The Instructor of the Wise

Grief should be the instructor of the wise.
Byron, Manfred I. i. 9


The denying of the existence or reality of a thing.

He's not dead. She knows that somehow, somewhere in the deep recesses of her soul. He's not dead. So she waits here, smoothing the white gown and pushing hair back from his face. She'll stand here as long as she needs, as long as it takes.

White isn't really his colour, she realises as she rearranges the neckline, pulling it straight again. It drains even more colour from his face than was already lost. It's still Jack and it's not Jack, not without the knowing smile or raised eyebrow. It can't be. So he's not dead. She won't believe it.

A disowning, disavowal.

He sits staring blankly at the screen, at the faces and places that mean nothing to him. It's all there for him to see and he can't believe a word of it. He pushes a button and scrolls on, counting the months until they turn into years.

Two years of his life, gone. There's just a list of dates and locations now. Nothing about what he did. But he knows what he's capable of. His fingers clench reflexively and he pushes away those thoughts. He won't believe it. Not yet.

He pushes another button and the screen fades to black.


To excite to wrath, make angry, enrage

Ianto's the first to feel the sharp edge of her tongue. She'd stepped away just for a moment, to grab a coffee, find something to sit on, let the tears fall somewhere that the others can't see her.

When she comes back, Ianto's starting to close the bag. He jumps, turning as she swears at him.

"We have to," he says softly and she shakes her head.

"You are not going to do that to him." She puts her coffee down on the stool and lays a protective hand on Jack's shoulder. "You're not shutting him away in the dark."

Passion, rage; wrath, ire, hot displeasure.

The white heat has faded, leaving a cold lump of fury at the core of his being. He sits in the half-light, watching and waiting, as patient as he has to be. All he cares about now is getting answers.

"What the hell are you doing here?"

"What did I do?" He keeps his voice low, not taking his eyes from the man whose office he's in.

"Look," the man says, "I can't-"

"What did I do?"

The man crumbles in the face of his anger, dropping into the chair opposite.

"I don't know."

"Then I'll find someone who does."


Discussion between two parties of the terms on which one is to give or do something to or for the other

She tells herself it's the 'watched pot' syndrome. If she walks away for a while – has a shower, a nap, the food that the others force on her – he'll be awake when she comes back.

When he's still lying there, motionless and peaceful, she decides it's because she left him for too long. Left him in the quiet of the morgue. Left him alone.

And so she talks instead, willing her words to break through the silence, break whatever's keeping him away. She talks until her throat hurts and the coldness of his body seems to have numbed her heart.

Wrangling, contest, struggle, fighting.

"You're not going to shoot me."

"You don't just walk out on the Agency, you know that." But the pistol is shaking as his friend's, his colleague's, his ex-partner's hand trembles.

He focuses on the eyes that are staring into his, using every trick he knows. Because he really, really doesn't want to hurt the guy.

Finally, the gun drops. "You're mad, you know that? You're going to beat them, all by yourself?"

He shrugs. Of course he knows, but there are some things you have to do. And there are some things that are too important to just ignore.


The action of putting down or bringing low

She lies on the floor, too tired to move and unable to sleep. The concrete is hard and cold beneath her, tying her to the physical as her mind wanders. She stares up at the underside of the drawer, the white of the body bag showing over the edges. If she turns her head a fraction, she can see the outline of his face against the light. It is darker down here, under the shadow the drawer casts and she closes her eyes, sinking deeper into it.

Because if she sinks deeply enough, she won't have to come back up.

A state of reduced vitality.

Either he's losing his touch or the Agency's slipping. Four jobs in three months and no-one seems to be paying attention. He decides it must be them. Because he's as good as ever, coming up with whole new ways to rake in the credits; inventing tricks they've never seen before and that no-one else would have dreamed of; jumping between times and places, never stopping long enough to get caught. Maybe that's the problem, maybe he's not giving them enough time to keep up.

But he can't stop. Because when he stops, everything else catches up with him as well.


Mental assent, belief.

She knew it was over long ago. She knew when she stumbled across the grass, sobbing with fear and blinded by tears. She knew as she cradled his body, feeling it limp and heavy in her arms. She knew for all the days that she stared down at him, willing things to be different.

Things stay the same. He isn't going to get up and laugh at their surprise. He isn't going to make it all better, not this time. Nothing in the world can make this better and so there's nothing left for her here, except to say goodbye.

Mental assent, belief

Living on the edge means that, at some point, you're going to fall off. He never accepted death as an occupational hazard, but it comes to him anyway, the only satisfaction being that at least, this time, he got to be a hero. And that it will be over soon. After all this time and all that trying, it will be over.

So he can't understand it at first. His mind reels, trying to take it all in. There's music and dancing and smiles, and he's closing the door, gaping around.

"Much bigger on the inside."

"You'd better be."

"A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love."

A/N: All definitions are from the Oxford English Dictionary.