Title: Past Tense
Rating: K+
Disclaimer: BBC owns Torchwood. I don't. I hope they don't mind my borrowing the chracters.
Spoilers: Through CoE
Summary: Jack and the Doctor end up back in Cardiff a year after CoE.
Prompts: Dailyfics Table F, #3


Jack didn't know how they ended up back in Cardiff, but they did – and sitting in a quiet bar of all places. The TARDIS rested quietly on the Plass, sucking up juice from the rift.

"Thanks for the help back there, Jack," the Doctor said, turning and smiling at his companion. It had been awhile since he'd had a companion on his journeys. Perhaps he'd been hasty in deciding to travel alone. Yet every time he thought of taking on another voyager such as himself, he found himself drawn to memories that ached and made him lethargic – and lethargy for a Time Lord could be a frightening thing.

"No problem," Jack murmured, taking a swig of whiskey. He'd been doing a lot of that lately; downing whiskey in some bar on some planet in the galaxy. "I'm just surprised I ran into you."

Frowning, the Doctor said, "Yeah, about that… it seems the TARDIS doesn't hold a grudge; or maybe she just recognizes your potential. She must, or she would have never locked into you. I had just put in the coordinates for an interesting super-nova a few hundred thousand years from now, and instead found you."

"I can't help it if I'm irresistible," Jack quipped, grinning and tossing back the remnants of his drink. Waving for the bartender for another round, he missed the Doctor's look of surprise, and concern.

"Don't you think you've had enough?" the Doctor eventually asked when the bartender slid another drink in front of Jack. This time, Jack bypassed sipping altogether and simply knocked back the entire drink placed in front of him.

"Nope," Jack replied, making the word pop at the end. The memories were still there, a little too fresh even a year later.

Swiveling a little in his seat to really look at the former Time Agent, the Doctor cocked his head and said, "You never told me how you came to be on that planet in the first place. I could have sworn I deactivated your wrist band."

"No offense, but I didn't tell you how I got there on purpose," Jack replied, a slight slur to his voice. No need to talk about the wrist-band, either. Not to mention that Jack's voice had gotten a little louder – signs he was feeling the affects of the alcohol.

"Then tell me now," the Doctor quietly commanded.

"Nope. The past should stay in the past, right? Don't wanna change anything, because God forbid we screw up the timelines. So Steven, Ianto, and a lot of others get to stay dead because of me," Jack replied, smiling tightly when another glass was placed in front of him.

Tossing back yet another whiskey, he let the rush of alcohol overwhelm him. It felt good to just be numb for awhile. Then he didn't think about the blood seeping from his grandson's nose and ears; or that Ianto's death had been so damn useless. The look on Alice's face when he last saw her – the absolute hatred in her eyes – didn't haunt him for those few precious moments. Neither did Gwen crying for him.

Had he not been so absolutely limp, he might have noticed the look of surprise on the Doctor's face.

"I'm sorry, Jack."

"Sure you are," replied the agonizing former Torchwood leader, giving him an exaggerated smile. "You didn't have to sacrifice anything this time, so I guess it's fair. Too bad I get to live this hell for the rest of eternity." Picking up the empty shot glass, he mock-saluted the Doctor and laughed before flipping the glass upside down and slamming it on the bar.

He only needed to nod at the attentive bartender at this point to have another drink dropping in front of him a minute later.

Tossing back one more shot, Jack set down the tumbler, turned to the Doctor and said, "But the past is the past, and somehow you dragged me back into it. So guess what? Now I get to live with it here of all places. Cardiff. The last place in the universe I ever wanted to see again."

"What will you do?" the Doctor asked, grabbing Jack's arm as he stumbled a little on standing.

"I'll just watch," Jack replied. "I'm poison to anyone who comes near me, so I'll watch so I can't do anymore damage. But the human race is on their own; because they sure as hell can't count on us." More conspiratorially, he leaned toward the Doctor and loudly whispered, "You see, Doctor, you and I can't seem to do anything without ending up alone. Again."

The Doctor attentively watched Captain Jack Harkness stagger out of the bar into the street noises outside. He wondered just how remiss he'd been as he'd staggered himself from one fascinating excursion to another over the last months – all in the name of holding the aching loneliness at bay. His choice of 'high' had come in the form of adrenaline surging in his system, distracting him from the pain.

But what had his purposeful ignorance cost?