it.
He took another step closer. “Doctor? What’s wrong? Has something happened?” He had always intended to hug her. Jack was a tactile man by nature and he had missed the Doctor terribly over the last decade. He had longed, more than once, for the safety and security that had been offered (if rarely) by that strong certain embrace, like that of a parent that reassured that the monsters had been banished and all was well. He’d needed that for...a long time.
Even so, a Doctor, any version of the Doctor, shut down like this could only mean tragedy, could only mean terrible loss. His heart thumped as his mind roved back over the three friends he’d met just a few weeks ago. He hoped nothing had happened to one of them. So he didn’t offer (or take) the hug he had wanted for so long, and instead reached out, touching her carefully on the upper arm.
“Is everyone ok? Graham? Ryan?”
She stepped from his touch, not a flinch, more an expression of revulsion that she couldn’t keep hidden. Jack dropped his arm back to his side. Perhaps this was a new regeneration, one unable to cope with the wrongness that poured off of him. He didn’t want to hurt her.
“Yes, everyone’s fine, don’t worry.” She answered, after slightly too long a pause. “Come in.”
He still felt uneasy, but he could no more not accept the Doctor’s offer to go back into the TARDIS after all these years than he could lie down in eternity with any of the people he had loved. He followed her through the familiar doors.
The interior was wonderful and beautiful, as always. It was a little retro looking for his tastes, very minimalistic in whites and blues, hexagonal patterning on the walls. It was different to the room he still imagined, but for the control panel with the time rotor in the centre, in every way, but this was still the room he dreamed about. He’d missed this place.
He turned to say as much to the Doctor, grin stretching his face with simple joy. He was brought up sharp on the business end of the kind of lazer gun that would normally have had him reaching for the ‘compensating for something?’ quips.
“Wha-?” he said instead. Not his best moment, nor his most articulate. But he’d never seen the Doctor wielding a weapon with intent before, and his brain still wasn’t sure how to compute what his eyes were seeing.
She never answered. Instead, there was the soft purr of a well calibrated discoporator, a white flash, and a single second of searing pain as his every atom flash fried.