Nothing and Everything

The Rift opens with a clap of light and Tosh is already there at the threshold, a blue silhouette, calling him. Jack, now Captain James Harper, goes back to kiss Captain Jack Harkness because it's the last night of the world, and he lingers a second too long.

"What about Toshiko?" Jack asks, but James is dragging him out of the Ritz into the street. "What about--?" Jack is going willingly, maybe because he'll follow James anywhere now, having followed him this far, maybe because of the stares of his men which seem to strafe the dance floor at their heels. "Captain--" Jack's going willingly but he looks back, one arm pointing.

"She went home," James says. There's something surging in his chest, elation and terror, making his movements seem slightly out-of-time with the world around him, his vision sharper. The dark buildings of the city are etched against the darker sky. Each light glimmering at the seam between blackout curtains is an eye. James stops at the corner and looks both ways, then sets off again. He remembers now. He's not sure if he's remembering the past or the future, but he walks, anyway.

The top floor of the stolid, square Raven Hotel has been blown away and now looks like ramparts of a castle. But the hotel's operating still, street door ajar and an imprudent lance of light slicing across the cobbled sidewalk. In the room, the bed is narrow and the walls are stained with water damage, some kind of dire message seeping inside and lost in translation. Cardiff is leaking, crumbling into romantic watercolours and fantastic shadows and it's beautiful, the way the ruins of anything are beautiful if you look at them from far off and distant in time. But then again, James Harper, with his romantic, stolen Welsh name, isn't far off anymore. Not anymore.

He and Jack come together with a tenderness that breaks them, and then, later, with fury. "I would stop the sun," James says into Jack's mouth. "I would," he insists against Jack's skin. "I've seen it. I've seen time spin at the end of a needle, Jack. I've seen a sun stand still." And he tells him everything, all of it, breathlessly against his neck, and if Jack hears, he doesn't say. His hands move on James' body like he is known territory. James takes silence as acceptance, but it doesn't matter. Not really.

It's still dark when he gets up and pours water from the jug, hands the glass to Jack and watches him drink. Then he dresses in Jack's uniform (it's tight across the shoulders, but that's okay), and waits while Jack plummets into the cleansing sea of retcon. He's added extra sedative, so there's no chance this Jack Harkness will fly today. James Harper will become Jack Harkness just one more time and take the squad up for their last day of training. He's already waiting in his plane on the tarmac when the men arrive, his face hidden under the canopy, eyes behind the lenses of goggles that reflect a rising sun.

And as he falls, his plane a fiery shriek in the sky, he's laughing. They hear him on the radio. And then they don't.

They don't come for him right away. There's no chance he's survived. None at all. So they deal with things near-at-hand, things that can be pulled back from the brink, and Jack lies in the dark, rebecoming. While he's there, being stroked by absence and cradled by silence, the bombs fall on Cardiff. Time bends, but it won't break, not for Jack. Not for either of them. Two days and a long night walking later, he stands finally in front of the rubble that was once the Raven Hotel and cries.

Captain Jack Harkness learns that time is a maze. He paces through it again, turning left where once he turned right, but although his path changes, the contours of the maze remain the same, so that eventually he finds himself again, turning a corner, racing with a blaring horn across an intersection while Tosh talks rapidly into her phone and adjusts the butterfly in her hair.

She jumps out in front of the dancehall, totters a little in her heels on the cobblestones and turns back to look at him. "Jack? Are you coming?"

"Yeah," he says. He stays in his seat, hands white-knuckled on the steering wheel.

Tosh goes up the steps and opens the door.

"Tosh!" He smiles when she looks back at him. "You'll be late for your party." He wills her to get back in the SUV. He can hear his own footsteps, turning left, turning right, coming closer.

"I hear music," she says, her head tilted toward the dark space framed by the door. He blinks and the building is alight. A streamer of flags flutters across the street. He blinks again and she's there still, looking into the abandoned dancehall, one foot at the threshold. "Can you hear music?"

Jack gets out and stands beside her. "All the time."


Notes:  cross-posted to [info]torchwood_fic awhile back. Part of this little project I'm working on: "5 Seconds that Changed Everything."

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