Title: Solitary confinement
Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: Jack Harkness
Length: 1,000 words
Content notes: none
Author notes: Written for Challenge 32 - Phobia at fandomweekly
Summary: Isolation and solitude are not the same thing.
Disclaimer: I don't own them.
His eyes shot open and his throat constricted as he panicked, trying to heave in large gulps of air and finding himself unable to do so. The moment of indescribable terror seemed to stretch on for an eternity, but in reality was merely moments.
Get a grip, Jack, for God's sake, he told himself, breathing heavily.
This time he was sure he must have heard something to have woken him. He didn't even remember falling asleep, still clutching the gun knowing its ammunition was limited, but his senses were on high alert. Someone, or something, was here with him. It just had to be.
Every time he woke, it was like waking from a nightmare, or perhaps into one. The first time, he'd expected to be face to face with the dalek that had shot him. He should be dead, yet he wasn't. He felt... strange. No sooner was the relief of not finding daleks upon him, then he heard the sound from the floor above. The TARDIS. The TARDIS leaving. The TARDIS leaving without him! He ran for it, but it was fading into nothingness. He was too late. The Doctor and Rose were gone.
The game station was empty. There were no more daleks and no more people. The Doctor's plan must have worked. Still, if he was alive, maybe someone else was too. There were five hundred levels. Surely someone somewhere must have managed to conceal themselves from the dalek army, just waiting for it to be safe to come out. After days of aimlessly wandering the halls and floors, he hadn't found a single soul, just piles of dust and dead bodies. He managed to scrounge up some basic food and provisions from a storage unit, but refused to make a camp in any spot. The Time Agency had taught him that much. You only holed up when you had no choice but to make a stand and defend yourself, otherwise you kept moving. Moving kept you alive.
He'd been all bravado and showmanship earlier, playing up to the image of the person he wanted to be for the Doctor and Rose, but the truth was coming face to face with the daleks had scared him more than anything. He still feared finding one, somehow having survived, and worried he'd go to pieces if he did. He'd been in some bad places in his life, but somehow the desolate emptiness ignited a fear deep inside him. Daleks equalled death, and he wasn't ready to die yet.
Maybe he hadn't survived. Maybe he was dead and this was hell. Or maybe he was trapped inside one of those game rooms. There was an old earth game he'd once played on a faraway world. Pac-Man, he seemed to recall, wandering around a maze of tunnels, praying that you didn't run into ghosties. Maybe that's what this was. A twisted version where he ran around the game station whilst daleks chased after him, always hearing their distant cries of exterminate, exterminate.
The fear they incited in him left him breathless. He'd never known anything like them. They were unstoppable, no matter how much he'd tried, they'd just kept coming, killing everything that stood in their path. He'd run from terrible monsters on Boeshane as a kid, but they were nothing in comparison to the daleks.
The Doctor must have done something to shield the game station, stopping him from being able to use his vortex manipulator to teleport out and down to the planet below. It was a nice idea, keeping the daleks trapped inside, but it also prevented anyone else from escaping. He'd spent his whole life running away from responsibility, the scent of death nipping at his heels as he always managed to stay just one step ahead of it. Now there was nowhere else to run.
Would the people back down on Earth send a rescue party? Maybe they didn't even know. It was all just a television show to them. Or would they simply assume that everything had gone terribly wrong and leave the game station up there as a tomb for the fallen?
That's what it felt like, a tomb. His tomb.
Solitude and isolation were not the same thing. The thought of being trapped here alone for the rest of his life terrified him. He needed people around him. He'd never truly been alone before. He could happily enjoy his own company, and had done, travelling the universe, but he was never far from another person, and craved physical touch like some craved the very air they breathed.
Sometimes when he curled up, trying to sleep, or traversing a new passage on a new level, he was convinced he heard sounds or voices. Sometimes right on the cusp of sleep, he could swear it was Rose he could hear, her laughter tinkling down the corridor. He imagined if he just turned the corner, she'd be right there, her and the Doctor, dancing and laughing, the Doctor spinning Rose like he'd been Fred Astaire in a previous regeneration, making Jack jealous, asking what had taken him so long. Instead they'd left him here.
Dead men don't dance, Jack, you know that. They didn't forget you, they left you behind.
That was the worst part. He'd been abandoned on a ship full of ghosts. Those of the passengers, those of daleks, and those from his lives past, coming to remind him that he'd failed them. Their whispers haunted him, as did the sounds around the game station that were surely just in his own imagination. He slept more and more, just to get away from them, hoping they'd come and take him in his sleep. Death didn't scare him anymore, only being trapped here forever. Alone as he was, the voices threatened to send him mad.
If he ever got out of here, he vowed he'd do it all differently. He'd find the Doctor and Rose and prove to them he was worth redeeming.