Jack slumped back in his chair in his office, breathing heavily thorough his nose. No one would disturb him; he had made it clear he was to be left alone. He needed to be alone to process what he had just discovered.
When he had run his finger down the list of those who had died in what was publicly being named the Battle of Canary Wharf, but which privately he knew was the downfall of Torchwood One, he hadn’t seriously been expecting anything. He just wanted to... check. He always did whenever something of this magnitude occurred. There was no way the Doctor and Rose would not have been there. They would always be there when trouble was. The Doctor would be alright- the Cybermen and the Daleks had been defeated hadn’t they? — but Rose was human. It was better to check.
So he had run his index finger down the list, trying to ignore the teardrops of the grieving that made the ink run in places as they cried over names that in no way summed up the people. His eyes briefly stopped at ‘S’ to check there was no Smith, Michael on the list, before jumping to the T’s when satisfied that Rose’s ‘sort-of’ boyfriend was not on the list.
His finger froze and his heart seized in his chest. No.
Rose’s beloved mother. Followed by her daughter.
The Doctor’s beloved Rose.
If someone could die of grief and shock, and if Jack could die at all, that would be the moment.
His friend. His wonderful, dear friend. The vibrant blonde with a laugh that infected anyone listening with joy. She was dead.
The fact that she the remaining members of the Tyler family was gone was horrifying. How could the Powell Estate not have the Tylers as residents? It was inconceivable.
The fact that Mickey, who had also been among the men who had looked at Rose with such adoration, was not listed as dead or missing, although it was a slight relief, did not erase the fact that Rose was.
He thought about her name there, written in black and white for everyone to see, for those who didn’t know who she was to mourn over as another loss of a member of the human race, when they would never know just how much of a difference she had made to those who had known her, was... he couldn’t describe it.
He rested his forehead on the desk and breathed deeply, fighting off the waves of nausea that threatened to bring back his breakfast.
They had never met her, so how could they imagine they knew how it felt? Every loss is different. Each bereavement leaves affects people in slightly different ways. Some people use photographs, some use alcohol, some like to talk, some don’t, and nobody can imagine exactly how another is feeling at that time.
If they had grieved someone before, they might imagine they knew how it felt, but everyone experiences that loss in different ways. They were bound to- they’d lost different people. And he’d lost Rose.
So impersonal. Whoever wrote her name on that list didn’t know her. Their hands didn’t shake as they typed the name of the blonde Londoner who meant so much.
They didn’t know that she was full of light and laughter, and had believed in a man, a con man by his own admission, enough to give him a second chance. If they had known just who Rose Tyler was, they would have - should have — broken down and thrown their computer monitor across the room to deny the horrifying truth of the words.
He had typed similar lists in his time. Lists of the dead for some alien attack or other and so knew how it had felt to type them. He had been sad and appalled at the tragedy but the names were just that- names. Nothing beyond a sequence of letters. And that was what was killing him now: that whoever had written the name of the most wonderful woman Jack Harkness had ever met; the woman who had given him a reason to hope for a better life, hadn’t even thought about who she was beyond a number on a list. When he had typed names of the lost, he hadn’t connected with these people, he didn’t know them. He didn’t wonder if they were blonde or brunette, old or young, if they were married, if they had children, if they were athletes, bankers... doctors.
His fist clenched as anger suddenly lanced through him. His chest burned and his lungs ached as he tried not to cry out with the force of the rage pouring through him.
He had promised. The Doctor had said he would keep her safe! He was supposed to keep their Rose safe! It was understood. The Doctor would look after Rose for all of those who loved her.
It had been clear to Jack that the Doctor thought very highly of Rose. He had loved her. It was that simple, and that complicated. He would do anything to keep her safe, so why was she listed as dead? What had happened to make it all go so wrong? What had happened to their Rose? Jack mentally added those to the list of questions he wanted answering.
The Doctor would have some explaining to do when- not ‘if’ but ‘when’ -Jack saw him again. As if he could ever explain Rose Tyler’s death.