Waiting patiently was not his forte this time around. Come to think of it, he couldn't say for a fact that it had i ever /i been something he was remarkably good at. The Doctor watched the view screen, glanced at the doors of the TARDIS, rocked back and forth on his feet, and generally just felt the overwhelming urge to run out there and tell the two of them to hurry up and get to coming inside already. Wasn't as if he hadn't been looking forward to this reunion. Oh, sure, he was partly the reason why it had taken so long in the first place. That whole business with not discussing Jack with Rose – well, needless to say he wasn't going to do something like that again. Not if he still wanted her on speaking terms with him.
Which he did.
The Doctor grinned, the goofy smile spreading his lips wide. He wanted her on more than just i speaking /i terms with him. Seemed like he was doing a pretty good job of things, too. Snogging her up against the TARDIS's console could rapidly become one of his favorite activities. Right up there with mucking about through time and running for his life, even. In fact, there was the very real possibility, however slight, that he might even enjoy it i more /I than running for his life. Definitely a theory that he'd have to look into later, complete with further experimentation.
If Rose ever came back into the TARDIS, that was. The Doctor glanced back down at the view screen. Well, at least Jack didn't seem upset with her. That was a good sign, right? Meant that maybe the good Captain wasn't going to be all finger-pointing and accusing when he finally got in here.
Again - i if /i they ever came in here.
The Doctor frowned down at the screen, watching Rose laugh at something Jack said then look around the room they'd landed in with interest. If Rose had been in there with him, she probably would have accused him of pouting. Not that he pouted.
All right, so sometimes he i did /i . But only in the most dignified of ways.
"I'm going to count to ten," he warned no one in particular as he crossed his arms over his chest and lifted his head to the look at the TARDIS's doors. "And then I'm going out there. Can't expect me to just wait in here all day, can they?"
When he reached ten and the door remained firmly shut, he was forced to admit that, yes, perhaps his current companion and former companion very well i did /i expect him to wait in the TARDIS. Couldn't have that. If there was one thing he was known for, it was being unpredictable. Which meant he could march right out there and –
The door to the TARDIS opened, and the Doctor's breath caught, his thoughts coming to a complete and utter stop as he watched Jack and Rose enter. Rose looked over at him immediately, giving him a reassuring smile. She had Jack's hand in hers and didn't let go until Jack looked over and saw him. The other man froze as Rose's hand fell away.
Then he was moving, smiling, wrapping the Doctor in a hug that was almost painfully tight. For the briefest of moments, the Doctor froze, arms still at his sides. It was more than he'd hoped for, this warm welcome. Just for a moment, though. He put his arms around Jack and held on tight.
"I'm sorry," he told him quietly.
"It's okay," Jack said, pulling back. He had a smile on his lips that reached all the way up to his eyes, so the Doctor didn't even question his sincerity. "I might have been angry for a while, but I got over it. Time really does heal all wounds."
That wasn't true. There were some wounds that time just made larger, more gaping and raw. They festered until they became poison.
The Doctor was happy to see that this wasn't one of i those /i .
"One sec, Doc," Jack held up a hand. "Before we take any trips down memory lane or talk about what we've all been doing since, well, that day – can you possibly get your TARDIS out of my hub?"
The Doctor blinked, surprised by the request. Easy as anything to move the TARDIS to somewhere else, if that was what Jack wanted. He just hadn't expected Jack to ask. "Your… hub?"
Jack's grin grew. He stepped back, putting a little distance between himself and the Doctor. "You've landed right in the middle of the Cardiff Torchwood, Doctor. I don't think I need to tell you that it would be best if no one but me knows you were here."
Torchwood? That was the organization responsible for destroying the Sycorax ship. If anything, he wanted to know i more /i about them, not run off the second that he managed to land in one of their bases.
"Wait – i your /i hub? You run Torchwood?" The dots had connected in the Doctor's head, and he didn't like the picture they were forming. He hadn't been able to do much research about Torchwood since the Christmas Day invasion, what with Rose's health and then subsequent regeneration, but the little he'd dredged up didn't paint the kind of picture he was altogether pleased with. Especially considering what he knew about their involvement in the Sycorax's destruction.
Jack laughed. "Well, not the whole thing. Just the Cardiff branch. And I'd love to introduce you to my team – but not right now. Please?"
The Doctor squashed the urge to march out of the doors and investigate just what a Torchwood base of operations looked like and turned his attention to the controls, taking note for the first time of where i exactly /i the TARDIS had landed.
"The Rift?" the Doctor asked, sliding on his glasses. He looked over the tops at Jack. "Your base is located on the Rift?"
"Damn – those look good on you, Doc," Jack drawled.
"Focus, Captain," the Doctor said, but he couldn't stop the little twitch of a smile that passed over his lips. He flipped two switches and pulled the lever nearest him down, setting the TARDIS to materialize outside of the facility, about a block away from where they currently were. Jack grabbed onto the edge of the console instinctively as the ship began to move, shaking only a bit as she lurched from one place to another. A nice lateral shift through space, taking them away from the so-called 'hub' that Jack claimed for his own.
"Can't help it if you look good in this body," Jack continued when they came to a stop.
"Have to agree with him on that, Doctor," Rose's voice was a low purr as she joined them at the console, fingers tracing over the metal. The Doctor didn't miss the way that Jack looked at her, eyeing her up and down just as blatantly as he'd just been doing to him. The Doctor spared her a smile and a wink before turning back to Jack, the smile faltering just a bit.
He tried to keep his tone light when he asked, "Now, Captain. Care to tell me how you ended up with that murderous organization?"
"No, Jack," the Doctor shook his head. "Please respect me enough not to try to convince me that Torchwood acted on the best interests of this planet when they destroyed the Sycorax ship. They were leaving. You lot blew them up. What I want to know is how i you /i got involved here."
"And if I had something to do with what happened on Christmas Day, right?" Jack shot back, warming to the topic. But not in the way that the Doctor would have expected. No, Jack just looked more amused than anything.
He felt Rose's hand slide into his, her warm fingers sliding over his palm to thread through his. She squeezed gently.
"I didn't, just so you know," Jack said with a sigh. "I took over running Torchwood Three about two months after that. As for how I got here, I'll assume you mean Torchwood and not the twenty-first century. Though I guess one led to the other. I came to this century hoping to run into the two of you. Unfortunately, Torchwood fixed onto the timeship that dropped me off. They had me in chains for a month before they started trusting me enough to listen to what I could tell them. After that it was easy. I knew things that they wanted to know. Could identify alien tech. One month after that, they offered me the post here in Cardiff. No one else knew what to do with the Rift. They thought I might have better luck than the last two saps that held the position."
Jack broke off, shrugging. "And that's really it. Sorry to say, Doctor, but I got here two days after the Sycorax had been destroyed."
Sorry? The Doctor frowned. "Why are you sorry about i that /i ?"
Snorting, Jack rolled his eyes. "Because you looked like you were looking for someone to blame for it all, and I can't be that guy for you."
"I wasn't –" the Doctor started to say and then shut his mouth with a snap that he felt all the way into his jaw. That's exactly what he'd been angling for. Finding out if Jack was responsible, ready to condemn him for it if so. He'd only just gotten him back in his life, and already he was screwing it all up. The Doctor sighed. "Sorry 'bout that. I'm less than pleased with Torchwood."
"With reason," Rose offered. "What they did wasn't right, Jack."
"I know," Jack agreed, holding up his hands. "Hey, you don't have to tell me that you don't fire on an enemy that's retreating. That's one hell of a way to get your name thrown about in the universe – and not in a good way. That was all Torchwood One. The head honchos, if you will. And at the Prime Minister's order, if you recall."
Rose snorted with something less than pleasure, and the Doctor agreed. "Your people had nothing to do with that?"
"No. It's only myself, Owen, Suzie, and Tosh right now. None of them worked for Torchwood prior to taking their position in Cardiff, and Cardiff had nothing to do with firing that weapon. Or even priming it." Jack smirked. "What did you expect, Doc? We're just Cardiff, after all."
"Just Cardiff," the Doctor repeated, eyebrows going up. " i Just /i Cardiff. Your bloody office sits on top of a Rift in Space and Time and you say 'just Cardiff' like Rose would say 'just chips' or 'just raining'. The whole world might as well revolve around Cardiff for all that you lot could destroy it by mucking about with the Rift without knowing what you're doing."
Rose's hand slid away from his, her arm snaking around his waist as she leaned her head on his shoulder. The Doctor spared her a warm smile, still amazed by the little things that he noticed about her since the chance. She liked to touch even more now than she had before. Which was saying something, considering Rose Tyler had very much enjoyed casual touching before all of this. He liked the fact that she was taller now though he'd never admit as much to her. It wasn't that she'd been unattractively short before or anything; the added height now just made certain things so much easier.
Like dropping a kiss on her forehead. Without thinking about it. Right in front of Jack.
The Captain was smirking when the Doctor looked back his way. "Glad to see you two finally got around to making the most of the time you have with each other."
The edge of bitterness in Jack's tone didn't escape the Doctor's notice. He was happy for them, but reminded of how things had been before. It was only natural. It would be so easy to call him over, include him in the embrace. Perhaps even see if kissing Jack with these lips felt any different than it had to kiss him – however briefly – with his previous self's lips. There was only one problem with that.
Well, two problems.
The first was that he wasn't sure if Rose was all right with that. The last thing he wanted to do was drive a wedge into their relationship so early on.
The second, and this one the Doctor could admit was pure selfishness on his part, was that he'd only just barely begun to get to know this Rose. He wanted to be the first person that she did things with. The first person to get to touch her, to taste her. Sure, right now all it would be was an embrace and kiss, but later? How easy it was to slip down that slope once the momentum was already in play.
"Anything else interesting happen since we last saw you?" the Doctor asked by way of avoiding the topic entirely. Yes, he and Rose were together. Yes, he wanted Jack. But not yet. Maybe not for a long while. There was too much that he and Rose still needed to figure out for themselves.
"Anything else?" Jack's smile faltered and faded away, until it was gone completely. "Yeah, you could say that. Can you think of any reason why I wouldn't be able to die, Doctor?"
A/N: The rating after this is going to exceed the allowance over here at so all future parts will be found at whofic (dot) com … just check out my author profile (Jinni) for all future updates. Sorry about that.