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.
Jack leaned against the metal railing, his eyes fixed on the churning sea below. The lulling waves matched the color of the gray sky as the setting sun fell behind the horizon. Gwen and Ianto had returned to work yesterday, and thankfully it had been quiet. There had been little interaction save a few awkward hugs and inane questions about paperwork. They all seemed to be going through the motions and attempting to find their way without their two colleagues.
Jack had figured the Doctor would’ve returned the night after their shared meal, but leave it to his friend to keep him guessing. Jack knew he couldn’t be mad at him, couldn’t blame him for not returning so soon. It wasn’t like the Doctor owed him anything, and to be perfectly honest, Jack knew he hadn’t exactly been good company during the Doctor’s last few visits.
After several weeks of feeling like he was barely hanging on to an emotional rollercoaster, Jack found himself drained and left feeling numb. He knew a barrage of emotions were simmering beneath the surface, but energy and the ability to express them evaded him.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw folded hands hanging over the railing that led to arms covered in a familiar brown coat. Jack had wanted to see the Doctor, needed his soothing presence, but now that he was here, Jack had nothing to say. They stood in silence for several moments.
“Huh?” Jack asked, glancing upwards and wincing when several large droplets landed close to his eyes.
“The product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapor.” The Doctor stepped away from the railing and held his hand out, watching as several droplets splashed on his palm. “Also known as rain.”
“Obviously,” the Doctor replied, grabbing Jack’s hand and pulling him along. Jack thought it would be weird to hold the Doctor’s hand, but the gesture was strangely comforting. If anything, it prompted his feet to move when his mind refused to cooperate.
Jack didn’t register that the Doctor somehow knew about the secret entrance to the Hub. He didn’t feel the Doctor pulling him out of his soaking wet coat nor did he feel the warm towel being wrapped around his body in attempt to sop up the excess water.
The Doctor pushed Jack into a chair and returned minutes later with a steaming cup of coffee. Jack hadn’t moved.
“Drink that,” the Doctor instructed, wrapping Jack’s hand around the handle of the mug.
Jack stared at the cup for several seconds before sipping the hot liquid. “Ianto’s coffee is better,” he mumbled without thinking.
“Maybe you should tell him that,” the Doctor replied, leaning against the desk and crossing his legs at his ankles.
Jack found himself suddenly defensive. “Ianto does more than just make coffee.”
“I’m sure he does. Perhaps you can tell him that too.”
Jack wanted to glare at the Doctor, but he couldn’t muster up the energy even for that. Slumping lower in his chair, Jack’s gaze drifted to the floor. “You’re trying to make a point, aren’t you?”
The Doctor picked up a random piece of alien technology that had been discarded on the table in the “no idea what this is” pile. “What do you think?”
“I think it’s a little late for a therapy session.”
The Doctor pulled his screwdriver from his coat and started dismantling the black oblong shaped instrument he’d picked up. Whatever it was, it obviously wasn’t something he thought Torchwood needed. “Is it also too late to tell your team what they mean to you?” he asked without lifting his eyes from his work.
Jack’s eyes narrowed and in the same moment he knew why the Doctor wasn’t looking at him. There were some things the Doctor wouldn’t discuss, gray areas about human emotions he always avoided, but Jack wasn’t in the mindset to appreciate the Doctor’s honesty or willingness to talk. The wounds were still fresh. Jack’s semblance of control was waning and his pain was barely concealed.
Jack wrapped his arms tighter around his damp sides, his jaw muscles tensing. “In case you’ve forgotten, half my team is dead.”
“Half your team is still alive.”
Jack sighed, somehow finding a way to sink lower in the chair. “I’m a bad leader. I get that, Doctor. Any other pearls of wisdom you’d like to share to me?”
The Doctor wiped the metal bracket he’d removed on his coat and reattached it to the other end of the object. “You’re not a bad leader. Even I’ve followed your plans before. You know that doesn’t happen every day.”
“But…” Jack let the word hang in the air.
“You’re better than me, remember?” The Doctor’s hands gripped the metal tighter than necessary, his knuckles turning white as the blood drained away. “Don’t make the same mistakes I have. If you wait –“
The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck, his eyes staring at the forgotten object in his hand.
“If I wait I’ll end up as a holographic image on a beach in Norway?” Jack asked, knowing his response was cruel. He wondered how far the Doctor would take this.
“A beach in Norway, an alley in Cardiff, one of a hundred funerals that never should have happened –“
Jack swallowed with some difficulty. “Doctor, I –“
The Time Lord lifted his hand. “You have a long life ahead of you, Jack. I don’t want you to spend it regretting what you should have done, what you should have said.”
There was something in the Doctor’s voice that forced Jack to hang on every word. “Even if I screwed up?”
The Doctor sighed, dropping the piece of alien technology on the table and running his hand through his hair. “You’re going to make mistakes, Jack.”
Jack dropped his face his hands, his fingers pressing against his eyes. “I miss them,” he whispered.
The Doctor’s reply was soft and spoken from lips that understood what it meant to lose so many people he loved. “I know.”
Jack’s chest ached from the gnawing sensation of loss. He leaned back in his chair. “So what happens now?”
“Now you try to get some proper rest.”
Jack wondered if the Doctor thought he had come up with an original idea. Despite how badly Jack’s weary body craved a few hours of precious sleep, the idea of being left alone with his thoughts was enough to make barely suppressed tears burn the backs of his bloodshot eyes.
The Doctor stepped forward, stretched out his arm and wiggled his fingers in a silent invitation. Jack realized he wouldn’t be going unaccompanied. He wouldn’t have to face this alone.
After climbing down the ladder, Jack stood awkwardly in the corner of his modest room. The Doctor waited until Jack met his gaze then started removing his coat in short, deliberate movements. Jack felt a cool hand on his shoulder and was steered until he was seated on the bed. He watched his shoes being tugged off with detached interest. He felt as if he was somewhere else, someone else, when he was pushed against the pillows.
The Doctor didn’t speak when he stretched out beside Jack after toeing off his trainers.
Minutes ticked by and Jack tried to think of something to say. He’d already told the Doctor about his long lost partner from the Time Agency, about the heroic deaths of Tosh and Owen, about Grey and his plot for revenge. Was there anything left to say? Anything left to do that he hadn’t already done?
Jack felt a cool hand on his arm, pulling him towards the Doctor. Another hand slid underneath his head and soon his cheek was resting on the Doctor’s chest. He felt dampness beneath his cheek; the Doctor’s shirt absorbing tears that he didn’t realize were falling, as a steady hand massaged the back of his neck.
A broken sob escaped parched lips, and Jack wrapped his fingers around the Doctor’s shoulder. The constant pressure remained on his neck, a second arm wrapping around his waist.
Anchored to this moment by the steady beating of two hearts, there were no expectations and no one he had to protect. There was nothing left to say, and now, in this stolen moment of peace, Jack could finally allow himself to grieve.