|the wish machine
Author: Insane Troll Logic PM
The dangers of dreaming too hard.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Family - Jack H. & Toshiko S./Tosh - Words: 2,285 - Reviews: 16 - Favs: 13 - Follows: 1 - Published: 10-15-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4597365
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: the wish machine
Disclaimer: I have no claims on Torchwood.
SPOILERS: Through series 2
Summary: The dangers of dreaming too hard.
Notes: Written as part of Sweet Charity for lelann137 who asked for a Torchwood fic featuring Ianto, Jack, and Tosh and some new alien tech.
the wish machine
Jack dies a thousand times. He is exterminated by Daleks, burned at the stake. He is buried alive, thrown off a building, shot in the head. He is dismembered and beheaded and poisoned. He has been murdered. He has been a martyr. He has committed suicide. He has broken every last bone in his body. He has died more times then he can count and he can't even remember them all. But he can remember the hitch in his breath as his bones begin knitting themselves back together. He can remember the stuttering thud of his own restarting heart. He can remember these all perfectly and it never hurts any less.
Owen dies twice, but it's the first time that counts. Shot through the heart with a bullet that should have come for Jack.
Tosh only dies once.
Ianto breathes in and out, in and out and Jack thinks it's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen.
Owen steps toward the man with the gun, positioning his body between himself and Martha. "Now let's not be stupid, okay?"
Or maybe he doesn't. Maybe Jack doesn't stand frozen and Owen doesn't take a bullet and he doesn't loose another friend. Maybe Owen goes back to the hub shaken and he looks at Tosh and doesn't see Katie. Maybe they go out and Owen doesn't screw it up and Tosh doesn't realize she's been aiming low. Maybe Jack pretends he doesn't notice them for three weeks until they're ready to make it official. Maybe...
People think Tosh doesn't talk.
"This one picks up on spectral energy," Tosh says.
"I think this might be some sort of version of an alien contraceptive," Tosh says.
"Memories are stored in this," Tosh says. "You can see the brain waves registering on the screen: almost a perfect replica of the way the real thing works. Jack, we've never been able to map this kind of brain activity before."
"Instant assassination," Tosh says. "It doesn't look like it, but this is a poison targeted to a specific genetic code."
"The chemical make-up suggests it acts as an aphrodisiac," Tosh says.
"It doesn't look like it, but this one is a weapon," Tosh says.
"This one's dangerous," Tosh says.
Jack hears but doesn't listen.
Gwen Cooper is married on a Saturday. Her dress is sleek and white and her stomach is flat. She kisses Rhys and says, I do, and they are happily married for more then fifty years. Gwen works with the police department until she is sixty-two and she and Rhys retire to the mountains. They have three children named Jack, Samuel and Elizabeth. Gwen dies at age eighty-six, with grey hair and creaking bones in a bed surrounded by grandchildren. She is happy and has been happy for as long as she can remember.
Jack doesn't live forever. He dies at the game station, dies a hero and never has to see the people he loves taken away from him one by one by one.
The sky is blue. The grass, damp with morning dew seems impossibly green. The clouds are huge and billowing and white, strolling across the sky at their own leisurely pace. Jack breathes out and lets his body relax, lying back in the long grass to stare at the sky.
"I used to do this as a child," Tosh says from beside him. She indicates one of the larger clouds. "That one looks like one of the objects that came through the rift last week. And that misshapen one over there reminds me of a weevil."
"You're doing it wrong," Jack says. "You're supposed to see happy things. Like rabbits and pillows."
"Fine," says Tosh. "What do you see?"
"Freedom," Jack says.
"What does that look like?" Tosh asks. She's laughing, a strand of hair falls in front of her face. "Which one are you even talking about? That one over there?"
She extends her arm toward the sky, pointing at the shapes lost in the clouds. Jack blinks. It looks just like a wish machine.
Jack and Tosh get stuck in 1941. They spend the first year frantically search for a way out. When they roll into the next year, Tosh looks over to Jack and says, "If they were going to find us a way back home, it would have come by now."
"Yeah," Jack confirms because there is no point in lying anymore. "Yeah, it would have."
"We're stuck here, aren't we?" Tosh says.
After they stop hoping, it's surprisingly easy to start living and before Jack realizes it, Tosh's smile has become the most important thing in his life.
Owen Harper's fiancé suffers what appears to be early onset Alzheimer's caused by a tumour. He hires the most experienced surgeon around to operate. The surgery is a success. Katie survives. The road to recovery is long and hard but Owen is glad to walk it.
They have a summer wedding.
Hundreds of thousands of years into the future, Jack doesn't loose his grip on his brother's hand. Gray doesn't fall back into oblivion and Jack doesn't join the time agency and he doesn't spend an eternity living and dying and living and dying.
When he is old enough, Jack joins the military. He is given a uniform, a ship and two year later he's a leader. He rises quickly through the ranks. He is charismatic, smart and not afraid to take risks. There are people willing to die for him.
Jack dies at age twenty-seven in a battle that should have been a lost cause. Three hundred and fourteen people live in his place. He is hailed a hero. He leaves a good-looking corpse.
His little brother follows in his footsteps.
"I call it the wish machine," Tosh says. She leans into the contraption, touches her glasses. She is wearing a pair of thin latex gloves. "It's a simple contraption, really. Picks up on brain waves, hidden desires and then it generates the corresponding images."
Jack leans in close to her, drinking in her excitement, her vitality. "The genie in the bottle grants us our innermost desires."
Tosh's hair smells like lavender. Jack is just a little too close to be comfortable by twenty-first century standards. He realizes this but doesn't move. He enjoys watching Tosh blush just as much as he enjoyed making Ianto squirm.
"It doesn't grant anything," Tosh says, leaning back away from him. She peers at the contraption through a magnifying glass. The thing looks harmless. Looks like a polished redwood square with a fine etching through the finish. Only in the magnification can he see the power emanating from the box. "It just makes you think it has." She pushes back the magnifying glass looking at him intently. "I think it's dangerous."
"Dangerous?" Jack repeats. He's laughing a little. "Tosh, what's wrong with a little harmless wish fulfilment?"
"I'm serious, Jack," Tosh says.
Underground, Jack dies and dies and dies. He claws at the earth on top of him. He chokes on the dirt. He suffocates and lurches back to life. It might be his imagination but the texture of the Earth is changing around him. The dirt becomes sandy and damp to his clawing fingers. He wakes up, he digs, he chokes, he dies and then he wakes up again and again.
Then his hands breach the surface into a war zone and he pulls himself into clear, uninhibited air for the first time in as long as he can remember. He coughs out a mouthful of earth and then draws one long deep breath. Around him is war, dark and gritty with people running in every direction.
And then he sees it. Sees himself running with his younger brother in hand, sees the hand slip from his own and knows what this must be.
He crosses the field, unperturbed by the falling artillery and makes his way to his younger brother and pulls him up to his feet. "It's all right," he says. "I'll protect you."
"You look like my brother," Gray says, his eyes narrowing in suspicion.
"I'm not your brother," Jack says. "My name is Jack Harkenss."
This is his second chance.
Ianto Jones meets Toshiko Sato at a dinner party. They are both standing shyly off to a side of the ball room. Tosh in a red dress that flowed down to her ankles, Ianto in a black three-button suit and a purple tie. They are both intelligence assets but neither of them are comfortable in the realm of the powerful. The room is filled with fake laugher and haughty voices. Ianto folds his hands behind his back. Tosh touches the rim of her glasses. They stand next to each other for more then an hour before one gathers the nerve to speak. Finally Ianto says, "Are you as uncomfortable as I am?"
Tosh glances over him bewildered and then a smile creeps up her face. "Would you like to leave?"
"God, yes," Ianto says.
They leave the banquet hand in hand and Ianto doesn't meet Lisa standing just over by the punch bowl.
"What would you like me to do with that, sir?" Ianto asks, indicating the object on her desk.
Jack crosses the room, lingering at Tosh's desk. He hasn't touched it yet. None of them have touched it yet. Just like they'd left the majority of the medical bay, the majority of Owen's domain untouched. Everything the same as the day they die. He doesn't say anything.
"What exactly is that, sir?" Ianto says.
"Tosh called it the wish machine," Jack says. He thinks of Tosh at her computer and Owen doing an autopsy. His fingers trace the edges of the box and a picture swims unbidden into his head.
He tightens his grip.
September 2013, Jack Harkness is in London with a blonde and a doctor with big ears travelling in a police box. It has been like this for years.
He has never heard of Satellite Five. He has never heard of Torchwood Tower. He doesn't know what 'The Hub' is. Late one night he catches the Doctor checking in on him while he's sleeping. "What's wrong, Doc?" he slurs, voice still thick with sleep.
"Listen to your heart beating," the Doctor says. He gets this look in his eyes sometime like his personal tragedy is muting his entire personality. "Pumping oxygen to thousands of billion of cells. Seventy beats a minute. Forty two hundred beats an hour, one hundred thousand beats a day. And it can stop at any time. It could have stopped today."
"I'm still here, Doc, " Jack says. He can't see the Doctor's face in the darkness, but knows which expression it has to be wearing. "Right here, that's what matters. You know me." He quirks a cocky smile. "I'm going to live forever."
Ianto Jones works at Torchwood One for fifteen years before being promoted to the head of Torchwood Three. Four years after that Torchwood Three becomes Torchwood One and Ianto Jones unexpectedly gains the top job. The business is run with surreal smoothness and every morning someone brings Ianto tea just the way he likes it.
Christmas Eve 2008 and Jack is buzzed on champagne waiting for midnight and another new year. He has propositioned sixteen separate people to kiss precisely at midnight though only two looked like they considered the proposition. There is Gwen hand in hand with Rhys and Tosh with her hand clasped in Owen's and Gray in the background talking with Suzie and Ianto and Lisa and the Doctor and Martha Jones.
Jack downs another flute of champagne, smiles sleepily and launches into the New Years countdown a good thirty seconds too early. Someone kisses him at midnight but in years to follow, he won't for the life of him remember whom. It doesn't matter. Not really. It's the warm feel of lips against his own and his hand tangled in hair and the safety of being surrounded by family and that's all he really needs.
Not loudly and not noticeably but he breathes in and out and in and out. He sets a cup of tea down in front of Jack. It is steaming. He can't see Ianto's reflection in the muddy liquid but he can't grab it because he can't move his hands. Ianto is breathing in and out and in and out.
"Sir?" Ianto says, a hand settling on Jack's shoulder. "Sir, you're going to have to let it go."
In Jack's hands is a box, is the wish machine. It looks small and wooden and fits neatly into the palms of his hands. His eyes are slightly glazed and he stares blankly ahead like he's not really there.
On the day she doesn't die, Tosh sits out in the sun, smiles to herself and lives forever.