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Things Left Behind on Purpose

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Jack's familiar with silence. The silence of lying in bed in the middle of the night, darkness pressing in comfortably around him, where the only things that break it are the sound of someone's breathing, the sound of a heartbeat. Recently, that heartbeat has been doubled as often as not, and there's another sound too, the gentle background hum of the TARDIS.

There's the silence that falls right before a storm, or a battle, or a death, the hush as everything dies down and the world's just waiting for disaster.

There's the silence of being the only one left, when everyone he liked and loved and fought with and beside is dead, except for him, the danger's past and he's the only one around to pick up the pieces. Jack learned that one early on.

This silence is different from all of them, though it's got a little of the latter to it. This is the silence of a dead space station spinning miles above a sleeping, oblivious Earth. This is the silence of one heart beating in a place meant to contain thousands. This is the silence of loss, the silence that settles in the moment that a cyclic wheezing, groaning sound dies away, the moment the first home he's had since he was a child vanishes to another place, another time.

This is the silence of loneliness, when he'd always assumed the unspoken promise between the three of them, that they wouldn't ever be lonely again.

The silence of the game station is not one Jack is accustomed to, and one that seems like it might well tear the heart from his chest right then and there. He wants to sit down, right here, in one of the chairs dotting the control room, and wait. He came back once, he's bound to do it again...

But part of Jack knows better, and it's that part that makes him turn away, turn back to go down to the lower levels, because he has things to do before he makes a decision about where to go from here.

He gathers up the bodies. This, too, is familiar. Some of them, he remembers meeting, recognizes their faces, remembers names. Some are complete strangers, but he lays them out gently, sets their weapons at their sides, when they have them, murmurs apologies because the Doctor would have. And can't stop thinking about how he ought to be one of these bodies, and wondering how it is he's not.

And when they've all been laid out, absolutely peaceful in the eerie silence of a ship with all electronics powered down to the lowest level, and nothing outside but deep space, he takes the lift back up to the control room and sits down to wait.

He waits a day and a half, watching Earth turn below the Game Station, the pattern of sunlight and darkness slowly sliding across the surface of the planet.

Any minute now, he'll hear the whirring, groaning approach of the TARDIS. Any minute now, the room will be illuminated by a flashing blue light, a wind will rise up out of nowhere, ruffling his hair and scattering the few papers still lying around the room. The Doctor's going to step out and tell him to hurry up and get in, he hasn't got all day, and Jack's going to step into a room all green and gold and be tackled by Rose almost immediately. He'll kiss her, the Doctor will explain what the hell happened, and then they'll be off again, into anywhere in time and space they damn well please.

He waits. And waits. And they never do come.

Jack's been in 1869 for three months come Christmas. He can't get his wriststrap to manage even a basic teleport, much less a time hop, so he waits. Here in Cardiff, here on the space-time rift, here where the Doctor has to come, sooner or later. Jack feels a little sick, when he allows himself to wonder what happens if he never does find the Doctor, if he ends up growing old and dying here, three thousand years before he was born.

Dying out of his time was always a possibility, but not like this. He doesn't have a choice, though, so he waits. Jack's gotten very good at waiting, though he never was before.

Christmas Eve, there's an explosion at a morgue. By Christmas Day, there are stories of ghosts, rumors of how it happened, murmurs of three people walking out of the wreckage, and one was a man all in black, and one was a girl with blonde hair...

Jack knows he's too late, but he goes to the wreckage of the building anyway, pokes through the scorched wood and stone, tries to ignore the unpleasant ache in his chest. He doesn't even know what he's looking for, if he really wants some sign they were here, or if knowing he's been left behind again would only make it worse.

Jack shouldn't be here. He knows that, knows what his being here could do to the timeline, but just as long as he keeps his distance, just as long as he doesn't speak to her, she never notices he's here...

Rose is hard to miss even a decade younger than he knew her. Her hair's a different shade, light brown instead of dyed blonde, and her brown eyes seem bigger in her small face, but the attitude is all Rose. He watches her with Mickey on the playground, some complex game of pretend that's got the two of them scrambling up and over and under and around the playground equipment, and Mickey's shouting about aliens or monsters every now and then, and Jack can't help but chuckle.

Just like old times, except the old times haven't happened yet. Not in this timeline.

As he watches, Rose falls, scrapes her shin bloody, and Jack checks his automatic reaction to start forward, toward her. Not Rose. Not his Rose anyway, not yet.

"Are you alright?" He's reaching for her arm, and she pulls it away with a soft laugh.

"I just fell, that's all. I'm fine."

He raises an eyebrow, gives her a dubious look. "You're bleeding."

"Yeah, it happens sometimes. Don't worry about it."

"I'm just saying, you get hurt, the Doctor tends to blame me."

Rose smirks up at him, like she's trying to hold back a laugh. "I'll protect you, how's that?" And before he can answer, or protest further, she's kissing him, and suddenly argument seems a lot less important.

Jack turns away with a sweep of his greatcoat, walks away and doesn't look back.

Not everyone at Canary Wharf died. Enough members of Torchwood One survived to do at least some cleanup, to destroy the remaining Cybermen, to compile lists of the dead.

Yvonne Hartman is at the top of the list, and no surprise there. Jack feels a pang of regret - he hadn't always agreed with the woman, but he'd liked her, in an odd, conflicted sort of way.

A few more names he recognizes, from his occasional visits to Torchwood London. Researchers, secretaries, people he'd flirted with or who'd taken an irrational dislike to him or...

There are two names at the bottom of the list that take him by surprise.


His heart jolts, and then stops, for just a second. For just a second, it feels like he's bleeding to death from a sudden gunshot wound - here's the dizziness and here's the dark, and when he comes back to himself it's with a shuddering gasp that's half a revival and half something else entirely, grief held back for more than a century, anger and disbelief and a hundred other things he can't put a name to.

He could try to tell himself she has to be alive, there has to be some reason for it that's not Rose is dead... but that's just the same as telling himself he has to come back, and Jack knows where that line of thought leads, waiting too long for something that's not going to come.