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[Torchwood] Some lessons take a while before they stick. It certainly takes long enough for Jack Harkness to learn this one.
Fandom: Torchwood (/Doctor Who)
Word Count: ~800
Disclaimer: I am not in any way connected to the BBC, I'm just playing. No harm or material profit is intended.
Summary: Some lessons take a while before they stick. It certainly takes long enough for Jack Harkness to learn this one.
Credit: I've had two magnificent betas for this: Dune in the initial stages and later on Laura for her suggestions that gave this fic its flow and detail. It wouldn't be as good without 'em.
Note: Set entirely pre-series for Torchwood, and only Jack's condition is referenced from that series. But there are multiple Doctor Who references, and this fic probably won't make much sense without having seen that as well.
A Lesson Finally Learned
As a child, Jack Harkness never consciously learns that actions have consequences. This is just something that follows from learning to walk, talk, eat and drink. If he runs without looking, he'll fall. Asking for candy will get him some, but if he eats too much, he'll get sick.
He never realises it is a principle of existence, however, because there are parents and babysitters who put plasters over cuts and soothe scrapes. As a child, there are no consequences worth worrying about.
As a teenager, Jack Harkness is taught that actions have consequences. He never believes it, because he coasts through his tuition no matter what pranks he pulls. The required answers to tests come to him nearly automatically, and when they don't, his ready smile and irresistible charm get him through it anyway.
Then the war starts. Jack Harkness, realizing that his actions can have consequences, convinces his friends to join the military with him to make a difference.
Halfway through the war, crawling back towards his own lines through a hail of bombs and laser fire while dragging the body of his best friend, the sentiment is forgotten. Captivity and torture have instilled in him nothing more than a desire to pick up another gun and shoot the bastards who tortured Danny. Damn the consequences, he'll soon be dead anyway.
By the end of the war, most of his friends are.
The first demonstration after Jack is recruited into the Time Agency is of the time ships. An instructor spits out a cherry stone on a patch of bare soil. Then the group boards the ship. When they get out again, there is a forest of cherry trees in the place they just left.
When all of the recruits are sick with eating cherries, the instructor delivers the real lesson: even the tiniest actions have large consequences over time. Be careful in what you do.
Jack's whole life now consists of making the right changes at the right time, yet at some point, he forgets that basic principle. After all, he's usually not around to see those consequences.
And now he can't even remember forgetting.
As a conman, Jack Harkness never bothers to realize that actions have consequences. He flits from time to time and from place to place, never standing still, never leaving a trace.
He only snaps to when he is being chased by what used to be people in gasmasks, inexorably asking for their mummy. This was his doing.
He fixes it, and resolves to never forget this lesson again on pain of death. In the few moments before the TARDIS docks with his ship, it appears he will have to pay that price this time.
Life aboard the TARDIS is not conducive to remembering that actions have consequences. Jack, Rose and the Doctor dance through Capua at around 70 BC, freeing a few slaves while they're at it, before preventing an invasion by infecting the invaders with a local childhood disease. After dropping in on 21st century Cardiff to refuel and say hello to Mickey (arresting a rogue Slitheen in the process) it's on to 14th century Kyoto to take part in the celebrations surrounding the ascension of the new Emperor. They're constantly moving on to new ground, new experiences. And it's fun.
It all comes back to haunt them when it becomes clear the Daleks have carefully planned their own actions over the centuries. Jack kisses Rose and the Doctor goodbye and prepares to face the ultimate consequence of all.
His actions don't have the consequences he thought they would, and he wakes up on an otherwise dead space station.
In his struggle to get back to Earth, Jack once again forgets that his actions have consequences. They never seem to stick to him, anyway. 'Pain of death' seems surprisingly cheap.
Torchwood doesn't appear to know the meaning of the word 'consequences' either. Jack, out of the loop on the Ghost Shift program, watches the ghosts materialise into Cybermen with just as much surprise as the rest of the population. His surprise quickly turns into terror when his colleagues are seized and converted. His blood runs cold as he shoots them, one by one. And that's before the Daleks turn up.
The resolution he made after the nanogene fiasco echoes through his head while he takes shot after shot of the Daleks' death rays in a desperate attempt to rally his ever declining forces and fight back.
When both the Daleks and the Cybermen finally disappear through no action of his, there is almost nothing left of Torchwood. He tries to rebuild as best he knows how, but he has to tread carefully. His actions have consequences, after all, and he will live to face them.