The Daleks have their exterminator rays. Jack has his love for the Doctor and Rose, his bravado, and an empty gun. Not much of a contest, really.

The split-second of pain seems to stretch for all time.

His breath comes back in choking gasps. His body keeps trying to tell him that it ought to be dead. There is no battle, and there are no Daleks. There is silence, and some dust on the floor, like what was left after Rose was taken by the transmat beam. Jack is crouched there trying to make sense of it all, when he hears the noise of the TARDIS. It must be returning to its owner like a pet, or the Doctor is crossing his own timeline, or Rose, clever girl, has found her way back—

The TARDIS is fading, not materialising. Jack comes to a standstill. No longer one of the lucky ones, the companions, he takes place among the abandoned, bereft.

He left me behind!

Jack waits in front of where the TARDIS had been for a long time, but it does not return.

He is an ex-Time Agent and an ex-conman; going where he wants is not a problem. Or when.

The trouble is, he doesn't know where he wants to go.

He tried Rose, first. London, early twenty-first century. It takes in more than ten million people, spread out in time because he only can guess Rose's birthdate to fifteen years or so.

He landed in 2007, and it took him two hours to discover telephone directories. When the "R Tyler"s turned up a blank, he started again with Aaron. He isn't as lucky as he could be, but Jacqueline is a lot better than, say, Yvonne. The Ansafone message had Rose's accent, but a lot of them had. When he got through and asked to speak to Rose, she hung up on him, so he went out to check.

It was a high-rise estate, scruffy, a bit of a dead end. This was about sixty years after Nancy and Jamie and the little houses flattened in the Blitz; Jack wondered was it an improvement.

He didn't have to see Jacqueline Tyler after all.

"Ricky—no, Mickey?"

"Well, look who it is. Captain Smooth. What are you doing here? Haven't you got times to see, places to go?"

Not very friendly, but at least he looked roughly the right age. Jack gave himself a mental pat on the back.

"I'm looking for Rose."

"Well, you can look somewhere else, mate, cos she ain't here."

"What? The Doctor sent her back here! Oh, no, tell me the TARDIS didn't malfunction again." He imagined Rose stranded in the Jurassic era with a timeship she had no idea how to use, and groaned.

"Nah." Mickey stopped walking and leaned on a park bench. "She got back here all right, but she left again. She wouldn't stay."


"She got me to pull the TARDIS open so that she could look into the heart of it."

"And she didn't turn into an egg or anything?"

"How should I know? It just vanished, the way it always does."

Jack asked a few more questions, but there was nothing to tell him where Rose had gone, why he wasn't exterminated, how the Daleks had been defeated without using the delta-ray, where the Doctor and Rose were, or how, how, how he could ever find them again. The graffiti on the nearest wall resolved itself into the words BAD WOLF, the name on Satellite Five. Jack slammed his fist against it in frustration.


"Oh, I see," said Mickey. "He's left you behind too. Doesn't feel good, does it? Kind of spoils everything else in the world?"

Jack was too angry and unhappy to respond to this softening in Mickey's attitude.

"Oh, shut up. Ricky."

Looking for two individuals in all of time and space was worse than the proverbial needle in the hayloft—what was a hayloft, anyway? It was unimaginably poor odds.

Jack did his best to narrow them. There were places where history took an odd kink, something happened that wouldn't have is someone hadn't been sticking his nose in. Once he missed someone by a few hours, but the witness descriptions of "the Doctor" didn't sound at all familiar, and once—a massive power outage in North America in 2012—he couldn't get to the bottom of it at all.

He had been at it for five subjective months when, due to a trivial miscalculation, he ended up on Telfontian V in the middle of the Rain Festival. He sloshed through ankle-deep puddles, feeling very sorry for himself and furious with the Doctor.

He thought I was dead. He must have.I though I was dead. I was dead. Second great mystery of my life. Saved miraculously from death to die of drowning in a boondocks solar system like Telfontian.

The rationalisation sounded unconvincing to him this time, but he couldn't bear to think that the Doctor or Rose would have abandoned him deliberately.

His attention was distracted by a slender lavender-haired beauty of indeterminate sex. He had just discovered, pleasantly, female, when he saw Rose.

He must have accosted hundreds of blonde girls and tall leather-jacket-wearing men with protruding ears in the past months, but this was her, it was her, with her hair shorter and a waterproof jacket on, it was her

"Rose! Rose!"

The music and the noise were too loud, she couldn't hear him, and he charged desperately through the crowd, knocking people out of his way—


And now she turned her head, her mouth opened in a shriek and she held out her arms, and they met with enough force to wind both of them, staggering round in a circle. He'd forgotten the way she felt, the smell of her, the way she hugged.


He let go of her long enough to kiss her as though she were the only source of oxygen on the planet, felt her fists clenched in his wet shirt, buried his face against her neck.

"I thought you were killed!"

"Where's the Doctor? What happened to all the Daleks?"

"He was around somewhere, a minute ago—"

They were laughing breathlessly, death and Daleks irrelevant in the joy of reunion. Jack spun Rose around once and ruffled her hair.

"When did you cut this? How long was it for you since Satellite Five?"

"About a month—"

"Rose?" someone said.

Jack surveyed the newcomer over Rose's head: a young man, his own age or a little less, untidy dark hair, brightly coloured feather cloak, slightly disgruntled expression, not bad looking. Not bad looking at all, in fact.

"Who's this, Rose? Another of your boyfriends?"

The other man looked comically surprised at the sound of Jack's voice, and then threw himself into what became a three-cornered hug.

"Usually I like to get a name first," Jack said when he got his breath back. Rose and the other man started laughing.

"Shall we tell him?" he asked Rose.

"You're just cruel, you are," she said. "Tell him."

The man gave a bizarrely familiar cocky grin. "I'm the Doctor. Good to meet you."

"Now wait a minute. I was the one in the game with the plastic surgery. Mind you, your dress sense hasn't improved any." Jack prodded the cloak. "You look like a rooster."

The stranger—Doctor—looked huffy. "It's local colour. I did wonder why the TARDIS brought us here. You still have your key, don't you?"

"How can you be the Doctor?" Jack asked, but he was half persuaded already.

"What are you complaining about? You were definitely dead, I remember that. On the other hand, I also remember Rose maundering on about having power over life and death. I suppose she must have been trying it out."


Rose turned pink, prettily. "Why don't we go back to the TARDIS," she said, "and at least we can be dry?"

It was never that simple, of course.

There was a moment's elbows-in-ribs confusion as all three of them tried to get through the door at once.

"Rose!" yelled the Doctor. "That was my foot!"


Jack shot through the door and brought up against the central consol. Rose and the Doctor tripped over each other and landed in a heap in front of the door. The Telfontian-ites were close behind. Some of them were already banging on the outside of the TARDIS, but luckily doorway seemed too hard a concept to grasp in a hurry. The Doctor jumped to his feet and leaned on the back of the door.

"Jack!" he ordered. Jack hadn't forgotten, not the TARDIS, not any of it. As soon as the TARDIS was under way, the Doctor stopped holding up the door, came to the console and started bossing. Some time during all of this, Jack became convinced. The Doctor didn't look the same or sound the same of feel the same (his elbows were bonier) or even act quite the same, but he somehow was the same. And that was good enough.

The TARDIS's kitchen had changed too. Now it had an alcove with a giant fireplace, a fuzzy hearthrug, a squashy sofa and two squashy chairs. As soon as Jack moved in front of the fire, his clothes began to steam.

"There's no point asking me about it," Rose said. "I don't remember any of it, only like bits of dreams or TV programmes you saw when you were three. One minute there's Mickey and the tow truck, next minute the Doctor's picking me off the floor in Satellite Five. Then we get in the TARDIS and he's all, like, aargh, I am dying, aargh, there's all this light and stuff, then he's all different and he's like, wow, new teeth, let's go to Barcelona."

Rose's talents didn't extend to producing a coherent narrative, Jack thought. There was a clank.

"What are you doing, Rose?"

"I thought we could all do with a cup of tea," she replied brightly.

"Are you turning into your mother or something? I don't like—"

"If she was turning into her mother, she'd be saying—" the Doctor shifted into falsetto—"ooh, two handsome men in my kitchen, oh my, he he he."

The Doctor appeared, still limping slightly. Rose was wearing high heels.

"Shut up, you. I never told you you were handsome," Rose said.

"She thinks it, though," Jack said.

The Doctor said, "Right," dropped his ridiculous cloak on to the hearthrug and collapsed bonelessly on the sofa. He waved one hand at the nearest chair. Jack sat down and stuck his feet in front of the fire to keep drying.

"I wouldn't have left you behind if I hadn't thought you'd been exterminated," said the Doctor. "I'm sorry."

Jack was about to make some wisecrack about checking for breathing, when Rose came round the corner with two battered mugs, a cardboard cup with 'Starbucks' on it, and a packet of something called McVitie's Chocolate Digestives.

"Two sugars," she said, handing one to the Doctor, "chocolate bikkies," she dropped them on the sofa, "and coffee, black, no sugar, for Captain Jack who thinks tea is a Limey drink that tastes of engine fuel."

She went round behind his chair and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.

"Gallons of tea, German bombs, and people going 'Mummy' all over the place," said Jack. "What a war. Thanks, Rose."

The Doctor ate a biscuit. "A thing about Time Lords," he said, rather indistinctly, "is, the thing is...the chocolate is melted off this..."

"It's on the end of your nose," Jack told him. "Nice nose, by the way."

"Thanks. Well, when Time Lords die, they have this thing of making themselves a new body. Regeneration."

"A built-in rewind button? Handy."

"It's not, you know," said Rose, sitting down on the hearthrug. "He's a different person. And the same one, too."

Jack gave it up. The Doctor continued, "Juggins here looked into the heart of the TARDIS." He grinned affectionately at Rose.

"I know," Jack said. "I went and found Mickey. I was looking for Rose."

"We opened the TARDIS with a tow truck," said Rose.

"My poor TARDIS! Anyway, Rose had the whole Time Vortex inside her head, and it was killing her. It was inevitable. Or," he gestured with his mug of tea, "someone else could absorb the Vortex and do it for her. So I did."

There was a short silence. Rose was looking at the Doctor with a happy-sad expression, as if she might cry. She burrowed under the feather cloak.

"I like this," she said vaguely.

"Keep it," said the Doctor. "I don't think it suits me."

"No," Jack agreed. "Cluck. Cluck. So what happened to the Daleks?"

"When you're looking at it from the point of view of all time, anything is finite. It just takes some minor readjustment. Melt the Daleks' heads?" He snapped his fingers. "Easy. Rewind Jack Harkness a bit to when he was still alive?" Snap. "Easy."

He looked from Jack to Rose and back again, set down his tea and held out a hand to each of them.

"I'm very glad you did it, Rose."

"So am I," said Rose and Jack together.

A/N: The Doctor kept trying to sound like CE; I have no idea what Ten's going to to be like, so he ended up a bit...weird. Sorry.