Work Header

The Hearse.

Work Text:

Jack always found himself here, buried, either by memories or literally, in this case both, the ground suffocating him, surrounding him on all sides, crushing down his ribs.
It seemed that when the Aliens “buried him alive” they didn’t seem to realize how true that statement was.

Jack choked, the dirt filling his mouth, clogging his nose and stinging his eyes, he tried desperately to move his arms, to clear an airway, a little pocket, anything, but it was to no avail and his head got fuzzy, hands slowing like his heart, until they stopped completely.

~I am the man we both couldn't stand~

It took hours of dying and coming back before he managed to stick a hand out of dirt, pulling himself up, gasping and coughing the dirt from his lungs, eyes red, tears mixed with soil leaving dark trails smudged across his cheeks.

The Aliens had looked terrified, obviously not expecting the living corpse.

Jack didn’t bother with the pleasantries, he hadn’t in a long time, since before the Doctor, really, just pulled out his gun, firing before they could get over their shock and react, their brains splattering on the grass and across the makeshift camp they had built, canvas dripping with red rain and bone shards.

Jack didn’t feel guilty, he’d been tailing them for long enough to know they were only up to trouble, mainly the genocide of the human race, so yea, not feeling guilty.

The walk home was depressing, covered in dirt and blood, clothes wet and cold from the earth, head hammering with an after death headache.

The worst part was that there wasn’t a single voicemail on his phone, not a missed text or anything, no one knew where he’d been and no one cared, not anymore, he’d managed to drive them all away.

Or maybe it was that he outlived all of them, that he’d killed and watched people be killed, dying himself over and over until he was forcibly brought back.

~I can't wash off the dirt from my hands~

Home was not really home, it was Torchwood, cold since everyone had left for the day, since they’d realized their boss wasn’t coming home tonight and decided it was their lucky day, they got off early, they might have even gone to a bar for a couple drinks.

Jack stumbled in, going to the medical rooms at the back, throwing his clothes off and dragging himself into the shower.

The dirt filled the bottom of the shower, water pushing into his mouth, hoping to get rid of the gritty wet taste that always seemed to stay for days after, finding a worm in his hair he couldn’t really stop the frustrated tears.

Being buried alive, fucking, sucks.

There was no one there, so he sobbed alone, clawing at his mouth, desperately trying to get the dirt from his mouth.

It didn’t work, just made his gums bleed, copper briefly overpowering the geosmin taste.

Jack dried himself off, fabric catching on scars and scratching against overly sensitive regenerated skin, clothes were just as bad, but he’d rather not have someone walk in on him asleep naked at the desk… again.

Walking around the facility just made it seem even emptier, the machines whirring lightly, still on, the rooms bathed in blue light.

Jack sat down, the world settling around him, it was so big and cold, concrete and brick, chairs just waiting for people who weren’t here.

~What was it like to feel in love?~

Jack hadn’t always been wrong, hadn’t always been so alone, there was a time, when a man in a leather jacket had danced with him, a blonde laughing to the side, a time for happiness and hope.

Maybe he was what ruined it, what killed them.

It could have been the kiss, but he knew it wasn’t, Rose had brought him back to life, had made him wrong because she loved him, Jack could never seem to find it in himself to be mad at her, not when she’d made him so happy.

~What was it like to feel in love?~

The Doctor, god, he was amazing, he was beautiful and kind and terrifying, everything Jack believed couldn’t exist in harmony and yet it did, so wonderfully mixed in that Doctor-y way of his, so true to himself and his mission, willing to die to save the world, to save one human even.

When Jack first met the Doctor, he was flirting with Rose in his spaceship, confused by the strange man who had appeared, refusing to admit what sonic device he had, embarrassed by the fact that it was a screwdriver.

Jack thought it was ingenious, screwdrivers were made to fix things.

All he ever seemed to do was break, his sonic broke things, always did, because that was how it was made, just like Jack.

~I can't scrub off the black from my lungs~

The sobs started again, wracking through his body as he slumped in the chair, cold, too cold limbs pulling close, still beating heart pumping frantically.

There was no one anymore, no one who could stay, no one who would.

~I can't wipe off the taste from my tongue~

It felt like he couldn’t breath, suffocating without the need of dirt and tight spaces, no, it was the open air that did it to Jack, the lack of anything, of warmth and care.

Jack couldn’t sit, couldn’t because if he did he’d end up in the ground again.

Running didn’t really help, but once he started he couldn’t seem to stop, first around the office then up, through the streets of cardiff, his muscles burning and pain flaring up his sides, telling him he needed to stop, he was driving himself into exhaustion.

As Jack made it to the top of a staircase the world went fuzzy, his head feeling light, then everything went black.

He woke up a couple minutes later, shirt soaked in blood from where he’d cracked his head open on the way down the stairs.

~What was it like to feel in love?~

Once again, Jack made the trek back to Torchwood, muscles sore, head positively pounding, the fluttery panic still there, but no longer saying to run.

No, it was saying he’d gone too far, it was saying that morning would still be a few hours and he had to be presentable when his coworkers came in, that they couldn’t see this, couldn’t see the dead bags under his eyes, the tired gait that spoke of no sleep.

~What was it like to feel in love?~

The coffee was bitter and burned on its way down his throat, Ianto always made the best coffee, Jack just couldn’t seem to get the ratios right.

The jacket was waiting, that wonderful, magical coat, always kept at the perfect body temperature he couldn’t seem to get after coming back, settling nicely on his shoulders, weighing him down but in the best way possible.

It held so many memories, good and bad, but in the end, it was his, no ones else's, it was infused with the very essence of Jack Harkness, the only thing that could tether him.

~I can't scrub off the black from my lungs!~

The coat helped, but it didn’t fix the panic, only settled it into a mild panic, the kind that always seemed to hover above Jack.

He was wrong, the Doctor had told him that and he felt it.

It was deep in every pore of his being, a tingling wrongness that seeped out around him, staining anything he touched with it, ruining it.

~I can't wipe off the taste from my tongue!~

Jack had lived for centuries, for millennia, seeing everyone he loved disappearing right in front of his eyes, aging, dying from disease or gunfire, it was an eternal punishment, for being who he was, for being wrong.

Losing Rose had been hard, seeing the sign at Canary wharf hurt every fiber of his being, but then, the Doctor gave him hope, said that she was still alive just trapped in an alternate universe.

It didn’t hit Jack until he was back in his own timeline what that meant.

The Doctor would have rescued her if it was possible, would have returned her and made sure she wasn’t labeled dead.

That meant that Rose wasn’t coming back.

Jack got drunk, staying away for days on end, only coming back to Torchwood when he was really needed, they didn’t understand, he’d been so happy at first, telling them all about the Doctor and Rose, but then he just stopped talking.

Martha was nice though, after The Year That Never Was she showed up one day, started working for Unit.

Jack decided not to ask, but he stopped drinking, there was a Companion that needed him, he wouldn’t abandon her, he would make sure she would be okay.

Life still sucked most of the time, but now he had someone who knew what the Doctor was like.

~What was it like to feel in love?~

~What was it like to feel in love?~

The Torchwood team liked Martha, they liked her boyfriend Mickey too, offered to have them over more, hoped it would help their Captain.

Dying around Mickey had been funny, his immediate sadness then terror when the body reanimated, the shrill scream making even the most serious person laugh.

The headache from that death lasted for hours, but Martha was there, checking over his vitals and giving him fluids, telling his team what to do to help, warm water bottles, tea, blankets, if necessary a hot bath and exercise to get his muscles moving.

There was no one here tonight, so he didn’t do any of that, just curled closer to himself, staring at the wall blankly.

~I will never go backwards~

The chair spun as Jack kicked his feet against the deck, his brain stuck on one point, his friends were going to be here and he couldn’t look like this when they did, he had to be composed.

~I will never be free~

Light scattered everywhere as the sun came up, bathing the world in that ethereal blue light, birds starting to chirp.

~I will never run faster~

Jack’s heart hammered, eyes feeling dry, nose running, he missed Martha, he hadn’t seen her in so long, so, so long.

~Will you sink down to me?~

They’d gotten married, Martha and Mickey, helped save the world, one person at a time, there was a time when they were trying to save Jack, he thinks they gave up, too broken to fix, so they moved on.

~I will never go backwards~

Or did they? Jack couldn’t quite remember, not with his brain so fogged up, the death headache making it hard to think about anything except what was here and now.

~I will never be seen~

It could have been centuries before Jack moved, standing up, turning the computer on, preparing for the day ahead.

~In the wake of disaster, will you sink down at me?~

Jack made another cup of disappointing coffee, wishing Ianto stayed the night, wishing he’d come looking for him, because he really did miss him right now.

He missed a lot of people, some of which he’d only met once or twice, people he knew while he was a time agent, never to see again, he even missed the people he couldn’t remember, the ones from his two missing years, little things sticking out that made no sense.

Jack had a fondness for cinnamon he couldn’t remember having before then, or his dislike of cacti, all things from those two years that he couldn’t remember.

It almost made him laugh, except then he’d see a tulip and start crying, not knowing why.

~I am the house that's built upon sand~

There were other companions that he’d found over the years, some in the midst of their journey with the Doctors, others at the end of it.

Jack met the Ponds briefly, they said that the Doctor stopped in to check on them every once in a while, talked, left messages.

It felt like a knife to the gut, knowing he came back for others, but not for him.

Donna Noble, what a woman, she was plucky and loud, moral and hilarious, Jack felt like he knew her in an instant, despite only having met her once before.

She couldn’t remember though and Jack had felt himself go cold.

After talking with Donna he found out about her grandfather, Wilf, who was always talking about the stars and “some daft telephone box”.

Jack found that Wilf did know, he wasn’t a companion, but he knew the Doctor, knew what happened that made Donna lose her memories, that he couldn’t be around her too much in case he jogged her memory.

It broke his heart.

~I am the thought that you couldn’t plan~

So he looked out for them, like he did with Martha, checking in, sending flowers on birthdays.

Wilf was old and Jack knew what that meant, he only had a short time to spend with him, so he spent as much as he could spare, taking chips with him on the weekends, telling him all the tales of wonder he could remember, wanting to make him as happy as he could.

Jack was old, older than Wilf in truth, probably older than anyone else on earth and maybe one day he’d outlive the earth itself, but for now he was content to sit here, with a young old dying man, recounting his life in a happeier light then he ever thought about it in.

Wilf was never late, often bringing sandwiches for Jack to eat later on, claiming that he ran around all day and would need a snack now and then.

It was a surprisingly sweet gesture.

~What was it like to feel in love?~

~What was it like to feel in love?~

Jack found Sarah Jane, her son too, he would laugh along with her stories, once again sharing his.

She missed the Doctor, sure she had adventures of her own now, but still, she had loved him and it hurt and Jack felt it too.

The Doctor had a way of making you fall in love with him without even realizing, something about who he was just made it so easy, how brave and selfless his acts were, but then, the day would come when it was time to go, he’d leave, eyes sad, because he didn’t want to leave, but he always did, no one ever stuck around.

It made Jack think about something someone had told him once “The only true companion the Doctor has is death.”

He thought that was terribly sad and somewhat cruel thing to say, but at the same time, it held a bit of truth.

~I'm the escape to something that's worse~

The Doctor had left him, worse, he’d avoided him when Jack had tried to find him, when he needed him, because of something Jack couldn’t control, because of who he was made to be, he just wanted to know, to know if Rose was alive, if the Doctor would be okay.

But he ran, every time Jack got close, he ran.

That had been cruel and Jack thinks the Doctor knows that, could see it in his eyes when they were in Utopia.

But that didn’t stop him from leaving.

It didn’t stop anyone from leaving, no matter how he pleaded, how much he wished that they wouldn’t leave, how much he cried once they left.

They still, always, left.

~I am the shadow driving the hearse~

It wasn’t until partway through the day he really remembered.

The death headache got lighter, the painful brain spasms slowing enough he could process his memories and see what was around him.

He could see the dust on the chairs, the vacant monitors and blank spaces were personal items were once kept.

No one was coming.

It was 80 years slamming into him all at once.

Jack didn’t make a sound, didn’t move, just, stood, because he knew why no one had messaged, why no one was here.

They were all gone and he couldn’t get them back.

Jack could see it, memories pulsing behind his eyelids, showing aliens and cars, hospital beds and fights, it was all encompassing, coating his mind, pain trailing from memory to memory as he stared.

There was no one here because they’d all died.

They were all human and Jack was the cursed one among them, the one punished with survival, with loneliness and constant death on all sides.

~What was it like to feel in love?~

~What was it like to feel in love?~

It hurt, it hurt so much and Jack found himself gasping, found the pain of seeing his friends die again smothering, his ribs protesting, like his lungs were planning to burst out of his chest, like he was imploding.

Yet it was still so silent.

Like any noise he made would be swallowed up, anything he did would only be a drop in the ocean and he was lost in it, unable to float anymore.
He didn’t feel the bullet go through his brain, but he could feel his finger pull the trigger.

~I'm the escape to something that's worse!~

When Jack woke up, he screamed, he could feel the bullet pushing out of his head, feel the wound close up, the pain rocketing through him, burning and tensing his whole body.
But he wasn’t foggy this time, no, he didn’t get that mercy.

The pain came with memories.

The floor was too cold and Jack knew he should get up, knew he’d get hypothermia if he kept like this for too long, but he didn’t get up.

~I am the shadow driving the hearse!~

Wilf had gone within a year, a smile on his face as he breathed his last, Jack stood at the back of the funeral.

No one knew him here, not really, he left a pretty flower he’d managed to sneak off an alien a couple months back, setting it gently on Wilf’s grave, a little nod to their talks, to their friendship and what brought them together.

Ianto was the first of Torchwood to die, painfully enough, leaving Jack with words that held a lifetime of meaning, but that he never got to return.

Sarah Jane too fell because of aliens, a stray blast gone wrong and her heart stopped, eyes forever wide, hand outstretched.

Jack had helped bury her, consoling her son and making a silent promise to check on him every once in a while, to keep him as safe as he could.

Then Tosh, slipping quietly into the night, her sacrifice chilling him, breaking him, if anyone should die it was him, he was the one who brought them into it.

Owen was next, he was much older, gray hair and grandkids, it was a slow death, but he was happy, he was surrounded by people whom he loved and who loved him, amazingly enough, Jack was one of those lucky people.

Then came Gwen, leaving behind kids and grandchildren to remember the bright sassy woman.

Even Donna left eventually, he didn’t know for a month and when he found out he felt horrible, he was so busy catching a slitheen that he hadn’t checked in, hadn’t realized.

The flowers he put on her grave for the first year, was penance, each hand picked and left there in the dark of night.

It hurt.

They had hurt him so much because he loved them, he loved them all, Wilf, Ianto, Tosh, all of them, so much.

It seemed, immortality did not ease the sting of loss, no, only made it a constant in life.

~What was it like to feel in love?~

~What was it like to feel?~

Jack laid there, blood pooled on his clothes, fragments of brain matter splayed around him, the cold chill of death still clinging to his bones.

No one would wake him up, not Ianto, or Gwen, not Rose or Donna, there was no one.

~I will never go backwards~

Jack wondered, if he laid here forever, would anyone find him? He would just keep dying and reviving for all eternity but would anyone even check here?

It was a morbid but curious thought, no one had checked under Cardiff for over a thousand, closer to two thousand, years.

Why should this be different?

~I will never be free~

Ianto used to sit in a chair, maybe two feet from Jack, he had silly little things on his desk, things that made him smile, his sister had come to pick them up after the funeral.

She knew what they were to each other and she told him how sorry she was.

Jack had kept it together until she left, until the lights in the building went out, then he cried, he screamed and raged, he got drunk hoping he would forget and instead got alcohol poisoning, waking up in a puddle of vomit the next day.

Ianto had looked so young in the coffin.

He was young, barely 28, compared to Jack he was tiny, finite, a fleeting happiness that only served to show how much he could lose, how quickly he could care for someone.
I will never run faster

Jack stared at the ceiling, the laziness stilling his bones, closing his throat as his eyes watered.

They wouldn’t want this, a voice whispered in his ear, they wouldn’t want you to suffer, not the girl with the blond hair, or the old man who loved the stars, certainly not the sweet man who made the best coffee in the world, no, they wouldn’t want this.

They would want you to continue, to live and be happy, to stay who you are, goddamn Captain Jack Harkness.

~Will you sink down to me?~

So Jack got up, making his weary way through life, because they were right, he was immortal, if there was nothing that could kill him he should at least get some use out of that fact.

There were aliens out there, hunting people, hurting people, sometimes they were just lost, so that was what he was in charge of, that was his job, relocating or imprisoning.

~I will never go backwards~

As it would turn out, throughout space and time, there were a lot of people who once knew the Doctor, many who loved him too.

Jack decided he was in charge of keeping them safe now, he showed them Torchwood and had them add their knowledge to the database, what aliens they knew, what planets they visited anything to keep the world safe between the Doctor’s visits.

It was still lonely in Torchwood, despite it being up and running again, no one else technically worked there, they just, kind of showed up when they needed help, when they needed a friend, it was the least he could do.

They gave him purpose, even if it felt so detached from what he had grown accustomed too.

~I will never be seen~

One of his favorite things about the new people, he got to tell them of the Doctor’s other companions, the ones it hurt the Time Lord too much to talk about.

Rose was always where he started, when they wanted to know about the other companions, he showed them Canary wharf, talked of a blonde who helped saved the world and landed in another universe with a human version of the Doctor.

Jack talked of Martha and Mickey, of how crucial they were in The Year That Never Was, how they found each other and happiness in the wake of loss and hardship.

He told them of Donna, the most important woman in the universe, showed them her grave, the flowers everlasting just like himself, watched as their eyes would widen at his tales, as they saw what he had seen.

They could not live forever, but he would make their stories survive, he would tell them, sing them, scream them to anyone who would listen.

Because in the same way that Jack was the Doctors, the companions were Jack’s.

And he had loved them so much, so, very much, but he was too proud of them to keep quiet, he wrote the Torchwood archives, filled books with drawings of them, with stories of the Doctor, had the ones who were still alive help write their own tales.

Jack would survive anything and he would damn well make sure their memories did too.

~In the wake of disaster, will you sink down to me? Yeah~

It still hurt, of course it did.

Watching them grow old and die, seeing them shot down, sometimes, seeing catastrophes happen, unable to go back and change it.

Those were the days he cursed the Doctor, he wished he was there to help, to fix it, but he wasn’t and when he was, he left before Jack ever got close enough to see him.
Jack carried on, the hollow in his chest still there, still aching for his companions, for his loves, some days it was hard to make himself move towards anything but a knife, hoping he could forget for a couple hours at least.

It never really did work, because it just felt worse when he came back.

~Will you sink down to me?~

At one point he decided to chronicle himself.

Starting with Boeshane and ending right where he was, cataloging his abilities and all the ways he had died, it was rather disturbing when he looked back on it.

There was a whole chapter on his deaths, each described in excruciating detail, poison, javelin, gun, knife, pretty much any way one can die, although being buried in cement had to be his least favorite, he almost had a panic attack while writing it, knowing it was important to note that death because of the story it connected too, but still, it was thoroughly unpleasant.

~Will you sink down to me? Yeah~

It brought things up to date, when people asked who he was, he could just hand them the book, his life story simplified and spelt out, clear to anyone who read it.

Few people could take it though, mainly just reading his passages on the Doctor and skipping the hardship.

Jack couldn’t blame them.

~I am the man we both couldn’t stand.~

Currently, Jack was in a bit of a bind, literally, he was tied up, being interrogated by a short, snarly alien who he’d been tracking on his own.

It was only barely understandable with all the slobber, but the picture was not pretty.

It wanted immortality and seemed to hear about an immortal Captain protecting earth, found it easy enough to lay a trap and planned on extracting Jack’s life force and giving it to himself.

To bad that wouldn’t really work.

~I can’t wash off the dirt from my hands.~

Jack’s words fell on deaf ears though and soon enough a mechanical instrument was cutting into his skin, right over his heart, pulsing and burning as it tried to pull life from the lifeless immortal.

The machine made a hissing spitting noise and sparks flew, it’s engines conking out.

The Alien had gotten angry, made loud blubbering noises as he stomped his feet, finally reaching into his bag to pull out something that looked like a torture device.

This time when it clamped on, Jack screamed, it felt horrible, like his skin was being pulled off from the inside out, leaving a husk.

The world dimmed around him, heartbeat thumping in his throat before he died.

~What was it like to feel in love?~

The first thing Jack saw when he saw woke up was the alien doing a victory dance.

That didn’t last long.

When it notice Jack had come back it was furious, looking inside the machine and finding nothing close to immortality, only a bit of dust.

It tried again, Jack once again jerking as the world faded.

~What was it like to feel in love?~

The alien kept doing that until Jack’s energy slowed, still ensuring he would survive but it would take a bit longer to come back, a safety measure that came into effect after the Cardiff burial incident.

Jack wasn’t alive, so he didn’t hear the creature shrieking gleefully, couldn’t see the light of his sonic blaster go off, or see the square of ground that cut out.

He also couldn’t feel his body getting thrown into the hole either.

The sonic blaster went off again, redistributing the earth into a flat back of earth, crushing the man under its weight.

~I'm the escape to something that's worse!~

When Jack woke up, eyes trying to open but unable to with all the weight, his limbs felt heavy.

It took only a second to realize what was going on and he tried to keep his mouth shut, tried not to breath in any of the dirt.

It always ended up like this and Jack frankly hated it.

For one thing, it had actually gotten boring being buried alive, for another thing, it was so tedious getting out of a grave on one's own and no one ever came to save him, so he knew far too well how uncomfortable it was to die over and over trying to escape the earth.

Unfortunately it's human nature to do what you can to survive, so as Jack got dizzy he felt his mouth open unbidden, trying to suck in a breath, dry soil flooding in and choking him, mouth burning against the dryness.

There was a fuzzy buzzing that Jack was pretty sure was only in his head and then he was gone.

Jack felt like he revived almost immediately, gagging and struggling, but it was so tightly packed, he managed to shift his hand a couple inches before he died again.

Next it was his feet, pulling closer to his body, creating a small cavity, trying to push himself up, he didn’t even make it halfway before his lungs gave out.

Jack started to cry, his nose was clogged with the stuff, he could feel it at the back of his throat.

It felt hopeless.

It always ended up like this, with Jack buried in the ground, not dead.

~I am the shadow driving the hearse!~

Jack came back, not bothering with trying to breath, only kicking at the dirt, scrambling and trying to get out, maybe signal to the creature that he was still alive, that it hadn’t succeeded in stealing his immortality.

But that never worked, it was very hard to hear someone struggled or scream underground, it didn’t stop him from trying though.

Anything not to choke to death on earth again.

Which is exactly what he did seconds later, brain causing bright lights to dance across his eyelids as he gave up the fight.

There was the faintest whirring noise, something distantly familiar about it.

~What was it like to feel in love?~

The first thing Jack noticed when he came back, was that his chest wasn’t being compressed anymore.

The dirt was gone, he was out of the grave, he only gave that a moments notice, because the more pressing thing, was that the dirt hadn’t gotten out of him.

Jack gagged, coughing and hacking, earth pouring from his mouth, too slow, too slow.

There was a hand on his back, warm, rubbing gently.

Maybe he was actually dying this time, for real dying, he made the mistake of trying to breath through his nose and inhaled dirt, coughing and choking, body curling into the dirt, its second home.

His head went all buzzy, like all the synapses were firing uncontrollably, sending panic signals through him.

The hand kept rubbing his back as his body stilled, death once again taking it’s fleeting hold.

~What was it like to feel in love?~

The Doctor stared at his once companion, the earth covered man laying across his lap, he swept a hand across his forehead, brushing dirt and hair back “Oh, Jack, I left you alone for too long, didn’t I?”

The dead body didn’t answer.

The Doctor pressed a kiss to Jack’s cheek “I’m so sorry, I am so, so sorry.”