The Doctor sat at Jack's side in the Tardis' medical bay, maintaining vigil in a silence through which no one – not even Martha – could break. The younger man lay in state, his skin steadily turning cold as all remaining warmth fled his body in death. He had no explanation for Jack's death this time save one, and the implications scared the hell out of him. Consequently, he refused to speak to anyone and continued to sit there, watching and waiting, and praying to Rassilon that it wasn't what he thought.

When Martha had asked that question, tears in her eyes and her voice trembling, anyone would have been hard pressed to know who got to Jack's side first – the Doctor or Ianto. Even with his arm visibly broken, Ianto wasted no time extracting himself from the arms of his colleagues to scramble across the floor to Jack's side. While he clutched Jack's hand in his own, the Doctor crouched over the Captain's body, scanning him frantically with his sonic screwdriver.

Now, nearly two hours later, Jack showed no sign of returning to life, and the Doctor was finding it harder and harder to hide his growing fear.

Voices intruded on his consciousness, and he looked around the med bay slowly. On one side of the room, Ianto Jones lay on a bed, surrounded by his three Torchwood colleagues. His broken arm had been mended by the medical technology in the Tardis, and now he lay in a state of semi-sedation while his body and mind recovered from the shock of all that had happened.

In the next bed was the police detective, Bobby Goren. The Doctor frowned a little, stirred from his deeply meditative state as his gaze focused properly on Bobby's pale face for the first time, and all of a sudden, a memory from long ago sparked to life. Many regenerations past – six, if he wasn't mistaken – he remembered a child in a house empty for all save an ill parent, a nameless monster and a frightening encounter.

Before he fully realised what he was doing, the Doctor rose to his feet and cross the room to where Bobby lay, talking quietly to his partner and his captain.

Silence fell as the Doctor approached, and not only did Bobby, Alex and Ross look to him, so did the Torchwood team where they sat keeping Ianto company; and so did Martha, who was making of show of stocktaking the medical supplies with Donna.

“Hello again, Bobby,” the Doctor said quietly, watching the detective with a slightly quirked eyebrow. Bobby blinked, staring back at the Doctor in visible confusion.

“You... know me?”

“We've met before,” the Doctor answered, and Bobby shook his head, laughing uneasily.

“No, I don't think so. I think I'd remember you.”

A wry smile twisted across the Doctor's face.

“Not this face, no. When we met last, you were just a little boy, and I was only in my fourth regeneration.”

“Bobby, what's he talking about?” Alex asked softly. Bobby shook his head.

“I don't know.”

“Oh, yes, you do,” the Doctor cut him off. “You just don't want to remember.”

“What are you talking about?” Bobby asked, starting to feel agitated. “I never met you!”

“You were affected by it, weren't you?” the Doctor asked abruptly. “The Grysliaak? It affected you, and no one else.”

Bobby paled even more, but he nodded an affirmative.

“Yes... It did. You know why, don't you?”

“Because you've encountered one before. When you were a boy, just a little boy. Alone in your house, your mother sick in bed. And a shadow that shouldn't have been there, a shadow chasing you in the dark, hunting you down.”

Bobby had frozen in the bed, his face draining of what little colour he still had, and he clutched Alex's hand in a death grip. The Doctor nodded grimly.

“You remember now, don't you?”

Bobby swallowed hard, and spoke in a shaky whisper.

“I remember... I was alone with Mom that weekend. Dad had gone on a trip to Sacramento, and he'd taken Frank with him. Mom was... She was sick. I was only eight, but I tried to take care of her. But something came... There was a power blackout. I was looking for candles when I heard it. It called me by name... I panicked and ran, and it chased me... I never saw it, but I could feel it... chasing me everywhere I ran, until it cornered me in the kitchen.” He looked up at the Doctor, eyes wide. “There was a man. He had curly hair, a scarf... and... jelly babies?”

The Doctor smiled with remembered affection.

“Quite fond of them back then, I was. Can't stand them now, of course.”

Bobby drew in a shuddering breath.

“He stopped it. I don't know how, I don't remember that. I just remember him picking me up off the floor and taking me upstairs to my bedroom... He put me in bed, gave me a jelly baby, and told me to go to sleep. He said it'd all seem like just a bad dream when I woke up. I asked him who he was... He told me his name was the Doctor...” He stared in shock at the tall, lanky man who was standing by his bedside. “It was you.”

No question, no confusion, just a simple statement of realisation. The Doctor smiled faintly.

“You survived a Grysliaak's attack twice. I'm impressed, and believe me, I'm not easy to impress.”

Bobby was silent for a long minute, wondering how to respond to that. In the end, he could think of only one thing to say. His gaze went to the other side of the room, and he asked a single question in a soft voice.

“Why isn't Jack waking up?”

The Doctor stiffened noticeably, and he was barely aware of it when Martha came to stand beside him, gently slipping her hand into his.

“It's to do with that light, isn't it? You shouted at him not to look at it... but what if he did? What would it have done to him?”

“It could kill him permanently, if that's what he truly wanted,” the Doctor admitted, feeling sick with burgeoning grief. “The Tardis can see into your heart, and if Jack allowed her to see into his... If she saw a desire to die... She could take his immortality from him as easily as it was given.”

“You think that's what's happened?” Gwen asked, sounding distinctly frightened all of a sudden. “That's he's dead... for good?”

“I can't feel it in him,” the Doctor admitted in a suddenly tremulous voice as he walked back across to the bedside. “He should feel wrong, even in death... but he doesn't. Not anymore. I can't feel the vortex in him.”

“Then we have to take him back to the console room,” Martha said fiercely. “We have to open the heart again, and make her change him back. We have to...”

“We can't,” the Doctor cut her off. “If this is what Jack wanted...”

He grunted as she grabbed at his jacket lapels and jerked him around.

“TheFace of Boe, Doctor. Remember? If Jack is dead, how will he ever be able to give you that message in the year Five Billion?”

The Doctor turned the colour of ash as realisation hit, and he practically bounded back to Jack's bedside. Switching on his sonic screwdriver, he scanned it furiously over Jack's body, searching for something, for some tiny spark.

“C'mon,” he whispered, “there must be something... Damn you, Jack, don't you be the one to leave me, now. You said you forgave me, so prove it! Come back to me, you.. you...”

He trailed off, and nervous silence reigned as the Doctor searched Jack's body for the tiniest sign of life. Minutes ticked by and the anxiety increased tenfold before the screwdriver suddenly squawked loudly, and the Doctor shouted triumphantly.

“There you are, Captain! Sneaky, hiding away like that. Bet you wanted me to come looking for you, didn't you? Always the attention seeker, cheeky sod...”

“He's alive, then?” Ross asked, with a feeling of hope that surprised himself. The Doctor, however, shook his head.

“No, not yet, but the Vortex hasn't left him yet, either. He can come back, but the question is, how to do it? How to draw him back?”

“Can't he just come back on his own?” Alex wondered, and again the Doctor shook his head in answer.

“He's too weak to pull himself back,” he said grimly. “He needs help.”

“Go on, Gwen,” Owen told his colleague dryly. “Go give him a snog.”

“Owen, shut it,” Gwen snapped. Owen was unrepentant, though.

“It worked last time, didn't it?”

“Just a coincidence,” she retorted, embarrassed by all the attention that was suddenly directed towards her. The Doctor's attention, though, had well and truly snagged by Owen's words.

“What do you mean, the last time?”

Uncomfortable silence met his question, and suspicion filled the Doctor's face.

“Now see, when no one wants to answer me, it just makes me all the more determined to know. So someone had better answer me, and quickly!”

It was Tosh who spoke, looking almost queasy.

“You... don't know? Jack never told you about Abaddon?”

The Doctor's expression darkened even more. He knew that name, and it could only mean bad news.

“Abaddon, the Destroyer? How do you know about him?”

Nervous looks were exchanged, and Gwen reluctantly took it on herself to explain.

“We made a terrible mistake a while back. We allowed ourselves to be influenced by false visions, and we fully opened the rift. We thought it was the only way to set everything right, but it just made it a thousand times worse.”

“You released Abaddon,” the Doctor stated tonelessly, and Gwen nodded, tears filling her eyes at the memory.

“Yes. We did.”

“It wasn't Jack's fault,” Tosh added softly. “He tried to stop us, but we wouldn't listen to him. We were so sure that we were right, and we all turned on him. It was horrible, the whole thing was horrible.”

The Doctor shook his head, his features creased in a deep frown.

“No, that's not right. Jack would have found a way to stop you... unless...”

Owen coughed self-consciously.

“Yes, well, that would have been the point at which I shot him in the head.”

By that time, the Doctor's face was positively thunderous, and when he spoke it was with barely-controlled fury.

“What happened?”

“Jack came back to life,” Gwen answered softly. “Scared the hell out of all of us in the process... but then he had to face Abaddon. I watched it happen. Jack force-fed his life force to Abaddon... He overloaded it, I guess. He destroyed it, but doing it killed him. He was dead for three whole days, and we thought that was it. He wasn't coming back. I... I kissed him, to say goodbye, and he woke up as I was walking away.”

The Doctor stared at her for several long seconds before looking back at Jack's lifeless form with some incredulity. A kiss...? Could it really be as simple... and as complicated... as that?

“You don't really believe that, do you?” Donna asked sceptically. “I mean, come on! This isn't a bloody fairy tale, and he sure as hell isn't Sleeping Beauty!”

The Doctor didn't react to Donna at all, his attention exclusively on Jack. The cliché and the utter irony of it didn't escape him – a kiss to wake him, to bring him back to life. The one thing that Jack Harkness had been yearning to claim from him since they'd come face to face again on Malcassairo, and the the one thing the Doctor would not allow him to take. He had to swallow a bitter laugh at the idea that he might now have to kiss Jack in order to coax him back to life.

“I'll do it, if you really think that's what has to be done.”

It was Martha who offered, much to the Doctor's private amusement. He raised an eyebrow at her, observing the blush in her cheeks with a tiny smile.

“As much as I'd love to let you, Martha, I'm afraid not.”

On the other side of the room, Owen snorted loudly.

“Knew it. Even his ruddy doctor has got it bad for him.”

The Doctor shot Owen a look that left the medic positively cowed, and then looked back to Martha with a wry expression.

“None of you have sufficient living energy to infuse him with. I have to do it. I'm the only one who can.”

“But that doesn't make sense,” Gwen argued. “If it really works like that, then hhow come I was able to bring him back after Abaddon?”

“I don't know,” the Doctor admitted as he walked back and began to draw the curtain the bed, to afford both Jack and himself some privacy. “Maybe it had been three days, he'd had enough time for his body to regenerate the power that he needed to come back to life. Right now, though, I'm not willing to wait that long. So, if you'll all excuse me...”

He pulled the curtain right around the bed, blocking everyone else in the room from seeing what was happening, and was just sitting down on the edge of the bed when the curtain moved, and Martha slipped in. He looked up at her questioningly as she seated herself on the other side of the bed, and gently grasped Jack's cold, limp hand in her own.

“He's my friend, too, Doctor,” she said softly. “Do what you've gotta do. Just don't tell me I can't be here for him.”

Nodding, he returned his attention to Jack and, silently promising to smack the good Captain well and truly over the head when it was all over, the Doctor leaned down and closed his lips over Jack's.

It was dark, so utterly and completely dark. He was aware, but only on a very primal level. It was like having an out-of-body experience – not that he had ever had one before to know for certain. Although, he did have a couple of points of comparison. The state he was in now; dead, and yet not dead, was disturbingly similar to how he had been after dying that very first time, and again after his confrontation with Abaddon.

Then again, perhaps not the first one. He had no memories, per se, of that very first death by Dalek death ray. Mortal death, that had been, whereas all his deaths thereafter had been more like extremely deep comas. No, this was more like how it had been after Abaddon – utterly drained of everything, only the tiniest spark left and not enough strength to drag himself back into life.

He tried to open his eyes, to look through the void for some way of pulling himself out of the darkness, but he lacked the strength even for that. He felt like he was so heavily weighted down that he couldn't move for trying. It felt as though his limbs were made of lead and the cold... He was so damned cold. It was as though the very blood in his veins had turned to ice.

He tried to imagine an eternity of this, trapped in this state of nothingness, and he wanted to scream. The will was there, but not the physical or mental strength to follow through on the desire.

No tears to weep, no voice to scream. He was trapped, with no way to either fight his way back to life, or pass fully into death. An eternity of this would surely drive him insane, if indeed he was not there already.

And yet... not alone. The realisation came gradually that there was another presence somewhere in the darkness. For a moment that felt like forever, he was terrified. The words of another came back to haunt him.

Something in the dark... Something coming for him...

But then, his fear subsided as he realised there was nothing threatening in that presence. In fact, the stronger it got, the warmer he felt. Slowly, he could feel that terrible, pervasive iciness leaving his body, to be replaced with a comforting warmth that was increasing in strength with every moment that passed.

He half expected the stereotypical light to appear, or to feel himself being tugged back to life, but there was none of that. Instead, he gradually became conscious of fingers lightly stroking his temple, a warm hand grasping his own and cool lips pressing gently to his own, breathing precious oxygen back into his lungs. The hand holding his squeezed as a familiar voice whispered in his mind.

'Time to come home, Captain...'

The Doctor sensed Jack stirring beneath him and, even though he knew that he probably didn't need to, he continued the gentle kiss. Jack would have a ball with him over it later on, no doubt, but right then he just wanted to be sure that Jack would not slip back into death.

It was only when he felt Jack's lips part beneath his own, and experienced the subtle swipe of the Captain's tongue against his lips, that the Doctor jerked backwards and focused a quasi-serious glare at the young immortal. He couldn't quite conceal his delight, though, at the sight of pale blue eyes staring back at him, and those lips quirking upwards in a familiar, cheeky grin.

“Satisfied, Captain?” the Doctor asked with an ill-concealed smirk. Jack offered him a lop-sided grin and licked his lips in a gesture that, coming from anyone else, would have been obscene.

“Not quite,” he answered, his voice little more than a whisper. “You moved away.”

The Doctor tried to frown, but it was an effort doomed to failure. His delight at seeing Jack alive again overpowered his irritation ten-fold, and for once he found himself revelling in the other man's wrongness. Jack's smile soon faded, though, to be replaced with a palpable fear.

“Ianto and Bobby...”

“Are both safe,” the Doctor assured him.

“And the Grysliaak...?”

“Absorbed into the Tardis' power core. It's gone for good, Jack. It'll never come after you again.”

“Thankyou,” Jack whispered, tears blurring his eyes. The Doctor smiled affectionately at him.

“You're mine, Jack,” he told him softly. “No matter where you are or what you're doing, you will always be mine. And whenever you're in trouble, I'll always come, no matter where or when I am.”

Tears spilled from Jack's eyes at the Doctor's heartfelt declaration, and for one of the few times in his life he found himself utterly speechless. The Doctor grinned widely, quick to take advantage of the Captain's wordless state. He stepped back from the bed, then, and nodded to Martha.

Jack looked around, and surprise flickered across his features as he registered her presence for the first time.

“M... Ma...”

His voice finally failed him, his mouth and throat too dry to speak. Martha reacted immediately, picking up a cup of ice chips from the table by the bedside.

“Here,” she murmured, and spooned some chips into his mouth. “Suck on those for a minute, and save the filthy comments.”

He smirked, but made no attempt to speak. Sucking softly on the ice, he took huge relief in the sensation of icy liquid hydrating his mouth and running down his throat.

“Better?” she asked finally, and he nodded slightly.

“Much. Thanks.” He reached up and grasped her hand lightly with a grip that trembled very slightly. “Good to see you again, gorgeous.”

She blushed slightly and smiled back at him.

“Stop it,” the Doctor growled, only half serious. Jack rolled his eyes.

“I was only saying hello.”

“Save it for later, Captain. You need rest. It'll be a while before you're back to full strength.”

Jack sighed faintly, and he could feel his eyes growing heavy again as exhaustion threatened to claim him.

“Is it over, Doctor...?”

The Doctor stared down at his former companion with very real affection.

“Yes, Jack. It's over. You can rest, now, Captain. You're safe. You're all safe.”

Jack sighed again with relief, and his eyes slid shut despite his best efforts to the contrary.

“He's just sleeping now,” Martha confirmed after a moment, and the Doctor nodded.

“He'll be fine, now.” Stepping away, he pulled the curtain back from around the bed, and wasn't surprised to discover both Jack's team and the New York police were still watching with looks akin to panic.

“Is he...?” Gwen started to ask, but couldn't finish the sentence. The Doctor regarded her thoughtfully, and before he had a chance to answer her, Bobby spoke up hoarsely.

“Is he alive? Did you bring him back?”

The Doctor's attention switched to Bobby, and he nodded slowly in answer, not oblivious to the intense relief that radiated out from the detective – almost moreso than from Jack's own team.

“Yes, he's alive. He's going to be fine.”

“So what now, Doctor?” Alex queried quietly. “You take us back to New York and dump us back at One Police Plaza?”

The Doctor's eyebrows went up at her tone.

“You don't want to go home, Detective?”

“We have three injured people here,” she reminded him soberly. “None of them are in a fit state to move anywhere yet.”

The bearest hint of a smile graced the Doctor's lips. Whether it was a conscious gesture or not, she had included Jack in her statement, proving to him that she had more than an average level of compassion.

“We're in the Vortex, Detective,” he told her with kindly smile. “We have all the time in the world. There's no need to us to return to Earth until everyone here is healthy again.”

He paused, sparing Jack a fond look before sweeping out of the med bay, and leaving them all alone to talk amongst themselves.

“I can't decide whether he's genuinely enigmatic, or just a genuine pain in the arse,” Owen retorted dryly once the Doctor had gone.

“Shut it, Owen,” Gwen told him again with a frown. “He saved Jack, Ianto and Bobby's lives. Try showing a bit of gratitude for once, yeah?”

Owen snorted, but didn't answer.

“Jack always believed he'd come for us,” Bobby said suddenly, in a quiet voice which nevertheless filling the room. “He didn't stop hoping, even when he was as scared and me and Ianto.”

“Scared,” Owen echoed. “That's not an emotion that Jack lets show very often. Sometimes think he isn't capable of being scared.”

Martha peered down at Jack's sleeping form sadly. A moment later she stood up and headed for the door.

“He's capable,” she said heavily on her way out the door. “Probably far more capable than you know, Dr Harper.”

And then she, too, was gone, leaving most of them to wonder exactly what she really meant.

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