Jack Harkness was reminded of the children's book he had seen in Gwen's apartment. "Alexander and The No Good, Terrible, Very Bad Day". Or something like that. What-fucking-ever.
He stared down into his glass – foam stared back. Bottom-of-the-glass kind of foam. Bottom-of-the-glass-number… four? Five? Who the hell cared? It's not like he could die of alcohol poisoning or anything.
The drunk Adipose wandered by again, in its perpetual circle of the bar top, and Jack just barely resisted the urge to swat the little fat ball to the sticky floor. It was really annoying, but it was also just a baby. No point it taking out his bad mood on children…
Jack bit hard on the inside of his cheek to prevent the sob that was pressing against the back of his larynx from escaping.
Children – grandchildren, daughters, sons…even Ianto. Twenty-seven. A fucking child.
Jack made the intergalactic signal for another drink, and then sighed heavily and forced himself to look up. He'd come to this bar for a distraction, dammit, and he was going to find one, no matter what.
He let his eyes rove, felt the flirtatious smile try to pull at the corner of his lips, but it… well, frankly, it hurt. He let it slide away, feeling his libido curl inside of him and tuck its head between its knees in the recovery position for the first time since… well, since the Vietnam War, he guessed. Instead he just looked, just let the wash of people and noise and hullaballo wash over him.
And that's when he saw them. Four humans – or humanish – standing in the middle of the bar clutching glasses of something bright green and looking very, very uncomfortable. He assessed them immediately – khaki pants, tactical vests, and hair styles that screamed Earth. Only Earthers weren't have supposed to been able to get this far away from the Milky Way Galaxy just at this point in time.
Jack felt himself standing before he even realized he had. Two hundred years with Torchwood had ingrained the habit to try to save the world, save the humans, save fucking everything, so here he was like a good little employee and getting ready to go over, to smile charmingly and soothe and explain and then lie and cover up and … and why?
Why should he help? Because it was the right thing to do? Because it would make him a good person?
He was not a good person. He knew it. The Doctor knew it.
Everyone except Ianto fucking Jones had known it.
His own daughter had kept him away from his grandson. For good reason.
Jack Harkness did what had to be done to keep humanity going, and fuck the individual humans. Jack lied and stole and cheat, he killed if he had to, he fought. He wore the name and identity of a dead man, and lied to those who were supposed to trust him most. But he wanted… how he wanted to be so much more. How he ached to be better, to be good, to be like the Doctor, to be… bigger on the inside.
Only everything he seemed to touch turned to shit, and no good deed he ever did seemed to go unpunished, so Jack Harkness forced his ass back into his seat and waited for the waitress to weave her way through the crowd with his beer.
Gray. Owen. Susie. Tosh. The original Jack Harkness (shot out of the sky in a training exercise after being outed for a fag by the man who would one day steal his name, and that was an accident Jack's fine Boeshanie ass). Rose. The Doctor.
Fuck, he didn't blame The Doctor for running far and fast every time he saw Jack coming. Jack was not Good News.
Which meant, of course, that the sandy-haired human with the shrewd eyes immediately made his way over to Jack around the varied denizens of the bar.
"Little lost?" Jack offered, because even though he was bad for everyone and everything, he still couldn't suppress his ingrained automatic desire to help.
"Oh, we know exactly where we are, Captain Harkness," the man said, setting his drink down on Jack's table and adding what appeared to be his female companion's drink down in front of Jack. "The question I want answered is why Torchwood is in the Pegasus Galaxy?"
Jack accepted the drink and blinked blearily at the man across from him. "You know who I am?"
The man grinned fit to split his face wide open and reached out a hand. "Doctor Rodney McKay, Stargate Programme." He pointed to the patch on his shoulder that sported a stylized Pegasus horse.
Jack's eyes flew wide and he felt his whole chest twist up tight. Jack did not have hero worship for many people – The Doctor, Martha, Casanova – but holy fucking hell in a hand basket he was talking to Doctor Meredith Rodney McKay from the goddamn Atlantis Expedition.
Jack had lain in bed reading stories from the mission reports when he'd been a kid on the Boshane Peninsula. He'd dreamed of sitting on the Control Chair with John Sheppard and piloting the city through a field of stars. He'd fought Wraith alongside Runner Dex. He'd taken tea with Teyla Emmagen and watched her son grow into the next military leader of the city. He'd imagined creating brilliant devices that did cool things with McKay. He'd passed hot, bright afternoons playing Darts and Jumpers with his brother out in the shallows of the bay.
And now McKay was standing beside him in a bar, offering him a drink and knew who he was.
Jack felt his voice dry up in his throat and realized that he was grinning like a fucking lunatic. And he couldn't seem to be able to stop.
McKay's face faltered a bit, his own smug smile sliding downwards and sort of leftish. Jack would have found that sexy on anyone else, but McKay was one of his childhood heroes and thinking of him like that seemed… vaguely wrong.
"Ianto didn't tell you about me?"
And just like that, Jack's good mood was gone. Ianto's name was like a fist to the gut, and Jack had to suck in hard to keep from retching all over the table top. He managed to shake his head, side to side, just once. He felt his cheeks go cold and he could tell but the reflecting ashen look on McKay's face that he had interpreted the gesture correctly.
"Fuck," McKay said softly. "I'm… that's shitty. I'm sorry."
And he laid his hand over Jack's and Jack's childhood hero was comforting him and just like that, all the sorrow, all the tears, all the grief that he had been bottling up, suppressing, hiding under the rage and the self hatred and the condemnation welled up and pooled behind his eyes and slipped past his lashes.
McKay patted his hand once and shifted, looking suddenly awkward. A dark shadow came up to his shoulder, and then John Sheppard – and shit, he was crying in front of John Sheppard - was pulling McKay away, and expressing his condolences.
"Here," McKay said, and reached into his tac vest pocket and pulled out something small and white and worn. He handed it to Jack.
It said Ianto Jones, Dorchwort Fine Antiques; Cardiff, Wales. Ianto's cellular number was scrawled in green pen on the back. In Ianto' regular, precise and looping handwriting. Jack ran the tip of his thumbnail over the curve of the 6, swallowing hard.
And when he looked up again, just like that, they were gone. Away from the bar, off of the planet, out of Jack's life. Gone.
The waitress came over with his new beer, said nothing about his tears or the way he was gripping the business card like a lifeline, left the drink on the table next to the two neon slime coloured ones McKay had abandoned, and walked away.
And that was that.
Even Jack's heroes had left him.
What a fucking life he had. Carefully, he placed the business card into his own breast pocket, and sat staring at the beer as it slowly went warm. Even more people that Jack Harkness had disappointed. People that Jack had looked up to, people who were… bigger on the inside.
In a sudden rush of shame, Jack poured the beer down his own throat.
He could do better. He would do better.
Yes. He decided.
That was it; Jack just had to be more selfless, more addicted to pleasing than pleasure. Jack could be… he could be everything that the Doctor saw inside of him, everything that he had hoped to be while growing up, imagining his place in the halls of Atlantis, when he had endowed himself with the virtues of the long dead Atlantian heroes.
Jack could become someone else, take a new name, one he had earned, one he deserved, and start all over again. Do it right this time. There would be mistakes, there would always be mistakes, even the great McKay had pulled a Doranda, (had coined the phrase 'pulling a Doranda'), but this time Jack would learn from them.
And that was when the waiter slipped him the note. He opened it eagerly, hoping it was from McKay.
Jack felt his heart swoop in his chest – and really, he was going to have a heart attack if this happened any more this night – when he recognized the Doctor's loopy, still somewhat Gallifreyian handwriting.
His name is Alonzo, the note said. And then there was a tired looking man with slumped shoulders and ridiculous ears pouring himself into the stool that McKay had just recently abandoned. With a quick glance up, and a solemn promise to the Time Lord who held his gaze - I can do better, just watch me - Jack smiled, and pushed one of the slime green drinks over to the exhausted young man.
"Hi Alonzo," he said, grinning.
"How did you know my name?" Alonzo asked, startled.
"I'm slightly psychic," Jack lied with a grin and a wink. " People call me... the Face of Boe."
"Oh they do, do they? Humble, aren't you?" Alonzo said, and toasted Jack with the drink.