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A Hand in a Jar

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Jack doesn't dance anymore. He lost the will to. He's pretty sure he also lost his sense of rhythm somewhere along the way. Oh well. Between the choice of immortality and the ability to dance...dancing wins out every time.

*

The only thing Jack has of any value, sentimental or otherwise, is a hand in jar. He traded it for some knickknack or other with Jennifer from Research at Torchwood 1. She had no idea what she had.

Really, the hand was a steal.

*

Jack likes his team. He likes Gwen Cooper. He likes Toshiko and Owen. (He liked Suzie, too, but this is what compartmentalization is for.) And he really likes Ianto, but he doubts he'll do anything about it.

Sometimes, he really does hate being the man in charge.

*

When the jar breaks, Jack holds his breath. He's certain whatever there is still left of himself might die with the hand. And when he touches it, cradles this sacred idol of his, the last bit of magic and past he still has, it feels almost like another part of him dies, but this one doesn't regenerate.

It's just a hand. Just a dead hand. There is little magic in that.

Until he feels the fingers twitch, respond to his touch, like a thing that's still alive. He sees it, a second later, as he blinks back what can't be tears. It's a little too much to deal with, right then and there, and he's grateful when someone finally runs in with a new jar. He eases the hand into it, gently, ever so gently, like a surgeon reattaching a limb.

It moves, grasping blindly, for a few seconds after Jack releases it, like it's trying to hold on to something.

*

Jack remembers dying and he remembers coming back, that very first breath he took again. He remembers the TARDIS leaving without him. He remembers, though he wishes he didn't, what happened after, before he got to the year 2005.

He doesn't remember what happened during two years of his life as a Time Agent or what happened between the time he died and came back the first time, or any time after.

Counting Suzie and his first death and everything in between, he's died nine times.

*

Jack stopped dreaming, stopped sleeping altogether, after he couldn't dream about anything but blankness, the memory of dying and the nothing after. He doesn't even dream about Rose, about the Doctor, about things that he could have changed. He doesn't even dream about his childhood anymore.

He tried, after he read about Rose's death, hoping to arise something like memory, something like feeling, or even tears. It didn't work.

That was when he stopped trying.

*

Jack watches the hand in a jar and imagines, remembers, those fingers (or, actually, another's) touching his, their hands intertwined. The hand is another Doctor's, it didn't feel quite the same. It wasn't anywhere near the same. His Doctor's fingers were longer, his Doctor's skin not as soft. Jack can't tell if the fingerprints are the same, not just by looking.

He can't feel it, either, the difference, when he takes the hand out of its jar and touches it, fingertip to fingertip.

"Jack," Owen warns him, "the possibility of deterioration after already being exposed to..." Jack silences him with a glare that has Owen fleeing to his office, and holds the hand in his own hands. It should be heavier, he thinks. A discarded part of a man.

Finished, used up, broken and thrown away.

Such a thing should be heavier.

*

Later, Jack will have a talk with Owen about proper procedure and what disobeying his orders means. It's a long postponed discussion he should have had with the boy (he always thinks of him as the boy or Owen, never as a doctor) after Suzie, after he found out about Owen's nightly activities with the pheromone spray, after the mess with Ed Morgan. Owen won't enjoy it much, but neither will Jack.

Later yet, he will read through every thing he can find on Gwen Cooper and her ancestry, something that would account for the ripple he felt when she kissed him. Time leaves its fingerprints on everyone it touches. It's faint, not even a ghost of a shadow, but something about Gwen Cooper tastes/smells/feels like time and mystery and the Doctor, and he will find out what that is.

Later still, he will watch the hand in a jar and try to remember how to dance.

~fin