Title: Timeless Healing
Spoilers: Through CoE
Disclaimer: Torchwood is the property of the BBC.
Summary: Jack finds the Doctor in hopes of reversing the attack of the 456, but the Doctor has other plans.
Author's Note: Reviews are always appreciated, especially concrit. I hope you enjoy.
X X X
"It helps to acknowledge them," the Doctor stated, staring at Jack Harkness.
After making a snorting noise, Jack barked mirthlessly and then sneered, "Is that what you do? Acknowledge them?" When the Doctor stared balefully at Jack, the time agent grimly said, "You rarely speak of Rose – not unless her name slips and you trip yourself up. So don't tell me what I should be doing."
His face impassive, the Doctor continued to stare.
Jack, for his part, returned the gaze, until he simply couldn't hold it any longer and let his eyes slip away to stare at the far wall. Huffing out a ragged breath, tattered with anger and resignation, he stated, "So you won't help."
"I'm sorry, Jack. I can't. It would interrupt the timeline, and I just can't do that," the Doctor replied softly, with a look of understanding on his face and regret in his eyes.
"You're right about me not wanting to… dwell. I've enough experience in losing people," the Doctor continued. "I have spent my existence getting close to people, only to have them yanked away. Still, I can't change the timeline and you know it."
In defeat, Jack sat down at a small table just off the glowing heart of the TARDIS, propped his arms on the flat wooden surface, and put his head in his palms. He'd been so sure the Doctor would help… so sure the Time Lord would understand and be compelled to fix it. Because all this loss was wrong. When he felt a hesitant hand on his shoulder, Jack looked up, helpless and feeling so very alone.
The Doctor slid a small drawer open, pulled out a piece of parchment and quill, and leaned down. Instead of providing relief for the pain in which Jack now lived, he simply said, "Write. Write about your team. You're more like the people you left behind than you realize. This supposedly helps them. Maybe it will help you."
After patting Jack's shoulder like he would a child, the Doctor slowly walked away to look at some doodad or other in another part of the ship.
For an eternity, Jack simply stared at the quill and paper, infuriated that this was the best the Doctor could do. In the end, however, he acquiesced and began to write.
X X X
I don't know where to start. So I'll begin with my beautiful daughter. My darling Alice. I'd understood why her mother wanted to protect the child. Most touched by Torchwood – or me – suffer greatly. It might have meant a lifetime of tumult with my dark haired cherub, but it kept her safe.
It would have killed me for anything to happen to her. After all, I knew I would outlive her already. Nothing could happen to her before her time, so I stayed away when asked. If I'm being honest with myself, I think maybe I wanted to spare myself, too. No parent should outlive a child, as is destined to happen me.
Then she had her own child, with a man who never deserved her devotion. She's like me, though – kicked his ass to the curb when he turned out to be a git.
Then I found myself useful. If nothing else, I have always been able to support her – to give her the resources to be there for that beautiful little boy in a way I could never be there for her. Was there resentment? Oh yes. How could there not be when I wanted so much to be a part of Steven's life, even when I wasn't really in hers? I know she believes I didn't think of her. Little does she know…
In my wildest dreams, I was never tempted more than a few times to explain it had been her mother's choice to move away. I could fool myself and say I would have been at every dance recital and school event if I'd ever been asked. Looking back, I should've gone anyway. Maybe she and I would be on better terms. I tried harder with Steven, and found her decision to keep me away wavering with each rare visit.
When my grandson jumped into my arms each time I dropped by, I couldn't help but think of my little girl, and the wonder I once saw in her childish eyes. He was so much like his mother. Would he have pushed me away later when he figured out he couldn't count on me all the time? Would he have thought of my stories as nothing but lies?
I know it worried Alice that he believed them… even reveled in the tales of my adventures.
She had a right to worry, because Steven is like her; and in her eyes, I have always seen myself. Her mind used to yearn for the adventure – one I never wanted her having. She's always brought out a protective instinct in me, because I have never wanted her to be any part of Torchwood. Because she's the one that has always mattered.
In the end, not a single thing I care about survived – not really. My choices were ripped away. She'll hate me until she dies, and I can't blame her. I took her most precious commodity and used it like a tool. Like it was nothing more than a hammer.
I killed Steven with quiet savagery.
So how can I grieve, knowing the blame lay at my feet? And not just for Steven. For Gwen and Rhys, as well. Didn't she look breathtaking when she climbed the hill to give me the vortex manipulator? I left her standing with tears streaking down her face, knowing they were for me. She'll never know the cost of not taking the risk and finding out what might have developed between us.
I watched what it did to Lucia. Seeing the resentment in her eyes as she grew old and I did not… I couldn't take the chance. Gwen needs so much more than I can provide. But Rhys can and will give her the life she deserves. It would have hurt too much to let know I couldn't give her what she needed - not like Rhys can.
Owen would grin at that… right after he rolled his eyes and said, "Nothing hurts the mighty Captain Jack Harkness."
His comments - often endearingly careless, piercing and purposeful - usually hit the mark. But I know he never meant to be malicious. Not often, anyway. Maybe that's why I looked at Owen and saw a snotty little brother. Not like Gray. No one could ever be like Gray. No, Owen was like a squabbling sibling, who would give as well as he took, making sure I remembered my place. In the end, Owen had my back. He had all of our backs. Too much so.
He missed out on the one chance at happiness life might have offered. It all came too little, too late. He and Tosh could have had so much if only…
Tosh should have said something, and I wanted to cheer when she finally did. I noticed the way she looked at him – I'm not completely daft. I have no doubt she would have dazzled him if she'd given herself a moment to sparkle. Oh, how I truly hate unrequited love. Sincerely and everlastingly hate it.
But I guess loving from afar is better than never loving. By the time they died, though, Owen knew. Even through his anger and pain, he knew.
I knew. I know. I know love.
It hurts so bad, knowing how to love and be loved. This constant ache in my chest leaves me seeking blindly for something to hold onto. During my darkest moments, they watched me close, always faithful, always there. Especially Ianto. And he watched too much.
How do I face it? It eats at me, bit by bit each day. I hate not seeing Ianto's slightly upturned lips, his quirking brow, and his constantly asking, "Will that be all, sir?" or "Jack, do you think perhaps you're acting a bit rash?" I hadn't wanted him to mean so much. I'd succeeded in holding a lifetime of people at arm's length, but he managed to slip under my skin when I wasn't looking.
Then he died. It's as simple as that. Ianto Jones died.
When he lay in my arms, every cell of me wanted to scream. He was too young. I may not have wanted him to love me, but he did. I loved him as well; more than I realized. When I said, "Don't," I was saying it to both of us. Because I live an impossible existence.
So I had to leave the last remnant of Torchwood behind before I went insane with grief.
Gwen… I left her standing there. Her and Rhys. That's what I do best, though. I leave people behind, struggling in pain. Does Alice understand that I will live in agony for an eternity, knowing what I did to Steven? Does she even realize how much pain I will endure when she is one day gone?
So what's the point of ever going back? The world turned its back on me before the 456 ever arrived. Why should I ever return?
X X X
Dropping the quill onto the parchment, Jack stared at the last sentence. Why indeed? That seemed to be the question at the heart of it all. Why should he return to the place where the people are so self-serving it cost the lives of two people he loved most? What kind of gratitude have they ever shown him in his thankless position?
Looking down at the paper, one name stood out among the others. Alice.
Squeezing his eyes shut, he thought back through all the years. The trials. The turmoil. The utter pain.
In his daughter's name, the answer shone through. He had to return for her and her future. Even if she hated, him. At the end of the day, the place had given him the most precious thing of all. Family.
He missed his family – not just his parents and brother, but the family he'd built since.
And it was his place – his duty – to protect Alice, Gwen, and the rest as best he could, even if it meant ten thousand more agonizing deaths.
He had to return for Torchwood.