Even in sleeplessness, the night whispers. It whispers ghosts and memory, mostly. He thought, perhaps, not nightmares. There were enough horrors in memory: he had no use for them any longer. No, the night was simply a phase of the sun and the earth, trapped in a dance that would pass away. He could not feel the earth move, but he knew it was spinning. The force that whirled around in his mind was not the same as the strange powers he knew others possessed. Captain Jack Harkness simply existed without reason or logic to it.
In a deep, winter-chilled breath of ocean air that trickled in from the outside, Jack reclined on the couch that underlined the tiled lettering that spelled out “Torchwood” on the white wall above. The water of the fountain trickled gently in a murmur that managed to only whisper beneath the hum of computers and cooling systems for the cold storage. It must have been about 11 PM because even the streets outside were dead. They would liven again somewhere near 1 or perhaps 2 in the morning as the clubs emptied. The dead world he watched through his rotated monitor on his desk one room away was softly lit by the streetlamps down Bute Crescent.
Though his body did not need sleep, a part of him longed for that gentle release. Even as he lay on the sofa, however, he knew he would never find it. Instead, he had adapted to resting, laying on his back, closing his eyes, and simply letting his body go idle for a while. His mind was still very alive and alert. He would even make phone calls like this sometimes. This time, like many times before, the night had other plans. Presently, the memories of a bright and promising London cityscape perturbed him. He could recall his scotch glass lit by the yellow glow from behind him, and the smell of his wool uniform. It always smelled like cleaner.
Her touch was soft; he always remembered how soft her fingers were. They weren’t worn by factory work or aged by riveters. Estelle’s hands were soft like silk. It was so easy to still feel her fingers trail across his face, down his cheek. His skin could never forget a touch.
The sensation of her small, slender fingers held like a feather to his larger, callused fingers as they danced was like it had just happened and her hand was only inches from his in the cold night air of the Hub. Everywhere they went, they could dance back then. There was always an event for the soldiers and their girls. So many beautiful young faces and so much death masked behind them. You could nearly taste it as the trumpets lit up the night. But it didn’t matter. Their feet would carry them off as the ration-fashion dresses spun delicately around the rough wool uniforms of men sent to die in a day, or if they were lucky a week.
She never knew. He could still feel the softness of her breath on his neck as she leaned in to kiss him with her nineteen year old lips, rouged and chilled with the night air on the balcony. Jack had stepped out into white-breath night to glance at London through a scotch-filled glass.
“I hear tell of a young lass who would like a dance with a mysterious American captain,” she spoke as she leaned her back against the stone railing of the balcony. With a last sip of his amber world, he glances up from his hunched shoulders to take in Estelle’s star-lit smile.
“Really?” he answers with a casual grin. “And who might this young lass be? Is she beautiful?”
“Come now, Jack,” she teased in return. “You are not so vain!”
All he could do was jokingly frown and shrug his shoulders as he stood up more to fill out his Royal Air Force officer’s uniform. “Tell me now, Estelle, does loving you make me vain?” He laughs more, but hides the death, so much like the others, behind his glistening blue gaze.
With a rich red grin, she leans in, giggling a bit, her eyes still twirling with all the printed colors of dresses and trim. “Jack Harkness — Captain — perhaps I, too, am vain then.”
In her pearl smile, he sees all the lies that he could tell in that instant. All the lies, in all the wide universe, and all of time, that he could say to push her away and not feel the need to remain, because it is so much easier to run. He could turn and run again, like he always did. War was his business, but it was a coward’s game. Yet, he ran only in a small smile and a sip of scotch.
Silently, Estelle’s brunette-framed features held the eyes that she so often stole, reading into them a drift of smoke and ash, but she simply let it hang at first.
Her lips once more haunted his chilled skin and another touch of silk in her fingers across his cheek.
“One of these days, perhaps, you can tell me what ghosts lie behind your eyes,” she mused as she kissed his lips this time.
In the darkness of a sleepless night, Captain Jack Harkness’ eyes slid open from another heart-wrenching memory. His heart was so wrenched that if it did not heal so, it would have long ago been wrung of all its life.
He ran from her. He ran from her silken touch to hide the ghosts. Love, too, is a coward’s game.