Author's Notes:
Summary: Just a short bit of character fluff in this one to round out the Jack/Doctor relationship as the rest of this episode is more of an ensemble piece.

When scanning yields nothing after the first couple of hours, the Doctor decides she needs a break, and she knows she really should talk to Jack. The TARDIS leads her a merry dance before it allows her to find him, tucked away in a tiny sitting room that is little more than an alcove. The walk burns off the worst of her residual anger; the memories almost everything else. The TARDIS has produced a replica of a favourite haunt of Jack and Rose and her Ninth self.

It’s perfect in every detail, close but not claustrophobic. Something that version of her had needed so desperately because he had needed comfort, needed touch, but had been unwilling, even afraid, to ask. This perfect model, obviously drawn from Jack’s longing, tells her that the TARDIS is still the same compassionate friend she has depended on all her lives. It tells her that her younger self isn’t evil or corrupted, simply controlled. It’s not the first time that has happened to the Doctor, and though she despises the thought of losing her autonomy, it offers relief too. She isn’t something she thought she never would be. She can be rescued.

She steps into the tiny room, eyes catching on the single sofa, just big enough for three. He had once sprawled here to read and chat and listen to music and pretend it was purely by chance that his shoulder nudged Jack’s or that his hand naturally covered Rose’s. He had slept better on that sofa than anywhere else in the TARDIS during that regeneration. The alcove even holds slight impressions of that happier time, drawn straight from Jack’s memories.

He’s sitting in the centre of the sofa, body hunched over, looking intently at something held in his hands. It’s a photo of the three of them - of how she was back then - it must be his, from a wallet perhaps. Reforming rooms is the TARDIS’ speciality, but she can’t manifest objects. His coat is off, slung over the back of the chair, and, in his shirt and braces, less layers than she has seen him in virtually since she rescued him, the Doctor is pleased to see that he has filled out, not just given the impression of breadth by his precious Captain’s costume.

He looks up as she approaches and sighs slightly, replacing the photo in a card case that looks otherwise empty.

“I’m sorry,” he says and moves over to make room for her.

She sits down next to him, carefully not touching. Despite his actions, he’s still radiating keep away vibes.

“Jack I-”

“But, Doctor-”

He laughs self consciously. “You go first.”

“No, you.”

His mouth twists slightly. “You always did insist on the last word.”

She decides not to take it the way it sounds. “My TARDIS, my rules. Isn’t that what you always insisted on with your team, Captain?”

That goes on unanswered, and Jack’s eyes return to his pensively clasped hands. “I don’t want you to get hurt because of me. I never wanted to risk that. From the very beginning, I wanted to...to prove myself to you.”

The Doctor’s eyes cut away. She has no idea what to say in the face of this raw unburdening of emotion. Before she has to answer though, Jack goes on.

“And...you didn’t even need to do this. You didn’t need to bargain with him.” He tips his head slightly, giving her an unobstructed view of the thing still wired into him, even now he doesn’t touch it. “You’ll figure out how to remove this and then...next time I die, I’ll be...I’ll be whole again.”

“Jack...I have no idea how to get that off. Those things haven’t been used in eons. I’ve never even seen a real one.”

“You’ll figure it out. You’ll make me me again.”

The trust in his eyes actually hurts. She hates when they look at her like that. Like she can magically fix everything. And she hates that it’s not the loss of his eyes that he’s referring to. And she really hates herself for forgetting that Jack had other significant injuries that might trouble him as much as his eyes, maybe even more. Too busy worrying about what the Trickster had taken from her to think about what it had taken from him. Selfish. Selfish and stupid and old.

“Jack...I- I’ll do everything I can.”

He turns the thing to her more fully, “You can touch it,” he offers. “I know it’s you. I won’t freak out this time.”

Her fingers hover over it. “It’ll hurt.”

“A bit. I expect I’ve lived through worse.”

She leans closer, her fingers itch to help. If she can just…

She starts, not by touching the circuitry and wiring, but by looking closely at the scarring around it. “It’s wired into you. Under the skin.”

“Yeah. Goes into my brain, I think. I died twice while it was being attached.”

There goes any hope of just pulling it out, even with Jack’s gift who knows what that will do to him. “You’ll probably need surgery to remove it, even if I can make it inactive.”

He shrugs. “Least of my worries, to be honest.”

“These injuries are much better cared for than some of your others.” She comments idly, and watches, amazed, as a light flush travels up the back of Jack’s neck. She honestly doesn’t think she’s ever seen him embarrassed before.

“I let her treat these ones. It’s incredible what you’ll sit still for when the alternative is having the settings on the torture machine in your brain changed.”

The Doctor carefully doesn’t think about Jack forced to sit still and pliant beneath hands that had hurt him, probably enjoying any gentle touches she had cared to give him and hating himself for it. “We’re going to stop her,” she soothes quietly and gathers her courage to move onto the device.

It still looks just as menacing, still blinking and flashing in incomprehensible sequences. She runs her nail round the rim again, her other hand holding firm on Jack’s shoulder to keep him still, and once again the control panel springs out.

This time, the Doctor puts effort into deciphering the symbols, though it still twists her guts to know that this came from her planet. She tries a couple of simple commands, but each one requests a password before it will execute and each time she fails to provide one it delivers Jack a shock that makes him yelp.

She keeps waiting for him to tell her that he’s done, that he’s had enough, but she’s forgotten how stubborn Jack can be and eventually she is the one who pulls back.

He doesn’t argue, instead curls forward panting through the lingering pain.

“We’ll figure something out,” she offers, a low voiced platitude.

It’s a far cry from being the promise he deserves. Even so, Jack - as he always does - takes her words as gospel and relaxes, slumping against her. Instinctively, she cards her hand through his hair, gratified that he doesn’t flinch away, even when she passes near the thing still wired into him.

“Maybe the sonic?” he suggests.

“Hmm. I don’t have a suitable setting. Let me have a think.”

“Yeah.”

“I’m not sorry that I made a deal with the Trickster, Jack.”

He nods against her shoulder. “Thank you. I am glad I got to see Gallifrey.”

A few errant tears escape her eyes and roll down her cheeks, dripping onto Jack’s crown. “It’s gone. I thought I’d saved it and it’s still…”

He straightens and puts an arm around her shoulder to pull her in to him this time, but doesn’t say a word, just holds her. She can feel the beat of his heart where she’s pressed against him. The still slightly unnatural feel of a single beat where her instincts expect a double one, and a little faster than human normal, his body still recovering from the stress of her fiddling with the machine.

“Perhaps it can be undone. The Trickster?”

“You were worried about the price of your eyes,” she points out tiredly. “The price of a planet would be considerably more.”

“Yeah. But you’ll think something, Doctor. You’ve saved so many worlds.”

“Somehow I never seem to be able to save my own,” she mutters bitterly.

Jack reaches over and brushes a strand of hair off her face, tucking it behind her ear.

“Don’t,” she mutters.

“What?” he actually manages to sound innocently outraged. She’s rather impressed.

The Doctor pulls away and sits up straight so she can better glare at him. She can’t quite hold onto all her irritation though as she sees his eyes sparkling with their teasing gleam, at least something good has come of today - whatever the cost later. “Don’t waste your moves on me. I’ve seen them all.”

He leans closer and his voice lowers by an octave. “Oh, you haven’t seen all of them.”

The device behind his ear with its various colours reflects in her eyes, which in turn reflect in his, shooting flashes of purple and red and a poisonous green across his irises. The Doctor’s own eyes suddenly widen and a beaming smile spreads across her face. She jumps up to her feet, leaving Jack, still on the sofa, looking slightly shell shocked.

“The Time Lords are looking for her.”

“What?”

“Quaestor, remember? The Time Lords are looking for her. And the CIA will be out in force by now, particularly if they think she’s getting help from later in her own timestream, that is seriously dangerous. Multiple TARDISes? Much easier to track than a multi-dimensional entity.” And she’s off and running back to the console room.