The first time Jack ever saw him he was saving the world. Given the circumstances the other man was in that was more than a little bit impressive.
He realised that he'd been cut off from his usual life for too long when he started to refer to himself as Jack Harkness even in his mind. He was thinking of himself as Jack Harkness. More and more he became Jack Harkness — not the man the name had belonged to so long ago (How could he? He'd never met him.) but the man he pretended to be: Jack Harkness, traveller, adventurer, charming and unusually open minded man from the twenty-first century.
He kept travelling the world, fighting boredom and claustrophobia. One world wasn't large enough for him to not feel trapped. How could it be? He was trapped.
It wasn't just travelling. He was hunting; for aliens, for technology, for a chance to leave. In this century Earth was getting invaded all the time, and in nine out of ten cases humanity didn't even notice. The scanner of Jack's wrist device still worked for a limited range and so he used it to run from one crashed alien ship to the next space tourist, always hoping to find something that would help him fix his vortex manipulator, or at least offer him a lift off this planet.
He never found anything of use. Aliens got away before he could reach them, and the technology left by accidents or violence was too broken or too primitive to fix his complicated tool. It was frustrating: this century was full of important moments in history that he'd been in the area countless times while working for the agency, but somehow he had managed to get stranded in a decade that was entirely devoid of time agents.
Sometimes he was simply too late — he got to the place of a crash and found nothing, as if someone had been there before him and taken it all away. It wasn't that unlikely — this planet liked its aliens and had eccentric collectors, obsessed by extraterrestrial life and laughed at by the rest of humanity. But neither of them could have the technology to find all these promising pieces of alien origin before Jack could, and more often than once he had the feeling that someone was laughing at his expense.
So he began to search not only for the technology but also for the ones who stole it. At least he would have liked to. Truth was that he had no trail to follow. He always arrived too late to witness them taking anything, and they never left any trace.
He felt like he was chasing ghosts. Sometimes he wondered if this life that was forced on him made him lose his mind.
He became Jack Harkness but that didn't mean he liked Jack Harkness. It drove him crazy being confined in once place for so long, in this narrow minded, restricted, boring age.
Over the years he had his share of lovers, even friends, but he fought with tooth and claws against getting used to this life. He didn't want it. He wanted to go back to the life he was used to.
It felt like his life was running away from him, the years he had passing by without a chance to fulfil their potential. There was an alien invasion in London one Christmas — he was in Spain. (Later he returned to look for the weapon that had destroyed the spaceship, never finding it.) The Christmas star one year later was destroyed and left nothing of use to him, and he never found out who had been responsible for the draining of the Thames. The Judoon had to take the bloody hospital up to the moon when they came, well out of his reach. There was UNIT but Jack never got along well with stable employment and pay-checks, and his attempt to get into their facilities and steal the alien technology they had scavenged didn't only fail pathetically but also told him that they didn't possess anything of use to him.
His adventures were smaller now. Nothing he saw, nothing he did could convince him that his life wasn't wasted here.
It wasn't that he was homesick (unless he counted the cosmos as his home). It was just that he had once had all of time and space at his mercy and now couldn't settle for anything less.
Jack Harkness, Captain: The name he had chosen for his con in London 1941, the name of a deceased war hero. Jack identified with the name now, but he was no hero. He was a con man.
Once he had wanted to be a hero. That's why he had joined the time agency. But the agency had no use for heroes. They needed men who could do what was necessary as opposed to men who did what was right. For that reason he had been accepted: Jack was such a man. He had learned that quickly enough, and let go of the person he wanted to be without even waving goodbye.
Maybe a part of him still wanted to be a hero. (The little boy that was eternally searching for his lost brother.) Maybe he had chosen that name for a reason other than because it was convenient.
Maybe that was why he told himself he targeted time agents for his cons out of vengeance because the agency had stolen his memories — as if losing a little money would hurt them. And as long as he didn't identify himself they didn't know he was acting out of vengeance anyway and the message was lost. He couldn't fool himself.
He was a con man because he wanted to make money the easy way, and because he liked feeling more clever than someone else. Time agents he targeted because the agency had money. There was nothing heroic or romantic about it. And had revenge really been the reason the redemption of that fact would have been negated by the fact that he had stolen other people's memories himself while working for them, over and over again.
The lady he had stolen his spaceship from had not been a time agent.
Stuck on Earth for years without adventures to distract himself with Jack had to face the fact that he was not a good person, and probably never had been. So it was probably just fair that the Chula space-junk he had wanted to drop in the Second World-War air raid of London exploded inside his spaceship before he could even get there. He'd managed to teleport away in the last second but some weird disturbance in time and space had thrown him to Cardiff in the year 2001, and killed his vortex manipulator. Since then he'd been stuck here, completely unable to appreciate the justice of his fate.
His travels started in Great Britain and since had led him to every corner in the world. Jack had looked for useful resources in New York, the Sahara, the tropical rain forest, Russia, China, Japan, in Australia and on Mauritius. Contrary to public belief in the United Kingdom alien invasions were not limited to their capital — Tôkyô got visitors other then Godzilla after all and most aliens preferred to park their spacecrafts in places that offered room and a chance that no one would stumble over them anyway. A desert for example — something of which England was frustratingly short of.
So Jack saw a lot more of his species' original planet than he had ever seen when he'd had the chance to go from one place to another in the blink of an eye. But it was in London that he finally got in contact with extraterrestrial technology of the highest standard, and standing in a hall beneath Canary Warf while outside another race of aliens threatened to destroy the planet he didn't know if he should laugh or take out his gun and shoot everyone in sight.
And it wasn't even Christmas.
The organization was called Torchwood. Jack had heard of them — they had left their traces on the internet, but nowhere else. His search had led nowhere for a long time.
Until he got the idea to check out the place that had been in the centre of the Dalek and Cyberman invasion one year before. Jack had missed the Daleks, a race he'd thought extinct, by being in Norway at that time, and for once he wasn't particularly sorry. At that time he'd had enough trouble hiding from metal men and trying not to be 'upgraded'.
The place had just been reopened, but Jack had soon found out that there was another secret level beneath the building that had been in use all the time. Getting into the secret facility shouldn't be too hard, with his skills and his experience as an agent.
Or so he'd thought.
In the end it probably only was the fact that he was friends with the leader of the organization that had kept him from being shot on the spot after he'd been caught.
"This is Torchwood Two," his old friend explained as he led Jack through the corridors, right after their initial altercation. The other liked violence, always had, and Jack was just too happy to deal out some after he discovered who it was that had stolen the alien technology from right under his nose for bloody years. "We moved in here after the first one was destroyed. Most of the underground rooms had remained intact, and our old place was getting a little crowded. I go by John Hart now, so make sure to call me that when my staff is around."
"And you're running this place." Jack still couldn't quite believe it. "How did that happen?"
"I got pulled here during a fucked up time jump and my vortex manipulator broke." Now, didn't that sound familiar? "That was eleven years ago. I got a job at Torchwood which wasn't hard with my experience in the field and quickly made my way through the ranks."
As far as Jack could tell that meant he had either slept with a lot of people or killed a lot of people. With 'John' both was equally likely, and he suppressed a shudder at the thought of his former partner in charge of an organization as powerful as Torchwood seemed to be. He liked him well enough, was quite happy at the prospect of finally bedding someone with a little creativity again, but he wouldn't ever be stupid enough to turn his back to him if he had something the other wanted.
That back was suddenly being pressed against the wall with a strength that wasn't betrayed by John's slight stature. The kiss was hard and passionate and Jack melted into it for a long moment. (It felt like coming home.) A sense of deja-vu washed over him — for a second he was standing in a corridor in the agency's HQ, or even in some rainy alley during a mission when they really didn't have time for this. John was a piece of the life he wanted to return to and finding him seemed to bring Jack a little closer to getting there.
"With all this alien and future stuff stored here you must have found a way to fix your VM, right?" he gasped out once he'd managed to break away from the kiss. His heart sank when John snorted in response.
"I wish. The stuff we have here isn't that advanced, and there wasn't much left of my VM in the first place. We might be able to put some of the pieces together to get into space at least, but time travel is a bit out of the question. Our authority when it comes to that matter says there's no way to build a time machine out of the stuff we've got here." He grimaced, for a second lost in his own thoughts
"Well, space travel is still better than being stuck on this planet," Jack tried to cover his disappointment. "How far a range do you manage?"
"None at all."
"What? But you said…"
"I said we might. We have the pieces, but not the knowledge we'd need to put them together in a way that works."
Jack thought about that while John attacked his mouth again. The fact that they were from the future didn't give them much of an advance on the natives of this time, as neither of them had known much about how exactly their technology worked. It had been enough that it worked.
"There is an invasion going on out there," he reminded John when his hand started feel for a way under Jack's clothes. He didn't really mind, but now seemed to be hardly the right time for this.
"I know," John assured him. "Our best expert is working on it." He stepped back none the less.
"Your best expert, huh? And that's not you?" They resumed their walk and soon reached a part of the complex that was less deserted.
It was the alien threat that had called Jack to the city, and the fact that all of humanity was at stake. He knew for a fact that humanity had not been destroyed at this time, so someone had to save it if they wanted to stop history from being rewritten in a most unpleasant way. And Jack had been wondering who that hero would be because it definitely would not be him.
They had left the soldiers that had caught Jack behind to keep guarding the entrance and made their way through long, dark corridors that contained nothing but pipes and wet spots on the wall, causing Jack to make a few sarcastic remarks about the use of their finances. The halls they reached now seemed to belong to a different world: clean, white walls, a lot of glass, equipment of the highest standard. People were running around in a hurry, looking busy and slightly anxious. Many of them were wearing white coats.
"Since you're the boss here, shouldn't you be at the centre of events?" Jack suggested, quietly so no one would overhear.
"That's were we're going. But thank you for telling me how to do my job. I'm touched by your concern."
"And I'm touched you deserted your work just to pick me up," Jack answered dryly. The exchange would have led to another physical fight had they had the time for it. Their relationship had worked like that — they never avoided arguments because those always ended with hot, aggressive sex. Jack wondered how long it would take them to kill each other if the sexual element was taken away.
A large double door led them to the command centre. Monitors and control consoles everywhere, and a number of armed guards watching the exits. They only spared their leader a brief nod as he stepped inside. Everyone's eyes were on one man leaning over the large table in the middle of the room. He didn't look up when they stepped closer, didn't acknowledge their presence in any way. Instead his attention was fully focused on a number of documents spread on the table in front of him.
"Any success yet?" John asked, and Jack nearly flinched at the sudden coldness of his voice. The man didn't react at all. To Jack's surprise John didn't bother him further, just stood back and watched him intently. The stranger's utter stillness gave Jack the opportunity to take in his appearance.
Unlike most people here he wasn't wearing a military or scientific uniform but a plain, large, light grey shirt and loose trousers of the same colour. On his feet he was wearing soft, clean shoes by the look of them not meant to be worn outside. His hair was brown, thick and looked ruffled, of his eyes Jack could only make out the long lashes from this angle. He was also very thin. Although the length of his clothes was alright they looked three sizes too big, hanging off his bony frame. Jack estimated that he couldn't have much more than half of his weight while being as tall as he was. Along with his pale skin and the weird clothes it made him look frail and no very healthy.
Both of them jumped when suddenly the man sprang to life.
"Alright, this is going to work!" he exclaimed. Turned to the console beside him and flicked a few switches, adjusted some settings. "This goes here, and this…" After a seconds hesitation he pulled away the covering and tore out a few wires, connecting them in different places. No one made a move to stop him. After that he had another glance at the documents. "That has been done, this as well. These calculations need to be put into the main computer," he said and handed over the sheet to a young woman who hurried off with them. "I'm not going to touch the last one," he added with a frown before crumbling one of the papers and throwing it away.
"What do you think you're doing?" John said harshly, picking it up and shoving it in front of the man. "That's important! The fate of the Earth…"
"Has nothing whatsoever to do with this," the man finished. "This is you trying to have me figure out the calibrations of the Kryk-weapon for you. Nice try." Before anyone could say another word he pressed a button on the console and the large screen above him came to life. It showed the inside of one of the three giant spaceships hanging over London, Jack suspected, and the furry face and long teeth of an alien that seemed more than a little surprised at the com system activating itself.
The skinny guy waved up at the screen and greeted the alien with a cheerful grin. At least Jack thought he greeted them. Actually he could also have told them a joke — it was impossible to tell because he didn't understand a word.
The alien answered in the same language.
"You know the rules," John interrupted the conversation by addressing the man in the grey outfit, completely ignoring the enemy on the screen. "Speak English so we can understand what you are saying!"
The annoyed look he got in response was completely lacking respect for his authority.
"They don't speak English," he was told. "And since I'm trying to make them see reason, not you, it would be rather stupid to have you understand me but not them."
"I don't believe they can't understand us. It would be irrational to start an invasion without being able to communicate with the locals," a female scientist said from the background. She shut up when the man glared at her.
"They didn't come to talk," she was reminded. "Not everyone in the universe speaks your primitive language." He turned back to the screen and resumed his conversation with the invading alien, who'd grown impatient over the interruptions. John looked like he wanted to interrupt once again but a quiet voice held him back.
"If you excuse me, Sir, I don't think there is any risk of them conspiring against us," a handsome young man said just loud enough for Jack to make out the words. "We will run the record though the translation programs later. He knows that." John grunted in response but kept quiet, and Jack wondered, not for the first time, who this skinny guy was and why they let him work freely when they so obviously didn't trust him.
The incomprehensible discussion got more heated while they watched, and at some point the alien on the screen shook his head several times, making sharp gestures with his right hand. The human he was talking to suddenly grew very serious. He said something that sounded like a warning, and flicked another switch on his console. On the screen they could see something on that ship exploding in a rain of sparks.
The alien shouted at the human. The human answered, calmly but with a threatening edge. It bothered Jack that he couldn't understand what was being said when it was clearly deciding the fate of the world he was standing on.
Then the screen went back. For a moment the room went very, very quiet.
"They're leaving," a voice cut though the silence. "All three ships are leaving the atmosphere."
Everyone cheered at that, though it sounded strangely subdued. The man in front of the screen relaxed a little and only now did Jack notice how tense he had been. Suddenly he looked very tired.
He turned to look at them when John approached him with long steps. Fell to the floor without a sound when a fist connected with his cheek. The attack came as a shock even to Jack, who was well used to his friend's violent tendencies.
The treatment seemed a bit harsh toward someone who had just saved the world.
"Now, let's talk about this!" John said, picking up the crumbled piece of paper once again and flattening it. Jack caught a glimpse of it and saw numbers and equations far beyond his understanding.
The man just looked at him while two of the guards picked him up off the floor.
"You know I'm not going to do it," he eventually said. Finally getting a good look at his face Jack could see that it was narrow, fine boned, his cheeks hollow. The man's eyes were dark and unusually large. Now the tension was gone from his body he looked even more frail and sick than before.
"You should have learned better by now," John growled darkly. "A pathetic little calculation. It's not worth the consequences of disobedience."
"It is. You're asking me to give you a weapon that could blow up worlds. I can't imagine any use of that I would approve of."
"We need it protect the Earth."
The guy snorted, so John added: "We're not going to blow up this world, so what's it to you?" He got no answer. The other's refusal didn't require words.
"Well, have it your way. We'll see how long it takes for you to come to your senses. I'd say… five, for the beginning. Unless you changed your mind…?"
"I can take five," the thin man said tensely.
"Okay, ten, then." Jack could tell from the smile on John's face that he wasn't entirely unhappy about the way things were developing. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what they were talking about.
The other said nothing in response. He also didn't change his mind.
John watched him quizzically for a moment.
"Make it fifteen," he eventually decided. "I'll also ask to guys from level three to stay a little longer." He gestured to the guards that were still holding the other man. "Take him back to his room."
The stranger didn't resist when one of the guards took out a pair of handcuffs and placed them around his impossibly thin wrists. The sleeves of his shirt slipped back and Jack got a brief glimpse of raw and bruised skin before the man was led away.
"He's your prisoner," he realised.
"You didn't notice?" John was looking after the guards, not at Jack.
"You let him save the world."
"He has his uses."
"He saved the world," Jack repeated.
A frown of irritation appeared on John's face. "You have a problem with that?"
"Why is he your prisoner?" Jack wanted to know.
"Because he's an enemy of Torchwood. A danger to all of humanity."
"Uhm…" Jack felt like he was missing something.
"I'll have to take care of him for a while," John said, suddenly radiating a professional authority that didn't suit him. "One of my staff will show you around. I'll meet you later."
"I'd rather come with you," Jack protested. He wanted to know what exactly was going on with that man and what John was up to. Most of all, he wanted to talk to his old friend about a number of things, all connected to the general wish to get away from here.
"You can't," John told him. "Not yet. I might need you later." He waved the handsome young man who had whispered into his ear earlier over and instructed him to take care of his friend. Then he swiftly left through the same exit the guards and their prisoner had taken. The automatic door closed soundlessly behind him.
The vague feeling of unease that had crept into Jack during the conversation between John and his prisoner refused to leave him throughout the short guided tour through the facility. Meeting his old friend again, this part of the real word, and having him in a position that allowed access to all sorts of resources he had felt almost euphoric for a moment, like he was only one step away from getting home. Now he wasn't so sure anymore, and this feeling wasn't caused only by John's claim that none of the technology they had here was of any use to them. Something felt wrong about the entire situation and the part his former partner played in it. Surreal. Unsettling.
Now 'John Hart' was his biggest chance of getting away from here, and Jack found that he trusted him less than ever.
"So…" The young man who had introduced himself as Ianto Jones, research department, hesitated for a second, clearly unsure if he should continue. "You are a friend of the General, then?"
Jack, lost in thought, needed a second before he understood that the 'General' referred to John. It was almost too ridiculous.
On any other day he would have laughed.
"We have a history," he answered.
"How do you know each other?" Jones asked in his Welsh accent Jack thought was rather sexy. "If it's okay to ask," he added hastily. Jack gave him a half smile — this man's awkward politeness was quite cute.
"We worked together. It's been a while, though."
Jones had led him through the halls, given him explanations like a tourist guide but Jack had noticed that there were a lot of areas they had left out. Now they were sitting in a large kitchen that had a number of tables but was currently deserted.
"The man that talked to the alien invaders," Jack changed the topic. "Who is he?"
"The Doctor?" Jones sounded surprised, as if he'd expected Jack to know. "He's a prisoner here. He's usually locked up — unless they need him for something."
"What did he do? John… The General said he was dangerous."
The other looked at his hands, folded on the table in front of him.
"He's the reason Torchwood was created: To protect the British Empire from beings like him. I don't think there was an actual reason for them to… arrest him, apart from the fact that the opportunity presented itself. I can't say for sure, though. He's been here since before I joined the organization."
"Has been your prisoner for a while then," Jack mused. Jones nodded.
"Forty years, about."
Jack raised his eyebrows.
"He doesn't look forty," he said, though it was hard to tell from memory. In his mind he saw someone who could have been any age between twelve and eighty.
"No — he's been here for forty years." The Welshman stood and walked over to the coffee machine. "You want a cup?"
"Torchwood is arresting toddlers?" Jack still tried to keep up with the conversation.
"He's an alien," Jones told him, and added one second later: "Torchwood was founded in 1879 by Queen Victoria."
"Ah." Now, this actually made sense for a change. Aliens didn't always have to look… alien. Jack knew that.
They were more fun when they had tentacles though…
"An old alien then," he concluded.
"A time traveller," Jones informed him. "I don't know is exact age."
Jack hardly registered the second sentence. A time traveller! Suddenly his hope was back: this man travelled in time and he was obviously a genius. Suddenly he had become Jack's best chance of getting away from here. If he could somehow make him fix his vortex manipulator… It wouldn't hurt anyone, so there would be no reason for that guy to protest, with his morals that seemed so very strange for a dangerous criminal…
"What did they talk about before they took him away?" Jack wanted to know. "What did 'fifteen' mean? Fifteen what?"
Jones looked uncomfortable.
"I don't know. I never get to see him unless he's allowed in the main area. I don't know what they are doing to him in his cell or the laboratories."
"You don't seem to approve though," Jack observed.
Jones busied himself with the coffee maker.
"Explain this to me," Jack asked, after accepting that he wouldn't get an answer. "He's a criminal but he's saving the world. He's a danger to the planet but he's been kept alive for forty years. Why not just execute him? It would be much easier."
The younger man came back to the table with two cups of coffee in his hands.
"I suppose they're afraid that the world will end if he's no longer there to save it," he eventually said.
"That's not making a lot of sense." Jack took the cup that was offered to him. "What exactly is so dangerous about him that they need to lock him up for four decades?" The number of years was only slowly beginning to sink into his consciousness. It was just about as long as he'd been alive.
Jones shrugged, but Jack saw him glance around to see if they were still alone before he answered:
"He can save the world with a snap of his fingers. He could just as well destroy it."
"You mean they're just paranoid?"
The other didn't say anything but his expression was answer enough.
For a while neither of them spoke. Jack tried to coffee — it was wonderful. His thoughts, however, kept wandering back to that impossibly skinny alien. The Doctor. (Now, where had he heard that before?)
He could be very handsome if he had a little more meat between his skin and his bones, Jack mused. Maybe that was why he had been fascinated by him the very first moment he had seen him.
That impression had been more likely been created by the attention everyone had focused on him, though, or by the fact that he seemed so frail, so doomed. Jack had always had a weakness for things facing their end.
"He didn't look very well," he recalled.
"He was fine," Jones assured him, but Jack noticed that he didn't use present tense here. "This was a good day for him. No testing, no drugs."
"I thought you didn't know what they do to him," Jack said, glad that this man seemed willing to trust him and trying to hide that fact that the prisoner's suffering didn't interest him half as much as the fact that he could travel through time.
"I don't, exactly. But my wife is working with the medical staff. You could say she's his personal nurse. She doesn't see what they do as well but she sees the effects it has on him."
He was married then. And seemed like the kind of man who didn't do open relationships. A pity, really. But Jack had not come here looking for a shag.
"You don't think he deserves this?"
For the first time Jones was looking him straight in the eyes. "I never got the chance to get to know him very well," he said. "But I know for sure that he's not a bad person."
"He's a psychopathic killer," the guard that was having his meal on the other table said. "Downright bastard, that one. I don't know what he'd do if we weren't watching him but it wouldn't be good, believe me."
"How do you know?" Jack asked. Ten minutes ago young Welshman had returned to his work and he'd been left waiting for John alone until the large, bald man came in for a snack.
"Just one week ago he killed Doctor Meyer. The guard that was with them must have looked away for a second and that asshole somehow got his gun and shot him, and the Doc as well. She'd never done him any harm! And there was no point to it either — he knew he could never get out of the building. He didn't even get out of the room, because the General managed to take him down a second later. He murdered them simply because he could."
"I see," said Jack.
"He's a time traveller, that's right," John said an hour later, when they were on their way to his office. "Torchwood Two caught him in 1969, just after it had been re-founded. But his time machine has been lost. Apparently Torchwood had hold of it once, before I got here, but now there is no trace of it. And he's not helping anyone, that selfish bastard. Don't get your hopes up."
"Mr Jones seems to think he's not a bad guy," Jack said vaguely. John snorted.
"Ah, dear Ianto. He has a strange affection for the Doctor, out of some misguided gratitude. I don't want my people sympathising with my prisoners and would have him removed, but he makes damn good coffee, don't you think? Besides, he's nice to look at. As is his wife."
"And she also likes the Doctor?"
"For the same reasons. On the other hand it's quite good to have someone care for him who might not kill him the moment I turn my back. Some days he's really not very popular with the guards."
"One of them told me about Doctor Meyer."
"Ah, that. Nice old lady. A shame, really." The words sounded mocking, coming from John. "I'm having her replaced. A doctor from Torchwood Three is taking her place."
"How many Torchwoods are there?"
"Four. Well, three now, with the first gone. Also, there are a lot of people working for us without knowing it. You remember Professor Richard Lazarus?"
The name sounded familiar.
"The scientist who jumped to his death last month? The tabloids said he turned into a monster just before that."
"For once the tabloids were right. Here we are."
They had reached the office, a large, bright room that lacked any personal touch.
"Who exactly is he? What's his name?"
"Just 'the Doctor'. In forty years no one could make him reveal his real name, and believe me, they've tried. I have tried." Jack grimaced, knowing his friend's less than subtle way of asking. Poor guy, evil or not.
John grinned, suddenly looking like an exited little boy.
"He's a Time Lord!" he revealed. "And you have no idea how long I wanted to say this to someone who actually understands what it means."
Jack just stared.
"No. Telling the truth, me."
"The Time Lords are a myth. They don't exist."
"At least one does."
Jack was silent for a long moment.
"What are you doing with him?"
"The question is: What can he do for us?" John, sitting on his desk, suddenly leaned forward until his nose was almost touching Jack's. "I want to go home! You want to go home. He says he can't help me but I don't believe him. Maybe you can talk some sense into him."
Jack's heart was pounding and he couldn't tell if it was the prospect of going home that caused this or John's request.
"If you couldn't make him talk then I certainly won't," he pointed out. Technically Jack had always been the better interrogator because he focused on getting answers to his questions while John enjoyed the torture leading there a little too much, but the results spoke in John's favour.
John shook his head.
"He doesn't like me. You, he doesn't know. Maybe you can win his trust."
Jack wasn't sure about this but it couldn't hurt to try.
"When can I see him?"
"As soon as he's regained consciousness," he promised.
The Doctor's room was guarded by two armed men. John opened the heavily secured door for Jack but stayed out of sight when he stepped inside. The guards also remained outside. The door fell shut and five locks clicked into place. It seemed a bit exaggerated in the face of a man who couldn't even stand on his own right now.
The room was larger than Jack had expected but it contained nothing but a narrow bed, a chair for visitors to sit on and a sink. No toilet — John had already explained that the Doctor didn't need one.
The Time Lord, if truly he was one, was sitting on his bed, his long legs drawn to his chest without looking protective. His hands were chained to the wall above his head — they really didn't give him any chance.
He regarded Jack with calm, resigned eyes as he sat down on the chair. His face was even paler than before but there was no way of telling what had been done to him in the hours since Jack had last seen him. John had only smiled when Jack had asked him, and said they weren't done yet.
"Hi," Jack said with the biggest smile he could summon. "I'm Jack. We've met before."
The Doctor said nothing.
"Listen," Jack's voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. "I'm here to help you." This time he got a reaction: a quiet, hoarse laugh.
"I bet," the Doctor said, his voice sounding completely unlike that of the man who had saved the Earth this morning.
He wouldn't trust him. Jack had expected that.
"I am, though," he claimed. "I admit that I'm getting something out of it myself, but you would profit from it as well, I promise. I'm a time traveller," he continued without giving the alien a chance to answer. "My vortex manipulator broke, and I've been stuck here for years."
He showed the device to the Doctor. "It's not badly broken but I can't fix it. I guess you could."
The alien looked at this little, important piece of future technology though tired, bruised looking eyes — he wouldn't be able to see the damage from where he was sitting.
"Even if I could, why should I help you? You're with Torchwood. You wouldn't do anything good with it."
"I'm not with anyone," Jack protested, secretly surprised to discover that the contempt in his voice wasn't for show. "I just want to go home and never come here again. Help me and I'll get you out of here! I promise!"
"That technology wouldn't work in here, it's blocked," the Doctor sighed. "You can't get me out. I wouldn't advice you to try. Other's have, over the years. No." He shook his head, his eyes closed. "They'd kill you."
"No, they wouldn't," Jack said firmly. "Because they wouldn't even know why they should. First thing I'd do was travel back to 1969 and keep you from getting captured in the first place. You'd never even be here. That would be forty years I'm sure you wouldn't miss."
When the Doctor opened his eyes and looked at him Jack saw betrayal and disappointment in his gaze, and he realised that the Time Lord had, for one moment, been willing to trust him.
Jack also discovered that somehow, despite the life he'd lived, he was still able to feel shame.
The Time Lord's voice was even quieter than before.
"I was with a friend when I was taken by Torchwood. She's from this time but without me she was stuck in the past without a chance to get back. If she's still alive she's an old woman now. A brilliant girl she was, and I took her life from her, the life she should have lived. If I got out of here I still wouldn't go back and pick her up then, no matter how much I wanted to. Because it doesn't wok that way." He sighed. "She's out there somewhere. It's set. Can't be changed once it happened. And you know that." He looked at the wrist device, briefly. "That thing belongs to a time agent. Like the one John Hart has stored somewhere. How stupid, exactly, do you think I am?"
"I don't think you're stupid," Jack said. "But I'm desperate. Forgive me. I still promise I'll help you. I'll get you of here the one way it's possible." He left the chair, sat beside the prisoner on the bed. Opened the often-broken covering of his device and showed it to the other again, letting him have a closer look.
"Please," he said, making his voice sound urgent. "I need to know if you can fix that. As soon as possible — I could bring you any tool you need, but it should happen today, for your sake." As he leaned closer the Doctor shifted his weight, trying to make it look like he wasn't moving away from him. Jack didn't allow himself to think about what he was doing.
Apart from his face and hands every part of the man's body was covered. Impossible to tell what was hidden beneath those clothes, but Jack could guess. The Doctor was pretty, in a frail, vulnerable way, and knowing John Hart Jack had no doubt that he'd been the victim of sexual abuse. Now the question was if John was the only one — he had never had a problem with sharing.
Maybe that was what he had meant when he'd said he'd ask the guys from level three to stay longer tonight. Jack suppressed a shudder. Signs of sympathy wouldn't help here. Instead he lifted his hand and gently touched the Time Lord's cheek, finding his answer in the way he felt him tremble ever so slightly, in the vague fear in his eyes. But he didn't flinch, didn't move or speak at all and Jack couldn't help admiring him a little as he desperately pretended not to be broken.
That didn't stop him from leaning even closer and breathing his words into the Doctor's face.
"They are coming for you tonight. John said he wasn't finished with you yet and you know what that means, don't you? You need to help me so I can get you out of here before they come."
"And how would you do that?" Jack felt the movement of the Doctor's jaw under his palm.
"I'll kill you," he promised. "Before they get here. No one will hut you ever again."
Something flickered in the other's eyes and Jack couldn't tell if it was surprise or amusement.
"What makes you think I want to die?"
Jack finally withdrew his hand from the alien's face. "It's the only way for you to escape. You know it's true. There's no way to get out of here — they'll keep you locked in forever, generation after generation, to torture and abuse. Please, let me spare you that. It's the only freedom you'll ever get."
The Doctor shook his head. "I don't want to die. Not here, not like this. I have never wanted to live this much!"
Jack didn't know why his words were like a punch in the face.
"Why? Why do this to yourself?"
For a moment the Doctor looked though him, and in his eyes Jack could see eternity.
"I've lived among the stars, and I'll get there again. No matter how long it takes. I don't care what happens after that, but this is not how I want to end." Suddenly his focus was on Jack again. "Like you, I want to go home."
There was nothing Jack could say in return. He'd been stuck on Earth for a couple of years, his movements restricted to one planet, and it had been driving him crazy. This man, offspring of the universe, had been held captive for four decades, in rooms like this, without ever seeing the sky, and the sun, and the stars. Treated with a hate he most likely didn't deserve, experimented on, used and abused in every possible way.
And he wanted to live.
The doors opened one minute later. Jack left without another word.