“Do you miss her?” Jack asks, because he feels like it needs to be said out loud, and anyway, he’s more perceptive than the Doctor ever gave him credit for. He would have to be an idiot to miss the feeling of melancholy exuding from the tweed-wearing, bow-tie sporting Doctor (Who is sometimes manic, always brilliant, and usually talkative, but rarely happy), and that is one thing that Jack has never been (maybe once, but it was all washed away to the tune of a crooning 40‘s diva, and the lullaby of London being bombed; a baptism by nano-genes, and the Doctor's smile on the day that everyone lived).
When Jack asks, the Doctor isn’t sure what to say, though his 11th body is more talkative than his 9th, and more impulsive than his 10th. Even so, for a moment after the question is uttered, there is an emptiness inside of him; a grief that seems to be without ending. He wants to say that this regeneration has removed him enough from the memory to allow him to let go; That the pain of losing her belongs to a different man, but though Jack would not contradict his answer, and it would save his pride, they would both see it for a lie, and somehow the Doctor feels that the other man is owed more. He says nothing, but Jack knows, and it is evident in the lines of his face that stiffen, and those that crumble, and those narrowed eyes that stare down into his scotch as if it might cauterize some of his hurt.
But Jack is never easy, and has never been one to let a person take the easy way out; not really. He owes the Doctor more than that, and besides, he can relate to losing everything, and being forced to move on regardless. The silence stretches out between them, twanging like an over-stressed rubber band, until it drags the grudging words from the Doctor’s tightened throat like pulling teeth.
“Does it need saying?” The Doctor asks softly, but though he knows that Jack will forgive him almost anything, the other man doesn’t smile, or look away, and there is pained judgment in his eyes.
The 11th face is kinder, and somewhat gentle, even in anger, and he pushes his glass away abruptly, ancient eyes going bruised, and swollen, and tender with hurt that he wishes he could resent. His voice is kindly chiding, and it doesn’t match the hunch of his shoulders, or his tight features, though somehow there is a slight smile on his face, as if he finds something amusing about everything and nothing at once.
“I see her everywhere, Jack.” The young looking man admits, steepling his fingers, and trying to think about nothing at all, because though anger is easier than grief, he is always a coward, and running is the easiest of all.
Jack is sympathetic. Jack almost always is in matters of emotion, especially when it involves the Doctor; near immortals have to stick together, after all. The former captain finishes his scotch, and swirls the glass, watching cubes of ice clatter in the bottom, and thinks that, like a mirror, the Doctor's hearts have been mended, but they will always hold the spiderweb cracks of her desperate "I love you"; He will remember her until the day he dies, which is a cruelty that should not be wished on anyone who has so long to live.
“It’s so much easier to try and distract yourself. Easier to try and forget, than to remember something painful. After all the good that you’ve done, it isn’t fair that you should have to carry this burden too.” Jack said, pausing to usher an ice cube into his mouth, which he crunched absently, trying to feel the shape of things, and failing an a typical, fumbling, spectacularly human manner.
“But life isn’t fair. And if you completely forget the girl who gave everything for you--The girl you love--…Is that really the sort of man you want to be? Because that’s not the sort of man I respect.”
The 11th Doctor’s chin fell into his palm. “Do you know what 'Zlý vlk' means, Jack?” he asked, in a far away voice, and Jack smiled, even though it wasn’t a very nice one; all teeth, and sharp edges, and something hard behind the skin.
“How do you think I knew that I’d find you here, Doctor? We’re going to spend eternity, you and I, following the name of a London shop-girl across the stars. And you’re going to do it, because even though you know you’ll never see her again, you can’t give up on her. She never gave up on you.”
The Doctor leaves without saying goodbye, because Jack is right, and the Doctor knows without a doubt that he will be following Rose Tyler's shadow for the rest of his life, because she is the woman he loves, and the words, scattered through time and space are the only thing left of her.
Tags: 11/rose, doctor who, fanfiction, rose/the doctor
I am in: Leaning on this broken fence between past and present tense.
I'm feeling: anxious
I am listening to: She and Him -- Thieves