Summary: 'He had told himself that he would never forget.' The burden of remembering is heavy for one who lives as long as Jack.
Author's Note: Another one I wrote a while back. Fits neatly into post-CoE canon, though. Added a little polish from when I originally wrote it. And yes, I'm aware that it's not entirely canon-compliant, but I liked the idea of Jack seeing what happened at Canary Wharf, so I left that in there.
A note on the title--it's taken from Edgar Allan Poe's poem entitled 'Dreamland', which I highly recommend reading. It's a bit too long to quote here, but I think it fits very nicely with this story. Eidolon, as the internet tells me, is another word for "ghost" or "spirit".
And now I've got a Rose-having-forgotten story, and a Jack-having-forgotten story. Perhaps I'll round things out with Martha and Donna one of these days. Who knows?
Disclaimer: Doctor Who belongs to the BBC and a whole list of other people that don't include me. I'm just playing, because it's fun.
He had told himself that he would never forget, could never forget, the time he had spent with Rose and the Doctor. It had been the happiest time of his life. It wasn't until thirty years after he'd been left behind that he realized he'd started to forget. Sitting in a muddy trench somewhere in France, bombs exploding around him, sirens blaring to warn them of mustard gas, Jack felt his stomach drop as he stared into the face of his captain, hidden behind a gas-mask. The echoing, haunting words of a scared, lost child came back to him, begging for his mother.
But the trenches were no place to pause for reflection (even if he couldn't die), and by the time he could sit down and put his memories on paper, he'd forgotten even more. It scared him to think he was forgetting, that it was more of his past that he had lost.
His next shock came the first time he saw a police box on a street corner. He'd almost run up to it to bang on the doors and demand answers when he saw a constable pick up the phone and place a call. It was torture every time he saw one after that, because he could never tell from a distance whether it was an ordinary police box or the TARDIS, and he was too afraid to get closer and see. (He told himself it was because he couldn't risk crossing timelines or meeting the wrong Doctor, but the truth was, he was too afraid of disappointment.)
When the '80s rolled around and he got word that the Doctor was working with UNIT (information he never shared with Torchwood), he realized his mental picture of the Doctor was blurred, and Rose was nothing more than a crooked smile and a joyful laugh. He went to London that day and sat in the park by the Powell Estates (he never forgot the unimportant details, after all) until a little girl with blonde pigtails came along, a reluctant Mickey in tow. After that, he only went back to that part of London twice.
He didn't have time after the turn of the millennium to think about his time spent traveling with Rose and the Doctor, not when he had a team to recruit and train. When the spaceship crashed through Big Ben and landed in the Thames, he wanted so badly to be the one to go to investigate, but he sent Tosh (Owen being too hung over to even make it into work, let alone to London). Even with the reminder, it still came as a shock to him when Margaret was elected as mayor of Cardiff. He scared his team the way he went into a near-panic one day, sending them all out of the city while he sat and watched the CCTV feed. He took a screen capture of Rose and the Doctor, grainy and black-and-white, but better than anything he'd had in over a century. He printed it out and tucked it away with his other pictures (he was careful these days of making sure he had something of the ones he loved). The Hub shook madly, and he knew the TARDIS was gone again, and he'd almost come full-circle.
Christmas was a mad dash to London from Cardiff. He knew the Doctor had to be involved with the spaceship, even though he didn't have any prior knowledge of events any more (he remembered that much, at least) but when he'd tracked the Doctor with his vortex manipulator, it had led him not to the Time Lord and the TARDIS and Rose, but to a severed hand lying oh-so-innocently in the middle of a rugby pitch. He got Tosh to help him preserve it and set it to react to like matter, and he went back to waiting for the right moment to see the Doctor again.
Canary Wharf broke his heart. He'd been warning Yvonne to stop fooling around with things she didn't understand. He'd only ever heard of Cybermen, but these didn't react the way he'd been taught at the Academy. And then they were being sucked away, and he was left to deal with the aftermath. He never let anyone else see the footage from the security cameras, kept it locked away safe (he'd forgotten what she had sounded like, but that didn't matter any more, because she was gone, he'd watched her vanish and seen the Doctor beat his fists fruitlessly against that blank wall.) He'd found the ridiculous 3D glasses discarded carelessly on the floor and he couldn't imagine throwing them out--Rose had worn them, if only for a moment, and it was the only tangible connection he'd ever have to her.
He was caught up in work again until the day he heard the sound of the TARDIS engine, the Doctor's hand twitching madly in its jar, and he didn't stop to think. He'd forgotten too much already, and he needed to know it hadn't all been some strange, wonderful dream. It had hurt finding another girl with the Doctor, had hurt to finally meet this new Doctor who was the same but oh-so-different, to learn the truth about himself. When the Doctor offered him a place to stay after that terrible year with the Master, he couldn't accept (his team being a wonderful excuse). He'd gone back into his office and had to look at those grainy pictures of his Doctor, because he'd started to forget again, and the new memories just couldn't compare to the old.
Then there was Gray. He forgave his brother for hating him, for blaming him for his pain and suffering. He even forgave him for burying him alive for almost two thousand years. What he couldn't forgive his brother for was that in those two thousand years trapped in a perpetual cycle of death and suffering, Jack had no time to remember. By the time he'd been dug up, he couldn't even remember his own face or the sound of his own voice, let alone the Doctor or Rose or even his team. It wasn't until two days after Owen and Tosh died that he had the chance to look through his box of memories again.
And while everyone else was panicking as the Earth was moved and Daleks invaded, Jack rejoiced, because that was Rose, alive and here, and it was like looking at an angel, her voice like rain after a drought. He'd forgotten so much in his never-ending string of lifetimes, but here was his second chance at remembering.
When he found out that Rose was gone again, that the Doctor had erased Donna's memories, he couldn't forgive the Time Lord; not for a long time, at least. The Doctor never had to worry about forgetting faces or voices or people he had cared about, but Jack did, and as the memories faded day by day, the loss continued to hurt. And Ianto's words (not quite condemnation and not quite forgiveness) still stuck in his mind even as the man himself faded into memory.
(He'd forgotten most of his life as Captain Jack Harkness when he'd gone to watch the Earth finally be destroyed by the sun. He didn't have his pictures any more, material possessions being just as susceptible to the passage of time as thoughts. He didn't even recognize them at first, his Doctor and Rose. But he'd helped them stop Cassandra, and he'd felt alive again. But he hadn't even realized he'd forgotten again until he was on New Earth and he'd sensed someone vaguely familiar, and there was Rose with her second Doctor. He was so tired of living by then, but he hung on for a little while longer, doing his best to remember. And when Martha turned up, he knew he couldn't live like this any more, only ever seeing the faintest echoes of who he had once been.)
He told himself that he would never forget. But he had.