"A Man of Words" by Krissy Mae Anderson

Summary: Jack's life, before and after death.
Rating:
T
Spoilers:
Most of the Dr. Who episodes with Jack and a good deal of Torchwood episodes up to date.
Disclaimer:
Jack's not mine, and neither are any other Doctor Who or Torchwood characters.
Acknowledgments:
to batmite, for catching a rather creative typo, and to Debris K for her beta skillz.
Author's note:
This story was inspired by a somewhat morbid nursery rhyme that I came upon one day. It's somewhat AU-ish in nature as well.


A man of words and not of deeds / Is like a garden full of weeds


Jack is born 194 953 years before he dies, and he later reflects that it would make one hell of a gravestone, especially since he has only really lived 37 years. One day when he is feeling rather morbid, on a rainy Tuesday morning in 1929, he writes his own obituary on the back of a napkin. Homeless and timeless and nameless. A good-for-nothing and a runaway. Survived by no one — no one who hasn't abandoned him, at least. Lived too much and not enough. Better off dead. Jack borrows an ornate lighter from a British tourist sitting at the next table and burns the napkin, watches it curl up and darken and become ashes.

The decadence of the Twenties is about to become the misery of the Thirties, and Jack meanders aimlessly between continents and countries, between prisons and hotels, and watches Earth tear itself apart yet again. He can't keep himself idle for too long, though, and soon he's in Spain, dying and dying and dying for Madrid, a pointless battle that only he knows the outcome of. After the International Brigades withdraw, he leaves with them, and fate, that cruel lady, manages to eventually lead him to London during the Blitz, this time into the gentle hands of Estelle Cole. She makes him feel warm inside again after many years of cold, empty darkness, and reminds him of Rose in some strange way, although she looks (and acts) nothing like her.

Jack is in love with her before he can stop himself — Estelle's wide-eyed and innocent, and believes in the good of this world, even when she is crouching in the bomb shelter with Jack as the building shakes around them. This love is nothing like he has felt before — not his usual lust, not the carefully planned dance he had with Rose, not the intense desire with the barest hint of apprehension he'd felt for the Doctor. It's gentle and slow and fragile, and Jack treasures the moments they spend together, because he knows that their relationship will not last, that Estelle's life is nothing more than a flower doomed to bloom and wilt and in the end, become dust, like everything around him. "My good Jack," Estelle whispers to him as the bombs explode around them, and he tells her that one person's good can be somebody else's evil, but she doesn't believe him. She sees only good in him, and maybe it's what he needs, someone to ignore all of his bad deeds, because even the Devil needs some sympathy once in a while.

"We'll be with each other till we die," they whisper solemnly to each other when they're lying together in the darkness, and Jack feels dirty inside when he says it, because he is already dead, but the least he can do is be with Estelle when she goes, and he tells himself he isn't really lying. He will look her up one day in the future, spin a tale about being his own son or grandson, and be there for her when she breathes her final breath. Estelle scratches bloody furrows across his shoulder blades as she thrashes in the throes of bliss she has not known before this night, and Jack shoves all thoughts of death out of his mind and devotes himself to pleasuring her, hoping desperately that this is how she will remember him, that she won't let this memory drown in bitterness, that eventually the hurt will be repressed by a fond memory of an incredible night in a small, stuffy hotel room which is all that he can give her. Soon they part, Estelle looking ridiculously like a small girl in her oversized coat and slouch hat when Jack takes her to the train station. She gives Jack a perfumed handkerchief and asks him to look her up after the war, fighting tears. Jack gives her a photograph taken only a few days before - the two of them beautiful and elegant and timeless - kisses her on the cheek, and doesn't promise anything.

Jack leaves England the next day to avoid running into himself, because causing time paradoxes isn't something he's into, and after all, there's penance to be done, penance for his cruelty and vanity and arrogance and most of the deadly sins thrown in - and in 1941, penance is easy to come by. It is such a familiar year to him, but this time it's different, no more a dazzling girl, but a murderous hag instead. No more glamor, Jack thinks as he spits out some French mud. No more fast talking and tall tales and a fast buck, but mud and blood and death, death everywhere Jack looks. Jack's tongue has usually been his main weapon, but now his gun is much more useful. In Madrid, he used to feel guilty for killing the enemy, but now he kills without remorse, and it scares him more than he can admit to himself.

to be continued...