It was late, Rose had gone to bed more than an hour ago, when Jack walked into the library with a bottle of Jameson’s and two tumblers. The Doctor looked up from the book he was reading and quirked an eyebrow at his companion. Jack gave him a ghost of a smile as he held up his prize and said, “You said I had to buy you a drink first.”
The Doctor closed his book and set it aside. “You know that was only to wind Mickey up.”
Jack shook his head as he poured. “I don’t think so. Well, maybe partly, but I think you meant it.”
Both of the Doctor’s eyebrows rose at that. “You sound very sure of yourself, Captain.”
Jack handed him the tumbler and leaned back against the table. He studied the amber liquid in his glass for a moment before finally meeting the Doctor’s eyes. “I can take it better than Rose.”
The Doctor blinked and took a sip. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Jack snorted softly. “The meeting of the minds, Doc. The reason you’re holding back.”
The Doctor’s eyes darkened and his jaw clenched as he looked away. “You’re grasping.”
Jack sighed and moved to sit on the couch. He said, “You and I both know that as much as you love her, she’s too young to really understand why it’s such a bad idea. She’d try, and she’d help in her own way, but she can’t handle all of your baggage.”
“She’s stronger than you think,” the Doctor said defensively.
“Of that I have no doubt, but Doctor…” he trailed off and waited until the other man met his eyes again. “Do you really want to risk that sweetness and light by exposing her to what’s in your head? Her innocence is your salvation.”
The Doctor looked at him stonily, but Jack’s calm never wavered. He’d learned a lot about his companions in the months they’d traveled together. Rose was a shining beacon of light and happiness for the two battle-hardened men and Jack didn’t want to see that glow dim for anything. He wanted to take care of her. Hell, he loved her, but he wasn’t good for her either. He wasn’t sure he knew how to really be intimate with someone anymore. It had been so long.
And the Doctor was just too damaged to take care of her properly. He’d seen first hand how his sometimes-thoughtless words affected Rose. Jack had almost bitten through his lip a couple of times when the Doctor would carry on about the stupidity of humans. Rose’s hand on his always stopped him from saying anything though. The sad, resigned look in her eyes told him that it wasn’t anything she hadn’t heard before. He didn’t like it, but she didn’t want a scene, and he respected her wishes.
Jack, on the other hand, was more than capable of holding his own with the Time Lord. Jack had no doubt the man’s shields were impressive, but he wore his guilt like a shroud and no amount of mental shielding could protect Rose from that kind of pain. He knew more about the Doctor’s species than he’d let on and he knew that Rose wouldn’t be able to handle all that making love to a Time Lord would entail. She might be able to hold the link, but the things she would see…even though Jack didn’t know all that the Doctor had been through, he had a fair idea and didn’t want Rose exposed to those kinds of memories.
“I’m not trying to come between you, but I am offering an outlet if you need it. My mind is strong enough to withstand whatever might happen.” He threw back the rest of his drink and got up. He looked at the Doctor and said seriously, “I love her, too. Think about it.”
Jack walked out of the library, leaving the Doctor contemplating his glass of whiskey.