Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters/pairings: Jack Harkness/Rose Tyler/Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor
Warnings (including spoilers): Spoilers for 2x13 Doomsday and 3x11 Utopia.
Wordcount: 2,226 words
Author’s note: Found this buried in my files from two years ago! What joy! Title is from ‘Message in a Bottle’ by The Police, which was sort of the inspiration for this story. Fills the ‘Hostile climate’ square of my hc_bingo card and the ‘What is this thing you call ‘love’?’ square of my made up cliche_bingo card, which seems like a stretch but I assure you-- it’s not. *nods wisely*
Summary: Marriage is different where Jack comes from.
Slowly, muscles twitching, Jack slumped down atop Rose, their sweaty bodies sliding together in a way that made him want to make love to her all over again. The sun seared along his back as he pushed himself up enough to kiss her luxuriously, until they were forced to break apart, gasping. The Doctor chuckled something about respiratory bypass as Jack rolled to the side, basking in the heat of the sun on his bare skin.
A second later, he was gasping at the heat from below. “Yow!” He scrambled back onto the blanket, scattering beach sand all over Rose.
“Jack!” she complained half-heartedly, “it'll rub off my sunscreen.”
Jack nuzzled into her neck. “We could always reapply it,” he murmured.
“No need,” the Doctor from his recliner on Rose’s other side, eyes nonchalantly directed toward the clouds. “Protection lasts up to four hours, guaranteed.”
“Well that's no fun.” Jack sat up. He gazed down the dark-sand beach that stretched for miles to either side without another soul in sight. At this time, on this planet, nature’s perfection was untouched by any living race, and would be for another millennium. The ocean shone with the incredible blue of clean water, and although he was tens of thousands of years and galaxies away from Boe, Jack stared at the horizon and let himself feel at home.
While Jack wasn't paying attention, Rose pulled her bikini back on and turned to the Doctor. “Does the Tardis make margaritas?” she asked, smiling sweetly. The Doctor distractedly eyed her curves, even as he grimaced.
“My Tardis is not a drinks machine, you know,” he protested.
“We're on a beach, in pre-historic Hawai’i,” Rose countered. “Sun, sand and alcohol, you can hardly have two without the other, aren't I right Jack?” She turned to smile at their third.
Startled from contemplation, Jack hesitated a moment before answering. “Alcohol, definitely. But I think some Kantapon tequila is more suitable for the locale.”
“Made in Hawaii in the 43rd century,” the Doctor answered, giving Jack an odd look. “There's a bottle in the cellar behind the main kitchen.”
A few hours later, the sun was going down and the day had cooled off, though not enough to stop Rose pestering the Doctor to take off his clothes. Even flirting that she could use some help applying more sunscreen was unsuccessful. However, when Jack didn't join in her good-natured cajoling, Rose's interest was piqued.
“Do you see somethin’ in the water, Jack? Ooh, is it a whale?” she peered excitedly over his shoulder.
“No, sorry,” the former Time agent shook his head. “I’ve just been thinking…”
“That’s a dangerous occupation for an ape,” the Doctor rumbled. At Jack’s Look, he softened the insult with a slight quirk of the lips. “Should spit it out, ‘fore you hurt yourself.”
Jack looked back at the ocean, where the twinkles of the fading sunlight on the water seemed to wink at him. He looked at his lovers, whose eyes twinkled just as beatifically. “I was just wondering…” He rubbed the back of his neck, not afraid of rejection, because rejection itself wasn’t too bad, but just a bit nervous. “Would you two marry with me?”
Rose’s reaction was the more theatrical: her eyes bugged out and she spluttered for a long moment before squeaking out “What?!” at a very high pitch.
Behind her, the Doctor smiled gently.
“You can’t possibly-- I mean-- it’s just really-- Jack do you even have a ring? I mean, rings, I guess, and--”
Jack frowned. “I can get you jewlery if you want it. But I meant for today.”
Before Rose could voice her obvious confusion, the Doctor held up his hand. “You’re talkin’ at cross purposes here. Jack, in Rose’s time and country, marriage is for two people and lasts their whole lives.”
It was Jack’s turn to open his eyes wide. “Woah, that’s not what I-- you two are great, but--”
“Did you want to get married for one day?” Rose interrupted sharply. Her expression was very accusatory and Jack drew back unconsciously.
“Rose,” the Doctor said with long patience, “in Jack’s time and place, marriage is static in time and for as many people as want to be involved.”
Rose grabbed Jack’s jacket from where she’d stashed it under the Doctor’s recliner and tugged it on, tucking her hands into the sleeves. “What do you mean, static in time?”
The Doctor nodded to Jack, then settled back in his chair, clearly done shepherding along the humans.
“I lived on a beach,” Jack said, looking out over the ocean. “Like this. There was a war on, for a century before I was born. Our colony was…” He looked down at his lap. When he was silent for a while, Rose reached out and squeezed one of his hands.
“You learned to appreciate the time you had with people, cause you never knew how long it would last. And even if they lived through it all… there was no guarantee they’d be the same person.” He swallowed. “People in the colony would go down on the beach on special nights, write their names down on parchment and throw it in the sea in a bottle. The tide would go out, and… even if we were gone the next week, the sea would hold a record of our love.”
To Rose, and over her shoulder at the Doctor, he directed a small smile. “When there were storms, we’d go down and search through the debris, and sometimes we could find bottles that were decades old, people we knew, or heard stories about… People who were gone. But their love was still there, in the sea,” he finished, eyes far away on the darkening horizon.
Rose was blinking back tears. “And that’s marriage, for you?” she asked, her voice a bit raspy.
Jack nodded and squeezed her hand back. “Traveling with the two of you… I don’t want to stop, not at all, but you have to admit we get up to some trouble, and… well, we’re here,” he waved at the ocean. “Just seemed right.”
The Doctor tapped a finger on the emptied tequila bottle, making it ring slightly. “We’ve got a buoyant receptacle all ready. I don’t see why we can’t start littering up the planet a few thousand years early.”
Rose smiled and nodded. “I like it.”
Jack grinned back. “Anybody got a pen?”
A she dug around in the pockets of Jack’s coat, came up empty, and prodded the Doctor into searching his pockets, Rose ignored Jack’s sniffs and the way his eyes glimmered more than the stars overhead.
“You might be out there, somewhere,” the Doctor said from behind the glass of the radiation chamber. His expression was masked cruelty lit by red warning lights, and his voice cut into Jack like few others had ever managed, and his face was so, so different… but he was still the man Jack had fallen in love with.
“I could go meet myself,” he bantered back, because if there was one thing Jack had left it was his pride, and the Doctor would not get to see him bleed. He gripped the final coupling, started to twist it.
“Well,” the Doctor said, gaze innocently falling on him, “only man you’re ever going to be happy with.”
“Ha!” Jack gasped with the effort of settling the old coupling, grateful for the exertion as an excuse for his uneven breathing. “This new regeneration, it’s kind of cheeky,” he replied.
The Doctor chuckled as the last coupling fell in place. “Alright, get out of there, come on.” He nodded toward the hallway where they’d come.
Jack could feel the radiation sizzling under his skin. But the Doctor’s words hurt worse, and hey. It wasn’t like he wouldn’t heal. “Now that I think about it, I remember being happy with another person. Two people, in fact.” He leaned against one of the couplings and crossed his arms.
The sardonic amusement melted off the Doctor’s face. “Jack, get out of there!”
Jack ignored him. “Now what I wanna know is, does regeneration mess with your memory as well as your personality? Or do you just not care anymore?”
There was a loud beeping coming from behind the Doctor, audible even over the sounds of the chamber. The Doctor glanced over his shoulder at the monitor, and when he looked back, he seemed livid in the red glow cast from behind Jack. “Get out of the chamber, Jack!”
Jack stood up, uncrossed his arms. “I get left on a space station. Rose is trapped in a parallel universe! I know the old you would never have let that happen.” He jabbed his finger at the Doctor.
The beeping was getting faster. The Doctor stood expressionless for several long seconds. “People change, Jack, even if they live. Thought you knew that already.”
He turned his back and walked away from the chamber.
Jack was walking by the park when he heard the sound. For the first instant, he thought it was in his head, the product of bad sleep and too many regrets. But in his dreams, the Tardis echoed, resounded, and today her call died against the suffocating inches of snow on the ground and buildings. He looked, and the sparse trees in the park shivered with vibrations.
The Tardis was really here. He snorted gently, a cloud puffing under his nose, and walked on.
A block away, Jack spoke. “I came to Mars to get away from you, you know.”
The streets were empty, humanity and their co-habitants safe inside, hiding from temperatures that could quickly kill warm-blooded life forms. Behind him, there was a scuffling sound.
Tall and pale and long-faced, in a tweed suit and a red bow-tie, the Doctor righted himself from the patch of ice that had slipped him up. He brushed himself off and drew himself up, before slumping back awkwardly. “Why would you do that, Mars is lovely, I have nothing against Mars.”
“My mistake,” Jack said coldly. He turned and continued down the sidewalk. The red stone buildings high on each side were familiar, as were the slate stones of the narrow pedestrian walkway beneath his feet; some he’d helped lay himself. This planet had been Jack’s home for decades, and he felt rooted enough here that the appearance of the Oncoming Storm could not shake his calm.
“Jack!” The Doctor called, and trotted after him. Like a puppy, Jack thought uncharitably. “Jack, just give me a moment.”
“I’m not even going to give you a response to that,” Jack snarled, jerking his arm away when the Doctor tugged on it.
“Please, Jack, just let me speak.” The Doctor stood in his path, shoes sliding a bit on slick cobblestone, hands held up before him. This version of him did plaintive very well, with a thick lower lip stuck out and wobbling.
Jack shrugged, resettling his thick coat on his shoulders. The Doctor’s cheeks were pale with bright red spots. “What do you want?”
“To say I’m sorry. No I need to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Jack.” This version of him had gray eyes that gleamed in the weak sunlight. They were wide and begging.
“For what?” Jack resisted the urge to cross his arms; that would mean taking his hands out of his pockets, and it really was cold, even for Mars.
“For lots of things, really very many things, far more things than I have to apologize to anyone else for, a whole list. I could list them, but that would take a while and it really is very brisk out here, how do you humans do it?” He shivered and rubbed his upper arms, bouncing from one foot to another like a toddler.
Jack raised an eyebrow. “You can always run back to the Tardis.”
The Doctor stepped closer. “I came here to see an old friend, Jack.”
“The time when we were friends was long ago, Doctor,” Jack said, a bitter smile creeping up on him. “The time when we were even allies was long ago.” ‘Busy life, moving on,’ Jack remembered. He shoved his hands deeper in his pockets and stepped around the Doctor.
“What if I said the bottle’s come back to the beach?”
The Doctor’s voice echoed in the empty street. Jack turned around, a lick of anger flaring inside him for the first time during the encounter, but the Doctor looked wrung out, exhausted. He was even standing slightly hunched, as though he were tilted at an angle to the ground and couldn’t find the right way up. Jack hesitated.
“People change, Jack,” The Doctor said, sounding unsure. “And people make mistakes.”
“Some people make a lot of mistakes.” It was cruel, but Jack figured he owed him some.
The Doctor looked down at his shoes. A sheen of ice was starting to collect on the tops.
“I’ve got a flat,” Jack said quietly, to the Doctor’s shoes. “It’s no beach on Hawai’i, but it’s warmer than out here.”
The Doctor glanced up, and Jack groaned internally. Like a puppy. He could already feel the pull toward the Doctor, the new face doing little to disguise the man within.
“Come on.” He shrugged one shoulder and turned, and the Doctor fell into step by his side.
My Made-Up Cliche Bingo Card
My H/C Bingo Card