The End of a Fixed Point Author:
batmanvinnie aka vinniebatman Fandom:
Jack/Ianto, Jack/OFC, Jack/ULOJS, Gwen/Rhys, Tosh/Owen Rating/Warnings:
This one is teen. Spoilers:
For all of Torchwood, including "Children of Earth." Disclaimer:
I so totally own these shows. Bow Down! *Doctor's Note: Patient exhibits delusions of grandeur and any claims of ownership toward "Doctor Who" or "Torchwood" are pure fantasy. No harm is meant. Seriously, it's better than her throwing rocks at people.* Betas:
Thanks to kitty_poker1 for the character and canon check, and _beetle_ for the grammar and phrasing help. Author's Note:
Written for the birthday of my dear, wonderful, awesome friend, suki_blue. I love you!
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There is a strange phenomenon in dreams where, despite the fact that you're speaking with or seeing a person you don't actually know, the dreamer still KNOWS who that person is. It's strange, this clarity, in that despite the oddity of the situation and a change in appearance, there is a certain knowledge within an ever-changing landscape, an undeniable truth. It was in this same manner, with this same certainty, that Jack knew he was dead.
In his very soul, Jack knew that this moment, this death, would be his final death. For countless ages he'd lived, and it would finally be over. As darkness enveloped him, as his soul fell into it, the one word he could think was:
The word echoed through the dark that surrounded him.
Jack then realized that instead of dying and losing awareness, he was standing in the darkness, unseeing. It was strange. He'd thought that if he ever somehow died, then his awareness would cease. That he'd become nothing, and there'd be nothing. But if this was the end, would he spend the rest of eternity in the darkness and silence? Perhaps this was hell, his punishment for every wrong he'd committed since the day he'd let go of his brother's hand.
He cast his gaze about before looking down. Despite the fact that there was no light, he was somehow able to see his own body. It was the young, strong one he'd had back when he'd managed Torchwood, each detail the same right down to the suspenders and boots.
Even after so many millennia, after knowing, loving, and losing so many, that word always struck him with staggering force and heartache. Torchwood was a bright, painful ache amid his memories. It was the first time he'd lost everything, the first time that he'd felt such a gut-wrenching sense of loss, on the heels of what had been a happy time. Saving the world, defending Earth with Gwen, Tosh, Owen and Ianto at his side.
Jack squeezed his eyes shut against pain that had never faded.
Jack opened his eyes, and not in his wildest dreams or nightmares had he ever imagined that this was who or what he'd see once he died.
He blinked, uncertain whether to be… horrified or, well, even more horrified at such a disturbing turn. "Rhys?"
"Yeah, it's me." He stood there, dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a pale blue button up, just as unchanged in this place as Jack was. It was such a shock that for a few seconds Jack was glad to see him. Until he realized the truth.
"You aren't Rhys," he said, his voice cold.
"And that's where you’re wrong, Captain Know-It-All. See, once you die, you don't just blink out of existence. The dark is just a holding place for those that aren't quite ready to die yet. Or those that're just too daft to go into the light."
Jack grinned ruefully. "Into the light? Really? That's the best you’ve got?”
Rhys rolled his eyes. "Oh, don't be so bloody condescending. According to reputable sources, energy doesn't end, doesn't dissipate, so it converts. When you die, you become part of the fabric of time. Eternal. You can see everything, be yourself in one place, and yet be everywhere. It's actually kind of hard to explain."
"My apologies, Rhys; I’d forgotten about your degree in quantum physics.”
"I didn't say I was an expert, just that I had reputable sources." Rhys pulled a face, annoyed, and shook his head.
"So if you are Rhys and I'm really dead for good, why aren't I in this light? Because the light sounds like a swell place," Jack said with fake sincerity.
Rhys sighed and narrowed his eyes.
"You have to go to it, be willing. Not be an angry, conceited prick about it.” He paused to take a deep, calming breath. "Anyways, they say that when you died all those times, all you'd see was nothing. So I'm supposed to explain that there really is an existence of sorts after death."
"And again, you know this how?"
Rhys cleared his throat.
Jack clenched his fists. Whatever this apparition, this thing was, it was every bit as annoying as Rhys had been. Whoever was behind this whole thing had done their homework.
"Fine, so why are you here, then? Why not Gwen?"
"Oh, maybe because you're a paranoid git! We've been planning this for a long fucking time, mate, and we figured you'd think it was a trick if you were suddenly surrounded by loved ones tellin' you to 'go into the light.' We thought that of all the people you might trust but wouldn't really want to see, I'd be a good choice. Because you know me, and kind of trust me, but there's no bloody way I'd be the one you'd want to see when you died."
"Good point," Jack conceded, though that was all
he was willing to concede. "But why would you want to help me? We were never on the best of terms."
Rhys tugged on his collar, then stopped and chuckled ruefully.
"It's daft; I haven't actually had a neck in bloody ages, but I still tug at my collar when I get uncomfortable." Rhys sighed again. "Look, we were never really friendly, but you proved that even though you can be a right jerk, you're a good man. You watched over our kids and grandkids for a long time. You even saved Jamie that time; I can't hate the man that saved my grandson's life."
"It was the very least I could do," Jack said, thinking, the very least
"Too bloody right, it was."
They fell silent and looked away from each other. Rhys cleared his throat before speaking again.
"Anyways, that's why I was sent to fetch you. Though I would understand why you'd not want to go into the light. After all, almost every person you've ever shagged is in there," Rhys snorted.
"They have conventions devoted to your bad habits, you know, and that John Hart fella always leads them."
Jack frowned. That was actually rather terrifying.
Rhys cringed at the sharp rebuke as a single small light appeared. The light grew and solidified until Gwen materialized out of the darkness.
"You're not meant to scare him away!" she yelled, her hands planted on her hips. She looked beautiful, her hair long and untouched by gray, eyes flashing as she squared off against Rhys, her shapely figure apparent in slim blue jeans and a short jacket.
"Gwen?" Jack's voice broke.
Gwen turned to him, her glare melting into a brilliant smile. "Yep. It's me. I'm really here. We're all here, Jack. We've been waiting for you."
She opened her arms and moved closer, and it was her
. Right down to that sparkle in her eyes and the cute little gap between her front teeth. The love that emanated from her, even in this place, warming Jack’s heart.
It was an illusion. It had to be. But he'd give himself this moment, just one moment to pretend. He moved forward and stepped into the warm circle of her arms. He closed his eyes and let himself enjoy it; she even smelled the same, of gun powder, coffee and her favorite perfume.
"Ay, get your own wife! Or husband! You've got a couple million of 'em waiting!" Rhys squawked.
"So I'm guessing you're his 'reputable source,'" Jack said, letting go reluctantly, and stepping away. Gwen watched him for a few moments, as if sizing him up. He crossed his arms, steeling himself for the truth, whatever it was; Gwen grinned.
"Not quite," she said gently.
"That would be me, actually," a voice said from Jack's left, echoing in the dark, and he froze.
"Tosh," he whispered, half-afraid saying it aloud might make her disappear.
"Me, as well." Owen chimed in as he and Toshiko materialized, whole and by all appearances, healthy. Owen's arm rested comfortably around her shoulders, and Toshiko was glowing. Literally.
"You two─," Jack started almost awkwardly. It hadn't been a subject he'd felt comfortable broaching when they were alive. The romantic inclinations of subordinates with whom he
wasn't sleeping had seemed off limits. But now, seeing them together and glowing, it seemed pointless to avoid the awkward questions. "You're together. As in happily-ever-after?"
"Well, that's nice thing about eternity; you've got time to do those things that you never got around to," Toshiko said, her eyes lingering on Owen's face before shifting to Jack. "And this," she continued, gesturing around herself widely, "can be as real as you want it to be. You can just float around, slip from place to place and watch everything, or can be yourself."
"Yeah, you can shape things with your mind and memory. Like if you want to relive a beautiful moment, you can go back to it, but filter out what you don't want," Owen explained. "After we died, we finally got our date. We went to a pub, had a pint, then went and saw a movie."
"'Gone With the Wind
,'" Tosh said, smiling. "We were in the first audience that ever saw it. It was fantastic."
"As was the shagging afterwards," Owen added.
Toshiko's jaw dropped as she turned and slapped his stomach, but she didn't actually seem angry. She and Owen were happy in a way they'd never been in real life. For a single moment, Jack wasn't just happy for them, he was happy
For a second. But that's as long as it took for him to remember this was all a dream. It had to be. He wasn't really dead for good, he was just dreaming and in a moment, he'd wake up again.
"This can't be real, because I can't be dead," Jack said. "The Doctor said I was a fixed point in time, that I was eternal. I'm just seeing things and in a few minutes, everything'll be back the way it was. And once again, you'll just be memories I try damn hard not to think about."
"You know that's not true, Jack," Gwen said kindly. "You can feel it how real this is, can't you? Once you're a proper part of time, you can see everything, and you'll realize that for all the Doctor knew, for all he saw, he couldn't see everything. Even he was bound by his lifespan, and to him, you seemed eternal. But in the grand scheme of it all, even you're only temporary."
"You're not real– none of this is real!
" Jack exclaimed. Because it just couldn't be. After death, there was nothing; no happy reunions, no sad reunions. No second chances, no devils with pitchforks or angels with harps. Just darkness, and if you were Suzy... something that moved in that darkness. "Just let me go, let me wake up or fade away, whatever comes next."
"If we do that, then you'll just drift in the dark forever. Energy can't die; it has to go somewhere. I promise you this is all very real, husband."
All but shaking with rage and hope, Jack turned. It was S'tlakrantala, his wife, a teacher from Thexrlntrnk III with and quick mind and a wicked sense of humour. She was tall and thin with soft lavender skin and wide, dark eyes, and looked the same as when he'd first seen her. She was standing there, smiling at him, her purple scalp tentacles curling with joy.
"Weren't you supposed to wait, or was there a change in plan and I didn't get the memo?" Gwen huffed, crossing her arms.
S'tlakrantala's smile widened as she rolled all three of her eyes. "You know, Gwen, you're suddenly rather uptight for a ghost."
"You can say that again," Rhys muttered, only to get smacked. S'tlakrantala laughed brightly, but quickly leveled her sternest lecturing expression at Jack.
"Energy can't end. Correct?"
"Correct,” he sighed.
"So where would the energy go after death?" she asked, as if leading an especially slow pupil. Even if this was an illusion, they had his wife down perfect.
"I don't know."
"And time, is it conscious?"
Jack frowned and thought back to the TARDIS, to how it's heart, that portion of the time vortex, had sensed the Slitheen's wish to have a second chance. It had understood and had made a choice independent of the Doctor, himself, or Rose....
His head and heart started to pound. It couldn't be true. It went against everything he'd known during his life. He squeezed his eyes shut to hold back the tears of frustration, anger and heartache. This wasn't real, and wouldn’t be just because he wished it was. Even if he wished it harder than he'd ever wished anything.
"Life cannot spring from nothing, husband; we that join time are what gives time itself a will," S'tlakrantala said.
Jack opened his eyes. He took in the hopeful gazes of his friends, of his wife, his heart aching.
"Just believe, Jack," Gwen urged in that earnest, wide-eyed way she had, smiling even though there were tears in her eyes. "Please believe us. Believe what your heart tells you."
"Yeah. Besides, you're Captain Jack Harkness," Owen said, shrugging. "If it's a dream, figure out a way to wake up. If we're lying and this is all a trick, you'll figure out a way to stop us, right?"
Jack took a breath. He'd spent most of his life looking darkness in the face. Fighting it, embracing it, sometimes, on a few memorable occasions, defeating it. His lone credo, if he'd had one, would have been a grim truth is far better than a million pretty lies
. But after all this time, all the loneliness and unhappiness... maybe this illusion would better than the dark. Maybe just this once, he could give in.
He let the breath out slowly. "Okay. Until I have a compelling reason to believe otherwise, okay."
S'tlakrantala smiled and held her arms open. "There's the starry-eyed optimist I fell in love with," she said, and Jack took another deep breath, before moving forward to sweep her up into his arms, laughing.
"God, Ranna, I missed you," he said, pressing kisses to her cheek as he tried to lose himself to the illusion. It was easy; she smelled and felt real– was everything he remembered and loved.
Ranna's slender arms held him tight. "And I you, husband." She pressed their mouths together, Jack's lips opening against hers as they'd done so many times. Finally, they broke their kiss and Jack set S'tlakrantala back on her feet.
She glanced at Gwen and smiled, then looked back at Jack. "We sent them out to greet you because these people were part of what was really your first real family as an adult, your first home. We thought it best if you saw them first. And the ULOJS unanimously decided to let your half come see you first, but he's just so nervous right now."
"ULOJS? My half?" Jack echoed uncertainly, thinking this'd be about the time the giant alien slug tried to liquefy, then devour him, or some ancient evil from beyond the bounds of space-time tried to subvert him... or some deceptively cute guy in skinny jeans tried to get him to subscribe to The Watchtower. "And those would be– ?"
"My idea. That first one, anyway," Owen said smugly. "United League of Jack's Spouses. It's catchy. I also coined ULOJO: the United League of Jack's Offspring. Tried organizing a sports league, but I was never able to get choices narrowed down to less than 30 sports. Too many alien species in there. Would it have killed you to teach them all footie? No, it wouldn't have!"
"Owen even started a betting pool on what species your next spouse would be," Toshiko added cheekily.
"So everyone, all of them..." Jack started, trying and not quite managing to wrap his mind around not only all his spouses, but all his children. Here
S'tlakrantala smiled and rested one clawed hand Jack's cheek. "All of us."
A small light blinked, then grew into a cloud of golden light that surged forward, warm as it swirled around him. He could feel them, he could see their faces together, happy despite the ages that had passed since he'd last seen them. He was surprised at the welling of love and home
that attended each and every one.
Hundreds of voices spoke as one, yet each voice distinguishable, as though Jack were able to divide himself in hundreds of beings at once. Each voice was audible as they greeted him, calling him "husband" and "Father" in numerous languages. The greetings wrapped around him, pulling him to each of his children. It took him hours to hug them all, to hear their voices and answer their questions.
All of them, they'd grown and absorbed the knowledge of time until they finally understood their strange father. This was most evident when Alice and Steven simply smiled and hugged him. Alice whispered her forgiveness to him while Steven finally called him "Grandfather."
He couldn't imagine an illusion or dream that felt so real– so surreal. That was rich with so much detail. Even if it was all just some impossibly complex illusion, Jack realized he really didn't care. This illusion could be enough. He didn't care how it fit into objective reality as long as he could stay....
Eventually, his children and grandchildren pulled away, fading as he returned to Gwen, Toshiko, Owen, Rhys and Ranna. And despite having just listened to countless conversations, some lasting for years, he knew it had only been seconds. He'd somehow been everywhere at once, and with sudden clarity and firm understanding, Jack knew: it was real, it had to be. Joy, pure joy unfettered by sadness or cynicism, lit up almost every dark corner of his soul, reaching into the parts that were shaded with pain and heartache.
He laughed, feeling light and happy for the first time in ages. "So, what did you mean by 'my half'? Do I have a devilishly handsome twin somewhere?" he asked, grinning widely. He could recall exactly where he'd left off with them, with his first family, and knew that if he wanted to, he could also be in a diner at the end of the universe eating a burger and drinking a malted.
"Not quite, husband," S'tlakrantala said, glancing again at Gwen, who nodded. "We mean the one that you loved more than all of us. The half of your soul that I never was, that none of us could never be."
"No, I loved you; I still love you, Ranna," Jack promised. "I loved you all– still do. I remember your names, your faces. I've never forgotten any of you."
"We know that. None of us ever doubted it; you made sure of that," S'tlakrantala smiled. "But there was part of you that none of us could ever touch, a part of you that was locked away."
Jack's eyes fluttered closed as he faced the last dark corner of himself, the part that he'd closed off just so he could get out of bed each day. He opened his mouth and said the one name he only uttered in his mind in the dark of night, when he was completely alone.
"Oi, finally. Give the man a prize," Owen muttered.
Jack opened his eyes, looking around for the beloved face, or a new point of light to expand into warmth and familiarity and love. "Ianto’s here?" he whispered, his voice thick, eyes darting everywhere. "He's– what am I saying? Of course he's here, but I just... I didn't ever think...."
He swallowed, his throat tight. "Ianto?" he asked, and a moment later, a hand tentatively settled on his shoulder. Jack squeezed his eyes shut and drew a shuddering breath.
Without realizing it, he smiled, then started laughing again, Jack turned and pulled Ianto into his arms. He squeezed Ianto tightly and pressed his face against Ianto's throat, breathing against the fabric of the neatly pressed shirt. Ianto stroked his back gently, and it was a long time before Jack could pull himself away. But only enough to look into Ianto's eyes, and cup his face.
"I have missed you so much
," Jack said roughly, his thumbs gently tracing Ianto's lips. "And I loved you. I never told you, not really, but I did. I loved you, and I still love you. I never stopped."
Ianto smiled bashfully, but spoke with certainty, his hand resting lightly on Jack's waist. "I know."
Jack kissed him, and despite the passage of time, Ianto felt the same, tasted the same. His mouth familiar territory Jack was eager to reclaim, retrace and refamiliarize himself with, trying to express every unspoken endearment and declaration. A low moan started deep within Ianto's chest, and Jack felt himself burning from the inside out.
"Okay, you do know you've got forever, right? So you don't need to shag in front of us," Rhys finally said.
"Oh, I don't mind so much," Toshiko and Owen said at the same time, then smiled fondly at each other.
S'tlakrantala laughed, the sound as sweet and musical as it had ever been, and Jack and Ianto reluctantly parted.
"Rhys has a point, you know. I'm not going away again, Jack," Ianto said, a wicked smile curving his lips. "I'm not going to let you out of bed for six eternities, let alone out of my sight."
Jack squeezed his eyes shut again and rested his forehead against Ianto's. He drew in another shaky breath and tried to contain himself. Ranna had been right; he'd loved every one of his spouses, but Ianto still held a special part of his soul that Jack had tried to ignore, and mostly managed to bury. But all that, it seemed, was finally over.
"So what now?" Jack asked, straightening and turning to the rest of the group, but not letting go of Ianto. Not for a moment.
Owen grinned. "Go into the light, Jack, go into the light," he said dramatically.
Jack chuckled and shook his head. Ahead of him, he saw a small point of light, and from it emerged the voices of children and friends and spouses whispering his name in a chorus of welcome.
He held tightly to Ianto's hand, S'tlakrantala's hand on his shoulder as he walked forward. The closer he got to that point of light, the louder the voices became. Cries of laughter and songs were sung in countless languages by countless voices. It was a cacophony that somehow melded together like a song.
And then he was there. He was in time, a part of it, joined to everything, everywhere and nowhere all at once, watching as galaxies formed and ended and stars imploded, alongside his family and friends. He was connected to life itself, and for the first time in his life, he felt no sadness or loneliness, just joy.
"Oh, by the way, Jack, the real Captain Jack Harkness has a few things to say to you," Ianto said. "You know, for a man who died a virgin to gay sex, he's amazing in bed."