It was like a waking nightmare; Jack’s long distant past had returned to haunt his present in the shape of his brother, and Jack knew it was all his fault. His father had given him one task that long ago day far into the future when the monsters had come to the Boeshane Peninsula. “Look after your brother.” One simple instruction, but Jack had failed, and now…
Grey had been a little kid back then, while Jack had been nearly twelve. Their father had obviously thought he was old enough to be trusted with his brother’s safety, yet he’d let his whole family down, he’d let Grey get taken. If only he could turn back the clock, change what happened that day, keep a tight hold on his brother’s hand instead of letting it slip through his fingers… To his shame he couldn’t even remember letting go, had no idea at what point he’d lost Grey.
He and Grey had been running, hand in hand across the sand, floundering and stumbling on the shifting, uneven surface, just two more kids in a crowd of panicked people heading for whatever safety they could find, somewhere to hide until the danger passed. Jack could clearly remember just how scared he’d been, knowing he couldn’t let either of them get caught. His heart had been pounding so hard, so loud, that he couldn’t hear anything over it; not the screams and shouts of the other people running for their lives, and not even the roar and whine coming from the engines of the small shuttles the monsters flew, even though it was deafening. All he’d known in those endless moments was terror, and dread, and the desperate need to get away, but when he’d reached a possible hiding place, he’d suddenly realised his hand was empty and Grey was no longer with him.
He’d backtracked immediately despite the risks, searching for his little brother, turning over the bodies of the dead, but Grey wasn’t among them. He wasn’t among the people who came out of hiding after the monsters had departed either, and when Jack went to check, he hadn’t run back to their home. He was gone, and that could only mean one thing; he’d been taken. The monsters had him. The knowledge had chilled Jack to the bone. What had he done? How could he ever admit to their father that without meaning to he’d broken his promise?
He’d soon learned he didn’t have to, but that was no consolation because their father was dead, killed in the raid. Their mother though… In the space of a few moments she’d lost her husband and one of her sons. Every time Jack looked at her he saw the blame and resentment in her eyes. He was alive, unhurt, while her youngest child, her baby, was gone, and it was Jack’s fault. He couldn’t bear to witness his mother’s pain, could tell she wished he’d been the one taken and not Grey, so he stopped looking at her, stopped talking to her, because there was nothing he could say that she wanted to hear, no way he could make amends and earn her forgiveness. He didn’t deserve it anyway.
As soon as he could he left Boeshane, silently promising his mother that he’d find her boy and bring him home. It was the only way he could make things right.
Years of searching had followed, running down every possible lead, no matter how slim or unlikely; he’d joined the Time Agency mainly to get access to their technology and their files, looking for anything that might give him a clue to the identity of the monsters who’d raided the settlement that day, or where they may have taken their captives, but it was hopeless. Every single lead he followed resulted in a dead end. Somewhere out there in the vastness of the universe was Jack’s little brother, desperate, and afraid, and depending on Jack to find and save him. Jack had been determined he would, regardless of what it might cost him. He couldn’t give up the search, not until he succeeded; couldn’t let his brother down, not again.
When he woke up one day to discover the Time Agency had stolen two years’ worth of his memories, it was as if the bottom had been ripped out of Jack’s world for a second time. What had he lost? How much? Vital clues, solid leads, maybe even his brother’s exact location? He didn’t know and never would unless he could get his memories back, so he went rogue, Time Agent turned conman, willing to do whatever it took to coerce the Agency into restoring his stolen memories. He should have known he’d fail at that as well, he failed at everything that mattered.
He’d ended up trapped in the past, thousands of years before his brother was taken and with no way of continuing his search, but still he’d had no intention of giving up because now he was immortal. He just had to live through the intervening millennia and then he could carry on; the search wasn’t over, just temporarily put on hold. The waiting was hard though, time passed so slowly, but he kept himself busy working for, and then running, Torchwood. It was the best place he could be, alien technology got dropped in their laps all the time and in the back of his mind there was always the hope he’d come across something that would help.
John Hart showing up out of the blue with Grey in tow was Jack’s dream come true! After so many years, to see his brother grown to adulthood, alive and well and safe… It made Jack almost believe in miracles. He’d welcomed Grey with open arms, overjoyed at seeing him, only to learn that Grey had no interest in a happy reunion. He’d held Jack responsible for all the horrific things that had happened to him, and Jack couldn’t blame him because Grey was right; he was to blame. For his failures he deserved to be punished, and he’d been willing to take his punishment without complaint. It was the least he owed Grey.
Almost two thousand years of being buried alive, dying and reviving more times than he could count, didn’t lessen Jack’s guilt in the slightest. To his mind his brother had every right to hate him and to want to see him suffer, but his team… What had they ever done to Grey? Nothing. Their innocence was immaterial, however; Grey saw them, and the whole of Cardiff, as pawns he could use to take revenge on his older brother. He wanted to savagely rip away everything Jack cared about, leave his brother to suffer alone and bereft as he had. He’d learnt from his captors how to inflict the maximum suffering, and he was ready and more than willing to put those lessons to use.
Jack struggled to see beneath the rage, the hate, and the bitter spitefulness, searching for any remaining shred of the little boy who’d once followed him everywhere. When they were children he’d been Grey’s hero, but back then he’d said he would always protect his brother, and when it had really mattered he hadn’t. Why should Grey believe anything he said ever again? If their roles were reversed, would he be any different? Hating was easy; it was forgiving that was hard. Grey would never forgive him, and Jack understood that; his brother was desperately holding on to his hatred because for so long it had been all he’d had, the only thing that kept him going.
But Jack couldn’t hate Grey, no matter what he’d already done, all the destruction, and all the deaths. It might have been simpler if he could. He was so sorry for his brother, so ashamed of his own failure, and he wished there was some way he could make amends for letting the monsters take him. Jack didn’t care what punishments Grey might choose to mete out on his body, being immortal meant that regardless of how much he suffered he would recover, good as new. Still, he’d feared that no matter how many times he died at his brother’s hands it would never be enough for Grey because it would never be permanent.
He’d been proved right.
Grey had decided that if he couldn’t end his brother’s life, he’d take away everything that was important to him; that was why he’d targeted Jack’s team. It was why Owen was trapped in the Turnmill nuclear plant, dying his final death. It was why Tosh was lying in Jack’s arms, slowly bleeding out with nothing anyone could do to save her. Jack’s poor heart just kept breaking, over and over again; he’d failed his brother, and now because of that, he’d failed two of his best friends. They’d done nothing wrong, they’d been heroes trying to save lives, but they were dying because of him, two more lost lives to weigh on his conscience. When would it ever end? He wished he could die permanently because then perhaps his death would have been enough for Grey; Tosh and Owen might have been spared.
His little surrogate family was being torn to shreds in order to satisfy his biological family’s need for revenge; Jack knew he should be grateful he hadn’t lost all of them, that despite everything that had been thrown at them Ianto and Gwen were still alive, but he couldn’t understand why they didn’t hate him. Tosh and Owen were their friends too; did they not understand that all of this was Jack’s fault? That because of his long ago carelessness their city was in flames, people were injured and dying? Nothing would ever be the same. He didn’t deserve their compassion or their support, but they deserved his. He wasn’t important, only they mattered now, and somehow he would find a way to make amends.
As for Grey… Lying frozen in cryo storage he’d feel no pain, no suffering, and time wouldn’t touch him. Jack vowed he would find a way heal his brother; even if it took the rest of eternity he’d fix the damage his carelessness had caused. He owed Grey nothing less.