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FIC: Learning to Say Goodbye (2/5)

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.


It should have been easy to lose himself in the simplicity of physical exertion, in the rhythm of his swinging fists, in the sound of bare skin pummeling leather. Sweat stung his eyes, but Jack refused to allow his concentration to break. Torchwood had paid the ultimate price for his carelessness.

Damn Torchwood, anyway. He’d given his life for this place more times than he could count, but at least he came back. Tosh and Owen, they wouldn’t ever come back.

Hadn’t he told them to be careful? Didn’t they know he didn’t expect them to die? Sure, it was part of the job - putting yourself in harm’s way came with the territory - but there had to be another way!

There was a time when he had loved Torchwood, loved the mystery and the unmitigated power of being outside the government and beyond the police. Now? Damn Torchwood. Damn his self-sacrificing team members.

Jack swallowed, refocusing his attention to his previous task. The suspended leather punching bag swung wildly as he found an unsteady rhythm.

Jack had seen the Doctor – well, heard him – enter the room. Again, Jack refused to acknowledge the Time Lord or consider the reasons behind the Doctor’s uncharacteristic behavior. He couldn’t allow himself the reprieve. He stayed focused, his eyes never leaving the target, his fists never slowing, his attention never wavering.

He heard the telltale sounds of trainers slapping against the concrete floor, and soon long fingers wrapped around the middle of the bag, holding it still.

“What the hell are you doing?” Jack spat, giving in to his irritation and stepping away from the bag. He finally noticed the dark red smudges streaking the worn leather. When had he started bleeding?

“Helping,” the Doctor replied.

Jack was going to inform the Doctor his help wasn’t required or necessary, and it certainly wasn’t wanted. Instead, his eyes narrowed, his weight shifted to his right foot as he retracted his arm and swung, putting his full strength into the blow. The Doctor was forced to step back to keep his hold on the bag, and Jack was surprised to find a feral grin on his own lips. The Doctor returned to his previous stance, his fingers pressing into the leather, his gaze locking with Jack’s. There was no judgment or condemnation in those familiar brown eyes.

His eyebrow arched when Jack didn’t move. “Well?”

Jack shrugged indifferently and resumed his onslaught. The sounds of his fists repeatedly slamming against the battered surface resonated through the Hub. To the Doctor’s credit, the bag barely registered the attack, remaining almost perfectly still despite Jack’s best efforts. Heaving breaths mingled with the incessant drone of skin pounding leather.

Minutes ticked by as Jack pushed himself past the point of simple pain and bone-crushing weariness. “Help?” he ground out, ignoring his quivering muscles and aching hands. “You want to help?”

“That’s what I said, yes.”

“And you’ll do whatever you can to help me?” Jack asked, his fists blindly connecting with the bag.

“If it’s in my power, I will.”

Throwing himself forward suddenly, Jack wrapped his arms around the bag, his face sliding across the battered, worn leather, as one eye peered around the bag to glare at the Doctor.

“Bring them back.”

The Doctor didn’t move, his gaze meeting Jack’s evenly. “You know I can’t do that.”

“Bullshit,” Jack yelled, shoving the bag roughly as he stepped away. “You’ve got a time machine, Doctor, in case you’ve forgotten!”

“It’s already happened. It’s an event, a fixed point, and I can’t change that. You know how this works, Jack,” the Doctor explained.

Jack’s fists clenched at his sides. Droplets of blood slipped between his fingers and dropped on the floor. Struggling for breath, he forced the air through his lungs. There was only one person in the Universe who could repair this, who could restore his team to what they were before Captain John, before Grey, before he’d fucked up so terribly.

“I’ve never asked for you anything. Not once, not in the entire time I’ve known you,” Jack whispered, attempting to control his trembling voice. “I’m asking you, Doctor, just this once -” His eyes silently beseeched his longtime friend. “Please do this for me.”

The Doctor remained perfectly still. “I’m sorry, Jack. I’m so very sorry.”

“I don’t want your damn apologies!” Jack barked, rage seeping into his chest as he stepped towards the Doctor. “Do you want me to get down on my knees and beg? I hear you Time Lords get off on that sort of thing.”

The Doctor slipped his hands into his pockets, his posture remained nonthreatening, but he didn’t back away.

“I’ve died for you,” Jack growled, his voice dangerously low.

“Yes, you have.” Those three little words were shrouded in regret.

“Bring them back, Doctor. Just two people. Two little inconsequential people.”

The Doctor didn’t tell Jack he knew better than this. He didn’t say that with Jack’s training and experience, he knew the far-reaching effects of meddling with a fixed event in Time. He didn’t tell Jack he was disappointed in him or blame him for his moment of weakness. He just said, “No.”

Jack swallowed. “No?”

“No,” the Doctor repeated without a hint of indecision or remorse.

Rage washed over Jack’s body, his mind disappearing further into the abyss of irrationality, and he dove for the Doctor, his arms swinging wildly. The Doctor ducked, Jack’s vicious right hook sailing over his head, as he pivoted with his coat circling behind him.

The Doctor rose effortlessly to his full height, his hands still jammed in his pockets. Jack spun around, his ragged breathing echoing in his ears.

“Do your worst,” the Doctor said, opening his arms in silent invitation.

Dropping his shoulder, Jack charged again. “Damn you,” he growled, a glancing blow sliding past the Doctor’s cheek.

It was a short, sorry excuse for a fight with the Doctor only lifting his hands to deflect Jack’s fists.

At some point during the brief altercation Jack’s sweat had been replaced, and now salty tears burned his eyes. He stumbled. An arm appeared out of nowhere and wrapped around his chest. He was eased to the floor, and somewhere in his jumbled thoughts, he knew he should have been angry. The stupid Time Lord was helping him, taking care of him!

“Damn you,” he repeated, his voice now reduced to broken sobs.

The Doctor’s breathing was perfectly even, the only visible sign of their quarrel was a pink blotch on his cheek. He was only standing a few feet from Jack, his hands deep in the pockets of his coat.

“Why are you still here?” Jack asked, finding his voice once more. He struggled to his feet, his weary muscles screaming in protest.

The Doctor tilted his head to the side, his eyes assessing Jack’s movements. “I’m not afraid of you, Jack.”

“You should be,” Jack growled.

“And why’s that?” the Doctor asked.

Jack stepped forward, forcing himself not to wince as he clenched his fists and the skin stretched painfully across broken knuckles. “I could hurt you.”

The Doctor didn’t seem concerned nor was there any hesitation in his reply. “You won’t.”

Jack shook his head. Why couldn’t the Doctor see the danger he was in? Damn, foolish Time Lord. “Then what the hell was I just doing?”

Warm, brown eyes met Jack’s haunted gaze once more. “Pain management.”

Jack opened his mouth with a scathing remark ready, but the words died in his throat. He closed his eyes, his cheeks flushed with emotion, and for the first time in several days it wasn’t anger.

He prayed the Doctor wouldn’t come to him, wouldn’t offer comfort. His frayed mind and tattered heart couldn’t take it, not now.

“Next time you decide to have a go at that bag, do me a favor and wrap your hands.”

Jack nodded dumbly, his eyes remaining closed. He didn’t know what to say, didn’t have the energy or the mental capability to form a decent sentence. For the first time in several decades, Jack felt foolishly young.

He listened to the sound of trainers padding across the floor and several minutes later the sounds of TARDIS engine filled the Hub.

His breathing began to slow, and he forced his eyes open, his gaze drifting to the bag hanging in the middle of the room. Jack stepped towards the bag, his arm reaching out to shove the object aside.

He needed to shower.

He turned the water past hot; the searing heat soothed his aching muscles and stung the split skin on his hands. He rested his forehead against the glass as the water cascaded down his back. His legs trembled, his body finally succumbing to exhaustion that he’d been fighting for days, and he slid down the wall. Hugging his knees to his chest, he rested his head on a bent arm.

He watched the water run red, his thoughts jumbled beyond coherency as he tried to remember walking to the bathroom and getting undressed.

There were no words to describe what he was feeling; there was no way to quantify his grief.

Broken thoughts and blurry memories faded on the wings of slumber as the water continued to pour over his bruised body.


For the second time since he’d lost two of his beloved teammates, he woke up in his bed, his body tucked beneath the heavy duvet.

The skin on his hands itched. Pulling his hands from beneath the blanket, he saw several white strips closing the frayed skin on his knuckles.

Rolling to his side, Jack noticed a glass of water and several hand wraps sitting on the bedside table.

Strangely enough, Jack didn’t feel like punching anything today.



( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Deleted comment)
Jul. 15th, 2008 03:01 am (UTC)
Thanks for pointing that out. ;)

Killing you with comfort? My work here is done! :D You know I proudly call myself the resident sap. :P

Thanks for the kind review.
Jul. 15th, 2008 03:00 am (UTC)
*sigh* Oh, hon, the angst! But it was so well written.

“Do you want me to get down on my knees and beg? I hear you Time Lords get off on that sort of thing.”

I couldn't stop myself from grinning at that. It's terrible of me, I know, but still . . . ;)
Jul. 15th, 2008 03:03 am (UTC)
LOL Only you would laugh at that line. ;) I actually feeling rather proud of that!

Thanks for the kind review.
Jul. 15th, 2008 03:16 am (UTC)
Yay! You are back!

And whoa...the emotion. *comforts Jack*

*grabs some kleenex*

Wonderful chapter. I anxiously await more...I will try to be patient. LOL.
Jul. 15th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC)
*offers more tissues*

Yep, I'm returned home safe and sound. :)

I anxiously await more...I will try to be patient.

The good news is the next chapter is finished and at the beta shop. Stay tuned!
Jul. 15th, 2008 06:09 am (UTC)
Jack's grief is tangible. The angst. The angst.
(If the Doctor wasn't there for comfort, I'm not sure I could take it.)
The things you leave unsaid... makes them all the more powerful.
Amazing fic.
Jul. 15th, 2008 09:21 pm (UTC)
If the Doctor wasn't there for comfort, I'm not sure I could take it.

I know what you mean. :) I'm all for a good hurt/comfort story, but there has to be lots of comfort if there's going to be a lot of hurt.

Thank you for the kind review!
Jul. 15th, 2008 11:47 am (UTC)
*sighs* First time the comfort part hurts me as much as the hurt one... but I guess it's pretty normal since Jack definitely is not over his own hurt yet.

I love how the Doctor is always ready to take care of him, always there when he needs him the most, always willing to take anything Jack throws at him. I love that. I wish we had more of that in the show too...

Can't tell you how happy you made me when I saw you posted this! More soon? Please?

Jul. 15th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
Hey you!! *tackles*

I always smile when I see you pop up on my journal. :)

After watching the TW finale, I couldn't get over how much Jack had gone through. Naturally Gwen and Ianto were hurting terribly as well, but with Jack being the team leader, I knew he'd take it to heart. :( I'd be curled in a ball in the corner!

Thanks for the kind review and the wonderful support. I appreciate it more than I can put into words!
Jul. 15th, 2008 12:21 pm (UTC)
First of all, typo (sorry): Near the end: His rested his forehead against the glass as the water cascaded down his back. That would be a 'he' at the beginning, I believe.

Now, squee: See me doing a happy little "Your Doctor is so awesome, la la la!" dance. I already told you so, I think: I love him for being just there, and accepting Jack's anger without judgement.
I still want to kick Jack a little, but you describe his pain so believable the urge is fading.
Jul. 15th, 2008 01:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks for catching that. :) One mistake always seems to slip past me.

I already told you so, I think: I love him for being just there, and accepting Jack's anger without judgement.

If anyone understands the pain of losing someone you care about, it's going to be the Doctor. I'm glad Jack's not hurting alone.

Thanks for the kind review and all the wonderful encouragement along the way. It means the world to me!
Jul. 15th, 2008 12:58 pm (UTC)
That is wonderful! Well, not for Jack- but the writing is superb! I loved the "pain management" line, because Jack wants to be angry- he can deal with that, it's the pain he can't live with.

Thanks for another awesome update on this!
Jul. 15th, 2008 09:15 pm (UTC)
After watching the Torchwood finale, I couldn't imagine Jack jumping up and pretending that everything was okay. Frankly, I think he deserves some comfort and time to heal. :)

Thank you for the kind review!
Jul. 15th, 2008 05:42 pm (UTC)
Wow. Simply, wow. This is so wonderfully written! You've got some good writing chops! Very dramatic, very powerful. I adore it! Can't wait to see more1
Jul. 15th, 2008 09:16 pm (UTC)
I'm so happy you enjoyed the update. Although I'm not sure if enjoyed is the right word... lol Perhaps not for a fic like this. :D

Thank you very much for the lovely praise and kind review! :)
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 15th, 2008 09:17 pm (UTC)
do you mind if i friend you? i love all ur writng!

You can definitely friend me! :)

Thanks for the wonderful review. I'm so happy you took a chance on one of my stories.
Jul. 16th, 2008 01:42 am (UTC)
The skin on his hands itched. Pulling his hands from beneath the blanket, he saw several white strips closing the frayed skin on his knuckles.

Yay! I'm really glad you added that. Something about imagining the Doctor sitting there and bandaging Jack's hands while he sleeps... ::drifts off, daydreaming::

Wha? Sorry. Where was I?

Beautiful work, and I'm really happy to see all the positive reviews!
Jul. 16th, 2008 01:45 am (UTC)
That's an image that could keep me busy for hours. :P You know how my hurt/comfort lovin' mind works!

Thanks again for all your hard work! Also, the music you had previously given me is still fueling my muses!
(no subject) - hence_the_name - Jul. 16th, 2008 02:04 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nightrider101 - Jul. 17th, 2008 02:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hence_the_name - Jul. 17th, 2008 02:19 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 16th, 2008 07:22 pm (UTC)
I, unfortunatly, have a first hand experiance in losing loved ones... And this fic really does hit it with me. You have decribed the emotions so realistically (don't mind spelling)and the actions of Jack are just.... Ok can't think of the right word but you get my drift...?

Shorter version of comment: You're bloody brilliant :)
Jul. 17th, 2008 02:15 am (UTC)
First, I'm sorry for your loss. It might get easier, but you always miss the person.

I appreciate your kind words. I'm so glad this story seemed realistic to you. :)
Jul. 17th, 2008 02:30 am (UTC)
Ok, I have to ask--how often have you hung out at a gym, watching the people pound the bags? I love the image of Ten holding the bag and letting Jack move him backwards then standing his ground, as if to say I'm a rock, an anchor and here for you.

The first punch again, the Doctor accepts it, allows it, and then Jack doesn't connect again. The Doctor wants him to work out his aggressions while standing his ground.

And you killed me ---- 'I've died for you', 'yes you have.'

Oh, that is just -- you'll see.

You hit the angst and still managed that little touch of humour to keep things real. 'next time wrap your hands', so much can be read into those words..lovely lovely job.

And the shower scene, poignant and beautiful.

Once more in bed, tucked in and his hands taken care of, reminds me of the scene in TW when Jack was cleaning the hands, such powerful imagery!

Sending an email with the rest :)
Jul. 17th, 2008 03:10 am (UTC)
To answer your question, I actually had a sturdy 100 pound Everlast punching bag that hung in the garage during my teenage years. It got me through many tough times. :)

The first punch again, the Doctor accepts it, allows it, and then Jack doesn't connect again. The Doctor wants him to work out his aggressions while standing his ground.

The rational side of Jack definitely didn't want to hurt the Doctor, but by then Jack was definitely not rational. He needed to vent and push against something that wouldn't break.

Thank you so much for all the lovely praise. You're too good to me!

(no subject) - souleswanderer - Jul. 17th, 2008 03:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nightrider101 - Jul. 17th, 2008 03:21 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - souleswanderer - Jul. 17th, 2008 03:22 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 17th, 2008 08:59 am (UTC)
This is great. It hurts, yes, but the Doctor's there to try and help Jack.
Jul. 17th, 2008 09:33 pm (UTC)
Jack certainly needs the help right now. :)

Thanks for the review!
Jul. 21st, 2008 12:22 am (UTC)
Last but not least ^^

"...remaining almost perfectly still despite Jack’s best efforts."
Woah. The Doc is indeed a strong man, isn't he? *admires him*

Oi, I love it when jack asks the Doc to bring his friends back. Especially because Jack knows for sure that it just won't work and the Doc would never do such a thing. It's wrong. Plus He was a Time Agent and he knows about such things. Still he begs for it and it makes me sad to see him like this. But YAY for the Doc how he won't step back. He's wonderful!

“Do your worst,” the Doctor said, opening his arms in silent invitation
Oh honey! What a powerful line. No, what a powerful scene I mean. The Doctor standing there and offering himself to Jack. My fav so far!

"For the first time in several decades, Jack felt foolishly young."
Hm, actually it's always Jack who's so old and seems to be "wiser" in front of other humans. But being with the Time Lord... it means being almost a child again. And that's how he acted. Hopeless. Like a child! And the Doctor reminds him of being Jack again. Well... argh, hope you get what I mean. *sigh* Very sad but beautiful. How I like it. And the Doc... how sure he is not getting hit again by the Captain! I was worried Jack would get furious again but the Time Lord knew better than me.

And the end is lovely. Ten took care of Jack *aaawww* I'm happy to read you again and yeah! Can*t wait for the next chapter!

Jul. 21st, 2008 02:41 am (UTC)
You're certainly not least!

Still he begs for it and it makes me sad to see him like this. But YAY for the Doc how he won't step back. He's wonderful!

It was very hard to write Jack like that. At first I thought Jack would never ask the Doctor for such a thing, then I remembered what he did to Owen during season 2 of Torchwood. I can picture Jack asking the Doctor to bring them back even though the rational side of him knows it would never work and the Doctor would refuse anyway. If anything, by the Doctor refusing, it gave Jack an outlet for his rage.

And the end is lovely. Ten took care of Jack *aaawww* I'm happy to read you again and yeah! Can't wait for the next chapter!

Thank you so much! I'm normally a sucker for Ten being comforted, but it's been fun and a challenge to write the reverse. :)

I can't tell you how much I look forward to your feedback. :) It means so much to me.

(no subject) - petit_fox - Jul. 21st, 2008 09:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nightrider101 - Jul. 21st, 2008 10:40 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 5th, 2008 02:05 pm (UTC)
Oh your breaking my heart with this story but it is beautifully written and I can't stop!
*goes off to read the next chapter while sniffing*
Aug. 5th, 2008 04:46 pm (UTC)
*offers tissues*

Thanks for the review!
(no subject) - skullgirl013 - Aug. 5th, 2008 09:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
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