Fandom: Torchwood/Doctor Who
Characters: Jack, Eleventh Doctor, Alice, Steven, Ianto.
Spoilers: CoE Fix-It.
Summary: It’s been more than ten years since the 456 came to earth, and now Jack wants answers from the Doctor.
Word Count: 2543
Written For: My own prompt ‘Any, Any, “Where were you when I needed you?”,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
It wasn’t until more than a decade after the whole 456 affair that Jack finally caught up with the Doctor, years after the Time Lord’s tenth regeneration had tossed him Alonso as some kind of consolation prize, as if that might in any way make up for all he’d lost. Truthfully, for a long time Jack hadn’t wanted to see the alien he’d once thought of as a friend, and more, as a kind of hero to look up to. The Doctor had tarnished himself in Jack’s eyes in ways he was sure he’d never forget or forgive and so Jack had done his best to avoid running into him. But he still had questions; eventually his need to know outweighed all other considerations and the next time he heard mention of the Time Lord, Jack sought him out.
This wasn’t Jack’s Doctor, nor the version that had let him down so badly; this one was someone new, all tweed jacket, braces, and bowtie. A new regeneration then, but still essentially the same person despite the differences in looks and personality.
“Jack!” The Doctor sounded surprised, but pleased to see him.
Jack didn’t bother with pleasantries. “Where were you?”
“What?” The confusion on the Doctor’s face certainly seemed genuine.
“Where were you when the 456 came? Where were you when I needed you? When the whole earth needed you?”
“I’m sorry. There was nothing I could do, the events surrounding the 456 were a catalyst, they brought all the nations of earth together in a way nothing else could, a global threat paving the way towards unity…”
“I don’t care!” It was a howl of grief and despair that had been locked up inside Jack since the moment he’s held Ianto in his arms, feeling him slip away, and had been further stoked by being left with no other choice but to sacrifice his own grandson to save every other child on the planet. No one should have to commit such a horrific act and then be forced to go on living afterwards.
“Jack…” The Doctor reached out towards him, but Jack slapped the hand away; he hadn’t finished.
“I lost everything! Do you know what I had to do?”
“You know as well as I do that sometimes one life has to be sacrificed for the greater good; it’s not the first time you’ve had to do that.”
“He was my grandson!”
The Doctor frowned. “What?”
“It had to be a child; we were running out of time and there was no other child available! I had to sacrifice my own grandson, knowing he would die! My daughter had to watch her own father kill her son! She’ll never forgive me, but that doesn’t matter because I’ll never forgive myself. I don’t deserve to be forgiven. It was bad enough I lost Ianto, but then I had to kill Steven…”
“Wait, what are you talking about? Torchwood was to save the earth’s children; the only one who was supposed to die was the boy who wasn’t taken the first time, or rather the man he grew into. I don’t understand! You had five days from when the children first started chanting. What were you doing for all that time? It was more than long enough for your tech expert and your medic to figure out what needed to be done.”
“Tosh and Owen? They were killed the year before when my brother showed up in Cardiff. He wanted revenge for my not saving him when Boeshane was invaded back when we were children, so he decided if he couldn’t kill me then he’d kill all the people I cared about. He took me to the past and buried me alive beneath Cardiff; I spent nearly two thousand years dying and reviving, only to die again, and I lost two of my dearest friends before I was able to stop him.”
“Two of your team died?” The Doctor looked confused. “How could that happen?”
“I was lucky not to lose all of them!”
The Doctor shook his head, pulling himself together. “Well aright, I can see how that would have made your job more difficult, but you still had five days to…”
Jack cut him off, laughing bitterly. “Five days? Ianto, Gwen, and I spent those five days trying to evade the kill squads that had been sent out after us to keep us from interfering with the British government’s plan to hand over the children!”
“What?” The word came out as a squeak. “No! No no no, that’s not at all what was supposed to happen!” The Doctor looked appalled. “Torchwood was to pull together all its resources and defeat the threat! UNIT was supposed to help!”
“UNIT was too busy doing the Prime Minister’s bidding, rounding up children from the poorest areas of the country as Britain’s contribution.”
“Jack… I’m so sorry, if I’d known…!”
This time when the Doctor reached out to him, Jack didn’t push his old friend away. All the fight had gone out of him; he just let himself be pulled towards the TARDIS and inside, his mind whirling. What was the Doctor saying, that all they’d been through had been some kind of mistake? “Doctor… I don’t understand.”
“I stayed away because I shouldn’t have been needed, Jack. I didn’t know about Tosh and Owen; their deaths must have shifted the balance and now… It’s all gone wrong. I need you to tell me everything; what happened to your brother, to your team, and everything you can remember about when the 456 returned.” The Doctor sat Jack down and stood in front of him. “Every detail you can remember, no matter how small.”
That was asking a lot, almost too much for Jack to bear, but those incidents were engraved into his mind so he did as he was asked and when he was finally done, the Doctor’s shoulders were slumped as if some heavy weight was all but crushing him where he stood. “Wrong, all of it; none of that should have happened!” He looked at Jack through ancient eyes. “I don’t know what to say, Jack. I can’t fix it all; I wish I could. The 456 incident is set in stone now and it’s my fault. I should have been here to make sure things went the way they were supposed to, but now the new history has overwritten the old, which means there’s no way to alter it without leaving a gaping hole in the fabric of reality. I’ve let you down, and I am so sorry. I wish I could fix everything, but I can’t.”
“So that’s it? You’re sorry, but there’s nothing you can do?” That was about what Jack had been expecting, but it still hurt like a knife to the heart to have it confirmed.
“I can’t fix everything and put it all back the way it was supposed to be, but I can try to make amends.”
“How? If you can’t fix things then how can you possibly make amends?”
“Well, we’ll just have to see, won’t we? Can’t change the big picture but a few minor details here and there might be able to be altered after the fact, especially if I take a few precautions. I’ll need to make some preparations before we begin, pick up a few things, so bear with me.”
It took the Doctor a week, and visits to several different worlds, in order to collect a few necessary items, but finally they had everything that would be required.
“Are you ready to begin?” At Jack’s nod, the Doctor darted up to the central console, dancing round it, pushing buttons, pulling levers, twiddling dials. “Off we go then!”
“You really think this will work?”
“Won’t know until we try! Have some faith, Jack!”
It was a long trip across the galaxy to earth and back into the past, and Jack couldn’t relax, pacing restlessly around the console room the entire time no matter how often the Doctor tried to persuade him to get some rest, but at last…
“First stop!” The time rotor stilled and the Doctor darted towards the door. “Stay here; it wouldn’t do for you to be seen, and I can manage this one on my own.”
The child’s body was surprisingly easy to spirit away, still warm, replaced by a cloned copy that had never lived. With Steven safely stowed in a cryo pod to be taken to the future where he could be healed, the Doctor made his second stop at a small house in London, where he knocked on the door and waited impatiently for it to be answered. The woman who eventually opened it looked drawn and pale, older than her years.
“That’s me. Who are you and what do you want?”
The Doctor flashed his psychic paper at her; Alice apparently thought it was a police badge and sighed heavily. “I’ve already told you people everything I know.”
“Yes, I’m sorry, but I need you to come with me.”
“Fine; I’ll get my coat.” It had been a month since Steven’s funeral, and from the look of her, Alice didn’t much care about anything anymore. Even so, she balked when the Doctor tried to lead her inside the TARDIS. From her perspective it was nothing more than an old-fashioned wooden police box standing by the road. “Are you some kind of weirdo? I’m not going in there with you!”
“I’m the Doctor, and all you need to know is that I believe I can restore your son to you; alive. A mistake was made and I’m here to fix it. It’s not too late to save Steven. Please. Come with me.” The Doctor gestured inside.
Why she believed him, Alice would probably never know, but at the Doctor’s words the smallest spark of hope ignited in her eyes, and she followed him, into the console room, wide-eyed as she realised it couldn’t possibly fit inside the blue box she’d seen. She stopped dead in her tracks. “This is crazy! I must be dreaming or something.” She shook her head in disbelief. “Maybe I’m just losing my mind.”
“Alice.” The voice was one she’d never thought to hear again.
She turned to see the last person she would have expected, the last person she’d wanted to see, and yet… “Dad?” Emotions warred against each other, clearly visible in her eyes as she tried to work out how she was supposed to feel. After all, her father had knowingly sacrificed her only child. She took in his appearance surprised at the way he looked, as bleak and exhausted as she felt. Yet despite that there was the tiniest flicker of hope in his old, old eyes to match her own, and though she searched for the anger she’d felt towards him over Steven’s death, she couldn’t find it.
“Right then, just one more stop to make!” The Doctor started rushing about, working the TARDIS controls, and as a grinding sound began and the ground shifted beneath Alice’s feet, she found herself clinging to her father to keep from falling over. He wrapped his arms tightly around her, holding her close like he’d used to when she was a little girl, scared of something she didn’t understand.
“I’m so sorry for what I did, sweetheart, but I was left with no other choice. I know that doesn’t justify it, nothing can, and I don’t expect you to ever forgive me, I know I don’t deserve your forgiveness, but the Doctor says none of this was supposed to happen. He’s trying to fix what he can.”
“Is it true? Can he really bring Steven back?”
Jack half shrugged. “I honestly don’t know, but he says he can, and I’ve seen him do a lot of amazing things that most people would have said were impossible. All we can do is hope. If anyone can, it’s him.”
Their final stop was to a big hall filled with bodies covered in red sheets. This time Jack had to help, hurriedly switching one of the bodies for an identical clone, and placing the genuine body into a cryo pod aboard the TARDIS for transportation.
“Who is he?” Alice asked, moving to stand beside her father.
“My lover, my Ianto.” Jack smiled bleakly and laid his hand tenderly on the pod. “He was so brave, standing with me to confront the 456, but I shouldn’t have let him go to Thames House with me. They killed him, and everyone else in the building, all because I stood up to them and refused to let them take a single child. He was only twenty-six. One more senseless death because of me.”
“I’m sorry.” Alice truly was; she’d never given a thought to what her father must have already been through trying to keep the 456 from taking earth’s children. Never considered she might not be the only one grieving the loss of a loved one.
“There’s vortex energy in both of them.” The Doctor came to join Jack and Alice, having set the TARDIS on course again. “Steven because he’s your grandson; not enough to make him immortal, but enough to provide a spark that can be rekindled, and Ianto because you tried to breathe life into him as he was dying.” He turned to Alice. “You can never take Steven back to earth, you understand that, don’t you? I can take you back briefly to collect whatever you want from your home, but after that I’ll have to take you somewhere else, another planet; one of the human colonies in the future would be best, I think.”
Alice chewed her bottom lip nervously. “What will happen to us?”
“You’ll live long and hopefully happy lives in your new home, I expect.”
“And what about dad?”
“That will be entirely up to him.” The Doctor smiled faintly. “As I told Jack, I can’t fix everything that went wrong, but saving a couple of the people who shouldn’t have died won’t make any significant difference to what happens on earth in the future. It doesn’t make up for everything, but perhaps it will help a little. We’ll arrive on Genumbrus shortly; the people there will be able to revive Steven and Ianto, with a bit of help from me, and from Jack. After that, we’ll nip back to earth so you,” he looked at Alice, “and Ianto can pack. After that, I’ll take you around a few suitable planets so you can decide where you want to live out the rest of your lives.”
“Doctor, thank you.” Jack embraced his old friend.
“I just wish there was more I could do,” the Doctor said sadly.
“Having Ianto and Steven back, giving my daughter and grandson a chance at a new life somewhere safe… It’s enough.”
Jack could hardly wait to see his lover and grandson alive and healthy again. Perhaps he and Ianto could settle down wherever Alice chose to make her home, just or a while, long enough to see Steven grow up and maybe even start a family of his own. After ten years of misery, Jack could perhaps look forward to the future with a little bit of hope.