She sets him to storing and sorting while she gets the equipment up and running. It takes longer than she’d like and by the time she has a blurry purple and blue readout, she’s ready to go exploring with or without a scan. She pats the casing gratefully. “Good girl.”
Jack smirks lazily up at her. “You or the computer?”
The Doctor rolls her eyes. “Don’t start. You do realise this equipment is almost 250 years old?”
“Seriously? Why did no one ever do anything? I mean, the daleks are terrifying murder drones, but people don’t tend to think about that after more than a handful of years. Humanity moves on.”
“This dates back to before even the daleks. This stuff hasn’t been updated since this place was making the news.”
“Explains the retro look. I thought these screens felt a bit boxy.”
“Hmmm,” the Doctor jams the sonic between her teeth and starts digging into the station archives. She flicks through some files. Then shrugs. “No explanations. And it’s not that it was all running fine so no one could be bothered changing it. There’s thousands of error reports here.”
“Good old fashioned leg work then, Doctor?”
She stands and stretches. “Not for you.”
“Jack. It’s an huge abandoned satellite that was creating a danger bad enough that my detector picked it up as a planetary threat. This place could be full of anything and you can’t see. If you don’t want to wear the sunglasses, that’s fine, I’m not going to force you, but you stay here.”
“Not your choice to make. It’s my choice,” she answers firmly. “You’re travelling with me, you’re my responsibility. I’m not going to get you hurt.”
“You didn’t use to care,” he retorts bitterly.
She rears back as though slapped. “I always cared. I’ve used your deaths as a distraction to save our friends, but I have never once asked you to-”
“That’s not what I meant,” he shouts. “You didn’t care when you were forcing me to watch a supernova until it burnt out my eyes, when you were ripping my skin off piece by piece until-” he chokes that thought off. “You didn’t care when you pushed me out the TARDIS and let me float in space, dying over and over again until you got bored of watching and let me wake up in that mine.”
“I didn’t!” she shouts right back. “I wouldn’t!”
“You did! You will!”
“Jack. You have to believe me. I’d never- She can’t be-”
“She was. Is. I could feel it when she was in my mind. She was you and you...I loved you and I trusted you and you hurt me and enjoyed it. You said I deserved it.” His hand drops, unconsciously, to his belt. For a blaster or to indicate his ruined groinal region, the Doctor doesn’t know.
She feels sick. On the one hand, she is certain, certain that she would never. But on the other, she had locked away the Family in personally selected torments, she had once talked a dalek into committing suicide, had kidnapped a pair of school teachers for the crime of being worried that her granddaughter was being held back from achieving her potential. There is darkness within her, she has always known it.
She and the Master started as friends.
She takes a step back, out of his space. “But I didn’t,” she says firmly, calmly, with dignity. “I didn’t. I don’t know what made my future into that, but I swear to you, on everything we both hold dear, on Rose, on the TARDIS, on my name, I would never choose to do that to you.”
They are both panting with exertion and stress.
This time it is Jack who takes a step back. “But you did,” he repeats; there’s no anger this time, just pain and loss.
It might be entirely the wrong thing to do, perhaps after everything he has suffered (suffered at her hands) she should give him his space, but instead she goes back to him and wraps him in her arms. Jack sags into her, She’s half his size, but he curls himself around her, face dropping onto her shoulder. She doesn’t flinch under his weight, she owes Jack whatever support she can give him. She’ll hold him as long as he needs it.
She raises one hand to his head, petting the hair behind his ear, murmuring the soothing nonsense that she has soothed various children and friends with. “I would never,” she promises and she means it.
At last he straightens, but doesn’t pull back. He stays close, clinging to her. “Gimme the sunglasses. I need to be able to see if we’re going to save the planet.”
She hands them over and gives him a moment to get used to them. The glasses give him a rakish air that she hasn’t seen on Jack since 1941. “You look like some kind of ne'er do well,” she says, simply because she knows that he wants her to.
He smirks. “You know you like it.”
She smiles slyly out of the side of her mouth as she leads them towards the door. “I like fish fingers dipped in custard, me liking it isn’t exactly a recommendation for the rest of your species.”
“That’s alright, Doctor. I’ve only ever had eyes for you.”
It’s a rather dark joke and it catches the Doctor’s retort in her throat. In the beat it takes her to eye Jack, even as she leads them out of the office and towards the lifts, his stomach rumbles, and she takes the opportunity to steer them into safer territory. “Bet you regret not going for pizza now.”
He shrugs lightly and follows. “I could eat.”
She reaches into her pocket once more. “You’re as bad as Graham.” Her hand comes out clutching something yellow and she throws it to him.
The glasses do their job and Jack’s hand comes up, catching the fruit easily. He looks at it bewildered for a moment. “What’s this?”
“Banana,” the Doctor answers, pushing the button and feeling ancient machinery grind back to life as the lifts start to move. “Bananas are good.”
Jack can’t help it. He starts to laugh.