Fandom: Doctor Who/Torchwood
Characters: Jack, the Doctor.
Spoilers: Doctor Who: Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords.
Summary: Jack is back home in Cardiff and ready to take his leave of the Doctor.
Word Count: 1300
Written For: toffeecat’s prompt ‘Author's choice, author's choice, The Rejected (Mad Men),’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
It was over, that whole nightmare year rewound as if it had never happened; cities stood tall once more where before there had only been wreckage and scenes of devastation, and the thousands who’d been slaughtered by the Master and the Toclafane were alive once again, with no memory of previous events. They were the lucky ones; Jack could only wish he was as blissfully ignorant as most of earth’s population. Those who’d been aboard the Valiant when time was reset would never be able to forget what they’d seen and experienced; images from that year were seared indelibly into their minds. That they were all doomed to suffer terrifying nightmares and flashbacks seemed inevitable. Enduring such an ordeal couldn’t fail to leave permanent scars on the survivors, even if they weren’t the visible kind.
Stepping out of the TARDIS, Jack let his gaze wander over the familiar sights. Cardiff looked exactly as he’d left it, and he found he was glad to be back. There’d been a time, what seemed like forever ago, when he’d considered the TARDIS his home, but over the last century or so this city had wormed its way into his affections without him even realising it. Too bad it had taken leaving it behind to prove to him just how much he belonged here. He breathed the salty air in deeply, letting the tension drain from his body, knowing he wouldn’t be in such a hurry to leave again. Not unless the fate of the world depended on it.
The Doctor was speaking, and Jack forced his attention back to him, pasting on a smile. Just as the TARDIS had once been his home, the Time Lord, along with Rose, had at one time been the closest thing he’d had to family; but things, and people, change over time, sometimes out of all recognition. This wasn’t Jack’s Doctor; in many ways the man standing before him was a stranger. There were occasional flashes of the man Jack had once believed he knew so well, but they were few and far between. That Doctor had been Jack’s hero, the person he’d trusted, admired and looked up to more that anyone he’d ever known, and the one he still credited with making him a better person. This one though… Trust and respect had to be earned, and this new version of the Doctor had quite a way to go on both counts. Jack wasn’t even sure he could be considered a friend.
“Come with me.”
Although Jack had spent over a century longing to hear the Doctor utter those three words, now they had a hollow ring to them. The Doctor was making the offer not because he wanted Jack to travel with him, he’d made it abundantly clear that he could barely stand to be around the fixed point in time Jack had become, but because he thought he should. He was throwing Jack a bone for services rendered, keeping the Master occupied while the Doctor worked on his plan to end his fellow Time Lord’s reign of tyranny.
Over the year he’d spent being tortured and killed by the Master, called a freak, and worse, Jack had tried to understand the Doctor’s reaction to his immortality, and in some ways he thought he did, at least a little. The Doctor could see timelines, had once described to Jack the way they flowed from all people and all things, stretching out in front of them and trailing away behind. Everything that existed flowed along its own timeline, and every timeline had both a beginning and an end. Every timeline except for Jack’s. He got how his static presence would be jarring to Time Lord senses; all of space and time would be compelled to divert around him, like he was a solid, unmoving rock in the midst of a raging current. That would be enough to make anyone feel a bit disoriented and uncomfortable.
But what he couldn’t understand was why the Doctor seemed to blame him for something he’d never asked for and didn’t even want. Being told he was wrong had been like a slap in the face. Worse, he now knew the Doctor had been aware he was alive, but had abandoned him anyway, leaving him stranded, all alone, the only living being aboard a space station filled with corpses. He had trusted the Time Lord completely, and what had it got him? Dumped, like so much garbage, all because of something he’d had no control over.
Jack was pretty good at acting though, his con-man skills still served him well; the smile he wore was as devil may care as ever as he turned the Doctor down, saying he’d had plenty of time to think during the year, and that he had a responsibility to his team. It was true, of course, but it wasn’t the only reason he was saying no. After all, the Doctor had a time machine; if Jack wanted, he could travel with him for a hundred years and still be back by midnight.
The main reason he didn’t take the Doctor up on his offer was simply that it would hurt too much. He’d loved his Doctor, and deep down he thought he could learn to love this one too, given time, if only for saving the world again, but try as he might, he couldn’t forgive this version of his old friend for the callous things he’d said, or for his dismissive attitude.
Just because he always came back to life didn’t mean that dying was painless. It wasn’t; it was agonising, and reviving was just as bad, sometimes even worse if he regained consciousness too soon. Being repeatedly tortured to death for a whole year wasn’t something he could just shrug off as if it had been nothing, and yet the Doctor acted like Jack’s ordeal was insignificant, not deserving of the slightest concern or consideration. He’d cared more about the Master, despite the insane Time Lord being the one responsible for almost destroying the earth, than he ever would about Jack and the others who’d suffered and died during the Year. Jack didn’t want to resent the Doctor for that, but he couldn’t help it; he might be immortal, but in the end he was still only human.
It was hardly Jack’s fault that he offended the Doctor’s sensibilities. Perhaps in time some future regeneration would prove to be more accepting of his uniqueness, but that day was still a long way off. Regardless of what the Doctor might say or do at some point in the distant future, Jack knew he’d always remember how it felt to be rejected by the one person he’d thought he could count on no matter what, and as long as he remembered, he didn’t think he’d ever be able to find it in himself to forgive.
It seemed foolish now, a pipe-dream, but he’d thought that when he finally found the Doctor once more, he’d be welcomed back aboard the TARDIS and never want to leave the Time Lord’s side again, that they’d travel together forever. Now he could hardly wait to take his leave of the man he’d waited so long for. A bit more cheery banter on Jack’s part, a quick, not quite mocking salute, and he turned and walked away without looking back. Somewhere out there were his team, and the young Welshman who had found his way into Jack’s heart despite all of Jack’s efforts to the contrary. They were his family now, the people he belonged with if he could only persuade them to give him another chance. The Doctor belonged in Jack’s past; it was time he left that part of his life behind and started looking toward the future.