A/N: Part 6 of 6. Reviews and concrit welcomed as ever. Series 2: The Wandering Years will be along in a few months, but there's a preview chapter up already.
Jack, the Weevil and me
25th October 1970. Cardiff Bay, Wales.
I was sixteen when Jack Harkness came to see us in Wales. He was an old friend of my father's and he used to come round all the time when we lived in London. But he wasn't like Dad. Dad was quiet, serious, placid, and the job he did was beginning to show, just a little, around the edges. They'd worked together forever and Jack was Dad's best friend.
He was my hero.
I braced myself for days beforehand, rehearsing what I was going to say when I saw him again, imagining what he was going to say to me. He'd saved Dad's life four times, and that was just the ones I knew about. I'd spent three weeks working at Torchwood the previous summer and already knew it was what I was going to with the rest of my life.
The Cardiff weather, as ever, let us down and it was raining as Jack's train pulled into the station. I was disappointed with the drizzle, and with the transport. What kind of superhero rolled into town on British Rail? It should have been a sports car. Or a helicopter.
Instead, the diesel slid slowly to a stop and Dad and I craned our necks as the passengers got off. I was already an inch taller than him, so I should have had a better view, but it was Dad who spotted Jack first. He waved, then nudged me, pointing to a man weaving his way through the crowd.
It seemed to take forever for Jack to get through, mostly because he stopped and talked to everyone he passed. He must have made friends with half the train on the journey up from London. When he finally got to us, he greeted Dad like a long-lost friend, wrapping him in an enormous bear-hug. I stood awkwardly to one side as people stared and smiled, making comments about eccentric Americans.
"This cannot be Hywel."
Jack released Dad and held out his hand to me. His grip was firm and warm, his smile broad and genuine. I was dazzled.
Dad insisted on taking Jack's bag and we walked out to the car together. Jack stopped outside the station, raising his face to the sky.
"You know, Hugh, I always know I'm in Wales. The rain here tastes better."
Dad shook his head fondly, the way he did when Mum made a really bad joke. "The car's this way." As Dad led the way to the car park, Jack put his arm around my shoulders.
"So, I hear you did some work for us last summer."
I nodded, my throat still too tight to speak.
"You enjoy it?"
I nodded again, more enthusiastically this time and Jack laughed.
"It's ok, Hywel. I do speak English."
"On occasions." We'd caught up to Dad, who was putting the bags in the boot. I climbed into the back of the car and we pulled away. From where I was sitting, I could see Jack in profile as he and Dad talked about work. He didn't look much like a secret agent. His hair was longer than I'd imagined, with a few strands falling onto his forehead. To me, he looked more like a movie star or TV actor. It was hard to imagine him shooting a gun or beating a bad guy to a pulp.
Then Dad said something that made Jack's face harden. There was something in his expression, something cold and remote that I couldn't quite place. His eyes narrowed, apparently thinking, and suddenly I could imagine him doing all of the things that Dad said, and more. In that moment, he frightened me.
Then he caught me watching him, and his face relaxed into a smile.
"Don't worry, kid. We'll take care of it."
Back home, Mum was waiting as we pulled up outside. Jack greeted her with a kiss, turning and leaning her back like they were in a film or something. Mum giggled and Dad sighed, giving Jack a light clip round the ear.
"You missed your chance," he said. "Paws off."
"It's a compliment." Jack stood Mum up again and grinned at Dad. "Can I help it if your wife is that beautiful?"
"Charmer." Mum straightened her hair and we all went inside. Dad gave me Jack's bag to take up to the guest room and, when I came back, they were sitting on the sofa with their business faces on. I was about to join Mum in the kitchen when Dad glanced at Jack, who nodded and called me over.
Jack was in the armchair so I sat next to Dad on the sofa, not quite sure what I was doing there.
"Do you know what a Weevil is?" Jack asked. When I nodded, he waved a hand, inviting me to keep going.
"It's an alien," I said, stumbling a little over the word. "They come through the rift and live in the sewers. Sometimes they kill people."
"Pretty fair summary, I'd say." Jack grinned at Dad, who shrugged. I looked from one to the other; they seemed to be holding a conversation that I couldn't hear, because eventually Dad looked away and Jack looked at me.
"We had some Weevil sightings in the city last week. It needs to be found and fast."
"You're going to hunt it down?" I said, and cringed as the words sounded so pathetic coming from me. If he noticed, Jack didn't say anything. He just grinned more widely.
"We're going to try to catch it, yes."
"Catch it?" I was surprised. "I mean, don't you want to kill it?"
"That's what I thought," Dad said, still not looking at Jack.
"They're not actually animals," Jack said, "even though they seem that way to us. They could have sentience."
"I'm sure that'll be a great comfort to the dead people's families." Dad put on a sing-song, exaggerated version of his accent. "Well, Mrs Smith, I'm afraid your husband's dead but you'll be pleased to hear that the thing that did it was sentient, so that's alright."
"We need to know, Hugh," Jack said quietly. "If these things have awareness on even the most remote level, we can't just slaughter them."
"They do us."
"We're not them." Jack's voice was hard, commanding. "Anyway, it's not our decision. Torchwood wants one of these things caught and that's what I'm here to do. If you're not going to help me, I'll guess I'll just have to go it alone." He wagged a finger at Dad. "But if I come back with my throat ripped out-"
Dad swore, something he never did in front of Mum, and hardly ever in front of me. Jack laughed and Mum came in to tell us that tea was ready.
The next day was a Saturday, and Dad let me go to the Base with him and Jack. I'd only been back twice since the summer, but everything looked just the same. The walls were tiled, with water constantly running down them. The place was practically in the Bay and everything in the main room always felt damp.
Jack shook hands with everyone, sharing old jokes and making up new ones. He commented on the changes since he was last there; the computer was coming on well and he spent ages talking to the keeper. He flirted with everyone, the men included. Dad tried to distract me, so I wouldn't notice, but with Jack, somehow it wasn't weird.
Eventually Dad dragged him away from everyone else, and we went into his office. Dad had been running Torchwood Three for nearly two years, and he spent as much time there as he did at home. He sat behind his desk, Jack took the guest chair and I hovered by the door. After a while, someone came in with mugs of tea and a pile of files. As they started going through them, Jack beckoned me over.
"You'll want to see this, Hywel." He handed me a file. "See what you make of that."
I took the file, my hand shaking, opened it and started to read.
After a while, Jack whistled under his breath.
"Those are just the ones we know about." Dad sat back in his chair. "Since UNIT started getting involved, we're finding it harder to keep track. The lines of responsibility are harder to draw."
"I know. Torchwood One's working on that." Jack didn't look up from his file. "In the meantime, they'd quite like a Weevil of their own, if it's not too much trouble."
Dad shook his head. "They're mad, you do know that, don't you?"
"Aren't we all? Is the transportation arranged?"
"A secure van, restraints, tranquilisers, the works. And James is going to go back with you, to share the driving."
"And the guarding." Jack shook his head. "You actually been up close to one of these things, Hugh?"
"Once, and that was too many times."
I didn't know about that, so I kept my eyes on the page, pretending to be reading as he talked.
"You've read the descriptions?"
"Everyone here writes like they've been frozen in time for the last century." Jack closed the file and dropped it onto the desk with a smack. "They don't tell me what it was really like to face one."
Dad sighed. "They're about the size and shape of a man. They've got a long claw on each finger…."
"I got that from the report, Hugh. What happened to you?"
"We were tracking it down by the docks. The smell down there helps disguise it, and we've had more sightings there than anywhere else in the city. It had got onto a small ship, not much more bigger than a fishing trawler. It killed the crew and threw their bodies overboard. We got alerted when they washed up." Dad leaned back, staring at the ceiling. "They're fast Jack. Damn fast. And absolutely vicious. They don't go for wounding or maiming and they're definitely not interested in surrender. They just go for the kill, no hesitation. You have to take them down quickly or you're done for. It nearly blinded one of my men and landed two more in hospital before we killed it."
"Good work." There was no mockery in Jack's voice, and I realised that Dad killed the Weevil without it killing any of his men. Judging by what I'd just read, that was harder than it sounds. It's funny, but up to that point, I'd always imagined Dad as a kind of glorified civil servant, pushing paper for the government. It was difficult to imagine him creeping round the docks at night, hunting down a killer alien.
I must have been staring because Jack smiled at me.
"What have you got there, kid?"
I cleared my throat and tried to remember what I'd just read.
"Um, well, the report says that the Weevils are strong," I managed before Jack held up a hand to stop me.
"Ok, first of all, no sentence that begins with 'um' is one that people are going to listen to. Second of all, I want to know what you think about the report, not what it says. If I wanted to know what it says, I could have read it myself. I'm looking for a fresh perspective."
I gulped, trying desperately to think of something, anything to say. Jack's eyes bored into me and I wondered if he could read minds. Dad didn't move.
"Ok," I said, facts and figures floating in front of my eyes. "The Weevils are very strong, much stronger than a human of the same size. If the report's right, then they move incredibly fast, much to fast for a human to catch."
"You need to corner it. If it can run, it will and you'll never catch it." Jack nodded, and I realised that this is the kind of thing he wanted to hear. Spurred on, I said, "But if you corner it, it'll fight. So you need to trap it somewhere that you've planned in advance. They don't seem to have a particularly strong sense of smell, which probably means their eyesight is good."
"Interesting. What makes you say that?"
"Because they've got to be hunters." Warming to the subject, I forgot that I knew less about this than Jack and Dad. I was talking like I knew these things. "They've got teeth and claws, speed and strength. But there's nothing to indicate that they hunt by smell and they smell pretty strongly themselves. So they must use one of their senses to hunt, and it's not going to be touch."
"Good reasoning." Jack glanced at Dad, who was giving him a strange look. "Well, that's our plan then, Hugh. Set up a Weevil trap. One that's disguised really well so that they don't spot it and is really strong so that they don't break out of it. Then all we have to do is find a Weevil and drive it in there."
"Why didn't you say it was so easy?" Dad took a gulp of tea, raising an eyebrow at Jack. "We'd have done it years ago."
"Sometimes it has to come out of the mouths of babes." Jack nodded his head towards me. "Nice work, kid, but don't be fooled on the scent front. Wouldn't surprise me if these things can smell us coming a mile off, not mention hearing us. You didn't say anything about that."
"This tea's cold," Dad said, making a face. "Go get us some more, lad, would you?"
I took the cups and I was buzzing, although I wasn't quite sure why. I didn't tell Jack anything he couldn't have worked out for himself, not to mention leaving out something really obvious, but he'd let me think for myself. It hadn't been like when Dad let me win at cards or backgammon. When Jack did it, it was cool.
I carried the tea carefully back, trying not to spill any or trip up the steps, and stopped outside the office, wondering how I was going to pull the door open when my hands were full. It was open a crack and I was about to try and hook my foot around it, when I realised I could hear the conversation going on inside.
"You can tell me that until the cows come home, but I still know there's more going on here." That was Dad. "Is it Hywel?"
"What?" Jack sounded genuinely confused.
"Is it Hywel? He's bright, I know. Damn sight brighter than me. Is Torchwood One worried about me letting him work here?"
"Don't be an idiot. They're not worried about him at all. I think they're just relieved that it's one less person to recruit. Things have been trickier these last few years."
"Then is it me? I mean, I know the Weevils have been a problem lately, but there's nothing more we can do."
"And no-one better to do it. Look, it's not about you or Hywel or anything to do with Torchwood Three." Jack paused. "Although I do think you need doors that close better."
The door swung open suddenly and Jack was there, looking down at me with a half-smile. "Need a hand with that?" he asked, and I felt my face flush.
"I've got it."
Dad glared at me as I came in the room, and I knew that they weren't going to say any more with me there. I put the tea on the table and hurried back into the main Hub, hearing the door close properly behind me.
We didn't see much of Jack over the next week. He only came home for one night and Dad said he hadn't been into the Base much. I was allowed to go in on Saturday to help feed the computer, and Jack arrived at ten and went straight up to Dad's office without saying hello to anyone. They were in there a long time and when Dad came out, he was wearing his gun.
"Can you get yourself home, Hywel?" he asked and I nodded. "Good boy." He gripped the back of my neck and pulled me towards him, planting a kiss on my forehead. "Tell your mother not to wait up."
I was home by four and stood in the kitchen, watching Mum roll out pastry for tea. I couldn't get the picture out of my head, of Jack standing by the Base door, waiting for Dad. They both looked so serious that it made me shiver.
"Yes, love?" She was humming as she worked, and only looked up when I didn't reply. "What is it?"
I wasn't sure what I wanted to ask, so instead I said, "When Jack arrived, here at the house. Well, doesn't Dad mind? You know?"
"The kissing?" I nodded and she smiled. "Your Dad's known Jack a long time and so have I. We're used to him. It's just Jack."
"I just can't imagine Dad letting anyone else, well…" I trailed off and Mum gave me a sharp look.
"I should think not." She put the rolling pin down and wiped her hands on a tea towel. "Hywel, you're going to find that, where Jack is concerned, the normal rules don't really apply."
"Like all kinds of things." She shook her head. "You'll understand when you're older."
I thought about this for a while as Mum started putting the pie together.
"Jack's not quite what I expected," I said at last.
"Well, it's a few years since you last saw him. What do you mean?"
"I don't know." It was hard for me to put into words. "I think I expected him to look older. I mean, he's known Dad for ages, right?"
"Since the year you were born."
"Right. So how come he's not the same age as Dad?"
"What makes you think he isn't?"
"He doesn't look it."
"Appearances aren't everything." Mum finished the pie and looked at me. "Whatever you want to know, I suggest you ask Jack. Now, didn't you say you had some homework to get done before Monday?"
It was late, and despite what Dad had said, Mum and I waited up for him to get in. I made some Horlicks, and we both sat and watched it go cold. Every now and then, Mum told me to go to bed, but I shook my head. I didn't want to sleep, not yet.
At two a.m., we heard a car outside, and Mum jumped to her feet.
They were filthy. Dad's coat was soaked through and they both left their boots outside, so as not to get muck on the carpet. Mum sent them upstairs to change while she put the leftover pie on plates in the oven to warm through. I heard water running and, after a while, muffled voices from upstairs. When they came back down, I saw that Jack had a nasty cut across his forehead and was moving more stiffly than I remembered. Mum noticed too but he wouldn't let her do anything.
"I'm famished," he said, with a flash of his old smile. "Do I smell one of your famous meat pies, Marion?"
Dad didn't say anything, just wolfed down his dinner and sat back, looking at Jack.
"You'd be as well to let Marion take a look at those cuts," he said at last, fixing Jack with a firm look. Jack looked like he was going to protest, but then Mum looked at him as well, and he held up his hands in surrender.
"I'm fine, really. But if you want to fuss over me, be my guest." He started to unbutton his shirt as Mum went upstairs to fetch the first aid kit. "I just think you're trying to get my shirt off," he said to Dad, who went very red. At first, I thought he was embarrassed, then I realised he was angry.
Dad hardly ever lost his temper, and never shouted, at me or Mum. His silences were much worse. Jack seemed to know that, because his face fell and he looked away, staring at the floor as he slipped out of his shirt. He was wearing a t-shirt underneath, and he struggled out of that as well. It was covered in blood.
I'd seen Dad without his shirt lots of times, on holiday or at the swimming pool. He was slim and wiry, like me, with narrow shoulders and pale skin. Jack was much more muscled, his chest and arms had more definition than mine would ever have. But that wasn't the first thing I noticed. His skin was torn and ripped, with deep scratches and smaller grazes all the way from his neck to the top of his trousers.
Mum tutted when she saw him, putting the first aid box down and making him stand up as she disinfected the cuts. Jack winced occasionally but didn't say anything. He was looking at Dad the whole time and they were having another one of their silent conversations. Finally, Mum started wrapping a bandage around Jack's chest, winding it round and round like a mummy.
"At least you won't get blood on the sheets, now," she said, and Jack laughed.
"You know," Dad said, and I jumped as though I'd forgotten he could speak, "most people, when faced with a Weevil, like to run in the other direction. They generally don't go in for a bout of all-in wrestling."
"True, but it wrestled me first." Jack was holding the bandage for Mum as she finished. "And what was I supposed to do? Ask it to wait nicely while I beat a hasty retreat?"
"Jack, it was a stupid risk to take. You could have been-" he stopped short, cut off by a sharp look from Jack. They seemed to have remembered I was in the room, because Dad nudged my shoulder.
"You should get to bed, Hywel. You'll be fit for nothing in the morning."
I didn't want to go, but Jack nodded too, and I was suddenly very tired. I left my door open as I got into bed, hearing them talking in low voices, and I thought I'd stay awake to listen. But when I lay down on the bed, I was asleep almost at once.
Jack stayed another week, tracking Weevils through the sewers. He came home more often than before, disappearing into the bathroom to get rid of the smell before joining us for dinner. He looked tired.
It was another Saturday, and I was at the Base again, helping with the filing. I knew where everything went, by now. Jack and Dad were in his office, going over the latest Weevil reports. There were a few other people around as well, sitting at their desks and pretending to work. In truth, I think they just wanted to be where Jack was. Everyone knew he wasn't staying forever and they didn't want to miss any chances to see him.
We all stayed late, and were still working at six-thirty when the phone rang. Dad took it in his office. After a while, he and Jack came running out, grabbing their coats and yelling orders.
"Peter, get the van ready, we've got one this time. Mike, I want as much surveillance and manpower as we can muster. I don't care if people are watching the football, I want them down here, now."
"Dad!" I called, trying to catch them up. "Let me come."
"No." Dad was opening the weapons locker and didn't turn to look at me.
"Please. I'll stay with the van, I promise."
"Then I'll follow you."
He turned to me, surprised, and I stood my ground. We looked at each other for a long moment, then I heard footsteps behind me.
"What's going on?" Jack asked.
"Hywel says he's coming, whether I like it or not." Dad didn't look at Jack, keeping his eyes fixed on me.
"Then we'd better take him, hadn't we?" Jack said, coming past me to take something from the weapons locker. "He'll only go and do something even more stupid if we don't." He held a large rifle out to Dad, who finally looked at him.
For a moment, I thought he was still going to say no, then he nodded, taking the rifle and handing it to me.
"You remember how to use this?"
I nodded, swallowing hard. The gun was cold and heavy in my hand.
"Good. If you need to, shoot to kill."
"But I thought Torchwood wanted it alive."
"We want you alive more," Jack said. "Do as we say and you'll be fine."
I sat in the back of the van with Dad and Jack as Mike drove us across town. Dad and Mike were discussing tactics and Jack was watching me. I checked the rifle over, even though I'd done that a dozen times before, but it meant I could look somewhere other than his eyes.
"Why you doing this?" he asked softly. We were at the other end of the van from Dad, so he didn't hear.
"What do you mean?"
"Why this? Why now? You trying to scare your dad?"
"No." It took an effort to keep my voice down. "He can't make his mind up. He's let me work at Torchwood, let me see things, handle things. Then he won't let me do something like this. I'm ready."
"You can't be. Not for this. No-one ever is." Jack looked away for a moment. "Just do as you're told, okay? If not for him, then for me."
He looked me in the eye again and I swallowed hard, nodding. His gaze burned through me for another moment, then he nodded as well, apparently satisfied, and turned to Dad.
"All ready." Dad looked at me. "You're to stay with Mike, ok? You'll be round the corner from the van, just in case it breaks that way."
"It won't." Jack said and Dad ignored him.
"Just in case, you two are the back up. Stop it any way you have to, ok?"
"Got it." Mike grinned at me from behind Dad. "I'll take care of him, Hugh. Don't worry."
"Tell me that when it's your son." Dad sat next to me and no-one spoke again until the van stopped.
The van was parked at the end of a long, narrow street, blocking the way out. It was a fairly simple plan, I thought. Chase the Weevil to the van and shut it in. Easy.
Mike and I waited as Dad and Jack disappeared into the darkness.
"Why don't we use tranquilisers?" I asked, and Mike shook his head.
"Too risky. We don't know how much to use and if it's not enough, you're Weevil dinner before it kicks in." He patted the gun at his hip. "Bullets are a much safer bet."
The city was very quiet in the dying light, and I was listening as hard as I could for anything unusual. We heard the occasional car and people talking, but mostly I heard my own heart pounding and the blood rushing in my ears. Then Mike took a step forward, leaning round the corner and looking back into the street.
"It's coming," he said and, a moment later, I heard it too. Running footsteps, coming towards us. Mike pushed me behind him so that I couldn't see what was going on. Then I heard it.
Its breathing was harsh, raspy. It sounded like it was dying. I tried to see round Mike but he pushed me back again, putting his finger to his lips.
A moment later, I heard more running steps, and Dad's voice. He was calling for Jack. I heard Jack answer, then running again and I pushed closer to Mike, trying to see what was happening.
The Weevil was in the street. It was crouched, head turned upwards as though tasting the air. Although I'd seen pictures and read the reports, I wasn't ready for what it looked like. It was so different, so alien. Then it turned and looked straight at us. Mike swore and yelled, drawing his gun.
I pointed my rifle at the creature, aware that my hand was shaking so hard I was more likely to hit Mike than anyone else. The Weevil started to move towards us on all fours, slowly at first, as though it was stalking us. Mike pushed me back, and I wondered if we were going to run. Then I remembered that you couldn't outrun a Weevil.
The other running feet were coming close and Jack appeared behind the creature.
"Hey!" He fired his gun in the air, trying to get its attention. It flinched, but kept coming towards us, increasing its speed all the time. We were moving faster, trying to get far enough away. Mike fired at it but missed, and Jack ducked out of the way.
"Watch what you're doing!"
I couldn't believe how fast the Weevil was, how fast it was coming towards us. The smell was overpowering. I stumbled as we retreated, and would have fallen except for Mike's hand gripping my arm.
"Fire!" he yelled at me, and I did, missing by yards and taking a chunk out of the brickwork.
"If you can't shoot straight, don't shoot!" Jack was still around the corner, trying not to be hit by stray bullets. I heard the click of his gun. "Damn it. Hugh, I'm out!"
The Weevil was so close now, all I could see was its face, huge eye sockets and sharp teeth filling my vision. Mike pushed at me, telling me to run, but I couldn't move. My feet were lead, stuck to the ground. My heart was beating even faster, crushing my lungs so I couldn't breathe. I could see every one of the Weevil's teeth and its long claws coming towards me. It was hissing, drawing back, ready to strike.
There was an explosion. It startled me out of my frozenness and I tried to turn and run, getting tangled in my own feet. All the wind was knocked out of me as I fell. The world exploded again, and I looked over my shoulder as the Weevil hovered over me for a long moment, then collapsed. I looked beyond it and Dad was standing in the mouth of the alley, his gun held out in front of him. His face was washed-out-white in the near darkness and all I could think was 'I'm going to be sick'
Dad drove us home from Torchwood. I sat in the front this time, staring out of the windscreen. None of us spoke.
Mum opened the door, stopping whatever she was going to say when she saw Dad's face. Instead, she stood back to let us in, running a hand down my arm as though to check I was alright. I went into the living room, but Dad turned and pointed back to the stairs.
"You. Bed. Now."
"No. Go to bed, Hywel."
I was about to argue more, then I saw the look on Jack's face and on Dad's, and I knew I wasn't going to win. I turned around and went upstairs. I lay on the bed, still with my clothes on. My clothes that smelt of damp and the city and Weevil. I left the door half-open so that I could hear the conversation from downstairs. I expected there to be shouting and arguing. There was silence for a long time. When Dad finally spoke, it was in a low, firm voice.
"If anything had happened to him, Jack. Anything."
"You think I don't know that?" Jack wasn't as good at keeping his voice down as Dad. "You think I did this on purpose?"
"You and your stupid Weevil hunting plan! What the hell was it supposed to accomplish? If you wanted an expenses paid trip to Cardiff, you only had to ask."
"I didn't want a trip to Cardiff at all."
"Then why are you here?"
Jack was silent for a long time.
"How much do you know about UNIT?" he asked.
"Not much. I've had some memos, but generally we're trying to stay out of their way, aren't we? See what happens before we do anything. It's what we did with C19, ICMG and all the others."
"You got it. Oh, we'll get into bed with them eventually, but not til we know them better. Only, I'm not going to be joining in that particular orgy."
"You're not making any sense."
"UNIT have always used special advisers, scientists to help them out with the tricky stuff. We've recruited from them and they've got some of our people, though they don't know about it. But they've got a brand new scientific adviser, who came with his own transportation."
I could almost hear Dad thinking in the silence that followed.
"That transportation wouldn't be a large, blue box by any chance, would it?"
Jack didn't answer. I held my breath, sure that they knew I was up there, listening. Then Dad spoke, quietly as if he was talking to a child.
"Did he know you?"
"No." Jack sighed, and I could hear him moving around. "I was in the HQ for three hours, bumped into him twice in the corridors and helped him fix his car. Not a spark."
"Yeah." When Jack spoke again, it was in a more normal tone of voice. "So I'm doing what anyone else would do in my situation. I'm moving to Australia." Dad laughed, but Jack went on, "No really. Australia. Some of the Commonwealth Torchwood offices are understaffed, under-resourced and underrated. I'm going to go and sort them out, do some recruiting, some training. The usual kind of thing."
"Anything that takes you out of the country for a few years."
"For as long as it takes. I've got some things to clear up here first. So I'm on my last grand tour of the country. Should be done by the end of next year, then I'm off."
"You're just going? Alone?"
"Don't even think of offering to come with me." I could almost see Jack wagging his finger at Dad. "You're needed here, and not just by Torchwood."
"So are you."
"Flattery will get you everywhere, as you know. But not this time. I'm sorry, Hugh. I should have told you before."
"Yes, you should." Dad was quiet for a long moment. "Marion, I think we've still got some of the whisky from last Christmas. Could you get it out for us, love?"
I heard the clink of glasses, then more talking, this time too quietly for me to hear. I felt myself drifting off, the energy and adrenaline from earlier on wearing off, leaving me drained. The last thing I heard before I fell asleep was three sets of feet coming up the stairs and the sound of a door closing.
When I came down for breakfast the next day, Jack's bags were at the bottom of the stairs and he was sitting at the dining table, drinking tea and reading the paper.
"Hywel! How you feeling, kid?"
"Better, thanks." I glanced back at his bags in the hall. "Are you leaving?"
"I'm betting you can tell me where I'm going." Jack smiled at me, a sly, sideways smile. "How much did you hear last night?"
"Last night?" I doubted my innocent act was going to fool him, but I tried anyway.
"Never mind. Just look after your Dad for me. He's worth his weight in gold."
"I will," I promised, sitting down at the table next to him. "I'm sorry about your friend."
"My- oh, yes. Listening hard, weren't you? It's a good habit. Keep it up." He shook his head. "Thanks. I'm going to be gone for a while. I expect Torchwood to still be here when I get back."
"I'll make sure of it."
Then he smiled at me, the full-on, Captain Jack Harkness, hero-smile and I was dazzled all over again. He clapped a hand on my shoulder, looking up as Dad came into the room.
"All set?" Dad asked and Jack nodded.
"Ready to go." He ducked into the kitchen and I heard him saying goodbye to Mum. He was in there a while, and I heard something that could have been laughing or crying.
Mum was straightening her hair again when she came out, followed by Jack. He grinned at Dad and we all went out to say goodbye. There was a new car on the drive, and Dad gave Jack the keys.
"Just try and remember which side of the road you're supposed to be on," he said in a strange kind of voice, and he and Jack looked at each other for a long time.
"I promise." They smiled and embraced. It wasn't like they did at the station; this time, Dad hugged Jack back. "Wait for me," Jack said, and I thought I could see his eyes shining.
Dad nodded, letting go to come and stand next to me and Mum on the doorstep. We waved as Jack started the engine and pulled out of the drive and we were still waving when his car turned the corner out of sight. Mum wiped her eyes with the edge of her apron.
"He'll be back, Mum," I told her. "He told me to look after Torchwood until he does."
"Did he now?" Dad gave me a sideways look. "Well, we all have to do what Jack says, don't we?" He put his arm around Mum, leading her back inside. "Come on, love. Hywel?"
"I'll be there in a minute."
I sat at the end of the drive for a long time, looking down to the corner, half-hoping to see Jack come driving back along the road. I sat there until it started to rain. I knew that I was going to wait for him.