Title: Memories Of A Year That Wasn’t
Characters: Jack, mentions Ianto, the Doctor, Martha
Word Count: 828
Spoilers: End of Days, Doctor Who: Last of the Time Lords.
Summary: Jack has a lot on his mind when he returns to Cardiff after the Year That Never Was.
Content Notes: Mentions of torture, but nothing graphic.
Written For: Challenge #144: Memory at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
For the rest of the world it never happened, time has been rewound and reset, the fabric of that terrible year unravelled like a faulty piece of knitting. Only Jack and a handful of other people, those who were closest to the Paradox Machine when it was deactivated, still remember.
Returning to Cardiff is disconcerting; from the Valiant, the Master had forced Jack to watch as the earth went up in flames. He’d seen cities razed to the ground, millions of people slaughtered and the rest of the population enslaved. His team had been brought before him to be brutally tortured and killed, their bodies thrown overboard like so much trash; the same fate had awaited all who resisted the Master’s rule. But now everything has gone back to the way it was before, all those who died are alive again, the destroyed cities made whole.
From the bridge of the Valiant, with Martha and her family, he’d viewed the dizzying spectacle of shattered towers rising from the ashes, restored to their former majesty almost faster than the eye could follow, vast plains of smoking ruins piecing themselves back together, forest and lakes, rivers and roads magically reappearing. They’d only been able to watch for a short while though; it was much too disorienting for the human brain to handle.
Now, as Jack stands on the Plass in Cardiff, saying his farewells to the Doctor and Martha, it’s hard to believe what he’s seeing. Cardiff had burned, he remembered it happening, and yet everything looks exactly the same as when he left. It’s even raining a little, that cold, steady Welsh drizzle that gets you wet through sheer persistence. It’s wonderful, because it’s real, not just a distant memory, one of hundreds he remembers playing over and over in his mind to keep himself sane though weeks and months of torture, and so many deaths that he eventually lost count.
His world is whole again. The people passing by have no idea that they died in agony and terror; for them it’s just another day, but for Jack it’s a new beginning, rebirth after death, a chance to start over in some ways.
Part of him wishes he could forget the year that’s just passed, but despite all the suffering he’s endured, or more likely because of it, he’s not the man he was a year ago. His priorities have changed drastically. Before, Cardiff was nothing more than a way station, a place to wait until he could leave with the Doctor, return to the stars and the life he yearned for. But now, it’s home, the place he wants to be more than anywhere in the universe. It’s beautiful in its grey and damp familiarity and he heart aches to think that he’d once been so eager to leave. This is where he belongs.
Somewhere out there, living their lives and doing their jobs, are his team; they’re more than just his employees, they’re his friends, his little surrogate family. He took them for granted before, but he won’t make that mistake again. They deserve better from him, especially Ianto.
His memories of Ianto had been the ones Jack had revisited the most during his imprisonment; he’d missed him more than he would have believed possible. When had the quiet young Welshman come to mean so much to him? Jack didn’t know, and really the when wasn’t anywhere near as important as the fact that he had. Back on the Valiant, Jack had made a promise to himself, and to the image of Ianto in his mind: If the Doctor’s plan worked, if he got a second chance, he would do things right. He’d show Ianto how much he needed him, prove that he was so much more than merely a convenient bed partner, that he was valued, cared for, even loved.
He only hopes he isn’t too late and that Ianto will forgive him. It’s a lot to ask, considering the way he abandoned his lover to chase off after another man.
Some day, when enough time has passed that the memories of his ordeal at the hands of the Master aren’t so raw, and if Ianto ever asks, perhaps Jack will tell him about a nightmare year when the reality he knows was fractured, and how the Doctor rewound time to set everything back the way it should be. If anyone deserves the truth, and can handle hearing it, it’s Ianto.
But he’ll try to avoid having to tell Ianto exactly how he died. Even though Ianto had remained brave and defiant to the last, and even though Jack had felt so proud of him, no one should have to know the details of their own death. Not even if in this reality, it never happened. Some memories are best kept secret, and though the burden of them may weigh heavily on his mind and heart, it’s a burden Jack is content to bear alone.