Characters: Jack, Gwen, Team.
Spoilers: Everything Changes, Fragments.
Summary: Jack knows that honestly really is the best policy. There’s less to remember that way.
Word Count: 907
Written For: My own prompt ‘Torchwood, Jack/Ianto, If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
Mark Twain said it best: If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything. That’s a good rule of thumb for a conman, as Jack soon discovered; stick as closely to the truth as you can, and you never have to worry about being tripped up in a lie.
It became even more important to be truthful, or at least as truthful as it was safe to be, after he became immortal. Naturally there are some things it’s best for him to avoid telling people at all, for fear of either being locked up as a nutcase, or being taken prisoner and experimented on, the way he was by Alice and Emily back in the early days of the twentieth century. Still, he likes to think he’s learned from the mistakes he made back then.
Getting drunk and running your mouth off in public is never a good idea. Jack’s days of drinking to excess are long gone; nowadays, when he goes to a bar he’s more likely to order water. It’s the better, healthier option; he’s come to understand the importance of keeping properly hydrated, and anyway, getting drunk is hard work. He assimilates the alcohol so fast that it’s difficult to stay drunk for any length of time, unless he drinks non-stop, in which case he risks death from alcohol poisoning, which would defeat the whole purpose of trying to get drunk. Sober is safer.
As far as telling the truth goes, these days Jack has a sort of built-in unfair advantage; he’s become well known to all around him for telling tall stories. The thing is though, every word he tells his team is the absolute truth; they just assume he’s lying because his stories always sound so outlandish they’re automatically dismissed as being entertaining enough to listen to, but totally fictitious.
Of course, he hasn’t told them his biggest secret, that he can’t die; that’s something he’d prefer them not to know, because of the way he’s been treated in the past by those who’ve found out, one way or another. So far he’s managed to get away with being discovered drenched in blood by explaining that most of it isn’t his, that the injury isn’t as bad as it appears, or that he heals fast. Most of the time none of that is exactly a lie, except that occasionally the blood actually is all his, but by the time the rest of the team get to him the injury really isn’t as bad as it seems, because he is indeed healing fast.
Gwen, of course, knows the truth, that if he dies he comes back to life, all healed up as good as new. Damn her for breaking the Retcon and showing up on the Plas when she did. He’d had no choice but to tell her because she was there when he confronted Suzie, saw Suzie put a bullet through his brain, and saw him get up again just minutes later, the hole in his forehead closing as if it had never existed. He’d never wanted anyone to find out about his immortality, afraid of how they would react, that they’d treat him differently… And he was right; Gwen knows, and now she thinks he’s some kind of infallible superhero, when in reality he’s just an ordinary man who, through no fault of his own, can’t stay dead. Immortality is not the amazing gift she seems to think it is.
Still, there’s nothing he can do about that now. So far Gwen has kept his secret; it no doubt makes her feel important to know something nobody else does. He just has to keep her close now and make sure she doesn’t go spilling the beans about him and Torchwood to anyone else. Ah well, he needed another field agent to replace Suzie, and Gwen was right there, so he’s making the best of a bad situation. In the meantime, he’ll keep his secret from the rest of the team for as long as he can, for their sakes as well as his own.
To simply their jobs as much as possible, he’s taught them the same lesson he learned long ago; when coming up with cover stories for the unnatural events occurring in and around Cardiff, stick as closely to the truth as you can. Tell people they were just seeing things, hallucinating, affected by drugs in the water supply, or by a gas leak. “Yes, you did see a giant octopus in your church, but that was only due to a contaminant in the incense. Nothing to worry about. Take this pill, go home, and get some sleep. You’ll be fine in the morning.” Retcon is wonderful stuff; not only can it erase memories, but it can alter them into something far more mundane and therefore more readily acceptable to the general public.
All those people who make up elaborate excuses to hide things they don’t want others knowing about are fools. They end up with a ton of lies to keep track of, and in the end, they always forget what story they used with which person. Inevitably they get found out, usually at the worst possible moment, but the way Jack sees it, they have no one to blame but themselves. If you have to lie, far better to do so by omission than by constructing elaborate falsehoods. It makes life a whole lot easier.