The Doctor felt awkward, odd, and peculiarly self-conscious to be standing in the middle of the Hub without an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it crisis nipping at his heels.
Jack however had none of these inclinations.
"End of the world today?" the Doctor couldn't tell if he was being serious or not. "Ah, no, not that I know of" he said anxiously scratching at his ear.
"End of the world, tomorrow, then?"
What was it with Jack and the end of the world?
"I should hope not!" he said more than a little sharply, Jack either didn't notice or didn't care.
"End of the world, later this week?" he asked again his face so serious that the Doctor began to worry.
"Am I missing something, Jack? Or are you just awfully stuck on the end of the world tonight?" he snapped raising an eyebrow in question.
"Well, this is your second drop by in the same year, scratch that, the same decade! I'm just making sure the Apocalypse isn't round the corner."
Was that supposed to be a joke?
"I don't bring trouble Jack, I just have a nose for finding it" the Doctor insisted crossing his arms.
"Well, impending Apocalypse or not I'm still glad to see you Doctor" Jack said giving him a brief – unexpected – hug. It was warm and loose and it was over far to soon.
"Would you be saying that if I had brought the Apocalypse with me?"
"So, you been busy?" he asked indicating his previously white converses that were not a little worse for wear and mud splattered, "Always." Jack nodded, "If you're going to be around a while-"
"I am" the Doctor inserted quickly watching Jacks reactions carefully, but all the human gave away was a pleased smile and sharp nod, "Good, like I was saying, I can have Ianto take those to the cleaners for you."
"I'm sure you're young paramour has more important things to do"
"It wont be a problem Doctor."
The Doctor doubted Ianto would agree with the Captain on that but kept his mouth shut. He wasn't going to be Iantos favorite Doctor anytime soon but there was no point telling Jack that if he couldn't see it for himself.
"So Jack any more Abbadons or uprisings?" he inquired as he headed or Jacks office smiling at the stacks of unfinished papers, the neatly disorganization of his entire office. Trinkets and knickknacks placed on the desk, one of which he recognized.
"So he kept it…"
Jack sighed, grumbling "No yet."
"You sound as though you expect it to happen again, which on a scale from one to ten is a flashing red twenty!" the Doctor exclaimed waving his hands about as he spoke. What Jack said neck froze him in place, "You know humans, Doctor."
He didn't like the sound of that, not one little bit.
This wasn't like his Jack at all. "Hold on there Doctor, he's not yours he's not anybodys...he's just Jack" right he'd have to remember that. Jack was his own man, of course. And he wasn't at all jealous of young Ianto Jones, not at all. Because that would be rediculous.
"Yes, yes, I'd like to think I do. You humans can be so amazing, I've seen you pulls rabbits from a hat and yank yourselves back from the brink of extinction, even at the end of the universe there you were all clustered together, thriving really, given the circumstances…" the Doctor said looking directly at the Captain, "You're survivors Jack."
"I've seen con-men become honorable Captains, I've seen poor immigrants become rich millionaires, I've seen so much that I have to believe" the Doctor finished clapping Jack on the shoulder.
"Now, what do you say we wet our whistles as a bar, there is a bar around here isn't there I thought I saw one down 36 street…?" the Doctor rambled on missing the confused look on the Captains face.
"A drink?" Jack asked curiously eyeing the Doctor who came to attention with a wide-white smile, "Well, yeah, a drink, um, you interested?" the Doctor asked his hearts going thud-thud-thud, "Blast it maybe this wasn't such a good idea." For some reason he'd never considered the possibility that Jack might actually say no.
Jack broke into an infectious grin; "Yeah, I'm interested."
"I didn't know you drank the good stuff," Jack explained as he tugged the Doctor towards the tourist exit and the waiting Torchwood van.
"Well, it has been a while…" the Doctor muttered.
"I get to see you drunk!" Jack chuckled with a little to much enthusiasm, "You get to try and get me drunk, Gallifreyan metabolism remember" the Doctor pointed out smugly, "Far superior to you humans."
"Yeah, yeah, we'll see Doctor" Jack laughed.
"Just so long as you know it'll be on your tab Captain!" the Doctor said sliding into the passenger seat of the van tossing an amused look over at Jack who nodded keeping his eyes on the streets as he said, "I still owe you that drink don't I."
The drive went with a pleasant silence the Doctor wincing now and then at Jacks driving, but he didn't comment until the car had safely stopped, "Do you always drive like that?"
"Worse" Jack vowed with a perfectly straight face, "The team can vouch for that."
"You know bad driving is hardly something to boast about Captain," the Doctor dryly pointed out.
"Who said I drive bad? I just drive fast. Now come on, drinks on me remember?" Jack said taking his hand and tugging him through the crowd and into the bar, apparently it was Happy Hour and there were a lot of people but it wasn't a problem, Jack blazed a path right through them with a few "'scuse me's" and mega-watt smiles poor things, they never knew what hit them.
The Doctor wasn't oblivious to the stares they were getting when they entered the establishment. Jack was still holding his hand. It made him uncomfortable but he wasn't going to make a fuss over it.
"Ignore them, they're jus staring cuz' we're hot and they're not" Jack chuckled, but he still released the Doctors' hand. "A few more seconds and they'll go back to their drinks" Jack murmured into his ear.
Leaning up against the bar like a man who'd done it many times before Jack asked for a brandy for him and a surprise drink for the Doctor.
"And if I don't like it?" the Doctor asked smiling at Jacks confidence. "Oh, trust me you will."
The Doctor wished he could say he didn't, just to knock that smug smirk off Jacks mouth.
"So" Jack said and his smile just kept getting bigger. "So" the Doctor mimicked refusing to give in.
Jack chuckled. "See, I do know you Doctor."
The Doctor paused mid-drink blinked a few times before nodding seriously, "I suppose you do, but no more or less than I know you Jack Harkness."
The Captain shrugged, knowing exactly what the Gallifreyan was getting at. The Doctor didn't know his name, and he didn't know the Doctors – on that they'd reached a stalemate. But that was okay with Jack. The Doctor was just the Doctor – if that made any sense – and Jack really was Jack now. Wear a name for a couple decades and it became your own.
"Another brandy sir, compliment of the kid over there" the bar tender said sliding the drink at Jack looking as though he'd just smelled something nasty. Jack sniffed the glass, wondering if he'd spit in it. "An admirer, and we've barely been here twenty minutes," the Doctor muttered tossing back another drink.
Jack didn't answer, in fact Jack looked a little pale.
Nothing. The Doctor looked around suspiciously but all he saw was a young man with curly blond hair and big doe-eyes looking at the pair of them, ducking his head embarrassedly.
"More than an admirer?"
"Jack?" he said shaking the Captains shoulder, he snapped out of it with a shake of his head tossing back two more drinks in quick succession.
When he'd reached for his shoulder, he'd drawn back with a tiny almost unnoticeable flinch. "Ah" the Doctor thought, that's what was going on.
"Do you know the lad?" the Doctor asked quietly, "No" Jack said sharply.
"You want to try that again" it was a rhetorical question. "Well let me take a guess shall I, you've met that boy before, more importantly you met him the night of the incident on 36 James Street" the Doctor said watching Jack carefully.
"Anything else you want to add to that" Jack asked his eyes shifting between his drink and the bar-top of which the Doctor knew there was nothing overly interesting about.
"He reminded you."
He didn't need to say what it reminded him off, that was easy enough to guess even without the flinch.
"I'll get over it" Jack said shrugging, "It probably wasn't anything I didn't ask for."
The Doctor didn't slam down his drink and deny it, he didn't shout or try and shake some sense into the Captains thick skull – but that didn't mean he didn't want to.
"And you came to that conclusion how?" he asked evenly swishing the amber liquid in the glass about the foam frothing against the edges.
"I've done things Doctor, things I'm not proud of…maybe it was just the universes way of evening the score."
"You listen to me Jack, and listen well, what those men did to you, that's on them, they took that line of what's humanly acceptable and crossed it into what isn't. Nothing you've ever done would justify that!" the Doctor said his voice imbibed with a righteous fever.
"You can't know that, I can't even know that. I'm missing two years of my life," Jack argued, glancing up at the Doctor hesitantly wanting to believe him. God how he wanted to…
"I can, because I know you. I know the man you were, and I know the man you are. Neither is capable of anything that could ever justify r-" the Doctor quieted down gritting his teeth, he couldn't even say it aloud the word vile and repulsive on the tip of his tongue, "That" he finished wearily.
Jack breathed easier the Doctors words lifting some great weight he'd been carrying around with him since the incident. It wasn't his fault. Rationally he'd know that from the start.
Hearing the Doctor say it just made it real.
Here he was at a bar with a, hopefully, slightly drunk Time Lord and he wasting time digging up the past when he could be sending it with the Doctor.
Things like this didn't happen often.
He didn't know why the Doctor had decided to visit, and he didn't know why the Doctor had come here with him. But he had. He wasn't going to waste this opportunity on self-pity.
He'd be fine, tomorrow he let Ianto fuck him and that'd be that.
"If the horse knocks you off, you get back on." Jack chuckled wondering what Ianto would think of that.
He'd get over it. He always did.
Maybe he'd wait until the Doctor let first, yeah, that's what he'd do.
"Ianto can wait a few more days," Jack thinks to himself.
He wasn't stalling. He wasn't.
"Do you still dance?" Jack asked suddenly, "W-what?" the Doctor stammered caught off his guard, "Do you?" Jack repeated a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth, "Well?"
"Sure, why not, there's music, people, and I'm almost drunk, come on" Jack said and if the Doctor didn't protest as much as he'd expected he blamed the drink.
"So much for superior alien immune systems."
If the Doctor felt the stares he gave no notice, truth was he was to busy being intoxicated by Jacks smell rich and pleasant and human as they danced so close that hips and shoulders and hands brushed. They blending well enough with the crowd that the stares lessened wading into the woodwork.
For once the Doctor was grateful that he had a mediocre sense of rhythm. The last thing he wanted was to make a fool of himself out here in front of all these people. And Jack.
Mostly just Jack, though.
The Doctor wasn't sure when exactly he lost track of time, but he thinks it must have been somewhere between the dancing and the drinking and the slight brush of Jacks hand against his hip that shot tingly feelings of desire through his body, he felt it zinging through his blood that human longing for closeness…intimacy…companionship.
"Snap out of it" he ordered himself. Now was not the time for that.
Jack looked over at him past several females that had lodged themselves between him and Jack, they were practically drooling all over him which wasn't really a surprise even if it was irritating which of course he had no place being. The Captain was having a ball of a time so the Doctor tolerated the heavily perfumed women propositioning Jack with their looks and insinuations.
The Doctor allowed himself a tiny grin as he watched them fawn and flirt because none of them would be leaving with the Captain.
The Doctor could hardly believe it but they'd been out so long that the bar was closing and literally kicking client out, had it really been that long?
It had only seemed like minutes really, really good minutes, which where of course the best kind. Jacks arm was casually slung over his shoulder as he passed on an offer from the petite redhead who'd been eyeing him up like a piece of meat; it was both unsettling and flattering.
"She said what?!"
Jack laughed a rich throaty sound lusty and loud as his eyes crinkled – just a little – at the corners his lips curving upwards, "Don't worry Doctor, I'll protect your virtue from lusty redheads."
"My hero!" the Doctor mocked shaking his head as they squeezed out the door, the bartender was giving the clients still loitering about dirty looks like he was going to reach under the table and pull a semi-automatic any moment, but that only happened in the movies and books, of course.
"Watch were you're going pretty-boy!"
The Doctor blinked trying to press past the rude man with the hulking figure, "Why don't you watch were your going" Jack snapped brushing past the man quickly tugging the Doctor along behind.
That should have been that, and it should have ended there but the man grabbed the Doctor forcibly pulling him around, "I was talking to you pretty-boy!" he snapped.
Jack froze something clicking into place as the mans face became a little clearer, but that voice…shit…before he'd even consciously realized what he was doing his Webley was drawn his finger itching at the trigger.
"Jack put that away! Lets just be on our way, Jack?" the Doctor said pulling at the Captains elbow but he might as well have been speaking to stone. In fact he'd probably have better luck there.
Jack stared at the man and he stared back paling like he'd just seen a ghost, or someone he though he'd killed but one the shock passed he was grinning like the lunatic he must be because Jack still had his gun on him, "Hello nancy-boy, didn't plan on ever seeing you again."
The Doctor knocked the gun up just as it went of with a bang that had there audience screaming and running around like chickens without a head the Doctor would have been amused, if Jack hadn't just tried to shoot someone.
The man was clearly suicidal because he was leaning into Jack whispering something in his ear and backing away into the crowd, and Jack wasn't following that was the Doctors first clue that something was terribly wrong.
The Captain was standing there hands limp at his sides the gun discarded on the floor his face carefully blank. "Jack, what was that all about?" he asked lightly touching Jacks arm, bringing him to attention with a snap.
"That was…that…shit" Jack said slumping limply against the door all the fire gone out of him.
"Oh, oh!" the Doctor said everything becoming brutally clear his own anger tried to rise but he pushed it back now was not the time for that.
Being angry would change nothing, being angry wouldn't get Jack home.
"Lets just get you home now" he said gently, wondering if it would have been so bad to let Jack shoot the man, he'd certainly deserve it, but he couldn't start thinking like that. That wasn't him.
"So that was one of them," it was a statement not a question.
"Your team still doesn't know."
"You do realize there's no shame in what happened, it's not your fault," the Doctor muttered. He wasn't prepared for Jacks quiet, broken answer, his voice paper thin in a way he'd never heard it before, "Isn't it though?"
Jack looked so desolate, so defeated and tried. He looked every year his age, shoulders bowed under the weight of time his eyes locked on some distant point out the window as the Torchwood SUV rumbled gently on home. Jack looked so unlike Jack that he didn't know what to say. So he said nothing.
Before he had a chance to rummage up some words something clever or wise, they were at the Hub and Jack was sliding out the door and in the Hub the Doctor close on his heels, "Jack-"
"Its been a long night Doctor, can I expect to be making breakfast for two tomorrow?"
"Yes, if you have jam? I've missed that, you wouldn't happen to have any of that about now would you?" he asked taking the hint that they would not be having that discussion now. If ever.
"Jam? Yeah its has some creative uses" Jack smirked liking the way the Doctor sort of went all big-eyed and blushing before chuckling, "I'm sure it does. Good night Captain I'll just be…here" he said motioning toward his ship.
"Good night Doctor!" Jack shouted from his bunker below the floors and the Doctor smiled closing the door to the TARDIS.
"Good night Captain."
They'd talk tomorrow, what was the rush, they had plenty of time they did.
His bunker seeming even smaller and colder than usual Jack tossed and turned on the sheets unable to shut down his mind.
He kept replaying the evening trying to forget Him and remember the feel of the Doctors' nose bumping his as they dances, close and comfortable as only old friends could, the flutter that went through him like a shot of whiskey whenever skin brushed making his heart do a silly little jump in his chest…
He held on to that while burying the rest but the memories would not let him be rising from the graves he'd dug like vampires.
The laughing faces of men with hate and ignorance burning in there eyes…
The caress of unwanted hands…
To hot breath at his neck…
The shame of it all riding him hard Jack fell into a restless sleep and when the dreams returned in the dark of night there was none to wake him but his own screams.
Authors Note: For all who have reviewed my utmost thanks, truly, I treasure each and every one. My Doctor Muse has jilted me so have patience while I track her down, the blot bunnies are hiding so all review, ideas and thoughts are welcomed (more than ever). That said please let me know what you think.