A/N: This is the first in a set of six stories exploring what Jack was doing between being abandoned on the GamesStation and the beginning of Torchwood S1.
Lost and Found
14th November 1953. Hammersmith, West London.
John Hartner tumbled out of the pub at ten-thirty. His steps were steady enough, but he was having slight problems with straight lines. There was a knack to it, not looking too drunk. You had to get just the right amount of wobbliness into your gait without actually falling over at any point. This was a small neighbourhood, and the downside of everyone knowing you was that everyone could gossip about you. John had long-since mastered survival in a place like this.
He nodded goodnight to the passers-by he knew, and had a little trouble getting his key into the door.
"One too many tonight, John?"
Turning, John's face relaxed into a grin as he saw Reg Turner from Number Fourteen.
"You're out a bit late yourself," he said, twisting the key in his fingers.
"Some fellas haven't stopped drinking since Coronation day. Thought the least I should do was see them home. You need a hand?"
"Nah." John turned back to the lock, this time managing to hit home. "Got it."
Once inside with the door closed, John leant against the wall and took a deep breath. Then he took the stairs two at a time up to his tiny bedsit. And managed not to kill the man standing behind the door.
He also managed not to make a sound, old habits kicking in. Instead of delivering a lethal blow, he twisted easily away from the reaching hand, slammed his own fist into the man's chest and kicked his legs out from under him. Then he turned to the man sitting on the bed and noticed the revolver. Service issue, it looked like, and the hand holding it was perfectly steady.
"On the floor, Captain. And please put your hands behind your head."
John obeyed, raising his hands and slowly sinking down next to the man he'd disabled. The room was small and sparsely furnished, just a bed, a wardrobe, a desk and chair, and a sink in the corner with a cracked mirror above. There wasn't much space and, kneeling in front of the open door, John was barely three feet away from the man on the bed. He laced his fingers together, letting the details of the instruction sink in.
"Captain Jack Harkness, isn't it?"
"John Hartner. And I wasn't a captain. Just a sapper."
The man smiled in a surprisingly genuine gesture. Then he called out, "You alright, Jones?"
"Fine, sir." Breathing heavily, but otherwise unharmed, John heard 'Jones' dragging himself to his feet and shutting the door. Then the light flicked on; the naked bulb didn't do much for the atmosphere in the room, but at least it let John see his captor properly.
"Good man." The gun and the cold blue eyes behind it were still completely focussed on John, as they had been throughout the exchange. If John hadn't pegged him as good before, he did now.
"Am I allowed to ask what's going on?" He let some genuine confusion bleed into his voice, still not sure of his ground.
"You can ask." Blue-eyes was still smiling, as though he and John were sharing a pleasant conversation without the question of firearms ever arising. "But as long as you claim not to be Jack Harkness – I understand there's some doubt about the rank – I'm not sure I can answer them."
"I don't understand."
Without looking away or moving the gun off target, Blue-eyes reached into the satchel on the bed and pulled out some photographs, which he dropped to the floor in front of John.
"These were taken on Coronation Day. There was an incident in Muswell Hill. One man disappeared, others had very…strange…experiences. It's our job to investigate these incidents."
The pictures were blurry, but John could make out people with only blankness where their faces should have been, and, in another, two tiny figures clinging to a huge television mast.
"I don't understand," he said, looking up. "What's this got to do with me?"
"If you're genuinely John Hartner, recently moved to this part of London, writer of bad science fiction with no wife, no family and an entirely genuine Scottish accent, then absolutely nothing. If you're not," the man shrugged, "then we've come to talk to you."
Blue-eyes dropped the next picture on the floor, watching John for his reaction. The picture was grainy, probably taken from some distance away. The man in it was young and slim, dressed in a sharp suit. He was also grinning as though someone had split his face in two. It was a face that meant nothing to John.
Next to the man was a girl, smiling as though she was having the happiest day of her life. Moving very slowly, so as not to alarm his captors, John took his hands from behind his head, reached down and picked up the picture.
He'd known better looking people, more talented ones and more intelligent ones, but few had made such an impression on his life, and even fewer women. He also knew that there was only one man who could make Rose Tyler smile like that, so freely and warmly. He looked up.
"What is this?"
"You don't know?"
There was a long, silent moment. John stared at the picture, trying to keep his breathing steady and face calm, knowing it had to be a lost cause, since his cheeks were burning and his heart seemed to be missing every other beat. He was looking at a face that he'd thought he'd never see again, alongside one that he didn't know, but that was now seared into his memory.
Captain Jack Harkness took a deep breath. "What do you want to know?"
Jones drove them through the London traffic, weaving expertly between lanes. Jack sat in the back with the other man, who introduced himself as Gordon Goody.
"Goody?" Jack said, the corners of his mouth twitching.
"I blame my father. But most of the chaps call me Jock."
"Jock?" Jack worked it through. "Gordon Goody. G.G. Gee-gee. Horse. Jockey. You brits and your nicknames."
"You can call me sir." Jock smiled. "When we're on duty, anyway."
"Who are you guys?" Jack shifted in his seat to get a better look at his companion. Jock appeared to be in his early forties, medium height and build, with dark hair that had probably once been cut in military style but was growing out now. Apart from his pale blue eyes, there was nothing striking about him, nothing that would make you pick him out of a crowd.
Jock noticed the scrutiny and smiled his warm smile again. Unusually for men of his type, it lit up his whole face.
"We are an organisation tasked with investigating alien activity on earth. I think that's all I'm authorised to tell you for now."
"How did you find me?"
"We're very good at finding people. Our surveillance is somewhat more thorough than that carried out by the military or the police."
"But what made you look?" Jack insisted. "Why me?"
"You were on one of our lists. One of the top priority ones." Jock reached into the satchel again, removed a manilla file and pulled out a sheaf of papers. "These are witness reports from an incident in London during January, 1941. They mention a British man, an American and a girl. We did some cross-referencing, used the descriptions, some artists impressions, that kind of thing. We've been keeping an eye open for all three ever since." He gave Jack a hard look. "You were careless. You should have chosen a better pseudonym and a profession that didn't put your name in the public domain."
Jack looked away, staring out of the window as London passed by, trying to think. Before he could construct a satisfactory answer, Jock started to talk again.
"The fact that the dates and descriptions matched your record was a great help, of course. And several witnesses recognised your picture from the military files. We'd been hunting for you for nine years, only to have you suddenly reappear in Wales, then vanish again. If it hadn't have been for the rather entertaining review of your last book, we might never have found you. You're good at covering your tracks. I'm hoping it's something you'll be able to teach us."
"Who are 'us'?"
"I've already told you all I can." Jock shook his head. "Except to say is that we're offering you a job and maybe a whole lot more. You'll get full details once we're back at the base."
They'd been driving across the city for some time – Jack had recognised most of the landmarks. Now, they were coming to the dock areas, still showing the scars of German bombing. Many of the buildings had holes in the walls and were missing a roof or a window or a chimney.
They drove on, bumping along the pot-holed road until Jones pulled up outside a pre-fab building, one of several that looked to be in better repair than the others around them. Jock got out, not waiting to see if Jack would follow.
Inside had the smell Jack had come to associate with this kind of building, along with just a hint of whatever scent the receptionist was wearing today. She gave them both a warm hello.
"Go on through, Jock. He's expecting you."
Jock led the way past the receptionist, knocking on then opening another door. Beyond it was a small, stuffy office, apparently full of papers. They were stuck to the walls, along with photographs and maps; they covered the two bulging filing cabinets and the small desk. Behind the desk was a large man with a distinctive military bearing. He frowned up at them as they entered.
"This him, then?"
"Yes, sir." Jock gave Jack a final smile then exited the room again, closing the door almost silently behind him. The man behind the desk carried on frowning, looking Jack up and down without speaking. Taking the opportunity, Jack ran his eyes round the room, taking in details and images.
There were maps of most of London, as well as other parts of the country, with pins and string stuck in them, linking them to each other, to handwritten notes or to photographs. Above the desk was a map of the world, also with pins stuck in it, and beneath that was a row of photographs, eight of them, all of different men. Two of them, Jack recognised, and it took considerable effort to force his attention back to the man behind the desk.
"Hmph." The man sifted through some of the mountain of paper. "Know why you're here, do you?"
"Not exactly, no," Jack said, adding a "sir," just for good measure. In situations like this, you couldn't be too polite.
"Have a seat."
Jack pulled the flimsy wooden chair closer to the desk and sat down, trying not to look up at the row of pictures. He didn't seem to have succeeded, because the other man turned in his chair, also looking at the wall.
"See anyone you know? If you don't, then it's all been a damn waste of time."
"I know one of them." Jack said quietly.
"Good. And what do you know about Torchwood?"
Jack shook his head. "Never heard of it."
"Even better." The man stopped shuffling pieces of paper, looking Jack in the eye for the first time. "And you are Captain Jack Harkness? Volunteer with the RAF during the war? Mysteriously vanished on 21st January 1941?"
"I wouldn't say mysteriously." Jack shifted on the chair, hearing it creak underneath him.
"But you are Jack Harkness." This time, it wasn't a question.
"Captain Jack Harkness. The rank was earned."
"Not with us it wasn't, but as you wish." The man sighed, leaning back in his chair. "I'm Colonel Harding, currently acting as Head of Torchwood. We have two principal mandates. The first is to locate and track this man," he gestured over his shoulder, "wherever and whenever he appears in the country."
"That's a pretty big task," Jack observed.
"More than you know. The second mandate is to record and recover all alien artefacts within the British Isles."
Jack whistled. "You guys don't believe in half-measures, do you?"
"Our sovereign doesn't, and so neither do we. Torchwood was founded by Queen Victoria herself, following a rather distressing encounter with this man." Harding pointed to the man from the photographs Jack had seen earlier in the evening. "We are here, in her words, to learn to fight the enemies beyond our imagination."
"And what about me?" Jack asked, not sure whether, at the moment, he fell into that last category.
"We lost a lot of good men in the war," Harding said, sitting up again. "One of them was our archivist. All the records and stores got moved to Torchwood Prime at the start of the Blitz, but frankly we haven't got a clue what's there now."
"You want me to be your filing clerk?" Jack's tone made it clear how unimpressed he was.
"We want you to take charge of the most important collection of information and objects in the country. And we want you for the job, because, apart from just wanting to keep an eye on you, you are the only person we know who has done more than just meet him. I'm assuming that, when you disappeared, it was because he took you off with him?"
Jack nodded, not sure how much he wanted to say right at that moment. Maybe if he was in a room without that familiar face staring down at him from the wall, he'd feel freer to speak. Right now, his loyalty was still divided.
As if reading his mind, Harding also nodded. "We've had similar reports from other people who've met him. You're not the first to have, shall we say, mixed feelings about the man. What I want to know is, do you want to help us?"
Jack studied Harding as he thought it through. On the one hand, he knew that if given the chance to walk back into the TARDIS tomorrow, he'd take it, without a regret or a second thought. On the other, the feeling of being left behind was one that tore at his heart every minute of every day, twisting into something more than an obsession. Harding was watching him back, not pressing, not persuading, just waiting. For all that his instincts told him it could be a monumental mistake, Jack knew that this was one opportunity he could not allow to pass.
He stood, holding out his hand as Harding also got to his feet. The two men shook hands and, when he spoke, Jack was surprised to hear his voice holding so steady.
"Colonel Harding, count me in."