“Jack, you can’t! This isn’t like you! There has to be some other way! She’s just a child!”
It still stings, remembering Gwen’s anguished pleading, the shock on her face when he ignored her entreaties. Until that moment, Jack had been a shining hero in her eyes, powerful, invincible, perfect, placed high on a pedestal to be looked up to, admired and adored. Though it shamed him to admit it, he’d enjoyed that; it had been a heady feeling. He’d almost begun to believe he was what she believed him to be; it had made a pleasant change to be hero worshipped after so many years of being seen as less than human. Well, pride comes before a fall, and after today…
It’s not the doubt he sees in her eyes that bothers him; it’s the disgust and the lack of trust. He thinks she may actually hate him now, all because he made the only choice possible under the circumstances.
Gwen doesn’t see it that way of course, she’s still too new to the horror and tragedy that comes with working for Torchwood, still sees the world in absolutes, everything black or white. All Jack sees are the innumerable shades of grey in between. He did what he had to, made the choice none of his team could have made, and deep down he knows he was right to act as he did, surrendering one life to ensure the survival of the whole planet, but that doesn’t make him feel any better. Not when he sees the anger and accusation in her eyes. He was her hero but he’s failed her, proved himself unworthy.
He wants to be angry with her, and with Tosh and Owen too for taking her side. They should understand, they’ve both seen so much more than Gwen has, but like her they looked at Jasmine and saw a helpless, defenceless little girl, saw him make the decision to hand a child to the monsters who’d already killed her stepfather, saw the grief of the girl’s mother.
If he could be angry, maybe it would hurt less, but all he feels is disappointment.
His team failed to see past the outer shell of innocence, past what Jasmine had once been, to what she was already becoming. Refused to believe that she wasn’t simply the child she appeared to be, couldn’t accept that she hadn’t been truly human for a long time, and maybe never had. She was the Mara’s chosen, and they’d been preparing her to join them from the first moment they’d selected her, the lonely little girl who never truly fitted in with her peers.
If there’d been another way to protect the world, some way that didn’t involve sacrificing a child to appease the elemental creatures who could wipe humanity out of existence with a thought, would he have taken it? Jack doubts it; what purpose would it have served to force Jasmine to stay with her mother? She would have withered away day by day, trapped between two worlds, no longer suited to living in the world she was born into, but prevented from joining her friends outside of time. Jack can empathise with that; this isn’t his world any more than it had been Jasmine’s in the end. He has no other option, trapped in the twenty-first century as he is, waiting for his Doctor, but he could at least give the girl the freedom she yearned for and so he had. He doesn’t regret it. He can’t. She’s where she belongs now, with her own people.
But Gwen has seen a side of him Jack would have preferred to keep hidden from her, at least for a little while longer; the ruthless, pragmatic leader willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. He’s not perfect, not a hero, not a superhuman, impossibly powerful being laughing in the face of danger before miraculously saving the day. He does the best he can but in the end, although immortal, he’s still only a man and no matter how much he wants to or how hard he tries, he can’t always save everyone. That’s something he’s had to accept; you save those you can and grieve for those beyond saving, then you dust yourself off and keep going because there’s still a job to be done, more people to save.
So now Gwen’s learned a hard lesson; her own innocence and her belief in him have been tarnished. She’s upset, disillusioned, and blaming Jack for letting her down. It was bound to happen eventually, and in some ways he’s surprised it’s taken this long, that she weathered the cyberwoman incident, and the cannibals, and everything else she’s seen since he recruited her, while still somehow managing to cling to her ideals, but now…
Leadership is a burden Jack never sought; he’d always preferred to let someone else make the decisions for him, tell him what to do. That way he could always deny responsibility when something bad happened. It was never his fault; he’d only been following orders. Now that he’s in charge he’s weighed down by the consequences of not just his own actions but those of the people under his command. All too often he feels as though his back is breaking under the strain.
Gwen had brought an unexpected ray of light into his life, a breath of fresh air, her enthusiasm and optimism in dazzling contrast to the world-weary attitudes of his team. She’d made him feel alive, like there was nothing he couldn’t do if only she believed he could. After today’s events it isn’t just Gwen who’s come back down to earth with a painful bump; Jack has too.
Because he knows he’s never been the pure and perfect hero she built him up to be in her mind, never deserved the lofty pedestal she placed him on, but oh how he wishes he could be that man, just so he could bask in her adulation a little while longer.