Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Word Count: 2435
Summary: Jack is the only bloke who gets anything done around here.
Notes: Written for the who_contest "Amnesty" challenge. Chosen prompt is "Blame".
This is kind of a cheat, as I did actually write a story for the "Blame" challenge. Three of them, actually. The first, "Eight Months", turned out too long for the 500-word limit, so I started this one. This one got out of hand quickly and I didn't finish it, opting instead to try a third idea. That one was "Caged Bird", and it was my eventual entry for the challenge.
For this story, the original idea was to simply establish that River's squareness gun in "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" is Jack's gun from "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances", and explain how River got it and why the gun's handle changed color. As I worked on it this time, I couldn't figure out how to end it, which brought Meta into the room, and then from that conversation, the last part needed to be created.
This. This is why I never get anything done.
Bonus note: After all these years, this is my first story with Meta? Seriously? (Edit: Turns out it's the second. The first was Pete's World Jack meeting Meta, from two years ago.)
As Donna took a last spin around the TARDIS console to verify the engines were properly shut down, she eyed the rest of the team. The Doctor shared some joke with his twin, Rose hanging onto every word that passed between the two; Sarah Jane caught up with Mickey; Jackie bustled off to make tea, dragging Martha along to help her find the kitchen. It was all just as it should be, including the voice she expected to hear sounding behind her.
“Fine flyin’, Red.” Jack eyed her appreciatively as he came up and nudged her with his shoulder.
“Stop it,” she growled, and Jack grinned at her mimicry of the Doctor’s frequent warning to him. He wondered if she was aware that she’d done it at all.
“This metacrisis thing.” He gave the new Doctor a once-over. “He’s definitely benefited from having a piece of you. I have to admit I approve.”
“Are you sure? It went both ways, you know.” Leaning in close, she whispered, “I know who you are now, Captain Jack Harkness. Your tricks won’t work on me.”
“Then I’ll have to invent some new ones,” he crooned in her ear.
With a laugh, Donna stepped back and eyed him up and down. “It’s good to see you again, Jack. Same as ever.” Drawing the edge of his coat aside with a finger, she glanced at the white hilt of his sidearm and shook her head. “Down to the squareness gun, even.”
Jack pulled it out of its holster and turned it lovingly in his hands. “She’s one of the few constants I’ve had in my life. I kept her safe the whole time I waited for the twenty-first century to roll around, and I’m holding onto her as long as she wants to stay at my side.” He dropped the gun back in its place.
“Oh, I gotcha. I feel the same way, about certain things,” Donna mused with a wistful smile. As she reached across the panel to flip a few more switches, she commented over her shoulder, “Seen another just like it, you know, not long ago. We-ell,” she drawled, sounding not at all like herself, “not me exactly. He saw it. I’m just remembering. A lady by the name of River Song had one. It even had that ivory handle, not the black one it had back when I first… I mean, when he first met you. I expect he’ll be seeing it again, soon if she’s to be believed.” She winced, screwing her eyes closed as if the dim bluish light that suffused the console room was suddenly blinding.
Jack grasped her shoulder. “You all right?”
She nodded quickly, though her smile was pained. “These Doctor thoughts are flipping my brain like a pancake. That River Song… She’s someone important to him, only he doesn’t know it yet. Her past’s his future or some tosh. My head aches if I try too hard. Best to let the thoughts come and go as they will.” Shrugging, she managed a tolerably cheerful grin and stepped back to her work.
Jack patted her on the back then wandered off across the room and disappeared into the corridor. Her words, “her past, his future,” rang in his ears. If there was one thing he’d learned from the Doctor, it was to make sure time stayed on its rails. He broke into a jog as he scanned each door he passed. He knew what he was looking for. He hoped it was where he remembered it being.
Checking behind himself to make sure he wasn’t being followed, he slipped through a door and shut it behind his back. A smile flitted across his face as he took in the array of shelves and display cases arranged about the room, warm lamps highlighting the contents. This was the Doctor’s secret trophy room, displaying relics from some of his more interesting journeys. Once, a year earlier, the Doctor had brought Jack to this room, explaining that most of his collection was kept elsewhere, including crates of junk stored under the console room grating, but the items here were special, shown only to those he knew truly understood the complexities of his life. He’d allowed Jack to browse the room, making sure he understood that he was the first human to step inside.
From what Donna had said, this time-travelling River Song was exactly the kind of person the Doctor would bring here.
Jack paced around to the back of the room where a few sparsely-populated shelves waited for the fruit of future temporal shenanigans. He pulled the blaster from its holster and regarded it with a sad smile, then buffed an imaginary smudge from the barrel with his cuff. “Time for you to go, I guess. We’ve had some adventures, haven’t we? I’m sure you’ll have more, someday.” With a sigh, he reached up to place the gun on a high shelf, behind something that would keep it concealed until this future companion found it.
“I wondered how she got that thing. Had to be yours. It’s never a coincidence around here.”
Gun still in hand, Jack turned to face the Doctor in the blue suit, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. “Course she’s mine. You’ll never see another one like her.” He held up the gun by the barrel under one of the lamps. “I got her fresh from the factory, with the standard black cytoplastomer handle. Then it cracked, oh, round about 1925, so I splurged for the ivory. Made it unique. I like unique.”
The Doctor smirked at Jack’s implication, then waved a hand at the shelf. “Oi, don’t let me stop you, fly boy. Don’t want to cause a paradox because she didn’t get the thing at the right time.”
With a nod, Jack placed the gun on the shelf he’d originally selected, then slid it toward the rear so that it peeked out from behind an ornate brass box. He turned back to the Doctor with a frown. “Why am I bothering? He could just hand it to her himself.”
“Because he doesn’t know a thing.” The Doctor pushed off the wall and slipped around Jack to adjust the position of the gun to his own liking. “Now Donna, she’s got the intuition, she made the connection that hers was yours. To him, River’s gun was just a happy coincidence.”
‘And you figured it out because…?”
The Doctor tapped his temple. “Just like she got me, I got her, right inside. Bit o’ temper, bit o’ sass, and just a tad o’ human gut instinct. Not a whole lot, but like I said before, enough to know it’s never a coincidence around here.” He backed up as he surveyed the shelf. “There. Perfectly hidden from me, but from below, about here -” and he stooped slightly, looking up, “- it’s just visible.”
He turned around to find Jack leaning against the wall in the same spot he’d been standing a moment ago, arms crossed in just the same way and eyeing him with pursed lips. “What?”
“Something’s up. Tell me.”
“Nah.” The Doctor waved him off. Jack noticed that the duck and shake of his head kept him from having to look him in the eye.
“Bull,” Jack spat at him. “I don’t know Donna very well, but you, Doc, you I know. I can tell something’s wrong. What’s on your mind?”
The Doctor scrubbed his hand down over his jaw, then drew a deep breath. “Well. I’ve a favour to ask. I know you’ve got your team to look after and all, and Ianto, if I’ve read you right, but could you take the time to check up on Donna now and again? In Chiswick,” he added as an afterthought. “She lives in Chiswick.”
Jack frowned and glanced off in the direction of the console room, or at least in the direction he thought it was in. “Check up on her? I thought with all that’s happened, at home on Earth’d be the last place she’d want to be.”
“She’s not going to have the choice.” The Doctor bit his tongue, clearly not wanting to say what he had to say out loud, as if that alone would make it happen. “The metacrisis isn’t going to work for her, not for much longer. He’s going to stop it by blocking her memories, and that’ll be the end of her in the TARDIS.” Jack suspected that the Doctor was struggling to appear dispassionate. “And he’s never going to look back.”
“Don’t I know it,” Jack sighed. “But you can. You can take care of her.”
The Doctor shook his head. “Can’t do that either. I know what he intends for me. because it’s what I’d do if I were him. Which I am.” He smiled, though his eyes shimmered with a hint of sadness. “Mind you, it’s not the worst fate I could think of, but it means I won’t be here.”
Jack stepped forward and clapped the Doctor on the shoulder. “Of course I’ll check up on her, make sure she’s doing good. Any special instructions?”
“Just one,” the Doctor replied. “No alien stuff. That’s what could make it all come back again. She’s got to just have a normal life like she used to have, where all the weird things were happening to someone else.”
“Leave the laser guns and Raxacoricofallapatorians at home, check,” Jack chirped as he swooshed a finger across his palm like he was writing it all down.
“I hate heaping another thing on you like this,” began the Doctor, but Jack waved him silent.
“Don’t mention it, Doc. It’s what friends are for. Her friend as well as yours.”
“Thanks, Jack.” Stepping forward, they grasped hands, clapped each other on the back, then headed out to rejoin the party.
Donna was still grinning fit to crack her face wide open as she stepped out of the pub into the cool Chiswick night and turned toward home, the loud cackles of her friend Veena following her into the darkness. “Say hi to Shaun for me,” came her last words, “if you’ve got nothing better to do with your mouth!”
“Tomorrow afternoon, then,” Donna yelled back, craning her neck to shout the words into the pub before the door swung shut. She wasn’t heading to Shaun’s flat, but they didn’t need to know that.
It’d been a great evening, only the third hen night since she’d recovered from her long illness which had robbed her of a year’s worth of memories. The first two had been quiet, sedate events, her mates all walking on pins and needles any time they said anything to her. This time, she’d really felt like they had stopped handling her with kid gloves, and they’d joked and gossiped for hours. She had a feeling, though, that it wouldn’t have gone so well if that handsome square-jawed American hadn’t joined their table. Jack, he’d said his name was. He hadn’t known she’d been sick and had treated her like everyone else, and the girls had followed suit.
He’d fit in like they’d all been friends for years, even though Nerys and Veena had been hanging all over him from the moment he’d sat down, like he’d charmed them instantly with that winning smile. Nerys could vamp a bloke when she had a mind to - he’d only find out later what an ice queen she really was - so Donna expected they’d start their own private party when the pub meet finally broke up.
The sound of boots on pavement behind her jolted Donna out of her thoughts, and she reflexively clutched her handbag closer as she glanced over her shoulder.
“Hey, Red, wait up!”
Donna stopped and tried not to gape as Jack caught up to her. “I’ll walk you home, if it’s okay. I’d love the company.” He patted his elbow in invitation.
“Of course,” Donna agreed, and she hooked her arm on his. “Though there’s a lot more company back there.” She jerked her head back towards the pub.
“I like a bit of quiet now and again,” explained Jack, “and to be honest, the warmest company at the table decided to head home, so I didn’t see much reason to stick around.”
That elicited a pleased giggle. “You sure know how to charm a girl,” Donna crooned.
“A woman,” he corrected. “A very lovely, mature woman.”
Though the compliment raised a bit of colour on her cheeks, she glanced at him in surprise, afraid he might be getting the wrong idea about her. Before she could warn him off, he continued by asking, “Didn’t you say you’re seeing someone? Shaun, I think you said his name was.”
“Yeah, that’s right...” she drawled, unable to ascertain where this was going.
“You know, tomorrow I’m heading home to Cardiff, but I’ll be back in London in two weeks. How about you and Shaun meet me at the Grey Hare for dinner? My treat,” he added after a beat.
Donna threw his arm down and stepped back. “Bit odd, don’t you think, sunshine? Asking me out with my boyfriend?”
Jack’s expression was innocence itself. “It’s just dinner. I was hoping to get to know you better, and the man who was lucky enough to catch you.”
“That’s a bit thick,” she spat, though her eyes sparkled with laughter.
Jack shrugged. “Only the truth.” He paused, biting his lip as he rubbed his fingers with his thumb. “I live and work in Cardiff, but I have to be in town often enough, and I don’t have many friends out this way. It’d be nice to have people to hang out with. And besides,” he added as he glanced up at the dark sky, “you remind me of a good friend of mine. Gone, but not forgotten. I’d hate to miss out on another one.” He smiled down at her. “I think he would have loved to meet you.”
“Well, I can’t say no to that, can I? A fortnight Saturday it is, then.” Donna latched on to his arm again and clutched him close as they started walking again. “Though not the Gray Hare. Too posh. Me and Shaun, we don’t do that sort of thing. A pub’s more our speed.”
Jack jerked his head back at the establishment they’d recently left. “Back there, then?”
“Sure. That’s perfect.” Donna looked up at him. “What’d they say in that old film? That black and white one, with Humphrey Bogart?”
“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”