Characters: Jack, Gwen, Team, Bilis, Abaddon.
Spoilers: End Of Days.
Summary: Jack is the only one who can face Abaddon with any hope of defeating it. Maybe this is the reason he’s the way he is.
Word Count: 1110
Written For: Prompt 057 – Martyr at fandomweekly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
His legs still trembling with the lingering effects of his latest revival, clinging to Ianto’s shoulders to remain upright, Jack stares in horrified disbelief at the towering demonic form overshadowing the city of Cardiff. The sight of it is enough to chill him to the bone with the kind of primal fear that has likely been passed down through the generations ever since humanity’s primitive forebears first developed the concept of good and evil.
Jack wasn’t the one who let this thing loose upon the earth; that was his team’s doing, and yet he can’t bring himself to place all the blame on their shoulders, he must own some of it himself. He should have done more, tried harder to stop them, somehow made them listen to him; he might not have been responsible, but he was complicit, if only by inaction. Gwen, Owen, Tosh, Ianto… they’re young, and unlike Jack, despite all they’ve seen since joining Torchwood they’re still naïve enough to be taken in by a suitably elaborate con.
Bilis Manger manipulated them all with a skill Jack might have admired once upon a time, when he was still living the life of a conman himself, but not now, not with the lives of every living creature on the entire planet at stake. Abaddon is death incarnate, sucking the life force out of anything its shadow touches, and the demon has to be stopped because if it isn’t, the human race will cease to exist, wiped out down to the last man. The future that Jack was born into will never happen, all of humanity’s many advancements over the coming millennia wiped out of existence before they can even be thought of, never mind achieved. Jack himself will never be born, and what damage could that kind of paradox cause to the rest of the universe?
He can’t let the future be destroyed. The timelines have to be preserved.
Jack may not have set this devastating sequence of events in motion, but the responsibility for facing the demon and attempting to stop it, before it can destroy everything he’s spent almost a century trying to preserve, inevitably falls to him. There’s no one else who might have even the slightest chance of succeeding.
“How do we stop it? Tell me what to do, Jack.”
Gwen’s voice drags Jack’s attention away from the Devourer and he shakes himself out of his paralysed stupor. It’s no use just standing here with his mouth open; he needs to act before anyone else dies.
“Just you get me to an open space.”
Gwen was the one who urged the others to open the Rift, so if any of his team is going to accompany him into danger it should be her. She can drive; it will give him a few more precious minutes to recover his strength from his recent death, and he’s going to need every scrap he can muster. Closing his eyes, he slows his breathing and tries to calm his racing heart.
He’d wanted an open space, and this patch of all but lifeless wasteland seems an oddly fitting choice of venue for the coming encounter. Jack tells Gwen to leave him, to drive as fast as she can, but he doesn’t bother looking back to see if she obeys. It hardly matters now. All his attention is focused on the immense demon trampling Cardiff beneath its feet.
Getting Abaddon’s attention is easier than he’d thought it would be, and the demon crosses the river in a single stride. As its shadow falls across Jack, it begins to draw the life force from his deceptively frail human body.
The pain is indescribable, and Jack screams his agony to the skies as he falls to his knees, his arms flung wide.
‘Is it still martyrdom if you willingly sacrifice your own life knowing that you’ll probably just come back again?’ he wonders dimly. He’s died so many times already, usually for no good reason, but this time what he’s trying to do matters more than anything he’s ever done before. If he fails, everyone dies, but if he succeeds, no matter what happens to him it will have been worth it, because maybe this is the reason he hasn’t been able to die, maybe the universe made him the way he is so he would be here to carry out this single act of self-sacrifice and save the world.
Maybe, just maybe, this is how he atones for all the sins he’s committed in his long life, for letting go of Grey’s hand…
He’d thought the pain was unbearable at the start, but as the seconds tick slowly by, each one lasting a million years, pain builds upon pain, never ending, doubling with each desperate gasp for air, and although Jack has never been a particularly religious man, in the depths of his agony he finds himself praying.
“God, I don’t know if you exist, but if you do… Please, I need your help; I can't fight this forever.” He’s not sure whether he means this battle, or this demon, or this pain; maybe all of it equally. It hardly matters. He can feel the life being drained from his body and yet the more that’s sucked out of him, the more there seems to be inside him, as if he’s merely a conduit, siphoning off the life force of the universe and channelling it into Abaddon’s gaping maw.
Jack can’t see anymore, he can’t hear anything other than the blood rushing through his head, can’t feel the hard ground beneath his knees. There’s nothing but the pain coursing through him, like acid running through his veins and searing every nerve. He’s no longer screaming, can’t draw enough air into his lungs to do more than whimper; his breath is coming in shallow, tortured gasps, his overstrained heart is faltering in his chest, and he feels as though he’s hovering endlessly on the brink of death. Time has become meaningless; there has never been anything other than this and there never will be again, but it doesn’t matter, not if his sacrifice defeats the demon.
When the end finally comes Jack is too far gone to be aware of it. He doesn’t see Abaddon fall to its knees, then collapse face down on the ground, doesn’t see the moment it ceases to exist. The last of his own life has already been extinguished by the time he crumples to the rough, stony ground, free of pain at last. He’s given everything he had to give, and it was enough; now perhaps he can finally rest.
Surely he deserves that much.