Fandom: Doctor Who/Torchwood
Character: Captain Jack Harkness [Jack/OMC, Jack/Queen Victoria (ish), Jack/The Master, Jack/Nine, Jack/Owen, Jack/Algy, Jack/?, Jack/Suzie]
Challenge/Prompt: philosophy_20, #18. And if the answer is no / can I change your mind?
Rating: PG-13 (sorry)
Copyright: Sunset Boulevard, Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Summary: “Tell me who I have to bribe, fuck, or kill to get out of here.” A case study in types of manipulation.
Author’s Notes: Written for the utterly lovely karaokegal for her birthday. My prompt was “kiss someone’s wife, kiss someone’s ass” and I got sort of creative with that. I hope this is ok; I’ve been driving myself crazy trying to make this idea work. Who knows. But I left out the Jack/Ianto intentionally :D I haven't spellchecked yet, so please point out typos etc.
In case anyone wants to be terrified, according to my ipod I listened to John Barrowman’s version of Sunset Boulevard at least 70 times over the three days I was writing this. *facepalm*
Smile a rented smile, fill someone’s glass, kiss someone’s wife, kiss someone’s ass – we do whatever pays the wages.
(Everyone’s forgotten how they started)
Two weeks after the battle of Satellite Five, the first tentative shuttles come from Earth to investigate the damage and clear away what remains of the bodies. Without mind-numbing television, the world is coming back to itself, the fires are going out, people are starting to leave their homes and think for themselves again. It’s a slow, but certain, process.
When the primary team arrives on the silent Satellite, there’s breathable air on two levels, so that’s where they begin their search. The window-glass is cracking, the floors are covered with dust (which they eventually realise used to be people), and the life-support systems are clicking in a worrying fashion. The whole place is filled with death and decay, and the small group of soldiers silently agree that they’ll spend as little time as possible aboard.
That idea is destroyed when they walk into what was once the control room, and find a man with his feet propped up on a console, holding a gun that looks like it’s made of scrap metal and sheer determination. More importantly than that, he is very definitely alive.
“Finally,” he says, getting to his feet. “Took you guys long enough.”
Lieutenant Willows, leader of the operation, decides that he seriously doesn’t need this. He signed up to bring back dust in biomedical containers, make some video footage of the desecrated corridors, and look appropriately sombre on the news reports when he returned. He did not come here to find worryingly active men with blood on their t-shirts and dangerously blue eyes.
“You shouldn’t be alive,” Willows says, disconcerted and hoping it doesn’t show too much. “The life support’s been faulty for the last week.”
“Oh, I know.” The man gives an unsettling smile that has an impossible number of teeth in it.
“I don’t understand.”
“If it helps, neither do I.” The man shrugs, but he hasn’t let go of the weapon. It’s crude; but looks like it could still be deadly.
“Sir?” One of the men behind him shifts awkwardly. They weren’t briefed for how to deal with survivors, it’s embarrassingly obvious; but no one could have predicted this.
“Identify yourself,” Willows orders, trying to claw back some control.
It shouldn’t be that difficult a question, but the man seems incapable of answering.
“Harkness,” he says eventually, like it’s being torn from somewhere inside him that doesn’t want to let go.
Willows is answered with a scathing look and nothing more. He takes a breath; and then decides to try and make this someone else’s problem.
“You’re under arrest,” he announces. The smile tumbles off Harkness’ face but he drops the weapon willingly enough. He gets slowly to his feet, wrists held out in front of him.
“Want me to kneel?” There’s an edge to Harkness’ voice and something feral in his eyes, and Willows wonders just what fourteen days on a shattered satellite could do to a man. He takes a pair of cuffs from his belt, the kind that explode if the prisoner tries to move more than three feet from their guard, and snaps them onto Harkness’ wrists, avoiding eye contact.
“We’ll leave the clean up for the next team,” Willows announces, training his gun on Harkness and indicating that the other man had better move unless he wants to be spread all over the wall. Harkness doesn’t look all that perturbed by the thinly veiled threat; merely shrugs and heads down the corridor.
Once back on Earth, their mysterious prisoner is dragged off for interrogation and Willows assumes a calm and competent expression for the television cameras. He should’ve known he couldn’t get away with it; he’s called in at four a.m and shown some deeply disturbing video footage.
Harkness is bleeding from the mouth and nose and laughing so sharply that his bloodstained teeth shine under the too-bright lights. Willows has never asked what interrogation techniques are employed for suspects and he doesn’t want to know now, seeing Harkness’ shaking hands and streaming face.
“You can’t keep me here,” he says, he might sound almost logical but there’s a fractured edge to his voice and his broken fingernails click on the glass tabletop. “You’ve got nothing on me, unless you think I’m hiding a Dalek up my ass.”
“Would you care to tell us how you survived for two weeks on a satellite with no air, no heating, and no water?” The voice makes Willows’ spine hurt, it’s so vicious and cold.
“Well, I won’t say it was a picnic…” Harkness’ back arches suddenly with pain, Willows takes an involuntary step back from the screen. “I don’t know,” Harkness admits, eyes closed. “Your guess is as good as mine.”
“You were covered in blood when we brought you in,” the voice continues, “Yours, as we discovered when we ran tests. But you didn’t have a scratch on you. Can you explain that?”
“No.” Harkness raises his gaze, expression half-scared but entirely earnest. “Look, I can’t help you because I don’t know.”
His back arches again and Willows wonders what’s connected to the chair Harkness is sitting in, that’s making him moan like his body is being ripped to pieces.
“The only one to survive a Dalek attack,” the interrogator continues, Harkness’ eyes are glittering with something desperate and vicious, he’s staring up at the camera with blood dripping off his chin. “And when we tested your DNA, we found that you’re not quite human. Two alleles don’t match. Can you tell us about that?”
“I don’t know what you want to hear!” Harkness shouts, his voice is tearing at the edges, “I can’t help you! I know less than you do! You might as well just fucking kill me because we’re getting nowhere like this!”
He tries to get to his feet and there’s a shot from somewhere off camera.
“What the hell?” Willows turns, unable to believe what he’s just seen. “Since when was it standard procedure to shoot prisoners?”
“That’s not why we called you in,” his commander tells him, indicating the screen. Willows reluctantly turns back to look at Harkness’ bloody corpse. Seconds pass – twenty, maybe, if that – and then Harkness sits up, choking. The hole in his skull is closing up, the bullet tinkles when it falls out and lands on the table. Blood runs up his face, back to wherever it came from, and in less than a minute Harkness is sitting there looking slightly nauseous but damnably alive.
“Oh Jesus,” he whispers, the words fall helplessly into the horrified silence, “Not again.”
The screen is turned off. Willows isn’t entirely sure what to say.
“I suppose that explains a lot,” he manages eventually.
“Then he can explain it to you.” There’s a smile on his commander’s face that Willows doesn’t like. “You can deal with his case.”
A microchip with all of Harkness’ details on it is dropped into his palm, like a final, determined fuck you, like it’s his fault an unkillable man with all-too-convenient amnesia turned up on Satellite Five. Willows closes his hand over the data and goes to read through what they’ve got. There’s no point fighting.
His first interview with Harkness isn’t productive. Harkness spends an hour and a half not looking him in the eye and refusing to say a word. Willows is almost tempted to electrocute him and see what happens next, but he’s never been actively cruel and he’s sure dying can’t be that much fun, even if it doesn’t stick.
“Give me something,” he asks, after three weeks and seven more unproductive interviews. “Anything. I need you off my hands.”
“Doesn’t matter where, right?” Harkness’ voice is quiet, he’s looking at his hands. Strong hands, no longer shaking, the fingernails are still in shreds though. “They’ll lock me up somewhere, experiment on me like I’m some kind of freak-”
“You are,” Willows can’t help pointing out. “You’re incapable of dying. It doesn’t get more freak-like than that.”
“Go ahead, condemn me.” Harkness sighs. “Dump me on someone else. I mean, the treatment here – normally I’d have to buy an inhuman amount of drinks to get that kind of sadism. I’ll have a great time.”
Willows sighs. Turns the recorder off. “Jack, then. Come on.”
Jack raises his head and meets Willows’ gaze. His eyes are unbelievably blue and there’s something in them that sends a shiver of heat down to pool in his stomach.
“Tell me who I have to bribe, fuck, or kill to get out of here,” Harkness says, palms flat on the glass table. “I honestly don’t give a damn what it takes. Just get me out.”
Willows honestly can’t breathe. But Jack Harkness has been his life for the last twenty-four days, and he’s not as steady around the other man as he should be. It’s shameless manipulation, he can see it in the way Harkness leans forward, every move calculated. He knows this.
“Ok,” he says quietly. “I can get you out of here. Promise me you’ll disappear and I’ll never have to see you again.”
It’s too late though. Willows knows that he’ll be keeping the microchip of data, the video footage of his useless interviews, unable to forget the edge of Jack’s smile or the colour of his eyes.
Jack stands, and Willows moves to copy him.
“Want me to kneel?” Harkness asks, and the smirk on his mouth is more beautiful than anything should be. Willows wants to tell him no, wants to tell him that he’s not that kind of officer.
“Yes,” he says, and his voice cracks.
Five and three quarters
(Sure, I came out here to make my name)
Queen Victoria, mouth a moue of distaste, stares at Jack with undisguised mistrust while he gazes steadily back. The Doctor and Rose have slipped past him again; Jack feels sick and utterly wasted. But hope isn’t quite lost. Not yet. Jack makes it a point to always have a plan B, since he has a great smile but no kind of luck at all.
Jack knows all about Torchwood: the Time Agency were always fighting with them. Torchwood didn’t seem to understand how bad messing about with history for their own personal gain was and they were quite happy to play with things like the space/time continuum, while the Time Agency did their best to right things before three-fifths of the universe became a gaping black hole.
It’s special, somehow, being here at the beginning. Jack is on his knees in front of a scowling monarch, and begging for a job. It’s a distinctly strange feeling. Victoria,
widowed and resentful of everyone since the Doctor swept through and fucked with her life (Jack can seriously empathise), is so angry with the Time Lord that she’s taken incredibly direct action. Jack has more reason to be pissed off with the Doctor than she has, but he doesn’t have the authority to start what is basically a worldwide I-Hate-Time-Lords club. In spite of himself, Jack is deeply impressed by her fervour.
And he wants in.
“Your majesty,” he says, he’s feigning a Scottish accent for the moment because he was never that good at Earth history and who knows what Americans sound like at the moment, “All I’m asking for is a chance to prove myself.”
Actually, what he’s asking for is an office in Cardiff to play around with that Rift in space and time that runs helpfully through the middle of it, but he’s going to work up to that. For now, he’ll settle for employment in Torchwood House, then he’ll manipulate whoever else he has to in order to get where he wants.
“And why do you deserve this chance?” The queen looks unmoved but Jack had to do a few things he’d rather not remember to get this audience in the first place, and he is not going to waste it.
“For the good of the British Empire,” he says, and then looks up at her through his eyelashes (because he likes pushing his luck), “And for your honour, your majesty.”
He offers her the edge of a smirk. It’s all body language, that’s the important part – the words can be pretty but the way he moves is what really, really matters. Victoria scowls harder; but she shifts almost imperceptibly on her throne and Jack takes this as a good sign.
“I won’t let you down,” he adds.
“Will you not?” Victoria is not smiling but there’s something slight in her eyes and Jack almost wants to fall over with bemusement (because if he can flirt with the notoriously-depressed-about-being-widowe
“Of course not.” He smiles again, the one that always makes him feel like a shark but that makes seventy-nine percent of people putty in his hands. The corner of Victoria’s mouth twitches. “I swear to you that you won’t regret this.”
Someone will regret this; but Victoria should be long dead by the time it becomes apparent just why Jack wanted to join Torchwood.
“Very well, Captain Harkness.” The queen fixes him with a hard stare, and it’s not quite the I’d-like-to-see-you-naked-at-some-point-i
A week later, he’s sitting in the parlour of Torchwood House sipping Earl Grey and thinking that he could probably be running this place in less than a decade, and wondering if he could push it and try for a knighthood.
“Her majesty speaks very highly of you.” There’s suspicion in the tone of Lord Somethingorother (he’s currently President of Torchwood, but he won’t stay that way. Jack has every intention of seeing to it that he doesn’t stay that way); he’s reading through an incredibly long letter and Jack is trying to look innocent.
“How nice.” Jack pours himself some more tea and decides they’ll need to get someone who can make decent coffee around here.
Lord Whateverthehellhisnameis is looking suspiciously at Jack, but Jack just shoots him a glare in return that he thinks might be a little too heated, because the other man takes a step back and Jack tries to remind himself that he doesn’t have to sleep with everyone he meets just because, with the right smile, he can.
“I think I’ll like it here,” he remarks, settling his feet up on the mahogany table.
(You think I’ve sold out- dead right I’ve sold out, I’ve just been waiting for the right offer)
“Always the way,” Jack sighs, “All tied up and nowhere to go.”
He’s wearing what remains of the outfit he arrived here in five months ago, a lot of dirt, a quantity of dried blood that’s mostly his, and not a whole lot else. It’s unbearably hot down here, kept in the bowels of the Master’s skybase simply because the conditions aren’t going to kill him. One of these days, he’s going to get hold of Rose and slap her for messing him up like this. The idea that it’s never going to stop is not a comforting one.
“It’s your own fault, Captain,” the Master replies; he just looks bored.
Jack shrugs as best he can with his wrists tied above his head. Part of him is tempted to say that thinks he would remember asking to be murdered repeatedly, but there’s just enough ambiguity there that he chooses not to bring it up. Jack thinks he starved to death twice. The others were considerably quicker and the Master laughed with blood on his hands every time.
“Are you going to keep me down here forever?” Jack asks eventually. He feels a little ridiculous, standing here all torn to shreds and half-mad with memories that might not even be real, while the Master sits in an incongruous armchair and sips at a cup of tea.
The Master’s smile is beatific and crazy and Jack wonders if, in a couple more centuries, he’ll be like that. Unhinged from immortality. It got the Doctor in a way that hides beneath the surface and frightens Jack more than perhaps anything else – but the Master wears his madness like those tasteful three-piece suits and in some strange way he manages to carry it off.
“No, I thought I’d let you go down to Earth and help Martha Jones on her suicidal little quest to defeat me,” he says.
“I’ll send you a postcard,” Jack offers, dredging up a rusty smile. The glitter is gone and he suspects that most of the conviction came away with several layers of skin sometime in April, but he’s still standing and that’s got to count for something.
“I’ll look forward to it,” the Master replies, smile brittle, on-edge. As though he’s not used to wearing skin (Jack doesn’t even want to follow that thought to the end of the process).
Jack groans softly, presses his face into his grimy arm. He aches, he’s been chained up down here like some kind of animal for months and months and months, and he wonders why he thought finding the Doctor again would be any different. Jack knows that he’s going to make it out of here alive, but he’s getting pretty certain that he won’t make it out of here whole. Not any more.
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about Lucy,” the Master says suddenly, in a tone that’s too light and it occurs to Jack that he’s in a lot of trouble.
“What about her?” he asks, trying again with the smile. He used to have a great smile – it got people to put out without him even having to ask – but not any more. He suspects that now it just looks like a white flag.
“She seems to think that it would be a good idea to let you go,” the Master tells him. Jack scrabbles quickly through what remains of his short-term memory and tries to work out why.
“She’s very… compassionate,” he suggests.
“She shouldn’t be.” The Master smiles brutally. “I fixed her so she wouldn’t be.”
Jack gives something that tries hard to be a laugh.
“And who says romance is dead?”
“Romance died years ago, Captain,” the Master reminds him. “All that’s left are the atrocities committed in its name. You should know that by now.”
Jack swallows and wonders if the Master has a pretty good understanding of humankind after all.
“Is that why you lobotomised your wife?” he asks, pushing, because what’s the worst the Master can do to him? Nothing sticks.
“We’re not talking about what I did to her,” the Master reminds him, all teeth and glittering eyes, “We’re talking about what you did.”
Jack can’t actually remember what he did but he does have a few vague images of Lucy’s ghostlike skin and pale blonde hair. He’d thought that they were hallucinations shoved into his head to speed up his inevitable descent into madness, but apparently not. He must be pretty good if he can manipulate someone into screwing him for his own benefit on autopilot.
“It was a bid for attention,” he says, adjusting his posture slightly. Jack is barely aware he’s doing it, but he’s been imprisoned often enough that he knows exactly how to stand like he’s glad he’s been restrained.
“I give you lots of attention,” the Master says, practically pouting. “I’m down here at least twice a week doing various kinds of maiming.”
Jack wonders what it says about him that he finds conversations with psychopathic people far easier to navigate than conversations with supposedly sane ones.
“Yeah, I’d noticed that.” Jack pushes his wrists against the shackles, rests his weight on one hip. “It’s becoming rapidly less fun.”
“And there was me thinking you liked it like that.”
Jack closes his eyes and when he opens them again he fixes the Master with a look he thought that he’d forgotten how to give, down here in the dark being ripped limb from limb (though that was only the one time and the Master left him alone for over a week afterward).
“Does the Doctor know about this fascinating little quirk of yours?” The Master sounds unhealthily interested and Jack merely smirks.
“I like to think of it as a fatal character flaw.”
The Master’s smile turns predatory and dangerous. Jack is almost afraid of the expression on his face but he asked for this and the lines are so blurred that he thinks this is what he wants now.
“If this is a ploy, I’m not going to untie you.” The Master is practically normal by comparison and it’s too hot down here and even if Jack can’t die he can regret this.
“I was hoping you wouldn’t.”
If he ever gets out of here, Jack won’t dare repeat this part. It’s not something to be proud of.
Sixty-two point nine
(I’m treading water, taking the money, watching her sunset)
Suzie’s mouth is set in a thin line and she doesn’t look amused. Jack reaches over to turn off his record player. It’s three in the morning and she should have gone home by now. Everyone else has. But Suzie Costello has always been crazy in a depressingly edgy fashion and while that makes her entertaining it also makes her difficult to work with.
“You have got to stop giving me retcon to keep me quiet,” she states in an eerily matter-of-fact voice, “I’m sure it’s going to cause some kind of permanent brain damage.”
“At this point in time, will it make much difference?” Jack asks her.
“I’m not insane.”
“Yes you are.”
Suzie sits down on the edge of his desk, considering her shaking hands.
“You tried to wipe the Glove out of my memory,” she says, as though Jack could forget. “That’s drastic, even for you.”
“It’s taken you over,” Jack points out.
“That’s not your problem.”
“Yeah, ‘cause it’s not like I’m running this place or anything. Oh, wait.”
Suzie sighs. She looks tired, like Torchwood has taken all kinds of things she wasn’t planning on giving. They’re fast approaching the end of the line for Suzie Costello – she can’t keep going the way she has been without crashing and burning. Jack is half-heartedly trying to stop this from happening but it’s probably too late.
It’s unusual, but Suzie’s one of the only people who’s ever managed to resist his charm. Perhaps because she has so little of her own, or maybe it’s the sociopathic tendencies that Jack can mirror perfectly when he wants to. Unable to persuade her to stop with any other means, Jack’s resorted to chemicals and ruthlessness. It lacks finesse but he’s got no choice.
“What I’m doing is important.”
“Not the way you’re going about it.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Suzie looks tired, three-quarters dead (Jack knows that feeling, he’s been there but he always comes back again).
“It means you need to go home and get some sleep,” Jack tells her tersely.
Suzie stares at him with blank dark eyes and she’s been down here too long because she’s turning into a carbon copy of him but she doesn’t have the immortality or the looks to carry it off.
“I could stay and keep you company,” she offers. It’s been months since they last fucked – well, you know, she’s pretty in her own psychotic way and Jack’s still just about human – and Jack’s almost tempted.
“Would it do any good?” he asks, straight-up offering to try and make her stop by any means necessary.
“No.” She smiles a little sadly. “Goodnight, Jack.”
Suzie Costello. So disconnected she can withstand even his most desperate shades of charm. Jack would almost respect her, but for the obvious. It’s such a pity she won’t get out of this alive.
(Secretive and rich; a little scary)
They were dancing. What they’re doing now is not really dancing at all, but Jack’s hardly in a position to complain. After all, things get clear after a lot of alcohol. Well. Less clear but much easier to deal with.
“So,” Jack begins, almost ashamed of the way his breath catches in his chest, “I don’t have to leave?”
He thinks the Doctor is drunk, which is amusing because he didn’t know that it was possible to get Time Lords practically blind on hypervodka. Still, Jack’s good at removing people’s inhibitions by any means possible. Rose is asleep somewhere not here, and Jack is stark naked on the floor of the control room with spilt alien alcohol of dubious origin attempting to eat through the grating beside him.
Forty-seven hours ago, Jack was going to explode above the streets of 1941 London. He thinks that he’s probably better off right now, but that remains to be seen. He’s not entirely sure how he got here, but he’s not dead and that’s usually a pretty good start.
“Not yet.” The Doctor’s laugh is dark and soft and mostly buried in his hair and Jack shuts his eyes. There’s something more intoxicating than the vodka about this man; there are two hearts beating in the chest pressed against Jack’s, and his skin is unnaturally cold. And that, more than anything, is the reason Jack decided to find a way to stay on this weird-ass spaceship. Sure, the Time Agency are probably trying to find a way to make him really really dead, and he’s been drifting through the universe with nothing but his dashing smile to see him through for longer than he cares to remember, but for once Jack can’t be as objective as he’d like to be. The reason he’s trying to bribe the Doctor into taking him on is simply because Jack desperately doesn’t want to leave him.
It’s slightly sick, how dangerous this is. Jack, since waking up alone with two years zapped clean out of his head, to find a black-clad Time Agent with a gun trained at his head who told him that if he even tried to ask questions he’d find himself minus a brain, and a whole head to put it in, has dragged his way through a bloody and damned existence. He hasn’t fallen for anyone, hasn’t given a damn who he’s touched as long as it got him one step further away.
One look of blue eyes and he’s wondering just what he wouldn’t sell to stay here with the Doctor’s firm and ever so slightly calloused hands on his skin.
Afraid of getting too introspective and losing this moment (who knows, there might never be a repeat performance), Jack wraps his thigh a little tighter around the Doctor’s waist, runs his hand through the back of that ridiculously short hair. It’s almost laughable, how much you’re not my type. As though that matters.
“So, I can stay on the Tardis, I’m your mechanic, watch your back if you get in trouble-”
“And keep your hands off Rose.” The Doctor announces this with a very certain push of his hips and Jack whacks his head on the uncomfortably solid floor.
“That wasn’t part of the arrangement,” Jack laughs a little breathlessly, though ignoring the beautiful blonde isn’t as high a price to pay as it could have been.
“Didn’t occur to me until now,” the Doctor replies, frustratingly calm. “And you’re not to use my ship to pick up… everyone.”
“Would I do that?” Jack tries his smile but he knows the Doctor can see through it to the insincerity beneath, so gives it up for lost.
“I accept your omnisexuality,” the Doctor informs him, “Doesn’t mean that I want it rubbed in my face every ten minutes.”
“God, I hope that’s a euphemism,” Jack murmurs, then: “Ten minutes? Give me some credit.”
The Doctor kisses him, probably to get him to shut up, and Jack is absolutely fine with that. It’s blissfully quiet for a lovely long while, and Jack is just starting to think that this really could be ok when the Doctor informs him:
“And you can clean up after yourself. Whatever you want to shag in your own time is fine, but the Tardis stays off-limits, understand?”
“You have absolutely no respect for me, do you?” Jack sighs.
“You haven’t been here two days yet and we’ve already had sex in the control room. I don’t think it gets easier than that.” The Doctor’s smile is amused and beautiful.
“Are you even slightly drunk?” Jack asks helplessly. “’Cause you’re really not acting like you are, but you drank, you know, a lot.”
The Doctor shrugs.
“Why would I tell you now when it’ll be far more entertaining for you to worry about it for next few weeks?”
“Argh.” Jack rolls onto his side and the floor is cold against his face. He’s sticky in unexpected places and the vodka seems to be having a party that involves mainly pain in his skull. “You’re impossible.”
“And you’re really naked.” The Doctor drapes his battered leather jacket over him, and begins to gather the rest of his clothing.
“Bed. I like to sleep in comfy places, me.”
Jack wants to say something about he’d like to be upright somewhere around now, but he can already tell that it won’t be pretty if he tries to stand.
“You have no idea what you’ve let yourself in for.” There’s a serious line of steel beneath the Doctor’s blatant amusement. Jack closes sore eyes.
“It’s worth it.”
The depressing thing is that it probably is.
Minus five hundred and twenty-nine
(Dreams are not enough to win a war)
“Jesus, oh Jesus, oh, please, oh-”
“Sign up with me.”
“They say the war’ll be finished by this time next year. Go on.”
“You’ll be the death of me.”
“Oh, definitely not.”
[How was he supposed to know how accurate that would turn out to be?]
Forty-three and two thirds
(Destination for the stonyhearted)
“I thought you were dead,” Algy says. He has whisky in a glass and a stunned expression.
Jack was, several times. He meant to get back to London for 1941, in time to patch up the loose ends. Then he got stranded and then he somehow found himself in Hiroshima just in time for the a-bomb (gee, how much fun that wasn’t) and by the time he’d finished repeatedly succumbing to radiation sickness and sweet-talking his way out of the country things were running considerably later than he meant them to. And then- and then for some unknown reason he lost all courage. He’s eight years too late, now, but at least he’s here.
“I’m sorry-” Jack begins, unable to touch the drink in his own glass.
“Then, I did a little research, and found out that you were already dead.” Algy shakes his head. Guilt, sickly and unwelcome, rises like bile in Jack’s stomach. “It took a while, but there were men who distinctly remembered Captain Jack Harkness going down in flames during a training exercise. A week before you arrived in London.”
“I really am sorry,” Jack says. It’s strange, Algy is a part of that life he can’t remember properly, the days before the Doctor arrived and took away a lot of things, like the meaning of mortality. But he came back. He had to. Now, though, he’s beginning to think that for once in his irritatingly long life he’s wrong.
“Then, I started wondering if any of it was real,” Algy tells him. “After all, you’re clearly not.”
Jack swirls the whisky around, watching because it’s easier than looking his companion in the eye.
“I shouldn’t have come here,” he murmurs.
Algy manages a weak laugh.
“At least you’ve convinced me that you weren’t a figment of my imagination,” he says, shrugging. “I was starting to wonder.”
“If I am a figment you’ve got a very filthy mind,” Jack points out, trying to crack a smile. The Second World War was difficult this time around – he’s not sure what happened to Estelle and he told her he’d love her forever too. It’s been maybe eighty years since he last saw Algy, and it wrenches something inside him when he realises that it’s been too long. He thought he’d forgotten how to care about people.
Algy smiles almost reminiscently and Jack wonders what happened to the space he left behind.
“Where did you go?” Algy asks, as though he’s decided to forgive Jack for the moment.
“I wish I could tell you. It’s classified,” Jack lies. He wishes he could forget and a lot of the time he wishes that he hadn’t met the Doctor. Sharing what he’s done and where he’s been and the things he should never, ever have seen is an impossibility.
“So why did you come back?”
Jack decides to bite the bullet and tell him the truth. From time to time, it actually works.
“I’m living in Cardiff,” he says, leaning forward, trying to look honest (which isn’t easy any more). “I’m running a little organisation – government funded – and I want you onboard.”
Torchwood Three is, at the moment, nothing more than an office near the Bay. Jack has a team of three: a government official who lost half his right arm in the Great War, an ex music hall girl who makes damn good coffee, and a doctor whose motivations are largely unclear (but he has a great ass, so Jack isn’t asking too many questions). It’s hardly impressive and mostly they’re trying to sort out the Weevil infestation the locals seem determined to ignore, but Jack has so many aspirations.
“And why do you want me?” Algy asks. There’s suspicion on his face, which never used to be there, but Jack supposes that it’s warranted. It’s amazing; the longer he lives, the number of people who actually trust him dwindles.
“I always have,” he says with a smile.
“You can’t use that smile on me,” Algy tells him, “I’ve seen that smile before, Jack, and I know what comes afterwards.”
“So you’re not tempted?” Jack tries the smile again, with a little more certainty.
“Of course I’m bloody tempted.” Algy pours himself some more whisky, suddenly unable to look at him. “But… whoever the hell you are, you’re not Captain Jack Harkness.”
“So, who are you?” Algy asks him, expression earnest.
Jack watches him drain his glass. And then tells him.
Algy listens, and asks no questions, and finishes the entire bottle single-handedly. Jack wonders how much he’ll remember in the morning, if he’ll remember at all.
“So, will you come and work with me?” Jack asks, because he knows when to manipulate and when to just goddamn ask.
“Of course I will,” he says, as though he ever had an option.
“Good.” Jack laughs, feeling something tense between them crack and vanish. “I did miss you.”
“Don’t push it,” Algy mumbles, then considers his empty glass. “I missed you too.”
A hundred and four
(Swamped with every kind of false emotion)
Ianto, because he’s an easy little whore with an inhuman knack with coffee, was already throwing himself at Jack within an hour of the man’s return. Owen is not amused but has a bet on with Gwen about how fast Jack will crush his miserable little teaboy dreams anyway (Gwen’s not amused either. Nothing amuses her these days, come to think of it).
“Don’t I get a ‘welcome back’?” Jack asks brightly after four days. “I mean, Tosh made me a card and even Gwen hugged me but I’m not getting anything out of you. I mean, you’ve only said ten words in my presence since I got back and I’m pretty sure six of them weren’t even aimed at me because I’m not in charge of whether Marmite should be a part of elevensies.”
“I’m not going to give you a gold star for fucking us over,” Owen snarls, then hates it because Jack always could crack him.
“I get it. You’re angry.” Jack’s smile is glossy and utterly fake and Owen grits his teeth.
“No. I’m not angry.” Owen drops a pile of files hard on Jack’s already overcrowded desk and wills himself to just walk away and not get into this. “I’m so beyond angry that it isn’t even funny.”
For four months he was stuck trying to run this unwieldy organisation, scared shitless half the time and running on adrenaline for the rest of it, arguing with Ianto and trying to resist the urge to shag Gwen again for old times’ sake and watching Tosh falling apart as things got ever crazier.
“You can shoot me again, if you like,” Jack offers.
“I don’t want to shoot you,” Owen says eventually.
“Well, that’s a good-”
“I want to cut your fucking heart out and hold it in front of your screaming face,” Owen continues, tone calm.
Jack looks momentarily surprised, then that’s replaced by his usual stony expression.
“Wouldn’t be the first time,” is all he says.
Owen leaves him to it, because there’s no winning with this man.
Days pass and nothing gets better. Ianto starts avoiding Jack and the coffee becomes instant for a few days, and Gwen obediently pays up forty quid. Owen gets pretty drunk on it, screws a blonde with fascinating tits in the toilets of the bar, she’s got glitter at the corner of her eyes and he loses her number within an hour. Tosh hands in her notice four times and Jack just keeps handing it back again and Gwen nearly gets herself killed by going into a nest of Weevils alone because they’re not co-ordinated enough to be a team any more.
Owen stays late one night working on paperwork. Even Ianto’s gone home, to weep into his obnoxiously high threadcount bedsheets (look, it was just the once, ok, Owen was desperate and he’s not sure that Ianto was sober enough to remember anyway). As long as he’s not trying to build himself a new psycho girlfriend out of Meccano, Owen supposes it’ll be ok.
“This is going to stop.” Jack’s expression is closed, unreadable.
“Going to bugger off again?” Owen takes a step away from his computer terminal, wondering if this is the time they air their grievances with a good fight. Jack might be stronger, but Owen thinks he’s got enough suppressed anger to beat his boss to death with anyway. It’s not like it’s going to be permanent, but it might make him feel better anyway. “You might want to try leaving a post-it this time.”
“You’re going to stop blaming me,” Jack says steadily. His eyes are practically blazing and Owen remembers that he used to feel something other than anger for his boss, something he nearly admitted to Ianto when the teaboy had him at gunpoint. Feelings like that don’t just fade away, much as you want them to. “We can’t function as a team and it’s going to get someone killed.”
“You left us,” Owen reminds him. “Ran off without bothering to say goodbye, we had no idea-”
“There wasn’t time!” Jack’s trying to look earnest and maybe once upon a time it would have worked. Owen’s just too tired to fall for that again though. “I had to leave, I thought I’d get answers-”
“But you’re still an undead bastard unable to connect with people and angsting about on rooftops,” Owen reminds him. “Which means there was no point in you leaving, and as far as I can tell all you’ve brought back with you is a smile even less sincere than it was to begin with and a lovely case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Well done, Captain.”
There is a very long, very painful silence. Owen wonders if this is where he’s pushed too far and Jack just drags him downstairs and feeds him to the Weevils.
“You need to move on,” Jack snaps eventually. “You’re not a child, Owen, though God knows you try your best to act like one, and I’m not your father, it’s not my fault you’re too flawed to function normally and can’t handle some admin and a couple of Weevil attacks while I go and try and get on with my own life. So grow up, gain some independence, and stop glaring at me like I was the one who fucked you up in the first place.”
Owen shakes his head, refusing to have Jack put this all on him. “Yeah, ‘cause you’re so fucking stable. I’m not Ianto. You can’t shag me and expect me to shut up about four months of not knowing.”
“Yes, I can.” Jack’s smile is brittle but at least it’s real. “That’s exactly what I’m going to do, Owen, and you’re going to go along with it or you’re going to get someone killed.”
The inevitability of the situation doesn’t make Owen feel better and he takes an involuntary step backwards.
“Harkness, you lay one hand on me and I’ll kill you.”
“Your plans always were flawed.” Jack looks amused and he shouldn’t but Owen knows he’ll give in anyway. “I need us to work again.”
“We can fix this without resorting to-” Owen waves a hand vaguely and hopes Jack gets what he means. Jack just raises an eyebrow and Owen crumbles embarrassingly fast. Like he hasn’t wanted this from the moment he walked into the Hub four and half years ago.
“You’re going to forgive me,” Jack tells him with scary certainty and Owen wonders how many other people he’s done this to before he realises that he seriously doesn’t want to know.
“You’re an arsehole,” he mumbles, but stands there and lets Jack come to him, push him against his desk as though this means something more than a breaking of tensions. “There’s got to be something better than this. You could practise negotiating or something.”
“This is quicker,” Jack points out, his eyes are glittering in the semi-dark, “And more fun.”
“There’s nothing fun about this,” Owen reminds him, but when Jack kisses him he kisses back anyway.