It’s already been years since Jack found himself stranded on earth, waiting for his Doctor to return for him. Time seems to pass with glacial slowness, especially once the girl with the tarot cards informs him he’ll be waiting until after the millennium, still more than a hundred years away. The prospect of being alone all that time chills him to the bone.
But he’s Captain Jack Harkness, intergalactic flirt, so there’s no reason he shouldn’t have some fun to help make the time pass more swiftly; casual flings are something he’s good at and he’s sure to find plenty of people willing to share his bed.
He’s proved right, even during the years when such liaisons are frowned upon, and he tells himself he’s having a great time, that he’s not lonely. It’s a lie, of course. Brief affairs and one-night stands aren’t enough to do more than ease the emptiness for short periods.
Then he meets Jennifer, and falls in love.
They marry a year later, and he’s happier than he’s been since arriving on earth. They have so many plans, and he pushes his immortality to the back of his mind. A year into their marriage, Jennifer gives birth to their son, and life seems almost too perfect. Six months after that, he loses everything in a fire. Naturally, he survives the devastation, stumbling naked from the ruins, but his wife and son are gone and all he can do is move on. He’d been foolish to think he could settle down so he goes back to one-night stands again. Better not to get involved.
Life goes on.
Shortly before World War Two breaks out, Jack meets Estelle Cole, and despite his determination not to make the same mistake again, it’s love at first sight. She’s so vibrant and beautiful, so passionate and full of curiosity about everything. The war is upon them before they even realise, and they have to part; Jack is called up and Estelle joins the women’s land army. He sees her once more, when he’s on leave, but then his plane is shot down and though it breaks his heart, he knows it’s best that she think he’s dead or a prisoner of war. There’s no future for them because he’s immortal and she’d never understand, she’d just wind up hating him for his inability to age.
Torchwood keeps him busy and provides plenty of bed partners. Field agents tend to have short life-spans, so there’s a continual turnover, new people to seduce, both male and female; it suits him, less chance of getting his heart broken again.
In the late seventies, Lucia Moretti joins Torchwood. She’s fiery, hot-tempered, and addictive, and before long she’s also pregnant. Against his better judgment, he marries her. He does love her, but their relationship seems to be comprised of loud fights with her throwing everything near to hand at him, followed by passionate lovemaking. When Melissa is born, Lucia calms down a bit, and for the next couple of years it’s not bad. Jack adores his daughter, his little princess, and at first he doesn’t notice how distant his wife is becoming. The fights start up again and they struggle through two more years, until one night he arrives home and Lucia is gone, taking their little girl with her. All she leaves him is a note telling him not to try to find them. He tries anyway, he can handle Lucia leaving him, but losing Melissa, his baby, his world, is tearing him apart.
That’s it; he’s done. Immortality and relationships just don’t go together, something he should have accepted decades ago. Jack vows he’ll never fall in love again, the very thought of opening himself up to such pain and heartbreak again terrifies him more than anything he’s every faced. He’s just not strong enough. Even though he can’t be killed, he can still be broken.
He does eventually succeed in tracking his daughter down, but she’s calling herself Alice now; Lucia even changed the name they’d chosen. Alice is married with a baby, and she’s no fan of his thanks to Lucia’s lies, but he works hard to be allowed a limited role in both her life and his grandson’s. He doesn’t get to see them as much as he’d like, but he dotes on the boy. Steven believes Jack is his uncle, but that’s okay. It has to be.
The century turns a second time, and still Jack waits for his Doctor. Sometimes he wonders if the elusive Time Lord will ever show up. Jack is head of Torchwood Three now, the role bequeathed to him by Alex Hopkins, a man Jack had thought of as a friend as well as his boss, and who’d killed himself on the eve of the Millennium after massacring the rest of his team.
Jack throws himself into his new role, building his own team, and the years pass slowly, one by one. In 2006, against his better judgement, he recruits a Torchwood One survivor. Ianto Jones is gorgeous, from his sexy suits, his lean body, and his delicious accent, right down to the tips of his long, elegant fingers. Jack lusts after him almost from their first meeting, and pursues him avidly until he gets him into bed. The betrayal comes as a shock, and in retrospect, Jack should probably have known something was up, but clearly he’d been thinking with the wrong brain. Again. It wasn’t the first time he’d made that mistake either; you’d think he would have learned by now.
Nevertheless, Jack forgives the young Welshman, because he’s committed acts just as rash and stupid, and for far less noble reasons. He’s hardly in a position to take the moral high ground. They gradually rebuild their relationship of convenience; each has what the other needs: a warm body to satisfy physical needs with, a shoulder to lean on, and an ear to listen. Jack tells himself that’s all it is, certainly not love because he doesn’t do that. Right?
The Doctor finally shows up, but it’s the wrong one, or the right one, just a later version. Rose is gone too, but Jack likes the new companion, a pretty, dark-skinned trainee medical doctor named Martha. The new Doctor is attractive too, but the feeling isn’t mutual. Apparently Jack hadn’t been left behind on the Gamestation by accident, as he’s always believed; it had been deliberate because his unasked for immortality makes him ‘wrong’. It hurts to be rejected and Jack’s heart shatters a little more. He’d loved his Doctor, would have followed him anywhere, even willingly gave his life to buy the Time Lord enough time to save the world. But it’s not enough, he’s not considered worthy of the Doctor’s compassion, because he’s a fixed point and shouldn’t exist. But whose fault is that? It’s certainly not Jack’s.
Jack spends the next year imprisoned by another Time Lord, tortured and killed daily for the Master’s pleasure, and when it’s over, time rewound and the earth put back the way it should be, the Doctor is more concerned about his insane enemy and one-time friend than about all the people who suffered through the madman’s reign of terror. He’ll always respect and admire the Doctor, always try to follow his example in helping those in need, always try to do the right thing, but his image of the Time Lord has become tarnished. Even though he’s offered the opportunity of travelling in the TARDIS again, the one thing he used to think he wanted more than life itself, Jack says no. It’s not where he belongs, and the Doctor no longer owns his heart.
He did a lot of thinking during the Year That Never Was. There was nothing else to do while he was being tortured, and in between deaths, so he thought about everything that had happened in his long life, from the moment he’d met the Doctor right up to the present day, and he realised something. In spite of his fears and his promises to himself, he’s allowed an unassuming young Welshman to slip in under his defences and take up residence in his poor, battered heart.
Maybe it’s time to give love another try, this time with someone who knows exactly who and what he is, and isn’t put off by any of it. Someone who accepts him for everything he is without judging. He only hopes he hasn’t left it too late.