Author's Note: As I lay there, I heard the technician mumbling to himself as he inserteed my IV. I doubt he was waxing Hamlet's "To be or not to be", I wondered who else in our lovely fandom worlds would do the same. The following is a part of a set of just tiny drabbles exploring this. Everyone's seen and done drabbles at some point. Just dribbles of the brain. Otherwise known as "drabbles".
Title: Idle Conversations: Number 7
Pairing: none, gen
Rating: PG (pre-Teen)
Category: prompt, angst, hurt-comfort, mentions minor character death
Summary: It was the answering silence that hurt…A tag for "Out of Time".
Spoilers: After season one "Out of Time". Mentions bits of season one. Vague bits though…
Disclaimer: Torchwood is owned by BBC, Russell T Davies, and their mutual affiliates. This is for entertainment purposes only.
It felt cool and flat against him. Jack Harkness folded his hands behind his head, crossed his ankles and closed his eyes. He opened them again because it was better to face them than pretend they weren't there.
"I couldn't stop him. He would just find another chance to kill himself when we're not around." Jack uncrossed his ankles, crossed them again and then sat up. He retrieved the glass he set down by his hip. He bowed his head low to his chest.
No answer. No surprise.
"He said he couldn't do this anymore. Said it was too hard." Jack choked out a laugh. "I tried to tell him what it's like. Told him what the other side was. Bullshit, I know." He averted his gaze, looked at the half empty glass clutched in his left hand. Fuzzily, he tried to remember why he didn't drink more often. Jack squeezed his eyes shut and took a long gulp of the amber liquid sloshing in the snifter. He grunted at the slow burn. Another drink, a gulp this time and the burn brought tears to his eyes. Yes, it was the brandy doing that.
"John was right, though. He was alone no matter how hard we try to make sure he wasn't. His wife was gone; his son…might as well be gone, too."
Jack sniffed loudly and grimaced. "God, I can still smell the exhaust." It permeated his clothes like a layer of skin he couldn't scrub off.
"I should take a shower." The bitter laugh echoed; it was too loud in his ears. He flinched.
Jack tossed the rest down his throat that still tasted like ash. The sour mixed with the metallic taste in his mouth and settled unpleasantly in his gut. His throat clenched, his body seemed to rebel. Jack gritted his teeth, wrapped an arm around his middle and waited for the feeling to pass.
The glass rolled to the floor and splintered. He coughed into the back of his hand as the sting slithered down his throat. He sat there, his hands now gripping the edge of the surface he sat on. His feet dangled a few inches off the floor.
When the urge to vomit faded, he swung his legs back up and lied down flat again. It was no longer cool under his back, the surface warm from his body heat. Jack folded his hands over his stomach, closed his eyes and pretended. He pretended he belonged here. He could feel disapproval on him though and he mentally shrugged. He never let that stop him before.
"I stayed with him. Wanted to see what it's like…what it's like knowing when it's over." Jack rubbed a finger under his nose and sniffed loudly again. He shivered. "Are we not paying the bills here? It's cold…" He opened his eyes and stared up at the ceiling high above. He thrummed his fingers on his belly. He crossed his ankles again. Jack thought about turning on his side, but decided against it. It would feel too much like exposing his jugular. He dropped his hands to his sides, but it made his shoulders ache so he clasped them over his stomach again. He held his breath and tried to imagine, but it eluded him.
"He looked so happy…" Jack blinked rapidly. "I should have fought harder for him, but he looked so damn…" Jack swallowed hard. "Sometimes it's the only choice left. I know that makes me a monster but…" Jack set his jaw.
"Sometimes when it's the only choice left, there really is no choice."
Jack raised his hands and scrubbed his face before dropping them back on his belly.
"Not everything has a happy ending and I just wish…you have to trust it's the right choice. I'll make it. Even if it makes me the bad guy. That way, everyone can sleep at night, right?"
Jack glared up at the ceiling, eyes and throat burning. "Right?" he shouted at the stained and imperfect tiles arched above him.
The answering silence hurt.
Jack worked his jaw and forced back down the rest of the words he wanted to scream out. It would only be too loud, too pointless, too…just too much of everything to empty out his mind into the vulnerable space around him. It would only serve to remind him that his voice was the only voice filling the void. And today…Jack couldn't bear to think about it today. Or tomorrow. Or ever.
"Had you…" Jack paused. It was a question he always thought about; only thought about.
"Had you ever wished I'd never recruited you?" Jack turned his head a little and stared at his neighbor. "Ever wished I had just ret-conned you so you could go on not knowing, not ever having to make choices you hated?"
No answer. Jack was glad. He wasn't sure which answer would make him feel better.
"Sometimes, I wish I had. You know, just slip it in everyone's coffee and you can all go back to nice, boring jobs. Maybe that's what I should have done. Maybe I should have ret-conned John." Jack shook his head. "I know, it wouldn't have worked. He would have remembered something at some point."
Jack stared at the ceiling, noted a chipped ivory tile that exposed years of rain water seeping into the walls. He closed his eyes, tried holding his breath again for as long as he could before he gasped, his body's self-preservation kicking in.
"I'm not jealous," he blurted out. He wouldn't turn back his head. "Okay…maybe a little..." He made a disparaging laugh that strangled halfway out. "Sometimes I wish I could ret-con myself but what would be the point?"
No answer. Not that anything said could have helped. Jack sighed, sat up, and swung back his legs around. He swayed where he sat. "Damn, I knew there was a reason why I shouldn't drink on an empty stomach." He smiled crookedly. "I can be a pretty morbid drunk." Jack patted the surface he sat on. He appreciated the smooth, metal surface. He missed the coolness that fled under his body heat.
"You know," he mused. "Maybe I'll request this one to be reserved for me." Jack laughed at a joke he knew only he got. He hopped off the table, wavering until his feet steadied under him. Jack gripped one end of the table, pushing until it retracted, rolling back into the empty compartment. Jack slapped the small door shut. "Drawer seven. Lucky number seven." He patted the square door. "Pretty comfortable." Jack glanced over to the neighboring drawer, number six. "You'll probably be sick of me though, huh?" Jack wheedled his voice to roll with a Welsh accent.
"Oh bollocks. Here comes Yakky Jacky again." Jack's mouth barely upturned and he brushed his palm on the painted door. He rubbed his thumb on a crack and paint flecked off under the assault. Jack looked at his watch, arching his eyebrow down at the time. "Damn." He brushed a palm in smooth strokes over the adjacent door.
"Sorry." Jack glanced down at the floor and grimaced. "Sorry about the mess, too. I'll come down later and clean it up." He shoved his hands deep in his pockets. He stared at the dented number plate, designating it as number six, a small crossed out list named its previous contents, the newest name was written down below it all in careful, respectful print.
His eyes blurred. His body suddenly felt so heavy and he wondered if it was carbon monoxide poisoning still lurking in his lungs. Jack sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. His nostrils flared at the exhaust that lingered on his clothes. He thought about John's body, which Ianto placed in temporary cold storage before he left work. His shoulders bowed. The accidental time traveler was waiting for his autopsy and his permanent drawer.
"Talk to you next time, Suzie," Jack whispered. "Thanks again."
Jack cleared his throat, turned on his heel and left the morgue. He was tired yet closing his eyes right now would feel like a cruel joke. Jack stayed up for as long as he could in the office. He pretended to read and comprehend every single report UNIT forwarded. He pretended the quiet Hub wasn't suffocating.
Jack felt marginally better when he woke up at his desk a scant few hours later, his greatcoat draped over him, a coffee warm and waiting within drowsy reach, and the sounds of his team puttering outside his office, back to work.
Many thanks to larielromeniel.