Characters: Jack, the Doctor, Ianto, Team.
Word Count: 1104
Summary: Back in Cardiff after returning from the Year That Never Was, Jack contemplates his endless future.
Written For: Challenge 215: Stretch at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Lying on his back, Jack stares up through the darkness at an unfamiliar ceiling he can’t see, thinking about the recent past and everything that still lies ahead. It’s a daunting prospect.
Time stretches out in front of him, an endless progression of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, centuries, millennia, all piling one upon the last, weighing him down. Immortality is a heavier burden than anyone should be expected to bear.
An unasked for gift, and one unwanted by its recipient, still he can’t hate the girl responsible. He knows this wasn’t what Rose had intended; she’d merely wanted him to live, and through youth and naiveté, had neglected to impose a time limit. It was an easy enough mistake to make, oh but the consequences…
He’s already died so many times that he’s long since lost count; his deaths are hardly something he’d want to remember anyway, and yet by his own calculations he’s barely more than a century and a half into eternity. Already he’s so tired he has no idea how he can carry on for the untold aeons yet to come. Death can’t hold him, but it’s the only respite he has from his endless life, providing an occasional and much too brief escape. The black nothingness of death, with the creeping, unseen presence lurking at the edges of his awareness, is no more pleasant than the prospect of living forever, but it breaks up the monotony of one day following another. He can’t help wondering sometimes, if he could only stay dead, would he see something different or is the nothingness all there is? Not that it matters for his own sake, not if he’ll never get there, but…
He’s loved, and he’s lost, and he’d like to think that the souls of his departed loved ones have something better awaiting them than the soundless, lightless nothingness that is all he’s ever experienced.
Loving people and knowing he’ll inevitably lose them hurts, and yet love is the best reason he has to keep living. Not that he has any choice in the matter, but to have the years and centuries and millennia stretch out before him without the warm glow of love to give him a sense of purpose and belonging would be beyond unbearable. Especially since the one person who could reasonably be expected to be present in his life throughout the aeons can’t even stand to be near him. To think he’d once believed the Doctor, in his enlightened superiority to other races, would be immune to prejudice. It’s disappointing to find he was so badly mistaken.
Rejection hurts, though he’d hidden the pain it caused him as best he could at the time. Loneliness would hurt worse, so Jack is willing swallow his pride and tolerate the Doctor’s indifference if the Doctor can only learn to tolerate his onetime companion’s unique condition. He can wait, as long as it takes; time is the one thing he has no shortage of.
In the meantime, or for the present, he has a team to lead, people he hopes he can still call friends, even though he abandoned them to chase after the one person he’d mistakenly believed could fix him. They haven’t exactly welcomed him back with open arms, but they haven’t rejected him or turned him away either. It’s a start, and perhaps a better one than he deserves under the circumstances, but he thinks he knows them well enough to be fairly sure they’ll come to forgive him in time.
Most importantly, he has the man stretched out beside him, sound asleep in the big hotel bed. Of all his team Ianto has the most reason to be angry with him, and Jack is under no illusions; he knows full well he’ll have to work hard to regain his lover’s trust. He might, in the end, even have to tell him some of the truth about where he’s been and what he’s endured. Ianto might not be much of a talker, but he’s remarkably astute, and he’s already made it clear he knows Jack’s devil-may-care act is just that: an act, designed to keep the team from asking too many questions, and to make them believe he’s fine when in truth he’s anything but. Not that Ianto will ever ask him what happened, not outright, but he’ll wait, in that patient, imperturbable way of his, to be taken into Jack’s confidence, and in the end, Jack will be the one to give in; it’s happened before. It’s just a matter of how much he should say when the time comes. Timelines have to be preserved at all costs, but Ianto won’t push for anything more than Jack’s willing to tell him.
The rest of the team are another matter entirely.
What to tell them is a problem for the future, not something he needs to decide right away. For the moment there’s nothing he needs to do but just rest here, allowing his immortal body to recover from the abuses of a year of torture, and a fall from the roof of a tall building that came close to snapping him in half. The worst of the pain has passed by now, but there’s still a dull, throbbing ache in his back. That’s only to be expected; overstretched and torn muscles always tend to tighten up at first, needing a few hours to regain their elasticity and flexibility. The soft but firm hotel mattress beneath him is an unexpected luxury, as is the warmth of the man sleeping against his side, one arm thrown possessively over Jack’s chest.
Jack can’t sleep after everything that’s happened, he’s wide-awake, but not for all the world would he disturb Ianto by getting out of bed. It’s a moot point anyway, since he’s far too comfortable and relaxed to consider moving, and why should he give up the first real comfort he’s had in over a year? Much better to just lay here, listening to Ianto’s peaceful breathing, and relishing the closeness of another warm body. He’s missed this more than he cares to admit. Morning will come soon enough, too soon for his liking, and then he’ll have to get up, gather his team, and return to defending his adopted home from the sundry dangers that fall through the Rift. It’s something to pass the time, and a job he’s uniquely suited to.
Eternity. It’s still there, stretching out before him, farther than even the Doctor can hope to see, but perhaps if Jack takes it one day at a time it might not be so bad.