Countdown to Oblivion

AN: Spoilers for all of Torchwood and up to season three of Doctor Who. Dark AU. Yeah, not a bucket of laughs, this one. You have been warned.


The machine was finally ready.

"Please don't do this." The Doctors voice came, almost a whisper this time. "It will be the end of everything. The entire universe, gone, erased from existence. You can't want that."

"Eternal oblivion." The old man laughed bitterly, looking at his old foe. The Doctor was straining against his chains, making a last ditch show of defiance, but it was clear to both of them that he had already lost. He was still weak after the months of torture and he just looked broken and scared and oh so young. "That sounds good to me."

"The whole universe!" The Doctor shouted in protest. "Is your revenge against me really worth that many deaths?"

The man paused in his work, and for the briefest moment, the Doctor thought he saw a hint of the man he had once called a friend.

It was gone in an instant though, and the man turned to face the Doctor, face breaking out into a cruel smile. Involuntarily, the Doctor shivered.

"Is that what you really think this is about, Doctor?" He asked, inching closer. "You really think that I'm doing all this for revenge? How self-centered can you be?" His face is practically touching the Doctor now, breath hot against his skin, and the Doctor feels his skin start to crawl.

"If I really wanted revenge, I would make this whole process last so much longer. Make you watch as planet by planet is slowly disintegrated. Give you just enough time to grieve each and every one. Make you suffer. I really wanted to, you know. I planned it for centuries. But I decided to be merciful. Give the universe a quick and painless death. Better then what it deserves."

"Why are you doing this?" The Doctor cried, hysterical.

There was a long moment of silence.

"Same reason as always." He shrugged.

"And what is that? What do you want so much that you're willing to destroy everything, yourself included? Because believe me, there's no way that even you would survive this."

The man stops cold in his track. He turns towards the Doctor, expression clouded by something resembling disbelief. Finally, he laughs, and it is cold and deranged and wrong.

"You really don't get it do you? All this time, there's only one thing that I've ever wanted. I'll admit, this was fun." He gestured towards the Doctors wounds. "And so was our little game of tag across time and space. But that was just a hobby. Something to pass the time with while I prepared for this." He pointed back towards the machine. "And now the wait is finally over."
"The wait for what?" The Doctor cried. "Everything will be destroyed, even you. What could you possibly get out of this?"

"I'm tired." He muttered. "I just want to die. And you know as well as I do that this is the only way I can."
Of all the reasons he could have given, that one hurt the Doctor the most.

"Jack." He whispered, feeling a fresh stream of tears well up.

"You can't stop me this time Doctor." He said coldly, returning to his doomsday machine.

"Please. I'm so sorry about what happened to you, Jack, but please. I know you. You don't want to do this."

"You haven't known me for a long time, Doctor." He rested his hand on the trigger.

The Doctor was sobbing freely now. Jack allowed himself a small chuckle. This was the man who he had hated for so long, just a child afraid of the dark. He barely seemed worth the effort anymore.

He just needed to push the button and it would all be over.


He always escaped in the end. No matter what new trick the Doctor thought of to contain him, no matter how many safety precautions he put in place, he always escapes. After all, no one has more experience then him at breaking out of a prison cell.

The Doctor has been persistent recently, though. Jack supposes that it must be because he's on his last regeneration. He doesn't want to let a psychopathic immortal running around unchecked.

But still, Jack doesn't know why the Doctor bothers to keep trying. He can trap Jack for decades, or even centuries, but he can't keep him imprisoned forever, no matter how hard he tries.

He used to relish the battles, the games of cat and mouse that he and the Doctor would play together, but lately the Doctor has become more of a nuisance then a worthy opponent, and Jacks recent string of victories against his old enemy only serves to depress him. He remembers how disappointed he was when the Doctor failed to stop him from disintegrating that solar system, even though Jack really hadn't even been trying all that hard.

It was only a matter of time, Jack supposed, until his millennia of experience caught up to the Doctors natural brilliance.

But now that it had, his favorite pastime had become so boring.

There wasn't anything left to look forward to anymore.

Jack decides that he's going to try ending the universe.


"Don't make me do this, Jack." The Doctor says, looking every bit the oncoming storm, and Jack feels the faintest hints of fear. He knows how much the Doctor could make him suffer, and even though his new plan is flawless, he's never won against the Doctor yet. The Doctor must have some sort of half-baked plan to stop him, and knowing the Doctor, it would work, and Jacks really not looking forward to what comes after that.

"What are you going to do, kill me?"

"You know I can't."

"If you could, would you?"
The Doctor pauses, and it's the only answer Jack needs.

"Coward." He hisses.

"I mean it, Jack. If you don't stop. I'm going to have to stop you, and we both know what that means. I don't want to have to do that to you. I can help you, so why don't you just stop?"

Jack wonders if the Doctor really means it, if he really would forgive all that he's done if he just switches off the machine, or if his words are just more empty promises, meant only to give the Doctor the moral high ground.
Jack thinks about it, really thinks about it, and he supposes that quitting now would really be better. He knows from experience just how much the Doctor can make him suffer, and can't imagine how much worse it will be now that he has finally started looking at Jack not with regret or pity but anger and hatred.

"You can do that, can't you Jack? You can stop."

The Doctors words stir something compulsive and unreasonable, and Jack smiles, the expression is just as bitter and angry as it always is.

"I can't stop, Doctor. Not ever. You should know that by now."

"Then you leave me no choice."

It is over a million years before Jack manages to escape the timelock, a million years spent alone and completely isolated from the rest of the universe, and if the Doctor thought that he was mad before, he clearly dosen't know what madness is.

He's going to make him understand, though.


The Master died sacrificing himself to re-seal the timelock on the Time War, and Jack is livid.

It's not so much that his plan has failed- trying to bring back the rest of the Timelords had been a half baked idea at best, but he was starting to get desperate.

But now, it seemed like the Master had redeemed himself in the Doctors eyes with this one selfless act, and that really pisses Jack off.

When the Master and the Doctor had begun working together to stop him, he had almost laughed at the irony. The Master had even called him mad, him. This was absolutely ridiculous, really, considering who was talking.

Jack dosen't think he is insane, not really. He is never intentionally cruel like the Master, always giving the people he kills a quick death. He was doing them all a favor, really, but of course the Doctor dosen't see it that way.

Like he would know. He's so young, practically a child compared to Jack, and he dosen't know what life really is. To him, it's all hope and wonder and the glitter of the galaxies, but Jack sees the universe for what it really is, knows that it is dark and cold and lonely.

Jack runs, knowing that however unreasonable the Doctors grief is, his anger and fury will all be turned on Jack once he stops crying for his old arch nemesis.

He runs, so fast and so far, hiding near the wild edges of the galaxy, and he waits, passing the time building yet another doomsday machine, knowing it's only a matter of time before the Doctor finds him again.


It is Jack that makes the Doctor regenerate for the final time, and he takes himself on a 100 year long vacation to the Vegas galaxy to celebrate. It's the happiest he's been in a long time, knowing that he finally got the upper hand on the Timelord

Of course, after a while he gets bored, and this leaves the question of what to do now.

He decides to go back to school, and he studies everything he can think of until he has an advanced degree in every subject.

Now, he can build a fully functional vortex manipulator from scratch in a matter of hours, and he thinks he might understand the mechanics of time travel even better then the Doctor now. He spends a few thousand years hopping about time and space, but every planet just looks the same now, and he's bored.

He tries taking over a galaxy, and the Doctor stops him like usual, and Jack decides he likes this new regeneration even less then the other ones.


He turns a million years old, and his hair has finally turned completely grey. He wonders if he'll be able to die of old age. It's the only thing he hasn't tried yet. He hopes it works, because he can't take much more of this.

He busies himself by trying to kill the Doctor.


The Master is actually pretty funny. He's surprised it's taken him so long to notice. They both have the same hobby, and Jack gets along with him better then he has with anyone in over 300,000 years.

They burn planets together, make lesser races worship them as gods, and Jack wonders if this was what it was like to have a friend. It's been so damn long, and his memories are getting fuzzy.

The Masters cruelty towards, well, everyone, still annoys Jack, but it's in a faded, distant sort of way now. Jack knows that he can be just as cruel if he wants too, but he much prefers giving people a quick death and he thinks he always will. The universe is already so full of suffering, and adding more just seems like a waste of effort.

Lately, though, the Master has become fed up with Jacks suicidal tendencies.

"I don't know why you're complaining. I mean, sure, you're an aberration, but you get to live forever. Imagine all the pain you could cause, all the people you could conquer. You could become supreme ruler of the universe if you wanted too, and not even the Doctor could stop you." The Master gives a whimsical smile at the thought. "Sounds perfect."

Jack just shrugs. "You can have it. I don't want it."

Suddenly, the Master breaks out into a huge smile. "That's it! A body transfer! Why didn't I think of that before?"

"You can do that?" Jack asks, suddenly hopeful.

"Well, it won't be easy, but I should be able to manage it."

The Master snorts. "I'm brilliant. I'll figure something out."

And they get close, really, honestly close.

And then the Doctor shows up and ruins everything.

"Why?" is all that he can ask when it's all over.

The Doctor shakes his head. "I know you're going through a tough time right now, Jack, but think about what you almost just did. You could have given the Master immortality. I don't care how much you want to die, nothing is worth that."

"I could do just as much damage with it as he could."
"I don't think so, Jack. Despite everything you've done, I know that there's still good in you. And I think that one day, hopefully soon, you'll go back to using your immortality to make the universe a better place. Just like before."
"That was a long time ago, Doctor. I've changed."
"And I think you can change back. That's why I couldn't let you go through with it."

Jack glares at the Doctor. He doesn't think that he's ever felt this much hatred for anyone.

"Well you should have, Doctor, you really should have, because let me tell you something. I'm only going to get worse."

A hundred and twenty three years later, he almost gets the Master killed by opening a portal to the Void. After sealing it, the Master dumps him on a deserted planet, saying that he's mad, and a danger to himself and those around him.

Well, yeah. Jack knew that already.


He hates the Doctor, hates him more then he's ever hated anybody. He hates how he thinks he has the right to judge him even though he's so much younger then Jack is now. He hates how he's never there when he needs him, yet expects Jack to drop everything every time he has a problem too big for him to handle alone.

But most of all, he hates the fact that the Doctor honestly seemed surprised and hurt when he finally turned on him. As though Jack owed him some kind of loyalty, after everything the Doctor did to him.

The Doctor acts like it's not his fault, insisting that he never meant to hurt him, and that just pisses Jack off more. That all he has been through so far was just the result of the Doctors carelessness.

"You don't want me as an enemy, Jack." The Doctor warns the first time they fight, and Jack almost starts laughing.

"I think I do, Doctor. Because believe me, you've been a lousy friend."


Jack sneaks onto Satellite Five, mind made up. He just had to kill himself before he became immortal. It was his last chance. Until now, he had always talked himself out of it, not wanting to cause a time paradox. But he was beyond caring about that now. Let the Reapers come, he was tired of this.

He waited on the satellite for five months, until he finally saw himself, lying unconscious in the Extreme Makeover rooms.

He is almost giddy with excitement as he readies his blaster. If he does it now then he'll never feel it. The thought of a quick and painless death is all that he's been able to think about recently. He's obsessed about it for decades as this last opportunity drew near.

He aims, and the two robot stylists barely have time to protest before he fires.

He watches in glee as his younger self dies.

Then he watches in horror as the wound begins stitching himself back together.

"How?" He cries, and then suddenly the Doctor is there, the new Doctor.

"Jack." He says sadly. "I didn't think you would actually do it."
"Doctor?" Jack asks, rocked. "Are you doing this?"

The Doctor shakes his head slowly.

"Well then why? I'm not immortal yet, so why?"

"The Bad Wolf brought you back forever, Jack, and that includes before the Daleks and the Gamestation. You never died before that, so you didn't know."

"But you did. You knew and you never told me."

"I didn't think I needed too. You didn't seem like the type of person to resort to suicide."
"Well a lot has happened between now and then!" Jack shouts, feeling all the ugly feelings and dark urges that he had barely been able too keep at bay these past few thousand years bubbling to the surface.

The Doctor doesn't seem to see them. "I'm sorry, Jack, I should have told you."

Jack collapses, the weight of eternity almost physically crushing him. "Isn't there anything I can do? I'm just so tired, Doctor. I don't think I can take much more of this."

"No, Jack. There's nothing short of the complete destruction of the universe that could keep you down." He says it like that's supposed to be a goddamned complement, and any small part of Jack that still cared for the Doctor dies right then and there.


The Doctor is on his twelfth regeneration now, and there's only one left.

Jack asks him to go in the TARDIS to his future, to check up on him every once and a while.

The next time that the Doctor comes back, he looks physically shaken.
"Doctor? What's wrong?" Jack asks, worried. The Doctor looks at Jack as though he was seeing a complete stranger, before shaking his head sadly.

"Right. Timelines." The Doctor mutters, looking away. "Hasn't happened yet, of course."

"Doctor? What are you talking about? Did something happen?"

"No. Well, nothing out of the usual. Went a couple hundred thousand years in the future, saved the world a few times, nothing special."

"Oh, ok. Was I there?"

The Doctor stares at the floor. "Yeah, you were there."

Jack gets the feeling that he's not telling him something.

"Did something bad happen to me or something?"
"Yeah." The Doctor whispers. "Was my fault. I'm so sorry, Jack."
"Well I forgive you then."

"You don't even know what I did."

"I don't need to. Doctor, I know we haven't always agreed in the past, but you're all that keeps me going, you know that?"
The Doctors expression darkens. "I know."


His memories are fading again, but he knows better then to try to refresh them again after what happened last time.

Instead, he buries himself in his work, spending every waking moment averting some disaster.

The Doctor is mysteriously absent for a disturbingly large percentage of them, and it takes all of Jacks effort not to get angry about it.

The Doctor is literally the last person still alive that he cares for, and he's hardly ever there. The last time he saw him was four thousand years ago, when he showed up to yell at him for how he was handling the First Bountiful Human Empire's foreign policy, saying that he was making the rest of the universe think that humanity was war hungry. The accusation was completely unfair in Jacks opinion, he never went out looking for war, it just sort of kept happening.

He still respected the Doctor more then anyone, but his whole outlook on everything was hopelessly naïve. Was Jack honestly expected to sit back and do nothing when humanity was attacked? As more and more people died? Retaliation was necessary; otherwise the countless hostile alien forces out there would crush them.

The Doctor had no right to judge him, because the Doctor wasn't there.

He was never goddamned there.


He struggles to remember, now, what it was like to be happy. He knows that he was, once, that there were people he loved, and who loved him. He knows this, even if he no longer remembers who they were.

They're all dead now, of course. They always die in the end. And it just hurts to damn much every time they do, and he just can't bring himself to open himself up to anyone else anymore.

He still has the Doctor, of course, but he's not one to take the slow path, and Jack is left alone mostly, struggling to piece together his fading memories.

One day when he's feeling particularly nostalgic, he decides, what the hell, it's been over ten thousand years since he's taken a vacation. He buys himself a new vortex manipulator, and starts hopping backwards in time, big, random leaps, until he finds a time period he likes.

Twenty first century Earth- so primitive compared to what he was used to, they hadn't even made official first contact yet, but he thinks he might have been happy here. He wonders around aimlessly for a while, taking in the sites and sounds.


He stops cold. Some how, he hadn't thought to plan for what to do if anyone recognized him. Heart racing, he wonders if he should just jump back to the future and forget this whole idea.

"You look older. I mean- after you disappeared, we tried looking through your stuff to get some clue as to where you'd gone. There were all these old photos. And since you don't die, I kind of thought you didn't age."

Jack blinked. This man knew about his immortality? That was weird, he remembered being a lot more secretive about it back then.

"I do age, just- slowly."

"Oh." The man says, looking hurt, and Jack gets the weirdest feeling that he really should be remembering him, that this was someone important. "I guess you don't come back then. Don't know why I thought you would. Why would you, when you found your Doctor again?"

"You know the Doctor?"
"We put it all together when we saw the security footage of you running across the Plass towards the TARDIS."

Jack nods. That must have been the first time he saw the Doctor again after he became immortal. There is a flash, and suddenly he remembers- something bad happens then. Daleks. No- the Master. The Master and a year of torture.

He groans, clutching his head. Of all the memories to come back, why did it have to be that one?

"Jack? What's wrong?"
"It's nothing."

He doesn't seem to believe him. "Come on. You look like you could do with some coffee." He leads Jack to an immaculately clean flat and gets to work in the kitchen.

Jack sits down on the sofa. He really shouldn't be here. Even though he knows he's not in any immediate risk of crossing his own time stream, this whole situation is just uncomfortable. He just knows that there's no way he can get into a prolonged conversation with this man and not accidently reveal that he has forgotten him. And Jack really doesn't want that, though he isn't particularly sure why.

His eyes search the apartment for any clue, but the entire place is mysteriously devoid of any personal effects. And before he can find anything, the man is back, holding a steaming mug.

"Thanks." Jack whispers, and he drinks.

It's the best goddamned coffee he's ever had.

And suddenly he remembers, the smell of coffee and the press of another body against his, and there is something desperate and broken in his kisses, and Jack knows that he still thinks of that woman sometimes, but that's fine, because Jack still thinks about the Doctor. It may be meaningless, but they both need the comfort.

He's willing to experiment, more then anyone else from this time period that Jack has ever been with, and they play games that won't be invented for another thousand years.

And then the Doctor comes, and Jack sees the end of the universe and then watches as the world burn at the hands of the Master. Somehow, both he and the Doctors companion at the time come to the same decision over the course of that year- that chasing after the Doctor is never going to lead to anything, and they are both better off forming a relationship with someone who can actually love them back.

I came back for you.

He isn't sure when, but sometime after that, it isn't casual anymore. The kisses are passionate now, and Jack is pretty sure it's the first time he's been with someone and not thought about the Doctor.

There are stolen glances, and barely hidden innuendoes, and they dance together at someone's wedding.

And then he's dying, and it's all Jacks fault. He recklessly led him into danger, and he's still so young, and there's still so much left unsaid, and so much that Jack doesn't know about him.

"Don't forget me."
"Never could."

"A thousand years time, you won't remember me."

"I will. I promise."

He always breaks his promises in the end.

"Jack? What's wrong? You're crying."

"I'm sorry- God, Ianto, I'm so sorry."

"It was my fault, all of it, and you deserved better, all of you did."

"Jack, what on earth are you talking about? Jack, look at me- tell me what's wrong."

Jack looks up. "This was a mistake- I shouldn't have come here. I have to go."

"Jack!" Ianto shouts, but Jack is already at the door.

"I can't stay here- I don't belong here anymore, not after… well, everything. I don't know why I thought this was a good idea, it's just like loosing you all over again."

Ianto blinks. "What? But- I mean, I always thought you were only with me because Gwen has a boyfriend. Not to mention the Doctor."

"No. Well, at first. But after I came back-"

"You come back?" Ianto asks quietly.
"After I came back, things got serious."

"How serious?"

Jack gasps for breath. "I don't know- I think I might have loved you."

Jack nods, feeling himself loosing any semblance of composure. "I must have. Why else would I feel so goddamned miserable right now?"

Ianto walks closer. "Jack- God, what's happened to you?"

Jack gives a hollow laugh. "A very long time."

Ianto lightly touches Jacks cheek, and Jack pulls away.

"I can't. I've said too much already. And I really shouldn't even be here."

"Isn't there anything I can do? I hate seeing you so… broken."

Jack shakes his head. "No. There's nothing anyone can do."

He keys his current timeframe into his vortex manipulator. Trying to remember the good times had been a mistake; it had only made him realize just how empty and lonely his life had become.

He decides that he won't go visit his past again.


He's sick of people dying, sick of being left alone. He tells himself that he's not going to get attached anymore, and this time he means it.


"Jack! What are you doing here?"

"Did you ever stop to think that when I said I didn't want to see you, I really just meant 'not now'?"

"Oh, I knew you cared!" John laughs.

"One condition!" Jack shouts. "No more murder."

John pouts dramatically. "Always nagging. This is why you're the wife."


Fifteen years later, John dies trying to stop a group of alien slave traders from kidnapping a group of school children. Part of Jack is proud of him, but the rest of him is just depressed.


He watched Anwyn Williams grow up, and now he's watching her die.

She's an old woman now, almost ninety eight, and he knows that should make it better, but it just doesn't.


Torchwood has been completely destroyed. The most recent Dalek invasion saw to that. Gwen died protecting her husband and daughter from the monsters, brave until the very end. Jack promised her that he would keep them safe, and he will.

And if keeping them safe means shutting down Torchwood forever, then so be it.


It turns out that Rex isn't immortal after all. They find out the hard way when he is shot by a Sontaran and doesn't come back. Whatever Jacks blood did to him, it was only temporary. And Jacks glad, he's really, really glad.

Because he wouldn't wish this on anyone.


It amazing how fast he recovers, really. After spending over 1,800 years buried alive and then losing two of his best friends and his younger brother on the same day, he knows that he should be insane. But he's not. He's survived so much, lost so many and he hasn't been broken yet.

Ianto is rolling his eyes at Jacks blatantly public displays of affection, muttering something about how there is a time and a place for that sort of thing, while Gwen leans on Rhys, their fingers are entwined in a happy embrace. They are all sharing a drink after saving the world from yet another alien threat, and they laugh their way all through the night.

One day, all the children of the world stop, and four days later, Jacks whole world falls apart.


Owen is dead, but he is not gone. He's trapped, somewhere in between life and death, and no one has any idea for how long.

He's not happy about it, and Jack can't blame him. But when that alien bomb turns out not to be a bomb at all, but an alien greeting card, Owen regains a sense of hope for the future that he hasn't had since Katie died. Because sometimes, things do get better.

Jack wishes that things got better more often


The worst thing about being the Masters prisoner isn't the torture- Jacks used to that, he knows how to deal with it. No, far worse are the Masters words, because underneath the insults there is a twisted sort of logic that is becoming harder and harder to deny.

"So, Freak, do you know why he did it?"

Hanging from his chains, Jack blinks at the sudden and apparently random change of topic.

"Why who did what?"

"The Doctor, obviously! He abandoned you. I was wondering if you knew why."

Jack growls, and the Master laughs.

"Of course he didn't, why would he? Probably thought you were better off not knowing."

"He told me." Jack protested. "He said it was because I was a fixed point in time. I was wrong, and he was still regenerating, and he couldn't be near me."

The Master stops his pacing and looks at Jack with something that almost resembles pity.

"And you believed that?"

The Master is laughing now. "He actually said that it was because you were wrong? That's actually pretty funny. Of all the lies he could have told you, he managed to pick the one that makes him sound like a racist."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

The Master raises an eyebrow. "Come on, Freak. This is the Doctor you're talking about. When has he ever turned his back on someone because of what they were? He's too damn self-righteous to do something like that. No, the real reason is something much better." He walks closer, and Jack tries to pull back, but it's a futile effort. "He could tell what you were going to become. He could see the things that you were going to do, and it disgusted him."

"What?" Jack asks, practically hyperventilating.

"It's inevitable, really. You human beings are naturally destructive creatures, no matter how hard you try to hide it. And don't try and tell me that you're different. I've looked into your mind, and I know the things you've done in your short life. Just imagine how much more you could do once you finally stop trying to pretend that you're anything more then a monster." He closes his eyes, smiling. "It will be glorious."

"You're lying. I would never-"

"Now, now, handsome Jack, forever is a long time. You can try to run from it, but it's only a matter of time."

And with that, the Master leaves.

Jack tells himself that he's lying, always lying, has to be lying, but some small part of him starts to wonder just how much suffering one person can take before they break.


Jack finds himself, quite by accident, the leader of Torchwood Three. He isn't really sure what to do with it. He's never really agreed with the Torchwood Institutes way of doing things, they are far too xenophobic for his tastes, but he supposes that by leading his own branch he could start to change that, mold it into a force for good. He butts heads with Londons director Hartman almost constantly, but manages to recruit a team he thinks might be open to his way of doing things.

Even better it the thought that when the Doctor inevitably gets himself captured by Torchwood London, Jack will be in a position of enough power to help get him out again.


Jack knew full well that he was walking towards his own death, and he didn't care. Death didn't scare him, not really, and hell, fighting alongside one of the legendary Time Lords in a final battle against one of the most feared and destructive monsters in all history, that was quite the way too go.

So when he learns about the Doctors plan to use the Delta wave to destroy the Daleks, he barely bats an eye.

"He will destroy you!" The Dalek emperor shouts, and Jack smiles.

"Never doubted him, never will."

He knows that the Doctor is making the right call- there are things out there worse then death, and becoming one of those rage-fueled death machines, unable to feel love or compassion, is pretty near the top of Jacks list.
His make-shift soldiers die one by one, and soon Jack is the only one left.

Three Daleks advance on him, and he is out of bullets, not that they did any good against these monsters.

"Exterminate!" The Daleks shout and Jack throws open his arms.

"I kind of figured that."

There is a blast, and the next second, he falls down, dead.

Jack is dead, defiant until the end. The Doctor pushes back his tears and finishes his work on the Delta Wave. The seconds that Jack bought him with his death turn out to be crucial, as he barely finishes the thing before the Daleks converge on the control room.

All he has to do is activate it.

Except he can't, he can't do it again, he can't have the death of yet another planet on his conscience, and part of him knew that he wouldn't be able to this whole time, and that he let Jack die for nothing.

"Well?" The Dalek emperor taunts. "What are you Doctor? Killer or Coward?"

The Doctor looks up, takes his hands off the trigger. "Coward, any day."
"Then you will be exterminated!"
"Maybe it's time." The Doctor whispers, realizing the weight of what he'd been about to do, the lengths he'd almost gone too to end the Daleks. He's lived so long, and become so powerful, and he almost let himself become a monster.

Then suddenly, the TARDIS is appearing, and Rose is there, only it's not Rose, its something else, something big and powerful, and she disintegrates the entire Dalek fleet into dust. And then-

"I bring life."

And then suddenly Jack is alive again, but it's different and wrong, and his timeline is stretching and twisting and warping into something impossible, something forever. And he can feel the time, the impossible amount of time, and it hurts, it hurts more then anything, feels like looking at the Untemperd Schism, and he just needs to run, needs to run and never stop.

It is only later, much later, after he is back in the TARDIS and Rose is safe and he is a different man that he really realizes that he just left Jack there without an explanation. He should go back, he knows, he really should, but then he remembers the burning feeling of all that time and he just can't.

It's not fair, he knows, because Jack wasn't a bad guy. He may have made some mistakes in his past, but he was trying to make up for them. He at least deserves to know why.

He thinks about it a lot, when Rose is asleep. Thinks about what forever might do to him, how it might change him. It's hard for him to imagine a situation in which it ends well.

He keeps going back to the last time he saw him, when Jack had pulled him into a surprisingly passionate kiss.

"I wish I'd never met you, Doctor." He had said. "I was much better off as a coward."

The Doctor shivers.


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