A/N: Third of six.
The Shangri-La holiday camp featured in the 7th Doctor story "Delta and the Bannermen"
12th May 1959, Shangri-La Holiday Camp, Wales.
"Well, at least we've got the place tidied up."
Jack shook his head as he looked round the holiday camp. Why anyone would come here willingly was beyond him. The architecture reminded him of the several prison camps he'd been in. Sighing, he turned to Hugh. "How we doing?"
"Nothing new. Or possibly nothing at all." Hugh shrugged. "Are you sure this thing works?"
"I'm sure about it." Jack came to look over Hugh's shoulder. "I'm just not sure you know how to use the damn thing."
"Well, if I don't, it's your fault, sir," Hugh said evenly, "since you taught me how to use it."
"Tried to teach you," Jack corrected. "Whether or not you were listening is another matter." He reached over, pushing some of the buttons. The tiny display on the scanner didn't change. He sighed again. "Nope, there's nothing there we didn't already know. Let's pack up."
He let Hugh deal with the camp's staff, knowing that the Welsh accent was going to go a lot further here than his would, while he spun a convincing lie for some bewildered CIA agents. Something about top security, high level attachments and a vague promise to call them did the trick. Then he wandered round for a while, peering into rooms and taking the occasional photograph for the archives. Nothing had been left behind this time, no sign that anything unusual had happened here. But for Jack, it was another point on the map, another moment that he could pin down, mark on the chart.
The Doctor was here.
Driving back to the guest house in the dying light, Jack flicked through the witness reports for the eighth time.
"You'll wear out the writing, sir," Hugh said, not taking his eyes from the road.
"I just find it unbelievable that he was here, involved in the usual, you know, stuff, and all we've got is one missing man, who seems to have gone of his own accord. Incredible." Jack shook his head, closing the file again and settling back in his seat. "So how does it feel, Jones, to be back in your native land?"
"About the same as it always does, sir."
"Do you have family here?"
"Some cousins. No-one close." Hugh was still staring straight ahead. "There was only Dad and me, and he was killed in the war. Shot down."
Acknowledging the sympathy with a nod, Hugh glanced at Jack.
"You must have lost friends too, sir."
It wasn't very subtle, despite what Hugh may have thought, and it took an effort for Jack to keep a smile from his face. Instead, he nodded.
"Too many." He stared out of the window, watching as the rain settled in. "This weather's going to slow us down."
"We'll make it before dark." But Hugh didn't sound certain.
"Our lives in your hands."
They drove in silence for a few more miles, Jack increasingly aware of how poor the visibility was and Hugh's concentration to keep the vehicle on the road. Night was closing in fast, along with the weather, and soon the countryside was covered in darkness.
The road had become far bumpier than Jack remembered from the journey out. Apparently Hugh thought so too, because after a few more minutes he brought the car to a complete halt. They sat, watching the rain fall though the beams of the headlights and listening to the squeak of the wipers.
"Hugh," Jack said after a while.
"Are we, by any chance, completely and utterly lost?"
Hugh considered this.
"Well, I know we're in Wales. So we're not utterly lost."
"That's a great comfort, Hugh, thanks."
"You're welcome, sir."
"Any plan for getting us out of here?"
"Generally speaking, roads go somewhere. If we follow it, we might find a village or at least a farmhouse at the other end."
"You call this a road?" Jack peered through the windscreen. "It barely qualifies as a track."
"It is a little rough, sir. But it's either that or sit here all night."
"Good point. Lead on, MacDuff." Jack's accent was atrocious.
"He was Scottish, sir."
They managed about another two hundred yards before Jack felt something begin to slip.
"Hugh," he began, not managing to finish the sentence as the car lurched and he was thrown against the door hard enough to knock the breath out of him.
The car began to tip, and for a horrible moment, Jack thought it was going to roll over. Then Hugh turned the wheel, stopping their slow spin with a final bump. Jack guessed that they had travelled through ninety degrees, landing both back wheels in the ditch that ran alongside the track.
"Well, that was interesting," he said, trying to see outside. The rain was still coming down hard.
"Sorry about that, sir, but I think we're stuck."
"Not your fault, Hugh. I think you're right." He sat back again, thinking. "There's no point trying to do anything about it tonight. We're just going to get wet and there's a good chance we'll make it worse."
"Then I suggest we get into the back, sir. It's going to be more comfortable for spending the night."
"Ever the practical one, aren't you?"
"I like to think so."
Jack carefully climbed over first, squeezing out of the way as Hugh joined him. After some fumbling behind them, Hugh located a blanket.
"Just the one?" Jack raised an eyebrow. "Cozy."
Hugh stopped in the process of unfolding the blanket, frowning at Jack.
"Sir, can I ask, why do you always do that?"
"Do what? And you don't have to call me sir, not all the time."
"You know." Hugh wasn't looking at Jack, apparently preoccupied with arranging the blanket properly.
"No, I don't. What?" Jack put out a hand, stopping Hugh's movements.
"You know," Hugh repeated, looking down at Jack's fingers round his wrist. "You don't seem to have the same…boundaries."
"Boundaries." Jack released his grip, considering the question. "No, I guess I don't, not by your standards, anyway."
"My standards? Welsh? British?"
Hugh was settled under the other end of the blanket now, leaning against the window and looking at Jack, who knew he had to tread carefully. Not even Harding and Jock knew exactly where he'd come from; he'd managed to keep the full details from them, even if there had been no way of omitting his time travel completely. If they knew precisely how much time travelling there had been, they might have felt differently about letting him loose in the world. Jack didn't fancy the idea of being looked up somewhere, writing down everything he knew about the next thirty centuries. For one thing, it would take an embarrassingly short period of time.
"We'll start with British, I guess. You're the only Welshman I know personally, and, although there are some stories about sheep, I'm sure they're just rumours."
"Haven't heard that one before." Hugh shifted under the blanket.
"Things are just much more free in my- where I come from."
"I realised that much."
"No, really. It's just not an issue." Jack looked at his companion. "You're married, right?"
"And you've got a kid? Jock said something about a son."
"Hywel. Not quite six." Hugh's face relaxed into a genuine smile.
"What's your wife's name?"
"Didn't the receptionist at Torchwood London used to be called Marion?"
"That's her." Hugh shook himself, frowning at Jack. "We're getting off the point."
"There was a point?" Jack's expression was all innocence. Hugh was sharper than he'd hoped. Jack had once spent two hours listening to a Velian talk about his wives and children. It had been dull, but it had saved his skin, not mention other parts of his anatomy.
Hugh wasn't so easily distracted. "You were saying that things were much freer where you're from."
"It just means I'm not so used to minding what I say, minding my manners. Where I'm from, you see something you like, you just go for it. Sometimes you get complications, sometimes regrets, but mostly you get good times and a whole world of fun."
"What about marriage? What about families?"
"It doesn't really work like that. Not there." Not then, he thought. This was like trying to explain quantum mechanics to an ant. They weren't even working in the same universe. "It's hard to explain."
"Obviously." Hugh thought for a moment, then said, "So don't you have a family? People to miss you?"
"Not now." Seeing Hugh's expression, he went on, "My parents are long gone and I lost plenty of friends when I, ah, left the service." Yeah, Jack thought, that works as a translation for 'went rogue from the Time Agency.'
"And more when you went with the Doctor," Hugh said simply, and it took an effort of will for Jack to hang on to his composure.
"Yeah," he breathed, swallowing hard.
"Was it worth it?"
Jack considered the question. There'd been fun. There'd been adventures, and laughter and dancing and-
"Yes," he said, surprising himself. "I travel light, Hugh. No looking back, no regrets. No hanging onto things that aren't worth it."
"What about a wife? Children? Friends? Aren't people worth hanging onto?"
"Some are. But life doesn't always let you."
"It just sounds…" Hugh stopped, choosing his words carefully. "It sounds lonely."
Jack didn't answer that, still not sure why he'd said so much to this quiet, unassuming man. Hugh drove him round the country, arranged food and shelter for them and never, ever asked for anything except the occasional weekend off. Maybe that was why.
They sat in silence for a long time, listening to the rain pounding against the roof of the car. Jack felt Hugh shiver and pull the blanket closer around his chest.
"You're freezing, man," he said, reaching out to touch a hand like ice. "Come here." He tried to tug the hand towards him, feeling muscles stiffen. "Oh for the love of-" He released his grip, moving across the small space until they were sitting leg to leg. "This isn't a come on or meant to be any kind of inappropriate touching – although, given the way you guys define that, I'm not entirely sure about the last point. It's just meant to stop you getting hypothermia."
He wrapped an arm around the smaller man, pulling them close together under the warmth of the blanket. Hugh's back was rigid at first, then he shivered hugely, huddling closer to Jack.
"You're still so warm," he said. "Is that another-"
Hugh was silent for a long time and, this at this proximity, Jack could feel him breathing.
"I was there, Jack. At Torchwood House. After you fell."
"I remember." The drive back to London was not one Jack was likely to forget.
"I thought," Hugh said, "that maybe, maybe we were wrong. Maybe you weren't dead. Maybe we made a mistake. But Mr Goody said-"
"Did he?" Jack made a mental note to ask Jock just how many other people he'd told about the remarkable resurrection of Captain Harkness.
"It just sounded, well, impossible to me, but he swore it was true."
"However impossible it sounded, the reality was probably worse." Jack shivered a little himself, remembering the driving wind and rain, the sensation of his mind being invaded, his supposed final decision to let himself fall those fifty feet. The darkness and the light.
"What was it like?" Hugh's voice was so soft that Jack nearly didn't catch the question.
"I don't know." He stared unseeingly ahead. At first, there had been no-one to tell. Jock had made a point of not asking, and Jack wasn't about to write it down in a report. Then he'd not wanted to remember, not wanted to torture himself with the memory. But here, huddled in the back of a car, stranded in the Welsh countryside, it all came flooding back. He tightened his grip around Hugh. "It was…rest…peace…warmth. I don't know. There was light, but not in the 'go into the light' sense. Light all around. It was…beautiful."
"Shangri-La," Hugh said, and Jack smiled.
"Only no red coats telling you to vacate the swimming pool." He shook his head. "Shangri-La? It's as good a word as any."
"Do you know what it means? Shangri-La?"
"Not that I remember."
"It means heaven on earth," Hugh said, "but I've always thought of it as home. Like, the best home you've ever had. Somewhere you're safe, always."
"Are all Welshmen this poetic, or is just you?"
Hugh snorted a little, shifting against Jack to get more comfortable. "Do you have a home, Jack?"
"Not that I've found." The image of a blue box rose unbidden in his mind, but he pushed it away again.
"Maybe you're looking in the wrong place."
This time, it was Jack's turn to snort. "Hugh Jones; penny philosopher and comforter to the masses."
"What's wrong with comfort?"
"It's not real, Hugh. It doesn't last. Nothing does."
He felt Hugh shrug. "All the more reason to enjoy it while you can. It lasts long enough."
"Carpe diem, eh?"
"Nothing to do with fish, far as I know."
Jack shook his head. "Never mind."
They sat in silence again and Jack could almost hear Hugh thinking. He realised he was starting to brace himself against the other man's deceptively innocent questions. This time, Jack would be ready for him.
"Do you sleep, Jack?"
"Why'd you ask? No, don't tell me. Jock said something, didn't he? Has he got you babysitting me?"
"He asked me to keep an eye on you."
"So do you?"
"Oh. No." Jack thought about it. "I mean, I get tired sometimes, I lie down, close my eyes."
"But it's not sleep like the rest of us sleep."
It's not like I used to sleep, either, Jack thought, trying to remember what it had been like. Such a simple thing, that he seemed to have forgotten how to do.
"Well," Hugh said, breaking into the reverie, "I do sleep, if you don't mind, sir."
"Dereliction of duty."
"You can report me in the morning."
"Count on it."
Jack leaned his head back, staring at the roof of the car, listening to the raindrops and the gentle rhythm of Hugh's breathing.
He was standing in front of a baying crowd, that much he could hear. The hood was made of thick fabric, heavy and suffocating. The rope holding his hands behind his back was rough, chafing at the skin of his wrists, and these guys really knew how to tie a knot. He could feel cold air against his bare skin and tried to use that to judge how much clothing he was wearing while the rest of his senses struggled to keep up.
There was barely time to take stock before the hood was ripped off and someone kicked at the back of his legs. He landed hard on his knees, wincing as a hand twisted in his hair, forcing him to stay upright. But at least he seemed to have hung onto his trousers this time.
Blinking in the glare, he looked up at the judge's seat in front of him. As things came back into focus, his heart sank to the pit of his stomach. Glaring down at him was last night's victim, a serious, grey-haired man who hadn't seemed nearly so severe in that dark bar. Jack had the distinct impression that he'd been set up.
They were passing sentence now and it was funny, but he didn't remember learning the local language. Maybe all death sentences just sounded the same. Apparently they didn't go much for rehabilitation in this part of the galaxy.
He didn't bother to struggle as he was yanked to his feet again and dragged forwards, towards the crowd. It was full of the usual mix of faces and species, some yelling insults, some cheering, most trying to sell things to everyone else. As his eyes moved from face to face, he became aware of a stillness to one side of him, as though the crowd there had fallen silent.
Turning his head just enough, he looked into a pair of deep set, calm eyes and a well-remembered face. Something inside Jack told him that wasn't right. He shouldn't be here; he wasn't here, not then. Jack was supposed to be taken back to the cell. He'd request the hypervodkas as only Marilla at the Veda Bar could make and would leave in the morning with the hangover from hell and no regrets on any side. That was what was supposed to happen.
The guard dragged him on, giving him only a final glimpse of that face, still blank and remote. Then the crowd parted in front of him, and he looked up at the execution post. This was not supposed to happen.
He began to struggle, pulling against the ropes, digging his feet into the ground, anything to slow them down. He twisted in the guard's strong grasp, trying to see where the Doctor had gone, call to him, ask him to do something, anything to stop this. Then another guard appeared, hitting him round the head so that he stumbled forwards, unable to resist. They were dragging him up the steps now, forcing him inexorably on, tying his hands to the posts, setting the charge. He could feel the first jolts of electricity pulsing through his muscles and he fell to his knees, still shouting, crying the same name, over and over again.
Jack woke with a cry, fighting against the heavy cloth wrapped round him. Someone had hold of his arm and he lashed out, trying to break free. Then he heard swearing in a voice he recognised. He gasped.
"You've got a hell of a right hook, sir." Hugh was turned on the seat, back pressed against the door and one hand on his cheek.
"Hugh." Jack shifted to make room, trying to get his breath back. It was nearly day outside, the light diffused through the steamed-up windows. Hugh moved his mouth experimentally.
"Nothing's broken, I don't think." He gave Jack a sideways look. "Tell me again why you don't sleep."
"That would be it." Jack realised he was still shaking. "They're so damn real."
"You're telling me." Hugh cleared some of the condensation from the window, frowning out at the countryside around them. "Nothing but fields as far as the eye can see." He glanced back at Jack. "I think we're still lost, sir."
"Funny that." Even though he knew what Hugh was doing, pulling him back into reality from the raw, deep fear of the nightmare, Jack was still grateful. This kind of manipulation he could live with. He pushed the blanket away. "Let's at least see if we can get out of the ditch. Walking back to civilisation just lacks style."
It took nearly an hour of pushing, manoeuvring, engine-revving and swearing before the car finally hit the road again. Jack made Hugh turn back in the direction they'd come, reasoning that they had to reach the original route eventually.
Apart from a bit of sotto voce grumbling, Hugh said nothing. Nothing about the previous night's conversation nor about the rude way he'd been woken up, although the darkening bruise on his face would make it hard to forget. Instead, he concentrated on the road, breaking into a smile of delight as they reached a t-junction.
"This is where we are."
"I'm glad you're here to tell us these things. Hugh Jones, navigator extraordinaire."
Ignoring him, Hugh checked both directions before swinging the car to the left. "This is where we went wrong in the dark. It really won't be long now, sir."
"We'll grab our stuff and press on to Cardiff, I think," Jack said, noticing that they were back to 'sir.' "They were expecting us hours ago."
"As you like, sir. Though I wouldn't say no to a spot of breakfast, if we've time."
"I think we can make time to feed you, Hugh." Jack sat back, watching the road. "And before you ask, yes, I eat."
"Never said a word, sir."
"I've actually been known to eat insubordinate employees."
"I'm sure you have, sir."
Jack glanced across, but Hugh was still watching the road, a carefully blank expression on his face. Unable to help it, Jack began to laugh.