Part One, Red Haired Boy: Red Haired Boy
To Jack Harkness’s eyes, destruction lay everywhere.
There was nothing alien about the cause this time, just another stupid, fire happy monkey with mother issues, an armchair explosives expert with a touch of pyromania. The only thing untouched was the sleepful, boyish young man Jack held in his arms, so much more than one of the survivors.
Despite being wrapped in one of the heavy, frayed and beer-stained white tablecloths that had adorned the Bluebottle’s some seventeen tables before the blast, he barely weighed anything at all, and beneath the smooth fabric his pasty but pinkening skin gleamed with the freshness of new frost. A straight cascade of pale ginger lightly dusted with nutmeg swept from the fair features as Jack had to swerve to miss a falling beam, revealing a gentle face miraculously free of any soot or burns.
Despite his own aches and stains, he had to smile at that face. One more time, he’d had to watch as the man he’d respected more than any other, even... loved, in his way, died trying to save them all. This time, it had been a measly little fire. How like him, Jack thought to himself. The Doctor had never been able to leave well enough alone if he thought he could do some good. Then again, neither could he. Jack knew he was lucky then, because unlike the enigmatic Doctor, that strange and gentle man he so admired, he had only one life, and still he could not die. The Doctor’s beloved Rose had seen to that. If only she could have seen the Time Lord in his element, shining with grace in those last moments, free and alive and laughing in the face of his own demise. He hadn't even meant to die today. That bit was the worst of it.
And Rose was gone, lost to him and living in another world, with a man who was as much the Doctor as she might ever see again, a partial clone of sorts. At least the clone could grow old with her. Die with her. Truth of it was, the original had died alone, in a pub fire on a cool Cardiff night. Jack looked at his watch. It was almost a quarter past seven o’clock. By rights the Oncoming Storm ought to have been enjoying his fifteenth glass of ginger beer by now. Instead, the Time Lord was lying in his arms, unconscious and near death... and newly-regenerated. And the worst of it was that their favorite pub had just been blown to bits by an idiot who had learned how to build pipe bombs on the internet.
Before the building housing Bluebottle’s Pub had gone up, the alien had been going steady with his hundredth scotch, on a side bet in a night-long drinking contest with the Time Agent and more than a few locals. He’d have won easily, too, if not for... events. The whole room had gotten in on the act of celebrating the alien’s birthday, and all of Torchwood: Cardiff had pitched in.
“It was supposed to be a surprise party... ” Jack said softly to the man in his arms.
“With our luck, it was bound to end like this, with you in a post-regenerative coma and that stupid kid in the bomb vest hanging from what was left of the rafters in bloody chunks like freshly slaughtered meat. But you did what you could to save everyone. You always do. Because of you, fifteen stupid apes survived the fire. That’s why I’m sorry. I know our reassurances will never be enough for you, but still. It wasn’t your fault he chose Bluebottle’s. It was his. And Doctor, while I’m on the subject... ”
Jack paused then to ease his friend’s body down onto a small patch of grass near the pub’s northeastern corner, thanking more gods than he knew names for that the awning leading from the door was still intact. He had no idea if the Time Lord could contract any earth-born illnesses, but the alien’s weakened state left nothing to chance. He wouldn’t risk The Doctor’s last two lives in the onslaught of icy rain pouring down hard onto everything in sight.
“...try not to die again today, or else I’ll never be able to get back on speaking terms with Martha.”
His hands crept over the Time Lord’s pale cheek, seeking anything, a surprised twitch, a quiver of rage, a blistering retort, some sign that he was being heard. But the only thing he got was a whispered moan that never even touched the man’s lips. His pants were wet, which meant the ground under his buttocks was wet as well. Great. Here he was, smack dab in the aftermath of what should have been the greatest male bonding moment in the history of the universe, and he had to go and sit on the one piece of damp cement that was still standing. Not that it was much of a seat, mind you, but at least it was an outwardly-reasonable excuse to remove an article of clothing. That, and the fact that The Doctor, despite his lower body temperature, probably would have felt more comfortable with something on besides a cheap white tablecloth, had he been conscious.
“Please, don’t die again.”
He knew it was stupid, but he tried it anyway.
“You haven’t seen me naked yet...”
Suddenly a young woman’s voice floated down to him.
“Ahhh. Not a bad line, for a reprobate chimpanzee with nymphomania. The Doctor can do better, though. If he concentrates.”
Jack blinked, opened his eyes and stared at the woman’s feet. They were lovely, and well-manicured! Then he moved to the shins, noting the creamy smoothness of their bare contours. When had the rain stopped? It must have been when they got here. Wait, they? His monkey brain reeled at the sudden realization of hundreds of people standing before him, led by the woman in white, who’d graciously allowed him to drool over her various attributes. And in their hands...silver, pen-like tubes with bright lights, some green, some red...some...blue. Sonic Probes.
“Oh my god. You’re all...”
He held the Doctor close and cried into his ear,
“Doctor! Wake up! You’ll never believe this! They’re...”
The sharp-tongued blonde girl just knelt and put a finger to his mouth, shaking her head.
“When the time comes, tell him he is not alone. Until then, nothing. Now, let me just see to Theta, here...”
Her fingers worked her screwdriver, flipping it up until, presumably, it reached the highest setting. Then she ran it slowly over The Doctor’s unmoving shape.
“He’s weak, and suffering from extreme regenerative fatigue. It’s an age-related post-traumatic stress reaction, most likely exacerbated by the shock of allowing himself to be blown to bits by a tasteless orangutan with a signature lack of flair. In any case, he’ll wake up in a few minutes, with a bit of tinkering. Oh, and don’t worry about the rain. We used a Judoon issue H20 scoop to clear the streets and further mask our presence.”
Stifling a chuckle, she smiled and brushed the Time Lord’s soft ginger hair out of his eyes, then dropped the hand to his face in a brief telepathic link before speaking aloud once more.
“And as for you, Theta Sigma... it would hardly be right for the Savior of Second Gallifrey to die before his time, especially in front of the younger associate who got better grades than him at Academy. Sooo... on that note, it’s time to wake up, Mister Former President of Gallifrey. One of your extended family is anxious to see you. Till later, then.”
With a quick allons-y to the crowd of somber-eyed Time Lords, she stepped back to rejoin their number, and then they all were gone, their molecules instantly concealed within the soft whir of their departing TARDII.
“So... Theta Sigma,” Jack muttered to himself, settling The Doctor’s head on his knee.
“Well, my Cyrillic’s rusty, but... beginning to end? Yeah, that’s you all right. Sounds like a nickname, though.”
“That’s because it is one,” The Doctor grumbled, rousing at last, and Captain Jack Harkness almost jumped five feet out of his skin. Almost.
“You were out for a while, Doc. No mirrors in sight, sorry. But, how about a verbal play by play? I’m thinking pre-Raphaelite tablecloth chic, and judging from that head of fine red hair, you certainly got one of your wishes tonight... ”
Well, Jack recovers quickly... the Time Lord thought to himself as he considered how much energy it would take to scowl at the man, then did it anyway.
“I don’t suppose you’ll be informing on whomever told you that little bit of personal information, eh Jack? Na ja. I knew you wouldn’t, anyway. Spoilers.”
He ran a hand through his soft bangs, pushing them so they’d stay, then sat up abruptly, a look of such horror playing on his face that Harkness stopped grinning and just stared.
“Tablecloth? You wrapped me... in a tablecloth? Jack! Surely you’re well aware of which and how much bodily fluid is spilled on such a thing in such a place every night by who knows how many stupid apes out for a quick slosh? RASSILON! I could be lying in some monkey’s p... Rassilon!”
He was on his feet in an instant, pacing back and forth after having tossed the tablecloth out onto the wet ground.
“I need new clothes, Captain me dear! We, or at the very least I, should go back to the TARDIS. The old girl is probably sick with worry. Besides, the seat of your slacks is rather wet. That being said, for the sake of my bum, I cling to the hope that you are indeed capable of holding your liquor as you so often claim.”
He tossed his head, a decidedly un-Doctorish act that had Jack trying his best not to drool. The man had always been gape worthy, ever since he’d known him, but now that he’d regenerated yet again into a handsome red-haired tart of nine-hundred and five it was too much to bear, and Jack’s lips abruptly found themselves insatiably desirous of alien intelligence. So he walked over to the Time Lord, who was busy trying to study his reflection in a dirty rain puddle, and just... possessed his slender mouth like a man dying of thirst.
Those lovely nutmeg lines of fluent eyebrow crashed together like guided missiles as the alien stepped back to take a breath and look at Jack, who met that gaze blow for blow.
“...do you expect me to return that unauthorized snog, or am I to consider it free and gratis?”
“Call it what you like, but I’ve wanted to do that with you and more, since we met. You have this obscenely sexy tendency to worry everyone to death. And I have to say, you look really good in my pants. Good enough to eat.”
Jack felt a flinch coming on, after that last fell out, but the Doctor just looked at him, studying every line, every contour of the Time Agent’s face. Then he spoke, and his voice, after so very long, was like salve on a wound.
“I have only ever wished to cherish as I was cherished, Jack. I still love Rose, more than my life. But she... is no longer my concern.”
The alien paused, stealing a shaky breath against the nearly-encroaching daylight, as he alone could feel its closing footfalls.
“You say you want to make love to me, love me. In my great age, I can instantly see in your eyes that you mean every word. But, to know what it is to Burn... can you withstand me, Jack Harkness? No one survives me unscathed. No one.”
“Fine. Are you saying you’ll show me? Because that’s what it sounds like.”
Then, rising to his full height, the Doctor took a step, each time focusing inward until it seemed as though the only proof of his existence lay in his darkening smoke-blue eyes, as the two glowering orbs quickly grew hotter and blacker than even the Void’s dark visage. His young, slender, deceptive hands, cunning and grave in their purpose, reached to grab either side of Jack’s face. He felt the smoothness of human skin, felt the contact of mind on mind as if brushing away a tear from his cheek. With brutal control he pushed gently into Jack’s consciousness, sweeping past every thin veil of protection as would a wave striking shore. The Time Agent stiffened in his grasp, and then the visions came.