The work fills every waking moment of every day, for everyone but Jack that is. He shuffles off to the workers' barracks after the final meal of the day and collapses onto his bunk as exhausted as the next man.
But while the next man is asleep within a matter of minutes, Jack has the entire night ahead of him, staring at the ceiling trying to maintain the mental barriers that keep memory and grief at bay.
He can't not think of them: Tosh, Owen, Ianto... But he can twist the tales his mind tells itself in the dark hours before dawn each night.
New histories he makes out of the raw material of his past, histories that are lies but beautiful lies nonetheless.
These are the stories he tells himself.
Gray's hand never left his.
Jack held on tight, held on for dear life, and found shelter for them to ride out the attack. The brothers clutched each other in terror and Jack knew he was the only thing keeping both of them from a cruel fate.
He covered both of them with his sand colored smock, willing them to blend in with the environment and not be seen.
It took hours to find their mother and father afterwards in the rubble, poor little Gray in tears at the thought they might be dead or worse, captured.
So much of their little community lie in ruins, but everywhere people started coming out of hiding and embracing each other.
They found their parents searching for them near the school where the injured were being cared for.
Their reunion was filled with tears, but tears of joy and relief.
They were still a family.
Apparently nothing could tear them apart.
He'd never moved so fast in his long life, but somehow he got in front of Owen before the bullet reached him. It was as if he somehow knew what the gunman intended before he even raised his weapon.
The team wisely bundled him up, pretending to take him in for medical care as Owen pretended Jack wasn't dead for the onlookers. Once he recovered, the always pissy Owen thanked him with such quiet depth of gratitude it left the rest of his co-workers speechless.
He changed after that, Owen did. He wasn't as self-centered or cynical, much nicer to his teammates. It was as if after risking his life for years he finally saw a vision of his own mortality he couldn't shake. Though to Jack one more death didn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, Owen never forgot what Jack did for him.
When Owen saved Tosh the two of them grew closer, this new Owen finally open to her sweet affections. Torchwood employees didn't marry, but Tosh did blush a little when she admitted she was giving up her flat to move in with Owen.
Jack just kissed her cheek and gave his blessing, glad to see them finally both happy and no longer lonely.
Once Alice and Joe divorced it became their tradition to go away for Christmas each year.
They'd pick a new spot each time, so no one would question Jack's lack of aging, and Steven would get excited about exploring a new part of the world. It was one of the few expenses Jack allowed himself to splurge on, but Christmas in Vermont in the States or in the British Virgin Islands was a gift of memory he could give his daughter and grandson as well as himself.
Jack would always volunteer to take the pictures, mostly to make sure he stayed out of them, but also to make sure he had a record of their time together. He had Tosh digitize them and save them in several places so he might enjoy them for lifetimes to come with proper care. Having a child was a momentous occasion in his life; creating a bloodline one he never wanted to forget.
Steven - always a smart boy - came up with his own explanation of why Jack never aged: some sort of reverse progeria disease and Jack never fought it. When he grew older and went off to university they all knew that he understood Jack was different, but he also understood it was not to be talked about.
When he brought Jennifer home with a ring on her finger his final year of college Jack knew eventually he'd have to let someone else in on his secret, but if it meant great-grandchildren at Christmastime, it was worth it.
Captain John Hart wasn't the type to do anyone favors.
But then Jack was different.
When the aliens finally came to threaten the world publicly via the world's children, Jack knew it was Torchwood who had to save the day. He just needed to convince the world's leaders of that first.
He also knew there would be costs, there always were.
Gwen wouldn't leave, not with Rhys and her family so important to her, but there was one person he loved who Jack could save.
It felt wrong slipping something into Ianto's drink, but it left him pliant enough for John to take him away with him to a distant planet where he'd be brassed off but safe.
He'd likely never forgive Jack for not letting him stay and help. He'd even be peeved that Gwen got to stay and he didn't. But Jack loved Ianto too much to risk losing him. It was worth to cost of Ianto leaving him than the cost of losing him to a senseless death.
When the earth was safe, Jack would bring Ianto home, but for now he was out of danger.
When the day begins and it no longer adequately distracts the lingering thoughts of night, he knows its time to move on to some other planet where the newness and challenge can keep his mind busy a little while longer.
He'll take a new name for this next job, like he always does, and while he'll fight them, he'll also come up with new stories, new lies, that are more beautiful than the last and just as hard to escape.