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FIC: Learning to Say Goodbye (1/5)

FIC: Learning to Say Goodbye
Author: NightRider
Beta: The wonderful starxd_sparrow and hence_the_name. Thank you so much!
Rating: PG for angst
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Doctor Who or Torchwood. What a pity!
Characters: Tenth Doctor and Jack Harkness with discussions of the Torchwood team
Spoilers: The second season of Torchwood, especially Exit Wounds
Summary: Jack has difficulty coping following a great loss. This story is loosely based on the five stages of grief.
A/N This was written for the comfort challenge on tw_dw_slashfest.




Denial and Isolation

The vodka didn’t burn anymore as it washed over Jack’s tongue and slid down his throat. Dragging his arm over his mouth, the back of his hand irritated his chapped, worried lips.

It didn’t feel right. Nothing felt right.

The luminescent numbers of the clock blurred in front of his eyes. It was late or rather, it was early – and when was the last time he’d slept?

He thought he laughed, but he didn’t recognize his voice ringing hollowly in his ears.

Sleep. He could handle that. Better to get a few hours of rest than listen to Owen prattle on about how he never takes care of himself.

Jack grabbed the handles of the chair and briefly considering rolling himself down the stairs to his room. So what if he fell? Might be worth it for the laugh.

Tosh wouldn’t be amused. She always noticed the tiniest amount of blood on his coat. Usually she didn’t comment, but she was able to say so much without opening her mouth. The fear of disappointment in her dark eyes kept Jack from doing so many things over the last several years.

What was he doing? Oh yes, bed. The team would be arriving soon. Setting a good example was never his strong suit, but he tried.

He tried and failed because Tosh and Owen weren’t coming back, were they?

Any thoughts of sleep disappeared as clear liquid retraced the familiar path down Jack’s throat.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. They deserved better, so much better. He’d been the one to recruit them, to tell them of all the wonders and mysteries the Universe held, to train them how to fight and how to kill. In the beginning, he’d said this job wasn’t for everyone, but even that was a lie because Torchwood wasn’t a job.

It was a fucking death sentence.

In the back of his mind, Jack had always known they were all on borrowed time. Everyone but him, of course. He would live. Forever.

Shaking his head, he brought the glass bottle to his lips.

He’d thought about calling upper management, the people who hid in ivory towers, far removed from any actual danger. The people who crunched numbers about Rift statistics, who gave orders without reason and issued demands without cause. Jack figured most of them had never met an actual alien. Still, he’d wanted to call, to resign, to tell those bastards in the fancy black suits that he’d had enough, and Torchwood was better off without him.

He was more selfish than he was a coward because if he left Torchwood, where would he go? This place, this Hub, these four walls and the silly pterodactyl were all he knew. He didn’t know how to be anything else. Did he want to be something else?

Something on the bottle caught his eye, and his hand raised the glass for a better look. He cocked his head to the side, and it took several seconds for him to recognize the faint image. The bottle slipped from his hand, shattering and sending glass shards scattering across the floor, glittering like crystals underneath the hazy glow of the lights.

He’d give anything not to be the man he’d seen staring back at him.

The walls were closing in. The air was hot, too hot to breathe. Somewhere his phone was ringing, the shrill sound echoing across the Hub. It was probably Gwen. He’d lost count of the times she’d called. She was where she belonged, home, getting the attention and love she deserved.

Ianto had called, and he’d even answered the first few times. The last time Ianto called, he’d tried inviting Jack to Gwen’s for dinner. That was the last time Jack picked up the phone.

They were all hurting, all grieving and clinging to each other through this difficult – no, impossible time. But Jack was different because it was his responsibility. They were his responsibility.

He’d held Gwen while she sobbed into his chest. He’d wrapped his arms around Ianto’s trembling body and whispered words that meant nothing into his ear. He’d sent them home soon after promising to look after the Hub and to alert them to any disturbances if their help was required. It hadn’t been.

Jack had handled everything on his own. He’d responded to all rift activity over the last several days, opting not to bother his remaining teammates. He wanted to fight until his legs couldn’t muster the strength to hold him upright. He wanted to avert some terrible world threat. He wanted to save someone, anyone. Except himself.

If he kept moving, if he just kept moving –

But the Universe had no knowledge of coping mechanisms and held no compassion for those practicing avoidance, and the Rift had fallen uncharacteristically silent, leaving Jack alone once more.

He rubbed his forehead, barely registering the pressure from his hand.

He could do this. If he didn’t think about it, if he pushed it out of his mind –

If he didn’t think of Owen’s caustic humor, about the medic’s peculiar ability not only to see through all his shit, but call him on it. If he didn’t think of Owen struggling to come to terms with his own death, his first death that Jack had caused. If he didn’t think about how Owen climbed to the top of a flat building to spend the night talking to a suicidal woman and eventually helping her to see that there was something out there worth living for, something worth believing in, and that if they were going to be honest with each other, death was overrated.

Owen had been afraid to die, so terribly afraid. Was he still afraid now? Was he screaming somewhere in the darkness, lost and alone?

Jack had promised he would save him. He’d promised and he’d failed.

If he didn’t dwell on Tosh’s unsurpassed intelligence or the way she pushed her glasses further up her nose when she was working away on her computer long after everyone else had gone home. If he didn’t think about the way she’d loved completely and usually received nothing in return. If he blocked out of the memory of her bleeding out on the cold Hub floor from a bullet that his own brother fired, if he could forget how she stayed strong until the very end.

If he’d only told her that she’d done good. That every single day she did well.

His head knocked against the wooden desk as he fell forward.

This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t be happening.

He didn’t hear the familiar creak of metal grating on metal, or feel the telltale breeze wafting through the Hub. He didn’t hear the faint echo of purposeful strides or the swishing of a long, brown coat. He neglected to notice the pair of warm, brown eyes studying him through open window blinds nor did he hear the soft, compassionate sigh of a man that had been there so many times before.

Jack reached for the bottle, his hand grasping at an invisible object, and falling by his side when he recognized the shimmering remains of the vodka bottle. The broken glass was symbolic, broken yet beautiful, chaotic and dynamic, an iconic image of what his team once was.

He felt something – a presence. Was he being watched? He had prayed for a diversion, but now he hoped for something else. He hadn’t seen Owen die. Could it be? Just once, would it hurt the Universe to give something back? The man was already dead, after all. Perhaps he could cheat death or undeath or whatever anomaly Owen had been once more.

Forcing himself to lift his head, his eyes barely focused on the hauntingly familiar face in the window. It was the last person - last Time Lord - he’d ever expected to see. He would have laughed at his private joke, but he couldn’t find the energy to force the oxygen past his lips.

When he saw that Jack noticed him, the Doctor walked into the room. His strides were leisurely and without hesitation. Settling himself in the chair across from the desk, he steepled his fingers in front of his chest, his gaze locking with Jack’s once more.

Jack didn’t recall asking him to sit down nor did he recall asking him to visit. It didn’t take a Time Lord to figure out what was going on here. Despite his dull senses, Jack knew he looked like he’d spent the last week in the bottom of a bottle of bourbon – and that wasn’t too far from the truth. Jack could feel the Doctor’s eyes cataloguing him, studying each hidden wound, each festering ache that was etched on his soul. Damn him anyway.

Jack glared at the Time Lord, attempting to send the message that this was a private party and he hadn’t been invited. For all his effort, the Doctor didn’t seem to notice, brown eyes refusing to look away underneath Jack’s stern glower.

Forcing himself to his feet, he stumbled to the bookcase. He grabbed onto the ledge to steady himself as he reached up search the top shelf with his other hand. A ghost of a smile appeared on his lips as his fingers wrapped around the neck of a bottle.

He turned, the amber liquid swirling as his body moved, and met the Doctor’s gaze. Bringing the bottle to his lips, he pulled the cork out with his teeth and spat it across the room.

It was a challenge.

Jack dared him to say something – anything – to judge him. He brought the bottle to his lips, direct defiance showing in his jerky movements, and swallowed.

His chest was heaving by the time he finished.

The Doctor sat perfectly still; the only movement was his eyes following Jack as he stalked back to his chair.

Jack resumed his earlier position, his movements still precise despite the days that he’d been without sleep.

He’d kept the bottle close; he was going to need it when the Doctor started his lecture. It didn’t matter. Jack was used to tuning people out. He’d heard the speech more times than he cared to remember. It was always the same central theme, just different lips uttering the words.

He had several scathing responses ready if the Doctor decided to tell him how he should handle his grief, and if the Doctor offered his apologies or condolences, Jack swore he was going to find the strength to show the Time Lord to the door.

Several times he opened his mouth to scream at him, to ask him what the hell he wanted, and why, of all times, did he have to show up now? But Jack wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction. He wouldn’t be the one that spoke first.

So Jack stared into the Time Lord’s warm eyes, seeking out judgment, searching for blame.

He found nothing. The blasted Time Lord was just there. Unwavering and unconditional. Just…there.

Fine, Jack thought, if that’s how the Doctor wants to play it, he could sit there and watch him drink himself to oblivion.

As the contents of the bottle disappeared, Jack’s head lowered to the desk. Time passed, bled away into a blurred background of pain dulled by artificial means.

And then there was nothing.

A headache. A terrible headache. Jack winced, his eyes opening to slits as he pulled the pillow over his eyes.

He was in bed. His bed.

What was more impressive was that he’d actually slept.

Without words the Doctor had come, and he’d left the same way.

Part 2

Comments

( 64 comments — Leave a comment )
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sarkywoman
Jun. 9th, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC)
In the beginning, he’d said this job wasn’t for everyone, but even that was a lie because Torchwood wasn’t a job.

It was a fucking death sentence.


I think that's my favourite sentence, though you already know that the whole thing wows me.
nightrider101
Jun. 9th, 2008 07:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
csg1
Jun. 9th, 2008 07:34 pm (UTC)
Wow, that's incredible.

He had several scathing responses ready if the Doctor decided to tell him how he should handle his grief, and if the Doctor offered his apologies or condolences, Jack swore he was going to find the strength to show the Time Lord to the door.

That sentence says it all about Jack's grief. You've captured it beautifully.

I also like the parts where he's dwelling on Tosh and Owen's last moments.

Sorry, I'm rubbish at giving feedback, but I really loved this :)
nightrider101
Jun. 9th, 2008 07:37 pm (UTC)
No, you're not rubbish at giving feedback! Just knowing you enjoyed this means a great deal to me. Thank you for taking the time to respond!
aschicca
Jun. 9th, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)
*weeps* So hurtful... I really could feel Jack's pain and I have no troubles imagining him exactly in the shape you described him in.

Jack had always known they were all on borrowed time. Everyone but him, of course. He would live. Forever.
God so much angst! His immortality really pains him... *sighs*

I loved the Doctor's quiet presence. He's there and for now just his presence it's comfort. I'm eager to see how it'll progress from here.

I'm loving this. Just saying in case it wasn't clear *G*

*squishes you*
nightrider101
Jun. 9th, 2008 07:54 pm (UTC)
As I like to say, angst buckets!

I really could feel Jack's pain and I have no troubles imagining him exactly in the shape you described him in.

I'm so glad that came through for you. After such an amazing loss, I can't imagine him getting over it without a second thought. It's his team, after all.

I'm eager to see how it'll progress from here.

The second stage is anger. God helps us all!

Thanks for the lovely review and the generous support. :) I'm always happy to hear your thoughts.



torn_eledhwen
Jun. 9th, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC)
Lovely - but wrenching. I like that the Doctor didn't say anything.
nightrider101
Jun. 9th, 2008 11:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)

Jack's not in a position to listen just yet. I have a feeling the Doctor will visit again.
shinodabear
Jun. 9th, 2008 09:19 pm (UTC)
Wow. *bows at your feet*

That hurt. Not only did you have to remind me that Tosh and Owen are . . . that "d" word, but . . . ouch. So powerful. The Doctor not saying anything really clinched it. Amazing.

*waits patiently for the next part, with tissue, of course*
nightrider101
Jun. 9th, 2008 11:22 pm (UTC)
Aww. Thank you. :)

The Doctor not saying anything really clinched it.

During this stage, Jack's in no position to listen. Anyway, even the Doctor wouldn't know what to say. ;)

*waits patiently for the next part, with tissue, of course*

Stage 2: Anger. *facepalm* You take the tissues, I'll be hiding underneath my desk. ;)

Thanks again for the lovely review!
foalen
Jun. 9th, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC)
This was lovely and very sad. But I am glad the Doctor is there for Jack. If anyone can understand the tumultuous feelings Jack is going through now it's the Doctor. There really is no one better equipped to get him through this.

Very nicely written and I can't wait for the next part.
nightrider101
Jun. 9th, 2008 11:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the kind review!
jujuberry136
Jun. 9th, 2008 09:54 pm (UTC)
This was great- the whole tone (and why do I love hurt!Jack so much?) was spot on for the end of S2 of Torchwood. Loved the presence of the Doctor.

Thanks so much for sharing!
nightrider101
Jun. 9th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)
Normally I'm a sucker for hurt!Doctor, but Jack's the one that needs the attention right now. The Doctor definitely has his work cut out for him. :)

Thanks for the lovely review!
sabine1392
Jun. 9th, 2008 09:56 pm (UTC)
this was brilliant. really, really spectacular. and the doctor was a lot more subtle than i usually give him credit for. awesome.

heh. this could almost fit the intoxication challenge too. ;)
nightrider101
Jun. 9th, 2008 11:26 pm (UTC)
Well, the Doctor knows a thing or two about grief. ;)

I have a feeling he's going to be around while Jack works himself through each phase.

Thanks for the kind review!
(no subject) - sabine1392 - Jun. 10th, 2008 03:45 am (UTC) - Expand
vail_kagami
Jun. 9th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
A wonderful, very powerful story. You handled Jack's grief brilliantly and in a way we won't see in the series.

If he’d only told her that she’d done good. That every single day she did well.

That almost made me cry. I'm having tears in my eyes even now.

Jack's reaction to the Doctor and the Doctor's reaction, or lack thereof, to Jack's behaviour felt bleak but realistic.
But Jack shouldn't want the Doctor to be gone - he wants to save someone, after all, and the Doctor is constantly in need of saving.
Unless he doesn't count as a person.

I hope we get the next part soon. It's such a great fic!

Edited at 2008-06-09 10:16 pm (UTC)
nightrider101
Jun. 9th, 2008 11:33 pm (UTC)
LOL I don't think Jack knows what he wants right now. Well, he wants Tosh and Owen back. *sniff* That's going to come up in the next stage which is anger.

I hope Torchwood discusses the fallout after such an amazing loss as this. I won't be holding my breath. *facepalm*

Hopefully I'll have a writing night this week...and a great friend to tease me while I'm writing! *hugs*
(no subject) - vail_kagami - Jun. 10th, 2008 12:31 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nightrider101 - Jun. 10th, 2008 12:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - vail_kagami - Jun. 10th, 2008 12:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nightrider101 - Jun. 10th, 2008 01:59 am (UTC) - Expand
petit_fox
Jun. 9th, 2008 10:30 pm (UTC)
YOU wrote another story! :D YAY!

Let's start:

I'm waiting so long for a Ten/Jack story after TW 2! I love seeing Ten comforting Jack. Okay, we didn't really see him comforting his Captain but just being there... meant a lot to me. I mean... the Doctor is no one who drops by just for fun. So... it's wonderful that he looked after Jack!
Plus I'm kinda used to Jack comforting the Doctor. I'm not complaining there. I love Jack watching his Doc and worrying about him. Still it is lovely to read a story inwhich Jack isn't the strong part. Can't be stron any more after all the events.

"Tosh wouldn’t be amused."
This WOULDN'T was killing me ;__; It's sad how Jack is remembering his friends to react since he knew them so well but now... he is not going to see them again. That hurts.

I must mention the vodka ^^ It's seems important to me, sorry. But I liked how you put those phrases in your story, mentionning Jack drinking.

"He’d kept the bottle close; he was going to need it when the Doctor started his lecture."
Oh. poor Jack. It's frustrating. He assumes that the Doctor wants to teach him a lesson? So it is nice when Ten suprises him being completely silent. And we all understand why Jack doesn't want to be lectured anyway... in such a situation... Apologies? Yeah, thanks... but those won't bring his friends back.

So being silent...it's the best thing the Doctor could do *sigh*

I'm looking forward to read more of it, since the Doc leftso suddenly! WOnderful last sentence though!
You made me so happy, make me happy every time I can read some stories of you :D *hugs*
nightrider101
Jun. 9th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
Awww! You certainly know how to make me feel good about myself. :) You know I'm normally a sucker for wounded!Ten and comforting Jack. I decided to spice things up this time. ;) I'm thrilled you're still enjoying this!

Apologies? Yeah, thanks... but those won't bring his friends back.

Exactly. Jack was in no position to listen so the Doctor opted to keep him company even in his darkest moment.

The next stage of grief is anger. I promise it won't be pretty. *clings to angsty friend* :D

Thanks again for the lovely review! You spoil me, and I love every second of it!
(no subject) - petit_fox - Jun. 9th, 2008 11:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nightrider101 - Jun. 9th, 2008 11:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - petit_fox - Jun. 9th, 2008 11:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
hence_the_name
Jun. 9th, 2008 11:06 pm (UTC)
Guh. You know I think this is awesome.

There are two things you added that just made this:

Jack glared at the Time Lord, attempting to send the message that this was a private party and he hadn’t been invited. For all his effort, the Doctor didn’t seem to notice, brown eyes refusing to look away underneath Jack’s stern glower.

That really rounds out the scene for me. Just two sentences, I know, but it adds a ton.

ETA: I'm really happy this is getting such lovely reviews! :D

He found nothing. The blasted Time Lord was just there. Unwavering and unconditional. Just…there.

Yes yes yes. And this really drives home what you imply earlier--that Jack doesn't think he deserves someone to just "be there."

Edited at 2008-06-09 11:10 pm (UTC)
nightrider101
Jun. 9th, 2008 11:35 pm (UTC)
YAY! I'm so glad you liked the additions! Woot! Once again, thank you for the marvelous beta job. I really think those little additions helped send my point home.

Next stage: Anger.

Pray for me. *clings to you*
(no subject) - hence_the_name - Jun. 10th, 2008 03:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nightrider101 - Jun. 10th, 2008 03:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ginger_rude - Jun. 11th, 2008 06:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nightrider101 - Jun. 11th, 2008 10:22 am (UTC) - Expand
quazonic
Jun. 10th, 2008 01:29 am (UTC)
Ooh wow, you wrote a whole chapter without any dialogue and it wasn't boring! Well done! :D You've made me miss Owen all over again too. Anyway, next chapter soon? :)
nightrider101
Jun. 10th, 2008 02:00 am (UTC)
Thank you!

I was wondering how people would take the no dialogue part. ;) I'm glad it worked for you.

Rest assured, there will be talking in the chapters to come.

Thanks again!
souleswanderer
Jun. 10th, 2008 03:41 am (UTC)
See what happens when I step out for the day? You post while I'm away...so if I leave tomorrow will there be more? *snicker*

Um, wow. Let me reiterate. Wow. And I'll stress again, WOW! Very nicely done, love the imagery of the shattered bottle after seeing himself in the glass. And then the two men both refusing to be the first to speak..typical males, but perfect for the story.

Want to add more, but I'm going to drop you an email with it.
nightrider101
Jun. 10th, 2008 10:08 pm (UTC)
Aww! Thank you!

I'm glad you enjoyed the imagery of the bottle. ;) I'm learning about imagery from one of the best drabble writers around. :)

And then the two men both refusing to be the first to speak..typical males, but perfect for the story.

I think the Doctor would have spoken if Jack had been in a position to listen. When this took place, he just wanted to make sure Jack didn't kill himself. *le sigh*

Thanks for the kind review!
supasass
Jun. 10th, 2008 04:16 am (UTC)
I'm listening to Tegan and Sarah's Days and Days, which is totally perfect for this fic. This was wonderful, it flowed together so wonderfully, like music and came together as something seamless and defined and painful. These bits really stick in my mind:

Owen had been afraid to die, so terribly afraid. Was he still afraid now? Was he screaming somewhere in the darkness, lost and alone?

**

Jack could feel the Doctor’s eyes cataloguing him, studying each hidden wound, each festering ache that was etched on his soul. Damn him anyway.

(This made me gasp - it was just very him. Just fought past so many typical grief fics, because grief makes you so selfish and vindictive sometimes...)
**

He turned, the amber liquid swirling as his body moved, and met the Doctor’s gaze. Bringing the bottle to his lips, he pulled the cork out with his teeth and spat it across the room.

It was a challenge.

(I could see it and it made me wince - in a good way.)

**
He found nothing. The blasted Time Lord was just there. Unwavering and unconditional. Just…there.

And this last one made me go aww. You're so good at writing angst! Heavily anticipating the anger part and the rest :) xxx
nightrider101
Jun. 10th, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC)
Aww. *blushes* Thank you so much!

I'm glad those parts stuck out for you. I'm glad this seemed in character. That's a constant struggle with every fic I write.

Your icon is lovely too! Tosh and Owen were definitely big damn heroes. *sniff*

Thanks again! I hope the next part doesn't disappoint.
tarabeth1012
Jun. 11th, 2008 06:09 am (UTC)
Bows to the queen of angst.

As if I didn't cry enough at the end of TW 2...

I love Jack's obstinance...and The Doctor's quiet care.
nightrider101
Jun. 11th, 2008 10:26 am (UTC)
Aww. :D

Thank you!

As if I didn't cry enough at the end of TW 2...

*sniff* I try not to think about it. *cuddles Owen and Tosh*
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