Fandom: Doctor Who/Torchwood
Pairing(s): Jack/Ten [with Jack/Nine, also Jack/all the members of Torchwood]
Written For: The always-amazing karaokegal as a [reallyreally late] Christmas present. Prompt at the beginning of the story.
Word Count: 6,551
Genre: Slash [het]
Summary: They’re both suffering from Post Traumatic Stress disorder and therefore getting drunk and playing around with sensitive conversation topics is a fucking stupid idea.
Author’s Notes: Don’t worry karaokegal, I promise that the Jack/Ianto only amounts to 4 sentences. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get this up! I couldn’t resist the urge to involve slut!bastard!Jack, but it ends up all being about the Doctor, so it’s ok. I don’t know how well this actually fits the prompt, but I did my best and it’s an ok story in spite of that fact. (By the way, I can’t remember whether Jack not needing sleep is a canon or fanon fact, but I’m using it anyway)
You have the cool, clear eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth. Yet there's that slam-bang-tang reminiscent of gin and vermouth.
Jack Harkness hasn’t slept in around a year. It would be enough to kill a normal person; but if the last hundred and forty years have taught him anything it’s that a) being killed is the least of his problems, and b) he is really not a normal person in any sense of the word. He’s covered in dirt and his own blood, and, for reasons he can no longer remember, there’s a smudge of Lucy Saxon’s lipstick on his jaw. Poor bitch. No one can help her now and he hasn’t asked too many questions about what’s going to become of her. Even with all the things that have happened to him throughout his agonizingly long life, there are still some things he doesn’t want answered.
They’re sitting in the control room of the Tardis, and although Jack is sprawled over the battered couch in a way that would probably be slightly provocative were it not for the huge amount of, you know, blood, and Martha has let her hair down and is looking a little less battle-worn, and the Doctor no longer has that semi-murderous set to his jaw, there’s still a general air of being shell-shocked. It’s been a long year, even if it technically didn’t happen.
“What do we do now?” Martha asks. She’s a sweet girl (she’s not Rose; but then given what Rose did to him, whatever her motivations were, she’s not exactly high on Jack’s list of favourite people at the moment) and she doesn’t deserve to be treated as perpetually second best. If Jack were going to stick around, he’d do something about this, but he already knows that there’s no longer a place for him on the Tardis. He figured it out while tied-up in the basement of the Valiant.
“I don’t know about anyone else, but I could sure use a shower,” Jack says with what he hopes is a dashing grin. It could still be a grimace; twelve months of unspeakable torture will do that to a guy, no matter how resilient he is. Or how crazy he was in the first place. “Anyone want to join me?”
Martha gives him that smile, like she’s not sure whether he’s kidding or not, or whether she wants to take him up on his offer. Jack has that effect on everyone at first; what defines them is whether they give in or whether they try and retain some integrity. The Doctor has the Master’s blood on his suit and nothing at all in his eyes. Still, he manages to glare his favourite bad Jack glare, like Jack’s omnisexuality is something that should be suppressed rather than celebrated. Really, there are times when Jack just can’t understand the Doctor’s outlook on life. If you’re not going to fuck your way around the universe, then what the hell is the point of space travel?
“Fine.” Jack sighs. “It’ll be a very lonely shower for one, then.”
He got cut to shreds today, which was absolutely no fun on several different levels, and while the world may have no memory of what the Master did, Jack does. He finds himself idly wondering whether it would be worth dosing himself up on retcon the minute he gets back to the Hub. Well, that’s assuming the kids aren’t harbouring a load of resentment after he ran out on them, and kill him on sight. Of course, they’ve done that before and while it’s all been forgiven, it definitely hasn’t been forgotten.
“Has anyone ever told you that you’re awful at being alone?” the Doctor asks, sounding almost amused. Nothing sticks to him for long, at least not on the surface. That used to confuse Jack, back when he was laughably naïve and the Doctor wore different skin. Now, he understands only too well.
“So are you,” he points out, and doesn’t dare look at the Doctor’s expression. He’s not the man he used to be, or the man he’d like to be, and nowadays he knows all about the price of outliving everyone who ever mattered to you. Jack wants to be able to say that he has come to terms with the fact that he is never going to stop, but for some reason immortality isn’t something you can get used to. He still wakes up after dying feeling surprised; and, although he’ll never admit it, he’s still convinced that there must be something or someone out there that can kill him.
“You’re worse,” the Doctor points out after a minute of brittle silence, crooked little smile. “Can’t go for five minutes without attempting to jump on anyone in the vicinity.”
“We’ve been in here for much longer than five minutes,” Jack says. “I guess it doesn’t look too good for you and Martha then, does it?”
The Doctor shakes his head, but he’s amused in spite of himself, Jack can tell.
“Go and take your shower.”
Jack never slept with the Doctor, although he has no doubt that he could have, if the Daleks hadn’t come along and screwed everything up for everyone. He’d figured out the buttons to push, had been laying the groundwork for weeks. The Doctor isn’t someone you just stroll up to, smile with plenty of teeth, and then drag to the nearest place you can get horizontal without being arrested for public indecency. And Jack knows this, because of course he tried. He could never work out if the Doctor was holding back because of Rose, or because he could see right through Jack to all the threadbare little places his sincerity was wanting. He never asked, and during the innumerable years between then and now, he’s thought about it more than is healthy.
Not that it really matters; there are very few things about Jack nowadays that could be classified as healthy.
However, Jack can content himself with the fact that he could have slept with the Doctor, if he hadn’t ended up on Satellite Five and got oh-so-conveniently forgotten (but he was supposed to be getting over that). But it hasn’t been his libido that’s been fuelling his search for the Doctor, though, much as he’d like it to be. Over the years, Jack’s been adding more and more questions to a list, things that he wants to know, things that he thinks that he’s earned the right to know; things that he now knows he’ll never ask.
The Tardis doesn’t ever become a smoother ride; Jack’s had the opportunity to mess around in her internal systems, and he now knows it’s because she enjoys being difficult. He whacks his head on the shower stall wall as the whole ship lurches, and Jack finds himself wondering where they are now. As if it really matters.
The Doctor is alone in the control room when Jack wanders back in, damp hair sending water trickling down his neck. He’s changed into a mercifully blood-free suit, and is sitting with his feet resting on the console, looking thoughtful.
“Where’s Martha?” Jack asks.
“With her family,” the Doctor replies. “She’s making sure they got home safely.”
Jack nods, coming to sit beside the Doctor.
“Must be nice to have a family to care about,” he says, trying to keep his voice light. His own family are far away in the past and far away in the future, and he gave them up anyway when he joined the Time Agency; and oh, he knows all about Gallifrey.
The Doctor gives a mild, unreadable smile. He wanted to save the Master, even after all that he’d done, and it’s a sign of an unbearably lonely man, wanting to keep a murderous psychopath with him so that he won’t have to be on his own any longer. “I thought we should talk,” he says.
“We did talk,” Jack reminds him. “You explained that you’re allergic to me, I told you all about my self-indulgently tragic past, and then the universe went to hell.”
“Maybe,” the Doctor begins, “I want to hear more about your self-indulgently tragic past.”
“You want to know about Torchwood,” Jack translates. “Exactly how deep I am, all that jazz.” The Doctor shrugs, unashamed about being caught out. “Well, I’m going to need a drink first,” Jack decides. He’s all but running Torchwood at the moment, at least until One gets its act together, there’s no one to chew him out over giving away all the oh-so-classified secrets.
“Thought of that already,” the Doctor informs him, indicating a couple of glass bottles sitting haphazardly on the Tardis’ console.
“Hypervodka?” Jack suggests.
“No.” The Doctor smirks. “I’m not trying to kill you.”
“Wouldn’t matter if you were,” Jack points out, “It’s not like it sticks or anything. You must know the feeling.”
“I’m not as destructive as you are,” the Doctor says, although that’s got to be a lie of some kind. “And I don’t heal as neatly.”
Jack looks at him for a moment, the delicate bone structure, wild hair, and, this close, the freckles.
“I like this new body,” he says thoughtfully, “It’s pretty.”
The Doctor gives him what is almost certainly a genuine smile.
“I wasn’t pretty before?”
“Maybe sort of ruggedly handsome,” Jack decides. “Though the ears left a lot to be desired.”
“I didn’t hear you complaining,” the Doctor points out, and Jack wishes he wouldn’t do this. The Tardis hates him, the Doctor is permanently on edge around him (they’re sitting close enough that Jack can see the goosebumps on the Doctor’s skin), it’s obvious none of this is ever going to work out, and yet they’re still flirting like they always did. It means nothing on the Doctor’s side and everything on Jack’s side and they don’t seem to be able to find a compromise.
“I need a drink,” he mumbles, getting to his feet, needing some distance because this can’t end the way he wants it to. It just can’t.
He’s bemused to find the Doctor has helpfully provided martini glasses.
Suzie could see right through him, and always could, right from day one. Jack met her crying her eyes out, half-dead, in a restaurant that had been temporarily taken over by homicidal robots from Rygas-14. However, once she’d calmed down a little and accepted the job he impetuously offered her, she could always see him for who he truly was. Ten years, and she could see every ugly little character flaw Jack managed to hide so well from other people.
He knows, now, it was because she was so detached from reality that she could see everything as it truly was, not the way people tried to make it be, but it took getting shot in the head for Jack to find that out, and anyway, he doesn’t want to discuss it.
Funnily enough, it was the way Suzie rolled her eyes in exhaustion every time Jack smiled at people that made him decide he was going to fuck her over her workstation if it killed him. She didn’t seem to see his appeal – or deliberately ignored it – and laughed at the people who gave in to his good looks and charm. It was that aspect of her that reminded him overwhelmingly of the Doctor, and somehow, he felt that if he managed to win Suzie over, he’d be somehow proving to himself that he could have won the Doctor over, in other circumstances.
“You should work on your pick-up lines,” Suzie informed him at two a.m in mid November, dark hair curling around her shoulders and more coffee than was probably sensible swirling through her veins, “I mean, you were attacked by aliens and that’s very sad; hey, fancy a shag? is sort of missing something.”
“Seems pretty thorough to me,” Jack replied, signing off on a load of Owen’s paperwork; he hoped the man had actually bothered to include some content this time around. “What do you think it’s missing?”
“Subtlety? Dignity? Taste?” Suzie smirked. “Pick one.”
“I think I should be offended,” Jack told her. “Does have Torchwood have some kind of cruel and unusual punishment for employees who’re cheeky to their bosses? Can there be spanking or something?”
“I thought Torchwood went more for the if-you-misbehave-we’ll-feed-your-genital
“I don’t flirt with everyone!” Jack protested.
“For you, saying hello is flirting,” Suzie replied severely, pushing her glasses up her nose.
It happened well over a hundred years before, and yet Jack could remember the Doctor saying something horribly similar to him.
“You really find me that unappealing?” he asked, somewhat curious.
“I find you very appealing,” Suzie told him, and she’d probably only tell him this after being awake for forty hours straight, “But the problem is I know exactly why I find you so appealing, and I don’t like the fact you manipulate people’s emotions without even trying.”
“Oh.” Jack leant back in his chair. “Is that a ‘no’ then?”
“You haven’t asked the question yet,” Suzie pointed out, finally looking up.
“Fine then. Suzie Costello, you’ve been repeatedly attacked by aliens and that’s very sad; hey, fancy a shag?”
Suzie started laughing and Jack couldn’t help joining in.
“It’s still a no,” she assured him when she’d calmed down, but she only managed to hold out for another month.
Jack makes a good martini, even if he does say so himself, and it’s starting to take the edge right off.
“You know,” he remarks, leaning back, stretching his legs out in front of him (it feels so good to be able to move again; being tied up in shackles for a year got old real fast. Bondage is going to remain unappealing for at least a decade now), “I don’t normally drink?”
The Doctor is sipping at one of Jack’s not-half-bad martinis, and he raises an eyebrow.
“That must make you a lot of fun at parties,” he says.
Jack smirks. “It’s another side-effect of the immortality,” he explains. “At least, I think it is, I mean, I haven’t really had anyone to ask. But I’ve become embarrassingly intolerant to alcohol of any kind, I get drunk really fast.”
“Like I said, fun at parties.” The Doctor is smirking at him and Jack hates him for it, because every single second he’s remembering all the reasons why he loves and resents the Doctor and it’s all going to end with him having to leave because Rose fucked him up perfectly.
“That’s one way of putting it.” Jack lets out a bark of laughter, too rough, too sharp; he never used to laugh like that, not until he died for the fifth time and realised that he was never going to be normal again. “Weren’t you meant to be asking me things about Torchwood?”
“I thought I’d get you drunk enough to tell me everything,” the Doctor shrugs, but there’s mischief on his face and things will still remain a little odd between them for a few more hours, until the last of the shock wears off and they can return to life again.
“Maybe I don’t want to tell you everything,” Jack tells him, putting his martini glass on the Tardis console and hoping it doesn’t spill alcohol onto the controls and break something important.
There are things he doesn’t want to admit to; some things he doesn’t want to have to remember. The Doctor must know all about that, but he’s better at hiding it than Jack is. He’s been hopelessly immortal for much longer.
Tosh is modest to a fault, but she is really good at what she does as long as you bolster her confidence a little. Jack has always been impressed by her knowledge of alien languages and ability with computers of all kinds; he’d probably tell her if it weren’t for the fact he’s got to keep everyone guessing (“When I want you to think for yourself, I’ll tell you!”). It wouldn’t do for the employees to get complacent.
Jack is beginning to suspect that he’s not a very good boss, but there’s no one left to check up on him, so it doesn’t really matter.
There’s something indefinably sexy about watching Tosh’s fingers dancing over a keyboard, breaking through firewalls and doing a dozen other things Jack can’t even begin to understand with complete ease. He’s good with technology up to a certain point (well, he can build a gun out of almost anything, which may not count as good with technology but is pretty damn useful nonetheless), but Tosh is incredible, and it’s that knack with alien objects that drew him to her.
Well, that and the fact she’d apparently met the Doctor during that time the Slitheen were doing their best to take over the government. Jack’s not going to pretend he didn’t have an angle in hiring her; there’s no point in playing innocent.
Tosh is helplessly lonely, and Jack knows that he shouldn’t have done what he did. Just because he could see a shred of the Doctor’s incredible technical ability in her doesn’t mean that he had the right to seduce her within two months of hiring her, then leave her blushing awkwardly at him for the next few weeks. But other people’s emotions have always come second to his own, and Jack has always been open about the fact he’s at rock bottom. It’s just that no one knows why. And anyway, it’s not like he ever had any integrity to lose.
Besides, Tosh only stayed moping over him until Owen got hired. Then she started blushing and staring at him and God only knows what Owen did to her, because over the course of a weekend they just stopped speaking to each other, and Suzie knew and wouldn’t tell Jack why. And once Tosh was safely over a one night stand that was possibly more enjoyable than it should have been, considering Jack’s less-than-pure motives, he started questioning her. Tosh was quite happy to recount her brief meeting with the Doctor in meticulous detail; Jack noted it all down and pretended as hard as he could that it was for Torchwood’s records.
“It’s not,” Tosh replied, turning back to her workstation and the translation programme she was running. “It’s not for Torchwood’s records, because I already had an interview. They didn’t ask half the questions you did, and it’s all filed away somewhere on the computer system.”
“Tosh-” he began, not sure what to say, but certain that he needed to do some damage control.
“I don’t care,” she replied, with a little smile. “I just hope it helps.”
It didn’t. Not in the grand scheme of things. But Jack assured her that it did, if only to make her feel better.
“Torchwood was set up to hunt me down,” the Doctor says. His tie has come undone sometime during the last martini, and Jack thinks that they should both probably stop right now. Things are too fractured, up until a few hours ago they were both being held prisoner by a megalomaniac and if Owen were around he’d say that they’re both suffering from Post Traumatic Stress disorder and therefore getting drunk and playing around with sensitive conversation topics is a fucking stupid idea.
Well, actually, if Owen were here he’d probably be drinking gin straight from the bottle and ignoring them both, but Jack likes to think that his raggedy little team can be professional at least some of the time. He can’t just have hired them because they were damaged enough not to ask too many questions as well as being ridiculously good-looking. At least, he hopes not, anyway.
“That really wasn’t why I joined,” he tries to assure the Doctor. The Time Lord doesn’t buy it.
“You’re lying,” he says, almost sounding surprised. “And you’re lying badly. You used to be such a good con-artist; what happened?”
“Four martinis,” Jack reminds him. “And I didn’t join Torchwood for the sole purpose of finding you. It’s not like I’ve been stalking you or anything.”
“You kept my severed hand in a jar,” the Doctor says weakly, “That’s creepy, even by your standards, Jack.”
“Torchwood One weren’t really doing anything with it,” Jack shrugs. “I thought it might help me track you down.”
“I don’t think I even want to know what you were doing with it,” the Doctor murmurs.
“I’m really not as bad as you think I am.” Jack tries feebly to defend the undefendable; the Doctor smirks.
“You’re worse,” he replies mildly, “You know you are, Jack.”
In many ways, Jack hasn’t changed at all. On the surface, he’s the same man who caught Rose Tyler out of the sky and then discovered that, excellent bottom or not, the man she was travelling with was even more bewitching. But his motivations have irreversibly altered, and nothing’s the way it used to be.
He doesn’t want to talk about it.
“Maybe,” he mumbles, reaching for the cocktail shaker. He likes to think, if Owen were here, he’d have the sense to tell Jack to stop. Someone should.
Weirdly enough, it was Owen’s moments of inhumanity that had Jack cornering him after work one evening. Weevils ripping people apart on the streets and losing too many innocent bystanders and it wasn’t as though there was a tipping point or anything. It was just January, like it was every year, and it didn’t matter at all that it was the exact same date Jack had first met the Doctor and Rose, sixty-odd years earlier. Really.
Owen Harper, when he wants to be, can be just as much of a bastard as Jack. Just as willing to condemn people to death for the greater good, just as blasé about killing aliens before they turn around and bite back. There are times when his jaw is set and his eyes are too calm and Jack is reminded of the fact the Doctor could be ruthless too. So ruthless it was frightening; that manic grin snapped right off and his gaze was steady it became so obvious that he wasn’t in any way human, and he could make the hard decisions so easily it made Jack’s blood run cold. Some days, Owen looks like that, and Jack is horrified at what Torchwood reduces normal people to.
They don’t like each other all that much, working under an uneasy truce, and Jack isn’t sure whether Owen actually remembers what happened. How, after they lost an entire primary school class to a group of migrating Harpies, he hung around in the Hub, drinking too much.
“I let it happen,” he told Jack later, it was midnight and neither of them should have been there. His eyes were unfocused but his fists were sharp enough when one caught Jack on his jaw. “And so did you. You should have stopped it. You’re meant to know how to stop things like that happening!”
Jack grabbed Owen’s wrist before he could attack him again, trying to get the man to calm down. Instead, Owen, drunk and sort of distraught and therefore in a position to make all kinds of bad decisions, surged forwards and kissed him. Jack shouldn’t have taken advantage, should just have taken a step back and encouraged Owen to get some sleep so they could discuss it like rational adults, or at least like people who weren’t taken over by guilt and exhaustion. But he didn’t want to, and so he pushed Owen up against the wall and kissed him back.
It’s debatable as to whether Owen knew what happened when he woke up in his own flat the next morning, hung over and bruised, but Jack’s never going to mention it and Owen’s got enough issues going on without wanting to consider the fact he fucked his boss when he hit rock bottom. It wasn’t Jack’s finest hour and he suspects that he took advantage, but it’s a risk all of them take when they sign their contracts.
It’s always push and pull between Jack and Owen, they don’t agree if it would be more complicated for them to argue every damn point over a dozen times. Owen’s a bastard but Jack’s always going to win that particular contest, no matter how hard their doctor tries to keep up. It could be hate, but it could be something else entirely; things are ambiguous enough and Owen pulled the world apart to save him and then shot him in the head. It kind of figures.
Bits and pieces of the mess that is his life now spill out between the accusations, and Jack finds himself wondering exactly what the Doctor is getting out of his jumbled account of his top ten favourite 19th century deaths and all the ways his fucked-up little team have betrayed him. It’s not in chronological order, because Jack gave up on chronology a lifetime ago; it’s hard to think when your mind is in five timelines at once, and it’s no wonder the Doctor is as quietly mad as he is.
“You really are a lightweight,” the Doctor says; he sounds amused. Jack shrugs.
“I told you.” He spills vermouth on his trousers and wonders if this is the point when his internal alarms should start going off, telling him to quit while he’s got a few shreds of dignity left. Jack lost all sense of self-preservation a long time ago, though; it didn’t seem worth it once he discovered that whatever he did, he was going to sit up a couple of minutes later, still pretty, still breathing.
It’s enough to break a man entirely. It really is.
“I think you’d hate all of them if you met them,” Jack finds himself saying, “I mean, I didn’t exactly pick them for their social skills, and if you’re hunting down aliens, you know, it destroys you. The isolation. Gwen started out really sweet and you should see her now.”
He laughs; nothing’s funny. The Doctor is just watching him. Either he knew when to say when, or he just holds his drink better. Possibly, it’s a combination of both. He’s always been better than Jack at everything. Jack tried running the race to keep up, but he can’t. No one can.
“Did you ever get those two years back?” the Doctor asks him. It seems like an incongruous change of topic, but Jack can’t remember exactly what he’s told him and maybe the Doctor now knows more about Torchwood and its mindset than he ever wanted to hear. And alright, Jack will admit it: he hasn’t slept in a year and hasn’t eaten in days and he’s drunk too much and he’s a sorry wreck of a man because he can’t be anything else, not after what the Master did to him. Hopefully he’ll remember to pull it all back together before he returns home. Arriving back at the Hub on the point of collapse with desperately haunted eyes and a nice set of uncontrollably terrifying memories won’t endear him to the team he so willingly fucked over.
With difficulty, Jack drags his mind back to the question.
“No,” he mumbles. “I didn’t know who to ask. And it doesn’t matter any more, does it? It’s just yet more of a life that I’ve already got too much of.”
Gwen started off all sweetness and light, eyes wide and amazed when she took in the world in all its brand-new glory. Weevils and all the other shit the universe chooses to dump in Earth’s direction may not exactly count as beautiful or even worthwhile, but the look on Gwen’s face when she discovered she could push open doors she hadn’t even known existed was incredible.
Jack found her fascination, coupled with her empathy, exactly what the team was missing. Exactly what he’d been missing. While he’d only admit it to himself in the early hours of the morning while recovering from yet another wound that ought to have been fatal, Jack was coming to the nasty conclusion that he was more obsessed with the Doctor than he was comfortable with. And it was expressing itself in desperate, ridiculous ways. Like the fact his team all represented pieces of the Doctor’s personality, as though Jack was trying to construct a shitty identikit photograph, using parts of the people he worked with. All he really needed to do was hire a Northerner of some kind, and he’d officially be insane.
Not that working any of that out made a blind bit of difference. Jack did his best to convince himself that preserving Gwen’s innocence was the only way to go, because Torchwood needed someone around who wasn’t entirely self-serving and bitter. But then it turned out that Gwen wasn’t particularly good at the humanity Jack tried so very hard to foist on her.
The guilt was interesting, the way Gwen tried to convince herself that she felt bad about Rhys even with her legs wrapped around Jack’s hips, and he’d wanted her to stay faithful because the Doctor was loyal to those he really cared about (like Rose; though Jack really couldn’t work out what that said about how the Doctor had felt about him, and maybe he was better off not knowing). But Torchwood gets inside you and unceremoniously takes apart all the things you used to like, and Gwen wasn’t immune. No one is.
Later, she didn’t even try to pretend that she hadn’t meant it at the time. She looked at Jack awkwardly out of the corner of her eye for a while, but they were all awkward and raw around each other by that point (everyone seemed to think Jack was fucking Ianto, Owen had shagged his way through most of the team, Tosh had figured out that no one really gave a damn about her, and Christ knows what was going through Ianto’s increasingly unstable mind anyway).
“It won’t happen again, will it?” she asked anxiously one evening, on a stakeout with Jack, stuck in the SUV for hours. “Because I think I need to talk to Rhys, sort it all out.”
“Good idea,” Jack told her, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. “I told you, you have to hold onto your humanity in this job, or you’ll end up like Owen.”
Gwen laughed, though it sounded a little constrained.
“Is that all you’re going to say?”
Jack can talk to Gwen; she listens, even if she doesn’t understand all of it, and she doesn’t pass along every word he says to the rest of the team, and she’s getting used to having every question she asks expertly dodged. But that was as far as Jack could let it go.
“Yes,” he told her.
This was never a good idea and Jack suspects he’s just too vulnerable to cope with all this, which is strange. He’s used to being dangerously unstable, but vulnerability is something he hasn’t played around with for a while.
“If Martha comes back now…” Jack begins, and doesn’t know how to end the sentence. The problem, he decides, is that the Doctor changes all the rules without any kind of warning, and Jack isn’t sure how to deal with that. He’s used to being the mysterious one, the one who knows exactly what’s going on (or at least, claims he does, and no one is in a position to argue with him), the one with the secrets of the universe folded up in the pockets of his huge vintage coat. While in some ways it was only too easy to hand control back over to the Doctor and let someone else take the fall, in others it’s damn near impossible to not be the only one in the room who’s lived too long and seen too much.
Besides, Jack was never really all that good at following orders. It’s what made having his own little team to boss around so much fun.
“You know,” he says, and he shouldn’t be talking because he’s drunk enough to kill an average human (though it has to be said that he isn’t a) average or b) entirely human), “I tried to work out how meeting you again was going to go.”
“Oh, I’m unpredictable to a fault, you know that.” The Doctor is smirking, and Jack can’t figure out if he’s actually flirting or if that’s just wishful thinking on Jack’s half. If maybe that’s all it’s been all along.
“I had all the possibilities in my head,” Jack continues, wondering exactly what the Doctor thought he was going to get out of this ill-advised conversation because he’s pretty certain he hasn’t provided it. “I mean, I had the tacky Mills-and-Boon one, and the one where I just killed you and all the ones in between… I wanted to be ready.”
This time, when he pauses to reshuffle his thoughts back together, the Doctor doesn’t say anything, just watches Jack with a neutral sort of expression. Jack should really stop speaking; they’ll just go round in circles and nobody wins because it’s not the sort of situation where someone can emerge victorious. But Jack has spent a hundred and forty years nurturing a deep resentment and hurt, and nothing has happened since their reunion to help Jack ease up on his bitterness.
Anger, pain, betrayal. It turns out that these are the things that linger through centuries, no matter how many times you die, and Jack isn’t even sure he knows how to let them go.
“But, you know, I didn’t even consider the possibility that you’d be physically unable to be around me.” That one stung, which was ridiculous because Jack had been so certain that there was nothing the Doctor could do to him that would hurt more than being left to die on falling-to-pieces satellite over a broken world. But that was his own fault for being naïve; if he’s tried to teach his team anything, it’s that things can always get worse.
“I am sorry about that,” the Doctor says, and he at least sounds like he means it. Jack doesn’t know whether he wants him to be genuinely sorry or not. Their feelings for each other have never been defined and it’s all so fucking complicated that Jack sort of hopes it’ll become funny with hindsight. “But I’m sure I could work at it. See what happens.”
It’s a peace-offering, and Jack knows that he can’t take it.
“I can’t,” he mumbles, and it’s weird that it comes down to this after all these decades of wanting. But he worked it all out while tied up and incapacitated, and he can’t handle compromises. He wants to be able to, but compromising isn’t the same as having and he’s come to the conclusion that he can’t have what he wants (not least because he’s not entirely certain what that is). “I just… can’t.”
He hopes the Doctor is disappointed, though who really knows how Time Lords feel, deep down inside in the crazy places behind the eyes.
“Ok.” The Doctor nods; he’s got to understand. He may not live forever, but he’ll live a fucking long time and this isn’t even an end. It’s somewhere in the middle, and maybe in a couple of centuries they’ll have worked out how to deal with each other. Maybe not; Jack’s always been impossible to contain. “Do you want me to take you back?”
Jack thinks about it for a minute.
“I think I need to sleep this off first,” he replies. Stumbling into the Hub blind drunk won’t help with whatever it is he’s going to need to say to get them to like him again.
“That’s a good idea.” The Doctor gets to his feet, and Jack can’t resist one last push, because he may not deserve it but he’s damn well earned it. He grabs the Doctor’s wrist. The Time Lord has the wrong colour eyes, and the wrong hair, and the wrong everything, because he changed his entire being while Jack is left clinging onto his original smile. Still, he’s been waiting forever for this, and he’s not leaving with nothing but memories of being tortured and a brief touch of hands on his shoulders.
“You haven’t changed,” the Doctor murmurs, and this close, he looks pleased about it. “Not in the ways that really matter.”
This time, the kiss goodbye last longer and hurts more.
Jack did not have a good excuse when it came to sleeping with Ianto. Ianto is unstable, hung up on his tragically metallic girlfriend, and Jack should have had enough sense to just let him make coffee and get on with his messed-up life without feeling the need to interfere. But he’d got his hands on some of the CCTV footage from Torchwood One, and had a good look at what the Doctor looked like now.
Jack isn’t going to pretend otherwise; when it came to Ianto, it was the pinstriped suit.
Martha is back and looking bemused when Jack finally wakes up, hungover, on the floor of the control room.
“Looks like you had fun while I was gone,” she says, and she’s calmer than Jack has seen her in months.
“Can’t remember a thing,” he lies. “I guess it must’ve been pretty good.”
The Doctor is dashing around in yet another clean suit, all badly-suppressed energy, and Jack can’t figure out whether it’s because the Doctor is finally coming to terms with, once again, being The Only Time Lord In The Whole Damn Universe, or if it’s because he’s finally getting rid of Jack. It’s probably best not to ask, if only for the sake of his ego.
“Cardiff, then,” he says, as Jack drags himself to his feet with a hand from Martha.
“You’re leaving?” Martha asks, looking upset.
“Places to go, people to see…”
“That’s one way of putting it,” the Doctor murmurs, and Jack reminds himself that this time, when the Doctor walks out of his life, he’s going to try and let go of all this, move on.
Martha gives an almost surprised laugh, going to help the Doctor by flipping a series of switches on the opposite side of the console, making the whole Tardis lurch. Jack looks at her, and then at the Doctor.
“So,” he begins in an undertone, and it’s more bitter than he means it to be but his head feels like it’s splitting and just because he knows he’s got to leave doesn’t mean he wants to, “When are you going to dump this one?”
The Doctor gives him a long, appraising stare, and underneath the steady, calm expression, there’s something else there. Jack isn’t sure he wants to know what it is; it would probably hurt too much.
“Not everything’s about you, Jack,” the Doctor says eventually, almost apologetically, patting him vaguely on the shoulder and turning back to the controls.
No, Jack thinks, as resigned to his fate as he’ll ever be, But it is always about you.