Characters/Pairings: Nine, Jack and Rose, with a hint of Doctor/Jack
Summary: Jack has a keen sense for beginnings and endings.
Length: 1,099 words
Notes: No beta, but huge thanks go to matsujo9, who rescued me from embarrassing myself!
It’s got the sense of a beginning, this thing. Jack knows beginnings well. They feel a lot like endings, in a way, but more energetic, more naïve. He’s seen a lot of both lately – so many beginnings, and far too many endings.
They move around each other in cautious, nervous circles. Him circling Rose circling the Doctor circling him, the three of them so different, so much the same. It’s been a long while since Jack trusted anyone this readily, but he knows, like a stone knows how to fall, that he needs to be here. That this is the beginning of the rest of his life.
The Doctor has started making time for Jack in the evenings – with time in the TARDIS defined by Rose’s sleep cycles. It’s taken a while, but there’s a beginning here too, the very start of something that will last lifetimes. The Doctor avoids his eyes, mainly, but they talk of meaningless things, galactic politics, old stories, bits of universal lore. Jack works up the courage, one night, to tell him how he could improve one of the ship’s systems, and earns himself a hard stare that almost makes him wet his pants before the Doctor grins and tells him to go ahead.
It’s the long, slow ritual dance of measuring each other up, working each other out. Trying to find the safe zone, the no-man’s land where neither of them lives, but they can both relax. And it’s so slow, and so careful, that on the rare occasions the Doctor catches his eye, the understanding passes between them; this is not a brief thing. This will not be easy, or painless. But it will be forever – or so close he won’t know the difference – whether they want forever or not.
Not that Jack can understand what he’s seeing, what he’s feeling. It feels like a thousand different things all at once, just standing here in the bright-lit room with the panels off the walls and the Doctor watching him, calm as autumn and just as unpredictable. It feels like a prologue, like the clearing of throats before a saga. It feels like home and like being misplaced all at once. It feels like falling without knowing what’s beneath you, or how far you’ve got to drop, only that there’s no other way but down.
And some nights, the Doctor’s grin is gone, but his eyes are softer, and the lights are dim, the air warmer. He lets Jack a bit closer – not enough, never enough, but Jack is thankful for every inch that closes between them, and he’s learning how much he can push, and when he should back away.
Daytime is for Rose. It’s adventures and aliens and sights she’s never seen before. Every street, every city, every world new to her, and yet this – this life, this journey at the Doctor’s side – is as much the mark of an ending for her as a beginning. She’s wide-eyed and beautiful, gazing at the universe with an awe Jack hasn’t felt in years, but he knows the difference well. She’s left something of herself somewhere, and won’t ever get it back.
He watches her, all the time. Part of him needs to keep her in sight, wants to protect her from all the bad things he knows are out there, but she… it isn’t that she doesn’t see them, or won’t acknowledge there’s evil in the universe, nevertheless she doesn’t let it upset her. Doesn’t let it win.
She’s the strongest person he’s ever met, and yet he can feel something unravelling when she’s close. He can’t quite put words around the feeling. It’s there, though. And it’s strong.
But it doesn’t matter, any of it. Beginnings and endings, aliens and suns and subtle glances in the dark. It doesn’t matter here, not now.
The air is warm, the gentle breeze flicking Rose’s hair across her face and blossom through the air. None of them are dressed in the long, alien robes and scarves – the Doctor and Rose have been merciless about Jack’s shorts – but they blend in, as always. She links arms with both of them, as the Doctor lectures about the local cultures and they pretend to listen, secretly trading grins behind his back. A couple of children run past them, laughing, as a baker opens his door, sending a delicious waft of warmth across them. Jack feels almost completely relaxed, all the secret, ever-alert parts of his mind charged down and resting.
“I’m starving,” Rose cuts across the Doctor’s monologue on the strangely parallel evolution of architecture in this arm of the spiral galaxy. Jack grins. She’s always starving when they visit somewhere strange to her. He’s never met anyone with such an enthusiasm for the new and un-tested, especially when it comes to food.
She lets go of Jack and tugs the Doctor over the road, where a covered stall is selling something apparently edible, but pretty off-putting to Jack. He follows a couple of paces behind them, hands tucked in his pockets, basking in the unsubtle glances of a group of young lizard-like aliens. The Doctor rolls his eyes, and Jack knows he’s getting bored. He smiles. When the Doctor gets bored, things tend to get very interesting very quickly.
They both watch as Rose gulps down something blue and blobby as happily as if they were a portion of chips. The Doctor stuffs his hands in his pockets, glances back the way the came, where the TARDIS sits unnoticed in an alleyway. Jack gets the strange sensation that, beneath the greater beginning, something else, something smaller but an integral part of it, is beginning to end.
“Ever been to Japan?” the Doctor says.
Rose’s eyes light up. “No! Can we go?”
“Well, I dunno. Who’ll pay for the flights and look after the cat?”
She laughs, and Jack grins.
“Of course we can go. Captain, you’ve got to see Kyoto in 3036. You’ll both like it. I love it!” He grabs another box of the blue stuff for Rose, and they begin to head back to the alley. “Robots everywhere, wandering around some of the most ancient buildings in the world… fantastic!”
Jack catches Rose’s eye. “Ten pounds says we land more than a hundred years off.”
She laughs at the Doctor’s sudden scowl. “I’ll take that bet!”
Jack is last through the door. He takes a glance behind him, at the milling people, the shouting salesmen, the lizard-aliens and the blue-green sky. He looks, and he will remember, but he closes the door behind him.