PRODIGALS

Standalone but follows my story 'Vengeance'

Disclaimer: Inspired by, dedicated to and in the greatest respect of Doctor Who and Torchwood. Admittedly with overt and intentional allusions to Stargate (my first Jack), Star Wars and the Star Treks. May they all live on forever in our imaginations.

"And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found."
Luke 15
31-32

PREVIOUSLY ON...

The two stood silently for a time, each lost in his thoughts.

"Jack, it's time for us to leave."

"Yeah, I know."

There was another long pause.

"Doctor, aren't you going to ask me to come with you?"

"No."

"Funny, because I would've told you yes."

"I know. That's why I didn't ask."

The Doctor walked away, leaving Jack alone beneath the silent canopy of stars.

PROLOGUE

Jack Harkness was on a bender.

He had been drinking, drunk actually, not for twelve or twenty-four hours, or even thirty-six or forty-eight hours…

He'd been drinking for five solid weeks.

That's five solid earth weeks. Not that he was on the planet Earth at the moment. In fact, he had no idea where the hell he was, other than in a crummy, mostly empty bar on some crummy, mostly desolate world.

He'd long since put himself on auto-pilot. Auto-pilot took reasonably good care of Jack and knew enough to understand that it had to keep him moving, just in case, and the chances of this were very remote – increasingly remote as time progressed – someone or something attempted to track him down. And heaven help anyone who managed to do that, because auto-pilot was obstinate, antagonistic, rude, unfriendly – violent, even – and at least at this moment in time neither auto-pilot nor Jack craved companionship.

Not that this had always been the case. There'd been times during those inebriated five weeks that Jack had derived a modicum of comfort from some individual or another. The sex, and let's be honest, that's all it was – there was no love involved – tended to be impersonal and fierce. A few of the times the sex had involved payment being made by one partner or the other; the direction of the payment didn't matter – Jack wasn't proud, he'd buy or sell. Other times it was simply the chance encounter of two horny strangers. It satisfied some base need inside him that Jack had stopped thinking about.

But more recently, that most primal of needs had dissipated, along with some of the other more human behaviors and qualities of the Captain. For example, he no longer needed to be clean or well-groomed. He no longer needed to use the facilities; hell, he'd just stumble out the door and pee against a wall. He no longer felt the need to communicate or be pleasant or even civil. He went through the minimal motions necessary to obtain what he required, which was a liquid intoxicant of one type or another that would anesthetize his brain and make him forget… forget something or another that he'd apparently pretty much by that point totally forgotten, at least as long as he didn't think too much.

It was slightly strange if you took the time to reflect on it – most "civilized" (and please take that word with a grain of salt) planets possessed establishments where the inhabitants, or visitors like Jack, could drink themselves into oblivion in the company of others who wished to do likewise. It was one of the universal constants.

Doesn't that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Thousands and thousands of inhabited planets – thousands and thousands of incredibly diverse races and cultures – having one thing… at least one thing in common: the desire to get fall-down, stupefied, shit-faced, stinking, drunk.

So Jack was in good company; and at present in more good company than he probably wanted as he hunched over his glass at the bar and heard a somewhat feminine voice behind him breathe "Can I join you?"

"What?" he growled. "Does it look like I'm falling apart and need to be put back together? Go. Away."

There was soft rustling as whoever it was left, and he took another slug of… of whatever it was he was drinking. It burned as it went down and made his eyes water and his heart flutter. That was quite good enough for him. He finished off the glass and slammed it down on the bar; his signal for a refill – no communication required, which was exactly the way he liked it.

The bartender, a robot in this case, glided over and swapped Jack's old glass for a fresh one – hey, this was a classy place: you got a clean (more or less) glass when you refreshed your drink. Way classier than some of the other drinking establishments he'd recently patronized. The thought made the auto-pilot's warning lights start to blink red. Jack had been sitting there in that particular joint for a while now, had been parked on that god-forsaken planet for perhaps too long, and auto-pilot was starting to get edgy. It was probably time to leave.

Jack reached into his coat pocket rooting for payment; it was time to scoot. Now, that is another thing all those establishments serving all those civilizations on all those worlds have in common – the luxury of drinking oneself into oblivion was never free…

It was a different voice coming from behind him this time.

"Here, I'll take care of that for you, and buy you another if you want."

Jack didn't look up but shook his head and hissed, "Leave me. I want to be alone."

A hand slapped some coins on the bar next to him. The unwelcome intrusion pissed off both the Captain and the auto-pilot. Inside his pocket Jack's fingers tightened into a ball as he got himself ready for yet another barroom brawl.

'God damn it,' he asked himself just before he stood up. 'How had it come to this?'

Too late: Jack looked up just in time to see a fist traveling at high speed toward his face.

ONE

And how had it come to "this"?

Jack Harkness had stood alone in the dark on the roof of the Millennium Centre and unraveled.

Abandoned and bereft once again – a huge, gaping hole in his heart, in his soul, that could not be filled by any one person, by any one-hundred persons, except for the one that had just walked away from him.

It always happened… it always fucking happened: the crushing, implacable, numbing loneliness. But for some reason this time it felt worse. Way worse. He felt more isolated, more deserted, more rejected.

Through tear-filled eyes he looked frantically at the heavens. "Doctor?" he whispered. But Jack knew beyond any doubt that the Time Lord was already long gone.

He stood for hours, not feeling the cold, not feeling the wind, not feeling the occasional biting sleet as rain clouds raced overhead.

What he did feel was that he'd been mined for blood and sweat too many times. He felt like a barely animate fossil, frozen and petrified; and he felt like a ghost, haunting this place, Torchwood, that for so long had been his loci of comfort and safety – his home…

"Thank you," The Doctor had once said to him.

"Anytime," Jack had responded. Yes… anytime, but what about the time after the anytime?

He grieved over everything he had lost. He grieved over everything that had become unobtainable. He grieved over everything that he would never even know he was missing. He grieved over the injustice and unfairness of existence; and he grieved over the pure, unadulterated, relentless burden of life.

The Doctor was just an example, a symbol of the things Jack wanted yet could not have. He yearned, he hurt, and he ached for the Time Lord – to have the hole in his existence filled by the man from Gallifrey. But The Doctor was just one of many possible palliatives, and perhaps not even the most profound. Jack craved a normal life; a normal job with normal responsibilities. He yearned for normal dreams and normal fears. He hungered for someone to love him and occasionally take care of him. He longed to be surrounded by children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He desperately desired to be content and happy. He wanted to live; and he wanted to die.

God but he wanted to die.

And in his overwhelming grief he did not hear…

With a stab of alarm he suddenly realized he was not alone.

"Jack, what's going on?"

It was Wil. Of all of them, of course, it would fucking have to be Wil…

He ignored her, fully realizing that in all probability it would not make her go away.

"Are you okay?"

Pause.

"Jack, what is happening?"

Pause.

"What are you doing out here?"

He turned to face her but did not meet her eyes.

For a moment he wanted to lash out, to strike her. Later he would think of that desire as folly – as evidence of his madness – because in hand-to-hand she could wallop him to hell and back; probably with one arm tied behind her back.

Nonetheless, he tensed his hands, and the rest of his body tensed, too, but instead… instead… he ever so slowly moved his right hand to the leather strap on his left wrist, and just before he touched the button, just before he disappeared, he answered bitterly, "I want to be alone."