A/N: Hi Everyone! Just a thought I had a while back—Jack and Martha's family spent a whole year together on the Valiant, being oppressed and tortured and who knows what else. I think it stands to reason that they'd become very close, and not just forget about each other in the aftermath. I don't own Jack or Clive or Francine or Tish or anybody else for that matter. Please review!
And we were soldiers then
Our bodies in the sand
And like that sand through our hands
Go our grandest plans
And just to see your face for one moment
I'd cross the ocean again
And when you see the face of our Maker
You don't have to be ashamed
He knows the promises we made
House of Heroes, "By Your Side"
The Promises We Made
Jack raised the phone to his ear and grinned when he heard a familiar voice on the other end of it. "Jack, it's me, Tish," the voice began.
"Hiya, Tish, got any mashed swede?" he joked, causing Tosh and Ianto to give him strange looks.
He heard the laugh on the other end. "Corn and steak, maybe, no swede in this house."
"Aw, your dining standards are so disappointing," he joked again. "To what occasion do I owe the sound of your beautiful voice?"
"You'll never guess," she said, and he could hear the smile on her face as she placed a taunting lilt on the words.
"Um, let's see," he played along. "Martha and Mickey got pregnant?"
"Clive got drunk and fell down the stairs and you need me to haul him back up again?"
"Shame on you; no again!"
"You want to tell me about your new class on leadership and improved attitudes in the workplace?"
"I think you were mocking me…"
"I might have not been!"
"Right. I'll cut to the chase. It's Mum's birthday."
He grinned, moving around things on his desk as he talked. "What about it?"
"I tried to get her to have a big celebration, but she wouldn't have it. Not even Leo's coming. But she wants you there."
Something clicked as she realized what she meant. "What, you mean just the four of us?"
By that, he meant, "The four of us who were stranded on the Valiant together for the Year that Never Was, minus the Doctor, and thankfully the Master." But he didn't say that part.
"Can you come?"
"What time do you get off?"
Good question. "She really wants me there, doesn't she?"
"Well, you're certainly the expert on birthdays, aren't you?"
Jack smiled and looked around. The Hub was fairly calm today, but that didn't mean something wouldn't drop through the Rift in the next twenty minutes and keep them up until two A.M.
"I'll try to get there by six. Let you know if I can't, though, okay?"
"All I can ask, I know," her voice was warm.
"What does she want?"
"Oh, I don't think she wants anything. Don't bring vodka like you did last time; you know she hates your stuff."
"Okay, I'll be sure and write down what not to bring," he teased.
Tish laughed softly. "Just be here," she told him, in the affectionate tone that was similar to Martha's.
"Six o'clock. I'll do my best," Jack smiled. "Bye, Tish."
"Bye bye you."
The tires on his SUV squealed into the niche between parallel-parked cars with a carelessness few drivers could've gotten away with. Jack was always there when he said he'd be. Well, at least he tried, now.
He ran up the walk and rapped politely on the screen door, holding a package behind his back that he wouldn't let Francine see.
Clive answered the door with a broad smile. "Welcome to the home, Jack Harkness! Always a pleasure to see you!"
Jack grinned like an eager kid as Francine slipped off the cover of the box, revealing a set of rounded, silver pennant earrings. A hand flew to her throat.
"Jack Harkness," she choked, trying to sound scolding. "Scandalous, spending so much money on an old woman!"
"Do you like 'em?" he watched her, enjoying the moment. Clive came around behind her to admire them, resting his hands on her hips. The two had remarried since their adventures, as they had managed, despite their dire circumstances, to reconcile their hurts and support each other until the Year that Never Was became nothing more than a bad memory.
Francine shook herself, a teary smile on her face as she turned to hug Jack. "They're beautiful! I can't thank you enough for this!"
He returned the hug, grateful to know she didn't just mean the earrings.
Tish was admiring them, too. "Oh, Dad, put them on her!" she exclaimed rapturously. She always had been such a romantic.
"Come on, Tish, let's get the wine!" Jack got up from his seat, holding out a hand, which she took. They headed into the kitchen.
Tish's eyes twinkled when she looked at him. "You shouldn'tve spent so much!" she whispered loudly, when they were out of earshot.
"Really, Tish? Where else am I gonna spend my money?" he laughed, but she could see the lines of sadness at the corners of his blue eyes.
Impulsively, she leaned forward and kissed his cheek. "You're part of our family, you know that?" she asked him, not sure if he really did know. "Don't pretend like you're not!" she added, when she saw his doubtful expression. "Mum and Dad want you around all the time; they're just upset you can't be."
"And don't you want me around?" he joked, smiling back at her as he pulled the bottle from the fridge. Reaching up with his other hand, he gently stroked her cheek.
She gave him a shy, quick grin and pulled his hand from her face. "Don't be like that," she protested. "You know I do." Putting her hands on her hips, she shut the fridge door with her hip. "Now don't start actin' like my boyfriend, or Martha will seriously have a cow."
"Now we wouldn't want that," he acknowledged, still teasing but more serious now. "After all, you and I are waiting for her to have a mini Mickey."
She sighed rapturously. "One of these days they'll get around to it!" she smiled at him, a gleam in her eye. "I can't wait to be an Aunt again, how 'bout you?"
He got a mischievous look. "I think I'd really like being an Aunt!" he agreed. The look on Tish's face made him start laughing again.
"You would be an Uncle, you cheek!"
"Oi, you two, Mum's waiting!" came Clive's booming voice from the dining room.
Still laughing, they managed to get the wine safely out to the table and popped open, dark and fragrant vapors floating out.
Francine was now wearing the earrings, which shone brightly and complimented her beaming face and dark, somber eyes quite well. Clive dramatically served up the birthday cake, which was small but rather ornate with white fondant and candied violets around the edges; a big slice for each of them and they lit a wax, scented candle for her to blow out because she refused to have small ones stuck in the fondant.
"I've got too many years to fit on the top of it, anyway; oh no, no, no Clive, I object; is there any good reason why you all have to sing 'happy birthday' to me, I know what it means, anyway—!"
The other three erupted into song despite her protests and soon, she sighed in resignation and smiled in spite of herself at her closest and dearest family, obediently blowing out the candle at the end.
Jack tried in vain to ignore the frantic beeping his Bluetooth was making in his ear as the song finished and everyone grabbed a slice of cake but him. "I'm so sorry, guys," he apologized genuinely, "The safety of Cardiff calls. Or rather, the un-safety."
Immediate looks of disappointment crossed each of the Jones' faces and he regretfully didn't relent to their silent pleadings.
"Oh, come on, Jack, you almost never get a break from—uh, wherever-it-is you work!" Tish exclaimed.
"I wish I could stay longer. I'm so glad I could be here, Francine. Happy Birthday," he kissed her cheek. "You look younger every year!"
Francine looked sad. "Oh, stop," she told him, but it was halfhearted. "Really, you must come more often."
"And stay around more," Clive added, shaking Jack's hand like a pump handle. "You can't live over there at the office, now, can you?"
He laughed. "You'd be surprised how comfy a desk can become when you're running off of coffee for twenty-eight hours!"
"You'd better not do such a thing!" Tish exclaimed, giving him a hug, and Francine looked horrified by the thought of sleeping at a desk. "Just take care."
"Okay?" Clive stopped him from leaving in the rush he was in. "I think these two won't let you go without a promise."
Jack resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "I will," he promised. "See you guys around."
All three of them saw him to the door, much to his private embarrassment. Tish gave him his coat, and they all waved as he drove off.
He couldn't think about the Joneses, driving down the road.
Suddenly, he pulled off to the side and stopped.
He felt like a dark turmoil. The little family back behind him—they thought he was one of them.
He sighed, resting his head against the back of the seat.
Clive, Francine, Tish—they'd lost everything in the Year that Never Was.
The least he could do would be to keep his promise. He wouldn't just take care of himself, though. No, everything he did from now on, in Torchwood or anywhere else he found himself while they were still alive, would be for them.
Keep them safe.
It was the least he could do for— for family.