Characters: Jack, Ianto, Owen, Tosh, Gwen.
Spoilers: Exit Wounds.
Summary: Freed from his long entombment, Jack is struggling to adjust to all the things he’s no longer accustomed to.
Word Count: 682
Written For: juliet316’s prompt ‘Torchwood, Jack Harkness, Dealing with freedom after years of entombment,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
It’s hard to adjust, unnatural, everywhere is too big, too open, too loud and bright, too… everything. After centuries of being buried alive he would have thought he’d be afflicted with claustrophobia, but the opposite seems to be true. Part of Jack wants to retreat back into the cryo drawer, or better yet, back into his safe, cosy hole in the ground, where he can dream away the aeons, protected, existing in a hazy half-life, nothing to worry about and nothing to do but just be.
He’s needed though, unlikely as that seems. He remembers his team; they’ve haunted his dreams throughout his long interment and he knows their names, but some of them are missing, and it cuts to the depths of his soul that he wasn’t here to help them when they needed him. Owen is lost, truly dead this time, and Tosh, his beautiful, brilliant Toshiko, breathed her last in his arms… was it really just yesterday? Gwen is here, and Ianto. He needs them as much as they need him, clinging together in the face of their losses. He wants to protect them, but right now Jack’s not sure he knows how. He doesn’t even know how to protect himself.
Sensory overload is swamping him, light and colour and sound jumbling together, and it’s a struggle to make sense of things. It’s not even all that bright and colourful and noisy down here in the Hub, it just seems that way to him because he’s been in the dark and silence for so long, seeing nothing, and hearing only the faint slithering of worms, perhaps some muffled noises from above ground. Now his ears are ringing, his head aches from the din and his eyes hurt from the light, and if he can’t cope down here, how can he possibly go up on the surface where everything will be even more unbearably intense?
He can’t let his team, the two that are left, know how he’s feeling. They’re relying on him to tell them what to do. He’s their leader, so he has to lead by example, but it’s so hard, and…
The world is so much bigger than he remembers. The air smells wrong, not warm and loamy but sharp and metallic. He’s disoriented, off balance, out of his depth, but he’ll manage because he has no other choice. He won’t let his fear control him. He was a conman once, a long time ago in the distant future; the painstakingly learned skills that served him then will help him now. He’s always been good at fooling people, putting on an act, showing them what they want or expect to see.
He’s not so sure he can fool himself.
Retreating to the enclosed space of his office, he slumps at his desk, weighted down by the very air more than he ever was by the earth that entombed him. After his first death he was never conscious enough to be fully aware; he’d existed in a kind of limbo, neither dead nor alive. It was sort of nice, peaceful, soothing, even restful.
Another scent assaults his nose, but this time it doesn’t make him flinch. It’s warm, rich, familiar, though he hasn’t smelled it for an unimaginably long time. Ianto sets a mug down in front of him and Jack can’t help himself, he leans over it, inhaling, drawing the comforting aroma deep into his lungs. Coffee. It’s like a lifeline evoking memories of what for him was once normality. Most of them feature Ianto in some way; he is, after all, the source of coffee heaven.
“Are you okay?” Ianto is perching on the desk beside him, solid and reassuring despite eyes reddened by grief. Jack reaches for his hand, squeezes it, and manages a faint smile. How he loves this selfless, wonderful man. Tears of gratitude sting behind his eyes and he blinks them away; if he starts again he might never be able to stop.
“Not quite yet, but I will be.”
He prays to the universe that it’s not a lie.