A/N: I decided to update this one because I've been watching a bit of Torchwood, and it's gotten me in the mood for horrible things to happen to Jack. (as if enough of that hasn't happened in canon—my oh my sometimes I shock myself). This one has nothing to do with Torchwood, it's just Jack and Tish onboard the Valiant. So flashback time! Let me know if you liked it in a review. Thanks and love you all!
The Promises We Made, chapter 2
Aboard the Valiant
"This would be so much more FUN if we didn't have to deal with the mess afterwards," the Master complained loudly, cracking open the door to Jack's cell. Tentatively, he stuck his nose toward the edge of the crack, grimaced, and took a long sniff of whatever was coming through the door.
Tish stood by his side, a miserable look on her face, as she watched him immediately make a gagging face and slam the door shut again. The Time Lord turned to her, faux politeness stamped on his smug little face. "Perhaps you should try? Garden paradise in there—smells of—oh, I don't know—vanilla bean? Cinnamon? Newspapers? Enjoy!" He quickly gave her a hard look that let her know he meant business, swiftly opening the door again and pushing her with a hand on her rump toward the dark innards.
She fearfully complied, stumbling into the reeking dungeon with a shudder that involuntarily spread through her whole body.
Jack had been dead for WEEKS. Stepping through the stinking mess on the floor, however, let her know that his unwashed and possibly decaying body wasn't the only thing that reached her nose.
Trying to suppress the horrible grimace she knew was spread across her face, she crept further into the cell. "Jack?" she whispered hoarsely, trying to keep her mouth closed. Halfway to the bed in the corner, she nearly threw up, but managed to hold back.
Jack lay on his back on the filthy mattress, eyes closed, not breathing.
It was her mother who had told her that the Captain hadn't moved or breathed for days.
She risked a glance toward his pale face, still spattered with coagulated blood. The clothing was more than in tatters. Jack's entire shirt was covered in fresh holes from the poles they'd used to stab him with. It stuck to his skin even after the blood had dried.
"What if it's the last for him?" her mind wandered fearfully. "What if HE finally went too far?"
A hidden part of her was actually relieved. Jack was her friend. He hadn't been tortured since he had died—at least he'd been spared a couple more days; a couple more deaths. She knew he tried to spare her from much of what went on in that cell, as did her parents, though far less successfully since she knew as much as they did.
Creeping forward, she finally got close enough to touch his hand. It was all she could do not to flinch. His skin was disgusting. The blood hadn't even dried completely, not in the damp cell. She wished she had never taken biology class, as it was leading her to believe that all kinds of unpleasant things were probably now growing on the tips of her fingers where she'd made contact.
Satisfied that he was still dead, Tish decided it was time to leave and report back to HIM.
Slowly, she turned away, only to feel a faint brush against her hand. Wide-eyed, she turned back and gripped Jack's hand as the fingers jerkily slipped back over her long ones, clenching into a vice grip as he nearly hurtled out of the bed, choking and wheezing as air began to circulate through his disused lungs.
"J—just take it easy," she stuttered, not sure if she should help him.
He almost met her eyes, still gasping for breath. He swallowed hard and then spoke thickly. "Have you—been around for one of these yet?"
"Um—no." she bit her lip, having forgotten about the things that were literally crawling all over her skin by now.
Jack tried to smile briefly. "It's all right," he gasped reassuringly.
A corner of her mouth turned up. "Shouldn't I be saying that to you?" she reached up, gently touching his shoulder.
"Well," he chuckled, barely, his eyes having gone dull, "some people have—reactions."
"Not if they already know about it, do they?" she swallowed and tried not to grimace as she continued to breathe the decrepit air.
"Oh, especially then," he nodded, sounding far too casual, though he hadn't moved from where he was lying half-sprawled on the concrete. "If they don't know about it, they assume it to be some kind of trick. Or they don't even notice. Funny the way people think."
"Must be rough," she commented, helping him slowly to his feet. He grimaced in pain—probably from soreness.
"Better than other things!"
Tish frowned. "Heck yeah, I'll bet anything's better than being cooped up in here."
"You're not allowed to stay and help clean the place up, are ya?" he asked hopefully, glancing down at the floor before turning to her. Tish purposefully avoided following his gaze. There was blood on the floor, and a few things that were a bit more—chunkier, to say it in one word, and she'd rather not actually see them.
"I would, but I think he'll get mad at me if I do," she frowned, motioning with her eyes toward the door.
His voice dropped to a lower pitch. "How long have I been out?"
"A—a few days."
His brow creased. "That's all?"
"W—well, more like a few weeks."
"How long, exactly?"
"Um…five—twenty-two days, I think."
"Phew," Jack blew out a breath. "That's a lot better."
Tish was confused but didn't say anything.
He looked at her. "How long until HE comes in here looking for you?"
"He'd already be in here if it wasn't for the—" she gestured toward the smell, stink, garbage, gore. "As it is, he's not coming in here."
"Will he be mad at you if you don't leave?"
"Maybe," she confessed.
He squeezed her hand one more time, and dropped it. "Alright then," he said, sounding more like his cheerful self. "Hang on tight, okay, Sweetheart?"
She swallowed hard, trying not to cry. "Same to yourself, Old Man."
Reluctantly, he let go, sinking down on the bed behind him as she turned and slipped out of the cell. He could already hear the Master shouting insults and complaints at her.
Jack slowly closed his dirt-encrusted eyelids, trying to slow his building train of thought.
Poor Tish. Jack had known what he was getting himself into when he came aboard the Valiant. She had not.
He opened his eyes again, taking a long look around him. Now that he actually paid attention, it took all his willpower not to vomit. What kind of a woman would willingly walk into all of this? She hadn't even seemed all that anxious to leave.
He heaved a sigh, careful not to inhale too much of the foul air through his nose.
He didn't deserve the friends he had.
Jack had long since lost track of the passage of time, not caring so long as his and the Doctor's 'plan' was completed by the end of the Year. Since he was tied up or left sitting in a dungeon most of the time, there was little he could help with, except to be ready. One of the Joneses would give him the signal.
In the meantime, he had figured out it was best not to dwell on just how many times the Master and his guards had him dragged out of his cell and beaten to death, so many times, whether for fun or 'science'.
He was in pain all the time now. It wasn't possible to classify where it was all coming from. At first he'd kept careful count of all his current ailments—but that was no longer a beneficial exercise. More often than not he still wondered why sometimes he healed completely and other times not so much.
It seemed like he was growing weaker. The time energy was slower to do its work, perhaps getting tired out. Jack could relate pretty well if that was the case. Or maybe it had chosen to have some form of mercy on him, like a protective measure, to prevent him from coming back into a world of pain quite as quickly.
Toward the end of the Year, fortunately, the Master mostly forgot about him. Left him hanging out to dry, allowing him to heal a little quicker. He felt a little more like a person instead of an animal, a little more awake and aware whenever Tish came to feed him in the mornings. He even cracked a joke every now and then.
Still, he was tired and numb. He slept standing up, still chained to the wall, more often than not. Some days, ravenous as he was on this stupid diet of swede and occasionally beets, he was too sick to stomach even what Tish brought in.
Today he bravely attempted to choke it down, knowing he needed the small amount of nutrition desperately, forcing a grin in her direction even as his stomach turned a fast somersault the second the mash hit acid.
"Well, you look good," he diverted his attention. He eyed her complexion, the ever-present bags under her eyes, how steadily she held the bowl she was feeding him from. All in all, she looked better than usual.
"It's been a bit more peaceful up top," she whispered, confiding in him with a tiny smile. Her voice dropped even lower, and her dark eyes widened. "The Year's almost over. The Master's startin' to get excited. I suppose that's good for us."
Jack winced, trying to hide how horrible keeping the food down was making him feel. As if he didn't have enough problems. "Yeah," he sighed, struggling to keep smiling with her. She was that rock-solid light for him, right now. His world, since he didn't have access to the outside himself. "It's almost over."
Tish's mouth quirked a little, a flicker of hope lighting up in her eyes. Then her gaze drifted up toward the chains that held him, and the manacles where his wrists hung, bruised and raw, semi-dislocated from when he was too exhausted to stand. She gulped visibly. "You lose any more weight, you might just slip right out of those," she joked, in a halfhearted attempt.
He chuckled lowly. "Y'know, I heard those new diet pills have some really strange side effects. Maybe you could try Adipose out for me, let me know how they work."
She sighed good-naturedly. "Oh, talking about diet pills is such an exciting topic when we can hardly remember what real food even tastes like!"
"Better than talking wistfully about steak," Jack attempted to shrug, resulting in one shoulder seizing up. He froze and grimaced in pain, squeezing his eyes shut. He finally opened them, noting appreciatively how Tish had stepped forward in concern. He sighed heavily, breathing through the pain. "Anyway," he grimaced, eyeing the bowl with apprehension, "there any more of that in there?"
She held up another spoonful, and, after trying very hard not to recoil at the smell, or lack thereof, Jack gulped it down after the first. He focused so hard on swallowing back the nausea that he barely noticed Tish was talking.
"—huge tub of ice cream, load it up with blueberries, and raspberries, drizzle the whole top of it with chocolate syrup." She eyed him seriously. "No longer settling for gourmet. Too one-size-fits-all. I could eat the whole thing of it by myself."
"Tish," Jack panted slightly, rolling his head around to loosen the cricks in his neck, "when we get out of here, I'm taking you to the best little ice cream shop in Cardiff. Tell you what, we'll rent it out, kick all the customers out for one night, and just eat everything inside."
Tish looked slightly overwhelmed. "No wonder women like you."
"I'm a nurturer," Jack offered up a sideways smile.
She smiled and stuck a third bite up way too close to his nose. He focused so hard on her face, rather than the taste of it and how horribly ill he felt, that he nearly bit the spoon right out of her hand.
Thinking he was hungry, which he was, but that was beside the point, she stuck a fourth bite in his mouth almost as soon as the third one was gone. He couldn't keep himself from groaning that time.
Tish finally noticed what a hard time he was having getting it down. "You all right?"
"No," he groaned weakly, feeling worse every second. He gagged, finally managing to swallow before turning to her, shaking his head. His head spun and he wasn't sure if he would be too tired to stand shortly. "I'm sorry," he managed, avoiding looking at her. "I can't take any more."
That was when he threw up. His stomach convulsed, determined that now that he'd given up, it was a good time to get rid of everything in its entirety, not satisfied with the beginning round. Acid and bile stung at his tongue and lips, mixed with the aluminum flavor of the canned swede.
His legs gave out, refusing to support him even at the expense of his wrists when all his energy went to heaving his guts out. He coughed, choked, struggled to get his feet under him again now that it was all over and slipped, falling limp again. "I'm sorry," he groaned again, black spots dotting his vision as Tish reached up and touched his forehead with the back of her cool hand.
She looked sorry for him. She could see how hard he'd tried to avoid this. Swallowing hard, she took the corner of her apron and used it to dab around the corners of his mouth, and wipe under his chin.
Jack allowed his head to loll forward under her touch, sniffing and gulping hard to get his emotions under control. Everything always felt so much less fair when things like this happened, when he lost the very little sense of control he had left.
But he could do this. For just a little longer. He could do it for the Doctor—for the world. For Martha Jones and Tish and his team back home.
Tentatively, he lifted aching eyes until they reached her face, her lips trembling for this, for him. "It's a bad day," he gasped, an apology still hidden in his tone.
She nodded, blinking back tears as she caressed his chin. "We all have 'em," she managed. "'S not your fault."
Jack closed his eyes, resting what little part of him actually could against her neck as she rubbed her fingers through his unwashed hair.
"You don't have to be brave," she continued, a hitch still present in her voice, "I know I'm not. But we'll get through this. Somehow."
"Get away from him, girl," a guard came up from behind, yanking her roughly away from him, causing Jack's head to roll forward with a jerk before he brought it up on his own, catching her eyes as she was dragged away.
Two dark eyes among curly hair, gazing back at him. Fear for what he was about to have done to him, but not debilitating fear. The kind of fear that showed she still had a lot left to give, if only it was for someone she cared about.
Jack's jaw clenched into place, just before the first punch hit him in the gut, and he fell, choking and gasping. He looked up again to see that she was gone.
He could maybe give some more, too.