Last chapter! And it's epic. Jack has just lived so damn long.
Thank you to everyone who's read and/or reviewed this story. It really means a lot. And on that note, could I ask a favour? If you do review, would you mind telling me which chapter you enjoyed most and why? My writing style varied slightly in each one, and I'm interested to know what works.
And now - the end is nigh...
If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Captain Jack Harkness is wrong.
Wrong on so many levels.
And the worst thing of all is that he knows it.
Poster boy for the Boeshane Peninsula. Top of his class at the Time Agency. Knows how to handle a gun, and how to charm so many people that he doesn't need one.
Sounds like the perfect CV.
But for him, every achievement he makes is twisted by that one failure. The Time Agency is a vehicle in which he can search more effectively for his little brother, that's all. And if he gains knowledge to blackmail and bribe those who could assist him… well, that's just an added bonus.
He retains this ruthlessly-minded state until thirty years after graduating, when he wakes up and makes breakfast before remembering Grey.
My name is Jack Harkness.
He stands in front of the mirror in a hotel room the size of a shoe box, the list of the recent dead clutched between two fingers. For the past half hour, he has been introducing himself as each name, trying to find a new identity that fits. After all, how can the Time Agency catch him if there is no longer a 'him' to catch?
Jack Harkness, he thinks. Nice ring to it. It'll do for now.
And when he spares a thought for Real Jack, the one who is now kept alive by New Jack's selfishness, those two missing years poke and prod at his mind, exploding in Technicolour pain just out of reach. New Jack thinks that maybe those two years are better off without him.
But he'll never know unless he tries, will he? So he grabs the stolen Army coat, refastens his wrist strap and goes to sign out of the hotel.
When asked for his name, he adds the 'Captain' for good measure.
The Doctor. And Rose Tyler.
Hell, they can make a man change.
Their calming, slightly manic influence on Jack tightens but never smothers. He still flirts, still shoots, and definitely still drinks. He just doesn't con the good guys any more.
The bad guys are still fair game, though.
Dying is fine. Coming back every time is not.
Jack can't even begin to describe what it feels like. Broken glass is the closest he can get to that unwillingness, like the Universe is being made to haul him back from emptiness against its will. But it's more than that - like there's some sort of magnetic pull between that which is Jack and that which is Life. The two are attracted, and any attempt to force them apart only increases the power of one over the other.
And pain, oh yes. Death does not dampen, only amplifies.
It's strange, thinks Jack, that without any technical body to inhabit he can feel the phantom limbs a thousand times over. But then the magnets align, and he is mentally screaming too much to care.
Torchwood is a mistake. Him getting involved with Holroyd and Guppy, with their insatiable desire to satisfy the statutes of Queen Victoria to the letter - namely, removing any alien threats to the British Empire. They take to the task with glee.
Jack's stomach turns every time they mention a new race or object; every time a rift alert comes through or the summons arrives from Torchwood London. Because he is tied to them and what they do, and while he can try to help those unfortunate souls who are left alive long enough to escape, there's nowhere they can hide afterwards.
Trapped on a world they never had any intention of belonging to, waiting for the mythical rescue which may or may not come.
Jack knows how they feel.
Rebuilding is hard. Especially alone, and with workers who really shouldn't know anything about the semi-secret basement from which half the country is saved.
So Jack develops his own little formula - 'Retcon'. Seems appropriate for a drug which rewrites the selected time, removing all trace of the out-of-the-ordinary. And so life goes on. Solo.
Jack's been looking through files. He needs help - he found that out a couple of days ago when a mugging left him incapacitated for the almost-apocalypse. So he gathered records of the strong, those who can survive and leave unmissed.
The name Suzie Costello catches his eye, so he does a little more research. Four days later, he begins to claw his way into her life. Four weeks later, she joins him in Cardiff. And sometime inbetween, he falls head over heels.
Gotta save her, gotta save her, gotta save her.
She can't die like this. Not from one gun shot.
Sitting at her beside, he remembers his desperation to find someone to help him. Now it seems they both need help.
The heart monitor reminds him that every beep further into her life takes her further away from him.
Back to the files, then.
Ianto doesn't… fit into the team, so much as leave it completely unchanged. The arrivals of Toshiko and Owen had shifted the dynamics, like a matchstick triangle with an extra match, but Ianto just sort of… hovers on the outside.
Jack tries to pay very little attention to him. He knew Torchwood One right up to the Hartman days, and if the Jones boy is anything like them, he'll take a mile for every inch. And Suzie has a bad feeling about him. Suzie's usually right.
Life goes on.
The relationship with Ianto starts as a coping mechanism. Gradual flirting, building up to more. Jack needs to put himself back out there, the anything-goes flirt who never gets too attached.
Then he gets a little attached to Ianto. Not enough to make the Lisa thing excusable, but enough to forego Retcon. And definitely not enough to stay faithful.
You would have stayed for-
Oh, shut up, the rest of his mind snaps. He doesn't allow himself to think of her name any more.
Gwen Elisabeth Cooper.
There are Suzie-like aspects of her, but mainly she is the Anti-Suzie. The Not-Suzie.
Jack loves her too, because even an absence of Suzie is something to hold onto.
In time, he comes to love her for herself. For her warmth, her life.
But he never takes it further because he's got more than enough life already
Suzie comes back, and tries to take away the woman that replaced her.
She can't replace you, he wants to say. She's half of what you were. Are.
But then she dies, and leaves him again, and it doesn't matter any more.
The team are starting to pull together. And Jack has to admit, there was a tiny part of him, throughout all that time with the Doctor and the Master, that hoped it would make them stronger.
Gwen is a leader now. More like-
don't go there
-every day, and he loves her all the more for it. But she's lost to him, so he turns to Ianto. Learns to care for the one you're with. Ianto's been pulled into the team as well, more than Jack ever managed, and his friendship with Gwen makes Jack's heart ache. They speak in a language he doesn't understand.
Sometimes he yearns for the simplicity of what Tosh and Owen have. Unwilling to admit their affections, but with an outcome blindingly obvious in its inevitability.
But no matter. The aliens, the Rift. They won't wait for him to finish his inner monologue.
Jack walks out of his office.
He sees Tosh bringing Owen a sandwich, and the look that passes between them.
He sees Gwen chatting to Ianto about last night's rugby game and they notice him watching. They smile.
He sees Myfanwy swooping overhead, ever spiralling upwards to touch the stars.
And then he realises - he's not seeing a group of individuals forced into saving the world. He's seeing his team.
Captain Jack Harkness is wrong.
Wrong on so many levels.
But for a while at least, he has no desire to be right.